24th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. Sir John McLeay) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
Mr. BARNARD presented a petition from certain electors of the Division of Bass praying that the Government will immediately move to replace the present obsolete and inadequate post office building at Newstead in Tasmania.
Petition received and read.
– I direct a question to thu Acting Minister for External Affairs. Is it a fact that the Food and Agriculture Organization, after analysing the movement of .grain in the world, has reported that much of the grain being shipped from Cam ida and Australia to Communist China has been passed on to Albania or has been used for the armed forces of Communist Chin l? If this is a fact, and in view of the Government’s belief that Communist China has committed an act of aggression against India, is the Government likely to review its policy of extending credits to Communist China?
– I would be glad if the honorable member would put the question on the notice-paper. I have not read the report to which he has referred and his question deserves a full reply.
– Will the Minister for Trade give the House some information regarding recent sales of Australian dried vine fruits to Japan? Will the Minister comment on the prospects of continuing these sales and establishing a permanent Japanese market for our dried vine fruits?
– I am glad to inform the honorable member that since the conclusion in 1957 of the Japanese Trade Agreement an important trade in dried vine fruits has been developed with Japan. I think it is fair to say that when the Japanese Trade! Agreement was being negotiated the honorable member for Mallee proposed to me that dried vine fruits should not be forgotten. As a result of a visit to Japan quite recently by the representative of an important exporting house the sale of 2,300 tons of dried vine fruits to Japan has been negotiated. This means that for 1962 a total of 3,500 tons of dried vine fruits has already been sold to Japan. Sales of dried vine fruits to Japan have increased steadily since 1957. The current year’s sales are the highest that have yet been achieved. The Japanese market is a very competitive market for this item. The competition comes from Greece and the United States of America but, with the quality of our fruits and the drive that is being put behind the selling - and against the background of the trade treaty - I am hopeful that the business will not only continue but will also continue to increase.
– I direct a question to the Postmaster-General. Have a number of requests been made to him for the installation of multi-coin equipment for telephone services? I have been informed that these machines are in very short supply. I ask the Minister: Who it making these machines? Are they being made in Australia and will the Government increase the orders for them so as to meet the public demand?
– The position is generally as has been stated by the honorable member in his question, and I have so informed him previously. We desire to install multi-coin machines as quickly as possible, but they have been in short supply because they have not been manufactured in Australia. We are moving towards that end.
– Why have they not been manufactured in Australia?
– Because there has not previously been any demand for them. We are moving towards that end and, at the same time, are importing as many of the machines as possible in order to get on with the installation. I assure the honorable member that the department will press on to increase the availability of this equipment as early as possible.
– I ask the Minister for Territories: Is there fertile land in New Guinea which would be suitable for settlement by returned soldiers and others from the Australian mainland? If so, what procedure should be adopted by those interested who would like full particulars and perhaps the opportunity to inspect?
– The amount of land suitable for agriculture in Papua-New Guinea is limited partly by the rugged nature of the country, partly by the steepness of the slopes which makes clearing almost impossible, partly by the quality of the soil and partly by the existence of very large areas of swamp. Broadly speaking - I accent the phrase “broadly speaking” - there is a limited area of agricultural land in Papua-New Guinea when you relate the area to the fact that there is a growing indigenous population of 2,000,000 people. Although up to a point settlement by Australians has been assisted and encouraged and there has been a credit assistance scheme for returned soldiers, I would not predict that in the foreseeable future there would be any large areas of new land made available for expatriate settlement. The needs are so great for the provision of land for the indigenous people as they advance into gainful occupations of their own that there is not a great deal of what might be called surplus land for other settlers. Having said that, I want to emphasize the importance of having a certain amount of settlement on the land by persons other than the indigenous people, both for the sake of example and encouragement and for the introduction of technical methods and new crops. But I would not hold out to the honorable member the hope that large areas of land would be available for settlement by other than the indigenous people. Such land as is found to be available for settlement is handled by the lands department and is advertised as open for application.
– I direct a question to the Treasurer. Is be in a position to say when he will bring down legislation to introduce a decimal currency system in Australia?
– I have kept the House informed of the various stages of Cabinet consideration of this matter. One of the more recent developments to which I have refered is the construction of the mint in Canberra, which is a necessary preliminary to the introduction of a decimal currency system. I have mentioned that machinery is being secured for the mint and that a time-table in relation to this is being pursued. But I have also made it clear that we have not yet taken any final decision as to whether a decimal currency system will be introduced, and we do not intend to do so until we feel that we have all the necessary data and we can see clearly the course ahead of us.
I have mentioned that other countries of interest to Australia are also studying this matter at present. Two of special significance for us are the United Kingdom and New Zealand. It may well be that the United Kingdom, if it enters the European Economic Community, will decide to adopt a decimal currency system. The particular coinage then adopted could have some influential bearing on what we decide in Australia. It may not; but that is one of the aspects on which we do not want to have a closed mind. There is a subcommittee of Cabinet dealing with this matter. Only yesterday I was settling a very large submission, which will shortly go before that committee, covering a great variety of aspects. I assure the honorable member that the many complex elements in this story are all being given attention by the Government in the proper order.
– I address a question to the Minister for Defence. Is the honorable gentleman aware of the ever-increasing demand by secondary schools for cadet facilities to be made available in the three services - the Navy, the Army and the Air Force? Further, will he ensure that everything possible is done to meet this growing enthusiasm both by masters and students at the schools for cadet facilities to be provided for them in the three services?
Mr. TOWNLEY__ I am well aware of the interest of the honorable gentleman in this subject, and I am sure that he will realize that the Government has done a tremendous amount to encourage the school cadet corps. Membership has increased from about 18,000 to something in the vicinity of 40,000 now. The honorable member will be pleased to know that no fewer than 93 per cent, of our Duntroon recruits this year were boys who had served in the school cadet corps. I will bear in mind the suggestion made by the honorable member.
– My question is directed to the Treasurer. As one Commonwealth Public Service pay day occurs twelve days before Christmas and the next two days after Christmas Day, will the right honorable gentleman consider advancing the pay due on 27th December, the day on which public servants resume after the Christmas break, so that it will be available before Christmas, either on Friday, 21st December, or Monday, 24th December? I point out to the Treasurer that, as both 25th and 26th December are holidays, he would be taking little risk in making the pay available to public servants a few days ahead.
– I have previously indicated publicly my optimism that Australia can look forward to a prosperous new year. If I can make this a merrier Christmas for public servants, I will be glad to do so, and I will explore the possibility.
- Mr. Speaker, my question is addressed to you. By way of explanation, may I remind you that last night I read, and therefore had incorporated in “ Hansard “, a statutory declaration regarding the implication of certain members of the Australian Labour Party in a Communist unity ticket ramp directed towards the election of a Communist, Mr. O’Shea. When I endeavoured to have the original documents tabled in this House honorable members of the Opposition-
– Order! The honorable member is now getting out of order. He will direct his question.
– To avoid this cover-up, what machinery is available to honorable members for the tabling of original documents in this House?
– Order! An honorable member must have the leave of the House to do so.
– My question to the Minister for Repatriation relates to the Repatriation General Hospital at Springbank, South Australia, which as you know, Mr. Speaker, adjoins your electorate and my own. Can the Minister say when the recently constructed psychiatric ward will be opened? Incidentally, let me say that it is a great credit to all who have been associated with its construction. Is the Minister aware that almost every day men and women entitled to treatment in repatriation hospitals cannot be admitted to them because the general wards are full? This means that patients have to be referred to the Royal Adelaide Hospital. Will the Minister investigate this matter? Can action be taken quickly to commence construction of two or three general wards at the Springbank hospital and thus avoid the great embarrassment which is caused to departmental officers, and also to patients who, although entitled to treatment in repatriation hospitals, are compelled to go elsewhere?
– It is a fact, unfortunately, that over recent months bed requirements at the Springbank Repatriation General Hospital in Adelaide have been taxed to the maximum and in some cases the demand has been beyond the number of beds available. Arrangements have been made on a temporary basis to meet the demand for the additional beds by the provision of facilities in the State hospitals in Adelaide. I admit that this is not an entirely satisfactory arrangement. However, it is expected that the peak which has been reached at present will level off over the next few months. In the meantime, arrangements are being made to provide two new wards. This work will be included on the works programme for next year and will be undertaken on a priority basis. I hope that this will solve the problem which exists at present
Unfortunately, we are facing a similar problem in most States. Apart from Melbourne and Sydney, where facilities are available for expansion, we are running into the problem of additional bed requirements. We have this problem in mind, and I expect that next year we shall have a very substantial works programme to provide the additional wards. I know that the honorable member has taken a good deal of interest in the psychiatric ward to which he has referred. The building itself has been practically completed and now is being equipped. I expect that it will be ready for occupation early in the new year.
– I address my question to the Minister for the Army. Did he witness in Perth last week the opening ceremony of the Commonwealth Games? If so, was he impressed with the Army personnel who took part in the opening ceremony, those who formed the Royal honour guard and those who later took part in the trooping and presentation of the colours? Which troops were involved in these ceremonies? Was the Minister impressed with what he saw?
– I did make a special trip to the West to see the trooping of the colour. This was an historic occasion because it was the first time since we have established Royal State regiments in Australia that the Queen’s colours have been presented to one of the regiments. Western Australia holds the honour of having the first regiment to receive Her Majesty’s colours. It was a most interesting parade. In fact, I think it can be said to be the best parade I have seen in many a long day. Most people had the idea that these were trained regular soldiers, but as I think the honorable member knows, they were citizen soldiers who put on the guard at the opening of the games and also carried out the trooping of the colour at the parade. Their performance was certainly a credit to the command in Western Australia, and particularly, if I may say so, to the commander of the regiment, Colonel Roberts, who had out in a tremendous amount of work to bring these soldiers up to the degree of efficiency which was so evident on that day. His Royal Highness indicated to me that be was very impressed with their performance.
– I address my question to the Minister for Territories. Is it correct that the present Administrator of the Northern Territory is resigning that position? Are the reasons for Mr. Nott’s resignation after such a short stay in his position dissatisfaction with Government policy and frustration arising from persistent ministerial interference with his administration? Further, is one of the main reasons for dissatisfaction the appointment of an assistant administrator as chief officer controlling finance, and the placing of all power in his hands, thereby leaving the position of Administrator subordinate to that of his assistant? Further, is it a fact that the previous Administrator was retained in Canberra by the Minister to vet, and sometimes to veto, Mr. Nott’s actions and decisions?
– Order! The honorable member is making his question far too long. I ask him to direct the question.
– Is this yet another case of a high public officer being forced to leave the service of the nation because of his inability any longer to serve the dictates of the Liberal Party and follow the whims of its Ministers, as in the case of Sir Leslie Melville?
– I can only say that the honorable member’s question is the most fantastic jumble of mis-statement I have ever heard in this House. In the first place, I am completely unaware of any wish by His Honour the Administrator, the Honorable Roger Nott, to resign his position. The procedure is that the Administrator is appointed by the Governor-General, and I know that Mr. Nott has sufficient regard for, and long enough experience of, proper conduct in public affairs that if he did wish to resign he would make his communication to the person who appointed him, the Governor-General, and not to any one else. No such communication has been made. On the question of strain in the relations between Mr. Nott and myself, I can assure the House, and I can speak with the confidence that
Mr. Nott would endorse every word, that our relations are very close, very cordial, and marked by no differences of opinion at all. I was speaking to Mr. Nott as recently as 11 o’clock last night in order to convey to him a very happy decision that has not yet been made available to the public, and I am sure that if he had any dissatisfaction he would have expressed it then. The cordiality and close co-operation between us is something that I value, and I think it is something that Mr. Nott values. I shall refer to only one other of the fantastic and wholly untrue statements contained in the honorable member’s question, and that is his reference to the appointment of an assistant administrator as chief officer. This appointment was made to meet the requirements of the Public Service Act, and it was made at the Administrator’s request, and in order to meet the Administrator’s own convenience.
– Can the Minister representing the Minister for Health state just how serious is the reported outbreak of typhoid in central Australia? Can the Minister say how many positive cases have been reported and located? If the outbreak is as serious as reported, is the present action adequate to safeguard the population and to prevent the disease from spreading? Having recently come from the area concerned, I assure honorable members that I myself have had immunization injections as a precaution.
– I am sorry that I have no information regarding this matter other than that which I have given to the newspapers. I shall refer the question to the Minister for Health in another place and obtain a suitable answer for the honorable member.
– My question is addressed to the Prime Minister. As the Government has relieved the financial strain on the New South Wales Government in regard to its share of financing the Chowilla dam project, what are the prospects of the Government’s acting in a like manner in connection with the New South Wales
Government’s share in financing the building of the proposed Marraboor weir?
- Mr. Speaker, I had no idea that my friend credited me with such starry-eyed innocence as to answer that question.
– My question, which is addressed to the Postmaster-General, is prompted by the number of requests that I have received from local authorities and chambers of commerce in areas such as Leichhardt regarding a change from manually operated exchanges to rural automatic exchanges. I am sure that the Minister will have received such requests also. Will the Minister consider stating which manuallyoperated exchanges in the area of Leichhardt will be converted to rural automatic exchanges in the next five or ten years, together with the order in which the work will be done and the approximate time of installation in each instance?
– The honorable member for Leichhardt in common, I think, with all honorable members, knows that it is the policy of the Postal Department to change from manually operated exchanges in country areas to rural automatic or country automatic exchanges. A definite policy has been laid down to apply for a number of years, and certain priorities have been or are in the course of being allotted. I take it that the honorable member is seeking to have information made available to him concerning the programme of installation and the type of exchanges to be installed in his area. If that is so, I shall be glad to ask my department to give me as much information as possible, and I will supply it to him.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for the Interior. I refer to the 1914-18 Desert Mounted Corps Memorial which was situated on the bank of the Suez Canal, and which it is now proposed to re-erect at Albany in the Minister’s electorate. As there has been quite a degree of controversy recently about the location of the memorial and a suggestion has been made that it would be far better located in the National Capital, I ask: Has an irrevocable decision that this statue shall be re-erected at Albany finally been made?
– So far as any decision is irrevocable, I suppose that it could be said that the Government has committed itself to re-erecting this statue at Albany. The site there was chosen as a result of a request made by the national executive of the Returned Sailors’, Soldiers’ and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia, and a considerable sum has already been expended on re-erecting the base of the statue, which was transferred stone by stone from the bank of the Suez Canal. The memorial itself has been re-cast in plaster and is at present being cast in bronze in Italy. Within a matter of only a few weeks, it should be finally re-erected. I may say that the expense, which has already been considerable, has been incurred with the concurrence of the New Zealand Government and ex-servicemen in New Zealand.
– I ask the Minister for Social Services whether it is correct that a civilian class A widow with two children, both under the age of sixteen, receives an allowance only for the younger child. Is it correct, also, that when the elder child reaches the age of sixteen, the widow does not receive any allowance for either child? Further, does she receive no allowance for either child when the elder, having reached the age of sixteen, is a full-time student? Finally, when does this Government intend to alter its present callous attitude to widows generally?
– The information given by the honorable member for Kalgoorlie is largely correct so far as it applies to the administration of the Social Services Act. He knows, of course, as do all honorable members, that that act comes up for review every year and that the perplexities that are causing him some concern will receive the consideration that is their due when the act is next reviewed.
– I wish to ask the Minister for Immigration a question. Is it a fact that, under present arrangements, it is possible for an Australian to sponsor a migrant from the United Kingdom and yet be under no obligation whatever to fulfil the terms of the arrangement requiring him to provide accommodation and find a job for the migrant? If this is a fact, is it possible for some sponsors, either irresponsibly or, perhaps even worse, deliberately, to act to the disadvantage of migrants who come here from England under the sponsorship scheme?
– There are various forms of nomination for British migrants. People who sponsor a British migrant under the personal nomination scheme do so on the basis that they will provide accommodation in this country and, wherever possible, find a job for the migrant. I do not think that the honorable gentleman will find that there are many cases in which this scheme has gone astray. Inevitably, of course, no nomination scheme can be 100 per cent, perfect in its operation. However, the experience of the Department of Immigration over the years has been that on the whole this scheme has worked well, and people have honestly fulfilled their obligations.
– I address my question to the Prime Minister in his capacity of Acting Minister for External Affairs. I ask: Has the Government knowledge or any information that Indonesia is organizing to set aside its agreement with the Dutch on the future of West New Guinea? I seek information particularly on the Government’s knowledge of the likelihood of Indonesia taking control in January next year instead of May as agreed. What information can the Government give to this Parliament about the projected plebiscite of 1969 to determine whether West New Guinea shall be self-governing or whether it shall become part of Indonesia? In respect of both matters with which my question is concerned, I ask: What is the Government’s attitude?
– We are aware of these recent statements that have been credited to President Soekarno, but our view is that the agreement was made and that the agreement should be adhered to. It was approved by the United Nations and it should not be varied except with the approval of the United Nations. The idea that the plebiscite should be abandoned is one that strikes directly across the whole principle for which this Parliament has stood, and which was acknowledged in the agreement made between the parties and approved by the United Nations.
– I address a question to the Minister for Immigration. Is it a fact that the booklet issued by the Department of Immigration some years ago, dealing with the conduct of naturalization ceremonies, has become dated and calls for some revision to assist local government bodies? Have steps been taken to issue a revised booklet? Will the Minister undertake to thank local authorities suitably for their splendid co-operation in staging naturalization ceremonies?
– It is quite true, as the honorable member has said, that the booklet that has been issued to local government authorities was produced some years ago. This year, my department has been engaged in producing a new booklet which, I am glad to say, has now been completed. It has just been published and is being distributed. I think my honorable friend will find that it is in a very attractive format and is a most presentable little volume indeed. It sets out the procedure for various stages of naturalization ceremonies, and makes recommendations to those concerned as to the best way in which these ceremonies may be conducted. As to the second part of the honorable member’s question, I can assure him that the Government has always been most conscious of the great part played by local government authorities in connexion with naturalization, and we shall forever be grateful to those concerned for what they have done and are doing.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Primary Industry. The Minister will recall that some little time ago I referred in this House to a decision of the Fruit Industry Sugar Concession Committee to withdraw the 25 per cent, domestic sugar rebate applying to sugar used in the manufacture of citrus cordials and peels. Can the Minister now say what action the Government has taken, or intends to take in the future, to have that rebate restored? I remind the honorable gentleman that the action of the Fruit Industry Sugar Concession Committee was taken at a time when the citrus growers were already facing a serious financial crisis.
– The Fruit Industry Sugar Concession Committee, which deals with rebates for the various fruit processing industries, is a body that is responsible for its own actions, and I have no authority to give it directions. I think that what the honorable member has in mind is that the amount of £264,000 provided in the sugar agreement has proved insufficient to meet expanding needs, and, indeed, some reductions were made by the committee to meet this position. I had a conference with the Queensland Minister for Agriculture, because I felt that some of the money that should have been used for a domestic rebate was being used for an export rebate. I believed that there should have been a separate rebate account in that case. I succeeded in my representation, and we have ironed the matter out as between the Commonwealth and Queensland, with the result that the full amount of about £50,000, which would have been removed from the domestic rebate account, is now available in that account. To that degree I have restored the previous position. This docs not mean that there will be ample funds to meet expanding needs in the future, but I believe that what has been done will be of great assistance to the citrus industry as well as other fruit industries.
– I preface a question to the Postmaster-General by reminding him that his predecessor, the late Honorable H. L. Anthony, deferred granting a licence to radio station 2GB until the station was able to comply with government policy. I ask the Postmaster-General whether Channel 7 and Channel 9 in Sydney are monopolizing programme material and producing an effect contrary to the Government’s intention of securing good country television services.
Will the Postmaster-General consider deferring the renewal of licences for Channel 7 and Channel 9 in Sydney to-morrow to enable the Government to give effect to the policy already announced in the Parliament, and approved by the Parliament, of providing country television stations with adequate access to programme material, such as is available in other leading countries using television, namely, the United States of America and Japan?
– The honorable member refers to a matter ab@ut which I have had some earlier discussions with him. He is aware that this matter has been under consideration for some time now, and that it has not yet been finalized. The position has been carefully watched by me and my colleague, the Attorney-General. At the present stage of our discussions and deliberations I do not intend to give any detailed information regarding the present position. That would be unwise, but I assure the honorable member that the matter is being carefully considered.
– I ask the Prime Minister a question. Because the naked and unwarranted Chinese aggression against India > - a fellow member of the Commonwealth of Nations - is a grave threat to world peace, will the right honorable gentleman permit full debate of the matter?
– I am in a little trouble already with the Leader of the House for having indicated that we may have a debate on the education paper. I do not know whether I can answer the honorable member’s question with a “Yes” or “No”. Whether a debate on this subject is held will depend on the state of business of the House, because there are still many urgent matters before us.
– I ask the Treasurer whether the Government’s action in reducing sales tax on motor cars has had the desired effect of restoring prosperity to the motor car industry. Has the Government’s action had the effect of providing more employment opportunities in the industry?
– The reduction in the rate of sales tax applicable to motor cars undoubtedly provided some encouragement for people to purchase new motor cars at the reduced prices thus made possible. If we are to look, however, for the full explanation why there has been such a remarkable increase in the volume of sales of motor cars over recent months we must look to the general improvement in the state of the economy. This industry has been of tremendous value to Australia. It employs many good Australian workmen and provides employment indirectly in many subcontracting firms. It uses Australianproduced raw materials and has become one of the basic elements in the economy. When this industry is in a healthy condition the general state of health of the economy is improved. While undoubtedly the condition of the industry is governed significantly by the ruling rate of sales tax, the Government does not claim all credit for the present position. However, I think we may derive some satisfaction from the results that have been achieved by the reduction of sales tax.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for the Navy whether it is a fact that the only means of navigating the east, south and west coasts of Tasmania is by Admiralty chart No. 1079. Also, is it a fact that this length of coastline was charted in 1859, and that a small survey was made in 1912? Is it a fact that the present chart is inaccurate? If so, will the Minister give immediate attention to the dangers inherent in the present position and have the east, south and west coasts of Tasmania re-surveyed?
– I do not know the details of the matter referred to by the honorable member. In fact, as far as this matter is concerned I am way out of my depth. If the question is placed on the notice-paper I shall see that the honorable member is provided with an answer.
– Is leave granted? Opposition Members. - No. Leave not granted.
– I therefore ask for leave -
– I ask for leave of the House to inform it that photostat copies of the statutory declaration are available in the Library to honorable members and also to the press.
-The honorable member is out of order.
– 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 -
The need, demonstrated by the iniquitous practices of some private companies, for the Commonwealth Development Bank to enter fully into the hire-purchase field at all levels to enable people to obtain such finance for their needs on reasonable terms and conditions.
I call upon those members who approve of the proposed discussion to rise in their places. (More than the number of members required by the Standing Orders having risen in their places) -
, - Mr. Speaker, by every mail, morning and afternoon, since I last disclosed hire-purchase malpractices in this House letters have poured onto my desk revealing robbery and trickery proceeding on a scale even more widespread and audacious than I was aware of when I previously addressed the House on this matter. Other honorable members, particularly the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) and the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron), have received equally or even more startling evidence. I say deliberately that on the evidence available to us this matter amounts to a public scandal of the first magnitude, such as could bring down any government which refuses to examine the matter or to allow the facts to become known. The Government has already refused an official inquiry.
