Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. Sir John McLeay) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
WAR SERVICE HOMES
Mr THOMPSON: PORT ADELAIDE, SOUTH AUSTRALIA
– My question is directed to the Prime Minister. A few months ago the Salvation Army Chaplains and Red Cross Returned Servicemen’s Association wrote to the Prime Minister with reference to an anomaly in the benefits its members can receive as returned servicemen. The association complained that although its members were promised that they would be treated in the same way as other ex-servicemen and are in fact entitled now to full repatriation benefits, they are not entitled to loans under the War Service Homes Act to purchase homes. The Prime Minister took the matter up with Senator Sir William Spooner and also with the Attorney-General, but the final decision was that members of this association were not to receive such loans. As I look upon this as a matter of policy and of discrimination against a fine body of men who did great work with our boys overseas, I ask the Prime Minister whether he will take up the question with the Cabinet to see whether something can be done to amendthe War Service Homes Act in order to give these returned servicemen the same rights as other returned servicemen in relation to loans from the War Service Homes Division.
Sir ROBERT MENZIES: Prime Minister · KOOYONG, VICTORIA · LP
– I will be very glad to look again into the matter raised by the honorable member. It is some time since I had a look at it.
” WOMEN FOR PEACE” ORGANIZATION.
Mr TURNER: BRADFIELD, NEW SOUTH WALES
– My question is addressed to the Attorney-General. I preface the question by saying that I have received a telegram purporting to come from “ Women for Peace “. While all men of goodwill must welcome this initiative on the part of a sex that has been the constant cause of friction in the world since the days of Helen of Troy, may I, without inviting the charge of ungraciousness in this instance, inquire whether the honorable gentleman has any information that he can make public regarding the source of this body’s inspiration?
Sir GARFIELD BARWICK: Attorney-General · PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · LP
– I have no information about the body that is called “ Women for Peace “. I am not able readily to inform the House of the source of this body’s inspiration. I am inclined to think that the honorable member must at some time or other have indulged in some publicity that has stimulated some women to communicate with him. I must say, for my part, I conduct myself more quietly.
TUMUT TO CANBERRA ROAD
Mr FULLER: HUME, NEW SOUTH WALES
– I direct my question to the Prime Minister. I refer to the proposed Tumut to Canberra road. Is the Prime Minister, as a resident of the great and growing city of Canberra, aware of the advantages to the Federal Capital of such a road? Is he aware also of the benefits that such a road would bring to the important centre of Tumut? What action does the Government propose to take to implement a scheme of such undoubted advantage to his place of domicile and my electorate?
Sir ROBERT MENZIES: LP
– I would be very glad if the honorable member would put that question on the notice-paper so that I may secure the information from the relevant department or departments. I fully appreciate his interest in this matter because he has for along time now been urging it upon the Government. If he puts the question on the notice-paper I will obtain an answer for him.
Mr LESLIE: MOORE, WESTERN AUSTRALIA
– I address a question to the Postmaster-General which relates to the provision of television transmitting stations in country areas. The honorable gentleman is aware from representations I have made to him of the concern of residents of rural areas in Western Australia to receive television transmission as soon as possible. I ask the Minister whether there is any provision in the Broadcasting and Television Act under which he can declare an area an isolated area in which a single transmitting station may be provided instead of both a national and a commercial station. Does the act provide that both stations must be established in an area, or can one station only be established?
– I am well aware of the concern that has been expressed to me by the honorable member for Moore and others for the provision of television transmitters and stations in certain parts of Western Australia. The honorable member asks whether there is any provision in the Broadcasting and Television Act for declaring any particular area an isolated area. I am a little at a loss to understand just what he means, but I can assure him that there is no provision in the act for the declaration of a particular area as an isolated area.
The Australian Broadcasting Control Board in its investigation of the desirability of extending television to country areas, has realized from time to time, as the service has extended, and certain areas have been found not to be receiving a good signal, that special provision would have to be made ultimately to ensure the reception of a good signal. It is not a case of declaring an area an isolated area. There is no provision in the act that there must be two stations in any area. It is certainly the policy of the Government to provide both a commercial and a national service wherever possible, but that is not a requirement of the act. In fact, this system stems from the recommendation of the royal commission on television that wherever possible there should be a dual service.
Mr DALY: GRAYNDLER, NEW SOUTH WALES
– I ask the Minister for Labour and National Service whether he is aware that at the present rate of reduction of unemployment, namely, 287 persons a month, it will take at least 30 years to find work for the 84,000 unemployed. In view of this fact, will the Minister state whether the 30-year plan provides that many men and women, now comparatively young, will transfer direct from the unemployment benefit to the age pension in due course? Also will the Minister confirm or deny that the Government’s promise to restore full employment within twelve months of the last general election has now been changed to a hope to be able to restore it in 1993?
Mr McMAHON: Minister for Labour and National Service · LOWE, NEW SOUTH WALES · LP
– As every one in the House except the honorable member knows, that is an absurd question and the statements contained in it are wrong. We all know that other than in exceptional circumstances there is a regular cycle of increases and falls in the numbers of people registered for employment throughout the year. Over the Christmas period you find a large addition of perhaps 55,000 or 60,000- it will probably be 65,000 this year - because of the fact that so many students leave school and so many others seek to join the workforce from universities and technical colleges. So you find an increase in December and January and a decrease in February and March. In April, May and June over the years, there has usually been a somewhat flat period. Then in July, August, September and October you find a strengthening trend, particularly in October. Consequently, you cannot take April as a month that provides a true indication of what the trend is likely to be. It is not a good month on which to make a judgment. The months to take as providing a correct interpretation of trend are February and March and July, August, September and October.
I repeat what was said in the House the day before yesterday. The Australian Labour Party was always prepared to settle for a condition of 6 per cent, of unemployment in the work force as representing a state of full employment. We do not regard the present figures as being indicative of what will happen in October.
– Get off that one. It is older than you are.
– Order! The honorable member for Kingsford-Smith will cease interjecting.
– As I have said, the Government is living up to its promise that it will do all that it can within its power to see that this major objective of policy - that is, the full employment of all those people who are capable of being employed - is achieved whenever and just as quickly as it can be achieved.
Mr CLEAVER: SWAN, WESTERN AUSTRALIA
– My question is addressed to the Treasurer. Is it a fact that this financial year the pay-roll tax will contribute £64,000,000 to Commonwealth revenue? With revenue from most other sources being substantially increased and the economy of the country being so stable - indicating that this may be an ideal time for action - will the right honorable gentleman consider recommending to the Government the abolition of the payroll tax in the forthcoming Budget, and thereby earn renown for all time as the Treasurer who courageously pruned off the source of the nation’s most unpopular tax revenue?
Mr HAROLD HOLT: Treasurer · HIGGINS, VICTORIA · LP
– I welcome the honorable gentleman’s interest in the renown that might come my way if I were able to adopt his suggestion. He might have rounded off the question by telling me what I would do for alternative revenue if I did as he asked. Whilst it is a fact that collections - with the notable exception of loan receipts which are abnormally high - are proceeding very much in line with the Budget estimates, the revenue from the pay-roll tax, I understand, will be in the neighbourhood of the Budget estimate of £64,000,000 to which he referred. That, of course, is a very large element on the revenue side of the Budget. Whilst it is true that revenues are reasonably buoyant, it is fair to assume that expenditures will escalate in the normal fashion. There may also be some abnormal escalations to contend with in the forthcoming Budget.
The House is aware that an item of this dimension is reviewed periodically, and certainly at Budget time. I think it would be useful if there were a wider awareness in the commercial community that the payroll tax in Australia is at a relatively low rate by comparison with the rate in most of the countries with which Australia has to compete on world markets. I do not suggest that pay-roll tax would ever be likely to be a popular tax, but perhaps it would be a little less unpopular if it were appreciated that other countries maintain a tax on pay-rolls in a somewhat similar form and usually at a very much higher rate than the rate in Australia. The House also will know from legislation of which I gave notice only yesterday that we now have a scheme of pay-roll tax rebates in the case Of increased exports. That scheme is giving some useful incentive to people to increase the volume of their exports and to gain the advantage of tax relief in the process.
COMMONWEALTH AND STATE FINANCIAL RELATIONS
Mr CROSS: BRISBANE. QLD
– I direct my question to the Treasurer. Does he consider that this Government has been generous to the Queensland Government in the provision of funds for the relief of unemployment? Is he prepared to admit that the incompetence of the Queensland Government is a substantial factor in what is the highest rate of unemployment in the Commonwealth? In view of the fact that the current special financial assistance to Queensland will terminate shortly after the State general election, will he give an assurance that a similar amount of money will be available in the next financial year to the incoming Labour Government?
Mr HAROLD HOLT: LP
– I shall answer the last part of the honorable member’s question first. This Government has at all times dealt fairly with the State governments, regardless of the political complexion of the party that happened to be in charge of those governments. We realize that we have a national responsibility to do so, and I would be surprised to find any of the present Premiers arguing that there had been discrimination on political grounds against them in their own States. Certainly they have not made such a statement to me.
In the first part of his question, the honorable member asked whether the Commonwealth Government had been generous to the Government and people of Queensland. It is he who has used the word “ generous “. I believe that this Government has over recent years shown a recognition of the special problems existing in Queensland and has notably assisted the development of the State, not only by special grants to ease unemployment where it has occurred, but also by grants for development projects of great value to the State and, indeed, of great value to Australia as a whole. I know that there has been a growing appreciation by the Government and the people of Queensland of the added assistance that has been forthcoming from the Commonwealth over recent years.
It is true that the unemployment problem in Queensland is greater than that in any other State. This is partly the result of the seasonal factors that apply in Queensland, but I think it is more substantially attributable to the fact that, through a long period of Labour rule in that State, no encouragement was given to the builidng up of those secondary industries which have been such an ample source of employment in other parts of the Commonwealth. Thanks to the progressive policy and administration of the present Queensland Government, employment opportunities are increasing and Queensland is now entering a period of buoyant prosperity.
SOUTH VIET NAM
Sir WILFRID KENT HUGHES: CHISHOLM, VICTORIA
– I desire to ask the Minister for External Affairs a question. Has the Minister received a copy of the insulting letter sent by the Australian Builders Labourers Federation, addressed from the Trades Hall, Melbourne, to the Consul for South Viet Nam in Canberra? If so, will he arrange for the Department of External Affairs to inform the union that South Viet Nam has an ambassador and not a consul in Canberra, and that it has been misled by its Communist counsellors in that what it calls the non-declared brutal war of annihilation in South Viet Nam has been waged by the Viet Cong Communist guerrillas who are under direction and control from Hanoi and who have resorted to the tactics of terror and bestiality for the last five years or more?
Sir GARFIELD BARWICK: LP
– I have not seen the letter. If the honorable member has a copy of it, I would be very glad to receive it and see whether it calls for any action by my department or by me. As for action by my department or by me. The honorable member says that the writers of the letter have apparently failed to understand exactly who is responsible for the difficulties in South Viet Nam. If I am at all able to put the writers on the right track, I will do so, but I am afraid it may be a difficult task.
Mr GRIFFITHS: SHORTLAND, NEW SOUTH WALES
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Repatriation, ls it a fact that in many instances the incompleteness of medical history in repatriation files has prevented exservicemen from receiving full recognition of their claims for war pensions? Will the Minister make a study of some of the cases in which this has occurred and consider the advisability of amending the Repatriation Act to provide for the automatic payment of war pensions in cases in which servicemen are discharged from active service as being medically unfit for war service? Further, when a medical practitioner states a case favorable to an applicant will the Minister instruct either the board, the commission or the entitlement tribunal to set out in writing why it refuses the claim whenever it is requested to give such reasons by a returned servicemen’s organization or by a member of this House?
Mr SWARTZ: Minister for Repatriation · DARLING DOWNS, QUEENSLAND · LP
– Medical records are among the matters taken into consideration when deciding a claim submitted for repatriation benefits. Army medical records have been banded over to the Repatriation Department by the Department of the Army, and ray department now has such records intact for World War I., World War II., Korea and Malaya. Medical records of the Navy and the Air Force are held by the two departments concerned, and we refer to them when we require information. It is a fact, of course, that medical records can never be entirely complete, but I think, on balance, that service medical records are in most cases as complete as is necessary for the full determination of claims. In cases in which there is some doubt about the correctness of the records, or there is some other evidence having a bearing on the matter, such factors must be considered when deciding claims. If there is any doubt in the mind of the authority concerned it must, of course, be resolved in favour of the appellant.
Automatic acceptance of certain disabilities, in some cases on the advice of medical officers, is, of course, a matter of policy. This very question, in its relation to certain specified disabilities, has recently been debated in this House. It is a matter that is considered when the Budget is being prepared each year and it will, of course, be reviewed when the forthcoming Budget is being considered.
The honorable member spoke also of the disclosure to appellants, or to an exservicemen’s organization, of reasons for decisions given by a tribunal, the Repatriation Commission or even the Repatriation Board. I can tell the honorable member that there is no desire to conceal the grounds for decisions, but there is an administrative problem. At the present time, as every one knows, we have a backlog of cases to be considered, and I am sure the honorable member would be the first to agree that it is desirable to improve the position. That is what we are trying to do now. There is a backlog of cases to be heard both by entitlement appeal tribunals and by assessment appeal tribunals. If we imposed upon those tribunals the burden of having to give full information concerning their reasons for decisions they would be able to get through only about a third of the cases that they deal with at present. Further delay would occur and more problems would arise. However, if in a particular case the appellant himself writes to the Repatriation Department asking for reasons, a summary of the file can be made available for his perusal from which he should be able to discover substantially the reasons for the decision.
Mr STOKES: MARIBYRNONG, VICTORIA
– My question, which is addressed to the Treasurer, relates to sales tax exemptions on motor vehicles. I understand that at present exemption from sales tax is given to physically disabled people such as amputees who have suffered the loss of one or both legs, provided that they prove difficulty in using public transport between their homes and places of employment. However, no such concession is given to a totally-blinded person with equal difficulties although he may have to be driven to and from work by another person - for example, his wife. Will the right honorable gentleman have the position examined with a view to extending the concession in the way I have indicated?
Mr HAROLD HOLT: LP
– The question of tax exemptions is difficult to determine. Any decision that extends the order of eligibility inevitably leaves a borderline affecting others who feel that they also should be favorably considered. We do from time to time consider the range of eligibility for exemption in cases of this sort. The honorable gentleman has brought to our notice a case that, I am sure, excites the sympathy of us all, and I assure him that it will be considered.
Mr TURNBULL: MALLEE, VICTORIA
– My question is addressed to the Postmaster-General. Is he aware that almost continually people in rural areas, chiefly primary producers, are requesting that their outmoded manual telephone exchanges be replaced by automatic telephone facilities known as R.A.X.’s, and that the general reply is that, owing to the number of centres with prior claims, there will be an unspecified waiting period before such requests can be granted? I ask: Does this mean that there is a shortage of automatic exchange equipment, or is the Postmaster-General’s Department short of the necessary money for the manufacture or purchase of such equipment? In either case, will the Minister confer with the department, or with the Cabinet if necessary, with a view to overcoming the difficulty?
Mr DAVIDSON: CP
– The honorable member refers to the provision in country areas of that kind of automatic equipment commonly known as R.A.X. We have altered the name to “ country automatic exchange”, but these units are still known to most people as R.A.X.’s. The position is that during the last year there has been some reduction of the rate at which we hoped to be able to install these exchanges in country areas. The hold-up has occurred for several reasons, one of the major ones being that the PostmasterGeneral’s Department is in the course of changing this kind of automatic equipment generally from what we call the stepbystep system to the cross-bar system. My colleague, the Minister for Repatriation, who represents Darling Downs, will recall that one of the first installations of this type was at Toowoomba. The cross-bar equipment is of Swedish design and is manufactured under licence from the L. M. Ericsson Telephone Company Limited in Sweden by two Australian companies. There has been some slight hold-up in obtaining certain parts from the parent company and that has delayed to some extent, but not completely, the installation of this equipment. That is one of the reasons for delay. Of course, the fact that other areas have prior claims must be considered. There is a great number of applications from country areas for the provision of rural automatic exchanges. It is not possible for the department to meet all those applications at once, so a priority list is determined.
The honorable member also asked whether the present position is due to a shortage of funds. The department has been treated very generously by the Government, which realizes that because of Australia’s rapid development the department has had great demands made upon it by those involved in that development and that adequate finance must be supplied. Honorable members will remember that in the last Budget the department’s capital works vote was increased by several million pounds compared with the vote in the previous year. Only recently the Treasurer, when introducing his Supplementary Estimates, explained that in the last six months £750,000 had been made available over and above the amount provided in the Budget for capital works, which, of course, include the provision of automatic services. That is the position in relation to finance.
