25th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. Sir John McLeay) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– Honorable members will be pleased to know that we have present in the gallery this afternoon Mr. Harry Chan, the first elected President of the Legislative Council for the Northern Territory, accompanied by Mr. Peter Murray, the Chairman of Committees. I am sure the House would want me to extend to them a very warm welcome.
Honorable members. - Hear, hear!
– I address a question to the Minister for Trade and Industry. Has an Israeli shipping company made a public announcement that it will start a regular shipping service between Australian ports and the east coast of America this year? Has the Maritime Fruit Carriers company guaranteed to transport Australian frozen cargo at the existing rate until January 1968, and is this the reason why the Conference Lines have abandoned for the time being their proposed steep freight increases? What arrangement or agreement has been entered into between the Maritime Fruit Carriers and Australian interests? Did the Australian Government or its departmental officers play any part in encouraging this company to compete against what was virtual Conference Lines control of this run? Finally I ask: In order for it to compete, would the Maritime Fruit Carriers require an agreement with the Government? Has the proposed entry of this company already proved to be of benefit to our producers, and can or will the Government take action to see that this company gets a fair go?
– I am not in a position to answer in full the various questions asked by the honorable member. I have seen statements in the Press that an Israeli shipping company had made an offer to carry refrigerated cargo along the lines mentioned.
I know that after long discussions - largely, I think, between the Australian Meat Board and other meat interests and the so called Conference Lines - an arrangement has been made which I gather ensures the continued carriage of our meat at the existing freight charge for the foreseeable future. If the honorable member will allow me to treat other aspects of his questions as questions on notice I will reply to him by letter. 1 can only say that although I have not participated personally in any of these matters, officers of my Department are at all times willing to advise those who are exporting from Australia or who have proposals to make in connection with the carriage of goods from Australia.
– I wish to ask the Prime Minister a question. In what year did the Labour Government introduce conscription during World V/ar II and was there a referendum before its introduction? Was the present Leader of the Opposition a Minister in that Government? Did he oppose conscription and, if so, did he later resign, or did he scrap his principles? Was the minimum age for the call up 18 years and did the Government send half trained conscripts into jungle fighting in New Guinea?
– The Australian Labour Party Government introduced conscription in 1943. No referendum was held at that time. As I recall, the Leader of the Opposition was not at that stage a Minister. The legislation introducing conscription was passed in February of that year. The Leader of the Opposition became a Minister in September of that year, but he did oppose vigorously the legislation when it was introduced.
– Not in the House.
– Yes, in the House.
– I seconded an amendment.
– Yes. The honorable gentleman expressed himself in his usual clear, vigorous and emphatic terms. I shall be glad to remind him of the pungent passage that he employed to condemn the legislation and toe action of the Government, of which he was then a supporter, in introducing it. It is true that the legislation applied to young Australians aged 18 years, lt is not within my competence to comment upon their training condition when they were put into action. This Government has made it clear in respect of the 20 year old youths called up for service in the present national service scheme that a minimum period of six months, and in all probability nearly nine months or more, of training would have been carried out before they would be asked to go into action.
– I direct my question to the Prime Minister. If the Government’s policy of involvement in the Vietnam conflict is receiving popular support, why are not sufficient Army volunteers coming forward to support the Government’s policy? Are national service trainees requested to sign a document which includes the proposal that they are prepared to volunteer for service overseas? If this is a fact, will the right honorable gentleman explain to the House why such action has been taken?
– The honorable gentleman has asked why an adequate body of volunteers is not coming forward. If he studies the figures in respect of volunteers in each of the last three years he will see that they have borne a quite interesting consistency in proportion to people in that age group. The total number of volunteers for the Army in each of the last three years has been in excess of 8,000, but the proportion found suitable for the requirements of the Army is comparatively low. Certainly fewer than 3,000 of the 8,000 have been found to be suitable. When the Government decided that it was necessary to enlarge the Australian Regular Army - this necessity followed on the closest consultation in relation to these matters with our most expert military advisers - it was made clear to us by those advisers that, in order to maintain an army at the strength required, it would be necessary to introduce a scheme of national service. The legislation introduced, therefore, followed the most expert military advice available to the Commonwealth in relation to a strategic situation on which our security arrangements were made.
– What about the Government’s asking national service trainees to sign a document?
– The honorable gentleman asked about some proposal which the trainees were required to sign. I shall examine that aspect of his question and see whether the text can be made available to him.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Defence been drawn to Press reports of the project of the Jubilee Committee of the Hobart Returned Servicemen’s League sub-branch to make a comprehensive collection of wartime postal material to be presented to the Australian War Museum? If so, is he in a position to say whether his Department or the Service departments can contribute to the collection from files holding wartime records or whether these departments could relate the markings on envelopes and other covers to the operational movements of units?
– As I understand it, there was a proposal by the Hobart Subbranch of the Returned Servicemen’s League to make a collection of wartime mail and from the post marks thereon to trace the movement and location of defence forces abroad. Unfortunately, the departmental files do not retain either wrappers or envelopes and therefore no postmarks would be available. Furthermore, I would be a little appalled at the amount of work that might be involved for the Department of Defence in trying to relate one to the other to achieve what might well be a rather indifferent result. In fact, during the war mail was so dealt with as to hide the location and identity of the various units. Most of the mail collected from Air Force and Army units went to the nearest base post office and therefore the postmarks would not really identify locations. I understand that the situation is even worse in respect of the Navy because mail, having been collected, was not stamped until arrival at the next port of call. For all these reasons, I do not think that a project of this kind would really produce a useful result.
– My question, which ls directed to the Minister for the Interior, refers to my earlier representations seeking drought relief for farmers in the Australian Capital Territory and in particular to the recent announcement by the Prime Minister of additional financial assistance to be provided by the Commonwealth through arrangements with the State Governments of New South Wales and Queensland in respect of advances for fodder purchases, subsidies on the carriage of fodder and stock by road and rail, the return of stock from agistment and the restocking of properties. I ask the Minister whether the Government, in its own Territory, will now provide similar forms of assistance to farmers and graziers and particularly soma dairy farmers who because of the drought have had to send stock away on agistment and have fodder transported by road from more favoured districts in New South Wales.
– The provision for financial assistance for people affected by drought applies in the Australian Capital Territory equally with the various States. We have not fixed a definite policy on freight rebates and similar measures for drought relief in the Territory because we were waiting to see what the circumstances would be. I venture to suggest that the drought here has not been as acute as it has been in some of the severely afflicted areas. There would not be many cases in the Australian Capital Territory of severe drought effects, but we shall be happy to examine even isolated cases to determine whether they come within the scope of the approved drought relief measures.
– My question is addressed to the Treasurer. I ask: Will he, when considering finance for primary producers as set out in the Prime Minister’s statement, have investigations made with a view to dividing those who have suffered by the drought into three categories - those who can be lifted back into production only by a grant, those whose requirements can adequately be covered by a long term loan at a reasonable rate of interest and those who although suffering loss by drought do not require government financial assistance? Will the Minister aim at allocating the available finance accordingly?
-! shall have a cautious look at the problems raised by tha honorable gentleman.
– Why cautious?
– Well, careful, if the honorable gentleman wishes. I shall have a careful look at the problems raised by the honorable member for Mallee and shall discuss them with representatives of both the Reserve Bank and the Treasury. I shall then treat the question as being on notice and shall let the honorable gentleman have a reply by letter.
– My question is directed to the Prime Minister. In view of the reported wide discontent within the provinces of South Vietnam which culminated in a mass meeting in Saigon of 10,000 South Vietnamese who demanded that the ruling military junta be disbanded : and make way for a democratically elected government, will the right honorable gentleman seek to cancel his Government’s policy of sending national service conscripts to bolster this unpopular military junta?
– It is interesting to see how consistently honorable gentlemen opposite attempt to denigrate the Government of South Vietnam despite the most valiant endeavours that it is making to resist the pressures of Communism in South Vietnam. We all know that there does not exist in South Vietnam the kind of national entity or unity that we enjoy in this country and that the communities are responsive to group loyalties rather than to the sort of national loyalty that develops in a well ordered democratic country such as our own. There is no doubt that the present Government of South Vietnam has been compelled to adopt rigorous measures in order to maintain an effective control in a situation in which there are various groups or sects, each with its own special interests and each capable of directing criticisms against a government that does not always fall in line with its expressed wishes.
We can recognise these difficulties and we realise how much they complicate the task of maintaining a wartime administration and at the same time trying to conduct an efficient civil administration under these stresses. Far from being critical, I think the Australian Parliament should attempt to be well informed and sympathetically disposed to those who must contend with matters of this kind. The fact of the matter is that some hundreds of thousands of the citizens of South Vietnam, aided by more than 200,000 troops of the United States of America, are helping to resist Communist pressure In South Vietnam and in doing so are helping to preserve the security of Australia.
– My question is directed to the Minister for the Navy. I should like to know whether his attention has been drawn to an open letter published in a recent edition of the newspaper “ Australian “ over the name of the honorable member for Capricornia, G. H. Gray, M.H.R., Parliament House, Canberra, which is headed “ Is Navy Getting Value? “ and in which the honorable member criticises the Government’s choice of the D.D.G. destroyers and their armament. Is the honorable member correct in his statement in this letter that the Russian Skoryi class-
– Order! The honorable member has drawn attention to an article. He cannot quote from it.
– I am not quoting from it.
– I ask the Minister: Is the Russian Skoryi class of destroyer, of which Indonesia already has seven, superior in armament and does it carry a smaller complement than the Charles F. Adams class of destroyer does?
– I saw the letter of the honorable member for Capricornia and was rather surprised that he wrote it. Last year, during the debate on the Estimates, he raised this very same point and I thought it had been answered. About that time, the Leader of the Opposition asked a question without notice of the former Prime Minister about the Charles F. Adams destroyers and it was answered in “ Hansard “ about November, I think. The Charles F. Adams class was chosen by the Government following a recommendation of the Naval Staff, because this was considered to be the best ship available for the purposes for which it would be used. Since the commissioning of H.M.A.S. “Perth”, nothing has been learned that would alter this decision and the Navy is still of opinion that it is the best ship of its class in the world today. The honorable member referred to a comparison with certain Russian ships. I am not aware that the Russians have invited us to any acceptance or evaluation trials of their vessels. I notice that the letter said that the Indonesians were in possession of Komar boats. No Navy, apart from Russia’s is proceeding with the building of these vessels. It is a pity that matters such as these are raised in this way, because the morale of the fleet depends on its belief in the efficiency of its ships.
– Whether they are efficient or not.
– Well, those in authority believe in the efficiency of our fleet, and they have a little more knowledge of these matters than have some honorable members opposite who are interjecting.
– I ask the Minister for Air a question. Will the price paid by Australia for the Fill aircraft ordered in the United States be considerably higher than the price quoted at the time of the order? If so, what is the aggregate difference in price expected to be? What is the reason for the difference in price? By placing early orders for these aircraft what advantage in terms of price, if any, did Australia gain over countries which have recently placed orders for the aircraft?
– The Australian Government ordered the Fill aircraft early to ensure that it got early delivery. The aircraft will be delivered to the Royal Australian Air Force earlier than to any other air force with the exception of the United States Air Force. Also, in ordering this aircraft the Government had in mind that it was entirely suited to the needs of the R.A.A.F. The Air Force will get at the earliest possible date the best aircraft available for its purposes. Obviously certain additional important factors had to be considered. The first was price. When the aircraft was ordered it was still on the drawing board. A number of estimates of ultimate price had to be made, taking into account cost of research, development, manufacture, ground installations and ground handling equipment. As I said to the honorable member for Capricornia ;n answer to a question last September, we will not know the final cost of this aircraft until it has been delivered to the Air Force. That is still the position. 1 made it clear at the time that the price was liable to variation. Honorable members who were in the House on the occasion in September last will remember my remarks.
I have now been able to tell the nation that we have a more up to date estimate of the cost than we had in 1963. I have still not said that we know what the final cost will be. This will depend on the size of the total order. The more aircraft ordered, the lower the price. The fewer ordered, the higher the price. I made this clear to the House before and I say it again. The main thing to remember is that we are getting an aircraft that is vital to the needs of the defence of this country and we are getting it early in its production life because we ordered it early. I hope that these points will not be lost on honorable members. As I have said, we will get the aircraft before any other nation except the United States of America. For instance, we will get it before the Royal Air Force gets it. We will still pay the same price as will be paid by the United States Air Force or any other air force. I do not think anybody in our position in 1963 could have made a better guess at the cost of these aircraft than we made. I firmly believe that we are getting an extremely valuable aircraft at a damned fair price.
– Will the Treasurer say whether further consideration has been given to the financial problems confronting the Governments of New South Wales and Queensland due to the drought? Will adequate grant and loan funds be made available to the States so that they may meet drought requirements in rural areas and also maintain fully their public works and services?
– We have been giving further consideration to the question of drought relief. Already the Prime Minister has announced that we are prepared to support State Government budgets to permit them to give carry on finance up to a limit pf about $6,000 a man in the case of necessitous farmers. At the moment we are also considering some proposals that have been made by the New South Wales and Queensland Governments. These are designed to ensure that adequate finance is available to the small farmer for restocking purposes. I can assure the honorable member that the proposals he has mentioned are receiving our most careful attention and I hope within the next few days to be able to make a comprehensive statement on the position.
– Will the Treasurer examine the need for lifting the education deduction provided for in the Income Tax Act from the present £150 a year in view of the fact that it costs country parents throughout Australia £300 or more a year per child to send their children to universities or to schools in the capital cities. This cost includes the cost of board. Will the Government consider, in the Budget planning, increasing the deduction from £150 to £300 to give the urgent help required to thousands of country parents to whom the higher education of their children is a continuing financial burden?
– No Commonwealth Government has done more than this one to assist education in Australia. We will willingly give the Opposition every opportunity it wants to debate the subject of education, should it want to do so. As to the question asked by the honorable member, I have great sympathy for people who wish to educate their children in independent schools. I thought it was contrary to the policy of the Australian Labour Party to support such proposals; nonetheless, during the course of the Budget examination and discussions I will look at the question and the decision will be announced in the Budget itself.
– I ask the Treasurer: Can an examination be made of the individual taxpayer’s return to see whether it can be made more convenient? 1 point out that a number of columns do not provide sufficient’ space for persons to write legible figures where required and that some areas requiring detail could be slightly enlarged to prevent the need for the average taxpayer to pin on additional details. On the other hand, some columns in both categories are obviously too large.
– This is the first time 1 have had the question of the size of the spaces on taxation return forms referred t’o me - whether they are sufficient to permit figures and explanations to be written in. I have to confess that 1 usually find much difficulty in filling in the forms myself; consequently, I shall have the problem examined. As to the second part of the question, stating that some of the spaces are too large, I think there are far too many spaces to fill in and there is far too much writing to do, so I assure the honorable member that this problem will be carefully looked at.
– I ask the Prime Minister a question concerning an international problem which is of delicate concern to Australia. Will he instruct our Ambassador to Ireland, Mr. Hugh Roberton, to register a protest with the Irish Government about the bombing of Lord Nelson’s statue in Dublin?
– I am sure from what we can recall of our former colleague’s vigilance and efficiency that he will see that Australia’s interests in this situation are closely watched.
– I address a question to the Minister for Trade and Industry. Is it true that General Motors-Holden’s Pty. Ltd. desires permission to export Holden products to Japan? Is it also true that permission has been refused by the Japanese Government?
– I have never made it a practice to discuss in the House the business of any particular company, but it is very well known that General MotorsHolden’s Pty. Ltd. has a splendid record of exporting and endeavouring to export its products.
– “ Endeavouring “ is a good word.
– It is exporting tens of thousands of Australian vehicles to very many countries around the world. That is greatly to the credit of the company. I point out, too, that it is very much more difficult for an Australian car manufacturer to export cars to Japan than it is for a Japanese car manufacturer to export cars to Australia.
– I address a question to the Prime Minister. On 20th August 1964, the then Minister for the Army, Dr. Forbes, said in this House that the Government had not introduced national service training, because firstly, to do so would be against the unanimous advice of the Government’s military advisers; secondly, it would have an adverse effect on the morale and the role of the Citizen Military Forces; thirdly, it would level out at an additional cost of £117 million a year and, fourthly, for reasons of this kind the British Government abandoned its two-year compulsory military service scheme. I ask: Why did the Government, in which the Minister who made these observations was still Minister for the Army, introduce national service training three months later? I also ask: Was it the intention of the Menzies Government, when it introduced national service training, to conscript the trainees to die in a bogged down, unwinnable war in Vietnam? Finally, what made the Government’s military advisers change their mind on the question of national service training, if they did so?
– 1 am not prepared to accept what the honorable gentleman says as being completely accurate in the sense that it fully covers the statements made by my colleague. I can recall the then Minister for the Army making his statements in this House. I also recall the attempts which were subsequently made by honorable gentlemen opposite to embarrass him, after national service training had been adopted by the Government, by quoting the Minister’s earlier statements. But, of course, what honorable gentlemen opposite did not go on to say was that in the meantime the Government had revised quite considerably upwards its estimate of the total number of men that it wished to have in the Australian Regular Army. It was when the revised target was discussed with the Chief of the General Staff that it was made known to us, on the best military advice, that if we were to achieve this target within the time period which had been designated for this purpose it could only be done by the introduction of a national service training scheme.
These matters were all explained thoroughly and carefully by my colleague in the position he then occupied as Minister for the Army. The honorable gentleman tries to confuse the issue now by throwing in this emotional, hysterical appeal to a wider audience. The honorable gentleman’s own personal feelings on this matter are well known. I referred earlier in the day to the action he took against his own Government in 1943 when, in the interests of our national security, the then Prime Minister felt it necessary lo extend a programme of national service training to ] 8-year-old Australians for war service. The honorable gentleman talks about this socalled unwinnable war. If he goes on in this way attempting to weaken morale, then he will be making his own contribution to failure to succeed in the war.
Of course, he will not have that effect. Despite the sneering references by honorable gentlemen opposite to tha South Vietnamese, there is no significant droop amongst the main groups to which I referred earlier today in their support for the Government in its resistance to the Vietcong. The Vietcong have not been able to secure-control of any one of the 43 provincial capitals in South Vietnam. In a cause involving more than 300,000 South Vietnamese troops, assisted by more than 200,000 United States troops, and with a doubling of the contribution from Korea which itself felt so recently the threat of the Communist takeover Australia feels it proper that it should be represented also - represented by a task force of 4,500 troops which will include some 1,400 national servicemen.
– My question to the Prime Minister is supplementary to that asked by the honorable member for Ade laide. Is it a fact that the leaders of the discontented group in South Vietnam who have recently been reported as opposing the Ky regime have now explained that they have no fundamental or insoluble differences with that Government and that they believe such grievances as have existed can be peaceably determined?
– What the honorable gentleman just said is consistent with the statement I made a few moments ago to the effect that the main groups in South Vietnam, the Buddists, the Catholics, the trade unionists, the students, the army, indeed, all the main identifiable groups, are certainly agreed in their will to resist the Vietcong and all that they stand for, whatever differences those groups may have on other matters. They are very conscious of the threat to their own security, and their own freedom, of Communist oppression. They have seen this operating in other parts of the world. They have seen the attempt made to impose this kind of regime upon Korea and other Asian countries. Whatever differences might develop inside their own communities - and there is nothing peculiar about that in any community where people are free to express their minds - there is unity in this determination to resist the threat of Communist oppression.
– Would the right honorable gentleman inform the House as to the state of Australia’s defence services prior to the Curtin Government taking office? Were the defences of this country entirely inadequate to meet the threat of a Japanese invasion? Was Australia wide open to invasion? Was this the reason which compelled the Curtin Government to introduce conscription? Was the right honorable gentleman a member of the party which made the defence services in this country inadequate?
– I shall be glad to supply to the honorable gentleman the statement made by Mr. Curtin when he took over the Prime Ministership.
– That was a burst of generosity.
– Well, this Government is never likely to suffer from that situation so far as the Leader of the Opposition is concerned. We do not ask for generosity from him. We ask for a fair and objective statement of the facts. The late John Curtin gave a sober, responsible and realistic view of the situation as he found it in reporting to the Australian nation when he took office, and he paid a tribute to the Government which his Government succeeded for the state of the nation’s forces and, generally, the administration of the defence apparatus. Sir, I know that the Labour Government was able to go on in later years after we had done all the ground work - the preparation, the planning for the munition establishment of this country and the munition effort of Australia which laid the foundations for vast areas of our subsequent secondary industry development. This produced results in later years, as anybody who knows the ways in which manufacturing activities operate would readily appreciate.
We had to start from the ground upwards with the aid of men such as Essington Lewis, Larry Hartnett and the rest of them. Even Mr. Chifley himself was appointed at one stage to do a job in relation to manpower organisation. It was this apparatus which the Leader of the Labour Government, Mr. Curtin, was able to take over from the Government that his Government succeeded, and it was in respect of that that he made the statement to which I have referred. I am asked why he found it necessary to introduce conscription because of the state of our defences. The national service scheme - or conscription - in 1943 was introduced more than two years after the Curtin Government of the same political party as that to Which honorable gentlemen opposite belong, had taken office, and after Japan had come into the war. At least let us have the facts straight as to the past. As to the present, the Australian people will be able to decide for themselves where realism lies in this issue, and I am quite confident that if we can have the facts dealt with in a fair and objective way the Australian people will give their continuing support to this Government for its defence policy.
– Has the Minister for the Army been informed of the publicity given to a suggestion that the United Kingdom Government will establish at Fremantle facilities for servicing its Polaris armed submarines? Is there any official foundation for this suggestion?
– I think this report appeared originally in an evening newspaper in my own State, Western Australia. From what I can gather the source of information was another newspaper somewhere in England. As I stated at the time when inquiries were made at my office, if any defence establishment is to be located anywhere in Australia the statement about its establishment will be made in the House by either the Prime Minister or the Minister for Defence. Since no such statement has been made so far as I know there is no truth at all in the report.
– I address to the Prime Minister a question with reference to the Government of South Vietnam and its protection or assistance by this country and America. How long does the right honorable gentleman expect it to be before the Government of South Vietnam is stabilised and in a position where it would be possible to withdraw Australian troops and allied troops? How many Australian troops does he envisage will finally be committed before that is achieved? In other words, how much Australian blood does he propose to shed to protect the South Vietnamese Government?
– The honorable gentleman refers to Australian and American troops as if to create some public impression that they are the only people involved in resisting Communism in South Vietnam. In point of fact, more than 30 governments are giving assistance in one form or another to the Government of South Vietnam. Several of them are giving actual military assistance, and additional forces are coming forward now to strengthen the joint effort being made in that country. The Government has indicated the dimension of the Australian forces, and the position stands that this represents the most effective contribution that we can make at the present time having regard to the size of our forces and the commitments we have la other directions.
If at any future time it becomes necessary to review the principles involved this House will be promptly informed. From what can be foreseen the number of troops at present envisaged is not likely to be exceeded, or certainly not for some considerable time. Our provision of these troops, together with the assistance we are giving in other directions, forms part of the Australian contribution in the area in question. What honorable members should not overlook is that there is a positive and constructive side to this whole operation; there is a determination on the part of the United States Government, the Australian Government and other friendly governments taking an interest in the wellbeing of South Vietnam that there shall be rehabilitation, reconstruction and an improved economic and social order coming out of the present travail of that country. For our part, we will willingly make our contribution to this positive and constructive side of the allied effort in South Vietnam.
– I wish to make a personal explanation, Mr. Speaker. I claim to have been misrepresented in a newspaper report. The Sydney “ Daily Mirror “ of Thursday, 17th March, in a full editorial misrepresented a question asked by me in the House on that day by totally removing from the context my reference to the time at which a film report of an execution in Saigon was shown on television. The film was screened at 6.30 p.m. My question was distorted to evoke such editorial comment as - lt is remarkable that Dr. Mackay, a man of God, wants to prevent the public from ecm i atrocities that are being committed in Vietnam. We would have expected his religious principles to prompt him to do something about stopping the atrocities.
My question, Mr. Speaker, was clearly related to the hour at which this report was shown and was not an attempt at banning such films. I asked about censorship because, as I understand the position, the censor has a duty to determine both the kind O. prior warning that shall be given about horror or other material unsuitable for young children, and also the time at which such material shall be shown. As for the gibe about my not doing anything to stop such actions, this is grossly misrepresenting my position. If the newspaper editor had taken the trouble to make a telephone call he could have found that I had actually already taken strong, direct and I hope effective action to see that the Ky Government is made aware of the general reaction in Australia to these executions. I ask the “ Daily Mirror “ to have sufficient sense of fair play to give prominence to these facts.
– by leave - The engine failure which occurred on a Boeing 727 aircraft at Sydney on 16th March 1966 was the result of the failure of a turbine blade in the first stage turbine. The JT8D engine has four turbine wheels which are turned by the exhaust gases and between them these turbine wheels drive the front fan and the two stages of the compressor. The failure of the blade was due to a mechanical break about 2£ inches from the tip. The reasons for the failure have not yet been established but it is highly probable that they are of a creep or hot fatigue nature. Turbine blades are subject to high stresses at high temperatures and experience with all types of blades has been that isolated failures of blades occur on infrequent occasions.
