26th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr SPEAKER (Hon W. 5. Aston) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
Mr ERWIN presented a petition from certain electors of the Commonwealth praying that the Australian Government set 1 % of the gross national product as the target for the annual allocation of aid to the developing countries.
Petition received and read.
Similar petitions were presented by Mr Lynch, Mr Bridges-Maxwell and Mr Kelly.
Petitions severally received.
Mr STEWART presented a petition from certain electors of the Commonwealth praying that the Government implement Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by providing increased social service and housing benefits for the aged, the invalid, the widowed and their dependants.
Petition received and read.
Similar petitions were presented by Mr Wentworth, Mr Bosman, Mr Arthur, Mr Turner, Mr Uren, Mr E. James Harrison, Mr Devine, Mr Graham, Mr Luchetti and Mr Bridges-Maxwell.
Petitions severally received.
– My question is directed to the Treasurer. Do estimates of expenditure for 1967-68 which were released by the right honourable gentleman in his Budget Speech the night before last show a substantial decline in Australian provision of defence aid for Malaysia and Singapore? If so, can the right honourable gentleman give the House the reasons for this decline? In view of the substantial economic loss that Singapore and Malaysia will suffer through British withdrawal over the next eight years, is it not important that Australian aid to these states be maintained at a high level?
– What the Budget figures disclosed is that this year there will be defence aid of S6m to Singapore and Malaysia. I believe that that is a reduction on the figure for last year.
– Yes, 22%.
– That could be. The Leader of the Opposition can ask questions if he wants to rather than take up the role of whispering baritone which was filled by his predecessor.
-Order! The level of conversation is too high b the chamber. The House will come to order.
– Perhaps I should not have said whispering baritone but whispering falsetto. But as to the actual question asked by the honourable member for Bass, I can assure him that the whole of these problems are now being investigated and that lists of requirements of these two countries are to be considered. When decisions are made they will be announced by either the Minister for External Affairs or the Minister for Defence.
– Is the Minister for Labour and National Service aware that a branch of the union covering postal clerks and telegraphists is contemplating imposing a fine of $10 on its members who refused to take part in the stoppage in post offices on Saturday, 1st July? If this were to happen could anything be done to protect those public servants who decided to serve the public on that day?
– I have heard rumours to this effect which I think are particularly rife in Victoria but I have no confirmation of them. Although it would seem rather extraordinary action to take, one must expect extraordinary things from this particular union because, as is well known, the prominent secretary of the union is a Communist.
– To what union is the Minister referring?
– They are the friends of this Government. It sells wheat to them. Their money is good.
– At least he seems to have a few friends, potential or actual. This particular man is much more interested in confronting the Government and uprooting authority than he is in any industrial issue which is, of course, a tool to be used for his purposes. There is some pretty powerful evidence that he has great ambitions in the realm of white collar workers and professional unions but fortunately those people are becoming increasingly awake to him and his activities. There is also a good deal of evidence that support in his own union is far from firm.
Now let me turn to this extraordinary action. This man has been extremely vocal about the $4 fine imposed by the Government because of the stoppage on 1st July. If the rumours are true, it is now proposed to fine members of the union who were obeying the law as set down in the Public Service Act 2i times the $4 fine. The Commonwealth Industrial Court has made it pretty clear that it is not legal for a union to discipline its members for obeying the law.
– I address my question to the Prime Minister. Is it a fact that the Government has now adopted a policy which debars sons and daughters of Communist Party members from serving in the defence forces irrespective of whether they share the political beliefs of their parents? If this is a fact, when did the Government receive a mandate from the people to implement such a policy? How will this apply to conscripted national servicemen?
– I have no knowledge of any such policy and I would be surprised to learn that there was one. I shall make inquiries but I can assure the honourable gentleman that no such policy has ever come to my notice.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Civil Aviation. In view of the many disturbing features and contradictory statements concerning the Tennant Creek air disaster last September, I ask the Minister in the public interest whether he will cause the fullest possible inquiry to be made into every aspect of this catastrophe.
– During September last year I announced to the House than an unfortunate accident had occurred at Tennant Creek. A survey aircraft crashed when approaching the airport and six people on board were killed. I indicated at the time that under the air navigation regulations an investigation would be set up immediately. This was done and a report was received some months later. The report was made available to the coroner’s court at Tennant Creek and also to other interested parties. As far as I can assess, the investigation covered all aspects of the unfortunate occurrence, but in view of the honourable member’s interest I suggest that he place the question on the notice paper and I will examine every aspect to see whether anything further can be adduced.
– Did the Minister for Social Services state recently that the Jones quads would receive a $10 weekly grant, and that it was usual for the Government to make special act of grace payments in cases of multiple births above twins? Is Mrs Jones receiving the weekly grant mentioned? If so, for how long has it applied? Why is such a grant not paid in all cases of multiple births?
– I did announce that there had been an act of grace payment for the Jones quads. An act of grace payment has npt been made, as has been suggested by the honourable member, in all cases where there have been multiple births above twins, nor did I say so in my original statement. It has been the custom in the past to grant act of grace payments to quads. I do not know of any instances where they have been made for multiple births of more than quads. In at least four cases in recent times quads have been paid an act of grace amount. In the past it has been something less than the amount which I announced would be payable to the Jones quads. I emphasise that this amount is payable purely on an act of grace basis and not in the same way as is child endowment. Of course, the Jones quads are entitled also to child endowment in the same way as is any other child in the community.
– I preface my question, which is addressed to the Prime Minister, by reminding the right honourable gentleman of the extreme drought conditions in western Victoria, in particular the western
Wimmera and southern Mallee areas. Some areas have had only half the rainfall of the previous lowest records of 1902 and 1914. I ask the Prime Minister whether he has received any request from the Victorian Premier for assistance in the form of drought relief. If not, will he arrange immediately for an officer of his Department to examine the position thoroughly in conjunction with the State authorities with a view to making available financial assistance in the form of both grant moneys and credit so that business may continue, thereby preventing a general exodus of the people from the area?
– I am sure that many members of the House have been made aware of the abnormally dry conditions in Victoria - indeed, in South Australia also - which have led to areas of Victoria being declared drought affected. I am not so well informed as to what action of that kind has been taken in South Australia. The Premier of Victoria has kept me informed of the situation in the areas to which the honourable member has referred. The honourable member will be aware of the action that has been taken already by the Victorian Government in the form of concessional rates for fodder transport and matters of that sort. Generally speaking, the responsibility for matters of this kind arising from drought conditions rests with the States concerned. However, in cases where abnormally severe effects from drought have been experienced the Commonwealth has revealed a willingness to give assistance. This was done in the case of New South Wales and Queensland recently and, as 1 understand the position, in some respects such assistance is still continuing.
I have had no specific request for aid of this kind from the Premier of Victoria. However, I have no doubt that if he believes the severity of the situation warrants such action he will make an approach to us. I gather from what I have read that if really good rains are received in the spring months substantial relief will be experienced through the State. I am sure that we all sincerely hope that this will occur. I can assure the honourable gentleman that we are watching the situation sympathetically and will give full consideration to any such approach that may come from the Victorian Government.
– Can the Prime Minister give the House a definite assurance that the terms of the River Murray Waters Agreement in respect of the Chowilla project will be carried out in accordance with that Agreement? I point out that that Agreement was unanimously endorsed by this Parliament.
– My colleague, the Minister for National Development, will answer the question.
– The answer is: Yes.
– I ask the Minister for Defence: Following the Press announcement that some 8,000 British servicemen are to be located in Australia, is the Government now free to inform the House of the stage reached in any negotiations with the United Kingdom Government and of the places where the servicemen will probably be stationed?
– If the announcement that 8,000 men are to be stationed in Australia were anything but conjecture, we would of course have informed the House already. The discussions with the United Kingdom Government about matters related to the future of the British military presence in South East Asia have been going on for some little time. No definition has been reached on any of these matters. The initiative in these discussions lies with the United Kingdom Government at the present moment.
– I ask a question of the Prime Minister. I refer to President Johnson’s warning to the military rulers of South Vietnam that a rigged presidential election would cause the withdrawal of American support. Has the right honourable gentleman, as Prime Minister, indicated that in similar circumstances the Australian Government would withdraw its support?
– I am not prepared to accept the statement made by the honourable gentleman as a complete or faithful account of the official exchange between the United States and the Administration in South Vietnam, but I can say this: The United States and Australia have made clear to the Administration in South Vietnam how much importance we attach to elections properly conducted and faithfully held and our belief that the conduct of elections in that way is a significant factor in the evolution of a democratic system in that country. 1 believe that the leaders of the Administration, including the presidential candidate and the vicepresidential candidate, are not only well aware of this fact but are themselves sincere in wishing to bring this about. I would ask the House to discount, to the degree to which honourable members from their own political experience might be led to discount them, a lot of the reports emerging at this time either from the Press or from rival candidates in the election. We have been through elections ourselves and we know the sort of atmosphere which is generated in an election campaign. But 1 am myself convinced that the Administration in South Vietnam is not only well aware of the importance that we attach to elections being faithfully held and to full effect being given to the democratic process, but also that it accepts those factors as necessary for the kind of South Vietnam that the South Vietnamese Government hopes to see develop.
– I ask the Prime Minister: In view of certain confusion both in Papua and New Guinea and in Australia, does the Government propose to make a clear statement regarding its policy in respect of the future status of the Territory, and will honourable members have an opportunity to debate the matter?
– I am reluctant to make an authoritative statement offhand in reply to a question of this sort, but I undertake to study the honourable gentleman’s question and to see whether I can give him a detailed and considered answer in due course.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Immigration. Is it correct that permission has been given for some sixty Japanese to enter Australia to work on a Japanese dredge at Port
Hedland? If so, where did the application for entry originate and what reasons were advanced to cause the Government to grant it? Have Japanese industrialists also made representations for permission to bring more Japanese to Australia to work on other projects in which Japanese companies are associated? If so, is it correct that those representations also have been acceded to by the Government?
– In considering the admission of persons such as Japanese for the purpose mentioned, each individual case would be judged on its merits, with due regard to both the individual concerned and the prospective employer. I shall have to treat the question as being on tha notice paper, but I undertake to provide a full and detailed answer.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Labour and National Service. Recent figures announced by the Department of Labour and National Service show an overall drop of 3,106 in the number of persons unemployed throughout Australia during July and indicate that the percentage of unemployment is greatest in Tasmania and South Australia. As these are the only two States controlled by Labor governments and as South Australia had one of the best employment records before the present State Government took office-
-Order! The honourable member will direct his question.
– Have the policies of the Labor governments in these States contributed in any way to the higher percentage of recorded unemployment or are other special factors responsible?
– The state of employment in any part of Australia necessarily depends on a series of rather complex factors. I shall deal with South Australia first. Clearly, the psychology of enterprise in that State has a great effect on employment. For many years, South Australian affairs were in the hands of an outstanding man of very sound and progressive entrepreneurial instincts. Under his guidance and drive. South Australia went from strength to strength. Whatever else a Labor government means, obviously it does not mean economic progress. Labor’s basic theme is directed at cutting up the cake rather than enlarging it. This is exactly what has been happening in South Australia. This is not the entire cause of that State’s present situation, but it is clearly a major contributory factor. I turn now to Tasmania, where very difficult seasonal conditions have been experienced. In many ways, it is a delightful State, though its present Government has been long continuing. I have no doubt that Tasmania, if it had had at its helm a man like Tom Playford, would by now have been developed to twice the extent it has.
– I direct my question to the Prime Minister. During his recent overseas visit, he was reported as having said in an interview at London airport:
We are not troubled about the possibility of Chinese Communists invading Australia.
I ask: Was the right honourable gentleman reported correctly? If so, is he aware that during the last Federal general election campaign the Federal Secretariat of the Liberal Party of Australia distributed a pamphlet which was authorised by J. R. Willoughby and which clearly indicated, by means of red arrows, that the downward thrust would come from China? The pamphlet stated:
Do we draw the line against Communist aggression in Vietnam now or do we wait until the Red advance comes down to our shores?
-Order! The honourable member is giving information. I suggest that he direct his question.
-I intend to do so, Mr Speaker. Can the Prime Minister inform me what has happened in the last few months to completely reverse his attitude?
– I would have thought that the honourable gentleman had had enough experience himself of airport interviews to be very wary about accepting a report coming from such an interview as being a full account of what was said at the time.
– Did the right honourable gentleman deny it?
– If the honourable gentleman will allow me to answer the question I think I can satisfy even his level of intelligence.
– Will the Prime Minister tell us what happened at Camp David when he lost his pants?
– Order! The honourable member for Hunter will cease interjecting. The House will come to order. Question time is limited, as honourable members know, and to give them an opportunity to ask questions and Ministers to reply to them it is necessary that some decorum and dignity be maintained in the Chamber.
- Mr Speaker, if I may just deviate from that injunction, I should like to say that I would sooner lose my pants than lose my seat, as happened to so many Labor members at the last election. What I was making clear in my comment at this interview was that the prime motive at this point of time for Australia was not concern about any immediate threat to Australia’s security. What I was pointing out, as we pointed out right through the election campaign, was that if Communist expansion in South East Asia is not checked then eventually the security of Australia does become threatened, and that one of the powerful reasons why we are giving support in South Vietnam, as it was a powerful reason why we gave support in South Korea, is that we see the need to check that Communist expansion from whatever administration or source it proceeds.
– Is that why the Government has reduced, its financial assistance to Singapore this year?
Mr SPEAKER-Order! The honourable member is continually interjecting.
– It is no mystery, I believe, even to some honourable members that the long term objective of Communist China is to achieve a spread of Communism not only through South East Asia but indeed throughout the rest of the world. That has marked the great cleavage in thought between the dominant regime, if it can be called dominant at the present time, in China and the dominant regime in the Soviet Union. So, Sir, there is no inconsistency between what I said in the course of the election campaign, what has appeared so graphically in the pamphlet which I am glad to find the honourable gentleman, has studied, and what I said at that airport meeting. The Labor Party fails to perceive the realism of the situation in South East Asia because its members look at South Vietnam, pick out such points of criticism as they can make of the administration of that country and refuse to see the essence of the struggle there and its significance for free people throughout this region and eventually for Australia itself.
– I direct a question to the Minister assisting the Minister for Trade and Industry. It is reported that the authorities in Hong Kong are looking for further food imports from other countries owing to the position in Communist China. Have any steps been taken by Australia to supply this market? If no steps have been taken, will the Minister discuss this with the Acting Minister for Primary Industry and with primary producer organisations so that we might avail ourselves of the opportunity to participate in this market?
– As a result of the disturbances in Hong Kong there has been, 1 understand, some disruption of the normal food supply line from mainland Communist China to Hong Kong itself. As a result of this there have been, particularly for those migrants from Communist China, some substantial food shortages. As to the possibility of Australia expanding her export trade in primary foodstuffs to that area, there have been quite extensive promotion campaigns carried out there in past years and, of course, Australia has trade commissioner posts in the area. However, as a result of the honourable member’s question I shall confer with my colleague, the Acting Minister for Primary Industry, and see whether further efforts can be made to ensure that the maximum entry of Australian primary products is gained to that market.
– I ask the Prime Minister a question. In view of his vivid reaction four weeks ago to the British Government’s proposals for a phased withdrawal from Singapore and Malaysia, how does he justify the 22% reduction in the Budget in our defence aid for Malaysia and Singapore?
– I do not propose to go into detail now on the first part of the honourable member’s question. My colleague, the Minister for External Affairs, will make some reference to this in the statement that he will be delivering to the House at a later stage. But the honourable gentleman must not assume that what appears in a Budget at a particular time represents the end point of the Government’s policy. We have ahead of us a good deal of thought and a considerable amount of discussion, not only inside our own Government circle and with the members of our Parties, but also with the governments of the countries concerned. I have read, for example, that the Tunku has it in mind to propose a conference of five countries- Malaysia. Singapore, the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand - to consider future policy in relation to this area. I have had no formal approach from him on that but I have read of it, and I think Tun Razak also made some mention of it. We expect that over the period in which the phased withdrawal of United Kingdom forces will occur we shall find it necessary not only to examine our own foreign policy assumptions but also, I repeat, to have a good deal of discussion with these countries and perhaps others. It would be quite unrealistic to take a particular figure in the Budget for a particular year and say that that is the beginning and end of what Australia proposes to do in relation to this problem.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Labour and National Service. Has his attention been directed to recent articles in the Brisbane Courier Mail’ in which a former national serviceman and Vietnam veteran is alleged to have claimed that Vietnam veterans are forgotten men? If so, being disturbed by these claims, as I am sure most Australians would be, I ask the Minister to inform the House whether these articles, which indicate lack of both care and consideration, are correct, and, if so, what action is contemplated.
– My attention was directed to the leading article in question. If the allegation on which it was based were true it would be a matter of great concern to all of us. In the case of the three men whose story was” written up in another issue of the newspaper it was not clear to me whether they said that they were forgotten men or whether those words had been planted on them. I have since looked into the cases of the three men. The article gives the impression that they were discharged some time ago and ever since have been forgotten. One was discharged at the end of June and the other two in the latter half of July.
Before any national serviceman is discharged he is interviewed and counselled by officers of my Department. They give advice and explain to each man his rights to reestablishment benefits and reinstatement in employment and so forth. This was done for the three men in question. One man was placed in employment two days after discharge. As honourable members know, every national serviceman receives on discharge a week’s termination leave or payment in lieu thereof and a gratuity which would help to tide him over for a while. The one who was reported at greater length was in fact interviewed on numerous occasions by my officers. He was offered help with employment and his rights in connection with unemployment benefit were also explained to him. But he did not want assistance; he declined it. The third one was, I think, complaining about delay in the payment of his repatriation war pension. I understand that in all three cases repatriation war pension entitlements have been determined.
– I direct a question to the Prime Minister. The right honourable gentleman has painted a very colourful picture of the state of the Australian economy. Is he aware that skyrocketing prices for food, rent and clothing have caused grave concern to those people on lower incomes, particularly those in receipt of social service and other pensions? Is he aware that the purchasing power of the dollar has decreased alarmingly?
-Order! The honourable member is giving information. He should ask his question.
– Is the Prime Minister aware that the purchasing power of the dollar has decreased alarmingly, thus causing grave disquiet? Will he call an emergency conference with all State Premiers to discuss ways and means to arrest this dangerous position?
– I do not agree that the purchasing power of the dollar has decreased alarmingly, nor do I regard the current position as dangerous. Indeed, if he was reported correctly, the Governor of the Reserve Bank the other day said that he had never known the Australian economy to be in a more healthy position than it is in at this time. This week my colleague, the Treasurer, gave the House, I would have thought in convincing detail, evidence of the sound state of the Australian economy. The honourable gentleman has. a very short memory. That there should have been so little pressure on prices in this country over recent years is quite remarkable, having regard to our growth and development, the increased provision for defence and, in comparison with other countries, our high level of employment.
It is true, as the Treasurer was quick to point out, that in the last quarter the movement in prices showed an annual rate of increase of the order of 5%, but in two recent years there was virtually no movement and in two others I think the movement was of the order of 2%. The Treasurer shaped his Budget with the deliberate intent of keeping the price situation as stable as we could contrive. As to the overall state of the economy, Australia has developed a high reputation throughout the rest of the civilised world for the skill with which the economy has been managed, its stability and its rate of progress. The state of our economy has served as a powerful inducement to others to come to this country and hazard their savings with us, confident, as they are, in the future growth of Australia. I say that the honourable gentleman has a short memory because in the year in which this Government took office from the Labor Party the increase in prices was running at a rate of 10% per annum.
-I present the following paper:
Audit Act - Finance - Report of the AuditorGeneral for year 1966-67, accompanied by the Treasurer’s Statement of Receipts and Expenditure.
Ordered to be printed.
– by leave - On 3rd August I announced the Government’s approval of the United States request for rest and recreation facilities in Australia for their personnel serving in Vietnam. I would now like to inform the House of further developments with particular reference to the participation of Australian servicemen in the R and R programme. The sites agreed upon for R and R centres are Sydney and Brisbane/ Queensland Gold Coast. Provision exists in the agreement between Australia and the United States for up to 1,000 personnel on the ground at each of these two centres. An advance United States team has arrived in Australia to plan the R and R programme. The programme is expected to begin in October with, initially,15 aircraft arriving each month. These aircraft are of the Boeing 707 or DC8 type, mostly under charter to United States civil airlines, each of which will carry 162 passengers. The use of aircraft of this type and number will mean that about 500 personnel on R and R leave will be in Australia at any one time. Sydney only will be used in the early stages of the programme. These arrangements are not yet firm as it is too soon after the conclusion of the agreement to have an accurate estimate of aircraft availability and to lay down detailed flight schedules. It can be expected that the programme will gradually grow in momentum but it is too early to know when the number of aircraft will be increased or when the programme will be extended to Brisbane and the Gold Coast.