WATER CONSERVATION AND IRRIGATION
Mr DUTHIE: WILMOT, TASMANIA
– Does the Prime Minister recall his visit, I think in 1961, to Longford, which is in the electorate of Wilmot, to hear the excellent case presented for Commonwealth assistance for an extensive irrigation scheme which would use the waters of the Poatina hydro-electric station? Is it a fact that the Government is prepared to assist this project financially? Has the Prime Minister received an official request from the Premier of Tasmania for Commonwealth aid for this much needed irrigation project?
Sir ROBERT MENZIES: LP
– I am pretty sure that a letter which I received the other day from the Premier of Tasmania relates to this scheme. That- letter now is under examination and will be answered in due course.
Mr KILLEN: MORETON, QUEENSLAND
– I preface my question to the Minister for Labour and National Service by stating that last week the Commonwealth Industrial Court declared invalid a ballot conducted by the Amalgamated Engineering Union. Can the Minister provide any information on the practices which the court found to be improper? Can he say whether the court determined in any way who was responsible for the practices which were found to be improper?
Mr McMAHON: LP
– I am not not sure whether it was last week, but in recent weeks the Commonwealth Industrial Court declared invalid an election for the position of secretary of the Amalgamated Engineering Union. The reason for that decision was a provision that once an election campaign commenced no propoganda or notices should be issued by the secretary himself in relation to the position. The notice calling for nominations was issued, not signed by Mr. Garland but with his name printed on the bottom. Mr. Garland stated in court that he had no knowledge of the notice and did not know that his name had been appended to it. However, the judge hearing the matter said that he was certain that Mr. Garland was fully aware of what had transpired and for that reason he declared the ballot for the position of secretary to be invalid. Obviously what happened was that Mr. Garland at least negotiated to ensure that he would obtain an unfair advantage in the election.
A new election is to be held, and the court had decided previously that industrial employees who previously were excluded from the union’s ballots are to be permitted to nominate. I am confident that this election, held under the ballot legislation of the Menzies Government, will be fairly conducted. I hope that in this case each member of the Amalgamated Engineering Union will be able to record his vote honestly and without coercion from left-wing members of the union.
Mr WARD: EAST SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES
– I ask the Prime Minister whether he has read the report of the review made by the International Commission of Jurists on the General Law (Amendment) Act recently passed in South Africa. Did the International Commission of Jurists, which represents many thousands of leading lawyers and jurists throughout the world, condemn South Africa for having established a police state embodying many of the worst features of the former Stalin Communist regime and declare that in South Africa liberty has now disappeared and justice is blinded and maimed? Did the International Commission of Jurists also call for strong condemnation by all democratic countries of South Africa’s action? Have the latest developments in South Africa caused any change in the Prime Minister’s attitude of support for policies pursued by that country in recent years, including the policy of apartheid, which he did not recommend merely because he thought it would not work? If so, will the Prime Minister make an early pronouncement expressing condemnation of the latest acts of the South African Government in destroying liberty and justice?
Sir ROBERT MENZIES: LP
– Apart from noting the characteristic misrepresentation towards the end of the question, to which we are accustomed, all I want to say is that, like the honorable member I, too, read in the newspapers this morning a statement about the report of the International Commission of Jurists. I have not seen the report. I will study it with great care when I do see it.
LABOUR PARTY CAUCUS MEETINGS
Mr JESS: LA TROBE, VICTORIA
– I ask the Attorney-General a question. Has the honorable gentleman seen reports naming the members of the Labour Party who voted at the Labour Party caucus meeting yesterday against the establishment of the United States naval communication base in Western Australia? As I am sure that many honorable members are concerned to know how such information is obtained, will the Attorney-General confer with the Leader of the Opposition to see whether he can be of assistance in preventing such occurrences in the future?
Sir GARFIELD BARWICK: LP
– I had not thought it was a responsibility of my office to teach the Opposition how to keep its secrets.
Mr COSTA: BANKS, NEW SOUTH WALES
– I ask the Prime Minister: Has he ever considered the lack of accommodation in this National Parliament for members and the public? Will he stand in King’s Hall one day and count the number of people waiting in queues to enter the House of Representatives to listen to question-time and to the debates that follow? Is the right honorable gentleman aware that on some days as many as 100 people wait for long periods to enter the galleries of this chamber? Is he aware that some of those people are mothers with babies in their arms? Will the Prime Minister agree that additional accommodation could be made available for the public by providing another gallery at the rear of the Government parties’ benches? Is the right honorable gentleman aware that several members of the Opposition are compelled to do their office work in the party room? Is he aware that lack of such offices as are available are shared by as many as four members? For instance, I share a room with two other honorable members.
– Who are they?
– The honorable member for East Sydney and the honorable member for Kingsford-Smith.
– Order! The honorable member’s question is getting a little too long.
– I will be brief. When constituents come to Canberra to interview me or my colleagues with whom I share a room, two of us must stand in the hallway. Will the Prime Minister say who is responsible for this unsatisfactory state of affairs and will he give some urgent consideration to rectifying the position?
Sir ROBERT MENZIES: LP
- Mr. Speaker, this is the first time I ever knew that my friend had to share a room with the honorable member for East Sydney and therefore I begin my reply to his question by extending to him my deepest sympathy. The problem of the accommodation of members in the House, to say nothing of the general public, is one that I dare say has been raised in the Opposition party room and it has certainly been repeatedly raised in my own. It has been under consideration by the Government. It is not entirely a simple problem. We will, in due course, be in a position to say what we can or cannot do about it.
PAPUA AND NEW GUINEA
Mr COCKLE: WARRINGAH, NEW SOUTH WALES
– I direct a question to the Minister for Territories. Has the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development commenced its survey of the economic potential of Papua and New Guinea? If such survey has not yet been commenced, does the Minister know when it will take place? How long does he expect that the survey will take and how long after its completion can we expect to receive the bank’s report on its mission?
Mr HASLUCK: Minister for Territories · CURTIN, WESTERN AUSTRALIA · LP
– As ‘ previously announced in this House and as previously announced to the public, the survey by the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development commenced in April and we expect a report towards the end of this year.
Mr NELSON: NORTHERN TERRITORY, NORTHERN TERRITORY
– My question is addressed to the Prime Minister. Since to-day is the first anniversary of my placing the question standing in my name and having pride of place on the noticepaper, will he confer with his colleague, the Minister for Territories, and get him to give an undertaking that I will receive a reply before the second anniversary?
Sir ROBERT MENZIES: LP
– I have forgotten what this question is. I am a broad-minded fellow and I will tell you what I am prepared to do. I will ask my colleague about it.
AFRO- ASIAN JOURNALISTS CONFERENCE
Sir WILFRID KENT HUGHES:
– I desire to ask the Minister for External Affairs a question. Can he inform the House whether, at the recent socalled Afro-Asian Journalists Conference in Indonesia, the Viet Cong guerrillas - Communists - were represented but South Viet Nam journalists were debarred in spite of the fact that they had received an official invitation to the conference? Does be know or can he confirm whether the conference passed a resolution condemning the American activity in Viet Nam, Laos, Korea, Cuba and Taiwan and supporting the Indonesian Government’s opposition to Malaysia?
Sir GARFIELD BARWICK: LP
– I do know that a number of odd occurrences - to say the least of them - took place at the conference. I do not carry in my mind the detail to which the honorable member has referred, but I will check it up and send him a message after I have done so.
Mr WHITLAM: WERRIWA, NEW SOUTH WALES
– I address a question to the Minister for External Affairs. The honorable gentleman will remember that six months ago the General Assembly of the United Nations passed a resolution, one section of which invited all member states to inform the General Assembly at this year’s session regarding action taken separately or collectively in dissuading the Government of South Africa from pursuing its policies of apartheid. I ask him how far the Government has gone in compiling this information and whether he can give at this stage any interim report on the action which Australia has taken by itself, or in association with other countries, to dissuade South Africa from following these policies.
Sir GARFIELD BARWICK: LP
– It is customary, after a resolution of this kind, for the Secretary-General of the United Nations to communicate with the countries concerned and, thereafter, for correspondence to take place. As far as I know we have not received a request. Correspondence will take place in due course.
Mr KING: WIMMERA, VICTORIA
– I direct my question to the Postmaster-General. It is supplementary to that asked by the honorable member for Mallee. Like most members of this chamber, I appreciate the fact that the Government is increasing the allocation of funds for capital works within the PostmasterGeneral’s Department. Has the department carried out a survey to ascertain how long it will be before all the practical centres in country areas will be served by automatic telephone services? If not, will the Postmaster-General investigate the situation, as many telephone subscribers are anxiously awaiting this amenity, which is enjoyed by our city friends?
Mr DAVIDSON: CP
– The honorable member has asked me whether I can indicate how long it will be before automatic telephone services are available throughout the country areas. I take that to be his question. That is a very difficult forecast to make. We have announced from time to time that our ultimate objective is to have completely automatic services throughout Australia. My advisers have given periods varying from ten to fifteen years for the achievement of that objective, but the estimates have not been based on the results of a really detailed survey. They have represented an expression of opinion based on the amount of money that is likely to be available and on the time taken to install automatic equipment. I shall see whether I can get more detailed information for the honorable member.
Mr JONES: NEWCASTLE, VICTORIA
– I claim to have been mis represented. The Melbourne “ Age “, under the heading “Dissenters”, lists a number of members who allegedly voted for a resolution in the Labour Party caucus. Whilst I regularly vote with the gentlemen named, who are friends of mine, I did not do so on this occasion. I ask for a correction to be made.
BILLS RETURNED FROM THE SENATE
The following bills were returned from the Senate without amendment -
Processed Milk Products Bounty Bill 1963.
Insurance Bill 1963.
Commonwealth Inscribed Stock Bill 1963.
Acts Interpretation Bill 1963.
Australian Antarctic Territory Bill 1963.
Christmas Island Bill 1963.
Cocos (Keeling) Islands Bill 1963.
Heard Island and McDonald Islands Bill 1963.
Seat of Government (Administration) Bill 1963.
FLOOD MITIGATION AND CONTROL
Mr SPEAKER (Hon Sir John McLeay: BOOTHBY, SOUTH AUSTRALIA
-I have received a letter from the honorable member for Cowper (Mr. McGuren) proposing that a definite matter of urgent public importance be submitted to the House for discussion, namely -
The need forwork, subsidized by the Commonwealth Government on a £1 for £1 basis with the
States, which will mitigate and control the frequent and disastrous floods in Australia, preserve valuable production, and prevent the heavy economic losses which follow these floods.
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) -
– What is wrong with the members of the Country Party? Why do they not rise in support of the proposal?
– Order! The honorable member for Barton will remain silent.
Mr McGUREN: Cowper
.- Mr. Speaker, in accordance with Standing Order No. 106a, I raise this matter of urgent public importance for discussion. In the township of Ulmarra last Thursday, 9th May, a small child was washed from the verandah of a house and drowned beneath the house in the flood waters of the Clarence River. On Monday last a lifelong friend of mine was electrocuted while cleaning up some of the rubbish and mess left behind by floodwaters. I ask you, Mr. Speaker: Should these people have died? This flood was not an unusual happening. It is part of a series of floods which has followed a definite pattern since 1802, when the first records were kept. Inthe last eighteen years there have been twenty major floods in the Clarence valley alone. In 1956, the Clarence valley was flooded once in January, twice in February and twice more later in the year. In 1959, there were floods in January and February. In 1962, there were floods in April and July. In 1963, there were floods in January and May.
I believe that floods affect the nation generally. In support of that statement I would like to inform the House of the floods that have occurred in Australia since 1931. Tasmania had a flood in that year, when fourteen lives were lost. In 1934, New South Wales had floods in various parts of the State almost continuously for nine months. In that year Victoria had a flood in which 35 lives were lost, and Queensland also was flooded. So was South Australia, where two lives were lost. Western Australia was also flooded in that year. There was a break until 1949, when New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland had floods. In 1950, New South Wales, Queensland and South Australia had floods. In 1951, New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland and Western Australia had floods. So we see the pattern up till 1951. In 1952 the pattern continued. New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania had floods. The loss estimated for New South Wales due to flooding was £10,000,000. In 1954, New South Wales again experienced flooding, when 22 lives were lost and 10,000 people were made homeless. In 1955 New South Wales again had floods, and again there was a great loss of life. Those figures show that floods present a great national problem. It may be argued that the effects of a flood are local effects, but there is no doubt in my mind that floods generally have an effect on the whole of our economy.
In the last sixteen months there have been four major floods and five minor floods in the Clarence Valley. That means that the people living in that area have not had an opportunity to recuperate after even one of those floods. In spite of that, we find that floods are recurring again and again. What is the effect on the district? People are leaving the district. They are no longer interested in working on the land, because they cannot cope with the adverse conditions there. We must bear in mind that floods affect not only the man on the land, but employment generally in the affected districts, where a grim situation arises. I quote from a newspaper article of Wednesday of this week -
JOB CRISIS ON NORTH COAST.
Widespread unemployment has followed last week’s floods on the North Coast. Hundreds of farmers and timber workers are seeking labouring jobs because rain and floods have brought their industries to a standstill. Many farmers’ properties will be out of production for months. The Macleay Shire president, Councillor D. J. 0’Den said yesterday about ISO dairy farmers in the shire near Kempsey would probably need labouring and other manual jobs for several months. He said most of the Macleay River’s 300 dairy farmers were fighting to save their herds and farms.
The Mayor of Grafton had this to say -
Many farmers and timber workers would be seeking labouring work in the district in the next few weeks. Even before the floods many timber workers were laid off because consistent heavy rain stopped timber supplies to many mills. The Mayor of Lismore, Alderman C. J. Campbell, said that even before the floods many dairy farmers, because of the insecure state of their industry, were forced at intervals to take labouring jobs.
In the Nambucca River district 130 timber mill employees will get dismissal notices to-day because the rain and two floods have prevented millers from getting logs out of the forests.
We must look at the effects of these floods on the bigger secondary industries. For instance, the companies processing milk products are also affected. The Nestles organization at Smithtown employs about 500 people and about 130 are employed at the Peters factory in Grafton. Nestles will be reducing staff by 50 per cent., and similar conditions apply in the Peters factory, so that in effect, the economy of those areas has suffered in no uncertain manner.
This is not a parochial issue; it is not to be made a political football; it is a question of sheer necessity. Circumstances have forced me to make a plea on behalf of those people this morning. The people for whom I speak are not easily frightened; they are not afraid of work; they are always prepared to do their best, but when circumstances such as those I have outlined crop up as regularly as 1 have mentioned, they are beaten to their knees. The immediate need of these people is a matter of importance. During the next four or five grim winter months they will have no income; they will have no fodder for their stock and no financial resources to carry on their work, and consequently these districts will be faced with a serious exodus of people. What will be the result of that? Is the land to be allowed to go back to its natural state? Or can we hope to keep it in production to help feed future generations?
That is the picture I present to the House. I am not exaggerating the position; I am merely stating facts. Mr. Deputy Speaker, I put it to you that we must look at this problem from a national point of view and I make these suggestions in the hope that the Government will consider them in due course. This is a matter of national consequence and of great importance to any government, irrespective of its political colour. Any government that puts into operation a scheme of the kind I have suggested will undoubtedly render great service to Australia.
In asking for a £l-for-£l subsidy, I point to the important fact that certain local governing bodies in New South Wales which are trying to help these people are already in financial difficulties. The structure of local government responsibility is not the same in every State, and I speak only of New South Wales because of the limited time at my disposal. Some criticism has been made of the efforts of those who are attempting to carry out flood mitigation works on the various coastal streams, and these attacks are most unfair. Many of the statements that have been made about them are completely untrue. It is very difficult to compare what one State is doing in this respect with what another State is doing because each State has a different method of dealing with the problem. On a previous occasion in this House I outlined what was being done in Victoria. On that occasion, much was said about the local government bodies in that State receiving a subsidy of £5 for each £1 expended on flood mitigation works.
– So they do.
– I have not the time to read out all the details of the scheme there, but the authorities I have consulted reveal that in Victoria a total of £1,208,576 was spent over the last few years on works carried out under the supervision of the State Rivers and Water Supply Commission, whereas in New South Wales, if we take into consideration the expenditure on such things as harbour works, reafforestation, water conservation and so on -
– They are not related. Victoria pays a £5 for £1 subsidy for flood mitigation alone. You should tell the truth.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock: LYNE, NEW SOUTH WALES
– He should tell the truth.
