25th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. Sir John McLeay) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– I preface a question addressed to the Minister for External Affairs by saying that it has been reported that the United States Secretary of State has stated that Air Vice-Marshal Ky was misquoted when he was reported as having said that he will not stand in the way of promised free elections in his country. In view of reports that the transcript of Air Vice-Marshal Ky’s answers to journalists’ questions made by the “ Voice of America “ is contrary to the statement of the United States Secretary of State, will the Minister say which of the conflicting statements is correct?
– I think what the United States Secretary of State, Mr. Rusk, said was not that Air Vice-Marshal Ky was misquoted but that he was misrepresented. Anyone who reads the transcript of the interview referred to will see that it is a record of an experience with which quite a number of us will be familiar - that of journalists pressing a succession of questions, each put in a slightly different form, and then extracting from the answers given by the rather hard pressed person being interviewed particular points that add up to a certain type of story. If one looks at the transcript carefully I think one will admit that it is fair to say that the impression given of Air Vice-Marshal Ky’s general attitude was a wrong one and that although he was not misquoted within the accurate meaning of the word, the total effect was a misrepresentation of his attitude.
– I ask the Minister for Immigration whether he has seen a report that numerous Greek migrants, many of whom are already naturalised Australians, have recently been requested by the Greek Government to furnish to the Greek consulates in the various capital cities a statement of their earnings, and the earnings of their wives, with a view to paying an amount of money to buy their way out of national service training in Greece. By way of amplification, I would draw the Minister’s attention to the fact that I know of one such migrant who has resided in Australia for more than 16 years. If the Minister has seen this report, can he give the House any indication of the course which should be followed by naturalised citizens who have come to Australia from Greece?
– This matter has been brought to the attention of the Government at various times by a number of honorable members, including the honorable member for Henty, and I can assure him that it is receiving consideration. It is a matter which requires very careful consideration by the departments concerned. As the honorable member will know, it concerns not only my Department but also the Department of External Affairs. The honorable member for Henty and the House can be assured that every endeavour will be made to give full protection to the rights of migrants who have become Australian citizens.
– My question is directed to the Minister for the Army. Are national servicemen subject to the same education test as is applied to recruits for the Australian Regular Army? If so, when is the test made - before or after the trainees enter camp? How many have been rejected on educational grounds so far? If the tests are not the same, is it because the registration papers of potential conscripts are carefully sifted to eliminate any who may not meet the requirements of the education tests?
– National servicemen are subject to the same tests as volunteers for the Australian Regular Army. In many instances an education test may not be necessary, for example, when a person has the leaving certificate or a matriculation certificate. In such cases, quite clearly the education tests relevant to entrance to the Australian Regular Army would not be necessary because people with such certificates are above the standard required in any case. I will look at the question more closely and see what more precise information I can get for the honorable member.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Labour and National Service. I refer to the fact that there appears to have been some confusion in regard to medical tests applied to national servicemen, some having been accepted as medically fit and then subsequently rejected as being medically unfit. Can the Minister state whether steps are being taken to iron out this difficulty?
– National service trainees are subject to medical examination by medical boards arranged by my Department. As far as possible it is arranged that the medical examination shall take place about three months, at least, before the time of call-up. This is done to ensure that there is plenty of time to complete the medical examination and so that everyone who is to be called up will be given at least a month’s notice. When, after this medical examination, those concerned report to the Army, the Army re-examines them and, in some cases, the medical condition of the person concerned has changed in the meantime.
There are cases where it is just a sheer difference of opinion between one group and another because there are a number of marginal cases in medical fitness. For instance, about 20 per cent, of those examined normally have to be referred for further advice on some particular aspect. As far as figures are concerned, my memory is, roughly, that out of the first 6,500 men who reported to the Army from my Department, about 92 were rejected on medical grounds. J am conscious that there is a report of a rather large group having been rejected in Sydney just recently. I have not the detailed facts but the figure does seem unduly high, relative to previous experience. I might add, of course, that the Government is particularly concerned with those who are asked to march in, who are subsequently rejected as medically unfit, and who have had to give up their jobs or suffer some financial loss in the meantime. This question is being especially examined by my Department and the Department of the Army and I hope that satisfactory results will accrue.
– I direct a supplementary question to the Minister for Labour and National Service. I remind him that two weeks ago he told me, by way of answer to a question, that precisely the same medical examination was given to national service trainees by the medical board attached to his Department as that given by the Department of the Army for enlistment in the Australian Regular Army. In view of the later developments mentioned today which substantiate the allegation that I put to him that it was a much easier medical examination for the national service trainees than for enlistment in the Australian Regular Army, will the Minister now confer with the Minister for the Army to arrange for - and I use his own words - “ precisely the same “ medical examination to be given to national service trainees as is given to those who wish to enlist in the Australian Regular Army?
– The standards applied in the medical examination of national servicemen are laid down by the Army. They are in precisely the same terms for the Army and for national servicemen. This does not mean, as I just now emphasised, that two groups of doctors will necessarily take the same view. Since in most cases up to about three months ensues between the two medical examinations quite a number of examinees who are fit at one stage will be unfit at the other, and vice versa. I am in constant contact with the Minister for the Army on this subject. To get a precisely identical medical examination by the same people at the same time would mean bringing everyone from all over Australia, wherever they were situated in the country, to a central point to be examined. This would impose an impossible burden both on the persons concerned and on the administrative machine. Although similar standards apply, differences of opinion are almost bound to occur.
– My question ro the Minister for Shipping and Transport concerns the Commonwealth Bureau of Roads. In what work has the Bureau been engaged since it was established? Will a statement of its findings and recommendations be tabled in this Parliament? If so, when can the first report be expected?
– I cannot undertake to state any precise time at which any report of the Commonwealth Bureau of Roads will be made available to this House. The honorable member will recall that when the legislation establishing the Bureau was before this Parliament it was emphasised that the Bureau was for the purpose of advising the Government and that its reports would not necessarily be published. What will be made available to the House will depend to a large extent on what the Government considers, after having examined the reports, should be made available. So I cannot give any advance undertaking on that score. As to the work of the Bureau, as the honorable member will recall, the Chairman of the Bureau was appointed on 1st October last year. The two part time members of the Bureau were appointed early this year. They have been engaged largely on setting up the structure of the Bureau, on making contacts with road authorities in the various States and on examining the kind of field which they have to go over. They have not been assigned at this stage any precise task by this Government because they have been fully occupied in the general field in which they are engaged.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for National Development. The Premier of Queensland was reported in the Press as stating that the Queensland Government is procuring the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority for development work in Queensland. Has the Queensland Government made any approach to the Commonwealth Government concerning the taking over of this Authority? If so, at what cost? Will the Commonwealth Government contribute any finance towards the Authority’s administrative costs, or is the statement just another idle election promise?
– The Queensland Government has, of course, used a number of personnel from the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority on the assessment of certain work in Queensland. I have not yet had an opportunity of studying the Queensland Premier’s policy speech but I did see that it contains a statement that he will approach the Commonwealth Government for further assistance in water conservation. No doubt after 28th March, when he is returned as Premier, he will approach the Commonwealth Government and we will then see what his request is.
– I ask the Minister for Trade and Industry whether the Government is satisfied that details of export incentives are now widely known and understood throughout the business community and whether export figures show that these incentives are being availed of to an increasing extent.
– I have no doubt that details of export incentives are very widely known, but I am recurringly surprised to discover a lack of knowledge in respect of certain items of economic policy where one might have expected to find knowledge. The business community has co-operated well in efforts to increase the volume of exports. The Export Development Council has conducted campaigns and seminars and a variety of meetings to ensure that the business community is apprised of the incentives the Government has provided for increasing exports. Special export awareness campaigns have been mounted separately in each of the States. These have been -of great value, as has the Government’s television programme “ Export Action “, but I would never consider that we have reached the stage at which there is no necessity for further publicity.
– Can the Treasurer say when final distribution will be made of the surplus in the Commonwealth Superannuation Fund? Can he also say whether the money that will be received from this surplus by Commonwealth public servants wilt be exempt from income tax, in view of the fact that the fund has been built up substantially by the contributions made by these public servants?
– The honorable member will realise that the problem of distributing the surplus in the Superannuation Fund involves complexities of a kind that were not envisaged when the decision to distribute the surplus was made. I am unable, therefore, to tell the honorable member exactly when the distribution will be made. I will make further inquiries and if I can obtain any additional information I will transmit it to the honorable member. As to the question of exemption from income tax, I do not know the position in law but I will make inquiries and let the honorable member know the results.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Labour and National Service. In view of the large number of tradesmen required in our expanding industry, has the Government considered conducting a campaign in Australian schools with a view to removing any prejudices against blue collar jobs? If this question has been considered and if the Government has decided that something should be done, what course of action has been taken by the Government?
– Officers of the Commonwealth Employment Service keep constantly in touch with all schools. In addition, the Department of Labour and National Service provides an extensive vocational guidance service and gives individual guidance to large numbers of students. All these exercises are oriented towards encouraging young people to undertake apprenticeships. In addition, officers of the Department have delivered and shown - and are continuing to deliver and show - large numbers of lectures and films to parent and citizen associations, Lions and Apex clubs and like organisations. They use their best endeavours to persuade youths to undertake courses of apprenticeship. Arrangements are made for country children to visit the cities so that they may discover what opportunities there are, and when country youths undertake apprenticeships they receive the benefit of subsidies to enable them to live in centres where apprenticeships are available. Many steps have been taken to encourage employers to make more apprenticeships available. At the moment the Commonwealth is engaged in further tripartite discussions with employers and trade unions with a view to extending the apprenticeship system still further. Honorable members will recall, of course, the scheme recently propounded for increasing the upper age limit at which apprenticeships may be commenced, and also for shortening the apprenticeship period. This work is being pressed ahead as strongly as possible.
– My question is directed to the Postmaster-General. Is it a fact that the regulations of the Postmaster-General’s Department prevent an individual or company from taking an advertisement larger than a quarter of a page in the telephone directory, and allow such advertisements to be taken only by properly constituted associations? If this is a fact, why is it that Edward H. O’Brien Pty. Ltd., publisher of the “ Pink Pages “ section of the telephone directory, is prepared to accept a full page advertisement by a group of four individuals, one of them being a bookmaker, which purports to be an association? Is the Postmaster-General prepared to prevent this circumvention of the regulations by stipulating that any so-called association must comprise at least 20 bona fide members in any particular industry?
– If the honorable member will bring details of this matter to my notice I will be glad to have a look at it. In general terms, advertising in the “ Pink Pages “ is restricted to quarter page advertisements and not more than three such advertisements are permitted on a page, except under a particular classification which comes at the end of a particular section. Apart from making that comment I would like at this stage to have full details of the matter to which the honorable member has referred, and I will investigate it.
– As the Treasurer is no doubt aware of the excellent work of the Murray Valley Development League in furthering the objective suggested by its name, I ask: Will the honorable gentleman give urgent consideration to approving contributions to the League as deductions for income tax purposes? Will he submit my request for inclusion in the pre-Budget discussions?
– The honorable member, amongst others, has convinced me. as I am sure he has convinced other Ministers, of the very valuable work being done by the Murray Valley Development League. J am sure the honorable member will realise, as will every honorable member, that matters of this kind are considered during discussions on the Budget. I will make certain that on this occasion the matter is looked at by the full committee of Cabinet and that the decision is announced in the Budget Speech itself.
- Mr. Speaker, in the last few weeks we have heard about a socalled confidential report on beef roads in Queensland having been available to honorable members in the Parliamentary Library for six months. I ask you, Sir, whether, in view of the legislation that will come before the House soon for consideration, it will be proper or within the Standing Orders for honorable members to refer during the debate to the contents of that confidential report, which was not so confidential?
– I would like to have a look at the question. I would like also to see the comments an honorable member proposes to make before he makes them because it is sometimes difficult to follow remarks made completely impromptu. The matter will be looked at on the basis of the information which it is proposed to use and the right to use that information. 1 will let the Leader of the Opposition know what I have decided.
– Will the Minister for Civil Aviation outline the principal works currently being undertaken in the development of Brisbane Airport? What arrangements, if any, have been made to effect improvements at an early date in the facilities provided at the international terminal? In the extensive alterations intended for the airport after 30th June 1968 will necessary action be taken to lessen the incidence of noise in adjacent residential areas?
– An extensive programme of works is being undertaken to improve facilities at the Brisbane Airport. The principal works under way at present are the construction of a new control centre and the provision of a building with full equipment for a completely new long range radar system. The programme is a pretty costly one, involving expenditure of about $3 million. In addition, planning is being undertaken for a new terminal complex. In the meantime it is considered that the present international terminal facilities are not up to a desirable standard. Improvements to the present international terminal will be made in the near future. Effect is being given to the honorable member’s desires in this regard. I understand from my colleague, the Minister for Works, that tenders for the work have closed and that a contract will be let within a matter of days. As this airport is in the honorable member’s electorate, and in view of his interest in the programme, I have asked him whether he will be kind enough to open the improved facilities when they are provided within the next few months. Finally, on the question of noise, I will be asking, after question time, for leave to make a statement on this subject. It will cover the points raised.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Territories. Can he say, or will he ascertain, whether it is a fact that in recent times there has been an influx of 20 year olds into the Public Service of New Guinea, appointment to which absolves such persons from liability to conscription? Can he also say whether these public servants come from homes whose occupants usually support the Government’s policies?
– I have read Press reports that recruits are going to Papua and New Guinea and entering the Public Service to avoid conscription, but my information is that nothing of the sort is happening. I will check on the matter, but 1 can assure the honorable member that in my opinion the report is a complete misrepresentation.
– I ask a question of the Minister for Civil Aviation. Has his attention been drawn to a report that the British airport authority will provide £21 million sterling for soundproofing homes in the vicinity of London Airport? Will he consider the institution of a damage insurance fund to be contributed to by the Government and by airline operators to cover compensation for damage as well as the soundproofing of homes, schools and churches directly affected by air traffic in the capital cities of Australia?
– 1 have seen the Press reports referred to but so far have not received confirmation i rom the United Kingdom Government of the facts of the case. Further inquiries are being made and 1 hope to have some information in the near future. All aspects of this problem as it concerns the United Kingdom will be discussed at a conference to be held in November and called by the United Kingdom Government. This is designed as a British Commonwealth conference. I have written today to the British Minister of Aviation and advised him that we will be represented at the conference. We hope that many of these matters and associated problems will be fully discussed then. After the conference we should be in a better position to inform the honorable member.
– I direct a question to the Minister for the Army. Is it a fact that almost two months ago a young Australian serviceman attached to the sea-air rescue squadron in Borneo was lost, presumed drowned, along with his lieutenant, during trial operations in a remote area of Sarawak, and that since receipt of a telegram on 2nd April the parents have not been contacted by the Government or by the military authorities about the matter? Both the parents of one of these men are living on the invalid pension. fs it intended to hold an inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the loss of both these soldiers, and is any further action proposed by the Government which might alleviate the suffering that the parents are experiencing at this moment?
– The honorable member mentioned that this occurred about two months ago.
– On 2nd March.
– I will see what information I can get for the honorable member.
– I address my question to the Postmaster-General. Is the report correct that a satellite will be in orbit over the Pacific this year and that it will receive and redirect television programmes in much the same way as Telstar does in the northern hemisphere? If it is, will Australians be able to view direct the 1968 Olympic Games to be held in Mexico City?
– The International Telecommunication Satellite Consortium, which is shortly known as Intelsat, expects to launch two satellites during this year, one over the Pacific and the other over the Atlantic. However, they will be related to the Apollo project of the United States National Aeronautics and Space Administration. The purpose of the Apollo project, of course, is to land a man on the moon. A ground station will be built in Western Australia at Carnarvon. It will not be for the purpose of receiving satellite communications. In fact, the whole capacity of the two satellites will be needed for space purposes. Since the satellites are related to the N.A.S.A. project, it is unlikely that television will be made available through them. Nevertheless, Intelsat hopes in 1968-69 to launch other satellites for purposes of communication, including television. It may be that these satellites will enable television viewers to see the Olympic Games of 1968 in Mexico. However, the satellites will be launched only at about that time and I would not like to give an assurance about their use at this moment.
– My question is directed to the Postmaster-General. Does he still maintain that there is no shortage of. and dissatisfaction amongst, telephone technicians in his Department? If so, why is it that the number of applicants wailing for telephones in many of the Sydney exchange areas is increasing and a longer waiting time between the payment of the appropriate fees and the connection of the service is being experienced? When will action be taken by him and by his Department to remedy this unsatisfactory and annoying situation?
– Only a few weeks ago, I informed the House that the number of deferred applications in New South Wales had been reduced by well over 2,000. The figures I gave related to the month of March. I understand now that during last month there has been a further substantial reduction in the number of applications. I cannot understand the general comments of the honorable member because obviously we are making a substantial reduction overall in the deficiencies that have existed-
– How many are outstanding?
– Offhand, I think the number of deferred applications in New South Wales is in the vicinity of 14,000 or 15,000, as against 19,000 or 20,000 at the beginning of this year.
– My question is directed to the Minister for External Affairs. I ask: Is there any information as to whether the report that the Chinese Communists have recently exploded their first experimental hydrogen bomb is correct? Is it a fact that Mr. Suslov some years ago, speaking on behalf of the Soviet Union, alleged that, if the Chinese Communists obtained stocks of-
– I rise to order. The honorable member has asked a question and now he wants to comment about something that Khrushchev or somebody else said.
– Order! I think the Leader of the Opposition is right. The honorable member has referred to a person by name and is now seeking to quote from a statement made by that person. The honorable member is therefore out of order. He has already asked his question.
– Was there an allegation that the Chinese Communists, if they got the bomb, intended to destroy half mankind by aggressive warfare?
– How silly can one get.
– The Leader of the Opposition has asked how silly one can get. It is a cause for concern that the statement about the destruction of half of mankind has been made and is on the record in the mouth of the Chinese.
– What has that to do with the question?
– It has this to do with it, that the Chinese have just detonated their third nuclear device. It is a little early to give any exact information in answer to the honorable gentleman as to the nature of the device, but the fact that it has been exploded indicates the determination of the Chinese to continue with their experimentation in the development of a nuclear weapon. The horrifying fact about it is that the Chinese in public declarations have shown a contemptuous disregard for the loss of life that nuclear explosions will cause. The great powers have been in possession of nuclear weapons for more than 20 years, but there are some heartening signs that they are learning a certain amount of responsibility in the exercise of this great and terrifying power which is in their hands. The great powers have joined in a nuclear test ban treaty with other powers and have shown some attempts - not very successful up to date, but at least some attempts - to move towards nuclear disarmament. But while this is going on, the new nuclear power, China, has shown a complete unwillingness to join in a nuclear test ban treaty, has spoken of a nuclear test ban treaty with contempt and disregard and has made these statements which, interpreted, mean that so far as the Chinese are concerned the loss of millions of lives is not going to cause them a great dismay because they imagine that the lives will be lost in other countries rather than in China.
– I ask the Minister for External Affairs a supplementary question. If this is only the third bomb which the Chinese have exploded, what hope have the Chinese of matching the Russians with their huge stockpile of nuclear bombs and what hope have they of matching the Americans with many bombs more powerful than those possessed by the Russians and with at least 1,300 Minuteman missiles with atomic war-heads placed in location or able to be moved from place to place in the United States to deter any aggressor? Finally, how can he try to threaten this country with the fear which he seeks to engender following that question when China has three bombs and the other nations have thousands?
- Mr. Speaker, I submit to the honorable gentleman that one bomb which is dropped on a crowd kills more people than 100 bombs which are not dropped.
– I address my question to the Prime Minister. We have just heard very commendable sentiments-
– Order! The honorable member will not make any comment.
– I am not making a comment. Does the Prime Minister support the attitude of the Minister for External Affairs and oppose the bombing of people? If so, will he intercede to prevent the bombing and the destruction of the people of North Vietnam? If he will not do this, will he say what the people of North Vietnam have done to deserve this treatment?
– The Government has already publicly indicated its attitude to the bombing being carried out for military purposes in what are military operations directed to stated but limited military objectives in North Vietnam. I of course endorse the admirably clear and factual statement of the situation made by the Minister for External Affairs.
– 1 address a question to the Minister for External Affairs. I ask: Has he or his Department received any protest at all from anybody in this country concerning the recent thermo-nuclear explosion by the Communist Chinese? In view of the fact that there seems to be a hesitancy on the part of a number of people to believe that the Communist Chinese are reluctant to join in a nuclear test ban, will the right honorable gentleman consider the preparation of a history of the Communist Chinese attitude to the question of a nuclear test ban?
– I shall certainly consider the request made in the latter part of the question and see whether a paper can be prepared for the information of honorable members. Up to date, I am not aware of any protest having been made to the Government. As the honorable member knows, I was travelling during the weekend. 1 have not sorted through all the papers on my desk since my return. Subject only to that reservation, I would say that I have not received any protest.
– I ask the Minister for External Affairs a question. Was he aware, and did he approve, of the flight plan under which French Neptune military aircraft late last month landed at Port Moresby on route to and in preparation for the French nuclear tests in the region of Tahiti and its dependencies? How does he reconcile this flight plan and the hospitality given to these aircraft in our territory with the Government’s reiterated protests against continuing preparations by France for these tests?
– As the honorable gentleman knows, the Australian Government has protested to the French Government at the holding of the proposed nuclear tests in the Pacific. We shall continue to protest. Our view is well known to the French Government. I am not personally familiar with the particular flight mentioned, as I was on ministerial duty abroad at the time. The policy which has been laid down by the Cabinet, and which 1 assume would apply in all cases, is that before any flight by French aircraft which may in any way be connected with French operations in the Pacific and which involves passage over Australian territory or the use of Australian airfields is approved, we obtain from the French Government an explicit assurance that the aircraft will not carry any implements, devices or materials connected with the proposed nuclear tests.
– My question is directed to the Minister for the Army. Much publicity was given to the despatch of Army personnel from Richmond air base on Sunday night for South Vietnam. Does he consider this to be wise? Does it constitute an unnecessary security risk?
Mr. MALCOLM FRASER__ ! appreciate the honorable member’s concern that nothing be done that would in any way constitute a security risk. I assure him that the method of giving a send-off to troops in the task force going to South Vietnam, whether by sea or air, is examined closely. Nothing has been done and nothing will be done that would in any way constitute a security risk. I believe that we should make the arrangements most satisfactory to soldiers and their relatives, giving relatives passes to go to the air base or to see “ Sydney “ off when the vessel departs. This has been done and I believe that the arrangements have worked quite satisfactorily.
– I address a question to the Postmaster-General. He will be aware that a 5d. postage stamp bearing the portrait of the late Sir Winston Churchill is currently in use. This is a worthy gesture in honour of this great leader in World War II. However, I think it is agreed by all Australians that the late John Curtin also displayed magnificent leadership in guiding Australia’s destiny in World War II. Does not the honorable gentleman consider that the late John Curtin, a great son of Australia, should be portrayed on a postage stamp in his memory? I remind the Minister that I asked a similar question about nine months ago.
– I have made a public statement to the effect that a series of stamps embodying portraits of former Prime Ministers of Australia will be issued in due course. A portrait of the late John Curtin will appear as part of that series.
– by leave - In view of the continuing interest shown by members of this House and senators in the problem created by aircraft noise in the vicinity of airports, I thought it desirable to outline to the Parliament what is being done to alleviate the problem both in Australia and overseas.
I should, of course, point out one obvious and basic fact: Noise is an inescapable part of most forms of modern transport and industry, and this is particularly true of the modern airline industry. We will never achieve a silent airport or silent aircraft operations. However, this has not deterred us in our efforts to ensure that Australian airports are, wherever possible, the best possible neighbours to the surrounding community. A considerable effort has been made by the Australian industry to reduce the noise nuisance caused in residential areas surrounding our major airports. Everyone in the industry co-operates in this because it is recognised as a serious industry problem. I emphasise that it is an industry problem and that it is being tackled on this basis, for some people appear to assume that all the noise is created by one section only.
My Department tries to maintain a balance between the needs of those people living near airports and the requirements of the airlines and air travellers. As honorable members will appreciate, it is not an easy task to balance these two sharply conflicting interests. Also, in this context it is too common and too easy for critics to point to the community problems arising from airport noise and neglect the very real advantages that’ a modern airport and a modern aviation system bring, not only to the areas surrounding the airport, but also to the nation. Indeed, on a national scale, it would be difficult to imagine Australian progress being maintained at its present level without’ an efficient and modernly equipped airline industry. Internationally, the airlines bring hundreds of thousands of tourists and consequently a great deal of revenue to Australia each year. Their services promote our trade and contacts with the world. Domestically, our airlines carry over four million passengers a year.
Also, our principal airports are major centres of job opportunity for thousands of people in the surrounding communities and the wages earned by these people are an important influence in local business activity and prosperity. Often, additional and important facilities are provided to a community which has an airport within its boundaries, such as freeways linking the airport with the city centre. I mention these facts, merely to emphasise that our aviation industry is not just a noise producing nuisance. Certainly it does produce noise. lt also produces very real local and national benefits.