It is now asked to remove the shackles that it has placed on the Commonwealth Bank and to send the Commonwealth Deve lopment Bank actively into the hire-purchase field at every level so that people may be able to obtain the hire-purchase finance that they needed on fair and reasonable terms. I agree that the Government can ignore also the request that we make this morning but as the mounting pile of facts and evidence becomes publicly known it will not be possible for the Government to continue to ignore this matter. I am certain that just a small selection of the evidence which the honorable member for Grayndler, the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns), the honorable member for Hindmarsh and I will present to the House will be sufficient even to shock some Government supporters.
I say deliberately that in this matter the Government is defending its friends. The Government may be able to maintain its inaction a little longer but once the full facts are revealed to the public, action will be demanded of the Government. One is forced to the conclusion that the Government has no concern in this matter for the public so long as the interests of its friends and supporters are protected and so long as they are allowed to continue to reap inordinate profits. There does not seem to be any other explanation for the Government’s inactivity.
All of the cases which my colleagues and I will bring to the attention of the House this morning deal with the operations of one firm only - Goodwin’s Limited and its subsidiaries. I came into this matter originally by exposing some misleading and false advertisements by Goodwin’s Limited. Ever since then I have been compelled to remain in it, by the tremendous amount of correspondence which has come to me from so many States, each person detailing his own personal experience, offering the documents and stating his willingness to be sworn and give evidence in support of his allegations. After I last spoke on this matter in this House, Goodwin’s Limited telegraphed me inviting me to nominate an independent arbitrator to examine the whole of their affairs and challenging me to place the whole of my evidence before such an arbitrator and to be bound by his decision.
I immediately agreed to step outside Parliament House, and I soon found that it was absolutely impossible to get Goodwin’s, in any circumstances, to face up to a public inquiry. They would not agree to anything which would allow an inquiry to proceed, although I was prepared to meet them on every possible point. They simply would not have the inquiry for which they had asked. In support of the case for the Commonwealth Bank’s entry into the hirepurchase field at all levels I again offer - I am sure my colleagues will do the same - to make available to the Government all the documents in our possession and the names and addresses of those who are making the allegations and who are prepared to come forward and support them.
I shall have no further dealings with Goodwins in relation to an independent inquiry, because I am absolutely satisfied that their attitude on this matter is completely hypocritical. I advise everybody else not to have any dealings with Goodwins Limited. On the evidence available to me you would be far safer in tangling with a man-eating shark in the surf than in having any dealings with a Goodwins salesman. A great deal of pressure has been put on the honorable member for Grayndler and me and - although I have not heard of it from him personally - on the honorable member for Hindmarsh, to silence us on this issue, but it is quite clear that is is having no effect on any of us. We will continue to expose this scandal whenever opportunity is given to do so, until action is taken to end it.
Goodwins Limited - this was not known to me when I last spoke on this subject in this chamber - has caused very many of its customers to be arrested and thrown into gaol. It has sworn out warrants, alleging intent to defraud. This is a pure abuse of the law and is simply the use of a device or contrivance, because these cases never come before the court. Goodwins never pursue its charges, because it has not the evidence to support them; but hundreds of people who have started off by innocently walking into a Goodwins shop or by listening to its salesmen - although they have never been in trouble with the police in their lives before - have suddenly found themselves seized by the police, finger-printed and lodged in the cells. When the case comes before the court in the morning Goodwins offers no evidence and the charge is withdrawn. But these little people, who have no knowledge of the law and no ability to defend themselves, have obviously been so frightened and shocked that they have met Goodwins demands whether they owed the firm money or not. It is by these practices, evidently so satisfactory to it, that Goodwins have carried on its business. The extraordinary details of its proceedings by Goodwins against its customers will be given to the House by the honorable member for Grayndler.
It is rightly said that the hire purchase is the poor man’s savings bank. He should be entitled to use all its facilities with confidence that he will receive fair treatment and fair dealing. At present he is being bludgeoned and robbed and when he attempts to defend himself he is liable to find himself faced with a criminal charge, finger-printed and thrown into gaol. Tha Commonwealth Bank is the people’s bank and seeks to protect the people, but this Government has shackled it, as I will show. The Commonwealth Bank has to stand by to-day while people are charged usurious interest and are tricked in a hundred ways. I have here just a very few from my collection of these cases. I will read from documents in my possession, each of which I am prepared to submit to the Government and the author of each of which is prepared to come forward and give evidence. The first case is as follows: -
We rented a set for £1 8s. a week and had paid £80 in rental. In my absence Goodwins’ salesmen arrived and convinced my wife she should buy the set. They got her to sign a blank hire-purchase agreement, made out in both our names. They told her we would have to pay £200, but when the agreement came back it was made out for £330 on top of the £80 we had already paid. I then objected but Goodwins said the agreement was legal and that my signature was on it, although of course I had never signed it. On legal advice we took the set back but Goodwins called the police and we were refused entry to their store. They are now threatening court action.
Of course these people would have to come to Canberra to defend the action, but are iri no position to do so and will have to pay up. The second document reads -
I purchased a television set from Goodwins Limited on two years interest-free terms. Before signing the contract I noticed £76 interest had been added. When I queried this the salesman explained that it was just a technicality, giving Goodwins the right to charge interest should I fail to finalize the account within two years.
This man had signed a contract for four years interest-free terms. To continue -
The contract was signed on 9th July, 1959, with the final payment being made on 3rd June, 1961. Two weeks later I purchased a washing machine. Upon presenting my finalized account to the manager as reference he told me there was a balance of £23 still outstanding. He contacted the credit manager. I was later told that the old account had been settled. Three months later I received a letter demanding £27 balance on my T.V. account. My sister sent £5 as part payment as I was away at the time. Some weeks later she received another letter demanding £29. She received no further correspondence in answer, but a summons for £29. Told that I was no longer at that address she was informed that a warrant for arrest would be issued. I have receipts and cheque butts to prove that the television account was paid in full within the two-year period. What on earth am I to do?
The third case is as follows: -
The salesman told us that if we paid within two years we would not be charged the interest. We paid in full within two years and received a letter stating that there was still £100 outstanding. Our solicitor told us Goodwins had us over a barrel and that we would have to pay. We interviewed Mr. Goodwin, who was all apologies, but said that he had no control over the financial side, which was handled by the Television and General Finance Company of Canberra. So we have had to pay £92 interest on a set advertised on four years’ interest-free terms even though we had completed the transaction in two years.
The next case reads as follows: -
I bought a set on the no-interest, no-deposit plan. When the papers came back they showed that I must pay £248 for a set priced at £179 and £80 interest on top of that.
This man is a returned soldier. He says, further -
With my platoon commander I went straight to Goodwins and asked them to take the set back. They refused, but explained that I would not be required to pay the interest and that it was just put in the contract for appearance’s sake. I have been unable to get any satisfaction in this matter.
The last case with which I have time to deal reads as follows: -
The price on my agreement was £365 12s. I have paid that in full within the due time and I possess all the receipts and have sent Goodwins the receipt numbers but they are threatening me with court action unless I pay a further £6 12s. 9d. What can I do? I would have to come to Canberra to defend the action.
When the Chifley Government went out of office the Commonwealth Bank was handling 20 per cent, of the hire-purchase business being carried on in Australia. When this Government came into office it very shortly imposed a complete ban on the Commonwealth Bank pursuing its hire-pur chase operations. It froze the Commonwealth Bank’s advances at £16,000,000, plus any amount that it could earn in profits. In 1950, the total hire-purchase balances outstanding on the books of the Industrial Finance Department of the bank were £14,700,000. By 1953, this figure had grown to £16,000,000 and the total hirepurchase balances of all non-retail finance businesses in Australia were then £88,000,000. At this stage, as I have said, Cabinet stepped in. It did two things. First, it froze the hire-purchase operations of the Commonwealth Bank. The bank was limited to advances of £16,000,000, plus what profits it could earn in its operations. The second thing Cabinet did was to give an open slather to all private hirepurchase organizations.
By the next year, 1954, Commonwealth Bank hire-purchase advances were still £16,000,000, but private hire-purchase advances had increased to £129,000,000. The Commonwealth Bank advances remained frozen at £16,000,000 till 1958, by which time the advances of the private hirepurchase companies had increased to £280,000,000. The Commonwealth Bank was providing hire-purchase finance at 4 per cent., 4) per cent., and 4£ per cent, flat, whereas the private companies were charging up to 10 per cent. flat. In 1960, advances through the Commonwealth Development Bank, which had taken over from the Industrial Finance Department, were £18,400,000, but the total of all hirepurchase finance houses had! reached £403,000,000. Where the Commonwealth Bank was formerly doing 20 per cent, of the total hire-purchase business, it was now doing only 5 per cent.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I think the House should spend a minute or two in considering the circumstances in which this proposal comes before it. This is of relevance to what I shall say about this matter, but it also throws into question the bona fides of those who are sponsoring this proposition. Only yesterday, the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) became excited in this place because he thought that the House should be debating a major matter of consequence - namely, the Cuban crisis.
– This is a major matter of consequence to the people of Australia.
– Undoubtedly, the Cuban crisis is a very important matter. The honorable member now interjects that the subject now under discussion is a major matter of consequence to every one in Australia. That being so, it is rather surprising that he did not bring this matter forward, or at least notify me as the representative of the Government, until 1 1 o’clock last night, after we had despatched a letter to the acting Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) telling him that the first item of business to be brought forward by the Government to-day would be a debate on the Cuban crisis.
– This decision was made in a party meeting yesterday morning.
– It was decided to go ahead with this if you would not allow private member’s business.
– Order! The honorable member will restrain himself.
– The honorable gentleman says that it was decided in caucus to raise this matter if we did not go on with private members’ business this morning. In other words, in a session in which we have had more scope for private members’ business than we have had in any other session in recent years, not only was the Cuban crisis to be regarded as of secondary importance to private members’ business but this matter, which he now says affects the wellbeing of all Australians, was also to be so regarded. This will deceive no one. It was only when the Opposition learned that it would be confronted this morning with a general debate on the Cuban affair that it dug u.p this matter to displace it. No doubt, the Opposition had previously decided that it would like to raise this matter, or at least the honorable member for EdenMonaro had, because he has been riding it as something of a hobby horse.
I put the Cuban issue on one side for the moment, because the Parliament will not be denied the opportunity, which honorably gentlemen opposite yesterday were protest*, ing so vigorously they desired, of discussing Cuba. That debate will proceed at a later, stage to-day.
– You voted against it.
– Yes, and when I voted against it I told the honorable gentle-;’, man that it could be brought on to-day, if that were the wish of the Opposition. Noth-ing has changed in Cuba and the delibera* tions of this Parliament will not be affected1 by the delay after the honorable gentleman’s - introduction of the viewpoint of the Labour Party yesterday. I would have thought, knowing something of the egotism of the honorable gentleman, that he would have expected the Parliament to take a little time to consider the weighty contribution he made, before rushing in to attempt a reply. Anyhow, to-day we shall have that opportunity.
I now turn to the matter that has been raised this morning. In view of the terms used in the proposal, I had prepared myself for a substantial contribution on a very important question of policy - whether the complex of the Commonwealth Bank should engage extensively in hire-purchase transactions. That is admittedly a large question of policy. But the honorable gentleman devoted only the concluding few minutes of ; his speech to dealing with the matter of substance. Instead of taking the opportunity available to him to debate the matter, he pursued this vendetta which has made him so excitable in respect to a particular trading firm. I am not here to defend any private interest, but when the honorable gentleman bandies about an allegation that we are protecting our friends, I remind him that one of his colleagues tried that tactic in the last few weeks and has gone into a significant silence since then.
– No, he has not; you have gagged him.
– I am still waiting to hear from the honorable gentleman. He will have his opportunity. I know nothing of the Goodwin organization or its operations other than what has come from the honorable member for EdenMonaro and the answers the firm has given through the press. It was my understanding that the firm had made an offer to the honorable gentleman to have an independent inquiry with a mutually acceptable arbitrator who would hear his story and the firm’s reply. The House will be interested to know whether he has taken up the offer, which I believe to be a very reasonable one in the circumstances, so that both sides of this matter can be clearly presented.
All I want to say on this aspect is that there is to-day throughout Australia keener competition amongst those people who engage in hire purchase transactions than we have known in any of the post-war years. This trend is not unassociated with Government policy, because we have, we believe, adopted economic measures which have produced this result. Any company that pursues practices which are unreasonable or which are inequitable in their incidence on customers would not have a very long life in the commercial community of this country. So, if reprehensible practices have been adopted by Goodwins - I am not making that charge; I do not claim to know the facts - the normal processes of competition can be expected to take care of the situation.
Before I come to the particular issue, let us examine for a moment how the hire purchase system is operating in Australia at present. I remind honorable members that just prior to the advent of the last Labour Government a committee of inquiry was set up to deal with this matter. Indeed the late Mr. Chifley was a member of that committee. I notice that the committee’s report was presented to the then Acting Prime Minister and Treasurer, the Honorable A. W. Fadden as he then was. I repeat that Mr. Chifley, a subsequent Labour Prime Minister, was a member of this committee of inquiry. Among other things the committee, whose report is available to honorable members, stated -
The evidence discloses that transactions in hire purchase in Australia involve a very considerable turnover and affect a very large number of people.
That is common ground. The report continues -
There seems to be nothing , inherently wrong with the system in peace time, except where terms of the payment have been extended beyond three years. Provided articles bought are useful, contribute to a better standard of living, and do not deprive the householder of essential commodities, the system may be regarded as a useful one in the general economic structure.
Then on page 7 the committee made this comment which is relevant to the matter before us -
Hire purchase, therefore, has extended a credit system through the economic structure, which might not be suitable for the ordinary lending systems through banking.
A little later in the report the committee refers to the terms of lending.
Despite the interval of more than twenty years between then and now, it is rather interesting to see that the flat rates then charged as average rates - rates which the late Labour Prime Minister himself described at that time as being reasonable - are almost identical with the rates being charged to-day. At that time 7.3 per cent, flat was charged on new motor vehicles. To-day 7 per cent, is charged. At that time 8.5 per cent, flat was charged on used motor vehicles. To-day the rate is 9 per cent., so used motor vehicles are a little dearer now than they were then, but new cars attract a rather lower rate of interest. At the time of the inquiry 7 per cent, was charged on plant and machinery, and the rate is still 7 per cent, to-day. The same remark applies to household goods which attracted 10 per cent, interest then and attract 10 per cent, interest now. It will be seen that the current rates commonly being charged are very similar to those which the 1941 committee of inquiry found were not unreasonable.
In these circumstances should the Government adopt a policy of requiring the Commonwealth banking complex to adopt this system? Quite clearly, the Savings Bank would hardly be suitable for this purpose. The Commonwealth Development Bank has its own special role to play. No one can accuse us of starving it of resources or of weakening its capacity to do the special job which this Parliament authorized it to do. In the last year or two we have increased its capital from £10,000,000 to £25,000,000. As to the Commonwealth Trading Bank, it is well known to all honorable members that this bank is going from strength to strength. If we were to employ a significant part of its resources for hire-purchase purposes obviously we would be reducing the fund’s available to it for rural lending, for lending for housing and for lending for a great variety of other useful purposes.
It is notorious that hire-purchase companies at this time have funds to lend. No one will challenge that they are more highly competitive to-day than at any time in the post-war period. In these circumstances should we reduce the capacity of the trading bank system to lend for other valuable purposes so that it can enter a field which the committee of inquiry, of which Mr. Chifley was a member, regarded as not being suitable for bank lending? That is what the Opposition puts to us.
– What about the private banks?
– The private trading banks have an interest in separate organizations. They are in active competition with other hire-purchase institutions. I once made the suggestion in this place that the trade union movement, if it were dissatisfied with these interest rates, might itself set up its own hire-purchase institution. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) told me that I was being facetious and brushed off my suggestion as being impractical. He was answered the next day by a hire-purchase organization in South Australia which w?.s being run by a group of South Australian trade unions. The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) is familiar with that circumstance.
The Opposition has not attempted seriously to make out a case for the proposition which it has advanced. The honorable member for Eden-Monaro has deferred a debate on Cuba, has intruded into the time which, but for the debate on Cuba, would have been made available for private members’ business, and has taken this opportunity to give vent again to the venom which he has developed against a particular organization. If he wants to attack this organization by using such opportunities as the Parliament offers him, let him go before the independent arbitrator and give the company a chance, by producing the facts which are available to it, to challenge the charges which he has made against it.
– I wish to make a personal explanation, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I claim to have been misrepresented by the initial remarks of the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) who, not for the first time in speech and certainly not for the first time by interjection, insinuated that this matter has been raised by the Opposition only to avoid a discussion on Cuba.
I must reiterate, as appears quite plainly from the record of the debates in the House yesterday, that the House would not have had any debate on Cuba yesterday, or indeed during this sessional period, if it had not been for the case in support of that proposition which I put to the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) the previous night at about 10.30. It was my contention then, and it was my party’s wish as illustrated by vote yesterday, that the debate should proceed yesterday uninterrupted instead of being conducted piecemeal. As soon as I heard about 9.30 last night that the right honorable gentleman was proposing to dispense with Grievance Day to-day - he had told me yesterday morning that we would have. Grievance Day to-day - I told him by word of mouth that we would propose for dis.cusion to-day as a matter of urgent public importance something which my party had authorized us yesterday morning to raise. I told him that the gist of the matter was the limit which was placed on the hirepurchase activities of the Commonwealth Bank.
– Of the Development Bank. You confined it to the Development Bank.
– Yes, I used that term. I think I said, “ The Industrial Finance Department of the Commonwealth Development Bank”. As soon as I had the precise terms of the matter to be discussed I mentioned them in my speech during the adjournment debate last night. This matter was authorized before the House! initiated the debate on Cuba and before tha House resolved to interrupt the debate on Cuba. It was mentioned here and the right honorable gentleman was informed that it would be raised as soon as it was known that he had changed his mind about Grievance Day.
– It would not have been brought forward had-
– We would not have had a debate on Cuba at all if it had not been for me.
– You had the debate in the Senate.
– The matter is no concern of the Senate until it has been discussed in this place.
.- I support the honorable member for EdenMonaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) who has proposed this matter for discussion and I shall leave the weak explanation of the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) to the tender mercies of the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns) who will speak later in this debate. I address myself particularly to that portion of the motion which refers to-
The need, demonstrated by the inquitious practices of some private companies. . .
I intend to place certain facts before the Parliament concerning these iniquitous practices under hire-purchase legislation both in the States and in the Australian Capital Territory. It may be said that these practices are common to other companies, but all the complaints brought to my attention - there are many of them - relate to the firm of Goodwins Limited of Newtown. This firm, of course, makes its financial arrangements through a finance company - Television and General Finance Company - located in Canberra. In the absence of proof to the contrary I can only assume that the firm of Goodwins Limited, as instanced by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro, is the major offender.
In order to stress the need for action along the lines set out in the proposal, let me show what is being done by this company at the present time. Section 42 of the New South Wales Hire Purchase Act and section 39 of the Australian Capital Territory Hire Purchase Ordinance are practically identical and in substance read as follows -
Every person who, by the disposal or sale of any goods comprised in a hire-purchase agreement, or by the removal of the goods, or by any other means defrauds or attempts to defraud the owner is guilty of an offence against this Act and liable to a penalty not exceeding two hundred pounds or to imprisonment for a period not exceeding three months.
Under this provision Goodwins Limited of Newtown and its finance company, Television and General Finance Company, are issuing and have issued first instance warrants for the arrest on the charge *’ attempt to defraud “ by the removal of the goods, of persons who, for some reason or other, have not fulfilled the terms of their contract. For the benefit of honorable members may I say that first instance warrants in the phraseology of the police force are what might be termed “ bring them back alive “ warrants. The person charged must be apprehended and go through all the formalities applying to hardened criminals, such as fingerprinting, confinement to cells, appearance in court, release on bail, or detention in custody, as the case may be. There is no escape by paying the debt; the body of the accused must be produced, even if, as has been the case, it means that the person concerned has to be extradited from other States.
Goodwins Limited of Newtown has on numerous occasions taken action under this section of the New South Wales act. The procedure is that a representative of the company swears certain information before the authorities and warrants are then issued on the payment of a nominal fee. The firm generally takes out the warrants against both the husband and wife. There is no escape from these Shylocks, irrespective of the circumstances. Evidence is available to show that husbands and wives have been arrested by the police on warrants sworn by Goodwins Limited, thrown into the cells like common felons in the most degrading way and dragged before the court at the behest of this company.
I have in mind the inhuman treatment of an invalid pensioner in my constituency. This man, 64 years of age, was arrested and lodged in the cells of a police station in my district, charged under this section by Goodwins Limited with having removed a washing machine with intention to defraud. He had no previous convictions, was suffered to go at large, and when the case came before the court no evidence was offered and he was discharged. What a degrading and shocking experience for an invalid pensioner, and what a condemnation of members of the Government! What an assault on the nervous system of this ailing old man, and what a revelation of the inhumanity of the firm responsible!
Other people, husbands and wives, have been arrested in the cities and country towns. They too have been thrown into the cells and have suffered the indignity of criminal prosecution, fingerprinting and appearances in court. The cases brought to my notice are sufficient in number to demand action to prevent this interference with the liberty of the subject by finance companies such as Goodwins Limited for the sake of a few miserable pounds profit. Goodwins Limited does not confine its activities under this section to any particular State. It is prepared to extradite people, if necessary, from any State. I have evidence of a warrant being sworn for the extradition of a man and his wife from Adelaide. The warrant against the wife was subsequently withdrawn because she had a very young family. However, the husband was arrested in Adelaide, went through the usual criminal court formalities and was brought back to Sydney by plane under police guard, un doubt handcuffed like any criminal. The policeman concerned was sent from Sydney with the warrant. The charge concerned the removal of a television set. Subsequently this man appeared before the court in Sydney, under guard, and was remanded for about six months. No bail was granted, but he was suffered to go at large. When the case ultimately came before the court the company did not offer any evidence and he was discharged, after being treated like a hardened criminal in our society. What a travesty of justice! I doubt very much whether any person in the community realizes that people are being extradited under police guard from as far away as Adelaide by Goodwins Limited of Newtown. This betrayal of every principle of the liberty of the subject, simply because he defaults in some hire-purchase obligation, will bring a feeling of horror to every decent citizen in the community.
This is not the only instance of an extradition that has come to my notice. I have not time to mention them all. I have evidence also to show that in other cases where a husband and wife have been arrested under these “bring them back alive” warrants, representatives of the company have offered no evidence and, when questioned by the solicitors for the defendants, have stated that they could not verify the information on which the warrant was issued. In other cases the firm evidently did not care about the reasons for the default in payments, and apparently some persons arrested under these warrants may have had sound reasons for not meeting their obligations. It is also significant that although over the years Goodwins Limited has taken out many of these first instance warrants, with few exceptions, when the persons charged were brought to court, the company did not offer any evidence and the charges were withdrawn.