– My authority for the statement I made is the report of the State Rivers and Water Supply Commission. The report indicates that the source of the information is the Victorian “ Year Book “ 1962, the Auditor-General’s Report 1960- 1961, the Budget speech 1959 and River Improvement Hand Book 1949. Those authorities indicate that a total of £1,208,576 was provided for the works that I have outlined. The money was spent by the Department of Public Works, the forestry commission, soil conservation authority and so on. Taking them all together, one gains the false impression that the subsidy amounts to £5 for every £1 spent.
– That is not true. Tell the truth!
– It is strange how the truth hurts these gentlemen in the corner party. Of all the people I have known, I have never known any one react to the truth so adversely as do the gentlemen on my left.
– I rise to order. The honorable member for Cowper is completely unaware of the fact that in Victoria the subsidy paid is £5 for each £1 expended on flood mitigation works. The honorable member has not taken into account ports and harbours.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER:
– Order! There is no substance in the point raised by the honorable member.
– We should get down to the real issue. I speak from a national view as the representative of people in a constitutency similar to your own, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I do not propose to be side-tracked by the little issues that our friend seeks to introduce. It is up to this or any government to face up to responsibilities in a national way. It is up to this or any government to do something to help the flood victims. So far all they have received have been platitudes about what brave and wonderful people they were, how well they have co-operated with one another and how they helped one another with finance. To be frank, the days when platitudes would suffice have gone. There is no doubt that these people have been mocked in no uncertain manner, and they will not take it much longer. They have now reached the stage where they are desperate and if the members of this Government, and of the Parliament as a whole, are not prepared, as Australians, to face up to their responsibilities, they will have to suffer the consequences.
This is not a matter that we cannot deal with in the ordinary political way. If a tragedy such as this occurred in the United States of America, a state of national emergency would be declared immediately and a national relief scheme would be introduced. There, real work would be done. In fact, already the United States has introduced schemes to overcome difficulties similar to those that confront us in Australia. There is nothing unusual or new about floods. They are as old as mankind. History tells us how the outlet of the great Red River in China had moved some 300 miles as the result of the levee and other flood mitigation works that had been carried out for thousands of years there. We have in the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority the brains necessary to do what is required, and we should make use of them. We have the machinery and the man-power necessary to do a real job in this field. We should realize we have an immediate responsibility to do more for these people than give them the miserable pittance that they have so far been handed. We should make it our business to re-establish these people on the farms, in the mills and in the factories of the devastated area. If we do not do that, we shall fail them most miserably.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER:
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
Mr FAIRHALL: Minister for Supply · Paterson · LP
– In his opening recital, the honorable member for Cowper (Mr. McGuren) painted a picture of floods occurring in every country. Unfortunately, his address confused flood mitigation with relief for the victims of floods. I earnestly suggest to the honorable member that he get those two matters separated in his mind because they are not the same problems at all. I also suggest that the honorable member has not really thought seriously about the problem raised in the terms of the proposal he has submitted with relation to flood mitigation because he is appealing for the commencement of a job which will cost hundreds of millions of pounds if it is to be done properly.
This is a well beaten path. It is always trodden when, with warm sympathy in our hearts for the victims of the latest inundation in any part of the country, emotions are stirred. Obviously it is a matter of concern to this House, and honorable members on both sides have raised the issue in times past when similar circumstances have arisen. It is true that this is not a political matter. Therefore, I make no political attack.
Rather do I seize the opportunity to put a few constructive thoughts on this problem and to urge the directions in which we should look for relief.
Whenever this subject is raised the flooding is viewed as a national catastrophe and the claim is made that the responsibility for remedial measures lies with the Federal Government. The hard fact is that, no matter how national the effect of a disaster of this kind may be, the use of the term “ national “ in connexion with a disaster does not necessarily shift from one authority to another the responsibility for doing something about it. It is quite interesting to go back to 1949 in which there were floods in my own electorate. I have had a good deal of experience of floods such as occur in the electorate of the honorable member for Cowper. In 1949 Mr. Abbott, who was then the honorable member for New England, raised the matter of flood relief and addressed the same kind of remarks to the Labour Government led by Mr. Chifley as the honorable member for Cowper has addressed to the present Government. It is worth while to look at the reply given by Mr. Chifley to Mr. Abbott’s submission. He said -
The honorable member’s charge that this Government should build dams to protect the Maitland area from floods is quite absurd. The proper authority is the State government. Other Prime Ministers and Treasurers have pointed out, as I have done on many occasions, that any catastrophe that occurs in only one State can be dealt with in the first place only by the government of that State.
– A lot of water has flowed over the area since then.
– If you will be patient for a few minutes, I think you will have less room for complaint. I do not criticize that statement by Mr. Chifley. At that stage he was merely quoting constitutional facts. If we are to have a constructive job done in this field, it will not be done by avoiding the constitutional issues. The fact is that section 51 of the Constitution enumerates the powers that have been delegated to the Commonwealth Government. The unenumerated powers, or the residue, remain with the States. In that residue is the power to control rivers. For what other reason, Mr. Deputy Speaker, would the State governments - I refer particularly to the New South Wales Government - have established the water conservation and irrigation commissions and the soil conservation services which are intimately bound up with this problem? Because of the major flooding of the Hunter valley in particular over the years, the New South Wales Government has established a new agency called the Hunter Valley Conservation Trust to do minor works on bank restoration and thereby to make a contribution to flood mitigation. This is the function of the State Government. It acknowledges its responsibility in this field.
If we are to achieve real flood mitigation, the problem is not whose money will be spent but how that money will be spent. I understand that quite recently a number of county councils in the northern rivers district of New South Wales have got together and that they propose to put to the State Government a plan for works to be done on some co-operative basis. I have not the details of the plan. No doubt one of the government supporters will supplement my comments. It is quite likely that the State Government, if it thinks that it is unable to handle the requirement, will refer it to the Commonwealth Government. That is the right line of approach to this problem. It is the line of approach that was referred to by Mr. Chifley, a Labour Prime Minister; and that same line has been followed by the present Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies).
I understand that in the northern rivers district the problem is one of getting rid of residual water after flooding. It may well be that this is a drainage problem rather than a flood mitigation problem. We should get these terms fairly clear in our minds. If we intend to attempt real flood mitigation we have to look at the questions of soil conservation, the protection of river banks and the clearance of channels. Those things will give only minor relief. When all of them are done, the question of flood mitigation by the construction of dams and other activities will have to be settled. If one reads the very copious literature on this problem, which has come out of other countries that have devoted enormous effort to the problem - I speak basically of the
United States of America - one will understand that there is still an enormous area of disputation between people who propose a variety of means of overcoming flood difficulties.
When all is said and done, the rich agricultural lands which are the subject of the greatest damage in floods are rich simply because they are subject to flooding. They are on the flood plain. If we are to continue to contest the ownership and occupancy of the flood plain with nature, here and there we will lose. Therefore, flooding is very much an occupational hazard. That remark is not meant to convey for a moment that something cannot be done about flood mitigation. I want to devote a few minutes to point out the directions in which I think this job has to be done. It will not be done by making the odd political attack - I appreciate that this debate is not completely a political attack - in respect of isolated instances of flooding. This problem has to be tackled as a long-term project. When I say “ long-term “ I do not mean a term of two years, five years or ten years.
– Some one has to start it.
– I intend to tell you about somebody who did start it in a moment, if you will be a little patient with me. The Commonwealth has done a good deal in this field already. I am merely pointing out that I think the Commonwealth has made a start in its approach to this problem. It would be completely wrong to look for immediate results. If we got immediate results they would not be effective results, for reasons that I will point out in a moment.
The House knows very well that recently the Commonwealth entered into an agreement with the States on the establishment of the Australian Water Resources Council. This is a great attempt, first of all, to measure Australia’s water resources and the conditions that lie at the back of flood damage. The basic reason why we should assess the availability of water in Australia is that it is one of the factors that will limit our population and industrial development. The conservation and development of those resources, of course, will be enormously important to this country’s future. That is the basic task of the Water Resources Council. But, in doing that work, the council will also come up with the basic technical information on which alone schemes of flood mitigation can be based.
I point out to my honorable friend from Cowper that as Minister for the Interior for three or four years I had the pleasure of introducing the hydro-meteorological service within the Commonwealth Bureau of Meteorology. That action meant that within the bureau the first step was taken to make a scientific analysis of water resources and the conditions that lie at the back of flood damage. That work was first suggested by the Academy of Science which is devoting its time, attention and thought to this problem. It is not to be supposed that nothing is being done about it.
My honorable friend from Cowper made a general and easy mistake when he started to talk about flood mitigation. He said: “ We have the people, the resources and the bulldozers. Why do we not get on with the work?” That is about the last line of approach that ought to be taken to flood mitigation. Whenever these disasters occur we are always able to find people who want to dig a hole to let the water out, run a new opening to the river, straighten the channel, build levee banks, or do something of that kind. Those measures will give some minor relief, but they will never provide flood mitigation. If we are to do this job properly we have to start off with some real technical knowledge of the behaviour of rainfall, the absorption of that rainfall, evaporation, runoff, river flow and things of that kind.
– How long will that take?
– The honorable gentleman is very anxious to find out how long this work will take. It may take 50 years, but that does not mean that we will wait for 50 years before we get some work done on it. I can assure the House that if we try to do this work with insufficient knowledge, we will never have anything really useful in the way of flood mitigation.
I have only a few more minutes available to me. This kind of debate does not allow one to canvass a problem of this magnitude. Let me go back to the Hunter valley. In 1955 we had the greatest disaster that this river valley has ever seen. The same sort of situation developed after the flood. People were looking for immediate ways and means of relieving the difficulty. The same questions came up. People said: “There are dragline excavators and Snowy Mountains Authority engineers. Why do we not assemble all the machinery and do what we can with it? “ Are we going to dig out the river channel? At best the channel might be half a mile wide and twenty feet deep. The river at Maitland at that time was ten miles wide and forty feet deep. No amount of re-construction of the river channel would have enabled the channel to carry away the amount of water that was there. 1 take some pride in the fact that at that stage I was instrumental, with another Newcastle gentleman, in moving for the formation of a research organization to work on the basic details of rainfall and river flow. How the rain falls, where it runs off and the time when the waters of two rivers meet in confluence are the real factors that lie behind the damage done by floods. Unless we know these facts, no, amount of planning will be useful and any expenditure on flood mitigation will no doubt be useless. Just how valuable our approach was is seen in the fact that within a year the Hunter Valley Research Foundation was formed. It is still in operation. Professor Renwick, who is Professor of Economics at the New South Wales University of Technology, came in as a part-time research director. He was ultimately seconded to the foundation by the State Government. When an appeal was made to the public for funds to enable this work to be done - not work on flood mitigation but the work of laying the foundations for an intelligent approach - the citizens of the Hunter valley and business people with interests in the valley voluntarily subscribed no leis than £100.000 to start this project. My honorable friend will be pleased to know that £25,000 came from the New South Wales Government.
That is the best evidence that the New South Wales Government knows what is the right approach to this problem. It is for this reason that I draw attention to the opening remarks of the honorable gentleman - to show that he has not thought about the full implications of this problem. He is concerned with the rivers in the upper north coast. I am concerned about the mid-coast. My honorable friend from Macarthur (Mr. Jeff Bate) is concerned about the lower rivers. Kt the moment, the inland rivers are in flood. Let us have some appreciation of the magnitude of the problem before we devote our attention to some method of solving it.
The Hunter Valley Research Foundation - a scientific organization whose work must precede the actual construction of flood mitigation works - to-day has been able to get the co-operation of the State and Commonwealth governments. Neither the State Government nor the Commonwealth Government was able to instrument the Hunter valley fully, and perhaps they were unwilling to do a partial job because of the pressures that this would develop everywhere else. Now these two agencies have pooled their resources, with the Hunter Valley Research Organization as a pivot. To-day the Hunter valley is the best instrumented river valley throughout Australia. After five years, we are beginning to get some scientific information. We are now able to say, when rain falls, where it will appear in terms of stream flow. We are able to measure the effects of succeeding floods. We are beginning to develop profiles of flood flows. From this, we will be able to develop the first and the only reliable flood forecasting information. The quantities of water, the rate at which it appears and where it is likely to appear are facts that will have to be used in the engineering design of flood mitigation work.
My time has gone, and the problem has hardly been looked at. I am not attacking the honorable gentleman or criticizing him. I appreciate his having raised this matter for the opportunity it gives me to direct public attention to the need to attack this problem scientifically and intelligently. Emotion is a good thing, but not in this context. The immediate problems mentioned by the honorable gentleman lie primarily in the field of assistance to victims of floods, but I suggest that he give some attention to the long-range work that has to be done. If he will join me in urging this kind of approach then maybe we will get something done.
Mr ARMITAGE: Mitchell
– Unfortunately, at the outset - I very much regret this - it is necessary for me to refer to certain bitter personal attacks that have been made on the honorable member for Cowper (Mr. McGuren) in the Grafton press by the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony). I do regret having even to refer to these matters, because I do not think that they add to the dignity of the House or to the dignity of the honorable member for Richmond. However, I believe that I should touch on them very briefly in order to give the lie to the statements about and. the attacks upon the honorable member for Cowper.
These attacks were made by the honorable member for Richmond in the Grafton press yesterday and to-day. They dealt with the recent visit of a delegation of six members of this House to the flood areas by aeroplane last Tuesday and with the facts leading up to the formation of that delegation. The facts are these: It was the honorable member for Cowper who received a request from leading citizens of Grafton for a deputation to travel north and to see the devastated flood areas. It was he who made representations to the Minister within half an hour of receiving the request. Unfortunately, the flight which was arranged for Thursday was cancelled by the Minister because, I understand, of bad weather. The members from this side of the House were willing to go any day after that. We were not only willing but we were indeed eager to go on Friday, Saturday, Sunday or Monday. We particularly wanted to go as early as possible so that we could be in the area when the flood waters were at their height.
The honorable member for Cowper made approaches to honorable members opposite, including the honorable member for Macarthur (Mr. Jeff Bate) and the honorable member for Richmond. They were not interested in going over the weekend. It was only when there was some critical press propaganda from country areas that they varied their approach to this question and decided that they were keen to travel on Tuesday. It would have been far better had we gone earlier, when the honorable member for Cowper wished to do so. I can confirm that he was eager to go, because he was on my back every minute trying to get away as soon as possible so that we could see the floods at their worst.
I do not think that these personal bitter attacks - the attacks I heard of this morning were very personal and very bitter - assist us to solve the problem. They certainly do not assist the farmers, who are concerned not with political stunting or political argument but with getting on with the job of finding some way to alleviate the effects of floods. I would suggest to the honorable member for Richmond, therefore, that this sort of thing would best be left alone. It would be far better for the dignity of the Parliament and for all concerned if we got on with the job of assisting the farmers.
The Minister for Supply (Mr. Fairhall) said that flood mitigation is a long-term project. We agree that it is a long-term project but we say that it should have been started long before this on a Commonwealth basis. It is of no use to say that we will investigate this matter, as he suggested, for possibly fifteen years ahead. In the next fifteen years there will be many more disastrous floods and if we wait for fifteen years before we get on with the practical job of flood mitigation the future of these vast farming areas will be very dim. I think the day of buck-passing on these issues has passed. We must now ask ourselves: Are we going to treat the question of flood mitigation and flood relief as a Commonwealth problem and as a Commonwealth responsibility? Will this Parliament accept some responsibility in this matter? Or do we intend to continue to say that the problem must be investigated for a further fifteen years before we can decide whether we will allocate funds for flood mitigation?
During our visit to the area, we were all shocked at the devastation that had occurred from the Hawkesbury River right through to Grafton. We were fortunate enough to be met by a deputation on the tarmac at the airport at Grafton, which emphasized the fact that the district around Grafton is to-day a devastated area and a depressed area. The members of that deputation told us that they believed the situation amounted to a national emergency which would not cease the moment the flood waters started to recede. They said that the area was a depressed area and that it would continue to be a depressed area for several months while the inhabitants went about the job of rehabilitation. They also said that the emergency had various phases. There was the first phase in which immediate relief was required and there was a later phase when rehabilitation work would have to be undertaken after the flood waters receded. Finally another question would have to be considered, that of longterm flood mitigation.
As to immediate relief, I asked a question of the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton) only yesterday. I asked whether the Minister would give relief under the social services legislation to share-farmers and owner-farmers during the period of rehabilitation, when they would have no income whatsoever. I suggested that they would be in the same position as any other individual who lost his employment and, consequently, his income.
– What did he say?