The problem of noise nuisance around airports is extremely complex. The level of annoyance depends on perceptibility, duration and frequency. Perceptibility is influenced by such things as atmospheric conditions, the distance and direction of the hearer from the source, the ambient noise level, the shielding and channelling effects of terrain, buildings and vegetation, the activity of the hearer, many psychological factors, and also the time and season of the noise occurrence. Duration is significant in that a noise level tolerable for a few seconds may be intolerable over a longer period. Frequency of occurrence is also significant as, generally speaking, greater annoyance results from a frequently experienced noise than from an isolated occurrence. These are obvious points but I think it important that they should be mentioned.
Because of this complexity, late last year my Department’s Airways Engineering Laboratory did some further investigation into aircraft noise levels and their duration and perceptibility. The information resulting from these tests has been used to determine a further noise minimisation programme to supplement the Department’s present procedures throughout Australia and Papua and New Guinea. These suggestions lay the ground plan for a further concerted industry attack on the problem and my Department, shortly, will be discussing these further proposals in detail with the airlines.
It might be useful, if I were to outline what the Department is now doing and what it is proposing to do, where necessary, with the co-operation of the airlines. Summarised briefly, the Department’s present noise minimisation procedures at our major airports limit planned maintenance running of engines to between 5 a.m. and 1 1 p.m. each day. There is a further limitation to 6 a.m. on Sundays and preferably not between 6 a.m. anc 10 a.m. Jet engine running is limited to between 5 a.m. and 9 p.m. plus the Sunday restrictions. The airlines may conduct engine running during these hours only by using noise suppressor cells and by using special areas, remote from the surrounding residential development. Any such running is restricted to that essential for the following day’s operation and requires special approval at airline executive level in every individual case. In other words, all planned engine maintenance running is done outside” the restricted hours.
The airlines also are prevented from scheduling jet movements between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. although some dispensation is given for unavoidably late arrivals such as those caused by adverse weather. Preferred runway and terminal area flight paths have been introduced to minimise noise to residential areas, particularly during leisure and sleeping hours. In addition, the Department considers every legitimate noise complaint and also carefully monitors the airlines observance of these restrictions. The increasing availability of the air traffic control radar units we are now installing is also bringing improvements. The time aircraft are in the terminal area - in other words operating over built up areas - is being reduced and, as more radar capacity becomes available, it is expected that the use of inner holding areas will be virtually eliminated. Further radarassisted arrival and departure tracks, designed to take account of the noise problem, will be also established.
Finally, wherever my Department is providing new airports such as that at Melbourne, we are acquiring large areas of adjacent land as noise buffer zones. Similarly, wherever we are undertaking major runway extensions, aircraft noise is an important consideration. The present runway extension at Sydney airport is a good example of this. When it is completed next year it will permit greater use of the northsouth runway and put the majority of operations out over Botany Bay and thereby greatly reduce the noise problem.
Now I should outline the additional steps which are to be proposed to the airlines by my Department. The first of these is the greater use of noise suppressor cells, or alternatively, engine run-up bays for maintenance running of engines. A survey is being made of each of our major airports to select sites on which engines can be tested with a minimum of noise to surrounding residential areas. The Department’s engineers are also attempting to develop a noise suppression bay or structure for use at these sites which is suitable for use by all aircraft. Secondly, the Department’s engineers, together with those of the airlines, arc examining the possibility of fitting a noise suppression unit, during ground maintenance running, to engines installed in aircraft. This idea is regarded as very promising and might be economic on a joint user basis although it might create ground manoeuvring problems. I expect a report on this aspect within a few months. lt will appear from this that a good deal of my Department’s effort is directed towards providing relief from the noise created by ground running of engines. This is because of two factors. Unavoidably, some ground maintenance running is required during normal sleeping hours. For this reason the annoyance caused can be out of* all proportion to its contribution to the .total airport noise. Also, it is the one area in which ingenuity and co-operation can produce positive relief. Another principal avenue of attack on the problem is in the field of take off and landing procedures. As I said earlier, my Department’s air traffic control service has developed, and is using, procedures designed to keep aircraft away from residential areas wherever possible. These include appropriate approach and take off paths and a preferred runway system.
As part of it’s recent study, my Department did consider lifting the angle of aircraft approach paths into our major airports. The optimum slope for the approach aids we use in Australia is 2.75 degrees. The highest acceptable slope is three degrees and this is used only where terrain problems exist such as at Hobart and Canberra. However, a change to three degrees as the normal approach angle would not achieve any significant gain in terms of height over the ground and the proposal, therefore, has been rejected. Some additional noise relief can be obtained, however, by ensuring that aircraft use maximum climb gradients and this is being discussed with the airlines at present. The practice of reducing engine power very soon after take off, although it is used at some overseas airports, is considered to be less desirable than the use of steeper take off paths. Naturally, in all this we have not, nor will we, let our desire to alleviate the noise problem compromise our safety standards in any way.
I am afraid that I cannot offer honorable members and, more particularly, those people who live near airports, any short term hope for the development of acceptable in-flight engine noise suppressors. Noise suppression has been effectively designed into some straight jet engines. However, the fitting of suppressors to the current generation of fan engines is a very difficult engineering problem with small margins in which to achieve a significant reduction in noise. In the current state of the art, sound suppressors are heavy and to fit them ro rear mounted engines, such as those on the Boeing 727 and the DC9, would cause a serious weight and balance problem which could necessitate re-location of the wing on these aircraft. Present suppressors also affect engine performance, reducing cruise and take off efficiency with quite unacceptable economic consequences.
Development costs of suppressors, so far, have involved millions of dollars without any significant success. Therefore I think it fair to say that engine noise suppressors are not a short term possibility. Also, the research and development costs are sufficiently high, and our jet fleet so numerically small, to preclude Australia from attempting, at this stage anyway, development of noise suppression devices on its own behalf. However, we are keeping a close watch on developments overseas particularly in the big aircraft manufacturing countries.
In this context, I think it is appropriate for me to mention that an international conference on the aircraft noise problem is to be held in London from 22nd November to 30th November this year. The conference is being organised by the British Ministry of Aviation and it is proposed that it should be a frank exchange of views and knowledge between all those countries concerned with the problem. Although it is not intended that the conference should reach agreements binding on Governments, it may well be that it could pave the way for international decisions on noise suppression. The International Civil Aviation Organisation has been consulted and the President of the Council of the Organisation has indicated his support and willingness to address the conference. The International Air Transport Association has also been invited to attend.
My Department plans to send one of its senior executives to represent Australia at the conference, possibly accompanied by a representative, or representatives, of the airlines. The search for more efficient methods of reducing airport noise will continue still further. In the meantime, I think it is clear from what I have said that the seriousness of the problem is recognised by the aviation industry and every legitimate effort if being made to find a solution.
I present the following paper -
Aircraft Noise Problem near Airports - Ministerial Statement, 10th May 1966 - and move -
That the House take note of the paper.
.- I cannot say that the people I represent, and the people represented by other honorable members in this House who have made complaints about this aircraft noise problem, will be very enthusiastic about the statement just made by the Minister for Civil Aviation (Mr. Swartz). It is not likely to give comfort to them. It is all very well for honorable members who are trying to interject. I wonder whether they have lived near airports and have had to listen to the many complaints made by residents who have to endure this painful nuisance. It is not just a matter of noise for its own sake and the disabilities that it causes. One must think of people who may be chronically ill and who are desperately trying to go to sleep. When one of these monstrous aircraft comes hurtling over the roof tops it wakes them up and creates a problem for them all over again. If those honorable members think of that situation perhaps they will have some compassion and sympathy. They might think also of the people of my electorate who may be in the great St. George Hospital.
– I rise to a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Are we debating this matter now?
– Yes. The honorable member for Barton has the call.
– As I say, honorable members might have some sympathy for people in public hospitals and other such institutions who are disturbed - and very forcibly disturbed - by the nuisance of having these great aircraft circling and passing overhead. They might have a thought for those people who try to transact business, such as those in council chambers who are seriously interrupted every now and again by the passage overhead of great aircraft. They might think of great schools located iti the vicinity of airports in which people are trying to go about their daily tasks with all this nuisance going on around about them. For good measure they might think of all those homes located close to airports in which cracks have developed due to the effect of vibration caused by these great monsters of the sky passing in the near vicinity. They might also think of the nuisance caused by smog created by oil burning aircraft passing close overhead. Above all they might think of the home owners who suffer great loss in property value because of this kind of nuisance. All these things should cause all honorable members of the House to give sympathetic consideration to people affected by this problem instead of some of them trying to make stupid interjections such as were made when I started to speak today and when the honorable member for St. George (Mr. Bosman) and the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Cope) raised this matter during the adjournment debate last Wednesday evening.
What the Minister has said can be summarised very readily by saying that there is a need for balance between the needs of the aircraft industry and the consideration of nearby residents. He admitted that it was not easy to solve this problem. He went on to say that we should remind ourselves of the great advantages of the aircraft industry. Those advantages are well enough known to everybody, I suppose, but that should not result in a loss of consideration for people who are suffering from the problems I have tried to describe. The Minister mentioned that the noise problem was a complex one. That is admitted. For instance, it has some determination by the subjective feelings and the subjective instincts of each human being. Some people are more tolerant of noise than others are. Others are hypersensitive to noise. These things have to be taken into consideration. Physical and psychological problems are important.
The Minister went on to say that all planned maintenance running of engines is to take place between 5 a.m. and 11 p.m. on week days and between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. on Sundays. Jets, on the other hand, are to be serviced in this way only between 5 a.m. and 9 p.m. I put it to you Mr. Speaker, that 5 a.m. is a bit early to start this terrific noise that emanates from the maintenance running of engines, at airports. Many people have not had many hours sleep by 5 a.m. I have already spoken about sick people, invalids and other people. These people are awakened by this kind of noise at 5 a.m. and adherence to the times the Minister has mentioned does not seem to me to be any great concession. The Minister also said that no jet movements may take place between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. I do not know what kind of aircraft it is that seems to take off from Mascot about 11 p.m., midnight or 1 o’clock in the morning. Some of them, I am told, are concerned with the carrying of freight. These aircraft apparently have a dispensation to fly over our residential areas at any time of the night and are not restricted to the hours I have just mentioned.
As far as I know, one international aircraft takes off for London from Mascot Airport at midnight. I am not sure whether or not it is a jet aircraft, but it seems to take off regularly about that time. The Minister has also said that the increasing use of radar will reduce the time that aircraft will have to occupy terminal areas and that ultimately there will be an elimination altogether of holding areas. In other words, there will be an elimination of the need for aeroplanes to circle until it is appropriate for them to come in to land. The Minister hopes that by the use of buffer zones and by the increased use of radar this will be eliminated. He also said that as far as the Sydney (Kingsford Smith) Airport is concerned the extension of the runway should lead to a reduction of the noise nuisance. I am rather interested in what the Minister listed as the additional steps his Department is proposing to the airlines; he did not put it any more strongly than that. He said that there are additional measures which the Department is proposing to the various airline operators. He did not say that there was any chance that these measures would be imposed upon the operators. Presumably they will be put to the airline operators and if, after consultation, the operators say that the proposals are too expensive or uneconomical the people who reside round the airport will have to put up with the noise just because putting the measures into operation might cost the airlines and the passengers a little bit extra.
What surprises me is that the Minister said that greater use is going to be made of noise suppressor cells. He went on to say that the Department was looking for sites at each airport to establish suppressor bays or structures so that there will be a minimum of noise audible in surrounding residential areas. One would imagine that that would have been one of the most obvious measures to take to suppress noise - to establish noise suppressors on aircraft and to establish soundproof bays for testing of aircraft engines. That ought to have been done long ago. On looking at the record I found that I spoke about this problem when I first came into the Parliament in 1959. I spoke about it also in 1960 and in every year since. I know that my colleague the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Cope) has been speaking about it and that the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. O’Connor) and various other honorable members on the Opposition side have also spoken about it. I know, too, that some Government supporters have spoken of this problem. Here we are, after at least seven years of representation, being told that the Department has now bit upon the idea of making greater use of noise suppressor cells.
– The honorable member does not’ think the Department is moving too rapidly?
– No, it ls not moving too rapidly. Those moving rapidly are the people who are moving out of the district if they can do so, and have to sell their houses at very much below average prices because of this nuisance. That is the only rapid movement I can see. One would have thought it would have been the most obvious thing in the world to seek out sites on which to establish noiseproof testing bays.
The Minister said that the Department is examining the possibility of fitting noise suppression units for use in ground maintenance running of engines while they are in the aircraft. This, too, would have been a most obvious measure to take years ago. It would have staved off a lot of the pain and suffering that have been caused to many residents. I tell those who might have some doubts on this very important issue that I have had testimony from people in my electorate that young children have rushed out of the house in fear and dived under trees to escape what they thought was a great monstrous bird going overhead. That might sound an exaggeration, but unfortunately these aircraft can, and do, have terrifying effects on young children. If any honorable member wants to check on this I am willing to take him along to meet any number of the residents in my electorate. People in the Brighton-le-sands area could give firsthand evidence of just what terrifying effects the noise of engines testing has.
The Minister went on to say that this idea is regarded as very promising and that he expects a report on it within a few months. After six years the Minister is still only “expecting” a report on the fitting of noise suppression units to engines in the aircraft. This idea would have occurred to any modern department long ago. The Minister said that no immediate hope for the development of acceptable in-flight noise suppressors can be expected. Once again I say that the Minister’s statement today does not give much additional comfort to those of us who have been earnestly hoping for some relief. One thing, apart from these most obvious things, that we might have hoped for was that something could be done to reduce the noise caused by aircraft flying overhead. Here the Minister can give us no expectation of relief at all. All he says is that every legitimate effort is being made to find a solution to the problem of aircraft noise. We wish the Minister and his Department every good fortune in their search for a solution, because the noise is a confounded nuisance to the people who live in the area concerned.
– What about the Tullamarine airport?
– I have heard a lot of complaints from Tullamarine about this problem. I will make no bones about it; I was not in favour of the extension of Mascot Airport. My representations right from the start were for the establishment of a second international airport - the international airport of Sydney - right outside the residential area altogether. The honorable member for McMillan (Mr.
Buchanan), is trying to interject. He very seldom speaks in the House at all, except by way of interjection. I would have much preferred to have an airport for Sydney constructed well outside the residential area. This is not such an outlandish idea. Most modern cities have this setup. The main airport at Rome is 28 miles outside the city with a fast through traffic expressway with no cross traffic at all. Cars can conveniently speed along that trafficway at 60 miles an hour, and I daresay they would not take much longer to get to their airport than it takes to go out through the smelly traffic route from Sydney to Sydney (Kingsford Smith) Airport. They would not have to go through dreadful smells on the way out. At London Airport a big overpass takes traffic to the airport on the outskirts of the city. These are things that could have been done but unfortunately that decision has been taken away from us now and I suppose it will not be available to us for some time in the future, if ever.
There was one specific complaint on which the Minister did not touch. Even when aircraft use the so called preferred flight pathway out over Botany Bay - I am talking about the Sydney (Kingsford-Smith) Airport mainly, I must confess - I am told by those who keep a close watch on these things, that the aircraft take off over the Bay and then make a sharp banking turn and come back over the residential areas in order to take the shortest route possible to their destination. The pilots are not prepared to take the aircraft further out to sea in order to gain height but turn back and pass over the residential areas. These steep banks cause an even greater noise volume over the very areas they are supposed to be bypassing. I should like the Minister to have a look at this particular problem. The procedure I have described is more economical, of course, from the operator’s point of view; less time is involved and so less fuel is used.
Another matter that the Minister did not refer to is the practice in some other countries of paying compensation to people who suffer noise nuisance of this kind. In some cases relief is given by providing sound proofing for the homes of persons affected by the noise. Relief could be given in this way in public utility buildings such as town halls, schools and hospitals. The Minister says that we are gaining great advantages from the airline industry by way of the development of commerce and of various industries such as the tourist industry, but the fact is that some people in the community have to pay a terrific price in order that the community as a whole may gain these advantages. These people, although a small section of the community, have to endure great hardships and loss of property value. It is up to the community as a whole to compensate this small section. Where it can be shown that a loss of property value has occurred because of noise, vibration, disturbance of telephone conversations or radio and television reception, the persons concerned should be given compensation. Facilities should be extended to enable them to make and substantiate their claims. The Minister did not talk about this. I hope that any claims of this nature will bc viewed sympathetically by the Government and that facilities will be provided to assist people in making such claims.
The Minister held out some prospect of a lessening of the problem by the extension of the north-south runway at Mascot. It is quite true that there will be a reduction because more planes will be taking off and, perhaps to a lesser extent, landing along the north-south runway when the extension has been completed at the end of next year. But I do not want to go over the old ground again. One of the strong points made by the pilots’ association and by various people in the know is that if the north-south runway had been extended to 10,000 feet instead of 8,500 feet there would have been a very much greater alleviation of the difficulties and a substantially greater reduction of the noise nuisance. A very much greater number of planes would be able to use the northsouth runway if it were extended to 10,000 feet instead of 8,500 feet as it is at present proposed. Prevailing winds will still restrict the use of the north-south runway even when it is extended. This is acknowledged and is well known. Here again the people about whom I am concerned could have been saved a great deal of distress if the longer runway extensions had been proceeded with. This is not to speak in any way of the question of danger that was debated previously - the possibility of crashes and so on. That is an entirely different reason for supporting any extension of the runway to 10,000 feet.
Even after the proposed extension is completed I am told that many aircraft coming in to land on this north-south runway will be approaching from the northern aspect, which will bring them over quite thickly populated residential areas.
– Such as Marrickville.
– Marrickville will be in the line of approach, as will many other fairly crowded residential areas. This is my prophecy, based on pretty expert opinion: The proposed extension of the north-south runway will not bring as much alleviation of the noise problem as some people expect, lt seems to me that there will still be a great deal of noise. The Department of Civil Aviation has plans even now for the duplication of the east-west runway, which is the one that is now taking many aircraft which take off in the westerly direction and come in to land from that direction. These aircraft go over many parts of my electorate, such as Kogarah, Rockdale, Ramsgate and Sans Souci. J believe these aircraft are a nuisance in suburbs as far away as Cronulla. This east-west runway leads planes out and brings them in over those districts, and it is proposed that this runway be duplicated by the late 1970’s or early 1980’s. This proposal does not seem to me to signify any reduction of the use of the runway. On the contrary, it indicates that we will be back to full use of the present east-west runway and will be using in addition the duplicated runway to be built alongside it. All in all, I cannot see in the Minister’s statement much comfort for the people who were expecting a dramatic indication that something big was about to be done to overcome their difficulties.
I conclude by remarking that the measures indicated by the Minister are only those that we would have expected to be taken to their fullest possible extent five or seven years ago. Only now is the Government talking about plans and proposals to extend the use of these soundproof bays and to use more noise suppressor cells. I know what a battle I had, on behalf of the constituents of Brighton le Sands, to persuade the Department to put noise suppressors on the dredge operating in Botany Bay. After all these years we are only just talking about measures that ought to have been taken long ago. I sincerely hope that this is not the last we will hear about this matter and that the Minister will be able to offer us much more hope than his statement today has given us.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Stokes) adjourned.
Assent to the following Bills reported -
Aliens Bill 1966.
Migration Bill 1966.
Nationality and Citizenship Bill 1966.
– I have received a letter from the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Collard) proposing that a definite matter of public importance be submitted to the House for discussion, namely -
The failure of the Government to proceed with the next stage of the Ord River Irrigation Project as requested by the Western Australia Government. f call upon those members who approve of the proposed discussion to rise in their places. (More than the number of members required by the Standing Orders having risen in their places) -
.- lt is almost three years, Mr. Speaker, since Sir Robert Menzies, as Prime Minister of Australia, opened the diversion dam on the Ord River and expressed what was then taken to be his complete confidence in the scheme. A little less than 12 months later, the Federal Government received a request from the Government of Western Australia for financial assistance for the further development of the project. Despite the Prime Minister’s previous words of encouragement to push ahead with this scheme, it was another 12 months before he eventually got around to making a statement about the matter. It is now 12 months since that statement was made and we still do not know what the Government intends to do. First, it required further information from the Western Australian Government, and this was supplied. Then it awaited the results of further farming experience in the area. It has now had the benefit of that experience and has had ample time to analyse crop results, but still no announcement has been made.
In the meantime, of course, we have heard or read reports of some Government members supporting the scheme. Let me say here and now that I firmly believe the Minister for National Development (Mr. Fairbairn) is one of those who support it. Unfortunately, however, other Government members strongly oppose the project. It would seem that at this time those against the scheme have the numbers in the Cabinet or in the party room, or in both, and no doubt this is the real reason for the long delay in announcing a decision. 1 hope that no member on the Government side will new suggest that still further information or experience of crop results is required, because I remember quite well that when 1 said 12 months ago that the wording of the Prime Minister’s statement could indicate an indefinite delay the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Cleaver), speaking on behalf of the Government, said not only that it was ridiculous to suggest such a thing but also that it was only a case of waiting until the result of a further season’s cotton crop was analysed. I would like to remind the House that it is almost 12 months since the crop referred to by the honorable member for Swan was harvested, and also that this was, as I shad show later, a very good crop. The Government has certainly had ample time to analyse those crop results.
The delay by the Government in making a decision or, if it has made a decision, its delay in making an announcement is causing a great deal of concern, unrest and uncertainty in the minds of people not only in the immediate vicinity of the project but over the whole of Western Australia and indeed the whole of Australia. Therefore, as this is definitely a matter of public importance, we are bringing it to the attention of the House with a view to obtaining some clarification of the Government’s attitude. This concern, unrest and uncertainty of which I speak stems from the fact that most people have come to look upon the Ord River project as the best indicator of the Government’s interest and future intentions in respect of northern development generally. This continual delay in announcing a decision on the request for further finance, coupled with some recent comments by Government supporters, particularly the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Anthony), who was reported as recently as last month to have expressed some doubts about the economics of the Ord River project, has not indicated any great enthusiasm or anxiety on the part of the Government to push ahead with the scheme. In fact, it is seen as further reluctance by the Government to accelerate development of northern areas of Western Australia and northern areas generally.
Government supporters who participate in the debate may claim that because of certain activity in the north there is no substance in what I have said. If they are honest they must agree that practically everything that is taking place in the north of Western Australia is the result of activity by overseas interests or private enterprise and certainly not the result of money invested by the Commonwealth Government or the Western Australian Government. If we disregard for the moment recent activities in relation to iron ore, which must include the construction of railways, ports and houses, there would be very little left other than the Ord representing development over recent years by the Government in an effort to open and populate the north. But it does not matter what the position is with regard to iron ore or whether the Government has invested money in developing the north. None of these things alters the fact that there is no valid reason for not pushing ahead with the Ord River scheme. The request for further finance should be met.
When considering the request, three points should be kept in mind. Too often these have been overlooked or not given the consideration that they warrant. First it must be remembered that this is not an initial request. About $13 million has already been spent on the project. About $13 million of public money has been invested. Surely this means something. The Government would not suggest that the expenditure of that amount has been a gamble. Surely the Government must have been satisfied, almost to the point of complete certainty, that the scheme would be a success. From the outset the Government knew that if the scheme succeeded, further finance would be needed in the near future to complete the project. So its decision in the first place must have been based, not only on whether the project was worthy of an expenditure of $13 million initially, but also whether it was worthy of eventual expenditure of S60 million.
This brings me to the second point. When asking for further finance to complete the project. Western Australia did not suggest that the money should be made available immediately or in a lump sum. It asked for it to be made available over 14 or 15 years; in other words, that the money be made available at the rate of about S4 million a year. This is important because the Commonwealth Government should have been almost certain that the scheme would be a success and should now be firmly convinced that it will be a success. As an amount of only $4 million a year is involved, there is no reason why the request should not be granted immediately.
Now we come to the third point, which must be the most important because it is upon this point that the Government depends to support its reasons for delay. So I direct the attention of the House to the fact that the results and experiences gained from the first stage of the project are not the only results relating to the growing of cotton in the area that are available to the Government or upon which the Government has been required to base a decision. Research at a cost of about $2 million has been carried out for about 20 years at the Kimberley Research Station, which is situated at the Ord and from which has come some very valuable information. With the experience and information available from that source, both before and since the Ord project was commenced, the Government should have been in a position well before now to arrive at a final conclusion.
Now let us see what the former Prime Minister gave on 5th May last year as the Government’s reasons for not making a decision. His reasons are set out in only eight lines of “ Hansard “. They are - . . the Government considers that more detailed information needs to be known about such issues as the profitability of cotton production, the ability of the farmer to control insect pests which apparently abound in the area, and the behaviour of these tropical soils after intensive production has been commenced.
Those were the Prime Minister’s reasons and this is why I say that my third point about the Kimberley Research Station, which has been functioning for so long at the Ord, is very important. My colleague, the honorable member for Dawson (Dr. Patterson), who before entering this Parliament was in charge of the Northern Division of the Department of National Development, no doubt will spend some of the short time available to him in the debate in dealing with the reasons given for the Government’s delay. I am sure that honorable members on both sides of the House will agree that nobody in this place is more competent to do this than is the honorable member for Dawson. However, I wish to make a few comments myself on those reasons. We must assume that the reasons given by the former Prime Minister for the Government’s delay were the only reasons or the major reasons, so, if they could be satisfied, the request for finance would be agreed to. That being so, let us examine the first reason - that of profitability of cotton production. The right honorable gentleman must surely have been referring to production of cotton per acre as against cost of production per acre. I assume that he was not concerned about prices or markets, because the statement refers only to yields and farms and at no stage mentions market avenues, bounties or anything of that nature. It was previously estimated that the break even yield would be between 1,450 lb. and 1,500 lb. of seed cotton per acre. This figure was based on lint only and did not take into consideration return from such things as cotton seed oil or cotton seed cake. This being so, the Government surely can have no reason for concern at this point of time. It has had the experience of the Ord River Research Station and the experience of 1964 when, with only five farms and little if any practical experience, satisfactory results, having regard to the circumstances, were obtained.