Mr. Deputy Speaker, what kind of conduct is this? These sections of the act should be used only in cases of real criminal action. Goodwins Limited ignores this and, by all the humiliating processes of the criminal law, degrades husbands and wives, and even invalid pensioners. The company extradites people under police guard, and when they appear in court offers no evidence. This conduct demands Government action, first, against this company in particular, but above all else by giving to the Commonwealth Bank the right to enter the field of hire purchase to compete against the Shylocks of the business world.
Time does not permit me to go further into this aspect. I mention, however, that my information is- that first instance warrants have been sworn at the court of petty sessions in the Australian Capital Territory under section 39 of the Australian Capital Territory Hire Purchase Ordinance, and a number are pending at the present time. For some reason or other they have been held up. I do not know whether this is at the instigation of the Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick) or of Goodwin’s Limited, but I suggest that an investigation be made and steps taken to prevent this firm and Television and General Finance Company from taking away the liberty of people in this country for breaches of contracts which infringe every principle of accepted business ethics.
Surely the facts I have mentioned, and those already presented by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro, justify support for the proposal now before us. For an unlimited time examples could be given of the extortion practised by this company. There may be other cases that could be mentioned, but I know of those to which I have referred because they have been brought to my attention. I have no brief for those who will not honour their financial obligations, but the people concerned are not criminals; they are the victims of abuse of the law by a firm - there may be others - which uses to the full all the power of slick high-pressure salesmanship, false advertising, snide agreements and evasion of the hire-purchase legislation of the States. Their victims are those who, in good faith, enter into contracts at high prices and exorbitant rates of interest, little knowing that ultimately they may lose not only their goods and their money but also their liberty and be lodged in a police cell as criminals.
Surely at a time when the people are being exploited by financial institutions such as this, the Commonwealth Bank cannot stand aside. It is the bank’s responsibility to enter this field in order to give protection and to give justice to people who are entitled to purchase what they require under reasonable terms and conditions. This is the answer to those companies that exploit and profiteer. I hope the proposal will be accepted by the Government and that the honorable member for EdenMonaro will ultimately be successful in the campaign he has commenced in order to bring justice to those people who desire to buy goods on hire purchase.
.- I cannot allow this occasion to go by without entering my protest, first, at this matter being used by the Opposition to avoid a debate on the vital matter of Cuba - a matter which the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) has not answered to anybody’s satisfaction. The statement on Cuba was made weeks ago and Opposition members could have had a debate on that subject whenever they liked. I should like to make a further protest in this House at the arrogant manner in which the Opposition has continually deprived back-benchers in this Parliament of their opportunity to bring up their constituents’ grievances on Grievance Day. Even though opportunities for Grievance Day debates have been provided by the Government, we have hardly had the benefit of one such debate because we have had to put up with a long succession of these trivial and insignificant matters of so-called urgent public importance.
If there is any respect in which I believe that the Standing Orders should be amended it is to ensure that matters which take up the time of the House in this category are, indeed, matters of urgent public importance. A judgment should be made on this, and a matter should not be judged as being of urgent public importance just because the Opposition chooses officially to raise it. When that particular provision was provided in the Standing Orders, the framers of the Standing Orders had in mind responsible oppositions which had some regard for the dignity of Parliament and the importance of this body as a national institution. With this mob opposite, Sir, obviously a different procedure has to be adopted. In any case. I want to enter my protest against these arrogant attempts by the Opposition, which have been made time and time again, to take away my opportunities and those of my colleagues to speak on subjects of our choice on Grievance Day. What have the back-bench members of the Opposition to say about this attempt on the part of their front-bench people to deprive them of the opportunity of speaking on matters of importance to their constituents?
I understand that we are debating this matter this morning purely because the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) has had a private argument with a hire-purchase company. I know nothing of the rights and wrongs of the particular matter that he raised. What I do know is that the rights and wrong* of this matter have nothing whatever to do with this Parliament. In terms of the proposal, which has been almost obscured in the talk about particular cases, real or imaginary, brought up by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro and the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) we are asked, in relation to these unsubstantiated cases relating to one single firm, to debate a proposition which involves a major change in the financial structure of this country. In particular, we are asked to give the Commonwealth Development Bank the right to enter in an unrestricted manner into the hire-purchase field. I put it to the House that this cannot be justified in any circumstances.
I should like to have made my protest about the cowardly way in which the honorable member for Eden-Monaro has hidden behind Parliamentary privilege to make attacks on a private firm. I do not know whether the attacks are justified or not. All I know is that it is conduct unbecoming to a member of this Parliament to behave in this way. Instances of such conduct are becoming increasingly frequent. We are used to it from the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward). Now, the honorable member for Eden-Monaro has entered the business. What is more, he has, it seems quite clear, avoided the opportunity for an independent inquiry outside the Parliament. The reason that he has avoided the opportunity for an independent inquiry is that he would have to say outside this place, when he has not the benefit of Parliamentary privilege, those things which he said here.
I want to make it clear that I am not putting myself in the position of defending this company. I do not know anything about its activities. I do not regard it as my responsibility as a member of this Parliament to be concerned with the activities of the company. I am objecting to the procedure which the honorable member for Eden-Monaro has adopted under cloak of Parliamentary privilege - something which he knows full well could ruin the business of this company. It may well be that that is justified. But without giving the company any right of reply he has got up and made unsubstantiated allegations in this Parliament which could ruin the livelihood not only of the company, but of its shareholders.
I have mentioned these matters rather than speak about the substance of the proposal because the matter is so trivial, and honorable members opposite have confined themselves to it. But I want to make one point: Opposition members have suggested that the Commonwealth Banking Corporation, through the Commonwealth Development Bank, should be given power to engage in an unrestricted manner in the hire-purchase field. They have not referred to the fact that if the Commonwealth Development Bank were to do that the funds that it would have to use for the purpose would be principally funds provided out of revenue, unless Opposition members are suggesting that the bank should use the funds of the depositors of the Commonwealth Banking Corporation to engage in hire purchase. This is something that no private bank has attempted.
Except in the early stages, the private banks have used only their shareholders’ funds, not the depositors’ funds, to undertake the business of hire-purchase subsidiaries. In other words, although there are enormous demands on the revenue for tilings that people outside government are not prepared to do, things which are the direct responsibility of the Government, the Opposition is asking us to take funds away from such projects, or to increase taxation to get more funds so that the Development Bank can compete in the hire-purchase field where more than ample funds are available already.
Opposition members themselves are constantly emphasizing to this House the importance of amending the Constitution so that we can damp down the proportion of total national resources going into the hirepurchase field. This, in itself, is an admission of the availability of funds for hire purchase from private sources. Yet the Opposition wants us to use our scarce resources from general revenue for this purpose. As I have said, the drawing of funds from general revenue is the only legitimate way in which money could be provided for this purpose, apart from money coming from the profits of institutions.
The other thing that I want to say in the short time left to me is that the Commonwealth Development Bank has a specific purpose in the primary producing and industrial fields, particularly in the primary producing field, in which there is a body of people who are very dependent on bank advances. Primary producers do not want hire-purchase finance. They want bank finance. Rightly or wrongly, they see every penny that goes into hire-purchase in this country as detracting from the amount of bank finance available.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– Mr. Deputy Speaker, I have been preceded by rather a larrikin performance which an education at Oxford does not seem to have modified to any significant degree. I regard as the distinguishing characteristics of an educated larrikin-
– Order! I point out that, under Standing Orders, no personal reflections are allowed on members of the House.
– Mr. Deputy Speaker, the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) and the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Forbes) seem to be quite unaware of the reason why the Opposition is concerned to expose the iniquities of many private hire-purchase concerns. The honorable member for Barker said that the Opposition’s efforts could even ruin one of them. Apparently, he is completely unaware that many thousands of ordinary private citizens are being ruined by the activities of these companies. The honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) and the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) have not only a right but also a responsibility to produce in this Parliament, as they have done, the evidence of the iniquitous activities of these concerns. Government supporters are quite unable to see the connexion between this aspect of the matter and the other part of the Australian Labour Party’s proposal which is designed to have the Commonwealth Bank of Australia enter into the hire-purchase field. Because of the iniquitous practices that have been demonstrated in this House, it is necessary to put a decent public institution into the field so that fairer interest rates and fairer practices will prevail.
Summing up the case so far made by the Opposition, I suggest that it is pretty clear although the Government cannot understand the significance of this that many private hire-purchase companies, of which the one mentioned is a good example, are charging excessively high interest rates. It is well for the public to know that the pure interest cost in many hire-purchase contracts ranges from a minimum of about one-fifth of the cost of the item purchased to an amount of the item purchased. These exceedingly high interest rates are quite unnecessary, and they reflect themselves in the excessively high profits being made by the hire-purchase companies concerned. In 1955-56, as the report of the Commonwealth Bank showed, the profits of the hire-purchase companies averaged 14.8 per cent, and greatly exceeded the profits of any other industrial or financial organizations. By 1960, the profits of the hire-purchase companies had reached 18.8 per cent. They are probably just as high as that to-day. In some instances, the rates of profit of hirepurchase companies are more than double those prevailing in a number of other sections of the economy. This is because of the excessively high charges and interest rates imposed on those borrowing money on hire purchase. That much has been demonstrated and proved in specific cases by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro and the honorable member for Grayndler in this House.
Secondly, there are ambiguous contracts in which conditions are inserted and explained away as not being relevant or as having no effect. Later, the person who has borrowed the money finds to his cost that those conditions have very significant effects Such conditions, in the case of the company concerned, have been shown to lead to arrest - arbitrary arrest, in some instances - without any attempt being made beforehand to give the borrower an opportunity to make his payments or his explanations for not paying. So I think the case that unfair, iniquitous and extortionate practices prevail among many hire-purchase concerns in this country has been pretty well established.
Of course, the Treasurer and the honorable member for Barker have made no attempt whatever to answer any of these things. The Treasurer said that he was not making any charges. He declared, “ I do not know the facts.” It is time the Treasurer of this country did know the facts about hire purchase. The honorable member for Barker said that he knows nothing about the rights and wrongs of the case. He even went so far as to say that the question of the rights and wrongs of the case should not be raised at all in this Parliament. The honorable member is not concerned about, nor does he know of, the iniquities that we are raising. However, that does not prevent him from making accusations against the workers and trade union leaders in this country. Honorable members opposite want to have unlimited rights to do that, but we on this side of the chamber, it seems, are not to be permitted in his Parliament to criticisze or to expose the practices of these Shylocks of business, as the honorable member for Grayndler called them.
I think that the case submitted by the Opposition has been proved. We say that the Commonwealth Bank should be allowed to operate in the field of hire purchase. That bank is able to provide lending facilities and to make loans at fair rates of interest and on contracts fairer than those that prevail in the private sector of the economy. Indeed, the bank has an obligation to do this. Section 28 of the Commonwealth Bank Act 1959, lays down the functions of the Commonwealth Trading Bank of Australia in these terms - (1.) The Trading Bank shall carry on general banking business. (2.) It is the duty of the Trading Bank to develop and expand its business. (3.) The Trading Bank shall not refuse to conduct banking business for a person by reason only of the fact that to conduct that business would have the effect of taking away business from another bank.
The bank has that obligation and has been prevented from exercising it only by this Government.
The Commonwealth Bank first entered into hire purchase in 1946. It financed only motor vehicle transactions until 1956, and then it was prevented even from financing the purchase of motor cars. In 1960, with the formation of the Commonwealth Development Bank of Australia, this Government further engineered a situation in which the Commonwealth Bank was taken out of the field of financing consumer durables, and that bank is now limited to the financing only of machinery and equipment for primary and secondary industries. In 1949, the bank was conducting about £15,000,000 worth of hire-purchase transactions out of a total of some £75,000,000 worth - about one-fifth of the total. To-day, the Commonwealth Bank is providing £20,400,000 on hire purchase out of a total of more than £550,000,000.
– The total is not £550,000,000 to-day.
– The total is £550,000,000 to-day. There should be no restriction on the. Commonwealth Bank. There is plenty of room for the use of its facilities. To-day,
Australia is suffering from an inadequacy of purchasing power, not by any means from a surplus. The Commonwealth Bank has always been required to have a higher liquid-assets ratio than any other bank has. In 1954, for instance, the liquid-assets ratio of the Commonwealth Bank was 37.2 per cent., compared with 19.6 per cent, for the other banks. To-day, the ratio is about 27 per cent, for the Commonwealth Bank compared with about 18.5 per cent, for the other banks. Always, the liquid-assets ratio of the Commonwealth Bank has been higher than that of the other trading banks by 50 per cent, or more. It has been kept at that high level by the policies and attitudes of this Government, which have been conveyed to the bank through the board by which it is governed. The Commonwealth Bank has been kept in that position so that it would not be so active a competitor of the other banks.
The Commonwealth Bank has the resources to enter more extensively into hirepurchase finance, and the Australian economy needs the development of this bank in that field. There is nothing to hold it back. The resources are there. Indeed, the Commonwealth Bank must enter into the hire-purchase field. So we suggest that, first of all, it is most essential for this Parliament to be fully aware of the iniquitous practices that prevail in many fields of private lending through hire purchase. It is necessary for this House to know the costs and difficulties that are imposed on ordinary people by these practices, and it is necessary for this House to be prepared not only to support legislation that would prevent those practices as far as possible but also to support the entry of the Commonwealth Bank fully into the field of hire purchase to compete with these business Shylocks and force them to reduce their charges and, by direct competition, require them to adopt more equitable practices.
The Treasurer raised the argument that in some way there are financial difficulties involved in the entry of the Commonwealth Bank into this field. Such arguments have no support whatever. All that the right honorable gentleman was able to mention in support of his argument was a report made well over twenty years ago with which the late Mr. Chifley was associated. If the Treasurer of this country places himself
In a position in which the latest information on hire-purchase that he can present to the House is contained in a report made well over twenty years ago, that is a pretty clear indication of the bankruptcy of his ideas and knowledge on this subject generally. Not only that; he was unable to understand-
– -Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– Mr. Speaker, I want to enter a protest similar to that made by the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) and the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Forbes) at the Opposition’s action in using the time available on Grievance Day to pursue personal vendettas by submitting subjects for discussion as matters of urgency. On the last two occasions on which Grievance Day has been set down - that is, for the last month or more - private members of this House have been denied an opportunity to raise here matters that affect them personally in their electorates. I should like to have been able to raise a number of matters in Grievance Day debates, but, unfortunately, the Opposition has chosen to use the time available on Grievance Day to allow certain of its members to pursue a personal vendetta against a company. In the pursuit of that vendetta, those honorable members have made wild accusations against the company and they are now not game to stand up in public and substantiate their accusations.
I am a bit disappointed with the Labour Party. It has sponsored this proposal to discuss a matter of urgent public importance, which covers not only the particular matter that has been raised by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) and the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly), but also the whole field of hire purchase, in which it is alleged that hirepurchase companies are indulging in iniquitous practices. Of course the members of the Labour Party agreed in caucus to propose this wider matter for discussion, but when they stand up in this House do they talk about the iniquitous practices of hire-purchase companies? We would have liked to hear about them, but all we have heard is a continuation of the vendetta that has been waged against Goodwins Limited.
I will admit that the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns) paid some attention to the wider issue, but the only reason his colleagues allowed him to do so is that they want to keep up the pressure that they continually try to bring to bear to secure an amendment of the Constitution so that the Commonwealth can control all hirepurchase companies and all finance companies in Australia. After all, the basic objective of the socialists is to gain control of finance, whether by nationalizing the banks or by taking control of hire-purchase companies. We have only to study what happened in Russia to see that this is so. The first objective of the Communists was to gain control of finance, because they realized that without such control they could not gain control of the methods of production.
We hear a lot of criticism these days, particularly from the honorable member for Yarra, of the entry of the private banks into the hire-purchase field. For my part, I do not like this development either, because I think it conflicts with good banking practice. But I believe that the reason why the private banks have entered the field of hire purchase is that they want to have a second string to their bow in case a Labour government takes office and proceeds to nationalize the banks. Under our Constitution as at present framed, of course, the Government cannot take control of hirepurchase companies, and the banks realize that the only way in which they can be sure of keeping their organizations intact is by engaging in hire-purchase activities.
The wording of the Opposition’s proposal is quite interesting. It refers to - the need, demonstrated by the Iniquitous practices of some private companies . . .
From what we have observed during the course of the vendetta that has been carried on, it appears that the honorable member for Eden-Monaro is a stooge for a ring of hire-purchase companies. As I say, that is the impression that one would gather, although I do not say that it is correct. It seems that Goodwins Limited has allowed people to buy its goods on terms, without any obligation to pay interest if they meet their commitments. In other words, Goodwins Limited has been prepared to make its profit on the mark-up on the sale of goods, without worrying about any interest payments. The firm has decided that the mark-up represents a sufficient profit, and that it will not charge
Interest if purchasers keep up their instalment payments.
This practice offended the hire-purchase companies, and they approached Retra, a group of electrical appliance manufacturers, and asked that group not to supply companies that adopted the practice of refunding interest payments to purchasers. Retra followed this instruction, but then the New South Wales Labour Government objected, and the Minister for Justice in that Government, Mr. Mannix, threatened to evoke the monopolies legislation against Retra if goods were not supplied to such companies. Having been defeated in that direction, the hire-purchase companies, we are led to believe, went to the honorable member for Eden-Monaro and asked him to attack Goodwins Limited in another direction. The honorable member, of course, rose in this House on several occasions and carried out this attack, but he has not come out before any court or other inquiry and given the evidence that he says is in his possession. If a man had any human dignity at all he would surely get up and defend himself against statements such as those made in a letter that was circulated to every member of this House, in which the honorable member for Eden-Monaro was referred to in most unsavoury terms. If the honorable member had any pride he would surely give evidence to refute statements in that letter describing him as an unmitigated liar.
– You know that that would simply block any further discussion in the House by making the matter sub judice.
– The honorable member for Eden-Monaro is the one who brought this matter up, using the subterfuge of suggesting that the Commonwealth Bank should enter more widely into the field of hire-purchase. Has he talked about that proposition? No, he has not. He has simply continued his attack on Goodwins Limited. Let him come forward and give the evidence that he has referred to. The people of Australia are waiting to hear it. I want to know where the truth lies. I am not defending Goodwins. I would be very pleased to hear this evidence and to discover where truth and justice lie.
Honorable members opposite have referred to rates of interest charged by hirepurchase companies. Although they have mentioned only some companies on this occasion, when a similar matter was proposed for discussion by the honorable member for Scullin (Mr. Peters) a couple of years ago, members of the Opposition said that all hire-purchase interest rates were unreasonable. The honorable member for Yarra said to-day that they were all unreasonable. It is strange to recall that the Prime Minister in the previous Labour Government, the late Mr. Chifley, whom all honorable members opposite held in such high esteem, was a member of a board appointed in 1941 by the then Prime Minister, now Sir Arthur Fadden, to investigate hire-purchase activities in Australia. The board found that no unreasonable charges were being made and that there were no malpractices on the part of hire-purchase companies. Did Mr. Chifley say that the interest rates were too high at that time? No, of course he did not. I have before me a copy of the board’s report, which was signed by all members, including Mr. Chifley. Is it not obvious that Mr. Chifley would have taken an opportunity, as a member of the then Opposition, to express views, if he had held any, about any malpractices on the part of hire-purchase companies? Paragraph 77 of the board’s report refers to rates of interest charged for various items obtained under hire-purchase agreements. The rate for new motor vehicles was 7.3 per cent. It is now 7 per cent. For second-hand vehicles the rate was 8.5 per cent., while it is now 9 per cent. For household furniture the interest rate was 10 per cent.; it is 10 per cent, to-day.
Will honorable members opposite say that those rates are unreasonable? It is only natural that hire-purchase rates should be higher than bank rates, because the risks are much greater. The money has to be repaid in instalments. The articles dealt with depreciate rapidly. For these reasons the hire purchase companies are entitled to charge slightly higher than bank rates in order to protect themselves. To say that these rates are unreasonable, is to contradict the Labour Party’s own financial prophet, the late Mr. Chifley. In paragraph 133, almost at the end of its report, the board said -
The finance charges as set out in paragraph 77 are not unreasonable and there appears to be sufficient free competition among the finance companies to act as a brake on excessive charges.
There are many more hire-purchase companies operating to-day. There is much fiercer competition in the hire-purchase business. It cannot be seriously suggested that the Commonwealth Bank should be used to provide enough money for hire-purchase activities, because there is plenty of money in the community to-day to enable people to buy goods on hire purchase. Every one of us must admit that the hire-purchase companies enable people on low incomes to purchase goods that they could not otherwise obtain, although I think we should not give too much encouragement to people to buy goods in this way.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– It is an amazing fact that members of the Liberal Party and the Country Party can always be relied upon to defend the practices of the wealthy and privileged members of the community who exploit the weak and under-privileged. We have heard them time and time again defending the interests of the wealthy shipping combines and the banks. Now we find them prepared to get up and defend the crooked hire purchase companies which are exploiting the ordinary people. They care not one iota about the effect that these crooked exploiters have on the pockets of the ordinary men in the street. What do they care for the ordinary people who are being exploited by these crooked operators? So long as they have an opportunity to defend the wealthy and the privileged and these crooked outfits they are happy, because they believe that by doing so they are fulfilling the obligations of their parties - and, of course, they are correct. We, on the other hand, believe that we should fulfil our party’s obligation and try to achieve our objectives. One or those objectives is to defend the common man against exploitation by certain people to whom the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) and the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) have, to their eternal credit, referred. By raising this matter those honorable members stimulated my interest in it to the extent that I mentioned in this Parliament the case of a person living in Adelaide who had had dealings with Goodwins Limited. I have had a large amount of correspondence from many people since I first raised this matter in the House. Those people have told me of their experiences with Goodwins. Let me quote one letter which Goodwins sent to a customer. It reads -
The set you purchased did not qualify for interest rebate. This interest rebate applied only to sets priced at 139 guineas. However, you were credited with a £10 trade-in which is equal to one year’s interest and we trust this explanation is satisfactory.
Another letter that I have received from a person living in Brisbane reads -
We are both invalid pensioners living in two rooms and possessing only our few sticks of furniture. We bought a T.V. on terms from Goodwins Brisbane shop. When we tried to find them the shop had closed.
Oddly enough, the shop in Jetty-road, Glenelg, also is closed, which indicates how crooked are the practices followed by Goodwins in South Australia. The letter continues -
We wrote three letters to Canberra asking them to take the T.V. back as we could not maintain the payments. They ignored the letter but instead obtained a default judgment against us in Canberra because we could not afford to go there to defend the case, and on 18th October informed us “ After 14 days we will apply for a bailiff to enter your home and sell your goods and chattels “.
I have many other letters which I feel are so important that they should be brought to the attention of the public as a warning. Accordingly, I ask for leave of the House to incorporate them in “ Hansard “.
– Order! Is leave granted?
– Leave is not granted.
– Leave was not refused-
– Order! Leave was not granted.
– It is a funny thing that Government supporters are now trying to protect these people by refusing to allow me to incorporate in “ Hansard “ letters, the originals of which I have in my possession and can produce. Government supporters are so keen to defend this crooked outfit, Goodwins, that they refuse to allow me to incorporate those letters in “Hansard”. I can produce the originals of the letters. Well, if that is their mission in life - if they are in parliament to protect these crooked outfits - that is their business. Goodwins has been clearly shown by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro, by the honorable member for Grayndler and by me to be guilty of blatant misrepresentation, malpractice and lying bordering on criminal fraud. These are the people whom Government supporters are defending.
