25th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. Sir John McLeay) took the chair at 2.30 p.m.,and read prayers.
Mr. UREN presented a petition from certain electors of the Commonwealth praying that the Commonwealth Government (I) instruct its representative at the United Nations to condemn the French Government’s proposal to test nuclear weapons in the Pacific, (2) again protest directly to the French Government with a view to cancellation of the tests, and (3) use all appropriate means at its disposal to obtain an extension to the treaty to cover underground tests.
Petition received and read.
Mr. BEAZLEY presented a petition from certain electors of the Commonwealth praying that the proposed new telephone rentals, the increased cost of installation and the increased service be reconsidered.
Petition received and read.
– Mr. Speaker, honorable members will be aware that the Minister for Health, Senator Harrie Wade, is indisposed. We all hope very much that he will have a quick and complete recovery. He will be unable to attend to his ministerial duties for some considerable time. It has been decided, therefore, that the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Swartz) will act as Minister for Health during Senator Wade’s absence.
This arrangement will call for some temporary changes in ministerial representation in the Senate. In addition to the Ministers he now represents, the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Anderson) will represent those Ministers in the House of Representatives ordinarily represented by Senator Wade, and the Acting Minister for Health.
– I ask the Prime Minister a question. In view of the facts that in 1965 Australia will celebrate the golden jubilee of the landing on Gallipoli and that the Government has permitted to be brought forward from the General Business section of the notice paper two items which were lower in order than the private member’s bill which I had listed with a view to securing the award of an Anzac medal, will the Prime Minister inform the House whether he favours the granting of such a medal on the occasion of this jubilee?
– The honorable member will realise that this problem goes back 50 years. There never has been a medal struck to commemorate the Gallipoli landing. However, I will put myself in a position to say something about this matter as soon as I can.
– My question to the Prime Minister refers to the nuclear test recently conducted by Communist China. Has the Government received any expressions of protest or alarm from sections of the Australian community, particularly from those people who will attend the forthcoming Congress for International Cooperation and Disarmament, some of whom have been so loud and persistent in their protests against French nuclear tests?
– I am not aware of any protests being received from the quarters referred to, nor indeed would 1 expect any.
– Has the Prime Minister seen reports of a debate in the Legislative Assembly of Victoria in the course of which the Premier of Victoria alleged that he had been advised by the Commonwealth Government to increase rail fares and electricity charges in that State? Was Mr. Bolte stating facts when he said that that advice had been given to him by the Deputy Prime Minister at the last Premiers’ Conference? Was the Commonwealth Government’s responsibility for recommending that course of action to the Victorian Government the reason why the
Prime Minister praised Mr. Bolte’s Administration on the eve of the recent Legislative Council by-election?
– As to the last part of the question, I say it is quite right, and the words were well spoken. I have not read the report of the debate in the Legislative Assembly but I understand that a statement along the lines indicated by the honorable member was made by the Premier of Victoria, either in the Legislative Assembly or outside it. All I can say is that I was not present at the Premiers’ Conference referred to - I was out of the country - but my colleague the Deputy Prime Minister presided at it. He has, I understand, given a complete denial to this allegation.
– My question to the Minister for Air refers to the number of home units built by the trustees of the Royal Australian Air Force Veterans’ Residences Fund, as set up under Act No. 92 of 1953, from prize money allocated to the R.A.A.F. by the United Kingdom Government, on land donated by the Sandringham City Council. The units will be ready for occupation in a few weeks. I preface my question by stating that the trustees have been informed that children will not be permitted to occupy these home units. I ask the Minister whether he will give immediate consideration to amending the Act to permit the dependants of airmen in necessitous circumstances to occupy the units, in order to give effect to the spirit of the legislation and to permit airmen who already have applied for tenancies to honour their moral obligations to their children.
– I am grateful to the honorable member for Henty for raising this matter. The Act states quite clearly the purposes of this trust and why it was set up. The Act says quite clearly that the residences shall be for airmen in necessitous circumstances and, if possible, for their wives. As the honorable member knows, the Act does not say that the residences shall be for their children. The trustees are allowed to let the residences at economic rentals to families with chil dren, if they have any units that are not being used by airmen in necessitous circumstances. As the honorable member also knows, these home units are likely to be opened within the next three or four weeks. Then the trustees will have an opportunity to ascertain what are the requirements for homes for airmen in necessitous circumstances. I would be grateful to the honorable member if, after the trustees have had a chance to see how the Act actually operates when the home units have been opened and are in use, he would bring the matter to my notice again and let me have a report on it - the trustees will do that anyway - so that I may then have a look at the whole situation.
– I direct a question to the Prime Minister as the Minister acting in this House for the Minister for External Affairs. .On some occasions in the past the Government has acted to restrain foreign . missions from sending through the mails or to newspapers, propaganda which would arouse dissensions among Australians or ill will towards third countries. I ask the right honorable gentle-., man whether the Government is acting to deter the South African Embassy from sending to Australian newspapers letters in defence of the policies of apartheid over names and addresses which do not appear in the telephone directories or on the electoral rolls.
– I will be very glad to have this charge investigated.
– Has the Minister for the Interior seen the text of the Canberra Day Oration delivered by Professor Bart Bok, the Director of the Mount Stromlo Observatory, in which he referred to the need for a science museum and planetarium in the future development of the City of Canberra as the National Capital? Has the Minister noted that Professor Bok suggested that the provision of the funds for the construction, maintenance and operation of the science museum and planetarium is a task for Australian industry? Is the National Capital Development Commission including this project in its plans for the future development of Canberra, so that at least the first phase - the securing of an appropriate site - can be completed? Are any negotiations between the Commission and industry organisations in progress?
– I was present when Professor Bok, the Director of the Mount Stromlo Observatory, gave this oration. I believe that since then he has been in touch with the National Capital Development Commission and has discussed the proposal for a science museum with a planetarium as the central feature. The Commission did interest one private organisation - a large construction company - in the project. That company investigated the possibility of having such a museum in Canberra and studied a similar project in London, but it came to the conclusion that there would not be sufficient public patronage in Canberra for the museum to run economically. Such a project would cost about £200,000, without making any allowance for operational and maintenance costs. However, I assure the honorable member for Calare that, if any private company is interested in developing such a project, it will receive full assistance from the Department of the Interior and the Commission. I believe that in a city such as Canberra, which has a very large tourist potential - something like 500,000 tourists visit Canberra each year - such a project might be considered an economic proposition, if not immediately then certainly in the future.
– I ask the Prime Minister a question. Is it a fact that the Government is now making a review of its defence policy? If so, when will the review be completed and when docs the Government intend to make its decision known? Will the decision be announced in this House within the next few weeks so that the House may consider it and debate it before the end of the sessional period?
– All I can say is that we propose, in the week in which the House does not sit - the honorable gentleman will have it in mind - to devote a great deal of time to this problem, the idea being that we should make known our decisions, whatever they are, as soon as possible.
– And report them to the House?
– I hope so.
– I addressa question to the Acting Minister for Health. In view of the modern problem of noise, particularly in large cities, can the Minister say whether the Department of Health is carrying out any research work in this field?
– The Commonwealth Department of Health has taken an interest in this matter for some considerable time. In fact it is some years now since the Commonwealth acoustic laboratories were established in each State. Part of the functions of those laboratories is to conduct research into the problem of industrial noise and to submit reports in an advisory capacity to the Commonwealth Government or the State Governments or other interested bodies. A considerable amount of work has been done in this field, in one case relating to the permissible level of noise associated with the landing and taking off of aircraft and also factory noises in industrial areas. Quite a lot more research is to be carried out, and no doubt further advice will be submitted by the authorities. The work, of course, is being carried out in conjunction with the National Standards Commission.
– My question is addressed to the Postmaster-General. Will the honorable gentleman arrange for an investigation to ascertain whether existing and proposed television stations in New South Wales will meet the needs of all towns in the Darling electorate? If these stations will not provide satisfactory reception of television programmes throughout the area will the Government arrange for the provision of translator stations to give an efficient service to the people of the outback areas?
– I do not know the actual area of the Darling electorate, but I understand it is very large. It is generally accepted that satisfactory viewing can be obtained in an area within a radius of 70 to 75 miles of a transmitter. Any towns in the honorable member’s electorate within this distance of a transmitter can expect to have a satisfactory service, but I could not in any circumstances undertake to provide additional transmitters for those areas that did not enjoy satisfactory viewing. As to the use of translators, some experimental work is being done at present. When the results are known the Australian Broadcasting Control Board will be in a much better position to advise me where translators may be used in areas of Australia not served by stations established in the first four stages of television development.
– My question is directed to you, Mr. Speaker. In view of the fact that we have an excellent doctor in the House who has spread his services not only to the staff but also to honorable members and honorable senators, will you ascertain whether there is a small room which could be made available for him in which he could work on his patients in the House? Alternatively, will you make sure that in the new wing under construction one room will be set aside for his use?
– Speaking as an old stretcher bearer, I would like to inform the House that, the question of medical aid is to be looked after by the President of the Senate and myself.
– My question is directed to the Minister for National Development. Has the Minister been approached by the Queensland Government in connection with the development of a road from the tip of Cape York down through the Cape York Peninsula and joining with the southern roads system? If he has not, would the Minister consider suggesting to the Queensland Government that such a proposition would be favorably considered by the Commonwealth Government? Such a road would help in the development of that peninsula. It would assist Weipa and the mission stations there would be able to grow more produce than they do at the present time if roads were available to enable them to get that produce to the markets. That is the biggest problem that the missions face in this regard. Such a road would also be of great advantage to people already living in that area and would help other people to develop it. The road would also serve for defence purposes.
– The Northern Division of the Department of National Development is undertaking a complete survey of beef roads throughout northern Australia; that is, not only in Queensland, but also in the Northern Territory and Western Australia, and some roads in the north of South Australia also are included. The idea is that it should be possible to list an order of priorities and to decide which roads should bc constructed first and from which roads the greatest development in increased beef production will occur. As the honorable member will realise, this is work of some considerable magnitude, because it is necessary to discover the cattle population in all the areas being looked at. We anticipate that it will probably be something like six months before this work is completed. The decisions on beef roads have been made by the Government in relation to the present Budget, but this order of priorities will be available for consideration long before the next Budget is brought forward by the Government, and will be taken into account by the Government then.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister for Primary Industry, concerns the tobacco industry. Is it a fact that the two major obstacles to final agreements on a stabilisation scheme for the tobacco industry are the total amount of tobacco and the price and grade schedule to bc included in this scheme? I recall that the Minister told the honorable member for Maranoa in the House last week that he was still waiting to hear from the growers on the subject of the price and grade schedule. Has any further progress been made in this direction? Further, can the Minister inform the House as to the position regarding a final decision on the total quantity of leaf to bc produced?
– The quantity of tobacco to be produced and the scale of prices and grades are two vital matters which must be determined before any stabilisation scheme can be entertained in the tobacco industry. As I indicated to the honorable member for Maranoa, there have been no reports from the growers or the manufacturers other than a letter that one major manufacturer wrote to me yesterday. He said that a scale of grades and prices had been submitted to the growers. He sent me a copy of the letter that he himself had sent to the chairman of the growers’ committee. He asked what the reaction of that committee was because manufacturers had had no word from the growers after considering their plan of grades and prices. These two matters will need to be determined. The three State Ministers concerned and I had a successful meeting and our officers are trying to finalise details preparatory to meeting the growers and the manufacturers. We will do this as soon as we have all the details completed in connection with the matters we propose to discuss with them.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether his attention has been drawn to the tragedy which occurred to the Danish dredge “ Captain Neilson “ in Moreton Bay, in association with which there were a number of acts of heroism and bravery. If the right honorable gentleman has not received any report concerning this tragedy, will he have inquiries made with a view to giving fitting recognition to the acts of heroism and bravery?
– Beyond what has appeared in the Press. I have not seen any report of this matter. Having regard to what the honorable member has said, I shall be very happy to secure one.
– I address a question to the Minister for Labour and National Service concerning the position of near overfull employment that now exists in Australia. Can the Minister say whether the school leavers who are expected to join the work force before the new year will relieve this situation, which is costly to the economy and is hindering the proper development of Australia?
– The only mild disagreement I have with the honorable member concerns his use of the words “near over-full employment”. I think that we have over full employment today. The position is likely to get worse during the remainder of this month and the early part of next month. We hope to have a large number of school leavers joining the work force between the last week of November of this year and the first week of February of next year. This will be of distinct help in overcoming the shortages now being experienced in industry. If present trends continue - I make my forecast on the assumption that they will continue - then next year, from February and March onwards, we can expect that the demand for labour will exceed the numbers becoming available.
– I ask the Minister for the Army: Is it a fact that, during the recent Army manoeuvre called Operation Long Shot, which the Minister attended, a single bed and an inner spring mattress were sent to the area from Sydney for the Minister to sleep on? Will he inform the House whether this was done at his request, because he was not rugged enough to sleep on the type of equipment that was issued to all the troops participating in the exercise?
– The answer to both the honorable member’s questions is: “ No. “.
– I address a question to the Treasurer. In view of the necessity to re-negotiate the Commonwealth-State tax reimbursement agreement before the middle of 1965, will the Treasurer consider recommending the return of part of the powers of taxation of incomes to the State Governments on lines which I understand have already been submitted, involving the reduction of Commonwealth income tax by approximately one-third, so that the State Governments can bear full responsibility not only for their administration but also for the exercise of their sovereign rights?
– I am quite certain that in the review which will be made by the appropriate officers of the Commonwealth all aspects of this matter which have been submitted to us by the State Governments in past years will be thoroughly considered. When we reach the stage of discussions with the representatives of the States, the States, no doubt, will have proposals which will require our attention at that time. It would not be appropriate to try to give any indication of policy in connection with the matter at this point of time.
– I ask the Minister for National Development whether quantities of fuel oil are being sold in Australia below landed cost. If so, will he report to this Parliament without delay the quantities and values for each of the past 10 years, and in each case the percentage of such values and quantities in relation to the total values and quantities of fuel oil sold? Also, will he advise whether the Government proposes any steps to prevent the dislocation of the national coal industry, and the effect of that on many Australian towns and citizens, which this unfair and uneconomic competition wreaks?
– I will sec that the figures required by the honorable member are prepared and delivered to him. Obviously I do not have them with me. My department does hot believe that fuel oil is being sold below cost, although it is very difficult to ascertain the cost of production of fuel oil. So far as dislocation of the coal industry is concerned, I can inform the honorable member that if the coal industry was dislocated this year it still had its most successful year ever. In fact, New South Wales this year produced a record of over 20 million tons of coal, Queensland produced a record tonnage pf coal, Victoria produced a record tonnage of brown coal, and South Australia produced a record tonnage of black coal. So I do not think it is right to say that the coal industry is being dislocated. The competition between fuel oil and coal is only over a small area of about 16 per cent of the demand for coal. In this particular area, where fuel oil requirements are increasing, the requirements of coal are going down very slightly. This is in respect of the use of coal for the production of foodstuffs and cement, and in brick kilns and so on. So the actual competition at present between fuel oil and coal is very small. The demand for coal is rising. Only this week I have heard of a possible future order from overseas for coal. This looks very interesting indeed.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Primary Industry. I refer to a Press statement yesterday that Marrickville Margarine Pty. Ltd. had produced some 10,000 tons of illegal margarine valued at about £1 million. Will the Minister appeal to the New South Wales Government to take appropriate steps to restrain this illegal margarine production, which adversely affects the dairy industry, and will he also ask that appropriate penalties be imposed on the company concerned?
– Margarine production is a matter for State Government jurisdiction. There is a State act which controls margarine quotas. I noticed the newspaper statement to which the honorable member referred, but if I understood it aright the Premier of New South Wales indicated that the Government would launch a prosecution against the firm. 1 think the matter resides there.
– My question is to the Prime Minister. Now that a dispute has arisen between the Liberal Party Premier of Victoria and the Leader of the Country Party as to who was the architect of increases in fares and other charges in Victoria, will the Prime Minister make available at an early date a transcript of proceedings of the last Premiers’ Conference? If this cannot be done, can the Prime Minister suggest any other means of determining which honorable gentleman is telling the truth?
– In my experience, the transcript of debates at Premiers’ Conferences is usually made available. It is usually printed and available for distribution. Whether that has been done this time I do not yet know, but I will find out. It may be that some discussions were in camera. They do not commonly occur in camera, but I cannot say whether that was the position at the last Conference, because I was not there at the time. In the normal course, the transcript of discussions at a Premiers’ Conference is made available. Unless there is some powerful reason why the transcript should not be released this time, it certainly will be made available.
– I direct my question to the Treasurer and preface it by reminding him that the report on the eighth quinquennial investigation of the Commonwealth Public Service Superannuation Fund was tabled at the beginning of this sessional period. I ask: Did the report disclose a surplus of £5 million in the Fund? Did the report recommend that additional benefits be granted to beneficiaries? Has this recommendation been endorsed by the Superannuation Board? Will the Treasurer have the Superannuation Act amended during this sessional period to enable the recommendation to be acted on?
– It is a fact that e surplus was disclosed in the Superannuation Fund. In the knowledge that differing views about how the surplus may best be applied are held by those who would benefit from the operations of the Fund, we recognise that all the suggestions made in relation to this matter should be very carefully studied. I question whether it will be practicable to introduce legislation during this sessional period, but I shall see how far consideration of the subject has advanced. I know that a good deal of study has already been given to the problem.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Labour and National Service. I again refer to the plan suggested by the Minister for the training of adults as skilled workers. Would this plan provide a real opportunity for many unskilled workers to improve their status? Would it jeopardise the normal apprenticeship system? If the answers to these questions are favorable, will the Minister say what is the cause of the delay in implementing the plan?
– The answer to the first question is that the proposed scheme would provide opportunities for large numbers of semi-skilled and unskilled workers to move into the tradesman class and so increase their earnings by up to £3 a week and, in some instances, even more. The answer to the second question asked by the honorable gentleman is that the proposed plan would considerably increase the acquired skills that are so desperately and so urgently needed in this community. I answer the last question asked by the honorable gentleman in this way: The Commonwealth Government offered considerable inducements to the trade union movement to participate and co-operate in the supplementary training scheme. The Amalgamated Engineering Union, which is mainly the union involved, refused to co-operate, stating that it believed that the scheme would affect the existing apprenticeship system. The answer to that statement is that the proposed scheme is intended to supplement and not in any way to interfere with the present apprenticeship system. We have been discussing with the trade union movement the problems that it has raised. The discussions are to be resumed shortly.
– I ask the Prime Minister a question. Does the Government recognise the right of a member of the staff of a foreign embassy in Australia to interfere in the internal affairs of the Australian trade union movement and to sponsor the publication of a propaganda sheet containing libellous and untrue allegations against Australian citizens who hold responsible public office? If not, would the Government be prepared to take appropriate action against any embassy in respect of which there was satisfactory evidence to support a charge of this kind of foreign interference?
– If the honorable member would be good enough to provide me with the document to which he has referred, I would be very interested to have a look at it. I do not think we need place too rigid a restriction on the right of people in this country to express their own minds. I would not be in a hurry to do that. However, if the honorable member will show me the document in question, I will have a look at it.
– I ask the Minister for the Interior whether he will examine the material used by the Queensland electoral authorities for ballot papers - it is a good linen paper - with a view to improving the quality of paper used at Federal elections. The paper used for Federal ballot papers causes a good deal of trouble to returning officers, particularly in north Queensland. The hot and humid weather there at this time of the year results in an enormous number of mutilated ballot papers, particularly Senate ballot papers, which at previous elections have looked as though they were manufactured by Sorbent.
– I have not heard of this complaint before. I will have a look at the honorable member’s suggestion. I may be able to improve the quality of the ballot papers, but I certainly could not influence the marking of them.
– I direct a question to the Treasurer. Some time ago in this House he stated, in reply to a question about the conclusion* of a tax treaty with Japan, that negotiations were proceeding between officials of our Government and of the Japanese Government. Can he say whether the negotiations have been completed or whether any consideration is presently being given to a tax treaty with Japan?
– I doubt whether the negotiations have been concluded. I shall make inquiries as to the stage that has been reached and advise the honorable gentleman. No final decision has yet been taken by the Government.
– I ask the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Trade and Industry whether, when addressing the conference of the Australian Primary Producers Union today, he said that estimates showed that half of Australia’s population would be living in Melbourne and Sydney by the year 2,000 and that policies must be revised if effective decentralisation is to be achieved. Does he agree that a greater role must be played by the Commonwealth in decentralisation? Is it possible for payroll and company tax concessions to be given outside metropolitan areas? If so, will he use his undoubted influence in Cabinet to obtain these concessions in the interests of effective decentralisation?
– This morning, as on previous occasions, I quoted from a statement made by authorities - I understand they are called demographers - that by the year 2,000, when the population of Australia is expected to be upwards of 20 million people, on the present disposition of population half would he in the Melbourne and Sydney areas. I said that this obviously is not a desirable state of affairs and that the whole country must devote itself to policies that will bring about a better dispersal of population. It is not appropriate at question time to discuss what these policies ought to be.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Air. Can he tell me whether Cocos Island is being used for staging aircraft of the Royal Australian Air Force on their way to Malaysian territory?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is: “Yes”.
– I direct my question to the Minister for the Army. Is a shortage of instructors in the Australian Regular Army preventing the formation of units of the Citizen Military Forces in country areas, thus restricting enlistments in the C.M.F. in those districts? Is the shortage of trained instructors also restricting the expansion of the school cadet corps? If this is so, what action is being taken to rectify the position?
– The relative priorities we give to the use of Australian Regular Army manpower affect the expansion of both the C.M.F. and the cadet corps. The situation . could be changed in two ways. It could be done by a change of priorities, which might come about, but which is unlikely; but, in particular, as we have an increase in Regular Army manpower, equally will it be possible to provide additional personnel as instructors. I think, however, the word “ instructors “ is a misnomer in relation to the Citizen Military Forces. A.R.A. personnel are made available primarily to assist in the administration of the unit. Most of the instruction is carried out by C.M.F. personnel, and that is an essential part of their training. Nevertheless, I think it is true to say that it will be easier to expand the Citizen Military Forces and the cadet corps as additional Regular Army manpower becomes available.
– I bring up from the Standing Orders Committee a report, together with proposed amendments to the Standing Orders of the House of Representatives.
– I move -
That the report be printed.
I should explain that this motion is purely formal. If the House will agree to it, I shall move immediately that consideration of the report be made an order of the day. This will make it possible for the House to debate the report when it desires at some convenient time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Mr. Harold Holt) agreed to -
That the consideration of the report be made an Order of the Day for the next sitting.
– I present the following paper -
Audit Act - Supplementary Report by the Auditor-General upon other accounts, for year 1963-64.
Ordered to be printed.
– I ask for leave to lay on the table a statement, dated 16th October 1964, by New South Wales Australian Labour Party trade union officials on the Communist Party’s peace front. For the information of honorable members and in order to help them make up their minds, when I ask that leave be granted -
– Order! I think it should be made clear that an honorable member in asking for leave to present a paper must confine himself to the title of the paper or a brief indication of the nature of the paper. He must not proceed to give a detailed description of it or deal with its subject matter.
– Thank you, Sir. In order to help honorable members, particularly members of the Opposition, to make up their minds -
– Leave is refused.
- Mr. Speaker-
– On a point of order, Sir.
The honorable member has sought leave and it has been refused.
– Order! The honorable member will resume his seat.
– Mr. Speaker, I submit that the honorable member is defying you by making some comments as a description of the document. May I recall to you that an attempt is being made to devise some procedure whereby leave to table or incorporate documents can be obtained in an orderly way - that is, where one side can show to the other side a document sought to be incorporated or tabled. This has not been done in this case.
– On the point of order raised by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. In order to assist the honorable gentleman I will give him a copy of the document and ask for leave tolay it on the table at a later hour today - perhaps on the motion for the adjournment. I do not want to take words out of his mouth; I want to give him a fair chance to see what this document is. Therefore, I shall take that course.
– I have received a letter from the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Collard) proposing that a definite matter of public importance he submitted to the House for discussion, namely -
The failure of the Government to realise the serious situation confronting the gold mining industry in Australia.
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) -
.- We take this action to draw to the attention of the House the fact that the gold mining industry in Australia has reached a position or a condition where it urgently requires financial assistance well beyond that which is at present provided under existing acts of the Commonwealth. We draw the attention of the House also to the fact that unless this further assistance is made available in the very near future the industry will have reached a stage where, as a result of the delay in granting further assistance, it will be too late to save the situation.
We charge the Government with failing to realise the serious situation confronting the gold mining industry. I hope that the Government will not claim that our charge is unjustified by saying that it is fully aware of the serious difficulties of the industry. That could only mean that the Government should face an even more serious charge in that, being fully aware of the situation and the consequences of that situation, it has failed to take any positive action to overcome or correct the position. This would mean that in failing to do so it has allowed the industry to fold up in areas of Australia where we cannot afford, in the interests of decentralisation, to see the industry disappear. It would mean also that the Government has allowed people to lose their employment and their livelihood and has also, as a result of failing to take corrective measures, caused several communities to suffer a very considerable loss in regard to housing and other matters. I hope that it is only the lesser charge of which the Government is guilty, for that would or could mean that as a result of this debate the Government will become aware of the very serious situation in the gold mining industry and will take immediate steps to do something about it.
In August 1954 the then GovernorGeneral is reported to have said in his Speech to the Parliament -
Gold production adds considerably to this country’s earnings of overseas funds. Tin’s industry has been adversely affected by a relativelystatic price of gold and high local costs. My Government will therefore introduce legislation for the provision of financial assistance to gold, mining.
On- 4th November 1954 a Bill was introduced, and the Prime Minister, when intro ducing it, said, as reported at page 2628 of “ Hansard “-
The importance of the gold mining industry to Australia needs little emphasis. The annual value of gold output is in the region of £17,000,000. Not only does the industry make a significant contribution to the national income, but it produces a commodity which has a direct effect on the balance of payments. Except for a minor quantity of gold which is used for industrial purposes, all the gold produced in Australia and the territories represents an addition, in one form or another, to our international reserves. Moreover, there are large areas in Australia, particulaly in Western Australia, which are almost entirely dependent on gold mining. Any significant decline in- gold mining activity could lead to the depopulation of these areas and a widespread loss of housing and other utilities which have been developed over the yen rs in the areas concerned. The Government believes that for a number of reasons it would not be in the national interest for these areas to languish.