Last year from 20 farms and 5,400 acres there was an average yield of 2,018 lb. of seed cotton per acre, with 2,900 lb. as the highest yield. The total value of the production was about $1,200,000. With an average production cost of $140 per acre, the results show a return of about $82 per acre over cost of production. Cotton picking this year will commence within a couple of weeks and it is expected that from 8,400 acres embracing 28 farms the result will be equal to if not better than that of last year, notwithstanding some severe weed infestation. Surely these results should have been sufficient to overcome the first reason for delay given by the former Prime Minister, which was profitability of cotton production.
With regard to the second reason given by the Government - that of insect control - it should be sufficient to refer to the experience of last’ year and to point out that control this year has been even more effective. It should be clear that although pests are certainly plentiful in the area, they are being handled very effectively. The third and last reason given by the Government was the possibility of the soil breaking down after intensive cropping. This concern should never have arisen but, when it did, it should have been quickly satisfied. There could be reason for concern only if the farmers at the Ord intended to use the same ground each year for cotton and never to return any nitrogen to the soil by way of nitrogenous fertiliser. This, of course, was never intended, and fertiliser costs have always been taken into consideration as being a normal part of production costs. Certainly at this stage there should be no concern about the lack of nitrogen in the soil and a resultant’ breakdown in the condition of the soil.
Even if two years ago, or even if before last year’s cotton crop was harvested - and I remind the House that the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Cleaver) was quite insistent that it was only the result from that crop that was required - the Government felt that it had good reason to delay a decision, it certainly cannot claim today that there is any reason for any further delay. I hope that this discussion will be not only the means whereby the Minister will give some explanation of the delay but will also enable him to make the announcement that so many people have been awaiting for so long. I hope also that some of those on the Government side who oppose the scheme will rise and give reasons for so doing, because it seems that it is not those in support who control the issue but those who are against the scheme. Let those who oppose the scheme answer the comments of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation which last September said that it should be possible to obtain seed cotton yields of up to 4,500 lb. an acre and of Keith Gorey, who said that eve: the biggest pessimist could see the bright prospects and the area’s great potential. The Minister is reported as having waxed enthusiastic about the scheme, but apparently he does not have sufficient support; so even if he convinces us that he is all for the scheme that will not alter the fact that he is surrounded by knockers. These are the people who should speak iti this debate to let everyone know where they stand and why they are taking that attitude. If the reasons given by the then Prime Minister last year are the only reasons for delay, they certainly will not bear examination today.
– 1 have much sympathy for the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Collard) because 1 know that he is anxious to see the Ord project go ahead. He has taken a considerable interest in it, but I am afraid that he does not realise fully the assessment that must be undertaken before a major multimillion dollar project of this nature is committed. If it were not for the present Commonwealth Government there would be no development of any sort on the Ord River, because three quarters of the money spent on the present diversion dam was spent by the Commonwealth Government - £6.1 million out of a total of £8 million. We have spent over a million dollars on the Kimberley research station to make certain that when we did go ahead with cotton production on the Ord it would be produced in the best possible manner. That station has also been looking at many other items that might be produced in the area. Lastly, of course, the present Government is paying a $4 million a year bounty for cotton production. Without these three factors there would have been no development at all. This does not mean that because we have proved cotton can be grown there the taxpayers of Australia automatically should be asked to produce $70 million to enable the construction of the major dam. The Commonwealth Government has insisted right through that it should not lend money to the State until it has made every possible assessment and concluded that this is an economic project.
I am indebted to the honorable member for Kalgoorlie for reading portion of the statement of the then Prime Minister last year when the Government said it would not immediately proceed to finance the building of the big dam on the Ord. I quote what Sir Robert Menzies said on that occasion - . . the establishment of a relatively large permanent population in such an area is a matter of great importance. Despite the agricultural and engineering research work that has been undertaken over the years, the Government considers that more detailed information needs to be known about such issues as the profitability of cotton production, the ability of the farmer to control insect pests which apparently abound in the area, and the behaviour of these tropical soils after intensive production has been commenced.
He went on to say that the result of the 1965 season on the Ord would throw more light on these questions. At that time that was a reasonable attitude, because what did we have? We had the results of five farmers, one pilot farm and two part time share farmers who had been producing cotton there for one year. Obviously it was impossible to draw any really accurate conclusion from the results. Much has happened since this time last year when the Government made that decision. First, the number of farmers in the Ord area last year increased from 5 to 20. This year there are some 25 commercial and full time farmers and another four part time farmers. The acreage has increased considerably - not only the acreage on each individual farm, which has risen by about 56 acres in acreage, but the total sown, which has increased from 1,632 acres last year to 8,396 acres in the current season. The seed cotton yield has gone up considerably from 1,350 lb. an acre to just on 2,000 lb. an acre.
Last year there was a sale of by-products to Japan. The producers were not able to reap the full benefit of that sale because there were considerable costs between farm and export which if this were a regular thing would perhaps have been far less. The United States of America has a new policy on cotton. This is most important, because it must have a big effect on the decision whether or not to proceed with the Ord scheme. There have been increased farm costs which have been mostly associated with the increased costs of spraying for the various pests that unfortunately abound in the Ord area, but luckily this spraying has been worth while because the pests have been controlled better. A new type of pesticide has become available. Although farm costs have increased by 18 per cent, the returns have increased by more than that percentage.
Over and above all this is the question of the future of cotton on the world market. We have to realise that if the major dam on the Ord is to proceed the production must be for export. We do not want the export production to be subsidised by the Australian taxpayer. We have to export at, at least the world price with no bounty. The world market is dominated by the United States, which exports by far the largest quantity of cotton of any country. The United States does subsidise its exports. We are told that if we want to get into the export trade, provided we can export without a subsidy there is no reason why there should be any difficulty: but if we have to pay a subsidy we will undoubtedly face some criticism - certainly from the less developed countries - for reducing the availability of markets to the less developed countries by subsidising our export.
The honorable member for Kalgoorlie said that he believed that the present production of the Ord was profitable. He quoted Sir Robert Menzies as saying that the Government wanted to know more about the profitability of cotton production: We want to know the profitability of cotton production for the export market without a subsidy. That is the difference. It is no good saying that because we can get 1,400 lb. of seed cotton an acre on the Ord, that’ is all right.
– We do not put that test’ on other industries.
– I will give figures later to show that the Ord production must be related to exports. We apply the test to wool, wheat and other primary industries. There are three aspects related to the Ord that’ have to be looked at closely before a final decision is made. The Government was right in delaying its decision until it could find out more about cotton growing on the Ord. Another aspect was the engineering side of the scheme. We know that the site for the dam is undoubtedly the best site for any major dam in Australia and that not only does the area have a regular rainfall - the annual monsoon - but that, for a small dam, a tremendous volume of water can be stored. Even so, the request of the Western Australian Government has been checked by the investigational authorities of the Snowy Mountains Authority who have said that they believe that the Western Australian Government’s estimate on this aspect was low. They have given us increased figures which give us a better idea of the total amount of money that will be required for the whole project. 1 mentioned the yield. This is the second aspect about which we need to know more. We believe that it should be possible in the not too distant future to have yields of about 3,000 lb. of seed cotton per acre in the Ord district. In fact, last year, growers in the Namoi Valley produced an average yield of 2,700 lb. and I am led to believe that the crop now being harvested will show a higher yield and may be over the 3,000 lb. mark. Admittedly, this is the fifth year of cotton growing in the Namoi Valley and the growers in the Ord area have harvested only two major crops in the field. Their experimental crops, of course, are averaging 3,000 lb. and in one experiment reached 4,500 lb. However, as all honorable members know, there is a big difference between what can be grown experimentally and what can be grown in the large, open fields. Again, 1 think we can say that more must be known about cotton production, particularly how to increase yields per acre. This seems to be the deciding factor. If we intend to export without a bounty we must get high yields. If we get low yields, either we do not export or the Government is saddled for ever with a bounty. This has happened on some other occasions.
Lastly, I come to the outlook for cotton generally, both in Australia and throughout the world. There has been a tremendous and rapid growth in local production. Some of this has been due to production in the Ord area, but most of it has been due to production in the Namoi Valley. In 1964, we produced 12,000 bales; in 1965, 48,000 bales; and in 1966, 85,000 bales. In other words, production has increased sevenfold in the last two years in Australia. It is estimated that, if the Namoi district and the area served by, the present Ord diversions dam are built up to their full production capacity, we will be able to produce about 130,000 bales by 1970. This is about the requirement in Australia. Perhaps it is slightly above our requirement. The domestic requirement is now 125,000 bales and it may grow slightly. By about 1970, the area served by the Ord diversion dam, and the Namoi Valley, could grow all the cotton that is required locally. This is, of course, an over-simplification, because we will export some cotton and we will import some. This happens with many other products. We even import wool because we want certain wool for carpet making. We import and export rice, and this will happen with cotton. Nearly all our cotton is grown under irrigation. It would be long cotton of well over 1 inch middling, and we would have to import some of the poorer types of cotton while we were selling the better types overseas. Basically, what I have said is correct. By 1970, we will be able to meet our requirements without the major dam.
The area served by the major dam, when completed, would be capable of producing 200,000 bales, and this would have to be sold. I think it could be sold on the overseas market at a good price. However, the Americans have recently decided on a new policy which we believe will cut the world price by from 10 to 16 per cent. This policy has been implemented basically to try to reduce the acreage of cotton grown in the United States. This is a good idea because the Americans have vast surpluses. The position is unsatisfactory because whereas the Americans heavily subsidise cotton for export we are told that we must meet an export price without a subsidy. The Americans adopt this policy with other commodities besides cotton. There is no major temperate agricultural commodity produced by the Americans that is not either subsidised for export or protected by quantitative import restrictions. I believe that the Americans now have a wonderful opportunity to open up a little and show that they are in favour of freer trade and will not swamp other countries that want to ge ahead and produce more cotton or other commodities.
If we go ahead with the full production at the Ord, we will still be producing only a minute proportion of the entire quantity of cotton produced in the world. It would be about .4 per cent, of world production. Even if we exported our entire surplus from the Ord, it would be less than 1 per cent, of total world exports. The Japanese imports of cotton are equal to the amount that could be grown on possibly 3 million acres. In this context, we can see that the quantity we could grow would be very small. I bring these facts forward to show that we still have much to learn. It is all very well to say that the Commonwealth has at hand now every fact that it needs. This is not always so. We cannot rush in to commit $70 million, in addition to the amount we have already committed. We must know the full facts, we must make an assessment and we must determine what the future of cotton profitability will be. When this is done, the Government will be in a much better position to make a decision, and I hope it will be able to do so soon.
.- In the time allotted to me in this debate, it is not possible to deal with the whole of the case for the Ord river project. However, I shall concern myself with some of the statements made by the Minister for National Development (Mr. Fairbairn) and at the same time put forward some arguments in support of the contention that a decision on this project should be reached immediately. I must at once challenge a statement made by the Minister. The Minister said that up to the present £8.4 million has been invested, £6.1 million having been provided by the Commonwealth. He said that the Government is not going ahead immediately with the project because it wants time to make a full assessment. In other words, a full assessment must be made before a multi-million project is undertaken. This is an inconsistent argument. If this is the reason for the Government’s refusal to go ahead now, why did it agree with the Ord project in the first place? The Western Australia Grant (Northern Development) Act of 1958 provides -
The State may request the Commonwealth to approve … a project in relation to the development of the northern part of the State, and the Treasurer may . . . approve the project on behalf of the Commonwealth.
It also provides -
The Treasurer shall exercise his powers under the last preceding sub-section with a view to ensuring that moneys are provided under this Act only in relation to projects which he is satisfied will contribute to the development of the northern part of the State. . . .
I know that the Minister did not hold his present portfolio when this Act was introduced. If the Government had any doubts about the Ord River project, it should never have commenced the project in the first place. To use the same argument, if the Minister is consistent, where is the economic analysis of the Blowering Dam? Where is the economic analysis of the Gordon River project in Tasmania? Where is the economic and benefit cost analysis of the rail standardisation schemes? Where is it for the Chowilla Dam and others? Where is it for the preliminary Ord River project itself? It is a very strange thing that any project dealing with northern Australia, whether it relates to beef roads, brigalow lands, the Ord River project or irrigation, must have this fine-tooth comb treatment and delaying action attributed to it all the time.
Certainly there are more risks - we all know that - and possibly this is a major argument; but it does not seem to me to be consistent, now that £8.4 million has been spent, that we should have to listen to further arguments to justify delay by the Government. What more have the Ord people to do? What more have they to put forward to the Commonwealth? On the engineering side, in the Ord River area the constructional activities in storage are among the cheapest in Australia. 1 believe that that project is the cheapest which has ever been constructed and possibly the cheapest which will be constructed as a major water storage project. It always amuses me when people compare, for example, the Narrabri area with the Ord. They conveniently forget to take into account the capital cost of the Keepit headworks at £33 per acre foot which must be compared with £2.6 per acre foot for the Ord project. It is no good saying that the Keepit Dam was constructed primarily for stock water because anybody with economic training knows that all uses of water must be taken into account - not just one or two uses. I refer now to reticulation channels and the irrigation areas of the Ord scheme. Between 170,000 and 200,000 acres are suitable for irrigation within close proximity of the major dam and the diversion dam. This means, of course, a very low wastage of water, compared with the Burrinjuck M.I.A. complex where 25 per cent, of water is lost, or the Coleambally project where 40 per cent, of water is lost.
We have heard arguments about the soil deficiencies in the Ord River area. 1 prefer to take the advice of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation and departments of agriculture which state that the naturally low nitrogen status of the Kununurra clay is not important and that economic applications of nitrogen will improve the soil. So far as the cotton yields are concerned, what more have farmers in the Ord area to do to prove themselves? They have already achieved an average yield of 2,000 lb. of seed cotton per acre and they will get a higher average this year unless something unforeseen happens. This is always a possibility with farming. But the latest indications are that these high figures will be achieved this year. Surrounding the Ord River project is a built-in cattle industry with very high annua] losses. The feeding of high protein by-products to the breeders must result in a reduction of the high cattle mortality. Similarly, there are prospects for sorghum. The Minister did not mention the possibilities for sorghum and the marketing outlook for coarse grains in the Asian markets.
The cost of production of cotton at the Ord scheme may be compared with costs in the United States of America, lt is my firm belief that we can produce cotton in Australia as cheaply as it is produced in the United States of America, provided that we can obtain consistently average yields of from 2,000 lb. to 2,500 lb. of seed cotton per acre. Whether cotton can be produced at the Ord competitively with Narrabri is a question of yield, principally. Narrabri certainly has had some excellent yields, but there have been some very poor yields. I believe that this year farmers at Narrabri will have a record yield of perhaps even more than 3,000 lb. of seed cotton per acre. However, if there is no rain before next October practically no cotton will be grown next year at Narrabri. One point about the monsoons in the Ord River area and the northern part of Australia generally is that they are extremely reliable. It is an accepted fact that the monsoonal areas in the north and the snow country are the best areas for irrigation because of reliability of water flow.
The Minister dealt with the outlook for cotton and the possibility of production at export prices. Let us accept one fact of life: If the bounty on cotton is completely removed cotton may not be grown in northern New South Wales because it may be more profitable to grow something else. This is simply the law of comparative advantage. However, the Ord River area is one region where, like the northern beef cattle areas and northern Queensland with its sugar industry, there are very few alternatives because of the lack of local markets. In this respect it is unlike an area such as Narrabri which has a local market in Sydney. I believe that there is room in Australia for the satisfactory production of cotton at Narrabri, in central Queensland and on the Ord because of the close proximity to the tremendous raw cotton market in Japan which was mentioned by the Minister. He said: “ We are told that we cannot export cotton if there is a bounty.” He did not say who told him. This is quite contrary to the advice that I have been given. The advice that I have is that if the Americans persist in putting on an export subsidy, we are also entitled to have a cotton bounty which would be equivalent to the effect on the world price of cotton resulting from the American bounty. In a developing country like Australia there is every reason why we should not run away from the problem of exporting cotton merely because of a subsidy by the United States of America. In conclusion I simply ask: Is it any wonder that the Ord people arc cynical? ls it any wonder that the people of Western Australia are cynical? If 1 were the Minister, when I went into the Cabinet room I would take some explosive ingredient to try to wake up some of my colleagues. If the Minister does not awaken his colleagues, a few electorates in Western Australia may be awakened by the people of Western Australia at the next general election.
.- The motion which we are debating is to the effect that it is. an urgent matter that the Ord River project be developed. Nothing which has been said on the Opposition side and nothing which I have heard or read has convinced me that this is a matter of urgency. As the Minister for National
Development (Mr. Fairbairn) has said, there is a great deal to be learned about the Ord River scheme. I heartily commend the Government for its caution in not going bull-headed at this matter and wasting the taxpayers’ money on what possibly could be a fiasco without first examining every detail. The Government has a sense of responsibility to the taxpayer. It is a very easy matter to spend the taxpayers’ money, but I am proud that the Government is sufficiently responsible to put up with the opprobrium of such irresponsibles as the honorable member for Dawson (Dr. Patterson) rather than waste the taxpayers’ money, lt is waiting to see what should be done.
Let us analyse what was said here today by the honorable member for Dawson. He has shown us that he knows the names of a very great number of dams. I congratulate him for this encyclopaedic knowledge, but I do not really think that he has taken us very far along the path to seeing why this is a matter of urgency. He asked why the Government agreed to go ahead with the Ord River project in the first place if there were doubts as to its practicability. The answer to that is obvious to anyone and I think it is obvious to the honorable member for Dawson. The exciting possibility is that here we may be able to engage iti large scale agriculture in tropical regions of Australia. But does that automatically mean that we should sink vast millions of the taxpayers’ money into a scheme before the full practicability of the scheme has been developed? Let us consider this matter of the soils, for example. I am afraid that the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Collard) had his wires a little crossed. He must be a little mixed up between the actual nitrogen deficiency in the soil and the soil chemistry. No-one knows what will happen to the soils in the Ord River region after prolonged and intensive cropping under flood irrigation. This remains to be seen. 1 admit that nitrogen or anything else can be poured into the soil, but that does not tell us what will happen to the soils. It could be that they will react adversely and that the scheme will founder purely as a result of these soils.
The honorable member for Dawson admitted that there are more risks in the Ord River scheme than in any other, ls the Government to be criticised if there are more risks, as the honorable member says, and it delays until it has as much data as possible on this subject? Is there an urgent need to settle people in the Ord River region? Have we a deal of unemployment in this country? Have we run out of land? ls there no other land that can be developed cheaply? Could we not spend $60 million of the taxpayers’ money to greater advantage on something else? I put it to the House that there is a possibility that this money could be - I do not say at the moment that it should be - spent to better effect by subsidising a steel industry in northern Australia. No one can say that the development of this area of Australia will be slowed down simply by not going ahead with the Ord River scheme. There is tremendous development going on in north western Australia. It is development beyond the imagination of anyone in this House 10 years ago. The Ord River scheme is relatively insignificant. At a liberal estimate, even when it is fully developed it probably will not support more than 1,500 people. A fully integrated steel industry would provide for more than that number in almost no time at all, as everyone in this chamber knows.
The honorable member for Dawson then went on to tell us this old fairy story about feeding beef cattle in this area on cotton seed cake or some such product. This is utter fantasy. I feel quite weak every time I hear people put forward this sort of nonsense. We all know that in present circumstances cattle are being raised in the Ord River region on the open range system. How on earth can they be fed cotton seed cake under that system of grazing? How often will it be fed to them? Who will feed it to them? How could we ensure that the beasts that come first on the scene would not be the only ones to get any cake? The whole proposition obviously is utterly impracticable. The honorable member, in his book on the feasibility of the Ord River scheme, stated that cartage costs for the delivery of cotton seed cake were estimated to be SIO a ton. That expenditure on cartage would not get’ it even half way to the Northern Territory border. So I cannot see how the proposal could be put into effect. The whole thing is fantasy. Admitedly, cattle could be kept alive, but the more beasts were kept alive the more money would be lost.
I put it to the House that if the object is to feed cattle we should put the money into Townsville lucerne. The honorable member, in his book, said that there was every sign that there will be stagnancy in the northern Australian cattle industry for many days yet to come. He can correct me if I am wrong in saying this. He knows that this also is untrue. He knows that the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation is actively engaged in searching for suitable pasture plants for northern Australia. We already know that Townsville lucerne on its own would help to carry cattle through the lean time in the dry season. If we are looking for export income from the area apart from export earnings from iron ore, there is no doubt that the use of Townsville lucerne would certainly enable us to produce and market an export commodity the price of which can be guaranteed for years to come. This is more than can be said of cotton.
The problem of proceeding to the next phase of the Ord River scheme, as the Minister for National Development has said, raises the question of export markets. We know that one can never rely on the export prices of commodities such as cotton which are produced in other countries and sold by them at lower competitive prices than the price at which we can sell. We have seen what has happened to sugar, that important commodity produced in the Dawson electorate, because we have no control over its export price. Would the honorable member subject the Australian people to the possibility of having to pay heavy subsidies on yet another product whose future prices are completely unpredictable? We know that it is hopeless for us to produce cotton for export without a government subsidy. I take exception to the proposition that the taxpayers should be subjected to the risk of having to pay another subsidy, because I regard their money as sacrosanct. We should not waste money on subsidies when it can be spent to better advantage developing the country more satisfactorily by the use of more prudent methods.
I believe that these considerations should cause us to pause, especially since we know already, as I am sure will be mentioned later in this debate, that cotton is produced in another region of Australia far more economically than it can be produced in the Ord River region. The honorable member for Dawson, in a paper prepared by him when he was an officer of the Department of National Development, readily admitted that cotton was produced more economically in another region of Australia. I believe that the propriety of spending the taxpayers’ money on subsidising the growing of a crop in one region when it can be grown more economically in another is rather doubtful.
In relation to the Ord River scheme I have other doubts also. They are far more numerous than time will allow me to discuss. However, I shall mention the problem of siltation in the proposed large dam. The honorable member for Dawson, in a paper that he prepared, stated that silt precipitation was estimated at about 12,500 acre feet a year. That may be true of the small diversion dam with large sluice gates, but it is certainly not by any stretch of the imagination true of a large dam such as the one now projected for construction at the only feasible site in the area. Admittedly, it may provide water storage very economically, but it will not be of much use if it silts up quickly. No one knows how quickly it will silt up. However, 1 suggest that the Ord River area is a region par excellence for every form of siltation that the mind of man can conceive. In fact, by the simple dunking of a bottle, which apparently is the method used in the area, investigators have found that there is 2 per cent, of silt in the water. That figure does not take any account of the bed load that rolls along the bottom of the stream. So the problem of siltation should bc considered more closely.
I think I have demonstrated that there are many complex problems in relation to the Ord River scheme. For example, there is the problem of alternative crops, which I have not time to discuss this afternoon. Perhaps the honorable member for Dawson wants sugar to be grown in the area in opposition to production in his own electorate; I do not know. He may want sorghum to be grown. I believe that more people have gone broke trying to grow sorghum in Australia than one can shake a stick at. I would like to think that the honorable member could successfully contradict that statement, but I am sure that he can not. We owe a serious responsibility to the taxpayers, and I commend the Government on its proposal to investigate the Ord River scheme more carefully.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– Mr. Deputy Speaker, I was amazed to hear the honorable member for Bowman (Dr. Gibbs) chide the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Collard) on raising this subject for discussion as a matter of urgency. The honorable member for Bowman said that he did not see any urgency in the matter. One can only suspect that he has no concern for the development of northern Australia. He apparently believes that the development of the north is not of major importance. He refuses to acknowledge that this is one of the most significant subjects to come before this Parliament for discussion for many a long day. I would like somebody to tell me what is urgent and important if northern development is not. The honorable member for Bowman chided the honorable member for Dawson (Dr. Patterson) on his imperfect knowledge of the ramifications of the Ord River scheme, but I suggest that the Government would have been well advised not to put up the honorable member for Bowman to speak on this subject. Referring to the supplementary feeding of stock, he made the classic statement that the more cattle we keep alive by this means the more money we shall lose. He sard also that the honorable member for Dawson had no conception of the feeding of stock under open range conditions. The honorable member for Bowman apparently thinks that one gets a cake of cotton seed and goes about chasing brahmin bulls trying to feed the takes to them.
– That is not what he said. That is what the honorable member for Dawson said.
– The honorable member for Dawson said nothing of the sort. Under the conditions being discussed, one would store feed, bring in cattle and give them supplementary feed. One would not go chasing beasts about the Ord River area with a piece of cotton seed cake in one hand and possibly a cube of something else in the other. That idea is so utterly ridiculous that possibly one should not even comment on it. Yet it is indicative: of the outlook of the honorable member for Bowman towards a scheme like that in the Ord River region. What was mention :d was a means of supplementary feeding, not a sole means of feeding. Every beast that is kept alive is an asset, not a liability.
– Such a proposal would cost the Government plenty.