– This is what he said -
As the honorable member should know, the unemployment benefit is paid to people who are unemployed, who register for employment and who are willing, anxious and ready to go to employment wherever it may be. I regret that resources are not available to me or to my department to pay any benefit to self-employed people who are suffering as a result of devastation by flood or for any other reason.
The inference may be drawn from that answer that the Minister cannot provide relief legally under the Social Services Act. I can tell the House that a special benefit may be paid under the Social Services Act. Section 124 of that act says -
The Director-General may, in his discretion, grant a special benefit under this Division to a person -
with respect to whom the Director-General is satisfied that, by reason of age, physical or mental disability or domestic circumstances, or for any other reason, that person is unable to earn a sufficient livelihood for himself and his dependants.
I think we should stop hedging on this issue. It is time for us to realize that we can pay special benefits to people who have lost their means of livelihood as a result of these floods. We can pay special benefits to farmers and possibly even to shopkeepers. These people have a very serious problem. They have suffered a great loss of income. I suggest that the country members on the other side of the House should join with us in making approaches to the Minister for the payment of special benefits to ownerfarmers and share-farmers who have lost their income as a result of these floods. I think this is a reasonable proposition and one to which country members opposite should lend genuine support.
As to the overall problem of flood mitigation, the time has come when this can be tackled only on a Commonwealth basis. It is a national problem and not just a State problem, and it is for that reason that the Opposition submits that the Commonwealth should subsidize, on a £l-for-£l basis, flood mitigation works that are at present undertaken by the States and which are financed by the State on the basis of two-thirds of the cost being provided by the State Government and one-third by the local government authority concerned. We suggest that the Commonwealth should match on a £l-for-£l basis State expenditure on flood mitigation. -As I have said, it is a national problem and we must get on with the job now. We cannot afford to adopt the approach of the Minister, who says that we must investigate the matter fully for possibly another fifteen years. The job is urgent. We are. faced with a national problem which involves great loss of income and great loss of exports. Very serious personal loss is suffered by the people in the flooded areas. We have suggested a method of overcoming the problem, and I ask country members on the other side of the House to support us in our efforts to overcome the problems of people in these country areas.
Mr JEFF BATE: Macarthur
.- Last Tuesday, Mr. Deputy Speaker, we saw the areas around the Clarence River and the Macleay River, which passes through your electorate of Lyne, in a most pitiable state of desolation and destruction. It is a most moving spectacle for all who saw it. Hundreds of thousands of acres of very rich land were under deep water, and the land from which the water had receded showed the effects of fast-running rivers tearing the country to pieces. A terrible thing has happened to the people in those flooded areas, and it is a thing that has happened to them many times. On this occasion there has been recurrent flooding for a period of several weeks. After the initial flood further rain fell, causing the rivers to rise again. Follow-up rains are now falling, causing the Clarence River to rise again. The water cannot get away. The situation is aggravated by the fact that high seas and high tides are causing the rivers to bank up at the coastal end. The water is lying all over the country. This indicates that one of the first jobs is drainage.
In these conditions the local people need to have their morale boosted. They need superb leadership from people who will keep them at the task of cleaning up and of rehabilitation. Extremely heavy burdens have to be borne by the women in these areas who have to join in the job of cleaning out their mud-caked houses while at the same time preparing food for their families. Farmers are trying either to get their stock out of the flooded areas or to take some feed to them. They then have to commence the work of cleaning up, which will take a very long time. It is made more difficult by the fact that the summergrowing grasses will not give any more fodder through the winter. Those grasses are finished.
– What about special benefits?
Mr JEFF BATE:
– Do not be rude about this. This is a matter of great concern to the people. The honorable member for Mitchell (Mr. Armitage), who is interjecting now, spent four and a half minutes of his time on a low, personal attack on another member instead of talking about the flood. Let us get on to the problem of the flood. It is a disgraceful thing that the honorable member for Mitchell should bring such a personal note into this discussion. Before the honorable member came into this House I had, for fifteen years, always received co-operation from Labour members such as the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Fuller), who will remember the flooding of the Murrumbidgee as far back as 1950. As I say, in earlier times we had men who wanted to help. On this occasion we see a display of dirty, personal spite on the part of the honorable member for Mitchell.
– Mr. Deputy Speaker, are you going to allow him to talk like this? I am amazed.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER:
Mr JEFF BATE:
– You, Mr. Deputy Speaker, have been kind enough to give me a cutting from a newspaper which contains a report of statements made by the chairman of the Macleay Co-operative Dairying Company Limited, Mr. Lancaster. His remarks were very different from the wide-mouthed promises of the honorable member for Mitchell, whose statements do nothing to help build morale. The newspaper report reads as follows: - (Mr. D. J. Lancaster) denied tonight that farmers on the Macleay were walking off their properties. He said some farmers were moving temporarily with their cattle to pastures up the river. “ But no one looks like throwing in the towel “, he said.
Mr. Lancaster said he had visited the Lower Macleay to-day. He said he had never before seen so much silt in a lifetime in the district. “ It is 8 inches to 2 feet thick all over the place,” he said.
Then he put forward the constructive suggestion that rye grass be sown by air over the whole of the affected country at a cost of about £1 3s. an acre. As some honorable members know, rye grass will grow in the winter, and farmers would have some feed to replace that lost by the flooding of pastures on which summer grasses like paspalum were growing.
A natural result of these floods is that the richest soil is to be found on river bottom lands. Throughout history men have naturally chosen the richest soil and have developed farms on the low river flats. The very fact that floods occur has resulted in their having rich country. The honorable member for Cowper (Mr. McGuren) knows that the people in his district have said that the Clarence River valley is one of the fairest and richest pieces of country in the world and that it has a very great future. That is what these people will be saying in a few days time when they have tackled their immediate problems.
Now let us consider what the Commonwealth is doing. All that honorable members opposite have done so far in this discussion has been to make an attack on the government of their own State. The State Labour Government has been doing its job. I want to say right now that the New South Wales Labour Government has done a good job in flood relief. Mr. Hawkins, the New South Wales Minister for Social Welfare, has been in the flooded areas for a week trying to help.
The Commonwealth Government has mads huge sums available. I have with me three lists of amounts that have been provided for emergency relief and other kinds of relief. Dealing with the question of the matching grants made by the Commonwealth Government and the State Government, I want to make this point: There has been no limit at all on Commonwealth assistance, because the money has always been available. The only limit imposed, Mr. Deputy Speaker, has been imposed by the size of the grant made by the State. The Commonwealth matches £1 for £1 the money provided by the State. The Opposition members who have taken part in this discussion are mere tyros in the matter of flood relief. They do not know even the first thing about it. -They ought to do some study to find out what happens. Mr. George Jolly, a New South Wales Government official who received the M.B.E. for his work in flood relief - honorable members opposite probably do not even know his name - told me this morning that in 1945 the Chifley Government provided a total of £7,500 for flood relief in New South Wales, followed in 1946 by £5,000, in 1948 by £17,000 and in 1949 by £76,000 for Maitland and £75,000 for Kempsey. The honorable member for New England (Mr. Drummond) will remember these figures.
Then we come to the Menzies Government, which provided £43,000 for Wagga in 1950 and a total of £185,000 for the whole State in 1950-51. This Government granted £245,000 in 1954 and a total of £835,000 for immediate relief in 1955-56, when a great deal of New South Wales was under floods. Those funds were made available by this Government to help provide food for people who had none, to give them shelter, to try to rehabilitate workers in their homes. and to try to help farmers to get back into production. The total of £835.000 provided in 1955-56 was a very large sum. It included a gift of £250,000 sterling, or about £313,000 Australian, by the United Kingdom Government. For flood relief on the Hawkesbury River in 1960-61, about £130,000 was made available, at a guess.
Another list that I have shows the payments made in respect of natural disasters from 1949-50 to 1962-63- a total of £4,017,000 in all States. There was an additional payment to New South Wales in 1955-56 of £2,000,000. The third list, which I was given by the New South Wales Public Works Department, shows that between 1945-46 and 1961-62 a total of about £860,000 in special Commonwealth and State funds, the Commonwealth matching the State £1 for £1, and approximately £909,000 of Commonwealth aid roads funds were spent on flood relief. These Commonwealth aid roads funds, which were additional to the normal State allocation for road works made by the Australian Loan Council, went into the restoration of roads and bridges that had been destroyed.
I suggest that those Opposition members who have told us that their districts are ruined, and that all activity will stop, ought to remember that immediately flood relief money is paid more money goes through the shops in the towns concerned than at any other time in the year. This can be proved over and over again. When ‘flood relief moneys are paid, the people imme- diately buy new household and other goods.
– -Motor cars?
Mr JEFF BATE:
– Yes, in one case. These facts can be completely checked, but they cannot be discussed adequately in ten minutes. The point that I want to make is that when flood relief money flows and activities start again, the credit is certainly not due to men who make loud-mouthed promises that do a disservice to the people whom they represent. The people who make these promises do so, of course, because of the way in which they are led by their leaders, who are trying to get back into office. People who live in the flooded areas know how to deal with floods and to provide relief. We have heard a lot this morning from people who do not know anything about the provision of flood relief, particularly the honorable member for Mitchel], who made extravagant promises that he knows cannot be fulfilled. He went to the flooded areas and betrayed the people who had been flooded out. The local officials know how to provide appropriate and adequate flood relief. They work everything out patiently. Public servants like George Jolly and Lin Rath, who undertake this task, are a magnificent group and they know exactly how much money should be provided. The assistance that they make available is generous, adequate and appropriate.
– It is only peanuts.
Mr JEFF BATE:
– Honorable members opposite are only trying to make political capital out of this. The way in which they talk about these matters ill becomes them. They talk as if they would pour out millions of pounds of federal aid in addition to the vast sums that have already been provided. I am stating the facts. One of the most important qualities exhibited by the people in the flooded areas is the strength of their morale and courage. Honorable members opposite, by their attitude, tend only to destroy the morale and courage of the local people. Let us remember, Sir, that there is a desperate load on the shoulders of the people wno live in the valleys of the rivers that flood. As Mickey Lancaster, who lives on the Macleay River, has said, they will fight on and come back again, because they believe that the good new soil on their lands, which is 18 inches in depth, will enable them to develop magnificent properties. Let us not forget that these river bottom lands come into their own in dry seasons. Honorable members opposite do not want to help the people who have been flooded out.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER:
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
Mr LUCHETTI: Macquarie
.- Mr. Deputy Speaker, the honorable member for Cowper (Mr. McGuren) deserves the thanks of this House, and undoubtedly he will receive the thanks of his constituents, for raising in this National Parliament the all-important question of the relief of the soul-searing flooding that has occurred on the north coast of New South Wales in recent times. The honorable member, since his election to this House, has not ceased1 to advocate flood-mitigation measures and has constantly urged this Government to get in harmony with the New South Wales Government and the local people in tindertaking adequate flood-mitigation schemes. I would have expected the House to be hushed and stilled while it heard his words in the discussion of this national matter of urgent public importance. Furthermore, I would expect the Government to act on his suggestions and to provide immediately succour and relief for those in distress, and to follow up such measures by floodmitigation schemes on the north coast of New South Wales and throughout the rest of Australia.
It is easy for us, in the cosy comfort of Canberra, where huge sums are being spent on the provision of a large lake, to forget altogether the desolation and wretchedness of the people on the north coast of New South Wales whose homes have been flooded, whose stock have been swept out to sea and whose personal possessions have been washed away, leaving only the mud, dirt and slush carried into the houses by the water. Surely these matters are worth greater consideration than that evident in the detached attitude of the Minister for Supply (Mr. Fairhall), who described the silt left behind as the enriching agency of the alluvial flats that would blossom and bloom again in the future, when all would be well.
There have been twenty devastating floods on the north coast of New South Wales in the past eighteen years. What sort of conditions are necessary to stir this Government into action so that it will take positive measures to prevent flooding? The honorable member for Macarthur (Mr. Jeff Bate) has mentioned large grants for relief. The making of such grants, Mr. Deputy Speaker, emphasizes more than does anything else, since such relief has to be given year after year, the fact that the logical thing to do is to prevent flooding. Let us adopt flood-mitigation proposals to remove this dread spectre of flooding that has ravaged the alluvial flats and the surrounding countryside over the years.
The views of the residents of the north coast have been expressed by various people. No better spokesman is to be found that Councillor G. J. McCartney, of
Grafton, who is chairman of the Clarence River County Council. A few days ago, Councillor McCartney said -
It’s not commiseration we want now, but strong -action.
He described the floods in the Clarence valley as a national disaster. That fact, of course, has not penetrated the minds of some honorable members on the Government side of the chamber. They still want to play politics and to pass the buck instead of getting on with the work of flood prevention and relief. The honorable member for Cowper has constantly advanced the idea that the Commonwealth work with the State authorities and the local people and provide additional funds to enable floodmitigation work to proceed.
Mr. McCartney went on to say
We must all speak with one concerted voice, all political parties, all producers’ organizations … Of the 152,000 acres of river flats, there will be only 1 per cent, out of flood . . . The dairying production cannot be expected to resume until August. Cane, timber, fishing, any primary industry that this valley tries to support, will be faced with weeks, and in cases, months, of low, or no, income.
Surely that should bestir the Government.
I thank the Government for making a Royal Australian Air Force plane available to enable you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, the honorable member for Macarthur, the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony), the honorable member for Cowper, the honorable member for Mitchell (Mr. Armitage) and myself to visit this devastated, area. We saw hundreds of acres of land drowned or submerged, with trees jutting out of the muddy water. We saw where fences disappeared under water and we saw telephone poles covered to one-half their height with water. We saw stock huddled together on high ground and we saw houses emerging from the water as the flood commenced to subside. We viewed the scene thanks to the interest, at least, of the Government in making the plane available to us.
Something permanent must be done. These floods are not something new. Since the inception of this nation they have occurred year after year. The former right honorable member for Cowper, the late Sir Earle Page, spoke about this matter during the whole of his life as a member of the
National Parliament. The Adelaide “ Advertiser” referred to the need for a national water plan, using as its authority Sir Robert Jackson, a former secretary of the Department of National Development, who had been in Ghana, India and Pakistan. Professor Munro of the University of Sydney addressed the Anzaas Congress in Sydney on 23rd August last. Part of his speech is reported in the following day’s issue of the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ in these terms -
The Federal Commission would supervise and guide both State and regional authorities.
He then went on to emphasize the urgency of establishing a federal commission.
Perhaps there was no better authority on this subject than the late Sir Earle Page, who referred to it on numerous occasions. One of his statements was reported in the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ of 10th January, 1958. Another which he made in this House on 29th September, 1960, is reported in “ Hansard “ in this way -
Therefore, I say that the time has come when we must devise some permanent machinery to put capital into major water conservation works . . . I believe we should look around and see what other countries are doing in this regard. We should make certain that the money is available. Since the introduction of uniform taxation there has been no opportunity for the States to tax incomes even if they desired to impose taxes to obtain money for this purpose.
– Who said that?
– The late Sir Earle Page. What painful nonsense has been talked by Government supporters on the matter of finding funds! The Minister said that any scheme such as that proposed by the late Sir Earle Page would cost millions of pounds, but that in any case flood mitigation is the responsibility of the States. As Sir Earle pointed out, the Commonwealth collects the revenue, the Commonwealth holds the revenue, and the Commonwealth disperses the revenue to the States. So the Commonwealth should make sufficient finance available for the necessary work to be carried out. Later in the same speech the right honorable gentleman said -
The Americans have created a permanent cooperative organization in which the federal government, the State governments and the authorities which control river basins are all joined together.
The right honorable gentleman persistently advocated the establishment of a similar organization in Australia. It is to be deplored that honorable members on the Government side have not joined in a unified approach to the matter. Sir Earle Page then went on to say -
This organization has been working in the U.S.A. for ten or eleven years, and the American Government has decided that it is to the advantage of the federation to find the cost of head works and provide the money free of interest. It allows long terms for the repayment of the money, which in many cases is not paid back at all.
This is a matter which needs support.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER:
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
Mr ANTHONY: Richmond
.- I am glad to be able to participate in this debate because I am one of the persons in this House who is fairly familiar with floods on the north coast of New South Wales. I have made a study of them over the years. In fact, I was born and reared in the flood areas. I want to reply to some remarks which were made by the honorable member for Mitchell (Mr. Armitage) concerning a statement which I made to the Grafton “ Daily Examiner “. I stand by what I said.
– I raise a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Do the remarks now being made by the honorable member bear any relationship to the subject before the House, which is in quite explicit terms?
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER:
– Order! There is no substance in the point of order.
– The traffic seems to be all one way. A person can be attacked and yet is denied the opportunity to reply. I shall not go into details, but I stand by the statement which I gave to the newspaper.