Australian servicemen in Vietnam, in common with United States servicemen, are entitled to one R and R leave of approximately five days outside that country once during their 12 months tour of operational duty. This leave may be taken at any stage of the operational tour, depending on the commitments of a man’s unit and the vacancies for seats on aircraft to the R and R centre of his own choice. It has been agreed with the United States authorities that any Australian who wishes to do so may spend his R and R leave at home. There are leave centres in Asian countries open to Australian servicemen, such as
Bangkok and Hong Kong, and we are therefore unable to say at this stage how many of our servicemen will elect to spend their R and R leave in Australia. Australian servicemen do, however, have equal rights with United States servicemen in this regard and will be included from the beginning of the R and R flights to Australia. It is not expected that there will be any difficulty at all in providing for Australian servicemen the number of seats required to bring to Australia all those who nominate Australia as the venue of their R and R leave.
Australians who elect to come home on R and R leave will be given transport to and from their homes - by air where interstate or lengthy intrastate travel is involved, so that as many as possible will be at their homes on the day of arrival in Australia. The Government has directed that every Australian serviceman, irrespective of his home location, will be given a minimum of four nights at home. Travelling time will be added to the leave where necessary for this purpose. Where this means that a seat is not available on a returning R and R aircraft or a Royal Australian Air Force courier or charter aircraft within a reasonable time after return to the R and R centre, the serviceman will be returned to Vietnam by civil airline.
I conclude by expressing the Government’s satisfaction on the conclusion of this agreement with the United States, and the prompt action of the United States Government in beginning preparations for the leave programme. I express also our thanks to the United States for meeting Australia’s wishes on details of the agreement, in particular the inclusion in the programme, of our own servicemen who will be carried to and from Vietnam at no cost to the Australian Government.
Motion (by Mr Snedden) agreed to:
That leave of absence for two months be given to the honourable member for Bowman (Dr Gibbs) on the ground of parliamentary business overseas, the honourable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes) owing to his absence from Australia and the honourable member for Balaclava (Mr Whittorn) on the ground of public business overseas.
Motion (by Mr Barnard) agreed to:
That leave of absence for wo months be given to the Right Honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Calwell), the honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron) and the honourable member for Newcastle (Mr Charles Jones) on the ground of parliamentary business overseas.
Arbitration inPapua and New Guinea - Citrus Fruits Industry - Unemployment - Immigration - Aboriginals - Indonesia - Salinity in the River Murray - Pensions - Glebe Post Office- Lord Howe Island -
That grievances be noted.
– I should like to urge the Minister for Territories (Mr Barnes), the Attorney-General (Mr Bowen) or whoever is the relevant Minister, to permit an appeal against the recent decision in the local officers arbitration case in the Territory of Papua , and New Guinea. I do this on the ground that the arbitration, when it took place, was based on a quite arbitrary decision of the Government. A salary level was arrived at and from that base arbitration proceeded. The normal reaction of any government when met with a request for an appeal against an arbitration decision is to suggest that there should be no appeal. But in this case, without any arbitration, the Government made an arbitrary reduction in the salaries of local officers and, after that, arbitration took place from the basis of the reduced wages. Since it was an arbitrary act which produced the arbitration in the first place, I believe an appeal should be permitted.
How little consideration was given in this act of reducing wages can be demonstrated by taking a concrete case. Let us consider a specific case - a native, with eight children, who had been getting $2,000 a year. The initial decision handed down from the Government was that such a person should have his pay reduced to about $900. I know that in the subsequent uproar there was support for those who had been in receipt of salaries at a certain level, but I want to state this as an illustration of the degree of consideration that was given. Imagine the position of a man with a family, on $2,000 a year, who has incurred a certain level of debt, perhaps a certain level of hire purchase and a certain level of other payments and who is suddenly con fronted with the fact that by decree his salary is to be reduced immediately to$900. Can honourable members imagine anything worse in precipitating a crisis in that family?
I do not know why it is that in the case of coloured people we can never - but never - arrive at the idea of equality. In all the history of Australia’s relationships with labour from the Pacific Islands, now going back 100 years to 1867 when we began bringing island labour into Queensland, there has been only a brief interlude of eight or nine years when, under the former Minister for Terrritories, we stated that we were aspiring towards equality. Thereafter there has been this idea of a reduced wage. In the United States of America, where, in the negro families, 46% of the homes are broken, part of the upheaval today is due to the fact that no head of the family has any prestige whatever because he has, in so many instances, a wage which does not enable him to support his family. A paralysing blow is struck to the prestige of the breadwinner, with consequent delinquency, disintegration of the family, inadequate nutrition and all the other results. And here we start, at this point of time, after almost a decade of the most solemn promises made by the Government about progress towards equality, to reduce wages.
We can imagine the crisis that some people would be thrown into as a result of this cut because of their indebtedness or some other family reasons or because of habits of expenditure. The kind of action taken shows how little consideration is given to the consequences. As a result of the uproar which followed the Government’s initial decision there was a subsequent retreat, and those who had been on levels that were approaching wage equality were left on those levels, and the reduced rates were to apply to future recruits only. This led to the anomaly that people worked alongside each other and did the same job but received vastly differentrates of pay.I know all about the argument that says: Come independence they will not be able to sustain a certain level of wages’, but the point is that independence has not been granted at the moment. At present thousands of Europeans who are on exceptionally high levels of salary in Papua and New Guinea are buying competitively with the natives in the market. I have taken the trouble to go through Koki market. I found that the price of meat there was as high as it was in Perth. Bananas were dearer than they were in Perth and the same was true of pineapples. I could not see that in any way - except perhaps in goods like yams - what was called a native market was a cheap market. In fact, the universal testimony of natives to whom I spoke was that it was cheaper to buy in the supermarkets where prices were at levels similar to or slightly above those operating in Australia. Consequently those people on very low wages have a very low standard of living.
But the aspect that worries me most, and the one that I regard as most important, is that of good faith. Let us have no doubt about it. On 1st September 1954, Mr Hasluck, the then Minister for Territories, said in the House of Representatives:
On 26th August 1958 Mr Hasluck said in this House:
Differences between the rates of pay received by the native and European workers employed by the Administration result from differences in qualifications, skill and work output. Provision is being made for native workers to be given academic and technical training designed to assist them to qualify at the standards laid down for admission ultimately to the First, Second or Third Divisions of the Public Service. On admission to any of these Divisions natives will bc paid at the basic European rates applicable to the duties to be performed.
On 18th April 1961 in this House Mr Hasluck said: we have embarked on a course of removing all forms of discrimination from the laws of the Territory.
On one occasion Mr Hasluck gave a particularly solemn warning that any personif there is anyone - who still thinks of the New Guinea people as a mass of cheap labour to work for his sole advantage and without ambition or claims of their own, not only is living in a fool’s paradise but is basically building a fool’s hell. Australia has escaped in its relationship with Papua and New Guinea certain events that could have been disastrous. The insanity occurring in the streets of certain American cities today is clearly based on a background of slavery. The insanity that went on in the Belgian Congo, including the killing of Europeans when the Belgian Army was withdrawn, was based on the fact that within living memory Leopold II of Belguim enslaved about 3 million natives in a period of ten years. Insane white action has produced countering insane black action. Australia escaped by the skin of its teeth because a handful of missionaries and naval officers in the Pacific could ultimately insist on the repatriation from Queensland of natives abducted from New Guinea in 1884. The British proclamation of sovereignty over British New Guinea, as it was called, was not to protect Australia from Germany but to protect the natives of New Guinea from Queensland labour recruiters. We escaped insanity in our relationship with Papua and New Guinea that would have occurred but for action by Sir Samuel Griffiths to return to New Guinea 500 natives who had been abducted into Queensland. So British rule was begun on a sound basis. We have had this opportunity for good relationships and I believe that sanity in relationships conies from good faith,
I do not know what the level of wages for local officers in Papua and New Guinea should be, but because there was an arbitrary decision without consultation which created a certain level of wages on an. arbitral basis, I think those local officers, having many grounds for dissatisfaction, should be. given the right of appeal. I think a mistake was initially made in the rapid reduction of wages after years of promises of equality - a reduction which took place without the slightest degree of consultation with the people concerned.
– I want to bring to the attention of the House today the position of the citrus fruits industry in Australia. It is not one of our major primary industries, but many Australian families have been associated with it for nearly a century. Over a period it has been through many vicissitudes. It appeared that the industry was about to reach stabilisation, which would he a great benefit to the people engaged in it. However, during the past twelve months about 150,000 gallons of single strength citrus fruit juices have been imported, mainly from Brazil and Italy. The citrus fruit growers in my electorate and on the central coast of New South Wales are alarmed at the future of their industry. Already the processors have stated to them: We do not want your fruit’. This applies particularly to lemons. About three or four years ago the lemon market was so depressed that the growers could not eke out a living from their returns. They formed an association with the object of stabilisation of the industry and had achieved stabilisation of prices. However, because of the huge imports of citrus fruit juices from Brazil and Italy their future is threatened.
I understand that imported citrus fruit juices are subject to a tariff of 25c a gallon. The local industry has been placed in a very difficult position. I requested the Government to consider whether it should ask the Tariff Board to apply anti-dumping regulations immediate!)’ as ;i matter ot urgency in order to protect the interests of very worthwhile communities on the central coast of New South Wales, in the Riverina and in South Australia. The citrus fruit growers depend solely on their returns from fruit sold for juicing. Unless they are protected, doom confronts them as it did in the depression days when thousands of citrus trees were uprooted.
It would appear that certain processors are using this situation to place the growers in a difficult position. When I tell honourable members that only 5% of the contents of a 26 oz bottle of fruit juice is actually fruit juice and that the cost of fruit juice is $64 per ton, they will see that the price of the fruit juice in a 26 oz bottle sold over the counter is .75c. So the application of anti-dumping regulations could not possibly increase the price of the end product.
The request from the various growers in my electorate and on the Central Coast is a reasonable one and I trust that the Minister for Social Services (Mr Sinclair), who deals with matters relating to the Trade and Industry portfolio will take this matter up immediately. Last Saturday week I sent a telegram to the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr McEwen) not knowing that he was ill. I had expected before now a reply stating that the matter had been referred to the Tariff Board for consideration. I experienced exactly the same diffi culty with a small primary industry, the mushroom industry: It is my opinion that although an industry be a small one and not of great advantage as an earner of export income, nevertheless it should be protected from the onslaught of surplus foreign products, such as those which are now arriving from Brazil and Italy. I hope that the Government will take note of this grievance that I am bringing before it and do something for these very worthwhile Australian citizens who are adversely affected.
– I endorse the representations which have been made this morning by the honourable member for Fremantle (Mr Beazley) in support of the Public Service Association for Papuans and New Guineans which seeks some machinery by which to establish a right of appeal against Mr Matthews’ wage decision for local officers of the Papua and New Guinea Public Service. On the :>ne hand, our financial relations with the Territory of Papua and New Guinea involve us in expenditure of $78m this financial year. On the other hand, what are our human relationships with this area? What are the economics of goodwill? One cannot divorce these two things from one another, particularly in a developing country. On the one hand there are the financial aspect and the material aspect of developing a country. On the other hand there is the social relationship between peoples - in this case the people of this country and the tocal people of Papua and New Guinea.
As the honourable member for Fremantle pointed out so effectively, we cannot expect to move Papua and New Guinea successfully along the road to independence and at the same time maintain high standards in the Public Service and in the welfare of the people and retain their respect, support, confidence and indeed loyalty if we treat them in the way in which this Government is now treating them by its complete indifference in the face of pressing appeals for the establishment of some sort of machinery in order to allow an appeal against Mr Matthews’ grossly unjust decision on wages.
The wooden response of the Government to the potentially explosive wages issue in Papua and New Guinea may be a typical way of its responding to human problems in the community. It is blunt, aloof and unmoved in the face of obvious injustice and gross dissatisfaction. Perhaps it is typical but it is probably the most dangerous case of ‘typicalness’ if I can coin such a word, coming from the Government in at least a decade. Surely the Government realises that the decision of the Public Service Arbitrator, Mr Matthews, to vary base grade salaries of Papuan and New Guinean public servants by a miserable 75c a week has caused widespread resentment among local officers of the Territory. Resentment, which if unchecked by reasoned and rational action by the Government, presents a bad omen for future relations between the indigenees of the Territory and Australia. I implore the Minister for Territories (Mr Barnes) to apply himself to some serious reflection.
– There was a rise of 10% in salaries.
– If the Minister will restrain himself, in a minute I shall speak about how inadequate this rise of 10% was and how in fact the increase meant nothing to many people. I ask the Minister: Does he not realise that to persist in refusing to set up an appeal board to review Mr Matthews’ wage decision and his reluctance to reply to the request for such an appeal board can only be interpreted as a refusal. In doing this he is drawing the boundaries of racial segregation and discrimination in the Territory. He draws these boundaries just as determinedly by his attitude - although I do not believe that it is his conscious purpose - as did Orville Faubus in Little Rock. But whether his purpose be conscious or unconscious the result is the same. Mr. Matthews’ wage decision can Only serve to perpetuate inequality and racial inferiority for the local officers.
The Minister’s stolid determination to perpetuate the injustices of this decision and his rigid refusal to provide the machinery for such an appeal merits for him, his Government, this country and - this last thing I most sincerely regret - the censure and jeers of most of the world for attempting to preserve what can only be seen as an exploiting colonial policy fitted more to the era of gun boat diplomacy arid unequal treaties than to an age of enlightenment where nations subscribe to a universal declaration of human rights. The intrusive, paternal control of a conservative colonial power should be dead standards in this age. They are intolerable to true democrats. They are an indignity to the people to whom they are applied. Why then must the Minister embrace them so firmly in the discharge of his portfolio?
Let us look at just how discriminatory are the decisions of Mr Matthews. He provided wage increases which benefit extremely few. At the top there was an increase of $600 a year. But only one person benefits from that increase. The base rate - and now I come to the question that the Minister raised a little earlier - was increased by $40 a year above the 1964 level, to $480 a year. But just to equal 1964 purchasing terms the increase should have brought the level to $492 a year. Is this justice? More importantly, is this white man’s justice to the black man? I regret having to use these rather emotional terms but perhaps we might be able to blast some sort of impression into the Minister so as to obtain some sort of action from him on this injustice.
Let us look at how the machinery of justice worked, that is, the machinery of white man’s justice provided for the black man. In the course of Mr Matthews’ inquiry a nutritional expert claimed that many native public servants received salaries insufficient to provide them with adequate nutrition. What was done for them? The special family allowance introduced in 1964 was not increased. For most there was no wage increase at all. In 1964 wages for many were set at a lower standard than the then existing level. As the honourable member for Fremantle pointed out, the opposition that this decision caused resulted in the establishment of a nonreduction allowance. This allowance maintained the wage to the level at 1964 at the time when the reduction was proposed. But it was only an allowance. It was not a component of the total wage established by the new award. This allowance now absorbs the wage increases. So many people affected in this way got absolutely nothing from Mr Matthews’ decision. Is it n_qt fair, then, to inquire on what b’a$s Mr Matthews struck the wage rates? I am informed that the economic capacity of the Territory to bear wage increases was the determining factor. This is interesting although it is somewhat vague, as these generalisations are. Surely because they are vague generalisations we, and the people of Papua and New Guinea are entitled to some kind of explanation. Without an explanation the local officers are entitled to believe passionately, as so many of them do now, that the real standard was not connected with economic factors but was established from the conservative attitudes of the Department of Territories.
The inadequacy of the wage rates struck clearly shows that the social and economic welfare of the local officers was not given much consideration. What is the Government aiming at? Does it want to create a second rate, demoralised, subordinal public service? What else can a wage scale struck on poverty standards lead to? Imagine $38 a week for a university law graduate as a starting salary with the Papua and New Guinea Public Service. The Minister, with only a fraction of the qualifications of such a graduate, would be appalled if he were asked to commence as an expatriate base grade clerk with the Administration on that salary. How can he possibly feel that justice has been done for the people of that land? The Territory’s Treasurer, Mr Newman, has denied that public works would be cut back as a result of a reasonable wage increase for the indigenes. What, then, is the basis for the Government’s intractability? ls it the Minister’s unimaginative inflexibility?
Our record in race relations during the past three or four years has been a dismal one. It is a blot on our national conscience and can only be expiated by a more enlightened and humane course being steered by the Department of Territories. This of course calls for some major changes. We should not contribute to the ingredients which could cook up some future shame of a Watts, the shock of a Detroit or the terror of a Newark anywhere in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea. By refusing to act reasonably, responsibly and democratically now the Minister contributes a significant ingredient to such things for the future. As a top Administration official observed during the wages inquiry, ‘the red lights are winking’ but the Minister is purblind to the warning. The necessary machinery should now be set up to allow the appeal against the Matthews wage decision to proceed without further delay as it would in fact proceed in this country if there were dissatisfaction. There would be no obstruction to the introduction of the necessary machinery and to its passage through this Parliament to facilitate such an appeal, that is, if this is necessary. If it is not necessary, then the Government’s procrastination is all the more reprehensible.
– In the last ten minutes I have heard some criticism of the Australian Government’s policy in relation to Papua and New Guinea. 1 want to direct the attention of the House to something which my colleague and friend, the honourable member for Deakin (Mr Jarman), mentioned this morning. He referred to the level of unemployment in Australia, particularly in South Australia and Tasmania. Perhaps to a certain extent the level of unemployment in Tasmania is subject to internal conditions but this is not so in South Australia. I have certain statistics which I have obtained from the Department of Immigration and which I am sure will interest the House. They show in no uncertain way how inept is the Government in South Australia and how financial bungling and complete political mismanagement have brought South Australia, in a period of two years, to her knees in a state of chaos.
In 1965-66 Australia received 142,761 migrants of whom South Australia received 15.68%. In 1963-64, some two years earlier, Australia received 64,392 migrants, or only half as many, and in that year South Australia received 14% of the total. Turning to departures, we see that in 1963- 64 South Australia lost 9.05% or 824 of the 9,102 migrants to the State; but in 1965-66 some 15.31% or 2,089 of the 18,343 migrants to South Australia left the State. In other words, there was a 6.3% increase in two years in the rate of departures. What is the reason for that? The reason lies in the fact that in two years the Labor Government of South Australia has produced a level of economic unprosperity previously unknown in that State. The disgust, contempt, outright disillusionment and despair throughout tha State have never before been equalled.
If honourable members opposite think that I am wrong in what I have said I shall cite some further statistics. Unemployment in South Australia has reached 1.9% of the work force - the highest in the Commonwealth. The average in Australia is only 1.4%. South Australia’s unemployment rate has been the highest in the Commonwealth for the past two years. Why? Because we have a State Labor Government. One-sixth of all recipients of unemployment benefits in South Australia are in Elizabeth. In addition, Elizabeth has the second lowest percentage of overtime worked in Australia. In the month of July South Australia again led the way with an increase of 398 in the number of persons receiving unemployment benefits. I point out that there were substantial decreases in the number receiving unemployment benefits in New South Wales and Queensland and only marginal increases in other States.
My subject this morning is our immigration policy and the effect on our policy abroad of the economic decline in South Australia. There is no doubt that the number of disillusioned migrants leaving South Australia for other States and even for overseas is having serious and hazardous effects on the Commonwealth immigration programme. It was all very well for the Premier of South Australia to say on Wednesday night last that he blamed the Commonwealth Government for this. The Commonwealth Government has been blamed for too many things. Mr Dunstan, the Premier, said that because of the Commonwealth’s inability to absorb migrants in South Australia they were being forced to go interstate, or words to that effect. He compared the Commonwealth immigration programme with the State immigration programme but I point out that the State programme accounts for only 1% of the total number of migrants coming to Australia. In addition, the State programme is selective. Mr Dunstan said that South Australia has never had any trouble finding jobs for migrants coming to the State under the State immigration scheme, but I remind honourable members that under that scheme jobs are found for migrants before they arrive.