Honorable members will be aware that the performance standards applicable to large airline aircraft provide for these aircraft to continue operating safely in the event of an engine failure at any stage of the flight, lt is also significant that the engine failure rate with gas turbines is many times lower than with piston engines. Over the years Australian aircraft have experienced a number of turbine blade failures in various types of aircraft and almost without exception the pattern has been that the broken blade passes through the remaining turbine stages without dislodging other blades. On some occasions aircraft have continued to operate after losing a turbine blade without the pilot being aware that this has happened until the engine has been inspected on the ground.
In the recent failure, it appears that a portion of the broken blade became wedged in the turbine housing and caused blades of the second stage turbine to become dislodged, resulting in a large number of blades passing through the final two stages, thereby removing even more blades. This result from a turbine failure is unusual, but it is significant that the aircraft suffered no damage and an uneventful landing was subsequently made. It is the policy of my Department that any failures which occur should be investigated for the purpose of determining their causes and where necessary the airlines are required to take appropriate action to guard against repetition of these failures. My Department is continuing its investigation of this latest failure.
– In accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1913-1965, I present the report relating to the following proposed work: -
Erection of migrant hostel at Randwick, New South Wales.
I ask for leave to make a statement in connection with the report.
– There being no objection, leave is granted.
– The Committee endorses the proposal to build the migrant hostel at Randwick on a number of grounds. First, there is a need to maintain the migrant hostel capacity of the Sydney area at about the present level; secondly, the continued use of Bunnerong Hostel cannot be supported; and thirdly, the Commonwealth should vacate the Heffron Park site as soon as replacement accommodation can be completed. The design of the hostel as submitted is recommended by the Committee, subject to the inclusion of a toilet in each family unit. The estimated cost of the total proposal, including the additional toilets, is $3,925,000.
During the course of the inquiry on this reference the Committee took evidence from the Mayor of Orange, New South Wales, who drew attention to the complete absence of migrant hostel accommodation in New South Wales country areas and to the efforts which the Orange City Council has been making to obtain Commonwealth assistance for the establishment of transitory accommodation in Orange for small numbers of newly arrived migrants. Whilst recognising that this did not relate directly to the Randwick proposals, the Committee was most impressed with the Mayor’s evidence and with the efforts his Council is prepared to make to attract migrants to Orange. The Committee did not thoroughly investigate the possible need for transitory accommodation for migrants in country areas or the effects this would have on decentralisation, but on the face of the evidence given by the Mayor of Orange it seemed that this was one aspect of the migration programme that might be given close attention by the Government.
That the report be printed.
Debate resumed from 17th March (vide page 405), on motion by Mr. Harold Holt -
That the House take note of the following paper -
Statement of Policy by New Government - Ministerial Statement, 8th March 1966.
Upon which Mr. Calwell had moved by way of amendment -
That all words after “ That “ be omitted with a view to inserting the following words in place thereof - “ this House records -
its most emphatic opposition to the despatch of conscripted youths for service in Vietnam and the increased military commitment in that country, and
its disapproval of and grave concern at the
Government’s failure -
to maintain the purchasing power of the Australian community;
to retain an adequate and proper
Australian share in the ownership and development of our national resources, particularly in Northern Australia;
to alleviate the effects of the drought and take steps to rehabilitate rural industries and conserve water resources;
to make adequate provision for housing and associated community facilities, and
to submit to referendum the two
Bills to alter the Constitution in respect of Aborigines and the Parliament which were passed last year and, in connection with the latter Bill, to disclose the related distribution proposals “.
.- Mr. Speaker, the business before the House is a debate on the statement recently made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Holt). The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) has proposed as an amendment to the motion that the House take note of the paper -
That all words after “That” be omitted wilh a view to inserting the following words in place thereof - “ this House records -
its most emphatic opposition to the despatch of conscripted youths for service in Vietnam and the increased military commitment in that country, and
its disapproval and grave concern at the
Government’s failure -
to maintain the purchasing power of the Australian community;
to retain an adequate and proper
Australian share in the ownership and development of our national resources, particularly in Northern Australia;
to alleviate the effects of the drought and take steps to rehabilitate rural industries and conserve water resources;
to make adequate provision for housing and associated community facilities, and
to submit to referendum the two
Bills to alter the Constitution in respect of Aborigines and the Parliament which were passed last year and, in connection with the latter Bill, to disclose the related distribution proposals “.
I have taken the trouble to read the terms of the amendment because I believe it is important that they be known as widely as possible. The Prime Minister, when he made his long and dreary statement, which occupied about an hour and a half, gave a very long report on just what was happening in Vietnam and the need for Australia’s commitment of troops there to be increased to 4,500 men. He failed miserably to deal with the Australian economy as it is at present. I should like briefly to deal with that part of the statement which related to Vietnam.
Here we find a deplorable situation in which the Government is endeavouring to coerce the people of Australia into believing that we are fighting a just war in Vietnam, that there is a real issue for us there and that we have a real stake in that country. I should like to bring a few facts and figures to the attention of the House and the Prime Minister. In particular, 1 wish to mention a statement made by the former Prime Minister, the Right Honorable Sir Robert Menzies, at the parliamentary dinner held in his honour last Thursday night. He stated that in the world today in too many countries people were trying to build the house from the roof down. In other words, he was saying Australia is fortunate in having a parliamentary system based on local government and State government - on a foundation of democratic government - whereas many other countries are in the unfortunate position of being subject to a dictatorship and lacking democratic government. I suggest that that is the situation in Vietnam today. Since the Geneva Agreement of 1 95+, not one election has been held in either South Vietnam or North Vietnam. In fact, since President Diem was displaced in 1 963 eight different juntas have taken over in South Vietnam. They all have appointed themselves undemocratically because they have had the support of the Army or the Air Force or both, as the case may be. So we in Australia are in the position of supporting a government that has been elected from the top - a government that is endeavouring to build from the roof down without worrying about the foundations of democracy. I believe that these are the things that we ought to consider when we talk about support for the Government of South Vietnam.
The present Commonwealth Government is endeavouring to create the impression that the Australian Labour Party is opposed to the United States of America whereas, in fact, this Party is and at all times has been prepared to work with that country. Anyone who cares to examine the policy and platform of the Australian Labour Party will find that its members advocate and work for close co-operation with the United States in both the development and the defence of Australia. The Government says that Labour is opposed to the policies of the United States. I ask Government supporters who will follow me in this debate to explain how the attitude of the Australian Labour Party differs from the attitude taken by such political leaders in America as Senator Mansfield, who is the majority leader in the United States Senate, Senator Fulbright, who is Chairman of (he Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Edward Kennedy and Robert Kennedy. Many other leading American politicians have advocated a policy similar to that adopted by the Australian Labour Party.
I do not propose to deal at length with this subject, but I ask honorable members on the other side to explain why the Government has authorised the export of important commodities to Communist China, though it is not prepared to support the application of Communist China for membership of the United Nations. In the last 10 years we have exported to Communist China £89 million worth of wool, £249 million worth of wheat and £9,882,000 worth of steel. The value of these three very important commodities that we have exported to Communist China totals £348,484,000. In present day currency, this is $696 million worth of wool, wheat and steel. No-one can justify the claim that these three items would not assist the members of the Chinese armed forces. The wool would help to clothe them, the wheat would help to feed them and the steel would help to arm them. I ask honorable members opposite to explain why they support the export of these important commodities to Communist China, which is allegedly in partnership with North Vietnam in the war against South Vietnam.
Let me deal with some of the questions that concern us most importantly on the home front. The Prime Minister failed to give clear details of the Government’s proposals to overcome the credit squeeze that is creeping up on us now. The Prime Minister is famous for credit squeezes. We had a credit squeeze in I960, 1961, 1962 and 1963, when the number of unemployed in Australia exceeded the number that has been unemployed at any time since the depression of the 1930’s. I wonder whether the Prime Minister is trying to cover up the Government’s inability to take cars of the economy today, and after all the Government was elected originally on a promise to put value back into the £1. Let us look at the way that prices have increased since the last Budget was introduced in August 196S. Doctors’ fees have increased by 10 to 33 per cent., hospital ana medical benefit contributions have increased by 25 per cent, and dentists’ fees have increased by 5 per cent. As a direct result of the Budget introduced in August last by the present Prime Minister when he was Treasurer, the prices of tobacco, cigarettes, beer and spirits have increased. Bus fares in Sydney and Newcastle have increased by as much as 33 per cent, on the pretext that it was necessary to make this adjustment for the changeover to decimal currency. The price of bread increased by Id. a loaf prior to Christmas last and, when the changeover to decimal currency occurred, the price was increased by a further one-third of Id. Butter has increased by id. a lb. The price of petrol has increased by id. a gallon for no reason other than to increase the margin of retailers. Yet, as we drive past service stations, we can see that half of them have no customers. This is the result of the decision taken by petrol companies to flood Australia with service stations, which are the means of distributing petrol. This has been taking place for a long time and now, with so many petrol stations, the retailers’ margin has to be increased to provide a living for retailers. We know that many men in this industry are not making much profit out of the distribution of petrol. So I strongly condemn the increase of id. in the price of petrol. I am not opposed to the service station proprietors in the industry receiving the increase, but I think it should have been borne by the industry itself. If we were to examine the excellent publication circulated last week by the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr. McEwen) giving details of how Australian industries have been taken over by overseas interests, we would see that the petrol industry is owned almost exclusively by overseas interests.
Let me come back to the matter of the increase in the cost of living. Due to the coming introduction of decimal currency, in September and October last year more than 300 grocery items were increased in price. Allegedly the prices of these items were stabilised - invariably increased - to prepare for the changeover in five months* time to decimal currency. The cost of car insurance increased by 20 per cent. The New South Wales Government got in for its chop and increased the stamp duty on cheques from 4d. to 4c. The New South
Wales Government was not prepared to accept a reduction in stamp duty. The increase amounted to 2s. or 20 per cent, on a book of 30 cheques.
– What about municipal rates?
– The honorable member for Barton rightly asks: “ What about municipal rates? “ No doubt many honorable members saw the excellent “ Four Corners “ programme last Saturday night. Even the silvertails on the Sydney north shore line are objecting to a 29 per cent, increase in their rates. I could go on for some time giving details of increases in local government charges, all of which are attributable to the increase in the price of petrol following last year’s Budget.
I could say a lot more about increases in the cost of living. What does the Government propose to do about the serious increase in the cost of living? Take the plight of pensioners. I do not know how they exist on the pension today. It is 18 months since the pension was last increased. By how much has the cost of living increased in that time? I venture to suggest that in the last 18 months the cost of living has increased by £3 10s. a week, but in that time the pensioner has not received any increase. I appeal to the Government to do something for the pensioners. Honorable members will remember that the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Minogue), when raising this subject last Thursday, endeavoured to obtain some latitude from Mr. Speaker because it was St. Patrick’s Day. I agree with the honorable member that there has never been a greater need for a supplementary budget. I make a strong appeal to the Government to provide some relief for pensioners. As far as the basic wage is concerned, we all know what is happening in the present basic wage hearing. There have been several clashes between Mr. Hawke, the advocate for the Australian Council of Trade Unions, and the judges - I almost called them the representatives of big business, because I have never had much regard for the Bench.
– That is an improper thing to say.
– Is it? I have never had any regard for the arbitration system. I have always held the view that the worker obtains from an arbitration court only what he is strong enough to take and hold. The Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission has never been prepared to deal with facts. It has never been prepared to give the workers that to which they are justly entitled. If the Commission had been prepared to do justice it would have granted an increase of £1 last year instead of the miserable 6s. that was granted. The Attorney-General (Mr. Snedden) is aware of these things. These facts are the reason for the clash that is taking place between Mr. Hawke and Mr. Justice Gallagher in particular although, on the face of it, the clash would seem to be due to Mr. Hawke’s adverse comment on the decision to which Mr. Justice Gallagher was a party. The Arbitration Commission has the opportunity to establish that it is prepared to examine facts, and to examine them justly. I consider that the A.C.T.U. claim for an increase of $4.30 is fair and reasonable in view of the 4 per cent, increase in prices that took place between December 1964 and December 1965. We realise, too, that prices have continued to rise since then. This leads me to ask: What is the Government doing about the Australian economy today? The Prime Minister did not say what the Government intended to do; he said merely that there are a few weak points in our economy. Experienced industrialists and commercial men would argue that there were more than a few weak points. Sir Edgar Coles has referred to there being almost a recession in trading. Retailers in Newcastle have told me that in the last few weeks their takings have dropped considerably. One man said that his business had shown a decline of more than 25 per cent, in turnover. Who is to blame for this? What is the reason for it? Can it be that the stage has been reached when people cannot afford to pay the prices asked of them? I think this is the answer. The average family man cannot afford to buy the necessaries of life.
A recent statement issued by Myer Emporium Ltd. forecast the continuance of highly competitive conditions accompanied by some decline in earnings. The Chairman of Directors of the Broken Hill Pty. Co. Ltd. said -
We arc facing the possibility that during the remainder of the financial year it will be difficult to keep all sections of our plant operating at capacity levels.
Sir Edgar Coles, representatives of Myer Emporium Ltd. and the Chairman of Directors of B.H.P. have all issued the warning. They are all responsible people. What is the Government going to do about it? It is up to the Government to supply the answer.
In recent months we have noticed a serious decline in the number of houses being built. The latest statistics disclose that whereas in September 1965 a total of 10,571 homes were built, in January 1966 the number was 5,933. Only seven times in the last five and a half years have fewer than 6,000 homes a month been built. Five of those months were in the period when this Government was creating a pool of unemployment - a Holt made depression. How far does the Government think the miserly $15 million allocated for home building will go? From reports I have read this allocation could result in the construction of an additional 2,000 homes a month. Assuming that this is so, added to the 5,933 constructed in January this would represent fewer than 8,000 homes a month. The building industry economy has been geared to building an average of 11,000 homes a month. In some months more than 13,000 homes have been built, yet in January we built just over 5,900. I ask the Government to make available a greater allocation than $15 million.
Last week I was talking with representatives of building societies in my electorate. They disclosed to me that the terminating societies have had no money for home building since July 1965 and that the permanent societies, whose money is limited, are lending at 7i per cent, interest. Last November I drew the attention of the present Prime Minister, who was then Treasurer, to the fact that the Commonwealth Bank was imposing conditions that made it almost impossible for the average person to obtain a building loan. The bank required an average monthly balance in a savings account of £500 for the preceding 12 months. If a person qualified he still had to wait five or six months for a loan. These are the conditions that this Government has brought about. These conditions have created a depression in the building industry. At present there is a waiting time for loans through the Commonwealth Bank and a person still must have a monthly balance of £500 for the preceding 12 “months before he qualifies for assistance. An examination reveals that the Commonwealth Savings Bank is not one of the best lending institutions among the savings banks. Some of the private banks are lending more than the Commonwealth Savings Bank is making available. The Government has here an opportunity to make available not $15 million but at least double or treble that amount just to keep pace with the demand. The Government should introduce a planned system of home building, lt should assess the ability of industry to build, it should ascertain what materials are available and it should make an assessment of the need for homes. Having done that, it should then make sufficient finance available to keep the industry stable and to ensure that the people of this country will have adequate housing. We all know there is a shortage of homes. Why, in my district alone, the waiting period for a Housing Commission home is approximately two and a half years. Pensioners have to wait for up to six years for pensioner units.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I have just returned from Vietnam. It was the first time that I had been out of Australia other than with a pack on my back. This Parliament is a place for forming opinions and solidifying facts. It is the duty of members of this Parliament, if they are able, to visit places such as Vietnam where many Australians are involved. When I got to Vietnam, I found that the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Uren) had been there ahead of me. I am pleased ta note the moderate approach he ha3 adopted to this problem since his return. The Australian troops have a high reputation in South East Asia.
– Everybody accepts that.
– I thank the honorable member. They have earned this high reputation because of the jungle training they have received in the Army and the aptitude for jungle warfare that they displayed during the 1939-45 war. The Australian battalion in Vietnam ought to be relieved in a special way. There are already many reinforcements in the battalion. The number of reinforcements could be increased and the men who have a long record of service there could be withdrawn. This would obviate the need for fresh Australian troops to go into the area and possibly incur heavier casualties.
This plan might be more difficult to carry out administratively, but it would be the right thing to do. We should leave there the battalion which has a good record, is feared by the Vietcong and is held in high honour by the South Vietnamese. It should be relieved not as a battalion or even company by company, but by reinforcements. We have heard that the Vietcong have not attained their objective. The captured Vietcong are dejected. They have not achieved what they were promised by the people who trained them or what the North Vietnamese Communists led them to believe they would achieve. The people of South Vietnam did not rise up on their behalf. They did not want to fight. Nobody wants to give the Vietcong arms or ammunition and they have had difficulty in getting clothing, transport and military equipment. Those who have been captured exhibit an outlook that leads me to feel that the Vietcong are beginning to collapse.
May I say with all humility that if the number of Australian troops, with the tremendous reputation they have, is trebled, then this in itself will deal a severe blow to the morale of the Vietcong because the South Vietnamese told me that the Vietcong do not like fighting the Australians in the jungle. They just do not like taking on the Australians. Already the Vietcong have reacted by saying that there will be a warm reception for the Australians. This, of course, is an old technique. It is the technique of trying to convince our own side that we are winning and trying to convince the enemy that he is losing. But, if we say that the war is unwinnable, then, of course, we are helping the other side. I believe from what I saw that maybe the Vietcong are beginning to collapse.
While in Vietnam I visited a fortified hamlet and investigated the method of election of the hamlet chief, the vice-chief, the sociological warfare chief and the vice-chief of the combat group. On looking into the elections I formed the opinion that arrange ments could be made in South Vietnam to hold elections for civilian government. This is no reflection on the type of government they have but it appeared to me that if this were important it could be done. It has no relation to the struggle itself and it has no relation to whatever kind of government they have operating, just as it is not our business how a government operates in Africa or anywhere else. But if it is important, I believe that free elections could be held in South Vietnam.
Regarding the social and productivity programmes, it is obvious that in Asia there is extremely low productivity. If you think of the richness of the Mekong Delta, of the volcanic soils of the Philippines, of what we know about Java and the kind of life that is led, and then turn to Australia where there are thousands of square miles without a drop of water, a blade of grass or an animal - an inhospitable desolate country - and realise that we have an export income of $2,600 million a year and that most of those countries have a net deficit and have to be assisted, you realise that the productivity of South East Asia would be tremendously increased. I believe those people are crying out to Australia to help them.
I had the privilege, as chairman of the Government members food and agricultural committee, to take the seeds of very productive Australian tropical legumes to the Philippines and to South Vietnam. In South Vietnam Mr. Chang of the South Vietnamese Government said: “ We are already growing siratro, a tropical legume developed by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, and it grows four times as big here as it does in Australia “. He added: “ I cannot show you the plant because it has been defoliated by the sprays. You will have to take my word for it.” I handed him the various kinds of seeds that I had and he was sorry I had not brought a corn sack full of each. There is a tremendous job to be done to increase productivity so that the people in those areas can be self-supporting; so that they can have tropical herds - and suitable cattle are available in Australia; and so that they can enjoy the technological advantages of Australia. One gentleman in the Philippines said to me: “Australia will dominate the Pacific.” I said: “ You must be joking.” He said that our energy, enterprise and ability to take up technological improvements in all kinds of production and industry showed that Australia would develop into a great nation. He said: “Would you help us with our beef herds, and our crops? Do you know that our rice production is 26 bushels to the acre and that yours is 134 bushels to the acre?”
This is the situation. In the Da Jong province in the Mekong Delta there is a sect called the Hoa Hao which has wiped out the Vietcong. This does not mean that the Vietcong are wiped out everywhere because they are strong in other parts. Because there is comparative peace in the Da Jong province, the first of the four big sociological and economic programmes sponsored by the Americans after the Honolulu talks will go into Da Jong. There will be schools, hospitals, roads and bridges. Here is a place in this incredibly -rich delta of the Mekong River covering an enormous area - you seem to be able to fly over it for hundreds of miles - where Australians and, possibly, American advisers from Taipei can help with higher productivity. This would be a model of economic advancement to those people. Here is a place from which the Vietcong have been removed by a very strong sect. I believe that there are hundreds of Buddhist sects in that country and that the Buddhist Association represents 75 per cent, of” the people. This one has got rid of the enemy. Criticism of Australian immigration policy in South East Asia is completely a myth. When I was in the Philippines - the third largest English speaking country in the world, with 31 million people - I was able to obtain eighteen different English language newspapers. There was no mention in them of our immigration policy. When I got an Australian newspaper there I read -
Filipinos are rip roaring mad about the Locsin case.
No Filipino, roared or ripped and no one mentioned the Locsin case. Nor, as I said, did the 18 English language newspapers, copies of which I have here for anybody to see. No wonder some Australians get a bit mixed up when they read only things of discredit to Australia. At the same time as this was happening a leading Filipino lawyer said: “Australia will dominate the Pacific”. Another one told me, when this was going on, that his son had been four years at school in my electorate. He asked why Australia does not help the Filipinos. He asked why it does not use its enormous technological knowledge, gained in its own desert areas, to help them in their own extremely rich areas.
Australian prestige is extremely high in South East Asia. To realise why, one has only to meet people like the Australian ambassador in Saigon, who is a dignified and intelligent individual, and his First Secretary. Mr. Anderson is the ambassador and others in the embassy are Mr. Fernandez, Mr. Mack Williams, and Mr. Hincksman. To meet these men is to know how our prestige stands in this place. The four aircraft that we have there are doing more than the other 22 aircraft of the formation. Seven days a week they are making four sorties a day. Millions of pounds of material, military personnel, ammunition and all sorts of things are being carried to the special forces all over the place. These aircraft land in impossible places. Four aircraft are doing more than the the other 22 in the formation. The Americans want to decorate our airmen, but, of course, our regulations do not allow this. The Army personnel I saw there are fine Australians, conscious of their superiority but ready to be generous to all others, because this is important in their relations. These men ’- -ve that little bit extra. The Army made a right decision in giving them the superb training that it did.
When I came back to Australia I heard the Prime Minister say that the Government had decided to treble Australia’s commitment in South Vietnam. When in Vietnam I was able to address a village of about a thousand people, to whom my speech was interpreted. I told them I believed that the Australian commitment in Vietnam would be increased, that more troops would go there. I told them that I believed that we could help in their sociological programme and with plants and seeds. The whole of that village of 1,000 people applauded, and gave us a salutation similar to that given by the Hindus and others. They put garlands of honour, as they call them, round the necks of the Australian visitors. They took us on a visit to their popular forces, their combat youth groups. Allow me to say that the man in charge of the combat youth groups was the most handsome individual I have ever seen in my lite. The villagers themselves, and the people of Saigon, are about the most relaxed and the most contented people I have ever seen. When people in Australia get into a traffic jam they give the appearance of hunted people; but these people in Vietnam are contented. If you were to say to anybody in Saigon - to the Australian troops or anybody else - “ Are you doing the right thing in fighting the Vietcong? “ their reply would be: “ You must be joking. The Vietcong are vicious and brutal.” I flew over one road in a helicopter. I was told that the road was closed. I asked why and I was informed that three Americans had tried to get through along that road but the Vietcong had caught them. One of them got away, but two of them were crucified on trees. Yet honorable members opposite say that the Vietcong are people to whom we should talk.
On the issue of national service training I should like to refer to the extremely clear lessons we have learned in two world wars. We know, and the Australian troops know, that prevention is better than cure and that the aggressor has to be stopped in the early stages. Our troops clearly understand this, because they are realists. They are not a band of heroes, as we hear some people say; they are practical realists who understand the situation. They know that we should not allow an aggressor to reach our shores before taking preventive action, but should stop him in the early stages of his bid for world conquest It is realised by members of the House that in the 1930’s we stood by and let the Sudetenland and ultimately the whole of Czechoslovakia go, and as a result Hitler initiated World War II in which we paid a terrible price in defending the free world. We paid that frightful price because we did not go in when it was early enough to stop Hitler; in effect we encouraged him to carry out his plans. Now the free world is firm. We have stood steadfast in Berlin, in Korea and in respect of Cuba, with the result that Russia has modified its demands.
It is certain that no nation in South East Asia wants Communism. No nation wants to go under the heel of Communist China, whether it be Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore or the Philippines, and it appears now that Indonesia is also falling into line with those other countries. General
Liau Chu said that if a peasant-based guerrilla army could win a war of the kind now being waged it could conquer the world, and we must remember that such ambitions must be curbed. If we allow the aggressor to get to our doors it will be too late. The Labour Party showed its appreciation of this in 1942 when it imposed conscription in Australia.
Our efforts should be three-pronged. First, we should aim for the maximum development of our continent and the rapid growth of our population; secondly, we should promote good neighbour policies and alliances throughout Asia. Asia is crying out for these. I believe that all colonial nations view Australia as a brother colonial nation and are ready to talk to us. Thirdly, we should have well-trained, modern mobile defence forces capable of immediate commitment.
The situation at the present time is quite unlike those which obtained before World War I and World War II. The demands of our national development programme, combined with our tremendously expanded educational facilities, constitute a compelling attraction for young men. Voluntary recruiting, therefore, would be quite inadequate. It would also be grossly unfair to expect one man to volunteer while another one remains at home and gains a lead on the man who enlisted. The system we have adopted is the only fair one. The threats of brush fire wars or guerrilla wars or limited wars - whatever one likes to call them - leave no time for the leisurely recruiting and training of additional forces. It takes almost a year to train a soldier fully. The two World Wars have demonstrated the tragedy of unpreparedness.
In times of record full employment, if we are to have a sufficient number of fully trained troops, selective training is necessary. It is also essentially fair since it spreads the burden of service. We must remember that the United States defence forces, which carry the main burden of defence of the free world - and, therefore, the defence of Australia - are, in the main, selective service personnel. We must also bear in mind that this war is of much more immediate concern to Australia than it is to the United States.
