26th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr SPEAKER (Hon. W. J. Aston) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– Can the Minister for Labour and National Service confirm that more than thirty summonses have been issued against tenants of some migrant hostels in Victoria for non-payment of increased tariffs? Is it a fact that no tenants of the Fishermen’s Bend hostel in my electorate or the Brooklyn or Maribyrnong hostels in the electorate of the honourable member for Gellibrand have been proceeded against? If so, does this indicate that these hostels are substandard and that the Government is fearful of the adverse publicity which would flow if tariffs at these hostels were increased?
– I would like to dwell for a moment on the general background to the question. The Government did decide to increase hostel charges. This must inevitably be done from time to time as wages and costs generally rise. The cost of running hostels can be roughly apportioned as 40% wages cost of a direct character, 30% food costs and 30% administration and other costs. Every time the basic wage is increased all these costs increase with varying time lags and the increases flow through to other sectors. Over the years the proportion of hostel charges which has been borne by the taxpayer has increased. Some years ago hostel residents were called upon to pay a much higher proportion of hostel costs than they are today. About three years ago costs rose to a point where the taxpayer was paying about 40%. So if other costs which are not normally allowed for in fixing hostel charges are included, the taxpayer was bearing roughly half the cost of running the hostels. We decided that 40% was a reasonable contribution for the taxpayer to make and that having regard to the inevitable and unavoidable rise in costs, despite considerable increases in efficiency, it was necessary to raise charges.
We examined the situation with great care. In some cases increases in charges were proportionately greater than in others, the general principle adopted being that persons on lower incomes with the largest families should benefit rather than other tenants. Following this decision we have increased charges and, quite naturally, a number of residents objected to the increases. It is very difficult to persuade anybody with a pain in his pocket that the pain is not there. It is a hopeless task. So we made it clear that the charges had to bs borne. Regrettably, a sizeable proportion of tenants has not yet paid the new charges, only the old ones. We have done our best to make it clear that these charges have to be paid. If, unfortunately, they are not paid, we have to take legal action. I cannot give specific answers with relation to the particular hostels mentioned by the honourable member for Melbourne Ports, but I can say that overall there are quite a number of people who are not paying the increased charges. There is no reason to single out those hostels.
Our hostels do vary in quality. Some of them certainly are not as good as we would like. Others, particularly the newer ones, are very good. We are replacing what we regard as some of the least satisfactory hostels. As honorable members know, we have plans for Springvale and Randwick. We also have quite a big programme for improving conditions in the other hostels. Some $18m has been spent since Commonwealth Hostels Ltd took over, and we will continue the programme of improvement. A great many services are provided in hostels, but one must recognise that it is not pleasant for a family to live in communal conditions. Naturally, some of the inhabitants come across people whom they do not particularly like, and various natural petty differences keep cropping up. We meet all the complaints that we can meet on an ad hoc basis. I think those honourable members opposite who, because of their interest in this matter over a long period are familiar with the problems, will recognise that, on the whole, Commonwealth Hostels Ltd has done a first class job. No other country provides these kinds of facilities for new immigrants, but the facilities can never be perfect. There will always be sources of irritation, and when increased charges have to be borne this inflames the whole situation.
I hope honourable members will have regard for what has been done in the hostels and that they will also have regard for the taxpayers, because the vast bulk of these costs is borne by the masses of wage earners in the country. It is true that the wage earners have enjoyed increases in wages, but the inhabitants of the hostels also have received quite considerable increases since the charges were last adjusted.
– The question of jurisdiction over natural gas discoveries offshore has been set aside. Very protracted negotiations have been going on between the Commonwealth and the States in order to achieve a common code so that there will be no question of litigation over jurisdiction. It is intended that the Commonwealth and the States, in consultation, shall regard offshore areas of gas and oil as national assets and that they shall be treated as such. Any purchaser of gas from Victoria is perfectly free to negotiate directly with the company that has found the gas. The Victorian Government has agreed that it will not withhold permission to sell gas interstate if two conditions are satisfied. It insists on proof that the reserves of gas are sufficient to allow contractual obligations already made with Victoria to be carried out. It insists further that regard be had to prices which have been negotiated in Victoria.
– Is the
Minister for Labour and National Service aware of the failure of the servicing resources of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration registry to keep pace with the output of decisions, resulting in a delay of one year in providing printed reports and of two and a half years in the publication of the Commonwealth Arbitration Reports? Is the Minister also aware that in order to meet the pressure of work regular overtime is being forced upon the registry? If he is so aware, when does he propose to take the necessary action to provide increased staff and, if necessary, to examine the possible need of changes in organisation within the registry thereby enabling the work of the department to be brought up to date?
– I am aware in general terms that there is unfortunately some delay occurring at the registry. All branches of the Government service have to be staffed by good people. The work cannot be done in a sloppy fashion. Good staff is not easy to obtain. However I note the honourable member’s question and will see what further measures can be taken to speed up the process concerned.
– I address a question to the Minister for External Affairs. In view of repeated claims in certain overseas quarters that some top Nazi war criminals have undergone plastic surgery and are living in the Argentine, and in Havana, Cuba, can the Minister say whether efforts are still being made by the appropriate international authorities to locate them and to bring them to trial before the extended period for the trial of World War II criminals expires?
– I am personally unaware of the allegation that the honourable member made in the early part of his question. That being so I ask him to put the whole question on notice so that I may examine that part of the question and answer both parts of his question on notice.
– I direct a question to the Minister for External Affairs. I refer him to a statement on Vietnam made by Sir Robert Menzies in this House on 29th April 1965. I quote from page 1060 of Hansard of that date, where Sir Robert said:
We have progressively increased our programme of economic aid to South Vietnam so that it now runs at the rate of about £lm a year.
In his foreign affairs statement the Minister said that Australia’s civil assistance to Vietnam had been increased to a $2m commitment in the current financial year. He said that this was 70% higher than in 1965-66. Will the Minister clarify his statement in the light of Sir Robert Menzies’ statement that two years ago Australia’s civil assistance was already $2m? Will the Minister account for the increase of 70% to which he referred?
– From memory I cannot recall the circumstances in which Sir Robert made his statement, or the context in which he made it. The recent statement I made was to the effect that Cabinet had recently re-examined its SEATO aid programme to South Vietnam and had made certain administrative rearrangements. It also increased the amount of that aid, bringing it to a total in the current financial year 1966-67 of $2m. In addition to the SEATO aid programme some Colombo Plan aid is given to South Vietnam. Perhaps this has not been taken into account by the honourable member. However, I will examine the statement ascribed to Sir Robert Menzies and the context in which it was made, and I will furnish the honourable member with a more detailed answer.
– I address a question to the Prime Minister. In view of the promise by the then Prime Minister, Sir Robert Menzies, to the people of northern Australia that a special committee would be set up to fully investigate transport costs in northern Australia, and their consequent great interest in this matter, can the Prime Minister give an undertaking - and members of the Opposition will probably like this part - to make the Loder Committee report available to honourable members before this session ends?
– It was the Government of my predecessor - a Government similarly composed to this Government - which set up for the first time in Australian history a committee to examine the problems of transport in the North and to see what measures could assist in decentralisation of industry and give encouragement to development in northern areas. Several of the recommendations in the report of that committee have been given effect already. The report is a very long one. It involves several departments.
– Tell us which ones.
– I will not tell the honourable member in reply to an interjection. If the honourable gentleman puts his question on the notice paper I will see that he receives a reply to it
– It has been on notice since 1955.
-Order! The honourable member for Stirling will cease interjecting.
– This was a confidential report to the Government. We have examined already the practicability of making the report public. My recollection is that it was found not practicable to make the report public.
– The Prime Minister is hiding the facts.
– Do not be so naive about this business. If a Government invites a body of men to report to it, those men are entitled to assume that what they report to the Government will be confidential between the Government and them unless it is clearly stipulated in advance that this should not be so. This is not the attitude of this Government alone. Honourable gentlemen opposite can be pardoned for not being aware of these things because they have not held the responsibilities of office for so many years. But this is a common practice of democratic governments anywhere in the world.
I will try to give to the honourable gentleman and to any other members who may be interested details of the aspects of the recommendations which have already been put into effect. But I can assure the honourable gentleman that the work on recommendations is proceeding in the departments concerned. We have found the views of the Committee and the facts that it has presented of great help to us in our considerations.
– I preface my question to the Prime Minister by saying that at his Press conference the other day he justified the use of VIP aircraft by his family and their friends by saying: T don’t want them discouraged from doing this. It helps me in my job.’ I ask the Prime Minister: is he considering any steps to ensure that laxpayers are given the opportunity and privilege of paying travelling and clothing allowances as well as the cost of these VIP flights as the Prime Minister will acknowledge that these are so necessary to keep up appearances?
– The question is one which I think could have come from the honourable gentleman but not from very many honourable gentlemen in this House.
– Do not get nasty.
– I am not getting nasty. I am glad to say that in the case of the honourable gentleman it is not necessary to become nasty. We can handle him on the run. It is not so very long ago - and the honourable gentleman will be aware of this - that much the same sort of Press campaign was directed to the use of motor cars by members of Parliament, by Ministers and by others. Well, the community is becoming a little more sophisticated and mature, I am glad to be able to report. Let me just put this matter broadly. Last year, I travelled 125,000 miles by air in the service of this country. The journeys apparently were considered necessary because the electorate seemed to endorse the performance quite convincingly when the time came. Any week in which I work eighty hours I regard as a light working week in my job. When I say that these services assist me and assist my colleagues - and, as far as I am concerned these services would be available to assist the Leader of the Opposition in his duties - I want to make this point quite clear: while I am Prime Minister of Australia, I will do my job in the way that seems to me to be the most effective and I will consider my comfort and convenience and the comfort and convenience of my ministerial colleagues in carrying out the tremendously difficult jobs that they do. I will not be discouraged by any Press campaign. If I am not acting in a responsible way in the eyes of the people, they will know how to take out on me any displeasure that they feel. It so happens that in this country there are many people, officials and others, who wish to get to know the family of a Prime Minister. This is very natural. It does not suit the convenience of members of my family to give up time from their professions or businesses and bring their families here with them simply because I say: ‘I want you here in Canberra for this occasion or for that purpose’. Frequently they travel at their own expense or at my expense, and I do not begrudge that. But there are occasions when I think it proper that they should be associated with me and should enjoy the same travelling arrangements as I enjoy when I am on official business for the Commonwealth. If the honourable gentleman or those who choose to criticise are so small minded that they take satisfaction from their criticism, they are welcome to it. In the words of my predecessor, my withers are unwrung
– Has the Minister for Air any new information for the House on the policy of the Royal Australian Air Force in relation to mercy flights, particularly to such distant areas as the Northern Territory?
– I welcome the question from the honourable member for North Sydney. His interest in the Royal Australian Air Force over a long period of years is well known and it is good to hear him asking questions of this kind once again. The general answer to his question is that the Air Force has already had a request for a Hercules aircraft to take urgently needed fresh foodstuffs to Darwin. It will be going tomorrow morning. In addition, two Dakotas are standing ready in Darwin. The commanding officer has access directly to the Administrator and if any further requests for air services are received in Darwin they will be provided immediately.
– I address my question to the Minister for the Army. What military advantage has accrued to the Australian forces in Vietnam as a result of the increasingly heavy casualties they have suffered in recent weeks and are likely to continue to suffer?
– This is a question that one might expect from the honourable member. One has only to visit the province and the area in which our Task Force is operating to see the advantage that its presence brings to the people of the province. One has only to go to the province to see areas that formerly were under Vietcong control, where the village elders who were the leaders have been eliminated, and where children in the middle of a rich agricultural district are suffering from sores and malnutrition, because of the depredation of the Vietcong in keeping their own military effort going. There is a transformation when reasonable security is established by our own forces, and when this is reinforced-
– You have not done that.
-Order! The honourable member has asked his question and the Minister will be allowed to give his answer.
– Th« efforts of our forces are reinforced in the province by the work of the South Vietnamese forces themselves. Anyone who sees the followthrough of our own civic action and the civic aid projects of the South Vietnamese will soon realise that the task is very well worth while. I think one of the most telling reinforcements of this view is the view that has been put to me by many parents of national servicemen in Vietnam. They have said that very naturally they were not particularly keen on their sons being sent to Vietnam for this purpose. Initially they and their sons were not particularly happy when the sons were sent to Vietnam. But since they have been there, since they have seen the need for what they are doing, they have written home saying that although it might be a hard job, a difficult one and a dangerous one, it is a necessary job and one in which Australia has to participate.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Civil Aviation. There is at the moment some controversy about certain airports but, quite apart from Tullamarine’s obvious advantages as the eventual No. 1 international airport using jet aircraft, I ask whether before approving extensions to either Mascot or Tullamarine to take supersonic aircraft, the Minister will make an exhaustive assessment of the intensity of the sonic boom effect over a fifty miles wide corridor of flight over the Australian continent. Will he bring the facts to this Parliament for a debate on the wisdom of adopting this new threat to life and limb in the very dubious name of progress?
– The first part of the honourable member’s question was answered by my statement yesterday. Regarding the second part in relation to problems of sonic boom, I can assure the House that a lot of work is being done in research in this particular field overseas. The problem is causing a great deal of concern to manufacturers of supersonic aircraft and also, of course, to the countries that will in the future be using them commercially. But in Australia, perhaps, we are more fortunate than most other countries. The majority of our international airports are on the seaboard, which means that on most of the routes in and out of Australia the approach paths will be over the coast. In many cases the sonic boom would not be a problem, since approach and departure would be made over the sea, and the aircraft would be at subsonic speeds. However, a problem could arise on routes which take supersonic commercial aircraft of this type over land, but the only answer I can give at this stage is that a lot of research is taking place in different parts of the world into this problem and we hope that before the SSTs are actually flying we will know more about the situation and be in a much better position to deal with it.
– I direct a question to the Prime Minister. Did the former Prime Minister, Sir Robert Menzies, state in reply to my question of 1st April 1965 that the report of the Committee of Investigation into Transportation Costs in Northern Australia would be presented by the Minister for National Development before the end of August 1965? If that is so, what justification is there for the report not having been tabled?
– I will examine the statement attributed to Sir Robert. I shall also look into the most recent history of this matter. As a matter of fact, I did ask in my own office only a few days ago to be brought up to date on the latest developments arising out of the Loder Committee report. When I am in a position to give a considered answer to the honorable gentlemanI will do so.
– I preface my question to the Treasurer by saying that the identity of the lady whose portrait is to appear on the $5 note has excited the curiosity of many people. Will the Treasurer state whether the lady was born in Australia and in what field she was a pioneer?
– I am aware that the name of the lady who will have her portrait on the $5 note has excited a great deal of curiosity. I can assure the honorable gentleman that I should like to publish the name quickly. I have been advised by the currency authorities that it would give opportunities for forgery, and consequently they asked me to restrain myself for a few more weeks. I can assure the honourable gentleman that the lady is an Australian; she is attractively dressed. The photograph of her which was chosen shows a charming, even beautiful woman. The only other assurance I can give honourable members is that it is not my wife.
– I ask the Prime Minister a question. I take it that the right honourable gentleman will recollect writing about twelve months ago to the former member for the Northern Territory in these terms concerning the report of the Loder Committee of Investigation into Transportation Costs in Northern Australia:
As my predecessor said in Parliament on 26th October last in reply to a question by the honourable member for Stirling, it is the Government’s intention to make the report available for debate as soon as the examination is complete.
Is it still the Government’s intention to make this report available for debate?
– It is my recollection that when we looked at this report it was found not to be in a form suitable for general publication, but I could be wrong in this. I cannot be dogmatic about it. I shall look at the matter closely again to see what conclusion we came to. We do carry a good deal of the business of the Government in our heads, but we cannot expect to carry everything. I shall check the matter for the honourable gentleman.
– And supply an answer in writing as though it were a question upon notice?
– I direct a question to the Minister for the Army. In view of statements made by some honourable members during the Address-in-Reply debate, is it true that the Australian Government sends conscripted troops to Vietnam without those men having the opportunity of some other alternative?
– Once a young man has joined the Army or has been conscripted into the Army for national service the nature and place of his service are entirely matters of decision for the Army, having in mind his own abilities and, in particular of course, his own physical standards and abilities. But before this stage is reached and before a young man is conscripted by ballot into the Army - this applies to anyone throughout the whole country - he has the opportunity to exercise the Citizen Military Forces option, which is to do up to six years efficient service in the CMP. The Government regards this as a perfectly honourable and proper alternative to the possibility of two years full-time service.
– I ask the Minister for the Interior: does he recall that in May 1965 he announced that the AttorneyGeneral had completed an investigation which had disclosed that it would be possible to work out a legal basis for a strata titles system suitable to the circumstances of the Australian Capital Territory? Does he recall further that in March 1966 the Attorney-General said that in the Australian Capital Territory we were seeking to get the best possible ordinance, that this was in the course of preparation and that it should be ready in the not too distant future? Will the Minister ascertain what is the present position so far as the preparation of strata titles legislation is concerned and will he then say whether the Government will consider selling departmental flats to tenants as is presently done with houses?