What about the thousands of migrants going to South Australia under the Com monwealth’s scheme and for whom the State Government has been unable to find jobs or housing? This is having an effect not only on the economy of South Australia; it is having a disastrous effect on Australia’s immigration policy as a whole. If honourable members had spoken to as many migrants as I have - I have some in my electorate and they are hard working, honest people - they would realise as I have realised that economic conditions in South Australia do not give those people a chance. What can the Commonwealth Government do? From discussions with immigration officers in South Australia I have learned that in the days of the Playford Government the average time migrants spent in hostels was 6 to 18 weeks. Today it is between 12 and 18 months, an increase of something like 700% over 2 years.
I have mentioned the effect of conditions in South Australia on our immigration programme as a whole. Recently the Minister for Immigration (Mr Snedden) went overseas to study migration trends. There is no doubt that in the years to come our Commonwealth immigration policy will be affected to a certain extent by economic conditions in Europe and in other places, but if we in Australia cannot honour the promises we make to prospective migrants at our consular and migration offices abroad, we are only fooling ourselves.
In the sub-divisions of Elizabeth, Parafield Gardens and Para Hills there are 1,904 homes for sale. If one wants to buy a home in South Australia today one has no worries. It is a buyer’s market simply because there is no longer a building industry. Some 15,500 builders and subcontractors in South Australia are out of work or living on the basic wage. If members of the Opposition think that I am wrong, let them come to South Australia and see for themselves.
I am speaking this morning in defence of the Commonwealth Government to say that the Commonwealth Government has fulfilled its quota of migrants to South Australia. However, I lay fairly and squarely the blame for the situation which exists in South Australia on the shoulders of South Australian Labor Governments in the era of both Premier Walsh and Premier Dunstan. 1 believe this situation is a result of the
State’s inability to house these migrants, to find them employment, and to offer them the secure conditions which the Commonwealth is promising these people before they leave their homeland. This must be having an effect on our migration policy overall. What is the answer? I think honourable members in this House will see the answer in March of 1968 when a Liberal Government’ will once again be returned in South Australia. If the last Federal election is any indication of what is going to transpire in March the Liberal Party will get in by a landslide.
As I said a few moments ago, such is the level of disillusionment, disgust and, in some cases, outright despair that the feeling of confidence in the economy of the once prosperous State of South Australia has been affected. What are we going to do about Commonwealth migration? How can we tell migrants wanting to come to South Australia that we can offer them the conditions that migrants have been accustomed to in that State? We cannot. We cannot do anything on a Commonwealth basis until economic conditions in South Australia return to normal. It is all very well to criticise Sir Thomas Playford who was Premier for thirty years. He brought South Australia to a level of economic prosperity second to none in Australia. It was unrivalled and unparalleled. The current government in South Australia has done little if anything to review, help, assist, atd or eves guide the current economic conditions that prevail in South Australia. I am speaking now, probably for about 40,000 British migrants in the areas north of Adelaide - the Elizabeth, Parafield Gardens, Para Hills and Salisbury areas. We in the Liberal Party in South Australia are sick and tired of the old slogan that it is the Commonwealth’s fault. We are sick and tired of hearing people say that economic conditions throughout Australia are not suitable and we should lay the blame at the Commonwealth’s door. I read out the number of migrants receiving unemployment benefits. It is quite obvious that South Australia again has the doubtful honour of leading the way in this particular field. Therefore, I can say that the Commonwealth Government has done all in its power to assist migration in South Australia. It is a great and tragic pity that the South Australian Government, because of its inability to house and place these migrants is unable to co-operate on a State basis.
– Might I assure the honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Andrew Jones) that it is not that we disbelieve what he says - it is that we no longer take any notice of him. We have heard and read some of his statements outside the House and accordingly we now do not take much notice of what he has to say. The topic that I wish to discuss is one that has already been discussed by the honourable member for Fremantle (Mr Beazley) and the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden). It concerns the request that has been made by the Public Service Association of the Territory of Papua and New Guinea for a review of the decision that was handed down last May by the Public Service Arbitrator for the Territory, Mr Matthews. At the time the decision was laid down I asked a question in this House requesting a review of the decision because I felt at that time that the decision would not be acceptable to the people in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea. Shortly after Mr Matthews’ decision the Australian Labor Party in this House proposed a subject for discussion as a matter of urgency in the following words:
The need for a salary scale for the indigenous Public Service of Papua and New Guinea which will be adequate for family living standards, attract an able Civil Service, and allay the bitterness aroused by the discriminatory Public Service salary scales.
We did that because at that stage we felt that the Arbitrator’s decision would not create the harmony that was necessary between the administration in Australia and the people of the Territory of Papua and New Guinea.
We did not criticise Mr Matthews for his decision because we felt that Mr Matthews* hands were tied from the very beginning. As the honourable member for Fremantle mentioned in his speech, in 1964, without conferring with the Public Service Association or any people in the Territory at all, the Administration announced that there would be a dual salary system. That system would operate on a basis that was laid down by the Government without discussion with any of the people in the Territory. At that stage the Public Service Association asked for the matter to be placed before arbitration. It was placed before Mr Matthews in October 1965. In June 1966, during the course of that arbitration hearing the Government and the Administration brought down salary increases. They virtually told Mr Matthews again the standard that he was to follow and the decision he was to make. No-one can claim that the requests of the Public Service Association were extravagant. It was estimated that if the Association’s requests had been granted that the cost would be only $2.8m per annum. The increases that were granted by Mr Matthews ranged from 75c per week for the lowest scale to $12 per week for the highest. People lower down the scale had been shown not to be able to live on the salary that was being paid.
I can appreciate the arguments that have been advanced against pay increases. It has been said that, come independence, the people will have to cut the cloth to suit their measure. They will have to make the economy work and accordingly the salary scales cannot be as high as they are in Australia. At the same time, wages in the Public Service in Papua and New Guinea should set the level at which the future wage structure of the Territory of Papua and New Guinea can be based. Unless the Commonwealth Government and the Administration in Papua and New Guinea pay a rate of salary in the Public Service that will give a lead to private industry we are going to have continually an inadequate low wage structure in the Territory. We must think of the people in Papua and New Guinea as human beings. They are entitled to the same benefits that we grant ourselves as people from a developed nation. They cannot be expected to live and work beside our people in the Territory, to see them driving around in their motor cars, eating good food, drinking good liquor, smoking good cigarettes and living in good accommodation with good furniture and bedding and all the other necessities of life without becoming jealous of these conditions. They must be given the same things as the people with whom they work. These are the things that should be taken into account.
The Government made an arbitrary decision in 1964. It made another arbitrary decision in 1966 by announcing a salary increase during the course of a sixteenmonth long court hearing to decide a salary level. I feel that Mr Matthews, the Arbitrator, was not in a position where he could do anything else but recommend ‘a rate slightly above the scale that had been laid down by the Government. We must remember that we have an opportunity in our hands as administrators of the Territory to set an example to all the nations of the world. We do not want to move out of the Territory of Papua and New Guinea known as white colonialists and white imperialists. We want to set a pattern there that will at least indicate that Australia appreciated its responsibility in administering the Territory. We must show that we were prepared to give these people an opportunity to raise their standard of living and to get somewhere near the standard we enjoy in Australia. No-one should kid himself for a moment that Australia is not for many many years going to have to give large financial grants to the Territory of Papua and New Guinea so that that country may develop. Our contributions to the Territory of Papua and New Guinea will increase year in and year out. Even after independence it will be expected - and I say this for all members on this side of the House and I believe most members in the Parliament would agree - that we will continue to give the Territory of Papua and New Guinea aid in those days. The thing that irks me about the Arbitrator’s decision is that it was not only unjust but also dangerous. We cannot treat the people of Papua and New Guinea any differently from ourselves.
The arbitration ordinance does not give these people the right of appeal against the Arbitrator’s decision. Here in Australia an important case such as the one heard by Mr Matthews would have been heard by at least three Commissioners, and a right of appeal would have been open after the decision was made. In the Territory of Papua and New Guinea we are virtually saying: ‘We know what is best for you. Therefore you will accept whatever we give you.’ This was the first experience of the local officers in arbitration, but they were disappointed. I do not blame them for being disappointed. You only have to take as an example the Queen’s Counsel who was appointed to assist the Administration in the preparation of the case. In February 1965 he wrote in the ‘Bulletin’ an article expressing views completely opposite to those that he had to espouse in the arbitration case in Papua and New Guinea.
Is it any wonder that the locals in the Territory are confused? First of all the Government stated the basis on which the dual salary level would commence and then during the course of the hearing it said: We will grant a slight increase to local officers.’ The Government laid down the standard that Mr Matthews was to follow. We had in court presenting a case on behalf of the Administration, a man who was speaking out of the side of his mouth. He was not expressing the views that he personally held. It cannot be wondered that people in the Territory are amazed at the decision and are disappointed with it. We have to remember that these are an emerging people. They are now reasonably politically aware. The fact that 2,000 of them are prepared to demonstrate against the Arbitrator’s decision is an indication of things that are likely to come.
All that the Public Service Association asks, all that the Labor Opposition asks, is that the Government should allow an appeal against the Arbitrator’s decision. The evidence that was produced before Mr Matthews was certainly in favour of greater increases in salary than were granted to the local officers. On behalf of the honourable member for Fremantle (Mr Beazley), the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden) and the Opposition, I ask the Minister to prevail upon the Government to give the Public Service Association the right to have a review of the decision brought down by Mr Matthews.
Mr WENTWORTH (Mackellar) [12.131 - At the referendum last May the Australian people, by an overwhelming majority of approximately 90%, endorsed the proposition that this Parliament should have a new power and a new responsibility in respect of our Aboriginal people. “Hie Parliament has a great responsibility to discharge that onus and a great opportunity to do something. We must adopt both a long term and a short term approach to this matter.
Let me speak first of the long term policy, which must be worked out. I believe that this has to be worked out in co-ordination with the States. We do not want a takeover of the States’ systems of Aboriginal welfare; rather, we should give the States more facilities and resources and should cooperate with them. Probably the best instrument for working out this policy would be a select committee of this Parliament, which would confer with the States and with bodies which might be set up by the various State Parliaments. In New South Wales a very hard working and constructive committee has applied itself to this subject. Although I do not know the details, I am told that in other States, including South Australia, constructive action has been taken. This Parliament should find a way of cooperating with the States in advancing the cause of our Aboriginal people.
What are the things that have to be done? They are many. Let me instance just briefly matters such as housing, education, employment and ownership. I do not think that in the future our Aboriginal people should be treated simply as employees. In common with other Australian people they have to be given the opportunity to take over certain functions of ownership. I do not think a policy which is directed simply at their employment opportunities is good enough either for them or for Australia.
Then there is the development of the reserves that have been kept for our Aboriginal people. Certainly in the north of Australia - I know something of the north - the reserves which are appropriated for them are sufficient to give them a good and rich life. It is not always easy to say how these reserves should be developed. 1 believe that in some cases they should be developed on a group basis. We have made the mistake, perhaps, in the past of trying to rubbish too much of the Aboriginal organisations as based upon a group concept. In this period of transition, which may be for more than one generation, the group concept could perhaps be developed for the advantage of our Aboriginal people, because it is their concept.
I suggest that in all this working out of policy we should not assume upon ourselves too much paternal authority but should endeavour to involve the Aboriginal people themselves as quickly as possible and to the greatest possible extent in decisions about their own future. In the past - I speak not of the recent past but of the last 150 or more years - we have broken down all Aboriginal authority among themselves. We must help them to recreate what they had and what we destroyed. I have no doubt that a Committee would look at any legal disabilities which Aboriginals may suffer. I do not think that this is a substantial matter, although it was a few years ago. By reason very largely of this Government’s policies these disabilities are now much less than they were ten or fifteen years ago. Still there are some disabilities, and perhaps they should be looked at and, in cooperation with the States, ironed out.
I am suggesting that this is a long term policy. It is not possible to work out a long term policy overnight. But I also suggest that while we are working out the long term policy we should be working out some short term policies which we should be putting in hand here and now. In the first place, I believe that one Minister should be given the specific responsibility of looking after the interests of our Aboriginal people - of discharging the responsibility that the Australian electors put on this Parliament at the last referendum. Perhaps the Minister for Education and Science would be the appropriate Minister.
In the second place, some additional money should be made available to the States for expenditure this financial year while our long term policy is being thought out. I do not think that any great amount is called for, and perhaps a couple of million dollars would be all that could conveniently be spent in the next twelve months. However, I do not believe that we should use the excuse of time to justify sitting down and doing nothing during the next twelve months. There should be an immediate grant to the States as a specific addition to their expenditure on Aboriginal welfare programmes within the States. I think it would be a good thing also if the Minister in this Parliament to be charged with looking after the interests of the Aboriginals could have a small sum - perhaps $lm - placed at his disposal to be used for short term projects that might commend themselves to him during the next twelve months while the long term policy is being worked out.
So I suggest that we should be thinking of a long term policy and that while we are thinking of it we should take the three measures that I have suggested. First, we should give a specific Minister responsibility. Second, we should provide some extra money for the Aboriginal welfare organisations run by the various States. Third, we should give to the Minister in this Parliament charged with responsibility for Aboriginal affairs money to be allocated to specific problems that might commend themselves to him and the Government in the short term.
I am a little disappointed that no specific mention of this subject was made in the Budget Speech. But that is now water that went under the bridge a couple of days ago. I ask the Government to consider this matter bearing in mind the matters that I have mentioned, and I say now that if it has not proposed a specific plan by the end of September I shall move in this House for the appointment of a select committee to look at aspects of the kind that I have outlined. I have not tried to give a full review of them, but I have tried to indicate their nature in these few remarks. I thank the House for its courtesy and attention.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, as usual on this subject I am pretty much in agreement with the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth). We both are much associated in public activities in trying to get the people of Australia to realise where their duty lies and how their consciences should direct them in relation to our Aboriginal folk. In May last, 93% of the electors in Victoria voted in favour of the referendum on the Aboriginal question and the total vote throughout Australia was about 89% in favour. That overwhelming vote, had it occurred in some other part of the world, would have been said by many of us to have been rigged. I would have thought that so overwhelming a vote would at least have decided the Government that something concrete should be done in the Budget just presented. The honourable member for Mackellar said that he was a little disappointed at the lack of any provision in this field. I was shocked. For twelve years, I have watched this Government committing many acts of neglect and omission, and some of commission. Despite its record I presumed that it would have provided some funds to meet the immediately visible needs of the Aboriginal people, especially in the field of housing, for example.
I believe that in both the short term and the long term a parliamentary select committee would provide the most desirable way of finding out the immediate needs of the Aboriginals, investigating the problems by which they are beset and determining the manner in which this Parliament ought to tackle those problems. I believe that we have to get this whole Parliament committed. It is trite to say that this is a nonpolitical subject, though it is true that in large measure it is non-political. No political party has anything to be proud of in its record relating to the Aboriginal people over the years. This Parliament will have nothing to be proud of and much to be ashamed of if it does not do something about the situation of the Aboriginal section of our population. However, I did not rise this afternoon to discuss this subject. I believe that the Australian Labor Party, somewhere in its policy, has on the books the proposition that a select committee be appointed. I believe that the Parliament ought to give this proposal earnest consideration and that we ought to move towards that objective even before the end of September.
I support the views stated here this afternoon by my colleagues in relation to Papua and New Guinea. I think that one of the problems in our relations with that Territory is its relative isolation from this Parliament, even though members go there on and off. One Minister has almost an absolute charter in the Territory. We in the Parliament are not closely enough related to it. Nor, I think, are the officers of the Australian Public Service closely enough related to it.
Today is 17th August and this is Indonesia’s national day. Therefore, I want to direct the attention of the House to the importance of Indonesia in our affairs and of our relations with it. A few weeks ago I was fortunate enough to visit that country as a member of a parliamentary delegation that was very ably led by the Minister for the Navy (Mr Chipp). Admittedly, he was under the guidance of some of us in the delegation all the time, and this made the visit more satisfactory. The people of Australia must realise the significance of Indo nesia in our affairs. Similarly, that country in its own way must recognise the significance of Australia in its affairs. The two countries have a very close geographic relationship, of course. I understand that some of the geographers, geologists and other researchers directly relate some parts of Australia to the string of islands of which Indonesia is composed. That country, I understand, is the seventh largest nation in the world with a population of about 100 million. It is our closest foreign neighbour. I believe that its total land area is about 750,000 square miles. Therefore it can be seen that Indonesia is very important to us, not only geographically, but also strategically and in every other sense.
We have tremendous opportunities to develop fruitful relations with the Indonesians. In this I believe that the initiative lies properly with us - not because we have any superiority, but because Australia is endowed with a certain measure of political stability and with a great deal of prosperity, though that prosperity is the product not so much of management by the present Government as of the efforts of earlier years. Australia has a large number of advantages that most of our neighbours in South East Asia lack. Indonesia has serious problems in technology. It lacks an administrative complex. One of the tragedies of South East Asia was the damage done to it by European nations, particularly on their departure. The French in Indo-China, the Dutch in Indonesia and even the Americans in the Philippines left those countries lacking a satisfactory administrative complex. On one occasion I heard a lecturer in a public address state that of the top 15,000 administrators in Indonesia at the time of the Dutch departure only about 220 were Indonesians. So when the Dutch left, there was no administrative machinery left to handle the administration of a complex and numerically large society.
The country also has serious transport difficulties. There is no adequate interisland transport system. Its railways, though they were adequate enough during the Dutch regime, have been inadequately maintained. Airlines, of course, are a highly sophisticated and expensive form of trans* port, and I suppose that land and sea transport will be the future transport arteries of Indonesia. Finally, that country suffers a great deal from a considerable lack of foreign exchange. Its rather eccentric foreign and economic policies over the last fifteen or twenty years have left it in a state in which it can hardly get off the ground without assistance from outside. This, I believe, represents our opportunity. Large areas of co-operation with the indo.sians are available to us.
Oil is Indonesia’s principal export and its chief product. I understand that Indonesian oil is of high quality. Also the supplies are almost inexhaustible. We import about 30% of our oil from Indonesia, which is our largest supplier. In this trade it has the great advantage of being our nearest supplier. We are obtaining oil from Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Brunei, Iran, Iraq, Qatar, the Trucial States, Venezuela and elsewhere. We import close to 1,000 million gallons a year from Indonesia and only about a third as much from any other country. It seems to me that Australia has considerable opportunities in relation to Indonesia particularly because of its geographical position and the short haul between the two countries, and also because we are now a large manufacturing nation. Most Australians overlook the fact that we are a very large manufacturing country indeed. I understand that we run about tenth or twelfth among the world’s manufacturing countries. Indeed, I know that in the field of automotive manufactures we are ninth. In the last full year for which statistics are available the Indonesians imported some 170,000 tons of cement, most of it probably over the long haul from Europe.
I appeal to the government to cast off the shackles of its doctrinaire approach to government and enterprise and to accept the fact that our relations with Indonesia can be worked out by only government to government negotiations in which each country has something to give. It is one of the few countries with which we have an unfavourable balance of trade. We are one of the few countries with which Indonesia has a favourable balance of trade. It is the closest country to us and it is a very large country. There is hardly any field of manufacture in this country the products of which could not be adequately used in Indonesia. We have the technical skills in negotiation and in all the other fields of economics and so on with which to negotiate these matters.
The Indonesians, of course, need just about everything. They need tools of all sorts. A shipload of picks, shovels and wheelbarrows would be of much more use to them than a shipload of bulldozers. This would apply equally to other countries such as India. Many of these people are working with the kind of tools that no self-respecting Australian would even keep down in the woodshed. The product of the effort of many Indonesians would be multiplied by giving them the simplest possible apparatus which the factories of Australia are capable of producing by the million.
We ought to challenge the oil industry of the world. Recently Arab control of the oil industry has been demonstrated to us as being dangerous to the security and economics of the whole world. The nations the names of which I have just read out - these six or seven countries around Saudi Arabia - can buy very little from us. There is very little other than oil that they can contribute to us. We have become the prisoner of Arab control of the oil business. We have also become the prisoner of the great oil companies.