The public should be warned against entering into any business transaction with Goodwins Limited pending a public inquiry into the shady practices indulged in by this company. My colleagues and I have been accused of picking only on Goodwins Limited. I do not intend to do anything of the kind. I intend now to name Canberra Television Services Limited as a company that should be investigated. Our attack is not directed at one particular company. Our motion asks for the Commonwealth Bank to be allowed to enter the field of hire purchase in order to protect the Australian public not only against this crooked outfit Goodwins, but also against Canberra Television Services Limited, which operates in Adelaide, amongst other places. A common practice of the firm in Adelaide is to hire out a television set for a specified period and to write into the agreement a proviso that when the hiring period has expired the hirer shall be forced to continue to pay rent until one month’s notice in writing, and in some cases three months’ notice, has been given to the company after the termination of the agreement. I shall say something more about Canberra Television Services Limited at a later date.
The honorable member for Eden-Monaro and the honorable member for Grayndler have been accused of making cowardly attacks on Goodwins Limited. What utter nonsense! Is not this what the Parliament is for? Is it not because we should be protected against litigation that we have parliamentary privilege to stand up and openly expose these crooked outfits? Honorable members have no other course than to expose these companies in the Parliament because we know that, if we dare to tell the truth outside, these fraudulent companies can drag us through the courts and involve us in inconclusive and costly litigation. The greater the truth, the greater the libel. We have been asked why the honorable member for Eden-Monaro has not taken action against Goodwins Limited. We know that Goodwins would be happy for the honorable member for EdenMonaro to take action against it over the lying and scurrilous letter published by the firm because then the whole matter would be sub judice. I would not be able to-day to expose the firm further because you, Sir, quite properly, would hold that the matter was sub judice. Are not those the precise tactics employed only the other day by the Queensland Commissioner of Police in order to prevent Mr. Col. Bennett, M.L.A., from raising certain matters in the Queensland Parliament? We are well aware of the tactics employed by these people.
Honorable members opposite have accused us of taking up the time set aside for a Grievance Day debate. Did not the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) a moment ago tell us that last night the Leader of the House (Mr. Harold Holt) had informed him that there would not be a Grievance Day debate to-day, and that not until he received that information did the Deputy Leader of the Opposition tell the Leader of the House that the Opposition would seek to debate a matter of urgent public importance? Honorable members opposite cannot accuse us of depriving them of the opportunity to raise matters in a Grievance Day debate. The Treasurer decided that there would not be a Grievance Day debate this morning. He reached that decision last night, and conveyed his decision to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition at about 9 o’clock last night.
The purpose of the Opposition’s motion is to direct attention to the Government’s actions in relation to the hire-purchase activities of the Commownealth Bank. In 1953, the assets of the Industrial Finance Department of the Commonwealth Bank were virtually frozen. The department was told not to expand its activities. In the same year the hire-purchase companies were exempted from the provisions of the banking legislation. It has never been decided whether the Commonwealth has power under the Constitution to control the activities of hire-purchase companies. So far it has been a case of one lawyer’s word against another lawyer’s word. However, so that the matter could not be tested the Government introduced regulations exempting the hire-purchase companies from the provisions of the banking legislation.
As a result of the hire-purchase companies not being bound by the provisions of the banking legislation, the Government has no control over the interest rates charged by these companies. As a result of amending the banking legislation in 1953 the Government now has no control over the investments of the private banks in hirepurchase companies whereas before the legislation was amended the Government, if it thought fit, could have prevented the private banks from entering too deeply into the hire-purchase field. I say that this Government has deliberately prevented the Commonwealth Bank from entering the hirepurchase field in order to foster-
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
Repatriation (Special Overseas Service) Bill 1962. Repatriation (Far East Strategic Reserve) Bill 1962.
Repatriation Bill (No. 2) 1962. Re-establishment and Employment Bill 1962. War Service Homes Bill (No. 2) 1962. Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Bill 1962.
Social Services Bill (No. 2) 1962. Broadcasting and Television Bill 1962. Estate Duty Assessment Bill 1962. Income Tax and Social Services Contribution Assessment Bill (No. 2) 1962.
Suspension of Standing Orders.
– I move -
That, in relation to the proceedings on the following bills, viz.: - Repatriation (Special Overseas Service) Bill 1962, Repatriation (Far East Strategic Reserve) Bill 1962, Repatriation Bill (No. 2) 1962, Re-establishment and Employment Bill 1962, War Service Homes Bill (No. 2) 1962, Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Bill 1’962, Social Services Bill (No. 2) 1962, Broadcasting and Television Bill 1962, Estate’ Duty Assessment Bill 1962 and Income Tax and Social Services Con tribution Assessment Bill (No. 2) 1962, so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent -
one motion being moved without delay and one question being put in regard to, respectively, the introduction, the first readings, the second readings, the Committee’s report stage, and the third readings, of all the Bills together, and
the consideration of all the Bills as a whole together in a Committee of the Whole.
Question resolved in the affirmative. Sitting suspended from 12.40 to 2.15 p.m.
– I move -
That the House of Representatives approves of the distribution of the State of New South Wales into Electoral Divisions as proposed by Messrs. F. L. Ley, C. E. Elphinstone and R. F. Malton, the Commissioners appointed for the purpose of distributing the said State into Divisions, in their Report laid before the House of Representatives on the 4th day of October, 1962, and that the names of the Divisions suggested in the Report, and indicated in the map referred to therein, be adopted, except that the name “Cook” be substituted for “Stewart” and the name “Kurnell” be substituted for “ Cronulla “. [Quorum formed.]
Mr. Speaker, I have just read the terms of the motion for the adoption of the redistribution proposals for the State of New South Wales. As this is the first of the proposals for redistribution in each State, I think it appropriate to remind the House of the circumstances under which the redistribution has taken place. In the first place, in general terms, the total number of members of the House of Representatives and the method of determining their allocation between States are provided by the Constitution. These provisions have remained unchanged since federation. The number of members of this House is limited to being as nearly as practicable twice the number of the Senate, and as between States representation is to be in proportion to population subject to the proviso that no original State shall have fewer than five members.
The Constitution made no mandatory provision for any periodical counting of the population to determine any changes in representation, as between States, but left this to be determined by the Parliament itself. The Parliament has done this by providing for the periodical taking of a census, and by the terms of the Representation Act which lays down the way in which the census results are to be translated into the number of electorates for each State. These methods have remained basically the same since 1905.
With regard to the division of each State into separate electorates, this too was left in the hands of this Parliament, subject to the necessary arrangements for the initial situation where of course this Parliament had no opportunity to make such arrangements. The method of drawing of boundaries for divisions is laid down by Part III. of the Commonwealth Electoral Act, and these provisions, in their present form, were enacted in 1918, and have not been changed since. Although, throughout these various enactments, it has been properly left for Parliament itself to control the final decisions, there has been exhibited by governments in the past a desire that no taint of self-interest on the part of the party with a majority in Parliament should lead to attempts to preserve, for the future, some special advantage for that party in the method of drawing electoral boundaries.
For this reason, the three commissioners appointed by the Parliament in each State alone have the power to specify the actual boundaries proposed in any redistribution. The Parliament has the final authority to accept or reject these proposals, but the Parliament must be very conscious that, unless it decides to scrap the whole idea of independent commissioners drawing the boundary lines, it has itself no authority to dictate where the boundary lines of electoral divisions should be drawn. I would imagine that, whatever the results of any particular distribution, no one would wish to disturb this most important principle.
The present redistribution arose out of the census of June, 1961. There was an official count of trie population, which established the proportions, as between the States, of the population in each State, and hence of the comparative representation that each State should have in this House. Pur suant to this census, the population figure of each State, the quota of electors established under the Representation Act, and the certificate of the Chief Electoral Officer of the Commonwealth as to the number of members to which each State is entitled were tabled in the Parliament on 22nd February, 1962. In other words, official notice, for which statutory provision had been made, was served on this Parliament and on the people of Australia, that in order strictly to observe the terms of the Constitution that representation in this House should be in proportion to the population of each State, changes had to be made in the numbers of representatives from various States.
In the result, the census figures, according to the formula laid down by the Representation Act, showed that the States of Western Australia, Queensland and New South Wales, should each have one division less, and the State of Victoria one division more, than at present. This imposed on the Government a clear obligation to take some action. The obvious action indicated was to comply with the provisions of the legislation already in existence to adjust the situation by a redistribution of electoral boundaries. The less obvious action, if such a course was not thought palatable, was to amend the legislation to prevent the need for an alteration in the number of divisions in any State. The position, of course, was further complicated by the fact that, in some States, notably in Victoria, several divisions were either substantially above or substantially below the permissible quota limits.
At that time, the Government felt that it had a duty to adjust the electoral boundaries, in accordance with the provisions of the legislation in force. On 4th April last, therefore, redistribution commissioners were appointed for each State. These commissioners carried out their statutory duties - namely, to propose new boundaries, to advertise them, to receive objections, and finally to decide and report to this House on their final decisions. These decisions were tabled in this House on 4th October, 1962. These reports then are the decisions of independent men, appointed under a system devised, with the best skill which preceding Parliaments could devise, to prevent the accusation of party political considerations governing the very vital - indeed the completely fundamental aspect - of a workable democracy, namely the election of members to the Parliament.
The Parliament now has the opportunity to accept or reject the first of these proposals - those affecting the State of New South Wales. The history of events which I have related has two consequences in relation to this motion before the Parliament. It establishes that the redistribution process followed as a natural consequence of the census, and is not itself the work of the Government, but of independent commissioners. Therefore, the Government, as a government, does not stand or fall by the acceptance or rejection of the Commissioners’ proposals by this Parliament. It is not a proposal as a result of Government policy, but to a large degree made obvious by a sequence of events established by previous legislation.
The second point established is that arguments against the proposals of the commissioners can be directed against the actual decisions they have made, or, in the wider sense, against the framework and the charter under which they operate. But I have already related the long-standing nature of this charter, and, at the very least, one would have thought that objections on the wider ground should have been taken before the commissioners embarked on their task, when it became obvious, after the tabling in this House of the Chief Electoral Officer’s certificate on 22nd February, that a redistribution under the existing system was imminent. To await the outcome of a redistribution, and then to say, in effect, that whatever the commissioners did under their terms of reference could not be right because legislation under which they operate needs changing, would be an argument that could lead the public to feel that, like the fox in the fable, the individual advancing it had suddenly found that the grapes were sour.
Nothing has emerged from the reports of the commissioners which could justify the Government in refusing to submit these proposals for the approval of the Parliament, because they have exercised an independent judgment in accordance with their terms of reference. It is, of course, painfully obvious, in every case of a re-drawing of electoral boundaries, that most members of this Parliament will be affected and it is quite impossible to arrange that every member has new boundaries that please him as well as the old boundaries did. I feel certain that the public, who will, in due course, pass judgment on the attitude of Parliament in considering, in a responsible manner, these very important proposals, would expect the Government to give evidence that it is prepared to take the bad with the good, as far as individuals are affected. If the majority of members of this Parliament hold the same views, then the proposals of the commissioners can be duly adopted.
Finally, I should comment briefly on the proposals to change certain names proposed by the commissioners. The naming of divisions has never been a task imposed on the commissioners. For the purposes of identification, they have in the past recommended names of divisions, but since, in strict theory, these names should not affect the composition of future parliaments, the naming of divisions has been left to the Governor-General in Council. Again, as a matter of practice, it has become customary for the purposes of identifying divisions to include the proposed new names in the resolution before this House.
In New South Wales, there are two cases where the Government proposes to depart from the commissioners’ suggestions. Although the commissioners allocated the name “Cronulla” to one of the proposed new divisions, they said, in their report, that they considered this name inappropriate for a new division, due to the fact that there is already a State electoral district of that name. The Right Honorable Sir Joseph Cook, a former Prime Minister, represented Parramatta in this House for some twenty years. Although there was a former division of Cook, it was abolished in 1955. The Government has suggested that the name “ Cook “ be substituted for the name “ Stewart “ suggested by the commissioners.
I commend the motion to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Whitlam) adjourned.
– As it is now past the time provided for Grievance Day, Order of the Day No. 1 will not be called on. The Committee of Supply will be set down for a later hour this day.
Motion (by Mr. Adermann) - by leave - agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act relating to the wool industry.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill is designed to create a statutory body to be known as the Australian Wool Board, which will bring under a single direction the functions now performed by three separate instrumentalities - the Australian Wool Bureau, the Wool Research Committee and the Australian Wool Testing Authority. Furthermore, it is provided that the new board will investigate all aspects of wool marketing on a continuing basis and advise on measures which should be adopted to meet changing marketing conditions.
By introducing this measure, the Government desires to assist Australian woolgrowers in their efforts to advance the welfare of their industry. The Government is very conscious that the fortunes of this great industry are still of crucial importance to Australia’s economic life, despite the remarkable growth of secondary industry which has taken place in recent years. Indeed, much of this industrial growth was made possible by the availability of foreign exchange earned by wool, which helps us to pay for imports of essential materials and equipment. Last financial year our export income from wool was nearly £400,000,000, representing more than 37 per cent, of total earnings from all merchandise exported. Over the past 40 years the proportion of our export income earned by wool has never been less than 30 per cent, and indeed in many years has been around 50 per cent. This proportion is largely governed by the price paid for wool at auction, as on present production levels a change in the price of Id. per lb. means a variation of about £7,000,000 in our annual export proceeds.
As some 95 per cent, of wool produced in Australia is exported, mainly in its greasy form, it may be said that our vast wool industry depends for its survival on the con*tinued demand for wool throughout the world. This demand, however, can no longer be taken for granted. During the last twelve years, a great variety of synthetic fibres has been introduced to the public, and many of these fibres have succeeded in capturing large sections of the market for wool products. Indeed, wool has been completely replaced in certain end-uses.
The availability of these substitute fibres has already had the effect of lowering wool prices and their increasing production makes it essential for the wool industry to prepare itself for stiffer competition. The first requirement in this respect is the efficient organization of the industry so that it can conduct its affairs in a business-like manner. This is the prime objective of the bill we are now considering.
In the past the woolgrowing industry has been divided in its views on the means which should be employed to deal with its problems. The main issue which divided the wool-grower organizations was whether or not some change should be made in the present system of selling wool. The lack of unity amongst the organizations had the unfortunate effect of preventing the industry from coming to grips with the problems which confronted it. However, in September, 1960, the Australian Woolgrowers and Graziers Council and the Australian Wool and Meat Producers Federation asked the Government to set up an independent committee to inquire into the marketing and promotion of the Australian wool clip and related matters. The Government welcomed this joint approach by the two organizations as a sign of co-operation and, in January, 1961, appointed the Wool Marketing Committee of Enquiry under the chairmanship of Sir Roslyn Philp.
The committee took evidence in Australia and in our major overseas markets for wool during most of 1961 and presented its report to me in February, 1962. I tabled this report in Parliament on 7th March last. The report is a comprehensive document which honorable members no doubt have studied. The most important recommendation concerns the establishment of a central wool authority, and the committee had this to say about the need for such a body -
Soon after we entered upon this enquiry it became apparent that the woolgrowing industry lacks a centra] organization charged with the duty of watching over the diverse interests of growers and for that purpose fully informed of the real facts concerning such matters as production, marketing, promotion and research and capable of forming competent impartial opinion upon those matters.
The committee went on to say -
It is because of the lack of a body concerned with marketing, the lack of a co-ordinating body, the lack of one voice which can speak for the industry and the defect in the set-up of the industry that we feel constrained to recommend the erection of a central commission or board upon whose decisions Government could confidently rely and which could speak with final authority on all matters affecting the industry.
Other recommendations and suggestions that the committee made are largely contingent upon the establishment of a central authority. The report initially met with a mixed reception from the industry but further consideration evidently brought the realization that the course recommended by the committee would be the most satisfactory in the long term. After having given the report full consideration the council and the federation again jointly approached me in July last and presented a plan for the creation of a central body along the lines of that suggested by the committee of inquiry. They requested that effect be given to the plan by legislation as soon as possible. The Government considered fully this request and the present bill contains the necessary legislative arrangements. The plan calls for the establishment of two new bodies, the Australian Wool Industry Conference and the Australian Wool Board.
The Wool Industry Conference is not a statutory body and was constituted jointly by the council and the federation on 24th October, 1962, in preparation for the action which this Parliament is now taking. It consists at present of 50 members, . 25 each from the council and the federation and an independent chairman. It will be, in effect, the national forum of woolgrowers. The main functions of the conference will be to nominate the wool-grower representatives for appointment to the Wool Board; to consult with the Minister concerning the appointment of the three “ other members “ to the board; to recommend the maximum rate of levy to be collected from wool-growers to finance the activities of the board; to recommend the operative rate of levy to be struck; to consult with the Minister concerning the appointment of the first chairman of the board; and to consult with the Wool Board in respect of the activities of the board. For the various functions I have mentioned, the conference is given recognition in this bill and in the two Wool Tax Bills which I propose to introduce later. Copies of the constitution of the conference will be made available to honorable members who want them.
The Australian Wool Board, which will be established under this bill, will consist of eleven members comprising a chairman, six wool-grower representatives, a representative of the Commonwealth and three other members. The first chairman of the board will be appointed after consultation between the Wool Industry Conference and the Government. Subsequent chairmen will be appointed on the nomination of the board after a secret ballot. The chairman will be appointed for a period of three years. The six wool-grower members will be appointed on the nomination of the Wool Industry Conference. The three “ other members “ will be appointed from a panel of five names submitted to the Minister by the conference. These members will not represent any particular interests but the bill provides for them to be drawn from the fields of marketing of wool and wool products, wool manufacture and woo] research, as well as finance and commerce.
Members of the board will be appointed for a period of three years. However, the initial appointments of the six wool-grower representatives and the three “other members “ will be made for varying periods - one, two and three years - which will enable members to retire in rotation. Under this arrangement three members of the board will retire each year. This provision was specifically requested by the federation and the council and its purpose is to maintain a nucleus of experienced members on the board. In brief, the functions of the new board will include those which are now performed by three separate organizations, namely, the Australian Wool Bureau, which deals with wool promotion, the Australian Wool Testing Authority, which is concerned with the testing of wool and wool products, and the Wool Research Committee, which is the advisory body on wool research. In addition, the board will be obliged to set up a marketing committee to which I shall refer later in some detail.
In order to permit the progressive takeover by the board of the functions at present carried out by the three separate instrumentalities, the bill is divided into parts. The parts are largely self-contained and provision is made for them to come into operation on dates to be proclaimed. Parts II., III. and IV. of the bill provide for the abolition of the three statutory bodies now concerned with wool, that is, the Australian Wool Bureau, the Australian Wool Testing Authority and the Wool Research Committee, by repealing respectively the Wool Use Promotion Act, the Australian Wool Testing Authority Act and the Wool Research Act. The assets and liabilities of the Wool Bureau and the Wool Testing Authority will be taken over by the new board and in each case provision is made to meet any legal, financial or administrative situation that may arise because of the repeal of the acts and the subsequent commencement of the appropriate part of the new legislation.
Under Part II. of the bill the present powers and functions of the Wool Bureau are vested in the new board. The principal function is the promotion of wool in Australia and in overseas countries. It will be left to the discretion of the board to determine what arrangements it considers necessary to carry out its wool promotion activities. In this connexion provision is made in the legislation for the board to establish such committees as it thinks fit to assist it in its work. At the express wish of the wool-grower organizations the board is required under Part II. to establish a wool marketing committee. However, under this legislation the board will not have any executive powers in regard to marketing. The function of the marketing committee will be to initiate and maintain a continuing investigation into all aspects of wool marketing. The committee will report its findings to the board, which in turn will make recommendations to the Wool Industry Conference on any proposed significant alterations in the marketing system. The wool-grower organizations attach considerable importance to this aspect of the board’s work and desire that the board establish the marketing committee as soon as possible. It is the stated policy of federal wool-grower organizations that no fundamental change should be made in the present system of wool marketing without the approval of wool-growers at a referendum except, of course, in a state of national emergency. The Government agrees with this approach.
Part III. of the bill concerns the incorporation in the board of the Australian Wool Testing Authority. While becoming a part of the board the authority will retain its name in order to keep the goodwill it has built up both in Australia and overseas during its four years of operation. A body consisting of eight persons will be appointed by the board to control the affairs of the authority. The interests to be represented on this body will be substantially the same as the membership of the present authority with the exception that a representative of wool textile manufacturers will be added and it will not be mandatory for the two independent members to be Government nominees. Although the new authority will be subject to the direction of the board on major policy issues it will be free to manage its own day-to-day affairs and will have complete discretion in deciding the manner in which it conducts its tests on wool and wool products.
I should mention that the secretary of the International Wool Textile Organization has advised that the new arrangements, if passed by Parliament, will not affect in any way the international recognition granted by his organization to the present authority.
Part IV. of the bill deals with the arrangements for wool research. The function of the present Wool Research Committee, namely, the recommendation of expenditure on wool research, will be entrusted to the board. However, as the Government makes a substantial contribution to wool research, namely 4s. per bale for every 2s. contributed by wool-growers, the recommendations of the board will be subject to ministerial approval. Similar arrangements for ministerial approval exist in the case of research administered by the Dairy Produce Board. The Wool Research Trust Fund will continue in existence and the present arrangements for the financing of research will likewise be continued.
To assist the board in its work, two research advisory committees, one for wool production research and the other for wool textile research, are provided for in the bill. The chairman of each advisory committee will be a representative of the Government and the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization will be represented on each committee. Other members of these two research advisory committees will be appointed by the board in consultation with the Minister. The board will be empowered to appoint additional research advisory committees should this be found desirable. It is expected that all research advisory committees will be relatively small bodies and comprised of only those interests which are directly concerned with the committees’ particular fields of research. The recommendations of the research advisory committees will be submitted to the board, which will be responsible for working out a comprehensive research programme and for the co-ordination of this programme with wool promotion.
Part V. of the bill vests the control of the wool stores which are at present administered by the Wool Bureau in the new board and the Wool Stores Act is repealed. The control exercised by the Minister over the disposal of stores is maintained, as well as the right of the Commonwealth Government to re-acquire the stores in the event of a national emergency.
The activities of the board, other than those relating to wool research, will be financed from the sources of revenue which are now available to the Wool Bureau. These include the present promotion levy of 10s. per bale paid by wool-growers, income from wool stores and the reserves held by the Wool Bureau. The Wool Testing Authority will be financed from the fees charged for its services, and, as I mentioned earlier, the present arrangements for the financing of wool research will be continued.
Appropriate provision has been made in the legislation for the employment of staff, and the bill also contains safeguards designed to preserve the rights and entitlements of employees who are now engaged by the Wool Bureau and the Wool Testing Authority upon their transfer to the new board.