I suggest that those words of the Prime Minister could be accepted only as a firm and thoughtful opinion. They were, as I see it, a firm declaration to the people on the goldfields of the Government’s intention to ensure that the goldfields would never fade away and dic, if that could be prevented by financial assistance. But subsequent failures on the part of the Government to act as it should have acted have placed a completely different interpretation on the speech of the Prime Minister. Unfortunately what the Prime Minister said in 1954 should not be allowed to happen has actually happened. The depopulation of areas that he referred to has come about. Contrary to what the Prime Minister said, there has been a widespread loss of housing and many of the areas which he said should not be allowed to languish have actually ceased to be areas of gold mining activity.
The Governor-General’s Speech in 1954 referred to the industry as being adversely affected by the static price of gold and rising costs. The industry started to decline after 1949, although to some extent this decline was not positively noticeable until a couple of years later. In 1954 the price of gold and the rising costs referred to by the Governor-General were being related to the price of gold and costs in 1949 or a little later. As a result the position of the industry at that time did not seem anywhere near as serious as it is today. For instance, in May 1-949 the price of gold was £15 9s. lOd. an ounce and the basic wage was £6 4s. a week. By May 1954 the price of gold had increased by only 2s. 8d. an ounce but the basic wage had gradually increased to £12 9s. 4d. Today the price of gold is still only £15 12s. 6d. or 2s. 8d. more than in 1949 but the basic wage has increased to £15 8s. Since 1949 the basic wage has increased by £9 4s. The price of everything else also has increased, but perhaps wc could use the basic wage as a measuring stick to compare the value of gold production wilh production costs. In 1949 the value of one ounce of gold was sufficient to pay one man for two and a half weeks at the basic wage rate. In 1954 one ounce of gold was sufficient to pay one man for one and a half weeks at the basic wage rate. But today one ounce of gold is about sufficient to pay a man for only one week at the basic wage rale.
I simply ask honorable members opposite to give a little thought to what would have happened to most industries other than the gold industry if they had been obliged over the years to operate on the same selling prices as existed in 1949. I suggest that they would have closed down long ago. The point I make is that the fact that the mines have been able to continue for as long as they have is ample proof of the efficiency of both management and the workers and shows that in this industry everyone associated with it has played a responsible part in its operations. All avenues of reducing costs have been explored and exploited but unless some new scientific method- of mining comes to light there is little likelihood of keeping a check on costs in the future. Any increase in costs will have a very serious effect on not only the mines but also everyone associated in any way with the industry, directly or indirectly.
In the past few years it has become obvious to everybody - this has been pointed out in the Parliament - that the amount granted under the Gold-Mining Industry Assistance Act and the Gold Mines Development Assistance Act is nowhere near sufficient if it is the Government’s intention to honour the remarks made by the Prime Minister in 1954. What happened last year proves conclusively that the Gold-Mining Industry Assistance Act - is neither wide enough nor liberal enought to prevent a serious decline in the industry. Last year five gold mining companies ceased operations. Each of those mines was situated in what is termed the outback - that is, they were in areas well outside Kalgoorlie and Boulder. When they ceased operations they were employing about 630 men. A couple of years earlier they had employed considerably more men. Each of those companies was in receipt of aid under the Gold-Mining Industry Assistance Act. Those mines had been allowed to reach the marginal stage before they became eligible for assistance. It is this fact mainly which prevents mines from having any chance of recovery and means also that unless something unexpected turns up their position gradually will worsen.
The mines that are left must not be allowed to reach that position. I appreciate that the Government is restricted by the International Monetary Fund in the methods that it may adopt to assist the industry but there does not seem to be any reason why the existing legislation should not be liberalised. For instance, the maximum amount of subsidy should be increased; the subsidy should start at a point well below the present £13 10s. cost of producing an ounce of gold. The restrictions relating to profits and capital should be eased. The eligibility for development allowance should be extended. By doing those things the Government would give some real assistance to the industry, provided the extensions go far enough.
As I have pointed out, each of the mines which closed last year was in receipt of subsidy. As a result of their closure the amount of subsidy paid out in the coming year will be reduced by about £300,000. So the assistance given to the existing mines could be increased by £300,000 without increasing the commitment which the Treasury faced had the mines which have closed continued operations. The £300,000 to which I have referred is about one-half of the amount paid out in Western Australia last year. In the year ended June 1960 almost £700,000 was paid in subsidy to mines in Western Australia. If the Government was prepared in 1960 to pay out £700,000 to assist the industry in Western Australia surely it should be prepared to pay out at least a similar amount to ensure that exist-, ing mines will be able to continue operations and so continue to play their role in providing employment and encouraging population in the gold fields area.
I favour the extension of existing legislation to provide the necessary assistance to the gold mining industry. I think this is the best way of providing the assistance. But if the rules of the International Monetary Fund prevent assistance being given in this way, there are other avenues by which assistance may be given. The closing of a mine in any locality has a very serious effect on that district as far as employment and population are concerned. Last year the gold mining companies of Western Australia - I include those which operated for only part of the year - paid out in wages about £6i million and about £4 million on other items, such as machinery and stores. They employed 4,500 men at an average wage of £26 10s. a week. The Sons of Gwalia, which was one of the mines which closed down last year, employed 230 men. That mine would have paid out in wages about £317,000 in a year. It needs little imagination to realise the effect on a district of the withdrawal from circulation of that amount of money. If the Government had done the right thing and had increased the subsidy to a figure in keeping with today’s costs, that mine would still be operating. One of the tragedies associated with the closing of a mine is the fact that the whole town suffers. The people who rely on the mine, either directly or indirectly, for their employment have no choice hut to pack up and leave the district. Houses which were quite valuable while the mine was operating become worthless overnight. If you go to Gwalia today you will see houses which were worth £700 or £800 when the mine was operating but which are now unoccupied and cannot be sold.
Since 1955 the arbitration commission has reduced the prosperity allowance paid to workers in the industry from 40s. to 22s. 6d. a week. A couple of weeks ago the commission reduced the allowance by a further 7s. 6d. and invited the companies to apply for a further reduction in the industry allowance if the circumstances of the industry did not improve during this year. That action by the commission highlights the fact that although the Government in 1954 made certain assistance available, it did not halt the decline in prosperity. Despite assistance granted subsequently, the position is still deteriorating. But if the companies go ahead and apply for a further reduction in the industry allowance and if the reduction is granted, the companies will face the strong possibility of many of their wages men, particularly tradesmen, leaving the industry to seek work in metropolitan areas. It is quite obvious that if the men can get in a city area a wage equal or almost equal to the wage they receive in the goldfields area, they will not stay in the goldfields area. If the mines lose their tradesmen, they will have a great deal more difficulty than they have at the present time.
There are many other points that I would like to make; but, unfortunately, time does not permit me to make them. I hope that what I have said is sufficient to show the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) and the House that there is an urgency about this matter. I hope the Treasurer will take the opportunity provided by this debate to tell us exactly what the Government intends to do, so that the people who work in and are associated with the industry will know what will occur in the future and will have some idea of what their movements should be.
– The gold mining industry is an important industry in Australia. It is proper that from time to time the Parliament should study it and discuss its future. It is also proper that periodically the Government should survey the situation in the industry and review its own policies in relation to the industry. As all sections of the Parliament have an interest in the continuing prosperity and satisfactory condition of the industry, I regret that the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Collard) and those associated with him in the Opposition should have chosen to state their case for discussion in such critical terms. If one analyses the course of action that has been followed by this Government, one sees that not only have we paid full regard to the problems of the industry but also we have initiated legislation to assist the industry since we came into power in 1949. Not once but on several occasions we have taken action to give direct assistance, in one form or another, to the industry.
As I understand the current position, the reduction in production is not a dramatic one. After 1954, when we introduced the subsidy scheme, gold production in Australia and its Territories remained at the relatively stable level of about 1,100,000 fine ounces a year. In 1963-64, although there had been some decline, the production was 1,026,000 fine ounces. The information supplied to me suggests that the fundamental situation in the industry is not one of financial depression so much as one of decreasing ore resources. Gold mining has a long history in this country. Since the turn of the century, the long term trend in production has been downwards as the resources of ore of the better grades have been gradually exhausted. Cost considerations have a part to play, of course; but they have been of secondary importance to the absence of discovery of new fields and the fact that known fields have gradually become exhausted.
When we turn to the measures that have been taken by the Parliament and, more recently, by this Government to assist the gold mining industry, we find, first of all, that the industry enjoys very favorable conditions under the taxation legislation. Since 1924, when the Bruce-Page Ministry of that day introduced the provision, the income from gold mining operations has been exempt from taxation. That in itself is a very valuable incentive to the industry and an encouragement to production. In J 954 this Government introduced subsidy legislation. I remind the House of some of the details of that legislation. In the case of larger mines, subsidy equal to three-quarters of the amount by which costs of production have exceeded £13 10s. per ounce of gold produced, subject to a maximum rate of subsidy which at present is £3 5s. per ounce, is paid. A 10 per cent, profit limitation test applies to the subsidy. Smaller producers arc defined as those producing not more than 500 ounces per annum, and they are now paid subsidy at a flat rate of £2 8s. per ounce. That payment is not subject to a profit limitation test.
Evidence that the Government has studied the affairs of the industry quite frequently will be found in the fact that the operation of the Gold-Mining Industry Assistance Act has been extended from time to time and the rates of subsidy have been increased twice since the inception of the scheme. From 1st July 1957 the maximum rate of subsidy for large producers was increased to £2 15s. per ounce from the previous figure of £2 per ounce, and the flat rate for small producers was increased to £2 per ounce from the previous figure of £1 10s. per ounce. From 1st July 1959 the present rates of £3 5s. for large producers and £2 8s. for small producers have been paid. Subsidy payments to 1963-64 have totalled £6,128,556, and it is expected that a further £560,000 will be paid to producers in the current financial year.
More recently, after a further review of the position in the industry, the Government decided on an additional scheme of assistance by way of a development allowance. This scheme is to run from 1st July 1962 for a period of three years. It applies under certain conditions to mines not in receipt of subsidy under the Gold-Mining Industry Assistance Act. In general terms, the principle of the development allowance scheme is that, subject to a number of provisions of a detailed nature, a producer approved in respect of a specified mining property for the purposes of the scheme will be eligible for an allowance equal to the amount by which his allowable expenditure on development of the mining property in a year exceeds a defined basic amount. Normally, the “ defined basic amount “ will be the average annual amount spent on the property on development during the three years preceding 1962-63. The payment of this allowance is not subject to a profit limitation test. Payments under the scheme to 1963-64 have totalled £159,000, and it is expected that a further £150,000 will be paid to producers in the current financial year.
Having mentioned those quite substantial figures in relation to assistance, I think I should, in passing, remind the House that those payments are made out of revenues collected by the Commonwealth Government, and it may fairly be said that the taxpayers are asked to give assistance to this industry. A question of equity arises as to the extent to which we are justified in providing assistance for this section of the community from the general body of taxpayers. I mention that not to deny the validity of giving some assistance. The figures that I have given to the House show that, having regard to the limited number of gold producers, that assistance is very valuable and of quite substantial dimensions.
Perhaps more important, however, for the future of the industry than the matters I have referred to is the question of the price of gold. Australia has consistently taken the line at the appropriate international forums that there should be a review of the price of gold, and that the price of this commodity, which has stood at 35 dollars an ounce for the last 20 years, is out of all relationship to the movement in commodity prices generally over that period. The honorable member for Kalgoorlie, who has proposed that this matter be discussed, will be aware that as recently as last month, at a meeting of the International Monetary Fund in Tokyo, I devoted a considerable part of my address to that very influential body - more than 100 governments were represented at the discussions - to the matters of world production of gold, the need to review the price of gold and the need to study methods of increasing world production of gold.
As the honorable member knows, there is a limit to the action that we can take. According to the requirements of the International Monetary Fund - and we, as members of that fund, are bound to give effect to the rules which are generally binding on members of it - we are not permitted to give what would amount, in effect, to a direct subsidy on gold production generally. We have to persuade the Fund that the procedures that are already in operation are only partly assistance to the weaker sections of the industry and that they are also partly a recognition of the social problems which arise in a gold mining community and of the need to help that community to continue its activities and to sustain population in the area.
However, without complicating the thinking of honorable members by taking them into the more technical aspects of this problem, I think that enough has been said to confirm that the Government has had at all times a very real concern for the welfare of the industry. I have personally gone to Kalgoorlie and conferred with the leaders of the industry there and we have also seen them here in Canberra. My colleague the former Minister for National Development, Senator Spooner, and I were in Kalgoorlie some time ago, and other members of the Government have made a point of including a study of the situation in Kalgoorlie in their activities during visits to Western Australia. I can assure the House that we will continue to keep the situation in the industry under close examination. We can assure the producers of today that any views they may hold in relation to the industry will at all times be carefully studied by us. We will continue policies or study new policies designed to maintain the Australian gold mining industry in a healthy and, we hope, progressive condition.
– I wish to support the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Collard), who has proposed the discussion, as a matter of public importance, of the failure of the Government to realise the serious situation confronting the gold mining industry in Australia. We do not in any way regard the proposal of the honorable member as harshly worded or intemperate. We are not suggesting that the Government has not done anything in respect of the gold industry. What we are suggesting is that certain producers, particularly in Kalgoorlie, have reached the stage at which they have to determine whether or not they can continue to survive. In fact, some of them have already made a decision to close down their activities.
As the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) has said, assistance is already given to the gold mining industry in two forms, first under the Gold-Mining Industry Assistance Act 1954-62, and secondly under the Gold Mines Development Assistance Act 1962. It is the former Act that gives the principal assistance. The tenth annual statement concerning the operation of the Act, covering the subsidy year ended 30th June 1964, shows that during that year total subsidy payments amounted to, in round figures, £669,000. The statement lists a number of producers who received that bounty, and I want to mention four of them who, despite having received this assistance for the year ended June 1964, have since been forced to cease production. The first producer, The Sons of Gwalia Limited, received more than £99,000, or about one sixth of the total subsidy. That producer has gone out of operation. Great Western Consolidated N.L. received a subsidy of £32,000 odd, or 5 per cent, of the total. That producer has ceased operating. Eclipse Gold Mines N.L. has lived up to its name; it has now been eclipsed. It received a subsidy of £18,000. Paris Gold Mines Pty. Ltd. received a subsidy of £11,000, and it has also gone out of existence. In addition to these, the recipient of the largest amount of subsidy of all recipients in Australia, Gold Mines of Kalgoorlie (Aust.) Ltd., which received £381,000, has also had to terminate activity in portion of its operations. I suggest that the subsidy that is being granted is inadequate to keep production at its current level.
A good deal can be said about the gold industry. I know that people can jest about it being rather silly to keep thousands of people digging holes in the ground and then to transfer the metal produced to other parts of the world, principally the United States of America. Nevertheless, whatever is said along those lines, it appears that no substitute for gold has yet been found that has ultimate validity in international transactions.
The gold mining industry in Australia serves three purposes, as I see it. Its principal purpose is to earn foreign exchange for Australia at a level of about £15 million per annum, which is not insignificant in terms of Australia’s external trade. Secondly, it provides employment for 6,000 or 7,000 Australians, and it provides that employment mainly in areas that would otherwise be undeveloped or unsettled. In other words, it has the advantage of aiding decentralisation. An example of the value of this is to be found in the city of Kalgoorlie itself. The two pieces of legislation that are now current will have to come up for revision by June of 1965, or within the next six or eight months, and what we are suggesting is that perhaps some kind of interim assistance should be given to some producers in the meantime. I direct the attention of the Treasurer to a sort of case study in his State and mine, in the electorate of my colleague, the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Beaton). These are the details in relation to a gold mine in that area. Wattle Gully Gold Mines N.L. This gold mine is situated in the old Castlemaine diggings area at a place called Chewton. Seventy people are employed at the mine. Now, the employment of that number of people is fairly significant in a town with a population of, perhaps, fewer than 1,000. In the financial year ended 30th June, 1964, the mine paid £91,820 in wages and salaries. It had other costs which brought its total expenditure, including wages and salaries, to £185,963. The mine received assistance of £23,539 under the Gold-Mining Industry Assistance Act. In addition, it received a subsidy from the Victorian Government to aid it in its drilling operations. The diamond drilling subsidy payable by the Victorian Department of Mines amounted to £4,908. With those two subsidies which total £28,447, the mine finished that financial year by paying its first dividend since 1959. The amount was £9,000. Those details indicate how thin is the line between survival and closure for some gold mines in Australia.
It is probably true to say that the overall profit position of gold mines is parlous. After all, they have to make profits to survive. I think the Treasurer will appreciate that point quite clearly. Our gold mines would not survive if it were not for subsidies of one kind or another. What the Opposition contends in this debate is that the subsidy which is being paid is not adequate. It is perfectly true, as the Treasurer suggests, that we have to look at what he calls the question of equity in this matter and weigh the needs of the gold mining industry against other demands that arc made upon this Parliament But I doubt whether there is any other industry in quite the same situation as the gold mining industry. For a matter of possibly another £250,000, we could keep its economy viable, if I may use another of those terms which is popular today. It is on a margin of a few thousand pounds only that the Wattle Gully Gold Mines N.L. can survive in Victoria. That is why the Opposition suggests that, whilst not denying that some assistance has been given, the Government has not looked closely enough at this matter recently.
I am informed by my colleague, the honorable member for Kalgoorlie, that, early in October, the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Anthony) and Senator Drake-Brockman visited Kalgoorlie. They expressed the view that, whatever happened, the gold industry must be kept going. They said that gold was an important commodity that the world must have and that it was stupid to let the industry decline. They were suggesting that, in Kalgoorlie, the industry was in decline. What we are suggesting now is that this matter cannot wait until the legislation is reviewed in June 1965, if that decline is to be halted. We are asking that the Treasurer regard this matter as one of urgency. He can even bring along his legislation dealing with the gold mining industry now if he likes.
It is true to say that there are certain limits imposed upon Australia by its obligations to the International Monetary Fund. There are certain things Australia cannot do with regard to creating an artificial production of gold. Nevertheless, governments have gone behind those limits. I direct the attention of the Treasurer to something which I came across only this morning in the 34th annual report of the Bank for International Settlements dated 8th June 1964. Reference is made in that document to the South African gold mining industry. The figures show that, last year, the world gold production was some 37,000 ounces of which South Africa provided 27,000 ounces, which is near enough to three quarters of the total. South Africa is the most significant gold producer in the world and is also a member of the International Monetary Fund. I think Australia and South Africa exercise their vote jointly in that organisation. The report of the Bank states -
The South African budget for 1964-65 contained proposals designed to lengthen the lives of marginal mines.
It goes on to say that certain capital assistance was given and, as well as helping marginal mines in these ways, the Government granted the industry other tax reliefs in 1963 designed to encourage exploration for new mines and the development of deep level mining. We are suggesting that is what the Commonwealth Government ought to do in Australia. We submit that even so small a thing as rebating payroll tax to companies engaged in the gold mining industry would be of some significance. Perhaps some figures will give the Treasurer food for thought. I am told that for the year ended 30th June 1963, the total wages bill of a number of gold producers in the Kalgoorlie area was, in round figures, £5.5 million. The significance of this industry to (hat area can be seen. The amount of payroll tax that was paid by those undertakings was £138,000. Surely it would be quite simple to exempt the gold mining industry from the payment of payroll tax. This is done for certain concerns which increase their exports.
The Opposition is simply putting this case up for critical examination by the Government. The payroll tax paid by Wattle Gully Gold Mines which I have mentioned is the small amount of £2,000, but in terms of a basis of survival for this undertaking, whose dividend was £9,000, and which employs some 70 people, fee exemption of it from the payment of payroll tax is not too expensive a price to pay. Surely this is the sensible and equitable way for the Government to use its powers of taxation. Perhaps some rebates could be given by the Commonwealth Railways for the transport of certain articles used at the mines in Kalgoorlie. These are the sort of matters that we ask the Government to explore, and to explore pretty quickly, because one quarter of the recipients of the Government’s bounty for last year have already ceased production. Possibly that means the loss to Australia of a couple of million pounds in foreign exchange because of the drop in production.
The Treasurer referred to the fact that he had moved at the International Monetary Fund meeting in favour of increasing the price of gold. I know that this is a pretty sticky subject because the principal buyer of all gold in the ultimate is the United States of America which still uses gold as a backing for its internal circulation of notes and bank credit. As any other principal buyer would do in the same circumstances, the United States will not pay more than 35 dollars an ounce for gold if it can avoid doing so, because it is the country that does most of the buying. Apparently there are two schools of thought as to whether there is to be an increase in the price of gold. I would like to quote two views rather quickly as my time has nearly expired. Mr. Robert Roosa, the Under-Secretary of the United States Treasury for Monetary Affairs, said at the end of 1962 in an opinion which he sent to the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia -
That is why most serious consideration of international monetary reform has long since dismissed devaluation of the dollar as a practical possibility.
Devaluation of the dollar simply means altering the price of gold. That American authority suggests that that is not likely to be done. On the other hand, speaking on 15th October 1964, the Chairman of Directors of Mount Morgan Ltd. in Australia, Mr. K. A. Cameron, said - it seems far from improbable that the idea of a higher gold price will become more acceptable to Washington as time goes on.
Apparently there is some difference of opinion in this regard. I commend to honorable members a book written by an authority on this subject in Australia, Mr. Ian Shannon, which is entitled “The Economic Functions of Gold “. Mr. Shannon suggests that gold ought to be priced at 116 dollars an ounce instead of 35 dollars an ounce. Such an increase would yield a bonanza for Australia.
Order! The honorable member’s time has expired. The discussion is concluded.
Motion (by Mr. Hulme) agreed to -
That so much of the Standing Orders bc suspended as would prevent the notice of motion standing in the name of the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean; proposing the disallowance of amendments to certain Telephone Regulations, being proceeded with forthwith.
Motion to Disallow
.- I move -
That the amendments to Regulations Nos. 29, 29a, 43, 64, 91 and 147a of the Telephone Regulations us contained in Statutory Rules 1964, No. 123, made under the Post and Telegraph Act 1901-1961, be disallowed.
In moving this motion, the Opposition is taking a most unusual course. Although, in the course of a year, some hundreds of regulations relating to various Acts of Parliament and the carrying out of certain administrative functions by the Government are made, a step such as that being taken now has been taken on no more than one or two occasions in the many years for which I have been a member of the Parliament. Some Acts of this Parliament contain provisions that regulations made under them cannot come into force until after they have lain on the table of this House - sometimes the tables of both Houses - for fifteen sitting days, during which a motion for their disallowance can be moved. If no such motion is moved, or if the subject matter of the regulations is not ventilated and discussed, the regulations become operative. On this occasion, we take the action that we do because we regard increased telephone charges as being very critical to the Australian economy.
We opposed the passage of the Post and Telegraph Rates Bill and explained our objections in considerable detail during the debate which took place a week or two ago. That Bill did not deal with the increased telephone charges, but the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Hulme) referred to them when the Bill was being discussed, and we on this side also referred to them. Technically, the imposition of the increased charges depends upon the coming into force of the Statutory Rules now under discussion. Therefore, we oppose them. I shall not raise again all of the technical points that were raised during the debate on the Post and Telegraph Rates Bill but I want to recapitulate some of the arguments put forward on that occasion and to refer to some of the rather inflexible ways in which the new charges are to be imposed on certain sections of the community, irrespective of their capacity to bear them.
Since the time when the Post and Telegraph Rates Bill was debated, the PostmasterGeneral has tabled the financial report of the Australian Post Office for the year ended 30th June 1964. 1 draw the attention of honorable members to that part of the report which sets out the consolidated statement of profit and loss for 1963-64. In particular, I direct attention to the section marked “Telephone”, which shows that the total earnings of the Telephone Branch were £102,548,577 and the total expenses were £104,215,561, leaving a deficiency of earnings as against expenses, or a loss of £1,666,984. Apparently losses were sustained in the two previous years. I think the Minister explained during the debate on the Bill that the loss incurred on telephone services in the three years amounted to something like £5 million.
I draw attention to the fact that the operating loss of £1,666,984 is arrived at after an item of interest has been charged to expenses. The interest that has been charged amounts to the rather large sum of £22,379,296. If the Post Office had not to pay interest, then, instead of a loss of £1,666,984, the telephone services would have made a profit of something like £20 million. I do not propose to state again at length the view held on this side of the House that it is a wrong financial principle to load this sort of charge on to the Post Office. I merely point out that it was not done until some five or six years ago. Prior to that time, it was held that interest ought not to be charged on Post Office capital that had been raised either from the profits of the Post Office itself or from money made available from the public works pool of the Commonwealth Government. As I say, until a few years ago, it had not been the policy of governments to charge interest on that money. I should like to stress that if that policy still prevailed, then, instead of showing loss of £1,666,000 odd, the telephone services of the Post Office would have shown a profit of approximately £20 million. Some interest may properly have been charged, but I am putting the argument in its broadest form.
We are suggesting that if, by adopting a different method of accounting, a profit of £20 million had been shown, there would certainly have been no justification for imposing the increased telephone charges that the Government now seeks to inflict upon the people. I repeat that we on this side do not think this notional interest, as I have called it, should be charged. I note that in reporting on these accounts various newspapers have referred to it as national interest. It certainly has a national implication in the final result, but in fact it is notional interest, because it is a charge made on capital invested in the undertaking. This method of accounting is adopted to make the Post Office comparable with other forms of economic endeavour. Adjustments are made between what are called the commercial accounts of the Post Office and the Treasury accounts to bring that item into the bookkeeping.
We think that is wrong in principle. We take the view that the Post Office is a natural monopoly. It provides services that no-one else would, could or should provide, and the aim ought to be to provide those services at the lowest possible cost. The Post Office does not compete with anything else. There can be no argument that the Government is subsidising the user of one kind of activity unfairly in that if he did not have a price advantage he would use some other mode of communication. We suggest that there are no alternative channels to the Post
Office and its telephone services. Nothing takes the place of telephones. We arc past the age of the homing pigeon. We think the telephone is part of the way of life of 1964, that it ought to be regarded as an essential and that the aim of any government ought to be to provide that telephone service at the lowest possible cost. Even assuming that the Government does not agree with that, as it apparently does not, we nevertheless suggest that it could have been a little more selective in the way that it applied these increased telephone charges, because they have fallen with rather peculiar impact on different sections of the community. We suggest that there was a case to be made out for having more gradations in the rates of rental.