On Tuesday last three Opposition and three Government members made a flight to the areas which have been flooded by the Hawkesbury, Macleay and Clarence rivers. The areas surrounding the Macleay and Clarence rivers were pitiful to see. Flying at about 500 feet you could see below thousands of acres of flooded country, studded with clumps of trees and with houses and bails poking out of the water. Maize crops were bent over, completely destroyed. Pastures were either under water, heavily eroded or covered with sand and silt. For the people concerned this will be a very dismal winter. No doubt their production will be at a very low ebb. Along the rivers the banks were heavily eroded and there was evidence of much destruction, particularly on the Macleay River, where much debris was piled around houses and buildings, fences were knocked about and rubbish was piled along the fences. One feature in the Clarence River area was the huge clumps of water hyacinths which apparently had been forced down the river by the flood waters. I saw almost an acre of it caught up by one house and, from what I could see, the water hyacinth was 2 or 3 feet deep. I would hate to be the people in that house.
There will be loss of production in these flooded areas with resultant unemployment. The scene was very dismal. I do not think that within our lifetime we shall see these rivers completely controlled but we must try to minimize the damage. Flood mitigation means the minimizing of damage caused by floods. The major damage is caused by water lying on the ground for too long. If water remains on pastures for more than seven or eight days the pastures go rotten and take many months to recover. I speak from personal experience. I do not ask for any sympathy nor do I make any complaint, but my farm has been under water four times this year. When I returned to Canberra the other day some one asked me what my flats looked like. I replied: “ Have you ever seen a large frying pan with the fat starting to go solid? It is a shiny, greasy mass. That is what my farm looks like.” Let no one suggest that I have no sympathy for the people in the flood areas. As a representative of flooded areas I feel that we should give a lead in approaching the problem sensibly. Constitutional and traditional obstructions must be overcome.
I have never considered that the honorable member for Cowper (Mr. McGuren) has done a service to the country by trying to create a situation in which people believe that they may come to the Commonwealth Government and ask for aid on a £1 for £1 basis. The responsibility for flood mitigation rests squarely on the State Government. If the State Government cannot find its way clear to provide money for this work, it must come to the Commonwealth
Government and submit a detailed plan for help. This approach has been adopted by other State governments.
After Western Australia submitted a detailed plan to the Commonwealth, this Government provided assistance for the Ord River scheme. The Commonwealth has provided assistance to Queensland for beef roads, the Mount Isa railway and development of the brigalow lands and ports. But, with New South Wales, all that has happened with regard to flood mitigation has been that the Commonwealth received, in 1960, a letter from the late Premier Cahill asking only that the Commonwealth provide a matching grant to a maximum of £300,000 a year. No details were given to the Commonwealth and no minimum yearly amount of grant was specified. No definite period of time was fixed during which the grant should be given. The proposals were completely vague and indefinite.
I should like, briefly, to relate what is being done on the north coast of New South Wales to obtain additional money for flood mitigation work. On 7th April of this year the Tweed Shire Council, the Richmond River County Council, the Clarence River County Council and the Macleay River County Council met in Lismore. After lengthy discussion they decided to provide the State Government with detailed plans of proposed expenditure on the rivers within their jurisdiction and the amount of finance that they wanted. I believe they wanted the State Government to match their contributions on a four-to-one ratio. At present the State Government matches the contributions of the local authorities on a two-to-one ratio but this ratio places a too-heavy financial burden on the local government authorities.
In making their submission to the State Government the bodies concerned have adopted a logical procedure. If the State Government feels that it is not financially able to provide the sum involved, which would be about £4,000,000 spread over, say, six years - I should like to see the work accomplished in about six years - the State Government must forward the proposal to the Commonwealth. When that stage is reached I shall certainly do all in my power to obtain Commonwealth aid for flood mitigation. But I will not stand for the paltry party political practices of coming direct to the Commonwealth Government and asking for an open cheque for flood mitigation work to be carried out over no definite period of time. I will not agree to any attempts to obtain assistance from the Commonwealth in this way without fixing the amount that the Commonwealth shall provide. That is what is sought in this urgency debate.
The county councils have agreed to approach the State Government. Their clerks and engineers met on 26th April, a’ Grafton, to decide how to prepare their case. Their submission will be presented to a meeting of the county councils on 22nd May and that submission will then be sent to the State Government. As I have said, the basis of the submission is that the State Government make a grant to the local government authorities on a £4 for £1 basis. It is not novel for the Commonwealth Government to be asked to help. The New South Wales Government submitted a detailed request to the Commonwealth for help in the construction of the Chowilla dam, on the Murray River. The State Government said that it could not provide sufficient money to build the dam. It submitted a detailed case to the Commonwealth, and the Commonwealth agreed to help. I believe that the Commonwealth will provide assistance for flood mitigation work provided a detailed submission - nothing airy-fairy or vague - is presented to it. The county councils in the northern part of New South Wales are doing the right thing and it ill becomes the honorable member for Cowper to raise this matter in the way that he has and to attempt to divert attention from the very constructive work that the county councils are doing in the area to obtain finance to help them to overcome this problem of floods.
Mr PETERS: Scullin
.- Mr. Speaker-
Motion (by Mr. Howson) put -
That the business of the day be called on.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker- Hon. Sir John McLeay.)
Majority . . 4
Mr. Peters. - But, Mr. Speaker-
-Order! A point of order may not be raised while a division is taking place. The honorable member will restrain himself.
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
– I rise to order. I desire to know, Mr- Speaker, whether the honorable member for Fawkner was in order in proposing a motion when he was in the gallery.
– It is desirable that the honorable member,’ when proposing a motion, should be in his proper place in the House, but that is not obligatory. He was not in the gallery.
LOAN (AUSTRALIAN NATIONAL AIRLINES COMMISSION) BILL 1963
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of GovernorGeneral’s message):
Motion (by Mr. Harold Holt) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue and moneys be made for the purposes of a bill for an act to approve the raising by way of loan of moneys in the currency of the United States of America to be lent to the Australian National Airlines Commission, and for purposes connected therewith.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
That Mr. Harold Holt and Mr. Freeth do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Mr. Harold Holt, and read a first time.
Mr HAROLD HOLT: Treasurer · Higgins · LP
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill seeks the approval of Parliament to the borrowing of up to 11,000,000 dollars, or about £4,900,000 by the Commonwealth on behalf of the Australian National Airlines Commission. It includes an appropriation of the Loan Fund to enable the proceeds of the borrowing to be advanced to the Australian National Airlines Commission, to which I shall refer later by the more commonly known name of Trans-Australia Airlines or T.A.A. The Consolidated Revenue Fund will also be appropriated to enable the Commonwealth to meet payments of principal and interest and of other charges associated with the loan out of funds to be previously provided by Trans-Australia Airlines.
This bill is similar to another measure which I intend to bring before the House in a few minutes and which will also seek the approval of Parliament for a borrowing by the Commonwealth in New York for aircraft purposes. The borrowing which will be the subject of the next bill was made on behalf of Qantas Empire Airways Limited. In each case, the borrowing is being made by the Commonwealth in order to provide finance to assist the Government airlines in purchasing additional jet aircraft and related equipment for the extension of their front-line fleets. In each case, too, the same lender is involved and the bills, and the loan agreements annexed to them, are therefore drawn on similar lines. I therefore suggest that it may be convenient for the House to consider both bills together.
The arrangements for the borrowing for Trans-Australia Airlines, which is the subject of the bill now before the House, are similar to those approved by Parliament in August, 1962, when the Commonwealth borrowed 4,600,000 dollars, or £2,000,000 on behalf of Qantas. The Commonwealth will make the entire proceeds of the borrowing available to Trans-Australia Airlines on terms to be determined by me as Treasurer. These terms will be the same as the conditions under which the Commonwealth itself has borrowed the money. As Trans-Australia Airlines will be required to meet all charges as they become due under the loan agreement, the Commonwealth assumes a function similar to that of guarantor of the loan, and there will be no net charge on the Consolidated Revenue Fund.
As has previously been announced, the two major domestic air transport operators - Trans-Australia Airlines and Ansett- A.N.A. - have each decided to purchase two heavy turbo-jet aircraft for introduction into the Australian domestic network in the latter half of 1964. The selected aircraft, the Boeing 727, is a three-engine craft with an all-up weight of 152,000 lb., a passenger-carrying capacity of approximately 100 in a mixed first class and tourist configuration, and a speed of about 600 miles per hour. These new aircraft will become the airlines’ front-line equipment. From the proceeds of the proposed borrowings, 10,000,000 dollars will provide part of the purchase price of the two Boeing aircraft and related spare parts and equipment to be purchased by Trans-Australia Airlines. The balance of the cost of the aircraft and related equipment will be provided by Trans-Australia Airlines from its own resources. Should Trans-Australia Airlines decide to purchase a flight simulator for aircrew training, an additional 1,000,000 dollars can be borrowed in accordance with the option that has been included in the loan agreement and which requires a decision to be made by 30th June, 1963.
Including the present loan, and that proposed on behalf of Qantas to which I ieferred earlier, the Commonwealth has now borrowed 60,400,00” dollars in New York for the purchase of aircraft since 1956, of which 44,400,000 dollars has been for Qantas Empire Airways Limited and 16,000,000 dollars for Trans- Australia Airlines. Of the earlier loans totalling 40,400,000 dollars, an amount of only 17,600,000 dollars or less than half, still remains to be repaid. In addition, a further 39,200,000 dollars has been borrowed for aircraft purposes from the International Bank and the Export-Import Bank of Washington, of which 31,500,000 dollars is still outstanding. These loans have contributed significantly to the fleet extension, modernizing and re-equipping which TransAustralia Airlines and Qantas Empire Airways Limited have undertaken in recent years.
Negotiations for the loan for TransAustralia Airlines were completed with the lender, Morgan Guaranty Trust Company of New York, early in April and the agreement became effective as of 1st March. The full text of the agreement is annexed as the schedule to the bill. The loan will be drawn by the Commonwealth at the request of Trans-Australia Airlines, as payments for the new aircraft are required by the manufacturer. Drawings on the loan will commence immediately after parliamen tary approval has been obtained to the bill, and are to be completed by the end of 1964. Until December, 1964, interest is payable at the rate of 4i per cent, on amounts drawn, and a commitment fee of i per cent, is payable on the undrawn balance.
In December, 1964, the Commonwealth will exchange the interim promissory notes it has issued to the lender, as the loan is drawn, for a series of fourteen notes of approximately equal value which are pay-‘ able half-yearly between June, 1965, and December, 1971. The notes repayable in 1964 and 1965 will bear interest at 4± per cent. The notes repayable between 1966 and 1969 will bear interest at 41 per cent., and those repayable in 1970 and 1971 will bear interest at 4f per cent. The average interest rate over the life of the loan is less than 4i per cent, per annum, making this the most favorable borrowing so far arranged for the Commonwealth for mrcraft financing in the United States. Other provisions in the loan agreement are similar to those included in earlier agreements negotiated by the Commonwealth in the United States for borrowings for aircraft purposes.
The terms and conditions of the borrowing have been approved by the Australian Loan Council, and the borrowing will be additional to the Commonwealth’s programme of £48,600,000 for housing approved at the February, 1963, meeting of the Loan Council. As with previous loans arranged on behalf of Qantas Empire Airways Limited and Trans-Australia Airlines, the Commonwealth is acting only as an intermediary, and the borrowing will therefore involve no net call on the Commonwealth’s resources.
I commend the bill to honorable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Crean) adjourned.
Sitting suspended from 12.46 to 2.15 p.m.
LOAN (QANTAS EMPIRE AIRWAYS LIMITED) BILL 1963
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of GovernorGeneral’s message):
Motion (by Mr. Harold Holt) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue and moneys be made for the purposes of a bill for an act to approve the raising by way of loan of moneys in the currency of the United States of America to be lent to Qantas Empire Airways Limited, and for purposes connected therewith.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
That Mr. Harold Holt and Sir Garfield Barwick do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Mr. Harold Holt, and read a first time.
Mr HAROLD HOLT: HigginsTreasurer · LP
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill seeks the approval of the Parliament to the borrowing of up to 9,000,000 dollars, or approximately £4,000,000, by the Commonwealth on behalf of Qantas Empire Airways Limited. It is the bill to which I referred when introducing the Loan (Australian National Airlines Commission) Bill before the suspension of the sitting.
The lender is the same for the loans for both Qantas and Trans-Australia Airlines, and the bills and annexed loan agreements have therefore been drawn up on the same principles. The major terms of the two loans, such as interest rates and repayment dates, are identical and I have already suggested that, in these circumstances, it seems unnecessary to repeat the detailed information on the arrangements for these borrowings which I included in my speech on the Trans-Australia Airlines loan bill.
The loan for Qantas will assist in financing the purchase of two additional Boeing 707- 138b jet aircraft, which are expected to cost a total of 11,100,000 dollars. The two additional aircraft will be needed by early 1965, and will increase to thirteen the present Qantas front-line fleet of eleven Boeing aircraft. The Government’s approval has already been given for Qantas to place an order for the two additional aircraft and associated equipment, and the aircraft are scheduled for delivery in September and October, 1964.
The proceeds of the proposed borrowing will provide part of the purchase price, while the balance of the cost of the aircraft and associated equipment will be met by Qantas from its own resources. As with previous loans arranged on behalf of Qantas and Trans-Australia Airlines, the Commonwealth is acting only as an intermediary, and the borrowing will therefore involve no net call on the Commonwealth’s resources. By acting as the borrower the Commonwealth has, however, made use of its own high credit standing overseas to obtain terms more favorable than the airlines may have been able to secure had they arranged the borrowings directly. As I mentioned in relation to the other bill, our borrowings in respect of these two loans are on more favorable terms than we have previously been able to secure.
I commend the bill to honorable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Crean) adjourned.
PAY-ROLL TAX ASSESSMENT BILL 1963
Motion (by Mr. Harold Holt) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Pay-Roil Tax Assessment Act 1941-1962.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
Mr HAROLD HOLT: HigginsTreasurer · LP
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The principal purpose of this bill is to give effect to the decision of the Government announced by the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) on 21st February last that export incentive measures introduced in 1961 will be continued beyond the date at which they are due to terminate under the law as at present enacted.
The effect of the bill is to renew the export incentives contained in the pay-roll tax law so that they have a further five years to run after the close of the present financial Vear on 30th June, 1963. In other words it is proposed that the present incentives will continue to be available in relation to pay-roll tax paid or payable up to 30th lune, 1968. In a bill I will shortly place before the House it is proposed to continue the twin incentives contained in the income tax law for a like period.
The taxation incentives provided by the pay-roll tax law take the form of a rebate of the pay-roll tax liability of an employer. Broadly speaking, the rebate is available to an enterprise that increases its exports above the level of its average exports of the base period prescribed by the 1961 measures to which I have already referred.
If the value of a firm’s exports in a financial year so increases by 1 per cent, of its gross business receipts for that financial year then it is entitled to a rebate of 12.5 per cent, of its pay-roll tax liability for that year. The rebate increases proportionately with the increase in the value of export sales achieved so that when the increase amounts to 8 per cent, of a firm’s gross business receipts for a financial year a full rebate of its pay-roll tax for that year becomes available to the firm.
In introducing this bill I feel I could not do better than refer honorable members to the view expressed by the Prime Minister in the statement he made on 21st February. He said then that it is essential that once measures designed to provide special incentives are established, they ought to be carried on long enough to produce their intended results.
Evidence is not lacking that the objectives and value of the incentives are being recognized by industry. On 29th April last I was able to announce that in respect of the 1961-62 financial year 329 firms had increased their exports to an extent that rebates totalling £1,841,000 had been allowed. At the time of my announcement a further 181 claims for rebates totalling £499,000 were being processed by the Taxation Branch and still further claims were being received.
I consider, however, that it is of prime importance that exporters, both established and potential, should have some advance assurance that incentives for export activity will not be terminated before they have had the opportunity to bring to finality production and sales programmes on which they have already embarked having regard to the taxation incentives at present offered. An assurance of this kind is clearly of particular value to exporters in that it enables them to plan ahead the expansion of activities on competitive export markets.
I am sure honorable members will be interested to know that the expectation of the Taxation Branch, as most recently advised to me, is that rebates of pay-roll tax under the scheme this year will amount to more than £3,000,000, perhaps £3,200,000, as against the estimate of £2,400,000 at the time when the Budget was prepared. It will be seen, therefore, that the export increase obtained has exceeded what we expected at the time of preparing the last Budget.