– All I can say is that the matter of strata titles in the Australian Capital Territory is still under consideration between my Department and the AttorneyGeneral’s Department. Until such time as legislation is brought forward, if it is, I cannot say how it would affect government flats in the Territory.
– I direct a question to the Prime Minister. Having in mind the serious dislocation of road and rail transport which is occurring in the Northern Territory, 1 ask: if the funds that are normally available for work on roads and railways in the Territory are insufficient to cope with the present emergency, will the right honourable gentleman make available immediately whatever funds are necessary, firstly to remedy the existing situation and, secondly, to help prevent such disasters in the future?
– I am sorry to hear the honorable member refer to events in the Northern Territory as a disaster. It had not come to my notice that the situation had reached proportions that would justify such a term. I regret any hardship and dislocation caused as a result of the recent heavy rains and flooding in the north. I shall be glad to confer with my colleague, the Minister for Territories, to see in what way the Commonwealth Government can give practical help in the situation described by the honourable member.
– I address a question to the Treasurer. Is it correct that when goods are subject to sales tax the amount of tax is calculated as a certain percentage of the wholesale price of the goods? Is it also correct that in determining the tax in this manner different amounts can apply to identical articles purchased in different places? If this is so, does the Government intend to alter the method to ensure that people in remote or high cost areas will pay no more than people elsewhere? If not, why not? Finally, if the amount of sales tax on identical articles is higher in some parts of Australia than in others, would this be contrary to the Constitution?
– Both parts of the assumption made by the honourable member are, I think, correct. Sales tax is levied on the wholesale price, and in places far distant from the main centres of production the sales tax would be higher than in places close to areas of production. On several occasions the Government looked at this problem to see whether it could find an alternative method of assessing sales tax, but on each occasion the best advice we could get was that no alternative system was readily available that could be implemented quickly and effectively. I might mention too that other countries have had problems similar to ours and have attempted to vary their methods of taxation to achieve the aims suggested by the honourable member, but I think it is fair to say that on most occasions they have failed. Such failure is consistent with the advice given to me by the taxation authorities.
– My question is directed to the Minister for the Army. Some considerable time ago approval was obtained for the Cadet Corps in Australia to have its own flag, to be known as the Duke of Edinburgh Standard. Has the design for the flag yet been approved, and have the honorary Colonels of the Cadet Corps been consulted about it? Is the Minister aware of an offer made by the first honorary Colonel in Australia of the Cadet Corps, Brigadier Galleghan, to present a guidon to the Corps? If so, was this offer accepted? Finally, is the Minister aware that many thousands of young high school students from both public and private schools are eager to join the Cadet Corps, but that they are unable to do so because of the limits placed on the numbers to be enrolled? As cadet training is most valuable for discipline and loyal citizenship, to say nothing of defence preparations, will the Minister urge the Government to increase the number of units and cadets to keep pace with our fast growing school population?
– A short while ago a design for the Duke of Edinburgh Standard was approved by the Military Board. It was only after it had been so approved that it was discovered that the honorary Colonels had not been properly and fully consulted about the design, although there had been an understanding that their wish was for a design similar to that adopted in the United Kingdom. Since they were not fully consulted before the decision was made, the design that was approved by the Board, but which in theory the Board could alter, has been referred to the honorary Colonels for their views. I appreciate the point made by the honourable member concerning new cadet units, and the Government has continuously made provision for growth in the Cadet Corps. During the past five or six years the number of cadets actually enrolled has increased by some 5,000 or 6,000, and there is still room in current establishments, and in the establishment of 45,000 approved for next year, for some further growth.
But in the Cadet Corps as in other elements that come under the general authority of the Army in some way there must be some order of priorities. There is a demand in the Corps for Regular Army cadre staff. Members of this staff, by the very nature of their jobs, must be chosen, I believe - and as I think my predecessor and his predecessor believed - with particular care. In the light of the strains on skilled Army manpower caused by the expansion of the Regular Army and the need to maintain a proper cadre staff for the Citizen Military Forces, men with the particular skills and ability required are not at present in over supply. When further plans are being made for future three year programmes the matters that the honourable member has raised will be kept fully in mind. I hope that the policies that have been adopted in the past will be continued.
I have no information about the matter relating to Brigadier Galleghan which the honourable member mentioned. I shall make inquiries and write to him about it later.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Territories. Yesterday he said that the Melbourne ‘Age’ had presented ‘a completely accurate report’ of what he had said at the weekend relative to self government for the Territory of Papua and New Guinea. On the basis of this report the same newspaper, in its editorial on Monday, declared that the Minister’s statement ‘can do nothing but bring resentment and suspicion’, lt also stated:
There could veil be bewilderment in PapuaNew Guinea and anger in the Trusteeship Council.
Does the Minister agree that this editorial gives a completely accurate interpretation of a statement about which the same newspaper gave a completely accurate report?
– As the honourable member pointed out, yesterday I referred to the report, not to the editorial. Where the editor got his material for the editorial I do not know.
– I would like to ask the Minister for Civil Aviation a question. Has his Department considered establishing a principal international airport for Australia in the Pilliga Scrub area in north western New South Wales? I point out the cost advantages of airport construction in this area, its separation from domestic flight patterns, its attractions as a suitable place for plant and animal quarantine and its central location in relation to our major capital cities.
– It is a fact that from time to time suggestions have been made that one major international airport should be established in Australia at some place distant from the seaboard in some undeveloped area such as the Pilliga Scrub. I believe that this matter has been raised by the honourable member on a previous occasion. When the proposal was made previously I understood that it envisaged that some central location would be chosen and that feeder services would radiate from that point to the major centres of population. I am sorry for the honourable member’s sake to say that after very careful examination of the proposal a decision was made that it would be far more economic, and better from an operational standpoint, te maintain the international airports in. their present situations closer to the major centres of population.
– I direct a question to the Attorney-General. As a result of his distinguished career at the Bar, he will be aware that certain law reforms relating to homosexual practices and abortion have been proposed in England. A specialist committee was appointed in each instance to investigate each matter, and the reports of those two committees encouraged law reforms relating to these subjects to be introduced into the House of Commons. Has the Attorney-General considered appointing specialist committees consisting of people appropriately qualified to report on these two subjects in the Australian context and to recommend any desirable law changes on these two matters? Perhaps it may be desirable to seek the co-operation of the States in such investigatory work but, if this is not forthcoming, could any proposed law changes be applied to the Australian Capital Territory and other Territories administered by the Commonwealth?
– The law relating to these subjects is the law of each State and, as far as the Territories are concerned, the law of each Territory. This is a matter for each State or Territory. So far as the Territories are concerned I have not heard of any agitation, for example in the ACT, for amendment of the law relating to homosexuality 01 abortion. However, as I mentioned yesterday we are presently considering the matter of a’ new criminal code for the ACT and the Law Council of Australia is doing soma work on a preliminary draft. When this is received I will consider the code and include in my consideration the matters raised by the honourable member. In view of the interest displayed by the honourable member for Oxley in the subjects of homosexuality and abortion, if he cares to give to me any written submissions containing suggestions on these subjects, they will be taken into account when I consider the new law.
-I have received a letter from the honourable member for Stirling (Mr Webb) proposing that a definite matter of public importance be submitted to the House for discussion, namely:
The Government’s failure to maintain the efficiency of the Postal Section of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department and its failure to maintain harmonious industrial relations with the unions in the introduction of automotive processes.
I call upon those members who approve of the proposed discussion to rise in their places. (More than the number of members required by the Standing Orders having risen in their places)
- Mr Speaker, for some time now the Postmaster-General’s Department has been getting strong criticism from the Press, from its customers and from honourable members on this side of the House. That criticism is well and truly justified. The Post Office is not as efficient as it was twelve months ago. Its efficiency has been deteriorating over the past five years. Matters have come to a head with the introduction of the new electronic coding equipment at the Redfern Mail Exchange a few months ago. But inefficiency in the Post Office does not end there. There is gross inefficiency in many other places. This charge applies to all capital cities. Complaints are not isolated; they are widespread and are coming in week by week. No doubt as these complaints are exposed they will in time be remedied, but this is not enough. What is called for is a complete examination of the Post Office to ensure that its performance will match the rapidly rising demand on its services.
It would appear that the Department is concentrating too many of its resources in making the new system work at the expense of providing now an adequate and efficient service. The Postmaster-General’s Department expects too much too quickly from the electronic coding machine. At Norwich in England trials of an electronic machine designed to perform the same functions as the Redfern machine continued for years. The machine was not put into service until it had proved itself. Here we have the spectacle of the Department failing to recruit sufficient staff to handle the increased Post Office business and expecting the coding machine, without an adequate trial, to replace staff immediately the button is pressed. Here the Postmaster-General is using the customers of the Post Office as guinea pigs, the result being mutilated and delayed mails. The fact is that the electronic coding machine is supposed to deal only with normal size letters. The outsize letters are supposed to be rejected - ‘bounced to one side. Instead, the machine has been mutilating the outsize articles. Numbers of staff have to be employed at the danger point to rake out the jammed packages. Daily mail officers have to re-sort bags of articles missorted by the machine. Because of staff shortages, this mail may be delayed considerably.
The number of staff employed at the Sydney Mail Exchange at 30th June 1964 was 2,296. By 7th March 1967 - this week - the number was 1,855. This represents a decrease of 441. During the same period, the amount of mail handled has increased by 12%, or about 4% per annum. . Here we have the reason for the serious mail situation in the Sydney area - shortage of staff. The Minister says that less mail was being destroyed in recent times, and he points to improved efficiency resulting from better culling by hand of letters before they are fed into the system. Here we have an admission that the machine has failed in one of its jobs. We now find that staff must be employed in culling mail that is supposed to be culled by the machine. The elimination of male officers and the employment of females in their stead at reduced rates was silly. With their knowledge of manual sorting, the male officers would have made the best operators of the coding machine, particularly in the early stages.
The Minister says that unfavourable Press comments on the electronic coding machine are limiting Australia’s opportunities of exporting this machine overseas. Surely the responsibility for this rests with him. By rushing the machine into service before it was fully tested, he has caused the machine to receive unfavourable publicity. Are the Press, the public and, above all, the customers supposed to keep quite while their mail is being delayed and mutilated? I have here one complaint from a Miss Julie Stewart. It is in the form of a letter dated 28th February 1967, addressed to the Leader of the Opposition. In it, Miss Stewart says:
I wish to protest to the Postmaster-General, through you, regarding the non delivery of 90 of 110 wedding invitations etc. I posted at the Sydney GPO one month ago. As stated above on 20 of the 110 letters were ever delivered. This failure of the Postmaster-General’s Department caused me unnecessary expense and inconvenience, to say nothing of the illwill of my friends who did not receive the invitations and expected to get same.
This is not a haphazard ill-conceived complaint but one which will bear out the closest investigation.
Should that girl have kept quiet? Possibly the most important day of her life was spoilt because of the inefficiency of the Postmaster-General’s Department. In reply to criticism by the ‘Daily Telegraph’, the Postmaster-General made a remarkable statement. He said that live traffic tests were essential. This live traffic must be the customer’s mail. Why must it be the customer’s mail? Why should the customers have to bear the burden and the expense of having an admitted 30 letters destroyed each day? According to some reports, the number of articles destroyed is a great deal higher than that. We shall have some information about this later from the honourable member for Watson (Mr Cope). If the customers have to be used as guinea pigs, then I hope the Minister is never appointed Minister for Civil Aviation.
The Minister admitted that the standard of mail services was causing him some concern. Let me tell him that it is causing his customers not some concern but grave concern. He told this House that he thinks the criticism of the mailing delays and mailing disappearance is exaggerated. He has proved by his own admission that there has been no exaggeration, and that, if anything, the criticism has understated the position. It frequently takes two days for mail to go from one side of the National Capital to the other. This applies also in other capital cities. The Australian Post Office has been described as a drag on the nation’s progress. In Canberra we have the incredible situation where instead of mail going direct from one post office to another as it once did it is delivered to a so-called mail exchange at Kingston. This has been aptly described as the land of the lost mail.
Some business firms and professional men have engaged air services or their own couriers to make certain of fast and safe delivery of mail. Yet the Minister says the statements are exaggerated. I hope that the Minister will not give as an excuse the reason that mail is incorrectly addressed or that articles are included in envelopes. Before this new equipment was introduced efficient mail officers had no trouble in finding any addressee, and there were no electronic devices. The complaints of mail delays refer to a big percentage of mail correctly addressed that is delayed and goes astray. The present situation that has developed at Redfern has been brought about as a result of the Department making very little attempt to recruit staff over the past twelve months. Having relied on the electronic equipment doing the job the Department is suffering from a lack of trained staff now that the equipment has failed to live up to expectations.
The Postal Workers Union agrees that the staffing situation is difficult but points out that rates of pay do not compare with those prevailing in outside industry. Jobs outside are made more attractive by overaward payments and by fringe benefits. This is a factor in the difficulty of recruiting staff for the Post Office. The latest Financial and Statistical Bulletin, in table 11, shows that the total number of Post Office articles handled increased by over 500 million, an increase of 24.86%, between 1961 and 1966. In the same publication table 40 shows that the number of officers grouped under the heading ‘Mail Officer’ throughout the nation during the same period increased by 511, or 7.8%. These figures relate to the period up to 30th June 1966, which was before the coding machine was in operation. The number of mail officers employed by the Postmaster-General throughout Australia in 1963 was the sama as in 1961, namely, 5,715, but meanwhile the number of articles handled had increased by over 154 million. One reason for the trouble in the mailing section of the Department is that staff has not been increased proportionately to the increase in mailed articles.
Another factor that has reduced the efficiency of the Post Office is the heavy hand of the Public Service Board. The Board interferes in matters that it is not competent to interfere in. It is the largest employer of labour in the nation, and of the departments it handles the PostmasterGeneral’s Department is the largest. The Board has shown a reluctance to take the unions into its confidence and to conciliate on industrial problems. The word ‘Conciliation’ comes first in the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, but the Board has ignored it. Good industrial relations can bring about improvements in mail handling and deliveries. This is a factor that the PostmasterGeneral should face up to immediately. The Postal Workers Union was advised in 1965 that the Board had worked out types of employment categories in the mail exchange branch. It virtually endeavoured to eliminate the Postal Workers Union from even covering the staff in an industrial sense. The Board’s reluctance to conciliate resulted in a 24-hour stoppage of work. The electronic coding machines were hailed by representatives of the Public Service Board during a hearing before the Public Service Arbitrator as being technically perfect. They said that little or no skill would be required of an operator to control them. We know the result - chaos in sorting mail and in the delivery of mail.
I am advised that in overseas countries there has been continuous consultation between the postal administrations and the unions, and that this is encouraged by governments. What is the position here? There is no consultation of any consequence. The General President of the Postal Workers Union has advised me that the Minister declared quite bluntly to a delegation from the Union that it was not necessary for the Government to consult with unions on problems involving automated processes. Consider the arrogance of the man in refusing to consult with the Union on an important matter like this. The PostmasterGeneral should consider divorcing his Department from Public Service Board control. The Union holds the view that a post office corporation similar to that being formulated in the United Kingdom would give better service to the community, and industrial relations would be on a far more stable basis than they are at present. A monolithic structure such as the Public Service Board, which has 250,000 people under its jurisdiction, is not capable of controlling the Postmaster-General’s Department, which has 100,000 employees. It is beyond the competence of the three who
Sit. on the Board, particularly when none of them has had Post Office experience to enable them to deal with this largest Of our departments.
The new Director-General, Mr Housley, when he was General Manager of the Overseas Telecommunications Branch, always followed policies of staff consultation and showed an understanding of the rights of his staff to advance with rising technology. The Treasurer (Mr McMahon), when he was Minister for Labour and National Service, had this to say when he was addressing the International Congress on Human Relations:
The strongest supporters of the new technology would hesitate before .suggesting further changes if they thought they would cause too many problems for the individual or increase still further the tensions between management and labour.
The Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt), when he was Minister for Labour and National Service, made a similar statement. He said:
There is no doubt that changes will come and the problems seem to be principally those of making the necessary adjustments with as little friction as possible. A natural desire to pluck the fruit before it is ripe or even formed can be as dangerous as a tendency to exploit difficulties that are as yet hypothetical.
I want to know from the PostmasterGeneral whether the attitude of the Government has changed in this regard.
There is no doubt that the PostmasterGeneral does not follow the line that was recommended by the two former Ministers for Labour and National Service. His reply to a deputation from the Australian Council of Trade Unions and the Postal Workers Union made that clear. His callous disregard of human values is to be deplored. No impartial investigation has been carried out into what happened to the skills of the mail officers in conversion to automated letter sorting. The mail officers should have had a chance to develop with the new automated system. Our Postmaster-General is out of step with the British Postmaster-General, the Honourable Wedgwood-Benn, who in an address when opening a new post office at Aberdeen recently pointed out: . . although Britain still has a far better postal service than America and most European countries, we can never be content until it is as good as it is -meant to be.
He gives quite an amount of detail and then continues:
Major automated sorting offices will be capable of handling enormous quantities of mail at very high speeds: Concentration will achieve greater economy and efficiency, while at the same time conserving manpower.