By and large the rental has increased from an annual sum of £14 to £20 for most residential services in the capital cities, but some places have been brought up to the status of capital cities with a rather solid bump. One of the worst affected is this city of Canberra. I understand from facts which were given by the member for the Australian Capital Territory (Mr. J. R. Fraser) the other evening that the rental in Canberra is increased by over £ll a year and that this has had most disastrous consequences for some people in the community, particularly those who are retired and those who have large families. After all, £11 a year represents 4s. 6d. a week. The pensioners in Canberra, like pensioners elsewhere, received an increase of 5s. a week in their pension, but if they have a telephone 4s. 6d. of that pension increase has been immediately taken away to pay the increased telephone rental. What is suggested, and what was suggested by the Australian Labour Party during the debate on the estimates for the Department of Social Services, and referred to also when the Post and Telegraph Rates Bill was debated, is that there should be a differential rate for pensioners and others in certain circumstances.
I received a letter this morning which I think may be of some interest to honorable members. It was from the Commonwealth Blind Communication Committee, William Street, Sydney. It stated -
The above Committee which sent ils representatives to Canberra last August to interview tha
Minister for Social Services, are not unmindful of what is involved in their request for the abolition of rental charges for Blind people.
They refer to telephone rentals. The letter continues -
They know there is a deep-seated fear in the heart of any member who receives a deputation, that if he grants even a tithe of what is asked him, he leaves himself open to similar requests from every other interested body.
It is quite possible the Minister for Social Services feels that in granting a rebate of telephone rental to the Blind, it will cause a considerable clamour from nearly every other section of the aged or handicapped members of the community. This might well happen, but it is only the Blind who can, as a body, maintain against all argument, that a telephone is so very often their only means of communication.
They suggest that they are one section of the community which can maintain, against all argument, that a telephone is so very often their only means of communication. If I might pause at this stage, I suggest to the Postmaster-General (Mr. Hulme) that he consult his colleague the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton) and ascertain whether some amelioration might not bc given to the few thousand - and I would suggest that there would be only a few thousand - blind people in the community who have telephones and who find this increased telephone rental a burden. The average additional burden is 3s. or 4s. a week, because the average annual increase for places other than Canberra is of the order of £6 a year, or 2s. 6d. a week. The revenue from the increased rental applied to these people would not be much for the Government to forego, but it represents a great deal to the people to have to pay it. The letter continues -
Having gained no concession, and the rental charges being increased to such an extent as to put the telephone beyond the reach of the Blind, the Committee have decided to again visit Canberra on Thursday, 22nd October, 1964, to wait upon the right honorable Prime Minister and the Minister for Social Services.
That is tomorrow. I ask that honorable members - particularly Government supporters - who are sympathetic to the claims of these people might see that both the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) and the Minister for Social Services are apprised of the fact that other persons in the House agree with the representations made in this letter. The letter continues -
As it is only the rental charges that are the subject of the petition, the Blind are quite pre pared to pay for all calls, installation and- other charges, and ask that you will use all means at your disposal to assist them in their objective on their forthcoming visit.
The letter is signed by H. G. Wilston, President, and Mrs. Joyce Joy, Honorary Secretary of the Commonwealth Blind Communication Committee. If the Government wants to adhere to its theory, it need not adhere to it so rigidly that it cannot grant the concession requested. We also suggest that a review might be made of the drastic increase in telephone rentals in Canberra. The case was put very well by my colleague, the member for the Australian Capital Territory who said that Canberra subscribers have fewer calling areas available to them on a local charge basis than any other group which has to pay the full £20 rental. He said that while he is very impressed by the fact that people here can call New York, Paris, or even Perth or Hobart, they want mainly to be able to ring up their friends in the area, to call their doctor, to call trades people and to place orders for the goods they need for their homes. I suggest that that is particularly true of most people who have a telephone for domestic use. It may be very nice, if your son or daughter happens to be in New York or in Paris, to be able to ring them up but I do not think a person would mind paying a little extra for those rare occasions rather than that all subscribers be slugged equally to cover the capital cost involved in making such an international network possible.
What we said in the course of previous debates was that there was perhaps a stronger case for increasing rentals on business telephones than for increasing them on residential telephones. Of course, all that has been done has been to bring the rental on the domestic telephone to the same amount as the rental on the business telephone. The rental is now £20 on both services. I suggest that business interests make more use of the telephone than do ordinary householders. The increased rental is a harsh impost to add to the domestic telephone charge. Two charges are applied to a telephone, the rental charge and the charge for calls, and an unduly harsh component has been added to the rental charge so far as most domestic users are concerned. If the Government wants to stick rigidly to theory why does it not realise that there are different circumstances applying to people who have domestic telephones? One type of user who is different is the person who is over 65 years of age, if a male, and over 60, if a female - the person who is eligible for an age or invalid pension. I understand there are about 600,000 of these people in Australia. Among them they may have 200,000 telephones. I do not know the actual figure; the Minister is probably in a better position to give an accurate figure. If there is a haggle as to whether a concession to these people should be met by the Department of Social Services or by the PostmasterGeneral’s Department, I do not think that is a relevant argument to put against the human aspect of the situation. Our attitude is that a lower rental should be payable by a person who is the recipient of social service benefits. At the outset, the cost to revenue would not amount to much more than £1 million a year if the charges imposed on 200,000 or fewer telephone subscribers were £6 a year less than the new rates. We cannot see anything inequitable in that sort of thing. Indeed, we believe that a great deal of equity would result if the idea were adopted.
I do not want to read more letters like those that have been read in this chamber by the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory in particular. The impact of these increased rentals has been heavier in Canberra than elsewhere, because the burden has been increased much more sharply. I do not suggest that the people of Canberra are not now paying as much as subscribers elsewhere are paying, but telephone rentals in this city have jumped by a much greater amount than elsewhere. Telephone rentals in Canberra in fact have been increased by twice as much at one time as the increase in the rentals in some other places. I can speak from personal experience of comments by age and invalid pensioners concerning the effect of the increases. I am sure that every honorable member has heard comments by pensioners to the effect that they will now have to consider seriously whether they can any longer afford to have a telephone. After all, a telephone rental of £20 a year represents 7s. 6d. a week, or a little more. This is a considerable sum to be paid by a pensioner living alone out of a income of £6 a week or by a pensioner couple with a total income of £1 1 a week. I remind honorable members that this is the charge incurred even before one telephone call is made.
Similar remarks apply to other groups in the community, such as school committees. I do not know what is the policy in other states, but in Victoria the Education Department does not provide telephones at schools; Often, the service is provided through the good offices of the mothers’ club, which meets the cost. The recent increases in rentals amount to a tax on mothers’ clubs, since they have to pay the increase if telephones are to be retained in schools. Surely no one would argue that a telephone is not essential in a school with an enrolment anywhere between 500 and 1,500 children, particularly in view of the many emergencies that can arise in a school of any kind and the sort of contact that must be maintained between parents and teachers. These considerations surely highlight the idea that a telephone service should not be regarded as a luxury in the Australian community in 1964. lt should rather be regarded as an essential feature of the Australian way of life, and the costs of providing such an essential service should be treated as developmental costs.
The same sort of argument applies to telephone services in country areas. The distances between telephone users, on the average, are greater there than in the towns and cities. Why should certain costs be loaded on to subscribers in country areas? The imposition of higher charges for country telephone services is a tax, if you like to so describe it, that works against decentralisation by making living costs in the country higher than they need be. Governments should weigh all these considerations one against the other. My colleague, the honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Jones), voiced the burden of a complaint here the other evening when he described the position in Newcastle. Though that is a handsome city, it does not rank, in terms of population and amenities, with Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Adelaide. Nevertheless, for the purposes of telephone rentals, it is treated on the same basis.
There is plenty of evidence that flexibility could have been provided in the imposition of increased telephone charges. Indeed, if one reads the regulations carefully one will find that flexibility in the interpretation of them is allowed for. We suggest, however, that the flexibility for which provision has been made is flexibility without humanity. What we want is flexibility based on the recognition that some sections of the Australian community are not as well able to meet these increased charges as other groups are. We do not believe that increased charges, overall, were necessary. But, even if they were necessary, they should have been imposed in a less irksome fashion that would have made the additional burden less onerous for some sections of the community. We should have differentiated between certain areas in respect of which we have not differentiated. We should have differentiated between certain telephone users. In particular, we should have considered the position of people whose circumstances were outlined in the letters that I read to the House - blind persons, those in the community who are aged and indigent, and also welfare organisations of various kinds. These organisations may not use their telephones for many calls in a week or even a year, but each call is probably more significant than each call made by a person who uses bis telephone merely to engage in idle chatter. I suppose that we shall always have people like that with us. Most people, however, do not always rush to the telephone with pleasure when it rings. Nevertheless, the telephone provides a means of communication that cannot be provided in any other way in the modern conditions of 1964. That means of communication should be available at the lowest possible cost. Above all, the charge made for the service ought to be equitably apportioned among various users according to their circumstances. Therefore, Mr. Deputy Speaker, we have chosen to move for the disallowance of the amending regulations.
– Is the motion seconded?
– I second the motion and reserve my right to speak to it.
– Mr. Deputy Speaker, we have heard a remarkable contribution to this debate by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean), who has moved for the disallowance of six regulations which amend the Telephone Regulations. He mentioned by number the amend ments to regulations 29, 29a, 43, 64, 91 and 147a. Overall, these six amending regulations provide for the imposition of the increased telephone charges announced in conjunction with the recent Budget. The honorable member, however, concentrated his attention this afternoon on one amending regulation only - that providing for an adjustment in the charging categories in respect of telephone services. I would have expected him, since he moved for the disallowance of the regulation amending regulation 29a, which provides for an increase in the service connection fee, to devote some time to that matter. But, apparently, that is of no concern to him or to the Opposition. Nor are they concerned, apparently, about the charges for services on privately erected lines in the country. Evidently, the only thing about which the honorable member for Melbourne Ports is concerned is the re-adjustment or reclassification of telephone rental charges and the level at which they have been fixed in these new regulations.
I wish first to discuss recent events. The honorable member mentioned that, not long ago, the House had before it a Bill to amend the Post and Telegraph Rates Act. That Bill made certain provision in relation to two particular matters. One was a not very momentous increase, if I may say so, in charges for telegrams, and the other was a 30 per cent, reduction in bulk postage rates. The honorable member mentioned that an amendment to the motion for the second reading of that Bill had been proposed. It was proposed by him on 23rd September last. It is interesting to note that it was in these terms -
That all words after “ That “ be omitted wilh a view to inserting the following words in place thereof: - “ this House condemns the unnecessary and unjust action taken by the Government to increase the charges imposed on telephone users”.
That amendment had no relationship to the subject matter of the Bill that was before the House, but with the indulgence of the Chair, we were allowed to debate all aspects of the subject. So, on 23rd September we had before us a motion condemning the Government for the increased telephone charges. Today, on the eve, if I may use the term, of the discussion of the estimates for the Postmaster-General’s Department, this motion is moved. I have no doubt that during the estimates debate we will have considerable discussion of the matters that have been referred to by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports. I feel that there is an element of considerable redundancy about this debate. It can be put in the category of needless repetition and, of course, we must ask why we have this needless repetition. Within two or three weeks, three opportunities have been taken to debate the same subject. I can believe only that this is a political move by the Opposition, because only a week ago the date of the Senate election was announced. The Opposition apparently believes that it may win some votes by protesting about telephone charges, and it continually creates opportunities for the public to learn that it appears to be against these charges.
I think we should look at this matter on the basis of policies. It is very interesting to read what could be interpreted as a policy in relation to this Department. I put it in this form -
Since the department exercises such a prudent control of its economy, and the Government has every confidence in the controlling officers of the Postal Department in this respect, the only courses facing the Government in the light of the inescapable increases in costs were -
to reduce expenditure by withdrawing or restricting services;
to operate the Postal Department at a loss and meet the deficit from Consolidated Revenue; or
to increase the charges in a reasonable manner.
The first course had to be dismissed in the public interests. The withdrawal of facilities and the restriction of services at a time when the demand for an expansion of these facilities is at the highest level in history, would give rise to justifiable nationwide criticism and retard national development which the Postal Department has always actively assisted and promoted. The operation of the department at a heavy financial loss would place an added burden on taxpayers generally, whereas an increase of charges for the services rendered means that, the users of these services will make the necessary increased contribution. Equity demands that the last course be followed.
I repeat tha* the last course was - an increase of charges for the services rendered means that the users of these services will make the necessary increased contribution.
I think perhaps members of the Opposition would not want to disagree with that as a statement of policy,
– I certainly disagree with it. It is completely opposed to my philosophy.
– That is very interesting, because this is taken from the report at page 1 197 of “ Hansard “ of 21st June 1949 of the second reading speech made by the present Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell), who was then Minister for Information and Minister for Immigration, on the Post and Telegraph Rates Bill 1949.
– In those 16 years we may have learned something.
– It would be interesting for Opposition members to remember the enunciated policy of their leader, and it would be interesting for me to know that there may have been a substantial alteration of the policy. The honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) has said that he disagrees.
– Very strongly.
– We now must decide between his leadership and that of his rightful leader, the honorable member for Melbourne. The passage I have read represents the Government’s policy and, irrespective of the honorable member for Eden-Monaro, I believe that I am entitled to accept that it represents the policy of the Australian Labour Party, because it was stated by the Leader of that Party. Therefore, we are in agreement on the policy that should be applied to deal with the economics of the Post Office. The only point of difference appears to be on the question of the interest charge, which was referred to this afternoon by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports. I repeat what I said only a couple of weeks ago. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports was a member of the Public Accounts Committee which considered this question and which unanimously sent to the Government a suggestion that this aspect of Post Office costs should be looked at by the Government.
– Should be looked at, yes.
– I think if you, as a member of the Public Accounts Committee, had resented the inclusion of interest as a cost, you would have submitted a minority report and, perhaps with your Labour cotleagues, expressed an attitude opposed to the inclusion of interest. But you did not do that. The Government considered the suggestion and decided that there should be an interest charge. But as I pointed out a fortnight ago, the Government decided that there should be an interest charge not only for the Postal Department but also for nearly every business undertaking in the Commonwealth financed from Commonwealth resources. In my speech a fortnight ago, I enumerated some seven or eight different organisations of the Commonwealth that pay a dividend or pay interest on the money advanced to them. So the Post Office is in exactly the same category and comes within a principle that the Government has enunciated and has accepted.
Having determined that it would charge interest, it then appointed an Ad Hoc Committee. Included in the membership of the Committee were a representative of the Treasury and a representative of the Post Office, whose views in the two reports cancelled one another. The Committee also had three outsiders amongst its members. The majority decided that the Post Office should have a certain assessed level of capital; the minority decided that it should be a lesser figure. The Government divided the amount. The Committee said what it believed was the correct interest rate to be charged and the Government accepted the Committee’s recommendation. The Government has one view on the question of interest and the Opposition has another view. We arc poles apart. However, I shall refer to comments made by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports when he spoke only a few weeks ago. He said then -
It may be argued that it is just as equitable to extract the money from the users of telephone services as it is to get ‘it from the taxpayers by way of additional income tax or some other sort of tax.
Therefore, the honorable member for Melbourne Ports would agree that there is room for a difference of opinion on this matter. I say, and the Government says, that the users of the telephones should pay the costs, that this should not be a charge against general taxpayers, most of whom are not users of telephones in the sense that they pay the rental of a telephone. Many of them, of course, use the public telephones. So it does not matter how long or how often we argue about this question; we will find the Government agreeing that there should bc an interest charge and the Opposition believing that there should not be. If Labour is ever returned to government, it will be interesting to see what it does about this matter.
Now let us look at the substance of the regulation that has been referred to by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports. The schedule I distributed to honorable members at the time the Budget was introduced showed that there were no fewer than 80 different telephone tariffs throughout Australia. The officers of the Telephone Branch of the Postal Department who were required to make an assessment in relation to each application for a telephone had to know or to refer to the 80 different tariffs to determine which one applied. We have by this regulation reduced the number to nine. I believe that in the interests of efficiency within the Department it is much preferable to have nine different tariffs than it is to have 80 different tariffs. We have always lauded the efforts of the Public Accounts Committee to encourage greater efficiency within the Public Service. This is one way in which greater efficiency can be introduced into the Post Office.
I appreciate that some members of the community are hit harder than others, but I do not know of any rationalisation policy that does not have that sort of effect. In any rationalisation scheme some are treated less harshly than others, and some are treated more harshly than others. This is the situation in this case.
– Can you not try to even it out?
– I know that the honorable member for Eden-Monaro was not here two or three weeks ago and he may say that we have treated the people with residential telephones much more harshly than we have treated business people, but it was pointed out at that time that back in 1930 we bad exactly the same rentals for residential telephones as we had for business telephones. We have gone back to that situation because those who rent telephones for residential purposes do not provide an income equal to the cost of maintaining a telephone line and of meeting the capital. I repeat what I said a couple of weeks ago, that the average cost of installing a telephone is £570. The annual cost for the maintenance of the telephone, including capital charges, is £57. The average income from residential users prior to the introduction of this regulation was £25, so there has been a loss of £32 in relation to every residential telephone. The business user, on the other hand–
– You have spread your costs and taken an average of the aggregate.
– I do not know how we could make an analysis of 2 million telephone users to find that this one or that one provided a different amount of revenue. We must take an average. The annual revenue from the average telephone used for business purposes is £78, so the business user of a telephone is in fact substantially carrying the residential user at the present time. Taking an average between residential and business connections, we are losing at the moment £7 a year on every telephone that is installed.
Many people may believe that the cost of £570 is abnormally high, but we have examined the figures for the electricity undertakings of the States and have found that our capital cost is lower than the capital cost of the electricity undertakings which provide electricity to homes in the States. They have an entirely different basis of charging. I know that the costs vary in different States, but I shall refer to the situation in Queensland. If a new area in Queensland requires electricity the electricity authority makes an assessment of the capital cost. It then goes to individuals and says, perhaps: “ You will have to guarantee a revenue of £110; you will have to find £95; and you will have to find £90.” And so on. So the figure is adjusted in accordance with the total number who will take the service, and if one individual does not take the service the others in that area must pay an additional amount. If we could apply this principle in regard to telephones and could accept that the minimum’ that people would have to pay was to be the cost of maintaining a telephone - £57 - we in the Post Office would be quite happy. But because we cannot have this, and because we recognise that in relation to many people this would be inequitable, we make a charge which we believe has some comparison with the charges that have applied over a very long period.
I mentioned a little while ago some amendments which were introduced by the
Labour Party in 1949. It is interesting that those who speak for the Labour Opposition today speak with a very different voice from those who were speaking for the Labour Party in 1949. When the tariffs were increased in 1949 the total amount of additional revenue was to be £5.5 million in a full year. The present Leader of the Opposition said at that time that the increase represented an overall increase of 16 per cent. in all Post Office charges, including postal charges, telegraph and telephone charges. Taking the telephone aspect separately, the increase in those charges of £4.2 million represented a 28 per cent. increase in telephone charges imposed by the Labour Government in 1949. The people who in this debate are claiming that they represent the average member of the community who, they say, has been harshly dealt with, are the people who put on these exorbitant charges at that time. In 1949 the charge for telegrams was increased by no less than 66 per cent. for distances up to 15 miles and 50 per cent. for telegrams going beyond 15 miles. Yet the people who. increased those charges now say how harsh we are in our treatment of the people. The increase in tariffs on this occasion represents an increase in telephone earnings of only 9 per cent., and over the whole gamut of Post Office charges represents 6 per cent. of our total earnings - 6 per cent. against 16 per cent. imposed by the Labour Party. The Government rejects this motion of the Opposition.
– Order! The Minister’s time has expired.
.- I support the move to disallow the regulations that would inflict very heavy charges on pensioners and poor people who cannot afford to pay the charges but need the facilities. During the debate on the Post and Telegraph Rates Bill, which increased telephone charges so as to raise about £10 million in extra revenue, I said that the Government was using the Post Office as a taxing machine to raise revenue for expenditure on other departments. I repeat that charge: The Postmaster-General (Mr. Hulme) and the Government are using the Post Office as a taxing instrument. During that debate I made comparisons showing what has been done and what is being done in the way of discrimination against the Post Office. No other Commonwealth Department is being used or treated in the same way. No other Commonwealth body which is rendering a service to the public is called upon to pay interest on the expenditure on its capital works programme or its general development. 1 will compare the treatment meted out to the Post Office with the treatment of the Department of Civil Aviation. The Postmaster-General and other Government supporters have argued that there is a difference. I am unable to define the difference. The Post Office is a service dealing with communications. It conveys a telegram from one point to another or a letter from one point to another, or it arranges to take a telephone conversation from one point to another. On the other hand, the Department of Civil Aviation is a service department concerned with carrying passengers and freight from one point to another. I cannot see that there is any difference. Both departments are providing a service to the whole of the community, and revenue raised by each department should be used for its development, expansion and maintenance. If the revenue is insufficient then the additional sum necessary should come from the general revenue fund by way of appropriation bills, which is the method used in connection with every other service.
I wish to refer again to the Post Office accounting system. The explanation given by the Postmaster-General of this system was nothing but a subterfuge in my opinion. We know that in 1959 the Treasury commenced to charge interest on the money provided to the Post Office for its capital works programme. In this year’s Budget £77 million is provided for the capital works programme of the Post Office. The Post Office will have to pay interest on that money. The Post Office was required to pay interest on money provided for its capital works programme only from 1959 onwards, when the principle of paying interest was introduced, but the Government decided that interest should be charged on all money provided for the capital works programme since Federation in 1901.
In his speech on the Post and Telegraph Rates Bill the Postmaster-General tried to explain away the Government’s action. I must refer to this matter again so that there will be no doubt about how unfairly the Government is treating the public. The Government is inflicting a very heavy burden on telephone users and imposing an unfair restriction on people who would like to have a telephone if they could afford one. In his speech on the Post and Telegraph Rates Bill the Postmaster-General said that in charging interest on money appropriated for the Post Office the Treasury was acting on the recommendation of the Public Accounts Committee. I completely disagree with that statement. In his speech on the Bill the Postmaster-General said -
The honorable member for Melbourne Ports said that tha ad hoc committee- the Fitzgerald committee - was obsessed with the idea of the Post Office as a business undertaking and not a utility. He said that too much emphasis was placed on the Post Office as a business and that more emphasis should be placed on it as a utility. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports and I were members of the Public Accounts Committee when that Committee brought down its twelfth report. The Committee at that time considered financial matters relating to the Post Office. Every member of the Committee, be he from the Opposition or from this side of the Parliament, was a signatory to the recommendations contained in the twelfth report. Paragraph 480 (2) of that report stated -
Although organised on traditional departmental lines the Postmaster-General’s Department should also be regarded as a business undertaking.
That is the only reference to the Government’s action of charging interest. The Public Accounts Committee did not set up the Fitzgerald committee to bring down the recommendation of which the Postmaster-General speaks. The Fitzgerald committee was set up by the Government. Its terms of reference must have been formulated by the Government. It must have been the Government’s intention to use the Post Office as a taxing machine.
A perusal of the financial report of the Post Office for the year ended 30th June 1964 indicates how heavy is the interest slug on the Post Office. Total interest charged in 1963-64 was £25,227,557. Interest charged on funds provided to 30th June L963 and, of course, dating back to 1901, was £24,618,830. Interest on net cash advance during 1963-64 was £640,871. The total interest was £25,259,701. A glance at that phenomenal charge on the earnings of the Post Office indicates the impossible position in which the Government has placed the Post Office as a business undertaking.It can never be a success. Total earnings in 1963-64 of the postal section amounted to £53,288,260. Total earnings from the telephone section amounted to £102,548,577 and total earnings of the telegraph section amounted to £8,809,728. The total earnings of the Post Office were £164,646,565. Despite those high earnings the Post Office incurred a loss of more than £296,000. The interest charged amounts to 15 per cent. of earnings. It is this kind of financing that has crippled the railways systems in the States. They are burdened with this interest charge and they cannot make a financial success of their business. The Post Office was never intended to be treated in this way. This interest burden wilt mean that the Post Office can never be a financial success. As has happened in the State railways systems, the interest burden will become heavier and the interest charge expressed as a percentage of earnings will continue to increase.
Since the Government has been charging interest on money provided for capital development of the Post Office the interest charges have cost the Post Office £100 million. Compare the Government’s treatment of the Post Office with its treatment of civil aviation. Since the establishment in this country of air services the Government has spent £170 million on aerodromes, runways, airport facilities, maintenance and other services. In addition the Government has provided millions of pounds in subsidies to private airline companies. The Government is prepared to spend millions of pounds on civil aviation - to give money away in some instances - without charging any interest.
To give a better idea of what the Government is doing for civil aviation I obtained some statistics on the subject. The figures that I have date back only to 1959- 60 to coincide with the date when interest charges were first levied on the Post Office. In 1959-60 the total income of the Department of Civil Aviation was £1,871,941. Expenditure in that year by the Department was £18,455,657. In 1960- 61 the Department’s income was £2,621,020 and its expenditure was £21,686,798. In 1963-64 the Department’s income had increased to £5,400,260 and its expenditure in various ways amounted to £21,743,855. It is estimated that in the current year the Department’s income will be £4,652,000 and its expenditure £25,890,500. It is important to remember that included in the Department’s income are the profits earned by Trans-Australia Airlines and Qantas Empire Airways Ltd. This year T.A.A. is expected to make a profit of £525,000 and Qantas is expected to earn £974,000. Those amounts are shown as income of the Department of Civil Aviation. So a high percentage of the Department’s income is accounted for by the earnings of national services such as T.A.A. and Qantas. The expenditure, however, which is £25.8 million this year, provides facilities for airline companies. I believe that the Post Office should be treated in the same way as the Department of Civil Aviation.
I have the relevant figures for the Post Office. In the first year after the Fitzgerald committee presented its recommendation on interest charges, the Post Office had to find £15.3 million. Honorable members will recollect that at that time, in order to meet that heavy interest burden, the Post Office had to increase its charges. The interest charge has crept up from £15 million to £17 million, to £20 million, to £21 million and to £25 million this year, as revealed by the figures contained in the report of the Postmaster-General. So I believe that there is discrimination against the Post Office. I do not believe that interest should be charged, because it hits people who are unable to afford increased payments.
The Government is using the Post Office as a taxing instrument at the expense of age and invalid pensioners. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean) referred to blind people. The telephone is their only possible means of communication with the outside world. Surely they should receive a concession; The benevolent institutions which do a lot of charitable work for unfortunate people will have to pay these exorbitant charges. The Government seems to have no mercy for such people. On the other hand, look at its treatment of wealthy business people and wealthy company directors. People in business receive taxation deductions in respect of the telephone charges that they pay. When they make up their income tax returns at the end of the financial year, they claim as deductions the £20 that they have to pay for the rental of a telephone, plus the cost of all their calls. For a business man, it does not matter what the telephone rental is because he will get back in the form of taxation concessions all the money that he pays. What is good for the rich should be good for the poor. A similar concession should be given to pensioners. When the blind pensioners come here tomorrow they will try to find a soft spot in somebody’s heart. I hope that the Government will grant them the same concessions as it gives to wealthy business people in the form of taxation concessions.