– The honorable member may make his contribution later if he wishes. Cattle flourish in this part of the country under natural pasture conditions during the flush season of the year, but, because of lack of nutriment in the feed during the dry season, they lose condition rapidly and the mortality rate then is very high. If, by means of a little supplementary feeding, we were able to save, say, 90 per cent, of the cattle which would otherwise die, much would be done to add to the economic value of the pastoral industry not only in that particular area but throughout the whole of the north of Australia.
The Minister has given us the Government’s views on the payment of a bounty to assist in the sale of cotton overseas. He has virtually declared that the cotton industry can expect no assistance from the Government in its attempts to sell our cotton overseas. He instanced the problems that the Americans pose in this direction. He has pointed out that the Americans are subsidising the production of cotton. Irrespective of what we do, the Americans will continue to encourage by subsidy the export of colton. The Asian countries which are producing cotton have said nothing and they v/ill not say anything about this matter.
Other primary industries are subsidised, if not directly, then certainly indirectly. The cotton industry is entitled to receive some subsidy in its initial development. I feel that in cotton we have an industry which, once it has overcome its teething troubles, will be able to compete successfully with any other cotton growing country in the world. We have certain natural advantages in the north for the growing of this crop. For example, that area enjoys a high annual rainfall. Again, on the Ord River we have the most economical site in the whole of
Australia for the development of a water conservation scheme. This has been pointed out by the honorable member for Dawson and admitted by the Minister for National Development. An irrigation scheme could be developed there cheaper than could be done anywhere else in Australia. Another advantage is that the area is close to the other cotton purchasing nations of the world. The cost of land there is also low. All these advantages add up to the fact that, once developed, this industry can stand on its own feet. And it will do so. Therefore, it is surely deserving of some assistance in the initial stages of its development. It is but the normal procedure for governments to protect and foster local industries in their initial development.
The success of the Ord River scheme is not of interest only to Western Australia; it concerns also the Northern Territory, for which the Commonwealth itself is responsible. One-third of the land to benefit under the scheme lies within the borders of the Northern Territory and about 75 per cent, of the water that will feed the scheme will flow from tributaries which have their sources in the Northern Territory. The allocation of money for the completion of the scheme would represent a direct contribution by the Commonwealth to not only Western Australia but also its own struggling Territory. But, of course, it is hard to get money from the Commonwealth for the development of its own Territories.
Another industry that could be developed successfully on the Ord is rice growing. Indeed, the rapid completion of the Ord River scheme could play a very important part in overcoming some of the problems confronting the valuable rice growing industry. We have in the Northern Territory at least 2 million acres of first class rice growing land. We could and should be growing long grain rice there to meet the requirements of the Asian countries. Rice grown there would in no way compete with the rice grown in the Murrumbidgee irrigation area. We know that certain problems have been encountered in cultivating rice in the north, but the development of the Ord River scheme could do much to enable us to evolve techniques that would overcome the problems associated with the growing of rice not only in this area but right throughout the Northern Territory and in other parts of Australia. This is a national problem and it must be tackled at the earliest possible date.
I repeat that this matter is of great interest not only to the northern part of Western Australia but also to the Northern Territory and to northern Queensland. The hopes of many agricultural projects throughout the whole of north Australia rest on the success of this scheme. After having expended £8.4 million on this project, it would be foolish just to sit down and wait for all the i’s to be dotted and the fs to be crossed. Never in the history of Australian agriculture has every problem been solved before production has begun. Certain calculated risks have to be taken and the governments concerned must have considered the risks involved before expending £8.4 million, of which £6.1 million was provided by the Commonwealth. Governments do not just throw the taxpayer’s money away. If that is what they have done in this instance, then they should be charged with criminal negligence in handling the taxpayers’ funds.
But the governments did not just spend this money negligently or carelessly. The Minister has not told us even yet just what advice he received from the Government instrumentalities about the Ord River scheme. For example, he has not said that the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation has advised the Government against continuing with the project. Nor has he stated that the Western Australian Department of Agriculture has advised that the agricultural problems involved make it unwise to proceed with the scheme. Indeed, 1 should not be at all surprised to learn that both these instrumentalities have strongly urged the Government to continue with its development. The truth of the matter is that the problems involved here are not agricultural problems; they are purely political considerations. The Government is worrying more now about which are the best ways of priming the pump for the pending elections.
– What rot.
– It is not rot. If the honorable gentleman cares lo trace the history of this Government he will find that all its handouts are given on the eve of an election. They are never given out at any other time. That is just what will happen again this time.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I do not for a moment doubt the sincerity of the honorable member of the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) or the other honorable members opposite who have spoken during this debate but it is obvious that there is discord within the ranks of the Labour Party over this issue just as there is discord in its ranks over many other matters of interest to this Parliament.
Let me quote first the words of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) as published in the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ of 21st August last. He is there reported as having said -
Too much attention is being paid lo the wishes and needs of rural areas and too little to the needs of the cities.
Obviously the Deputy Leader of the Opposition does not share the convictions of those honorable members opposite who have spoken during this debate that more money and more attention must be given to the development of natural resources in the rural areas of this continent.
I am a believer in the damming of the Ord River. I believe that the construction of a dam across the Ord River and the full use of the waters of the Ord and its tributaries are necessary tasks for Australia. But I also believe that there are other major tasks for the conservation of water on the cast coast of Australia where there are rapid flowing streams which call for the construction of large storage dams. Dams should be constructed on the Darling River and its tributaries. There is urgent need for the construction of large storage dams on these rivers in eastern Australia, but it is quite plain that, with the resources at its disposal, it is impossible for any Federal Government to carry out all these necessary works simultaneously. So, in addition to an assessment of the value of each particular project, an evaluation must be made of the benefit of one project as against the benefit to be derived from another project. In other words an order of priorities must be established, and it must be established by the Commonwealth Government.
I would like to make a comparison of the main contenders for Commonwealth assistance in this field. The main contenders are those 1 have just enumerated - the Ord River scheme in the north-west of the continent, the scheme for the coastal rivers on the eastern coast of Australia, and the Darling River basin scheme. First, I will rule out the coastal rivers scheme because a discussion of the merits of it would introduce factors which would be a little irrelevant to this discussion. I say that because in very many cases what is needed on the coast is the control of floods rather than the conservation of water for raising production. I will compare the Darling River scheme, and the damming of its tributaries, with the Ord River scheme. The first thing to be observed about the Darling River and its tributaries is, as I have said before in this chamber recently, that this area is the centre of the drought in Australia which has been described, only in the last few days, as grave and grim by the Minister for Agriculture in New South Wales. I may go further and say that the position of many primary producers, if not most primary producers in northern New South Wales and southern Queensland in this Darling River basin is desperate. They are entering a hard winter period now with less cash resources, fewer stock and less prospect of pulling themselves out of trouble than they had last winter. This is a desperate position.
Normally, the Darling River area is highly productive. It produces a diverse range of commodities, ranging from sheep and cattle to the best wheat in Australia. Incidentally, as has been said in this debate, the area produces the greatest yields of cotton following the construction of the Keepit Darn on one. of the tributaries of the Darling River, the Namoi River. The Darling River scheme, which I propounded in this House the other day, differs largely from the Ord River scheme in one particular respect. It must be recognised that farm dams for irrigation purposes in the northern half of New South Wales and western Queensland are impracticable. In areas where there is an evaporation of 8 ft. a year it is impracticable to construct storage dams large enough to permit irrigation for the production of fodder crops or even for growing cash crops on small irrigation plots. Therefore, reliance must be placed in that area upon water which flows down the river channels which can be reticulated or pumped from the channels or which can be drawn from the shallow aquefers which cover a large part of the area. In order to keep the water flowing down the river channels and to permit it to be pumped consistently throughout the year, and throughout the years, it is necessary to build large storage dams on the western slopes. I agree that they are costly but the benefits which are derived as a result of their construction are so wide, so secure and so indefinite in point of time that they represent a substantial gilt edge investment for Australia to make.
The Ord River scheme, by comparison, is a risky venture. It is an attempt at monoculture which is always perilous in a tropical environment remote from the essential services - the infra-structure of the more settled parts of Australia. It is a project which contains hidden costs - costs which do not reveal themselves in surveys made by economists. It is wise for us to proceed with extreme caution on the Ord River scheme. We should bear in mind all these factors that I have mentioned and also past experiences by hard-headed businessmen and by hard-headed agriculturists operating in tropical environments. Remember how much Vestey’s lost in Darwin. Remember what happened with Humpty Doo following the investment of American capital. Remember that the Colonial Sugar Refining Co. Ltd., with all its resources, failed in Fiji with its pineapples. Remember the tea, kapok and paper projects that failed in New Guinea. It is always wise to proceed with caution in agriculture. It is doubly wise to proceed with caution with agriculture in a tropical environment.
We should not, in the interests of Australia, proceed rashly with this scheme on the Ord River. We should act cautiously and move slowly, testing the ground as we go, in the best interests, not only of Australia, but of the people of the north and of the settlement of the north. We want the north to be settled securely. We want it to carry a stable population, a population which will regard the north as home. In order to do that we have to go quietly and carefully, not relying on statistics or benefit analyses, but relying on the actual result of practical experience. I repeat, in eastern Australia we are suffering from one of these cyclic droughts which cost billions of dollars. This is the second one we have had in the Darling River system within 20 years. It calls for the investment of money to protect existing industries. One does not buy a hat when one needs a pair of shoes. One does not buy a yacht when the roof of ones house has blown off. One does first things first. In this instance the first thing to do is to invest in a tried and proven area - the Darling River basin.
.- Mr. Speaker–
Motion (by Mr. Fairbairn) agreed to -
That the business of the day be called on.
Bill presented by Mr. Anthony, and read a first time.
. -I move -
That the Bill be now read a second lime.
The purpose of this Bill is to extend the franchise to persons under 21 years of age who are, or who have been, on special service outside Australia as members of the Defence Force. “ Special service “ in this Bill takes the same meaning as that term in the Repatriation (Special Overseas Service) Act and means, in relation to a person, service during a period when he is outside Australia and he or his unit is allotted for special duty in a special area.
The proposed legislation will entitle under 21 year old members of the Defence Force, who are British subjects, to vote during the period they are outside Australia on special duty in an area declared to be a “ special area “ under the provisions of section 4 of the Repatriation (Special Overseas Service) Act. An under 21 year old person who, at any time, was on special service will retain his right to vote after discharge from the Defence Force, while he is living in Australia. In effect, the new legislation will give the franchise to all under 21 year old members of the Defence Force serving in South Vietnam and the Borneo States of Malaysia and to those members stationed on the Malayan peninsula and in Singapore on special service. It will not extend the franchise to under 21 year old members of the Defence Force on service outside Australia who are not on special service. It might be noted that a member of the Defence Force under 21 years of age was not entitled to vote during the 1939-1945 war until the Commonwealth Electoral (Wartime) Act was amended in 1943 extending the franchise to members of the forces, and to discharged members of the forces, under the age of 21 years who were serving or who had served outside Australia. The existing legislation which gives the right to vote to members of the Defence Forces on service outside Australia who are not less than 21 years of age will remain unaltered.
A member of the Defence Force entitled to vote under the existing or amended provisions of section 39a of the Commonwealth Electoral Act will be required to make an application to a returning officer, to an assistant returning officer or to some other person appointed to issue postal votes. Assistant returning officers will be appointed for this purpose within all large Service units at places outside Australia. The assistant returning officers concerned will be equipped with ballot papers and other necessary voting material and electors will, subject to service conditions, be able to cast their votes at any time after the names of the candidates have been notified and up to the close of the poll. As persons deemed to be electors by virtue of the special provisions relating to members of the Defence Force will not be enrolled, it will be impracticable to take proceedings against them if they do not vote at an election. Accordingly, clause 8 of this Bill excludes those persons from the compulsory voting provisions of the Commonwealth electoral law. The Bill also provides for a number of consequential amendments. I commend the Bill to honorable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Crean) adjourned.
. -I move -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Mr. Speaker, authority to make advances under the existing Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement expires on 30th June this year. The purpose of this Bill is to pave the way for the Commonwealth to continue to make housing advances to the States at a concessional rate of interest for a further period of five years from 1st July next. For this purpose the Bill seeks the approval of the Parliament for the Commonwealth to execute an agreement with the States substantially in accordance with the form contained in the schedule to the Bill and authority for the Treasurer to make housing advances to the States in accordance with the terms and conditions of the executed agreement. the terms and conditions on which the advances would be made under the new Agreement are basically the same as those that now apply under the existing Agreement, The new Agreement has been dratted in the form of a five year extension of the existing Agreement - with certain amendments. This form is preferred by the States for administrative reasons, indeed, the existing Agreement is itself an extension of the 19:>6 Agreement as amended in 1.961. The Minister tor Housing (Senator Dame Annabelie Rankin) has been advised by the Stale Housing Ministers that the substance of the Agreement annexed iO this bill is acceptable to them and that they propose recommending its acceptance by their Governments.
To assist honorable members and to avoid any misunderstanding 1 shall refer hereafter to the new Agreement that is annexed to the Bill as Me “ annexed Agreement “ and to the 1956-1961 Agreement, a copy of which I have circulated to each honorable member, as the “existing Agreement “. The proposed amendments do not disturb the basic principles of the 1956 Agreement. It is worthy of note that these principles have endured the test of time and have recently been affirmed by the present Government after a most searching review of the Commonwealth’s role in the important field of housing.
Mr. Speaker, it is of more than historical interest to compare the principles introduced into the 1956 Agreement by the Menzies Government with those of the 1945 Housing Agreement for which the then Labour Government was responsible. The differences are as wide as the gulf be l ween the political philosophies of the present Government and the Opposition. Whereas the 1945 Agreement imposed conditions that discouraged the purchase of government built houses, the 1956 Agreement facilitated such purchases in consonance with this Government’s policy of home ownership. During the first nine years of the operation of the 1945 Agreement only 3,629 houses were sold. In the first nine years of the operation of the 1956-1961 Agreement a total of almost 40,000 houses were sold.
But the 1956 Agreement went much further in encouraging home ownership. It inaugurated the Home Builders’ Account arrangements to assist the development of the building society movement and to encourage the erection and acquisition of privately built homes. Between 1st July 1956 and 30th June 1965 more than 44,000 private dwellings were financed by building societies and other approved institutions with funds advanced from the Home Builders’ Accounts. Obviously, the Home Builders’ Account arrangements have been tremendously popular. The great bulk of our people seeking homes wish to live in privately built homes of their own choice. Advances made through the Home Builders’ Accounts provide many home seekers with this freedom of choice by making available loans on very reasonable terms and conditions. The Government has every reason to be proud of the part it is playing through its Housing Agreements in making Australia a country with one of the highest ratios of home ownership in the world today.
A further vital difference between the Agreements of 1945 and 1956 was in the method of assisting the States to meet the cost of rental rebates granted in respect of dwellings occupied by families and persons who could not afford to pay full economic rents. The 1945 Agreement contains a detailed formula for determining the losses incurred by the States in the administration of their rental housing projects. Under the formula a State has to demonstrate that it has complied with certain conditions. The Commonwealth meets 60 per cent, of the losses so determined. The Menzies Government preferred not to impose onerous conditions and detailed supervision on the States. The 1956 Agreement provided that the Commonwealth would make advances to the States at a concessional rate of interest, in practice 1 per cent, below the long term Commonwealth bond rate. It is left to the States themselves to decide how the interest concession may best be used to meet the cost of rental rebates to needy families and assist the financing of home sales. From time to time honorable members opposite would have us believe that the States are worse off in this respect than under the 1945 Agreement. The fact is that, in recent years, only Western Australia and Queensland have been able to meet the conditions for loss sharing under the 1945 Agreement. The difficulties in its practical application are such as to deny most States the full benefits it purports to confer.
There is one matter I especially wish to make clear to all honorable members. The Housing Agreement, important as it is, is not the sole means by which the Commonwealth provides housing assistance to families and persons living in the States. In addition to the home savings grants and housing loans insurance schemes, we offer housing assistance under the War Service Homes Act and the Aged Persons Homes Act. Moreover, the Minister for Housing is continuing to give consideration to the needs of aged persons for adequate minimum housing at reasonable rentals, and the problems that arise from re-housing those living under slum conditions. These matters are currently under examination by the Department of Housing.
Mr. Speaker, the Government’s political opponents have often claimed that the Housing Agreement does not go far enough towards solving Australia’s housing problems. It was never intended to solve all these problems; it was only one part of the complex. The Housing Agreement is designed primarily to assist families, including aged persons, of low or moderate means to obtain adequate housing at a reasonable price. Dwellings built by the States under the Housing Agreement account for less than 20 per cent, of all dwellings built in Australia. The vast majority of our people are able, and prefer, to set about obtaining privately-built homes.
Let me now explain the amendments that the annexed agreement would make to the existing agreement. Clause 2 of the annexed agreement provides for the extension of the definition in the existing agreement of “ member of the Forces “, in respect of whom the States are required to grant a measure of priority in the allocation of homes. The effect of the amendment would be to include those persons who, whilst members of the defence forces, served on “ special service “ in South Vietnam or Malayasia, or in any other area that may subsequently be declared by regulation under the Repatriation (Special Overseas’
Service) Act to be a “ special area “ for the purposes of repatriation and war service homes benefits.
Apart from the amendments necessary to extend the operation of the existing agreement for the further five years, there is the amendment, set out in clause 7 of the annexed agreement, which would delete subclause (2.) of clause 1 1 of the existing agreement. Sub-clause (2.) of clause 11 provides that, unless the Commonwealth and the appropriate State Minister agree, advances may not be used by a State to erect, outside the inner metropolitan area, a block of flats exceeding three storeys in height above the main entrance level. The purpose of this sub-clause was to ensure that a sizeable investment was not made in large blocks of flats in a particular area without due and proper regard being paid to overall environmental factors in that area. However, the States consider this provision to be unduly restrictive and that it should be deleted. We have agreed to this request.
Clause 8 of the annexed agreement proposes a further amendment of the existing agreement. Clause 13 of the existing agreement would be amended by replacing the existing sub-clause (2.) with a new provision.
The moneys used for the erection of the Service dwellings consists of amounts set aside by the States pursuant to clause 7 (1.) of the existing agreement and the amounts of matching and additional advances provided by the Commonwealth under Service votes in accordance with the provisions of clause 7 (2.). During the operation of the 1956-61 Agreement, the Commonwealth had advanced, up to 30th June last, a total of almost $33£ million as matching and additional advances towards the provision of nearly 8,000 dwellings for serving members of the armed forces. The dwellings cost more than $58 million.
Unlike the civilian population, Service tenants normally occupy the dwellings they are allotted for limited periods only, as they are subject to frequent transfers in accordance with Service needs. Servicemen’s families may therefore be faced with the recurring problem of having to provide and install semi-fixed items such as fly screens, blinds, linoleum and the like, not normally provided in a government home. In addition, because of his transient circumstances, the serviceman-tenant frequently has a covered storage problem that is not catered for in the standard type dwelling. These items are listed in the scales and standards for married quarters approved by the Minister for Defence (Mr. Fairhall).
Under the existing Agreement there is some doubt as to whether the States may use advances to erect Service dwellings in accordance with these approved scales and standards. Sub-clause (2.) of clause 13 says Service dwellings shall be of a size and standard normally erected by the State under the Agreement The proposed amendment would remove such doubts. Although there would be no compulsion on the States to provide dwellings of the Services’ approved scales and standards, we are extremely hopeful that the States will see their way clear to do so. We are confident that the Commonwealth and the States will co-operate to ensure that servicemen’s families are housed in a manner adequate to their special circumstances.
The final amendment proposed to the existing Agreement is found in clause 9 of the annexed Agreement. It involves the insertion in the existing clause 16 of a new sub-clause (3aa.) and of a new subparagraph (ca) to sub-clause (3b.), and consequential changes in that clause. The amendment is designed to improve the lot of the rural worker and other people in rural areas who are often deprived of the benefits of the Home Builders’ Account provisions because there are no building or housing societies operating in their areas. We must not overlook the needs of such people. In keeping with the majority of Australians, they should have the opportunity to borrow on reasonable terms and conditions to buy or build their own homes in the villages and towns within reasonable distance of their place of employment. If they cannot, they will inevitably swell the ranks of those moving from the country to our already overcrowded cities. Both Government and Opposition members have on many occasions deplored the social and economic implications of the continued shift of population to the cities, and I am confident that the amendment that the Government proposes will be welcomed by all members.
The proposed amendment would permit a State to allocate during each of the next five years a portion of the moneys avail able in the Home Builders’ Account to a government lending institution for lending to persons seeking to buy or build homes in rural areas. For this purpose, a rural area would be regarded as an area in which there is no building society and in which it would be difficult to form one and administer it efficiently. Under the existing agreement, a State is required each financial year to obtain the approval of the Commonwealth Minister to the allocation of a portion of the moneys available in the Home Builders’ Account to an institution other than a registered building or housing society. The proposed amendment would do away with annual approvals for allocations to institutions wishing to make loans in rural areas. A State would simply seek the necessary approvals of the Commonwealth to an arrangement, consistent with the amended provision, that would apply to advances for the next five years. It is envisaged that the terms of the approvals would permit the State to allocate up to 10 per cent, of the moneys available in the Home Builders’ Account in any financial year to an appropriate government bank or other acceptable lending institution for housing advances in rural areas.
Mr. Speaker, the existing Housing Agreement has been of tremendous benefit to many young families, aged persons and newcomers to Australia seeking to buy or build a home with the assistance of a loan on reasonable terms and conditions, or to lease a home at a rent they can afford to pay. Acceptance of the proposed new Agreement will mean that these benefits will continue to be available for a further five years, and the proposed amendments are intended to extend the scope of these benefits, specially to servicemen’s families and persons living outside our capital cities. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Whitlam) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 5th May (vide page 1590), on motion by Mr. McMahon -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
.- I wish to refer to the statement made in the House by the Treasurer (Mr. McMahon) on rural credit arrangements. After the Treasurer had made his statement the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard), as spokesman for the Opposition, made a short statement but did not move a motion to enable a debate to take place on the Treasurer’s statement. This would seem to me to be a subject of importance as there have been a few breakthroughs in rural finance. In my opinion a good debate could have been held on the statement.
The Treasurer referred to the introduction of a Farm Development Loan Fund of $50 million and to an increase in the Term Loan Fund of $21 million. The $50 million in the Farm Development Loan Fund will be transferred from the statutory reserve deposit to the Reserve Bank. Payments will be made from the special account set up in the Reserve Bank to trading banks which apply for allocations from the Fund for farm development purposes. So, if a trading bank does not borrow from the Fund for rural, development purposes, its share of the $50 million will lie with the Reserve Bank in the special account and the trading bank will not have the use of that money. I am wondering whether the $50 million in the special account will be allocated to the trading banks in proportion to the amounts lent by them in the rural sector of the economy or whether it will be divided equally amongst the six trading banks. It is well known that some banks are far better lenders to the rural sector than are others. I would hope that the better lenders will be able to obtain a higher proportion of the money than will those which traditionally are not good rural lenders. In his statement, the Treasurer said -
Loans so made will be designed to supplement those available from the trading banks on overdraft and from term loan funds, and will represent a net addition to bank lending to the rural sector.
I am interested in the words “ net addition “ because I have noticed that for some time the banks, unfortunately, have had to reduce their lending to the rural sector. Over a period of 10 years, total lending has fallen from 23.8 per cent, to 21.8 per cent., which is a fairly significant decline when one has regard to the fact that in the same period rural productivity has increased by 75 per cent, or higher. This situation has
F.5308/63. - H. - 160)
occurred, not because the banks are not interested in lending to the rural sector, but because of the policies pursued by the Reserve Bank which on occasions calls money into the statutory reserve deposit. This has led to the trading banks seeking to lend money on short term rather than long term so that they may meet their commitments to the statutory reserve deposit.
There has to be an increase in the Term Loan Fund of $21 million. It is interesting to note that only 34 per cent, of the previous Term Loan Fund went to rural industries. It is interesting to note, also, that no details are available of the length of the loan available from the Term Loan Fund to rural industries. Loans may be made from the Term Loan Fund for periods up to hine years but we have little knowledge of the history of the Fund. I think that the statistics we have are inadequate. I would like to see better statistics kept on the operations of the Farm Development Loan Fund. These should be made available to members of Parliament and others who study these things so that we may see trends somewhat more easily than we have been able to see them in the past. I would like the Treasurer to obtain from the banks greater detail concerning their rural lending.
My experience is that farmers have not been able to obtain money easily or on sufficiently long terms. No doubt this situation has been one of the reasons why the Government has seen fit to encourage establishment of the Farm Development Loan Fund. One is inclined to wonder what’ sort of people will be eligible to borrow from the Farm Development Loan Fund and how borrowings from the Fund will differ from an ordinary overdraft account. I propose to read to the House details concerning four farmers - one engaged in the beef cattle industry, one in woolgrowing, one in dairying and one in raising fat lambs. The details are of great interest as they relate to the Farm Development Loan Fund.