Having dealt with the main provisions of the bill I would emphasize that the Government, in determining that the Wool Industry Conference should be a nonstatutory authority, desires that the industry itself should decide its composition. This was decided although representations had been made to the Government from organizations other than those represented in the conference, and these included the Australian Primary Producers Union which sought representation in the conference. However, the Government notes with approval that the constitution of the Wool Industry Conference makes provision for the inclusion of other organizations under the terms set down, and considers it would be appropriate - and indeed the Government urges to that effect - if an agreement were reached between all organizations to enable a complete industry voice to be expressed through the conference. It might also be said that a non-statutory body whose membership can be modified by mutual agreement among organizations offers full scope for the development of unity in the wool-growing industry.
Few will doubt the advisability of having the various activities of the wool industry brought under a single body. I think it will be generally agreed that the past endeavours of the industry in the fields covered by the bill have been too diffuse to achieve the best results. It will be the function of the Australian Wool Board, as the single policy-making body, to coordinate these activities in order to achieve the maximum effectiveness.
It will be recalled that over the last two years or so there has been a fundamental re-organization of the International Wool Secretariat, the organization for the promotion of wool throughout the world, which is maintained by the Australian Wool Bureau and the wool boards of New Zealand and South Africa. As a result of this re-organization the structure of the secretariat has been streamlined and topclass personnel appointed to carry out an expanded promotion campaign. Australia has a majority on the board of the International Wool Secretariat and contributes the major proportion of funds for international wool promotion.
The improvements in the organization of the Australian wool industry foreshadowed in this bill, combined with the re-shaped International Wool Secretariat, will give Australian wool-growers effective machinery for the advancement of their interests. With such an organization it will be possible to ensure that the latest developments in wool research, in which Australia leads the world, are effectively combined with modern promotional techniques in a vigorous effort to stimulate the demand for wool. ‘ Provided that this organization is armed with adequate funds to create the necessary impact, wool’s future in the contest with its synthetic rivals should be assured. At the same time, Australian wool-growers will have a body in Australia which will keep the marketing system’ under a searching review in order to ensure that our woolmarketing techniques are in step with changing world conditions.
The Government believes that this bill will provide the wool-growing industry with the most effective means of furthering its interests. The new Wool Board will indeed have a great responsibility, but I have every confidence in its success.
I commend the bill’ to honorable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Pollard) adjourned.
WOOL TAX BILL (No. 1a) 1962.
Motion (by Mr. Adermann) - by leaveagreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Wool Tax Act (No. 1) 1957-1961, as amended by the Wool Tax Act (No. 1) 1962.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
.-by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The amendments proposed in this bill, and in the Wool Tax Bill (No. 2a) 1962, which will be introduced almost immediately, are consequential upon the Wool Industry Bill 1962, and their object is to give the Australian Wool Industry Conference statutory “ recognition in the Wool Tax Act (No. 1) and the Wool Tax Act (No. 2).
The Wool Tax Act (No. 1) applies to the levies paid by wool-growers for promotion and research on wool received by a wool broker or dealer, while the Wool Tax Act (No. 2) relates to the same levies paid on wool exported which does not pass through the hands of a broker or a dealer. Apart from this difference, the two acts are identical and to suit the convenience of the House this speech covers both bills.
Under the present Wool Tax acts, the rate of the wool promotion levy is prescribed on the recommendation of the Australian Wool Bureau, which in turn is required to consult with the two organizations represented on the bureau, namely, the Australian Wool-growers and Graziers Council and the Australian Wool and Meat Producers Federation. The rate of the wool research levy is prescribed on the recommendation of the council and the federation.
The arrangements which I have outlined when dealing with the Wool Industry Bill envisages that the Australian Wool Industry Conference will take over the role which the Australian Wool Bureau, the council and the federation now play in recommending the rates of levies for wool promotion and research. The amendments contained in these bills will give effect to this change. No alteration is being made m the present rates of the two levies. I comend the bill to honorable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Pollard) adjourned.
WOOL TAX BILL (No. 2a) 1962. Motion (by Mr. Adermann) - by leaveagreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Wool Tax Act (No. 2) 1957-1961, as amended by the Wool Tax Act (No. 2) 1962.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The amendments proposed in this bill were explained when I dealt with the Wool Tax Bill (No. 1a). I commend the bill to honorable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Pollard) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 28th November (vide page 2640), on motion by Sir Garfield Barwick -
That the following paper: - Cuban Crisis - Ministerial Statement, 6th November, 1962 - be printed.
.- On two other occasions, now, this debate on the situation in Cuba has been undertaken in this House. I thought, yesterday, when the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) commenced his speech, that a couple of words he used could well have been used in a different sense had events not turned out as they did. He talked about the debate having been brought on at his request, and an argument ensuing as to who should take the credit, and he said, “ As it is, we are now being asked to hold a post mortem”. I think honorable members on both sides of the House will realize that the events in October could well have led to a situation in which Australia and perhaps some other countries might well have been holding a post mortem on the rest of the world. The fact that this did not occur, I think, should be a cause of great gratitude, not only in this country, but also in many other countries of the world.
I think that one thing has come out of the Cuban crisis - something that has been maintained since 1945 when the first atomic bomb was exploded over Japan. This is that the military forces of the world have, for the first time, a strategic weapon in their hands. Since 1945, we have seen the world in a number of situations which could be said to have been worse than the situations that existed in 1914 and 1939 - situations which precipitated world wars. What has happened, I believe, particularly in view of the Cuban crisis, is that the nuclear weapon has been demonstrated as a deterrent to war. This is a lesson that could well be learned by those people, some wellmeaning, some misinformed and some misguided, such as members of peace councils and others, who go around wanting to ban the bomb - and are never quite certain whose bomb they want to ban. I think it has been proved during the Cuban crisis that, to-day, countries are in possession of a deterrent weapon. I am certain that if a situation such as that in Berlin had occurred in the pre-atomic age the result would have been war. Certainly a situation such as that in Cuba would have resulted in war.
I want to pay a tribute to the Minister for External Affairs (Sir Garfield Barwick) for having placed in the hands of honorable members in a comparatively short time all the relevant documents and copies of statements made by the leader of the Soviet forces and the leader of the American nation and the United Nations authorities. 1 refer to the papers which were supplied to members of both Houses in October and November. I think that honorable members should study these papers if they want to be well informed on the situation which led to the Cuban crisis and the situation afterwards. At page 4 of the set of papers which was given to honorable members on 25th October is a copy of a speech by the President of the United States.
On that occasion, when the Cuban crisis had occurred and action was about to be taken, my mind went back to 2nd September, 1939, when in Australia we heard a broadcast from London by the then Prime Minister of Great Britain on the crisis that had occurred in Europe. It struck me as rather significant that here, some twenty years or more later, matters of great moment concerning world security were now being dealt with by the President of the United States, and not by the man whom we had been accustomed to hear speak on such matters - the Prime Minister of Great Britain, This, of course, is due to the shift of power in the world. Great Britain lost its previous position for no other reason than that it bled itself almost white in saving the free world on two occasions. I have not the time to go into details on those matters. But now the President of the United States of America has had to take upon himself the mantle of the spokesman of the free world. According to the report of his speech on page 4 of the papers to which I have referred, he said -
The 1930’s taught us a clear lesson: aggressive conduct if allowed to go unchecked and unchallenged, ultimately leads to war. This nation is opposed to war. We are also true to our word. Our unswerving objective, therefore, must be to prevent the use of these missiles against this or any other country, and to secure their withdrawal or elimination from the Western Hemisphere.
I cannot let this moment go past without referring to the establishment of the missile bases on Cuban soil. I think it is well for Australia to remember and, indeed, for the world to realize, that the establishment of those bases, which caused such immediate action by the American President, points to one thing: For the last fifteen years Great Britain herself has lived closer to the shadow of such bases than most of the United States would have been even if the bases had been fully established in Cuba. Any one who looks at a map of the world - a globe, not a representation on Mercator’s projection, which gives a false idea of distances - will find that the distance from the centre of Cuba to Washington and some of the other main cities in the United States of America is half the distance from London to Berlin and almost the same as the distance from London to Moscow. If honorable members want the distances in an Australian context - I do not say this with any idea that there is a threat to us by Indonesia- I point out that the distance from Cuba to Washington is about equivalent to the distance from Djakarta to the north-western coast of Western Australia or that from about Timor to Adelaide. President Kennedy himself said that the firing of any missile from a base in Cuba would be taken as the firing of a missile from the Soviet Union at the United States of America, and, considering the comparative distances that I have given, one can see that this is the sort of situation with which England has lived in the last fifteen years.
The Cuban crisis has been resolved and the President of the United States has been seen as a spokesman for the free world. However, the Russian idea in the cold war is to apply pressure at various points about the world and, as the Deputy Leader of the Opposition said yesterday, there are too many points of pressure. I have forgotten the honorable member’s exact words for the moment,
– They are in “Hansard”.
– That is right, and I am looking for them there. Here they are -
We all realize that there are all too many of these places. A situation can suddenly be brought to fever heat in Berlin or anywhere else in Europe, or at the island of Quemoy, for example. The supreme test of the new leadership of the Western world will come, I believe, if the threat to the future peace of the Western world arises in a situation which cannot be handled so easily as the situation in Cuba was handled. One must realize that it was much easier for any nation to dictate terms on the open sea or in a place like Cuba than it is to dictate terms from a position of strength in a place like East Berlin.
I know that Opposition members have always said that they pin their faith completely on the United Nations, and I think it is well to remember that President Kennedy, when he acted, first of all made it cleay that the might of the Western world was to be used to stop the establishment of missile bases in Cuba. He stated that the United States was taking action immediately to refer the matter to the United Nations Security Council. As appears at page 5 of the first volume of documents on the Cuban crisis, President Kennedy said -
Acting, .therefore, in the defense of our own security and of the entire Western Hemisphere, and under the authority entrusted to me by the Constitution as endorsed by the Resolution of the Congress, I have directed that the following initial steps be taken immediately:
Six steps were then listed. The first, of course, related to the action taken on the high seas. The sixth was expressed in these terms -
Under the Charter of the United Nations, we are asking tonight that an emergency meeting of the Security Council be convoked without delay to take action against this latest Soviet threat to world peace. Our resolution will call for the prompt dismantling and withdrawal of all offensive weapons in Cuba, under the supervision of U.N. observers, before the quarantine can be lifted.
I believe that if the United Nations can claim any credit for the resolving of the situation in Cuba, that credit came only just in time, because the organization had been fast losing in the public mind any claim to be an effective instrument of peace. I think that the Congo situation war beginning to make people believe that the United Nations was going the same way that had been taken by that old organization known as the League of Nations, which failed under pressure that was placed on it by the major nations of the world.
I now turn to page 12 of the first volume of documents, Mr. Speaker, where there is an unofficial translation by the Soviet mission to the United Nations of a draft resolution for the Security Council read out by the Soviet representative on 23rd October. Among other things, the draft resolution stated -
The Security Council,
Noting the admissibility of violations of the norms with regard to freedom of navigation on the high seas,
Condemns the actions of the Government of the U.S.A. aimed at violating the United Nations Charter and at increasing the threat of war. . . .
This sort of thing, of course, represents the usual Soviet catch-cry. When any action is taken by the United States in the cause of world peace, that, in Soviet eyes, is in fact an action of war. Honorable members on both sides of the House, however, realize that no action taken by the United States since 1945 has been taken with any idea in mind except to stop the growth of world communism.
Here, I remind the House that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition said yesterday that we should look at this matter in relation to other places throughout the world. I have been dismayed by the attitude of some honorable members opposite who, I know, speaking without agreement with their colleagues, object to the establishment of a radio station in the North-West of Western Australia. This is a matter on which the situation in Cuba has a direct bearing. The world to-day is divided into two camps. It is obvious that the object of one is the overthrow of any form of democratic government so that control of the world by the Communist forces may be brought about. The opposing camp is the Western world. Fortunately, one country in the Western world has behind it sufficient economic strength to enable it to meet the tremendous expense of seeing that the world is kept safe. We in Australia are in a particularly unprotected situation. Our own economy allows as to do a certain amount under our treaty obligations. But I think that any opposition to the establishment, on the Western Australian coast or, indeed, on any part of the Australian coast, of a radio communications centre which will help in the protection of the free world is against the interests of Australia and should be condemned as utterly as it can be in this House or anywhere else. I hope that any differences between the United States Government and the Australian Government that have appeared or may appear over the establishment of this radio station will quickly be resolved and that work will proceed so that the station may be put into operation.
It is interesting to note that the only voices in Western Australia that I have heard raised against the establishment of this radio station are those of Mr. Patrick Troy, who is secretary of the dockers’ union, I think, and is well known in Western Australia, and of the Union of Australian Women, which constantly sends me letters on the subject. I hope that I have answered those people for all time by saying that I hope that the Americans not only will establish a radio communications base in Western Australia but also will see fit at some time to establish other bases. I believe that in 1962, as in 1941, our security depends on the establishment of United States bases in Australia. In 1962, our security still depends on what help we can get from our allies and on their willingness to establish bases in this country.
I think that if one looks at the Cuban situation in retrospect, one sees first, as I said earlier, proof that nuclear weapons are a deterrent to world war. I know that some people will say that one cannot go further than this and that at no stage can one risk a nuclear war being waged. I ask anybody who takes that view to visit the Australian War Memorial here in Canberra and see for himself what I believe is the most symbolic evidence in this age of the effects of war. It is a helmet that was worn by a soldier in the First World War. The helmet has just one bullet hole. One bullet was sufficient to destroy the individual who wore that helmet. This destruction of the individual is the net result of warfare, whether death comes from a nuclear weapon or from a bullet fired from a rifle.
– You stupid man. Do you not know what the aftermath of an atomic war will be?
– You see, I knew they would come in. You can absolutely bet on it. Let me put the argument that the Opposition tries to put to the Parliament. According to the Opposition, you may declare yourself in favour of certain principles of freedom and then abandon those principles when the threat becomes so great that you consider it wise to abandon them. You might have been prepared to accept those principles and fight for them in earlier times, as the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Uren) himself did, knowing that death might have been the result. If you fight for them again death may once more be the result. The greatest fear we have in this atomic age is that the people will be prepared to surrender rather than to stand by their principles. This is what was happening in relation to Cuba until, for the first time, President Kennedy said, “We are prepared to go the whole way in the defence of our principles on the American side of the world”. I believe a great majority of the Australian people were solidly behind him when he made that announcement. I think the great majority of members of this House would back Mr. Kennedy in his declaration that he was prepared to go further, if necessary, in the defence of freedom in America.
– Would the honorable member for Reid back that statement?
– Well, perhaps he will come around to our way of thinking later.
There are many other honorable members who want to express an opinion on this subject this afternoon, so I shall conclude my remarks. I hope this debate will prove to President Kennedy and Mr. Khrushchev that the Australian people, whom we represent in this Parliament, are prepared to make some sacrifices in the defence of freedom, as they were prepared to make them in 1914 and 1939.
– Despite the histrionics indulged in, in the best Bland Holt manner, by the treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) this morning, we find that the Cuban situation is . now before us for debate. We heard the Trea surer this morning trying to convince the people that the actions of the Opposition were blocking debate on the Cuban situation. Events have proved, of course, within a few short hours, how hopelessly weak and false was that statement by the Treasurer. Now the Cuban situation is being debated at the time when it should be debated, a time allocated for Government business. The Opposition this morning successfully asserted the proposition that if the Government would not allow time for Grievance Day for the discussion of the business of private members, then the House should deal with urgent business of the Opposition’s choosing, with this debate on the Cuban situation coming on at the proper time - the time allocated for Government business. The Opposition’s actions have been vindicated, and I believe that this supports, to an extent, the contention of the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Chaney) that a firm stand is needed with certain people on some occasions.
It is worth while to remember that the debate on the Cuban issue would not even have appeared on the notice-paper of this House but for action taken by the Opposition three weeks ago.
– That is not right.
– The honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Bury), who has awakened once again, does not agree with my statement.
– I have been awake throughout and I have said nothing.
– The honorable member said that it was rubbish to suggest that this would not have been on the noticepaper but for the Opposition.
– I said nothing about it.
– Well, go back to sleep again. This matter is before the House to-day because the Opposition moved that the paper be printed. It appeared on the notice-paper only as a result of the Opposition’s action. The second point to note is that even when we forced it onto the notice-paper the Government still did not intend to have it debated, because it gave it No. 19 position on the notice-paper. This was a clear indication of the degree of importance attached to it by the Government, and of the Government’s unwillingness to have it debated. Furthermore, we know that the matter would not have been raised in the House yesterday if the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) had not taken the matter up with the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies).
Even when the subject came before the House yesterday we found that after one speech by the Leader of the Opposition the Government was so eager to have the matter debated, and considered it of such high priority, that it gagged the debate against the wishes of the Opposition. However, we have asserted our position. We have got the debate started and I hope that Government members who have been professing such an eagerness to speak on the subject will do so, and that adequate time will be given for the issue to be fully debated.
If the Cuban crisis has now become a matter of history, as some people affect to consider it has, then this appears to be the proper time at which to examine the lessons to be learned from that crisis. In my view the most serious aspect of the matter is that false lessons have been learned and dangerous assumptions made by honorable members on the Government side. Those assumptions have been voiced in the last few minutes by the honorable member for Perth.
– A very fine speech!
– The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Forbes) says that it was a very fine speech.
– You are picking the wrong interjectors.
-The honorable member for Moreton tells me that I am picking the wrong interjectors.
– Order! If the honorable member for Eden-Monaro will address the Chair we will get along much better.
– I want to deal very briefly with the false and dangerous assumptions made by the honorable member for Perth. One of these was the assumption which he drew, from the course of events in the Cuban affair, that the nuclear weapon is the deterrent to war.
– I think that is right. Mr. Jess. - Castro thinks so, too.
– I will be able to address you much better, Mr. Deputy Speaker, if honorable members will be silent.
– Order! The honorable member for Perth and the honorable member for La Trobe will remain silent.
-The honorable member for Perth was evidently putting forward an argument for the increase and extension of nuclear weapons in the world. I consider that there could be no more dangerous course for humanity to follow. The honorable member for Perth followed up his statements by saying that he hoped that America would establish military bases in Australia. I am sure he meant military bases when he said that he hoped America would establish other bases in Australia. Again I say that this would be a matter of tragedy and disaster for Australia. I hope the day will never come when this country, in time of peace, will permit the establishment of any foreign bases upon our soil.
– Order! Honorable members must refrain from interjecting, particularly the honorable member for Wentworth.
– The honorable member for Wentworth has not opened his mouth!
– The honorable member for Perth, as I understood him, then proceeded to make remarks calculated to undermine faith in the United Nations. He decried the claim that the United Nations had been an effective factor in bringing the Cuban issue to a successful conclusion. He referred to what he described as the increasingly inglorious history of the United Nations in previous months. This, also, I think, is fatal to the cause of peace in the world to-day. There was never a time when the loyalty and adherence of the Australian Government and the Australian people to the United Nations should be more firmly asserted than now.
Then the honorable member for Perth proceded to scoff at the Soviet accusation that the action of the American Government, as announced by President Kennedy, was in violation of the United Nations Charter. Whatever you may think of the necessity for the American action, I cannot see how anybody can deny that the Soviet statement is correct. America’s action was in violation of the United Nations Charter.
This brings us to the most dangerous assumption of all that is being made as a result of the Cuban affair - the assumption that because of the apparent success of President Kennedy’s action, we should adopt the attitude of “America, right or wrong “; that we should place ourselves in the arms of America, as the honorable member for Perth proposes, to do, by allowing American military bases to be established on our soil. Once you have American military bases on your soil you can no longer stay out of America’s quarrels or make an independent decision on any action taken by America.
– Order! The honorable member for Perth will cease interjecting.
– Britain is in the arms of America, is she?
– Yes, that is right. I believe it is incorrect to interpret the outcome of the Cuban affair as a victory for President Kennedy and American action and as an immense humiliation for Mr. Khrushchev. That is entirely wishful thinking. The dangerous conclusion that is being drawn from the Cuban affair is that the only action that the Russians understand is the action of strength and force.
– That is right.
– The honorable member for Barker says that is right. It is most dangerous to think that if you are sufficiently bold, sufficiently strong and act with sufficient courage and determination, the Russians will always give in. If you go back through history you will find that that fundamental error has led to many world wars. Hitler and the Germans adopted the view that their opponents would inevitably give in if they exercised sufficient strength, showed sufficient force and acted with sufficient determination.
Let us get back to the actual facts of the Cuban situation. From my reading of this matter I do not gain the impression that President Kennedy had a triumph or that Mr. Khrushchev was humiliated. I am inclined to think rather that Mr. Khrushchev did not yield because of fear of the American ultimatum, but that he acted in accordance with his own deliberately planned strategy, and that in Cuba he gained all the objectives of his strategy. Let us look at the facts. Soviet Russia was unconditionally committed to maintain the Castro regime in Cuba. On 11th September, Mr. Khrushchev had told President Kennedy in a note that he would defend Cuba at any cost, if necessary with nuclear weapons. That note came only a week after Adlai Stevenson in the United Nations had categorically rejected President Dortico’s request for a guarantee of Cuba’s integrity in exchange for disarmament. Surely then Mr. Khrushchev was in this position: He had given an unconditional pledge that he would defend Cuba. There was no undertaking that America would not invade Cuba, and Mr. Khrushchev knew perfectly well that Cuba was right at the end of his line and that he could not possibly defend it. A nuclear war could be waged because of Cuba, but there could not be a successful Soviet defence of Cuba. Mr. Khrushchev faced the same problem that the Western allies faced in Berlin.
America had to pledge herself to go to war over Berlin if there was any Soviet thrust against the city. America had to show her determination in the matter by throwing American forces into Berlin to prove that American deaths would result, and that a world war would ensue, if there was a Soviet thurst. Similarly, Mr. Khrushchev ringed Cuba with bases and poured in thousands of Soviet technicians, not because he hoped to be able to defend Cuba, but because he had to prove to the United States that any attack on Cuba would produce a nuclear war. Yet I am sure that neither the Soviet nor the Western powers would have been prepared to commit suicide, if they had had a choice, over either Berlin or Cuba. There is no need to commit suicide in those circumstances if you can deter your enemy from attacking by making him see beyond doubt that you will not draw back, and that world nuclear war with all its tragedy would be the outcome.
Surely up to that stage Mr. Khrushchev’s strategy is plain. He had already demonstrated to Latin America that Russia is capable of providing the economic aid necessary for the survival of Latin American countries even when American economic support has been withdrawn. Now he must not lose the round in connexion with this pledge of military support “for Cuba. The Americans, on the other hand, had made it perfectly plain that the Western hemisphere was to be permanently closed to communism. The invasion through the Bay of Pigs had been a disastrous failure, and President Kennedy was under immense election pressure to take a much stronger line with Cuba up to the very point of invasion. That certainly was the situation confronting Mr. Khrushchev. ; What has been the result? Mr. Khrushchev has withdrawn his missile bases. He has withdrawn his bombers. But has he not achieved everything that he sought? ‘ Castro is still in charge in Havana. The Communist fortress is already established in the Americas, and America is absolutely committed not to invade Cub? but to allow this situation to continue. That is why I am arguing that it is a fatal mistake to assume that the Americans have had a great triumph, and that we therefore should place our faith henceforth entirely in the Americans - that we should tie ourselves to them and be bound by their attitude and their strategy.