Recently I received in the post a pamphlet from the Postmaster-General’s Department. It begins with the words “ Deal Customer”. I think it should have said “ dear Post Office charges “. It says -
Certain telephone charges are being increased as from 1st October, 1964. You are entitled to know why. These are the facts behind the tariff increases.
Then a number of reasons are given. In relation to the past five years it says -
The telephone service was improved and expanded at a rate faster than ever before;
Operating costs rose mainly as a result of wage rises; 1
The salary and wages bill rose by 30%;
Through greater efficiency and the unprecedented use of mechanisation over £11,000,000 of these costs were absorbed;
The telephone network grew by 30%;
Telephone traffic rose by 40%;
The staff increased by only 4%;
The trading record of the past five years shows two small annual profits followed by three successive losses totalling about £5 million;
The recent basic wage decision will add £7,000,000 to Post Office costs; . . .
It gives a number of reasons why it is necessary to increase telephone charges, but it does not tell the people about the increase in the interest payment. As the honorable member for Melbourne Ports pointed out, if that interest were not charged the Post Office would be making a huge profit and probably would be able to provide more facilities than it is providing at present. We know that in New South Wales more than 20,000 people are still waiting for telephones. If that money were used to give people the telephones that they need, the community would be better off than it is under the system of the Post Office having to meet this interest burden. I have much pleasure in saying that I hope that these regulations, which will inflict hardship on poor people and pensioners, will be disallowed by the House.
.- The honorable member for Banks (Mr. Costa) has a benevolent heart, and that does him credit. However, he has strayed a little from the real issue. What we are concerned with are regulations to increase the telephone connection fee from £10 to £15 - an increase of £5 - and to increase telephone rentals, not call charges. The rental increases differ according to whether people live in the country or a city and so forth. For example, in a city like Sydney the rental will be increased from £14 12s. 6d. to £20 per annum. The regulations also provide for increases in charges for various miscellaneous services. This is the sole issue before the House.
I believe that one should look at the circumstances in which the Postmaster-General (Mr. Hulme) has decided that increases are necessary. Let us look at this matter in the context in which he would see it. The last re-adjustment of telephone charges was made in 1959 - five years ago. In the interval, wage costs have increased by about £17 million per annum - by £10 million or £11 million until the recent basic wage increase, which added another £6 million or £7 million per annum. As a result of those increases in wages, over the last three years there has been a cumulative deficit of about £5 million.
It may be said that with greater efficiency it would not be necessary to increase charges. The Post Office has a pretty good record in this respect. Telephone traffic has increased by 40 per cent, since 1959, yet the increase in staff has been only of the order of 4 per cent. This has been achieved through mechanisation. I do not think any honorable member can argue that much more could have been done, by way of increased efficiency, to reduce the need for the increased charges that are now proposed. The Postmaster-General told us previously and also this afternoon - this is not disputed - that the average cost of installing a telephone today is £570. When the capital charges and maintenance charges are taken into account, on every additional telephone the Post Office makes not a profit but a loss of £7 per annum. That is the context in which the Postmaster-General has had to consider whether or not charges should be increased and, if they should be increased, in what way they should be increased.
It is at this point that the question of principle arises. That is the matter that has been raised by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean) and the honorable member for Banks. lt is the question whether the Post Office should be required to pay interest at the rate of about 4 or 44 per cent, on the capital of about £600 million that is employed in the undertaking. The interest payable on that capital is of the order of £20 million a year. From the way the honorable member for Banks spoke, one would suppose that that £20 million in the form of an interest charge was the sole reason why charges had to be increased so exorbitantly, as he claimed. But taken in conjunction with the fact that the revenue of the Post Office is about £160 million a year, the interest charge clearly is a relatively small amount.
When this matter was last debated - this is the second time it has been debated, and it will be debated a third time, of course, for political reasons - the honorable member for Melbourne Ports pointed out that in the United States the Post Office makes quite a substantial loss. The United Kingdom Post Office aims at making a profit of about 8 per cent. In Australia the intention is that the Post Office should make a profit of 4 or 41 per cent. It has failed to do this in recent years, of course, because wages costs, direct and indirect, have risen so substantially.
It may be a matter of dispute whether interest charges should be imposed or not, but let us be clear about this: The money has to be found, whether by way of a charge on telephone users or by way of general taxation. This issue, therefore, is whether it is more equitable to raise the money by way of telephone charges or from the general taxpayer. It is my belief - and I would take a lot of convincing that it is wrong - that people are much happier to pay a charge for some specific service than to pay a general taxation charge into some bottomless fund for some nebulous advantages that they cannot assess. I believe that it is better to raise this £20 million by way of a charge on telephone users for a service they receive than by way of general revenue. Indeed, I would be astonished if the Labour Party, on attaining office some day, and particularly the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean) if he should be Treasurer, altered the procedure at present being followed.
The honorable member for Banks (Mr. Costa) compared the Post Office with the Department of Civil Aviation. The Post Office and telephone services have been in operation for very many years. I can remember telephones when I was a boy - and that was some years ago. But civil aviation has developed only within recent years. The major development has occurred since the Second World War. It is still at the developmental stage and it may well be that the Government considers it should not impose charges on civil aviation in its pioneering stage that it may not be able to bear. But I hope that in due course, when civil aviation is fully developed, the Government will follow the same principle in relation to that activity as it follows in respect of the Post Office. These are business undertakings and I think a proper charge should be made for the capital invested in a business, whether it be the Post Office or, in due course, the business of civil aviation, or, indeed, any other enterprise that the Government conducts, unless there are very special reasons for some concession, such as a desire, for policy reasons, to give a subsidy, as it were, to help some particular service.
What has concerned me most in this field is something in which I have taken a wide interest in recent times. I refer to the lag in the provision of telephones. 1 do not want to weary the House with statistics. which are always boring, but I point out that at 30th June this year there were 50,340 outstanding applications for telephones in Australia. During the last four years the position has been that in the first two of those years there was some improvement. That is to say, the number of outstanding applications diminished each year. But in the second period of two years the position has become worse - worse in the third year and still worse in the fourth year. Many people in my own electorate have applications which are still outstanding. I find that there are innumerable people who are perfectly willing and able to pay for a service that they require but which they cannot get. They say to me: “ If we want to buy a car we can get it. Almost anything we want we can get. We are prepared to pay for a telephone service. We are not asking for charity or a social service. We are asking for something that we want and are prepared to pay for, but which we cannot obtain.”
– From a department which enjoys a legal monoply.
– Well, I do not know what the relevance of that remark is. I am merely saying that they are prepared to pay for a telephone and cannot get it. This is what concerns me: If you make a charge for telephones which is less than the economic cost then of course you will inflate the demand. If you offer motor cars for half their present price you will, of course, double the demand. 1 believe the charge for a telephone should be a proper economic charge and that there should not be any bargain prices for them. There are many people who want them and are prepared to pay for them and there should be an economic charge for them. lt has been said that pensioners should receive special concessions. The Opposition has not been very clear as to what pensioners should receive concessions or what the concessions should be. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports said that there were 600,000 age pensioners. He did not say they should all receive telephones at reduced rental rates or what the reduced rental rates should be, but by mentioning 600,000 age pensioners I think he implied that they should all receive some concession, if he did not make this implication, why should he mention their number? I would add that we have 100,000 invalid pensioners as well. If you are going to offer telephones at bargain prices to 700,000 people the cost of the concession will be very considerable indeed.
By whom would this increased cost be borne? Presumably by other users of telephone services. If this were so, then instead of there being any reduction of charges or stabilising of charges, they might well have to be increased. But the Opposition has said nothing in detail about this. It has merely tried to leave the impression that its members are the friends of all pensioners. Members of the Opposition surely cannot really mean that substantial concessions should be given to every one of these 700,000 people. They certainly would not mean it if they were in office. It may be that there is a case for some concession for some classes of pensioners. The honorable gentleman referred to blind persons, and it may be that there are some other classes of pensioners to whom a concession might be granted. But the question arises whether the concession should be granted - if it is to be granted at all - by the Post Office or by the Department of Social Services. It may be said that this is a quibble, but I do not believe it is. If this kind of concession is to be regarded as a social service it should be looked at in relation to all other social services. It should have its proper priority as a social service.
What would be involved in this? We would have to provide for a pensioner a telephone costing £570 and then we would have to sustain a loss, even at present charges, of at least £7 a year - and it may be that the Opposition suggests an even greater concession than £7 a year. This is a very considerable gift to recipients of social service benefits, and the question might well be considered by the Department of Social Services whether the cost of a benefit as substantial as this would not be better spent in some other direction for the benefit of pensioners. I personally believe that it is far better that benefits to pensioners should be given in the form of monetary payments to be used as they think fit rather than that they should, as it were, have telephones shoved down their necks when many of them really would not want telephones and would much prefer to have the money.
It is not a mere quibble to say that this is a matter for the Department of Social Services rather than the Post Office.
In the few minutes remaining I would like to say a word about one specific matter raised by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports. He referred to the great hardship imposed upon telephone users in Canberra. I do not know whether people who live in Canberra like it to be thought that they live in a country town rather than a capital city. There is a higher rate for capital cities, and it may be that for the purpose of telephone charges the people of Canberra would like to be considered as living in a country town, while for purposes of social prestige they would like to be considered as living in a capital city. I do not know whether this is their feeling or not. But the substantial point I want to raise is this: In Hobart there are 21,688 telephone services, in Newcastle 24,700 and in Canberra 17,150. This means that Canberra has approximately 4,000 telephone services fewer than Hobart has. But, on the other hand, Canberra is growing very rapidly. Within the course of a year or two at the most, Canberra will certainly have as many telephone services as Hobart. I do not know whether the people of Canberra think that their city should be rated below Hobart. Perhaps the people of Hobart would feel pleased if this was done. But if these charges are fair for Hobart then they are fair for Canberra. It is quite true that the population of each city is different. The population of Hobart is 120,000 and the population of Canberra is 70,000. But if there are more telephone services in Canberra in relation to population than there are in Hobart this must be because there are more wealthy people in Canberra than in Hobart and, on the reasoning of the honorable member for Banks, these wealthy people should indeed pay the extra charge. I would agree with him on this score. I think I have said all that needs to be said on this subject. The matter has been ventilated once already and it will be ventilated again in the near future. I have nothing further to add to my remarks.
.- Mr. Speaker–
Motion (by Mr. Kelly) put -
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Sir John McLeay.)
Majority . . 19
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question put -
That the motion (Mr. Crean’s) be agreed to.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Sir John McLeay.)
Majority . . 19
Question so resolved in the negative.
Bill received from the Senate, and read a first time.
Consideration resumed from 20th October (vide page 2125).
Department of Defence.
Proposed expenditure, £5,279,000.
Department of the Navy.
Proposed expenditure, £69,212,000.
Department of the Army.
Proposed expenditure, £94,185,000.
Department of Air.
Proposed expenditure, £90,015,000.
Department of Supply.
Proposed expenditure, £33,044,000.
Defence Services - General Services.
Proposed expenditure, £1,379,000.
.- I think that when debating the Defence estimates it is necessary that we consider not only our defence policy but also the background to that policy. Clearly then, the first subject with which we have to be concerned is that of nuclear weapons. I think it is true to say that the very essence of nuclear weapons is their tremendous power of destruction and the massive resources that are required to make and to use them. I think those two characteristics of nuclear weapons are beyond dispute.
All people in any part of the world who know anything of the situation will agree that certain distinct consequences flow from those characteristics. The first consequence is that there is almost general agreement that there is no defence against nuclear weapons and, therefore, that they should never be used. It is sometimes said that the real purpose of nuclear weapons is to act as a deterrent. It is never said that they should be used in war. I think that this conviction came to the world as early as 1954. Certainly by 1959 we had reached the position that the American Secretary of State, Herter, had this to say -
We face a test no society has ever fully met: how to make competition the life, not the death, of nations.
At that time President Eisenhower said -
The United States is determined to turn the course of history away from war and towards a lasting peace.
Clearly, those leaders were talking as though the nuclear weapon was a new and decisive factor in the history of the world. Perhaps it may be said that the leaders of China do not believe this is so. Some statements made by Mao Tse-tung support the belief that the leaders of China do not believe it. Some of the statements made by the leaders of that country are most disturbing and, if taken at their face value, imply a lack of concern for human beings amounting to almost an insane condition.
The Chinese view may be based on the belief that was held by many others prior to 1954 - the belief that nuclear weapons are not decisive weapons. We know that conclusions about the decisiveness of weapons have been made before. They were made about gunpowder soon after it was first brought into use; they were made about air power and about chemical bombs. The Italian Douhet, the American Mitchell and Englishman Groves all argued that these were decisive weapons against which there was no defence. But they did not prove decisive and there was a defence. We know that for some years after the Second World War quite a number of people said that this was not true about the kind of bomb used on Hiroshima. It is possible that some of the arguments put forward by the leaders of China, disturbing as they are, follow that trend. But at any rate it is pretty clear that by the time the fusion bomb was fully in use and a missile system was in existence the greater part of the world had the view that nuclear weapons could not be used in war and that there was no defence against them. This created a totally different situation: If they were never to be used, they were mainly a deterrent. In small wars particularly there could be no tactical use of nuclear weapons whatever.
The next conclusion that flows from this is that nuclear weapons are for only two or three nations in the world. Clearly enough. The fact that massive resources are required to produce and deliver nuclear weapons means that countries like Britain and France just can never be nuclear powers. The nuclear powers at most can be the United States, the Soviet Union, and perhaps in about ten years time China, but no other nation can be a nuclear power. This means that the control over their use as a deterrent - the fundamental factors in policy - are for these two or three nations to decide. Other nations can have only a very marginal - a very peripheral - influence on what is done. What is done about them is for the nuclear powers to decide.
To my mind it next follows that the nuclear powered countries I have mentioned should have the closest possible relations both diplomatically with one another and within the United Nations. How could the Cuban crisis of 1962 have been solved in the way it was solved if the Soviet Union and the United States had not had diplomatic relations - if they had not both been members of the United Nations so that the Secretary-General could act as an intermediary between them? That crisis was risky enough as it was. How could it have been solved if they had been separated? This is the unanswerable argument to my mind for diplomatic recognition and membership of the United Nations of all nuclear powers. We cannot afford to try to walk the tight rope across the abyss of nuclear destruction without those nations being in close touch with one another.
The last conclusion that we can draw is that it is time what some people have called the holy war came to an end. I think above all the power of nuclear weapons seems to justify the belief that there is no room in the world for a holy war. It may well be that the coming into existence of an absolute enemy just after the Second World War was in part because of the feeling that the atom bomb was an absolute weapon. If you were going to feel justified in using a nuclear bomb on somebody, you had to think they were terribly evil, otherwise you would not have felt justified in using the bomb. The belief that some people have in an absolute enemy is in part derived from that. There are two recent indications, to which I would draw the attention of honorable members, of the change in thinking along these lines. The first is the papal encyclical “ Pacem in Terris “ in which the late Pope John asserted that Communism may bc able to meet the “ dictates of right reason “ and may “ contain elements that are positive and deserving of approval “. On 6th October the Anglican Archbishop of Melbourne, Doctor Woods, stated -
On no account must we permit it to be thought that we of the Western world stand for a Christian battle against the Communist world. … If you think of yourself as fighting Communism, inevitably your object becomes unlimited, and indeed unattainable. . . . Let us not fall into the trap out of which Russia is at this very time extricating herself. They are discovering that politics and compromise go hand in hand. We can be confident that just as Russia is finding its ideology a handicap, so eventually will China. 1 think that ideology is a handicap to quite a number of people on the Western side, and I think that nuclear weapons involve such devastation to the world that it is time those handicaps were given up.
Of course, if we are in a condition of nuclear stalemate, and if we can survive the entry of China into this field as a nuclear power and still maintain a nuclear stalemate, this does not mean that there will be no wars. Much can go on under what is called the nuclear umbrella. There have been wars, and there will be wars, in which nuclear weapons were not and will not be used. I suggest that these wars can be considered of two types - the revolutionary war and the national war. There is a mixture of both; some of the revolutionary wars have national elements, and some of the national wars have revolutionary characteristics. I think the evidence shows that revolutionary wars are mainly indigenous - internal. Examples of this type of war are those in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. I have examined the evidence of this over a period of years and as far as I have been able to discover there is no evidence whatever of any material assistance coming from outside Vietnam - from any country outside that area. Well over 90 per cent, of what is done there is determined internally.
I have given this Parliament the evidence before, and I will give it again. I challenge anyone to disprove that evidence. What happened there was that there was a population increase by three, four or five times in the last 50 years and economic changes had to take place if that population increase were to be accommodated. But there have been no real economic changes in those areas, and the reason is that the powers that be have in their own interests stopped those changes, and therefore war, predominantly civil war, has come about. The feature of this, as I have suggested, is that there has not been significant outside interference.
The second aspect is that the Western so-called “ dominoes “ theory is not a valid theory. It does not follow that if one of these countries goes predominantly Communist the country next door will do the same. What happens next door is determined predominantly by the conditions next door. Laos and Cambodia are in quite a different condition from South Vietnam.
National wars are mainly indigenous too, but if anything there is more outside interference. For instance, far more weapons have been delivered to Indonesia by the United States of America, the Soviet Union and Great Britain than ever have been given to the Vietcong in South Vietnam. There is far more evidence of far more interference. At the same time I think that what Indonesia has done is not a great danger to this country. I think there is a tendency to overestimate the danger, but it is a danger that we have to bear in mind.
What kind of defence policy, therefore, would this background lead us to adopt? I think, first, in relation to nuclear weapons, that although Australia has a small influence we ought to use that influence in every way to oppose the spread of nuclear weapons, to oppose all tests, and to confine the weapons as much as we can to where they are. We should support nuclear-free area agreements, which are not inconsistent with the great powers’ possession of nuclear weapons. The basic point about these is that they are not inconsistent with this. Great areas of the world can be made free of nuclear weapons in the sense that the small nations in those areas do not have them. We should support United Nations membership and full diplomatic recognition for all nuclear powers. We should oppose the concept and practice of what has been called the holy war. We should support at all times the stopping of hostilities, intercession to end confrontations and support also settlement by negotiation where nuclear weapons are involved.
In respect of revolutionary wars. I think action has to be 80 or 90 per cent, or more economic, social and political, or it will fail. lt has been the other way round as far as the Western policy has tended to be concerned in the past. Where you fail to make it predominantly economic, social and political, intervention will fail. Finally, with regard to these national wars, I think there has to be some containment in both respects. “ think the general policy of containment is a sound policy, but the question is: Where? J think here is where serious mistakes have been made. I do not think proper consideration has been given to where is the best strategic point to make this containment. 1 think as far as the Pacific is concerned it is clear that it is somewhere along the 5,500 mile line from Kamchatka, north of Japan, to say Darwin in the south and then to the east and the west. This is, 1 believe the first line of defence in this policy of containment. Its features are that it is essentially an air and sea line of defence. It is not a land defence like South Vietnam. I believe that the predominant and proper consideration by, for instance, American generals over the last 20 years has been that it is fatal to become involved on the land, that essentially the strategic line of defence is where General MacArthur said it was in 1949 - something like the line I have denned. I think Australia should take part in defence on this line. I think this means that we have to have fast and manoeuvrable air and sea weapons on that line. I think continental defence of Australia is a second line of defence, but necessary anyhow. Here again I think we need to think in terms of fast and manoeuvrable equipment, primarily air and sea weapons, and secondly land weapons. I think so far as Australia is concerned the system needs to be regional, it needs to be on a citizen basis as far as possible. It needs to draw for its uses on those regional areas that are suitable to the requirements of that system.
Sitting suspended from 5.56 to 8 p.m.
.- Mr. Temporary Chairman, the figures that are before us as we consider the estimates for the Defence departments have a considerable bearing on the political situation in which we exist. In this regard, the President of the United States of America, earlier this week, considered that the world situation had developed to such a stage as to make it necessary for him, in radio broadcast and television appearance, to tell the American people about the power reshuffle in Russia and the Chinese nuclear explosion. He said -
On Thursday of last week, from the Kremlin in Moscow, the Soviet Government announced a change in its leadership. On Friday of last week Communist China exploded a nuclear device on an isolated test site in Sinkiang. Both these important events make it right that your President report to you.
In considering the impact of this statement, I note that he mentioned two points: First, he said, we must never forget that the men in the Kremlin remain dedicated Communists. Secondly, he expressed the opinion that there will be turmoil in the Communist world. He concluded -
The key to peace is to be found in the strength and the good sense of the United States. Today we are the strongest nation in all the world and al] the world knows it. We love freedom and we will protect it and preserve it. And today, as always, our purpose is peace.
In the few minutes that are allowed me, I should like to discuss where we, as Australians, fit into this task of protecting and preserving peace and to consider the extent to which it can be said that Australia has fallen down in the past in her defence commitments and the extent to which we should extend those commitments in the future. For this reason, Mr. Temporary Chairman, I was very interested to hear the comments made by the honorable member for Yarra (Dr. J. F. Cairns) and to hear his assessment of the political situation in South East Asia. I can agree with very few points in his assessment. 1 think it is essentia] to ascertain just what political situation exists in South Eas Asia with particular emphasis on the implications for Australia. At the same time, we should look at the Estimates and ascertain whether our expenditure on defence is sufficient and whether the funds that are being spent in increasing volume each year are being allocated wisely.
First of all, I was very glad to hear the honorable member for Yarra admit that perhaps there is some ill in China’s having exploded a nuclear weapon. This event appears to me to bc one of the most calamitous that have happened in this sphere of the world in at least the last decade, if not in the entire post-war period. This event has occurred in a situation in which we find a gradual insurgence by China into
South East Asia. This insurgence will be considerably assisted for many of the uneducated and undeveloped peoples in South East Asia will feel that a psychological advantage has been gained by China because it has the ability at this stage to explode a nuclear weapon. I do not consider that view to be supported in military terms- China’s explosion of a nuclear device is not necessarily a military achievement, though it is certainly a political one. I think that even the honorable member for Yarra admitted this. But I was rather intrigued at something else that he said. I may not have understood him quite correctly, but I took him to say that he was glad that Britain had relinquished nuclear armaments and that China was showing her ability to enter the technological age and to design and eventually explode a nuclear weapon. In other words, he implied that he was glad that China had the nuclear bomb and also rather glad that Britain was relinquishing it.
– I do not think he said that.
– That may not be exactly as he said it, but it is certainly what he implied. The existing situation must be looked at, also, in the light of what is happening in the nations to Australia’s near north, particularly countries such as South Veitnam, North Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. The honorable member for Yarra suggested that the situation presently existing there was not one about which Australia should be unduly concerned. He suggested that the internal situation in those countries was rather one of civil warfare and not one in which China or any other nation was endeavouring to force its views on the indigenous peoples. His opinion was that the existing situation had been caused by the increase of population without parallel economic development.
Surely this is not realistic, Mr. Temporary Chairman, in view of the fact that, historically, China has had extensive associations with the area. From time immemorial, China has been linked with the countries of South East Asia in the development of their traditions, their languages and their religions. This association means that the people of those countries have traditionally looked to China for guidance in many fields. Now that China is appearing not only as a nuclear power, but also as a belligerent nuclear power, and is adopting a philosophy and an ideology that have so many grave undertones, I consider that the arguments advanced by the honorable member for Yarra do not hold up. There is no doubt that Communist China has influenced considerably the attitudes of people in South East Asia. 1 believe that the political developments there in the last 10 years have been based largely on influences that have come from China. This is becoming increasingly apparent. I am afraid that the developments resulting from the explosion of a nuclear weapon by China in the last few days will further aggravate the situation.
This being so, the vital consideration for the Australian Government, in a strategic situation which dramatically alters and which can deteriorate, not necessarily in a matter of years, but in a matter of months, weeks or even days, is the allocation of the available resources to the greatest possible advantage. If we agree that there is at present a general deterioration in the political situation to our near north, it is essential that we assess the defence situation accordingly. Here, I may perhaps once again revert to the explanation by the honorable member for Yarra that, in view of developments in South East Asia, we might be wiser if we reverted to the philosophy asserted by General MacArthur - if we looked to the strategic containment of China in the air and on the sea behind a line which the honorable member suggests should run, I think, from Kamchatka to Darwin, thereby relinquishing Asia to Communism, I suggest. The honorable member, of course, does not agree that the action being undertaken by Australian forces in South Vietnam and Malaysia - I believe rightly - is necessary. I think that, if we look at this situation and consider the problem of strategic containment in relation to the forces that Australia has and in relation to our present defence equipment, we all can see the difficulty with which the Government is faced. Surely, with an altering strategic concept, it is extremely difficult for a government which is concerned not only with defence but also with development to allocate sufficient funds to contain a situation that is rapidly deteriorating.
I believe that, at present, the situation is rapidly deteriorating and that, therefore, some ic-orientation of the Government’s thinking is necessary. At the same time, I consider that the forces that we have are particularly well equipped. Within the present limits of our expenditure, Australia not only should be but also is able to hold her head high when we consider the quality of our armaments and the quality of the equipment with which our servicemen are supplied. I think that we realise this when we consider some of the items of equipment mentioned in the document, “Defence Report 1964”, which was issued to members of the Parliament by the Minister for Defence (Senator Paltridge) only last week. Not only are many of those items of equipment well and truly up to date, but also their prerformance is even better than that of equipment possessed by the armed forces of neighbouring countries. Our problem, of course, is one of obsolescence. If we look at the way in which the appropriation for defence has been spent, we find that the Australian Government has continually looked ahead in an effort to solve the problem of obsolescence by purchasing equipment that for some time will more than match in performance the arms of our neighbours. For this reason, the Government ordered the F111A aircraft and the Charles F. Adams class destroyers. The Government is looking ahead and is buying equipment that will, as far as possible, be up to date when it is needed.