If the principles of the Australian Labour Party, which the members of that Party propounded in World War II, were adopted, it would mean that our troops could serve in South Borneo but not in North Borneo. They could serve in New Guinea, Timor, the Celebes, Java and half of Sumatra, but not in Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand or Vietnam.
The war in South Vietnam is not a civil war. It is not like a conflict between East and West Berlin or between North and South Korea. In the two years following the 1954 cease fire North Vietnam became a one-party Communist state. With a oneparty Communist state such as Russia, East Germany or North Korea any thought of free elections is impossible. This is the situation in North Vietnam. More than a million refugees fled from North to South Vietnam to escape from Communist terror. This alone was sufficient to create huge political problems of resettlement. The fact that South Vietnam has not had stable government, or that its government has not been democratic, does not in any way detract from the justice of the South Vietnamese cause. South Vietnam is not a one-party state. There are many political parties involved - at least 70 of them. They may differ in their ideas of how their government should be formed, but they are united in their determination to drive out the Vietcong aggressor. Buddhists and Christians alike know that the Communists are determined to wipe out all religion. The South Vietnamese are equally determined to resist this threat to their lives and freedom. There have been free elections in South Vietnam in the past year - free elections in the provinces in which the majority of the people voted. This is proof that, given freedom from Vietcong terror, free elections can come to South Vietnam.
.- The honorable member for Macarthur (Mr. Jeff Bate) has given the House the benefit of experiences gained on a recent visit to South East Asia. I thought the speech might have been more aptly timed when the House was debating the statement made by the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Hasluck). However, since the honorable member has taken this opportunity to speak of his visit I think that what he has said calls for some comment.
He told us that free elections were possible in South Vietnam. I think nobody would disagree with that proposition.
He also said that South East Asia is in need of assistance in the developmental field. Everyone also agrees with that. The pressing problem for Vietnam at the moment, however, is that of achieving peace, and the honorable member did not indicate at all clearly his support for peace efforts. What is needed in Vietnam is for the parties involved to sit down and negotiate. Unless we persist with the objective of achieving peace by negotiation the situation will drift into even worse chaos. I know that the task of peacemakers is not an easy one, but the achievement of peace is the only possible solution for the people of South East Asia, and particularly of Vietnam. Ali our efforts should be directed towards bringing about a just and lasting peace. I shall reserve further comment on this subject for a speech I hope to make in the House next week when we will be debating the statement delivered by the Minister for External Affairs.
The House is now discussing a statement made recently by the Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Holt). It is the first statement we have heard from the right honorable gentleman in his capacity as Prime Minister. The statement was an extraordinarily long one covering many subjects each of which could in itself have been the subject of a single statement. The Government has announced the postponement of a referendum that the House last year agreed should be held. The views put forward for the postponement do not impress me. Arrangements for the referendum were at an advanced stage, a considerable amount of money had already been spent, and this announcement, being the first announcement made by the Prime Minister, did not mark a very auspicious beginning for the new Cabinet.
Reference was made to the visit of Mr. Denis Healey, the United Kingdom Minister for Defence. It is quite obvious that the United Kingdom is re-orientating its defence policy and commitments and will in the future focus greater attention on its immediate needs and look more to Europe than it did some 20 years ago. This is not an unreasonable viewpoint for the United Kingdom to take, as its destiny is tied up with European developments more than with developments in the South East Asian and Pacific regions.
For the second time in our history we have been visited by a Vice-President of the U.S. Vice-President Humphrey paid a visit here for the stated reason of bringing our Government up to date on happenings in South East Asia and Vietnam in particular. The American party strongly denied there was any truth in the statement that it was seeking additional assistance in the form of our military commitment in Vietnam. Subsequent developments would appear to make this the understatement of the year. The Government proposes to lift an active commitment in Vietnam from 1,500 men to a task force comprising 4,500 men and supports. The Government intends to obtain a formidable percentage of these men from national service trainees. It proposes to resort to conscription. This is a further extension of what was originally termed a scheme for national service. In the beginning this scheme set a specified period in which the trainee would serve. It was later extended, and this latest move is a further extention of the original scheme. In this country a resort to conscription in peace time is unprecedented. We have armed forces in Malaya and Vietnam, but in neither case has there been a declaration of war. Consequently, the Government’s action in applying conscription adds further ambiguity to an already overloaded ambiguous situation. On the Government’s statement, the number that will be required from the 8,400 national service trainees to make up the task force will be approximately 1,330, and this does not take into account replacements which will be required during the 12 months the force will remain in Vietnam. The action of the Government on this issue cannot be justified. The Prime Minister declared that we are spending .6 per cent, of our gross national product on external aid. We should be spending more. We are living in a part of the world where starvation in many areas is rampant. Millions of people die annually in Asia through malnutrition and five of every seven persons go to sleep hungry every night. The figure of .6 per cent, of the gross national product is well below the one stated by economists that we are capable of making.
In that part of the statement dealing with economic affairs, the Prime Minister seemed more intent upon making a political statement intended for consumption by Govern ment supporters rather than upon being factual. In the field of economic growth, many countries have records that surpass that of Australia, and the fact that our record is not better is because of lost opportunities by this Government, together with a complete absence of any worthwhile policy. Figures released by the World Bank and the United Nations Organisation confirm this statement. In the field of overseas investment, the policy of the Government is criticised not only in this House by the Opposition but also outside by its own supporters, including no less a person than the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr. McEwen), who is the Deputy Prime Minister. Foreign investment which merely takes over an existing business does not contribute to our national growth; on the contrary, it can quite easily retard it. The Government refuses to impose a selective policy on this question. It believes that foreign capital in any form is good for this country. It is the kind of policy that might have some form of temporary reward in the short term so far as the Government is concerned, but in the long term this policy is fraught with danger and can have some disastrous consequences for us.
I do not find anything remarkable, as does the Prime Minister, in the fact that the two principal sources from which overseas investment comes are the United Kingdom and the United States of America, because both governments have imposed restraints on external development. The foreign capital coming into Australia is not because of some display of benevolence on the part of its owners; it is coming here because Australia is one of the few countries in the world at the moment that permits it and, at the same time, gives a measure of security that is not present in many other countries. In the field of building the picture is not quite so roseate as the one presented in the statement. In New South Wales, building permits for new home construction are down 20 per cent, when compared with the six month period as at this time last year. The statement claims that an additional amount of finance - approximately $24 million - has been made available for the latter half of this financial year. As yet the effects of that expenditure are not apparent and one can only surmise when they will show up in the economy.
The drought was dealt with by the Prime Minister. As bad as the effects of this calamity are at the moment, its worst effects have yet to be experienced. It is to be hoped that the lesson of this happening is not lost on the Government, or State Governments for that matter. The money that is being made available in the form of loans will be of some assistance, but unless an overall policy aimed at offsetting and mitigating the effects of drought is brought into being we will continue to be at the mercy of the elements. Primary producers are, at the moment, pursuing a policy which is one of calculated risk, depending on water. If a policy could be brought into existence which would minimise this risk, it would be worth the expenditure involved on the part of both State and Federal Governments.
In the field of national development there are two matters to which I wish to refer briefly - beef cattle roads and water conservation. On the question of beef cattle roads the Government is very vulnerable and the manner in which money has been expended is open to question. This Government always comes up at election time with some gimmick, and beef roads was one of these. The history of this scheme shows that many of the routes originally proposed have been proved to be unsuitable. If the policy of not sealing these roads is continued there will be a sheer waste of public funds. Quite a number of the roads that have been laid down have since been pounded into dust and the original capital outlay has just been wasted. More thought has to be given to this matter. It will undoubtedly take a much longer time to have these roads sealed, but in the long term such action will be more advantageous to the grower and the operator in the matter of cost. Water conservation is a subject that has been neglected by the Government with disastrous consequences. In the Northern Territory there is now an authority established. It is severely handicapped by its late entry into this field, and the lack of research in the past together with relevant data is proving a serious detriment. The investigation of water reserves is of the highest importance to everybody in this country and I hope that in the future the Government will give to this subject an impetus in the way of priorities and additional appropriations.
According to the statement the changeover to decimal currency went remarkably smoothly. This, in itself, must be regarded as an understatement. There were many unfavourable features associated with the changeover which find no mention. First, there was the extraordinary profit made by some operators, including State Governments. Among the latter is the New South Wales Government which, by raising the transport charges in a limited area, will benefit to the extent of $1 million. Private interests reaped a fortune by increasing their charges two or three months before the changeover date. To give one instance, in the pharmaceutical field increases ranged from 331 per cent, to 200 per cent, on some articles. There is no doubt that the changeover adversely affected the public, particularly in the lower income range. As a result of these increases it is hard to escape the conclusion that one of the achievements of the changeover was to increase the cost of living. I support the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell).
.- Mr. Deputy Speaker, I am very happy this afternoon to be speaking in support of the statement made on 8th March by the Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Holt). I listened to it very carefully, as did many people throughout Australia, I believe, for I received telegrams from primary producer organisations asking me to give support to the aid for primary industry. It was not necessary for those telegrams to be sent, because I intended anyway to support the statement. T replied to the telegrams saying: “ You can depend on my continuing to support any measures that will be of financial advantage to primary producers “. I said this advisedly.
Often in this chamber I have said that Australia depends for its present stability and its future progress on primary industry. How often have I said that this nation has been built up by primary industry? How often have I said that the pastoral pioneers promoted population in country areas? In 1851, gold was struck and the influx of gold miners increased the Australian population considerably. When the gold petered out or became unprofitable to mine, those who were seeking it turned to something more stable. Mostly, they turned to primary industry, which, as 1 have just said, is the foundation of the stability, progress and prosperity of this nation. Therefore, we who belong to the Australian Country Party are greatly pleased with the Prime Minister’s statement. We have continually advocated a better deal for the primary industries. We believe that a better ‘deal for them is justified and that they warrant it. The statement now before us mentions measures that will provide a better deal for the primary industries.
I congratulate the Prime Minister on attaining that high office. I hope that he will for a long time successfully discharge the duties of that office. I can say without hesitation that he will have my support while he proposes measures such as were outlined in his recent statement which are designed to assist the primary industries. Let me briefly examine one or two of the salient points relating to the primary industries that were made by the right honorable gentleman. He said -
The Commonwealth will continue to assist the States to finance their drought relief measures as far as necessary and for as long as necessary.
That phrase “ as far as necessary and for as long as necessary “ is pretty comprehensive. The Prime Minister can depend on being kept up to that undertaking by those of us who sit in this corner of the House. He went on to say -
The need to sustain and increase rural production for domestic requirements and for exports is as important today as it has even been in our history.
I believe that it is perhaps even more important now because we arc trying to build up secondary industries. At present primary industries produce the goods that make up 80 per cent, of our exports. Without the earnings of those exports, we could not buy the raw materials which are unobtainable in Australia and which are needed by secondary industries. I have said this on countless occasions before but, after all, one cannot say something different on the same subject. all the time in this chamber. Because of the statements that I have just mentioned, as well as for other reasons, the Prime Minister’s statement has firm support from members of the Australian Country Party. The right honorable gentleman stated also -
The Government believes it is desirable to provide the farmer with greater access to medium and long term capital for development purposes through his own private bank.
We agree wholeheartedly with that. Earlier this afternoon. I asked a question about finance for drought relief. Putting it briefly, I want primary producers who have suffered by the drought to be put into three categories. The first would cover those who can be lifted back into production only by a grant. What do I mean by that? Certain primary producers were only just managing to keep going even before they were hit by the drought. They had obtained loans to start them off in primary production and they cannot afford to enter into the commitment of additional loans. We have had experience of this kind of thing in the Mallee electorate in the dried fruits industry. Years ago, at a meeting held one night at Nyah, it was suggested that the government of the day make a loan. I said that a loan would be of no use to the men concerned, that they had to be lifted back into production. After much advocacy, the Treasurer of the day, Sir Arthur Fadden, announced that £300,000 would be made available as a grant to the dried fruits growers of Victoria. That grant helped them considerably. I believe that producers who have suffered in the present drought and who are not financially strong need a grant to give them the impetus that is required to get them back into full production. Today, I strongly advocate the making of such a grant.
The other two categories of primary producers referred to in my question would include those whose requirements can adequately be covered by a Ions term loan at a reasonable rate of interest and those who, although suffering loss by drought, do not require government financial assistance. This last category would include many people, some of them financially strong. Some of them would be people who own big stores in cities like Sydney and Brisbane and who have invested the profits from those stores in primary industries in areas that have been ravaged by the drought. Such people may be financially strong. They may not have a lot of cash, but, having assets, they can raise money. I do not believe that anyone who can satisfactorily raise money needs government assistance. The people about whom I am most concerned are those who are just on the dividing line between success and failure and who must be lifted back into production if they are to succeed. I believe that the kind of assistance that such people need is altogether apart from general developmental finance that should be provided under the terms of the Commonwealth Banks Act 1959 which sets out the charter under which the Commonwealth Development Bank operates and which was introduced by Sir Arthur Fadden. Section 73 (1.) of that Act provides -
In determining whether or not finance shall be provided for a person, the Development Bank shall have regard primarily to the prospects of the operations of that person becoming, or continuing to be, successful and shall not necessarily have regard to the value of the security available in respect of that finance.
It is important to note that finance is required not just for persons who are already engaged in primary production but also for those who wish to go on the land. We need to encourage men to go into primary production. Therefore, I consider that money should not be lent just on the basis of the security that a man can offer. If this test were to be applied, many young men who would mate excellent primary producers would never get into primary production. I stress that aspect of the problem because it is tremendously important.
Time moves very quickly and I must pass on to other matters. I want to mention one or two things that have been said by Opposition speakers in what I describe as contradictory statements. Let me take the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) first. The Leader of the Opposition Party, after all, is the member of that party who is in the news most of the time. We hear frequent reports about what the Leader of the Australian Labour Party said in Sydney, Brisbane, or somewhere else, and even at Canberra. Earlier in this debate, the honorable gentleman said that the economy was in dire condition and that activity on the stock exchanges was dull. He said that big companies were not making profits as great as they had made previously and that he could produce five or six stock exchange operators of high reputation to support his statement. That statement, however, was a complete contradiction of the views that he and members of the Labour Party generally had been stating for a long time. They had been saying that share prices were too high and that big companies were absolutely booming and that such a situation was not in the interests of our economic welfare. However, when share prices and company profits are not perhaps as high as they were, the Leader of the Opposition finds fault with that situation. It is very hard to follow the thinking of a man who adopts such contradictory utterances.
Let me now move on to the honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Jones), who also said that big companies were not doing well and that this could be proved by the statements of the heads of big organisations such as the Myer Emporium Ltd., the Broken Hill Pty. Co. Ltd. and G. J. Coles and Co. Ltd. According to the honorable member, the heads of those companies have been saying that, the economy is not as strong as it might be. He then uttered these historic words: “ These are responsible people “. I point out that these are the sort of men with whom members of the Labour Party have been finding fault all the time, saying that they are completely irresponsible in their disregard of the future stability of this country and that they want only to get all they can for themselves. If it suits honorable members opposite in the political circumstances of the day to change their views, they are quite happy to do so. In my opinion the gem of the whole debate so far was a statement made by the honorable member for Hughes (Mr. L. R. Johnson). I heard it when it was uttered, made a note of it and then looked it up in “ Hansard “, where it is reported at page 300. He spoke about the new member for Dawson (Dr. Patterson) and congratulated him. Of course, I join in the congratulations. Any new member has my congratulations and, my goodwill. If I can be of any assistance to him, I will, and I hope that, if he can be of any assistance to me, he will. We co-operate without introducing politics. That is the general idea. Whether Opposition members believe this is beside the point, but most members of the Australian Labour Party must admit that I have now and again given a practical example of what I have said. The honorable member for Hughes said -
I congratulate the new member for Dawson. It is refreshing to know that in Labour’s ranks there is now an effective voice for national development in this Parliament.
But what about all the other members of the Australian Labour Party who, for all these years, have been saying that they are the effective voice for national development. The honorable members for Scullin (Mr. Peters), Wide Bay (Mr. Hansen), West Sydney (Mr. Minogue) and Leichhardt (Mr. Fulton) have said that they have been a very effective voice for national development. But the honorable member for Hughes said -
It is refreshing (o know that in Labour’s ranks there is* now an effective voice for national development in this Parliament.
Air. Mortimer. - Read on further. He added “ representing the area “.
– Very well, I will read on further. The honorable member said -
The clear fact is that those who sit opposite have become a leaderless legion. The hand of the master has gone.
The honorable member for Grey (Mr. Mortimer) said that the honorable member for Hughes used the words “ representing the area “. If he can find the passage in which the honorable member for Hughes used those words and hands it to me before ] finish my speech, I will be glad to read it. 1 cannot find such a passage. The honorable member for Grey has the opportunity to find it in “ Hansard “ and bring it to me. 1 will then read it, because if I want anything in this Parliament, I want truth. If I make a mistake, I apologise immediately. But honorable members opposite should not, by interjection, suggest that 1 am misrepresenting the position. The honorable member who interjected cannot back up his claim, because the honorable member for Hughes did not use those v-dsL I do not stand for that kind of conduct
The honorable member for Dawson is probably quite a good fellow, but a member of the Parliament must meet certain requirements. First, he must be a .man of good character, as I understand the honorable member for Dawson is. He must be able to put his case. The honorable member can do this. He must have a knowledge of his electorate and of Australia. I give the honorable member that, too. But he must be a member of a party that will give him a chance to put his ideas forward and to carry them to a fruitful conclusion. This is where the honorable member will fall down. As soon as he raises matters of national development in rural areas, he will come up against the members of this Party who represent consumers in the city. He will find in the party room where all decisions are made that his voice is not very strong and the electorate he represents will lose because of the party to which he belongs.
I was not very pleased with the reference made by the honorable member for Dawson to the former representative of the Austraiian Country Party, the late George Shaw. I think the honorable member spoilt a good speech by referring to him. He gave the impression that Mr. Shaw had not been given a chance to speak in this House for the sugar industry. “ Hansard “ will show thai he had plenty of opportunities and that he spoke with force, wisdom and knowledge. He supported the Leader of the Australian Country Party and the Premier of Queensland who went overseas but were not successful in having the price of sugar increased, However, he knew they represented the Australian sugar industry in the best possible way. As Whip of the Australian Country Party in this House, I resent the attempt of the honorable member for Dawson to give the impression that Mr. Shaw did not have a chance to speak for the sugar industry. I can say that never on any occasion that he asked to speak was he refused and that whenever he spoke he delivered a telling speech about an industry with which he was well acquainted.
I want to say a few words about Vietnam. The honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) recited a little poem to the effect that, after the war is over and everyone is at peace, what have we gained? This is a little like the old story of the lady who asked the Duke of Wellington what a great victory was like. The Iron Duke said: “ It is the greatest calamity, excepting a great defeat “. But what are we to do if tyrants still attempt to enslave us? Should we say: “ Come in and take us over “? Every time Australians have gone overseas to fight, they have played their part in ridding the world of would be tyrants. This has happened in two world wars, in Korea and in other places. Labour is not very consistent. It has said that we should negotiate, but I have not heard that suggestion lately. It has been brought home very forcibly, even to opposition members, that the Vietcong will not negotiate. The President of the United States of America has said that he will go anywhere and do anything for negotiation, but the other side will not negotiate. Labour’s suggestion has always been that we should negotiate. But if we get right down to the very base of this suggestion, apart from the trimmings that have been brought into it, what is it suggested that we should do? I should like to ask the Opposition these questions: Should Australia have troops in Vietnam? Furthermore, should the Americans be there? Should we not have tried to stop the cold war, even making it into a hot war by saying: “ So far and no further”? Should we not have tried to stop the Communists from creeping across Asia right to our door? What should we do now? Should we withdraw our troops, despite our treaties with America? These are the questions that must be answered.
While we have troops in Vietnam, we must support them and we should bring them home every now and then. Of course, during the last two world wars troops were not brought home, as the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Uren), who will follow me in this debate, knows very well. He was not brought home after 12 months service during the Second World War. But this is a good way to treat our troops and I welcome it. No-one wants war. Goodness knows, we have had enough experience of war. The honorable member for Reid has seen the horrors of war. He does not want any further wars, nor do I. Peace is desired, but, as I have said often, although Australians are a peaceful people they do not want peace at any price. So the war in Vietnam goes on and no-one knows just when it will end. But I know that Australia must play its part. Negotiation was tried in Korea. The United Nations decided to send a force to Korea. But what happened to Labour after negotiations had been tried? lt collapsed completely. Labour would not take a part in recruiting the men who would form the Australian portion of the United Nations force that went to Korea. Labour collapsed in every possible way and I do not think that it takes these things very seriously.
The economy of Australia, according to Opposition members, is in dire straits. But we often hear them refer to the gross national product. This expression is getting a bit hackneyed now. Opposition members suggest that we should send a percentage of our gross national product to India. I would be very happy to know that Australia was helping India and would support any reasonable increase in that help. Honorable members ask: How much of our gross national product do we spend on defence and how much are we sending to India? But I have not heard anyone say that the gross national product is inadequate. Everyone knows that Australia is more prosperous and more stable than it has ever been. We have a larger population and our people are better off than they were years ago. But do not think for one moment that I mean everyone is better off. It is our aim in this Parliament to help people who are on low pensions, single pensioners and others in receipt of low fixed incomes. It is our place in this Parliament to advocate that they get a better deal. When we return after Easter, the Supply Bills will be before the House. This will give us an opportunity to tell the Government what we want in the next Budget.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- The honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) posed the question: Should Australia have troops in Vietnam? I make a positive reply to the honorable member: No. We should not have troops in Vietnam. The Government has no mandate to send young Australians to the hell of Vietnam. I support the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell). The Opposition disagrees with many aspects of policy which the Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Holt) put forward in his statement on 8th March. In my opinion, the two most important of these are Australia’s involvement in the civil war in Vietnam and the ownership and control of Australian industries and assets by foreign interests. Many honorable members on both sides of the House could agree with Labour’s view on the latter but they fail to comprehend that the two matters cannot be divorced. Foreign policy and defence go hand in hand with the foreign investment of the advanced capitalist countries.
I express my opposition to Australia’s participation in the civil war in Vietnam. Labour opposes the sending of Australian regulars and conscripts to Vietnam. We have said that we will work to reverse the Government’s decision in this regard. In an article dealing with participation by the United States of America in the land war in Asia, published in “Newsweek” magazine on 14th March, Mr. Walter Lippmann, the distinguished American journalist, said -
What we are called upon to debate is whether in this war we do not have objectives which, if pursued on and on, could provoke the Chinese, and whether we are doing what can bc done to avert that great Asian land war which the President so categorically rejects.
For a great Asian land war would be for us the kind of historic mistake from which nations can never make a full recovery: it would be a historic mistake similar in kind to that which the Athenians made when they went to war against Syracuse, that Napoleon made when he invaded Russia, that Hitler made when he in his turn invaded Russia, that Japan made when it attacked Pearl Harbor. Whatever the motives or intentions of the protagonists in these great historical crises, whether or not their motives were noble or ignoble, whether we are better men than they were, the point is that there are some wars which must be averted and avoided because they are ruinous.
Is our participation in this Asian war ruinous for us? Is it an historic mistake? Will we ever make a full recovery? This is Walter Lippmann’s challenge not only to America but to the Australian nation as well. The Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Holt) and the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Hasluck) have said that it will be a long war. How long? The right honorable gentlemen have not told us. Have they estimated the financial, material and human cost of this war to Australia? If they have, they have not taken this House or the country into their confidence. In his statement to the House the Prime Minister said -
We arc there because while Communist aggression persists, the whole of South East Asia is threatened; while the Chinese Communist philosophy of world domination persists, the whole free world is threatened.
One might ask: Are these statements true? Are these the reasons why Australians are in South Vietnam? We then must ask: Why, except for a few New Zealanders, does Australia stand alone in support of the
United States? I hear an interjection that some South Koreans are in Vietnam, but let me quote from a report in the “ Canberra Times “ of 1st March 1966. That reputable newspaper is owned by the Fairfax group. Under the heading “Troops to be sent as part of bargain “ and under the dateline “ Seoul, Monday “ the following article appeared -
The South Korean Cabinet has decided to double the South Korean force in Vietnam . . . The proposed forces are expected to number about 20,000 men - the number already in South Vietnam. Government officials said the U.S. Government, in exchange for the decision to send more South Koreans to Vietnam, had agreed to:
Increase the pay of Korean troops in Vietnam by 25 per cent.
Maintain its military assistance programme to Korea at the present level for the next few years.
Supply more modem arms and equipment, including F5A fighters to South Korea and to underwrite the activation of three reserve divisions.
Enable South Korea to sell as many goods and services as possible to South Vietnam under U.S. military procurement programmes.
Release to Korea ($133 (£66i million) in development loan funds as soon as possible.