An extraordinary situation of Western sympathy towards Mr. Khrushchev is now developing. It is argued that we should bolster him against the more extreme forces in Moscow that are attempting to overcome his moderation and sanity, and that we must not do anything further to humiliate him because of the difficulties that he is already in with the Chinese Communists, who are condemning him over the deal that he made with America.
How completely unrealistic is this view if you look back to the conference of world Communist parties held in November, 1960, when the Khrushchev line was propounded and overwhelmingly endorsed. That line stated that the Communist countries were now strong enough to force the
West to accept their policy of co-existence, ruling out war, while allowing the uncommitted world to devolve towards communism. Mr. Khrushchev stated, “We will not export revolution, but we are strong -enough now to prevent the capitalists from exporting counter-revolution “.
Has not Mr. Khrushchev demonstrated that proposition to the satisfaction of his supporters in the events that occurred over Cuba? If the United States had passed from threats to action over Cuba, then Mr. Khrushchev’s proposition would have been invalidated; but, thank God, the United States did not pass from threats to action. Mr. Khrushchev accepted the American ultimatum and withdrew, but in doing so he established in Cuba everything that he needed to establish for the success of his world strategy at that time. I am certain that world war is no part of his strategy.
We come now to this position: America did not take her case to the United Nations and I think she stands condemned for not having done so. America acted without consulting her friends or allies and she stands condemned for having done that. America acted alone, on her own judgment and her own initiative, leaving her friends and allies to fall into line and tail along behind. There is no obligation upon us to do that and I am certain it would be a fatal mistake for Australia to adopt that attitude, no matter what any other country does. I think it is most important for Australia at present not to get tied up with America. To put American bases on our soil is to be finally and fatally tied to American policy and action and the consequences of American action.
In the light of the American action over Cuba I suggest that we can have no real and positive faith in the value to us of American action, because she acted in her own interests and without even consulting us. As was shown by what happened in regard to Indonesia, America, in circumstances which suit her, will desert those she should be supporting and defending, as the Dutch discovered. Whatever the merits of Indonesia’s claim to West New Guinea, the success of Indonesia’s action was the result of military blackmail by Indonesia, with the Dutch deserted by those who should have been their friends. So we stand alone in the world-
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- Mr. Deputy Speaker, I obviously cannot agree with the honorable member for EdenMonaro (Mr. Allan Fraser), because he has more or less advocated a policy of peace at any price. He drew a parallel between the situation in Cuba, where there is an American base, and the proposed American base in north-western Australia. I believe that we have to be on the side of America in the cold war in the world at the present time. Our fortunes are bound up with those of America, as are the fortunes of most of the free world. The honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) asked the honorable member for Eden-Monaro, by interjection, whether he would suggest that Great Britain and all the other nations which have American bases are in the arms of America and are being dictated to by America and subject to whatever whim America may have in the event of war. This country, unfortunately, as I have pointed out previously, missed a wonderful opportunity to have a great American base near Australia on Manus Island. It is unfortunate that we lost American support there, in out near north; but we do not want to discourage America from building a base in northwestern Australia. During the recent defence debate honorable members opposite criticized us for the inadequacy of our defence proposals. We have not a hope in the world, with the means at our disposal, of adequately defending Australia or preventing an enemy landing in this country; but if America establishes strong bases in Australia I believe our safety will be to a great extent achieved.
I find myself in agreement with some of the views which the honorable member for Eden-Monaro expressed regarding what has taken place in Cuba. Unfortunately, I find that we are in a worse situation in Cuba to-day than we were before. I cannot contemplate that Mr. Khrushchev would be able to establish offensive bases in Cuba, right under the eyes of American reconnaissance. Rocket sites are very difficult to hide from aerial reconnaissance. I believe that Russia’s aim was to secure a base in the Western Hemisphere, which would be a centre for Communist propaganda and sabotage. I believe Russia felt that at any time America might invade Cuba, as was instanced by the abortive invasion at the Bay of Pigs. I believe it is possible that Russia felt that if she did establish rocket sites in Cuba there was a good chance that those groups in America, which are particularly concerned at the prospect of atomic warfare, would have forced the American Government to overlook the establishment of those bases, for the pur- 1 poses of peace* Fortunately, as the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Chaney) said, the Americans, as has been shown, are not prepared to subscribe to the policy of peace at any price; and we have seen how Russia has been forced to remove those offensive bases. America has- apparently given a guarantee that she will not invade Cuba, provided that Cuba does not use militarily offensive tactics against other nations of the Western Hemisphere. I do not believe that it is necessary for communism to extend itself by military action; and to a great extent the Communists have shown that to be so in other parts of the world.
Unfortunately, the countries of the Caribbean area and South America, with very low standards of living and the philosophy, or the lack of it, which they have inherited from the Spaniards are a very fertile ground for communism. Right from the early days of its discovery that part of the world has been subject to considerable violence, both political and military. That has been its unfortunate history. When we study the history of Mexico and Peru we find that those countries have suffered tremendous violence. The wars in Europe, between Spain and England, England and France and France and Spain were carried on, as subsidiary wars, on what was known as the Spanish Main. That part of the world has had a history of nothing but political and military violence, except for the islands in the Caribbean, together with British Honduras and British Guiana, which have been subject to British rule. They are the only areas in the Caribbean that have had some degree of order.
The intentions of Castro, from the point of view of sabotage and propaganda, have been shown recently in Venezuela where he provoked riots and insurrection in the armed forces. There was a revolt of the marines in Venezuela. Also, as the honorable member for Richmond said, at Lake Maracaibo, the centre of one of the world’s largest oil reservoirs, the pumping plant was immobilized, the electrical system being sabotaged and blown up. This area in the central Caribbean will become a centre secure from American invasion. America has given an assurance that it will not attack Cuba, and, after all, the Americans stick to their word. However, I believe that we will have a centre here which will create considerable trouble and considerable suffering for the people of South America.
We are grateful to President Kennedy and to the Americans for the stand they took. It was the only stand that could be taken by a people who now have assumed the leadership of the world. The Americans have encouraged us to think that they will continue to meet these threats. Unfortunately, the world press has built this incident up as a victory for President Kennedy over Mr. Khrushchev. It is a victory on the surface and it was as well that President Kennedy was strong enough to insist on the withdrawal of these offensive weapons. But, in a sense, this will be used as a propaganda weapon by Mr. Khrushchev in future negotiations on Berlin. I hope the world will not think that Mr. Khrushchev’s action in removing these weapons in the interests of world peace means that the Western world will be expected to modify its attitude over West Berlin.
.- In considering the recent Cuban crisis, as in considering the present position in China, there is a strong tendency to forget the initial United States policy towards the Communist Party of China and the initial United States policy towards the Castro regime. These policies are exactly parallel. Fairly consistently, the United States has had, over the years, a policy of sympathy with revolution. Its policy has been in the main anti-colonial, to use the modern terminology. At the time when Chiang Kaishek was still in charge of China and the Kuomintang was being attacked by the Communist forces led by Mao Tse-tung in the campaign that subsequently led to the Com munist take-over of China by 1949, the United States over a number of years consistently followed a policy of putting pressure on Chiang Kai-shek to accept Communists into his government. Pressure was applied that he should, in effect, have a united front with the Communists. The Stillwell, Marshall and Wiedemeyer missions to China on behalf of the United States had this objective and the United States tended strongly to believe that the essential nature of the Mao Tse-tung rising was a peasant revolt and a movement of Agrarian reform.
It was the intense antagonism towards the United States manifested after the Communist regime came into power, including the beating up of the American Consul Olive, that caused a reversal of American policy. But it is not historically true to say that the United States perceived the ultimate nature of the Communist regime in China or was opposed to it in its initial stages.
I mentioned that Cuba forms an exact parallel with China. There is no doubt that at the time when Castro was in revolt against Batista - Batista was one of the most odious tyrants that any Latin-American country has seen - United States sympathy was with Castro. After he came to power he visited the United States. He was feted wherever he went and he raised very large sums of money. The policy of the United States Government was one of sympathy towards him, until it was disillusioned by his turning against it. In both cases - China and Cuba - the United States had a policy of initial sympathy followed by a sharp reversal. I believe the sharp reversal was reluctant and was occasioned exclusively by the hostility evidenced towards the United States once both of these regimes - the one in Communist China and one in Communist Cuba - had consolidated themselves.
The second point on which I wish to comment is this: I do not altogether take the pessimistic view of the Cuban crisis that was taken by the honorable member for McPherson (Mr. Barnes). I think the essential fact that has been revealed in the Cuban crisis, and which had been suspected before, is the ideological difference between the Soviet Union and Communist China. There is a tendency to believe that the biggest issue in the world to-day is the ideological and political differences between Russia and trie
United States, and that is certainly important. But I believe that Russia more than half suspects that the Chinese ideological campaign, which is dressed up as an ideological argument that communism can be spread by war - Khrushchev in his replies to China has accused China of believing that communism can be spread by nuclear war - is a campaign for Chinese nationalism. The belief of the Chinese is that if there were a nuclear war the United States and the Soviet Union would destroy each other and China would be left dominant in the world. The xenophobia which has always been a part of Chinese thinking has been augmented in Communist China. I believe that the Russians regard the Chinese criticism of Khrushchev’s policy over Cuba as a rationalization of China’s real policy, that China would have liked to have seen a nuclear war out of which it would have emerged as a dominant power.
The Soviet Union was always classified by Communist China as the leader of the socialist camp. It is clear from early Chinese Communist commentaries that China believed that the Soviet Union was the country in that bloc with the highest standards of living and the most advanced industrial techniques, and that the Soviet should have shared with China its military and industrial progress and should not have stayed out isolated as the superior force in the Communist camp. After all, the decisive revelation of the Russian evaluation of the motives of Communist China is that the Soviet Union has never given Communist China nuclear weapons or ballistic missiles. That is clear evidence that Russia does not trust China’s objectives. I think there are also some signs that Russia believes the solution of China’s population problems really lies in Siberia, and it does not want these problems solved in the Siberian area. That is why Russia has gone to some considerable pains in what is dressed up as the ideological dispute in the Communist bloc to attach Mongolia to itself and to detach it from Communist China.
We should remember that there was a first Cuban crisis in relation to which the Australian Labour Party made a declaration about the nature of the present regime in Cuba which is important and which is continuing. At that time a civil war in Cuba appeared to be likely. The argument was then advanced that the legitimate government of Cuba was the Castro regime and should be so regarded in a civil war. I take the personal point of view that there is no legitimate government in Spain and that there is no legitimate government in Cuba. Both are regimes which have seized power by military force and both do not intend to give the people the right to decide their own future. If it be true, as an interjector has implied, that one-half of the world is governed by a seizure of power, I still believe in the government of people by their consent as legitimate government.
The declaration of the Labour Party on the situation in Cuba was to the effect that where regimes existed which had seized power by military force and the nations they ruled became a field of civil war, then the United Nations in its intervention should brush aside both parties, maintain order and allow the people uncoerced to decide their future government. I do not believe that it is justifiable to apply military force to overturn a Communist regime merely because it is a Communist regime. For instance, I do not believe that our policy in Malaya during the period of terrorism was necessarily an anti-Communist policy. Had the people of Malaya subsequently elected a Communist government we would be faced now with a legitimate Communist Malayan government. It would have represented the consent of its people. But the nature of Western intervention in Malaya gave the people of that country a chance to decide their own future uncoerced. In situations such as that which developed in the first Cuban crisis it should be the aim of Australian policy at the United Nations to advocate United Nations action which gives the people of the territory a chance to decide their own future uncoerced. Castro has boasted that there never will be another election in Cuba. So long as he maintains that attitude it is useless to pretend that he confidently believes that his regime has the consent of the people of Cuba.
There have been consequences of this situation in Latin America which I think the honorable member for Mcpherson has over-estimated. It is true that the Castro regime ordered sabotage on oil installations and so on. I believe that the Chinese approach to the exportation of revolution by violence, which China has attempted in Korea and by armed subversion in Laos, Viet Nam and elsewhere, and which Castro evidently has followed from time to time in South America, is ultimately a sign of weakness and not of strength. I do not believe that ultimately the people of South America, aspiring to a dignified life for themselves, will support a scorched earth policy which destroys the resources upon which they hope in the future to build a standard of living. This is the anarchist approach of Chinese communism in advocating the spread of communism by war which Castro tends to follow, but I believe that his regime will not have the enhancement of prestige in the eyes of the people in the Latin American States as a result of what has taken place in the Caribbean. On the contrary, I believe that there will be a decline in prestige We should examine this ideological dispute between China and Russia with a great deal of attention Plenty of people in this country are prepared to guarantee that China will not be aggressive. I do not see how they can do so in the face of the plain statement of Mao Tse-tung that political power grows out of the barrel of a gun. He certainly has been acting on that assumption and that is the assumption upon which Fidel Castro also has acted.
I return now to what should be our final concern and the aim of any foreign policy. Surely the aim of Australian foreign policy should be the survival of the Australian people. I do not believe that situations of parallel injustice in the world are all of equal concern to this country. How stupid we would have been in 1941 had we looked at the situation in Portuguese Timor and had said: “The Portuguese colonial regime is not much good. It is not in Timor with the consent of the people. We cannot morally choose between that situation and Japanese occupation of China.” The plain fact is that Japan had both the intention and the power to invade this country whereas Portugal had neither the intention nor the power to do so. To accept the kind of academic argument that we must weigh every one’s merits and demerits without trying to assess who has the power and the intention to destroy our independence would be an extremely foolish approach to foreign policy. Although the United States certainly has the power to do so, I do not believe that it has the intention of destroying the Australian nation, but there is the possibility that others can and do threaten it. Therefore our foreign policy towards the United States of America must be governed by a consideration such as that.
I believe that what the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) said about American foreign policy in West New Guinea is essentially correct. This is another example of a trusting approach to a regime - in this case the Indonesian Soekarno regime - an acceptance of its assurances and an inclination to be favorable to what America considers to be the anti-colonial line; a belief that somehow or other, because the Indonesians have yellow skins and the West Papuans have black skins, and that anyway they are not white skins, they must feel some kind of unity towards one another which should be recognized. I believe that the United States will repent at leisure about that policy as it has repented about the initial policy in China and the initial policy in . Cuba. It is a mistaken one.
In this current world quite clearly one must recognize that there are strong expansionist tendencies emanating from China. These tendencies are basically nationalistic. They are disguised by ideological arguments about exporting revolution by war. This happens to be identical with expanding Chinese power and extending Chinese territory at every instance. We must consider where security for this country lies. We are in very much the same position as we were in back in 1935 when there was a reorientation of Japanese policy which sooner or later was bound to control South-East Asia and perhaps beyond it. The thing which so far has prevented China from expanding in South-East Asia is not a lack of intention but something which is bound to tend to disappear, that is, the nonpossession by Communist China of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles.
– This debate on the Minister’s statement of 6th’ November has given the House an opportunity to sort out its ideas on the action taken by our great friend and ally, the United States of America, in relation to Cuba. Tq me it is very refreshing to follow in this debate such an objective, thoughtful, constructive speech as was delivered by the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley), coming so soon after that tissue of fabrications which fell from the lips of the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser), who was die preceding Opposition speaker. The honorable member for Eden-Monaro said that the United States did nothing to bring this issue before the United Nations. I suggest that he read the papers with which he has been provided and he will see the text of a letter from Ambassador Adlai Stevenson to the Security Council and the draft resolution which was submitted to the Security Council.
Now that we are more remote from the hot issue that faced us following the statement by President Kennedy which was described by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) in mis debate as a declaration of historic importance, I believe it is possible to make an accurate appreciation of the seriousness of events that took place, particularly those actions taken by the United States and the events that followed. At the outset I should like to stress that despite its pre-eminent position in world politics and the strategic decisions it must make in preservation of the integrity of Western defence, the United States, its Government and its people must look for moral support from their friends on such momentous occasions. I believe the Australian Government very rightly wasted no time in expressing its support.
The implications of the Soviet action in Cuba, whence a crippling blow could have been struck at vast centres of population in the. United States of America, have not only been brought home to the Western allies, including our good friends the United Kingdom and Canada, as well as to the Organization of American States which supported the moves by the United States, but also, I believe, have left a deep impression on the minds of the uncommitted nations. This was seen in the draft resolution submitted by the United Arab Republic and Ghana on 24th October and also in the letter from the Brazzaville group on 25th October. These people realized the impact on the balance of power in the world if a situation were to develop where a series of crippling attacks could be delivered against the United States. believe, moreover, that particularly those people of the Organization of America*) States, who are more closely associated with the personality of Castro, will realize, die great danger and inherent disaster implied in a man of bts emotional and temperamental uncertainty being in possession of such a crippling weapon as would have been available to him with the consent of his ally, the Soviet.
I should like to remind the House of the remarks of Mr. Pote Sarasin, the Secretary* General of SEATO, not so long ago when we had the opportunity of hearing him. He said -
It is only the strength of the Western alliance, mainly the United States of America, that makes it possible for so-called uncommitted nations to carry on politic* of neutralism. Without mis Western strength neutralism could not prevail ja the face of spreading world communism.
That is as true to-day as it was a year ago, and it will continue to be true. Anything that strikes at the power of the United States is not only a crippling blow to the uncommitted nations, but ako affects us, the people of Australia.
Of course it was a strong decision that President Kennedy had to make. He took that decision ma, I believe, he took lt rightly. But the history of world politics since World War II. has not led any of us to believe that there is any prospect of success in a policy of appeasement. (Quorum formed.) Again, very correctly, the United States placed the matter immediately before the Security Council of the United Nations and, as a result, positive action was taken by the acting SecretaryGeneral, U Thant. I believe we all appreciate the speed with which he took rais positive action.
However, I do believe that we would be deluding ourselves if we thought that without President Kennedy’s drastic declaration of the blockade, with all its inherent dangers, it would have been possible to obtain such immediate action by the United Nations or such readiness on the part of the Soviet to admit, by agreeing to withdraw its weapons, the part it was playing in this attempt to disturb the existing strategic conception in the western hemisphere. We have only to cast our thoughts back to the time of the Hungarian crisis to realize what scant respect Russia was prepared to give to the United Nations. Russia refused to allow United Nations intervention on that occasion. Our memories would be very short if we had forgotten that.
It has been a basic principle of American policy for 150 years, instituted by the Monroe doctrine, that no outside enemy power can establish military bases in the western hemisphere. This is a basic principle of United States policy. So, when the Russian offer to withdraw from Cuba if the United States would abandon its base in Turkey came along agreement by the United States would have meant that the Monroe doctrine, so basic and long-observed, would have become a matter for negotiation, under pressure. No American government could possibly accept this crucial abandonment of the basic principle of its long-established foreign policy.
The most significant impression I have gained from the Cuban incident is that when confronted with a show df strength, Russia is not prepared to risk a final show-down which might lead to nuclear warfare, and while the thought that a show of strength is necessary is alarming to everybody in this place because of its implication, the fact that reason prevailed at Moscow is not disheartening. Furthermore, despite the earlier assurances that weapons installed in Cuba were not offensive, the agreement to their withdrawal was for me and many others, a tacit admission that they had been placed in Cuba for one reason only, and that was as a threat to the mainland of the United States of America which could never be described as a defensive role.
During the adjournment debate last night, and in the speech of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) on Cuba yesterday afternoon, there was an attempt to confuse the issues involved in this Cuban matter with some events that have taken place in regard to Australia’s own defence. I refer particularly to the North-west Cape installation. The Labour Party’s ideas on a nuclear-free southern hemisphere were related, in an indirect way to the question of Cuba. The honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) in referring to the United States naval . communications . centre at
North-west Cape quoted the following decision of the Australian Labour Party federal executive, which appears at page 2683 of yesterday’s “Hansard”-
The Australian Labour Party is opposed to any base being built in Australia that could be used for the manufacture, firing or control of any nuclear missiles or vehicles capable of carrying nuclear missiles.
I suggest to the honorable member that he had better see what is going on at Woomera, which was started by his own government, before he suggests that we should carry that policy into full effect. He and the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Uren) have been attempting to find out whether the Northwest Cape installation has any deeper significance, and I am afraid that I have grave suspicions about their motives on this matter. During the debate last night the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, in a reference to the same general subject, is reported at page 2668 of “ Hansard “ as having said -
Australia and New Zealand under conservative governments are the parts of the southern hemisphere in which no governmental initiative has yet been taken or promised to prevent nuclear weapons entering this hemisphere.
I repeat the words - to prevent nuclear weapons entering this hemisphere.
This can be taken in two ways: It can be taken to mean either that weapons for future use should not be allowed south of the equator; or, alternatively, that such weapons, having been released on their murderous mission, should be disallowed from crossing the equator to enter the southern hemisphere. Mr. Deputy Speaker, this proposition is so absurd and unrealistic that it should be laughed out of court. [Quorum formed.]
In conclusion, I want to repeat that Australia’s moral support at such a time of stress, as well as the support of other English-speaking people, must be strengthening and helpful to the President of the United States. I believe it could be an encouragement to a closer understanding and co-operation in the approach to world strategy. One of the points made by Opposition speakers has been that the United States has never consulted anybody. I believe that this action by. our Government represents a step towards, closer cooperation. Just as in 1941, when I think that the interrupting member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) was a member of a Labour government, we appealed to the United States of America to help us in a time of stress, so could such a situation arise again. The day may come - we hope sincerely as peace-loving people that it never will - when we may again be forced to appeal for help in a moment of threat to our national survival. I believe that our appeal, if ever made, will not be turned down.
.- I think it is most essential that this very important subject should be discussed without any feeling of bitterness or hate. I was very pleased to hear the first two speakers on the Government side discuss this subject without any overtones of hatred or bitterness. I think it is most important that that atmosphere should be maintained because it is only in that kind of atmosphere that any real solution can be reached. I am sorry that honorable members on this side of the House in this debate have not always approached the matter in the same way. The Cuban situation, I think, has two aspects: First, there is the crisis of 23rd, 24th and 25th October, which involved what was called the “ confrontation “ of American and Russian ships in the Caribbean Sea, and perhaps a somewhat longer crisis during the month of October in which there was a kind of confrontation of missile bases in Cuba and an invasion was expected by the Government of Cuba from outside. But the Cuban situation also has another very important aspect. This involves recent incidents in Cuban history.
I think that the greatest defect in the consideration of the Cuban crisis is that, on the whole, it has been confined to the immediate events of October, and hardly any consideration has been given to the circumstances back to 1956. Up to this stage, I think that this debate contains that fault. There has hardly ever been any discussion in this Parliament to the circumstances to which I have referred. On 25th October, in the middle of the Cuban crisis, I took the opportunity, in a debate on defence, to raise the matter to the discomfort, I know, of a large number of members. But no one can correctly say that members of this House have really been able to direct their attention to discussing the crisis or the difficulties of Cuba.
I think we are being asked, from time to time, in this House, to make decisions ca important matters of international affairs without any discussion whatever. In many respects, we have now an autocracy in foreign affairs, and not a democracy. We have an autocracy in Australia of a few people, and sometimes I think that those people do not even reside in Australia. The decisions of Cabinet in this matter were very clear examples of that situation. First of all, let us look at two aspects which I think I can devote some time to discussing: First, there was the crisis. We had, on 23rd, 24th and 25th October, the most disturbing situation of recent years. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) has said that the world was then closer to disaster than it had been at any time for fourteen years. I believe that that is completely true. The world held its breath for 72 hours during that week. We had Russian ships coming across the northern sky-line, approaching the American blockade in the south.