It would seem to me that Indonesia offers both nations - Australia and Indonesia itself - almost limitless opportunities for cooperation in the future. Our trouble is, as is Indonesia’s, that it is western European bound. The Indonesians look to western Europe and the United States of America. We have to train them to look south. We have to look more closely to our own frontiers and work out the kind of relationships that are possible with near neighbours with whom we had close affinities over many fields. I happened to be in Borneo in 1945 at the time they first declared independence. Today is the anniversary of Indonesia’s declaration of independence on 17th August. On this occasion, some twenty-two years later, I wish that great republic well and I hope that in the near future parliamentary democracy will prevail there. I know that in this field also we can at least give the Indonesians a great deal of encouragement, assistance and advice.
– by leave - I move:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent consideration of Order of the Day No. 1, Government Business, Grievance Debate, being continued until’ 2.45 p.m.
There will be no Government Business Grievance Debate for a few weeks, in accordance with the custom when a Budget debate is proceeding. As there are still two or three honourable members wanting to speak, 1 suggest that the time for this debate be extended to 2.45 p.m. The probability is that the extra half-hour will not in fact be required but it will give an opportunity for those two or three honourable members to speak.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– In the ten minutes at my disposal I wish to deal with two subjects. They are much nearer home than the ones that we have heard spoken about by the last two speakers but nevertheless they are very, very important. I had intended to ask the Minister for National Development (Mr Fairbairn) a question this morning, but as I could not get in - it not being my turn - 1 should like to read the question that I intended to ask. It is:
The Minister is aware of the increasing salt content in the waters of the Murray River, especially where they are most extensively used for irrigation, but does he know that citrus growers and primary producers generally along the river, fearing damage to trees and vines etc. are urgently advocating action to dispel the menace? Can the Minister, who is also chairman of the River Murray Commission, state what is being done by the Commission in this regard?
Various members are interjecting in a facetious way, but this question is a very important one. It is something that may hit at the very life of the citrus industry along the Murray River in the Murray Valley and therefore is most important. On many occasions I have stressed that there are two things to which I would give No. 1 and No. 2 priority in this Parliament. Always No. 1 has been defence. No. 2 has been water conservation because I believe that water conservation can build this country up more quickly than anything else to which any man here can point. Everything depends on it, including social services and repatriation, because it brings greater productivity, and greater productivity of course gives a higher standard of living.
Gaugings of the salt content are made every day. The salt content has reached a stage where something very definite must be done urgently. I have asked questions of the Minister on numerous occasions in this House and he has always given me a very good answer, pointing out that the Government has the matter in hand. I am asking him now to give this matter urgent consideration for the simple reason thru the River Murray is Australia’s greatest waterway, from which thousands of people directly earn their living by using its waters for irrigation. It would be hard to estimate how many people benefit indirectly from that great stream, I am pleased to see the Minister here now and I am hoping that he will reply to this advocacy that I am making on behalf of the people not only in the Mallee electorate but along the full length of the Murray River. Of course, tip near the source of the Murray we have not the trouble with salt, but as the river continues down further, salinity occurs more extensively. I can assure the House that the people engaged in these industries and the people in the country towns that are dependent on these industries are very, very concerned at the present state of salinity in the river.
I want to separate as much as I can the next subject with which I wish to deal but I cannot separate it completely because it, also, has to do with citrus. About three or four months ago Mr Jim Goddard of Boundary Bend, who is a member of the Australian Citrus Growers Federation, came to me and asked what I could do to get some protection against imports of citrus juices. What he really required was that the Special Advisory Authority take action to put a temporary tariff on imported citrus juices until the general circumstances were clarified. The Secretary of this organisation is Mr H. W. King, of South Australia. It was arranged that Mr King and Mr Goddard - I am not sure whether or not there was another man - would come to Canberra and talk the matter over with ‘he Department of Trade and Industry. This was done but when they came they could speak only in a general way and the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr McEwen) and the Department of Trade and Industry desired some specific information regarding the prospect of imports flooding the citrus juice market in Australia. I have a letter from the Minister for Trade and Industry, which is the second letter that he wrote to me since I first made representations to him. It reads:
Dear Mr Turnbull, 1 have received your telegram of 27th July making further representations on behalf of the Australian Citrus Growers Federation concerning the Federation’s request for temporary protection against imports of citrus juices.
As was mentioned in my reply to your earlier representations, Mr H. W. King, Secretary of the Federation, is currently compiling information on which the industry’s application for increased protection is to be based. Every assistance will -be given to Mr King in the preparation of his case and in this context further discussions have taken place between Mr King and officers of the Department of Trade and Industry.
My purpose in speaking on this subject this morning is to urge the expedition of these investigations so as to have the figures ready as soon as possible, and so that the Department and the Minister may decide whether consideration of temporary protection by the Special Advisory Authority is necessary. If investigations reveal that there is no chance of more juice coming into the country the people engaged in the section of the industry which is concerned with extracting juice from oranges and other citrus fruit for soft drinks will be satisfied. But the investigation is necessary and it is important that it be carried out as quickly as possible. I am asking the department and the Minister to expedite the investigation and to do all they can to protect this most valuable industry.
I would be lacking in courtesy if I failed to refer to the honourable member for Angas (Mr Giles), whose electorate in South Australia adjoins the Victorian electorate of Mallee. Mr King, to whom I have already referred, lives in the honourable member’s electorate. As this House well knows, the honourable member for Angas is a strong advocate for the citrus industry and so I am pleased to associate myself with him, or perhaps I should say to co-operate with him, in pressing the claims of this industry. I should also like to mention the honourable member for Mitchell (Mr Irwin), who spoke this morning on this very subject. I am pleased that he also is making representations on behalf of the industry. With the co-operative effort of members of the Government back benches and of the Minister and the department I think I can confidently expect that everything possible will be done to assist the’ industry.
As to the problem of salinity in the River Murray, we have an active and practical Minister who has been watching this matter closely and I am sure he can supply me with an answer.
– In the short time remaining before the suspension of the sitting I shall take the opportunity of telling the honourable member for Mallee (Mr Turnbull) that I appreciate the seriousness of the salinity problem. It is one of the most serious problems facing growers in the Murray Valley at the present time. At a meeting of the River Murray Commission last Friday we had a very long and interesting discussion on the salinity problem. We had before us a number of replies to a letter which had been sent out by the Commission inviting people to apply for the job of making recommendations to the Government on the action that should be taken to combat salinity. I am able to inform the honourable member and the House that we selected a couple of firms which we believe will give very useful assistance to the Government in solving this problem.
It was decided to appoint an Australian engineering firm which has had considerable experience in water conservation. This is the firm of Gutteridge, Haskins & Davey.
– An excellent firm, too.
– I quite agree. This firm will be supported by an overseas firm. We had a number of applications from overseas, one from an English firm and at least a couple from American firms which had considerable experience in problems of salinity. To suport Gutteridge, Haskins & Davey we selected the English firm of Hunting Technical Services Ltd. This firm has operated extensively in West Pakistan in the Indus Basin, where it has faced considerable problems in salinity. It has also advised in connection with the Tigris and the Upper Nile in the Sudan, where problems of a like nature have occurred. We feel that a combination of the Australian engineering firm and this English firm which has had world-wide experience, or at least experience in a couple of continents, will come up with a report on which the
River Murray Commission can act and which will assist it to bring this very worrying problem under control.
– When is the report expected?
– Work on the preparation of it will commence immediately, but I am afraid I cannot answer the question at this time. Naturally we will be looking for the answer as soon as possible. Undoubtedly some portions of the report will be of assistance to us in considering the technical report on the future of the Chowilla Dam. I cannot however, give an answer at the moment to the honourable member’s question.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
- Mr Speaker, as this is Budget week, naturally there have been thousands of people coming to Canberra for many reasons. But when we analyse the Budget and consider what as been given to many people I think all we can say is that these provisions stand as a disgrace to the Government. Pensioners from all States of the Commonwealth came to Canberra this week. Honourable members may call this visit ill-advised if they like, nevertheless these people thought that their presence in Canberra would have some effect on the Government. They hoped that the Government would grant them an increase or give them some right to live decently in this land of plenty. We were told in the Budget Speech delivered by the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) of the good life wc are enjoying and of the aid that we provide to other countries. Why then do we deprive Australian mothers and fathers, many of whom fought in the world wars, of their entitlement? This Budget does not allow them one additional penny piece. This is the greatest hardship that any Prime Minister could inflict on deserving people. Yet we are told that this country is prosperous beyond doubt.
This country sells butter to the United Kingdom at 2s 6d per lb yet pensioners in Australia pay 6s 6d per lb for the same butter. Do honourable members think that this is right in a country that we call civilised? Personally, I do not. Many stories of hardship are brought to my attention by pensioners in my electorate. They tell me about their difficulties in existing on a pension of £6 or £6 10s a week. I will use pounds rather than dollars to illustrate my point. These pensioners must pay first for a room which costs them £4 a week at the least. So, they are left with £2 10s to carry on for the rest of the week and live as best they can. If these are the circumstances, why then do we call ourselves patriotic? We donate food to the peoples of certain other countries. Nobody would say anything against that action. Those peoples deserve our assistance. We send aid to India and other countries. If these countries need and deserve aid, if their people are hungry, then they should have aid. But why does the Government not give something to the people who are hungry in Australia? The Government cannot deny that some people here are hungry. The Government and its supporters tell us that the sons and daughters of elderly people should keep them or help to keep them. But many of these sons and daughters themselves are far from well off and are receiving very little help from the Government.
I refer to another item in the Budget. A housewife who has four children will now receive an extra 25c child endowment for her fourth child - just a couple of bob, really. If a housewife has five children she will receive an extra 50c for her fifth child. The Treasurer told us with great pride that if a housewife has nine children under sixteen years she will receive an additional $5.25 weekly under his proposals. Surely that is not the way to treat Australian people who are rearing families. These people are the most deserving in the community. We spend a great deal on immigration and in many other ways, but we back down when it comes to providing a decent living for those people who most deserve it. Surely no honourable member sitting in this House today would tell a mother or father that her or his pension is enough. Yet the Government has all the excuses in the world at election time. It says: ‘We will do better the next time’. The pensioners have come to Canberra and have left Canberra without receiving one penny piece extra to tide them over the next twelve months.
– It is a shame alright. It is something that I cannot account for except for one thing - no election will be held for the House of Representatives this year. That is the only argument that can be put up. If there was to be a House of Representatives election this year, the pensioners would have received a pension increase of perhaps 5s or 10s a week. But there will be no House of Representatives election this year; the supporters of the Government are safe in their seats for another twelve months at least so they will not help these poor people. I am sorry to see that we are living in such an age. We are in the capital city of Australia. If we do not do something for the underdog, who will do something? We are the people who should be supporting these unfortunate Australians who are poorly housed, clothed and fed. We are doing nothing at all about this state of affairs.
I pass on to others in the community who are badly treated. These include pensioners and returned soldiers. It is no use the Government saying that this is not so. Many honourable members on the other side of the House wear returned servicemen’s badges. Possibly an ever bigger proportion of honourable members on this side of the House are returned servicemen also. But when the Opposition puts up a case for returned servicemen not one vote of support comes from the Government side of the House. Although honourable members opposite say that they take pride in our servicemen - as they should - they will not vote for them in any circumstances. This was proved the year before last when approximately twenty-six divisions were held on repatriation legislation. Not one vote came from the Government in support of our proposals. But what can we expect when the Government will not give aid to our pensioners?
Certain things worry me in my electorate. One is the Glebe Post Office. I have spoken of this matter before. After all, if something is brought to the attention of an honourable member he must try to see what it is all about. Many of the people of Glebe, including pensioners, live more than a mile from the Post Office. They must walk that distance to buy a stamp. I have asked this Government several times whether it would be possible to provide for the sale of stamps in that area outside the Post Office. I said to a newsagent one day: ‘Why don’t you keep stamps for the convenience of those people who at present must go from one end of Glebe to the other to buy stamps at the Post Office?’ He said: ‘You get paid for what you do, and I am going to get paid for what I do*. I thought that that was a sensible answer. He said: ‘You go back and ask the Government what it is doing about the matter’.
I gathered some 2,000 signatures on this matter and asked the Postmaster-General (Mr Hulme) to have an addition built on to the Post Office. The population served by the Glebe Post Office has increased in the last twelve months by about 4,500. Approximately twenty-two buildings containing flats have been built there and there is an average of 100 people to each building. The Postal Department has taken no action to extend the Glebe Post Office or to help out in any way. Year after year I have brought this case before the Government. But the same thing happens each time. The Postmaster-General tells me: You are only putting over a tale’. He has put over a lot of tales and the trouble is that he succeeds in most of them. But I hope and trust that something will be done for the people of Glebe so that they will be able to obtain stamps for their letters more easily and so that improved facilities will be available for customers such as young mothers who have to travel considerable distances with their children to collect child endowment. All sorts of people are disfranchised by reason of their having to live in Glebe. I hope that in the near future the Minister will do something to help these people. I had hoped to refer to Lord Howe Island, but time is against me.
– Go ahead. It is all right.
-The honourable member for Mallee is no help to me in this matter. If one goes to Lord Howe Island for one week one is lucky to be able to get off the island in under two weeks. In the case of Hayman Island, this Government, with the aid of Trans-Australia Airlines-
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I am very sorry that the honourable member for West Sydney (Mr Minogue) was cut off in the middle of Lord Howe Island, but I expect that he will have many other chances to discuss his favourite hobby. I rise this afternoon for several reasons, but primarily to correct something which has been apparent for many years to many honourable members with far greater experience than I have. I refer to the practice of State governments laying all the blame for economic conditions at the door of the Federal Government. I feel that the honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Andrew Jones) probably did something of importance this morning for the State from which I come by trying to highlight some facts concerning the current position in South Australia. 1 thought it was unfortunate that the honourable member for Lang (Mr Stewart) should say that nobody need take notice of the honourable member for Adelaide, because in my opinion certain facts, one or two of which the honourable member for Adelaide dealt with this morning, are irrefutable. I would like to refer to one or two matters affecting South Australia - matters which I regard as economic indicators.
The first economic indicator, which is a fairly sensitive one, is the tempo of motor vehicle registrations in any society or State. The relevant South Australian figures for 1966-67 show a decrease in registrations of 6% compared with 1965-66, and this at a time when, as honourable members will be aware, motor vehicle registrations have been on the upgrade in every other State. Registrations in the quarter ended December 1966 numbered 7,510 compared with 8,958 in the quarter ended December 1964. Over that two-year period there was a decline in registrations of 12%. This was at a time, I suggest, when the motor vehicle industry was experiencing a great upturn.
The honourable member for Adelaide referred at some length this morning to immigration. For many years South Australia, which has about 10% of Australia’s population, was absorbing 14% of the total flow of migrants into this country. Figures in recent years have been 14% in one year, 14% in another, roughly 14% in the next, with an intake of 11.5% in the last financial year. The downward trend is increasing. What does this mean to any society or State? It means a lessening of demand for all sorts of goods, in other words, a smaller market. There is a lessening demand for refrigerators, motor cars, appliances, commerce in general and, of course, housing.
Let us turn briefly to another indicator - housing. The number of flats and houses commenced in South Australia at present is 11.8% less Chan the comparative figures for last year. This is at a time when every other State is experiencing fairly boom conditions in most forms of construction. Compared with the situation in 1964, the number of houses and flats commenced is down by 30%. At present the South Australian Housing Trust has on its hands 750 vacant houses. In addition, an unusual category has arisen in housing statistics: There are in South Australia 1,200 uncompleted houses. I do not know why there is suddenly such an enormous number of uncompleted houses, although I could guess. Perhaps a better indicator of the construction side of the economy would be production of clay bricks. In the last two years production of clay bricks in Australia has increased. This is quite logical with a boom in housing in most States. But whereas in 1964 in South Australia 123 million clay bricks were produced, in 1966 only 112 million were produced. So here we see the same trend. This trend stems from the coming to power in South Australia of the Labor Government.
It is extremely important to have confidence in any economy, to have a steady flow of investment, and for economic conditions to be on the rise. This morning the honourable member for Lang, quite rightly, referred, on behalf of his electorate, to the underprivileged or, as he called them, the underdogs of society. I speak in the same vein but perhaps about a wider cross section of one State, where all of the people are being hit in some way or other, whether they are in commerce, construction or anything else. If we look at the position as regards sawn timber - I will not weary the House with figures - we find the same trend. We see the same trend in respect of production of asbestos sheeting. In South Australia the increase in retail sales has been the lowest of any State. The increase in South Australia in the volume of retail sales for last year averaged 2.3% compared with an Australian wide increase of 6%. Two years ago the average unemployment figures in South Australia for each year of the preceding decade were the lowest in Australia. Today, under the new Labor Government, South Australia has the highest unemployment figure.
These facts that I have presented to the House make the position quite plain. Commonwealth Governments are not to blame when one society or State starts to go wrong. I conclude my remarks on this subject by saying that an economy can be affected when there is no confidence in an administration. This lack of confidence leads to a falling off in investment and a decline in the rate of establishment of new and important industries, although I did notice recently that the Premier of South Australia made a statement about a new roadhouse at Goolwa in the electorate of the Minister for Health (Dr Forbes). With this lack of confidence in an administration there is a decline in job opportunities and in opportunities for promotion within jobs: There is little overtime available to employees. In other words, we reach a stage of stagnation. I hope that South Australia will recover from this temporary slump as rapidly as possible. I suggest that the honourable member for Lang might yet be proved wrong and that in March next year the people of South Australia will help to restore South Australia’s economy by returning a LiberalCountry Party Government in that State.
I would like to touch upon one or two other matters. These were referred to this morning by the honourable member for Mallee (Mr Turnbull). I thank him for his kind remarks about me and other honourable members who represent citrus growing areas. In the interests of any industry many honourable members work together. The honourable member for Robertson (Mr Bridges-Maxwell), like the honourable member for Mallee, was involved in a request for temporary tariff support for fruit juices. All this is evidence of the goodwill that exists between people belonging to two different parties both of which support the Government and is ‘in direct contrast with the attitudes among honourable members opposite. The important thing that flowed from “the remarks of the honourable member for Mallee was that the original estimates relating to the citrus crop were pessimistic. These estimates were accurate quantitatively, but there has been a vast increase in the size of the fruit. I am informed that this has led to some of the biggest citrus processing plants, one of which is in my area, receiving far greater supplies than were expected a few weeks ago With any luck this will meet the situation described by the honourable member for Mallee. On the subject of salinity, I warn the House that I will have much more to say at a later stage. I regard the action of some States in putting effluent in the River Murray and allowing salinity to increase as very bad. This creates a substantial hazard to those who live downstream, whether they live in Mildura, Renmark, Loxton, .Berri or even at Murray Bridge.
– My purpose in speaking during this debate is to urge the Government to adopt without delay a suggestion that is now being considered within our own circles - that is the establishment of a top level body to co-ordinate Aboriginal affairs throughout Australia. I understand that the suggestion has been received most favourably by the Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt). I am absolutely sick and tired of hearing the theorists, who live thousands of miles away from any centre that contains any suggestion of the Aboriginal way of life, degrading these people and using them, in the main, for political purposes. When Aboriginals are used in this way, human nature is being degraded. I claim to be able to speak for the Aboriginals, because I cannot remember a time when I have not lived with them. I was educated with them and as a little boy I was brought up amongst them. I know how they think and I can understand their problems. To use them for political purposes is absolutely despicable. To know the Aboriginal people, we must know their way of life and their aims in life. But above all we must appreciate that Aboriginals form a strong family unit. For this reason, only qualified people should attempt to deal with their problems.
I am sure that the honourable members who spoke about this subject today did so in good faith, but they used almost bellicose phrases when referring to what had not been done for the Aboriginal people. I will give the House the facts about Queensland. Until the Country-Liberal Party Government took office in Queensland, the Queensland Government had a despicable attitude towards the Aboriginal people. Cloncurry is my home town. Aboriginal people probably form the greater part of the population there. We agitated for months and for years to have a home built there for Aboriginal people. Eventually the Labor Government decided to give them a home. But what was it? It was a long galvanised iron shed. It did not even have partitions in it. The attitude was that, if stables were built, partitions would be included to protect the animals, but partitions would not be constructed in a home for Aboriginal people. The home they were given was a huge galvanised iron shed with not one partition in it. What is the situation today? At Mount Isa a beautiful home has been built for Aboriginals. It contains two dormitories, each capable of housing twenty people, and a beautiful kitchen with stainless steel equipment. The grounds also are beautiful. Here the dignity of the Aboriginal people has been recognised by the Country-Liberal Party Government, which proved that it genuinely wanted to help, not with words or by using these people for its own political ends, but by providing them with a proper home.