That is the bargain. That is why South Korean troops are in South Vietnam. But the newspaper article does not say that all the forces of South Korea are on the payroll of the United States - are paid by the United States taxpayer. Where in South Vietnam are America’s allies in the South East Asia Treaty Organisation? Where are the forces of Great Britain and France? Where are the forces of Pakistan, Thailand and the Philippines? Great pressure has been placed on America’s partners in the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation. Where are the military forces of N.A.T.O. Dean Rusk, America’s Secretary of State, has made public and private appeals for the participation in South Vietnam of N.A.T.O. forces, but there has not been any response militarily to his appeals. Lester Pearson received a standing ovation in the Canadian House of Commons when he announced that Canada would not become militarily involved in the war in Vietnam. All Australians must ask: Why do we stand alone in support of the United States forces in Vietnam? I ask the Prime Minister to tell the truth, for he knows that the Chinese do not dominate the Vietcong or the Vietnamese people. He knows the history of the Vietnamese people. For 20 centuries they have opposed Chinese oppression and domination. If be does not know these things he should contact Australia’s diplomatic advisers in South Vetnam.
I was in South Vietnam last October. It is a particularly sick society. The people whom I met - the Vietnamese and the Austraiian and American servicemen - told me that the struggle was an independent Vietnamese struggle. The forces of the National Liberation Front, or the Vietcong, as they are known in this country, are well aware of the anti-Chinese feeling among the peasantry and other people of South Vietnam. They know this for they are from the peasantry. They are from the people of South Vietnam. The Prime Minister and the Minister for External Affairs are aware of these facts, but they want to use fear of Chinese Communism as a political weapon. The Government’s action might be to its advantage in the short term, but I warn the Government: History will condemn it. Walter Lippmann said: “ The enemy is not at the gates “. The Chinese are no immediate threat to the United States or to Australia. We are spending huge sums of money, material and manpower in defending our so-called heritage in the north against this perplexed fear. However, every day we are selling our Australian heritage - Australian assets, Australian minerals, Australian industries - to foreign interests. In the same article Lippmann also said -
All the leading American military men of our time - Eisenhower, MacArthur, Bradley, Ridgway - have warned us again and again against being involved in war on the Asian mainland. General MacArthur told John Foster Dulles that any President who did commit American troops te a land war in Asia should have his head examined.
It is an historic mistake for Australia to involve itself in this civil war in Vietnam. The Australian Government and its supporters contend that it is not a civil war. On Tuesday evening, 8th March, the Prime Minister said -
As pressure on the Vietcong has increased, North Vietnam has sent in reinforcements of regular North Vietnamese troops on a very substantial scale.
The Prime Minister did not say what substantial scale, but figures are available. Last November President Johnson wrote to Senator Mike Mansfield and asked him to lead a delegation of five to make an on the spot survey of American participation in South Vietnam- A report of that mission is available in the Parliamentary Library.
It is dated 8th January, 1966 and is published by the United States Information Service. Senator Mansfield is no stranger to South Vietnam. He was there in 1955 and again in 1962 when he led a Senate investigation committee at the request of President Kennedy. He returned and reported that there was corruption and intrigue in Government circles in South Vietnam. He said that despite the spending of $2,000 million of American taxpayers’ money no progress had been made in South Vietnam since he was there in 1955. He was in South Vietnam again in December 1965. He has reported that there are 635,000 troops on the pay roll of the South Vietnamese Government. I might say that the American taxpayers are paying for these 635,000 men. This number is made up of 300,000 regulars of Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines - 88 per cent being Army troops and the remainder including members of six fighter-bomber squadrons; 120,000 regional forces that act as constabulary in 43 provinces; 140,000 popular forces recruited locally and equipped with light arms; 25,000 in the civilian irregular defence group; and 50,000 national police.
Senator Mansfield reported that at December 1965 there were 170,000 United States troops in South Vietnam. We know that there are now well over 200,000. The United States Seventh Fleet is cruising off the Vietnamese coast, and bombers and fighter planes are operating from aircraft carriers and bombing and strafing both North and South Vietnam. There are 10 United States Air Force squadrons of bombers and fighters stationed in South Vietnam and B52 bombers are operating from Guam against North and South Vietnam.
The National Liberation Front - the Vietcong - have 230,000 troops in all. Of these 73,000 are front line troops, including 14,000 North Vietnamese regulars; 100,000 are militia personnel; 17,000 operate lines of communications; and 40,000 are in political cadres. Let us place these figures on a scale. It will be noted that Senator Mansfield said that there is not one Chinese to be found in South Vietnam. In fact, there were very few North Vietnamese in South Vietnam until about the middle of 1963. For confirmation of this honorable members can read the “ Washington Post “ of 6th March 1963 in which is published a statement by General Paul Harkins who was then General Commander in Chief of the United States Forces in South Vietnam. He clearly stated that there were no North Vietnamese forces in South Vietnam. In fact, the arms used by the Vietcong were captured and were either American, Japanese or French. Some were home made. I ask honorable members to note that of the 230,000 Vietcong only 14,000 are North Vietnamese. This confirms the figure of 6 per cent, that the honorable member for Yarra (Dr. J. F. Cairns) has publicly stated. Compare the Vietcong numbers with the 200,000 American forces and 635,000 servicemen on the payroll of the South Vietnam Government. This is a civil war. Of course, other outside influences are now becoming involved in it, and as it proceeds more and more forces will become involved. The Vietcong have no air force and no navy, but have the overwhelming support of the people of South Vietnam.
The Leader of the Opposition has said that we opposed the recommencement of the bombing of North Vietnam. We support those United States senators and other world leaders who have called for peace talks in South Vietnam. We join them in that call. World pressure from both sides in this ideological struggle should be brought to bear to bring the conflicting parties to the conference table. I support Senator Robert Kennedy’s proposal that the Vietcong should be recognised as one of the negotiating parties in future peace talks. On the other hand, we do not support the proposal that American forces and installations should be withdrawn from South Vietnam before peace talks commence. We want to see a cessation of war in Vietnam. To expect the Americans to withdraw before the peace talks is unrealistic. However, there should be an undertaking that all foreign troops should be withdrawn from Vietnam as soon as possible after the peace talks to allow the Vietnamese to determine their own affairs. Elections could be held under the supervision of an international body similar to that which was set up under the 1954 Geneva Agreement. Honorable members will recall that the International Control Commission comprised India, Canada and Poland. A similar body could well supervise elections within Vietnam.
I want to stress a point. Government supporters criticise the Labour Party as being anti-American. If by condemning those in the Pentagon who want to escalate this war we are anti-American, then we are antiAmerican; but if we see hope for the world in courageous liberal leadership by men like Senators Mansfield, Fulbright, Church, Gruening, Morse and Robert and Edward Kennedy, then we are pro-American. We are against escalation of bombing. We are against the bombing of Hanoi and Haiphong. We are opposed to the lunatic fringe in the Australian Parliament and elsewhere who want to denuclearise China. We stress, and over stress, the necessity iol pressure to be brought on both sides to meet at the conference table to end the Vietnam conflict. What is the alternative? The alternative is escalation and nuclear war in which millions will die and which will set civilisation back thousands of years. We condemn the Government for committing young Australians to the hopeless civil war in Vietnam. We condemn the Government for selling out our heritage to foreign interests.
– This afternoon I should like to confine my comments to the first paragraph of the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell). That paragraph emphasises the Opposition’s bitter opposition to the increase in our commitment to South Vietnam and to the inclusion of national servicemen in our armed forces serving there. If this were another occasion, and if time permitted, I would have liked to deal with some of Australia’s economic problems; but time will not permit of my doing that and I hope to be able to make a statement on economic problems to the House next week.
I have mentioned the Opposition’s views on the war in Vietnam. The Leader of the Opposition went further. He said that if the Labour Party had the opportunity it would withdraw all our troops from Vietnam. Here we see the gulf that exists between the Liberal-Country Party Government and some members - perhaps the majority of members - of the Labour Party opposite. That gulf is unbridgeable, and I am glad that the Opposition, by its amendment, has given us the opportunity to highlight the differences between our views so that the Australian people may make up their minds where they stand on this issue. Do they want this policy of defeatism espoused by the Opposition or do they want to support us in our efforts to defend South Vietnam and therefore to defend ourselves?
First, I want to make the point that I do not think that conditions in South Vietnam and in South East Asia generally have so changed since 1964 as to require our changing the policy decisions we then made. In fact, if we look at all the circumstances, such as, for example, the explosion of a nuclear device by China, we will be prepared to say that some conditions have changed for the worse and, therefore, that we are justified in sustaining and perhaps even increasing our present effort. Admittedly, some conditions have improved. I do not express any opinion as to whether confrontation of Malaysia has diminished in intensity because, at the moment, noone other than members of the ruling military junta in Indonesia can make up his mind on that.
I want to point out to the House first that the war is still going on in Vietnam, that aggression is still taking place there and that, as I shall prove later, we owe it to the people of South Vietnam to defend them as well as ourselves. The confrontation of Malaysia continues. We know, too, that in Laos, in Thailand, and in other parts of South East Asia, whenever the opportunity arises for the Communists to create disorder or do some damage to the established government, they are always ready and anxious to do it. They are always ready and anxious to show that their final objective is the complete domination of every part of the Asian continent. This is the strategic as well as tactical background against which we -have to consider the Government’s policy in relation to what we ire doing.
Let me return to 1964, when our policies were changed. I then had the pleasure and responsibility of introducing into this House on behalf of the Government, the Bill which inaugurated national service training. We decided that because of our commitments and our responsibilities we had to increase the size of the Army. We found that the only way in which we could do that was by introducing national service training. We therefore decided to call up 8,400 20 year olds each year. We decided that they would have -five years of service - two years with the Regular Army Supplement and three years in the Reserve. We also decided in 1964, and announced to the Australian people in this House, that these national service trainees - the Labour Party can call them conscripts if it wishes - should be liable for overseas service.
In May 1965, we changed the conditions of service because we then believed that conditions in Vietnam had become so much worse that we were justified in making national service trainees liable for a continuous period of service of up to five years in the case of a defence emergency. Those were the conditions that existed in 1964 and 1965, at the time when the Government’s decisions were made. I freely admit that some people could well have changed their minds between the date when those decisions were made and now, 12 or 14 months later, whoa it is necessary for national service trainees to be sent overseas. Therefore, a heavy responsibility is imposed upon us as a Government to prove not only that we were right in 1964 and 1965 but also that there is now increasingly good reason why we should act according to the decisions we then made.
I want to analyse three or four problems, depending on the amount of time that is available to me. The first question that I want to face up to and answer, although it has been faced up to and answered before, is: Why are we fighting in South Vietnam? I know that answers to this have been given. We face a continuing problem. We face the constant necessity to prove to the Australian people that the decisions we made were right. We also face a constant necessity to prove to them that we deserve their backing, and I am certain that we will receive their backing when the case is put to them again.
The second question I want to answer, because I believe it will be highlighted during the course of the next few months, is this: Is it necessary to send national service trainees to South Vietnam? The third question with which I wish to deal - because I believe the answer to it can well be a morale booster not only to us but also to the people of South Vietnam is: Is this war winnable? I hope to be able to answer each of those questions in succession. If time permits, I might then deal with the prospects and possibilities of escalation.
First let me say why Australian troops are fighting beside the South Vietnamese, Koreans and, in particular, forces from the United States of America in South Vietnam. Our troops are there because the defence of South Vietnam is of crucial importance to the security of Australia itself. It is of crucial importance to the defence of South East Asia and it is of crucial importance to the integrity and stability of the whole of the south west Pacific area in which we live. This is the paramount reason why we are fighting in South Vietnam - our security is at stake. It is of crucial importance to us as an Australian community that we fight the Communists and that they be defeated there.
I put that point to the House against the background of the continuing effort of the Communists, whether they be the local Communists of North Vietnam, or the Communists of China generally. We have to Jook at the efforts of the local Communists of North Vietnam and the more general aggressive activities of Communist China as part and parcel of a continuing policy of one or other of the Communist governments to defeat by aggression or subversion, and to dominate, the whole of South East Asia. This is the strategic and tactical background against which we as Australians have to consider this problem. 1 know it can be argued that the North Vietnamese are nationalists, that they are Titoist Communists; and that, consequently, if we were to get out of Vietnam, and if the Americans and the Koreans were to get out, then the probability would be that the North Vietnamese, having defeated and kept the South Vietnamese under suppression, would call it a day and would have no further territorial ambitions. We have heard this before. It may or may not be true and 1 will not argue it. What I want to argue is this: If it so happened that South Vietnam succumbed to the Communists what would happen to Thailand, Burma, which is now under subversive attack, to Malaysia and to Singapore? I believe that Vietnam is the place where we have to fight now. If we do not we will have to fight somewhere else under much less favorable conditions than we now fight, with our allies, in South Vietnam. This is a place where a stand must be made, not only in our own interests but in the interests of the free people of the world as well.
The second part of the answer to this question is that we are in South Vietnam because of our treaty obligations in that part of the world. In 1954 - and, again, I repeat what has been said in this place but I think it has to be repeated to bring home again to the Australian people what our obligations are - the Geneva protocols were signed. Prior to that there had been aggression and warlike operations in South Vietnam. At Geneva it was agreed that there would be a grouping of the various armies and that aggression would cease. Subsequently, the pact relating to the South East Asia Treaty Organisation was negotiated. It was negotiated as a mutual defence treaty for the defence of Australia as well as of South East Asia. We were parties to that treaty, we have the benefit of it, and correspondingly we have obligations under it.
Notwithstanding the Geneva protocols, the North Vietnamese were guilty of blatant aggression against the South Vietnamese in defiance of that protocol. Over 70,000 North Vietnamese have entered South Vietnam since 1959. Over nine regular battalions of North Vietnamese have been identified. Here we find clear evidence of aggression of a kind which, if I may use the words of the Manila declaration of the S.E.A.T.O. council, was clearly aggression against the people of South Vietnam. The North Vietnamese displayed a truculent and defiant attitude towards the S.E.A.T.O. partners and this was done in defiance of the purpose of the S.E.A.T.O. treaty itself. Consequently, the S.E.A.T.O. council called upon the various members of S.E.A.T.O. to live up to their obligations to defend South Vietnam as part of the defence of South East Asia, and as part and parcel of the defence of Australia.
Last, to put this case in perspective, we have troops in South Vietnam to defend a cause, not a regime. We are there to defend the cause of freedom as with the air lift to West Berlin, as with our contribution to the effort in Malaysia and before that in Malaya, and as with our contribution in Korea. In each of these cases, we were fighting for a cause and that cause was the cause of freedom. So, too, are we now defending the cause of freedom in South Vietnam.
I am glad the Opposition has given us an opportunity to debate this issue and to crystallise it. I believe that the more clear cut are these issues which do divide us, the more quickly we as a Government will receive the full approval of the Australian people That was the first problem I wanted to deal with.
The second was whether it was wise, proper or prudent to send Australian national servicemen to fight in Vietnam. I might take honorable members back over history and mention that in 1964 we decided to have another look at our defence policy. Because of the heightened tension and particularly because of confrontation, the Government decided that it would have to increase the size of the Army from 22,750 to 37,000 or 37,500, of which 33,000 would be effectives. At that time the Government had full discussions with the Chiefs of Staff of the Army, Navy and Air Force and with the Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee. I was able to say in this House, in answer to a question, that they recommended and advised the Government that the only way in which Australia could meet the responsibility of raising 33,000 effective troops was to call up. first, 6,400 national servicemen and later 8.400 national servicemen. Otherwise wc could not have lived up to our responsibilities - to our commitments in South Vietnam, in West New Guinea, in Malaysia and to the responsibility we had of building up our military capability at home. The Government decided to recruit eight battalions ready by the end of this year, together with all supporting forces.
I want to state in clear and emphatic terms that there was no alternative to national service training. Next I want to answer the question whether the Government should have taken out of the Army the 1.500 national servicemen who are now going to Vietnam. This would have necessitated two armies - a national service army and a regular army. I believe that would have been anathema, not only to the Australian people, but to the national servicemen themselves. Secondly, it would have created great logistic problems. It would have meant that, at a time when movement overseas was to take place, the national servicemen would have to be disengaged and regular troops would have to be put into the battalions. Re-training as a regiment would have had to commence.
Logistic problems would have been enormous, both in terms of personnel and equipment. I want to state emphatically that it is the opinion of the Army advisers to the Government that if we were determined to live up to our commitments it would not have been practicable to have had two armies; it would not have been practicable to disengage the national servicemen and to permit only regular troops to go overseas.
The only other point I want to mention, as my time is slipping by, is the argument of the Leader of the Opposition that the war in Vietnam is unwinnable. That may have been the case a year ago when it looked as though it could have been a long drawn out struggle, ultimately leading to a stalemate and possible compulsion at the conference table. That is not the case today. The truth is, Sir, that in terms of our limited objectives - and they are limited - this war can and will be won. Those limited objectives are not the destruction of North Vietnam. They ate to deter the North Vietnamese from carrying on aggressive operations in South Vietnam and to bring them to to the conference table so that we can have a just peace and so that the people of South Vietnam will have the opportunity to live their lives in freedom and in peace. We have heard of this question of winnability before. We remember the fall of Singapore and the clamour of honorable members such as the Leader of the Opposition that the war was unwinnable and that we should capitulate. After Dunkirk we heard that the Germans could not be defeated. We heard from Lord Russell that we should surrender to the Germans and let them dominate Great Britain. We heard this said, too, immediately after Pearl Harbour. Honorable members who have any historical knowledge will know that in the battles of Marathon when the Persians appeared to have defeated the Greeks, the Greeks rallied their forces and won. This is history. If we surrender in Vietnam there is no doubt that we will face another Munich and another day of destiny. We will be compelled to fight under circumstances much less favorable to us than they are today in South Vietnam.
Sir, I want to thank the Opposition for giving us the opportunity to join issue with it. I am certain that the more facts and the philosophy on each side are made clear to the Australian people the more certain is it that they will support the Government and disown this renegade Labour Opposition which is ruled, not by a parliamentary party, but by 36 faceless men and 12 witless men who dominate the Federal Executive of the Australian Labour Party today.
.- The Treasurer (Mr. McMahon) surely has been batting on a very sticky wicket. He neither sounded convincing nor was convincing. The arguments that he has advanced on this occasion are the same as he had advanced on previous occasions in an effort to show that the Government has not been inconsistent in its attitude towards defence, national service training, conscription or the war in South Vietnam. The first point 1 wish to make in reply to the Treasurer is to ask him, or the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Anthony), who is now seated at the table: Is Australia at war or not? Last week in the House at question time the Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Holt) vehemently denied that we are at war. Today in the course of his speech the Treasurer on two or three occasions used the words “ the war in Vietnam “.
I want to get back to the topic of the speech made by the Treasurer, who spent most of his time endeavouring to show why the Government had been compelled to introduce national service training. He spent a deal of his time in endeavouring to cover up the inconsistency of the approach of the Government in its attitudes towards this matter. I intend to quote, giving chapter and verse, passages to show that this Government changed its mind on national service training over a period of three months. On 20th August 1964 the then Minister for the Army, Dr. Forbes, came into this House and in a 30 minute speech devoted all of his time to explaining why it was not possible for the Government to introduce national service training. He was replying to members on his own side of the House who had been pressing over a number of months for the introduction of national service training. I refer to the honorable member for Sturt (Sir Keith Wilson), the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth), the honorable member for Bradfield (Mr. Turner) and the honorable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfrid
Kent Hughes). All of these honorable members had been pushing the Government to introduce national service training. In the course of his speech the then Minister for the Army said -
We have not introduced it-
He meant national service training - because to do so would be against the unanimous advice of our military advisers.
Later in the same speech he said that the United States of America had found defects in national service training. He said that the Canadians had no national service training because they too were aware of the defects of such a scheme. He said - . . the attributes to which we attach the greatest importance - readiness, efficiency, availability - would be substantially reduced by a national service scheme on any worthwhile scale in the circumstances existing at present.
During the whole of his speech the Minister addressed the House as the spokesman for the Government and told his own colleagues that they were wasting their time in pushing for the introduction of national service training. He told them that they were wasting their time because it was the unanimous advice of the military advisers that it should not be introduced. The same Minister then travelled to Tasmania to attend the National Congress of the Returned Services League. During the last week of October he told the gathering of ex-servicemen, who also had been pressing for the introduction of national service training, that it should not be done, and he reiterated most of the arguments that he had advanced on 20th August. Yet within two weeks - somewhere about the 10th or 11th November - the Prime Minister at that time, Sir Robert Menzies, announced in the House that national service training was to be introduced. I remember his speech quite well, because I spoke in reply to it on that occasion and I directed attention to the fact that during the course of that speech at no stage did the then Prime Minister say that the Government was acting on the advice of its military advisers. The words . that he used on two occasions - I am quoting from memory and may not be using his exact words - were: “ After full consultation with our military advisers we have decided “. He did not say that the Government was acting on the advice of its military advisers.
– The honorable member is splitting straws.
– I am not. I am quoting chapter and verse. The former Minister for the Army on 20th August said that it could not happen. Somewhere about 26th October he repeated that it could not happen. The late Senator Paltridge in the Senate also said, in a statement on defence, that national service training would not be introduced. If my memory serves me correctly I am certain that the late Senator Paltridge said in the Senate that under no circumstances would the Government introduce conscription for overseas service unless in time of war.
The inconsistency of the Government is apparent in its whole attitude to national service training and particularly in the sending of national service trainees overseas. I do not want to spend any more time on the arguments that have been advanced by the Treasurer, because I believe that it has been shown by him and by others in this House that the Government did not know where it was going in 1964, did not know where it was going in 1965, and does not know where it is going in 1966.
– It had difficulty in getting volunteers.
– I will come to that point later. I have a page of notes on the point raised in that interjection.
– Did Jim Cairns write this for the honorable member?
– I shall refrain from answering that interjection. The statement we are discussing now is that delivered by the Prime Minister on 8th March, his first statement in the Parliament as Prime Minister of Australia. He spoke for more than an hour. The speech covered more than 30 quarto pages of single space typing. It is a maze of words - words that give very little indication of where the Government is going in economic affairs or for that matter in foreign affairs and defence. The same old arguments and the same pious platitudes that had been given by the previous Prime Minister were reiterated by our new Prime Minister. He talked about the need to preserve peace in South Vietnam and in the world generally. He talked about the need to repress the Communist advance in South Vietnam. He talked about the reconstruction and rehabilitation of South Vietnam and about aid to undeveloped Asian nations - the same expressions we had been hearing from the previous Prime Minister for a number of years.
The Prime Minister was followed two days later by the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Hasluck) who made us listen to a speech stretched over 14 foolscap pages. Again we heard the same old arguments, the same old platitudes about the need to work for peace and about the need to help undeveloped nations, particularly in Asia. Within two days we had the arguments again put before us making it perfectly clear to most people that this Government is following a pattern that has been set by a number of other nations of far less maturity. It is a pattern designed to create a national belief that dangers from outside Australia are so grave that economic growth and improved standards of living should become secondary considerations. The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, China and Indonesia, to mention only a few countries, have all used similar tactics over the years to prevent national thought and opinion from concentrating on internal issues.
The present Government realises that it is losing popular support. I believe that one of the undisclosed reasons why Sir Robert Menzies retired from his position was that he realised the closeness of electoral disaster. It remains only for the Labour Party to recognise the opportunity and to alter its approach to certain matters of national importance for it to accomplish a landslide victory at the next election. The Australian people are ready for a change. They want a change because of the inconsistency of this Government in the fields of foreign affairs and defence. The straw that has broken the camel’s back is the sending of Australian boys of 20 years of age to fight in the war in South Vietnam, a war the existence of which is denied by some leading members of the Government but acknowledged by others.
Australians generally appreciate the importance of our active participation in assisting South Vietnam to defeat the Communist plan to take over that country. Australians generally appreciate also the need for co-operation with the United States. But there is a grave misunderstanding of the attitude of the Australian Labour Party on this important question because we have the audacity to criticise the Government’s policy and suggest an alternative. There is no doubt that it is regarded as audacious for anyone in the Parliament, whether on the Liberal benches, the Country Party benches or the Labour Party benches, to criticise any policy of the Government. Ask the honorable member for Chisholm how he is treated in his own party. Ask the honorable member for Bradfield, the honorable member for Mackellar and the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Killen) how they are treated because they happen to express on some occasions opinions contrary to the policies laid down by the Government. They are criticised and ostracised.
As for the Australian Labour Party, our policy on foreign affairs is clearly written. It is available in pamphlet form for purchase at any branch of the Party in any of the States, or at the Federal Secretariat in Canberra. In an endeavour to clear up some of the misunderstanding which exists concerning the Labour Party’s policy let me read the preamble only to our policy on foreign affairs. It is as follows -
The Labour Party, as a democratic socialist and internationalist Party, believes that every nation must share in the skills of mankind and the resources of the world according to its needs and must contribute to those skills and resources according to its capacity.
The Labour Party believes Australia cannot isolate itself from the struggles of the peoples of the world for economic development, security and self-government.
While the Commonwealth of Nations continues to exist Australia must always remain an integral part of it.
Australia must give unswerving and para mount loyalty to the United Nations and seek to have carried out the principles of the United Nations Charter, and in particular their application to the areas of the South Pacific and Indian Oceans.
Co-operation with the U.S. in the areas of the South Pacific and Indian Oceans is of crucial importance and must be maintained, subject to the understanding that Australia must remain free to order its policies in accordance with the principles of the United Nations Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Australia has a moral duty to co-operate in the development of the South East
Asian area to strengthen the fabric of peace and freedom and to uphold the principles of democracy, individual liberty and the rule of law, and to promote economic well-being and development.
Australia must take the initiative for the maintenance of peace and good relations between itself and its neighbours and in the whole South East Asia area.
Australia must periodically review its defence treaties and alliances to meet new circumstances as they arise.