The first case is that of a farmer 46 years of age, with two sons and two daughters. He owns 1,279 acres of freehold land, for which he paid $17,000, without improvements, in 1954. At that time 180 acres were partly cleared. The property was watered by one dam and sub-divided into four paddocks. Fencing was bad. The only building on the property was a house, which was in reasonable order. Purchase of the property was financed by borrowing $19,000 from his late father’s estate, his mother having a life interest in the estate. On her death the $19,000 is to be shared between the farmer and his sister. A wool firm provided 100 per cent, of the finance for the stock as well as a living allowance and the cost of running and improving the property. The property is now valued at $78,000. Improvements have been made to the house. A hay and machinery shed measuring 130 feet by 22 feet, a shearing shed measuring 60 feet by 30 feet, sheep and cattle yards, spray dip, fowl houses and cow shed and bails have been built. In addition, 16 paddocks have been fenced. Twelve dams and a reservoir containing 55 acre feet of water have been built. One hundred acres of land have been provided with easy irrigation. Seven hundred acres have been cleared. Four hundred and eighty acres have been sown to lucerne, cocksfoot, clover and rye grass. The properly is now carrying 1,400 ewes, 520 one-year-old sheep and 40 cattle. The total value of stock and improvements is $19,300. With plant and wool in store his total assets arc $105,620.
His liabilities are: Father’s estate, $1.9,000; wool firm, $14,000; Australia and New Zealand Bank Ltd., $1,500; Caltex Oil (Aust.) Pty. Ltd., $300; and sundries, $240. His net equity in the property is $67,780. He wanted to borrow $19,300 for a two year programme of development. He wanted to purchase fertilizer and seed, a utility truck and a plough and discs. He wanted to do some bulldozing, ploughing and sowing. He wanted to pay some sundry accounts. It is estimated that by the spring of 1 967 his property will be carrying 1,700 ewes and 500 one-year old sheep. When he approached the A.N.Z. Bank, to which he owed $1,500, and sought financial assistance the Bank said: “ No “. He then went to the Commonwealth Development Bank which said: “ Yes “. With the money he received his programme has proceeded.
The second case concerns a dairy farmer aged 52 who has two sons. He owns 127 acres of freehold land for which he paid $28,000 in 1963. It was then a run down property with no country graded or check banked. The buildings and fences were in bad repair and the farmer was milking 40 cows. This man was reared on a dairying property and he knows the dairying industry thoroughly. He has a proven history of ability. Since he purchased the property he has renovated the house, concreted the cowyard and dairy, installed a septic tank, erected a large hay shed, installed a pressure system and extended water to troughs in five paddocks. He has also cleared and drained 30 acres of swamp, built flood levees, graded, check banked and sown 24 acres and is now milking 65 cows which are grazed in 12 paddocks. The property is now valued at S50.000. He has 108 cattle, and plant, 80 tons of hay and other assets worth $68,150. Against this he owes the Commercial Bank of Australia Ltd. $5,000, the Bank holding against this a life policy worth $2,400 and a fixed deposit belonging to his wife worth $3,000. He owes a wool firm $3,220, a hire purchase company $640, has a private loan of $17,000 for three years at 74- per cent., and has sundry accounts worth just over $4,500. He has an equity of $37,760. He wanted to borrow $13,000 for a two year programme that included grading and sowing down 60 acres, purchasing equipment, consolidating debts, erecting fencing, extending water to extra troughs and purchasing additional cows. He estimated that he could run 80 milk cows by 1967 and 100 by 1969. He has had a lifetime experience in the dairying industry and is thoroughly capable in all respects. He went to the CB. A. and asked for the loan of $13,000, but his application was rejected. He then went to the Commonwealth Development Bank, which granted him the loan.
The third case concerns a wool grower, 48 years of age, married and with a daughter. He owns, in addition to his property, a large road contracting business. In 1 956 the production on his property was 15 bales of wool from 514 acres. He now owns 2,194 acres, 3,620 merino sheep and sundry plant, the total value of his assets being $203,440. He owes the National Bank of Australasia Ltd. $20,000. His property is security for a loan for the contracting business. He owes a wool firm $12,000 and he has a private loan of $46,000 for 10 years at 6i per cent. His liabilities total $78,000 leaving him with an equity of just over $125,000. He wanted to borrow money for a two year programme. He wanted to extend his shearing shed and hay sheds, to improve his sheep yards and crutching shed, to clear, cultivate and sow 400 acres, to extend his fencing and to purchase fertiliser and seed. He listed his requirements. This man has proved his ability. He is a capable farmer and is skilled in the use of machinery. He approached the National Bank, to which he owed $20,000, but his request for assistance was rejected. The Commonwealth Development Bank approved his request and made the money available.
The fourth case concerns a man interested in beef cattle. He is 33 years of age, his wife is 32 and they have three sons. His father died and left a property divided among three children. The father assisted the other two boys in the purchase of separate properties, and the third son - the subject of this case - wanted to buy out his brothers’ two-thirds share in the willed property. If successful his position would be that he would own 1,380 acres valued at $46,850; his brothers’ share, to be bought, $23,500; 189 Hereford cattle valued at $19,150; two horses and sundry plant, giving him total assets worth $91,300. He also owns one-third of the remainder of the late father’s property - 655 acres valued at $65,500 - subject to the life interest of his mother. He would owe his brothers $23,500; the Bank of New South Wales $1,260; probate charges, $4,000; a wool firm $800; a private loan - three years at 6 per cent. - $1,540; taxation $1,200; and sundry debts, $460; a total of $32,760. This would leave him with an equity of $58,540. He wanted to borrow $27,500 to buy out his brothers and to pay his share of the probate. He went to the Bank of New South Wales, but was refused accommodation. The Commonwealth Development Bank loaned him the money.
I have brought these examples before the House because when I have raised the question of rural finance in this Parliament the Treasurer has kindly said to me: “ Produce to me examples of need and let me examine them “. Most people are loath to allow their financial position to be examined; there is a natural embarrassment about this sort of thing. Honorable members opposite who are interjecting would be no different in this regard from the people to whom I am referring. I realise that all applications for bank loans are different. Each applica tion has to be treated on its merits, but in each of the instances 1 have quoted trading banks have refused loans whereas the Commonwealth Development Bank has granted them. Can we expect that such applications will be accepted when the Farm Development Loan Fund is established? I would expect that such applications, which now go to the Commonwealth Development Bank, would be dealt with by the trading banks under the Farm Development Loan Fund.
In his statement on rural credit the Treasurer said that loans would be for up to 15 years and, in special cases, for longer periods. I am delighted with this proposal because I have often referred to the need for longer term loans for rural purposes. I hope that the banks will be able to satisfy the inordinate demand for money from the Farm Development Loan Fund. Those who are successful in obtaining loans will be able to bring their farms into higher production and not only will the farmers benefit but the communities in which they live will benefit from the increased production and the country will gain as a result of the greater inflow of money earned by the increased exports. The Farm Development Loan Fund should really assist rural credit.
The Treasurer also said that the Government would not proceed with a separate rural division in the Commonwealth Bank. If the trading banks are able to meet the demand from the Farm Development Loan Fund there will be no need for a separate rural division in the Commonwealth Bank. I for one will certainly watch with considerable interest the progress of the Farm Development Loan Fund to see the results over the years. If the results that are obtained are not the sort of results that we expect, I will certainly ask the Government to consider again the proposal to establish a separate rural division of the Commonwealth Bank. The Commonwealth Bank plays a very important part today in assisting rural producers. This is not a reflection upon the trading banks. The policies of the Government can lead to the Reserve Bank increasing the percentage placed by the trading banks in the statutory reserve deposit and thus inhibit their lending capacity. I do not make my remarks as a general complaint about the trading banks.
– Two bob each way.
– The honorable member will have a chance to make his speech later and he can then answer the points I make. The Treasurer also said that the Government will dispense with the farm loans insurance scheme. If the Farm Development Loan Fund meets the needs of the rural borrowers and solves their problems, perhaps we will not need a farm loans insurance scheme. A farmer may borrow 40 per cent, of his equity and may need a further 10 per cent, to develop his property. In such a situation, the bank could insure against the possibility of failure. I should imagine that the bank would protect its interests by lending only to the extent of the bank’s valuation of the property. The Treasurer said that there were difficulties, involving complex technical problems, in bringing down a farm loans insurance scheme. 1 would be interested in having a study made of the complex technical problems so that if the need arises to introduce such a scheme a study will have been made of the problems and answers found.
I think that quite a few questions remain unanswered by the Treasurer. The only way that they will be answered is after the Farm Development Loan Fund has been in existence for some time and we have a history that we can look at. I repeat what 1 said before: Better lending to rural industries means a more secure income for the farmers. It will lift the productivity of the farms and improve the situation of the towns and cities in rural areas generally. It will do much to boost the economy of Australia.
.- The Government should not be given Supply to enable it to remain in power or in order to give taxation concessions to Japanese, West German and other investors that will help them to take over Australian industries at bargain prices. An invasion of this country by foreign capital must not be encouraged under conditions that will give dominion over the economic and social life of the people of Australia to those in other lands. This debate gives us an opportunity to discuss the health of the Australian economy, what it owes to the inflow of overseas capital and what will be the effects of the restriction of the United Kingdom investment in Australia.
The Treasurer (Mr. McMahon), in a statement to the House last week, said -
Our need for capital being as great as it is, we deeply regret any action by capital supplying countries to reduce investment in countries like Australia.
The Press of Australia generally is emphatic that any tightening of the inflow of capital will create sharp problems for Australia, which counts on investment by Britain and North America to offset some of its heavy adverse balance of payments with overseas countries. The Press has stated that we must seek investments - overseas, in Japan, West Germany and Sweden, lt has said further that the Government of Australia will make special efforts to encourage new capital investment in Australia from Europe and Japan. It is also reported that the Government has accepted that the British curbs on investment, announced recently, are likely to last indefinitely. Already officials from the Department of Trade and Industry and the Treasury are examining ways to stimulate alternative investment from Japan and continental Europe. Australia is thus speeding up the signing of double taxation agreements with several countries, including West Germany, Sweden, Switzerland and Japan. Statements to this effect have appeared in the Press and they are endorsed by honorable members on the Government side. The Deputy Prime Minister (Mr. McEwen) and the Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Holt) hope to go to Britain and America to urge the Governments of those countries to allow investments by their citizens to continue.
Questions that the people of Australia required to be answered are: How has the dependence of Australia on overseas capital come about and how has it grown? Is the economy of Australia now so dependent upon the flow of capital from other countries that the situation here will be disastrous if the taps controlling the flow from Britain are partly or fully turned off? If the flow of capital from Britain is reduced, must our Government provide all kinds of inducements for Japan and Germany to turn on taps that will direct capital from those countries to Australia? These taps, like the taps in Britain and America, can be turned off at the will of the Japanese or German Governments or investors. Is this the way to ensure the independence of Australia and the freedom of its people?
The inflow of private overseas investment in companies in Australia between 1950 and 1965, both years inclusive, was$4,288 million. The deficit on our overseas balance of payments for the same period was $4,400 million. The inflow of capital - that is, the $4,288 million plus a few hundred million dollars from overseas loans and from our overseas funds - financed our balance of payments deficit of$4,400 million. It should be borne in mind that half or more than half of the deficit arose from Australia’s trading operations with the United Kingdom. More than half of the inflow of capital was from the United Kingdom. During the period from 1950 to 1965, Australia received for the goods it exported §2,045 million more than it paid for the goods it imported. Our trading balances were favorable to the extent of$2,045 million. However, the total deficit for the period on invisibles was $6,445 million. Australia paid for freight, insurance, interest and a few minor items this colossal sum in addition to the amount it received from other countries for such items. That, of course, is an immense amount to pay for those items.
I have pointed out in this Parliament a number of times that the flow of overseas capital being invested in Australia is increasing in geometric progression. For the five years ended1960 the flow was$ 1,200 million; for the five years ended 1965 it was$2,200 million. For the first nine months of this financial year it has been $632 million - that in a period of only nine months. It must be remembered that the control of the tap which regulates this flow is in the hands of people overseas. It must be remembered also that the flow of capital is not all one way. Dividends upon the investments must be paid overseas and we dare not turn off the tap controlling these dividends. That would be repudiation. Last year the inflow from other countries was $516 million, but $261 million was payable as dividends. United Kingdom investors sent $231 million to Australia, but the amount payable in dividends to United Kingdom investors was $144 million. If the United Kingdom turns off the tap and insists on the payment of full dividends, and if our reliance on overseas capital is to continue, we mustget from Japan, Germany and elsewhere $144 million. This amount will not assist Australian development; it will have to go to pay United Kingdom investors.
It might be said that I am painting a gloomy picture. I have told how an interest in Australian industries to the value of $4,288 million has been sold to oversea? investors since 1950. The interests in Australian industry purchased with this foreign capital have multiplied in value. Would it be an over-estimate to say that those interests are now worth at least $12,000 million? I point out that this sum would be equivalent to the municipal valuations of Melbourne and its suburbs plus the municipal valuations of Sydney and all its suburbs. The Treasurer, in reply to a question from me the other day, informed me that the Government does not know the present value of farms and real estate which are owned overseas and which are additional to investments in industries. The Government has also told me that it. does not know the present value of overseas investment in industries in Australia. That is why I have under-estimated the present value at $12,000 million. Yet, without this knowledge, the Government intends to give taxation concessions to Japan, Germany and other countries to encourage them to take over mines, farms and factories in Australia.
Had Australia succumbed in the recent war to the embattled might of Japan and Germany, the investors in those countries would have secured advantages. One is entitled to ask whether they could have secured greater advantages than the inducements that are offered by the Government at the present time. Investors in other countries do not invest money in Australia in order to improve conditions for Australians, nor do they intend their investment to develop Australia. They invest money to make profits - the bigger the better. General MotorsHolden’s Pty. Ltd. has made hundreds per cent, profit. Caterpillar Pty. Ltd., another overseas firm, and Mercedes-Benz Pty. Ltd., a German firm, had profits last year of more than 100 per cent. I ask for leave to continue my remarks at a later stage.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
Debate resumed from 5 th May (vide page 1567), on motion by Mr. Harold Holt -
That the House take note of the following paper-
Prime Minister’s Visit to South East Asia -
Ministerial Statement, 5th May 1966.
Motion (by Mr. Fairbairn) - by leave - agreed to -
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) speaking without limitation of time.
– Mr. Speaker, what I have to say this evening in reply to the speech by the Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Holt) last Thursday evening about events in Vietnam and other countries in South East Asia will not be flattering to him and to his Government. I propose to show that the Government’s policy in regard to Vietnam is based on wrong premises and, if persevered with, can only increase the great harm that it has already clone to this country. Worse still, it might help to precipitate the worst possible misfortune for all mankind - a third world war. In doing my duty as I see it, I have no desire to be ungracious or unfair to the Prime Minister. I think he acted wisely when he decided, so soon after taking office, to visit our troops in South Vietnam and in other countries in South East Asia. No one can dispute the fact that Australian servicemen in that area deserved and expected an early visit from the new Prime Minister. Public opinion, I am sure, strongly approved of it. It was right and proper, too. that the Prime Minister also consulted with heads of state and heads of governments in the countries he visited. Such visits and the consultations that take place are useful, even if the results achieved sometimes fall short of expectations. Visits made by joint parliamentary parties of private members to the same places in recent years all have produced beneficial results. The visits arranged for July next will, I am sure, cement and foster the goodwill already established by previous visits.
With these introductory remarks I now proceed to a consideration of the Prime
Minister’s report to the Parliament on his tour of our troop encampments and his conversations with foreign personalities. Ever since we had the misfortune to become involved in Vietnam we have been told, with nauseating continuity, that Australia is involved in the Vietnam war because of her treaty obligations as a member of the South East Asia Treaty Organisation. Let us probe this claim to discover how false it really is. The Opposition says that we are not involved under the S.E.A.T.O. Treaty, for the simple reason that South Vietnam is not a member state of S.E.A.T.O. South Vietnam is merely a protocol state under S.E.A.T.O., and there is no obligation for any member state to go to war in defence of a protocol state, unless all member states approve that course. This is specially set out in the treaty. Two of these states - France and Pakistan - are opposed to intervention and so the necessary unanimity required to sponsor intervention has never been forthcoming. It is true, however, that S.E.A.T.O. permits a member state to send troops to defend a protocol state if invited to do so, but the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Hasluck) has specifically stated that the Republic of South Vietnam has not invited this country to send troops to become involved in its dirty, cruel, unwinnable, civil war.
– That is not true.
– It is true. If it is not, let the Minister say in what respect it is untrue. We are taking part in an undeclared war in Vietnam because our Government has involved us under the plea that it is necessary to thwart the ambitions of Communist China. Its action lacks both moral and legal justification.
– What would the honorable member know about morals?
– I know as much about moral obligations as does the honorable member or anybody else. I repeat that Australia is not obliged under the S.E.A.T.O. or the A.N.Z.U.S. or any other treaty to send any troops, regulars or conscripts, to that unhappy country and I defy any supporter of conscription to prove otherwise. Let any responsible Minister challenge what I have said and point out what treaty obligation compels us to squander Australian lives in South Vietnam. It might be argued by Ministers that because neither the United States of America, nor Australia, nor any other country with troops in Vietnam, has declared war, the position is different from what it would otherwise be. If we are not at war, we have no right to be in Vietnam. If we are not at war, how can we have any treaty obligations to participate in an undeclared war? Unless we have declared war on North Vietnam, or China, or some o:her country, all talk about treaty obligations is just so much poppycock. And the Government intends to send more and more troops to the battlefields of this undeclared war despite the statement of the Minister for Defence (Mr. Fairhall) on 14th April last that “the Government has declared to Australia and to her allies that the task force commitment of 4,500 had to be regarded as the upper limit of Australia’s contribution “. I ask, Sir: How does it occur that the Government can determine the size of its commitment, making it as small as possible and increasing it as it decides from time to time, unless it has specific and not general obligations? Is Australia obliged to send nothing more than a task force, which, by comparison with the American contribution, is only a token contribution? Which clauses, may I inquire, of which supposed treaty, define the upper limit, or the lower limit, or any limit, on what forces Australia must send to Vietnam? Is it all done by rule of thumb? I think it is done by sleight of hand.
The fact is that the preceding Government bought into the Vietnam war in the spirit of a gambler. It thought a few Australian instructors would be a sufficient contribution, but the present Government finds itself sinking deeper and deeper into the quicksands of the Vietnam disaster, and though it might not want to do so it will, sooner or later, be forced to send many thousands more. It gambled on sending a few men to Vietnam in return for increased American trade with, and increased American investment in, Australia and it does not yet know to what extent it will be further involved. From less than 100 instructors two years ago, we are now committed to 4,500 fighting men in Vietnam and by next year the figure could be at least 10,000, notwithstanding the upper limit of 4,500 that the Minister for Defence has set. I refuse to accept the Minister’s statement.
Asked in this House on 20th April last whether his Minister’s upper limit story represented Government policy, the Prime Minister promptly repudiated his colleague. These are his words - . . this Government, while facing what it regards as the practical requirements of a military situation as it sees it from time to time, periodically reviews the kind of contribution which Australia can fittingly make. That will continue to be our policy.
Of course it will. Our commitment will probably increase, maybe greatly increase, as the months pass and as the United States and Korean contributors increase their contributions as the search for the knock-out blow continues to evade the allies. The numbers will never be decreased, I am sure. The Prime Minister was again not honest when he refused to deal precisely with the nature of increased Australian contributions in his slideless travelogue on Thursday night last. But he did make one significant remark when, referring to the United States, he spoke of “ the provision by that country of a massive and decisive contribution of forces and material “. What does this all mean in clear terms? Does it mean that the contribution is to be made to grow, and if so by how much? And is it intended as a brainwashing effort to involve Australia more deeply in the South East Asian morass?
Another remark in the Prime Minister’s speech that merits some attention contained the claim that, “even today, when North Vietnam has at least nine regular regiments of the P.A.V.N. operating in South Vietnam they”, the North Vietnamese, “will make no admission of this”. I seek some clarity about these two statements. Is it not a fact that the Vietcong forces operating against the South Vietnamese and numbering only 200,000 men, are opposing a total of more than 1,000,000 men including 240,000 Americans and 750,000 South Vietnamese? Even nine regiments of North Vietnamese troops cannot redress the unfavorable balance in numbers which these figures represent. The Prime Minister is right, therefore, on these figures, in claiming that the Vietcong cannot win, but he is wrong if he thinks that the South Vietnamese and their allies can win the final battle. If this war lasts another 20 years as Marshal Ky was happy to assure the Prime Minister would be the case, it will be Chinese Communism that will win the final battle.
Returning to the question of Australia’s entanglement in this South East Asian mess, let us examine further the extent to which the Government’s actions have been motivated by trade considerations. The Government hates this legitimate line of argument, but we will not be deterred from pursuing it. Early this year, the Minister for Defence (Mr. Fairhall), who was then Minister for Supply, went to the United States to ask that Australian manufacturers be given a share of the orders the American Government was placing with armament manufacturers for American servicemen in Vietnam. It was a very successful mission and those Australian manufacturers who have been enabled to muscle in on this great war racket are, understandably enough, very, very happy and very, very grateful to a considerate Government.
Shortly after the Minister brought back the good news, the Government trebled our military commitment to Vietnam and decided to send conscripts, for the sole reason it could get nobody else. Incidentally, the Prime Minister in his speech never once used the word “ conscript “. This omission has its own significance. Government supporters wilfully refuse to see any connection between more trade to be won and more troops to be sent. Any admission by any of them on this score would be a fatal admission. But my argument that there is such a connection rests not only on my own deductions of the known facts; it is supported by two unequivocal statements over the past year by two distinguished personages. One is from the Prime Minister himself. On 23rd May 1965, three weeks after the decision to send the 1st Battalion of the Australian Regular Army to Vietnam, the Prime Minister, who was then the Treasurer, said in Washington -
The cumulative effect of American overseas investment restrictions, if nol relaxed, could have a serious effect on Australia’s external capital reserves. However, I do not think America would want to do anything to weaken Australia’s capacity to honour ils obligations in defence and economic aid to other countries.
Suffice it to say, the restrictions were relaxed.
The second statement was made by our good friend the Ambassador of the United
States, Mr. Edward Clark. Mr. Clark is a very able man and would not think of interfering in Australian politics, so anything he says about Australian-American relations must be regarded as a truthful and objective observation. Mr. Clark returned to Australia from the United States on 23rd January 1966, after reporting to President Johnson, and he confirmed reports that he had told gatherings of United States bankers and businessmen that Australia, having proved herself in Vietnam as a firm ally, deserved massive investment. It is, therefore, true to say that the Government’s decisions on Vietnam have helped to increase the flow of United States investment into Australia.
The Minister for Defence, on 14th April last, spoke of treaty and moral obligations to the United States in regard to Vietnam. I wish he would spell them out. I know of none that would involve Australia in Vietnam that would not also involve Australia in Indonesia and Malaysia and the Philippines. Let him speak more fully and more lucidly in this debate and tell us what these obligations are. I cannot emphasise too strongly, Mr. Speaker, that nobody in Australia is happy about what is happening in Vietnam and that everybody blanches at the thought that there might be a long war there. It is obvious that no Minister and no Government supporter is happy about sending conscripts there. The only excuse given by Liberal Party and Country Party supporters - it is advanced almost apologetically and with grave mental reservations - is that there is no alternative to conscription if we wish to continue to bc swayed by the silly notion that this is a war for freedom, another gigantic religious crusade.
Our young men are completely uninterested in what is happening in Vietnam and are unconvinced by the Government’s arguments that Australia’s fate is involved there. They see it, as most Australians see it, as a futile, unpopular war and one to be avoided. They cannot see why, if troops are sent, it should be to an undeclared war and why their Government should continue to trade with great Communist powers that are said to be sustaining the armed forces of North Vietnam and the Vietcong. Paradoxically enough, for the Australian public the war is an unacknowledged war. They are sick of it and want it ended, but show little interest in its progress. The exceptions are those who have sons, or brothers, or husbands involved, actually or prospectively.
The Prime Minister followed the recital of his experiences in countries other than Vietnam with these words - lit each of these countries Australia has serving men and women joining with others in holding in check the Communist threat.
A few minutes later he said -
In the course of the tour I visited Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia, including both West Malaysia and Sarawak, and Singapore.
Is the House to understand the Prime Minister to mean that the countries constituting Malaysia, together with Singapore, are facing a Communist threat? If so, where is this threat evident? Does he mean that Indonesia’s confrontation policy against Malaysia is a Communist threat? If so, why do we remain on friendly terms with Indonesia? And, again, if he thinks that Indonesia is a Communist stooge, why did his Government help the United States push through the Bunker plan that gave Dutch New Guinea to the Indonesians without the indigenous people being allowed to determine their own future? I do not believe that Indonesian policy, wrong headed and much to be deplored though it be, has anything at all to do with Communism. The Prime Minister was really indulging in just a little more bogeyman talk.
The Prime Minister crystallised the purpose of his tour in one meaningless sentence. He presented it as a gem, but it is not even a piece of cheap glass. He said -
I wanted to make the dots on the map come alive as known places with known people.
We are left guessing to what extent he succeeded, or failed to liven up the dots. Those who talk of 20 years of war in Asia to stop Communism never seem to realise that the ideological battle is more or less finished in Europe. Russia and its European satellites are moving nearer to the West, and the West is reciprocating by moving further towards the Russian bloc. The basis of their association is the need for peaceful co-existence. The Togliatti testament to the Italian Communists contained the notable admission that there was no longer any prospect of Communism taking over any European country by revolution. If Communism was to succeed in the West, he said, it must be brought about by democratic methods. The meeting of the Pope and Mr. Gromyko was another instance of the present flexibility of Soviet policy. I think it is true to say, Mr. Speaker, that there is no convinced Communist under 50 years of age anywhere in Europe today. Those who know history and those who read, other than the illiterate people who are interjecting from the Government side of the chamber, know that this is true. There is nobody in Europe today under 50 years of age who is a convinced Communist.