Some of the sentiments expressed today sickened me, though they may have been expressed in good faith. Only people who have lived amongst the Aboriginals and who have seen what is happening to them are qualified to pass judgment. I have in mind such people as the honourable members for the Northern Territory (Mr Calder), Grey (Mr Jessop), Mackellar (Mr Wentworth) and myself. We have lived and worked amongst the Aboriginals and we want to improve their conditions as quickly as possible. I cannot think of them as not being the same as we are. Some of my closest friends are Aboriginal people and it does not occur to me to consider whether they are white or black. This is the only way to understand their problems. We do not need to integrate with them; we are already integrated. We speak with authority. We want to give the Aboriginal children the same standard of education as our own children have, but we do not want to take them away from their parents. We do not want them to be brainwashed. We want them to live naturally, to go to their schools each day and to go to their homes each night. We do not want them to be taken away in groups, as is being done now in some parts of Australia.
I could speak at considerable length on this subject, but I know that one of my colleagues has some facts to place before the House. These are important and we have very little time left in which to give them. I conclude by saying that while I am a member of this House - however long that may be - I will resist any attempts to use the Aboriginal people for political purposes, whether the attempt comes from the Government side or the Opposition side of the House.
– I support the remarks of the honourable member for Kennedy (Mr Katter). I too have spent many years with the Aboriginal people and I believe that they should be treated as we are treated. I have just returned from a trip to Yirrkala and Groote Eylandt and I have seen that the Aboriginal people are receiving some assistance. The Government is giving them very good housing and schools. I have been to the garden at Yirrkala.
– Are they getting decent wages?
– At the moment, 800 of them in the Northern Territory are receiving the basic wage and the position is improving every year. The Budget brought down by the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) at the beginning of this week allots $1,250,000 to enable teachers to go to schools to teach young Aboriginals. This is in addition to the previous programme. More than $4m has been allotted to provide prefabricated housing, schools, and so on at Aboriginal missions and settlements during this year. They are receiving some help, but they must be given equitable treatment. Once again I sound a word of warning. We should not rush our fences but should strive to make steady progress after considering all aspects of the problem. All honourable members, and indeed all the people of Australia, must put in a tremendous effort and give earnest consideration to the problems of the Aboriginal people. We can easily come to grief if we try to get results too quickly. Much is being done for the Aboriginal people, but unless those in authority go amongst them and work with them as we have year after year, they will never know really how to handle Aboriginal problems. I urge that enthusiasm be tempered with caution.
– There remain only two minutes to debate grievances today, and I want to take this time to reply on behalf of my Party to the charges that Opposition members have been using Aboriginal people for political purposes. The recent referendum, which was carried overwhelmingly, was a clear intimation of the goodwill of the Australian people to the Aboriginal people. Our view is that the problems of the Aboriginal people have existed not for a short time but for a very long time, probably for more than a century. It is time that something was done for the Aboriginal people and we believe that the major assistance must come from this Parliament and from this Government. We do not raise the problems of the Aboriginal people for political purposes at all. We want something done for them and we believe that the vast majority of the Australian people also want assistance to be given to the Aboriginal people.
I am sure that there will be a feeling of revulsion around Australia when the community realises that, despite the overwhelming expression of goodwill at the referendum, the Government has virtually ignored the opportunity to include assistance for the Aboriginal people in the Budget that was introduced this week. We on this side of the House, as individual members and as a party, believe, as I know many honourable members on the other side believe, that some interim action should have been taken in the Budget to give effect to the view expressed at the referndum. We were gravely concerned to note that the Budget did not contain provision for any action to be taken.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 16 August (vide page 162), on motion by Mr Freeth:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– The Bill now before the House proposes an amendment to the Navigation Act 1912-66 and is designed to give effect to the International
Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea, 1960. Early in his speech the honourable member for Stirling (Mr Webb) put forward on behalf of the Opposition a number of suggestions for amendments to the Act. However, 1 do not propose to comment on them, as the Opposition has accepted the assurance given by the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr Freeth) that these matters would be more appropriate for consideration when further amending legislation is brought before the House, particularly as the Bill is intended specifically to bring into force the measures agreed to by the International Convention of I960. In the balance of his speech the honourable member for Stirling ranged widely and sometimes, I thought, wildly, over the whole gamut of Australian and international shipping, but his observations had little to do with the Bill. It is not my intention to dignify their irrelevance by making reference to them.
Because of the latitude taken by the honourable member for Stirling in dealing with this measure I seek the indulgence of the House to reflect on the historical context in which the principal Act of 1912 was passed and was amended on a number of occasions. When I was researching the principal Act I was interested to see that at that time the Commonwealth’s shipping responsibility was incorporated within the portfolio of the Minister for Trade and Customs who, in introducing the original Bill, spoke on the second reading for a little under three hours - from 3.47 p.m. through to the suspension of the sitting for dinner at 6.16 p.m. It was therefore not inappropriate that immediately after the resumption of the sitting the then honourable member for Franklin, Mr McWilliams, moved an amendment to the Standing Orders to limit the time of speeches in the House. So it was that on 17th July 1912 the House determined mat speaking time on measures of major substance should be limited to 1 hour 35 minutes and on matters of lesser importance to1 hour 5 minutes. I am sure that all honourable members on both sides of the House appreciate the necessity, if we are to process the business of the House expeditiously, to accept the discipline imposed on us in terms of speaking time. So much for history.
The Navigation Act 1912 was amended in 1934 to give effect to two important international conventions which the Commonwealth then ratified. They were the Safety of Life at Sea Convention of 1929 and the Load Line Convention of 1930. A further conference was held in London in 1948 to revise the safety convention on loads. This led to the Navigation Bill 1953. In more recent times, a further International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea held in 1960 has brought about the Bill which is now before us so that we can update current legislation to meet the regulations passed by that Convention. The International Convention was attended by delegations from forty-five countries, including Australia. The new Convention came into force internationally on 26th May 1965. The honourable member for Stirling was critical of the time taken in bringing this Bill before the House, but he fails to understand and make allowance for the complexity of the measures concerned and the need for their sustained consideration prior to the drafting of the Bill.
– Why was it brought in two and a half years later than legislation in the United Kingdom?
– As the Minister pointed out in his second reading speech, the completion of the drafting of the Bill was deferred until the various sets of complex, and in many cases voluminous, regulations necessary to give effect to it had been drafted in order to ensure that all necessary enabling powers were provided for in the Bill.
All governments today recognise the critical and fundamental importance of safety at sea and the need for uniformity of regulations throughout the world. We recognise that international conventions, such as the one to which the Bill refers, are a healthy sign of progress because, notwithstanding the many things which today divide men and nations, through them countries can work together and pool their collective experience and expertise in some of the basic areas which concern the common benefit of mankind. The international character of safety of life at sea has been recognised only in the present century. No doubt this realisation was engendered by the tragic loss of the ‘Titanic’ in 1912. In terms of the developing recognition of the need for, and the basic importance of, this subject, tribute must be paid to the British nation which for so long has been world renowned as a nation of seamen and a nation which has been one of the prime movers in the international agreements to which I have referred.
Long before these Conventions came into force the people of Britain prided themselves on the safety of their ships. They have done so for 120 years. No reference to this subject would be complete without at least a passing mention of Samuel Plimsoll and the fact that the adoption of the Plimsoll line was one of the early major steps taken to ensure the safety of life at sea. The words of the poet, that those who die at sea die unknelled, uncoffined and unknown, were hardly true, because prior to the adoption of the Plimsoll line the ships that went to sea were known as coffin ships because so many men died in them. Fortunately, these days have long since passed and the tremendous increase in international shipping and the rapid technological developments which have characterised the shipping industry in recent years have given the need for safety measures a new found importance.
I do not propose to speak at length on any of the detailed measures which are embodied in the Bill, because they are of a non-controversial character. They have been accepted by the Opposition and, for the most part, they cover a diverse number of new regulations which are complex and technical in import. I simply draw attention to several amendments intended to cover nuclear ships. These amendments are undoubtedly a manifestation of the progress of our time. New section 192c which is to be inserted by clause 17 gives effect to Convention requirements in relation to nuclear ships. The clause includes also power for the making of regulations covering all matters relating to nuclear ships. It is obviously unlikely that Australia will have nuclear ships of its own for many years. Nevertheless the clause allows for the regulations to prescribe conditions which would be operative when nuclear ships entered Australian harbours and were utilised by this country.
I refer also to proposed new section 206j which will provide for the issue of certificates specified in the Convention in respect of nuclear passenger ships. It is similar in nature to the requirements in respect of other passenger ships except that the nuclear ships must also comply with any further requirements that relate to the construction, equipment and machinery of nuclear ships and conform to the safety assessment of the ship. The Bill brings Commonwealth legislation into line with the latest international agreements in force throughout the world. I commend it to honourable members.
– 1 support the remarks of the honourable member for Stirling (Mr Webb) on this measure, which provides for amendments to the Navigation Act 1912. The amendments represent the ratification of proposals agreed to by the many nations which attended in 1 960 the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea. I join with the honourable member for Stirling in expressing disappointment that the Government has taken so long to implement these amendments. The Opposition is prepared to accept the assurance of the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr Freeth) that the amendments we have proposed - and there is quite a number of them - will be considered by him. He has indicated that such amendments could be introduced next year. We certainly do not want to wait another seven years before further action is taken.
As the Minister has pointed out, the amendments we are debating represent the ratification of an international agreement. To deviate very much from the proposals contained in the international agreement could involve further argument or delay in its ratification. The Minister has also pointed out that the agreement includes for the first time constructional survey requirements for cargo vessels over 500 tons gross weight and also precautionary requirements for nuclear powered cargo and passenger ships. Some of us may think that it will be quite some time before Australia owns nuclear powered ships, but it h not beyond the realms of possibility that within a very short time nuclear powered ships will be visiting Australian ports. The requirements contained in the agreement will apply to those ships.
The honourable member for Flinders (Mr Lynch) referred lo the part played by British governments in the saving of lives at sea.
The Plimsoll line was a step in the right direction and certainly played a part in the saving of life at sea. It has also been of great assistance to insurance companies, and this has been recognised by them. Australia, as a British country, has always accepted the requirements of the British Board of Trade and of Lloyds Register, which are recognised throughout the world, both in respect of construction of our vessels and of navigation. Many of us board ships and aircraft without giving much thought to the precautions that have been taken to ensure safety. People using vessels leaving Australian ports may be reassured by the fact that many countries are signatories to the Convention. On many occasions the masters of ships flying flags of convenience have, on arrival in Australia, been the subject of prosecution because of faulty life saving equipment, including life boats and rafts in a greatly deteriorated condition. The defects have been required to be corrected before the ships have been allowed to leave Australian ports.
Another important change included in this legislation is that persons not being British subjects will now be allowed to sit for various lower grades of examination for certificates of competency. They will not now be required to be British subjects or to have a certain period of residence in Australia before being allowed to sit for examinations for certificates of competency. It is most important that we have uniform requirements. Particularly in respect of the higher grades I believe that the greater the uniformity achieved, the better will he the result. Uniformity can be had on an international basis because, as I understand the Minister, over forty countries agreed to the Convention. I think we have achieved much.
Until the turn of the century the loss of life at sea was a fairly common occurrence. Some very disastrous wrecks involving loss of life have occurred. A number of societies set up provident funds for the assistance of shipwrecked sailors. Some such funds are still in existence today, although the need for them is not nearly so great. In recent times most disasters at sea have occurred through foundering brought about by lack of stability. I am pleased to see that in the requirements of this legislation emphasis has been placed on stability tests to be conducted before a certificate is issued.
When a ship is being loaded at a port, its stability as determined by tests will be taken into account.
I wish now to refer to the inadequate facilities available to the Australian Shipbuilding Board for the tank testing of model ships. The Board has gathered together a designing staff which has been able to prepare plans and specifications for various types of vessels operating on the Australian coast. Such plans and specifications have been prepared not only for the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission but also for private companies. The facilities available in Australia for the testing of models in the final preparation of plans are quite inadequate and better facilities are necessary.
The honourable member for Stirling referred to the sinking of the ‘W. D. Atlas’, one of the worst shipping disasters of recent times. This dredge foundered and sank on a voyage from Whyalla to Sydney and only four of the crew survived. The marine inquiry showed that inadequate provisions were made for the voyage. Although it was only an interstate voyage, the dredge apparently had to put to sea in a hurry and some of the matters requested to be done by the surveyor were not undertaken. As a result, the disaster occurred.
Recently off the New South Wales coast the small freighter ‘Bombo’ sank because its cargo of blue metal shifted, resulting in a loss of stability which caused the vessel to overturn. I draw the attention of the Minister to chapter VI of the Schedules - regulations 1 to 15 - which deals with the carriage of grain. The Union of which I have been a member nearly all my life - I am still a member - has expressed concern at the erection of shifting boards or longitudinal bulkheads in ships for the carriage of grain. In these days when ships are built for bulk cargo carriage the longitudinal bulkheads are in most cases a fixture. In some instances ships have been converted from general cargo carriers to ships for the carriage of grain and temporary shifting boards have been erected. The International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea in 1960 differed from the Convention in 1948 regarding requirements for centre line shifting boards. It had been felt that under certain conditions centre line shifting boards were no longer required. Exceptions to the requirements for longitudinal bulkheads are set out in regulation 6 of chapter VI of the Schedule which states:
The fitting of longitudinal bulkheads or shifting boards in accordance with the provisions of Regulations 4 and 5 of this Chapter shall not be required:
in a lower hold (which term also includes the lower part of the hold of a single-deck ship) if the bulk grain therein does not exceed one-third of the capacity of the hold, or where such lower hold is divided by a shaft tunnel, one-half the capacity of that lower hold;
in any space in a ‘tween deck or superstructure provided that the wings are tightly stowed with bagged grain or other suitable cargo to a breadth on each side of not less than 20 per cent of the breadth of the ship in way thereof; and
in those parts of spaces where the maximum breadth of the deckhead within the said spaces does not exceed one-half of the moulded breadth of the ship.
This problem does not arise only in respect of ships carrying grain. There was the instance of an ‘E’ class freighter which was carrying pyrites from Strahan on the West Coast of Tasmania to Melbourne. The cargo shifted. The ship, when it eventually reached the port of Melbourne, had a very dangerous list. We believe that the requirements of the Convention in 1948 offered a greater safeguard than those of the Convention in 1960 regarding this question of exemptions to the requirements for longitudinal bulkheads.
Whilst I am dealing with this question I shall refer to regulation 16 of chapter VI which reads:
The Administration, or a Contracting Government on behalf of the Administration, may, if it considers that the sheltered nature and conditions of the voyage are such as to render the application of any of the requirements of Regulations 3 to 15 of this Chapter unreasonable or unnecessary, exempt from those particular requirements individual ships or classes of ships.
I would like the Minister to tell us whether considerable study will be devoted to this matter before exemptions for certain voyages in sheltered, waters are given to ships of this type. There have been cases even on the lakes in the United States of America where ships because of shifting grain cargo have experienced difficulties and loss of life has occurred.
As I said before, I support the remarks of the honourable member for Stirling. The Opposition does not oppose the Bill because of the Minister’s assurance that he will consider the amendments that we were to propose. We shall not move the amendments on the understanding that the Minister will consider them and if he agrees to them include them in the legislation at a later stage.
– I was interested to hear the remarks of the honourable member for Wide Bay (Mr Hansen) because he has had a lot of experience in shipping matters. He is a shipwright. 1 suppose that he could be classed as one who followed the profession as laid down by Noah when the Ark was built. After all, that was some passage because the Ark carried quite a number of animals and safely negotiated its passage from the point of departure to the place where it came to rest at Mount Ararat.
There are a few matters that I would like to bring to the attention of the House. The administration of shipping in Australia is very complex. I think that unless one is brought up in this industry, profession or whatever one likes to call it, the matter is very hard to understand. I think that the honourable member for Wide Bay is well aware of this fact. Recently at Maryborough a very fine dredge was built for the Victorian Government. I repeat that, lt was a very fine dredge, and a very costly one as well. When it left Maryborough it went on interstate articles. On the trip to Victoria it came under Commonwealth law. But once the vessel reached Victoria and the crew was paid off, it came under the administration of the Marine Board of Victoria.
Try as this country has, it is very hard lo get States to give up their powers. In all fairness 1 say that it does not matter whether it is a Liberal government or a Labor government involved. The States will not give up what they have, lt would be all right if they were to say to the Commonwealth Government: ‘We want to get rid of all this responsibility; we want you to take over the complicated task of administering shipping laws in Australia’, but they will not do that. The honourable member for Wide Bay referred to the Bombo’. That ship went down with a cargo of blue metal. It was operating in the intrastate trade in New South Wales. I can understand these matters, but I know that the Commonwealth has no jurisdiction over them. I would like to see the Commonwealth have jurisdiction over these matters. But how are we going to get it? Recently the people were invited to agree to two proposals to alter the Constitution. The only way in which such changes can be made is by means of a referendum. If the people are still in the same frame of mind as they were a few months ago - and they may bc that way for some time to come - it will be very difficult to get the shipping laws altered in order to give the Commonwealth power which in my opinion it should possess.
A majority of members of the Royal Commission on the Constitution, which was held in 1929, reported in favour of a constitutional amendment to give the Commonwealth Parliament a concurrent legislative power over navigation and shipping. The members of the Commission believed that the legal requirements for coastal navigation should be uniform irrespective of the voyages on which the ships were engaged. That is what I was saying to my friend the honourable member for Wide Bay. The majority report was as follows:
In our opinion the requirements for coastal navigation should be the same whether the ships navigated trade between one or more States or along the coast of one State only. Further, we are of opinion that the administration of the laws relating to navigation should be under one central authority, adequate provision being made for a decentralised administration and the subordinate officers having an adequate discretion. We fully accept the evidence of a number of expert witnesses to the effect that the State and Federal authorities have worked harmoniously, but we think that there should not be the opportunity for friction and for overlapping which must exist under me present method of control. Further, we are of opinion that there should not be any room for the doubts which have arisen as to the taws under which an offence may be punishable, or as to the authority which may appoint courts of inquiry, which have arisen in a number of recent cases referred to by witnesses before this Commission.
We recommend that the Commonwealth Parliament be empowered to legislate with respect to navigation and shipping.
I think that everybody in this House would like to see that happen, but I should like to know how we can bring it about. As 1 have said, I do not think there is much chance of getting the people to accept it but surely the time must come when something like this must happen. We remember the recent disaster with the ‘Torrey
Canyon’ off the English coast. That kind of thing can happen in the waters of any country, even Australia. Who will draw up the laws governing what must be done when a ship of that size comes into port? At present there is a different set of laws in all States of the Commonwealth and the master of a ship entering a port in Australia is very confused. The only place where these laws should be made is in this Commonwealth Parliament. In that way we would obtain uniformity. I hope the day will come, and come quickly, when such laws will be enacted for the benefit of this country.
In his second reading speech the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr Freeth) directed’ attention to the position of migrant engineers being employed on Australian ships and not being naturalised or having the same certificate of competency as is required of Australian- engineers. He said that regulations will now be introduced to allow such engineers to qualify for lower grade certificates. I have had a couple of letters from engineers expressing their own private thoughts about this matter. It has been raised at the marine institutes but no point has been made of it to date. It would appear that there is a growing tendency to accept some of these qualified engineers in preference to people without qualifications working on permit, provided they are conversant with the English language because this helps to make the lot of engineers above them much easier. These things require a lot of thought and consideration, particularly from the point of view of whether these people should be allowed to work on Australian ships on the same conditions as are enjoyed by Australian engineers.
The honourable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr Collard) asked a question about a dredge which will operate out of Port Hedland op some other place on the northwest coast of Western Australia. This is another complex matter. The Department of Immigration or the Department of Customs and Excise will allow this dredge to come to Australia, but when it does come to Australia it will be subject to the laws of Western Australia. From memory, I think the Australian Workers Union is the union responsible in Western Australia for providing crews for dredges. It is only natural and, I believe, right that unionists should be upset at Japanese seamen working in Western Australia. Who will look into this matter? Who will police it to ensure that the Japanese crews are working under the same conditions as apply to Australian seamen on an Australian dredge? The Commonwealth Government cannot do it once the vessel arrives here. The conditions of work applicable to our seamen have been won after a lot of trial and tribulation and they must be safeguarded. I hope that the people who have the say in this matter will ensure that if this dredge comes to Australia - I do not know whether it is coming; I heard about it only this morning - working conditions will be in accordance with the laws of Western Australia and, better still, the safety regulations laid down by the Commonwealth Government will be observed.