The bill also contains technical amendments of the definition of the gross receipts for the financial year, which is an element taken into account in the formula under which a pay-roll tax rebate is calculated. It may be the simplest means of expressing the part played by these receipts in determining a rebate if I say that the amount of the receipts is the denominator used in determining a rebate, whilst the increase in export sales is the numerator. It follows from this that the amount of a rebate varies according to the proportion of the increase in export sales to the gross business receipts.
Again speaking very broadly, gross business receipts under the present law include all amounts derived from carrying on a trade or business in Australia which are assessable or exempt income for the purposes of the Income Tax and Social Services Contribution Assessment Act, less certain specified amounts such as freight charges included in the price of exported goods.
The present definition requires the inclusion in gross business receipts of such amounts as the excess of the value of closing stock over the value of opening stock, recoveries of bad debts, the recoupment on disposal of depreciable assets for a consideration in excess of their depreciated values, and balancing adjustments relating to expenditure that has been allowed as an income tax deduction in earlier years. All of these are amounts specifically included in assessable income under our income tax law and, when included in gross business receipts for the purposes of the pay-roll tax rebate, have the effect of reducing the amount of rebate available.
The view has been taken that such amounts do not represent actual trading receipts of the financial year in which they are brought to account as assessable income and, accordingly, should not operate to diminish the amount of a rebate otherwise available to an enterprise. For these reasons the Government has decided to exclude these amounts from the gross business receipts taken into account in determining a pay-roll tax rebate.
A memorandum explaining the technical features of the bill will be made available for the information of honorable members and in these circumstances I do not propose, at this stage, to speak at greater length on the bill. I commend it to honorable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Crean) adjourned.
INCOME TAX AND SOCIAL SERVICES CONTRIBUTION ASSESSMENT BILL 1963
Motion (by Mr. Harold Holt) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act relating to Income Tax.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
Mr HAROLD HOLT: HigginsTreasurer · LP
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Principal among the proposals in this bill is a provision to extend the period in which a special income tax allowance is available for expenditure incurred on the development of overseas markets for Australian products. The bill is, in this respect, complementary to the Pay-roll Tax Assessment Bill 1963, on which I have already spoken. The special income tax allowance for export market development expenditure is additional to any other deduction authorized by the general provisions of the income tax law for that type of expenditure. Like the pay-roll tax measures, of which I have already spoken, the special allowance was initiated in 1961. As honorable members are aware, it is one of the steps taken by the Government to encourage and assist the entry of firms into new overseas markets. When introducing the measure, in 1961, I informed the House that the allowance would operate for an experimental period, and earlier this year the Government felt that the time had arrived to re-examine the position. This review established that extension of the special allowance was justified in the light of the great importance to Australia of achieving increased exports. I have already stated, in my speech on the Pay-roll Tax Assessment Bill 1963, the general view taken by the Government on this matter.
The decision to extend the income tax export incentives will be implemented by a provision of this bill under which the special allowance v/ill remain available for export market development expenditure incurred up to 30th June, 1968. As in the case of the pay-roll tax rebate, established exporters and other firms contemplating entry into the export trade will, in developing their overseas promotion programmes, be able to plan ahead with the knowledge that the income tax incentive provided by the special allowance will remain available to them for a further period of five years.
The House will observe that the bill contains a number of other proposals for amendment of the income tax law. A memorandum explanatory of each provision of the bill will be circulated for the information of honorable members. I do not, therefore, propose to undertake a detailed explanation of the measures, but I would like to refer to them briefly. First, I mention a provision relating to the payment of fines imposed by courts for breaches of the income tax law. Under existing provisions, a court is not entitled to allow time for the payment of such a fine, and a person unable to meet forthwith a pecuniary penalty imposed on him may find himself faced with immediate imprisonment, although, in practice, the courts have frequently found means of avoiding that result. The Government considers that the law should empower the courts to allow time for the payment of such fines or to permit payment by instalments. The bill will give to the courts such a power.
Also included in the bill are provisions concerning dividends. For many years, exemption from tax has been authorized in respect of certain classes of income derived from mining operations. Exemption has also been available in respect of dividends paid wholly and exclusively out of those exempt profits. Where the recipient of such a dividend is a company, the dividend which it, in turn, distributes may also qualify for exemption. The exemption is, however, lost if the dividend passes through the hands of more than one company interposed between the mining company and the recipient of the dividend. This arbitrary termination of the exemption cannot be justified on any logical grounds and the bill contains a provision enabling existing exemptions of mining profits to be retained when successive companies distribute dividends having their origin in exempt mining income.
Effect is also to be given to an announcement I made last December concerning dividends paid out of certain profits that have borne the undistributed income tax payable by private companies. The exemption of these dividends expired on 31st December last, but the companies will now be given an additional period of two years in which they may distribute, free of tax, dividends paid out of profits that have borne undistributed income tax at rates attributable to the incomes of individuals. The bill also includes a provision enabling the basis of taxation that applied to the short-term seasonal securities issued by the Commonwealth to be continued in the case of the treasury-notes which last year replaced the seasonal securities. The same provisions will also operate in relation to the noninterestbearing inscribed stock that it is proposed to issue under legislation recently considered by the House.
A further proposal that honorable members will, I feel sure, approve, concerns gifts to the Australian National Committee for the Freedom from Hunger Campaign. The existing provisions of the law authorize the allowance of income tax deductions for gifts of £1 and upwards made to the organization not later than 30th June, 1963. The bill will permit deductions to be allowed for gifts made up to 30th June, 1964, and the Government believes that this amendment will provide material assistance for an appeal now being organized in Australia on behalf of the Freedom from Hunger Campaign.
In the case of the Australian National Committee for World Refugee Year it is proposed that income tax deductions for gifts . be continued only where they are made not later than 30th June, 1963. lt was intended at all times that there would be a time limit on that campaign.
The final matter to which I should refer is a proposal to exempt from tax educational allowances paid by the Commonwealth to a person who is in Australia solely for the purpose of pursuing a course of study or training. The provision will apply in the case of certain students and trainees in Australia in connexion with ‘.lie Colombo Plan or a Commonwealth aid programme. If the students or trainees are receiving full-time education at a school, college or university, the allowances by way of scholarships, &c, are already exempt from tax. The proposed exemption will apply in the case of part-time students and trainees who in the past have been required to pay tax on the allowances granted by the Commonwealth. The proposed exemption will relate only to educational allowances paid by the Commonwealth and will not disturb the present basis of taxing any remuneration that the students and trainees may derive. I commend the bill to honorable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Crean) adjourned.
DARWIN TECHNICAL HIGH SCHOOL
Reference to Public Works Committee
Mr FREETH: Minister for the Interior and Minister for Works · Forrest · LP
– 1 move -
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1913-1960, the following proposed work be referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works for investigation and report: - Construction of Stage 2 of the Darwin Technical High School.
The building will provide additional classroom accommodation, lecture theatrette and ancillary services. It will consist of a ground floor and two upper floors, and it will be similar in design and construction to the classroom block of stage 1. The estimated cost of the work is £380,000. I table preliminary plans of the proposed building.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Mr CAIRNS: YARRA, VICTORIA
– I desire to make a personal explanation on a matter of misrepresentation in the press. The Sydney “ Daily Telegraph “ this morning, in reporting something that I was supposed to have said yesterday stated -
He said Mr. Keeffe did not seem concerned about the Queensland elections.
I made no statement of that kind whatever. I did not mention Mr. Keeffe. I think he is very concerned about the Queensland elections and I think he is going to win them.
SUPPLY (GRIEVANCE DAY)
Mr SPEAKER (Hon Sir John McLeay:
– Order! 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.
UNITED STATES NAVAL COMMUNICATION STATION AGREEMENT BILL 1963
Debate resumed from 9th May (vide page 1229), on motion by Sir Garfield Barwick -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Mr CALWELL: Leader of the Opposition · Melbourne
– Mr. Speaker, this is a momentous debate, and in many ways an unusual one. It is momentous because we are discussing an agreement for the establishment, in peace-time, of a military installation by a foreign power. It is unusual chiefly because it is the first time in the history of this nation that any government has so clearly avowed its intention to treat a matter affecting the lives and security of our nation as a cheap debating exercise, and to reduce the great issues of peace and war to the size of a political football. It is also unusual in that the debate on the agreement comes before Parliament not because the Government believes Parliament has any right to debate it, and has said so expressly, but only by way of grace and the condescension on the part of the Minister for External Affairs (Sir Garfield Barwick) and his colleagues. Let it be clear that we who constitute the Parliament of the Commonwealth are not really enacting anything; we have merely been invited to attend a post mortem examination of the Government’s actions.
I wish to make it clear, therefore, beyond all the considerable capacity of evil-minded people to misrepresent the motives of the Labour Party and to distort statements of members of the Labour Party, that any criticism offered to the agreement before us is directed not against the United States Government but against the Government of the Commonwealth of Australia.
I accuse the Minister for External Affairs of having failed to give the Parliament and the people the fullest information in his possession about the nature and purpose of the North West Cape naval communication station. I accuse him of having given interpretations of clauses in the agreement which are untenable and inconsistent, and of having done so for the shabbiest possible political motives.
I accuse the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) and those of his colleagues who have discussed the question of the station, both inside and outside this Parliament, of having attempted in the most unscrupulous fashion, to mislead the Australian people about the attitude of the Labour Party to certain aspects of the agreement. I accuse the Government of having most grossly and most dishonorably perverted the truth about the Labour Party’s proposal that a multilateral agreement should be negotiated through the United Nations for the establishment of a nuclear-free zone in the southern hemisphere. These charges I shall prove to the satisfaction of all citizens who have no vested interest in misrepresentation and no guilty consciences to haunt them because of their wretched records as the nation’s leaders.
As to the agreement itself, the Opposition will move, at the appropriate stage, amendments designed to ensure that the sovereignty, security and the best interests of the Australian nation are upheld. The need for the amendments we propose will become abundantly clear as the debate proceeds. I say at the outset that the Prime Minister has never honestly tried to inform the House or the nation about the true nature and purpose of the North West Cape base.
If we examine Government statements, including the statement last Thursday by the Minister on this matter, we will note, among other things, one theme running through them all, and this theme is that there is nothing of unusual significance, nothing of a radical nature incorporated in the proposed installation. And the corollary of this line of reasoning is that any objections to such a simple straightforward proposition as the Government has advanced must automatically be inspired by a hatred of the United States of America or a sympathy with communism. This is the argument that the Prime Minister, to his great discredit, has been peddling around Australia for the past few weeks trying to help his cause in the Queensland State elections and trying to bolster up his candidate in the Grey by-election in South Australia.
The first formal statement on the matter was made by the right honorable gentleman on 17th May, 1962, a year ago to-morrow. In that statement he said -
The purpose of the station … is to provide radio communications for the United States and allied ships over a wide area of the Indian Ocean and the western Pacific.
That was the Prime Minister’s last word on the purpose of the base until 26th March of this year, ten months later, when, in answer to a question by the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), he repeated what he had previously said. The Prime Minister was reading from a prepared statement because, as he said, he had been expecting the question. It is clear that the statement which he carried in his hand, and which he intended to make, contained no reference whatever to submarines. However, the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns) interjected, “ Does that include submarines? “ The Prime Minister then answered: “ Of course it does. Naval forces happen to include submarines.” That is the only reference the Prime Minister has ever made in the House to submarines in connexion with the North West Cape installation, and that reference was made only because of an interjection.
Subsequently the Prime Minister has tried to shrug off his studied equivocation. “ How foolish,” he suggests, “ are these people who do not know that submarines are naval vessels”. To him it is a matter, apparently, for a cheap gibe. The fact is, of course, that this base does not “ happen “. in any casual sense, to include facilities for communication with submarines. Its whole purpose is the relaying of orders to submarines of a very special kind - underwater arsenals of destruction.
Furthermore, this base is to serve a very special, a globally unique purpose, for it is an essential strand in the whole fabric of America’s global strategy. To speak of this base, and add as an afterthought ten months later, that it can also be used to communicate with submarines, is not merely Hamlet without the Prince of Denmark. It is Hamlet without the Prince, the ghost or Shakespeare. This base is to be created solely because the United States wants to complete a system of submarine global strategy. That may be something which the United States regards as vital and necessary, but the station will not become operational until 1 966, and by that time newer and better and less expensive methods of communications may have become, or may be in process of becoming, completely effective. In any case, within two to five years the North West Cape base will be superseded in efficiency by satellites of the Telstar class that will relay signals and remain operational for at least ten years. My authority for that statement is none other than Sir John Cockcroft, who was here a few weeks ago. He is an eminent nuclear scientist and one of the two men who first split the atom.
– The Government probably has never heard of him.
-No, but he is a very great man. He said that when these satellites are orbiting in space, signals will be directed at them, will be bounced off them and will be able to reach down into the depths of the ocean. This base, therefore, will not be of any use at all then. I asked him in this conversation, which was not confidential in any way, “ Is it necessary to have the base? “ I know that his answer can be used to argue both ways. He said: “ I do not think it matters so very much, because a couple of submarines in the Indian Ocean will not he doing all the damage, if war comes. By the end of this year, the United States will have 600 Minuteman missiles under operational control and will have 1,000 by the end of 1964. So a couple of submarines will not make very much difference.” This base may be of use in two years’ time or in four years’ time, but it may be superseded. If it is not obsolete in 1966, then, like some of the destroyers of which the Government will take delivery in 1966, it will at least have reached the obsolescent stage.
When we deal with the facts relating to the nature and purpose of this station, we are of necessity thrown upon our own resources. We get no help whatever from ministerial statements. We work out the problem from our resources and our own researches. Incredibly, the speech by the Minister for External Affairs gives no real information beyond saying that the base will be a “ wireless station which will have some very tall masts”. This is to compare the Telstar with a crystal set.
The simple fact is that the North West Cape base, when established, will have only one counterpart in the world - at Cutler, Maine, United States of America. North West Cape is designed to complete the global coverage of the United States defensive system. The station, like that at Maine, will control submarines by means of very low frequency transmitters, which can send signals beneath the waters to submerged craft. The importance of the station transmitting very low frequency waves is that submarines are relieved of the need to surface to obtain firing orders. The station will be reliable, it is understood, over a radius of up to 4,000 miles.
The vessels towards which such signals will be transmitted from the base are, of course, Polaris submarines. Any other use to which the station may be put will be incidental to this prime purpose. The Prime Minister sneers that to us of the Labour Party, “Polaris” is a rude word. Let me say that to us, and to every decent man and woman alive, “ Polaris “ means something highly significant. It may be even a word pregnant with terror, for we all dread the hour when Polaris missiles may have to be used. Let there be no mistake about it - that hour when a nuclear war starts will herald the destruction of all that we hold dear, and may be the annihilation of civilization itself. As these facts show, the Polaris missile, the submarines which carry them, and any land base which services them, are clearly part of a massive system of defence and deterrence. To think that everything has been said when it has been stated that the purpose of the base is “ to provide radio communications for United States and allied ships “ is just absurd and patently dishonest.
I am bound to express my astonishment that the first statement of the significant facts ever to be put in any form before this House should have to come from me. Surely the purpose and use of the station are fundamental to any intelligent discussion about it, or about any agreement relating to it. Yet the Minister’s speech contains virtually none of this information. Does he think they are not important facts? Does the Government not believe that the people should have this information on which to base their judgment? Does the Prime Minister really know what the facts are, or is it that he does not want the people of Australia to know? Why does he not trust the people? We are prepared to trust the people with the facts. There is nothing to be gained by hiding the facts.
We are brought inevitably to my original charge - that the Government has consistently understated and cynically misrepresented the position in order that any objectors, any one who queries any aspect of this agreement, may be the more readily branded with the crude charges of antiAmericanism and disloyalty to Australia’s war-time friend and ally.
The importance to the United States, and therefore to her allies, of the Polaris submarine system is very clear. It is one of the pillars of their system of global deterrence. Its significance to the United States must be studied in global terms, in terms of the strategy of total war, and the avoidance of total war. Thus, Sir, we are confronted with something momentous, something revolutionary for Australia, for, whether we like it or not, we are taking a step closer to the firing line.
It was with these grave considerations in mind that the Australian Labour Party discussed this matter, and we took the discussions to the highest councils of our party. I do not intend to apologize to this House or to any one else for the course we took. I am proud of it, because I am proud to belong to a party which is still democratic, which makes “ open decisions, openly arrived at “. To the extent that I refer to our discussions at all, it is to excuse nothing; it is simply to defend decent Australians who happen to be my comrades, all of them my friends, and who, for the service they have tried to render to their party and their country, have been besmirched, smeared, sneered at and jeered at by a weird collection of leading anti-Labour politicians and the political hacks that serve them. The Prime Minister has led the band, and, to raise a few laughs, to score a few cheap debating points, he has not balked at suggesting that these good men, many of them ex-servicemen, are at best lukewarm in their devotion to their country. Such conduct is unworthy of the Prime Minister and brings him nothing but discredit.