Another aspect of ‘defence expenditure is that only approximately £94.9 million of the total of £293 million is being spent on capital equipment - on ships, aeroplanes and arms. This is less than 33 per cent, of the total expenditure. The remainder of the money is required for salaries, payments in the nature of salaries, administrative services and the provision of the thousand and one items that are absolutely necessary to maintain a current defence service. An increase in defence expenditure will accentuate this problem that the Government faces today. The general political situation to our north, as I see it, is deteriorating. In addition, we can purchase only a small quantity of new equipment with the funds allocated. The major part of the money allocated for defence each year is diverted to other items which do not necessarily make Australia better defended. 1 want to come back to a consideration of what should be done when reviewing Australia’s defence needs. I am one of those who would like to see the re-introduction of some form of national service training. However, if we look at this problem realistically and see the possible effect on the economy - and an over-full economy - we must realise how difficult the introduction of a national service training scheme would be at the moment. For this reason, there is no doubt that at this stage we should expend a little more money on capital items - on ships, aeroplanes and arms for the Services. Certainly,, we should provide more equipment for the Services rather than spend more money on increasing manpower, if the effect on Australia’s domestic economy is considered too severe. However, if the situation continues to deteriorate, as it appears to me to be deteriorating at present, the time will eventually arrive when we must recruit additional manpower for our armed forces. If we cannot meet the quotas and the goals that have been set, particularly for the Army, I frankly do not see any alternative to the introduction of some form of compulsory service. Manpower is, after all, the basis of a defence force. But it is the relatively high cost of manpower that makes it difficult at this stage to say to the Government: “ Introduce national service now “.
When we look at the past performances of the Government and recognise the problems that face it, we should applaud it rather than criticise it. Having looked at the political situation and at the cost of maintaining a defence force, we must decide whether the introduction of national service will prejudice the development of our country or whether, in the total situation, the defence of our country will be prejudiced if we do not have national service. I would suggest that this is the problem that should concern the Government when making its defence review. The Government has done a particularly good job in the past, but now the situation has deteriorated to the point where it may be necessary to re-assess manpower needs in the light of the problems [ have mentioned.
– The honorable member for New England (Mr. Sinclair) made the type of speech that we usually hear from him. He seems always to play for both sides. First, he was a little critical of the honorable member for Yarra (Dr. J. F. Cairns). However, I suggest to him that in future he read the “ Hansard “ report of speeches before being critical, lt was nice to hear him being a little critical of the Government’s defence efforts.
– He was critical in a very genteel way.
– Yes. He was very concerned about the situation to the north of Australia. For many years, the Australian Labour Party has been trying to make the Government and the people aware of the need for proper defence forces in northern Australia. Recently, the Government sent 10 Bofors guns to Darwin for the defence of the area. When the Minister was asked a question about this, he said that no one up there could fire the guns. This is the type of defence that the Government has provided. It also sent a squadron of Sabre jet aircraft to the north. At the time, it said the squadron was being sent there on manoeuvres, but when it arrived the Government decided to keep it there. So, we have some Bofors guns and some Sabre jets in northern Australia, and recently a corvette was there to protect the country. This is an illustration of the attitude of the Government to the defence of Australia. In addition to all this, the radar equipment in the north of Australia was working for only 40 hours a week. It was working only between the hours of 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday to Friday. This is a little unusual; it is only rarely that members of the Services receive a 40 hour week without arbitration.
– lt does not work on public holidays.
– That is right, the radar is turned off on public holidays. In the estimates now before the Committee, the Government is providing £293 million for defence. This is an increase of £35 million. The Australian Labour Party believes in the adequate defence of Australia and has been very critical of the manner in which money has been spent by the Government in previous years. The Government has not spent its defence funds wisely. It is futile for the Government to say that our defence system is of a high standard. I do not think anyone would say that our defence forces could give any assistance to other nations. Australia has been allowed to lapse into a tenth rate power. Many honorable members on the Government side seem to be aware of the situation and during this debate have taken the opportunity to advise the Government on the way it should act to provide for our defence. Many of their proposals have been advocated by Labour for many years.
Labour justly believes that the Government has made many errors of judgment in its purchase of defence equipment. Yesterday, in answer to a question asked by the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James), the Minister for Air (Mr. Howson) said that 19 Sabre aircraft have crashed and have been totally lost. Each of these planes costs about £263,000. Eight airmen have been killed in these crashes, nineteen have parachuted to safety and two have escaped from the aircraft on the ground. Surely these accidents must have some effect on the morale of the members of the Royal Australian Air Force, especially those who are called upon to fly the aircraft. Recently, all the Hercules transports purchased by the Government had to be grounded for repairs. This shows the sort of judgment that the Government has used in purchasing equipment. While the Hercules aircraft were grounded, the obsolete pentropic division, which had completed exercises in New Guinea, had to be brought back to Australia in chartered civilian aircraft. This shows that we do not have a decent Air Force and we are not able to provide transport for our troops. We have also been told that it would take three months to move the Centurion tanks to Darwin. This is the type of thing that we have in our defence forces today.
Last year the cost to the taxpayer of recruiting was approximately £740,000. From the results that have been achieved it appears that that expenditure was not warranted. A great deal of this money would have been spent on advertising per medium of Press, television and radio. But let us consider the result of last year’s recruiting campaign by this Government. The total net increase to the combined Services as a result of the recruiting drive was 1,493. The campaign attracted 2,310 men to the Navy, 3,010 men to the Army and 2,169 men to the Air Force. In the same period 1,377 men were discharged from the Navy, 2,162 were discharged from the Army and 1,457 were discharged from the Air Force. The actual gain by the Services was 933 for the Navy, 848 for the Army and 712 for the Air Force. I repeat, as a result of the recruiting drive the total increase in the number of personnel in the Services was 1,493. This increase, together with the increase of 164 in the Citizen Military Forces, cost the country nearly £750.000.
On 2nd September this year the Minister for the Army (Dr. Forbes), in answer to a question by the honorable member for Oxley (Mr. Hayden), stated that it cost approximately £350,000 for all forms of advertising for the Australian Regular Army and the Citizen Military Forces. This expenditure brought a total increase of 1,012 men. That means that £390,000 was spent by the Navy and Air Force on recruiting, with the result that there was an increase, as I have stated, of 1,645. So the cost of advertising for each recruit was more than £200. Perhaps Ministers could have a better look at the recruiting section or at the advertisements that appear in the Press and on television. Those advertisements could be misleading to the public. A pretty rosy picture is painted in the Press about joining the Army, Navy or Air Force. The advertisements say, “ Be taught a trade; make a career in the Services “, and go on to describe what is supposed to be life in the Army. But in all the advertisements that I have read or listened to, not once have I seen or heard that the men will also be taught to kill. I am aware that certain amounts of money must be spent on advertising, but I am aware also that there should be results from the advertising. This could be the Government’s way of repaying those who do not criticise it, who report favorably on the Government and conceal from the people of Australia the full facts about Australia’s defence. Perhaps Ministers will even give thought to changing the Government’s advertising firm, because we are not getting value for the money.
While on the subject of recruiting I should like to refer to one of my constituents, a lad of 26 who applied to join the Army but was rejected. He came to me and as a result 1 made representations to the recruiting office and had him re-examined. He was again rejected on the medical evidence of a doctor who stated that he did not have the required I.Q. to become a member of the Regular Army.
Many honorable members on this side of the chamber have had complaints from constituents who have been rejected for reasons similar to the one that 1 mention. Many of us have been members of the services and from time to time have been called upon to do all types of work. Wc wonder what I.Q. is required by the Army to peel potatoes, sweep up the camp, empty the dirt tins, perform general labouring, carry out batman’s duties, be a truck driver or even clean the latrines.
– Or empty the grease traps.
– Or, as the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory says, empty the grease traps. The armies of today, even with their modern equipment, must have infantry. Every man cannot be a technician.
The case to which I have referred has quite a significance because this lad then joined the New South Wales Fire Brigade. He passed the brigade’s examination, including the medical, and is now in training. I followed up this man’s case to make sure of my facts and was subsequently informed that he was doing remarkably well. Which service requires the higher I.Q. - the fire brigade or the Army? Training and discipline in the fire brigade are of a very high standard because of the work that is involved in fighting fires. I should like to state also that members of the New South Wales Fire Brigade look after fire protection in the Australian Capital Territory, which means that this man, on the completion of his training, could be sent to Canberra as a fireman to fight fires in this capital. But this man did not have sufficient I.Q. to be admitted to the Army. What does this Government want - a cottonwool Army? I think the Minister should have a better look at his recruiting committee and its setup. But it may not be the fault of the committee; the members of the committee could be acting on orders from brasshats or the Government itself. If Australia did have a bigger Army this Government would have to find a lot more money for defence. Then, again, the Government could decide that war tension was not as great as it asked the people to believe and might decide also that we do not require a large Army.
In conclusion I should like to refer to a recent visit to this country of the United States aircraft carrier “ Enterprise “. Many members of the Parliament had the opportunity to visit that ship. I was one of those members who visited it. While aboard I asked the American sailor who took the party on inspections the reasons for the ship’s visit. He said it was on a mission of peace. Well, we will accept that. During the trip from Garden Island to the “ Enterprise “ we passed the Australian warships tied up in the naval dock with no sign of activity. During the whole period of our trip and during the inspection of the “ Enterprise “ the radar equipment on the ship was in full operation, while that of the Australian ships was stationary.
– No 40-hour week on the “ Enterprise “.
– That is correct. I point (his out because we know that until recently the radar stations of the armed forces in the north of Australia were not in operation al week-ends. It appears that the radar systems for the defence of the city of Sydney operate under the same conditions. None of the radar equipment works at the weekend. Consequently, most servicemen have the opportunity to stay home with their families at the week-end.
– No gentleman would attack us at the week-end.
– No, and of course they did not do that on 7th December 194! either, did they? The American visitors knew that our radar stations were not in operation at the week-end, and they were not prepared to take any risks. I conclude on that note.
.- There is a lot that one could say about the speech that has just come from the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Devine). I was fascinated with the modest description he gave of his visit to the United States aircraft carrier “ Enterprise “. He said, “ I spoke to a sailor.” Of course, those who are close to the honorable member tell that story under the heading, “What Lennie said to the Admiral.” He spoke to the Admiral and told him exactly where he was wrong in his thinking and straightened out a few of the more technical problems that beset the United States Navy. I was fascinated to listen to the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) boot into this argument with a sort of flute obligate He said, “No 40-hour week for the Navy.” Here is a modern industrial reformer. We can go out and quote him as “ Gil the destroyer of the 40- hour week.”
I have listened closely and, I hope, sensibly to the debate on these estimates since it was opened last night by the honorable member for Kingston (Mr. Galvin). I want to say to honorable members on both sides that nothing is more intelligible to me than the fact that a person in the National Parliament should speak his mind frankly on the count of defence - nothing at all. I hold no ill will whatever to any person on the other side of the chamber who may have criticised the Government on the count of defence. One thing above all others I ask for, however, is a measure of consistency. I can admire the opponent but I despise willingly the humbug. If ever there has been a measure of humbug running with an argument, there has been in the course of this debate on the Defence estimates.
The proposition is pretty readily tested. Various members of the Labour Party have criticised the Government and have spoken about inadequacy on various defence points, but they have not presented any magic formula - any ready recipe - which would solve the problems of defence in Australia. I listened to a few of them chiming in - bleating like sheep, if I may repeat myself. I intended this evening to submit as a sensible and serious proposition that the Labour Party was an isolationist party, but I am prepared to admit in advance that I was wrong. It is not an isolationist party; it is a line drawing party.
– How do you spell that word?
– L-i-n-e, not 1-i-o-n. We listened this afternoon to the argument put forward by the honorable member for Yarra (Dr. J. F. Cairns). He said that what we need today is some sort of strategic containment. He went on to say that we want to draw a line from Kamchatka to Darwin. The implication, of his speech was this: What was west of the line was expendable and what was east of it was possibly defensible. What is west of the line? There are South Korea, Japan, Formosa, the whole of Malaysia, South Vietnam, Laos, Thailand, Burma and the Philippines. All this is expendable. This is the honorable gentleman’s understanding of defeating the enemy. I am arrested by this thesis if for no other reason than that last Sunday evening the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) appeared on television in Brisbane. A member of the interviewing panel asked the Deputy Leader of the Opposition: “ What do you think of Dr. Cairns? “ As evidence of a kind of entente cordiale between himself and the honorable member for Yarra, the Deputy Leader said: “ I am very fond of him.” He was asked: “ Have you any disagreements? “ The Deputy Leader answered: “ No. There is no major point upon which I disagree with the honorable member for Yarra.” The Deputy Leader of the Opposition said that; not me.
I invite the Deputy Leader to repudiate the doctrine propounded by the honorable member for Yarra. As a doctrine it is a doctrine of sheer, wicked, wanton abandonment. It is a doctrine of utter despair. It is a doctrine of sheer cowardice and the sooner it is identified in that light the better. I invite the honorable member for Yarra, as a former lecturer in economic geography - I put the word lecturer in inverted commas - to try to come to grips with the fact that geography today can offer no asylum at all from tyranny. This afternoon the honorable member tried to draw the conclusion that there is no Communist influence in the Vietcong in South Vietnam. What utter nonsense. I would like to add one or two robust Australian adjectives to that observation. What utter nonsense to speak of no Communist influence in the Vietcong.
Now let us move a little further with the thesis propounded by the honorable member for Yarra. This is the gentleman, mark you, acclaimed in Brisbane last Sunday evening by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition as “ one with whom I have no outstanding differences of opinion.” Australia has many obligations outside. Let us see how the honorable member for Yarra identifies those obligations. Speaking in this House but a short time ago the honorable member said -
My point is that we should prepare ourselves to supply troops to the United Nations and that is the only justification that Australia has for supplying any troops anywhere at any time.
– What is wrong with that?
– Here is the base drum - the honorable member for Hunter - which has now joined the symphony. This is the invitation that I press so casually but nevertheless so solicitously on the Deputy Leader of the Opposition: I invite him’ to repudiate what the honorable member for Yarra has said. Is this the view of the Labour Party? The Deputy Leader rebuked the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Uren) the other afternoon. In his more benevolent moments my friend the honorable member for Reid tells me that he likes to be known as Tom the Tory. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition rebuked the honorable member for Reid in this House the other afternoon. Let the Deputy Leader now rebuke the honorable member for Yarra. Can you imagine the poignant, touching scene as the two meet in the lobbies - the honorable member for Yarra and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition - one saying to the other: “ I am not prepared to withdraw “, and the other saying: “ For the sake of harmony I ask you to withdraw.” This is the desperate state which the Labour Party is inviting the people of Australia to look at and to applaud and approve what it has to say.
To go a little further on the matter of sheer humbug on the part of the Labour Party as far as defence is concerned, let us cast our minds back to the establishment of the naval communication base in Western Australia. I want to recite two statements to the Committee. The first is -
The building of the base, which is close to the area in which the national liberation movement of the peoples is being intensified, is a particular danger for the countries of South East Asia.
The second statement is -
The radio station to be established will be for war purposes and not for the purposes of peace.
One of those statements is extracted from the Red Army paper “ Red Star “ and the other is extracted from a speech made by a member of the Labour Party. This is a good even money bet. There are only two horses in the race. 1 invite honorable gentlemen opposite to place their money on the statement which they believe came from the “Red Star”. This is the Party that wants the Government out of office because of its defence record. This afternoon the honorable member for Yarra invited the Committee and the country to accept the proposition that there is no serious challenge outside and that Communist China, which today has 20 divisions of troops in Tibet, the circumstances of having on our back door, so to speak, a delinquent which is waging a running war against Malaysia, the turmoil throughout South Vietnam and Laos, and the clandestine Communist organisation in Sarawak of 5,000 members and more, which is carrying out a running war against all civilised elements in that part of th; world, present no serious challenge. I am sorry that I have not the time to tell the Committee something of that challenge.
It is against that sort of background that the Government must carry out its defence review. 1 was delighted this afternoon to hear the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) say that the Government will carry out this defence review. In the three or four minutes left to me, I should like to make some suggestions. I hope that this country will take the initiative in having drawn up for the whole of the South East Asian, Pacific Ocean and Indian Ocean areas a coherent plan of defence. I regret to say that there is no coherent plan there now. There is the South East Asia Treaty Organisation and there is the attitude of the French towards the neutralisation of South East Asia.
This afternoon I asked the Minister for Air (Mr. Howson) about the position of Cocos Island. Australian aircraft are landing on that island. But I tell the Committee that Cocos Island is not covered by the A.N.Z.U.S. agreement because it is in the Indian Ocean. Article V of that agreement states -
For the purpose of Article IV, an armed attack on any of the Parties is deemed to include an armed attack on the metropolitan territory of any of the Parties, or on the ‘island territories under its jurisdiction in the Pacific or on ‘its armed forces, public vessels or aircraft in the Pacific.
If the Indonesian air force were to attack Cocos Island tomorrow and blow the air strip into the water, I submit that Australia could not invoke the A.N.Z.U.S. agreement. Surely that sort of thing will not be tolerated when we have arrayed against us, almost as one mass, the might and tyranny of international Communism.
Secondly, I implore the Government to look earnestly at the question of national service training. I come out quite flat.footedly and say without any rancour at all that I believe implicitly in national service training. Thirdly, I invite the Government to consider the possibility of establishing in Australia an officer cadre on a large scale - I say 5,000 to 10,000 officers - trained over periods of twelve months. I implore the Government to consider the possibility of approaching industry and commerce in Australia and saying to them: “ We need these men. We need to have them for twelve months. We need to train them over that period of time. We invite you to share with us the sacrifice and responsibility of training them.”
Finally, I implore the Government to get an interim bomber. Frankly, I do not think it is good enough that we have to wait for two or three years for the new bomber without having an interim bomber. I believe that if the proposition is put to the Australian people we will find them ready, as always, to respond to the challenge and to do everything possible to defend the security and integrity of their country.
– Mr. Temporary Chairman, I claim to have been misrepresented. The honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Killen) stated that in one of my more benevolent moments I said-
– Order! Is the honorable member for Reid making a personal explanation?
– I am.
Does the honorable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– I do. The honorable member for Moreton stated that in one of my more benevolent moments I told him that I liked to be known as “ Tom the Tory “. That is a complete untruth.
Order! The honorable member is not entitled to reply to the speech made by the honorable mmeber for Moreton. He may state where he has been misrepresented.
– I am answering that statement. The honorable member for Moreton is known as “ Killen the magnificent “. The only comment that I may have made to him is: “ I am pleased to know that your capitalist friends are now prepared to subsidise a young Socialist”. That is the only comment that I may have made to him.
Order! The honorable member is now out of order.
.- Tonight the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Killen), who is known in this chamber as “ Jumping Jim, the jackeroo from Jericho “, set himself up as some sort of military strategist. His opinions would carry much greater weight if it were not common knowledge that in 1961 his political career was saved by the preference votes of members of the Communist Party in this country - an organisation that believes in no defence at all. You will recall, Mr. Temporary Chairman, that on the occasion in 1961 when the honorable member for Moreton was re-elected to this chamber on Communist preferences the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies), on entering the Liberal Party room, took him in his arms, kissed him on both cheeks and said, “ Killen, you are magnificent “.
In the course of his remarks tonight, he referred to the defence review that is being or is to be undertaken by the Government. Defence reviews are the only things that this Government, in the years for which it has been in office, has had more frequently than budgets have been introduced. Every Minister for Defence, every Minister for the Army, every Minister for the Navy, every Minister for Air, regularly has made some defence statement to the effect that we would buy this type of fighter or that type of bomber; that we would recruit more men for the Citizen Military Forces, the Australian Regular Army and the Royal Australian Navy; or recently, that we would get a ship to replace the “ Voyager “.
Now again we come to the stage where there is to be a defence review. This defence review, when it comes before the Parliament, will be like many of the other defence reviews and defence statements that have been made. It will outline something for the electors. It will outline plans that the Government has in mind but never intends to put into operation. Our Army, Navy and Air Force will remain undermanned and without modern equipment. The Government will enter into commitments with various countries throughout the world, under various treaties; but if it should ever be asked to fulfil its commitments under those treaties, it will be unable to do so.
Tonight I intend to say a few words about the C.M.F. I have before me newspaper advertisements dated between 11th September and 2nd October. They ask young Australians to join the C.M.F. They state in part -
Skilled training, fine mates, tax-free pay in the C.M.F.
The Citizen Military Forces ideally combine everything that the best type of fit young men can hope for - training, mateship, action, excitement - and full military pay for time served in the C.M.F. The Government has undertaken to exempt the pay from income tax. This is an invitation to keen young Australians to enjoy in their spare time the splendid attractions of service with the C.M.F., a Force vital to our national defence.
At the bottom of the advertisements are these words -
Spare part of your time for Australia in the C.M.F.
I hope to show that those words should be: “ Give part of your time for Australia in the C.M.F.”. The maximum pay that is made available to members of the C.M.F. per annum is for 19 days for home training, 25 days for additional home training, 20 days for courses and schools, 3 days for the advance party before the annual camp, 14 days for the annual camp and 3 days for the rear party after the annual camp. I stress that only 19 days are allowed for home training, which covers obligatory and voluntary parades and bivouacs.
I have before me a document setting out the programme of parades for a particular C.M.F. unit for the half year ended December 1963. There were 21 voluntary night parades, 3 obligatory night parades, 1 voluntary week-end bivouac and 2 obligatory week-end bivouacs. Three night parades are taken to equal 1 day, so that in the 6 months ended December 1963 this unit was expected to spend 7 days in voluntary night parades, 1 day in obligatory night parades, 2 days in voluntary week-end bivouacs and 4 days in obligatory week-end bivouacs, making a total of 14 days. For the half year ended June 1964 the same unit was expected to attend 22 voluntary parades, or 7 j days, an obligatory week-end bivouac, or 2 days, and 2 voluntary week-end bivouacs or 4 days, making a total for the half year of 13i days. For the full 12 months from June last year to June this year the total was 27J days.
To obtain the efficiency grant of £10 per annum the C.M.F. soldier must attend the 14 days camp, and he must do 7 obligatory and a minimum of 5 voluntary days in home training, he must complete the annual small arms range practice and carry out training to the satisfaction of the commanding officer. If the soldier is keen he is likely to attend all the voluntary parades and all the voluntary week-end bivouacs as well as the obligatory bivouacs. If a soldier in this particular unit attended them all he could give 8) days per annum to the C.M.F. without pay, because the maximum period for which he can be paid each year for home training parades and bivouacs is 19 days.
The C.M.F. soldier is also entitled to be paid for additional home training for up to 25 days and for a maximum of 20 days per annum for courses and schools. For pay purposes periods spent in either of these activities are interchangeable. For instance, if a man spends more than 20 days in courses and schools and less than 25 days in additional home training, the additional time spent on courses and schools can be considered for pay purposes as having been spent in additional home training, with a maximum period of 45 days in all. The programme for the unit to which I have been referring shows that a soldier could attend courses on 18 days in all. If then he decided to do some additional home training, that home training might cover extra training around the drill hall, maintenance of equipment or even the care of the grounds. I am told that sometimes a soldier may attend for additional home training and spend his time keeping the grounds neat and tidy and then find that he has to give that time to the C.M.F. without pay because funds have run out.
There are a few other anomalies connected with the payment of members of the C.M.F. that could be brought to the attention of the Minister, but I hope the illus tration I have given will be sufficient to induce him to look into the whole matter. If you want well trained Citizen Military Forces and you have soldiers who are prepared to turn up for every parade, whether compulsory or obligatory, and also to care for the equipment and the upkeep of the grounds, surely you should pay them for the time they spend in the service of the C.M.F.
I would like to refer to attendance at some of the training courses. The noncommissioned officers’ course, for instance, is to prepare N.C.O.’s and potential N.C.O.’s for promotion examinations, and at the bottom of the instruction covering the course is the sentence “ Bring cut lunches “. Not only is the soldier expected to attend on the Saturday or Sunday as the case may be; he is also expected to provide his own lunch. This, to my mind, is no way to treat the patriotic young men who are prepared to serve in the C.M.F. in a part-time capacity. They deserve something better than this. If the rumours that are current are correct, the Government intends to encourage enlistment in the C.M.F. and will include this in the defence review that it will be making in the next few weeks. If the Government at this stage is not prepared to pay a serving C.M.F. soldier for the time he spends in training, then I doubt very much that its new proposals will receive much consideration by the young men of Australia.
There is another matter I would like to mention in the time left to me. On 8th April this year I asked the Minister whether he had made a statement that the Army was hell-bent on doubling the strength of the Pacific Islands Regiment from 700 to 1,400. The Minister’s reply is worth repeating. He said -
The maximum target to be reached is a matter of Government policy. I stick by what I said - that the Army is hell-bent on doubling the size of the Pacific Islands Regiment as quickly as possible. I cannot give the honorable gentleman a precise date because there are factors involved which cannot be evaluated at the present time; but it will be as quickly as possible, which means pretty quickly.
It is six months since I asked that question. I had a look at the document entitled “Defence Report 1964” which was presented to the Parliament by the Minister for Defence (Senator Paltridge), and under the heading “Forces in Papua/New Guinea “ I found the following-
Pacific Islands Regiment
The expansion of the Pacific Islands Regiment which commenced last year will continue in 1964-65.
When the Minister used the term “ hellbent” it signified to me that he was going to work very swiftly to double the strength of the Pacific Islands Regiment. A few months ago most Australians thought that the Territory of Papua and New Guinea was a danger spot for Australia, and even to aim at doubling the force of the Regiment from 700 to 1,400 seemed a ridiculously low target. I would like the Minister, when he replies in this debate, to tell the House how many recruits have been enlisted in the Pacific Islands Regiment from the time the expansion of that Regiment commenced. I would like to know now exactly what the Minister meant by “ hell-bent “, “ as quickly as possible “ or “ pretty quickly “. Is it going to take another six months, another twelve months or another eighteen months?
I want to mention one other matter in the couple of minutes left to me, and that is the integration of the defence forces of Australia. At present we have a Department of Defence with a Minister in charge of it, a Department of the Navy with a Minister over it, a Department of Air with a Minister over it and a Department of the Army with a Minister in charge. We have four Ministers to administer the affairs of our defence forces. I leave out entirely the Minister for Supply (Mr. Fairhall) because I feel there may be some merit in having a separate Supply Ministry. But it seems extremely wasteful on the part of the Government to have a Minister for Defence and three other Service Ministers as well. When we look at the three Ministers, the Minister for the Army (Dr. Forbes), the Minister for the Navy (Mr. Chaney) and the Minister for Air (Mr. Howson) I am certain that all of us would agree that the Minister for Supply could do all their jobs as well as his own. Perhaps even the Minister for Defence could do all their jobs as well as his own.