The first question that arises is what we should do, as a national Parliament, in a situation like that. We had two alternatives: First, within an hour or so of having heard President Kennedy’s speech, our own Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) took the position of backing up completely one side in order to give one side a little more confidence to be tough and non-compromising. The Prime Minister acted as though war had already begun. That was the alternative presented to us by the Prime Minister. On the other hand, we had the alternative presented to us by the Secretary-General of the United Nations. That was to call upon both sides not to proceed further on their dangerous course, but to withhold their fire and stand aside so that a reasonable attempt could be made to settle the issues by negotiation. I suggest that no wise man - no man of responsibility - could fail to choose the second course. But the Prime Minister of this country chose the first. The Australian Labour Party and the Opposition chose the second. The second course was successful. The confrontation was avoided. Negotiations began, and there has been considerable progress towards some kind of settlement. Perhaps it has not been completely satisfactory to everybody but, nevertheless, this enormous threat - this critical threat - this terrible threat - of world war was set aside.
So I think we can take it as our first golden rule on international affairs that when two nations, particularly the two great and powerful nations concerned in this matter, are proceeding along a collision course we must support an attitude which will prevent an outbreak of hostilities, which will encourage the parties to stand aside and not proceed on their dangerous course. We must not take the attitude which the Prime Minister took of encouraging either side to continue further without compromise on a collision course. Action, on this occasion, was halted by the SecretaryGeneral of the United Nations, supported by 47 other nations but, unfortunately, Australia was not one of them.
When action is halted, the matter is one for negotiations. But negotiations about what? Here, there is again an alternative course, Negotiations can be about the issues considered to be relevant on one side only, or about the issues that are considered by both sides to be relevant. In this instance, the issue considered relevant by the United States of America was the lifting of the blockade in exchange for the withdrawal of missile bases in Cuba. The issue considered to be relevant on the Cuban and Russian side was the withdrawal of Russian bases in Cuba in exchange for assurances against the invasion of Cuba. The Prime Minister and the Government of this country supported United Nations action, but did not do so until 25th October. They did not support such action on 23rd or 24th October. However, when they supported United Nations action on 25th October they supported such action only on the issue considered relevant by the United States. This Government supported the position taken by the United States, which was directed at getting the withdrawal of missile bases in Cuba only in exchange for the removing of the blockade. But a solution of the problem demanded, I think from the very beginning, something more. It demanded consideration of the equation of the withdrawal of bases with assurances against the invasion of Cuba.
Personally, I am in favour of the withdrawal of nuclear bases from all places
throughout the world outside the territories of those countries that own “and possess atomic weapons, and I was in favour of the withdrawal of missile bases from Cuba, but only in exchange for an assurance of Cuba’s security against invasion. I do not know whether the honorable member for McPherson (Mr. Barnes) regrets this at all, but no one can expect any good to result to the people of Cuba or the people of the world from any attempt to invade such a country, under United Nations auspices or otherwise.
Finally, the alternative of the withdrawal of bases in exchange for assurances against invasion succeeded. The result was a wise compromise in which the leaders of both the United States and the Soviet Union acted like statesmen and emerged with credit, irrespective of what either had done before. This was a settlement that every sane and honest man in any part of the world must appreciate. This experience shows us, I suggest, a second golden rule of international affairs: If negotiations are to succeed, the issues or interests that are to be considered in those negotiations must be the issues or interests that are regarded as relevant by both sides, not by just one side. No negotiations can lead to any possible agreement unless both sides are prepared to consider issues that are relevant to both.
This Government, I suggest, failed in respect of the crisis in two respects. First, it would not support a stand-aside, a cease-fire, a cease-action situation. It took no action which was in any way calculated to stop or delay the collision that, had it occurred, would have brought world war. Secondly, the Government, having failed in that, failed also to take what would be the reasonable and sensible attitude in any similar situation, and to regard the issues on both sides as being relevant. The Prime Minister and the Government of this country have never taken this sort of balanced view. They have always taken a one-sided view that is more likely to aggravate any situation that develops in world affairs than to bring about a settlement without war.
Let me now have a look at the second aspect that is involved in this situation - the recent history of Cuba. Very little attention is given to this subject, which is important not only so far as it concerns Cuba, a nation of about 6,250,000 people, but Cuba represents a test case for situations all over Africa, Asia and South America. Cuba was a backward country. The ruling group represented less than onetenth of 1 per cent, of the population and was a dictatorship. The remaining 99.9 per cent, of the people were depressed and in poverty. Ninety per cent, of the land was owned by 1 per cent, of the people and 75 per cent, of the people were unemployed for eight months of the year. Only 35 per cent, of the Cuban people ever attended school and only 3 per cent, went beyond the first year. Fifty-four per cent, of the people had no permanent housing and no running water or toilet facilities. Opposed to this depressed mass of the people was a small group enjoying wealth, luxuries and power.
What were the people to do? What are people to do in such a situation, wherever they are? Are no movements, no revolts, no protests to be made, merely because we would be embarrassed if there were any? What form can these movements and these protests take when a country is ruled by a dictatorship? Have the mass of the people no rights? Have they to remain for ever in poverty because here, in this luxurious country, we might be embarrassed by their movements if they stood on their own feet and tried to achieve human dignity? In such circumstances, Mr. Deputy Speaker, these movements can only take the form of an insurgent movement - a guerrilla band. What other form can they take? Are these movements to have no leaders? Are there to be no Castros, merely because we do not want to be embarrassed? No. There will be such movements.
What do these movements do, if they begin? If they are to have any success, they and their leaders have to discover what a significant number of the people in their country want. In Cuba, this was land. So, the movement that Castro happened to lead - if the leader had not been Castro it would have been somebody else - concentrated at first on the one aim of giving land to the people. I suggest that no movement can succeed unless it identifies itself with some of the significant needs of the people. The movement in Malaya that did not succeed failed because it neglected to do that. Whatever a movement does afterwards, it has to do this at the beginning. Its function is to overthrow the dictatorship. The probability is that, because it exists in circumstances similar to those that I have outlined, it will itself become a dictatorship if it succeeds. But a significant movement anywhere cannot be suppressed; it can only be guided. To think that you can suppress these movements by invasion, by attack, is to be completely disloyal to your moral principles and to be mistaken in reality.
What kind of influence on such a movement can there be? Cuba is a classic example. In Cuba, the movement was based on agrarian reform- on getting land for the people. In May, 1959, four months after the overthrow of the Batista Government, an Agrarian Law was introduced. The new insurgent Government was compelled to introduce this law. Otherwise, how could it have maintained the backing of its supporters? Fifty per cent, of the land was nationalized and most of the balance was transferred directly to tenants. Compensation was offered, but this action struck directly at the interests of the large land-owners, including several large United States companies, the principal of which was the United Fruit company. What was the reaction to the offer of compensation? The offer was rejected.
Castro was not treated as a hero by the United States Government. He was warned at the very start that that Government would refuse to increase Cuba’s quota for the sale of sugar in the United States if he went on with this agrarian reform. My authority for this is the issue of the “Wall Street Journal “ of 3rd June, 1959, and any one who likes to check can read this in that issue of the jorunal. On 11th June, 1959, the United States Government - I emphasize that it was the Government this time - demanded immediate payment of compensation to the land-owners whose land had been confiscated. This was impossible. On 3rd July, 1960, the sugar quota was cut by 25 per cent. Even before June, 1959, and from then on, Cuba’s problem became one of a severe shortage of overseas funds. In May, 1959, Castro had proposed to the United States that it undertake a 30,000,000 dollars United States aid programme over ten years to prevent the extension of communism in Central and South America. That proposal .was rejected. Now, at this late stage, President Kennedy proposes such a programme. How late can you be?
Failing in his attempt, Castro proposed in October, 1959, a 500,000,000 dollars tourist development programme. This, too, was turned down. The shortage of overseas funds meant that oil could not be purchased from the United States of America and Mexico. Oil was needed; oil was offered by the Russians, and the Castro government accepted it. The United States oil refineries in June, 1960, refused to refine that oil, and so the refineries were nationalized, with offers of compensation. What would any of us have done in a similar situation? What would even members of the Government have done in such a situation? In any case, the compensation was rejected.
This is the series of events that made up the history of the Cuban government from 1959 to the middle of 1960. How can they be summed up? In its issue of 25th July, 1959, the “ Wall Street Journal “ had this to say -
The Cuban trade re-orientation reflects in unequal parts ideology, necessity and happenstance . . . Mr. Castro had to turn to Russia to keep his country from coming to a standstill.
Who put him in the position in which his country was coming to a standstill?
The purpose of examining recent Cuban history is not to attribute blame to any one. It is to try to find a solution of these problems”, to try to find an answer for the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth), who for three years has been telling us in this House that we are losing the cold war. It is to acknowledge the fact that rebel movements can be guided along democratic lines. It is to recognize our ability to help towards minimizing the effects of the economic and financial crises that occur in these countries. It is to try to avoid a situation arising in which the only thing to do is to have to back up nuclear weapons even if it means nuclear war. It is to try to go behind the curtain and to discover what we have to do to avoid such a situation arising at all.
It is possible to work with a rebel movement and help to solve the problems that arise in connexion with it, as it was possible originally in the case of the Castro rebel movement. In that case, for instance, it was possible fo compensate for Its land the United Fruit company directly and immediately in the United States, and to accept the Cuban Government’s undertaking to pay off the money over twenty years. What about 1 per cent, of the national income being set aside to meet situations like this? Do not consider such a proposal in abstraction but consider it in relation to specific issues that arise. It is possible to reduce the chances of war and other conflicts.
What emerges from the Cuban situation is this: First, there is a need to back United Nations intervention in every crisis, to obtain first a cease-fire, or a cease-action, so that there may be negotiation. Secondly, there is a need to eliminate, as far as possible, nuclear weapons and bases. I do not think you can eliminate them from the Soviet Union or the United States. I accept the point made by the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Chaney) that there is a deterrent which is preventing war at the present time. But it has to be controlled; it cannot be allowed to get out of control. If we cannot eliminate nuclear weapons from those two major countries, we can eliminate them in other areas. South America is one of those areas. A decision has already been made about Africa, and Brazil is leading the movement for a nuclear-free South America. The possibility of the presence of nuclear weapons in South America has now taken on a new reality in the United Nations, which may well change the attitude of that country to nuclear bases everywhere.
– Order. The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- The earlier remarks of the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns) did, I confess, deceive me and persuade me to adopt what I would describe as a friendly attitude of mind towards the Opposition, and particularly the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam). But towards the latter part of his speech the honorable member let down his guard and revealed an attitude that one can only describe as a form of intellectual insolence. The honorable member is obsessed with the idea that in the cause of reform anything can be done. He has painted a picture of Fidel Castro as a. man who is zealous in the cause of reform, devoted - to use the honorable member’s own language - to agrarian reform. I wonder if this is so. However, let me interrupt myself at this point and return to the speech made yesterday by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. The honorable member posed and postured and fumed and fussed, with all the panache that is characteristic of him, saying that this House would not have an opportunity to debate the Cuban affair. Well, he has been proved wrong, and although he will have no opportunity to do so himself, I hope that he will at least ask one of his supporters to express something in the nature of an apology to the House for his inaccurate prophecy.
I agree with the honorable member for Yarra that honorable members of this Parliament, and any other person interested in the Cuban crisis, should look at Cuban history. The crisis of recent weeks did not come upon the world with any remarkable suddenness. It had been building up over a long period of time. The honorable member and his colleagues had referred to the Batista regime. It is of some significance to note that the first openly acknowledged Communist in the western world ever to be appointed to a cabinet was the general secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba, Juan Marinello, who was appointed Minister without portfolio in the Batista cabinet of 1943. I mention that not because it is of any singular historical moment, but merely to show that this is not a simple issue. It is, in fact, a very complex and involved issue. For my part, I must say unashamedly and unhesitatingly that there has been something manifestly unreal about the Cuban crisis. To put the proposition in language that can be well understood in this country, there was something about it that did not quite ring true. I do not want to refer to all aspects of the affair, but I shall comment on one or two of them. First, I remain convinced that there is in existence in the United States of America State Department an odd influence, an influence which, I think, is unhealthy and not wholesome, either for the interests of the United States itself or for the broader interests of the Western world. I will give one or two facts to show what I mean.
Senator Keating, who is a brigadier general in the United States Army reserve, warned the American Senate on 31st August this year of the nature of the Soviet build-up in the Caribbean and in Cuba. He made ten speeches in the Senate between that time and 12th October, and he made fourteen public statements outside the Senate on this matter.
– How did he get the call so often?
– I know that it is easy to be cynical about this and to say that making speeches does not mean that one is making an impact upon people. However, in these circumstances at least the charge warranted investigation, which was not undertaken. On 10th October Senator Keating warned that there were six intermediate ballistic missile launching sites under construction, and on 22nd October the American State Department admitted that that was true, although when Senator Keating made his charge the State Department flatly denied that there were any such launching sites. ‘
Members of this House and other, people interested in the matter would do well to read the evidence given by two former American ambassadors to Cuba, Senators Smith and Gardner, a precis of which is to be found in a statement issued by Senators Eastland and Dodd, both of whom were members of a United States Senate committee which investigated Cuban affairs. In a statement released on 11th September, 1960, the American senators said -
The testimony of both these gentlemen demonstrates that American foreign policy is not made in the office of Secretary Herter on the 5th floor of the State Department. It is made on the 4th Boor by the unknown policy planners and memo makers who fill the Secretary’s in-basket. Fidel Castro was the hero of the in-basket brigade. They worked with pro-Castro elements in the American press to make Castro appear as Robin Hood. They misguided American opinion in exactly the same way the in-basket brigade in 1945 misguided American opinion with the myth that the Chinese Communists were agrarian reformers.
The honorable member for Yarra adopted the same argument. He said that Fidel Castro was merely interested in reform. I submit that that is an atrociously superficial appraisal of the situation.
The second major aspect of the Cuban crisis that does not ring true to me concerns the missile bases themselves. Those bases were established and then they were withdrawn. It may be said that they were withdrawn only after massive, determined and clear American intervention. Hitherto, the Soviet Union has never operated in that way. The Soviet made no secret of the fact that it was installing bases in Cuba. One could almost say that in the days after President Kennedy’s statement we witnessed a hitherto unknown compliance on the part of Mr. Khrushchev. I invite any honorable member to say when the leader of the Soviet people has before shown such ready compliance. He did not exhibit this trait with regard to Berlin. There is no sign of it to-day in South-East Asia, although people may say that is a horse of another colour. I have told the House what the United States senators have said. I have directed attention to the fact that the missile bases were established without any attempt to conceal them. I have also referred to the fact that those bases were withdrawn with a hitherto unknown readiness to comply by the Soviet authorities. What has been the result of all this? The result was referred to by the honorable member for Mcpherson (Mr. Barnes) and the honorable member for EdenMonaro (Mr. Allan Fraser). The result has been that the United States has given a guarantee that she will never invade Cuba. Well, what if, under a cloak of secrecy, missile bases are re-established in Cuba and the evidence of their re-establishment cannot be palpably demonstrated to the world? What then? The United States has given its undertaking. It could breach that undertaking only by suggesting to the entire Western world that she had embarked upon a path of bad faith. I believe that in this situation the Khrushchev doctrine has replaced the Monroe doctrine. The Khrushchev doctrine is simply to support any leftist or Communist movement that can be established in any form anywhere in the Western hemisphere.
Another aspect of the Cuban crisis that does not ring true is that it has diverted attention from what I regard as one of the stark tragedies of this century. I refer to the attack by Chinese Communists on the people of India. Admittedly, a few weeks separated the two events, but there was a measure of simultaneousness about the two operations. China’s attack on
India is one of the great tragedies of this century. I am shocked to think that the impoverished people of India should have to spend even £1 on arms with which to defend themselves. I know that until recently India followed a policy of nonalliance. That has been the stated policy of India’s leader, Mr. Nehru. May I say, without any impertinence, that I thought Mr. Nehru’s policy was one of error because there is no scope in this world for neutrality. You are either for or against the forces that believe in freedom and liberty. However, Mr. Nehru elected to be non-alined. But Mr. Nehru has confessed that his policy was wrong. Surely one of the tests of greatness in a person is that he is prepared to admit that he has been wrong. In this case our attention has been diverted from the Indian affair by the Cuban crisis. I know that some honorable members on both sides of the House will not agree with what I say.
That brings me to the other matter that has been raised in this debate - the alleged Sino-Soviet conflict. It has been alleged that the Chinese were critical of the Soviet for complying so readily with the American request to withdraw from Cuba. In effect, the Chinese said, “ Go ahead “. What have the Chinese Communists done in India today? They have ceased their aggression, but is there any suggestion that they have abandoned the fundamental MarxistLeninist mission of world domination?
– You seem to be disappointed that they have stopped fighting.
– Go play a rhumba on a tuba down in Cuba. If there was any consistency on the part of the Communists, the Chinese would be continuing their advance into India. They would not be holing up and standing by a fixed line in India.
I do not believe that the conflict between China and the Soviet has the intensity or the meaning that many of us are prepared to attribute to it. I submit that the SinoSoviet conflict can be appraised only in the light of the dialectic. What is the dialectic? The fact is that every Marxist believes that world domination can be gained only by creating a struggle, no matter how artificial that struggle may be. Within the Communist society a struggle is unending. Where there is no struggle the Communist believes there has been no progress.
Lastly, I want to refer to the statements made yesterday by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) regarding the creation of a nuclear-free zone in the southern hemisphere. Referring to Cuba the honorable gentleman said that he believed that the removal of nuclear arms from Cuba was part of the process of ridding parts of the world of nuclear arms. That is a point of view. Last night, on the adjournment debate, I made a few discursive remarks concerning the honorable gentleman’s statement. His is a point of view that I do not share. No doubt many of the honorable gentleman’s colleagues hold the same view. They are entitled to do that, but they will not be surprised if people challenge the validity of that view. The basic reason for the existence of armaments in the world to-day, whether they be Bren guns, nuclear weapons, revolvers or tanks, is that one power has the idea that it can and should preside over the entire world. That is the cause of it - the Soviet Union. Nowhere, in recent times, has there been any suggestion of an abandonment of the basic Marxist-Leninist objectives of world domination. Mr. Khrushchev repeated them at the twenty-second Congress. He makes no speech dealing with matters of political theory without referring to this underlying Marxist-Leninist purpose; and while that ambition remains it is the solemn duty of every person and of every nation that believes in freedom to provide the means whereby they can defend themselves should that time come. Here was a case in Cuba - the Soviet Union has established a base in Cuba to-day. It may not be a nuclearequipped base, but it is nevertheless a Soviet base which has been established there, and the establishment of that base has completely shattered the Monroe doctrine.
This is the Khrushchev doctrine and we are finding fresh evidence of it elsewhere in the world. I put it to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) and all his supporters, with the utmost sincerity, that just as the basic ambition of the Soviet Union is world -domination and is not confined to one area and cannot be put in one compartment, so, too, the thinking of free people cannot be put into one compartment. The words uttered by Palmerston a century ago remain as true to-day as they were then. He said -
The principles of foreign policy should be exercised with respect to the destinies of other countries, to conduce to the maintenance of peace, to the advancement of civilization and to the welfare and happiness of mankind.
Until Khrushchev, Mao Tse-tung, Fidel Castro and others in the world who pose as being reformers are prepared to embrace the principle that Palmerston enunciated a century ago, the world must be prepared to face the prospect of a nuclear war. It is a grim prospect. No one relishes it. We are all, in part, pacifists at heart, but we are all at heart prepared, I hope, to support those things which were not won and were not established or defended without great sacrifice by people before us.
.- Mr. Speaker, when I listened to the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Killen) and his colleagues on the other side of the House speaking in this debate I was confirmed in the view that the reason why the Government was anxious not to bring on this debate was that no supporter had anything constructive to offer. In fact, their contributions to the debate have proved that they have learned no lessons whatever from this neartragedy in world affairs. If there is one thing which we as members of the national Parliament are entitled to hope for and to work for, it is the safety and welfare first of the people of Australia, and secondly, of the people of the world; and to achieve that we must learn from events. Five weeks ago the world was on the brink of war. Every one of us was aghast at the possibility that there would be a repetition of bloody warfare and that men, women and children would be sacrificed in the relentless succession of terrible weapons that have been invented for war.
Every one of us was concerned and anxious for the safety and welfare of our own children and the children throughout the world. Then, miraculously, the urgent and immediate threat subsided - all of us hope permanently. The Deputy Leader of the Australian Labour Party in this House (Mr. Whitlam) said yesterday that this debate could develop into a post-mortem, and so it could if we were to listen continuously to speeches by supporters of the Government. But we have learnt from this discussion that Australia has a role to play. I propose a little later to develop the argument that Australia should have played an active role in the Cuban affair, just as it should in any other matter of international content and moment which affects the people of the world.
Batista was a bloody tyrant, one of the bloodiest even in the history of South America where there have been many dastardly dictators and tyrants. He was responsible for purges and for the exploitation of the people of Cuba by America. He was responsible for the establishment of great playgrounds in Havana for American millionaires. He was responsible for the ownership by America of the important industries in Cuba and even of the great utilities in that country. The uprising led by Castro will never be read or written in history as a Communist uprising. It was an uprising of people who were exploited and ill-treated and who had been subject to the most terrible treatment, both economic and military. So when Castro emerged, he emerged with the support of the United States of America. But because of bungling American diplomacy at that time he was driven into the camp of the Communist world. He was driven there by bungling American diplomacy, because at one time America supported him and the next moment it turned a deaf ear to his requests.
I have been in Cuba since Castro came to power. I found there a great fear of America after relations with America had been broken off. I saw gun emplacements every twenty yards or so on the footpaths. They were almost useless guns, but nevertheless they were placed there, facing the sea, because the Cubans were frightened of an American invasion. I listened to broadcasts in Spanish, a language I understand little, but in every six words I beard the word “ Yanqui “. When I got the translations of the broadcasts I learned of the great fear that the Cubans have of the Americans. I learned of the great horror they had of the exploitation that the peasants had gone through in Cuba and the great anxiety they had that one day there would be an
American invasion of their shores and that their people would be shot down.
I met peasants in Cuba - men, women and children - who could not obtain enough food to eat. That was as the result of the policies of the previous government and the action of the United States of America in turning a deaf ear to the demands, requests and desires of the Cuban people. Since I was in Cuba there is even less food there, owing to the economic boycott which has been placed on that country. Who can deny that the erection of nuclear bases in Cuba was obviously a great provocation by Russia and Cuba to the American people and the American Government? President Kennedy made his statement when he was at last convinced that nuclear bases had been erected in Cuba. He said he would set up a naval blockade against ships carrying to Cuba missiles or weapons of one sort or another. In those circumstances the United Nations took a great step forward in its history - one of the greatest it has made so far - and re-established itself as the most important institution in the world for the preservation of peace. We, on this side of the House, have never refrained from declaring our unequivocal support for United Nations authority in these matters. I think both Kennedy and Khrushchev listened with a great deal of moderation to the words of U Thant when he asked for a cooling off period and asked that nothing should be done until proper consideration was given to the question. I think both Khrushchev and Kennedy deserve the approbation of the world for the great moderation they showed in this matter.