That policy certainly does not mean that the Labour Party believes that military aid should form the major contribution to strengthening the fabric of peace and freedom and encouraging and upholding the principles of democracy, individual liberty and the rule of law. Neither does it mean that in no circumstances will the Australian Labour Party condone the granting of Australian military aid when circumstances warrant assistance in such a form. The present Government believes in taking the easy way out, as did the previous Government under Sir Robert Menzies. When there is some trouble in South Vietnam or in Malaysia or elsewhere the Government believes that the way to ease those troubles or prevent them from becoming worse is to send troops so that those who are causing insurrection or some other kind of trouble will be put in fear of their lives and will be induced to curtail their activities. This Government believes in granting more and more military aid. Perhaps it is doing so at present at the request of the U.S. If so, it is about time that some responsible member of the Government told this Parliament and the Australian people that that is the position. Because the Government has been unable to induce enough volunteers to enter the Regular Army it has taken the easy way out by conscripting 20 year olds for national service training. Then it has gone a step further and declared that the national service trainees shall go to South Vietnam to fight in a war in which they have very little concern and which many people in Australia believe should be stopped immediately.
It was only in the last three years of the 1939-45 war that the then Labour Government found it necessary to conscript youths for service outside Australia. In a so-called national emergency, if the arguments advanced by the Treasurer, the Prime Minister and other members of the Government can be accepted, we cannot get sufficient volunteers to protect our country. In the 1939-45 war we were able to recruit a large expeditionary force and it was not until 1943 that service outside Australia became necessary.
The Government has not made any real attempt to obtain volunteers for this force that it considers is necessary in Vietnam, lt has not set up, for instance, a special expeditionary force so that people who want to do so - including, perhaps, the 20 year old sons of Government supporters, if they have any - may be able to volunteer for service in South Vietnam to protect this country in what we are told is a time of national emergency. The young men of Australia proved their worth in 1914-18 and in 1939-45, and if this Government can convince them that the situation now is as dangerous as it was in 1939-45, and if it establishes a special expeditionary force, I am certain there will be no need to send 20 year old conscripts to South Vietnam.
There are a number of other topics I would have liked to mention, but I am afraid I have devoted too much of my time to answering the fallacious arguments advanced by the Treasurer. If I have done nothing other than to convince some people that the Government has been inconsistent in its approach to defence and foreign affairs in Australia over most of the years that it has been in office, but in particular in the last two years, then I am satisfied to wait until another day to speak on these topics.
.- I support the statement of the Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Holt) and reject the amendment submitted by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell). I regard the amendment as being both unrealistic and unworthy of him or anyone with Australia’s welfare at heart. In supporting the statement I shall devote the time available to me to considering the Vietnamese sector of the world struggle between freedom and militant Communism and shall indicate my reasons for wholeheartedly supporting the Government’s action. The Vietnamese war is clearly and patently one phase in Communism’s bid for world domination. It is apparent to all who will see - only people who have blinded themselves to the facts can believe otherwise - from the recent struggles in Korea, Malaya, Thailand, Laos, the Philippines, Burma or any other of these recent conflicts that this is the case. The conflict in Asia began in earnest in 1945 when the Moscow trained Communist Tran Van Giau led the revolt against the French.
To show how much this was a war of Communism versus freedom, Tran Van Giau decided to massacre not only the French but also the Vietnamese intellectuals as he felt that these people stood in his way. It was not his fault that he did not succeed. However, a little later in the same year, he did succeed in massacring hundreds of the Hoa Hao sect, even though they were anti-French. Naturally, in this struggle, true nationalists were often used as dupes in the same way as Tito in Yugoslavia used patriots who actually loathed Communism. He used these people in his struggle to foist Communism on his own people. This pattern has been the same everywhere and every conceivable and, certainly, some inconceivable means have been used to begin foci of discontent within the coveted country. Then, when this has begun to succeed, selected malcontents have been trained, usually in China or Russia in the first instance, and they have been reexported to expand this work. Then by threats and blandishments, murder, torture and by any possible means whatever, the cancer has been spread until a desperate situation has ensued within the country which may well fall to these evil men. The men behind these schemes have certainly been brilliant and their strategy, as we have seen, has been all too successful. One of the key figures in Asia is, of course, Mao Tse-tung who has played a vital part. He was aided in this by his study of the ancient Chinese strategist Sun Tzu. If I may quote from the “Art of War” by Sun Tzu, an Oxford University Press publication which has been given the imprimatur of the United Nations Economic, Scientific and Cultural Organisation, the translator states in the preface -
In Sun Tzu’s view, the Army was the instrument which delivered the coup de grace to an enemy previously made vulnerable. Prior to hostilities, secret agents separated the enemy’s allies from him and conducted a variety of clandestine and, subversive activities. Among their missions were to spread false rumours and misleading information, to corrupt and subvert officials, to create and exacerbate internal discord, and to nurture fifth columns. Meanwhile, spies, active at all levels, ascertained the enemy situation. On their reports, ‘ victorious ‘ plans were based. Marshal Shaposhnikov was not the first to comprehend that the prerequisite to victory is ‘ to make proper preparations in the enemy’s camp so the result is decided beforehand ‘. Thus, the former Chief of the General Staff of the Red Army continues in a remarkable paraphase of Sun Tzu ‘ the victorious army attacks a demoralised and defeated enemy ‘. The ‘ Art of War ‘ has had a profound influence throughout Chinese history and on Japanese military thought: It is a source of Mao Tse-tung’s strategic theories and of the tactical doctrine of the Chinese armies.
One can see that it is not only in China that this battle is being fought and that Mao Tse-tung’s strategy is being used throughout all South East Asia today. Previously it was used in Korea under his direction and under his aegis. It is patently obvious that these matters are not symptoms of civil war and civil discontent; they have been deliberately fomented by Communists. Those in this country who will deny th:tt statement are merely fathering their 0”‘!i destruction, or endeavouring to do so. The strategy that I have mentioned is obvious in Vietnam and it was only too obvious in Malaya. We saw in Singapore how this was done.
Selected people - honoured men, leaders of their people very often - were chosen as foci of discontent and they used their authority further to foment unrest. Occasionally schools were used to indoctrinate school children who were used in the struggle. When this phase of revolution had proceeded to the satisfaction of these criminal men, public disorder, rioting and murder was engaged in. We saw this in Malaya and in Singapore. The only trouble was that the Communists there did not follow the doctrines of Mao Tse-tung and Sun Tzu closely enough and they carried out a systematic, widespread terrorisation without respect to persons. The workers, as well as the owners of plantations and other leaders, were indiscriminately murdered. Consequently, everyone was repelled by them. Despite this, Mao Tse-tung reorganised this battle in Malaya and brought the fight more into line with his own strategic ideas. Unfortunately for the Communists, Sir Gerald Templer appeared on the scene and, by his forthright, brave and brilliant activities, the Communists were vanquished. Despite this, 1,275 Army per sonnel and policemen were killed by the Communists in rioting and fighting and 2,319 civilians were murdered or abducted during this time of struggle.
I do not think anyone, even on the Opposition benches, would endeavour to say that the Malayan struggle was a civil war or that the Korean battle was a civil war. Nor would they say that the fighting in the Philippines between the Communists and the free peoples were civil disorders. Yet the present situation in Vietnam is simply a magnified example of the same process. I feel that we must trace the history of this matter a- little further. February 1948 saw the intensification of the struggle by the Communists in Asia. This part of the world, wartorn, simmering with discontent and dawning nationalism, unhappy from their experiences at the hands of the Japanese, disillusioned by the performance of European peoples during the Second World War. was considered by the Communists to be ripe for a wholesale and universal thrust against freedom. Consequently there was held in Calcutta the second Indian Communist Congress which was held simultaneously with an international congress of Asian youth. A Moscow man came to this conference wits the grand plan which had been spawned in Moscow. At this conference the basic paper discussed was “ Revolutionary Possibilities for 1948 “. At this conference, one of the delegates, speaking about fa,* national discontent that had encouraged the congress, said -
So powerful are these struggles and sn great their revolutionary sweep that the achievement at one stroke of people’s democracy becomes an immediate attainable object.
Plans were then laid for the widespread Communist subversion of South East Asia. How quickly they were successful can be seen in the fact that on 28th February 1949 Pandit Nehru made some significant observations when addressing the Constituent Assembly in India. In no circumstances could he be called an American lackey or an imperialist lackey. He was a nationalist and co-author with Chou En-lai of the five points of mutual co-operation with the Chinese people. Nehru said -
The Communist Party of India has, during the past year, adopted an attitude not only of open hostility to the Government but one which can be described as bordering on open revolt. This policy has been given effect to intensively in certain limited areas in India and has resulted in violence, indulging in murders, arson and looting as well as acts of sabotage. The House is well aware of the Communist revolts that have taken place in countries bordering on India. It was presumably in furtherance of the same policy that attempts were made in India to incite people to active revolt.
As far back as 1949, this great man, this great Indian nationalist, put his finger on the root of the whole problem - a problem that is still with us today. Any honorable member opposite who fails to recognise this is simply purblind or is seeking electoral advantage. Which it may be I do not know, Sir. In neither event does he serve the interests of his country.
We face serious times. We are at the crossroads. If we do not take a stand now, it may be far too late to take any kind of stand subsequently. It is now obvious for all to see that we face naked Communist aggression. Anyone who says that the war in Vietnam is simply an internal conflict is either a rogue or a fool. This is a peculiar phenomenon. It is difficult to see why this nightmare should be darkening the world at present. We must ask ourselves why this phenomenon is presented to us. I believe that if we do we can see that the basic cause clearly lies in Marxism itself. As we all know, Sir, except in the minds of certain honorable members opposite Marxism is a demonstrably fallacious political philosophy. It is full of self contradictions. For example, the inherently evil doctrine of dialectical materialism is in conflict with the similarly fantastic doctrine of the inevitability of gradualism. These are mutually exclusive. Yet the Marxists apparently believe in both.
These doctrines are the product of a tortured mind that was riddled with hate. Marx developed these philosophies because he hated society as it then was. He first formulated the answers that he wanted and then invented this nonsense to fit those answers. The fact that some of the material that he used and some of the material that he devised partly fits the facts - in his time it fairly convincingly fitted in with some existing facts and appeared to prove certain of his points - in no way detracts from the fact that his doctrines are demonstrably false and are in fact just fantasies. Indeed, I wish that Marxism could be taught in the proper context in all our schools so that our school children could see it clearly for what it is before they became enmeshed in its toils, for Marxism admittedly exerts an extraordinary fascination on some minds. I believe that if our school children could be shown the weaknesses and fallacies of this evil doctrine before being caught up in its toils the country would be done a great service. For this reason, I wish that Marxism, in its proper context, were a compulsory subject in our schools.
Once converted, the Marxist is faced with a fascinating prospect. Evil always has its excitements and Marxism has its fair share. It is anti-Christ. In fact, it is opposed to all religion and that means that no limitations are imposed on its followers. Morality becomes something bourgeois. The Marxist can and in fact does lie, distort, murder and terrorise to achieve his overriding objective of world domination, lt is interesting to note that Marxism did not spring from the downtrodden people. It did not spring from the masses themselves. I am not confusing Marxism and Socialism and I do not want to be misunderstood on this score, but I point out that Marxism, and Socialism also, were fathered by intellectuals and often the very rich. The overriding idea that has permeated both these philosophies is that the masses do not know what is good for them, that they cannot see for themselves what is to their own advantage and that consequently this must be imposed on them by a central ruling junta. Then, in the case of Marxism, they must conform or else, lt is interesting to note that one of the basic attitudes that permeates both Socialism and Marxism is that the man in the street does not know what is good for him and that those ideas that are supposed to be good for him must be imposed on him by a small, tightly knit central clique. It is for this reason that we have directing the actions of honorable members on the other side of the chamber ‘the faceless men, some of whom have more recently been called witless men, though I believe incorrectly. It is a facet of Socialism that the centre of gravity of government moves outside the legislative chamber to a small centra] economic planning council which determines these matters. This is an inevitable trend under Socialism. In fact, the party opposite was trying to achieve this before the people booted it out of office in 1949.
I see that time is running out on me, Sir, and I shall be unable to develop my theme fully. I should just like to point out that a cynical imperialism has been grafted on to Marxism in both Russia and China. Between the two wars, we witnessed the spectacle of sincere Marxists overnight having to make an about face and adopt a complete change of front with respect to their policies and ideas to suit not the fundamentals of Marxism but Russian foreign policy. Though Russia is now contained, this is still going on in China and its satellites. Vietnam, of course, is a textbook example of Chinese imperialism run rampant. The fighting in Vietnam has followed the textbook pattern imposed by Mao Tse-tung. After the successful conclusion of the conflict in which North Vietnam became a Communist satellite, the first to break the Geneva Agreement were none other than the Communists. They have continued to break the Agreement since. Despite this, more than 750,000 North Vietnamese have found their way south to freedom.
This struggle is going on in Asia and we are in the forefront ®f it, Sir. The Leader of the Opposition says that we are fighting an unwinnable war. If that is the case, we have lost everything and no honorable member opposite need think that he or his family will survive this conflict. Just as genocide wiped out the effective numbers of Tibetans, if we in Australia become subject to Communist domination genocide will wipe out all of us. We must fight and we must fight now before it is too late, Sir. I heartily support the action of this Government in ensuring oar future safety and liberty as well as that of the free world.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
.- Before the suspension of the sitting, the honorable member for Bowman (Dr. Gibbs) supported the policy statement on Vietnam made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Holt). The honorable gentleman is the only doctor in the House. One would have thought that he would have supported some of the non-military assistance which has been given by a number of countries to that divided and devastated country. I refer, for instance, to the fully equipped and manned hospital ship which the West German Government has provided for service in Vietnamese waters. The honorable gentle man, however, confined himself to military aspects. One would be glad to know whether he agrees with the statement made by the late Minister for Defence just over a year before the honorable member was elected to the House. The Minister said -
If the proposition were that we were going to war and were sending troops overseas, then, of course, we would recruit or conscript doctors.
The honorable gentleman devoted himself mainly to the history of the Vietnamese conflict. I do not propose to spend much of my time on this subject. It is a matter upon which Cabinet members differ very widely themselves. Only half a year ago, the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Hasluck) stated -
In about five years from 1954 to 1959, the two parts of Vietnam lived in comparative peace, although in an uneasy relationship. In 1959, however, the Government of North Vietnam demanded that Vietcong activities in the South be stepped up to a full scale attack on the Government of South Vietnam and it proceeded to provide help to the Vietcong in men, weapons and military direction and in training. Those actions in 1959 were the beginning of the course of events that has ended in the sad situation of today.
A week ago, however, the Minister for Defence (Mr. Fairhall) stated -
The Geneva Accords-
These were signed in 1954 - separated the Communist North from the nonCommunist South, .//. almost immediately there was subversion on the widest possible scale in South Vietnam.
Later he stated -
Immediately after the partition there was Communist infiltration into the South.
Thus we have two senior members of the Cabinet differing by five years on matters of recent history. They are confused about the origins of the war.
If the Cabinet is ignorant of historical facts, it is seriously insensitive to contemporary reactions. A fortnight ago, the Prime Minister stated -
This is no civil war.
If we concede that Vietnam is a divided country, quite clearly any war between the north and the south is a civil war. If we believe that South Vietnam is a separate country, clearly the war that has been going on there between different sections is a civil war, unless we assume that all the people who oppose Saigon come from outside South Vietnam. Clearly, this is at least partly a civil war. Yet the Prime Minister expects to be taken seriously when he states -
This is no civil war.
It is natural that we should become very sceptical of the assessments made by senior members of the Government. Last September, the Minister for External Affairs stated -
Up to date the North Vietnamese and behind them, China, have shown no interest in discussions of any kind.
This was put in the official booklet which the Government has distributed to clergy and school principals. We now know, however, that late in 1964 an offer was made by North Vietnam, through U Thant, for discussions to be held in Burma. Was the Minister for External Affairs not told or is it that he just did not tell us?
– It was not published.
– Does the honorable member seriously think the Minister was not told? A fortnight ago, the Prime Minister stated -
During the suspension of bombing in December and January, every conceivable effort was” made to bring the North Vietnamese authorities to the conference table.
It is significant that neither the Prime Minister nor the Minister for External Affairs gave one instance of Australian efforts in this regard. Do they have no interest in bringing the North Vietnamese to the conference table or do they have no influence? Australia should have some influence. It has considerable commercial relations with the other great powers in this area - Japan, India and Indonesia. We can help our allies and ourselves by making efforts to this end. There can be no peace or development in any region of the world unless the military and economic resources of the great powers, especially the United States, the greatest of them all, are integrated with those of the region itself. Australia, which is no military or economic threat to its neighbours, can and should do much more to interpret the motives of her allies. In this way, she will help her allies; she will also do much more to secure her own future in this region, where she is inextricably involved.
Our Prime Minister and his predecessor have never paid even lip service to the need for negotiations to pacify and neutralise
Vietnam. At least, the new Prime Minister has spared us the pretence that Australia is in South Vietnam because the Saigon regime has asked Australia to be there or that Australia is in South Vietnam because she is obliged to assist through her obligation to the South East Asia Treaty Organisation. The Australian people are more divided on the issue of this war than on any in which they have ever been engaged. They are convinced that their Government has been cynical in its motives and secretive in its operations. I used the term “ war “. There does not have to be a declaration of war in order to bring about the legal or constitutional consequences of war. We never declared war over Korea. Yet the Commonwealth contended, and the High Court upheld the contention, that at that time the Government’s powers were sufficient to introduce capital issues control. One would think that at least at the present time the Government’s powers, if what it says about the Vietnamese situation is correct, are wide enough to curb exploitation flowing from the decimal changeover.
I have lamented the fact that even persons like the honorable member for Bowman have never referred to the nonmilitary assistance to Vietnam. In fact, we gave no non-military assistance until October 1964, six months after the United States suggested that we should provide it. The first assistance we provided was a pest exterminator.
The next issue that we must decide on this subject is: What is our objective? The Australian people are divided and unconvinced on this issue, because the Government has never frankly stated its objectives. The Prime Minister spoke about the need to check the Communist threat in Vietnam. Two days later, the Minister for External Affairs said -
Our aims are to defend South Vietnam, to preserve its security and to allow it freely to determine the economic and political system it wants. . . . Nor is it our aim to prevent South Vietnam and North Vietnam from coming closer together after fighting has stopped.
If given their right to self-determination, the population, at least in a unified Vietnam, might determine on a Titoist type Communist government. Would the Australian Government accept this? If not, let it say what it would accept. Until the West clearly states its peace objectives, there is unlikely to be any worthwhile response from the Other side. There will also be continued opposition at home to Western policy on Vietnam. The sending of more troops will not help negotiations. In the total scheme of things they will be militarily insignificant. If all the Government was seeking was a symbolic commitment, the present increase will achieve nothing.
In his speech, the Prime Minister several times said that China was the threat behind the present situation. If this is so - if the menace of China is so imminent and so great - why do we continue to trade with China? Last financial year China was our fifth largest export market behind Great Britain, Japan, America and New Zealand. In the last two years, our exports to China have totalled more than $300 million. As an earlier speaker said, the Government is much better at wheat negotiations than at peace negotiations.
The decision to increase the Vietnam Commitment disguises other defence deficiencies. The decision just before the Senate election in 1964 to introduce conscription was quite deliberately timed to distract the public’s attention from delays in the delivery of defence equipment. The Government’s timing now is largely to obscure the cost of the Fill aircraft. The contract to buy these aircraft was not mentioned by the Prime Minister. It will be remembered that the original contract, entered into just prior to the 1963 elections, Was expected to cost £112 million. The Minister for Air (Mr. Howson) appropriately described that figure today as a guess. The present price is said to be £184 million or, as the Minister for Air said today, a damned low price.
– A fair price.
– A damned fair price - an increase of 64 per cent. In April 1964 the then Minister for Air said -
The number of those aircraft to be manufactured has almost doubted. This undoubtedly will tend to lower the price. There will be other factors which will tend to increase the price, but whichever way it goes we know that it will not be very far from the price that was quoted to us.
That is the guess, as the Minister for Air now describes it - an amount which has increased by two-thirds in just over two years.
It is interesting to recall - the Prime Minister glossed over this matter very swiftly - the increase in our involvement which has come about by stealth. In 1962 we had up to 100 military advisers. In 1964 we sent Caribou aircraft. Last year we sent the 1st Battalion, which was then expanded to a battalion group of 1,500 men. This year we are to treble our commitment. We are to have two infantry battalions, a special air services squadron, combat and logistics support and a flight of Iroquois helicopters. In November 1964 the former Prime Minister announced that there would be annual call-ups of about 6,900 men. A fortnight ago the new Prime Minister said -
The Government has also decided that the national service intake will be continued at 8,400 each year.
In addition these men will now be sent to Vietnam.
Conscription is defence on the cheap. The Government is not prepared to raise taxes to recruit a volunteer army. Those who have been most outspoken in pressing the Government for an expanded defence effort would be the first to oppose tax increases to provide it. There will be inequality of sacrifice in terms of money on the one hand and men on the other. The Government will increasingly rely on conscripts. There will be less need to attract volunteers. With the stroke of a pen, the Government can obtain another 10,000 conscripts. To do so does not require the passing of an act of Parliament or new regulation. It can be done in an order which .never comes before the Parliament. The former Prime Minister and the present Prime Minister have never appealed for persons to join the Army. Australians will respond to a clear lead. They have never been given it by the right honorable gentlemen. The only appeal for recruits is through advertisements. The return on our advertisements is one recruit for the Army for every $200 spent. The return this year is rather more expensive in money and less productive in men than even the figure I have just given. Fewer people are now voluntarily enlisting and we are having to spend more dollars on advertisements in order to get them. Australia needs a larger standing army than ever before in her history. The Army is now one of the nation’s essential occupations. My party believes that the numbers can be obtained by voluntary means. If two-year conscripts suffice, why not enlist volunteers for a similar period? The defence services must be shown to be as necessary and their conditions as attractive as any other pursuit in the community. The only way to attract and retain regular soldiers in peacetime is to guarantee that they and their dependants will be and will remain on a par with civilians of the same age. They should have war service homes, repatriation health benefits, civilian retraining, scholarships for their children and reasonable retirement or resettlement allowances. These things have not been provided in Australia. By these methods, other countries have ensured that they have adequate regular forces. I do not believe that a nation of 11 million people cannot attract 8,400 more men voluntarily to the Army each year.
– Full employment is the reason.
– Other countries have full employment. Every country in western Europe and northern Europe has full employment and they all have larger standing armies than has Australia. No Government leader in Australia has made a call to the colours in this respect. There was no difficulty in getting, proportionately, ten times as many people voluntarily to join the forces during the First World War and the Second World War as we are aiming to obtain for the Army by conscription today. If the Australian people were convinced of the need for our commitment in Vietnam and if the Government were to give a clear lead, we would get the additional 8,400 men voluntarily out of a population of 11 million or more. As other countries have had, so can we have a professional army of adequate size by voluntary means. The Government takes the easy and cheap way out with conscription. I hear the honorable member for Bowman (Dr. Gibbs) interjecting. I asked him earlier, quoting from the late Minister for Defence, whether he believed that, if people are to be sent overseas, doctors should be conscripted for the Army.
I do not have time to deal with the other matters which were mentioned by the Prime Minister and which are covered in the amendment which I seconded. It was remarkable that the Prime Minister could make a statement about drought or water resources without referring to the Snowy
Mountains Hydro-electric Authority. It was remarkable that he could refer to minerals without mentioning the metal industries. The plain fact is that the Government has not learned anything from the Dawson byelection. When the Prime Minister made his only appearance in the by-election campaign he referred to the electorate as Watson. The Country Party hustled him out of the electorate as quickly as it could. Not that members of the Country Party were too clear where they were. I heard that the Minister for the Interior (Ms. Anthony) assured one audience that far from being uninterested in developing the north, Canberra was well aware of the problems of the people of Sarina - but he had to be told by a prompter the name of the town in which he was speaking. That went all over the electorate. The great water and mineral resources of this area are known, but we will never get proper development of them under this Government. We shall never get a proper return for our natural resources or a proper opportunity for our human resources until the Commonwealth plans better for all these matters. The Prime Minister made no proposals for the future of the Snowy Mountains Authority; no proposals for processing in Australia the vast mineral wealth in our soil, particularly in the north.
– Order! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
– It is an important debate when the Opposition challenges the Government on major points of its policy. Of course, it must be recognised as a debate of great significance by the extent to which the Government’s foreign affairs policy and its conduct of affairs in Vietnam is under challenge. I listened to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) with close attention. I will not comment on the number of slick political tricks that he sought to take, but there was one thing of substance in his speech. He said that the Government’s latest attitude to conscription was deliberately timed to distract attention from the extra cost of the FI 1 1 aircraft. This was a contemptible statement. It must be known by any reasonable person to be untrue - and known to be untrue when made - and I make no more comment on it than that. This debate ought to provide better opportunities than that. My second comment on his speech is that in a situation in which there is great worry in this country and in other countries - great concern at what will be the ultimate outcome of the Vietnam situation and great concern and nagging worry in the minds of all people about Communism - the Deputy Leader of the Australian Labour Party spoke for 20 minutes without uttering the word “ Communism “. He does not recognise that it is an issue in this regard at all, and that is quite wrong. It is proper that we should debate the differing points of view that we may legitimately hold, but it is not proper that we should take advantage of our positions in the Parliament to debate an issue as serious as the Vietnam situation, where there is capacity for genuinely differing views, and seek to do no more than score a trick or two, or a political point. What is really important is for this Parliament to form a judgment on what is the correct course for the Australian nation and for the Australian people in these circumstances. What is the correct course in the interests of Australia’s long term security? What is the correct course in the interests of our reputation as an unselfish, responsible and dependable nation which has always worked with allies and which needs, in the future to work with allies?