The rules and constitution of the Australian Labour Party provide that the supreme policy-making body of the party is its federal conference, lt has been so for more than half a century. This rule has as its basis a very simple principle and it is this - that the party should make the policy of the party. This is the very essence of our democracy. The party makes its policy, and the people as a whole are asked to judge it, to accept or reject both the party and the policy.
We believed that the question of the establishment of the base at North West Cape was one of such great importance, one with so many ramifications, and one sp fraught with consequences to the nation, that it did involve questions of basic policy. In these circumstances, the party would have been recreant to its responsibilities had it not, long before the bill came before Parliament, discussed it at the highest level and framed resolutions consistent with the policies and platform of the Australian Labour Party.
Thus, after preliminary meetings in Sydney, in which my deputy, the leader of the Labour Party in the Senate and his deputy and I took an active part, a special conference was decided upon, and was held at Canberra on 18th March and succeeding days. The conference consisted of 35 men and one lady. These people, all elected by due constitutional process, represented the rank and file of our party. These are the people who, for some reason I have never been able to divine, are now described, or insulted, as “faceless”. One of the so-called faceless men is the present Leader of the Opposition in the State of Queensland, and most likely to be that State’s next Premier. Another is the Lord Mayor of Brisbane; two are members of this House; one is a senator; others are members of State legislatures; still others are presidents or secretaries of State branches of the party; many are high officers in their respective trade unions. All are there because they have the trust of the Labour movement, and for these and other reasons I am proud, as I have said, to call them all my friends.
When the delegates had been addressed at length by myself and the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam), it went on with its deliberations. It is not irrelevant to say that the leader of the federal parliamentary Labour Party is not ex officio a delegate to any Labour conference. Whatever one may say of this procedure, it is nothing new. It has been applied for eighty years. The criticisms now made about Labour Party procedures are no more valid to-day than were the same criticisms, expressed in similar circumstances, and in exactly the same terms, by our opponents and detractors, when Mr. Curtin had to seek conference approval for a re-definition of the party anti-conscription plank. Even in war-time, the internal democracy of the Australian Labour Party prevailed.
The conference, having deliberated, adopted a resolution to the effect that the establishment of the proposed base at North West Cape was not contrary to Labour policy if certain conditions were adhered to. Another motion, containing the same conditions, was introduced by the Lord Mayor of Brisbane, Alderman Jones. The debating talent of members on the benches opposite has made great play of the fact that this resolution was adopted by nineteen votes to seventeen. The Prime Minister, minus 300,000 votes at the last elections as compared with Labour’s total votes, has also delivered himself of some interesting observations about the validity of majorities. What, the argument runs, would the Leader of the Opposition have done if the vote had gone the other way?
Since I know very well that this point will be the stock in trade of those members opposite who follow me, I will tell the House now. The motion moved by Alderman Jones, which was deadlocked eighteen all, and therefore lost, was not a motion to prevent the establishment of the base. Its preamble differed from the successful resolution, but its effect was precisely the same, and the conditions for the establishment of the base which it laid down were exactly the same as those incorporated in the document which is now party policy. Thus, every member of the conference recorded a vote in favour of the substance of the successful motion.
So let me tell the House, and the Prime Minister and his colleagues, and the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth), in particular, that when they make accusations, as the Prime Minister has done in general terms, and the honorable member for Mackellar did in detail in a scurrilous statement to an even more scurrilous newspaper, on 4th May, that the seventeen minority members of the Australian Labour Party conference are proCommunists, they also accuse me. He who impugns their loyalty impugns mine. And my loyalty is as good as that of any member opposite.
It is about the conditions which the Labour Party believes should be included in this agreement - the conditions laid down in both the motions before that conference - and their relation to the agreement now before us that I now wish to speak.
Firstly, I want to put a general proposition as to why conditions of any sort are necessary. Australia is still - I use the qualification deliberately - an independent nation. It is a member of three alliances, each of a different kind - the British Commonwealth, the Anzus pact and Seato - and it is also a member of the United Nations. Any agreement or treaty to which we become a party must take our responsibilities, with regard to each of these groups, into consideration. But the governing considerations, both in relation to treaties which already exist and to any new agreements or treaties, must always be the protection both of sovereignty of the nation and the security of its people. All treaties must be designed to guarantee and enhance both.
Thus, even if the agreement now before the House dealt with an establishment of the most conventional kind, for instance a radio station of the sort that the Prime Minister would have had the House believe was all that was involved, or even a “ wireless station with very tall masts “ referred to by the Minister, or even if it were nothing more dramatic than this, its establishment on Australian soil, by a foreign power, a great ally certainly, but a foreign power nonetheless, would require the laying down of certain stringent conditions by Australia. The first condition insisted upon by the Labour Party is that Australian sovereignty must be maintained. Article 2 of the agreement does, in fact, provide for territorial sovereignty. In the words of the Minister: “ The status of the United States will be that of a lessee. A token rental in the traditional form of a peppercorn will be reserved to emphasize that relationship.”
I am sure the traditionalists and the legalists will have noted those sentences with profound satisfaction. Sovereignty, however, is more than peppercorns, more than legalisms. Indeed, with the Prime Minister it can be made to mean almost anything. A few years ago, the basis for his policy of firm support for the Netherlands in West New Guinea was the fact of Dutch sovereignty in that territory. A year ago, the principle of sovereignty, by a remarkable legal slide, was used to repudiate that policy. He said then, that because Australia had no sovereignty there, we could not consider ourselves as a party principal in the dispute. But last month, on April 2nd, it had become, in his own elegant phraseology, “ this cackle about sovereignty “. Is it cackle only when Australian sovereignty is involved?
The Labour Party has gone beyond arid legalisms, beyond even peppercorns, to spell out what we regard as necessary to maintain Australian sovereignty in relation to this base. Our conditions are, in fact, concerned with the concept of sovereignty in a nuclear age. They are contained in the decision of the special Australian Labour Party Federal Conference held in March last, to which I have referred and which I now put on record under the heading “ Nuclear Free Zone and Bases “. With the concurrence of the House I shall incorporate the decision in my speech at this stage -
The Australian Labour Party declares that the hope of mankindlies in agreement through the United Nations for total world disarmament. It supports the view of the Commonwealth Prime Ministers in March, 1961, that every effort should be made to secure rapid agreement to the permanent banning of nuclear weapons tests by all nations and to arrangements for verifying the observance of the agreement.
It deplores the breach of the three years moratorium on nuclear tests, and the resumption of tests without any end in sight.
It declares its opposition to nuclear tests at any time by any nation and believes that the Australian Government should take all necessary steps to initiate a conference of the Antarctic Treaty Powers, China, Japan, India, Pakistan, Ceylon, Burma, Malaya, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, the Philippines, Indonesia and all countries in Africa and South America, directed towards making the southern hemisphere a nuclear-free zone.
The Government should assure the United Nations that Australia in its submissions to the conference to make the southern hemisphere a nuclear-free zone, would declare that it would agree not to manufacture, acquire or receive nuclear weapons.
Australia now has its. own bases capable of being used by itself and its allies in war.
A defence radio communications centre capable of communicating with submarines operated by an ally in Australia would not be inconsistent with Labour policy if:
Australian sovereignty were maintained. 2. Australian citizens engaged at the station were subject to Australian law.
The radio communications centre is under the joint control and operation of the Australian and U.S.A. governments and the facilities were available to Australian forces.
Australia’s involvement in war is a question for Australia alone to decide at all times and under no circumstances and under no agreement should Australia become automatically involved in war.
In the event of the U.S.A. being at war or threatened with war by another power, Australian territory and Australian facilities must not be used in any way that would involve Australia without the prior knowledge and consent of the Australian Government.
The radio communications centre did not become a base for the stockpiling of nuclear arms in times of peace.
Labour is opposed to foreign owned and operated bases for the supply or holding of defence equipment in Australia in peacetime, and declares it will not be the first nation in the Pacific to stockpile nuclear arms in its territories in peacetime. The Labour Party shares the fears expressed by President Kennedy concerning the possible spread of nuclear arms to those nations not now possessing them.
On 17th May, 1962, President Kennedy said -
We do not believe in a series of national deterrents. We believe that a NATO deterrent, to which the United States has committed itself heavily, can provide adequate protection. An increasingly dangerous situation will result if nation after nation feels that its expression of independence requires it to build up its own nuclear deterrent.
Sir, we would prefer nuclear weapons to be in the hands of only two powers - the United States of America and Russia. We do not want to see the nuclear club spread.
I may say at this stage that the Labour Party’s proposal for a nuclear-free zone, although it has nothing to do with the proposal to establish a base at North West Cape, does bear upon the subjects opened up by this debate. What I have to say about our proposal in respect of the nuclearfree zone in the southern hemisphere will be very brief, but I must say something because on this issue also we have been victims of a carefully planned and completely reprehensible campaign of distortion and misrepresentation. Briefly, our proposal is to call a conference of all the nations in the southern hemisphere, or having interests there, which are signatories of the Antarctic Treaty, so that they may consider what we have put forward. The signatories to the treaty - they include all the nuclear powers - have agreed to have a nuclear-free zone from the South Pole right up to the sixtieth parallel of latitude. We want them to meet so as to obtain agreement among them for the extension of the nuclear-free zone right up to the equator. The Prime Minister attacked this proposal as recently as last week at Port Pirie. In reply I wish to make two points. The first is that our proposal is a disarmament proposal which may or may not be accepted by the other parties to whom it is put. If they reject it, or if any of them reject it, nothing is lost on the present position. If they accept it, something is gained. Every disarmament proposal has this characteristic.
The second point is that in fourteen years of office, this Government has not acquired nuclear weapons. Australia is therefore nuclear-disarmed without any agreement. Whether the Prime Minister realizes it or not, every argument he advances for the need for nuclear weapons for Australia’s defence is a self-condemnation of his own defence programme. The Prime Minister cannot have it both ways..
The first thing to be said about the naval communication station agreement, in relation to the conditions sought by the Labour Party, is this: There is nothing in the agreement which specifically denies any of those conditions, and some of the conditions are indeed specifically included. There is one very surprising feature about this. When we recall the extravagant statements made by Government spokesmen after the Labour Party conference, we can only assume that, as far as the Government was concerned, it was intolerable that Australia should seek any substantial conditions at all. Such conditions as we sought were, according to the Prime Minister, “dangerous and frustrating”. He did not specify which of our conditions were “ dangerous and frustrating “, and, therefore, we are entitled to assume that the simple fact of our seeking any conditions whatsoever was regarded by him as wicked, villainous and wrong.
In my view, there is nothing in the wording of the agreement which specifically precludes the implementation of any of the conditions which the Labour Party seeks. I repeat: Nothing in the agreement specifically excludes the implementation of any of the conditions which we seek. Some of those conditions are, indeed, specifically included. On the other hand, the Minister, in giving his interpretation of what the agreement means, did try to exclude some of the conditions. This raises an intriguing question. If the Labour Party’s conditions are, to quote the Prime Minister, “ dangerous and frustrating “, why have they not been specifically and emphatically excluded? Is not the answer that the United States Government itself disagrees with the Prime Minister and does not regard any of our conditions as in any way dangerous and frustrating?
Speaking of the vital Article 3, the Minister said -
I have already indicated that a basie principle of the agreement is that the station shall be in the sole control of the United States.
Where is this basic principle anywhere stated in the agreement? The answer is:
Nowhere. Article 1 gives the United States Government the right to “ establish, maintain and operate “ the station, but this does not mean sole control. If it does this, why is it not so stated? Article 2 refers to the right of the United States - as a lessee - to exclusive use of the land. But this clearly refers only to the use of the land, and the Minister’s speech makes it clear that this is so. Article 2 refers only to legal rights, not the control of the base itself and the use to be made of it. And, indeed, Article 4, which gives Australian armed forces the right to use the services of the station, underlines the fact that the base itself, as distinct from the land on which it is built, is not to be for the “ exclusive use “ of the United States. Nor does Article 3 anywhere state that the United States will have the sole control of the base. Indeed, this article is a limitation, not an extension of American authority. I repeat, therefore, that nowhere does the agreement exclude the possibility of joint control. Nowhere does it specifically state what the Minister claims is its basic principle - “ that the station shall be in the sole control of the United States
– That will be only up to 1st June. The elections will be over then.
– That may be. I hope that we shall win in Queensland and that we shall win by a big majority in Grey.
The Minister continued -
When the nature of this station as it has been publicly described is understood, I am sure it will be obvious that, unless it was desired to create unilateral right of veto on the use of the station - and it is not - joint operation is in fact impracticable.
This, I find, is a most curious statement. Where, in the agreement or the Minister’s speech, is there any genuine “ public description “ of the true nature of this station? As I have made absolutely clear, no ministerial statement has ever been given in this House, or anywhere else, which fully describes the nature of the base. 1 repeat: The only public discussion of its real nature and purpose has emanated from the Australian Labour Party. The Minister states flatly that joint control is impracticable. He does not give one reason to justify or support his assertion. Indeed, the Government, because of its lack of frankness with the House and the people, has virtually lost the right to make any claims.
The Minister says -
Article 3 is not intended to establish control over the use of the station. In particular, it is not intended to give Australia control of, or access to, the content of messages transmitted over the station.
If it is not so intended, why is it not so stated in the agreement? All that the Minister really means is that this particular Government does not intend to establish any control over the use of the station. He has a right to say what he intends to do or not to do. and to say what the Government intends to do or not to do. But I have an equal right to say what the Labour Party intends to do and what the next Labour government would do. We intend to establish such control. To do so, it seems to us, it will not be necessary to repeal a single article of this agreement, although we will certainly add to and clarify the agreement by re-negotiating it with the United States.
Let me say something about the prac ticability of joint control. The Government flatly denies the possibility. The Minister gives us no information on which to judge the validity of this opinion, and I emphasize that it is an opinion only. It is not to be found in the agreement itself. I want to make that point most emphatically. Yet we find that in Britain, Italy and Turkey, wherever the United States has established installations as part of its global defence system, the principle of joint control has been insisted upon by the host countries, and the United States has agreed upon this condition. As the Melbourne “ Age “ said in an editorial on 4th April-
Labour’s reluctance to give the Americans a blank cheque to involve Australia in war-like action without consultation is not unusual by normal international standards.
If the Government is to persist in its claim that what has been done elsewhere cannot bc done in this case then it must give us far more information, far better reasons than it has so far done. It will have the right to have attention paid to its opinion on this matter only when it has fulfilled its duty to the Parliament and the people by giving us the facts on which to judge.
What is the purpose behind our insis tence on joint control? That purpose is contained in the next provision which the Labour Party seeks, and I repeat it -
Australia’s involvement in war is a question for Australia alone to decide at all times and under no agreement should Australia become automatically involved in war.
In the event of the United States of America being at war or threatened with war by another power, Australian territory and Australian facilities must not be used in any way that would involve Australia without prior knowledge and consent of the Australian Government
This is the attitude, this is the policy which the Prime Minister calls “ suicidal “. This is what he calls “ cackle about sovereignty “.
Let me say, once and for all, the Australian Labour Party will never agree that the great decisions of peace and war should be made for Australia by any other than the elected government of Australia. And it follows from that great, basic principle that no use should be made of Australian territory, or of any facilities placed upon Australian territory, which would automatically involve Australia in war without the consent of its government. Let the Prime Minister twist that as much as he likes, but on that principle we take our stand.
The Prime Minister himself has referred to our position. On 21st March, the day after the federal conference, he said -
What the Labour Party has decided is that the Americans cannot use these facilities except with the concurrence of whatever government may be in power in Australia.
In the House of Representatives on 3rd April, purporting to quote the Labour Party addressing the United States, he said -
We want you to understand that you cannot use the station unless the Australian Government happens to say you can.
The Prime Minister intended both these statements to be damning indictments of the Labour Party and its policy.
The attitude of the Prime Minister and his colleagues, on this point at least, is unequivocal. They believe that the government of the day should not have any say in the use by an American government of facilities on Australian soil. Let me remind the House that what the Prime Minister is saying, in effect, is this: That for the next 25 years - the lifetime of the succeeding eight Parliaments of the Commonwealth and the next six Presidential terms in the United States - no Australian Government should ever say to an American government that facilities on Australian soil must not be used in any way that would involve Australia without prior knowledge and consent of our own Government. That is what the Prime Minister is saying. To protest against such a situation is, in his view, “ dangerous and frustrating “.