I think every one of us would agree that if Russian ships had to be searched by the American Navy a war would have started; and only the Lord knows where it would have ended. The result of the diplomacy of the United Nations has been the dwindling down of this threat against the peace of the world and the guarantee of a Cuba free from American invasion. It has quietened down the whole situation and has arranged for the dismantling and shipment from Cuba of the materials used in the erection of the missile bases. But that does not solve the problem. If you wiped out communism in Cuba altogether that would not solve the problem. Would Cuba not still be a poor country living next to a rich country?
Would it not still mean that the United States of America would be a land of wealth and Cuba a land where, because of economic blockades and lack of assistance from the Western World, the people are still faced with starvation?
Our situation in Australia is not different. We are surrounded by nations who economically are poor, nations that cannot properly feed their people. That is why the United Nations recently set up the Freedom from Hunger Campaign, which will be conducted at least in every Western country. The purpose of the campaign is not merely to provide food for those who are starving; it is intended to bring scientific measures to bear in the countries where food is a serious problem so that the people there can learn to grow the food that is needed by the people who are starving. I have the very great privilege and honour to be the deputy chairman of the Australian National Committee for the Freedom from Hunger Campaign. Early next year, we will ask the people of Australia to contribute freely to this campaign. We will set out to explain to Australians that twothirds of the people of the world are starving at this minute. If we invited all the people of the world to dinner in this chamber, if it were big enough to hold them, and asked them to bring their own food, two-thirds of them would come without food or with very little food.
It is therefore very necessary that the United Nations take constructive steps to prevent people from dying from starvation and to teach people in countries where starvation threatens how to grow food, the reason for growing it and the methods of growing it, as well as to give them the opportunities to grow it. Surely, that is one of the constructive efforts that the United Nations could make. I often wish that the United Nations would set up an organization called the Freedom from Dictatorship Campaign or the Freedom from Undemocratic Regimes Campaign. In some way such as this the world should be educated to appreciate the liberties and freedoms of democracy and the beauties, comforts and opportunities for survival that exist in a democracy, because of the very way of life in which we believe.
We of the Australian Labour Party believe in a nuclear-free zone. The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Chaney) said this afternoon that nuclear weapons are a deterrent to war. That is a trite expression, and most of us, I think, would accept it. But taken to its logical conclusion, it means that every nation should have nuclear weapons to prevent war. Who could believe in that? Who could believe that every nation should have nuclear weapons to prevent attack by another nation? When the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Killen) was discussing Labour’s view on a nuclear-free area, he said that the northern part of Indonesia is above the equator and weapons in that part of Indonesia could be fired into the southern hemisphere. As legislators of this nation, we should seek world peace. Even some of the militarists on the other side of the chamber really in their hearts do not want war. They do not want their children to die or to suffer because of war.
We must make a start somewhere. If we have ideals and if we want humanity to have happiness and to enjoy all the good things in life, we must make a start. Obviously, the Australian Labour Party - the party that was formed to fight for justice against injustice and to fight for the weak against the strong - was the party to advocate a nuclear-free zone in this area. If a nuclearfree zone is established here, the idea will spread to other areas. Some honorable members opposite contest these ideas. They say that they do not want a nuclear-free zone. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) has said that this is a dreadful idea. Surely in 1962 we should not forget our idealism and our hopes for happiness, comfort, freedom and peace in the world. We must sustain our ideals. We must establish a nuclear-free zone in the southern hemisphere, at least, and hope that the zone will spread to include other areas. A decision has already been reached in the United Nations that there should be such a nuclearfree zone in Africa. The resolution of Brazil means that the idea will come to South America, and it will come to the Pacific as a result of the resolution of Indonesia that will come forward next year. Surely, nuclear-free zones will spread over much larger areas, and we may even live to see the day when the world will be a nuclear-free zone and when peace and happiness will be guaranteed to all men.
Australia has a great role to play in international affairs in the United Nations. I am sure I do not need to remind the House of the very great part played by the Right Honorable Dr. Evatt in the days when the United Nations was being formed. He was then Minister for External Affairs in the Labour Government and he played a leading part in the formation of the United Nations. Australia then was rapidly emerging as the leader of the small nations. The small nations were looking to Australia for a lead in international affairs. But we have lost this position; we have subsided. To-day we give slavish support to America’s proposals. I do not say for one moment that I would oppose America’s policy on any matter at the United Nations. If 1 had to make an unequivocal declaration as to whether I would be on the side of America or Russia in any trouble, I would say quite clearly that America is our ally and I would like to be with America. But that does not mean that Australia must slavishly adopt America’s policy in every issue without declaring our independent point of view and without giving a lead to the smaller nations that look to us to take the initiative and to give guidance.
So it is that in these affairs Australia has become a very small nation. In the matter of Cuba, the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) did not even wait for America to tell him what to say. After he heard President Kennedy’s statement, he could not get into this House quickly enough to make sure that America knew he was slavishly following its policy.
– Do you disagree with that?
– No, I do not say I oppose the American view. I say Australia ought to declare itself in its own way without any slavish obedience to any other nation. We have a role to play. We are an important nation in this area and we should provide leadership. Let us give guidance and let our voice be clearly heard in any argument. Let us not rush from one side to the other, but let us give leadership to the smaller nations. In a dispute, we should say, “Let us conciliate and arbitrate; let us discuss these matters and come to the proper decision that ought to be reached amongst the nations of the world “.
When the West New Guinea issue was being discussed at the United Nations, Australia was strangely silent. Australia was obeying the dictates of the United States in a matter in which we had a vital interest. We should learn that while we believe in safeguarding the security and peace of Australia, we are also interested in the peace and happiness of the world. Australia must play its proper part at the United Nations as the leading voice of the smaller nations. Australia must ensure that a balanced view is presented at any time.
Let us make certain that we do not have to choose between East and West. I freely declare myself to be on the side of the West, but I hope that the day does not come when we will have armed conflict because of threats that are voiced by one side or the other. Let Australia’s voice at the United Nations be one of the voices calling for peace and conciliation, consistent with dignity, honour and happiness.
.- Whilst it is said that this debate on the situation that arose in Cuba is a post-mortem, it is a very revealing post-mortem. It will serve a very useful purpose in guiding the thinking of Australians who hear or read expressions of the attitudes adopted by individual members and by parties towards a particular circumstance and towards the fact connected with that circumstance. I was interested in the speech of the honorable member for Phillip (Mr. Einfeld) and I laud him for his contribution.
– It was a very good speech.
– I agree that it was a very good speech, and I agree with his remarks about what the United Nations has done in the field of economics, in the field of science, in the field of assistance and in other avenues. It has done very worth-while work. But I am full of sympathy for him when he propounds the idea of world peace. He asked this question: How do we face up to our desire for world peace? Let me pose another question to him and to honorable members of the Opposition: While we continue to work and to face up to our desire for world peace, how do we face up to our responsibilities for the safety and security of our people?
The value to Australia of this discussion on Cuba lies in the fact that to the north of us we have a set of circumstances which could cause a repetition of the Cuban situation. What would be our attitude if that happened? I understand that the Labour Party’s point of view is that if this country were threatened it would appeal to the United Nations to ensure our safety and security. I suggest that honorable members opposite look at the history of the efforts of the United Nations when some small nation - we still are a small nation - has appealed to it to ensure its security and safety. [Quorum formed.] When a member of the Opposition kindly obtained for me a larger audience from the Labour Party so that his colleagues could hear what I have to say about the Opposition’s lack of a policy in relation to the security and safety of Australia, I was referring to the fact that no effort by the United Nations halted the threatening events in Cuba. These were halted as a result of direct personal contact between the two world leaders, an exchange of letters and an exchange of promises. If they had asked for the United Nations to intervene there could and probably would have been nothing but sorrow for some one. I ask honorable members opposite and the people of this country to consider the history of this world beginning, if you like, with Korea or any other country, and see what has happened to those nations which trusted the United Nations Organization to maintain their security and safety.
Let us face the facts of life. Do Opposition members suggest that because we have a police force in Australia we need not lock our doors, need not keep a watch dog and need not trouble to protect ourselves. I prefer to depend for my protection on the bulldog in my own backyard rather than on the pack of pomeranians in the next street. The Cuban situation poses this question: What must we do to face up to the threatening situation in the world? The honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) made a speech which I admired greatly. It was a rather intriguing speech. He painted a picture of the situation in Asia and Russia and he stated that our foreign policy, and our defence policy which is tied up with it, should take cognizance of the situation in Asia and Russia; but he very carefully refrained from indicating what we should do. He referred to the conflict between China and Russia and to the danger to this and other Western countries, but he said nothing about what we should do to protect our own interests. To me that is the all-important feature of this debate.
– This debate is about Cuba.
– Of course it is about Cuba, but this is a post-mortem which is revealing the thinking of Opposition members on this very important subject. Like every one on this side of the House I believe in peace, but not in peace at any price. I believe in protecting my own property. I believe in locking my doors to ensure the safety of my property, and that is what Australia must do. Obviously our friends of the Labour Party do not agree with me. The honorable member for Phillip and some of his colleagues claim that our security and safety lie in the United Nations Organization. Honorable members heard what I think of the United Nations when I referred to the pack of pomeranians in the street next to me and the bulldog in my own backyard.
The honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns) spoke about economic conditions in Cuba and asked whether the people did not have the right to improve their conditions, in other words the right to revolt against dictatorship and injustice. Of course they have that right. No one would deny to any person the right to do as he wishes inside his own home. No one would deny to the people hi Cuba - the Castros or any one else - the right to improve their conditions by whatever means they wish to adopt, but we deny any one - this is where America came into the picture - the right to disturb the peace. Let me put it this way: You can do what you like in your own home but you must not annoy or endanger the welfare of your neighbours. That is the common law of the nation and our thinking must be based on that law. America was entitled to ensure her own protection and to see that her safety was not endangered. That is the light in which the relationship between America and Cuba must be viewed.
The major lesson to be learned from the events in Cuba is that a display of strength removed the danger of a world conflict. A display of strength ended the Cuban situation. Granted it was a display of strength by the two sides which have nuclear weapons and which are armed to the teeth. If one of those sides had not had the strength to display, make no mistake that the whole world would have been in trouble. A display of strength prevented a world conflict. Only by strength can we ensure peace. That is the major lesson which the world, and Australia particularly, must learn from the events which occurred in Cuba. If this is a post-mortem, as has been suggested, we should learn our lesson and realize that whatever good has come out of this situation has come from a display of strength by both sides. If we wish to retain our safety and security we too must be able to display strength.
This Government, and every government of this country, bears the responsibility of adopting the most effective means of ensuring the security and safety of the Australian people. That is the Government’s prime responsibility. After discharging that responsibility then - to state the matter in every-day terms - we can help our nextdoor neighbour to clean up the weeds in his garden. But our first responsibility is to ourselves. As I stated at the beginning of my remarks, this post-mortem on the events in Cuba has revealed the attitudes of the Government and Opposition parties towards the very vital question of Australia’s security. That revelation is such that the people of Australia must realize that if ever there is a change of government and the Labour Party comes on to the government benches in this country the safety and security of the country will be grievously in danger, because that party apparently does not give that safety and security the priority that they should have.
Mr. HAYLEN (Parkes) [5.261.- I should like to ask honorable members on the Government side whether we do any good by denouncing the United Nations, as did the honorable member for Moore (Mr. Leslie), by denouncing Castro and Cuba, or by apportioning praise or blame between the major participants in the struggle in Cuba, Kennedy and Khrushchev. Instead, should we not be trying to appreciate the forces behind the struggle and to understand the explosion that is bound to follow this one - the explosion which I predict will occur in Latin America as the result of the same conditions as caused the trouble in Cuba, hunger, exploitation, illiteracy and ignorance? If the Cuban revolt has gone wrong, to use the phrase of the “ New York Times “, where do we place the blame7 We attempted to contain communism in Asia, with disastrous results. We failed in our attempt to contain Castro for the same reason - a complete and utter lack of understanding of the situation. Is our thinking on these matters completely out of date? Can old-fashioned power politics do anything other than cause war? We forget that ours is a revolution-ridden century, and that a revolution brings not only a conflict physically but a revolution in ideas. We have done everything about atomic bombs and about massive retaliation, but we have done nothing about the greatest weapon of all, common human understanding concerning the problems between man and man. After a war is over and peace is called, that is where the arbitration begins. We can, by common sense, have arbitration through the United Nations, before going to what has been known as the deadly arbitrament of war.
We accept the British Prime Minister’s statement about the winds of change, and then immediately and light-heartedly reject the proposition that these winds are blowing over Cuba or our own country. I have said that this is a revolution-ridden world. Forty-five years ago there was a revolution in Russia; twelve years ago there was a revolution in China; three years ago there was a revolution in Cuba. In these matters you cannot turn the clock back. Only a year ago there was a sleepy laisser faire Dutch colonial administration in West New Guinea. To-day we have a common border in New Guinea with the emerging Asian nation of Indonesia. The winds of change indeed! Around us Australians it is a tornado.
In this context I want to refer to the situation in Cuba. Castro’s revolution was not a surprise; it was inevitable. Castro’s dictatorship was not self-designed; it was forced upon him by the sufferings and misery of his people. Four hundred years before Castro was born Columbus referred to Cuba as the pearl of the Antilles, the greatest island in the Caribbean, fertile, smiling, sun-drenched and productive. How was the pearl tarnished, and by whom? First by the Spanish conquistadores; then by the Cuban dictators, including Batista, the greatest and bloodiest of them all; and finally and irrevocably by the capitalists of Wall-street and American monopoly interests, aided by Batista, exploiting the Cubans to the uttermost farthing. It was not the American people, be it noted, but American big business. Cuba was Uncle Sam’s other island. It was close enough for exploitation, but not far away enough to be independent. The wealthy Cuban landholders and the dictators completed the ruin and Cuba, of course, was ripe for revolt.
When Castro and his followers eventually burst out of the Sierra Maestro mountains, what did they find? They found 6,000,000 people living in the most degrading and soul-scaring poverty. The sugar workers were living in their terrible boheos - palmthatched huts which would be spurned as uninhabitable by the most primitive natives of wildest New Guinea - and for a whole six months of every year the majority of the cane workers were unemployed. They had a terrible name for this period - the obscuro-tiempo, or dark time. This period impacted on every Cuban worker. These were the months in which they did not eat. They had no kerosene for their lamps. They lived through this rainy season without food or hope.
When Castro rushed down from the mountains to relieve this situation he found that 90 per cent, of his beloved people were illiterate. There were not enough houses, hospitals or schools, and not enough medicine for the treatment of hookworm, dysentery, malnutrition and tropic diseases which ravished the entire island. There was a one-crop economy, sugar, which doomed the people to poverty and hunger. The tourist capital, Havana, as the honorable member for Phillip (Mr. Einfeld) has said, became a play centre for American big-businessmen and their redhot mommas, while Cubans died in the hungry hell of their palm-tossed island. Was all that not a cause for revolt? Of course it was. There was a United States grip on all business. Even the gas, water, electric light, movie houses and brothels were American owned and the dividends went to Miami, Minnesota, Connecticut and1 Little Rock, Arkansas. Whether they knew it or not, the American people had invested heavily in Cuban misery and in Cuban revolt. In saying this, one does not necessarily denounce the United States; one merely records the horrible history of capitalism against which this party since its inception, has been in revolt. This has happened in many other colonial or underdeveloped countries.
When revolt came in Cuba there were plenty of reasons for it, but here is where the free world went wrong about Castro. It has been admitted in the American papers that he was to be a liberator. In the first three months of gaining power and becoming the dictator of Cuba, something went wrong; he did not follow the line and so he lost American sympathy. We have to remember that the free world made a mistake about Castro, but it was not the mistake we are led to believe was made. He could not be taken for a ride. He was a genuine socialist attempting to relieve the terrible troubles of his own country. He was not at that time a Communist. He may not be one even now, in view of recent happenings. But it does appear that the democracies were determined to make him one. Look at his history. He is Spanish by descent, catholic by faith and deeply idealistic by nature. He was not turned in the first place to the Marxist line. He was a native product hoping to take the best from both worlds, to build a new and better world in Cuba for his people. That is how I read his violent agony of mind and spirit, the turns in his policy and the twists in his thinking. He was not always the darling of the Communist party.
The Communists in Cuba in the first place were not particularly tender towards the Fidelesmo. Id the Cuban Parliament they opposed him bitterly in the early days, wanting the revolt to take a more international shape. They still want the revolt to take a more international shape. When he called for a general strike in 1958 to force concessions for the workers from Batista, the Communist unions did not support him and the strike was broken. So, in the early days of Castro coming to power we found him swinging this way and that in an attempt to achieve his original objective of freeing his people. What happened finally we know. We know where the twists and turns led him. We know it only too well, and we know it only too sadly.
Let me say here that I have no time for bomb testers, from wherever they come. I have equally no time for those, Castro or others, who would put nuclear bases in any part of the world. Bomb tests, nuclear bases,- and spy flights are all provocative and a prostitution of the great peace ideal held honestly by millions of fine people all over the world, whose only politics is selfpreservation. I have no time for a country that professes peace one day and denies it the next, whether that country is on the left or on the right. But I am convinced that we did not know how to handle Castro when faced with the situation in his country.
The way to handle Castro, in my view, was not by an abortive and comic-opera invasion based on Florida and Guatemala, and mounted by dissident beach-combers, adventurers and cut-throats and the followers of the new Spanish Main - the rum and coca-cola army. This, of course, was the greatest diplomatic gaffe ever perpetrated by the United States of America and the United States of America under President Kennedy was quick to realize it. But it left a scar and that may have led to the running sore of crises between the Cubans and the Americans. The way to cleave Cuba to the West was not by food boycott and economic sanctions. Members of this House, returning from the Inter-Parliamentary Union conference in Brazil, told me that Cuba is literally starving to-day. Is that a credit to any one? Does not the freedom from hunger campaign apply to all countries, not only to the nations who behave?
If that is the only reason for giving freedom from hunger there will be some dismay, surely, in the United Nations.
Returning to Castro, in order to win back a nation which has turned its back on the West, you first try to smoke it out, then you try to starve it out. No wonder hardpressed Castro fell for the offer of bomb bases to even up the score against people whom he imagined were seeking to destroy him. He had only to tune in to the American mainland to hear every second Republician congressman screaming, “ Bomb Cuba “. He could also listen to angry Democrats declare that their president was taking things too easy. It was fatally easy for him to listen to the seductive voice advocating massive retaliation. Is that where Castro went wrong? Was he driven to do the thing he did by his enemies or was he seduced by his friends? There will be many books written, and many lamps burning in many libraries for many years, before we get an honest answer to that question. So we make no hasty judgments on this matter.
This debate, naturally, is somewhat in retrospect. The present danger has passed. The bigger problem of holding the truce is with us to-day. In that respect, both sides are to be congratulated that they took the view that they did. I thought that the high wind in the Caribbean was going to lead to a hurricane from the Government benches, but it was a gentle zephyr, and what began as the roaring of lions later became the cooing of sucking doves. Perhaps it is better that way when we are talking of peace. But the terrible events of the last few weeks need no recapitulation. There is a question-mark over so many events to which only history will supply the answer. Who was to blame? Was Castro a tragic victim of the cold war? We do not know. We know, however, that we came to the grinning edge of total nuclear war. In sober retrospect, we can ask ourselves, “For what? “ We can also remember, whether we like it or not, that it was Russia that pulled back.
What will happen the next time when an irresistible force meets an immovable body? How can we, the peace-lovers of the world, the supporters of the United Nations, prevent this from happening? What can little
Australia do? I say that it can do this: It can cease, at the United Nations, from buttressing rotten regimes which are under the reforming hand of their own people. It can ask its powerful friends to do the same thing. How many countries have we lost to the Communist bloc by labelling every national revolution as inspired by the reds? How little have we tried to understand the problems of under-privileged and former colonial people? The only test we apply is the old question, “ Are they on our side? “ If it is hunger, oppression and disease that they are fighting we should say, “ In this, we are on your side”. How many people have we driven into the Communist camp by our clumsy handling of the aims and ideals of sensitive people; by thinking that money and goods will win the Asians or the Latins to our side; by holding up the tottering images of former tyrants and saying: “This is your leader. We, the West, say so.”? We do not even ask these rulers to release their prisoners - the union leaders, radical newspaper editors and opponents of the regime who are in gaol. Let them rot in gaol! They are all Commos, anyway. That is the cynical reply to this problem. Do we do any good by massive support in cash or kind of countries which are ripe for revolt, and which have smelt the winds of change blowing over their own country? How much of the money that we pour into South-East Asia gets past the fat boys in the capitals? How many shoes has it provided for bare-footed peasants? How much rice has it put into the bellies of those who needed it most in Asia and Cuba? These are the questions that we have to ask ourselves when we are wondering how we shall avoid conflict which will end in nuclear war.
Leaving Cuba aside, as I must, due to the limits of time, the only solution I see to world upheaval is the Labour policy of unswerving loyalty to the United Nations, not the time serving attitude of the Menzies Government to the United Nations. “ Hansard “ is peppered with sneering references to the United Nations by the Prime Minister when he was in his appropriate place as Leader of the Opposition. One of his henchmen, the honorable member for Moore (Mr. Leslie), in this debate made a snarling reference to the pomeranians of the United Nations. But, putting his remarks aside as irrelevant and unimportant, what can we do for the hungry nations which go Into rebellion? Gun them down, or accept their situation and build them up? I believe there is a solution in the United Nations decade of development as propounded by the Secretary-General, U Thant. Let us try this plan. Let us, the rich countries, put 1 per cent, of our national income into a plan for developing the hungry countries. Let us lift them out of their misery by the boot-straps until they are able to help themselves. Poverty and over-population, hunger and disease, are the modern version of the four horsemen of the Apocalypse who thunder over half the world as they did in the days of the Bible. You can harness these terrors by money, techniques, know-how and human understanding.
In another field, we must pitch our tents of peace in Asia, Africa and Latin America. These things are more potent in the long run than nuclear bases and hydrogen bombs. Let us have a peace race instead of an arms race. In the second stage of the break-through of the hungry peoples there is inevitably more trouble to come from Castro and Latin America, but let us be prepared for that and see what we can do. If we look at the problem in the light in which we look at it on this side of the House we shall at least have learnt something as a result of the terrible events in the Caribbean in the last few weeks.
Finally, in view of the massive forces of world power in the United States and Russia, Australia is a nation of sacrifice. We have not the population, the wealth nor the opportunity to arm ourselves. It is meet and proper that we should support a nuclear-free zone. It is absurd that the leader of this nation, who so unhappily never represents Australian thought, should refer to this policy as “ suicide “. In fact, it is the only realistic approach relative to Cuba, the situation in south-east Asia and the situation throughout the world. The proposition that we have a nuclear-free zone in the southern hemisphere, that we abjure for all time foreign bases and nuclear bases, is not suicide but salvation for the Australian people.
Debate Con motion by Mr. Wentworth) adjourned.
– I move - [Customs Tariff Amendment (No. 55).]
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 29 November 1962, viewed 6 July 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1962/19621129_reps_24_hor37/>.