It is fair to say that the laws relating to safety which have been laid down over the years by all Commonwealth Governments, Labor and Liberal, have been very good. The Department of Shipping and Transport has policed these laws very well although mistakes and accidents have occurred. There was the dreadful accident recently with the ‘W. D. Atlas’. I do not want to speak about that at length because the people on the dredge have the right to say whether the vessel will go from A to B. However, there is still the overriding authority which says: ‘Before the . vessel leaves, this must be done and that must be done’. I will not debate that because conditions are laid down governing the safety of dredges.
The overall safety regulations in Australia have always been very high and well policed. At times many ships officers and seamen have thought that the Department has policed them rather too harshly. I remember that when I first went to sca regulations under the Navigation Act were posted all over a vessel, even on the bulkheads, stating, for instance, that in splicing wires there should be three full tucks of the wire. The compass books were always inspected regularly. Although the general regulations in Australia could have been better, I am glad to say that they have always been stricter than those in any other country. But because they have been stricter does not mean that we should rest on our laurels and do nothing more about them. We should endeavour to raise our requirements in relation to ships and seamen.
When I was at sea I remember the old fellows would link two things together - the unfortunate loss of Scott at the South Pole and the introduction into Australia of the three watch system. Both events were announced on the same day. In those days seamen worked four hours on and four hours off but in 1912 the Australian Government introduced the three-watch system on Australian ships and Australian seamen worked an eight-hour day. That was a very big step in the maritime world because until the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939 British ships were still working a twelve-hour day. So for twenty-seven years, from 1912 to 1939, Australian conditions in that respect were far in advance of those applicable to British ships.
There has always been a most careful inspection of Australian ships, particularly in the matter of cleanliness. Before a ship goes to sea it is inspected by officers of the Department of Shipping and Transport. One requirement is that accommodation has to be painted every twelve months. All these things are to the credit of the Department. Ships of other countries, particularly ships which fly flags of convenience, are not required to go to this trouble. My association with officers of the Department of Shipping and Transport has always been harmonious, although I sometimes thought that they were a little unbending in their attitude that things had to be right. If there is more than a 5-degree deviation in the compass this has to be corrected, whereas other countries do not bother about those things. I hope that this very high standard continues.
I would like to see an alteration in the method of changing articles which at present applies on all ships of the world. In case the House is not familiar with the position, let me say that when a seaman joins a ship he signs articles of agreement. A regulation provides that those articles shall apply for six months, twelve months or, in some cases, two years, thus obliging the seamen to remain on that ship for that period. Articles on the Australian coast were 6-monthly articles. That practice has now been superseded because there is in Australia guaranteed employment for sea men. They work on a roster system and when their leave becomes due they go on leave by making application to the master. Apart from that, every six months those articles are closed and another set made out. This means that the officer responsible, usually the second mate, has to make up everyone’s wages and prepare a discharge indicating the nature of the man’s seamanship and his character. Another set of articles is opened and the process is repeated. In these modern days I think it would be better to open a set of articles and have a loose leaf system so that when people come and go they sign on and off and the articles are continued.
Several officers and representatives of shipping companies have said to me: ‘Why, in these modern times, do we have to open these six months articles?’ However this is getting away from the subject a little bit. I want to say again that the regulations in Australia are of a very high standard. What is being done now is to bring Australia into line with the new international regulations which have been brought about since the 1960 Conference. Australia must realise that the whole concept of world transportation is changing. At present the Japanese are building ships of 100,000 tons and even 200,000 tons. These ships are being manned with crews of twenty-nine. Honourable members might ask whether there is any safety in a ship of 200,000 tons being manned by just twenty-nine men. As I said, things are changing throughout the world. At one time the men in the engine room of a ship would never be allowed to come on deck and touch a line. But now, when ships come into port, the men who are not on duty and required in the engine room come up and give the deck department a hand in tying the ship up. A lot of nations are doing this.
I bring this matter before the House because the time will come - I think it will come soon - when we will have our own ships trading overseas on a competitive basis. If we do not do this we will lose money. The job of a government is to go into enterprises which make money. If it does not make money it is not being fair to the taxpayer because they pay for the losses. There will be a great change in methods of world water transport much more quickly than we think. In Canada for instance there is a big towage service.
Barges have been towed successfully from Vancouver to Alaska. The same thing will happen in Australia and regulations will be required for the towing of barges at sea. This will be a great thing for the country because some ports have silted up and there is a depth of only 8 feet. If you can tow two barges of 500 tons each you can get these into such ports and thereby avoid having to dredge the ports out.
I hope that regulations will always be stringent because life at sea is hard. Regulations are necessary. One honourable member spoke about Samuel Plimsoll. Something had to be done at that time because some ships were coffin ships, due to the greed of the people who owned them. The ships were overloaded and were therefore floundering. Now we have a sensible system of loading. The time has surely come when competent men must be put on ships when they come into port. In the case of big tankers which discharge oil men who understand the opening of valves should be put on board so that there are no accidents. Recently, in Westernport Bay the wrong tap or valve was opened on a tanker and a lot of highly inflammable fluid was discharged into the bay. These things will happen when ships come here in some cases because the people who man the ship do not understand our language and do not know what is required. These safety arrangements must be looked into. Again, in this case, the Government’s hands are tied because this is a State matter. I hope that the States will have enough sense to get together and say that it should be the job of the Commonwealth to look after shipping matters.
– in reply - I thank the House for allowing this Bill to sail on relatively untroubled waters. I therefore will not delay the House by replying in great detail to all of the many comments that were made. Suffice to say that I am grateful that this Bill has been given a speedy passage. The honourable member for Stirling (Mr Webb) raised many matters during his speech. Some of these matters were perhaps intended to be a little provocative and they did contain some political undertones. However, I do not propose to reply in detail at this stage. There will be opportunities later when, as 1 indicated to the honourable member, we will bring this Act up for review. There are one or two matters, however, that I would like to put before the House.
A number of speakers have referred to the difficulties that arise because of our constitutional arrangements and the fact that the State governments have sovereign powers of their own. They also referred !o the fact that British legislation applies in some respect to State governments. When we have an international convention which affects both intrastate shipping and interstate shipping it is far more satisfactory from the Commonwealth’s point of view that the intrastate shipping be administered and enforced by State governments whether we have constitutional powers to compel the States to do certain things or not. As I have explained to the House on other occasions, it is far more satisfactory to have the cooperation of the States by way of their complementary legislation to implement international conventions. As the honourable member for Stirling has recognised, this causes delays on some occasions.
I am appreciative of the remarks made by the honourable member for Batman (Mr Benson) who, with a wealth of practical experience in this field, confirms our view that we attempt to apply very high safety standards to shipping. The fact that we have his support indicates that there is no indifference on the part of this Government to its responsibility in this field.
Finally, I mention to the honourable member for Stirling that we are asking the State and Commonwealth Standing Committee of Attorneys-General to examine the very complex legislative position which exists with regard to a number of matters such as the constitutional arrangement, the legal position in regard to small craft and a number of other matters. 1 thank the House for its co-operation on this Bill.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Freeth) read a third time.
– I move:
The Customs Tariff Proposals which I have just tabled relate to proposed amendments of the Customs Tariff 1966-1967. Proposals Nos. 15, 16, and 17 formally place before Parliament, as required by section 273ea of the Customs Act, the tariff changes published by ‘Gazette’ notices on 15th and 30th June and 13th July 1967. Proposals No. 16, operating from 3rd July 1967, provide for temporary duties arising from a report by the Special Advisory Authority on certain man made fibres, staple, tow, waste and yarns.
On polyester raw normal tenacity yarn, the Special Advisory Authority found that urgent action was necessary to protect the Australian industry against low priced imports. He considered that the level of protection should be identical with that recommended by him in April of this year for similar nylon yarn. Accordingly, a temporary duty pf 15c per lb has been imposed in addition to the existing duties of 121% ad valorem general and free preferential. On the most important deniers of raw yarns, the temporary duty is equivalent to approximately 15% ad valorem. A further sliding scale temporary duty was also recommended by the Authority to take account of possible future price reductions in the overseas product. However, on current free on board prices, these sliding scale duties would not apply.
The Special Advisory Authority recommended similar action in respect of polyester staple fibre and tow. These goods are normally admitted free of duty. The temporary duty now imposed is 35% ad valorem. On high tenacity industrial yarns of man made fibres and man made fibre waste, the Authority recommended that urgent action was not necessary to protect the local industry. Proposals No. 16 also include the additions which I foreshadowed on 10th May last to the list of hand made traditional products of cottage industries that may be admitted free of duty from less developed countries. They also include certain other administrative changes of a minor nature to continue, in the main, existing duty situations.
Proposals No. 17, operating from 14th July 1967, implement the Government’s decision to accept the Tariff Board’s recommendations made in its reports on alumina, unwrought aluminium and aluminium products, and aluminium powders, flakes, pastes, etc. The Board found that the aluminium industry, including that of bauxite mining and the production of alumina, has an impressive record of growth in recent years, that it is already making a useful contribution to the national income and export earnings and that this contribution is expected to increase substantially in the near future. It is becoming an important basic industry whose price disadvantages, modest at current levels of output, should be negligible when operating at full capacity. In all, the Board considers that the local aluminium industry is economic and efficient and is worthy of assistance.
In respect of unwrought aluminium and aluminium alloys, the Board found that a continuation of import restrictions was the only means whereby effective protection could be given to the local industry. Assistance in this manner would enable the industry to complete its current development plans and consolidate its position in the market. Subject to the developments in the industry being along the lines foreseen by the Board, the restrictions will, as recommended, be terminated on 31st December 1971. In line with the Board’s suggestion, the Government will consider the issue of import licences in circumstances where users are unable to obtain supplies of unwrought metal from the local smelters on reasonable delivery terms and at the same price as it is available to all other users, including the smelters’ associates.
Turning to other aluminium products covered by the reports, the Board found that the local industry producing aluminium wire and aluminium semi-fabrications, for example bars, rods and tubes, is in a reasonable position and does not have a high price disadvantage when compared with imports. This section of the industry has continued to develop and its continued successful operation is important to the local aluminium smelting industry. Ad valorem duties of 30% general and 20% preferential were recommended by the Board.
In respect of aluminium products, the local industry constitutes an important outlet for locally produced aluminium. The industry has, in general, been operating profitably and warrants continued protection. Bearing in mind the present position of the local industry and the degree of manufacture which is additional to the basic semi-fabrications, the Board recommended ad valorem duties of 35% general and 25% preferential for products other than diecastings. It considered that for these products the rates recommended would adequately protect economic and efficient local manufacture. The duty rates on most aluminium diecastings are generally as high as or higher than this level. This sector of the local industry is significant in terms of production, employment and funds employed, and the Board concluded that the present level of duties should be maintained to protect the local industry.
Local production of aluminium powders, flakes and pastes is proposed for the near future. This would, in the Board’s opinion, contribute to the development and diversification of the aluminium industry. The Board considered that the proposed industry would warrant protection if the duty requirements were reasonable. Evidence before the Board indicated that ad valorem duties of 30% general and 20% preferential would be adequate. The rates recommended generally represent an overall reduction in the level of protection, up to 25% ad valorem in the case of aluminium products.
Proposals No. 18, operating from tomorrow morning, provide for temporary duties arising from recommendations made by the Special Advisory Authority in a report on sodium dichromate and chromic acid. The Special Advisory Authority recommended temporary duties of $35 per ton on sodium dichromate and $80 per ton on chromic acid. These duties are in addition to the normal ad valorem duties of 25% general and 15% preferential. Based on current prices of goods from Germany and Japan, the main exporting countries of these goods to Australia, the temporary duties represent an ad valorem equivalent of approximately 20% for both products.
The authority found that imports had adversely affected sales and profits of the local manufacturer to such an extent that he considered temporary protection was required. The temporary protection now applied is holding action pending the Government’s decision on receipt of the Boards report. It was suggested to the Special Advisory Authority by certain Japanese interests that exports to Australia of sodium dichromate and chromic acid might be the subject of a voluntary restraint arrangement. The Authority did not have sufficient time to consider this offer adequately. Provision has therefore been made for the previous duties to operate without the additional temporary duties should a proposal for voluntary restraint of exports by overseas suppliers be accepted by the Government.
Honourable members may notice that I have not yet referred to Proposals No. 15 which operate from 1st July 1967. These proposals, although of considerable size, make no changes in the levels of tariff protection or international commitments. They are of administrative origin and are designed to accord a very considerable reduction - well over 500 in total - in the number of separate tariff items that can apply to goods. These reductions will undoubtedly simplify the work of importers, customs agents and departmental officers.
A summary of the tariff alterations covered by Proposals Nos. 16, 17 and 18 is now being circulated to assist honourable members in their examination of the proposals. I commend the proposals to the House.
Debate (on motion by Dr J. F. Cairns) adjourned.
Reports on Items
-I present the following reports by the Tariff Board:
Aluminium powders, flakes, pastes, etc.
Alumina, unwrought aluminium and aluminium products.
Band-pass crystal fi’ters.
Calf vealer leather (By-law).
Cheese other than cheddar.
Only the first two reports call for legislative action.
Severally ordered to be printed.
Pursuant to Statute 1 also present Special Advisory Authority reports on the following subjects:
High tenacity man-made fibre yarns; staple fibre, tow and raw normal tenacity yarns of polyester; polyamide and polyester waste.
Sodium dichromate and chromic acid.
Severally ordered to be printed.
– by leave - Mr Speaker, during the last period of sittings of Parliament I made a comprehensive statement on international affairs on 28th February, and a number of shorter statements on particular matters, including a statement on 13th April dealing largely with economic problems of Asia and my visit to Japan. Later in April, I led Australian delegations to meetings in Washington of the South East Asia Treaty Organisation Council, the ANZUS Council and a meeting of the Foreign Ministers of the seven nations contributing forces to Vietnam. I also paid a very successful visit to Mexico. The communiques issued after these meetings and the texts of statements made by me have already been published in ‘Current Notes on International Affairs’, which is distributed to all members. I would therefore ask the House to accept the reference to these published documents as a report to it on these missions. In passing, may I commend this publication ‘Current Notes’ to the attention of honourable members as an essential part of the record of Australian foreign policy.
Yesterday I tabled for the information of honourable members a report of the recent ministerial meeting of the Asian and Pacific Council in Bangkok. I also wish to take this opportunity to inform honourable members that, at my request, the Department of External Affairs has revived a long discarded practice of making an annual report on its work and it is hoped that it will be possible for the report to be tabled before the debate on the Estimates.
I now turn to the matters that are the subject of this statement, Sir. In the three months during which the House has been in recess great and critical events touching directly on Australian interests have occurred. The full effect of some of these events may be felt not immediately but only in years to come. Listing them in the order in which they rise in my mind, they are the internal struggle in Communist China; the announcements by Great Britain on defence and economic policies; the conflict in the Middle East, regarded both as a period of difficulty and danger for the nations directly involved and as a testing ground of great power relationships; the trends in French foreign policy; the moves towards regional organisations in Asia and, as part of them, the increasingly useful and significant role being played by Japan; measures taken for the economic rehabilitation of Indonesia; the continuance of the war in Vietnam and, .at the same time, the constitutional progress being made in South Vietnam and the advancement of the programme of revolutionary development for the improvement of life in the villages; the anxieties on the frontiers of Burma, Nepal and Thailand resulting from Chinese pressure, and the determined Communist efforts to disrupt life in Hong Kong; recent and impending international discussions on trade, particularly as they affect the less developed countries; the consequences for Malaysia and Singapore of the British announcement of a new defence policy; the continued stress and strain and, in places, disorder in the African continent; the peaceful uses of outer space; the continuing world problem of hunger. These problems, Sir, and many more have been constantly engaging the attention of my Department and myself during the recess and will continue to do so.
Clearly it would not be possible for me to deal in this statement with all of the matters that I have mentioned, let alone with several current questions that I have not mentioned. I wish, however, to establish in the minds of honourable members the simple proposition that foreign affairs today are much more extensive than any particular crisis, and when our gaze is fixed on the dramatic waterfalls of history we should not cease to be aware of the hundreds of miles of river that flow above the falls and the hundreds of miles below.
I turn first to the British announcements on defence policy east of Suez and a renewed British intention to seek to enter the
European Economic Community. These are not simply statements on defence and economic policy; they are new statements of British foreign policy. Up to date our own foreign policy has been based on certain assumptions regarding British foreign policy. To the extent to which British foreign policy changes, so we shall have to change the assumptions on which our own policy rests. I have asked my Department to engage in this reassessment - not as an emotional or tendentious exercise but as a hard-headed practical one in the interests of Australia to assess clearly the intentions and capacity of Britain, a nation with which Australia will wish to continue to work as closely as possible to serve common aims. We have to learn to work, not with the Britain that used to be, but with what Britain chooses to be in the future.
One point that has become clearer is that Great Britain today sees her interests in a closer association with Europe more clearly than she sees her interests in participation in world affairs. This is a view contrary to that of Australia and one which has been in the area of debate between our two Governments for some time. I can recall ministerial discussions on this theme in which I took part in London in 1964. Over the past three years successive governments have repeatedly urged on Britain, as on other Western European powers, our view of the global inter-relationship of all problems of peace and security and of economic development and trade, and the urgency and importance in world affairs of events in Asia. We have expressed this view for some years in matters of foreign policy, of trade and of defence. More particularly, at a succession of talks at different levels during the past two years, both before and after the ending of the confrontation of Malaysia, we have urged the view that events in Asia are part of a world crisis and not only regional happenings; that a lessening of interest in Asian events is a lessening of interest in world events in favour of a European regionalism; and that Britain has a continuing role to play in Asia.
Speaking to this House in February, I was able to welcome certain assurances by Britain. The latest phase of the debate - and I stress again that it is only the latest phase of a debate which had been going on for some time - commenced in Washington at the end of April when, taking advantage of our presence there for the SEATO Council meeting, the British Foreign Secretary was authorised by his Government to inform the United States Secretary of State, the New Zealand Minister for External Affairs and myself of the latest British proposals regarding the withdrawal of forces from Malaysia and Singapore so that our Governments might have an opportunity to express their views. All three of us expressed our Governments’ views there and then and our Governments continued to express them at various levels. The discussions rose to a climax with the visit of our Prime Minister to London for talks with Mr Wilson in June.
The British announcement on defence was made on 18th July. That announcement means that Britain is planning a total withdrawal of British military forces from the British bases in Malaysia and Singapore by the middle of the 1970s. What does this mean for Australia?
Ever since the Menzies Government came to power in 1949, it has steadily developed policies and arrangements for co-operation with Britain, with the United States of America and with other states for defence in South East Asia. In the early 1950s, besides concluding ANZUS and SEATO, Australia established an intimate relationship with the British in their military planning and arrangements in (his region. This relationship has been based on the Commonwealth Strategic Reserve, stationed in Malaysia and Singapore, to which Australia has been a contributor of forces from all three Services; and it has also been based on regular meetings of senior Service representatives from Britain, New Zealand and Australia. These arrangements, in which Britain carried the chief responsibility, have made a notable contribution to security and stability of this region. In particular they have provided an effective framework within which the Governments and peoples of Malaysia and Singapore have been able to make impressive progress in their economic and social programmes.
Clearly, the new British plans to withdraw from Malaysia and Singapore will affect this situation. For example, our own military arrangements have been closely interwoven with British arrangements. The legal basis for our presence in Malaysia has been our association with those provisions of the Anglo-Malaysian Defence Agreement that relate to the Commonwealth Strategic Reserve.
So, today the Australian Government is engaged on a thorough appraisal of the implications of the British decisions for our position and our policies, in order to see what adjustments and new decisions will become necessary for us. I am not able today to anticipate the outcome of these deliberations, which clearly involve a wide range of important and cogent considerations, and indeed the primary ministerial responsibility for many of them lies with my colleague the Minister for Defence (Mr Fairhall). There are, however, two aspects of the matter on which I wish to comment now.
First, it is important that we see the British decisions in correct perspective. The changes do not come overnight but will take effect over about a decade. They will be gradual and there will be time to adapt. Certainly, it is important for us to determine as quickly as we can what Australia’s best course of action will be. We should not allow any impression to grow that in the area directly concerned, in Malaysia and in Singapore, there is going to be a sudden withdrawal of protection. The fact is that, through to the mid 1970s, the British will remain in the area. After their withdrawal they will maintain some military capacity for use in the area - primarily, air and sea forces to complement the improved national forces of Malaysia and Singapore which are to be further developed over the next ten years; and, secondarily, a mobile force based in Britain but available in major emergencies.