Co-operation with the existing staff must be deliberately sought if productivity is to be raised. This is the experience of all technological industries and it applies to us as well.
The Postmaster-General should ask the Director-General of Posts and Telegraphs to approach the problem associated with automated processes in the Post Office as he did with similar problems in the Overseas Telecommunications Branch. The heavy hand of the Public Service Board should be removed from-
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– Mr Speaker, I think that it is a pity that the honourable member for Stirling (Mr Webb), suffering from the disability of great inexperience - and I emphasise ‘inexperience’ - has come into this House so soon after his appointment by the Opposition to have the purview of Post Office matters - he was appointed to this task a week ago - to try to represent views that obviously have come from somebody else. 1 think, Sir, that had the honourable member been given a copy of the claim by the Amalgamated Postal Workers Union before the Public Service Arbitrator and had he been given a copy of the Arbitrator’s determination, he would have had virtually the same story as we have beard this afternoon, plus some more information that might have been of considerable value to him. I believe that the honourable member is doing nothing more than representing the union in the claim that it has been making over a very long period in respect of this particular operation.
Firstly, the honourable member has made reference to the new coding machine at the Redfern Mail Exchange. I have said unhesitatingly that there have been teething troubles in the operation of this machine. I should like the honourable member for Stirling to indicate in what area of industrial advance some teething troubles have not occurred when new equipment has been introduced. If the honourable member wants an illustration of this argument, 1 ask him: why is it that the motor companies give a twelve months warranty or a 12,000 miles warranty in relation to the sale of all new motor cars? This is recognition by the companies that in fact there could be teething troubles in the functioning of a piece of equipment. I believe that this is quite a normal situation but it is a situation which unfortunately the people of Australia, in the interests of efficiency, will have to live with. However this is not to say that in any circumstances the Post Office is not concerned with this problem. I have indicated quite clearly - and some of my comments have been referred to by the honourable member for Stirling - that last week only two letters had been destroyed because of the coding machine. The maximum number of letters which sustained the slightest bit of damage was fewer than 100 and all of those letters were deliverable. This is not a very high proportion of the total mail that goes through the Sydney Mail Exchange.
Of course, not all the mail passing through the Sydney Mail Exchange is dealt with by the coding machine. The total number of articles that pass through the Sydney Mail Exchange daily is 3.5m. Letters account for 2.8m of that total and, of those letters, only 600,000 at the present time go through the coding machine. I have heard reference to many articles such as newspapers, etc., supposedly going through this coding machine. This is complete nonsense. If the honourable member for Stirling had only studied the subject, he would know that quite outside the operation of the coding machine letters, newspapers or parcels have had to be rejected by the Post Office for one reason or another. The number of these articles is not less than 200,643. These have nothing whatsoever to do with the machine. These have nothing to do with letters that have been destroyed or damaged. These were letters that had to be returned to the senders. The number of letters that were destroyed because they had been addressed incorrectly, could not be delivered and when opened by the Dead Letter Office gave no indication of the senders’ names totalled 22,000. In the month of February, 36,000 newspapers that passed through the Sydney Mail Exchange- were destroyed. So, I suggest that people get the right perspective in relation to the use of this coding machine.
The coding machine is used - and it was quite clearly stated that it would be used - in relation to letters that were ten inches by five inches in size and that were no thicker than three-sixteenths of an inch. If the honourable member is suggesting that the machine should handle mail that is larger in size than the letters I have specified, then he is suggesting that another bit of equipment is required. I point out that through this area passes the greatest percentage - approximately 90% - of the total letter mail handled through the Australian Post Office. I believe that we have the best equipment and we can be justly proud of it. We have automatic equipment to deal with parcels. It is all very well to suggest that parcels get destroyed but I point out that Canada, Great Britain and New Zealand all use exactly the same equipment as we do, and this equipment has been developed in Australia. There have been many inquiries about this coding machine from people overseas who are contemplating the installation of this machine in relation to the operation of their Post Offices. Last year a conference of the Consultative Committee for Postal Studies was to be held in Russia. Russia gave way to the suggestion that the meeting should be held in Australia so that experts in the post office field could go to the mail exchange in Sydney and inspect this coding machine. It is because these experts saw the machine that they became interested in this project in relation to their own mail handling operations.
What is the overall task of the Post Office? Last year, it handled 2,556 million articles. This approximately is 8m. articles each working day or, if honourable members prefer to have it this way, 6,000 articles every minute. That is the number of articles handled by the Australian Post Office. This represents a 25% increase for the period of the last five years. If honourable members want an indication of the increase in efficiency over the last six years, let me inform them that traffic has increased by 31% while the staff has increased by” only 10%. If the public want increased efficiency and minimum charges for the handling of mail and postal articles, there must be increased productivity. The figures I have given are an indication of increased productivity within the Australian Post Office.
The honourable member for Stirling referred to employment. In 1961, 5,715 mail officers were employed. In 1966, 6,206 were employed. This is an increase of 9% . But I suggest that the mere total number of persons employed is not necessarily a clear indicator of the operations of the Post Office or of any business activity. Overtime is an important factor. It is much more effective for us to have people working a couple of hours overtime than to have an additional person employed for a full eight hours a clay. In June .1964 the man hours were 102,000 and in February 1967, last month, they were 114,000. That is an increase of 12%. Relatively, it is pretty close to the increase in the mail handling operations. Where the honourable member for Stirling took his figures from I would not know. At 30th June 1964, full time and part time staff converted to full time for this purpose, totalled 2,223. On the same basis, on 7th March, only this week, the total was 2,303, with an additional 130 in the coding operation, giving an overall figure of 2,433. This is an increase of 210 people between 30th June 1964 and 7th March 1967. I therefore think it was completely stupid for the honourable member for Stirling to try to convince the House or the public on the figures he gave.
Let us go back a little in considering the activities of the union. I became PostmasterGeneral very late in 1963. It was not long before I had a strike of the postal workers on my hands. We came to an agreement in 1964 and the agreement included this provision:
For their part the ACTU and the APWU-
That is, the postal workers - will not support any stoppage of work on any industrial issue in future but will negotiate and failing agreement will go to arbitration. In die event of the men stopping work the ACTU and the APWU agree that the prescribed penalty provisions of the Act will be appropriately applied.
In 1966 we had more industrial trouble. It was suggested to the union that it ought to take the issue to arbitration, but the union said it would not. It wanted the matter settled. Discussions were held over a long period, very often into the early hours of the morning. However, finally it was the Government which referred the matter to the Arbitrator. It is very interesting to note what the Arbitrator had to say about some of the points that were put to him in the arbitration claim. I do not have his exact words with me, but he told the General Secretary of the union that he wanted matters put before him that would enable him to determine the issues; he did not want political speeches. What we have had this afternoon most certainly is a political speech from the honourable member for Stirling, based exactly on the issues that were put before the Arbitrator. In his determination, the Arbitrator said:
From such an examination as may be made al this time, it is clear that the new function is one which does not require for its performance the skills, knowledge and experience of mail officers. The material available in the form of oral and documentary evidence and the evidence of inspection support Mr Young’s contention that there are different needs, and that sectionalisation in the manner proposed is justified.
The Arbitrator also said:
In view of my conclusion that the claims by the Board and the Postmaster-General be granted, il is inescapable that interchangeability as between Mail Officers and Mail Officers (Coding) is impracticable.
Later he said:
By agreeing with these claims it follows that I regard the functions proposed for a Mail Officer (Coding) as suitable for the prescription of female rates, calculated upon the basis operating generally in the Service.
If there is any contest by Opposition members or by the union, their contest surely is with the Arbitrator. But I have never known Opposition members at an election to suggest that the arbitration system is all wrong and that it would be replaced with their own determination of wages and conditions for anybody within the Post Office. Opposition members accept the Arbitrator’s decision. I suggest that the honourable member for Stirling obtain a copy of it from the union and read it. If he does he will be better informed about this problem.
The honourable member made some remarks about me. He said that the union had told him that 1 had refused to discuss automation. How much nonsense this is! The honourable member, of course, is taking the union stand, and the union has done nothing but play politics and give us political humbug for a long time, or some irresponsible individual at the head of the union has. What I told the union was that some decisions had to be made by management and that whether we introduced coding machines was a decision that management had to take. I said that I was not prepared to discuss with the union whether in fact we as the management should install these machines or whether we should not. I did not show any lack of desire to discuss other matters, with the union. I have seen union representatives on two or three occasions and, in the company of the President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, Mr Albert Monk, have discussed matters that the union representatives have raised. Processes are available to the union if it wants to have matters determined. The honourable member has referred to the Public Service Board. There are frequent discussions with all the many unions within the Post Office, either between the union representatives and the Post Office or the union representatives and the Public Service Board. If a union wants to discuss a matter with me, I have never refused it the opportunity; but I believe that, having regard to my responsibilities, it is not unreasonable to ask the union to discuss the matter with these other people first.
– Order! The Minister’s time has expired.
– Last Monday, 6th March, I visited the Sydney Mail Exchange in Redfern, which is in my electorate of Watson. In company with the Superintendent and three representatives of the Amalgamated Postal Workers Union, I made an inspection of the building and the installed equipment. My visit was prompted by recent newspaper comment in regard to the mutilation and destruction of numbers of mail articles by the electronic sorting equipment. I also had m mind that there seems to be a general trend in the community to blame the mail sorting staff for mail delivery delays and damaged or missing letters or parcels. In consequence, it is my intention to put the view as expressed to me by representatives of the Union and to tell the House what I saw for myself during, my inspection.
To obtain a clear picture of the underlying causes of the present unsatisfactory state of mail processing, 1 shall first refer to the gradual decline in the standard of service to the public. This has been brought about mainly by changes in internal procedures, notably in respect of registered mail, parcels and express delivery articles where surcharges are made and for which the public is entitled to some additional service. This service was provided in the past by a system of individual listings from each point of processing to the next. This ensured that each article could be traced from the point of posting to the point of actual delivery. This system of listing was discontinued by departmental direction a few years ago. No present-day check of these articles is considered to be wholly effective. Thus although the public is paying a special additional charge for effective security and special delivery the fact is that the Department is not providing a service comparable to that given under past procedure. In a number of overseas countries no provision is made for an express delivery service, yet the Department in Australia is accepting a fee for express delivery knowing full well that no such service will be provided. 1 shall refer now to the mail sorting staff and in particular to the lack of incentive to mail sorters resulting in a loss of morale. The steady increase in mechanisation over the past decade has destroyed personal satisfaction in accurate and speedy mail son ing. The individual grade III mail officer previously was solely responsible for the correct and timely despatch of his final division. If he made a mistake he was held responsible for it and an explanation had to be made to his superior officer. No such check is possible now and when responsibility ceases job satisfaction declines and the morale of the mail sorter declines with it. In addition to mechanisation the employment of parttime casual and partly-trained staff is slowly but surely destroying the principle that the mail branch is a career industry. This view is held not only by the mail sorters but also by the supervisory staff. I remind honourable members that the mail officer took a pride in that, having achieved the status of grade III, he had successfully passed a written examination on postal procedure and a speed and accuracy test in sorting, and was therefore qualified to make a final despatch, taking sole responsibility for his effort. Now he has to make the despatch with a part-time casual and a partly-trained mail officer. This poses the question: if the Department no longer worries about the standard of work produced by its mail officers what incentive is there for the trained mail officers to put their best foot forward?
I now wish to refer to the mutilation and destruction of letters. As I mentioned earlier in my remarks I visited the Sydney Mail Exchange last Monday and saw for myself a bundle of badly mutilated letters. I was informed on good authority that in one period of four days a total of more than 2,000 letters had been mutilated or destroyed.
– Who told the honourable member that?
– Well, I suppose he would get the sack if I told the Minister.
– No he would not.
– He was one of the adults in the dead letter office. Recently, as published in a Sydney newspaper, the Postmaster-General claimed that the number of mutilated letters would average only about thirty a day and that this loss was due mainly to people enclosing door keys and other metal substances in letters. However, the badly mutilated letters which I saw last Monday contained nothing except ordinary everyday mail.
I wish to refer now to the paper and packet machine, or ‘other articles machine’ as it is called. This device is known to the staff as the .-:—-I–, It drops other articles’, or O.A.s from one floor to another and then moves them along belts to sorting positions from where they are conveyed to other places for sorting. Because of the large volume of mail centralised in Sydney - approximately 3.5 million articles a day - the machines provided cannot handle the load and the mail articles piling on top of each other are rammed along channels where they jam, rip and smash each other on or against the side of the conveyor. The belts clearing the sorted mail from slots not infrequently jam and remix the sorted mail. As conveyance to different sorting positions is entirely dependent on a timing device for opening various gates the mail is sometimes conveyed to the wrong positions. Large numbers of staff are employed waiting at danger spots to rake out jammed packets. Mail officers daily have to relocate and re-sort scores of bags full of articles which have been missorted due to the inadequacies of the machine. Due to staff shortages this mail may be delayed for days. Staff is employed in all sections trying to find and match the wrappings and contents of packages, repair them and send them on. A special section of the parcels section rewraps damaged parcels coming off a similar machine, and in addition thousands of articles of slightly damaged mail are forwarded with bruised or dented edges, torn pages etc every day.
While it is freely admitted that some articles are not properly packed by the public, the people paying for a service are entitled to the safe delivery of all packets that are properly packed. All but a tiny fraction of damaged or missorted mail results from the .-:.–/…., machine contracted for between the administration and Telephone Electrical Industries. The TEI letter transfer system is another device which has, ever since its introduction, caused jamming of letters on belts and regularly showers letters over the heads of staff employed at Sydney. It is known as the ‘confetti’ machine because of the mutilation or destruction of public mail caused by its operation. It is apparent now that when the mail exchange at Redfern was built people with practical experience of one of Australia’s most complex industries, namely mail sorting, should have been consulted as to the general layout.
Let me give honourable members an example of what has happened. Mail posted in England in November last arrived in Australia late in January. This mail has been delivered only in the last few days and some may still be buried amongst thousands of accumulated bags of mail. Prior to sorting mail is unloaded in the basement of the building and conveyed by TEI belt systems to the top of the building. When the storage space is filled the belt stops. Bags of mail then accumulate in large numbers in the receiving dock and those bags which come off the trucks first become buried under thousands of bags. Because of this the staff’s efforts to keep the bags in order and send the ones first received to be sorted first are nullified as thousands more bags come in. This is what happened to the November mail from England. The example I have given poses three question;. Who can tell what mail is at the bottom of the pile? How long has it been there? How much longer will it be there?
In concluding my remarks I should like to emphasise that many of the general public, myself included, naturally believed that damage and mutilation to mail articles could have been the result of negligence and carelessness by the staff. However, as a result of my inspection at Redfern, plus the authoritative evidence provided to me by the Union representatives, I say without hesitation that it is not the fault of the Postmaster-General’s staff. Conversely, I consider the mail sorting staff to be a competent and conscientious band of workers.
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired. Before I call the honourable member for La Trobe I think I should point out to honourable members that the clock which times honourable members speeches seems to have lost its power to light up giving Rem a warning that they have only one minute left in which to conclude a speech. The light is not coming on.
– When I first came into this House and heard that a matter of urgency was to be discussed I would think: What crisis has hit the nation and what case is going to be put before the Parliament by the Opposition. Last night when around the corridors I heard that a matter of urgency was going to be discussed today I thought to myself, what matter of urgency is there that could be discussed? There is the ‘Boonaroo’ and the ‘Jeparit’ issue. I thought that the Labor Party at last was going to come out and support those unionists who are concerned in this unfortunate incident. Then I heard later that the matter of urgency had to do with the Postmaster-General’s Department. I thought back over the years and I decided that it would be about the Australian Broadcasting
Commission for sure, and ‘Four Corners’ in particular. I thought it might be related to the iniquitous treatment of members of Parliament when they are forced against their will to give answers to questions. I thought, for example, of the case of the Leader of the Opposition who, after consistent questioning, was forced to give the truth on Labor’s Vietnam policy. I thought that this was what the Labor Party was going to bring out. But again 1 was wrong. This was not the situation at all. Then I learnt what in fact was about to happen today.
It was of interest to read in the Press this morning that the Secretary of the Amalgamated Postal Workers Union, Mr Slater, had visited Redfern in New South Wales and had issued statements to all the metropolitan dailies as to what he had found, what his opinions were and what he wanted done. It is interesting also to find the selfsame gentleman from the union sitting m behind the Labor Party in the House today. lt was interesting, too, to hear the honourable member for Stirling (Mr Webb), who we understand now leads in postal matters in the Opposition’s shadow cabinet, although I think it is more than a shadow. He seemed to be reading every word of what he had to say. Then the honourable member for Watson (Mr Cope), a man of great capability with a facile turn of phrase, who :s never at a loss for a word, read his speech verbatim - page after page of it. He mentioned that he had been to the Redfern Mail Exchange building on Monday. As I understand it, he was there from approximately 10.30 a.m. to 12 noon. I understand also that during that time there was no jamming of the machines. I do not know whether he denies this. I understand that during this period he also saw a movie called This is the Mail’, and that he then did all the other things on which he has made quick, clear and precise decisions. Unfortunately, he did not have them in his mind but had to read about them to us.