There is too much wasteful expenditure in the duplication, or worse, of many of the functions performed by the Service Departments. There seems to me a good deal of room for cutting down administrative costs and also the costs involved in other activities, such as intelligence, health services or even ordnance services. I understand that a number of years ago the Government called for a report on our defence forces and the report suggested that the forces should be integrated. If the Government wants an efficient defence force it must look closely at the administration of it and it must disregard the petty jealousies that now exist in the three Services, so that our defence services can be run as efficiently as possible. If this country is to defend itself - and I admit this is a difficult task with our vast coastline and small population - then we must make a start by ensuring as great a degree of efficiency as possible.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– In this year and last year it has been at least encouraging to hear honorable members opposite showing some concern for defence, because we have to go back only three years to remember that we listened to them saying that the Government was spending too much money on defence and was doing much too much in that regard. But the disappointing thing about the present debate, especially that part of it which has taken place tonight, is that it has not been a well informed debate from the Opposite ranks. The honorable member for Lang (Mr. Stewart), who has just resumed his seat, said, in particular, that our armed forces are hindered by a lack of adequate and good equipment. If he had taken the opportunity that was open to members of both Houses of this Parliament to visit the recent combined exercise Longshot, he would have known and learnt that the equipment available to our armed forces is modern, up to date and extremely efficient. But it is some condemnation of honorable members opposite that only one of their number, the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Gray), visited this exercise.
The function of this debate is to provide not only some opportunity to explain or to defend or to attack what the Government has done or is doing but also a forum on which it may be possible to give Australia as a whole some idea or some understanding of the threat that faces this country, and the nature of the threat that may face Australia in the future. So, if I may, I wish to devote my time to a review of the strategic threat that I believe does face Australia and to the graduated response which we have seen from the Government over the last two or three years to this threat, lt is my belief that the nature of the threat confronting Australia has itself changed. The concept of the 1950’s in which a global war was unlikely but that small, local bushfire wars might occur is, 1 believe, to some extent outdated and out of our time.
There are four factors that have emerged in recent times which reveal the need for a reassessment of the threat that does confront Australia. There is, firstly, the fact that the centre of the world power struggle has shifted from Europe to South East Asia. Secondly, there is the fact that the arguments between Russia and China do not assist us and strengthen us. 1 would not say that they will weaken us, but they will cause some trouble with countries like Indonesia. Thirdly, there is the fact that China is now an atomic power. Fourthly, Indonesian policies have emerged in a more static fashion in which that country is likely to cause us some trouble, or cause some trouble in our area, for years to come. These changes have not been sudden. It is one that has gradually emerged. It is now possible to draw some lessons from what in fact has emerged. I would like to devote a few moments to the four factors I have mentioned.
The centre of the world power struggle has shifted from Europe to Asia. I want to explain this shift in the following way: The struggle between the Communists and the’ Western powers can be divided reasonably precisely into three categories. Firstly, there is the sort of struggle that was exemplified by the attack or the challenge to the independence of West Berlin, not once but three times, by the Soviet powers; and three times the Western powers stood up to the bluff and force that the Russians used on those occasions. Secondly, there was the kind of challenge by nuclear blackmail over the question of Cuba. The United States of America stood up to this challenge in the manner that we remember. The Russians know that if they try either of these types of challenge again they will meet the same answer. Therefore, there is no future for Russia in trying to bury the West in this fashion. But there remains, thirdly, the question of subversion. The West has not yet learned how to answer this challenge in adequate terms. It is unfortunate for us and for South East Asia that the field for subversion seems to be in this area and not, perhaps, in Europe. We have two examples of subversion at the present moment in South Vietnam and Malaysia, which is under attack and threat from Indonesia. South East Asia, our theatre of the world, is the testing ground for the Western powers’ will and ability to meet subversion. It is sufficient to say that we have not yet learned how to meet this threat in adequate and proper terms.
My second argument is that there are some people who say that the difficulties between Russia and China will strengthen the West and give us some advantage. In the very long term, this may be so. I will not canvass that point. But I believe that in the reasonably short term with which we are much more intimately concerned the difficulties between those two countries are to our disadvantage. I say that for the reason that there will be a competition between these two great Communist powers to see whose methods will be most successful and which country can cause most trouble to the West. So there will be competition between Russia and China in countries like Indonesia or Africa. Russia and China will be competing to see which can give the most aid in terms that can destroy stability and bring about regimes which are hostile to the Western powers and hostile to freedom. Again we find that South East Asia will offer a fertile field for this kind of competition .
We have been told by military experts that the emergence of China as an atomic power does not mean anything at this point of time because the Chinese do not have a means to deliver this power. In the sophisticated terms to which the Russians or Americans are accustomed, this is quite certainly true. But it is not necessary to have a sophisticated means of delivery before you can deliver an atomic missile of some kind. What is to prevent the Chinese from sending a merchant ship with a nuclear weapon in it to some harbour? That ship would be tied up at a wharf in that harbour. Then, some situation could arise and some city would be under blackmail from Chinese nuclear power. This could happen, I believe, in two or three years and not in ten years, which is the time that has been mentioned.
The fourth factor that particularly disturbs our area is the question of Indonesian policy. It has emerged quite clearly that this country wants to dominate the areas around it and the waters of the Pacific. Everything Indonesia has done since its independence has taken it nearer Peking and nearer Russia, and further away from the West to which it should in honesty and in justice owe some obligation. The West, and the United States of America in particular, has given this country enormous aid and has assisted it to independence in the completion of its revolution. But this is not what has happened. Indonesia is moving closer and closer to Peking and Russia as each year goes by.
The only conclusions which can be drawn from this situation - and they are unhappy ones for Australia - are that there is the certainty of Chinese involvement in countries which are not Chinese in South East Asia, and there is the equal certainty of United States’ reaction. There is also the likelihood of greater Russian activity in this region and the probability of disruptive policies being pursued by Indonesia. All this will occur in an area in which natural factors alone make stable government difficult even without the problems of external interference.
If those four factors make war or difficulties seem likely in South East Asia, it is proper to ask what kind of war may occur. At the worst, a spark from South East Asia may start off a global war as once seen possible from Berlin or Cuba. If we go down the scale, we will find that a war on the mainland of South East Asia between China and America in which tens of thousands of troops, or more, would be involved is a distinct possibility. A war between Malaysia and Indonesia is also a possibility. I do not say that it is a probability, but it is a possibility, and something for which we and other people should be prepared. At the very best in this part of the world, we can look to continuous subversion in South East Asia and particularly in Malaysia. There is no apparent end to this. There is, therefore, the possibility of involvement on more than one front. If we were not talking in the tragic terms to which we have become accustomed in this century, any war that would take place on any of those fronts would be called large, but not by the standards of this century.
It is pertinent to ask also what the intentions are of our allies in this area. One of the things which gives me the greatest encouragement is that when 1 was in the United States I found a complete and absolute determination from everyone I met, in any position of influence or authority, that the United States would remain in this theatre of the world, and in South East Asia. I have heard some doubts cast by some people - I do not yet share these doubts - about the long term intentions of the United Kingdom in relation to Malaysia. I cannot believe that the United Kingdom of all countries has forgotten the lessons of history that freedom is not divisible in this part of the world or in any other part of the world. If a still powerful nation is prepared to forgo a global responsibility in defence of freedom, the Communist powers will have won one of their greatest victories. I cannot believe at this stage that the United Kingdom is prepared to give them that victory. Now let me turn to Australia. There has been a very clear and graduated response by the Government to a steadily worsening situation. For instance, today we have on order for the Navy a considerable number of most effective ships. We have on order three Charles F. Adams class destroyers, which I saw being built in the United States of America. We also have on order four Oberon class submarines, two type 12 frigates and one escort maintenance ship. For the Royal Australian Air Force we have on order 100 Mirage fighters and 24 F111A’s, which I also saw being constructed. If the FI 1 J A will dc what it is designed to do - and there is every indication that it will - it will be the most effective fighting plane ever produced by an country in the world. The Royal Australian Air Force is also ordering additional transport aircraft.
For the Army, modern weapons are being ordered and are being delivered. They have been ordered in considerable quantities in recent years and the quantities will bc increased in the years to come. If honorable members had taken the trouble to attend the recent exercise, “ Longshot “, they would have seen this equipment and would know the quality and calibre of the weapons that are available to our Army. Nobody tries to hide the difficulties of the manpower situation confronting our armed forces, the Army in particular. A statement was made in June by the Minister for Defence, and legislation designed to change the conditions for joining the Citizen Military Forces is currently before the Senate. This legislation also makes provision for creating an emergency reserve, which will make a valuable contribution to our Defence Forces. Pay and conditions of service have been considerably and generously improved at this point of time in an effort to fill the manpower requirements of the Services.
But if what I believe is a last ditch effort to get the men we need by voluntary means fails - and some will say that it already has - the next step is clear. There could be a universal obligation for national service in this country, but because Australia needs a larger, instantly available force, and for certain other practical reasons, only a small number would be required for service at that point of time. If in the forthcoming review the Government accepts that there must be national service, it is my firm belief that registration of all those liable for service should be carried out at the same time, so that the medical particulars of the blood types, the education and the skills of all who would be called in the event of an emergency would be readily known. A considerable saving of time would thus be effected if the worst should happen and a large scale call up should be required at some stage in the future.
It is known that a defence review is now being undertaken by the Government. I have no wish to guess at or anticipate what may or may not be involved in that review, but over the last three years the Government has responded in a graduated, designed and sensible fashion to the increasing threat that confronts Australia. In the last two years, our defence expenditure has increased by a total of £83 million a year. This is a considerable increase. At this particular point of time, Australia has the best forces that she has ever had in peacetime. I say that unequivocally and without hesitation. I do not say that the forces we have are adequate to meet the threats that are likely to face us in the future, but the Government has met Australia’s needs in the past and I have every confidence that it will do the same in the future.
.- In speaking to the Defence estimates, I am reminded that Cecil Rhodes, 1 think, said that there was so much to do but so little time. From what I have heard in this debate, it seems to me that there is so much talk but so little done. However, I think the Government has realised that the people of Australia have suddenly become aware that we have virtually no defence at all in this country. Next month we may see some evidence of this. I do not say that with any malice; indeed, I say it with some regret. Over the years, the internal troubles of the Opposition have caused the Government to become less and less conscious of the effects of the ballot box and, of course, it has chosen to pursue a path which is advantageous to its supporters. I suppose this is what a lot of people would have done under the same circumstances, but it could end tragically for Australia.
The people of north Queensland, where I come from, feel very worried, because there is so much about the so-called defence of Australia that leaves much to be desired. I think that has become clear from the speeches that have been made from both sides of the House in the last month or two. Although we have a population of 11 million, our Army strength is less than 30,000 - and I think that figure might even be exaggerating the position a little. When I was in South East Asia recently with a delegation from this Parliament, I saw that South Vietnam, which has a population of 15 million, had about 500,000 men under arms, and that a little place like Laos, which has a population of 3 million - half of whom live in the hills - had an Army twice the size of ours. I mention these things because I think we will have to take heed of them. We all know the size of the standing armies and other defence forces of Indonesia, Thailand and other countries quite close to our shores. It does not take an Einstein to work out that we have had a fairly good run, gambling on the nation’s security by embarking upon only a low defence expenditure, hoping that nothing will happen but knowing that if it dees America will be there.
The speeches delivered in this Parliament,over the last few weeks in particular, have demonstrated great concern by all back benchers and a lack of concern by Ministers. The recent “ Voyager “ disaster illustrated just how easily a large percentage of our Fleet could be immobilised, and the subsequent debate showed how ineffective the Fleet is. Of course, we all remember the B47’s. When I went home to Townsville at the height of one election campaign, one of these B47 aircraft landed on the runway at the aerodrome there. It looked quite impressive. Next day we saw in the Press a photograph of the B47, the plane that we were going to get. We know now that the B47 is in the sweet bye and bye and that we still have to rely on the Canberra. I think the questions that have been asked in the last few days show that the Royal Australian Air Force is in a poor state.
During the early stages of the last war, and during the years 1938 and 1939, I happened to be a cadet in the coastal artillery. The economies we were required to effect in those days were ridiculous. I think most artillery men will know what I am talking about when I say that we had to line up the guns by putting cross wires across the muzzles and making a check with the telescopic sights. The grease that we used to stick the cotton cross wires on the muzzles was something called I think, luting. It was a type of grease that was supposed to stop picrics from forming, so that the ammunition would not blow up prematurely. This luting was handed out in such a way as to make me feel that it was radium. In fact, we had special orders to waste none, and there was an Army regulation about it. It looked like axle grease, and I doubt whether it cost much more than axle grease. What I am trying to say is that odd economics with regard to defence are not new. In my opinion, the economic approach to our defence problems in 1938 and 1939 led us along the same path as we are treading today. I might add that we had the same people in charge.
Then we have the problem of civil defence. It is civil defence that I wish to talk about today, rather than the other aspects of defence which have been covered in great detail by many honorable members, some of whom have gone to great lengths to sumbit figures and so on. I have asked a question or two in this House about civil defence and I have heard others asking questions about it. It is obvious from the answers given that the Government does not treat this matter with any seriousness whatsoever. Civil defence is of far greater importance than the Government seems to consider it to be, but the main responsibility for it is left to the State Governments. In the Federal sphere, it comes under the jurisdiction of the Department of the Interior, which seems rather odd to me.
I do not think that an economic approach to what in the last war was a big problem and in today’s type of war would be an immense problem is practicable. In the part of Queensland from which I come, there is one part-time civil defence organiser for the Townsville district. That is a district which is as big as the State of Victoria - not that that is very big, anyway. I said here a week or two ago that the monetary allowance made to that organiser would be equal to the petty cash of a pie cart. Recently, I found out that he has no allowance at all. Only last month he wanted to go to Tully. He had been requested by the shire councillors there to give a lecture on civil defence. I suppose be would have had to spend £4 or £5 on overnight accommodation and to get a rail warrant from the Queensland Government. This was sufficient to cause the officer in charge of the State Department controlling civil defence to tell him that he had better defer his visit, because the Government could not afford it. He came to me in desperation or, I should say, frustration. I drove him up and back myself, a distance of 260 miles in one day, so that the people of this area could be lectured on civil defence. I do not suppose it is likely that this little town of Tully will ever be bombed, but the people living there now could well move to Sydney, Brisbane or some other place that could be a target if we ever got to the stage where we started throwing bombs at each other again.
The apparent apathy on the part of this Government and of the State Government of Queensland - and indeed of the people themselves - gives reason for great concern The results of this policy could prove even more disastrous than our lack of offensive weapons of which, as I have said, we are becoming aware. There has been a singular lack of action by Commonwealth and State authorities in informing the people what they should do in the event of an emergency, such as a nuclear attack. Honorable members surely remember the recent fiasco in Canada when an alarm went off in error. The people, instead of doing as they had been told and listening to the radio for instructions, jumped into their motor cars and tried to get away from the city, with the result that no-one got anywhere.
Admittedly the Commonwealth Government has set up, and continues to conduct, a civil defence training centre at Mount Macedon in Victoria. This is a good thing. Local committees have been set up under State auspices in various regions of Queensland. Some prominent public men from Queensland have attended the Macedon school, and undoubtedly they have gained invaluable knowledge, but these men obviously have neither the time nor the facilities to impart this knowledge to the general public. They do not have the time to follow up their training. Many local committees have languished for lack of guidance and instructional material from the authorities. Anyone who tries to find out anything about civil defence from the State authorities realises that this is very true. It is like banging your head against a brick wall.
A committee, brimming with enthusiasm, was formed at Mount Isa in the electorate represented by the honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan). However, to quote a Mount lsa Returned Servicemen’s League official, Mr. George Beard by name, “The enthusiasm died on the vine, because no matter how hard we tried to get information from the State authorities, we could not “. 1 think that would be true, because I have tried to get information myself. Other delegates to R.S.L. conferences and to local committee meetings similarly have deplored the lack of information and instruction. To bc fair to the civil defence authorities, there appears to have been a greatly accelerated effort in recent months. In Townsville, and in other centres, films have been shown and articles have been published, but these have further demonstrated the tremendous public apathy. Certainly very few people would have more than a hazy idea of what to do if things went wrong.
The proposals of the civil defence authorities are commendable. Addresses, talks, discussions and indoctrination courses have been suggested. The roles to be played by the various public services are being delineated. Civil defence equipment is being sent out to strategic centres for storage, and training programmes will be considered. The assistance of service clubs and of women’s organisations is being sought. But the effect of these measures, however laudable, will be limited without a general education of the public in what to do in an emergency. I have already referred to the Canadian incident when an alarm was triggered by mistake. This showed some of the grim possibilities of nuclear warfare, and should help to awaken people from their indifference. It is now the duty of members of the public to avail themselves of every opportunity to learn about civil defence, because such knowledge some day may save not only their lives but the lives of other people in a nuclear blast. This knowledge would also be of great value in the event of major natural disasters - cyclones or floods - where civil defence techniques would be applicable.
Going even further, civil defence is so important that it should not be allowed to hang on loosely knit State organisations and local committees. The Commonwealth Government should accept total responsibility for this national necessity. The R.S.L. should be supported in its declaration that civil defence must be treated as an integral part of the national defence structure and established as the fourth arm of the defence forces, participating in the Commonwealth defence appropriation.
Civil defence is most important to Australia, especially as things look to our north. I hope the Government, instead of hoping for the best, takes a practical and resolute stand, quite aside from the political angles, and does, even for the first time, something for the defence of Australia - civil and otherwise.
– May I commence by supporting the remarks about civil defence which have just been made by the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Harding)? This is, I hope, a non-Party debate, and so I feel no inhibitions about supporting the remarks which have been made from the opposite side of the chamber - remarks which I feel are timely and correct. I have always been in favour of disarmament, but disarmament requires security and it requires some guaranteed world order. We have neither of those today, and in default of this Australia requires adequate defence.
I believe that we are in danger as a people and as a nation, and although we should not give up our aspirations towards disarmament on an effective world scale, in the interim we have to take necessary measures for survival. This brings us to the question of the necessary order of magnitude of the defence programme: How big should it be? What proportion of our national resources should we devote to it? This is something which honorable members have to consider in relation to the world situation as they see it. Obviously, if Australia is placed securely in the world and we have no threat then we need spend little on armament. If we are in a position of danger, then we must raise our defence expenditure commensurate with our estimate of that danger.
For a moment let us look at what has been happening in our area - this part of South East Asia and the Pacific. The situation has been deteriorating. Communist China, an aggressive power whose only differences with Russia have been on the extent and urgency of aggression, is thrusting south. Communist China is and will remain our enemy. Nothing we do can make her our friend. The situation in South East Asia is precarious. I do not think that honorable members would want to either under-estimate or over-estimate its deterioration. We believe it is not beyond salvage, but it is certainly not guaranteed as a safe situation.
Right throughout Vietnam, Thailand and Cambodia the situation has to be reversed if Australia is to have any security. In the first place our nearest neighbour, Indonesia, shows disconcerting signs of going left and into the Communist camp. This is a nation of over 100 million people. It is just to our north and now has a common border with us in New Guinea. It is a nation which may not have a great industrial competence, but it is obtaining sophisticated arms in big quantities from Communist Russia. If it should go Communist, as I have said - although this is not committed policy there are ominous signs that it is going Communist - then our situation in Australia becomes precarious indeed.
Two new factors have entered the situation in the last few days. In the first place, as a result of the British election, the British Government, according to its policy speech, apparently is committed to abandoning its own nuclear capacity. If this is so, Britain becomes an insignificant power, and any reliance we see fit to place on her in this area would be very dangerous indeed. It would not bc Britain’s desire to help us that would be at fault. The fault would be with her capacity to help us. If Britain decides, as the new Government of that country apparently has decided, to abandon her nuclear capacity, she becomes almost negligible as a power and all her resources will be needed at home, because, without the nuclear shield, even her home territory will scarcely be adequately held. Last week, we had two friends who could have come to our aid in this area with nuclear capacity if necessary - Britain and the United States of America. Today, we have only one. This loss has happened only in the course of the last week.
The second ominous thing that has happened is that Red China has obtained some small degree - as yet only a small degree - of nuclear capacity. I agree with the estimation that this does not give her,, as of this moment, the power to attack with nuclear weapons. Of course it does not. But 1 do say that we are entirely over-estimating the time when she will get full nuclear capacity if we look ten or twelve years ahead. Four, five or six years is the proper order of magnitude of time here. Red China means to wage thermonuclear war. I have read in this chamber the very definite statements that even Mr. Suslov, that influential Russian, has made on this matter. This is the reason for the split between Russia and China. It would be folly and madness for the world to allow this madman, Mao, to obtain nuclear capacity. Communist China must be enucleated swiftly and in the name of peace. This is the most essential contribution to world disarmament. To fail in this moral duty is to fail humanity and to asquiesce in the murder of thousands of millions of people, Chinese and others alike. The flames of thermonuclear war can be put out now in Red China. It will not be long before they will be unextinguishable.
In the name of peace, in the name of disarmament, Sir, it is our moral duty to see that Red China - this aggressive power - docs not obtain full thermonuclear capacity. 1 have mentioned the two things which have happened in the last week and which have so greatly invalidated our position in this area. There is one other factor the impact of which is uncertain: What is the future of relations between China and Russia? What is the significance of the recent change in the Kremlin? This is a change in the Kremlin, not in Peking. Therefore, it can only be a change, if it is a change at all, which means that Russia is returning to the Stalinist idea of blackmail and nuclear aggression. If it be a change at all - whether it is a change is uncertain - it can mean only that our safety in Australia depends on our alliances, lt would be nice if we could say that our safety depends on the United Nations but, as honorable members know, the United Nations, unhappily, has proved itself powerless in this theatre of operations. In effect, with Britain now abandoning her nuclear capacity, we in this area depend on the United States. This means that we must do those things that assure Australia’s security, whatever they are. by cementing this alliance as quickly and as firmly as we can. We here are in danger from now on, and there seems no prospect of a reasonable outcome of the situation.
In these circumstances, the Committee should be looking at the defence programme, not in detail, but in its overall magnitude, which is quite inadequate. I say that the Government’s present proposals for the expenditure of some £300 million a year simply represent trifling with the situation. Wc, as Australians - not as members of one side or the other of the Parliament - must sec that something is done about the matter. The Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies), only a little while ago, said that perhaps our defence programme of about £300 million a year would have to be doubled. This, I think, is the minimum requirement. It may need to be more than doubled, unfortunately, but, whetever we do, we cannot continue to fail Australia as the Government is failing now. We are not doing enough.
I know, and every member of this chamber knows, that a defence programme can only bc built up gradually. It cannot bc built up overnight. It is of no use to worry about the past. The present and the future are our concern now. We must take in hand now - perhaps the Government will give us a lead on this in the next few weeks - an immense expansion of our defence programme. I say this with regret and with the proviso that, if there were any effective guarantees on a world scale, I would be, in this chamber and elsewhere, the most enthusiastic proponent of disarmament. But defence cannot be neglected in the world today. We think we are a big nation but, on the scale of modern warfare, the death of 10 million or 12 million people is not a big thing. It is not a thing that would shake the world. If we are to survive, we must take measures for our own defence in the interim period until a world disarmament programme can become effective. Our strength is not intended for aggressive purposes. By being strong now without being aggressive, we can bring the day of disarmament nearer. I believe that those people who make a parade of crying out for weakness on the side of the democracies - those people who demand that we disarm without obtaining guarantees - however sincere they may be, are still, in effect, preaching war, not peace. There will be blood on their hands, and some of it will be Australian blood.
.- Mr. Temporary Chairman, as I listened to speakers on both sides of the Committee, I wondered why this debate on the Defence estimates was so dull. After all, defence is a very important subject. However, 1 looked up at the panel over the broadcasting box which indicates when the proceedings are being broadcast and I found that we are not on the air. That may be the explanation for the dullness of the debate. The honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) has just made the most doleful speech that I have ever heard him make, though it was, at the same time, a very provocative one. However, I do not believe that, at present, we should provoke any other nation or even suggest that any other nation is about to take some action against another nation, lt is all very well for honorable members to say that we rely on alliances with other countries, particularly the United States of America. We have to rely on such alliances, but let us not forget that if the other party to them decides to discard them they are not even worth the paper they are written on. It has been proved over the ages that an alliance with another nation does not necessarily mean that that nation will fully support us in everything we do. It will first want to be assured that we are following the right course. However, I shall not pursue that aspect, because, unfortunately, the honorable member for Mackellar has left the chamber.
I have been very disheartened, as I am sure the people of Australia have been, by the debate on the Defence estimates. I come from the northernmost electorate in Australia, at least on the east coast. Most of the people in the north of Queensland and in Darwin are very concerned about our defences. The Cape York Peninsula is possibly the closest part of Australia to foreign soil. The people in the north have already been through one war. That war was so close to them that they were forced to leave their homes. Many tried to sell their homes, full of furniture, their cars and all their possessions for whatever they could get. If they could not get any offer, they walked out of their homes. Fortunately, they returned later and are still living in the area. If we are ever involved in another war, I am sure that these people will leave much sooner than they did in the last war. They should have an assurance from the Government that they will have full protection. They have no faith at present if the defence programmes and the equipment and materials offered by the Government. After 15 years in office, the Government suddenly realised that our defences are weak - and they are very weak indeed. Honorable members on both sides of the Committee have agreed that our defences are weak. However, Government supporters in one breath say that they are concerned about our defence position and in the next breath say that they are confident the Government will strengthen our defences. This should have been done long ago. 1 hope that anyone who has designs on Australia will give us warning and let us prepare to meet them. We do not want to be left as we were in 1939.
We have not improved our defences. Although we have spent much additional money on defence, we are in no better position than we were in 1939. In fact, our defences are a little worse than they were then. The Navy has fewer officers and men and fewer ships than it had in 1939. The number serving in the Army is 50 per cent, less than in 1939 and the Air Force does not have the same strength as it had then. This is not a very good position for Australia to be in. We are told now that the Government will examine the defence position carefully and will bring our defences up to an adequate standard. As I said, the people in the north are entitled to know what protection they can expect from the Government. I have said before and I say again that the two D’s - defence and development - should work in close harmony. This has happened in other countries, especially in the United States of America. In that country, the Army outposts were pushed further and further afield. As they went out, the families followed and townships grew around the Army posts. This helped decentralisation - a word heard often in this place but an activity that is seldom encouraged.
I faced the enemy on the western front and in the Pacific, and I do not want to see another conflict if it is possible to avoid it. I do not want to see an angry man, if 1 can avoid doing so. I am a realist; I am not an idealist. I welcome peace, but I am not in accord with many of the so-called peace movements. Peace cannot come from one person alone or from one group of persons. Those who have nothing can, cry for a share; those who have all can laugh because they can afford to protect their lot. They do not want to give any of it away. Many people in many countries today seem to have this idea.