Should national servicemen be included in the formations that go to Vietnam? This is a perfectly legitimate question, and one that is expected to be raised, and I will deal with it before I resume my seat; but it is not the great question. The great question is: Should Australian forces be participating at all in Vietnam? The other becomes an important but subsidiary question to that. Australia has a long history of willingness to accept sacrifices to defend freedom, to defend justice, to defend the rule of law. We accept sacrifice to protect others who may be the subject of aggression, and we expect those with whom we have stood to act in our defence if ever we are under threat of attack. In this age only the very great industrial powers can be really independent as military powers. For Australia the only safety lies in alliances, and alliances must be two way alliances. With New Zealand we have given military aid to Britain, to Belgium, to France, to Greece, to Korea, to Malaya, to Malaysia and, lest it be forgotten, to Russia, for we have had Australian airmen operating in Russian skies helping defend Russia against aggression. And we received military aid from Britain and from the United States of America when we were under threat from Japan. The present course is in our tradition. In this record of ours is our strength - our moral strength and our military strength. Examined on moral grounds the entitlement of South Vietnam to defence by countries that believe in peace and freedom, the case for aid for South Vietnam, is unassailable. South Vietnam is a free state, recognised by the United Nations. Under assault, direct and by subversion, as South Vietnam is from other states, how is this to be described as a civil war? We have not wanted the situation to be settled by war. We have all wanted it settled by negotiation.
The Deputy Leader apparent suggests that all nations may engage separately and perhaps not uniformly in efforts to secure peace by negotiation. That is not really the most powerful approach to the situation. The President of the United States, President Johnson, has spared no effort on the occasions when bombing has been suspended to explore every opportunity to settle this affair by negotiation. He has travelled, canvassed others, attended the United Nations, sent his Vice-President around the world, and sent his Secretary of State around the world to try to marshal whatever help could be marshalled to achieve this result. The reply to his efforts never came from the Vietcong in the field - from those fighting the South Vietnamese and the Americans. The reply to the President’s efforts always came from Hanoi, the centre of the subversion, the centre of the military activity against South Vietnam.
I say now, as I have said once before in this House, that I know of no occasion in history when fighting ceased while one side was winning. Fighting ceases when there is complete victory or when there is stalemate. We have made it clear that we have nothing to gain from victory - and the Americans have nothing to gain from victory. We do not want victory: we want negotiation, we want discussion, we want settlement. If stalemate brings this about, this is itself an achievement. The Com- minists will never talk until it is clear that they cannot win by force or by subversion. As in Korea and in many other takeover attempts by the Communists, this is crystal clear. So we fight to protect South Vietnam. Only when the Communists realise that they cannot win will they talk as they talked in Korea and come to a settlement as they did there and as they have done on other occasions that I have referred to previously in the House.
I arn sure that we can count ourselves fortunate, living in this area of the world, that the United States of America, safe in her military strength and geographically remote i rom this area of turmoil, nevertheless still feels it right that she should intervene at great sacrifice to preserve freedom when the freedom of free countries is under assault. What if the United States and our allies would not fight to defend freedom in South Vietnam? I do not think many of us doubt, judging from history, that despite the gallantry of the South Vietnamese they would be overcome by the North Vietnamese with the support North Vietnam is getting, and South Vietnam would fall to Communism. Would that be the end of the story? Is there any honest thinking person who would not believe that that was but setting the stage or the next encroachment of Communism - in Cambodia, Thailand, Malaya or wherever it was next thought best to repeat the process? These countries would not be safe. But they are safe because the United States and the allies who operate with her are pinning the Communists down in South Vietnam. There is every evidence that success only whets the appetite of the Communists.
As a result of happenings in the last week or so, it appears at the moment that the very real risk of Indonesia falling into the hands and control of the Communists has been averted. We can gauge Australia’s feelings about the whole problem of Communist encroachment in South East Asia and our own instinctive concern with our own security by considering for a moment the reaction of Australians to the displacement of the pro-Communists in Indonesia. No-one would deny that there has been a wave of relief throughout Australia at the turn of events. There is a wave of relief because it seems that, for the time being at least, we are not to have a Communist next door neighbour. This is what Australians fear, and what Australians are entitled to fear. Yet it is something to which the Opposition will not refer. This general instinctive assessment of our own self-interest reflects our concern at the spreading towards Australia of the front of Communism.
The moral issues warrant our help in South Vietnam. The American initiative and strong determination make our help practical and worthwhile. If we showed today a selfish indifference to the fate of this small neighbour nation, what right would we have to appeal for help ourselves in similar circumstances? If we had not stood by our British friends in Malaya, as we did several years ago when they were withstanding Communist encroachment, if we did not stand with our American friends today when they are resisting the encroachment towards Australia of Communism in South Vietnam, what right would we have to call on them to stand by us? Every consideration of correct conduct or of sheer selfinterest shows how we should act.
Of course this is a horrible war; but it is not more horrible to the soldier than was the war in the terrible trenches of France, nor is it more terrible to the civilians than was the mass bombing of civilians in the last war. All war is horrible. The only thing that is more horrible than war is the loss of freedom. But the objectives of those who fight to preserve freedom in South Vietnam are good and high. President Johnson stated his country’s objective - and ours - when he spoke on his return from interviewing the leaders of South Vietnam in Honolulu recently. He used these words -
One front is the military. The other front is the struggle against social injustice, against hunger and disease and ignorance - against political apathy and indifference.
He went on to say, speaking for himself and the South Vietnamese leaders -
We talked of rural agricultural credits, of rural construction, electrification, of new seeds and fertilisers for their crops, of schools and teachers and text books for their children, of medical schools and clinics and equipment to give them better health, of how to give training and education to the refugees, of how to deal with inflation in a war torn country, of how to build the basis for a democratic constitution and for free elections, of how to seek the peace, and of how to effectively conduct the war.
How fortunate we are to stand with a great power of such high purpose as this. President Johnson said that the military front was one front, but there was another front in which we believed, lt is wrong to say that Australia has not been helping on that front. On occasions, we have had as many as 80 civilian experts in Vietnam helping and advising in a whole range of agricultural and technical developments. We have also been accepting in this country hundreds of South Vietnamese students. It is against this background that this Government stands by the United States, South Vietnam, New Zealand and the other countries that are engaged in the area. It is in our interests to help and it is but right that Australia should be recognised as a steadfast ally.
We would prefer to have all our troops volunteers, each person making his own decision as to whether he will endanger his own life and as to whether he will dislocate his future civilian life. This is the Australian tradition, and we would prefer that. The rates of pay and conditions of service have been reviewed and reviewed and reviewed in an effort to attract recruits, but the cold truth of the matter is that there have not been sufficient suitable recruits coming forward. It is nonsense for the Deputy Leader of the Opposition to say that all that is needed is for a speaker from the Government side to make an appeal and recruits will come forward. Appeals have been made. But, if honorable members opposite believe this, what about the Opposition making an appeal for volunteers?
In these circumstances, we Australians must do what every other country does - call up into active service enough of our young men to join the young men who have been called up by our great allies to resist aggression. Only by so doing can we establish our right to expect others, if the need should ever arise, to call up their young men to resist aggression directed at Australia, or at New Guinea. Our conduct should be as we perceive our duty to Australia to be. To anyone who would say: “ We Australians will never be in need of friends to help defend Australia, therefore we have no need to make sacrifices, no need to build goodwill towards us in the hearts of others “, I say that it would be flying in the face of all history to believe that we will never need allies. In modern times, Britain France, the United States of America and Russia, all immensely powerful military powers, have been violently attacked; to believe that we will never be attacked, that it can never happen to us, is completely dangerous and fallacious thinking.
I would say to any public man, or to any person in a position of influence in this community, that he would expose himself to the terrible judgment of history if he should affront or stand apart from our friends and allies today in the belief that we will never need their help. I am sure, and my colleagues are sure, that Australians recognise our nation’s correct course today. It is the course that is right and good in the interests of all free people and it is the course that has been set out by the United Nations. It requires that we do that which is right in order to entitle us to expect the support of great and powerful friends should we ever be in peril ourselves.
.- It seems to me very remarkable that the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr. McEwen) should spend the last 20 minutes telling us of the extraordinary danger which this country faces from China when, in the last five years, that same Minister has presided over the sale of £500 million worth of wool and wheat to that country. He has also presided over the sale of $100 million worth of metal to that country during this time. We have a Minister who has painted a picture of a menace facing Australia today, flowing back through South Vietnam and North Vietnam to this Communist mammoth in the north which has the objective of dominating the world. Yet he is the Minister who has presided over these enormous deals that Australian exporters have made with China during this time.
I welcome the proposition of the Minister that there can be genuinely different points of view in respect of the war in Vietnam. I wish that were a proposition that was shared by some of the people on the other side of the House because we have reached a stage in the minds of a number of members sitting behind the Minister for Trade and Industry where it’ is no longer possible for there to be any differing points of view in respect to this war. I welcome this proposition from the Minister because it has always been possible to debate the important subjects facing this country with him, but it is not possible to do this with a good many supporters of the Government.
The Minister mentioned Indonesia during the course of his remarks. He said that he believed there had been a wave of relief throughout Australia about what had happened in Indonesia. Had it been the other way around and had Communist forces killed 120,000 people we would have had members on the other side of the House taunting those on this side of the House by saying: “ Have you protested against this act of genocide? “ But the Minister for Trade and Industry treat’s this matter as providing a wave of relief. I think it would have been most unfortunate for political developments in Australia if there had been a Communist victory in Indonesia because it would have meant the end of any progressive development in Australia for a good many years. It would have installed something pretty close to Fascism in this country. From Australia’s point of view, we should be pleased there has not’ been a Communist victory in Indonesia.
I am not one of those people who welcome with a wave of relief the victory of military leaders in any country capable of setting up - as I think they are capable of setting up in Indonesia - a military dictatorship. I have not adopted the simple power politics point of view that the Minister for Trade and Industry has taken in respect of this matter.
He made another point which I think has a number of interesting implications. He said that if it were not for the American assistance in South Vietnam, then the South Vietnamese would be defeated easily and quickly. I wonder why that is? I wonder why the Minister is so sure that if it were not for 220,000 American troops, the enormous American Air Force and the American Seventh Fleet, the people of South Vietnam whom he is supporting would be defeated so easily and quickly? Is it because the people he is supporting in South Vietnam have no strength of their own? Is it because they have no real backing from the people in that country? Is this not the reason that is underlying the situation? Is it not that for 25 years the people in South Vietnam whom he is backing have not been able to hold their own with their own people? Is it that since 1963 there have been nine governments in that country, none of which could claim any support from its own people by any express will of those people? Of course this is one of the factors that the Minister for Trade and Industry conveniently overlooked.
The Minister told us that fighting never ceases while one side is winning. He illustrated this as a proposition that could be applied in Vietnam at the present time. Now, which side is it that is winning at the present time and which prevents the fighting from ceasing? Is it the other side? Is it that the other side is winning? Is that what the Minister for Trade and Industry wishes to tell us in this proposition that fighting will not cease in South Vietnam because one side is winning? I think a number of the propositions that the Minister put to us tonight are very little developed and have left a great deal to be desired as propositions which might guide this country in the very great question that the Minister has rightly put to us.
The Minister said that we have to decide what is the correct course for Australia to follow in this great matter. I think that for the first time in the history of the world we live at a time when, we have the power to bring all civilisation to an end. Four hundred million dollars a day is being spent for military security around the world, yet we have never felt less secure. A single fighter plane costs half a million bushels of wheat and one third of the world is hungry all the time. We have in the world today the knowledge and resources to destroy civilisation but we also have the knowledge and resources to transform the condition of life of every person on earth. Slums can be cleared. Water can be brought to deserts. Highways can be built and grain can be grown in what are today deserts. Hospitals, schools and playgrounds can be built on a scale quite undreamed of in previous generations. Within a generation hunger, disease and illiteracy can be eliminated from the earth. This world in which we live can become either an inconceivable hell or a paradise. This is the choice which faces us today. This is the alternative that faces the world.
But how do many people react to this? How do most of these people sitting on their benches opposite and interjecting like birds in a breeze react to this? They react by saying that it all depends on the enemy. They are saying that it is only the enemy that can bring about adverse conditions whereas it depends alone upon our side to bring the virtues into existence. I suggest that this extreme dichotomy that governs the thinking of most of the people who support the Government in this House is far too simple. It does not make sense. I consider that we have to accept responsibilities ourselves for what is happening in the world today. We need a greater sense of responsibility in respect to quite a number of things.
One of those things is the policy of conscription that ha$ been imposed on the Australian people in recent months by the present Government. The issue of conscription and the war in Vietnam cannot be completely separated. Conscription could be justified in a country if that country faced an emergency and there were no other way of facing it. I suggest, Mr. Speaker, that Australia does not face an emergency today. If Australia faced an emergency the Government would not be behaving in the way that it is. It would not be conducting the economy in the normal way. It would not be relying upon 1,400 conscripts to build up a force to use for that emergency. The Government’s own conduct proves that it is not facing the emergency which would be necessary to justify conscription if that conscription were to be just and fair.
The war in Vietnam is said to be vital to Australia. If it is vital to Australia we should not have to rely upon 1,400 young Australian boys whom we are forcing into military service. We are forcing them to risk their lives in circumstances in which Government supporters will not pay more in taxes. They are forced to risk their lives at the same time as the growers of wheat and wool in this country are making millions out of selling wheat and wool to the people that are considered by the Government to be its enemies. The Government is, on the one hand, forcing Australians to risk their lives in Vietnam whilst on the other hand it has assured the city manufacturers that they are going to get their fair share of points out of the war contracts let in respect of South Vietnam. The conscription of young men into the armed services and the treatment of the woolgrowers, wheat growers and manufacturers in this country, show thz unequal treatment that exists and the inequity of conscription. Conscription in Australia today is grossly unfair. Will the community continue to accept it? I do not believe the Australian community will continue to accept conscription in this inequitable situation that exists today. Conscription in Australia is quite unnecessary as well as being unfair and unequal. It would be justified if Australia were being threatened by a military emergency. It would be justified, perhaps, if the Government could show that what is being done in Vietnam is in the interests of the self determination of the people of that country; but, Mr. Speaker, it has not been proved that Australia is threatened by the war in Vietnam or by the circumstances of that war. Nor has it been proved that the United StatesAustralian intervention in that country is helping the Vietnamese people to determine their own affairs.
The Government refuses to recognise that there is any such thing as a national uprising in Vietnam. It refuses to recognise that people in Vietnam have national feelings which could cause them to oppose foreign intervention by the French, by the Americans or by the Chinese. The Government refuses to recognise that there are any conditions in Vietnam which produce the need for economic changes, which could substantially produce much of what is happening in that country today.
I was struck by the speech made by the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Hasluck) in the House last week, because for the first time he began to recognise the things that 1 have just been talking about. He said in the early part of his speech -
We in Australia are living on the edge of a great upheaval both in human relations and in the ideas which influence the conduct of mankind. We cannot withdraw from this region and we cannot do anything to prevent the upheaval.
The Minister for External Affairs recognises that there is an upheaval in South East Asia and he says that we cannot do anything to prevent that upheaval. Yet he is in a Government which is sending Australian conscripted youth into that situation, presumably to attempt to prevent an upheaval which at the same time he says he cannot do anything to prevent. Later in his speech he said -
We do not imagine for a moment that we or any other power can turn back history or cancel the changes talcing place in Asia.
What does he mean when he says that we cannot prevent the upheaval? What docs he mean when he says that we do not imagine for a moment that we or any other power can turn back history or cancel the changes taking place in Asia? I suggest that the thing about which the Minister for External Affairs is talking is the natural inclination of these people towards national independance, which has developed since 1905 and continued almost without a break, until it emerged in the post-Second World War period in an agreement with the French. The agreement was eventually broken by by the French. It then emerged into a war of ten years duration against the French. Is it not. natural that people living in circumstances such as these should require, should seek and should eventually obtain the rights and the opportunities to govern themselves free of interference by any other foreign power? These are some of the conditions that the Minister for External Affairs recognises.
In addition there have been great changes of population and of economic circumstances in those countries which the present Government and those advising it have chosen to overlook completely in the past. Are we not in fact trying to do those things that the Minister for External Affairs says in fact we cannot do? De we not look at 80,000 young Australians who become 20 in any one year, select 8,400 of them, largely by a process of lottery, and then take one-sixth of those 8,400 and send them into a process which the Minister for External Affairs says we cannot properly check? In contrast do we not guarantee to Australian business men that they are going to get their profits from the war? Do we not guarantee to Australian wool and wheat sellers that they are going to get their profits from these circumstances? Is this the way we are going to prevent the upheaval in Asia that the Minister says we cannot prevent? Is this the way we are going to turn back history and cancel out some of the changes taking place in Asia which the Minister says we cannot do? Is this the way in which we are going to appeal to the Australian community to support national or Government action?
But more important, I think, is that the Australian people must require its Government to answer these questions. More important still, the Australian people must take part in determining the answers to these questions, and today the Australian people have been given the alternatives. They have been told by the Opposition that it considers that conscription is wrong. We have told the Australian people, as an Opposition, that we consider our involvement in this war is wrong. Those will be the important issues on which the Australian public will be asked to express their opinion in any election from now on until the next general election.
The Minister himself has returned partly to the proposition that what is happening in South Vietnam is a threat to Australia because, as he has put it before, it is aggression from the North. Of course, if in answering this question this proposition was’ satisfactorily proved, then the Australian people could be expected to say that intervention in South Vietnam would be justified. This question has been debated throughout Australia over the last 18 months. Evidence in detail has been provided so that the content of public documents and other authorised sources can be examined in public. Summed up, that evidence is that even up to the present day no more than 6 per cent, of the weapons and equipment used in South Vietnam by the Vietcong were imported from Communist countries. These are facts which have never been disputed effectively by any speaker on the other side of the House. I have appeared in public debate with almost everyone on the other side of the House who has taken any interest in this matter, including the Minister for External Affairs, and no-one has effectively tried to quote figures and facts which disprove that proposition. Similarly in respect of manpower: The position is that not more than 10 per cent, of the manpower involved in the fighting in South Vietnam has come from outside South Vietnam, and not one of them is claimed to have come from China itself. Even in some of the most up to date documents, quoted by the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Uren) in the House today - the latest Mansfield report, for instance - the position is no different. I think that some of the honorable gentlemen opposite who are interjecting show the same kind of respect for the facts as they show for honorable members on this side of the House, and that is practically nil. I suggest that if they would have a little more humility and decency and listen to what is being said and check the facts for themselves they would create a better reputation for themselves throughout the nation.
I am referring to page 3 of this report in which it is stated that the circumstances disclosed by the Mansfield Committee are that of the 230,000 men fighting for the Vietcong at the end of last year only 14,000 were from North Vietnam which is still part, in fact, of the same country.
– The honorable member should bring the figures up to date.
– The honorable member for Bradfield will have an opportunity to bring them up to date if he can give us the facts. I have been challenging him and everyone else for over 18 months to do so. I suggest that instead of interjecting he take the opportunity to get to his feet and give the House the facts.
– Who published that document?
– This is an official document of the Congress of the United States issued by the Committee on Foreign Relations of the United States Senate and dated 6th January 1966. As I said, Mr. Speaker, I have challenged the Minister and everyone else to produce details. In his speech the other night. his latest - that of 10th March 1966- all that the Minister for External Affairs was able to say was - 1 saw in Saigon literally thousands of weapons captured from the Vietcong.
He gave no numbers, no quantities and no details. That is not a satisfactory answer.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- When the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) launched his censure motion last Tuesday evening he attacked the Government on six points. As I, unlike the honorable member, have not unlimited time at my disposal I propose to deal with only three of those points.
First, the Leader of the Opposition attacked the Government for its involvement in Vietnam. He described the conflict there as unnecessary and unwinnable, and I believe it is no injustice to the honorable gentleman to say he is completely and utterly opposed to Australia’s involvement in Vietnam. The honorable member for Yarra (Dr. J. F. Cairns) left no doubt at all about where he stands on this issue. Both those honorable gentlemen believe that it is a civil war that a going on in Vietnam, that it is no concern of ours and that it is no concern of the United States of America. As a matter of fact the Leader of the Opposition believes that if we left the whole situation to be dealt with by the United Nations everything in the garden would be lovely. Only last Tuesday evening the honorable gentleman said that United Nations action would ensure peace and a better way of life for the Vietnamese people. If that is what he believes, it is not what the powers behind the throne in North Vietnam believe. I want to read to the House extracts from two Press reports. The first appeared in an editorial in the Peking “People’s Daily” of 7th August 1965, which said -
The United Nations, dominated by the United States, has never ventured to say a word against the U.S. crimes of aggression, yet when called upon by Washington, it has produced one resolution after another to help out the U.S. aggressor. It has written its own dirty record page after page. So Washington simply cannot pull itself out of the impasse in Vietnam by taking the Vietnam question into the United Nations.
As recently as 1st October 1965 an article in the Hanoi official newspaper “ Nhan Dan “ contained this extract -
What is more, Wilson had not even the courage to call a cat a cat when he wanted the Vietnam problem discussed under the auspices of the United Nations. It is clear that the British Government is carrying out, behind the scenes, the sinister design of the U.S. aggressors to use the United Nations as a tool to intensify their war of aggression against Vietnam.
So whatever might be the idea of the Leader of the Opposition with regard to calling in the United Nations, it is clear that the powers that be in North Vietnam would not be the slightest bit interested. It is apparent that the Leader of the Opposition is out of step with public opinion and with reality. I think even he realises now that he is out of step with a man he professes to admire, Harold Wilson, the Prime Minister in the United Kingdom Labour Government. Far from contending that the conflict in Vietnam is a civil war and that the best way to ensure peace and a better way of life for the Vietnamese is for the United States to withdraw from Vietnam, Mr. Wilson said in a statement that he made to the United Kingdom Parliament on 19th July 1965-
The American position, which we support, is this, that when conditions have been created in which the people of South Vietnam can determine their own future, free from external interference, the United States will be willing and eager to withdraw her forces from South Vietnam.
Mr. Wilson went on to say
A unilateral withdrawal of the U.S. would have incalculable results for a much wider area than Vietnam, not least because it might carry with it the danger that friend and political foe throughout the world would begin to wonder whether the U.S.A. might be induced to abandon other allies when the going got rough.
Those are not the words of our Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Holt), they are the words of the Prime Minister of Great Britain. But they are also the sentiments of the Australian Government- sentiments which have been condemned by the Leader of the Opposition. When he said the other night that the Opposition will not accept the Government’s interpretation of events in Vietnam, he also said, in effect, that the Opposition will not accept the views of Mr. Harold Wilson of the United Kingdom Labour Government or of Mr. Michael Stewart, the British Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. In an address at an Oxford Union “teach-in” on Vietnam on 16th June 1965, the text of which has been made available by the British Information Service, Mr. Stewart pointed out that the report of the International Control Commission for the year 1962 stated that after the division of Vietnam at the 13th parallel as a result of the 1954 Geneva Agreements one million people moved southwards out of the Communist-dominated North and that there was practically no movement in the other direction. Mr. Stewart said that it was very important to notice this because it shows that we cannot make the facile assumption that the ordinary citizen of Vietnam is anxious to be left under Communist rule. He went on to point out that between 1954 and 1959 the two parts of Vietnam lived uneasily but in comparative peace, but that in 1959 the Government of North Vietnam demanded that Vietcong activities in the South be stepped up to a full scale attack on the Government of South Vietnam. These are Mr. Stewart’s own words -
Not only did it call for that attack, it proceeded to give help to the Vietcong in men, in weapons and in military direction.
Perhaps that will answer the honorable member for Yarra. Mr. Stewart continued -
And for evidence of that we do not have to look to any partisan source - we can read the report of the International Control Commission for the year 1962, putting beyond doubt that that was what North Vie:nam was doing.
Mr. Stewart further said
There was no need for this, lt was a deliberate decision by the Communist North to make an attack on its neighbour, and it cannot be said that this could be excused by blaming it on a United States presence in the South. When this attack began there were only 700 American troops and civilian advisers in the South.
Mr. Stewart pointed out that although for five years North Vietnam was attacking the South it was not until 1959, after the unprovoked attack on United States warships in international waters in the Gulf of Tonkin that the United States attacked the territory of North Vietnam.
If the Leader of the Opposition thinks differently from the Australian Government, if he thinks differently from the United States Government and if he thinks differently from the Labour Government of the United Kingdom in regard to the Vietnam war, with whom is he in accord? From all I have been able to learn, he is in accord only with the Communist Party.
Defence unfortunately is an issue on which the Government cannot win. If it makes a large expenditure on defence and there is no war the Government is condemned for a colossal waste of money. It is pointed out, as the honorable member for Yarra pointed out tonight, that the money could be spent on housing and education - and it would be a wonderful thing if this could be done. On the other hand, if the Government’s expenditure on defence is small and there is a war the Government is blamed for not being prepared. Similar arguments apply in respect of personnel. If there is no war and we have a national service call-up the Government is condemned for a colossal waste of money and manpower. On the other hand, if there is a war and we have no national service training the Government is again condemned. The critics tell us that service should not be left to the volunteers, that it should be a case of all in.