We then come to the point of what is happening at this moment in respect of postal facilities throughout Australia. There is no doubt that the postal facilities and the services of this country have increased to an amazing volume. There is no doubt also that over the next twenty years they will increase very much more. There is no doubt that provision must be made to introduce the most modern machinery to handle this volume, or to have any chance of handling the mail and the postal situations that will confront us. I do not know whether the honourable member for Stirling was here in 1912: I can only see him when he is sitting down so I believe he could have been. After listening to the honourable member I can imagine that when automatic telephones or telegrams were first introduced he would have made the same speech. I can imagine him saying: ‘This is going to put all our boys out of work; what of those chaps with the blanket making the smoke signals? This is what we want. This is what we need for modern telegraphic communication.’ At all events J can imagine him saying: ‘This is iniquitous; this is automation; we should do nothing. We should keep the runners, running from mile to mile, and once a year we will get the mail through, so help me Bob.’
Let us look at the situation in the postal services in Australia. The PostmasterGeneral (Mr Hulme) has admitted that there have been problems with the installation of the automatic sorting machines. He has been quite fair and frank with this House and the public. Indeed, the Press, the unions and members of Parliament, I understand, have been given every facility to look at the situation and to investigate for themselves what is happening.
– That is not true.
– I do not know whether the honourable member for Watson is raising his head or whether it is just a touch of ague, but let mc read the report from just one newspaper. The ‘Sydney Morning Herald’ of 28th February this year published a report under the heading ‘New mail sorter “choosy”.’, as follows:
The Post Office’s automated letter-sorting machinery is not the paper-chewing monster that some people claim - but it still has ‘bugs’ in it.
The report continues:
The letter-sorting machinery is an impressive mixture of electronics, whirring belts, clicking gates and flashing lights, covering an area of half a dozen tennis courts.
It handles most of the letters offered to it without trouble and it is getting better every day, but it can be choosy.
Recently it was embarrassed by a letter containing a cigar. . . .
I suppose that if people want to put cigars in envelopes and send them through the mail there is a fair chance that they will be unsmokable when they are delivered. Perhaps the Opposition does not accept this. Somebody else sent some bird seed. That could have been addressed to one of the honourable members on the other side of the chamber, but I would not know. Seemingly, when the envelope containing the bird seed went into the machine it was penetrated and the seed fell out. These are the facts, without any doubt. When there is talk about industrial trouble and noncooperation with the union, it is surely not our duty as members of Parliament just to come here and agree with one section only; surely it is for us to analyse the problem, find a solution and act in the best interests of the people of Australia. We know that in the dispute referred to by the honourable member for Stirling there was an arbitrator. We know that the arbitrator suggested certain conditions which were agreed upon by the Postmaster-General’s Department and by the Union. It was agreed that people who were moved to other employment should have their rights and their standing protected, and if it was necessary for them to go into some different sphere they should be given training in Post Office time. In other words, their rights were completely protected.
The arbitrator concluded by saying that this needed the goodwill of the Government, the Department and the unions. I know that the Postmaster-General is anxious to have, and I believe he has, good relations with the Postal Workers Union and associated unions. We know that the arbitrator said that the award would operate for a period of six months and that it would then be reviewed. I do not know, but if everything works smoothly for six months and there are no problems, perhaps some people could consider that the existing award would be regarded by the Arbitrator as reasonable. It seems to me that some people - I do not think it is all and it could be a very small minority - would like the award to fail. They do not want it to succeed. They realise, perhaps because they are being paid a salary or whatever it may be to handle these matters, that so long as they can create dissension and distrust, they have a fair chance when the award is reviewed of getting all they are asking for.
Let us see what Mr Slater says they want. They want a royal commission into certain matters. I go white at the thought of a royal commission. They want the PostmasterGeneral’s Department to be taken over as a corporation, but we have not heard anybody here, including the honourable member for Stirling, mention anything about this. It is suggested that we should launch an immediate full-scale staff recruitment campaign. As I understand it, there is no shortage of mail officers in Sydney. I believe that thirty-five were recruited in November and December and that twenty more are to be recruited within the next few weeks. I feel that the substantial part of the case put up by the Opposition as a matter of urgency is nothing more than an endeavour to win support from a union and to recruit to their ranks. If the unions had supported them and had believed what they said, it is amazing that they are not on this side of the House instead of the other side.
– Order! The debate is concluded.
Address-in-Reply: Presentation to the Governor-General.
– I suspend the sitting till 8 o’clock tonight in order that Mr Speaker may present the AddressinReply to His Excellency the GovernorGeneral at Government House. I should be glad if the mover and seconder, together with other honourable members, would accompany Mr Speaker.
Sitting suspended from 4.9 to 8 p.m.
– I desire to inform the House that, accompanied by honourable members, I waited today upon His Excellency the Governor-General at Government House, and presented to him the Address-in-Reply to His Excellency’s Speech on the Opening of the First Session of the Twenty-sixth Parliament, agreed to by the House yesterday.
His Excellency was pleased to make the following reply:
Thank you for your Address-in-Reply which you have just presented to me.
It will be my pleasure and my duty to convey to Her Most Gracious Majesty The Queen at one the Message of Loyalty from the House of Representatives of the Commonwealth of Australia, to which the Address gives expression.
Debate resumed from 28 February (vide page 209), on motion by Mr Hasluck -
That the House take note of the following paper:
- Mr Speaker, it is just on a week since the House listened to a statement from the Minister for External Affairs (Mr Hasluck) and the reply that came from the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam). The reply came with all the flurry of his new-found position as Leader of the Opposition. I suppose that in one respect it is a good thing that at least six days have gone by since 1 listened to that speech. When I was listening to it last Thursday night I thought - and I try not to be partisan about these things - that it was a thoroughly deplorable speech. Since then, I have had six days of quiet, reflective moments to look back on this speech that struck me at first flush as being deplorable. I have endeavoured to be a little more objective. So, I have culled out what seemed to me to be the principal point of his speech that upset me. I suppose that as my Irish temperament reacts to the quietness of the opportunity of prior conviction, so the House will be able to see at a glance that indeed I am striving - I hope successfully - to quell what semblance of partisanship may rest in my bones.
The honourable gentleman started off with an attack upon this country’s policies in the United Nations. He alleged, amongst other things, that the policies of the Australian Government in the United Nations regarding New Guinea and Nauru have not been supported by one country in Latin America or in Africa. I do not know whether that allegation is true or false. But what I am going to say about it is this: it strikes me as being a very perilous sort of argument to advance to an assembly of this nature that unless the votes are on one’s side the arguments that one puts forward have no merit. I think that it was a very perilous argument to come from the Leader of a political party that at the last election received the greatest drubbing ever given to a political party since Federation.
– We had the better argument.
– Let me say to the honourable member for Wills-
– Be kind to him.
– I will be kind to him. I think it is time somebody told the honourable member that he has a preternatural resemblance to a sulky cockatoo. I fear that at times he is moulting. Sir, this country has a magnificent record of achievement in New Guinea and with respect to Nauru. The quality of that record will not be diminished in any way by the prattling views of those who form their opinions according to prejudice and not according to fact. Neither will that quality of achievement be diminished by the view of the Leader of the Opposition who now takes the stand that he should knock what represents a singular record of achievement by his own country.
After having given us that view on New Guinea, he turned on my right honourable friend, the Minister for External Affairs. ] know that it is a matter of record that from time to time I have said one or two ruffled things about my right honourable friend but always, I hope, with respect to some point of substance. 1 tried to find out why it was that the Leader of the Opposition attacked the Minister for External Affairs. 1 was puzzled as to where the relevance of his attack lay. 1 looked at the right honourable gentleman. He did not seem to me to be crumpled up with despair, or upset. But I was still puzzled as to the relevance of the attack. Of course, with regard to this man of destiny, as the Leader of the Opposition so modestly described himself on one occasion, I am bound to tell the House that I have already taken the view that he has a well developed sense of immodesty. I am sure that he believes that had he been present at the time of the Great Flood Noah would have unhesitatingly signed him on as the first mate.
But here is the Leader of the Opposition today in his new-found role as Leader of the Opposition - and I fancy that he thinks that he is in a very acute state of sanctity - believing that anything he has to say has relevance. Well, I am quite sure that the House and the country will treat with contempt the attack that he made on the Minister for External Affairs and, in particular, the attack he made on the members of the Department of External Affairs. If he has any complaint at all to make, by all means let him level it against the Minister. But to attack those who have no opportunity to speak for themselves in this chamber is, I think - and I say plainly - a contemptible gesture.
Then we come to what I describe as the essential argument that he put to the House. So that I will not be accused of quoting him incorrectly, I will quote from Hansard. This is what the Leader of the Opposition had to say. I think this was the central argument that he put to us last Thursday night. Speaking of the Government he said: lt offers the Australian people an open-ended commitment to war, prolonged and expanding indefinitely.
This is with respect to South Vietnam. Well, as I said in my opening remarks, I will try to approach these things in a quiet way. But I thought as I listened to that argument that if there was a contemptible argument put forward this was one. Let me say this to the honourable gentleman: I yield not to him or to any other person who sits behind him in my reverence for the ethics that respect human life and human dignity. 1 abhor cruelty, be it cruelty to mankind or animals. But for the honourable gentleman to come in here and to say that the Government and those who support the Government are committed towards expanding indefinitely the war in Vietnam was a miserable and contemptible charge.
– You hypocrite.
– Now that the honourable gentleman is ruffling his feathers-
-Order! The honourable member for Wills will withdraw that remark.
– I withdraw the remark.
– The Australian Labor Party in recent years, whatever its views on Vietnam may be - and I venture to say that it has more policies on Vietnam than there are clumps of noogoora burr on the outer Barcoo - they all lead to the one thing - a policy of scuttle. That is the view. The Government and the people of this country have no wish to be involved in Vietnam. Our respect, our desire, our ambitions and our quest for peace are as earnest as those of anybody else. Our quest to have people live their lives freely and actively is also real and substantial. But what did the honourable gentleman say? He said: ‘You are committed indefinitely to prolonging and expanding the war’. I repeat that that is an argument that will not be received by the people of this country with any sense of pleasure. There will be a great measure of regret that the Leader of Her Majesty’s Opposition has resorted to such a cheap tactic.
Then he showed his ubiquity when he invoked the authority of Air Vice-Marshal Ky. I am all for using whatever authority may come along on occasions. But for Air Vice-Marshal Ky to be invoked by the Leader of the Opposition as an authority for asserting one of his propositions comes as a surprise. After all, no person outside this country has in recent years been traduced in the same manner by an Opposition as has Air Vice-Marshal Ky. The honourable gentleman said, if I may summarise the view of the Labor Party, that he is one of the greatest no-hopers. But here on this occasion, when it suited him, he adopted the views of Air Vice-Marshal Ky. This is what he had to say. He stated that the Air Vice-Marshal had said:
When some people ask me if there are any possibilities that North Vietnam will ask Red China, Communist China, for military aid by sending Communist troops to North Vietnam, I say no.
The Leader of the Opposition said that, as a consequence, this destroys completely the Government’s neat, tidy picture of Peking controlling Hanoi and of Hanoi controlling the Vietcong. I think his logic, whatever else one may say about it, was poor. It would be plain to any person who had a nodding acquaintance with Vietnamese history that what the Air Vice-Marshal was referring to was the fact that there is a traditional hostility towards the Chinese and not a willingness by the Vietnamese to submit to Chinese sovereignty. But is the honourable gentleman serious when he puts the proposition to this House that Communist China has no vested interest in what is happening in South Vietnam? If that is so, I can describe it only as pure nonsense. Let the honourable gentleman remember his words of some two years ago. On 25th March 1965 he said:
Admittedly there has been infiltration from the north-
And mark these words - and subvention from China.
So, on his own admission, the honourable gentleman agrees that Communist China is associated with the activities in South Vietnam.
Having dealt, as he thought, satisfactorily with this matter, he then turned his attention to the suggestion that this country had not sought a settlement in South Vietnam. Whatever one may say about that argument, it is conspicuous, as was the first argument he advanced, for the quality of its contemptibility. Let us look at it. Every peace move that has been made around the world has been vigorously supported by the Australian Government. Is the honourable gentleman sincere, is he genuine, when he says that this Government tried to inhibit the efforts of the seventeen unaligned nations to get peace in South Vietnam? Is he seriously saying of the Australian Government that it did not support all the efforts that had been made by the SecretaryGeneral of the United Nations? Is he serious when he says that the Australian Government tried to subvert the world wide authority of His Holiness the Pope in trying to get a settlement in South Vietnam? ls he serious when he says that the Australian Government opposed the attempt by the Commonwealth mission to get to South Vietnam or the attempt by Mr Patrick Gordon Walker to get a settlement in South Vietnam?
Is the honourable gentleman blind to these forms of activity or is he merely saying for the purpose of political convenience: ‘No, you have not been behind these efforts. You are a Government that is composed of warmongers.’ I think that is a very poor argument to come from the honourable gentleman. But possibly, if he is not impressed with my views, he will accept the views of Hanoi Radio on this matter. On 30th December 1965, Hanoi Radio, speaking on the efforts to get negotiations with respect to South Vietnam, said:
The USA has not only put forward one negotiation after another, but has even cooked up the legend about Hanoi’s desire to negotiate in an attempt to sow confusion among public opinion.
Hanoi is prepared to concede that the United States of America has sought time and time again to get a settlement. But the Leader of the Opposition says: ‘No, this is nonsense’. I would hope that the honourable gentleman in his new found position is not so much up in the clouds, pursuing his heavenly ambition, that he will now ignore the elementary fact that it takes two to negotiate about anything. All the powers that have commitments in South Vietnam have sought time and time again to get the parties to the conference table and on every occasion these moves have been ignored by Hanoi.
Then we came to the brilliant analysis - 1 hope that ‘brilliant’ is not too harsh a word - of the bombing of North Vietnam. No person wants indiscriminate bombing and no person wants all the cruelties that come with bombing. But the other night the honourable gentleman put the proposition to the House that the bombing of North Vietnam has had no effect whatever upon the activities of the Vietcong. On that occasion he invoked the authority of Mr McNamara. According to the Leader of the Opposition - I am always in doubt as to whether the honourable gentleman has actually sighted these authorities - Mr McNamara said:
I do not believe that the bombing up to the present has significantly reduced, nor any bombing that I could contemplate in the future would significantly reduce, the actual flow of men and materials to the south.
On this occasion it is convenient for the honourable gentleman to ignore the use of the word ‘significantly’. But is the Leader of the Opposition serious when he says that the bombing in North Vietnam of supply routes and dumps has had no effect on Vietcong activity in South Vietnam? If that is his argument, he must also be willing to support the argument that the bombing has facilitated the supply of troops, munitions and foodstuffs to South Vietnam. But even recognising the splendid erraticism that presently possesses the honourable gentleman, I do not think he would be silly enough to support that view.
The last thing I want to say is that persistently the Australian Government’s endeavour with respect to South Vietnam has been characterised by an earnest wish to see peace come to that unhappy land. The honourable gentleman says: ‘You are not for a settlement’. I say to the honourable gentleman that a settlement could be reached in South Vietnam tomorrow if the Americans were to withdraw some 4,000 or 5,000 miles back to their homeland and if Australian and New Zealand troops were to withdraw. If all those with an interest in supporting the South Vietnamese withdrew their help, the guns would be silent; but so too would be the ambition of people who have striven so hard, so desperately hard, for so long to bring peace and liberty to their country. The Leader of the Opposition in his speech to the House last Tuesday night ignored, amongst other things, one basic fact: all men in this world basically have an ambition for peace, but all men in this world also basically have an ambition for freedom and human individuality.
– We have just seen the theatrical act of the honourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen) who is commonly known in this House as Shakespeare Jim. He spoke his words well of course but if you examine them you find he really said nothing in the twenty minutes he occupied. He never examined or talked about trying to get some positive action by the Government to bring about peace negotiations in Vietnam. He never expressed concern at any time, or showed any consideration, that civilians in North Vietnam were being bombed by the bombers of America. He does not give to the people of North Vietnam the consideration that he gives to the people of Rhodesia. But maybe this is because, as we all know, he has much in common with Mr Butler who, of course, has a neo-Fascist outlook. We know that the honourable member has great admiration for Air Vice-Marshal Ky, and we know also that the Air Vice-Marshal, as reported in the London ‘Sunday Mirror’ of 4th July 1965, said: ‘Who is my hero? I have only one. It is Adolf Hitler.’ He did not say it was Churchill or Roosevelt, not even de Gaulle; he said it was A. Hitler. Of course, Mr Butler and Hitler are very much of the same type. I think I have said enough about the honourable member for Moreton.
I want to talk about the Ministerial statement of the Minister for External Affairs (Mr Hasluck). The honourable member for Moreton talked about the Opposition for the whole of his time and failed to talk about Government policy. The Ministerial statement made by the Minister for External Affairs on 28th February was long and dreary, but it demonstrated his ability for work, lt demonstrated also his conservative mind. He has belatedly accepted the change of pattern of the Communist world, at least in Europe. He stated:
Looking at Europe, we have found some encouragement because in the last few years the rigidity of the Communist world has lessened and some diversity has appeared. An important recent example was the decision of Rumania to exchange diplomatic missions with the Federal Republic of Germany.