Defence does not mean only arms, ammunition, men and material. Defence also means civilian protection, but I had not heard civil defence mentioned in this debate until very recently. Civil defence in this country is at a very low ebb. We are falling far behind many other countries and I would like to see more active measures taken to promote civil defence. The public must be protected, and civil defence must receive more consideration than it has in the past 15 years. Money has been spent on civil defence and I know that many people have gone to civil defence schools and have received a good deal of instruction. They have come away very satisfied, but have found difficulty in imparting their knowledge to the public. We must find some new way of promoting civil defence. No benefit has come from talks given in Queensland and the people who have attended Mount Macedon have not really been able to give any benefit to the areas from which they came. On many occasions, officers from local government authorities have gone to civil defence schools because no-one else would go. On their return, we have tried to get them to impart their knowledge to the public, but it is not easy to get the public to attend a meeting on civil defence. Those who come are officers or potential officers of the Citizen Military Forces and a few citizens who are concerned about civil defence. Members of the public generally are not alive to their responsibilities for civil defence.
I mentioned earlier that development should go hand in hand with defence. I would like this to happen more frequently in Australia. We should have learned from our experiences during the last war. Men and material were rushed to the north of Queensland and to Darwin. Men, ships, aeroplanes and munitions were gathered in the north of Queensland and airfields and camps were constructed. Any future attack on us must also come from the north and in that eventuality airfields and camps would be needed again. But the camps in the north and the naval installations on Thursday Island have been sold, and the airfields have not been maintained. One of the biggest airfields in the Cape York Peninsula, Jacky Jacky, would not require much work 1o put it in good order, if the work is done now, but if the airfield is allowed to deteriorate further, it will probably be useless and have to be remade if it is ever needed again. All those installations have now gone. The areas where the camps were situated during the Second World War have been sold. New areas will have to be obtained, but where we will be able to get suitable areas at the present time I do not know. No move has been made to find a substitute area in case it is needed for the defence forces. Wc all know of the number of troops and the quantity of equipment that we needed to throw the enemy back from Australia’s shores during the last war. We all know of the Coral Sea battle and of the planes that llew from Australian bases at Mareeba and throughout the whole of Cape York Peninsula. Those forces played a magnificent part, yet today we have nothing left of those places that were used so much to save this country during the last war. It is a shame that those installations should be allowed to disintegrate as they have done with no move being made to provide substitute areas.
Another point is that no troops, other than C.M.F. troops belonging to the area, have ever trained in that region. I have said before in this chamber that it would be an advantage to have troops stationed in the north of Queensland where they will experience terrain and climatic conditions similar to those in the islands to the north of Australia. If troops were trained in the north of Queensland, together with components such as the field engineering, communications and medical teams, they would gain the experience that they would need should they serve in war in that type of area. Knowledge gained in the area would be very valuable, particularly to the engineers and the medical services. The medical services should be especially interested in tropical ailments and diseases. These conditions could be watched closely and the medical services would benefit if a unit were placed there for training purposes. Not only would the troops get the training that they need; there would be training also for their ancillary forces, such as field artillery and telecommunication services, and also for the Navy, which could use its landing craft on the beaches in an area which would be used if we were attacked.
I say quite sincerely that it is the wish of the people in the north that exercises should be carried out in that area. At present we have a jungle training school at a place called Canungra, where it can be as cold as it is in Melbourne. Honorable members opposite are laughing at that statement, but it can be just as cold. You will never experience those conditions further north. In north Queensland it is sometimes very wet and humid and sometimes very dry, and those are the climatic conditions in which our forces may have to operate. So why should they be training in a place like Canungra when there is available a natural training area which was used by troops during the last war before going into New Guinea and the other islands to force back the enemy. There is plenty of land in north Queensland which could be occupied by the
Army. The use of this land would not only be of service to the armed forces but would help to develop the area. If troops went there they would have to be fed. In wartime they were fed from farms in the vicinity. It would help to develop the area to have forces stationed there. As I have mentioned before, a coast road from the tip of Cape York down to join the southern roadways would assist greatly in the development of Cape York Peninsula.
.- The Government has announced that within the next few weeks it will make a considered statement on defence. My remarks, therefore, are directed to some of those matters upon which I believe it should make a decision. But before I say anything about these matters I should forestall any comfort that the Opposition might derive from some of the straight forward things that I propose to say. The Opposition has said something in the course of this debate - no doubt it will say more in the course of the next few weeks, and particularly in the Senate election campaign - about the shortcoinings of the Government. I want to say that I treat this kind of talk from the Opposition with the contempt that it deserves.
The Opposition, as the honorable member for Deakin (Mr. Davis) has said, always speaks between elections about reducing defence expenditure and at election time about the need for increasing defence preparedness. This is perfectly true, and it would be fair to say that the Government, having spent something like £200 million a year over the preceding seven or eight years, has stepped up the annual expenditure within the last two years to almost £300 million. This is not inconsiderable, so I simply want to say, before passing on to the major matters that I want to talk about, that I treat with contempt the attitude of the Opposition, which has never really had its heart in defence. I remember the days before World War II when, on the eve of war, honorable members opposite were still talking about slum clearance as the best means of defence. I treat this with contempt and I express appreciation for the fact that within the last two years or so the Government has greatly increased expenditure on defence. But this having been said, there are some other matters that it is important to raise at this time.
The basis of defence must always rest on two things: First, the allies that you have; secondly, upon the most likely threats that you have to meet. No country is so powerful - not even the United States of America - that it can survive without allies or can meet all possible threats that may be posed to it. We are in no different position in this regard from the most powerful country in the world. Indeed, our position is much more critical. What, then, are the kinds of commitments that we have to meet? We have entered into two major treaties at least - the A.N.Z.U.S. pact and the S.E.A.T.O. treaty. Also, we have a special relationship with the Commonwealth of Nations that involves us in the MalaysianIndonesian confrontation. Our allies, in fact, are the United States, so- far as South Vietnam and the expansion of China in South East Asia are concerned, and the British so far as the war - I would call it war - in Malaysia is concerned. For these purposes we need forces.
But what is the situation in South East Asia? Although we have commitments under S.E.A.T.O. and commitments under A.N.Z.U.S., and although we have commitments through our relationship with Commonwealth countries, it may be that this is such a tranquil part of the world that nothing very much is required in the way of forces to deal with those commitments; but, of course, the fact is precisely the reverse. We have seen a deterioration in the last 12 months and more. We may doubt the firmness of the American base in South Vietnam. Anybody who reads the newspapers may have doubts about it. We may wonder what would happen if the United States lost that base, whether it would fall back on Thailand, and what might be the attitude of the Thais and, indeed, what might be the attitude of the Malaysians themselves in that event.
We may wonder, now that the British Government faces severe economic problems, no matter what its will may be, how far the British may be able to stand up to their commitments in Malaysia. In addition, the Chinese have just exploded a nuclear weapon and no doubt will bc in a position to throw their weight about in South East Asia much more than they have done in the past. Also, there are some good reasons to suppose that in the EastWest struggle the position has stabilised in the West, in Europe, and that the focus of the cold war, for a variety of reasons that have already been mentioned in the course of the debate, has moved to Asia - our part of the world.
These then are our treaty commitments and this is the situation in this part of the world. These things suggest to any reasonable person - he does not have to be an expert - that our defence effort should be stepped up very considerably. We may have to provide forces in South Vietnam, Borneo, Thailand and along our frontier with Indonesia in New Guinea. Also we would need to have some forces in reserve in Australia. 1 am not a military expert but I reach the conclusion that any reasonable person would reach: Our defence effort must be gradually stepped up and our commitments may be very considerable.
What kind of forces do we need? All our planning has been on the basis that we would have to provide some limited forces for a brush fire war in South East Asia - that they would have to be well trained, well equipped, available for overseas service, mobile, able to be transported across the sea and able to be sustained on a far shore and in the field by logistic units. It may be doubtful whether we could get forces across the sea in the face of, say, a hostile Indonesia, lt may be doubtful whether we could convoy troops across the sea without an aircraft carrier and the kind of carrier fighter planes that we simply have not got at present.
Deliberately I do not want to enter into these matters. I want to enter only into the aspects of defence that concern the Parliament and the Government - the politicians if you like. They are concerned first with finding money. Nobody but the Parliament can find the money for our forces. Again, they are concerned with providing leadership. They have information that is not available to the public and they have a duty as leaders. They alone have the power to impose compulsion, if compulsion should be necessary in order to obtain the forces that are required. These are the tasks of the politician. I will not enter into any argument as to whether we need an aircraft carrier or whether we need pentropic divisions or divisions of some other kind. These are mat ters for the experts. I confine myself to the responsibilities of members of this Parliament - the politicians. Those responsibilities arc leadership, resources of money and compulsion if it is necessary to get the manpower needed.
Despite what I have had to say about national service I do not pretend that you do not first need career officers and N.C.O.’s and all that is necessary to get them in terms of money, inducements and so forth. Of course you must have officers and N.C.O.’s. At present we have about 23,000 men in the Australian Regular Army. The announced target is 28,000. I do not think anybody believes that, the situation having deteriorated as it has, the target of 28,000 is in any way realistic. It is not for me as a layman to say what numbers we need but people who have studied these matters say that we need about 40,000 people in the A.R.A., give or take a few thousand. But 40,000 is good enough for a simple politician, and we have only 23,000. How are we to get the numbers? You can put advertisements in the newspapers. You can tell people that they look fine in uniform. You can tell them that comradeship is a jolly good thing, and of course it is. You can tell them that to serve in the Army is a manly thing to do, and so it is. But is this leadership? What a man needs when he goes into the armed forces is something more than this - more even than having his pay exempted from taxation. He needs to have status. In wartime the man in uniform is a hero. In peacetime he is garbed like a goat.
Leadership will continue to be the primary need. 1 say that the responsibility rests first and foremost on the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) to provide that leadership and to give to the man in uniform the status that nobody else can give him. There is no disputing this fact. The onus rests on the Prime Minister fairly and squarely. There should be no doubt about that. The onus rests on this Parliament to provide the financial resources. There can be no question of that. How are you to get 40,000 men when you now have 23,000? Not by advertisements; not by giving the job of leadership to an advertising agency. This has to be done by compulsion and leadership is involved here. People may have to be compelled, but only because they feel already that it is their duty anyway. How many things are we compelled to do that we do with some willingness because we know we jolly well ought to do them? This is a task for leadership.
I do not want to enter into a debate on the relationship of the Australian Regular Army with the Citizen Military Forces or why you must concentrate on the A.R.A. simply because it does provide troops who can be sufficiently well trained if you call up 15,000 men a year for two years service. I know that the problem of lack of universality arises. The service has to be selective. If it must be selective, those who are called up may feel as though they are the mugs, although with leadership they would feel that service was a privilege. This leadership should be forthcoming. There is a problem, and I do not pretend that it is easy of solution. Nevertheless, in any year - for example the present year - about 85,000 young men attain the age of 19 years. Of that number probably 15,000 at least would be physically, mentally or educationally unfit, which reduces the number to 70,000. Others would be in reserved occupations, which brings the number down to perhaps 55,000. The number of 15,000 has been mentioned as reasonable and proper by a former Chief of the General Staff. You do not necessarily take your entire 15,000 from this age group. But service would have to be selective, with all the problems related to selectivity. I do not for a moment deny that problems exist. Something should be done for the C.M.F. by way of providing that those who went into it for a period of years should not be liable to call up for the A.R.A.
I am well aware of the problems that exist. Members on this side of the chamber as well as members opposite have studied those problems But what are Ministers paid for except to work out the answers, difficult as they may be? Ministers are ambitious men. They have responsibilities. If they cannot find the answers to these problems, ambition should be made of sterner stuff.
.- -I listened, as did other honorable members, to the honorable member for Bradfield (Mr. Turner) because on the subject of defence he might be termed one of the rebels on the Government side. It is interesting to note that with the possibility of being forgiven for past misdemeanours, tonight he tem pered his criticism of the Government by endeavouring to pass on to the Opposition the charge that we do not care for defence except for political reasons. If I had time tonight I would quote some of the honorable member’s violent statements of a few months ago on this subject. They might make honorable members realise that the attitude of the honorable member tonight is tempered by other considerations than a desire to do something and to bring the Government to heel on this score.
– Tell us where you stand on the statement made by the honorable member for Yarra.
– If the honorable member will be patient I will do my best to tell him where Labour stands on defence, that is, if my remarks can penetrate. The honorable member for Bradfield said that the Government had spent £200 million a year on defence and that in recent years it had increased expenditure. Nobody doubts that. Since this Government has been in office it has spent £3,000 million on defence and the Opposition wants to know what Australia has to show for the expenditure. The Government knows that we have nothing to show for that expenditure. The Government has been condemned by people in high positions in this country for its inability to defend the nation.
The honorable member for Bradfield said that Labour never had its heart in the defence of this country. In 1941, two years after the outbreak of war, a Liberal-Country Party Government was in office led by Sir Arthur Fadden. The present Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) was a member of that Government. He had abdicated some time previously, being unable to carry on as Prime Minister. On 3rd October 1941, after two years in government in the middle of a war, the Liberal-Country Party Administration was voted out of office by Arthur Coles, a member of the Liberal Party. This is the reason that he gave for voting that Government out of office in wartime, as reported at page 707 of “Hansard “ of 3rd October 1941 -
Nothing more or less than a loss of confidence in the Government’s ability to carry on, and to wag; the maximum war effort of which this ci u try is capable.
He went on to say -
Australia requires responsible government that will result in throwing the whole of the resources of this country into the war effort.
His final thrust was -
I desire to see responsible and stable government at this crucial time.
He wanted stable government and he knew that the members of the Liberal Party were unable to provide the resources by which this country might be defended and saved. A Labour Administration took over from the one that was voted out of office by one of its own supporters. Ultimately, that Labour Administration, by its organisation of the resources and manpower of this country, made possible the victory that was won.
Yet today members of the present Government parties talk about Labour’s lack of responsibility in defence. One of the unfortunate facts of history, from a party point of view, is that all the great responsibilities of war have been thrust upon the Labour Party and all the plums of office in peacetime have been taken by members of the Liberal Party. If we are faced with a conflict or war tomorrow, I have no doubt at all that the Australian people will demand the election of a Labour government, because today our defences are practically non-existent.
– Do you agree with the honorable member for Yarra?
– The honorable member who is interjecting is one of the critics of the Government. One has to only study the records of the Parliament to see the critical speeches made by the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth), such as the one he made tonight, and the speeches of the honorable members for Bradfield, La Trobe (Mr. Jess) and Chisholm (Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes). Even the honorable member for Higinbotham (Mr. Chipp), on some of his wild days, criticises the Government. In the recent debate on the “ Voyager “ disaster no greater incompetence was displayed than that displayed by the Minister for the Navy (Mr. Chancy), who is now sitting in the chamber listening to this debate. A study of those speeches shows not only that the plans and schemes of this Government are incapable of fulfilment but also that the
Administration, through its Ministers, shows incompetence of the highest order.
We know that the Government has plans. We know that it intends to bring in schemes for us to discuss. We know that it will outline those plans and schemes to the Parliament. But when will it bring them to fruition? Members of the Government change their plans more often than they change their shirts. Let us consider the question of national service training, which has been talked about tonight. The Minister for the Army (Dr. Forbes) is now reclining on the front bench. That is the way he runs the Army. Let us look at what he said, as reported at page 439 of “ Hansard “ of 20th August 1964. The honorable member for Hughes (Mr. L. R. Johnson) asked him this question -
Then why have you not introduced national service training?
This was the Minister’s reply -
We have not introduced it because to do so would be against the unanimous advice of our military advisers. Why do our military advisers give that advice, and why do we accept it? Last night the honorable member for Bradfield rather mocked at the proposition that any government should pay heed to or accept the advice of its military advisers in such matters. I do not agree with him on this, but just to make the point I will canvass the kind of advice which the Government’s military advisers have given.
A couple of months ago the Minister said that there would be no national service training. But tonight we see members of the Government parties rising in their places as one and demanding that it be introduced. The Government is a stop and go government on defence. It is no wonder that the Australian people are worried about the position today.
Let us glance at the pattern of what has been done. First, let us look at the Department of the Navy. On 22nd April 1964, a statement by Rear-Admiral G. C. Oldham was reported, under the heading “ ‘Suicidal’ to Face Enemy “, as follows -
Rear-Admiral G. C. Oldham said today Australia’s navy was inadequate, the army immovable and the air force impotent. “The R.A.N. has been relegated to an inadequate escort force,” he said. “ Without fighter aircraft the navy cannot approach enemy shores or enemy forces at sea except at suicidal risk.”
Rear-Admiral Oldham was formerly Flag Officer Commanding, East Australian Area.
He retired in July 1962.
I will not read the whole article, as my time is limited. Since then more admirals have said the same things. The only contribution from the Minister for the Army is that they are has-beens, although a week before he said that he was taking their advice on defence.
The Government also states that we on this side of the Parliament think about these matters only at election times. Let us remember what happened in the last Federal election campaign. On the eve of the election. Athol Townley, a very great man, was flown to the United States for talks on the TFX bomber, and we were to get B47’s £.s interim bombers. But what is the position today? Unless an enemy gives us about three or four years’ notice, there will be no bombers in this country to be used. It has been found that we have no airfields that will take the B47’s, although they are obsolete. This is the Government that speaks about its defence policy. At the rate this country is going, the Qantas aircraft will be faster than the bombers that we use in the defence of this nation. The Canberra bomber is about the only line of defence that we have in that sphere, because the Government could not get the B47’s and the TFX is not expected until 1968.
What can one expect from a Government that treats the defence portfolios as the ones in which the most incompetent Ministers can be placed and in which the most changes can be made? Let us look at the Navy portfolio. It is 14J years since this Government came into office. In that period there have been 10 Ministers for the Navy. Of those 10 Ministers, all but one were ex-servicemen, but not one of them was a member of the naval service when he served in the forces. Three or four of them were in the Australian Imperial Forces; two or three of them were in the Royal Australian Air Force; but not one of them was in the Navy. A Minister who was in the Navy ought to know a little about it.
On the other side of the ledger, of the nine Ministers for Air that we have had in that time, only two of them have been Air Force officers. The rest of them came from the Navy or somewhere else. It is the old American practice under which, if a person is against legislation, when you get into office you put him in charge of that legislation. Under this Government, if you were an eminent or prominent member of tha R.A.A.F. you will end up in charge of the Navy, and if you were a Navy man you will probably be put in charge of the Air Force. Is it any wonder that people say that the Prime Minister has never shown a great deal of interest in the defence portfolios? A few months ago the honorable member for Bradfield stated the attitude of the Prime Minister quite clearly. This is what he said, as reported at page 397 of “ Hansard “ of 19th August -
The people are uneasy. Yet they say: “ If the Prime Minister is not concerned, why should we be concerned? “
It is no wonder that the honorable member is not in the Ministry. He went on to say -
So, against their better judgment - I repeat “ against their better judgment” - they relapse into apparent unconcern.
The Prime Minister’s unconcern about the defence of this country is exemplified in the changes that have been made in the portfolios of the Navy, the Army and Air and the type of Ministers occupying those portfolios at present. I pay my tribute to the service that the present occupants of those portfolios rendered to their country in their respective Services. But would it not be reasonable to assume that, if a man was a submarine commander or a naval commander and was in. the Ministry and was eligible for promotion to a defence portfolio, he would be put in charge of the Navy?
– What would you qualify for?
– I would qualify for any position in this country, if the criterion were your performances. The reason why our defence forces are in the state that they are in today is that the Government puts square pegs in round holes. The honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Lindsay) - a very honorable man - when speaking in this chamber at 10.30 last night, said -
I should like, honestly, to congratulate the honorable member for Kingston, the honorable member for Batman and the honorable member for Capricornia on the Opposition side of the Committee.
They all made sincere contributions and presented some very good ideas. I realise, of course, that a lot of their colleagues on the other side of the chamber doubtless do not agree with what they said, but I consider they have done a lot of good by what they said. Government speakers have impressed me as being rather apologetic about results.
This man is a very prominent serviceman.
– A guardsman.
– Yes, the highest quality guardsman, with wide knowledge of what is doing in defence. Yet the Government says: “This is only Labour talk. This is just for the sake of putting up a case at election time.”
If I had the time tonight I could read out extract after extract from “ Hansard” to show that criticism of Australia’s defence comes from people who are supposed to be loyal, at least in public, to the party to which they belong. 1 refer, of course, to certain honorable members opposite. I do not think I need to go much further than I have gone already to show that there is grave concern in the Government ranks at what is happening, and that concern is not confined to this side of the Committee.
I invite honorable members to run through the long record of this Government and to see where we stand at the present time. We are told that our enemies are at our front door. Yet the present position is that the Army is 6,000 men short of its requirement of 28,000. It will not have a full complement until 1967, and the Minister for the Army admitted in the House that the achievement of even this target was only a hope. We have Centurion tanks which take months to get anywhere. The last exercise with Centurion tanks was rather like an episode from a Laurel and Hardy show. That was when an attempt was made to use the tanks in an exercise in north Queensland. Look at the position of the anti-tank missiles; study the efforts made to get TFX aircraft and 847 bombers as an interim standby. Consider the ridiculous situation in which radar installations are not operated at weekends. Look at the administration of the Navy. There could be no more discredited top personnel in all the Services than those responsible for Navy activities which have brought disaster to this country, culminating in the major disaster a few months ago.
There is a common pattern underlying all this Government’s administration of our defence forces. People who look to the Government to provide adequate defence must realise that all is not well in this important sphere. I hope that honorable members on the Government side will not confine themselves to pointing the hone at the Labour Party and saying: “ What have you done in this field? “ This Government has been in office for almost 15 years. The responsibility of protecting this country is the responsibility of this Government’, and any shortcomings in our defence at the present time cannot be related to anything done by the Opposition. Tonight I must place on record the unfortunate fact that this country is practically defenceless at a time when, in the Prime Minister’s own words, we have never been closer to war and the need for self preservation has never been more apparent. I hope that we will hear some objective answers to what has been put forward by the Opposition, and not merely criticism to cover the shortcomings of the Government.
.- I accept the suggestion of the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) that the responsibility for any inadequacies in defence must be that of the Government. I am sure that no-one would disagree with that proposition. The Government and its supporters are responsible for the condition of our defence forces at this time. But I do not think that anybody who has listened to this debate, supposedly on defence, which has taken some considerable time, could have been impressed by what has been put forward by the Opposition. In fact, to listen to some speakers on the opposite side one would not be aware that a debate on defence was taking place.
The honorable member for Grayndler made some play of the speech made by my colleague, the honorable member for Bradfield (Mr. Turner). Let me say that the honorable member for Bradfield has had the courage on a number of occasions to criticise the Government, but I have not heard the honorable member for Grayndler ever criticise in this chamber anybody on his side of the Parliament. We do know that outside the chamber he occasionally has a lash at the so-called left wing, but he never does it under the public eye or in the Parliament.
There is one thing that deters honorable members on this side from becoming rebels or from criticising the Government, and that is the fact that they know that what they say will be used by the Opposition not to secure more effective defences but as a horse to ride into office. In the minds of people such as I, this would be the most deplorable thing that could happen to Australia at the present time and in the present circumstances, and in circumstances that may arise in the future.
Let us consider the foreign policy of the Labour Party and the division on it that becomes apparent every time a debate on the matter takes place in this House. We hear a case presented by an honorable member leading for the Opposition, perhaps the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) or the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam). Then we immediately hear an alternative case presented by the honorable member for Yarra (Dr. J. F. Cairns), the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Uren) and others. At times the Deputy Leader of the Opposition even has enough courage to denounce the policy put forward as the official Labour policy by the honorable member for Reid. Although I understand that on a television programme in Brisbane the Deputy Leader of the Opposition said he was in agreement on all major issues with the honorable member for Yarra, let me say that if the speech this afternoon of the honorable member for Yarra on defence was indicative of the policy and the views supported by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition then I am very surprised. I would say without hesitation that any suggested agreement between the two honorable members is simply a front for the peace conference which is to be held in Sydney next week - and let the Deputy Leader of the Opposition say whether he supports it or denounces it.
Let me return for a moment to the honorable member for Grayndler. I regret that time that I had intended to spend in criticism of the Government is being taken up in answering the honorable member. Many people remember what happened during the last war. When the members of the Labour Party talk with pride of what they did in the last war, let them talk only of what they did only after the Russians came in on our side, because before that time they certainly had nothing to boast about. The great worry of the Australian people at this time is that there is no alternative government - and perhaps at times this is unfortunate - to which they can look to give this country a lead. The people know that any enemy we may have to face will be a pro-Communist enemy with sympathies in the Communist camp. They know that they cannot rely on the Opposition to lead this country in the way that it should be led. I am not saying that all members on the opposite side share the same views and policies, but it is accepted by the people that a large proportion of those on the other side look to the so-called left wing, and the people have to consider who would be their leaders if Labour came to power.
Let me say this to the Press representatives who may have described me and others as rebels against the Government: In fairness they should state clearly that I say here and now that there is no alternative to this Government as far as the defence and the future of Australia are concerned. Having said that, let me, in the short time allowed to us in this debate, come to the policy of the Government. First, 1 have no criticism of the people in the three defence forces and the associated departments. I have nothing but the highest admiration for those who are serving at this moment and trying to do their best for their country. They are serving in difficult times, in times of shortage of manpower, when the technical officers that we have - and indeed those in all the ranks - are spread so sparsely that many are doing a number of jobs. Let us say to the Government that it is our responsibility to ensure that when these people are sent into. any hostile area in any war of whatever type they are properly equipped so that they will be able to do the job that we send them to do. Unfortunately, I cannot say that they would be so equipped if we had to send them into action at this moment.
What is the situation in front of Australia? In my opinion, the events of the last week have made a great difference to what could be our defence planning over a number of years. The last estimate I had of when China was likely to explode an atomic bomb was anything from five to ten years. Well, China exploded a bomb last week, and it looks as if it will explode another. What effect is this going to have on South East Asia? There is no doubt that the neutrals, and even some of our allies, may well be looking towards China and assessing who is likely to be the winner in any war which may occur in that area. The Russian Premier has been thrown out and a new regime may have come in. We read indeed that the Russians have left the back door open for the Chinese Communists. If there is a getting together of these two great forces the future of Australia and of the little nations of the world is in a very serious predicament. If those two forces get together and decide to take a more hostile attitude, or if Russia docs so in conjunction with China, there is no doubt in my mind that American forces would be occupied, and fully occupied, possibly both in Europe and in the Bering Sea area which is adjacent to China, Russia and Alaska. If this were the case, when would the United States of America be able to send down to Australia forces which might be required to help us in an emergency?