The second point I wish to touch on is our own position. Clearly this is going to change and it could change in various ways. I am not at this stage going to canvass the possibilities that might be open to us or to try to anticipate the decisions arising from our current studies and consultations, but I want to repeat what I said to the House last February, that it is not a case either of Britain continuing to play its old role but. as we hoped in February, of Britain developing its own distinctive role for the future; and it is certainly not a case of Australia taking over Britain’s role but of Australia also developing its own distinctive role.
Whatever course of action is finally decided upon, we shall continue to attach importance to the close relationships that have grown up over the years between Australia and Malaysia and Singapore, and we shall be looking for practical ways of helping them to preserve all that they have achieved through sound and sensible management. Our approach must recognise that the central problem in regard to security is essentially that of the massive and persistent pressure of Communist China on the region, and the declared policy of Communist China of overthrowing by subversion, by insurgency and by so-called wars of liberation’, the established regimes in the independent states of the region. I know, Sir, that there are different views about the sharpness and immediacy of this threat. But no independent government can afford to neglect the threat and, in fact, all governments in the region have a very lively sense of the degree to which their independence is at risk. Now some states may seek to avoid or minimise the pressure by diplomacy and by political moves. Others, however, recognising that no state in the region is large enough or powerful enough to stand alone, seek to deter aggression and to increase their capacity to defend themselves by co-operation with other friendly states, in the military or the political or the economic fields, and sometimes in all three. In the Australian Government’s view - and we are associated with the region in all three ways, economic, military and political - such regional arrangements are a necessary expression of the will and the capacity for independence.
Australia’s forward defence strategy is not to be looked at only in the selfish terms of trying to ensure that any fighting is as far away from Australian soil as possible. A major part of that strategy is to give the independent countries of the region the assurance and the confidence they want while they are developing their economies, evolving their political institutions and building co-operative arrangements wilh one another. By assisting a country of the region which is the victim of aggression,
Australia is playing a part in maintaining what, in the last resort, is the only sound basis for security in the region and for Australia’s own security, namely independent states with the opportunity for sound economic advancement and working together for common purposes. The constant theme I have advanced in speaking of Australian foreign policy is that the buttress of our security and welfare is the security and welfare of the region. That motive activates what we do.
The next few years should be used wisely and constructively in the development of regional co-operation and understanding. This will take many forms. Given the different policies of countries of the region and the wish of some of them not to enter into alliances, it would be wrongheaded, I submit, at this stage to think in terms of one all-embracing regional security arrangement. Some countries of the region are already members of security arrangements, either bilateral or multilateral, but others wish to keep out of such pacts. Yet it should be possible to achieve a situation where, in the field of security, none of the countries of the region is working against the security interests of others and where there is an understanding both of common interests and of individual national interests. Countries from outside the region can participate in some of the arrangements or, while not being themselves parlies to all the security arrangements, might give backing or guarantees.
I shall not speak in more definite terms at present, because these things will have to evolve inside the region itself and their development will be influenced by the growth of greater mutual understanding and co-operation. We cannot expect too much to happen quickly. For example, in thinking of the new security arrangements that will have to evolve as the British presence in Asia runs down, and thinking of the new relationships that will develop between Australia and Malaysia and Singapore, it would, I think, be premature and quite unrealistic to think immediately of an alliance including Indonesia, whose Government has declared that it does not favour military alliances. Indonesia is Australia’s closest neighbour, and one with which we have good relations and a desire for close co-operation. Any security arrangements to which Australia becomes a party should therefore be such as to be understood by the Indonesian Government as serving objectives which are in the interests of Indonesia, too, even though Indonesia may not be a party to them.
The Australian Government has welcomed the recent moves that have brought into being the new Association of SouthEast Asian Nations, in which Indonesia has accepted membership along with Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand, and whose membership has prospects of increasing. This coming together is particularly welcome because it is a further step in Indonesia’s co-operative association with the region, and also because it associates Singapore with her neighbours.
I turn now to the Middle East. The Government watched with great concern the tension in the Middle East during April and May, culminating on 5th JuDe in the outbreak of hostilities between Arab and Israeli forces.
Australia still has important interests in the Middle East, especially in trade and communications. We nave worked for years to maintain good relations with all countries of the region. Moreover, we know that the Middle East is still a place where local tension may quickly bring a crisis between the great powers.
In a statement on 25th May, when tension was growing, I stressed the “need for ‘a period of forbearance in which diplomacy and existing international machinery might bring about a diminution of tension and contribute towards the permanent peaceful settlement for which the international community has so long been searching’. With respect to the critical question of the blockade of Israel in the Gulf of Aqaba, I affirmed the Government’s belief that redress of grievances should be sought in the first instance by making full use of United Nations organs and machinery. On the substantive question of the status* of the Straits of Tiran, I said that Australia held now ‘as it has always done, and reaffirmed in 1957 and on other occasions, that the Straits of Tiran must be regarded as an international waterway through which the vessels of all nations have a right to passage’.
I submit that little purpose would be served now by discussing who fired the first shot on Sth June. That kind of argument would lessen the chances of achieving a settlement. In any case defining aggression is not simply a matter of the first shot but also involves what caused the shot to be fired.
It was unfortunate that the United Nations Security Council was unable to reach agreement in time to prevent the conflict. Under the terms of the Charter, positive action for the enforcement of peace can only be taken if there is agreement among the permanent members of the Security Council, and this was not forthcoming until after the fighting had begun, when a call by the Council for a cease-fire ultimately brought active hostilities to an end on 1 1th June.
At the request of the Soviet Union, a special session of the United Nations General Assembly was convened on 17th June to consider the Middle East situation. The session continued for several weeks, but it cannot be said that any appreciable contribution was made towards a settlement. No substantive resolution could command the necessary majority, and the session adjourned with a procedural resolution which merely recorded the fact that the problem would continue to be in the hands of the Security Council. But there is perhaps one comfort to be drawn from the proceedings of this special session, and that is that it demonstrated that none of the great powers was prepared to support extreme courses. Although the debates were marked by propaganda statements of an unusually vituperative kind, the outcome to our minds tends to reduce the fear of any warlike participation by the great powers and indeed to encourage the hope that they may have a restraining influence.
It is perhaps not inconceivable that, in the light of the attitudes revealed by the great powers at the special General Assembly, a measure of agreement might ultimately be achieved in the Security Council. If that could be so the Council could make a useful contribution to a final settlement. It would however be unwise to overestimate its role. The best hope lies, in my view, in direct negotiation between the principal parties. How can that be brought about and how can it succeed? On the one hand it will certainly require recognition of the state of Israel and its right to continue to exist in security with access to the Red Sea, and on the other hand it will require a reasonable approach by Israel to territorial questions.
The situation on the ground in the Middle East at the time of the cease-fire was that Israeli forces occupied virtually the whole of the Sinai Peninsula, the whole of the territory of Jordan on the west bank of the River Jordan, including the whole of the city of Jerusalem, and a small but strategically important border area of Syria.
I do not believe that Israel plans to retain all these areas permanently but, at the most, to seek adjustments by agreement. At this stage it would not be helpful for nations other than the principal parties to lay down the lines of settlement and, on behalf of Australia, I say no more than that any arrangement relating to the Old City of Jerusalem should pay respect to the special place which Jerusalem holds for Christian, Moslem and Jew. We shall be watching developments in regard to Jerusalem with particular interest.
We, of course, still affirm the principle of freedom of international waterways which is vital to all trading nations, and believe this principle, which was at issue immediately before hostilities broke out, should be respected.
Another cause of great anxiety in the past few months has been the series of Communist-organised strikes and acts of violence in Hong Kong. To recapitulate very briefly the sequence of events, early in May a strike at two artificial flower factories in Kowloon led to a clash with the Hong Kong police and disorders spreading over several days. The Communists demanded public apologies and compensation from the British authorities in Hong Kong in a way that was keenly reminiscent of the demands made earlier in the year upon the Portuguese authorities in Macao. These demands were supported by Peking and on 15th May an abusive note was delivered by the Chinese Communist regime to the British Government.
In the following weeks in Hong Kong the Communist elements called strikes in the transport services, public utilities and the dockyards. Bomb-throwing, acts of terrorism and intimidation, blocking of food imports and other efforts to disrupt services brought danger, inconvenience and loss to the people of Hong Kong. There have been a number of deaths and some hundreds have been injured. What has been happening in Hong Kong can fairly be described guerrilla warfare in an urban area. But these efforts have largely failed to achieve their objectives. The British authorities have countered the Communist tactics by raiding premises used, by the militant groups. They have uncovered evidence of preparations for sustained violence, including stocks of weapons and explosives, and in one case, a prepared casualty hospital. These strong-points were discovered in premises which purported to be union headquarters or commercial houses, and they are clear evidence that the Communists have been preparing in depth for insurrection in the colony.
The extent to which the initiative in creating the disturbances in Hong Kong was a local initiative by the Hong Kong Communists themselves is not clear. They are, however, being given full propaganda support by Peking and they are also receiving substantial financial assistance. The AllChina Federation of Trade Unions gave HK$10m - approximately §A1.5m - to Communist elements in Hong Kong in June, and a further HK$10m in July. There have also been disturbances on the border between the mainland and the colony which have been instigated by elements on the mainland side. Whether Peking is planning other more direct forms of intervention in Hong Kong is however at the present time difficult to predict.
Meanwhile it should be said that the British authorities have dealt with the situation with wisdom and efficiency and there is no lack of confidence in their ability to deal wilh the internal Communist threat. The past months in Hong Kong have been a period of strain and anxiety for the citizens of the colony and they are deserving, and I hope will receive, of our sympathy. Extremist elements have received little support from the Chinese people in the colony, who clearly have no wish to exchange their present circumstances for the irrational tyranny of Mao. The Hong Kong police force, consisting largely of Chinese, has dealt with the disorders with great firmness and skill and the courage and discipline of its members deserve the highest praise. I need hardly say that Australia has a deep interest in the maintenance of British rule in Hong Kong.
There will not be time this afternoon to give an account of the complex and, in some respects, confusing reports of, the situation inside mainland China. This situation is under close and constant study by us but I doubt whether this is a useful time for making pronouncements on it. There is certainly evidence of widespread resistance inside China to the Maoists, particularly in central and southern China, but from available information it is difficult to assess the strength of the resistance. It seems clear, however, that the struggle between Maoists and anti-Maoists has led to deterioration in economic and social conditions in many areas. At the same time, China’s foreign policies, at any rate in their expression, have become more extreme.
The military outlook in Vietnam has shown steady and continued improvement since my last statement to the House. This improvement has occurred in the face of an increasing build-up of North Vietnamese regular forces to a point where there are now more than 50,000 North Vietnamese regular troops fighting in South Vietnam. In addition, there has been a heavy build-up of North Vietnamese forces in and just north of the Demilitarised Zone, posing a threat to the northern provinces of Quang Tri and Thua Thien. The infiltration of military supplies into South Vietnam has also continued at a high rate. Unfortunately, there has been no sign that Hanoi has yet given up its aim of conquering South Vietnam by force. We have to accept that as the basic reality of the situation. This increased enemy build-up has been met by further increases in the Allied forces, including the deployment of greater Allied strength to the northern provinces. There has also been a further increase in the size of the armed forces of the Republic of Vietnam, with more forces directly deployed in support of the Revolutionary Development Programme.
The Allied forces have successfully contained and repelled the enemy threat in the northern provinces, inflicting heavy casualties in the process. Elsewhere in South Vietnam they have maintained heavy pressure on the enemy, attacking and destroying long-established enemy bases and driving enemy main force units further back from the populated areas. Although the infiltration from the North continues, there has been growing evidence that the Vietcong is no longer able to replace its own losses by local recuitment in the South. The South Vietnamese forces continue to oppose the enemy vigorously. They continue to sustain heavy losses at an annual rate of some 10,000 men killed in action; and in recent months their performance has been increasingly effective.
Communist terrorist activity against civilians has not lessened. The Vietcong has initiated a systematic campaign of terror designed to destroy the Revolutionary Development Programme. That is the programme which is directly designed to make life better for the people in the villages. Already in this calendar year alone over 1.700 civilians, many of them Revolutionary Development personnel, have been murdered by the Vietcong. They were not soldiers but civilians, some of them engaged in the work of the Revolutionary Development Programme, trying to raise the standard of life in the villages. As their reward, they were murdered by the terrorists.
– Does the honourable member approve the fact that 1 ,700 of these people have been murdered? Over 3,000 have been wounded and 2,000 captured. This campaign of terror deliberately designed to eliminate the men and women who provide leadership and assistance to the people in the countryside is one of the most tragic and difficult aspects of the situation and one which is all too often overlooked or minimised by those who are critical of the efforts of the Government and Administration of South Vietnam.
During this time there has been a dramatic increase in the number of those Vietcong supporters and conscripts who, for one reason or another, have abandoned the ranks of the Vietcong for the Government side. The figures I received only today disclose that a total of 20,398 Vietcong, both military and political, have rallied so far this year under the Chieu Hoi or ‘Open Arms’ programme - a figure roughly twice that for the same period last year. These were people who were formerly with the Vietcong and who have crossed over in response to the ‘Open Arms’ programme to the Government side. The total includes 11,560 military defectors for the first six months of 1967.
The most significant achievement of the period, however, has been the rapid strides made, despite the pressures and strains of a war situation, towards constitutional and representative government in South Vietnam. In my February statement I described how the Constituent Assembly had been elected in September 1966 by some 80% of the enrolled electorate, and how this Assembly had begun the task of drafting a constitution for the Republic of Vietnam.
This Constitution, which was promulgated in April 1967, provides for a presidential executive with a bicameral national assembly. Elections are to be held on 3rd September - within a few weeks - for the presidency, the vice-presidency and the Upper House, while elections for the Lower House will be held on 22nd October. At the close of nominations for the presidential and vice-presidential elections on 30th June there were eighteen lists of candidates. As provided in the Constitution, the Constituent Assembly - not the Government, but the body elected by the electorate - then examined the credentials of the eighteen lists and rejected seven of them on various grounds. In view of some critical Press references to the rejection of the seven candidates, I should like to make it clear that it was the Assembly, itself an elected body, which was the only organ empowered to accept or reject candidates. A similar examination of the Upper House lists is at present under study by the Constituent Assembly. The eleven remaining candidates represent a broad crosssection of Vietnamese political life and reflect a very wide variety of political viewpoints and interests. The Vietnamese electors are in fact offered a wider range of choice than in many other countries where free elections are held.
With these important elections now at hand, much interest is naturally centred on the conduct of the electoral campaigns and of the elections themselves. Both the Chief of State, Lieutenant-General Thieu, and the Prime Minister, Air Vice-Marshal Ky, who are running on one of the eleven presidential tickets, have undertaken to do their utmost to ensure that the elections are fair and free, bearing in mind the difficult security situation in many parts of South Vietnam. Their Government has decreed that each candidate for the presidential elections should have equal transport, broadcast, television and other facilities, and has made equal grants of funds to each presidential ticket and to each upper house ticket for election costs. In addition, the Government is contributing to the cost of printing leaflets and pamphlets on the same basis of equality.
I think, Sir, it is important for honourable members to remember that the election is taking place in a war situation. At a time when the Vietcong are very active both militarily and in seeking to disrupt civilian life, the fact that the election is being held at all is in itself a considerable achievement.
The Vietnamese Government invited the Secretary-General of the United Nations to send United Nations observers to Vietnam for the elections. The SecretaryGeneral is reported to have declined this invitation. Australia and thirty-five other countries with which Vietnam has diplomatic relations have also been invited to send observers. For our part, we have accepted the invitation and will shortly be appointing our observers. In addition, the large international Press community in Saigon can be expected, as it did during the Constituent Assembly elections, to watch the elections closely. Honourable members will recall that the broad consensus of opinion of the international Press was that those elections were fair and free.
Important progress has also been made in the field of local government. Between the beginning of April and the end of June, elections for local government bodies were held in nearly 1,000 villages and 4,300 hamlets throughout South Vietnam. In these elections, out of a total of just over 6 million electors, approximately 4.8 million men and women voted to elect some 14,000 local officials from almost 25,000 candidates. The importance of these elections was underlined not only by the large number who voted in defiance of Vietcong threats and boycotts but, still more significantly, by the large number of local leaders who stood for positions which they know involve extreme personal danger. Local elections are planned in a further 275 villages and 1,500 hamlets by the end of the year, as the Revolutionary Development Programme extends security to additional areas.
Progress has also been made on the Revolutionary Development Programme. New areas have been brought under effective government control, and have benefitted from improved education, health and welfare services. Progress has not yet been as rapid as we would like to see, but a number of initial programmes are now being overcome and more fruitful results can be expected in the future.
On the economic side, despite the extreme difficulties caused by the war, including severe inflationary pressures, the Government has succeded in maintaining a large measure of economic stability and in curbing the worst effects of inflation. Difficulties in the production and distribution of rice and other key commodities, caused by Vietcong sabotage and the exigencies of war, have been successfully overcome.
I also mentioned in my February speech the significant progress which has been made in consultation and co-operation among the Vietnam allies. This trend has been strengthened by a meeting in April this year in Washington of the Foreign Ministers of the seven Manila Summit nations, followed by meetings of the ambassadors of the seven countries in Saigon. Further meetings are planned. The recent tour made by Mr Clark Clifford and General Maxwell Taylor, the two special representatives of President Johnson, afforded a most valuable opportunity to exchange assessments and review the progress being made in South Vietnam. The Australian Government welcomed their visit to Canberra as a further practical expression of the known desire of the United
States Government to conduct its policies in relation to Vietnam in full consultation with the Government of the Republic of Vietnam and its allies.
I should now like to turn to the prospects for negotiations. The hope for negotiations will be very lively in the hearts of all of us. Here, unfortunately, the immediate outlook is not encouraging. The allied countries have affirmed and reaffirmed their readiness to pursue any avenue that might lead to a just and secure peace, and have responded positively to the constructive efforts which have been made during the period by a number of governments and organisations. The United States has repeatedly affirmed that, even if full peace negotiations do not yet seem feasible, it is ready to enter into unconditional discussions with North Vietnam, or alternatively to stop bombing targets in the north, provided some reciprocal gesture is made by the Hanoi authorities. The United States has likewise declared its readiness to discuss arrangements under which the bombing might be stopped as a preliminary to negotiations or to discussion about negotiations. To date, however, no response has been forthcoming to these offers from the leaders of North Vietnam, who have continued to demand an unconditional cessation of the bombing without giving any indication that this would be followed by any reduction in their military activities against the south. Their attitude seeks to maintain the right of North Vietnam to continue to commit aggression against South Vietnam, while denying to South Vietnam and its allies the right to strike back at the source of that aggression.
This assessment which I have just given is backed by documents and tapes captured in South Vietnam this year, which have provided important new evidence that the direction and control of the war is firmly in the hands of the north. Letters and speeches from such prominent North Vietnamese leaders as Le Duan, First Secretary of the North Vietnamese Communist Party, General Nguyen Van Vinh, North Vietnamese Deputy Chief of Staff, and General Tran Do, a North Vietnamese majorgeneral who is also a Deputy Commander of the Vietcong forces, underline North Vietnamese determination to continue fighting in the south. These documents indicate that, even if for tactical reasons it were decided at some future time to engage in a form of negotiation, the fighting should be continued while the talks went on. The captured material asserts that the time is not yet ripe for negotiations, and it includes the statement, in a particularly revealing speech by General Tran Do, that ‘our basic intention is to win militarily … we mean to end the war through military victories . . .’.
In these circumstances, it is clear that the Vietnam allies must maintain their present efforts at every level of this complex and difficult conflict until the enemy comes to realise that he cannot achieve hi? objectives by force. When that time comes, he must abandon his aggression or seek through honourable negotiations a reconciliation of legitimate interests.