There is nothing startling or revolutionary in that statement, only the fact that a Conservative Minister has at last been prepared to admit that there has been movement, that there has been change, that there has emerged a difference in emphasis, of expression, of organisation and of priorities of Communist countries and Communist parties. There were of course - and this is true of the honourable member for Moreton, the honourable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes), the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth) and many other honourable members on the Government back benches - expressions of dismay on many faces opposite at the idea that there should be any liberalisation of our views of, and attitudes to, Communist countries.
The Minister said that some diversity had appeared. How conservative is the Minister for External Affairs. The United States Government has recognised the diversity for many years. It recognised it is far back as the early 1960s. The United States Government has given the hard-earned money of United States taxpayers to the governments and peoples of Yugoslavia, Poland and Rumania. It has recognised that differences have appeared between the eastern European countries. It has carried out some positive actions, but even that Government clings to the old worn-out dogma that Asian Communism is monolithic and is Chinese dominated. Our Minister, like his United States counterpart, does not accept that there is any diversity between the Asian Communist parties. I believe there is. I believe that the failure to recognise this diversity has been one of the great mistakes that the Australian and United States Governments have committed. Let me give an example. China refused to attend the last Communist conference held in the Soviet Union - it was held sometime last year. So did the North Korean and many other Asian Communist parties. But the North Vietnamese Communists attended. Why did they attend? Why did they not submit to China’s pressure not to attend? I contend that they attended because they wanted to assert their independence. If they were puppets of China, as the Government claims they are, would they not have yielded to the pressure of China?
This information was available in the daily newspapers. If the information was available to me it was available also to the Government to assess. Let me cite another example from the American magazine Newsweek’ of 12th December 1966. I refer to an article written by Emmet John Hughes in which he refers to the lasting impression made by Ho Chi Minh on U Thant, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, at their first meeting. U Thant said:
I found him, as a Communist, strikingly independent in his thinking - quite like Tito. I found him, as a person, politically perceptive and devoted to his people, and I found him, as a leader, anxious to secure Vietnam’s neutrality.
U Thant found Ho anxious to secure Vietnam’s neutrality - not a puppet of China and not to be used as a tool in the downward thrust of China, as it is expressed by the Government. He found that Ho wanted only to secure Vietnam’s neutrality.
Let me give another example. In yesterday’s ‘Sydney Morning Herald* it was reported from Margaret Jones in Washington that the former United States Ambassador to Japan, Edwin Reischauer - now a Harvard professor - shook up the Government’s established thought patterns thoroughly when he said last week: it the United States had not interfered North and South Vietnam would probably now be a unified country with a mild Tito type Communist regime, hostile to China and friendly to the West.
Need 1 give other examples? Need I remind the Minister that the Vietnamese people for twenty centuries have been struggling against Chinese domination? Why must we ask, are they now changing and becoming a puppet of China? Honourable members have only to visit Vietnam and talk with the Australian representative there and with the Vietnamese people to know how opposed the people of Vietnam are to China. One has only to delve into history .to know the feeling of the Vietnamese people towards China. Need I remind honourable members of the comments of Air Vice-Marshal Ky at his Canberra Press conference on 19th January when he said:
When some people ask me if there are any possibilities that North Vietnam will ask Red China, Communist China, for military aid by sending Communist troops to North Vietnam, I say no. Because if the Hanoi leaders do so then I am sure that all the Vietnamese from North and South will unite in one group and stand up and destroy the regime and defend our land. There is no possibility that the Hanoi regime will ask Red China for military help. And if it happened I think it will be a good occasion for us to unify our country.
There you have the testimony of Air ViceMarshal Ky. You have the testimony of U Thant, who believes Ho Chi Minh to be independent and devoted to the people of Vietnam and to the securing of Vietnam’s neutrality. You have the testimony of the former United States Ambassador to Japan who believes that Vietnam not only will be a buffer between East and West but will put out a hand of friendship to the West. How long will it take the Minister and this Government to recognise that there is diversity amongst Communists in Asia as well as in Europe? I ask again: does the Government want to recognise this fact? Does the Government want to use China in a jingoistic way to create fear in the Australian electorate? It speaks of the downward thrust of China and of the ‘domino theory*. It says that Vietnam will fall then Cambodia, Thailand and Malaysia, and that then the Chinese will come down to Australia and will be fighting our boys on Australia’s beaches. This is the jingoistic issue that this Government wants to use. Is not this the conclusion to be drawn from the spurious dodger distributed throughout Australia during the last general elections, authorised by J. R. Willoughby, Director of the Federal Secretariat of the Liberal Party of Australia? The dodger carries the heading: ‘It’s your Choice: Where do you Draw the Line Against Communist Aggression?’ From where is this downward thrust of arrows coming? From China? The dodger states:
Do we draw the line against Communist aggression in Vietnam now or do we wait until the Red advance comes down to our own shores?
There is no explanation at all about how they are going to get here. Are they to come here by rowboat? Let me draw on my own experience. At the end of the hostilities of the last war I was a prisoner of war in Japan. Within days of the coming of peace I was flown out of Japan to Okinawa. I shall never forget the immense fleet of merchant ships that were anchored in the bay at Okinawa. There were thousands upon thousands of ships waiting to invade Japan. From this experience I gained the knowledge that only one of the great powers could invade Australia. It would have to be not only a great power but also a great sea power. China is not that power and could not be for generations ahead. She possesses few ocean-going ships. Most of her ships are flat-bottomed for the river trade. There are other facts available. For example, John K. Fairbanks. Professor of History at the Harvard University in the United States, made a statement when he appeared before a Senate Foreign Relations Committee. I remind honourable members that Professor Fairbanks is one of the most outstanding and respected authorities on Asia in the United States. He said:
There is not a downward thrust of Chinese, but it is an historical fact that there is a movement northward of Chinese people.
It is not to the south but north. But do these facts deter the Government? With the support of its friends who control the Press, radio and television, the Government arouses fear in the Australian people, a fear created on a false premise. The Minister knows that it is false. That is why he was so silent during the last Federal election campaign. The Government has won seats in this House on a false premise of fear. I say to honourable members opposite that history will expose their crudity and their falsity. But we cannot wait for history. The election is in the past and the next election is three years hence. We must strive for peace in Vietnam now - not in three years time but now. This is what we should do, yet the honourable member for Moreton did not put forward one proposition in an attempt to strive and struggle for peace to stop our men, Americans and Vietnamese from dying in that futile, stupid war in Vietnam.
How can we prevent further loss of life, suffering and indescribable hardship? How can we prevent the barbaric brutalities? As an example of the brutalities and sadism being inflicted by man on man in Vietnam, Bernard B. Fall, late Professor of International Relations at Howard University in the United States, in an article in ‘Ramparts’ in December 1965 described an incident in Vietnam and showed a photograph of the brutal actions. In referring to the photograph the article states:
This is a photograph of a South Vietnamese prisoner cage. J took the picture inside a camp where Americans were present. No attempt was made to hide the cage, an iron frame covered completely with barbed wire. About 4 feet high, it is used for bringing prisoners to ‘reason’. I was not told what kind of prisoners are put in the cage, but no matter who they are, this is a pretty violent process. The prisoner cannot stand up or sit down - if he moves out of a crouch he falls against the sharp barbed wire; there is so much wire that his body is punctured all over. This makes Christ’s crown of thorns look like a child’s toy.
This is the brutality meted out by South Vietnamese government forces to antigovernment forces. How can we stop this barbaric war? How can we prevent further escalation of the Vietnam war? How can we deter the lunatic fringe who want to nudge us a little closer and still a little closer to a nuclear holocaust? Firstly, we must recognise what is happening and try to prevent this war from becoming a holy war, Communist or anti-Communist. No matter how much wealth America pours into Vietnam by way of arms, manpower or resources, finally it will be the Vietnamese people who will determine their own future. We must stop the bombing of North Vietnam. It has been admitted by Robert McNamara, the United States Secretary of Defence - and I quote from the ‘Sydney Morning Herald’ of 21st February 1967:
The bombing of North Vietnam has failed significantly to reduce the flow of men and materials to the South . . .
The report continued:
There was no evidence that increased attacks would be more successful.
It has been argued that the Americans commenced bombing in February 1965 to be in a position to negotiate from strength.
Walter Lippmann put it this way in the Sydney Morning Herald’ of 20th July 1965:
The American air strikes were tried out as a relatively cheap and easy way of compensating for and covering up the defeat of the South Vietnamese army. In the past six months the plight of the Saigon army has become worse and worse, and today its reserves are used up, its troops are deserting in masses, the villages from which it could draw new recruits are in Vietcong hands, communications with the few centres that it still holds are substantially cut.
Since early 1965 the United States has poured in hundreds of thousands of men. There are now more than 400,000 United States men in South Vietnam. These forces are in a far stronger position today than they were in February 1965. But does anybody contend that a military victory is within the grasp of the United States forces in South Vietnam with the numbers that are now available? It is estimated by the United States military experts that it would be necessary to treble the existing American forces to pacify South Vietnam alone. I believe there can be no military victory for either side in this conflict. It can be only a political solution - a political settlement - whether it is made now, next year, or in five or ten years time. Therefore, we should act now.
Compromises must be made by both sides. The North Vietnamese will talk only if the bombing of the North ceases. This is not February 1965 but March 1967. America is in a position where it can negotiate from strength. After a cessation of bombing there should be patience to allow negotiations to get under way. Perhaps at first it will need to be on a secret basis without fanfare and public communications. President Johnson has said that he will go anywhere at any time to seek peace in Vietnam. Let those words ring true. He is the head of the most powerful nation in the world. If he has confidence in the forces that he controls he can afford to cease the bombing of North Vietnam. The North Vietnamese do not possess the arsenals which the United States have and which could destroy every living mortal on the face of this earth. The North Vietnamese have only limited weapons. They are only a small nation, but they have proved that they are a proud nation.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– The honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren) attacked the honourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen) for criticising the speech of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) and for not putting forward Government policy. All I want to say about the speech of the honourable member for Reid is that he heaped confusion on this debate; he neither clarified Labor policy nor tried to improve it.
– He does not know what it is yet.
– 1 think that is probably correct; he does not know what it is. The statement of the Minister for External Affairs (Mr Hasluck) is one of a series of excellent statements on foreign affairs that the Minister has delivered to this House. It sets out Australia’s position quite clearly, so the people of Australia are now in a position to understand what the Government is aiming at in its relations with various countries.
At the poll on 26th November the main issue was the withdrawal of troops from Vietnam. A Melbourne ‘Age’ reporter put this question to the then Leader of the Opposition:
If Labor gets into power, and after consultation with the Americans decides to pull out, and the Allies decide they would like Australia to stay, what would you reply?
The then Leader of the Opposition said:
Now you’ve misrepresented me. I didn’t say that after consultation we would withdraw them. We will withdraw them. We will not be taking part in a dialogue with the Americans as to whether we should or should not withdraw. That’s our own business. That’s our own right.
The result of the poll on 26th November is now history. There was a tremendous vote of confidence in the Government, and the people of Australia rejected the very emotional stand taken up by the Australian Labor Party. In fact, the Labor Party suffered its greatest reversal of all time. But of course the Australian Labor Party has always been a party of great principle. The only speeches made by members of the Labor Party after the election that I have been able to find show that they remain opposed to our commitments in Vietnam. I have here a copy of an article which appeared in ‘Fact’, which I understand is the Labor Party’s journal, on 2nd December 1966. I would like to have this incorporated in Hansard, with the concurrence of honorable members, lt is a report of a statement by the honourable member for Yarra (Dr J. F. Cairns).
– Why not read it?
– May I have it incorporated in Hansard?
– Why not read it out?
-Order! Leave is not granted.
– I do not wonder for a moment that leave is not granted. That being the case, I will read to the House a few of the choice phrases in this statement. These are the reported remarks of the honourable member for Yarra after the defeat of the Labor Party in the November election:
Whatever my future position and influence may be in the Labor Party, it will be used against compromise with the basic principles for which we fought in the election. 1 believe any other course would be self-defeating.
– Hear, hear!
– It is interesting to hear that the honourable member for Melbourne still agrees with this. The honourable member for Yarra went on:
The temptation to turn to the right is a dangerous trend in Australian politics and in the world today. We must resist the enormous pressure that will be placed on us for a degree of compromise which would remove the possibility of any true alternative in Australian politics, lt would be wrong for us to believe that compromise is the road to power.
– Hear, hear!
– The honourable member for Melbourne, who was at that time Leader of the Opposition, obviously agrees with that, because after the election, when Prime Minister Ky visited Australia, the honourable member led a march of protest and described Marshal Ky as a butcher. But despite the performances of the honourable member for Yarra and the honourable member for Melbourne, the forces of expediency were already at work. The election of office bearers for the Parliamentary Labor Party was close at hand, and when it was held the previous Deputy Leader (Mr Whitlam) was elected Leader without any great trouble. Then came the surprise. Instead of the strong man in foreign affairs in the Labor Party in the previous Parliament, the honourable member for Yarra, bolting in, as one would have imagined, as Deputy Leader of the Opposition, we saw the ‘Dr Cairns must go’ movement at work. Obviously the Labor Party decided that it could not have a marriage of the new right wing leader and the left wing member for Yarra, so it decided to pass over the honourable member for the position of Deputy Leader and instead to elect the honourable member for Bass (Mr Barnard).
I think that all members of the House will agree that the honourable member for Bass is indeed an honourable member, but no one would ever claim that he has ever been as effective in this Parliament as the honourable member for Yarra. The fact is that the Australian Labor Party has set out to show a veneer of respectability in the House of Representatives, which is the main House of the Parliament in the eyes of the Press and the people. The Labor Party even went so far as to give Dr Cairns the shadow portfolio of Health. One of the front benchers said to me the other night that this was to get him out of trouble. To go a little further into this interesting sidelight on the Labor Party’s recent history, the left wing forces reacted quite strongly to their favourite son being defeated on the post, and they revolted against these shenanigans of expediency in the Labor Party.
– I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I thought the subject before the Chair was foreign affairs.
-Order! There is no ground for the point of order.
– I can understand the honourable member for Kalgoorlie not liking this, because it happens to be the truth. The great principles of anti-Vietnam and anti-conscription had to be given a hearing in the Labor Party, so when the Party’s elections were held for the positions of Leader and Deputy Leader in the Senate, poor Senator Willesee from Western Australia got the axe where the chicken got it, and two left wingers in Senator Murphy and Senator Cohen became Leader and Deputy Leader respectively. It is interesting to see that when Senator Murphy’s first speech-
-Order! I suggest to the honourable member for Gippsland that he fs getting extremely wide of the statement that the House is debating.
– Thank you, Mr Speaker. I think I am in order, however, in referring to the first speech made by the new Leader of the Labor Party in another place. It was on the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply to the Governor-General’s Speech and it is reported at page 40 of Hansard. Senator Murphy had this to say:
In foreign affairs, it has been suggested in this debate and elsewhere that we, the minority, should now surrender our convictions and join the majority. The logical extension of this is that in Australia there would be only one dominant party and only one political philosophy. That is totalitarianism. The Australian public is entitled to the presentation of opposing views in all matters, including foreign affairs, especially where the strongly held views of the minority represent over 40% of the Australian people. Principles are not like clothing, to be changed whenever it seems convenient.
Senator Murphy was behind the eight ball because the Leader of the Opposition, when appearing on the television programme Four Corners’, was finally cornered with the third question asked of him. lt was put to him directly.
Mr Whitlam, would you withdraw Australian troops from Vietnam now?
The Leader of the Opposition said no. This came as a tremendous shock to the 40% of the people who are supposed to be supporters of the Australian Labor Party. The great principles of the Labor Party were already withering on the vine. The Leader of the Opposition, of course, is not interested in principles; he is interested only in the Treasury bench, in expediency. One might have expected the Leader of the Opposition, having burnt his Vietnam bridges on ‘Four Corners’, to have given, when delivering his first statement in this House, a clear and unambiguous outline of Labor’s position. Surely the Australian people deserved a clear enunciation of Labor’s policy and of the principles - or, if that is the wrong word, the guidelines - which they could expect from the Labor Party if it were returned to office. The speech of the Leader of the Opposition is not one that students may pick up and study in years to come and say: ‘Here is the first speech made by Mr Whitlam after he became Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives. Here is something authoritative on the position or the Labor Party in foreign affairs which we can usefully study.’
What a disappointment is was. The honourable member for Moreton dealt with it very carefully and, as he said, the speech consisted of nothing but a series of quotations selected to suit the honourable gentleman’s case. The new Leader of the Opposition, in the very first speech on foreign affairs that he made in this place after being elected to his new position, has trampled on the principles of the Labor Party, but he has given his supporters no alternative to which they can cling.