People everywhere are interested in progress and in a better society; and this is true whether they are Communists or Conservatives or Democratic Socialists. Democratic Socialism is the answer to both Communism and Conservatism. It is the only hope left for mankind. Because of this, we of the Opposition feel we have done the right thing in opposing Australia’s participation in the Vietnam war from the beginning. We are working, and will continue to work, to reverse the Government’s decision to send troops to Vietnam, ostensibly to fight Communism. What has still to be borne into Government thinking is that Chinese Communism is almost as much opposed to Russian Communism as it is to every other political and social and economic system.
Despite the expenditure of large sums of the people’s money seeking to popularise the Vietnam war, the people remain unconvinced and hostile, and gallup poll after gallup poll proves this. The latest costly Government catechism of questions and answers could not possibly convince anybody that the Government is right. Let me quote one mis-statement of fact. It is said in this publication that “ the war is noi a civil war inside a single state but a war in which one state is trying to subdue another and take over the rule of it by force “. This statement, fortunately, is contradicted in an earlier catechetical review, which was published on 16th April last, most obligingly and without charge, by every metropolitan daily newspaper in Australia. It was said in this document: “ It is a civil war to the extent that most of the 230,000 Vietcong are South Vietnamese “. How can it be, and not be, a civil war at the same time?
I have pointed out the Government’s reliance on cliches and platitudes, as substitutes for logical argument, to support ils indefensible and un-Australian actions in pledging Australia to defend any and every rotten, corrupt, tyrannical collection of gangsters that seize and hold power in unhappy Vietnam. In its desperation, the Government and its backers, wherever and whoever they are, use a strange system of reasoning. They all say Communism is an evil, the people of North Vietnam and the Vietcong are Communists and, therefore, our duty is to kill off everybody who is a Communist in Vietnam. Now this is the sort of argument that has held sway in Indonesia recently, and 200,000 people there have been done to death because of it. It is all so fatuous and wrong. The war in Vietnam is an undeclared, unwinnable, civil war and no amount of casuistry can alter the position.
– Why does not the honorable member go and have a look at it?
– Order! The honorable member for Chisholm persists in interjecting. I warn the honorable member that if he persists in this line I will deal with him.
– And, Mr. Speaker, why should young Australians pay for the Government’s mistakes with their lives and their blood? The Government’s attitude represents a retreat from reality and a cowardly desertion of responsibility by throwing the almost whole, ultimate burden of military service in this country on to a section of our 20 year old youths who have neither a voice nor a choice in their consignment, maybe, to an early death in jungle swamps. To us in the Labour Party the war in Vietnam is what President Johnson called it: “ A cruel, dirty war “. It is a wicked war, a senseless war, a lunatic war, and the sooner the United States and ourselves, and the rest of our allies, can get out of it with dignity and honour the better, the better for all of us and the better for all mankind.
– From the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) this evening we have heard the finest range of cliches, dirty words and slick phrases that it has been the misfortune of this House to hear for some little time. For my part I hope that the people of this country will read carefully every word in the honorable gentleman’s statement because it will disclose a shallowness of thinking which ought not to be brought to bear upon a problem as important as that to which he directed his attention. He dealt with the report on the trip of the Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Holt) to South East’ Asia, and inevitably he had to call it a travelogue. He developed this smart phrase last week and he had to use it again tonight.
The story of the Prime Minister’s trip through South East Asia is, in fact, a vital document. If speaks of the open doors in South East Asia to this country. It speaks of the growing friendship of this country for the nations of South East Asia and the growing friendship for Australia of the nations which will be important to our future. It talks of growing understanding. It’ opens the way for the kind of aid which this country will be obliged to give to South East Asia when the opportunity is available to do that in peace and security. All this is in strange contrast, I believe, to the statements we have had from time to time from the honorable member for Yarra (Dr. J. F. Cairns), who talks about our actions in South East Asia as sowing the seeds of enmity for us in the continent of Asia. When I look at the friendship we have with Thailand, when I look at the friendship and neutrality of Laos and Cambodia, when 1 look at the co-operation we enjoy with Malaysia these days, when I look at the not unfriendly atmosphere which exists in respect of Indonesia, and which is now likely to improve, very largely because of our engagement in South East Asia, then, Sir, I can say that any enmity that this country might be developing in South East Asia is strictly north of the 17th parallel. That is where the Communists live and we would not want friends in that quarter.
The honorable gentleman says that’ we are not involved in South East Asia because of any South East Asia Treaty Organisation commitment. Let us go back a few years to 1961 and consider the policy speech of the Labour Party at that time. Honorable members opposite wanted at that time to throw away S.E.A.T.O. as a military obligation. They wanted to turn S.E.A.T.O. into a cultural, educational, medical and some other kind of foundation. This, of course. is all so completely unrealistic, because until there can be a re-establishment in South East Asia of those conditions in which cultural, educational and trade interests can develop it is nonsense even to talk about them.
The Leader of the Opposition says that we are not engaged in South Vietnam at the request of the Government of that country. Let me quote from a statement by Sir Robert Menzies on 29th April 1965 when he said -
The Australian Government is now in receipt of a request from the Government of South Vietnam for further military assistance.
That statement was not challenged at the time. Then, again, in the first statement which he had the privilege of addressing to this House the present Prime Minister said -
The Government has for some time been made aware of the desire of the Government of South Vietnam that we increase the size of the Australian forces there.
Again he used the words “ and at the request of the Government of South Vietnam “. Here is the evidence that we are there by request of the Government of South Vietnam under an obligation to S.E.A.T.O. and in protection of this country’s best interests.
We have had a number of debates on South East Asia during this sessional period of the Parliament. They have invariably turned, as one would expect, to South Vietnam. There is no great policy content in the document put down by the Prime Minister. It speaks of the background against which previously stated and developing policy is operating. One would have thought that the Leader of the Opposition might have taken this opportunity to clarify some of the statements he has been making in recent times. A moment ago he talked about the Government twisting words. Well, he is expert at it, and ought lo recognise it. In passing, perhaps I had better make some reference to the statement about our being engaged in Vietnam because of trade considerations. I would treat this statement with the utter contempt it deserves except for one thing - that the honorable gentleman drew me into the matter, lt was very good of him to give me a mention. He said that I went to the United States to talk trade with the United States Government. Certainly I did. I went to talk trade, among a lot of other things from which Australia benefits magnificently. I did not go to talk about the development of trade in defence items on that occasion. The honorable gentleman said that I had brought back good news. 1 am not aware that 1 brought back any good news, at least not good news that was not expected. I began these conversations with the Secretary of Defence, Mr. McNamara, back in 1963 before Australia had any commitment to Vietnam, and my conversations had nothing to do with the situation in which we are involved in that country today.
I should like to spend a few minutes making a worthwhile review of statements made by the Leader of the Opposition in recent days, presented, expanded and utterly confused by the honorable gentleman. We well understand that the Labour Party is against our involvement in South Vie.nam. We know it does not like conscription. Indeed, nobody does; but we do not run away from the things we must accept. The Labour Party, of course, is bound up with its difficulties of J 91 6 and our involvement in Europe then. What has this got to do with the environment of South East Asia and the problems we face in that area in 1966? We know very well that the Labour Party would do anything it could to confuse the situation in South Vietnam. The war does not fit into these honorable gentle.men’s preconceived ideas of what a war ought to be. This is an undeclared war. it is an odd kind of war, they say. Of course it is. But it is a purposeful kind of war, and it might produce the same damaging results that a declared war could produce. But the danger signal to the people of this country today is the fact that the Labour Party - the potential alternative Government of this country - is simply unable to change its mind. It is simply unable to learn new ideas; it is unable to adapt itself to a new set of circumstances, and if it fails to understand what is going on in South East Asia, or the threat lo this country’s interests, then it is not to be trusted with the government of this nation.
Of course, confusing the situation, and failing to understand it, is precisely what the Communists themselves want the Labour Party to do. It is easy enough to create an emotional atmosphere in times like these and then to exploit that atmosphere. The honorable gentleman’s exploitation of the situation that the Labour Party itself creates is not far removed from the Party’s electoral hopes. The honorable gentleman in this morning’s Press is quoted as saying that he would like to see protests all over the land about conscription. He added the footnote “ until election day “. He is saying in effect: “ It does not matter what you do after election day, but protest for all you are worth until election day “. So shallow is all this that even a prominent member of the Australian Labour Party - I refer to Professor Arndt who is Professor of Economics-
– He is not a member of the Labour Party. He is only a hanger on.
– It is not so long ago that the Labour Party was looking to this gentleman for advice on its problems. Now, of course, honorable members opposite are anxious to repudiate him. I should like to read an extract from Professor Arndt’s article which caused honorable members opposite to want to repudiate him. Professor Arndt wrote -
The point I now want to stress is that it is primarily if not wholly because, on balance, they waul Communism to win in Vietnam, that all the Government’s most active critics, and in particular the leaders of the A.L.P. Left like Calwell and Cairns, oppose the present policy.
I am emphatically not saying these people are Communists or would support Communism in Australia. Nor would I deny that they have an arguable and tenable point of view though I disagree with it.
Professor Arndt continues -
What I deplore is the tactics by which they enlist support for their campaign among all the other dissident groups - the pacifists, the ostriches, the defeatists - and above all the manner in which they are whipping up emotions and exploiting the anxieties of mothers over the issue of conscription.
Perhaps it is not fair to blame Mr. Calwell - he has the double excuse of responding to the memories of his political youth- a long time ago - and to what he sees as his last desperate chance of clinging to the Party leadership.
Those are words which ought to be read by every Australian. However, I thought it might be well worth while to have a look at some of the state ments made by the Leader of the Opposition. Yesterday he was in Hobart. The “ Sydney Morning Herald “ said this morning -
In Hobart yesterday Mr. Calwell said that if’ all the newspaper offices which got al! the documents on his statements on conscription could not make up their minds what he had said, he was not going to help them.
Of course we all know what he said; what we are trying to do is find out what he meant, and if we do find out I think we should tell the honorable gentleman.
This is an election year in which great issues face the Australian electors. If ever there was an occasion when the people of this country needed to exercise their democratic right to choose the proper kind of government, and if ever there was an occasion when they needed to fulfil their democratic obligation to become well informed, then this is the occasion, because the Issues are nothing less than the future security of this country, the future relations of this country with its South East Asian neighbours and our future relations with the United States of America as they affect this general area of mutual interest for that country and Australia. We are entitled to a clear statement, in these circumstances, of where the Labour Party stands. If the Labour Party is able to clarify its policy on these matters the people may rest assured that the Government will accept as a prime responsibility its obligation to ensure that the people will be made aware of the consequences of accepting such a policy.
Let me get back to the promises of the Leader of the Opposition, however, because time is awinging. The honorable gentleman went to the Australian Labour Party conference in Launceston, Tasmania, on 13th April. In the official text of his speech, which he gave to the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ he used the words - if and when we become a government all conscripts then serving anywhere overseas, whether in Vietnam or Malaysia or anywhere else, will be immediately brought home.
This produced a little dismay in the Labour Party, as one would expect. I felt obliged to make some reply and to point out that if Australia’s pledged word is ever to mean anything to the peoples of South East Asia, who will be our neighbours down through history, we cannot withdraw from our present commitment. Labour’s rejection of conscription would bring the inevitable consequences that Australia could make no adequate response to our treaty obligations, which are written and are powerful, backed. It would erode the morale of South East Asian nations now under Communist threat; it would destroy the confidence of the United States in the dependability of Australia as an ally. Without doubt it would leave us to stand alone in our defence for the future if Communist aggression and subversion should triumph in South Vietnam and ultimately throughout South East Asia. Under the Labour Party’s policy, as honorable members opposite know very well, we would be defending ourselves alone on our own territory. This is not. a prospect to be accepted with equanimity.
On a “ Four Corners’ “ television programme on 30th April, when asked about his statement at the Australian Labour Party conference in Tasmania, the Leader of the Opposition claimed he had been misquoted. He added -
Whoever did it misquoted me malevolently not to clarify anything but to confuse the public mind.
– Hear, hear!
– Well, the honorable gentleman is an expert at precisely this kind of thing, and he ought to know. When I heard that he had made this statement 1 thought the honorable gentleman must surely have been carried away. After all, it was a great occasion for his party. I remember another occasion when he plucked out of the air a statement about 10s. per child by way of State aid, and I thought that this was another such occasion. But J. was completely wrong because the honorable gentleman was reading from a written script, and one would presume that the script had been written with care and the consequences of it evaluated by the Labour Party.
The Melbourne “Age” felt obliged to come into this matter, lt said in an editorial -
The charge laid by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) in a television programme last week that he had been “ malevolently misquoted “ . . cannot be allowed to pass unanswered. The facts are clear: Mr. Calwell was not misquoted malevolently or accidentally.
Of course, we know that the newspapers featured a photograph of the statement which had been prepared in the office of the Leader of the Opposition, which was used by him on that occasion, and copies of which had been handed out to Press representatives.
The Leader of the Opposition was in Tasmania again yesterday, and on this occasion we heard from him a ‘little welcome agreement with the Government’s policy - not over a wide field but still quite significant. He told 500 university students -
If we form a government we will not maintain troops in Vietnam any longer than we have to but we will not walk out on anybody.
If this is what the people want from a government they can get it, of course, by returning the present Government at the forthcoming elections, because the policy of this Government is that we will not stay in South Vietnam any longer than is necessary to safeguard that country from Communist aggression, now and in the future, and to provide for it an opportunity to build its own Government, work out its own social solutions and create its own background of democracy - remember that our own background has been a long time building and these people have not had the opportunity to build their own. When all this is done we will no longer be in South Vietnam. The Leader of the Opposition went on to say - and these are quite vital words -
What T said in Launceston and what I said on television I stand by.
It is worth making a little analysis of the situation. In Launceston the honorable gentleman said: “ We will recall the national servicemen immediately “, while on the television programme this became watered down a little. He then said he thought Labour would be able to get the troops out - in company with the United States forces - within six or nine months. So “ immediately “ becomes “ six or nine months “. Of course, the word “ immediately “ was used irresponsibly in the first place. On television the honorable gentleman said he had been malevolently misquoted, but then, again on television, he said: “I stand by everything I said “. What he means is that he knew that when he made the charge of malevolent misquotation it was groundless. The fact is, of course, that the honorable gentleman is completely confused. He is looking for dirty words to apply to our allies and to the people in whose country we are fighting at present because of our obligations. He is out to condemn Government policy with reckless disregard for our treaty and moral obligations, with reckless disregard for the favorable reaction to the assistance being given by this country in South East Asia, and with reckless disregard for the growing esteem in which Australia is held by the countries of the Asian continent. The honorable member is not putting forward any alternatives to the people of Australia. All he says is that we should reduce our commitments, wait until we are threatened on our own soil, turn S.E.A.T.O. into a cultural agency and depend on the United Nations, well knowing that the United Nations approach has been completely rejected by the North Vietnamese.
I come back to Professor Arndt, who, despite what has been said in repudiation by the people who no longer have any use for him, has declared that the United States has no acceptable alternative to being in Vietnam. If this is so, of course, it is neither sensible nor decent for Australia to stand aside and let the Americans protect the countries of South East Asia. Certainly there is no case for drawing the line against conscription. There is no denying that resistance to Communist aggression in South East Asia has stiffened in the free countries of the Asian continent. Who can deny that the efforts of the United States, ourselves and our allies in Vietnam have contributed very largely to the situation which resulted in the Communists being thrown out of Indonesia? It must be understood that our actions in Vietnam have not been without their important victories for the future. One begins to see evidence all around the world of reversals for the Communist Party. These are not permanent by any means; they may be very temporary indeed, but they do show that all around the world there is real opposition to the philosophy of Communism. Here almost on our own doorstep we are challenged to state our attitude, and if we fail to stay in Vietnam, give a good account of ourselves and force the North Vietnamese, the Communists, to negotiate - I have no doubt that the struggle will be finished by negotiation, but on our terms - we will be recreant to the trust that has been placed in us to safeguard the future of this country.
.- I compliment the Minister for Defence (Mr. Fairhall) on the most moderate speech he has made on Vietnam for some time. Outside the House he refers to red plots and fifth columns in this context. The honorable gentleman has learned from public reaction that it should be just as legitimate for members of the Australian Parliament to dissent from their Government’s views on this subject as it is regarded as legitimate in the United States to express dissent in Congressional committees and in the Congress itself. There is no question that on the whole subject of Vietnam there is less of a consensus than there has ever been on any war in which Australia has been engaged or any war in which the United States has been engaged.
The honorable gentleman resorted to the slick tactic of his colleagues in implying that the Australian Labour Party somehow would be anti-American or an unreliable ally of the Americans. Americans who have visited this country have constantly been appalled by the attitude of hawks such as the honorable gentleman himself. At the end of last year and early this year top men in the United States Administration, most of them completely in the confidence of the President, were appalled when the hawks in the Cabinet advocated the mining of Haiphong, the blockading of North Vietnam, and the bombing of Haiphong and Hanoi.
Two years ago an honorable member who is now one of the junior Service Ministers and I were guests of the United States Government. At that time officials in the State Department and the Pentagon were appalled at his suggestions, that the bomb should be dropped on Hanoi and that the rice fields should be drained by destroying the dams irrigating them. The American Administration does not welcome the hawks in the Australian Government. The honorable gentleman referred to outmoded attitudes in the Parliament. He and his colleagues demonstrate these outmoded attitudes. They still believe that we in Australia would be safer if the British, French, Dutch and American empires were to be restored and were to stand in our periphery alongside the residual Portuguese empire. Accordingly, they clutch the treaties that they have, hoping that they will be permanent, as they hoped those empires would be permanent.
The honorable gentleman referred to the South East Asia Treaty Organisation. The Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Holt) nowhere referred to S.E.A.T.O. in his statement to the House last Thursday night. 1 give the Prime Minister credit for having eschewed the spurious legalisms and rationalisations of his predecessor and so many of his colleagues in this respect. The fact is that the protocol State of South Vietnam has never invoked S.E.A.T.O. The truth is also that none of our allies in S.E.A.T.O. has invoked S.E.A.T.O, as regards South Vietnam. If a question is put on the notice-paper, precisely in these terms, the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Hasluck) admits these facts.
The Minister for Defence purported to represent the Labour Party’s attitude on S.E.A.T.O. What we have said is that all the objectives of S.E.A.T.O. should be fulfilled. In fact, many of the preamble words in the Treaty have been incorporated by the Labour Party in its foreign affairs policy. The Minister distorts the Labour Party’s attitude when it points out that there are two essential features of S.E.A.T.O. which the Government ignores. First, one of the reasons given for forming S.E.A.T.O., as stated in the preamble, is expressed in these words -
Desiring 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 the economic well-being and development of all peoples in the Treaty Area,
We say that all these objectives of S.E.A.T.O. need to be taken into consideration. Article III states -
The Parties undertake to strengthen their free institutions and to co-operate with one another in the further development of economic measures, including technical assistance, designed both to promote economic progress and social well-being and to further the individual and collective efforts of governments toward these ends.
If S.E.A.T.O. were in issue in the Vietnam situation, as it is not, the whole of S.E.A.T.O. should have been applied. The Government, in fact, has been interested in Vietnam in a substantial way only in the military sense. The Government’s involvement in Vietnam - social, economic and cultural - has been quite inconsiderable and belated. There has been some interest, but would any honorable member suggest that the Government’s interest has been comprehensive or balanced in this respect? The overwhelming interest of the Government in Vietnam has been in military aspects alone.
– That is not true.
– The honorable member is wrong.
– Can the honorable member lie straight in bed?
– lt seems that I have stirred the whole Rhodesia lobby. The crowning folly of the Minister’s statement was his claim that in some respect our stand in Vietnam had produced a reversal of policy on the part of the Indonesian Government. This claim must be understood in the context of what the honorable gentleman and his colleagues, as well as his former leader, were saying before the last elections, because then the bogy was not Communist aggression in Vietnam; it was threats of Communist aggression from Indonesia. Sir Robert Menzies was as much responsible as Dr. Sukarno for the deterioration of relations between Australia and Indonesia during the 1950’s and the first years of the I960’s. When honorable gentlemen recall the Government’s utterly negative and obstructive attitude towards Indonesia then they will see that their arguments now can be just as misguided as they were earlier.
I must now come to the statement by the Prime Minister, lt was meet and proper that the Prime Minister should promptly visit those countries in which Australia is militarily involved. I draw a comparison between the record of the right honorable gentleman and that of his predecessor, who only twice m his record term as Prime Minister visited India, Pakistan and Malaysia, the last time in 1959, and only twice visited Japan, the last time in 1957. Sir Robert Menzies only once visited the Philippines, Indonesia and Thailand - in 1957, 1959 and 1961 respectively. By contrast, the present Prime Minister at the outset of his term of office announced that he would visit these countries, and I believe that Australia is better understood as a result of his prompt visit to them. I hope that he will visit the other countries that I have mentioned. Let me briefly suggest that he should visit the Philippines - an English speaking, predominantly Christian country, where Australia should be more readily understood than in any country in our periphery, but where, ever since the war. there has been continuous misunderstanding and a measure of ill will towards this country. May I suggest that he should also visit Indonesia - the great country which is our closest neighbour and which can benefit from our skills. I applaud the statement which the Minister for External Affairs made yesterday in Wellington that assistance for Indonesia should be on a multilateral basis - not just by dribs and drabs on a bilateral basis. Again I suggest that the Prime Minister should promptly visit India where, if anywhere in Asia, our democratic processes must be made, and shown, to succeed.
Having said that I applaud the Prime Minister’s prompt visit to the countries where we are militarily involved, may I say that I feel - and I think this is a very general feeling - a considerable disappointment at his analysis of the situation? I cannot imagine that any head of government in th; world would now make a speech on the Vietnam situation without at least acknowledging that this war is evil in itself, whatever may be the pretext or j ratifications for waging it; secondly, that he would make no reference to any initiatives for peace negotiations or pacification or neutralisation of the area; and, thirdly, that he would make no reference at all to the United Nations or other international or regional bodies that might, despite difficulties and despite incomplete memberships, deaf with this subject.
The honorable gentleman nowhere referred to the atrocities and cruelties of this war which has gone on now for a quarter of a century. He nowhere referred to any peace initiatives which the Australian Government had made or supported. He nowhere referred to the United Nations. Quite apart from any of these omissions of matters which other heads of government would have put in speeches on this subject, might we point out that there were some other omissions which directly concern Australia? For instance, what is the right honorable gentleman’s assessment of the length of time which must elapse before there can be any ray of light at the end of this war? Again, what are the terms upon which we would co-operate in or seek peace negotiations? There are very real misgivings in Australia on this matter. Would the Australian Government accept a neutralist government in Vietnam? Would the Australian Government accept a union or a federation between North Vietnam and South Vietnam? Would the Australian Government accept the participation in elections of all sections in South Vietnam and North Vietnam? Would the Australian Government, in effect, accept a Titoist regime in Vietnam?
The phrase of the Minister for Defence - “ We do not want friends north of the 17th parallel “ - is a portentously dangerous one for this country. The honorable gentleman wants us to believe that we do not want friends in North Vietnam. He implies that we want to keep Vietnam divided. Do we want to reunite Korea, Germany, Vietnam, those countries which form a buffer between the West and the Communist countries? I hope that the Minister for Defence was speaking without sufficient consideration on this matter. It is an impossible position, surely, for a senior Minister in the Australian Government, which has a small but skilled and effective force in Vietnam, to say that we want to keep Vietnam divided and that we do not want friends for Australia in the northern portion. We ought to be saying that we aim to unite the whole of Vietnam. It would seem to be a reasonable aspiration that the people of North Vietnam and South Vietnam should want to be a united country, as we would expect that both halves of Korea and both halves of Germany would want to be united. We should want to see that there would be free elections in Vietnam and that a comprehensive government would be formed.
The Prime Minister had conversations with Air Vice-Marshal Ky. He did not state whether he supports the Air ViceMarshal’s suggestion that if Communists or neutralists are elected in the elections in South Vietnam next year he and his companions will stand up and fight them. Do we support that attitude on the part of the Prime Minister of South Vietnam? If the people of South Vietnam choose a neutralist government they are entitled to have it. The probability is that the people in South Vietnam do not regard Ho Chi Minh as an aggressor or an oppressor in the sense that the Australian Government regards him. It is possible that he still retains much of the patriotic magic in South Vietnam which he once possessed. Again, we are forcing by our attitudes a rapprochement as between North Vietnam and South Vietnam and China that has never taken place before. We might well expect that the people in North Vietnam and South Vietnam would rather be left to themselves. We, in Australia, may well talk of the menace of Communism there. In our democratic system we believe that it is possible to bring about economic and social reforms and at the same time preserve political liberties. In a country which, north and south, has never had political liberties, the conviction that social and economic reforms are to be brought about by parliamentary means by elected persons may well not be as Strong as it is in Australia. The best thai we can hope for for Vietnam is that there should be some Tito-like government - that there should be some authoritarian but comprehensive regime such as in Pakistan.