Twenty-five years - the term of this agreement - is a long time in the life of a man and of a nation. We only have to think of the incredible changes in international affairs and political attitudes in the past 25 years to imagine what changes may be wrought in the next quarter of a century. Twenty-five years ago the present leader of the Government thought that the Hitler regime would endure and saw fit, in his wisdom, to praise certain aspects of its policies. Twenty years ago the then leader of the United Australia Party attacked Mr. Curtin’s appeal to the United States for help, as Japan swept on her victorious way, as “suicidal and dangerous “, and at the same time the present Prime Minister suggested that Mr. Curtin’s famous appeal to the United States was a “ blunder “. Eighteen years ago, Russia and China were our great allies, and Berlin, now called “ a bastion of the free world “, was the target for our bombs. I do not recall these facts in order to rake over old fires, but merely to show that circumstances do change, and can change radically in a very short span.
I suggest that if we examine those events of the past a very consistent line emerges, a line which divides the attitude of the two parties in this House. The Lyons Administration and the first Menzies Administration allowed ten years to pass, but never adopted in full the Statute of Westminster. However, the Curtin Government did so. The present Prime Minister announced in 1939 that Australia was automatically at war with Germany because Britain was at war. The Curtin Government made its own declaration of war on Japan. As then, so now. The Labour Party declares that Australia must not be brought into any war without the consent of its government and through the government, its people. But this Government is content to trail along at the heels of any power and regards it as an affront to suggest that Australia should insist on its own rights.
The Labour Party has chosen its course. Its actions are on record, and our course is plain. We have discussed this matter in all the councils of our great party, and we think we know what is best for Australia. The next Labour Government will not denounce this agreement, but we will renegotiate it to secure the explicit inclusion of certain terms which it lacks and which we believe it should have.
I say to the Prime Minister that should he continue along his chosen path of vilification and misrepresentation he will do incalculable harm to Australian-American relations. If he continues the attempt to equate opposition to him and to his Government with anti-Americanism, if he continues to brand, by inference, one-half of the Australian people - the half which supports the Labour Party - as disloyal and proCommunist, he will succeed only in dividing the nation against itself on a completely artificial, unreal and dangerous issue.
I say to the President and the people of the United States: “ We are your allies, as you are ours. The Australian Labour Party, which first forged the links which bind our nations will maintain them on the basis of mutual respect and dignity befitting two great independent democracies.”
I say to this Government, to the people of Australia, to the United States, and to the world at large: “ The Australian Labour Party will never cede one inch of our territory, or permit the diminution by one iota of the rights of our Government and people “. This is the philosophy which we first brought to the conduct of the nation’s affairs in peace and war, and it is this philosophy that we again expound in our consideration of the bill now before the House.
Mr FAIRHALL: Minister for Supply · Paterson · LP
– I agree with the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) that the bill before the House is of the most extraordinary importance to Australia’s future and indeed to the future of the free world. It is novel in that it is perhaps the first bill to come before the Parliament relating to an agreement by Australia with another country for the establishment in peacetime of military facilities on Australian soil.
The term “ peace-time “ requires a good deal of qualification, and I shall address myself to that in a moment.
view of the importance of this bill, for the reasons which have been stated, it is regrettable that it should have been the Leader of the Opposition who imported party politics into this issue. Opposition members are interjecting, but in his speech their leader descended to the lowest possible ebb and put in a plug for Labour in the Grey by-election. The Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick), in presenting the bill to the House, made a reasoned and sober statement of the objectives for which the agreement had been negotiated. If this debate, unhappily, should turn on political issues, the Leader of the Opposition will have no one to blame but himself. This debate relates to an agreement for the establishment of a very-low-frequency radio communication station at North West Cape, but the substance of the debate is nothing less than the defence and security of the free world and the contribution that Australia can and, indeed, is to make to them.
As the Leader of the Opposition pointed out, a very-low-frequency radio station has a peculiar capability in that it has a world coverage. But we should keep in mind that this proposed static i will not be the sole link upon which the United States will rely for communication with its naval forces. One already is in existence which has global coverage, but in case there should be any unreliability in a matter as important as communications affecting the defence of the free world, this station is to be established in Australia to ensure reliability. It will not be, I stress, the only means of contact with United States naval forces deployed in and about the waters of the Indian and Pacific oceans and, therefore, about Australia. It is true that the more inspired opposition to this agreement invariably refers to the base as a military base because in that way you can conjure up all sorts of fears in the minds of people who do not think much about the matter. Fortunately there are not too many people in that category. So this is a propaganda line taken by the Opposition against the establishment of this station. But, as the Attorney-General has pointed out, this station has one purpose only. It is for communications purposes and nothing else. It is completely defensive-
– That is a deception. Tell us what that means.
– I will get round to that matter later. The station is purely defensive. It is for communications with naval ships deployed in the busy task of keeping the peace in this quarter of the world. It may well be that the ships that are deployed in this area would be nuclear armed because the whole object of this exercise is to parade a deterrent. It must be kept in mind that our peace and security for some years past has been sheltered by that deterrent. The fact that vessels with which the station may communicate might be nuclear armed formed the first objection put up by the Labour Party, but now it seems to me that the party has shifted ground a little. I recall a statement made - I am not sure whether in this House or outside it - by the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) in which he quoted a decision of the federal executive of the Australian Labour Party. He said -
The A.L.P. is opposed to any base-
There is that word again - built in Australia to use, manufacture or to control nuclear missiles or vehicles capable of carrying nuclear missiles.
Quite plainly the Leader of the Opposition said a moment ago that the Labour Party does not object to the establishment of this station. But obviously the station will be used for communicating with undersea craft carrying nuclear deterrents. This represents a great about-face by the Labour Party. It would explain this about-face by saying that it will attach conditions to the establishment of the station. But the thought arises in the minds of average people that those conditions may be sought to be applied for the sole purpose of frustrating behind the scenes the concessions which the Labour Party, on the surface, appears to be giving. We appear to be getting Labour’s approval for the station, but the conditions that Labour would attach to the establishment of the station will render it virtually useless. The real fact is that the Labour Party is concerned about the possible consequences on our security of the use of the station. What we should be concerned about is the possible effect on the security and defence of this country if the nuclear deterrent is . not deployed in our area. If the United States wants to deploy the nuclear deterrent in this area, it is a purely defensive action, and if the unhappy day should come when orders are given for the discharge of nuclear missiles, it is completely foolish to think that this country could draw aside and take no part whatever in an action that controls our whole future. We all would wish that a set of conditions applied under which we could contract out of world military difficulties of this kind if we wanted to do so. I repeat that the whole effect of this base is to defend the free world and our share in it. If the terms and conditions proposed to be applied by the Opposition will downgrade the deterrent capability, that action will fool nobody and least of all a potential enemy, who will know very well that if we have a facility, the use of which is questionable when it is most needed, it is not a deterrent at nil. Consultation before the use of this base, under the terms sought to be applied by the Leader of the Opposition, would be completely unreal.
As I have said, Labour’s attitude supposes a situation in which we would have the choice of opting out of whatever that situation might produce. The real fact is that war is already joined and we must make up our minds which camp we will be in. You may call it cold war if you like. The subjugation of people throughout Europe and Asia in recent times, the division by military force of Korea and Viet Nam, and what is happening to-day on the borders of India - on the edge of a country which chose neutrality and nonalinement in the hope that in this policy there would be security - surely indicates that whether the kind of war we are engaged in is hot or cold does not matter so much to the end result. The war is equally decisive to the people who have been subjugated.
We in this country should look at the countries of the Communist world and note how they are expanding outwards from the centre of Communist power. If this is not sufficient inspiration to send us looking to our own defences - to send us making freely those agreements which will upgrade our safety - then I do not know what kind of warning they should give us. If there is to be a shooting war, whether it be nuclear or with conventional arms, is not a relatively simple proposition of nation against nation. The kind of war that will be joined in future, if war is to be joined, will be a war between one system and another. The outcome of that war will decide who is to control the world, including Australia, even though we may try to opt out of the war. I read a report in the “ Age “ of 8th March which . stated that Mr. I. V. Stout, a prominent member of the Australian Labour Party executive, moved a resolution with an impassioned plea for Australia to maintain peaceful neutrality. There is no such thing as comfortable neutrality for anybody in the kind of world in which we live. We must decide where we stand. We must stand up and be counted.
The Leader of the Opposition agreed that the Polaris missile might be part of the deterrent system of the United States. But the United States has no immediate direct involvement in the situation in South-East Asia. Its action in our area of the world is purely in defence of the free world. Polaris or any other deterrent that is kept and operated by the United States is part of the system designed not only for the defence of the United States but also for the preservation of the free world. Surely we are part of that system. We cannot have the United States active in our defence in our corner of the world unless we ourselves are prepared to be reasonably forthcoming. Apparently a great fear has been created in the minds of the Opposition of the possible consequences that may flow from seeking to defend ourselves. Why, the creation of that fear is one of the prime objectives of the cold war. It seems to me that Labour’s attitude indicates that the party has readily succumbed to that fear. Look at the countries that have chosen to be non-alined. Look at India and pay heed to the change of thought that has taken place in that country.
I do not quite know what the Leader of the Opposition meant when he referred to joint control of this station. I listened to his remarks carefully, but when he had finished I was not very much wiser than I had been before. The honorable gentleman recited a pretty garbled story of what the Labour Party proposes under the heading of joint control. It seems to me that the Labour party would have us believe that we should not be partners in our own defence. That is a quite foolish attitude to adopt to a proposition of this kind. It is symptomatic of the fact that Labour appears, as always, to be leading from behind. We well understand Labour’s troubles over this matter. Indeed, the long catalogue of criticisms and accusations with which the Leader of the Opposition commenced his speech was mainly intended to cover a sense of embarrassment - to mask the fact that the situation created by this agreement has brought some rather serious consequences to his party. The honorable gentleman referred to Sir John Cockcroft and the splitting of the atom. It seems to me that this bil] has had the very fine result of splitting the Australian Labour Parry. When the Leader of the Opposition came away from the celebrated special meeting of his federal executive here in Canberra it was to announce that the decision of the conference on this matter marked a magnificent day in the history of the Labour Party; it was a magnificent victory. Well, Sir, if you can edi it a magnificent victory when the leader of a so-called great political party - potentially the next government of this country - can persuade one more than half of his supporters to follow his leadership, this is an odd kind of victory indeed.
– You are being political.
– I do not mind being a bit political. The Leader of the Opposition started it and I can assure you that what you have started we can finish. The Labour Party is squarely split down the middle on this issue, that is, on the question of what conditions and what control will apply or are proposed to be applied to the use of this base. The Labour Party is split down the middle on the question of whether there should be a communications station at all. It is split down the middle on the question of whether this country ought to make a contribution to the defence of the free world and to its own defence. What is the good of the honorable gentleman coming here and saying we have accused the Labour Party of fouling up our relations with the United
States? I have never heard a statement of that kind in this House since this bill was first proposed. There is a great deal of trouble with the left wing of the Labour Party. I am not making any accusations but, at worst, it follows a line identical with that put forward by the Communist powers. At best it seeks this useless and legendary safety in neutrality, and there is no safety there.
Adding to the discomfort of the honorable gentleman and his party is a gallup poll in which 80 per cent, of the Australian people, who have obviously given a great deal more careful and thoughtful consideration to this issue than has the leader of the Labour Party, have come down in favour of the establishment of this communication station under the conditions proposed by the Government. Eleven per cent, are opposed to it and 9 per cent, have no opinion. Wc can forget the people who have no opinion. The vast majority of the people whose opinions were sought - and 72 per cent, said they are normally supporters of the Labour Party - have declared that we ought to have this communication station.
It ought to do the Labour Party some good to note the reasons given by these people for opting in favour of the establishment of this station. They say that Australia is not strong enough alone. Is this not the fact? How can we, when offered coverage of defence of this kind from the one great power in the world which is capable of defending the free world, refuse it by denying title to a bit of real estate? How can we avoid the kind of risks involved in being part of this organization?
The second reason given is that America is the main hope of our defence. We needed her before and I doubt not that we will need her again. The other point, of course, is that we have to keep up with Russia. Disregarding the last point I say the plain fact is that the people of this country know very well that our defence position in recent years has not improved. They know very well that we are not capable, in this modern world, of meeting the kind of defensive effort which will fully guarantee our own security. But here is an opportunity, through a reasonable agreement which we now propose, to be forthcoming to the United States which is prepared to undertake that responsibility and needs this additional assistance. It would be folly of the greatest kind to deny that sort of assistance.
The Labour Party proposes to demand that consultation with the United States shall be a pre-requisite to the use of the station in any situation which might involve Australia in war. There are only two kinds of situation in which this station could be used. If the use of this station were to further American aggression we would understand the Labour Party’s attitude on this question, but this is foolish. Where is the evidence of American aggression? Where are the countries which have been subjugated and taken over by the kind of tactics which the Communists have used? These tactics are reserved for the potential opponents. So we come back to the situation that on all counts it is impossible to visualize this station being used for purposes which are not completely defensive.
We have heard a great deal of talk from Labour spokesmen in recent times to the effect that we face instant annihilation if this station is to be used defensively to give instructions to promote our defence. Where do we stand if we are to take time off to decide whether the government of this country will permit use of the station? It is here that we come to an interesting exercise in studying the mechanism of the proposed appeal, and there are some fascinating prospects.
Unhappily, during a part of the term of this agreement, there will probably be a Labour government in this country and it is precisely here that our difficulties would begin. Current history is quite lively with evidence that only the nominal government of this country would then occupy the treasury bench. The real government of Australia would reside in the federal conference of the Australian Labour Party.
The Leader of the Opposition has pointed out that the federal conference is the constitutional policy-making organization of the party. He has also said that the point I am discussing would be a policy matter and therefore would have to be referred to the federal conference. He has overlooked the time factor in this matter. Assuming that he were able to get members of the federal conference together to consider the policy involved in whether or not the United States should be allowed to use its communication link to order its defensive organization to go into action, it would hardly be a quick decision. The conference decided by only nineteen votes to seventeen in favour of having a base at all, so one can imagine the difficulties there would be in reaching a decision when the time came to use the base under conditions which the Labour Party would fear might involve Australia in war.
This kind of situation could arise only during a period when there had been a vast upsurge in Communist aggression. If there was a vast upsurge in Communist aggression throughout the world one would equally expect a vast upsurge of Communist activity in our own country. One has to pursue this matter and look at the mechanics of electing members of the federal conference of the Australian Labour Party, because this is a function which comes out of the trade union movement. One has also to look at the kind of Communist control which is advancing over Australian trade union organizations.
It might well be, in a situation of this kind, that the picture would be vastly altered and through this upsurge of Communist activity and interest we might well find that the majority of the members of the federal conference would be put there by Communist influence. Could you get a decision to use the base in defence of the free world under those conditions? I caninot understand how you would do it. The fact is that the use of the station would be denied at the time when it was needed most.
The great value of this very low frequency station is in connexion with the deterrent. It would be a vast subtraction from that deterrent power if a potential enemy knew that, at the time when we needed to use it, we would be required to go through the rigmarole of consultation on the question whether we could use it.
I think the issues are quite plain in this debate. We have made our appeal to the Australian people and have had, I believe, an answer in the gallup poll. The Australian Labour Party, through the Leader of the Opposition, says it has made its case and that it will be left to the Australian people to decide where lie their best interests. Are we to co-operate with the United States in a joint, mutual defensive effort, or are we to put such stress on the use of this facility that it will be valueless when it is needed? For my part, I am more than pleased to leave a decision on this matter to the people of
Australia, who know better than does the Labour Party - they are even among those who support it - where lies Australia’s interest.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Galvin) adjourned.
TARIFF PROPOSALS 1963
Customs Tariff Amendment (No. 76); Excise Tariff Amendment (No. 2). In Committee of Ways and Means:
Mr FAIRHALL: Minister for Supply · Paterson · LP
.- I move- [Customs Tariff Amendment (No. 76).]
That the Schedule to the Customs Tariff 1933-1962, as proposed to be amended by Customs Tariff Proposals,be further amended as set out in the Schedule to these Proposals and that, on and after the seventeenth day of May, One thousand nine hundred and sixty-three, Duties of Customs be collected accordingly.
That in these Proposals, “ Customs Tariff Proposals “ mean the Customs Tariff Proposals introduced into the House of Representatives on the following dates: - 15th November, 1962; 29th November, 1962; 6th December, 1962; 28th March, 1963; 10th April, 1963; 17th April, 1963; and 9th May, 1963.