I was pleased to hear the Minister affirm that the military position in Vietnam has improved. When I was there in 1965 General Westmoreland explained the three stage operation for the recovery of land held by the Vietcong. He said that the first stage was search and destroy, the second pacification and the third resettlement. It was quite obvious that it was going to be a slow programme if only because of the physical problems associated with the paddy fields, the torrential rain and the dense jungle country. General Westmoreland explained that they would have to win back 300 or 400 acres at a time. In Malaya about ten regular troops were needed for each guerilla engaged. So we have seen in Vietnam a big build-up of regular forces. Since I was there the Australian Task Force has been built up to 4,500 men. New Zealand has 200 men there. The Philippines has 2,100 young men there. South Korea, which has suffered invasions by the Communists, has 46,000 troops in Vietnam. Thailand has 200. When I was in Vietnam the United States of America had 120,000 men there and it now has 383,000. I was pleased to note from the statement made by the Minister for External Affairs that, simultaneously with the military success, there would be an increase in aid. Prime Minister Ky, in an interview, said that the first thing required was security before aid could be disbursed or programmes of aid could be implemented. I am heartened to see that this Government has recognised the need for further aid as the military position improves. Indeed, the Minister gave details of further aid to be granted.
It is obvious, Sir, that a negotiated peace is still difficult to obtain because the Vietcong believe that they can win, and therefore they will not come to the conference table. The efforts, both official and unofficial, to bring about negotiations continue. There is, indeed, a long list of these attempts. Only recently we heard that the United Kingdom Prime Minister had talked to the Premier of the Soviet Union on this subject. We have lately heard also of U Thant talking to North Vietnamese officials, but nothing has come of those talks. So the war goes on with all its loss of life and misery. All Australians hope that an end will come soon.
There is another side of this Vietnam story that is worth recounting. 1 returned from that country believing that Air ViceMarshal Ky and General Thieu could provide some stability for Vietnam - stability that had been lacking in previous governments. I believe that for these reasons. First of all. Prime Minister Ky is a Buddhist and General Thieu a Catholic. I consider that the marriage of these two religious groups will assist in providing stability. Secondly, both these men arc militarists. I believe that only militarists can provide the necessary discipline in a country at war. The ability of these two leaders to induce the necessary discipline has been proved, because they have pacified the militant Buddhists and brought the country to a stage at which it has been able to hold its first democratic election ever. As a result a Constituent Assembly is now working out a constitution. Whatever one may feel about Prime Minister Ky, and whatever those members of the Australian Labor Party who disgustingly called him a butcher may think of him, we all must concede that he has given leadership to Vietnam.
I believe that it is futile for the Leader of the Opposition to claim that because of Prime Minister Ky’s visit to Australia this country is intimately committed to his personal fate. The honorable gentleman made that observation when he spoke earlier in this debate. That suggestion is sheer nonsense. Are we committed to the fate of Dr Subandrio, who visited Australia some years ago, to that of Tom Mboya, to that of the Prime Minister of Thailand or to that of Lee Kuan Yew? The whole proposition is ridiculous. It is just like the Leader of the Opposition’s criticism of this Government on the ground that Australia is standing alone at the United Nations. Ever since I have been a member of this Parliament the
Labor Party has been critical of the Government for being, in matters of foreign policy, too close firstly to the United Kingdom and, in later years, to the United States. Yet, when Australia for once stands before the United Nations and is prepared to be counted alone, all that the Leader of the Opposition can do is to make some carping criticism of this fact. The policy of the Australian Government has been to maintain the integrity of small nations and to give military assistance where needed and civilian aid where possible. There is nothing expedient or ambiguous about this Government’s foreign policy. This is why the Government receives the support of the people of Australia.
- Mr Speaker, we have just heard the honourable member for Gippsland (Mr Nixon) outline what he believes are the compelling reasons why vigorous young Australian men of military age should be fighting in Vietnam. But, contrary to this view, we observe that he is a vigorous, healthy young Australian man of military age, and he is here. That is the difference between words and facts. Therein lies the inconsistency and, I suspect, the dishonesty of many supporters of the Government, both in and outside this Parliament. I often reflected during the rather heated-
-Order! The honourable member is not reflecting on the honourable member for Gippsland, I presume.
– Certainly not, Mr Speaker. I often reflected during the sometimes rather heated debates on the issue of Australian involvement in Vietnam up to the time of the general election that there really would be no need for national service training in this country - that there would be no need for compulsion - if only all the heroes who belong to the Young Liberal Movement, the Young Country Party and the youth section of the Australian Democratic Labor Party, most of whom are of military age, would volunteer to serve in Vietnam. I have yet to hear from honourable members opposite a convincing argument explaining why those who belong to these various bodies, and who are most vociferous and most demanding in requiring that other young Australians fight in this dirty war which is claiming so many lives, do not themselves become involved in it. If I may make an observation in passing: one wonders what will be the outcome of this war.
– What about the honourable member?
– I thought I had explained before that I think this is a shocking war. It is a civil war and we should never have become involved in it in the first place. If one reads the terms of the 1954 Geneva Accords one finds that the immorality is largely on our side in terms of our involvement in Vietnam. But now that this country is involved there we ask for some responsible recognition of the situation that exists today. We ask the Government to be more positive in requiring the United States of America and its other allies involved in the war to move towards a negotiated settlement to bring about some sort of peace in the region. We shall not make any significant achievement in terms of winning people’s hearts and minds by continuing the war. This war has been dragging on for years. Indeed, the war in Vietnam has really dragged on for about twenty years - first under the French and now under the wider Western involvement.
The Minister for External Affairs (Mr Hasluck), in his statement the other evening, outlined no constructive proposals to end this horrible war that persists in Vietnam. One wonders just what the Government’s policy is. Perhaps it will not itself know what the newest policy development is until tomorrow morning when the latest airmail dispatches from Washington are opened. To us this seems a most unsatisfactory state of affairs for a government to be in. This Government completely lacks an objective - a long term view arising out of its involvement in Vietnam. One might ask why the Minister for External Affairs did not deal at some length with the reasons why this war has persisted for so long. What positive measures has the Government taken, apart from military ones - and mute military ones at that - in an endeavour to bring about a cessation of hostilities? I would like to have heard from the Minister some observations about a statement made by Air Vice-Marshal Ky in the latter part of last year. When Marshal Ky was asked by a number of United States newsmen whether he was contemplating a negotiated peace he replied: ‘I would rather go out and shoot myself. That was his response: he would rather go out and shoot himself than achieve a negotiated peace in this war in Vietnam.
From statements made by Air ViceMarshal Ky in the earlier part of last year it seems obvious that he is probably one of the greatest stumbling blocks in the way of any sort of progress along the road to a negotiated peace. He has persisted almost fanatically in his opposition to the forces of the North and of the Vietcong. He has clearly stated that there is only one way to end this war - by the total and complete defeat of the forces of North Vietnam and of the Vietcong. That is hardly a progressive stand, because this sort of policy will cost a lot of lives, including many Australian lives. It will also cost a lot of Australian money. I do not begrudge money being spent in these under-developed countries on aid and development. But I cannot see anything constructive or positive about spending money in other countries for war purposes merely because there is no objective view in Government policy and no plan to bring this war to an end. I repeat, because it needs repeating, that the Government has no objective view. Why is the bombing continuing in Vietnam? Even Mr McNamara, Secretary of Defence in the United States, concedes that the bombing of North Vietnam is not stopping the war effort of the North Vietnamese. He freely admits that the logistical arrangements of the North Vietnamese are continuing unimpeded. Indeed, the bombing seems to be some kind of stimulus to the effort of the North Vietnamese people.
Is the only reason for the continuation of the war one of morale? Might I ask: what sort of morality is it that continues the bombing of civilian areas, resulting in hundreds of lives being lost, when the bombing of those areas does not contribute towards a swifter conclusion of the war? A lot of mistakes have arisen out of the bombing. Only recently we had a terrible disaster in Australia when about fifty people were burnt out in the Tasmanian bush fires. This was a national disaster. It was treated as a national emergency. So it should have been. It was a shocking thing to happen and everybody was deeply concerned. But why are we not deeply concerned when an American aircraft, admittedly by accident, bombs a civilian village in Vietnam and kills more than 100 people? Why are we not concerned about this, because here human lives also are being lost and this, too, is a national disaster? What sort of morality is this? Accidents of this kind happen not once but many times.
Let me quote from a recent article by the late Bernard Fall. He wrote of his participation in an air raid on a Vietnamese fishing village. He was observer in a Skyraider loaded with 750-lb and 500-lb napalm bombs and equipped with four 20-mm cannon. He said of his experiences:
As we flew over the target it looked to me very much as any normal village would look: on the edge of a river, sampans and fish nets in the water. It was a peaceful scene. Major Carson put our plane into a steep dive. I could see the napalm bombs dropping from the wings. The big bombs first. As we peeled back from our dive I took the picture you see here-
A photograph accompanies the article: an incredibly bright flash of fire as napalm exploded at the tree level. The first pass had a one-two effect. The napalm was expected to force the people - fearing the heat and the burning - out into the open. Then the second plane was to move in with heavy fragmentation bombs to hit whatever - or whomever - had rushed out into the open. So our wingman followed us in and dropped his heavy explosives. Mushroom-like clouds drifted into the air. We made a second pass and dropped our remaining SOO-lb napalm bombs. Our wingman followed. Then we went in a third time and raked over the village with our cannon. We came down low, flying very fast, and I could see some nf ‘he villagers trying to head away from the burning shore in their sampans. The village was burning fiercely. I will never forget the sight of the fishing nets in flame, covered with burning, jellied gasoline. Behind me 1 could hear - even through my padded flying helmet - the roar of our plane’s 20-mm cannon as we flew away.
There were probably between 1,000 and 1,500 people living in the fishing village we attacked. It is difficult to estimate how many were killed, lt is equally difficult to judge if there actually were any Viet Cong in the village, and if so, if any were killed. The observation planes are called the FAC’s (Forward Air Controllers). But it happens very often in Vietnam that, as a current joke goes, the FACs have their facts wrong; that the raid information is stale; that there may have been Communists in the village - but the day before. You may very often get the proper amount of structures ‘awarded to your score’, but you may not have hit any Communist structures. So it is difficult to say whether you hit a Communist or whether you just hit the village which, unwilling, may have been the host of a Communist unit for one night. Or maybe not at all. This has happened.
What sort of morality is it that permits this kind of thing to happen? We must feel concerned about this. We are concerned about the things for which the Vietcong have been responsible - for their torturing of prisoners of war. Undoubtedly these things have taken place. We are concerned for the way the war is being fought by the Vietcong. The Vietcong have no doubt been able to minimise the impact of their atrocities and ill treatment of prisoners. But we are not asked to fight for the Vietcong; we are being asked to fight on the side of the Vietnamese and Western involvement. When we fight for these things we should demand that certain humanitarian standards, inasmuch as they can be introduced into a war, be adhered to. 1 believe the United States when it says that it wants an honourable settlement of the war, but what is an honourable settlement? Is it an honourable settlement that will accept only complete flattening of North Vietnam and total and unconditional surrender of the North Vietnamese and Vietcong forces? If this is the only honourable settlement open to us it is not a particularly constructive or humanitarian way in which to view the war. A great and powerful country like America could annihilate North Vietnam if it wanted to do so. International public opinion is the restraining factor. Surely a great and powerful country like America could, without loss of strength or prestige, make some concessions to try to bring about a cessation of this war. To halt temporarily the bombing of the North for thirty days and sixty days, and then to advise the North Vietnamese that if they did not surrender unconditionally they would get more bombing is scarcely the way to conduct this war in the hope of bringing about a cessation of hostilities.
What I am concerned about is whether this Government really wants a cessation of the hostilities. The Minister for External Affairs (Mr Hasluck) was reported in the Sun-Pictorial’ in October last year to have warned critics of American policy in Vietnam against forcing an end to the fighting before its purpose had been achieved. What does that mean? It gives me some concern that in fact the Minister for External Affairs is not too keen to see a cessation of the war for some time; that in fact there is much truth in the claim that what the Minister is interested in is a continuing expanding open-ended commitment of United States forces in this area because this seems to be the only way he can count on the support of the United States in the Asian theatre. This is a horrible outlook for any government to take.
Before I go further let me refer to the terrible cost of the war. These are reasons why we want to bring about a settlement. Emmet John Hughes, writing in ‘Newsweek’ last year, referred to the high cost of the war and the contribution we could be making to society if we were to take positive steps to bring about a peaceful settlement. He said:
The cost of the Vietnam war - exceeding S20 billion a year - signifies a sum that could mean quite different purchases.
It could each month finance the complete seven year training of almost 70,000 scientists.
It could each month double the resources of the Agency for International Development for a full years economic programs in 38 foreign countries.
It could each month create three Rockefeller Foundations.
It could each month pay the full year’s cost of state and local police in all 50 states.
It could every year provide a 10 per cent salary increase for every United States public school teacher.
It could every year double the social security benefits paid to 20 million Americans.
The more paltry cost of U.S. helicopters lost in Vietnam only in the last year could fulfill a few other American ‘desires and intentions.’
It could pay the full bill last year for all UN1CEF health and education programmes affecting more than 800 million, children in 118 countries.
Or it could signify a 10% climb in personal income for every citizen of all the New England states.
And as for the puny worth of just one modern heavy bomber . . .
It could buy 1 billion bushels of wheat.
Or it could double the huge education budget of the State of New York.
These are the things we ought to be looking at - the alternative benefits that are being foregone in society. Already the programme of aid to the poverty stricken areas of the United States of America has been set back. This war is one of the reasons for that. Yet the Australian Government is not playing a purposeful and principal part in trying to bring about an end of this war. There is no evidence in the Minister’s speech that it is his intention, or the Government’s intention, to apply pressure with a view to influencing the Americans to seek the earliest possible negotiated settlement of the war.
If this war is morally justified, we may well ask why it is that so few of the nations involved in various treaty arrangements with the United States have taken up their responsibilities in the war by sending fighting units. The United Kingdom has not done so, nor has Pakistan or France, although all these nations are member nations of SEATO. Thailand and the Philippines have only sent non-combatant units. The Koreans have taken a part but I suggest we should be somewhat suspicious of the Korean involvement when we read this:
The cost of all this training-
That is, of the Koreans - as well as that of the new equipment and weaponary needed for combat in Vietnam is beyond the means of the Korean Government, notwithstanding South Korea’s economic gains. And, so, in addition to the some SI 50m that the United States regularly pours into Korea in military aid each year, Washington has also agreed to pick up the bill for the extra expense involved in sending troops to Vietnam. From the Pentagon’s point of view the deal is a bargain. For what it costs to maintain a single American soldier, 43 Koreans can be kept in pay, food and equipment. .
– What is the honourable member reading from?
– From an article in an American magazine that publishes international news - ‘Newsweek’ of 19th September 1966. There is something cynical about the attitude which involves this sort of commitment from an economically dependent and partitioned nation such as Korea. One of the problems in this country, of course, is that to be critical of Government policy on foreign affairs is to be accused of being disloyal. There is no ground between what the Government decides and what the extreme opposition - in this case the Vietcong, the National Liberation Front, or the North Vietnamese people - represent. So far as the Government is concerned, you are all the way with it or you are a subversive element in the community. There is altogether too much evidence of these sorts of oppressive tactics being used in the community. There is far too much berating of critics and restriction of the free expression of public opinion. I do not intend to state all that I have seen in the short time that I have been in this Parliament, but I can remember when it was a mortal sin for anyone to speak about summit conferences or the need for international nuclear disarmament. I can remember, too, when it was a shocking thing to say that Syngman Rhee was nothing more than a bloody gangster who operated a corrupt government in South Vietnam. In fact, members of the Government attacked the honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren) and the honourable member for Yarra (Dr J. F. Cairns) one night in this House for having said something like that, yet the next morning it was revealed in the Press that Syngman Rhee had been thrown out of office by a popular uprising, which had received the support of the United States Government, because he had done precisely those things for which he had been criticised by members of the Opposition.
What concerns me is the narrow, blinkered outlook of the Government to our relations with people in the Asian area. Our only commitments to the few Asian nations with which we have treaties are military ones. In SEATO we have some commitments to Thailand and the Philippines, but the rest of the nations to which we have commitments are not ethnically South East Asian nations. They are America, France, the United Kingdom, New Zealand and Pakistan. Only two nations out of the total number of signatories to SEATO are South East Asian nations. Under ANZUS we have treaties with ethnically European countries, but not with Asian countries. I feel it is about time that we started to develop friendship treaties and trade pacts with these countries because, apart from anything else, one of the great needs of the Asian countries is to break down trade barriers with the developed countries. I think we could be playing a very positive part by engaging in some such treaties now. A constructive role such as this would help us. It would help our ally and friend, the United States. Most of all it would contribute to stability in the Asian area and help the development of world peace
– This debate commenced with a lucid and comprehensive coverage by the Minister for
External Affairs (Mr Hasluck) of Australia’s position in relation to the world outside our territorial boundaries. The next speech in the debate came from the new Leader ot the Opposition (Mr Whitlam). He commenced, rather wisely, by saying that he did not feel able to cover as much ground as the Minister had. But, having said that, he began to peck around rather like a hen trying to find feed in the dirt, making all sorts of captious criticisms which were unsupported by any particular facts. I should like to take some of the criticisms that he felt disposed to utter and deal with them one by one.