This much is clear: The Australian Government must cease to abet the waging of a war between America and China by proxy. Our interest in Vietnam is, as the former Prime Minister used to say, “ defence in depth “ or, as others more cynically say, “ fighting in other people’s backyards “. Wc arc interested in Vietnam because we believe, naturally enough, that our security depends so overwhelmingly on the United States of America. We could do something to help the United States in getting off the hook on China. More than any other countries Canada, New Zealand and Australia depend on the United States for their security. They are more closely tied to the United Stares than are any other countries. The present Government in New Zealand and the present and preceding Governments in Canada certainly have wished to see that America and China achieved somewhat of the detente that America and Russia have already achieved. The Australian Government, manned with hawks as it is, has always stood in the way. The American Administration probably - and the American Congress almost certainly - would appreciate an initiative by Canada, New Zealand and Australia to abate to some extent this constant phobia in America about China and the equal phobia in China about America. There can be no peace in our part of the world until there is the same accommodation between China and America as has already been achieved in Europe between Russia and America. We are failing in our duty if we do not take every opportunity to try to bring about some such accommodation. We must now take advantage of our situation in two ways. First, now that we are a belligerent - whether we should have been or not - we certainly have the opportunity and the obligation to take part in peace negotiations, to seek peace negotiations and to take a peace initiative. The Government has never done any of these things. Secondly, as an ally of America and of Britain we ought to see that there is comprehensive and complete economic, social and cultural as well as military assistance given by Britain and America in our region.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired. Before calling the honorable member for Kooyong, I remind the House that this is the honorable member’s maiden speech.
.- I would like to commence my remarks by paying tribute to the most distinguished parliamentary figure in the history of Australia, Sir Robert Menzies, who preceded me in the seat of Kooyong. He consistently revealed a quality of mind, a mastery of exposition and an integrity of purpose that would be a model for any member of the Parliament. I deem myself fortunate to be able to follow him as the member for Kooyong and to have served as the Victorian President of the Party that he primarily created. At this stage, I should like to wish Sir Robert and Dame Pattie a long and happy retirement. I should also like to express to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, who did me the honour of swearing me in as a member of the Parliament, to Mr. Speaker (Hon. Sir John McLeay), to the Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Holt) and to honorable members on both sides of the House my very deep gratitude for the help and the assistance that has been shown to me in the short time that 1 have been a member of the Parliament.
I intervene in this debate because the statement of the Prime Minister on his visit to South East Asia raises the question of the Government’s decision to send troops to South Vietnam. This, of course, was the very issue upon which the by-election that resulted in my election to this House was fought. I feel, therefore, that it is proper for me to place on record at the earliest possible convenience my views on this matter. We are greatly dependent for our knowledge on the lessons of history. However, we cannot learn from history unless we are free to learn and we cannot act upon those lessons unless we are free to act. The question that arises, therefore, is whether our freedom is in danger. That, after all, is the basic question and the basic issue between the Government and the Opposition from which all other issues flow. The question of conscription, the question of the ballot and the question of the morality of the cause all flow from the answer to the basic question of whether today our freedom is in danger.
When discussing the threat to our freedom, we are, I believe, as the Prime Minister intimated in his statement, inevitably forced to think of China and her intentions. It appears to me that there can be no doubt about China’s intent. If I may, I will refer the House to two quotations that epitomise the intentions of China at this time. The first is from a statement made in 1953 and the second is from a later statement, made in 1965. The first statement was made by Mao Tse-tung and Chou En-lai in “ A New Programme for World Revolution “, which I understand was presented to the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. They said -
After the liberation of Indo-China, Burma will fall into line as a good foundation has already been laid there. Then the reactionary group in Thailand will capitulate and the country will be in the hands of the people. The liberation of Indonesia, which will fall to the Communist camp like a ripe fruit, will complete the circle around the Malay peninsula. The British will realise, under the circumstances, the hopelessness of putting up a fight and will withdraw as quickly as they can.
The second quotation is from a statement made in September 1965 by Lin Piao, the
Vice Premier of Red China and Minister for National Defence. He said -
Win Asia, Africa and Latin America through wars of national liberation ‘ and the United States and its Western Allies will be surrounded, will be encircled, will be overwhelmed.
And where is all this to begin?
It has already begun and the place in which it has begun is Vietnam.
To my way of thinking, Mr. Deputy Speaker, the intention of China is quite clear from those two statements. Therefore, the war in Vietnam cannot be seen as a single and isolated conflict, but rather as part and parcel of the great global challenge of Communism. The movement is clearly downwards, and we must act now, for the prime duty of any government is to ensure the national security. When we see that Communism is seeping through Laos, Cambodia, Thailand and now Malaysia, it is apparent that the takeover of South Vietnam would be a direct military threat to Australia. After all, on two previous occasions when the free world did not stand up to aggression, it became embroiled in bloody and ruthless conflict. In the post-war years, on every occasion that the free world has stood up to the Communists, it has succeeded - in Berlin, in Korea, in Malaya and in Cuba.
Much has been made of the allegations of disorder in Vietnam. But what disorder there is appears to me to be understandable. Here is a nation that for 1,000 years was under Mandarin rule and for 100 years was under French colonialism. It has been at war for 25 years. Sixty per cent, of its top leadership has been assassinated since 1959. Its people have been crushed, bludgeoned, kidnapped and driven to the ground time after time by terror and armies. Is it any wonder that there is some disorder? The wonder is that there is any order at all. But notwithstanding the divisions, there appears to be no doubt of the primary aim of the Buddhists of South Vietnam, who, of course, aTe embroiled in so much of the dissension that emanates, as we understand it, over the present Government. I shall quote a declaration of 12th April 1965 of the Buddhist Association of Saigon. It stated -
In rural areas, the Communists have occupied pagodas, confiscated lands, forbidden religious activities, forced Buddhist priests to enter the Army, indulged in savage denunciations and arrested and killed loyal Buddhist faithful of the Buddhist Association.
It continued -
The Buddhist Association sincerely praises the noble sacrifices of Buddhist priests and the faithful in the defence of Faith and Religion and prays at the same time for the liberation of the Nation and the Religion from control and subversion by the Communists.
Clearly, the common aim of the South Vietnamese is to defeat Communism.
I turn now to the alleged immorality of the Government’s stand. I believe that a philosopher, on whose principles not on questions of economic policy but on questions of political principle and philosophy, 1 have drawn a good deal in the past, epitomises the moral justification for our intervention in the war. I refer to John Stuart Mill, who said -
The doctrine of non-intervention to be a great principle of morality must be accepted by all governments. The despots must consent to be bound by it as well as the free states. Unless they do, the profession comes but to this, that the wrong side may help the wrong, but the right must not help the right.
I do not know where one could find a clearer statement of why Australia has had to intervene, not of our own volition but by request, by treaty, by obligation and by commitment.
I have deliberately, because of the indulgence that the House is showing to me on this important debate tonight, been relatively brief. I should like to conclude by congratulating the Prime Minister upon the success of his visit lo South East Asia and on his excellent and comprehensive statement to the House. I join many other Australians in expressing our delight that he chose to see South East Asia so soon after attaining his high office.
.- I congratulate the honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Peacock) on the fine delivery of his maiden speech. I hope that he makes a contribution to the debates of this House in a proportion similar to that of many of his distinguished predecessors. The Minister for Defence (Mr. Fairhall) earlier tonight made an astonishing statement. He spoke of those Communists north of the 17th Parallel and said: “We would not want friends in that area.” The Minister who holds such a high position in this land makes such a negative and hopeless accusa tion. My attitude is that I want to make friends with men of goodwill, no matter where they may live, north or south of the 17th parallel, whether they live in Russia, the United States of America, China or Japan. No matter where they exist on this earth, I want to join together with men of goodwill, whether their ideals arise from their Christian beliefs, humanist beliefs or scientific beliefs. The hope and survival of the universe depend on the co-operation of men of goodwill, those who have faith in mankind and do not want to press the trigger of hopelessness, and particularly those in the Vietnam conflict. We need their co-operation, whether they live north or south of the 17th parallel. When a senior Minister such as the Minister for Defence makes such a hopeless and stupid accusation the Government should examine his position.
I listened to the statement by the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Hasluck) on the evening of Thursday 28th April, and I listened to the Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Holt) last Thursday evening. One could sum up their statements by saying that the Australian Government has committed our young men to South Vietnam in the defence of freedom. The word “ freedom “ gets such a kicking around, in war as well as during the peace. I found no criticism in either statement of the so-called Government in South Vietnam. No doubts were expressed nor criticisms made of the flamboyant, arrogant and fanatical Air Vice-Marshal Cao Ky. Can honorable members imagine no doubts or criticism of a man who wants to extend the war into Laos, who wants to march north, who wants to bomb China, who refuses to negotiate with Communists and who denies the South Vietnamese people a government of their choice? Cao Ky said: “If a civilian government turned out to be neutralist or Communist . . . I and my friends will fight it.” Does the Australian Government support this proposal? What will be the attitude of the Australian Government if a neutralist or Communist government is elected by the people of South Vietnam? Neither speaker on behalf of the Government has answered that question. Have honorable members no doubts as to why Australia, with few exceptions, stands alone militarily in support of United States policies in South Vietnam, why we stand so alone fighting for this socalled freedom in South Vietnam? Where are our allies under S.E.A.T.O.? Where are France, Britain, Pakistan and the Philippines? I heard one interjection tonight: “ Of course, Thailand is in there.” Thailand has now come to support this freedom fight with about 140 men, yet Thailand, with a population which is twice that of Australia, is a neighbour of this nation which is struggling for freedom.
When I think of the Vietnam conflict I want to cry out in rage against and condemnation of this cruel war which is being fought in the name of freedom. But then I have a feeling of sorrow and sadness because I know that crying out and name calling will not solve anybody’s problems. That is why I am angry that these two Australian representatives have made a report on their visit to South Vietnam which could not have been less objective. I also have been to Vietnam; I was there last October for a brief stay. I visited our men at Bien Hoa. There I had a deep feeling of remorse for the conditions under which they lived were difficult. Bien Hoa is a hell of a place. Every tree for a mile around has been flattened. It was as hot as hell outside the three aluminium huts in the centre of the camp - the canteen and the recreation hut - but it was worse inside. I spoke to the men and to some officers. In the course of the discussion I said: “ You will be fighting not only the Vietcong but also the jungle and disease. Pretty soon the men will be reporting with skin disease and other complaints which you have never heard of.”
– The honorable member is a little cheer-up.
– An officer replied: “It is happening already “. An honorable member opposite said that I am a little cheer-up. It so happens that any man who has experienced jungle warfare - I had experienced similar circumstances during the Second World War - knows what would happen to these mcn. Such an ill informed doctor as the honorable member for Bowman should get a little more experience and understanding of the conditions so that he may be able to predict a little of the future. Saigon is a sick city. The trades people are not friendly. The only friendship a soldier will get is from a bar girl who will drink with him at a price for his hard earned money. Or a soldier may find friendship from a prostitute in one of the many brothels in Saigon. I was told by the soldiers - by officers as well as the driver who escorted me to Bien Hoa - that every second hotel in Saigon is a brothel. Accommodation in Saigon is very scarce. The Vietnamese are so hospitable that they want payment in advance and their tariffs are higher than those in New York. Inflation is on the march. Wherever the United States dollar appears there is little hope of Australian or any other currency to compete with it.
I have previously said very little about my brief visit to Saigon. Before visiting Vietnam I was opposed to our involvement in that conflict. 1 saw nothing during my visit to alter my attitude. I am convinced that it is against Australia’s best interests to interfere in this complex and delicate situation in South Vietnam. No-one should be dogmatic about where the real fault lies. No-one can be so righteous as to say that our side is right and that the other side is always wrong, that we stand for peace but they stand for subversion and bloody revolution. Those who express that view ignore the history of the struggle for self determination and self government by the peoples of Vietnam. I recently read a report in an American magazine “Ramparts” of a visit late lost year by Bernard B. Fall to South Vietnam. He is Professor of International Relations at Howard University in the United States. He is also the author of two books on Indo-China - “ The two Vietnams “ and “ Indo-China at War “. He flew with United States airmen on operational missions and witnessed the dropping of napalm on suspected Vietcong rest centres. I found his report challenging. It is stimulating to know that Professor Fall, Walter Lippmann, Senator Mansfield, Senator Fulbright and so many other Americans can be so objective and critical of United States policies. In their questioning, they ask: Are we right in our policies in Vietnam? Not so with our righteous Prime Minister and our Minister for External Affairs. They have no doubts and no criticisms. They are the possessors of self virtue - the gallant defenders of freedom. Professor Fall said that he found the Americans fighting a war that was depersonalised and to a large extent dehumanised. In his report, he stated - lt is a brutal war.
One million Vietnamese died in the long encounter with the French - and already in what may loosely be termed the “ American period “, the dead are nearly a quarter million, wilh perhaps another half million people seriously maimed. And other Vietnamese people are dying because they are starving; there are vast areas where people starve because food cannot get through - food blocked off by our side so it won’t get lo the Vietcong, or taken by the Vietcong to feed their forces. If the present war were to last as long as the French war, another million may well die in Vietnam.
Yet Australia supports this military junta in South Vietnam that wants to escalate the war into China. The junta does not want to negotiate with the Communists. It will not support a government that is the choice of the people if that government is neutralist or Communist. Professor Fall continued - 1 don’t think we are buying Vietnamese stability in the long run out of the present operations. What we are buying is an example - for Latin America and other guerrilla prone areas. What we’re really doing in Vietnam is killing the cause of “ wars of liberation “. And we may yet succeed!
The common explanation of America’s Vietnam involvement is that the United States is being “ tested “ - that we have to stand up and stop Communism right here. The analogy of Munich is suggested here - the failure of the British and French to stand up to the Nazis, But the situation in Vietnam isn’t Munich; it is Spain. There is in Vietnam a test of wills, of course, as at Munich - but above all, there is a test of military technology and techniques and military ideas. One side believes it can win with a combination of guerrilla warfare and political ideology. The other side believes it can win with the massive use of military power. America may be able to prove, as the Germans and Italians did in Spain, that superior firepower will carry the day in such a situation.
But will the Americans win in this way? What is the reaction of world opinion to the United States action in Vietnam? I believe that every bomb that is dropped in Vietnam represents a nail in the coffin of the American way of life. That is my personal belief. Roger Hilsman, Assistant Secretary of State for Far Eastern Affairs in President Kennedy’s Administration put the matter this way in “Newsweek” of 21st September 1964 -
When you bomb a village of 3,000 people which perhaps five Vietcong have infiltrated you are going to create a lot more than five Vietcong by the time you are finished bombing.
Surely what Hilsman said is commonsense. Should we in Australia rethink our policies in Vietnam? The late President Kennedy, on 6th April 1954, when he was a member of the United States Senate, opposed America’s involvement in the Indo-China war. He said -
The time to study, to doubt, to review, and revise is now, for upon our decisions now may well rest the peace and security of the world, and indeed, the very continued existence of mankind.
Is this a time to doubt and review? I believe it is. Professor Fall stated -
The incredible thing about Vietnam is that the worst is yet to come. We have been bombing for a relatively short time and the results are devastating. The United States is probably only operating at 1 per cent, capacity in Vietnam. Everything could be escalated vastly . . .
We know that Air Vice-Marshal Cao Ky wants the war escalated vastly. We know that there are people in the Pentagon who want the war escalated vastly. They say: “ Denuclearise China now “. We know - it is on record - that supporters of the present Australian Government who sit on the back benches opposite have called for the denuclearisation of China now. They say: “ Fight the Communists now, not later “. We on this side of the chamber, who belong to the Australian Labour Party, stand for sanity. We stand for peace in Vietnam. We are opposed to escalation. Labour believes that no military solution is possible in Vietnam for either side. The Australian Government will argue that it stands for unconditional negotiations. But it refuses to support the proposition that the end of the Vietnam war should be negotiated by talking to those against whom American and Australian forces are fighting - the members of the Vietcong. Walter Lippmann was reported in the Melbourne “ Age “ of 24th February of this year as having expressed this view -
No-one is entitled lo claim that he is in favour of a negotiated settlement of the Vietnam war unless he is prepared to negotiate wilh all his important adversaries who arc engaged in the fighting.
Labour believes that a conference similar to the Geneva Conference of 1954 should be convened. We believe that compromises should be made on both sides. We believe that the Vietcong should be recognised as one of the negotiating parties at the conference table. We believe that the bombing of North Vietnam should cease. On the other hand, we do not support the proposition that United States forces and installations should be withdrawn before negotiations commence. We believe that if negotiations are to succeed an undertaking that all foreign military forces will be withdrawn as soon as possible should be given. Elections should be held in South Vietnam. The Government and people of South Vietnam should determine whether they are to have unification with the North. The people of South Vietnam, and they alone, should determine whether or not unification with the North is to take place. We support the three point proposal made by the Secretary-General of the United Nations in Paris on 29th April and reported in the Sydney “ Sun “ on the following day in these terms -
For the sake of world peace, U Thant said, he hoped the parties primarily involved would realise the gravity of the situation.
A spirit of give and take was needed.
He maintained three conditions were necessary for successful negotiations -
Cessation of bombing of North Vietnam.
De-escalation of all military activity in South Vietnam by all parties involved in the fighting.
Willingness by some of the people concerned to speak with those who are doing the fighting.
We should call for world pressure from both sides in the ideological struggle to support U Thant’s proposals. We all should call for the maintenance of a holding position until sanity prevails. Escalation could mean the extermination of mankind, as the late President Kennedy said in 1954 when he was a United States Senator. We can and must settle this conflict by negotiation. May 1 again say to the Minister for Defence: The efforts of men of good will throughout the world on both sides of the ideological front will be needed to bring this about.
.- We are now considering a statement by the Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Holt). It is really a report based on first hand knowledge and this is of extreme importance at this time when not only Australia but many other countries of the world must give serious consideration to the position in which they find themselves with relation to the developments that have taken place in South East Asia, particularly in Vietnam. In my view, the Prime Minister’s visit to South East Asia was necessary. He was able to reinforce himself with first hand knowledge of the situation there and to gain a proper appreciation of what is taking place, not only in Vietnam but also in other areas in which Australia is now involved. He was able also to have discussions with our allies there, and this, too, is of the utmost importance.
Australia’s involvement in Vietnam has been debated at some length in this House during this sessional period. It is obvious to the Australian people that this House is split down the middle on the question of our commitments in Vietnam; but I feel that too much emphasis has been placed on the situation in Vietnam. In my view, the problem extends far beyond Vietnam. We should be giving serious consideration to a whole series of events which have taken place over the years not only in Vietnam but throughout the world. 1 suggest that the first important question we should consider is whether Australia and her allies are breaching the Geneva Agreements by having troops in Vietnam. In my view, there is ample evidence that they are not. I submit that it is clearly evident that the North Vietnamese are the ones who, without doubt, have breached the Agreements arrived at in Geneva in 1954, and that this is the only context in which we should look at our position and that of our allies.
Mention has been made on several occasions tonight of Australia’s freedom. The honorable member for Reid. (Mr. Uren) touched on this matter. I have not the slightest doubt that Australians everywhere value their freedom and democratic rights. These things are not taken lightly. The Australian way of life as we know it is precious to us, and our first responsibility as members of the Commonwealth Parliament should be to do everything we possibly can to preserve this way of life for the Australian people. I submit that in sending troops to South East Asia, this Government is giving first priority to that responsibility.
I suggest that if we were to stand as a single nation, if we were to withdraw from Vietnam, it would be impossible for us to hold our present freedom. I may be doing them an injustice, but I interpret the arguments of honorable members opposite to mean that we should withdraw from South Vietnam and stand on our own. That is an unrealistic argument in the light of past events, of present events and of probable future events in South East Asia.
When the Prime Minister returned from his visit a week or so ago, he stated that South East Asia has become a crucial battle ground for free peoples everywhere. That is how I see the position today. Valuing our freedom as we do, and our allies valuing theirs as they do, we must stand together in this fight in South East Asia. No nation that values its freedom can ignore the present situation.
Let us review some of the events that have taken place over the years. First, there was the Berlin situation. Had the United States, Britain and other Western powers not stood firm and shown the Communists that they could not win, had they displayed the slightest weakness, the East would have won. But the East did not win. In Korea, the same situation arose. Here again, if the Western powers had not indicated most firmly that that they had no intention of withdrawing or giving up their freedom, they would have been defeated. In Cuba, too, we had another explosive situation. The United States, by indicating most decisively that she would not tolerate what was happening there, was able to resolve the situation.
Then we had the example of India. We all know what she has had to do in the past and what she is doing now to hold her territories. India was invaded by the Chinese Communists, but she was determined to hold her own soil. Although she was by no means strong economically, she devoted greater sums from her budget to the defence of her territories and is still engaged in a determined defence of her boundaries. A similar threat was staved off in Malaysia. AH these efforts were part of the battle of containment and the battle is still going on. What we are doing in Vietnam today is part of that battle.
If the free world had ignored what was happening in Berlin, Korea, Cuba, India and Malaya, what would be the situation today? That is the question which Australia must determine in relation to her involvement in Vietnam. If we do not continue with our efforts in South Vietnam, where shall we find ourselves in the course of time? There is no doubt in my mind that if we were to ignore our responsibilities there, the advance of the forces from the North of Vietnam would escalate to the point where the position would be completely uncontrollable by conventional means. The result could well be a global conflict, with all its tragedy, and I feel that many Australians will agree with me in this.
We must do everything we possibly can to avoid another Hiroshima. That horror must not be repeated. This conflict in Vietnam is really a test between the East and West and if it is allowed to escalate anything can happen. Let us not forget for one moment the Hiroshima episode which we all hope and pray will never be known again on this earth. It is our job to see to it that the conflict in Vietnam does not escalate to a horror of that magnitude. As I see it, no responsible government would permit such a situation to develop, knowing of the devastation and horror which would come to countless numbers of people everywhere in various nations of the world. The world must find a peaceful road to a peaceful co-existence.
This is the main object of this conflict in South Vietnam today. We Australians, the Americans and the other allies involved in this conflict in South Vietnam have no territorial ambitions whatsoever. Can this be said of the opposition - the North Vietnamese and the Chinese? Have they any territorial ambitions? I have no doubt whatsoever that they have more than territorial ambitions; they have ambitions to rule our way of life. I am sure that the Australian people, when they stop and think about this situation, will agree with the Government policy in relation to what is happening at this point of time. It is quite obvious to me that the Communists have deliberately chosen an aggressive path. Their influence, in my opinion, as I have said, cannot be allowed to expand.
On this issue, as I see it, Australians as a whole should stand behind their forces at home and overseas. We have seen in the last few months, and for some time now, that Australians have not been doing this. This, to me, is a tragedy. Perhaps we can argue to some extent for the way things are done in Australia. This is fair enough. This is democracy. But when it comes to an issue of defending the freedom of Australia, when it comes to defending the freedom of the free world, surely we should stand as a united people. When we have all the evidence before us, as we have today, concerning what has happened over the years, not only in relation to South Vietnam but in relation to many areas throughout the world, I feel we should stand behind the forces in these particular areas which are standing up for what we believe is so right.
I believe that the responsibility to find a peaceful solution to this struggle in Vietnam lies equally on all concerned. What have we seen? The honorable member for Reid (Mr. Uren) said this evening that the bombing of North Vietnam should cease and that there should be negotiation. We have heard this on many occasions. If my memory serves me correctly it was not very long ago that America, Australia and all those involved in Vietnam, did agree to stop the bombing of North Vietnam. They tried every conceivable way of getting these people to the conference table in order to negotiate with them. What was the net result? They would not come to the conference table today, tomorrow or any other day. I feel sure that the Americans and the 0:her allies would meet them on equal terms to discuss freedom. Was this not offered? If my memory serves me correctly, this was definitely done. Therefore the Americans and their allies were forced into this situation of continuing the bombing of North Vietnam.
Why, might I ask, do the Communists refuse to come to the conference table? This question needs some thought. Why do they refuse? They must have some reason for doing this, lt seems to me that they obviously want to dominate the world scene. What other reason could they have if they do not want to extend their power? Unless they wanted to make territorial advances they would come to the conference table immediately and end this conflict.
Having said that, I feel it is not sufficient to win the peace. 1 have no doubt that peace will come in this area. We will win in the present situation but it is not sufficient merely to win peace in Asia. Assistance to and development of the Asian areas, which has been mentioned on many occasions, is required. There must be social and economic stability throughout Asia. The West - using this term to mean the Americans and ourselves - has agreed to do just this. In fact, the Australian people, the American people and many other people are helping the Asian people to build up their position in the world. They are aiding, in a number of ways, the Asian people to build up their own standard of living. But these things are not sufficient of themselves, as has been suggested this evening and suggested before in this House. We must first win peace. We must first come to an agreement. Following this, and even while this is going on, we must assist the Asian people to lead a better life. I feel that we can do this. I believe that the policies the Government is following are the right ones. I feel that the Australian people should think very deeply indeed about the whole situation. The conflict has come somewhat closer to us than it was a few years ago when it was in Europe. The scene has shifted. But let us not under-estimate our position in Australia. If we believe in the free world, let us think seriously about preserving it.