Labour speakers one after the other have condemned the Government for sending 20 year old conscripts to Vietnam. I have not yet been able to work out whether they object to conscription or to the fact that the conscripts are 20 years of age, or whether their objection is wholly and solely to our involvement in Vietnam, but I have come to the conclusion that this latter Ls their real objection. After all, Labour cannot claim to have always been opposed to conscription because a Labour government introduced conscription in 1943. I wonder why members of the Labour Party oppose it now. I do not know whether there is any significance in the fact that the enemy in 1939 was Fascism and in 1966 it is Communism. The fact is that a Labour government agreed to introduce conscription in 1943, and Labour supporters cannot now object that the conscripts are only 20 years of age because when the Labour Government introduced conscription it sent 18 year olds into war with far less training than our 20 year old conscripts will have. It is pretty obvious that the objection of the Opposition is to our involvement in Vietnam, and we finally get down to the question whether what is going on is a war or whether it is not. Many people were wise after the event at the conclusion of the 1939-45 war. It is unfortunate that many people were wise before the event but nobody listened to them.
The history books record that in 1933 Hitler marched into the Rhineland and nobody did anything to stop him. Encouraged by his success, he took over Austria. Again, nobody did anything to stop him. It was only after he took portion of Czechoslovakia that the Prime Minister of Britain journeyed to Munich and came home and said: “ Peace in our time.” The world applauded him and accepted Hitler’s statement: “ I have no more territorial ambitions.” History records also that matters did not stop there, that Hitler marched into Poland and, eventually, the Allies had to fight him from a much worse position than if they had taken a stand earlier. Critics say that if Hider had been stopped in 1933 there would have been no war, a lot less misery and not the same loss of life. I believe that. It is because the Americans also believe it that they are determined to see that this type of history is not repeated.
The Americans see exactly the same pattern taking place in South East Asia and they say: “ If we are not to take a stand over Vietnam, where do we stand? Do we wait until the Communists take Thailand? “ Nobody but a fool is going to believe that once they have Vietnam their territorial ambitions will be satisfied. They will go from Vietnam to Thailand. They will take Singapore, Malaysia and Burma. Perhaps some of those opponents of Australia’s involvement in Vietnam would wait until Indonesia fell into the lap of the Communists. Perhaps even then they would say: “ This is not Australia’s territory and we are not going to send our troops north of the equator.” This is what they did in 1943. They would wait until the enemy was into New Guinea and then south of the equator. The United States of America believes that this pattern is taking place. The United Kingdom Labour Government also believes that, and the Australian Government concurs. It is only the Opposition which says “ No “ and which follows the same line of thinking as the Communist Party. The American Ambassador to Australia, Mr. Clark, said yesterday: “ Although no-one likes to fight in such a hell of a place as Vietnam, it is far better than fighting in South Australia or Texas.” The Government believes that we have to make a stand now in Vietnam to halt the spread of aggression in South East Asia and it believes that the further away from Australia we do our fighting the better it is. This is where we differ from the thinking of the Opposition. The honorable member for Yarra said that the world can become an inconceivable hell or a paradise. It is because we wish to avoid it becoming an inconceivable hell that we are backing the Americans in Vietnam today and trying to see that people in any country, no matter how small it may be, have their own choice of government.
Let me turn briefly to the next two sections of the censure motion launched by the Leader of the Opposition. First, there is the alleged failure of the Government to maintain the purchasing power of the Australian community. A reference to the “ Monthly Review of Business Statistics “ which is published by the Government Statistician shows that over the last 12 years - I have chosen this period because the Statistician took 1952-53 as a base year - the consumer price index has moved upwards at an average yearly increase of 2.5 per cent. Over the same period the basic wage has increased at an annual rate of 3 per cent. Total wages, which allow for margins, have increased annually at a rate of 3.7 per cent., and the average weekly male earnings have increased over this period at an annual average rate of 6.6 per cent. So the wage earner cannot claim that he is losing value. Let us consider the pensioner who is dependent on the Government for social services. The standard rate pension has increased over the past 12 years at an annual rate of 4.6 per cent. The single pensioner who receives an additional amount has received an annual increase of 5.9 per cent. Those fortunate enough to receive the rent allowance of up to £1 a week have received an annual average increase of 8.3 per cent., added to which this Government has introduced quite a number of additional benefits, such as guardians’ allowances, increased allowances for children and the extension of the pensioner medical service to all pensioners.
In an endeavour to prove that the economy is in a worse state than it actually is, the Leader of the Opposition quoted some figures relating to motor vehicle registrations. He said he quoted from the Australia and New Zealand Bank Ltd. Bulletin. Perhaps he did. He pointed out that in 1965 the annual rate of motor vehicle registrations was 450,000 but that in January this year registrations had fallen to only 350,000. Either the Leader of the Opposition set out deliberately to mislead the public or whoever it is responsible for preparing his statistics on economic matters has very few clues, because anyone who studies these figures will realise that motor vehicle registrations are at their lowest in January and are very little better in February. The June figures are always higher and close to the yearly average. In respect of that let me cite figures for the last couple of years. For 1963-64 the January figure for motor vehicle registrations was 26,200, in June it was 33,800, and the yearly average was 33,300. For 1964-65, in January there were 28,600 registrations, in June 35,900, and the yearly average was 35,100. The same pattern applied to each of the previous three years. So if the honorable gentleman is trying to prove that the economy is running down he should be a little more careful to check his facts and not endeavour deliberately to mislead people. He said in relation to employment -
Whilst some satisfaction may be drawn from the fact that at the end of January only 1.7 per cent, of Australia’s work force was registered as unemployed and February figures bring it down to 1.4 per cent., it is not much consolation for those who are without work. That the figure is as high as it is is indicative of continuing bungling in the economy.
Of course, it is a tragic fact that everybody who wants work cannot obtain it, but the kind of attack indulged in by the Leader of the Opposition is inductive to increased unemployment and not reduced unemployment. He lightly dismisses the figure of 1.4 per cent, at the end of February, but Labour, in all its years of office, never achieved figures approaching this. As a matter of fact the Government of which he was a Minister accepted 5 per cent, unemployment as virtually full employment. But ever since the Liberal and Country Party coalition Government came to office in 1949 Australia has enjoyed unprecedented prosperity and there has been a higher percentage of an ever increasing work force employed. I ask people who read the unemployment statistics to bear in mind that the figures include married women whose husbands are already in employment, they include the names of all people who have been compulsorily retired because of age but who feel that they have a number of years useful work ahead of them and want to be able to contribute something to the economy, and they include also those who are unemployable. When people in these three categories are deducted from the figures there are not many left. I should also like to know how many of the people registered for employment have been offered employment but have refused to take it. Admittedly they receive no benefit, but their names are recorded. I hope that the new Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Bury) will make these figures available to the public.
Finally the Leader of the Opposition attacked the Government for its alleged failure to retain an adequate and proper Australian share in the ownership and development of our national resources, particularly in Northern Australia. Again I think he set out deliberately to mislead people. He omitted all the pluses in the story, and there are many of them. The
Western Australian Government has issued a booklet on iron ore in Western Australia. I believe that more people should be aware of the facts that it contains. Far from overseas companies taking out all the wealth and leaving holes in the ground, the facts are these: Very conservatively, the recent discoveries of iron ore are estimated at 15.000 million tons and export permits which have been granted already are for the export of 300 million tons. An export of 300 million tons out of 15,000 million tons does not represent holes in the ground to me. Furthermore, Western Australia has gained a capital investment of $700 million, of which the Broken Hill Pty. Co. Ltd. alone is contributing $200 million - the greatest individual share. In terms of employment. 7,200 men will be employed on construction work and 2,200 will be employed permanently. Western Australia will gain seven large towns in the north west and at least three deep water ports of large capacity. It will gain £120 million worth of royalties out of an export income of $2,670 million.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- Mr. Deputy Speaker, I rise to support the amendment proposed by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell). This debate arises out of the statement made to the House by the Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Holt) on Tuesday, 8th March. In that statement, the right honorable gentleman covered so much ground as to leave with us plenty of subjects on which there is need for comment. He has the unenviable task of following in office Sir Robert Menzies, who by native cunning and other means was able to stay at the helm for a very long time. We on this side of the House think it was far too long. Whatever anyone may feel about that, Sir Robert served his country well and did his duty as he saw it. I want to take this opportunity briefly to wish him and Dame Pattie well in their retirement. How long the present Prime Minister will stay in office is a matter for the people of Australia. I believe that for many reasons they will surely vote against the present Government at the next general election, whenever that may be.
This Government is at present suffering from what could be described as self inflicted wounds. There is a feeling of uneasiness throughout the land. We are now experiencing the lull before the storm. Members of this Government keep repeating that the national economy is sound, but their utterances are not in line with the statements of the experts. I believe it is fair to say that Government supporters considered Sir Arthur Fadden to be a very good Treasurer. In fact, many of them have said that he was the best Treasurer ever. I do not wish to take sides in any argument about who was the best occupant of that office. Sir Arthur is now, as many honorable members know, a director of many companies, among others L. J. Hooker Investment Corporation Ltd., which controls more than 100 subsidiary companies. Some are small and some are large. Last month, at that company’s annual meeting the following remark was written into the annual report -
The unsettled state of the economy is affecting some forms of the company’s real estate activities.
That statement was reported at page 88 of the February issue of the “ Stock Exchange of Melbourne Official Record “. In addition, today’s issue of the “ Australian Financial Review “, under the heading “ Interim wage rise urged - economic boost”, reported views expressed by Mr. Staniforth Ricketson as follows -
If the Federal Government felt some economic stimulation was advisable, it could seek an immediate interim increase in the basic wage pending completion of the present Arbitration Commission hearings.
– Who said that?
– That was the opinion expressed by Mr. Staniforth Ricketson, a man well versed in the economic life of this country. I shall not comment on all that he was reported as having said, because it would take too much time. The report continued -
Commenting on the uncertain state of the economy, Mr. Ricketson pointed out that the Arbitration Commission’s judgment was not expected before June. “ It can hardly be expected that any necessary measures could be deferred merely on this account “, he said.
I mention that because of the remarks made by the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Fox), who seemed to think that the Leader of the Opposition had no right to propose an amendment which mentioned the adverse state of the economy. The Leader of the Opposition has every right to do that, as have all other members of this House. Any honorable member who sees what he believes to be something amiss should rise in this chamber and say so. Not only honorable members on this side see things going wrong. Problems are seen also by men like Sir Arthur Fadden, who was a respected Treasurer in an earlier government as a member of this House. He has said that the situation is uneasy and that things are going wrong with the economy. Mr. Staniforth Ricketson has said something similar. It is interesting to note that these two businessmen who are accepted as experts in their fields of operations are more concerned about the nation’s economy than, I suggest, are many honorable members opposite. I have not heard any speaker on the Government side in this debate say that there is cause for the slightest alarm. We gather from what speakers on the Government side say that all is well with the economy, but is everything going as well as we are led to believe?
I may say that Mr. Ricketson’s advocacy of an interim wage rise is in line with Labour’s policy. Prosperity depends solely on what the people can purchase. At present, many items of production, especially motor vehicles, television sets, refrigerators and most other electrical lines, are over produced. These goods cannot be disposed of because the purchasing power of the people has diminished. Mir. Ricketson readily sees this. He realises that in order to preserve the economy money must be put into the pockets of the people. Who has to put it there? This Government is the only agency that can do that. But what do we in this Parliament witness year after year? We see people who need succour and assistance coming to Canberra and begging for an increase in pensions. They may ask for an increase of Si a week or even only a few cents, but no one in the Government seems to worry. It seems unable to find a few million dollars to provide for an increase in age pensions when Budget time comes along. How shall we pay the bill for the Fill aircraft? Shall we say: “We have not the money”? The funds will be found just as they are being found now to prosecute what ever activities outside Australia this Government considers are necessary.
To make ends meet, the Government keeps up what has been described by the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr. McEwen), who is Deputy Prime Minister, as a policy of selling a piece of the farm each year. Although he has given many timely warnings, the Government takes no heed. This evening, however, he did not choose to give us another warning. He preferred to speak about our commitments overseas. I shall have something to say about that matter later. I believe that the right honorable gentleman’s words should be taken very seriously. He said that if we become dependent for our growth on decisions by people overseas whether to invest or to refrain from investing, the development of our country will no longer be completely in our own hands. Those words should be acted upon by all honorable members in the interests of all the people who were good enough to elect us to this House.
I have not sufficient time to discuss all the subjects with which I should like to deal, Mr. Deputy Speaker, but I propose to take a little time now to give to the country my views about the international situation with which Australia is faced at present. As I have mentioned two great men in the economic field, I think it is as well to recall the remarks of another great man, Lord Bruce, whether we like him or not. Lord Bruce chose conscription as the subject for his maiden speech in this House. I happened to read a description of this event in last night’s Melbourne “ Herald “. Evidently Lord Bruce had been baited by Mr. Frank Brennan, who was then the honorable member for Batman, the electorate I now represent. The article had this to say -
Having rejected conscription, Australia was scraping the volunteer barrel. It was proposed to permit lads of 18 to 21 to enlist, even without the consent of their parents.
Frank Brennan, a Labour M.P., asked for tha opinion of the Member for Flinders.
That was Mr. Bruce, as he was then. The article continued -
Bruce interjected (rather magisterially for a new boy): “The House will have it”.
When his turn came, Bruce said: “ I have seen the effect on boys under 21 and on men over 40 when they get into the firing line, and I say it is a grave blunder to send them in if it can possibly be avoided.”
– Who said that?
– Lord Bruce. This was in 1918 when he came back from the war. The war bad not ended and he spoke in this House as a wounded ex-serviceman. I am not against conscription if conscription is necessary, but I have not heard an honorable member on the Government side say that this country is in a state of emergency.
– We are not at war.
– If that is-so, why do not honorable members opposite get up, be truthful about it and tell the people of Australia what the real position is? 1 remind the House of the forces that were raised during World War II. The Government that held the reins of office from 1939 to 1941 was of the same political colour as the present Government. In that period, we had four divisions overseas, the sixth, the seventh, the eighth and the ninth. We had the huge Empire Air Training Scheme in progress in Canada. We had airmen flying over Germany and Italy. We had naval ratings based in England. But there was no emergency, because the Government found no need to introduce conscription. There was no emergency, although all those men were fighting. How can any person draw a comparison between the Government’s action then and its action now? When we were standing alone, as Mr. Churchill said, when nobody came to our aid, when Russia was not on our side, when Tobruk was beleaguered, there was no emergency. The Government was in office; all was right with the world.
– Was that a Menzies Government?
– That was the Government between 1939 and 1941. Nothing was wrong then. But now, in order to get a few hundred soldiers out of Australia, conscription is necessary. I want to be quite fair about this. I cannot see the consistency in the Government’s action in the two situations and I hope that somebody will tell me where consistency is to be found. There is no need to conscript anyone at present for the Navy or for the Air Force. But where will our future civil pilots be found? In the main, the pilots who are now flying our civil aircraft were trained as pilots during World War II and they are quickly going out of the business. I have stated this to the House previously. But is there any scheme at all to train men in a civil flying organisation? Is any effort being made to train men to take over when the civil pilots now in service leave their jobs? Of course there is not. Nonetheless, the Government says there is a need now to introduce conscription to obtain men for service overseas.
The whole business seems to me to be pretty odd. We are in Vietnam because of our obligation as a member of the South East Asia Treaty Organisation. The Prime Minister said that we are winning. If we are winning, why must we send more men there? It all seems pretty odd to me. With the huge forces that are in Vietnam and with the huge pile of modern equipment that is in the area, it is taking a long time to win. It seems to me to be a pretty phoney effort. I want to refer to the attitude of some of the other members of S.E.A.T.O. The United States of America is a member of the Organisation and is involved in Vietnam. Britain, which is also a member, is not involved in Vietnam. Indeed, as an honorable member on the Government side of the House pointed out, Britain is trading with the enemy and is sending ships into Haiphong. I do not know whether France is still a member. I read a report in the Press that she was getting out of S.E.A.T.O., Australia and New Zealand are committed. Pakistan is not committed. I saw a Press report that the Philippines is considering sending troops to South Vietnam. But what is the position of Vietnam’s next door neighbour, Thailand? We are committed to Thailand. There are no Thai troops in South Vietnam, but we have forces in Thailand. The Thais, who live next door to Vietnam, do not seem to be worried about the situation. But Australia, which is thousands of miles away and which is a member of S.E.A.T.O., as Thailand is, sends troops to Vietnam.
Our population is a little over 11 million. We have a commitment to our north in New Guinea. We have another commitment to a fellow Commonwealth nation, Malaysia, where we have troops. We say we will help to the best of our ability. But has Malaysia, which has a population about equal to that of Australia, sent any troops to South Vietnam? No, she has not. Where does it all end? All I can say is that it is a most confused situation and a situation that has not been looked at calmly and clearly. Between 1939 and 1941, when we had men scattered all over the world, when we were told that we were fighting a war to end wars, the Government saw no emergency. It was not necessary then to introduce conscription. Government supporters say that the Australian Labour Party introduced conscription. We did that because the enemy was advancing towards this country. But in the short time it was in power the Labour Party had done a very good job of putting this nation’s affairs in order. Anybody who reads “ Hansard “ will be able to judge for himself what a mess the country had been left in. I do not want to quote what has been said on this subject. Even Mr. Hasluck in his book complains about the lack of equipment.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
. -It was quite refreshing to hear the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Benson) approach this debate in a modest way. One could perhaps argue about some of the matters that he raised, but he did not deal with his subjects in the trivial manner with which most honorable members opposite have dealt with theirs. It was refreshing to hear the honorable member say that he was not against conscription. He is himself an ex-serviceman and is more qualified than many honorable members opposite to speak on this subject. He said also - this is worth repeating - that it was our duty as a member of the South East Asia Treaty Organisation to go into Vietnam. Coming from an occupant of the Opposition benches who is qualified to speak on this matter, that was a very significant statement.
We have been discussing for several days the first major statement by a new Prime Minister after 16 years in office of a former Prime Minister. This is a significant and historic occasion. We have all become accustomed to what one might call the Menzies era. It was nice to hear the honorable member for Batman pay a tribute to a great man for guiding our destinies in the most prosperous period of our history. Nobody can deny that this is what Sir Robert Menzies did. He created an image but no man is indispensable. So we have had the first major statement by a new Prime Minister.
While he was making his speech I watched the Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Holt) very carefully. I think every honorable member will agree that he has a great capacity for the position that he holds. He has prepared himself for his task. He is a positive thinker - a man of action. He is versatile and human. He is very dependable. Australia is fortunate to have a man like him as Prime Minister. The statement that we are debating depicts the man, because it was a courageous and positive statement. It indicates clearly that Australia faces problems of major importance and that the Prime Minister is prepared to grapple with those problems in no uncertain way.
I noted that some sections of the Press criticised the economic content of the statement. I cannot agree with that criticism. In my opinion the Prime Minister gave the most positive review of the situation in Vietnam that we have ever had in this House. He announced the most effective defence policy that we have ever had. He assured the nation that the economy would not be permitted to drift. He announced refreshing new policies on immigration, finance and national development. But the major subject with which he dealt is the subject that we all have been, quite properly I believe, debating. Even though there has been a good deal of repetition in the statements made during the course of this debate I think it is important for the people of Australia to be aware of the differing viewpoints held by Government supporters and Opposition supporters, because this is the most pressing and vital problem facing Australia today. We have other problems. The drought is important. Perhaps development of the north and matters of that kind are important. But none of these matters is in the same category of importance as is the war in South Vietnam because to a large extent the outcome of the conflict will determine the future of this country. We will either live in the shadow of Communism or remain free. That is the measure of the importance of the conflict.
The importance of the war in South Vietnam has not been fully understood by the general public. That is why there have been differences of opinion about the Government’s policy. To understand how important this matter is to us we have only to recall the statement made over and over again by Mao Tse-tung that the lives of 200 million Chinese is a price China would be prepared to pay for the triumph of Communism. Nobody, including honorable members opposite, can deny that Mao Tse-tung made that statement. That was a significant statement but, as has been pointed out tonight, no honorable member opposite has said anything about Communism and the effect on the future of South East Asia of pressure from Communist China. It is not only South Vietnam that matters in the war today. The outcome of the war will have an effect on the future of all South East Asia, including, of necessity, Australia. People have said to me, as they have no doubt said to many honorable members and as some sections are saying in America: “ Why do we fight in South Vietnam?” The Opposition claims that the conflict is a civil war. This is an argument that we must counter. The people must understand the true position.
After the end of the Second World War Communism flourished. Europe was overrun by Communism. Newly independent countries have arisen in South East Asia and Africa. This is an important period in history. Situated as Australia is geographically on the boundary, so to speak, between Western democracy and Eastern ideology, we must be aware of what is happening. With the exception of Thailand all the countries of South East Asia have obtained independence in recent years. The people of those countries are jealous of their independence but they all are threatened with the infiltration of Communism. Can any honorable member opposite deny this? Is it not true that the Philippines, Malaya and Korea, for example, are threatened with Communism seeping through from Communist China? Yet we never hear one word from honorable lumbers opposite about the relationship between Australia’s involvement in those countries and the threat to their independence by the pressure of Communism. In the conditions that exist in Vietnam today we could never stand aside and not be involved. Did we become involved in merely a local matter in Korea? Was the war in Korea a local matter or due to the pressure of Communism? Was the conflict in Malaya a local matter? Do not forget that many thousands of our soldiers died in Korea. For what? Because it was a local war or because of the pressure of Communism? There can be but one answer to these questions, but we never hear a word from honorable members opposite about them.
The independence of Malaya is threatened. Our soldiers have been there for years. Many have died there. Why? To destroy the Communist terrorists who were trying to take over the country. These are undeniable facts, yet we could say that there is no Communism in South East Asia that might affect Australia. We are familiar with what happened when China had her own revolution. We know how Nationalist China was established on Formosa and how it has developed, ably assisted by the United States of America. Is what is happening at present on the borders of India just a local matter? Is it a local matter that Thailand is threatened? We have assisted Thailand, but if South Vietnam goes, Thailand will inevitably be next. Is that a local matter? Is it a local matter in the Philippines where there is great infiltration of Communism? Indeed, is it a local matter in Malaysia and in Indonesia? Right before our eyes one of the greatest Communist parties in any country, the Communist Party in Indonesia, is fighting for supremacy with the free people. Does this all mean nothing to Opposition members? Will they not admit that the drive of Communism toward Australia is a great threat to Australia? Is this not important?
Why have we chosen to fight in South Vietnam? It is essential that a line must be drawn somewhere, and it has been drawn in South Vietnam. It is no use the Opposition saying: “ We can desert South Vietnam “. If we take no part in the war and if the American troops are withdrawn from Vietnam, as has been suggested, within 24 hours the Communists will be in charge in South Vietnam. I cannot for the life of me understand why the Opposition will not face this fact, because it is a fact. All I have to say for South East Asia and for Australia is: “Thank God for the United States of America “. There is no other power on earth that could do as much for the protection of the freedom of the independent countries of South East Asia or, indeed, for Australia. We must play our part in the scheme of things.
It is inconceivable to me that a great party like the Australian Labour Party, which played such an important role in World War II - and I give it credit for that - should oppose the help we are obliged to give, with the United States of America, to South Vietnam. I cannot understand why the Leader of the Opposition, whom I respect and who, I know, is not a Communist sympathiser, can call this a civil war in Vietnam, in the light of what I have said about its importance to Australia. The dreadful thing is the damage that he does and Opposition members do to Australia itself. This is a terrible thing, because I know that honorable members opposite, including the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly), who is sitting at the table, know that there is a small section in the Labour Party who would welcome Communism throughout Asia and who, indeed, would not object to it having a powerful influence even in Australia. This is a dreadful state of affairs in the once great and powerful Labour Party. I cannot understand, nor can the people understand, why Labour takes this point of view.
We have, in our defence commitment, agreed to increase our forces in Vietnam to 4,500 men. This is a really worthwhile contribution. Today I heard criticism of the former Minister for the Army.
– I rise to order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The honorable member for Bennelong has stated that a number of members of the Labour Party would not care if Asia were overrun by Communism or if Communism were a powerful force in this country. Those words are personally objectionable to me and to members of the Labour Party, and I ask that they be withdrawn.
– On the point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker: The honorable member for Yarra (Dr. J. F. Cairns), speaking in the House tonight, made it quite clear that that was his view. It is a matter of fact that there is in the Labour Party a VietCairns faction.
– Order! It is not the duty of the Chair to sift facts and to determine whether a statement is fiction, fantasy or fact, otherwise the business of the House would not progress. I rule that the point of order lacks substance.
– Mr. Deputy Speaker, I say that the words are personally objectionable to me and I ask that they be withdrawn in accordance with the Standing Orders.
Mr. DEPUTY SPEAKER__ Order! I have given my ruling.
.- Mr. Deputy Speaker, I move -
That the ruling be dissented from.
– The motion is that the Deputy Speaker’s ruling be disagreed with. Is the motion seconded?
– I second the motion.