The first thing the Leader of the Opposition said was that Australia’s attitude with relation to Papua and New Guinea in the proceedings of the United Nations in December of last year was not supported by a single Asian nation. I hate to criticise my honourable and learned friend, the Leader of the Opposition, for not having an altogether strict regard for the truth, but I feel impelled to do so because the facts just do not bear out what he told the House. There were several resolutions before the United Nations in December. On one of the most important - namely, that which concerned Australia’s attitude towards defensive arrangements in Papua and New Guinea - this country’s vote was supported by Malaysia. So much, therefore, for the first charge levelled against the Government by the Leader of the Opposition in his newfound glory. It should be useful to the Leader of the Opposition to have some regard for facts when he makes general charges.
His next charge - one would assume that a person occupying a responsible position on the other side of the House would have taken care to make some inquiries before he made it - was that in the Department of External Affairs in Canberra there was not one senior specialist on Vietnamese affairs. I am regretful, but I have to classify that as another fib. The fact is - the Leader of the Opposition would have ready access to this information if he chose to be careful - that in the Department in Canberra, there is and has been for some time a most distinguished officer, Mr David Anderson, who was the Ambassador of this country in South Vietnam for no less than two years and who, when recalled, took up and now occupies the position of Assistant Secretary, with particular concern for South Vietnamese affairs. I ask the House: Why is it that the Leader of the Opposition has to be so careless in the statements that he makes? Would it not be better for the people on the other side if they had someone leading them, or ostensibly leading them, who knew what he was saying?
The next charge was that there is nobody in the Department of External Affairs who has achieved high proficiency in any of the South East Asian languages. Here, he was speaking the truth, but only partly. The fact is that to achieve proficiency in South East Asian languages - in Vietnamese, Thai and Mandarin Chinese - one has to be in a foreign post for approximately five years, and certainly for no less than five years. So it is not surprising, having regard to the fact that the Department of External Affairs is short staffed, that we do not find people with the high degree of proficiency required to enable them to act as interpreters in diplomatic conversations. But what the Leader of the Opposition in his great tendency towards half-truths overlooked is that there are a large number of officers who have occupied positions in South East Asian posts who have a reasonable degree of proficiency in the languages of the countries to which they have been. Of course, he forbears to mention this because it would not suit his case.
The next matter he mentioned - and this has been a constant cry on his part - was that Australia’s external aid expenditure in the current financial year is not as great as it was last year. Figures prove him - and I hate to use this expression - a liar. He has told a little white lie.
– Order! I suggest that the honourable member for Parkes would be advised to phrase his meaning better.
– I withdraw that rather extreme word, Sir, and say that figures prove him to be a purveyor of an untruth.
-Order! I suggest that the honourable member for Parkes employ somewhat more parliamentary language.
– Might I say, Sir, that the figures prove him to be heavily inaccurate.
When one adds this inaccuracy to the calendar of inaccuracies which I have recounted the House can draw its own conclusions about the new Leader of the Opposition. He will say anything to suit the particular case he wants to make, even thought it be not a very good one. Let me suggest to the House a few figures. Of course, the Leader of the Opposition does not trouble to look at figures, but the fact is that if one compares Australian expenditure on external aid for 1965-66 with our appropriations for 1966-67 the increase is of the order of $14,800,000 or £7,400,000. I do not think for one moment that the increase is altogether enough. I should like to hear sometime this year the Government say that it looks forward to the day when it can appropriate towards external aid no less than 1% of our gross national product.
– When will that day be?
– I think it will come while we are still in Government, because we will be here for a long time yet if the speech made by the honourable member for Reid is any indication of the standard of thinking on the other side of the House. I look forward to the day - and I do not think it is far off - when we will see the expenditure of this country on foreign aid projects considerably increased. The main criticism that the Leader of the Opposition saw fit to make about the Department of External Affairs was one of alleged deterioration in morale. He painted a most gloomy picture which, as one might expect having regard to his other tergiversations bore no relation to the facts. I will quote from the record some of the words of this new Scribe. He said of the Department that its morale has never been lower. He said:
The Minister has allowed the morale and status of his Department at home to be depressed; he has failed to build up its quality abroad.
What are the facts? One would expect that if the morale of the Department of External Affairs was in the grievous state that the Leader of the Opposition suggests, we would have seen a flood of resignations comparable to the number of resignations from the Bureau of Mineral Resources that have been commented upon recently. The Labor Party has been making some play of these resignations in the last few days. It is useful, when one is attending to criticisms of the sort made by the Leader of the Opposition, to pay regard to the facts. In the last two years two junior officers of the Department of External Affairs have resigned to leave the Public Service. Their names are Mr Gregory Clark and Mr Fitzgerald.
– Both brilliant.
– The honourable member for Reid says that they are both brilliant. 1 should think, having regard to my knowledge of their public statements, that the Department misses nothing by their absence. Indeed, one of them - and 1 talk of Mr Clark - did me the favour of coming out to my electorate to speak against me, as a supporter of the Liberal Reform Group, so-called, during the last election campaign. I am certain that he increased my majority by several hundred votes. These are the only people who have resigned from the Department of External Affairs in the last two years to leave the Public Service altogether. I should have thought that that is a fair indication of the fact that morale in the Department of External Affairs is reasonably high and not in the grievous state suggested by the Leader of the Opposition. There are other facts I should give at this stage. Several people - three or four - have left the Department temporarily to go to other branches of the Public Service and have come back to take up positions in the Department on a lower salary than the salary which they were earning in some other branch of the Public Service. Is this an indication of low morale? 1 should not have thought so.
Let me have a look at some recent developments on the Opposition side, such as it is, in the last few days. 1 remember once calling the Leader of the Opposition a wobbly wonder boy. The only word I would withdraw is ‘wonder’. He is just a wobbly boy because, having campaigned in the country in November and December on a programme of withdrawing our troops from Vietnam as quickly as possible, and the national servicemen immediately, in the event, now proved false, of a Labor Government coming into office, he went on the air the other day with another policy. He said the other day that the only way our troops can come back from Vietnam now is if there is a settlement - if there is an armistice. I interpolate here that I hope, as every other member of the House hopes, that there is a settlement, a political settlement, soon. That is the dearest wish of all of us.
The Leader of the Opposition, when he appeared on television the other day and made this statement, as usual was trying to be all things to all men. Of course, his colleague in another place, Senator Murphy, has another view of this country’s proper attitude to a military commitment on our behalf in South Vietnam. He said that principles are not like clothing to be changed whenever it seems convenient. J would be fascinated to overhear a conversation in the lobby between Senator Murphy and my honourable and learned friend, the Leader of the Opposition. 1 should think that Senator Murphy might say to the Leader of the Opposition: ‘Well, if principles are the clothing of a politician, you are a nudist’, because the Leader of the Opposition, by his recent public utterances, has shown that he is devoid of principle. He will say one thing during an election campaign and he will switch soon after in an endeavour to appear respectable to the community at large. This must be a matter of grave concern to my honourable friend sitting on the front bench on the Opposition side - the honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Daly). He made a speech last night that carried certain overtones of criticism of his leader. I may be wrong. If I am wrong, my honourable friend from Grayndler will be the first to get up and disclaim the accuracy of what I put. What the honourable member for Grayndler had to say last night is rather significant in its context. He had this to say:
I do not want honourable members on the opposite side to think that I equivocate. . . .
I wonder to whom the honourable member was referring in that particular reference. Obviously he was referring to bis leader. The honourable member for Grayndler continued:
I support it -
He was referring to the policy of the Labor Party as enunciated at the last election:
It is interesting to compare the orthodoxy of the honourable member for Grayndler with the new found heterodoxy of the
Leader of the Opposition. It would be fascinating to ponder on what they say to themselves in the lobby. I suppose that the honourable member for Grayndler says to the Leader of the Opposition: ‘You are a change daily boy.’ He may be right. I will leave the political differences - the new found differences or the old found differences - that bubble up anew in the Opposition for the moment and say this: the House is indebted to the Minister for External Affairs.
– Who were the two people on that side who voted against Mr Aston in the election of Speaker?
– Some rambling interjection comes from the honourable member for Newcastle. He never does much good for himself. But on this occasion he has done less good for anybody. He is on the front bench of the Opposition now. How weak they are getting. The House is indebted to the Minister for External Affairs for the broad and lucid coverage that he has given of our foreign affairs position. It is a great pity - and 1 am sure that the honourable member for Grayndler feels this more deeply than anybody else on the other side of the House - that the Leader of the Opposition in the debate the other night was not able to come anywhere near the mark.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I am very privileged to be able to take part at short notice in this debate in foreign affairs. The Parliament has been listening to a speech from a Queen’s Counsel, the honourable member for Parkes (Mr Hughes), who is a member of the Liberal Party. In not one word of his speech did he suggest that a negotiated settlement should take place in connection with this dirty, filthy, cruel war in Vietnam. Overwhelming numbers of the world’s people have denounced the United States of America for the part that it is playing at the present time in the Vietnam war. The policy of the United States Government is being followed by members of the Government parties on the other side of the House.
– What would the honourable member do?
– If the honourable member is capable of listening to me, I will tell him something fair dinkum.
– What would the honourable member do?
– I will tell the House something of which I am more than positive. It is this: the honourable member for St George will not be in this Parliament after the next election. Despite the fact that the Government has an overwhelming number of Press barons of Australia on its side, the Australian people are being alerted more and more each day as to the true position in Vietnam. No longer can the Press withhold the increasing casualty rate of our Australian boys in Vietnam. Only the other day, one of our prominent newspapers pointed out that in a recent gallup poll 62% of the Australian people said that there should be a negotiated settlement in Vietnam. Is not that sufficient warning to the honourable member for St George that unless he is prepared to change his attitude he will not be a member of this Parliament after the next election? There will be a tremendous swing against the Government at the next election if the Government is not prepared to see the light of day. Honourable members on the other side of the chamber are laughing like galahs. Approximately twenty-five Government members are of military age. They are not prepared to put uniforms on and serve in Vietnam. But they are prepared to send the cream of our Australian youth to-
– I rise to order. The honourable member for Hunter is addressing the gallery and not the Chair.
– There is no substance in the point of order.
– Not one honourable member opposite is prepared to put a uniform on and go to Vietnam and play his part in the defence of what honourable members opposite call the downward thrust of Communism towards Australia. They will not go because they know that there is no threat to Australia. But they are prepared to sit on that side of the House and send 20-year-old boys to Vietnam. I had to send two wires today to people living in the Newcastle district who have lost their sons in Vietnam. Because of the false propaganda put out by the Liberal Party these people believe that their sons should have been in Vietnam. But no-one on the Government side during this debate to my knowledge has suggested that there should be a negotiated settlement of the war in Vietnam. No honourable member opposite has referred to the statements of Senator Bobby Kennedy who yesterday and, I understand, today, protested to President Johnson, Mr Dean Rusk and Mr Robert McNamara, the Secretary of Defence, that they are not making an honest endeavour to achieve a negotiated settlement in Vietnam. These three distinguished Americans have refused to heed the advice of Senator Robert Kennedy because they are afraid of the pressure of the war hawks on their Government at the present time.
The Australian Government has not done one thing to achieve a negotiated settlement in Vietnam. It has been said in this Parliament that if Dr Evatt - the man whom I followed in the electorate of Hunter - were alive today he would be knocking on every door throughout the world until a negotiated and honourable peace had been achieved in Vietnam. But no member on the Government side is prepared to do what Dr Evatt would have done. They sit there like the puppets of big business that they are, prepared to send the cream of our Australian youth to the battlefields, jungles and swamps of Vietnam. But honourable members opposite are not prepared to put on a uniform themselves. I absolutely fail to understand how these men, who claim to be patriotic Australians, who are of military age and who are mentally and physically fit, can live with their consciences when they are not prepared to make some moves to put on a uniform and fight in Vietnam. Yet, they will send other people’s children to do the fighting.
– What are the terms of the negotiated peace that the honourable member would seek?
– The honourable member for Robertson asks about the terms of a negotiated peace-
– Give us a few ideas on it.
– Firstly, we should cease bombing North Vietnam now. I will give it to the honourable member. But the honourable member does not want to let me speak.
He is afraid that I may say something to affect the Liberal Party case. We should cease fire immediately and negotiate. I believe that the following bodies should come to the negotiation table. Firstly, we should have the National Liberation Front which represents two-thirds of South Vietnam.
– Prove that.
– It represents two-thirds of South Vietnam.
– Prove it.
– The honourable member cannot deny it. He can go into the Library and study the matter. There is a ton of reading matter there on it. But the honourable member will only read one side of the story. The National Liberation Front, the Saigon government, Hanoi, China and America should be called to the negotiating table. There should be an immediate cessation of bombing of North Vietnam. This is what I am advocating. Honourable members opposite asked me the question: they have my answer. Why does not the honourable member for St George stand up and say that he agrees with my answer? He has not the courage to do so. If he did so, he would find that his progress in the Liberal Party would be jeopardised. He would have no chance of getting on to the front bench or into Cabinet. In the Liberal Party, a member virtually has to be a crawler to be on the front bench because the Prime Minister chooses his Cabinet and Ministry. When the Australian Labor Party comes to power, our caucus will choose our Cabinet and Ministry. We are more democratic than honourable members opposite.
Let us have a look at the achievements of North Vietnam. I refer to the ‘Far Eastern Economic Review’. This is not regarded as a pro-Communist magazine. Recently the ‘Far Eastern Economic Review’ had this to say:
The history of any industrial city in North Vietnam can be told in a few sentences. The nation’s industry is very young - most factories are no more than 10 or 12 years old.
That is, since they had a Socialist government.
For instance, in 1954 Hanoi had no more than eight factories for light industry, and not one of them produced enough to supply even the city itself. With the exception of rice, all produce had to be imported. In Haiphong, second biggest city in North Vietnam, the number of industrial workers was under 7,000 in 1955, and a good part of them were jobless because only the waterworks and the hydraulic plant worked at the time.
Today, the factories of Hanoi produce 40% of the nation’s industrial products and even meet total requirements of certain goods. Haiphong is no less important industrially: workers in big plants number some 30,000, and another 40,000 are in artisan co-operatives.
North Vietnam has made progress under Socialism. Apparently it was bled white under the old regime that controlled it, and the Vietnamese people are looking for a new way of life. The capitalist system failed them and failed them miserably down through the centuries.
Let us have a look at history. It is about 300 years since the British people revolted against a king who was cutting off heads. They put more power into the hands of the people’s representatives. We had the French revolution which deposed the tyrannical rulers of France. Then we had the American War of Independence. To my mind, the war in Vietnam is just a repetition of history. The American people won their independence by breaking away from what they claimed were the tyrannical shackles of the British Crown. In 1917 we had the Russian revolution. This was followed by the Chinese revolution and the Cuban revolution. What is happening in Vietnam is similar to what happened in Cuba, which was a nation of the ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’. Cuba had 650,000 permanent unemployed in a population of 6,500,000. The Australian Government was rocked to its very foundations in the 1.961 election, when we had 150,000 unemployed. The Government just scraped in with a majority of one when the honourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen) was re-elected on Communist preferences. When he came into the House, the former Prime Minister, Sir Robert Menzies, said: ‘Killen, you are magnificent’. To cast off any Communist leanings that may have come to him from his victory, the honourable member moved over to the right and linked arms with Eric Butler, who is one of Australia’s most noted and leading Fascists. Eric Butler supports the present Rhodesian Government, which has been denounced by the United Nations and our mother country, Great Britain. So much for the honourable member for Moreton. He has survived on Communist preferences and he will twist and turn in any way politically to keep his seat.
Then we have Senator Hannaford in another place. No longer will his conscience let him adhere to the principles and policies of this Liberal Government, particularly in relation to policies about Vietnam. Only a few weeks ago he said: ‘No longer will my conscience allow me to support the policies of the Government on Vietnam’. He resigned from the Liberal Party. 1 understand that he may have to engage three or four secretaries to answer the congratulatory mail that he has been receiving since he resigned from the Liberal Party.
Order! I ask the honourable member to keep his remarks within the ambit of the statement that is now being debated by the House.
– I will abide by your ruling, Mr Deputy Speaker. It was totally unexpected. I thought it was proper for me to refer to Senator Hannaford, because his attitude is directly linked to foreign policy, and that is the subject of this debate.
-I would like to have a lot less said about personalities.
– I think Senator Hannaford is a wonderful man.
– Can the honourable member tell me why the senator resigned from the Libera] Party?
– He resigned because be could no longer adhere to the Government’s policies on Vietnam. We read in the daily Press in recent times of a statement by General Le May, who has retired from the United States Army. This is the second time he has made the most outrageous warmongering statement about Vietnam that I have ever heard. Late last year be was reported in our Press as having said that North Vietnam should be bombed into the stone age. He said that if the dykes and dams outside Hanoi were bombed, one million to three million people would die in a flash. I am amused to see the honourable member for Robertson laughing. He aac never made an intelligent contribution to a debate on foreign affairs since he has been a member of the House.