.- Tonight we are debating the statement made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Holt) covering his recent visit to South East Asia. Again, we are going over the ground concerning the war in Vietnam. This has been an almost continuous debate for a very long period. The Government’s views on this question are well known to the people of Australia. I believe that the views of the Opposition are also well known. The Opposition’s views are clear and definite. The Government is right to do as it thinks fit and to conscript, by legislation, the young fellows of 20 years of age to make the only sacrifice that has to be made by Australians in this war. The Government has picked out one section of the community, by legislation, to sacrifice in what it says is technically a war. The Opposition says that it is opposed to the war in Vietnam. These views are well known. We on this side have stated that we are opposed to the conscription of national service trainees and to sending them overseas, whether it be to Vietnam or anywhere else. We are opposed to Australian forces serving overseas unless they are serving under a clear and public treaty or unless they are serving as members of a United Nations force. 1 do not think there is any doubt that the people of Australia understand the difference of opinion on this issue between the Government and the Opposition. I think politicians and other people interested have talked long enough about it. Now is the time to give the people of Australia the chance to let their views be known. That is what is wanted now - not the views of the Prime Minister, the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Hasluck) or, for that matter, the views of the Opposition. We want the people to have their say. We suggest, as has been put to the House again tonight, that if the Government has the courage to do so it should immediately take the initiative and hold a referendum in order to give the people the chance to express their views as to whether or not the Government’s action is supported by them. Lf the Government will not have a referendum then let us have a general election. Government members and supporters all say that they are convinced they are right on this question, that the people are with them, and all this sort of tommy rot; but they are not game to have an early election.
Government supporters smile but they are not game to face the people because they are frightened of what the gallup polls have revealed. They are frightened to face the people and to hear their views. They like to shelter behind the views of the Prime Minister and the Minister for External Affairs. They are very game in this Parliament and they rise and say that China is the real enemy behind all this trouble. They say that we must do this and we must do that. They say it is legitimate for Australia to trade with the enemy. They say that we have to do these things. But they are not game to take up the challenge, despite their big majority in this House. They are not game to go to the people. The Prime Minister is not game to let the people speak. As I said earlier, I think politicians have spoken enough about this matter. It is time to let the people have their say. We would welcome the opportunity because we feel confident of what the people’s verdict will be. For so long this Vietnam struggle has gone on-
Mr. Giles__ The honorable member might wait until we have selected a candidate to oppose him.
– That rocked him.
– I am not very worried about who gets the preselection in Kingston. As someone has just called out, intending candidates are queuing up there. Even the Minister for Health (Dr. Forbes) queued up once, and at the election he met the same decisive defeat as every other Liberal who has stood for the seat since 1951 has met. I am not very concerned about whom the Liberals select to oppose me in Kingston. I will welcome the opportunity to have an election as quickly as possible because 1 believe the people in Kingston are like the people in every other electorate in Australia. They will vote decisively on this matter and will empty out this Government that has treated so shabbily the young people of this country. While conscripting boys of 20 to fight overseas and perhaps die in the jungles of Vietnam it is still prepared to trade with the people who, it says, are our enemy. It traded directly with North Vietnam until a short time ago and it is still trading with China, a country about which the Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Holt) told us something in the statement we are debating. He said -
China, with a population upwards of 700 million, is governed by a Communist regime implacably committed to its goal of a Communist dominated world. The Chinese Communists scornfully reject the concept of peaceful coexistence which has brought some respite in the cold war and an easing of tensions in Europe. Subversion and guerrilla warfare, as spelled out in the writings of Mao Tse-tung, have been directed with planned thoroughness lo the villages and paddy fields of South East Asia. These tactics have been eagerly adopted and ruthlessly waged in South Vietnam by General Giap, the leading military theoretician of North Vietnam, and by the Vietcong, the self-styled liberation front, who have learned their lessons well from him.
The Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Hasluck) supports what the Prime Minister has said about China. Almost every honorable member on the Government side at some time or other has pointed out that China is the real enemy. They keep repeating that Communist China is coming down through South East Asia. The Minister for Health in a statement not long ago said that the Chinese shortly will be lapping the shores of this nation. At the same time as these statements are made, at the same time as the Government is sending conscripts to Vietnam to fight an enemy which it says is supported by China, it is prepared to sell goods to China. As T have said, until recently the Government was prepared to sell materials to North Vietnam, and is still prepared to sell to China materials with which that nation equips the North Vietnam forces and the Vietcong. The Government is selling wool which is used to make uniforms to keep the Vietcong soldiers warm, and it is selling metals which are made into munitions of war.
– With which to kill our forces.
– With which, as the honorable member for Eden-Monaro says, to kill Australian troops whether they be conscripts or members of the Australian Regular Army. It is true that honorable members opposite are starting to shift their ground on this issue. They tried to brazen it out for some time on the ground that if China could not buy these goods from us it could easily get them elsewhere. If this were the fact, why has the Government stopped selling rutile concentrate to China? It has said that it does not sell to China goods that can be used as war materials. It has changed its position a little. It has stopped selling rutile concentrate to China just as it stopped selling tallow to North Vietnam - tallow which could have been manufactured into glycerine, a component of high explosive, which could well have been responsible for the death or injury of allied servicemen in Saigon. The honorable member for Bowman who is interjecting knows this quite well.
The Government is still selling to China goods which come within the category of war materials. I will leave out wheat, barley, oats, hides and the wool that we are selling to China. The Government too, as I have said, has stopped selling tallow to North Vietnam but is still selling a considerable quantity to China. It was selling rutile concentrate to China but has stopped doing that. It started to wilt under the arguments raised, realising that the Australian people will not tolerate double talk. They will not tolerate the Government saying that China is our enemy and at the same time selling material to China which perhaps can be used to destroy Australian servicemen. The Government is still selling to China iron and steel scrap, plate sheet (iron and steel), tinned plate waste (iron and steel), zinc, meters and gauges, metal manufactures, electrical appliances, other petrol engine parts, motor vehicle parts and scientific instruments.
– Machine guns?
– It would sell them if it had them to sell. Is there anyone in this Parliament who will say that materials such as I have mentioned could not be used by an army engaged in warfare against Australia? The Government will not learn lessons from the past. It forgets that we traded with a certain country before the last war. It is the same old story. The Government was warned, but it went on selling materials to a country which became the enemy of Australia in the last war. Those materials came back to us in the form of munitions of war. Today the Government is trading with China and supplying that country with materials which can be made into weapons of war. Tt has not learned from the past. It is true that it has stopped trading directly with North Vietnam, but it did that only recently because of the pressure of public opinion that was rising against it. Public opinion will force the Government to change its other practices, not because it is wrong to trade with any country, as the Labour Party has said repeatedly, but because it is completely wrong to trade with a country that the Government describes as the enemy of Australia, as a country which is aiding and abetting the Vietcong, who are engaged in direct warfare with Australian servicemen.
There can be no disputing the fact that among the goods that China is supplying to the Vietcong and to North Vietnam are wheat, wool and metal. Recently Marshal Chen the Foreign Minister for China went on record as saying that China was assisting the Vietcong in North Vietnam by providing them with these very goods.
– What does the United States think of this?
– The United States, of course, is completely opposed to this sort of thing. Honorable members opposite, and particularly members of the Country Party, who are prepared, as I said earlier, to conscript the young boys of this country to die in the jungles of Vietnam, are still prepared to sell vo the enemy the goods 1 have mentioned. The Minister said previously that the Government was prepared to do this to obtain money to provide the things necessary for the defence of Australia, lt is a strange way to raise money.
– Thirty pieces of silver.
– Yes, 30 pieces of silver. Judas Iscariot is a good term by which to describe them. They are prepared to sell goods to the enemy to help it destroy the youth of this country. The people of Australia will not tolerate this action. The Opposition challenges the Government to go to the people and ask for their decision on this matter. At present national service trainees are on their way to Vietnam. Some are already there. This Government has done some snide things in its day. One of the snidest actions - and I think what I am saying can be proved to be correctwas that which it took last May when it amended the Defence Act to provide that in a time of defence emergency national service trainees could have their period of training extended from two to five years. I suggest that that was written into the legislation only because the Government believes that this war is going to last for a long time, that conditions will get worse. I suggest that as the Government has failed to attract regular volunteers to the Army, as it has been forced to bolster the regular Ar/ny by conscripting the youth of Australia, it will in the very near future, if the situation deteriorates, extend the period of national service from two years to five. AH it will have to do is make an announcement, simply with the stroke of the pen, that a time of defence emergency is at hand. We are technically at war; it is a war that we conscript young Australians to fight in, although this is not a time of defence emergency. How close are we to a time of defence emergency? It is a pity the Government cannot tell us. lf it conscripts young people now when it is not a time of defence emergency, what action will the Government take when it believes that such a point has been reached?
I hope I am wrong, Mr. Deputy Speaker, but I believe the time is not too far distant - it will not be this side of the election but it will not be long after the election if this Government is returned to power - when the Government will extend the serving period of our national service troops. These yoting boys who are now going in for two years will then find themselves staying in for five years. If this was not the intention of the Government, why did it amend the legislation last May not at 8 o’clock at night or at 2 o’clock in the afternoon but at 4 or 5 o’clock in the morning, when we had been sitting here all night, when the Press of Australia could not report the Government’s action and when the proceedings of the Parliament were not being broadcast? The Government has treated the young people of this country shabbily. It has asked them to make all the sacrifices. If we are at war, why do we not all share in the sacrifices? Of course, the fact is that the Government knows we are not at war although it says we are technically at war.
I conclude on the note on which I opened. The Government’s views are well known to the people o< Australia. The Opposition’s views are well known. We invite the Government to hold a referendum so that the people of Australia can decide who is right on this score. Better still, we challenge the Government to hold an early election. We challenge it to go to the people immediately and let them decide whether it is right and just to send boys of 20 years to fight anc! perhaps die in Vietnam while this Government continues to supply the weapons of war to Communist China.
.- First of all I wish to congratulate the honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Peacock) on his excellent maiden speech. His was a very fine effort, and in dealing with the root cause of our present problem, that is Communist aggression, I think he placed his finger on the crux of the situation. 1 wish that the honorable members on the other side who have spoken in this debate had maintained the standard set by the honorable member for Kooyong, but instead we have had a rather sorry exhibition from the Opposition.
We heard first from the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell). The people are, of course, fully aware of the irresponsibility of his vapourings. We know that he is a man under great strain, and so anything that Anxious Arthur says naturally tends to be thrown into the discard. However, there is one phrase that he reiterates which I believe should be dealt with. He continually refers to a dirty, unwinnable war. In the first place you, Mr. Speaker, know better than most of us that this war is no dirtier than any other war. All wars are dirty and are utterly undesirable but they are forced upon freedom loving people who must preserve their freedom and the things they hold dear. I do not think anyone would venture to suggest that life in the trenches in Europe in World War 1 or on the lice-ridden tenuous slopes of Gallipoli was any less dirty than the war being fought in Vietnam by our very gallant boys at the present time. The use by the Leader of the Opposition of the term “ unwinnable “ is, 1 believe, simply a case of giving succour to the enemy, because the simple fact is that the war is being won, and it is being won rather more rapidly than the Opposition would care to think. There is growing evidence of this every day.
We then pass to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam). I listened in vain for anything really reasoned or coherent from him. Once again he took up the muck rake in his elegantly manicured fingers and proceeded to call the members of the Government warhawks. When a person resorts to name calling I think he must be pretty mentally destitute. I listened in vain for anything constructive from this honorable member. He remarked that the Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Holt) had made no mention of the South East Asia Treaty Organisation or a negotiated settlement. The simple truth is that these matters have been discussed time and time again in this House. The purpose of our Prime Minister was not to discuss these things but to inform the House of the results of his trip overseas, and this he did magnificently, if I may be allowed to say so.
Passing from the Deputy Leader of the Opposition we come to the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Uren). No-one doubts the sincerity of this honorable member, but 1 listened in vain for any reference at all to any of the causes of the present problem or anything germane in any way to the Prime Minister’s statement. What we heard was a terribly emotional speech about the hardships that soldiers undergo and the horrors of war. We all agree as to the horrors of war, but they do not constitute our present problem. Our problem is to counter and eliminate them. Incidentally, the honorable member speaks about an enduring peace. No-one hopes and prays for this more than I, but I want to point out to the House the difference between peace as we understand it and peace as the Communists understand it. They too are sincere believers in peace, but their form of peace is secured by eliminating all opposition by every possible means - mass murder, rape, imprisonment, suppression and removal of all forms of liberty - so that only one view is left. When only one view remains the Communists believe there can be peace. No-one can deny this because it is the simple truth.
I then come to the questions raised by the honorable member for Kingston (Mr. Galvin). He made the same old speech that he makes on every occasion. Of course the next election will be fought on this issue. We realise that we are at present the representatives of the people. We have made decisions which we sincerely believe are in accord with the wishes of the people. When the next election is held, in the not too distant future, the people will show whether we have done the right thing or not, and we will accept their decision happily. I am quite confident that the people will back our viewpoint. The honorable member for Kingston speaks about trading with China. First, we are not at war with China. We know of China’s aggressive aims. I may say that during my recent trip to South East Asia I was thanked time and time again in every country I visited - or the people of Australia were thanked through me - for the assistance that Australian troops are giving in defending those countries. And I remind the House that the people who spoke to me do not refer to our troops defending them against the North Vietnamese or against local insurrection; they say: “Thank you very much for defending us against Communist Chinese aggression “. Time and time again these unsolicited statements were made. They were made spontaneously in Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore. Everywhere everybody said exactly the same thing. These people are under no illusions as to the fundamental cause of the war. They are well aware that if we do not make a stand where we are making it, eventually they will succumb to Communist aggression. In fact, the same old grisly ritual is being repeated in Thailand and Malaysia today as was started in 1948 after the Communist congress discussed the revolutionary prospects for 1948 and decided that, because of the turmoil of war. the world was ripe to fall into Communist hands. Immediately afterwards, need I remind the House, there was Communist insurrection in Indonesia. That attempt was suppressed. The Huks rose in the Philippines and were suppressed. Communism tortured Pandit Nehru in India. We had the frightful problem in Malaysia, which very nearly won the day for Communism. Owing to some miscalculations on the part of the Communists and the brilliance of General Templer the uprising was suppressed. Then we had Burma in turmoil. The country is still in turmoil. Even in Australia the Communists have tried to stir up things. Comrade Sharkey tried to stir up things in Australia.
– Now strike a fighting attitude.
– This matter may be humorous for the honorable member for KingsfordSmith but for me it is a matter of life or death for the principles that I hold very dear. Throughout all this turmoil to which I have referred the party that occupies the Opposition benches has done its very best to stop the Government in its course. Every time a debate on defence has been held - nobody will deny this - the Opposition has screamed about the amount of money being spent on defence. It virtually forced the Government to stop national service training. This has led to the problems that we face today. We hear a lot from honorable members opposite about the marbles ballot. No-one likes this system but the truth is that we do not have the facilities to train all of our 20 year old men. I think it would be highly desirable if we could do so. We want to strengthen this country as quickly as we can while there is still time. So we have the sorry spectacle of the Opposition trying to sabotage our defence efforts, but when a crisis arises they scream because we do not have the facilities for training all of our 20 year olds and must select by the fairest means at our disposal only a proportion of them. As regards trading with Communist China I point out that if we did not trade with Communist China other grain growing countries would, and we would thus lose the foreign exchange that we need to strengthen our defences.
I have referred already to Australia’s standing in South East Asia. No country today stands as high in South East Asia as does Australia because the people of South East Asia know the real issues. They know that we have never been an imperialist power. This gives us one advantage. The people of South East Asia know that we are happy to accept them as equals and to work with and help them generally. As a result, our standing has never been higher. This is of fundamental importance in the history of the world and it is something we would do well to remember. We must continue to co-operate with and help as much as possible the people of South East Asia.
We cannot expect the Opposition to laud the Prime Minister’s speech about his visit to South East Asia because honorable members opposite do not like the fact that the Prime Minister is emerging as a strong and magnificent personality. Everyone would wonder how a successor to Sir Robert Menzies - the greatest figure in Australian politics - would shape up. Now that the Prime Minister is emerging as a truly magnificent figure in his own right the Opposition is not happy. The Opposition is a rabble. It is strife torn. The continual manoeuvring and back stabbing in its ranks make it the most unhappy of parties. Every morning I go down on my knees and give thanks that I am not unfortunate enough to be a Labour politician.
Let me pay a small tribute to the magnicent efforts of the Prime Minister on his South East Asian tour. He was absolutely indefatigable. We would rise at 6 a.m. and totter into bed at 1 a.m. next morning, but the Prime Minister would still be preparing speeches for later that day. He carried on without pause or rest in that trying climate. He applied himself faithfully to his task. As a result, his tour was completely successful. This could plainly be seen from the way he was received everywhere wilh the utmost respect and friendship.
Another thing which is important and which I would like to stress is that everywhere we went we spoke to our own troops. They are a magnificent body of men. Their morale could not be higher. The Vietcong respect the ability of our troops as is evidenced by captured enemy documents which advise that Vietcong forces should immediately break off an engagement once they know they are confronted by Australian troops. Could there be higher praise of our troops than that? But every soldier asked me how serious were the demonstrations in Australia. They wanted to know whether the demonstrations represented a broad section of Australian opinion. When I was able to tell them that a small section of the community, the Communist front and its dupes, were responsible for the demonstrations our boys were happy, because if anything would tend to give succour to the enemy and to undermine the morale of our magnificent troops it is the demonstrations staged repeatedly by the Communist front and its allies. As for the shoe throwing episode, the thrower was a Communist. We might automatically think this would be so, but it is always nice to have proof.
The war in Vietnam had its origin in the Communist conference on revolutionary possibilities in Asia. The sequel to the conference was that a Moscow trained activist went to Vietnam. He was in favour of the wholesale slaughter of all of the intelligentsia of Vietnam. Fortunately this was not allowed to happen. Nevertheless, he built up a cadre within Vietnam. We all know what the cadres did. Their objective was to descend suddenly upon a village. In Vietnam the villages are fairly remote. The Communists would descend on a village and murder the head man and the teacher. The teachers were and still are prime targets because they teach the truth. The truth is one thing which the Communists hate to hear. They went from village to village. In addition to murdering the head man and the teacher the
Communists murdered medical people because they maintained the health of the people. As a result of the murders, the village would be thrown into confusion. Then a Communist team would enter and proceed to indoctrinate the villagers. The Communists would take the young men of the village away for training in the Vietcong, or else. That is how things started. The practice grew until it reached such tremendous proportions that it had to be resisted. This is not a fairy story. This is actually going on today in Thailand. Heads of villages and teachers are being murdered in north-east Thailand and also on both sides of the Thailand-Malaysia border. It is still going on in Burma and it would seem, unfortunately, that the game might be won by Communism. In these circumstances how can one possibly call it a civil war in Vietman. lt is a war deliberately instigated by international Communism. As a consequence it is an ideological and political war we are fighting. It is a war that cuts across the boundaries of countries and that is why in Australia today we can see Communist activators trying to stir up trouble and turmoil to weaken our resistance to defend ourselves against Communism. The average man in the street finds it hard to believe that this could happen in Australia, but the simple truth is that it is happening. I am sure that this is finally being realised by the people and I am sure that they will vindicate the stand of this Government.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Coutts) adjourned.
House adjourned at 10.32 p.m.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated -
m asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions is as follows -
As the honorable member will be aware (see “ Hansard “ of 8th March 1966), the Government has now decided to defer, until the next Parliament, the referendum proposals approved by both Houses of Parliament towards the end of last year. The Government’s position on the reference to Aborigines in Section 51 (xxvi) has already been stated in the Parliament (see “ Hansard “ of 1 1th November 1965), but it will naturally receive and consider any suggestions on the subject which are made to it before the proposals are again submitted to the Parliament.
s asked the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
– The Minister for Repatriation has supplied the following information -
Pension Entitlement (i.e., applications and/or appeals for acceptance of a disability or additional disabilities as due to war service) -
Pension Variation (i.e., application and/or appeal for increase in war pension) -
There is no time limit for lodging of entitlement appeals. Appeals decided in a particular year are not necessarily related to decisions made during that year.
y asked the Minister representing the Minister for Supply, upon notice -
– The Minister for Supply has supplied the following information -
y asked the Minister representing the Minister for Supply, upon notice -
– The Minister for Supply has supplied the following information - 1 and 2. The value of supplies obtained for defence purposes from local sources during the last financial year is approximately$1 20m. This includes a wide range of munitions, equipment and supplies. 3 and 4. For reasons of military security, it is not desirable to detail the major items or the value of each.
n asked the Minister representing the Minister for Supply, upon notice -
– The Minister for Supply has supplied the following information -
n asked the Minister for the Army, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows -
The current rate of pay to privates in the Australian Army ranging from Group 1 to Group 7 is $4.60 per day for Group 1 and $5.98 for Group 7. 2. (a) The pay of privates in the Army of the United Kingdom ranges from $2.16 per day for non-tradesmen to $4.84 for technicians.
The comparative rates of pay expressed above are all in $ Australian.
y asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows - 1 to 6 and 8. The Government has considered a number of requests for financial assistance to acquire the vessel “ Krait “ to commemorate the part it played during World War II. There were several factors, however, which led the Government to conclude that public moneys should not be spent on acquisition of the vessel - nor on its maintenance. For instance, the vessel at the time of her most famous exploit was not under Australian command nor was she a unit of the Royal Australian Navy; and, although she did later commission with the R.A.N., work carried out by her as an R.A.N, ship was no more deserving of recognition than that of the 12 other craft of her flotilla. Inquiries showed that her bulk made her quite unsuitable for keeping in the Australian War Memorial. The Services advised that they were unable to make use of her for training purposes. 1 understand that an appeal under the patronage of the Lord Mayor of Sydney, was launched in order to obtain funds to bring the “Krait” to Australia but 1 am not aware of the amount collected in this way.
y asked the Minister representing the Minister for Supply, upon notice -
– The Minister for Supply has supplied the following information -
b asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Associations of Taxpayers to recommend that bigger tax deductions should be allowed to taxpayers with dependants?
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions is as follows -
The Government will, as usual, during the preparation of the 1966-67 Budget, be considering the many requests it has received during the year for new and extended tax concessions. The proposals referred to by the honorable member will, of course, be considered at that time.
n asked the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice -
What were the annual tonnages of artificial sweeteners used in Australia during each of the last ten years?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows -
No information is available as to the precise quantities of artificial sweeteners used in Australia in the last five years, as production in Australia began in 1960 and there is only one local producer in which circumstances statistics of local production are not made public.
Before the commencement of local production, Australian consumption was equivalent to the quantities imported and cleared from Customs for consumption. The quantities of artificial sweeteners cleared for consumption in Australia in the last ten years were as follows - lt should be pointed out that artificial sweeteners have a variety of non-food uses and not all the quantities set out above would be used to replace sugar.
n asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows -
n asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Is it a fact that legal costs incurred by a private citizen in defending libel actions are not a permissible deduction for income tax purposes whereas compensation paid to persons claiming damages for alleged libels published in a newspaper, and costs of contesting claims or of obtaining advice as to them, are deductible whether the proprietor was successful or unsuccessful or the matter was settled by compromise?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows -
According to the general principles of the income lax law and the decision of the High Court in Herald and Weekly Times Ltd. v. F. C. of T. (1932) 48 C.L.R. 113, a newspaper proprietor would need to Show that costs connected with libel actions were incurred in the production of his assessable income or were necessarily incurred in carrying on his business for the purpose of producing such income, and were not of a capital or private nature, before those costs could be allowed as a deduction.
The same tests for deductibility would apply in the case of any other taxpayer who incurred expenses in connection with an action for libel. Generally speaking, a citizen who incurred legal expenses in defending a private libel action would find it difficult to establish that the conditions prerequisite to allowing the deduction were satisfied.
n asked the Minister for Trade and Industry, upon notice -
What percentage of local content is contained in the various makes and models of -
passenger type, and
commercial type motor vehicles being sold on the Australian market?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows -
Information on the Australian content of the various makes and models of motor vehicles has been made available to the Government by the vehicle manufacturers on a confidential basis. It would not, therefore, be appropriate for me to make this information public.
Pensioner Medical Service. (Question No. 1556.)
d asked the Minister for
Health, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows -
Generally, a single entitlement card is issued to a married pensioner couple to cover their needs, except in the case of a couple living apart. In the majority of cases, it appears that this does not impose any inconvenience upon pensioner couples. However, separate cards are issued where an application setting out the reasons) for the request is made by the pensioners concerned.
son asked the Minister for Health, upon notice -
– The answers to the hon orable member’s questions are as follows -
Aborigines: Commonwealth Employees.
t.- On 9th March in reply to a question from the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam) 1 said 1 would see what further information could be provided concerning equal pay for Aboriginal employees of the Commonwealth.
As has been stated on a number of occasions in Parliament and elsewhere the Government’s general policy of nondiscrimination applies to the employment of Aborigines by the Northern Territory Administration and by Commonwealth Departments. The decision of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission is being examined in order to determine the appropriate procedure to be applied in respect of Commonwealth employees.
t.- On 30Ji March, the honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Ian Allen) asked me whether the record of proceedings of the Canberra meetings of the Inter-Parliamentary Council could be available to members in printed form.
I understand that the Inter-Parliamentary Bureau will issue the Minutes of the Council Meetings in printed form as soon as possible. Copies will be available to honorable members in the office of the Secretary of the Australian Group, who will gladly supply them on request.
e asked the Minister for Exter nal Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 10 May 1966, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1966/19660510_reps_25_hor51/>.