– In the course of his speech a few moments ago the honorable member for Bennelong (Sir John Cramer) said that some members of the Labour Party would not care if Asia were overrun by Communism and if Communism were a powerful and influential force in this country. I took exception to that in accordance with the Standing Orders, which state that if any reflection is made upon a member which he considers to be personally objectionable it must be withdrawn on the request of the member concerned. I asked for that to be done under Standing Orders. You have ruled against that - I believe, most unjustly and unfairly. In view of what I consider to be your complete neglect to administer the Standing Orders in accordance with the terms of the Standing Orders there is no alternative left to me but to move dissent from your ruling. The position, in accordance with your ruling. Mr. Deputy Speaker, now is that any honorable member on the Government side can call members on this side of the Parliament Communists or anything of that nature. If I were to refer to honorable members opposite as Fascists, as most of them are, you would not ask for the remark to be withdrawn. Therefore, Mr. Deputy Speaker, in applying your ruling, from now on if we on this side name the honorable member for Bennelong, the honorable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes) or the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Hughes) as Fascists in this Parliament, which undoubtedly they are, you will have no right to ask for the withdrawal of the remark and they will have no right to object. If you are going to continue to allow us to be described as Communists, let me refer again to those honorable members opposite whom I mentioned as members of Fascists organisations. As such they are opposed to good order and discipline, and law and order in this country. Members on this side of the Parliament have been responsible for saving this country from Communism and other enemies in the past, and it is most objectionable to us to be referred to as collaborators with the Communist Party.
– I rise to order. The statement by the honorable member for Benelong was a generalisation. He referred to “ some members “ without mentioning names.
– The honorable member for Evans was not in the House.
– I was in the House, and I heard every word of it. The honorable member has only just come in. As I have said, the honorable member for Bennelong did not mention names. But the honorable member for Grayndler has just named certain members on this side of the House, calling them Fascists. 1 believe that the point is well taken that in the first case no libel would be involved were the statement not made under the privilege of this House whereas libel would definitely be involved in the second case. I believe there is no analogy.
– Order! There is no substance in the point raised by the honorable member.
– At least on this occasion I congratulate you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, on your wisdom in ruling out a point of order of that type. In support of my argument I submit that if you refer to Standing Orders Nos. 74, 75, 76 and 77 you will find that every one of them covers the objection I have taken to the words used by the honorable member for Bennelong a few moments ago. I submit that if you allow a member on the Government side to say that members on this side of the House are
Communists or Communist supporters you are not only lowering the dignity of Parliament but you are opening the way to abuses that were never contemplated by the Standing Orders of this Parliament.
I can understand the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) making the remarks that he did. Nobody expects anything different from him, but I expected the honorable member for Bennelong, as an officer and a gentleman, as it were, to stand up in his place and withdraw this imputation. I could not allow the occasion to pass without taking the point that I did. It is with great regret that I move dissent from your ruling, but this must have been the first occasion in this Parliament when words said to be personally offensive to members have not been withdrawn when an objection was taken to them.
The honorable member for Mackellar added fuel to the flames when he referred to “ Viet Cairns “, or something to that effect. That was a most contemptible remark by the honorable member for Mackellar and it was in keeping with the Fascist approach he has to everything in this country. Without any reservation tonight I name the honorable member for Mackellar as a Fascist in this Parliament.
– Mr. Deputy Speaker, I ask for that remark to be withdrawn.
– Order! The honorable member tor Grayndler will withdraw the word “ Fascist “ as it is offensive. The ruling I gave was that the statement made by the honorable member for Bennelong was a generalisation. I said that it was not the duty of the Chair to sift facts from fiction and fancy; otherwise the business of the House or the Committee would never progress. The honorable member for Grayndler has now made a pointed remark about the honorable member for Mackellar. He called the honorable member for Mackellar a Fascist and I ask him to withdraw that term.
– I ask also that the charge against me be withdrawn.
– Order! I shall deal with one point of order at a time. The honorable member for Grayndler will withdraw the remark that the honorable member for Mackellar is a Fascist.
– I withdraw the remark that the honorable member is a Fascist, but I say that honorable members opposite are Fascist sympathisers. I speak of them collectively and, I believe, reasonably and justly. Under the ruling you have just given to the House they cannot ask for the term to be withdrawn. Let us have a look at the position. On the Government side there are Fascist sympathisers, and on this side there are democrats and Australians. The people can take their pick. You can see, from what I am doing now, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that you got yourself into a devil of a mess by giving the ruling from which I am moving dissent.
– Order! The honorable member will withdraw that reflection on the Chair.
– I will certainly do so, but 1 thought I might point out to you the difficulties that arise-
– Order! The honorable member will withdraw that remark as it is a reflection on the Chair.
– I withdraw the remark, but I point out the difficulties that the House gets into when the person in the Chair hardly knows the Standing Orders or will not interpret them correctly.
– Order! The honorable member will wihdraw that remark and apologise to the Chair.
– I withdraw the remark and apologise to the Chair. I am afraid my enthusiasm got the better of me. 1 conclude on this note: You have given a ruling which we on this side consider to be most unfair. It is a ruling that we say cannot be substantiated by the Standing Orders. For the first time after more than 20 years in this Parliament, I have seen tonight the occupant of the Chair refusing to ask members on the Government side to withdraw personal insinuations against members on this side of the Parliament after being prepared to make me withdraw an allegation against a member on the Government side of the Parliament. People listening to the debate tonight and those who are in the Parliament can form their own judgment. There is one law for the Government and another for the Opposition. It is for that reason that I move the motion of dissent from your ruling, and I hope it is carried.
– The honorable member has twice reflected on the Chair. I shall not warn him again. I ask him to apologise on this occasion but if he offends again I will name him.
– I apologise to the Chair, and I have finished my speech.
– Mr. Deputy Speaker, 1 draw your attention to the terms of Standing Orders Nos. 77 and 78, which are the ones with which we are concerned at the moment. Standing Order No. 77 reads -
When any offensive or disorderly words are used, whether by a Member who is addressing the Chair, or by a Member who is present, the Speaker shall intervene.
The question is whether the words used were in fact offensive or disorderly. That is the question we have to determine and I propose to address myself to that specific point. Were the words offensive or disorderly? The Standing Order does not refer to words which a member of the Opposition considers offensive or disorderly; it refers to words which are offensive or disorderly.
The honorable member for Bennelong (Sir John Cramer) did not name any particular person. He spoke of members of the Labour Party. I think he included members of the Labour Party in this House. He referred to a “ small section “. There are members of the Labour Party in this House to whom the words used by the honorable member for Bennelong truly apply. This may be seen very clearly from the course which the debate took earlier this evening. The honorable member for Yarra (Dr. J. F. Cairns) who is a member of the Labour Party, showed himself, unless I am mistaken, to be in sympathy with the Communists with whom the honorable member for Bennelong said some members of the Labour Party were in sympathy. I ask honorable members who may disagree with what I am saying to look tomorrow at the “ Hansard “ report of the speech by the honorable member for Yarra. I was here and I heard it. He did show himself to be in sympathy with Communism in Asia.
Only a couple of years ago I sat opposite the honorable member for Yarra in a television interview and heard him say that Castro, the murderer in Cuba, had only done what any good Labour man would do.
– Order! 1 must ask the honorable member for Mackellar to address his remarks to the question before the Chair. I ask him to refer specifically to the motion before the Chair.
Mr.WENTWORTH. - I am simply saying that the honorable member for Yarra did put himself within the description used by the honorable member for Bennelong. I am saying that he was shocked at anybody executing Communists in Indonesia but he was not shocked at all when Communists executed anti-Communists in Cuba. I say that this is evidence of the state of mind of the honorable member for Yarra.
– Order! I must ask the honorable member for Mackellar to confine his remarks to the motion and not to wander from the subject.
– Let me just summarise my position. The remarks made by the honorable member for Bennelong to which exception has been taken were true as applied to the honorable member for Yarra.
– Order! 1 must ask the honorable member for MacKellar to withdraw that remark because it has nothing to do with the motion before the Chair.
– Very good, Sir. I withdraw anything that you require to be withdrawn. I am simply saying that in terms of Standing Order No. 77 the remarks of the honorable member for Bennelong were not offensive or disorderly and the reason they were not offensive or disorderly was that they were true and were shown to be true by the events in the House tonight.
.- Mr. Deputy Speaker-
Motion (by Mr. Fairbairn) put -
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr. Deputy Speaker- Hon. W. C. Haworth.)
Majority . . . . 12
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question put. The House divided. (Mr. Deputy Speaker - Hon. W. C. Haworth.)
Majority . . .. 12
Question so resolved in the negative.
Debate resumed (vide page 464).
.- It is my view that the preservation of the undemocratic and corrupt Government of South Vietnam is not worth one drop of Australian blood. Those who are prepared to send other people to that country to do what they tell us is the national duty have very little to say for themselves. The notable fact is that throughout Australia’s long history of voluntary enlistment, of the preparedness of Australians to shoulder the burdens imposed upon them by foreign policies of which the concensus of opinion has been in favour, there has never been a necessity to drag people into the recruiting places. This is the first challenge that must be put before the House.. I think it is the moral issue that now faces the whole nation, and I hope to examine it.
First I want to examine some of the remarks of the honorable member for Bennelong (Sir John Cramer). What rather puzzles me is what one might call the China neurosis which seems to afflict people of the honorable member’s political persuasion. The position of China is such that now, apparently, it presents very great difficulties. China is capable of all sorts of actions. China does this and it does that. It has invaded here and destroyed there. But what are the facts? The Chinese Government is much like other governments. It is capable of monstrous errors and it is capable of being a good neighbour. Communist China has been the neighbour of North Korea for some 16 or 17 years but, as far as we can tell, China has not taken over North Korea. China has been the neighbour of North Vietnam for some 12 years, since that country acquired an independent government. So far as one can tell there has been no effort by China to take over North Vietnam. China has been the neighbour of Burma for 16 or 17 years and as far as one can determine, its behaviour on the China-Burma border over the last 12 or 13 years has been scrupulous. I think China’s relationship with India has been malicious and mischievous. Apparently China has reached some rapport with Pakistan. I believe its behaviour towards Tibet was murderous in the extreme. It was worthy of the behaviour of some European governments at various points of history. So China in many respects has been not greatly different from other governments, good and bad, at various times in all parts of the world.
But one of the interesting facts about China is that at present it is almost completely isolated from the rest of the world. It is isolated in a way in which perhaps no other country except South Africa is isolated. It has the world’s largest or second largest military power on its northern and western frontiers - the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics - watching it carefully.
It has upset the largest democracy in the world, the country with the second largest population, India, which it seems has started to mobilise to keep China in order. It has the United States of America, the world’s most formidable power, on its doorstep keeping watch and ward. It has offended the people of Indonesia and most of the people of Africa. I am pointing out to the honorable member for Mitchell (Mr. Irwin), who is trying to interject, that to build China up into a world wide ogre is, to my mind, a piece of nonsense which cannot be reasonably sustained. If honorable members opposite were dinkum in any way they would do two things. They would stop their trading with China and those of them who are in the acceptable age group would enlist and encourage others to do so. Their own sons would be in one or other of the Services or in the Citizen Military Forces.
But this is not an argument about China; it is an argument about Australia’s own policy. I look at the people concerned with this question. I look at some of the people taking the stump at various places around the world and talking about this tremendous fight for freedom. I look at L. B. Johnson, who is not going to be bombed, at Ho Chi Minh who is not going to be bombed, at Mao Tse-tung who is not going to be bombed and at the Prime Minister of Australia (Mr. Harold Holt) who is not going to be bombed. It seems to me that a monstrous exercise in immorality is being carried out by many large nations of the world on both sides of the fence. What we have to do is to bend all our efforts towards preventing a continuation of the present hostilities and to shed some tears for the people of Vietnam who are being slaughtered by both sides in causes which cannot be sustained. This is the challenge before the Australian people.
Australia is one of the most secure, stable and prosperous nations of the world. It is a nation that is acquiring the kind of wealth that gives a certain prestige in the world. It ought to be trying to assert its authority in an attempt to preserve the people of Vietnam from their present slaughter, misery and sorrow. That is why the Labour Party is so intent on seeing that Australia withdraws from its military commitment there and that it attempts to produce some rapport around the world, so that the people of Vietnam will know -hat their interests come first and the interests of ideologies will come a bad last.
When I look at the statement made to this Parliament by the Prime -Minister on bis first taking office, the aspect of it that concerns me as an Australian is its demonstration of an absolute insufficiency on the part of the Government. It shows the Government’s apathy towards many subjects, its complacency about others and its insufficiency in three very important fields. We have become a nation devoted to its own ingrowing inferiority complex. We have to get overseas interests to come here and develop our mineral deposits. We are pleading for somebody else to defend us. It is as though there were 11 million of us cowering in a corner of the continent and waiting for somebody else to save us. We have no foreign policy of our own. We merely follow in the footsteps of others. We have spent 60 or 70 years in getting rid of the shackles imposed on us by Whitehall, only to acquire another lot that has just been forged in the White House. It is time that Australia spoke for itself. It is time that Australia realised it has a mission in the world.
The honorable member for Mitchell is still trying to interject. Well, he may be insufficient; I think he is in many respects, but the other one million of us have a good deal of capacity and tremendous wealth and goodwill at our disposal to which we should be turning our attention.
I am concerned with the general question of conscription of people for overseas service and with defence as it is related to such conscription. First I want to deal with the history of conscription, secondly the necessity for it and thirdly the morality of it. The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) has just informed me that no son of any member of the Liberal Party in this House has enlisted to take his place with the forces overseas, but that is a matter for their own consciences and it is a matter on which they can answer after consulting their consciences. There seems to be a great deal of confusion about our present conscription system. There has been provision for universal training in this country for very many years. I think the first suggestion of it was in the Defence
Act of 1903. In 1909 provision for conscription was finally .passed through the Parliament. In 1911 universal training for home service during peace and war became the standard policy of the country. Then, during the First World War, we had the basic policy of voluntary enlistment for overseas service. Efforts were made by the Government to introduce conscription but a referendum proposal for that purpose was rejected. That was the only occasion on which a proposal for conscription for overseas service was submitted to the people of Australia, and it was rejected.
In 1929 the compulsory training system was suspended, but again it is interesting to note that as the Second World War came closer - and this was apparent to many - the decision to raise the strength of the Citizen Military Forces to 70,000 was made in late 1938 and by March 1939 this target had been achieved. By November 1939 there were about 80,000 volunteers in the C.M.F. The universal training scheme was reintroduced by proclamation on 30th November 1939. I recall that the first people called up were compelled to enlist. They were required to enlist, as it was then called, and went into camp in about December 1939.
The system of training or service with which honorable members opposite are charging us with the introduction of conscription was in fact no more than an extension in time of service and in area of service of the system that had been introduced in November 1939. That was in 1943. The conscription on this occasion is completely different. This is the conscription of a selected group in peace time to carry out Australia’s foreign policy. It is the conscription of a selected group. It is the imposition on the minority by the majority of the necessity to carry the sacrifice for the nation. lt is not the same as the system which was introduced in November i 95 1 . which was for home service and which was suspended in 1957 after it had cost some £150 million. But the most insidious thing about the system which has been introduced now is the way it has been sneaked upon the people
Some five or six years ago the Crimes Act was changed. I suggest that honorable members might look at the sections in the Crimes Act about proclaimed countries to see how this was, in effect, preparation for the kind of operation that is going on. Then the C.M.F. enlistment was changed to include overseas service. Then in 1964 we had the announcement of conscription somewhere before the Senate election. But at this time, so far as I can recall and I can gather, there was no suggestion that these people were to be sent overseas. Then some 12 months ago we had the announcement of the commitment to Vietnam. The Defence Act was amended so that “ service “ could be overseas service of men between the ages of 18 and 60 years in time of war. At about the same time we had the extension of the national service requirement, if necessary, to a term of five years. These were the six insidious steps by which this has been sneaked upon the Australian community. There has never been a definite statement by the Government as to what its policy is, what the ultimate commitment is or what the ultimate objectives are.
We on this side of the House believe that if the nation is challenged in such a way, the strength of the nation is such that voluntary service would probably prevail. Within our own history, it was the Fisher Government in 1911 which introduced the universal training. It was a Labour Government in 1943 which expanded the universal service system, as I have explained. Therefore, both compulsory service and voluntary service are part of our tradition. But it is interesting to look at the figures. In 1900, when our population was 3,700,000, there were 27,000 people in the services in the various States, mostly part-time and mostly, I should say, members of the militia. We had a population of 5 million in 1914, yet 400,000 volunteered for service overseas. Our population in 1939 was 7 million. During the war about 750,000 volunteered for service anywhere. About 1 million served in the various services. At the outbreak of war about 80,000 were in the voluntary services. In 1965, with a population of 11 million, we have to conscript people when we want a mere handful to fill our regular services. We have 109,000 in the various services now - 38,000 in the citizen services and 67,000 in the regular arms of the services. Honorable members opposite have said that nobody else is able to achieve these results without compulsory service, but Britain is doing it. Britain has more than 420,000 in its various services - territorials and otherwise - all on a voluntary system. Canada has 170,000 including some 50,000 in the militia presently serving on a voluntary basis. In both instances there is voluntary service because there is a concensus about the foreign policy of the nation and, particularly as regards Canada, the terms of service are such that they attract people to the training. This, I believe, is part of the history and a part that should be examined.
I propose now to deal briefly with the necessity of conscription. I do not believe that the conscription system has anything to do with the defence of Australia. I do not believe that Australia is in dire peril. I do not believe that the Chinese or anybody else, within the foreseeable future, can invade us. We are paying a premium of some sort to allies for some sort of service which they may render in the future or, again, they may not. Let us examine the situation. In Asia there are six nations with a population larger than ours - Pakistan, India, Japan, Indonesia, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and India. First let us consider Pakistan. Does anybody suggest that we will be invaded by Pakistan? Does anyone suggest that we will be invaded by India? Will Japan bother to come when this Government and its allies in the various States are selling us at 6d. per ton? Is Indonesia a likely starter? Of course it is not. Honorable members opposite, with great glee, recount the massacres in Indonesia. What about the U.S.S.R.? It is obvious from talking to people who are in touch with these affairs that Russia is no longer regarded as having this kind of adventurous spirit. So we come finally to China.
What are the potential menaces from China? I refer honorable members to a speech by the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) a few days ago when he cited the military strength of China. China, for the next 1 5 or 20 years, will not be a military threat, so far as I can tell. She has about 500,000 tons of shipping. Honorable members would have only to turn to the history of the last war to realise what is involved in a naval invasion of any country.
– What about the 7th Division?
– The 7th Division went to Balikpapan in 1945 with 20,000 men in the first wave. That landing took 204 ships - very large ones. In the invasion of the Philippines 250,000 men were engaged and about 1,700 very large vessels, naval and otherwise, were needed to put them there. Dr. Millar has suggested in his book that the only countries with the shipping capacities to invade Australia would be the U.S.S.R. and the United States of America. I believe that honorable members opposite are doing the nation and the world a grave disservice by trying to build into us this neurosis.
Let us consider some of the other nations. We are, geographically, one of the most secure nations on earth. We have a mobilisation capacity of more than one million men and, even including some of the people opposite who do not look like likely starters, I think that is a powerful force. The honorable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes) who is now interjecting has a redoubtable fighting record of which any Australian could be proud and of which the rest of us can be proud that he has it. He would know full well that it would take at least 500,000 men landed on the shores of Australia to suppress it satisfactorily and that, logistically, it would be an impossible feat for anyone in the foreseeable future I ask him to stand up and to work out the staff tables for this potential invasion. There is another characteristic, of course. Since 1945 there has been the creation of a series of buffers between ourselves and the people of Asia. In 1941-42 when Japan invaded Indo China the Japanese were welcomed at Hanoi. They were more or less welcomed in Malaya. They met little resistance from the locals in the Philippines, and in Indonesia they were liberators. But anyone who tries to step ashore in most of those countries now would have the population of the country armed against him. Anyone “‘ho landed and tried to take over North Vietnam now would know full well that he had the job in front of him. If honorable members sit down and analyse this from the point of view of logistics, logic and strategy, they will realise that most of the hysteria among honorable members opposite is not based on fact.
Lastly, there is the morality of it all. Why are we in Vietnam? Are we fighting for freedom? Is there any honorable member opposite who says our action is free or democratic, or that it has any of the qualities which we all respect? It is even more undemocratic than the Australian Country Party and that is. taking it along way down the line. The honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Nixon) is of a fine military age. There are splendid uniforms to fit men such as he. He could wear one instead of sitting there and calling up other men’s sons to go. We are not fighting for integrity and we are not fighting for stability. I believe that we are fighting to protect an error in American foreign policy. America is like other nations in that it is sometimes right - it was right in Suez - and is sometimes wrong. I believe it is wrong about China. I believe it was wrong in West New Guinea. I believe it was wrong in its blockade of Cuba. I believe it has made a strategic error now. The challenge before us is not to commit more Australians to Vietnam but to ensure, by every step within our capacity, that China is not provoked to enter the fight. I would simply say to honorable members opposite that any man who reckons that Australian blood should be shed to protect Air Vice-Marshal Ky and his Government should stand up in public and say so.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Irwin) adjourned.
Assent to the following Bills reported -
Customs Tariff Validation Bill 1966. Loan (Airlines Equipment) Bill 1966.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
House adjourned at 10.51 p.m.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated -
m asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
On what dates, by what means and with what results have communications passed between the British and Australian Governments concerning the application to and by the Australian States of
the Convention relating to the Limitation of the Liability of the Owners of Sea-going Ships, 1957,
the Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea, 1960, (c) the Convention for the Unification of Certain Rules relating to the Carriage of Passengers by Sea, 1961, and (d) the amendments to the International Convention for the Prevention of the Pollution of the Sea by Oil, 1962?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows -
No communications have passed between the British and Australian Governments concerning the application of these Conventions to and by the Australian States.
d asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows -
In regard to the National Television Service the following information sets out the position -
a asked the Minister for Trade and Industry, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows - 1. (a) The wholesale price of 1A grade refined sugar at major Australian cities is $180.52 per ton. The prices of other grades are related to this price. The net return to mills for raw sugar produced in the 1964-65 season and sold for home consumption averaged $120.75 per ton, 94 net litre, (b) Australia’s sugar exports are sold at a variety of prices in different markets. The bulk of our exports to the United Kingdom is sold at a guaranteed price of £Stg.43 10s. per ton ($A108.75), f.o.b. and stowed. In the United States, Australian sugar is sold at the United States domestic market price, which in the week ended 24th February 1966 was 6.90 cents per lb. ($A1 38.00 per ton) ci.f., less the import duty of 0.625 cents per lb. The remainder of our exports are sold, for the most part, at prices based on the ruling free world market price which on 7th March 1966 was £Stg. 22 ($52.50) per ton ci.f. London. This is equivalent to approximately £Stg.l7 ($A42.50) per ton, f.o.b. 2 and 3. In raw sugar terms, the total return to sugar mills from sales of raw sugar produced in Australia in the 1964-65 season was $186,729,000. This resulted from sales in Australia returning $75,900,000 and sales overseas returning $110,829,000.
y asked the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice -
Is he able to give figures for the consumption of (a) butter, (b) margarine per head of population in (i) Great Britain, (ii) the United States of America, (iii) Canada and (iv) New Zealand?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows -
b asked the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice -
As it is understood that the Japanese are finding it profitable to fish for tuna in the waters off the Western Australian coast, will he arrange for research to be undertaken into commercial fishing possibilities in these waters and also in the Great Australian Bight?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows -
My Department is working in close co-operation with the various State fisheries authorities in a continuing endeavour to extend our fishing operations as widely as possible.
In 1961, £40,000 was made available from the Fisheries Development Trust Account to meet the cost of a tuna survey off the south-west coast of Western Australia. The survey was carried out by one of Australia’s leading tuna fishermen using one of the most successful boats and crews but unfortunately quantities of tuna on which a commercial fishery could be based were not found in the area.
Other surveys using fishing vessels and aircraft and aimed at extending the tuna fishery in area and/or in length of season have been, or are at present being, carried out off the coasts of South Australia, New South Wales, Queensland and Tasmania. I might mention that the annual tuna catch over the past five years has increased from 5,000 short tons to 8,000 short tons.
A couple of years ago with funds from the Trust Account three Australian experts were sent to Japan, Hawaii and Samoa to examine economics of the tuna long line fishing technique. Their report stated that under the existing cost-price structure in Australia the long line method of catching tuna could not be profitably undertaken by Australian fishermen on a year-round basis. I understand that in recent years the Japanese themselves have been experiencing some difficulties in keeping these long-lining operations profitable.
Regarding the Great Australian Bight, as the honorable member may be aware, a substantial sum of money from the Trust Fund was expended in a sustained endeavour over two rears to establish a commercial trawling operation in the Bight. Difficulties in catching adequate quantities of acceptable species of fish and in marketing the catch satisfactorily were experienced.
Fisheries authorities, both Commonwealth and State, are continuing very actively to look for ways of developing the fisheries industry, .particularly the tuna industry.
b asked the Attorney-General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows -
n asked the Minister for Territories, upon notice -
Is it a fact that the President of the Legislative Council for the Northern Territory wrote to the Secretary of the Department of Territories on 15th February, and on 3rd March sent a telegram requesting an acknowledgment of the letter, but did not receive an acknowledgment of either until after the President had publicly complained in the Legislative Council on 9th March?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows -
The Department of Territories replied to the President by telegram on 8th March. A detailed letter had earlier been sent to the Administrator of the Northern Territory in connection with the points raised in the President’s letter of 15th February. The Assistant Administrator had endeavoured to discuss the matter with the President on the 4th March but the President was not available at his office or at home. The matter which concerned the staffing of the Legislative Council was then discussed with the Clerk of the Legislative Council.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 22 March 1966, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1966/19660322_reps_25_hor50/>.