General Le May said that if the dykes and dams in North Vietnam were bombed one million to three million people would die before they could reach high ground. At the time he said this, prominent Australians were reminded that after World War II the Allies had the former German High Commissioner to Holland tried as a war criminal at Nuremberg for advocating the destruction of the dams and dykes in Holland. We prosecute people as war criminals for doing what General Le May and many of the war hawks in the United States advocate we should do to the people of North Vietnam now. Vietnam is a country of peasants and is suffering from most devastating attacks by the world’s greatest military power. I do not like to criticise the United States, but I think the time has come when Australians generally and members of this National Parliament should speak up and speak the truth. America is following a policy that could bring the world into a thermonuclear war that could destroy the fabric of the earth.
I want to refer to a statement made by Dean Acheson in December 1965. It is mentioned in ‘Ramparts’, which I understand is a Roman Catholic journal with a wide circulation in the United States. He is reported as having said:
The end sought by our foreign policy … is, as I have said, to preserve and foster an environment in which free societies may exist and flourish. Our policies and actions must be decided by whether they contribute to or detract from achievement of this end. They need no other justification or moral or ethical embellishment ….
The overwhelming majority of the American people would not support that statement. A prominent Frenchman, Cardinal Feltin, in a pastoral letter issued on 24th October, said:
There cannot be a morality which justifies efficacy by all means, if those means are in formal contradiction with Natural Law and Divine Law. Efficacy, in that case, goes against the very aim it seeks to achieve. There can be exceptional laws for exceptional situations . . . there cannot exist an exceptional morality which somehow takes leave of Natural Law and Divine Law.
We know that Cardinal Spellman, a very influential person in the political arena in the United States, is in conflict with Pope Paul over the war in Vietnam. Cardinal
Spellman is on record as saying in recent times that America should not withdraw from Vietnam without having achieved complete victory. I do not believe that the majority of Americans or the people of the world believe that those should be the American conditions of withdrawal, because complete victory will mean the complete wiping out of North Vietnam.
There can be only one settlement of the war in Vietnam, and that is a negotiated settlement and the forming of a composite government - a government of the National Liberation Front and the Saigon Government. Until this is achieved - and the Australian Government takes some straightforward steps to achieve this - hundreds of Australian boys will die in this war in Vietnam, which it is anticipated will otherwise last another six to ten years. The American magazine ‘Newsweek’ recently stated that America anticipated that its troop commitment would be 750,000 and that the number of Americans killed and wounded would be 100,000. On a per capita basis applied to Australian boys we can expect that our death and casualty rate in Vietnam will go much higher in the next three years than it is at present.
Not only does war dispose of the cream of Australian youth but it leaves in its trail - as we know all wars do - delinquents, war widows, the breaking down of society in general and the necessity to pay pensions to widows and the dependants of those killed and maimed. We will have to impose taxes on generations of unborn children as a result of this Government’s ruthless actions in supporting America up to the hilt in the Vietnam war. Everything should be done by every member of this Parliament to bring about a peaceful conclusion to the Vietnam war as speedily as possible, because I. do not consider that Vietnam is worth the bones of one decent Australian boy.
– I think the House will have found the remarks of the. honourable member for Hunter (Mr James) neither very surprising nor very edifying. I suggest, with all respect to him, that he is perhaps wasting his time here. He is a natural for the Mavis Bramston Show. He could act on television as an impersonator of a politician in the way that the Mavis Bramston Show depicts politicians. I am sure he would be very much at home, but it might be thought by the, viewers that he was unreasonably exaggerating. What his speech does show is the melancholy fact that there is in this country not much chance of a bipartisan foreign policy between the Government and the Opposition. We have heard the honourable member for Hunter and the honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren) expressing points of view in this House which show that they are, in point of fact, in their outlook on the side of our enemies. They are taking the line-
– I take a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. I object to the remarks made by the honourable member for Mackellar, and I ask that they be withdrawn.
– What are the remarks objected to?
– The remarks made by the honourable member for Mackellar, who said that the honourable member for Hunter and myself were on the side of the enemy. That is untrue, and I ask that it be withdrawn.
– Were those the words used by the honourable member for Mackellar?
– I said that the policies they are espousing are the policies of our enemies.
-I ask the honourable member for Mackellar to withdraw the remarks.
– Very good, Sir. It seems to me-
– Mr Deputy Speaker-
-Order! I ask the honourable member for Mackellar to withdraw the remarks that are claimed to be offensive.
– I have done so.
– The honourable member has not.
– I have done so. I am only saying, Sir, having withdrawn the remarks, that I have been unable to find any difference-
– Mr Deputy Speaker, the honourable member for Mackellar did not say. ‘I withdraw’.
-I ask honourable members to resume their seats. I ask the honourable member for Mackellar to inform the Chair whether he has actually withdrawn the words to which exception has been taken.
– I have withdrawn them.
-The honourable member has withdrawn them.
– I rise to a point of order. If honourable gentlemen are known to have been associated in a protest march and to have marched in front of the North Vietnam and Vietcong flags, is it not in order for the honourable member for Mackellar to say so?
-It is for the Chair to decide whether the words used should be withdrawn. The Chair asked for the words to be withdrawn.
– May I say that I have been unable myself to discern much difference between the policies put forward by certain honourable members on the other side and the policies put forward by our Communist enemies. That is a matter of fact; it stands on the public record. We find these gentlemen espousing policies which are in point of fact the same policies that are being put forward by our Communist enemies. This is a matter of fact and a matter on record.
– I rise to order, Sir. The honourable member for Mackellar is in fact attempting to get around your ruling, Sir, by a sleight of words, as one might term it. I say that these words are offensive to me and to others on this side of the House and I ask that they be withdrawn.
– I wish to speak to the point of order, Sir. The honourable member for Hunter has made a speech in this House which occupied a good many minutes. In no terms could it be called a temperate or reasonable speech, but be was listened to with a good deal of calm by this side of the House. Now the honourable member for Mackellar, on a factual basis, has attempted to make some kind of reply, and the deliberate policy of the Opposition is designed to prevent the honourable member for Mackellar being heard. I suggest that these false points of order should be dismissed.
– Speaking on the point of order, it would seem to me quite clear that the honourable member for Mackellar is attempting to get around the ruling which you have given, Sir, and the withdrawal which you asked for only a few moments ago. I suggest that in fact he is reflecting upon honourable members on this side of the House.
– On the point of order-
– Mr Deputy Speaker-
-The honourable member for Reid will resume his seat.
– I am speaking to the point of order.
-I have called the honourable member for Mackellar on the point of order.
– All 1 have done is to direct attention to an undoubted fact, which is most pertinent to this debate. This is one of the main things in Australian politics. If honourable members opposite find it offensive to be reminded of the facts and of what they have said and done, and if they find it offensive to be reminded of the congruence between the policies which the Communists put forward and their own policies, I submit there is no validity in their points of order.
– Mr Deputy Speaker, I rise to order. The honourable member said that I have taken sides with the enemy. I made a speech tonight and I have made many speeches - in fact I have spoken as frequently as any other honourable member - in regard to this matter.
-Order! The honourable member must address his remarks to the point of order.
– I am, Mr Deputy Speaker. The fact is that at no time have I or any other member on this side taken sides with the Vietcong or the North Vietnamese. What we have said on this side of the Parliament is that we want to make sure that there is a negotiated settlement.
-Order! I ask the House to come to order. Tt is an established fact and the precedent has been followed many times by the Chair that if remarks are made about honourable members on either side as a group, the remarks are allowed to pass, but if there are personal reflections on any individual member to which exception has been taken, the remarks must be withdrawn. If the remarks arc not withdrawn then the Chair must act.
– Mr Deputy Speaker, if you will refer to ‘Hansard’ when it is published you will find that I have spoken, since you called for the withdrawal, only of the group.
– There is no point of order before the Chair. I call the honourable member for Mackellar.
– I shall refrain, since you have asked me to do so, from naming honourable members on this, but I say that there are people on the other side of the House whose policies are identical in this regard with those put forward by the Communist Party. If they do not identify the Communist Party as our enemy, that is something for them and they can take what comfort they like from that. I regard the Communist Party as our enemy.
– I rise to order. Standing order 76 states:
Ail imputations of improper motives and all personal reflections on Members shall bc considered highly disorderly.
The honourable member for Mackellar has imputed to honourable members on this side of the House and those who have taken part in this debate specifically motives which are serious reflections upon them and which are taken in the Australian community to be treasonable to a large extent. I believe that although you ruled earlier that any general remark does not contravene this standing order, in this instance the remarks of the honourable member for Mackellar are definitely directed towards getting around the general spirit of the Standing Orders and he ought not to continue with that line. It is having a serious effect on the debate and it is preventing the honourable member from talking. Ten minutes of his time have expired already. If he persists his time will be exhausted and that, of course, will be a good thing.
-The point of order raised by the honourable member for Wills is not upheld. I have already explained the attitude of the Chair, which is based on precedents in this House. I call the honourable member for Mackellar.
– What is obvious, of course, is that although he may not go the full way in this regard, the Leader of the Opposition has taken a line which is not very far from the Communist line. Now, Sir, I do not-
– I rise to order. The words spoken by the honourable member for Mackellar are objectionable. In addition, a few minutes ago in a ruling which you gave while the honourable member for Hunter (Mr James) was speaking you asked him to stay away from personalities. I suggest that a similar ruling would mean that the honourable member for Mackellar should get back to foreign affairs.
– I wish to speak to the point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. Could you explain to me how it is that if the Communist Party is not a banned party in Australia and if an honourable member wishes to refer to similarities between two political parties in respect of policy, this is not in order? May I go further and say that in Victoria there is a defence of the trade union organisation on which Labor members and Communists sit together. Why is it out of order for us even to refer to this matter?
-I have not ruled it out. of order. I have ruled out of order personal reflections upon an individual member; I have not ruled out of order remarks about honourable members as a group. I base that ruling on precedents. I ask the honourable member for Mackellar to withdraw the personal remark he made concerning the Leader of the Opposition.
– Sir, I did. The previous remark-
-Order! I ask the honourable member to withdraw any personal remark that he made about the Leader of the Opposition.
– I did not make a personal remark; I made a remark relating to policy, a remark which is based on a speech.
-Order! The honourable member for Mackellar made a remark concerning the Leader of the Opposition.
– It was only in regard to what he said.
– Yes, it was only in regard to what he said. It was a matter of fact.
– Mr Deputy Speaker, you have given a ruling and asked the honourable member to withdraw. Is the honourable member to withdraw?
-Order! 1 call the Minister for the Army.
– Ever since the honourable member for Mackellar rose to his feet it has been policy on the part of the Opposition to prevent him from being heard. I suggest that we will get into a quite impossible situation in this chamber if honourable members on either side of the House suggest that policies espoused by a certain member or policies espoused by a certain party cannot be criticised. I cannot see anything in the remarks made by the honourable member for Mackellar which goes beyond this.
– The honourable member for Yarra (Dr J. F. Cairns) the chief spokesman for the Opposition, has on record his statement that his party stands next in the political spectrum to the Communist Party. The honourable member for Mackellar is saying nothing more nor less than that there is a reflection of this similarity in what is being said by the Leader of the Opposition. I have sat on these benches and been called a Fascist and I have been subjected to all kinds of vituperation by honourable members opposite. When the cap fits so exactly that it is recognised by the people of Australia Opposition members do not like it. I believe they should take it and keep quiet. ?,*r DEPUTY SPEAKER-Order! I ask the House to come to order.
– I wish to speak to the point of order. Is it in order for members of a party who are providing the sinews of war to Communist Russia and China by selling wheat and wool to them to continually charge the Labor Party when they are hand in glove with Communists?
-Order! The honourable member for Grayndler will resume his seat. I ask the House to come to order. A great part of the time allowed the honourable member for Mackellar has expired. He has now only five minutes left. I remind the honourable member that he must adhere strictly to the ruling of the Chair and must not make any personal reflection on any individual member of the Opposition, indeed, any member of the House. He may refer to policy and to a group of individuals.
– Mr Deputy Speaker, I must insist. You asked the honourable member for Mackellar to withdraw the statement he made about the Leader of the Opposition when he said that he was following the Communist line. You ordered him to withdraw the remark.
– Speaking to the point of order: what was said about the Leader of the Opposition was not a personal remark. This man holds a position in the Parliament and he speaks on behalf of the Opposition. To draw attention to something that he has said in this House and during the debate and to do so factually cannot be out of order.
-I uphold the point raised by the honourable member for Mackellar. The remark was obviously made in respect of a group - the Opposition - and 1 rule that the honourable member for Mackellar is now in order.
– Mr Deputy Speaker, because you have changed your ruling I now move:
That the honourable member for Mackellar be not further heard.
Question put. The House divided. (Mr Speaker - Hon. W. J. Aston)
Majority .. ..39
Question so resolved in the negative.
Motion (by Mr Snedden) put:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth) continuing to speak for a period not exceeding ten minutes.
The House divided. (Mr Speaker - Hon. W. J. Aston)
Question so resolved in the affirmative by an absolute majority.
– The conduct of the Opposition in the last few minutes has served only to underline the melancholy fact that there is little possibility of a bi-partisan foreign policy in this Parliament. It has also shown that there are certain truths which it finds hurtful and which it will go to almost any length in its en.deavour to conceal. 1 will not go further into these matters now because I want to speak of something which 1 consider to be of the most serious import. In his speech the Minister for External Affairs (Mr Hasluck) traversed a very wide spectrum of foreign affairs but there was one notable omission, and this is something which I think we in this House should note. The Minister said nothing about the negotiations in the United Nations and in certain parallel bodies for a treaty to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons. This may have been omitted because the Minister felt that the present negotiations were unlikely to result in anything substantial or it may have been omitted because he thought that it was not the primary concern of Australia. ] think that this is the primary concern of all men at the present time. The Minister made some reference to the sheltering umbrella of nuclear power. It is not a sheltering umbrella. At the present moment it is true that the balance of mutual terror keeps peace. But there is no real move for any solution of the difficulties and dangers which bid fair to wipe out mankind. I can remember in 1949 or 1950 when I first came into this House that I thought that the most important thing to do was to obtain, some secure world-wide disarmament before Soviet Russia got nuclear arms and was able to frustrate world-wide disarmament. Looking back and knowing that I and other people who thought as I did failed absolutely in what we were trying to do, I still think that what we were trying to do was worth while and should have been done, because as a result of its not being done the chances of mankind living much beyond the end of this century are probably less than even money.
Nuclear weapons are becoming more terrible. They are becoming not only more widely disseminated but easier to disseminate. Up till now we have had the protection of the fact that the manufacturing facilities to make these weapons required large and distinctive plants. Either a diffusion plant or a nuclear reactor is a very big piece of machinery which can neither be built by a small group nor concealed when made against anything except the most superficial inspection. I do not think this protection is likely to last very long. We already see prospects of the ultracentrifuge being able to separate the elements of the isotopes of uranium. If this should happen, then in small plants widely dispersed it will be possible to make this material. Indeed, it will be said that the mass spectroscopes could do this already, but the mass spectroscopes can do it only in fairly small quantities. The new plants may be somewhat different.
This gives a new urgency to the problem of world-wide inspection and control. Without nuclear inspection there can be no safety and no guarantee. Without some kind of world-wide control, horrible though its implications may be, one has to admit something of the truth of the policies put forward by the French Premier, for example, who said with some truth that those nations which do not have access to atomic weapons are likely to be destroyed or subjugated. So we are involved in a rat race of quite unimaginable proportions.
Even if the present treaty against proliferation, now in negotiation, should be completed, it will not mean very much because it gives no guarantees. Some years ago this House carried a motion supporting the principle of world-wide inspection and control, but our opinion went into the discard of history together with the opinions of other bodies. This is something which is going by default. The situation is getting daily worse. The treaty of non-proliferation may give us a little more time but is this quite an unmixed blessing? The more delay there is the worse the explosion will be unless it can be avoided altogether. There is nothing to be said for the policy of screwing down the safety valve when you do not like the noise of escaping steam unless you are prepared to do something at the same time to draw the fires. I say with regret that there is no move forward of any consequence as yet in the world. There is only the strategy of delay - delay which can be very costly. Those who advocate these half-hearted measures which mean delay without cure may in fact be more dangerous to the existence of humanity than they care to admit.
Meanwhile we in Australia have a special interest in this matter because in Asia - not in South East Asia but Asia - there is emerging a new nuclear power. I refer to Communist China. It is not yet a nuclear power but it is not far away from becoming one. It may be that China will break up in disorder but even if it does there is no guarantee that the nuclear factories will not continue to be built. The prospect of a Chinese war lord having in his power the capacity to destroy the world is not something to which we can look forward with pleasure. If China does not break up in disorder it may be that the Mao Tse-tung criminals will re-assert control of the country completely. They have already decided to pin to their masthead the flag of nuclear war if necessary and have decided, if necessary, to bring about the death of half mankind so that the cause of Communism may be advanced. These are things which should concern all men and which must concern Australia. I regret that this paramount problem found no place in the otherwise comprehensive and admirable review of foreign affairs which the Minister put before us at the opening of this debate.
Debate (on motion by Mr Armstrong) adjourned.
Message received from the Senate concurring in the resolution of the House relating to the appointment of a Joint Committee on the Australian Capital Territory, and agreeing that the resolution have effect notwithstanding anything contained in the Standing orders.
House adjourned at 10.41 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 8 March 1967, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1967/19670308_reps_26_hor54/>.