Wc have also the Indonesian situation. What have we been confronted with, or what may we be confronted with, there? The Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) has said that we will defend New Guinea with everything we have got. We have a commitment in Malaysia, and we may well have a commitment in South East Asia - in Thailand or wherever it may be. As far as our Army is concerned at the moment, the honorable member for Bradfield made it clear that we have two and a half battle groups, a battalion in Malaysia, and some Citizen Military Forces units. What have we as an Air Force? 1 think it is fair to admit that the Royal Australian Air Force at the moment could not do very much at all. It is, to my mind, humorous when the Indonesians complain that our Air Force may be flying over their area, because they know darned well that our Air Force is incapable of flying over their area. Indeed, some of their planes could well be able to fly over our country. When we talk of our Navy, what have we? Wc have an anti-submarine fleet which has little offensive capability whatsoever. We have an aircraft carrier which can do very little in regard to moving into areas close to hostile shores. There is no doubt in my mind that wc have much planning to do.
It is difficult to come to a debate on Defence estimates and discuss what might be done in a week or a fortnight.
I have no idea. But I do state firmly here that something has to be done and it has to be done very much more quickly than it has been in the past, because the danger to this country is getting closer, and it will continue to do so. Indeed, I agree with the honorable member for Bradfield that the Prime Minister and those in the Government have to go out and give the lead to the people of Australia telling them that we have dangers to face and that we have to be prepared to face them by sacrifice. This applies to each one of us. There is no point in expecting the people to react when nothing comes from the top. I think the Prime Minister should go out and inspect our forces. He should go to the Navy, the Army and the Air Force and let himself be seen by the members of those forces and let them know that their efforts are appreciated. This is something that should be done.
The time that is allowed to each honorable member tonight to discuss the Defence estimates is 15 minutes. There are six Departments in these estimates, so we are allowed 2i minutes to discuss each Department. One cannot go into detail in that time. However, it is to be hoped that when the defence review is announced we will be able to go into more detail in relation to these matters. Let us compare what we have in the way of defence equipment in Australia with what the Indonesians have in the way of defence equipment. Let us think what impression we make on President Sukarno when we say to him: “If you do this, we will do that”. As I said, we have two and a half battle groups, a battalion in Malaysia, some C.M.F. units, some Sabre aircraft, some Canberra aircraft and an anti-submarine fleet. It is not very much when it is compared with the Indonesian forces. The Indonesian Army has some 300,000 soldiers of all ranks, and from 125 to 135 infantry battalions. There are 13 field artillery battalions, a number of cavalry battalions, and a number of engineer battalions. The Indonesian Navy has 1 cruiser, 8 destroyers, 9 destroyer escorts, 12 submarines, 23 coastal escorts, and 40 patrol boats. Indonesia also has a number of marine battalions and one battalion of amphibious tanks. The air force of Indonesia has 35 light bombers, 17 light bombers of the jet type, 25 medium bombers of the jet type, 41 ground attack fighters and 68 jet fighters. What have we in the way of defence forces that allows us to go into South East Asia and make statements such as we are making at the moment?
I agree that the potential of Australia is great. The Indonesians know that we can, if we are given the time, mount an effective offensive or build effective forces. But will time be on our side? At the moment, I will say without hesitation that it looks as if it will not. It does appear to me that from various points of view - our fighting forces, our allies, our own defences and the situation that confronts us - the Government must make a defence review and make it hastily. The Australian people must be told and must be prepared to make sacrifices.
I did not say this last year, and I did not feel it as strongly last year, but 1 do feel now that national service training is required in this country. We must have a minimum of one division of regular troops ready to go, and the C.M.F. must be re-organised as it was pre-war so that you can recruit to it and, when you have national service training, you can then build on it. It is most interesting to find that the Minister for the Army (Dr. Forbes) is now stating that a review or a re-organisation of the C.M.F. is about to take place. Last year, this was seemingly not to be. I welcome the fact that Ministers are now thinking of what is required. I think that this work has to be done hastily. I congratulate the Ministers. I do not criticise them. I think they are good Ministers. But I want them to fight not only in this chamber but also in the Cabinet room to see that their respective Services are given what they will require if they should have to come out and defend this country. I am quite sure that the heart of the Services is good. We have never had better Services in peace time. But let us be frank: We have never had a closer and more dangerous threat than is confronting Australia at this particular time.
Proposed expenditures agreed to.
Assent to the following Bills reported -
Income Tax and Social Services Contribution Assessment Bill (No. 2) 1964.
Income Tax and Social Services Contribution Bill 1964.
Australian Economy - Communism - Commonwealth Aid to Schools - TimberBuilding Material.
Motion (by Mr. Chaney) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- The Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) on 17th October 1962 announced the intention of the Government to establish a committee to inquire into and make a report on the Australian economy. In that speech, he outlined the terms of reference, which covered many facets of the Australian economy. They covered population trends; production, both secondary and primary; tariff procedures; overseas investment in Australia; and a number of other things. The right honorable gentleman said that it was of the utmost importance that the Government of this country receive the recommendations and advice of that committee at as early a date as possible. His exact words were - “The Government will wish the report ofthe Inquiry to be available to it as early as possible.”
That statement was made on 17th October 1962. The Prime Minister did say, however, that because of the number of subjects that were to be considered the inquiry might take a reasonable length of time, and that as soon as the members of the committee were named he would consult them about the time it would take them to submit their report to this Parliament.
The committee was appointed on 13 th February 1963. About six months after it was appointed, I asked the Prime Minister when we were likely to receive its report. I remember that, in his statesmanlike manner, he told me that the subject which had been referred to the committee was of the utmost importance, but that he had consulted the members of the committee and that the committee’s report would be submitted about nine months after the naming of its members. He said to me: “ Of course, nine months is a reasonable gestation period.” I accepted the Prime Minister’s statement, which meant that the committee’s report would have been submitted to this Parliament prior to the 1963 House of Representatives election. It was not so submitted. But, in the speech he delivered when the Parliament reassembled, His Excellency the Governor-General stated that the report would be submitted before the end of this year. I waited for a period. A couple of months ago, I asked the Prime Minister when the report would be submitted to the Parliament, and I reminded him of the reply that he had given me some time previously. On that occasion he said to me: “The report of this committee will be submitted to the Parliament in October of this year.” That was October 1964. There appears to be little evidence that the report will be presented during October.
I think the Parliament should ask the Prime Minister why this report, which was so urgent in 1962, which the committee promised the Prime Minister and the Parliament would be presented in November 1963, which the Governor-General promised would be submitted to the Parliament prior to the end of this year, and which the Prime Minister promised me would be submitted to the Parliament in October of this year, has not been presented. There is still no evidence that the report is to be submitted to the Parliament. There is something peculiar about the fact that a report which was so urgent in 1962 and which has been so important down through the years has not been submitted to the Parliament up to date.
Just recently, in another place, Senator McClelland asked Senator Henty what had been the cost up to then of the inquiry being made by this committee. He was told that £62,000 had been expended, but that £62,000 does not include payment for the advice and the great mass of assistance rendered to the committee by the various officers of Commonwealth Government Departments.
– Order! I point out to the honorable member that he will be out of order in referring to a debate in another place during the current session.
– I have been assured on the best and most reputable authority that an additional £40,000 is to be appropriated for the work of this committee. The £62,000 already spent and the £40,000 that is to be spent amount to a rather considerable sum. In addition, we have the cost of the services rendered by officers of the Commonwealth Public Service. I think it is time that the Government came forward and promised that before the Parliament adjourns this committee will submit to the Parliament a report of its investigations and the results of those investigations.
What will people think if this is not done? Of course, I would not suggest for a moment that this Government in endeavouring to keep the report in cold storage until after the Senate election has taken place, but there are people in the community who have more devious minds than I have and they are likely to think that the recommendations that the report is likely to contain, have already been conveyed to the members of the Government and that they consider that the report would be a devastating weapon in the hands of the Opposition at the time of the Senate election. In order to prevent ideas like that from spreading, in order to prevent persons like myself, who are not prone to entertain ideas such as that, being forced to accept them as having some substratum of truth, I ask that the Prime Minister or a representative of his appear before this House and give us an assurance that the report will be submitted to the Parliament before it adjourns, and that we will be given the fullest opportunity to discuss it.
– Last week, there was a statement by New South Wales Australian Labour Party trade union officials on the Communist Party’s current peace front issue. 1 have a copy of it in my hand, and I ask for leave to lay it on the table of the House.
– Is leave granted?
– Leave is not granted.
– This morning I gave the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) a copy of this statement for the information of his party, so that he would know that it was a statement made by Australian Labour Party trade union officials. I wonder why the Opposition is reluctant to have a statement made by members of its own party laid on the table of the House. This statement exposes the Congress as a Communist front, and it is signed by 53 members of the Labour Party who hold trade union positions. I ask for leave to have the names of these signatories incorporated in “Hansard”.
Mr. SPEAKER__ Is leave granted?
Opposition members. - No.
– Leave is not granted.
– In that case I propose to read them out.
– Order! I point out to the honorable member that he must not canvass a matter which will be coming before the House in the near future.
– Very good, Sir. Let me read the names.
– Order! The honorable member will be out of order in reading the names.
– On a point of order. This is new material. It is dated 16th October.
– Order! I ask the honorable member to resume his seat. The position is that there is a subject-matter on the notice paper - No. 16 - and the honorable member will have a full opportunity to discuss that when it comes before the House. He cannot anticipate debate.
– On a point pf order, Sir. I am not endeavouring to anticipate debate. I want to put the House in possession of new information.
– Order! The honorable member would be out of order.
.- The advent of the newspaper “ Australian “ was heralded with a fanfare of propaganda stating, in effect, that this newspaper would follow high ethical standards of reporting and editorial writing. This newspaper was to be one of exceptional and outstanding qualities. Only a few days after these introductory announcements, they were infringed and forgotten. Today’s editorial shows that the “ Australian “ has fallen as low as, if not lower than, any other newspaper in Australia. The editorial is misleading, biased and scurrilous. Statements in the editorial are unworthy of any man charged with the responsibility of running a national newspaper - a man with the power in his hand to mould public opinion.
The editorial is headed “ State aid and the privileged “. It is written in such a way as to leave the reader with no conclusion other than that aid granted by the Commonwealth for science laboratories was granted only to independent schools whereas two-thirds of the £5 million which was granted was granted to State schools. The final few paragraphs of the editorial are headed “ Not the first” and I quote three of those paragraphs -
Of course, the aid for science laboratories is not the first privilege accorded by the present Government to the parents of privileged children.
The Government allows parents to deduct up to £150 per child per annum for education fees, uniforms and the like.
Knowing that the parents of greater public school pupils are already receiving such socially unjustifiable subsidies from the rest of the community, how can the churches controlling most of these schools - the Anglicans, Methodists and Presbyterians - possibly reconcile with their Christian teaching the acceptance of further handouts?
Among the statements made is one about the parents of privileged children. Can anyone suggest that all parents in privileged positions send their children to the schools named earlier in the editorial? Thousands of children attending State schools have parents who could afford to send them to the most costly private schools.
Can anyone suggest that the £150 education allowance can be claimed as a tax deduction only by parents of children attending great public schools? Of course not. Every parent is entitled to lodge a tax deduction claim for educational expenses. The sincerity and truth of the editorial can be judged by the example I have given. I pass now to other portions of the editorial, and I quote -
But no doubt many people in the community are prepared to countenance the breaking down of secular State education tradition in order to see some improvement in the low, often appalling, standards of Catholic schools - starved as they are of funds and professional teaching talent.
In other words, many Australians were probably prepared to countenance Sir Robert’s blatant electoral bribery for the sake of doing something for the one quarter of Australian children getting substandard education at Catholic schools.
So there may be some sort of argument for State aid on the grounds of social relief, of improving for Catholic children the inferior opportunities to which they are condemned - albeit through their parents’ religious conviction, which is strictly their own affair and for which they should surely be asked to pay the bill themselves.
It Is not denied that many Catholic schools are starved of funds and that some of the teachers may not be as highly trained academically as teachers in State schools, but the lack of academic qualifications is made up by the dedication of the priests, nuns, brothers and lay teachers who teach at these schools, lt is made up for by the dedication and perseverance of the pupils at these schools. Some Catholic schools are overcrowded and lack teaching facilities, but if one can judge by the clamour that is made by the Premiers of the States, by the Teachers Federation, by parents and by teachers’ organisations, so are many of the State schools overcrowded and lacking in teaching facilities. 1 should like to know who is the author of this editorial. Who is this unknown, unnamed and unseen individual who hides behind his editorial desk and is not prepared to put his name at the top of the editorial he has written? I challenge him to identify himself publicly so that the people who have read this editorial may judge for themselves his motives and his qualifications. Is this man an agnostic? Does he want to see the closure of all Catholic schools throughout the Commonwealth and the chaos which would result?
In order to show how incorrect and ill advised his comments are, let me give the following facts. In the Leaving Certificate examination last year, in New South Wales, in the metropolitan area, 83.3 per cent, of State school children who sat for the examination were successful in passing and 81.7 per cent, of the children from nonState schools were successful in passing. At the Intermediate Certificate examination in New South Wales in 1962, 87 per cent, of the children from State schools were successful in passing and 89.3 per cent, of the children from non-State schools were successful in passing. In the 1963 Leaving Certificate examination in New South Wales, of the first 200 passes in order of merit 65 were gained by examinees from non-State schools - 25 boys from Catholic schools, 7 girls from Catholic schools, 20 boys from other private schools and 13 girls from other private schools.
I turn now to the qualifications of the teachers. Let me give one example - an example of a school in Canberra, St. Edmund’s College. The Principal of that school is a Bachelor of Arts, a Bachelor of Science, a Master of Education, an Associate of Education from the Queensland University, a member of the Australian College of Education and an Executive Member of the Canberra Chapter. He is former State President in Queensland of the Science Teachers Association. The Deputy Principal is a Bachelor of Science and Australian President of the Science Teachers Association. Of the 19 teachers at St. Edmund’s College, including both religious and lay members of the staff, at least 12 have or are studying for university degrees. I am told that the qualifications of the teachers at the Catholic Girls High School in Canberra are as good as, if not better than the qualifications of the teachers at St. Edmund’s College.
Does the writer of the editorial in today’s issue of the “ Australian “ realise that men and women who have attended these so called sub-standard schools have attained high positions? From their ranks have come Prime Ministers of Australia, Premiers of the States, high officers iri our armed forces, judges in our law courts and holders of other important legal positions. These men and women have played their part in industry, commerce and banking. If we work down to the categories of clerks, typists and public servants generally - if we come down among the ordinary people - we find that these persons who are supposed to have received a sub-standard education have more than played their part in the development of this Commonwealth. I challenge the writer of the editorial to pick out from among any selection of young men and women anywhere in Australia those who attended these schools which are said to be staffed by teachers who lack professional teaching qualifications and which are alleged to provide only sub-standard education. [Extension of time granted.] I thank the House for its indulgence. Further on, the editorial written by this unknown, unnamed and unseen man stated -
The argument for giving a helping hand to underprivileged Catholics is surely weak enough and can really only be justified on the basis of saving Catholic children from the consequences of their parents’ religious conviction.
I should like this man to know that, since the birth of Our Lord Jesus Christ, people of the same religious beliefs have been prepared to sacrifice themselves and their lives to uphold those beliefs. Scurrilous attacks such as this by people who, I guarantee, will not be prepared to identify themselves are unworthy of any Australian citizen.
.- Mr. Speaker, I shall be very brief. All I want to say is that I thoroughly agree with everything that the honorable member for Lang (Mr. Stewart) has just said. The editorial that he quoted is dripping with venom, rancid with bias and a thoroughly unworthy piece of journalism. I shall say no more, because the honorable member has put in words much more felicitous than I could use everything that need be said on the subject.
.- Mr. Speaker, I wish to bring to the attention of the House this evening a product which is now being marketed in Australia and which is beginning to cause a good deal of concern, particularly to local government authorities. This is a cladding material which is imported from Canada and which is designed to appeal to people who live in old weatherboard houses which they wish to give a new look by making it appear that they are of brick veneer construction. In Victoria, unfortunately, the Building Regulations Committee has given this material its blessing. As a consequence, councils have no course but to give permits for its use to people who wish to have their homes reclad with the material. But local government authorities, as a result of their examination of the material, are greatly concerned. It has been found, although the product is supposed to meet certain standards of heat resistance, that the lapping joints are highly inflammable.
– Has the honorable member any proof of that?
– Yes. I have demonstrated this to honorable members on both sides of the House and to Mr. Speaker. I would be prepared, if any honorable member doubts my word, to give him a demonstration, if I could do so without transgressing the forms of the House.
– Give us a demonstration.
– I took the matter up wilh Mr. Speaker and he told me that I would transgress if I attempted to give a demonstration in the chamber. But I am prepared to give a demonstration outside the chamber to any honorable member who doubts my word. I have some samples of the material here for honorable members to examine.
The availability of this product on the Australian market is detrimentally affecting the timber industry, particularly in Melbourne, where representatives of the industry are deeply concerned about the impact on their sales as a result of the marketing of this imported cladding. Local Government authorities are greatly concerned about the inability of the material to comply wilh safety standards. I understand that it is given a heat rating of 100 under the Amercan standards, but in Australia, on a hot day, with the temperature at 90 degrees or more, the walls of a house can develop a heat of 140 to 180 degrees. So the authorities are concerned about safety standards for this material. I have tested it by applying a welder’s torch to the face of a sample piece and have found that the torch makes no great impression. However, immediately a match is applied to the lapping edge, the material bursts into flame. Honorable members can see what has happened to this piece which I now hold up and which I tested in this manner.
I suggest to the Ministers responsible for allowing this product to be imported into Australia that they take action to prevent further imports. Have they made any inquiries about the effect on the timber industry of the sale in this country of a product such as this? Has the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation made any tests of it? 1 know that we have no standards laboratories that lay down ethical standards for building materials although some work of this kind is done in New South Wales. Generally speaking, and certainly in Victoria, the required facilities are not available. I submit samples of the product to the responsible Ministers and urge that the matter be attended to.
This product is a laminated material composed of layers of a bituminous substance between papier mache sheets. It is available in two grades. The first quality, of which the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) now holds a sample in his hand, is offered at a price that represents £650 for the recladding of a six room house.
– Is the material fixed over the existing cladding?
– The weatherboards are removed and it is fixed to the existing studs.
– Has it to be painted?
– No painting is needed.
– How long will it last?
– Indefinitely, according to the claims made for it. A six room house may be reclad with the cheaper quality at a cost of £400. This is the more inflammable of the two grades. Honorable members will see from the composition of the product that there would be a great fire risk once fire penetrated the papier mache and reached the bituminous substance. I ask the Minister concerned to take note of what I have said and to ask the C.S.I.R.O. to conduct tests on the material. I ask the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr. McEwen) to ascertain what effect the import of this material is having on the timber industry.
– I support the remarks of the honorable member for Gellibrand (Mr. Mclvor) about this 60-caIIed building material. Apparently, it is marketed in sheets 6 feet by 4 feet and is tacked on to the exterior of houses which, because of the ravages of time, have deteriorated seriously. In the main, the inhabitants of these old houses would be people of modest means and the material may have particular appeal to them. It seems to me that a very strong case can be made for an investigation at the customs level and for tests by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation to determine whether the import of the material should be allowed to continue. I have taken the trouble to open a sample of the material. It is about half an inch thick. The exterior is a laminated sheet of papier mache heavily impregnated with some form of bitumen. The inner layer is much thinner, probably about l/32nd of an inch, but again made of papier mache impregnated with a bituminous material. We all know that bitumen, tar and similar products create a dangerous fire hazard. In Victoria, the authorities concerned with uniform building regulations are inclined to approve of the use of the material but the local authorities in the area I represent view it with grave concern. Consequently, I support the reasonable request of the honorable member for Gellibrand for an investigation.
While I am on my feet, I want to direct attention to another aspect of the building industry in Victoria. For a long time, some States have imposed minimum standards for building materials, including hardwood scantlings. I understand that in New South Wales the standards laid down protect the prospective builder or the industrious Australian who wants to make an addition to his home. The minimum quality for scantlings used in the timber frames of houses are set out and this affords a substantial protection to the home builder. If he wants to buy scantlings of various sizes - 4 x 2, 4 x H, 6x2 and so forth - to build a substantial addition to his home, he would be looking for first quality timber, but if he wants to build a fowl house or some such structure, he would possibly be satisfied with third grade timber. Apparently, no standards are laid down in Victoria. The unfortunate purchaser of timber orders, say 10 feet of 4x2 and frequently finds that, because no standards are laid down, he must nip five or six inches from each end to ensure that he gets a sound piece of timber. If he orders good timber, he is entitled to get good timber that is quarter sawn, as it is called, and not backed off. However, in many instances, although the purchaser orders good timber he receives a piece of timber that has a substantial area of sap wood along the edge of it, and sap wood is readily attacked by borers and other insects.
The building industry in Australia is very articulate when it is seeking protection. It has no hesitation in approaching the Government from time to time seeking increased protection to enable it to meet competition from imported timber. Nobody begrudges this. But surely the homebuilder and the hobbyist are entitled to receive a good standard of timber when they order it and are prepared to pay for it. Instead they have thrust upon them utter rubbish and poor quality timber. When the authorities in Victoria issue licences for the milling of certain forest areas, they specify that the timber be used entirely for the manufacture of shooks, which are used in making fruit cases and so on. It is third or fourth grade timber. However, some sawmillers who have licences for shooks on occasions mill scantlings and pass them off to the unfortunate home owners as good timber for incorporation in additions to houses.
This may not appear to be a matter for the Commonwealth Government, but it is to this extent: If it is possible in New South Wales and perhaps in other States to lay down standards for hardwood timber - this is one of Australia’s great industries - it is surely possible for similar standards to be laid down in Victoria. The Commonwealth Government frequently tries to obtain uniform standards on all sorts of matters that arise in all States and I would suggest that the Commonwealth Government should try to establish uniform standards for the sawmilling industry and for the sale of hardwood. I understand that we have a National Standards Commission, which works in close co-operation with the Commonwealth Government and I ask the Minister concerned - probably the Minister for National Development (Mr. Fairbairn) - to call together the State Ministers who have control of forests and try to obtain uniform standards in all the States for the grading of timber. Such standards would protect the industrious Australian and for that matter the commercial builder from the injustices that they are suffering when rubbishy timber is thrust upon them instead of timber of a good quality.
– I have listened with interest to the remarks of the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) about the timber industry in Victoria. I do not think it would be fair to allow any thought to develop in the minds of honorable members that the Victorian Sawmillers Association does not have
Tegard for the purchasers of the timber its members produce. He has made his charge on two or three grounds. The first accusation he laid against the timber industry in Victoria is that the purchaser of a ten foot length of timber 4x2 must nip off five or six inches from each end before he has a satisfactory piece of timber. I point out to the honorable member that the purchaser of a ten foot length of timber from a hardware store pays for only 10 feet. The five or six inches mentioned by the honorable member are added for the protection of the purchaser and the purchaser does not pay for this part.
– Yes, he does.
– He does not. A reputable hardware store would not charge a purchaser for the additional length. I assure the honorable member that it is not the general practice to make such a charge. The Victorian Sawmillers Association has done a lot of work amongst its members in an effort to educate them on the need to produce a quality timber. Whilst there may be some room for improvement, it is true to say that when a purchaser goes to a hardware store to buy timber he is sold timber of good quality. Timber with sapwood along the back, which was mentioned by the honorable member for Lalor, is usually regarded as second grade and only an unscrupulous timber merchant would sell it at the price of first quality timber. It would not be the policy of the Victorian Sawmillers Association to allow such a practice to develop. It does not recognise this as good practice. It takes a very keen interest in the industry and always tries to promote the welfare of the industry as a whole. I would not like the House to think that the charges made by the honorable member for Lalor have the basis that he said they have.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11.19 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated -
s asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows - 1 and 2. The amount of the financial assistance grants payable to Queensland (and the other five States) in 1959-60, and the formula for determining grants in succeeding years, were unanimously agreed by the State Premiers at the June 1959 Premiers’ Conference.
In determining the amounts of the grants payable for 1959-60, regard was had to the overall revenue requirements of each State which were, of course, based on levels of expenditure including expenditure on account of Aborigines and Aboriginal welfare.
One element of the formula agreed upon in 1959 for determining the grant payable to each State in the years succeeding 1959-60 is the proportionate movement in population of each State in the year immediately preceding the year of the grant. This proportionate change is applied to the amount of the grant payable in the immediately preceding year.
The important factor in this part of the formula is, therefore, the annual proportionate change in the estimated population of each State. The inclusion of the full blood Aborigines in the population figures would be unlikely to make any marked difference to the annual proportionate change in the population of Queensland.
y asked the Minister for Territories, upon notice -
In view of statements attributed to residents in Nauru concerning the attitude of people from Curtis Island, will he state whether there is any segregation, colour prejudice, or failure to accept other nationalities into their way of life on the Island of Nauru by the Nauruans?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows -
For convenience, the non-Nauruan elements (European, Chinese and Gilbert and Ellice Islanders) employed on Nauru by the Administra tion and the British Phosphate Commissioners are housed in settlements away from the residential areas used by the Nauruans themselves. Relationships between the various groups are harmonious. The Nauru Local Government Council has the right under an Ordinance that came into force in December 1962, to admit non-Nauruans as members of the Nauruan community if they meet certain prescribed conditions. I understand that the Council has neither admitted or rejected any non-Nauruans under this Ordinance though some applications have been made which have not yet been dealt with.
e asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows -
m asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows -
son asked the Minister for the Army, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows -
The above includes two Indonesian officers who are currently attending the 18 months’ Staff College Course at Queenscliff. Reciprocally, an Australian officer is attending the Indonesian Army Start College.
s asked the Minister for Immigration, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows -
The term “ permanent and long term arrivals “ relates to persons, other than Australian troops, who state on arrival they intend to reside in Australia for a period of one year or more.
A new statistical analysis first published by the Commonwealth Statistician on 1st May 1962, shows the following more detailed information for the period commencing 1st January 1959 -
The figures set out below include arrivals from 1st January 1959 to 30th June 1964 -
It is impossible to allocate assistance granted between the countries from which these migrants came. The total costs of assistance are shown in the answer to the second part of Question No. 485 of 26th August 1964.
Immigration. (Question No. 485.)
s asked the Minister for
Immigration, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows -
In addition, 170,700 persons arrived under the Displaced Persons Scheme, most of whomcame from Germany, the remainder coming fromother West European countries, mainly Austria and Italy. Forty-five thousand five hundred and nine persons arrived under the Empire and Allied Ex-servicemen’s Scheme and the General Assisted Passage Scheme. As persons arriving under these latter schemes made their own travel arrangements, it is not possible to give precise information on means of transport and the country they came from.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 21 October 1964, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1964/19641021_reps_25_hor44/>.