Honourable members will recall that I visited Indonesia in January last. Among those who accompanied me on that visit were Mr McGrath, Chairman of the Export Development Council, Mr Hawley, Commissioner of the Export Payments Insurance Corporation, and Mr Paltridge, Head of the Export Development Division of the Department of Trade and Industry. Their presence in my party indicated the importance Australia places on the improvement and consolidation of its trading and economic relations with Indonesia. During our time in Djakarta we were able to have valuable exploratory talks with Ministers and officials on economic matters and a most helpful exchange of information. We were particularly interested in learning from the Indonesians how they proposed to grapple with their grave economic problems; we have been encouraged by what they told us then and by what they have since done.
Last October the Indonesian Government, in close consultation with the International Monetary Fund, launched an economic recovery programme. This programme called, inter aiia, for international co-operation from Indonesia’s creditors in rescheduling Indonesia’s debt repayments to alleviate the crippling burden accumulated in past years, and for joint consideration by aid giving countries of what new aid could be provided in 1967 to ease Indonesia’s balance of payments difficulties. The first debt rescheduling meeting took place in Tokyo in July of last year, and was followed by another in September in Paris, where a further meeting is to be held in October of this year. The result of the entire operation is not yet final, but on present trends it seems probable that Indonesia will receive from most creditor countries sufficient grace to permit a more manageable distribution of repayments and so gain some breathing space to start rebuilding its economy. Australia, although not a creditor of Indonesia, was represented at these meetings and gave support to those countries which favoured easier terms.
The debt rescheduling meetings, which were the first part of the exercise, gave rise to a succession of meetings amongst the creditor countries to consider Indonesia’s needs for further emergency aid. The International Monetary Fund estimated Indonesia’s foreign exchange requirements in 1967 at some $US180m. In the course of two meetings convened by the Netherlands Government, one in Amsterdam in February and another at Scheveningen in June of this year, pledges and commitments for the greater part of this amount were received. The Australian Government was also represented at these meetings.
It is against this background that the Government has agreed to make available $5.2m. this year to Indonesia as a special grant of emergency aid. The object of this grant will be to assist the flow of essential imports needed by Indonesia to restore the productive base of its economy and so help to ease its balance of payments problems by eventually increasing its export capacity.
This grant of $5. 2m, will be utilised through what has come to be known as the Bonus Export system, or the BE system. Briefly, the system is a mechanism devised by the Indonesian Government to allocate the proceeds of foreign exchange receipts to Indonesian importers. Other donor countries are already providing aid through the BE system, which is designed to liberate the Indonesian economy from an excessive accumulation of bureaucratic controls and to enable free market forces to come into play and help to create a realistic exchange rate for the rupiah by linking the Indonesian market with the outside world.
I am glad to be able to say that Australian interest in the economic recovery of Indonesia is by no means confined to the Commonwealth Government. At the beginning of this month some fifty distinguished representatives from all the major Australian business enterprises attended the first meeting in Djakarta of the Pacific Indonesian Business Association, established under the auspices of the Stanford Research Institute following the Pacific Industrial Conference in Sydney last April, to study at first hand the way in which private enterprise can assist Indonesia in its economic rehabilitation. The Government welcomes this kind of private initiative and will look forward with interest to subsequent developments.
There has also been useful work on Indonesia by some of our universities. I would particularly like to mention studies which have their visible result in the Bulletin of Indonesian Economic Studies, produced by the Department of Economics of the Research School of Pacific Studies at the Australian National University. I would commend the regular perusal of this publication to all honourable members.
I have time to refer briefly to only two of the troubled situations in Africa. In Rhodesia during recent weeks the British Government made a further attempt to explore the possibility of reaching an acceptable agreement with the regime of Mr Ian Smith. In mid-June the British Prime Minister sent Lord Alport, a former Minister of State for Commonwealth Relations and High Commissioner in Rhodesia, to Salisbury to see whether the Rhodesian regime might be willing to resume a dialogue on a return to constitutional government. Mr Wilson said in the ‘House of Commons on 25 July that, although he could not regard Lord Alport’s report on his visit as providing conclusive evidence that Mr Smith was prepared to enter into meaningful discussions, he had accepted Lord Alport’s recommendations that an attempt should be made to clarify what changes the Rhodesians wished to see in the proposals drawn up in December 1966 at the talks on HMS ‘Tiger’, and that the Governor of Rhodesia had been authorised by the British Government to undertake this work.
In Nigeria there has been a succession of tragic events since January 1966. The present position is that the Federal Military Government of Nigeria headed by MajorGeneral Gowon is engaged in a military operation against the eastern region of the country. The Federal Government’s action followed a declaration by LieutenantColonel Ojukwu, the commander of the eastern region, on 30th May 1967 that the eastern region had seceded from the Federation and had been proclaimed the sovereign independent republic of Biafra. On 31st May Major-General Gowon declared that the eastern proclamation was an act of rebellion and would be crushed.
As a fellow member with Nigeria of the Commonwealth of Nations we are saddened by the loss of life, disruption and instability which has come to a country which had been regarded as one of the stronger and more hopeful of the newly independent nations of Africa.
I have not touched on questions of external economic assistance because I hope to find an opportunity in the Budget debate to inform the House of the role of Australia in this field. One of my earliest tasks in assuming this portfolio was to devote myself to promoting further this very valuable phase of our foreign policy, and strengthening its administration. Considerable progress has been made and the Treasurer referred in his Budget speech to the growing financial commitment we are making.
I also have not expanded on economic questions, although we in the Government recognise very clearly the need for development of resources in Asia and the many complex problems that have to be overcome so that economic progress may be achieved and so that it may go hand in hand with social advancement and rising living standards for the people. We are cooperating with our Asian neighbours in many activities towards this end, including practical work at the technical and administrative level. Three forthcoming high-level meetings in this field will be the meeting of Trade Ministers sponsored by the Economic Commission for Asia and the
Far East, to be held in Bangkok in January next; the second conference of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development to be held in New Delhi in February; followed by the twenty-fourth session of ECAFE to be held in Canberra in April. My colleague, the Minister for Trade (Mr McEwen), as is well known, has been actively and successfully engaged in international discussions in this field and the departments of government chiefly concerned are working closely together to help shape a constructive Australian contribution at these meetings.
I permit myself one observation, lt seems to me that a great number of people on the fringes of government and outside government in Australia talk in genera] terms of economic progress, of the problems of hunger and the pressures of population. I believe we have to pass beyond general expressions of concern to the realities of international economic relations - the realities of sources of investment, the application of technology and managerial skills and, above all, the marketing aspects of economic production. The accomplishment of these practical tasks, and not the wish to do better or the scolding of governments for not doing better, will be what really brings a difference to the economic life of nations and the welfare of peoples in Asia. Just as in another field too many people talk piously of peace without facing the practical problem of security, so in this field too many talk of economic progress without facing the practical problems of international trade.
I shall conclude with a final word about our relations with Asia. What I have said in this statement illustrates that Asia has to be looked at both as a whole and in its constituent parts. There is even more diversity in Asia than there is in Europe, and it is a dangerous oversimplification to think that all Asian countries have an identical outlook on every problem. But on the other hand, it would be equally a mistake not to see the community of interest that exists in Asia on many matters.
What I have said earlier this afternoon about regional co-operation in matters of security applies equally to other forms of regional co-operation: The objective, is not one of all-embracing regional organisation, including all countries and all fields of activity, but a number of co-operative arrangements in different fields and including different members. In this pattern of co-operation, Australia will be a member of some organisations and not of others. Countries of the region that do not belong to a particular organisation or arrangement, such as the Association of South East Asian Nations or the Asian and Pacific Council, can nevertheless show an understanding of it and co-operate with it. These organisations, in turn, can be hoped to show an understanding of the interests of countries that are not members.
The recognition of the diversity inside the region goes alongside respect for the national integrity and independence of the states of the region. We all have our separate problems and we all have our mutual interests. Year by year the free countries of Asia are growing in understanding of each other and in readiness to co-operate with each other to serve common aims and to bring a better life for all the peoples of our region. In both respects I am confident that Australia has become part of a. great forward movement in Asia and is so accepted in friendship oy her neighbours. I present the following paper:
International Affairs - Ministerial Statement, 17 August 1967- and move:
That the House take note of the paper.
Motion (by Mr Fairbairn) - by leave - agreed to:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the Prune Minister (Mr Harold Holt) and the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) each speaking without limitation of time.
– The Minister for External Affairs (Mr Hasluck) has made a careful and calm appreciation of the many events which have occurred in many places since the House last debated foreign affairs. There have in particular been three matters which have engaged Australia’s attention in those intervening months. There has been a blitzkrieg in the Middle
East; Britain has announced her plans for withdrawing her land forces from South East Asia by the mid-1970s; and the Government has succeeded in having an intensification of the bombing of North Vietnam.
I shall deal with the first matter, the Middle East situation. This is a situation in which Australia has been concerned ever since the Suez aggression by Britain in 1956. Ever since that time there has been difficulty in delivering mail between Australia and Israel. Ever since that time there has been difficulty in travelling by sea between Australia and Israel. Yesterday during question time I gathered that this is supposed to be one of the benefits of Australia having no overseas shipping line. Australia, however, has an overseas airline, and ever since that time the Australian Government has condoned the boycott by Qantas Empire Airways Ltd of traffic to and from Israel. Ever since that time there has been a refugee problem in the Israel area. It is more intense now than it has been for twenty years. The Budget makes no increase in Australia’s donations for refugee relief. This situation in this region continued for more than ten years, and flared into war just over a month ago. The Prime Minister of Israel found Australia’s attitude extraordinary; Australia regarded this situation as consisting of mere huffing and puffing. The next situation was the British announcement of its phased withdrawal from South East Asia.
– Where was that said?
– It was attributed to you in the newspapers.
– But where was it said?
– I think it was in the United States.
– That is typical .
– Do you deny that you said it?
– Where have you denied saying it?
– -Order! The Leader of the Opposition will cease his discussion across , the table.
– The next matter is onein which the Prime Minister (Mr Harold
Holt) made a similarly precipitate or, as the Minister for External Affairs would say, an emotional and tendentious contribution, and that is the British White Paper on defence. The Prime Minister there took the occasion to use some ersatz Churchillian rhetoric about Lotus land, the 45-week year and the 40-hour week. His reaction to an announcement hi something which is to happen over the next ten years and which was clearly predictable at least two years ago was to hark back to conditions applying twenty years ago.
The third matter that has happened is the intensification of the bombing of North Vietnam. The Australian Government has advocated this intensification and has been instrumental in achieving it. Yesterday the Prime Minister took the occasion of the utterly trivial advocacy by a few youths of some aid for the National Liberation Front to make a resounding cry-
– It was a treasonable action.
– Well, akin to treason. I think he used words such as those. A few hundred dollars were involved there. Yet the Prime Minister and his senior colleagues condone a trade of hundreds of millions of dollars with a country which they stigmatise as the source of all subversion and aggression throughout our region, the indirect enemy in Vietnam. If there is a profit to be made, apparently there is no treason. When treason prospers, none dare call it treason. Let me go back to the second of these matters, the British withdrawal. Admittedly this statement was made by the Prime Minister at a time of some hysteria during the Corio by-election campaign when he told his colleagues that it was time to kick the Communist can again. It certainly had a hollow sound on 22nd July. Yesterday the Prime Minister clearly was preparing for the first shots in the Senate election campaign. He is aiming to have another khaki election as in 1951, 1954, 1963, 1964 and 1966.
If the British announcement really came as a surprise to the Prime Minister, it came as a surprise to nobody else. The British Defence Minister, Mr Healey, clearly foreshadowed Britain’s phased withdrawal during his visit to Canberra eighteen months ago. That was the Prime Minister’s first week in office. It was his first essay in foreign affairs. He played up the issue very greatly before Mr Healey’s withdrawal, that is, he aimed to compromise him before there could be any discussions with him. The Minister for Defence (Mr Fairhall) is much more realistic in these matters. I presume this was his motive when, during the election campaign last November, he said:
British power is being withdrawn east of Suez and I feel that she will withdraw all her forces from South East Asia.
During an election campaign there was no harm in telling the truth where it suited. But the Prime Minister affected to be surprised when Britain made an announcement a month ago on a matter which was forecast here during his first week in office eighteen months ago.
It is not altogether clear whether the Prime Minister’s objection is to Britain’s intent or the announcement of her intent. At his Press conference he said:
Australia very much regrets that the British Government should feel itself impelled to plan for final withdrawal from Malaysia at a date so far ahead.
We can only assume that the Government would prefer that the British should make no announcement about their intentions, or perhaps make a misleading announcement. The Government apparently prefers that other governments should follow its own refusal to plan ahead. The British Government has behaved honestly and honourably with those qualities of fairness, frankness and forthrightness which the Prime Minister professes to admire and emulate. The Australian Government has taken its time about making those arrangements for alternative facilities in Australia, which Mr Healey spoke about publicly, and certainly privately too, in his visit eighteen months ago. The Government is stalling on this aspect because it wants to force Britain to remain longer in South East Asia, to give Britain no let-out, as this Government would regard it, and to make Britain defer her plans to withdraw.
Rather than complain about Britain’s desire to plan and to make known her plans, the Government should welcome the opportunity and accept the responsibility to cast its own plans to accord with the circumstances in which we are now placed and to accord with the needs of this country and the region in which we are placed for all time. Conservatives have too long fostered the delusion that Australia’s security depends on western forces being on the mainland of Asia. This has never been the case for the last twenty years. When Britain withdrew from India, Pakistan, Ceylon and Burma it was inevitable that she would withdraw also from Malaysia and Singapore. Malaya became independent ten years ago this year. What has been happening has been clear and the Government has known of it. It has played up this issue in order to embarrass the British Government at home. If the Prime Minister were to take more time to discuss with parliamentarians in Britain and with congressmen in the United States the attitude which is expressed by their heads of Government he would know that in Britain there is no concerted opposition to the British Government’s intention to withdraw troops from South East Asia or to the British Government’s application to join the European Common Market. There is no concerted opposition to those two policies, either in the British Labour Party or the British Conservative Party. Any assessment by our diplomats, any assessment by our Ministers and any assessment by the Prime Minister would lead to those conclusions. Similarly, as I shall come presently to state, there should be no doubt that if the Prime Minister were to talk more with congressmen and others in the United States he would see the actualities of power and the limits on power in that country. Indeed, he would see the very precarious support which there is for some of the policies which he rushes in to support and promote.
The other aspect which I should mention on the British Government’s plans for withdrawing troops from South East Asia by the mid-1970s is the arrangement between Australia and Malaysia. The Minister for External Affairs referred to the legal basis of this. It accords with what the former Prime Minister stated to be Australia’s commitment, to wit, to go to the assistance of Great Britain in Malaysia’s defence. There is no direct arrangement between Australia on the one hand and Malaysia on the other. There is no direct arrangement between Australia and Singapore. The Labor Party has urged for years that there should be clear public treaties between us and any other government to which we are militarily aligned. We have said that this is very necessary, not only so that we can have a legal basis for our relations but also that there will be a proper interchange between governments in determining how they will conduct themselves and how we will conduct ourselves in our mutual interests. One does not give a blank cheque to any other country. In this case the two partners, Britain and Malaysia, are making arrangementts. What is the basis of Australia’s arrangements? Can there be a clearer case of the failure of government policies? Looking back to the 1963 election, the cry of treason was raised then. Does anybody now believe in the eternal solidarity of the Malaysian Federation?
The Minister for External Affairs very properly advocated regionalism. I should say that I have never heard him speak in terms and on facts to which I would give greater support. This must be the proper attitude for the Australian Government to pursue. In the long run Australia cannot rely on guarantees from outside its region. We must seek an accommodation within the region as the only basis for a lasting and secure peace. Our continuing relations with Indonesia, our nearest neighbour, with Japan, which is a great democracy, and with India, which is the largest democracy of all, are more important to us than any temporary alignment with the United States in Vietnam or with Britain in Malaysia and Singapore. We have a defence and trade role in Asia. We need a complementary political role. We should not regard ourselves as subsidiaries of world powers, formerly Britain and now the United States of America. Britain will be off the mainland, pf Asia in all the foreseeable circumstances by the mid 1970s. Can any of us be certain that the United States will still be on the mainland of Asia by the mid 1980s? We have a bitter experience of sending our young men thousands of miles to fight in Britain’s wars which did not threaten our shores. A country of our resources and location must seek a regional role rather than a role as a subsidiary to a world power.
There is deep suspicion of policies which are engineered from outside the region. Thinking and ideas must spring from within a region. There must be Asian solutions for Asian problems. The Government does not see beyond Vietnam and for that reason is likely to help create another Vietnam. The problem of adjustment and accommodation to the interests and needs of countries in the region will continue long after Vietnam. A country does not forgo alliances until better arrangements are made. But we should not allow our premiums on alliance protection to hinder the building of permanent regional arrangements.
The passion of countries in this region is not ideology but nationalism and economic advance. Vietnam and anti-Communism blur the real issues as our neighbours see them. The ideological squeeze is making it harder for countries to hold the middle ground; for instance, Burma and Thailand. The ideological temperature must be lowered. Australia has many advantages which can be the basis for co-operation in regional associations. For instance, we are not a large country and we have no colonial record as far as other countries are concerned. Our relations, however, are too often inhibited by fear and exclusiveness, particularly on a racial basis. Fear is based so often on ignorance. The Prime Minister in his visits to Asia has therefore performed a useful though perhaps fortuitous function in helping to inform Australians of something of the history and great diversity of Asia. His interest in Asia however does not stem from any appreciation of regionalism. The noises he makes about the importance of Asia to Australia are designed to maintain British and American commitments on the land in Asia.
Australia is a member of the Asian and Pacific Council - ASPAC - which was largely promoted by South Korea and includes Taiwan. Its ideological stance and composition do not inspire great confidence. Its virtue, of course, is that it is an association of which Australia is a member. Its Register of Expert Services will certainly perform a useful function, lt is to be hoped, however, that Australia will find it possible to be more closely associated with ASEAN. Indonesia is the authentic voice of this region. Taiwan and South Korea are not. The meeting of foreign ministers of ASEAN in Bangkok was quite definite that they were determined to ensure the stability and security of the area from external interference, and affirmed that foreign bases were temporary expedients.
It is remarkable over this last year how many policies suggested by Mr Adam Malik have come into effect. Everything that he forecast a year ago when I discussed all the likely developments with him has been achieved. There is no question in my mind that he and many others in this area would welcome our association, particularly in economic and social matters. Then we could go on to political or defence matters as well. I appreciate the point made by the Minister about an alliance with Indonesia. Nevertheless, the other partners in ASEAN do have bases; all four of them have alliances. He seemed to indicate that Burma and Cambodia can join; they do not have alliances. But the fact that a country has alliances or bases for the time being does not preclude it from membership of the association. It is the most wholesome and natural development in our area.
All these countries are neighbours. With four of them we have political and defence arrangements. With all of them we have trade arrangements. Quite clearly, looking at the map, it is the most natural development in our part of the world. It is the first occasion on which Indonesia has been associated with all her immediate neighbours. It is the first occasion on which Singapore, a Chinese State as we are a British State, has been associated with Malay nations or other people in the region.
This regional orientation of our foreign policy must be backed by mobile and self-reliant defence forces. Our defence role should be commensurate with our resources. It was dangerous to regard our commitment to Malaysia as a postscript to an agreement between Britain and Malaysia. Similarly it is dangerous for us to be in Vietnam as we are, not just to help the Vietnamese people but as a down payment on our alliances with the United States. Commenting on the withdrawal of Britain, the Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister said:
The vacuum left by the colonialists who are gone must be filled by collective endeavours.
Australia can contribute to these regional endeavours.
I wish to make now a short reference to international aid. As the Minister forecast, there will be greater opportunities to debate such matters when we have the renewed reports on his Department’s activities - this renewal we applaud - and during the debate on the Estimates in general. 1 mention international aid particularly to refer to the situation in Indonesia. During the debate on last year’s Budget and on public occasions at that time I emphasised how important it was that Australia should move promptly and fully in assisting Indonesia. If we had given as much assistance over the last ten years to Indonesia as we have given to Malaysia - we have assisted Malyasia in a vast range of endeavours - we could have been very influential and beneficial indeed. We could have maintained the impetus which was given when the post-war Labor Government promoted independence for Indonesia; and which Sir Percy Spender, Lord Casey and Mr Menzies, as he was then, did so much to dissipate by their attitude towards that country. The important thing now in Indonesia is economic assistance. Other countries have given the basic assistance. We were not there helping when the help was needed. Undoubtedly our help now will be important, but we held back in helping Indonesia throughout the last financial year when many other countries including Britain and the Netherlands - which must have had greater grievances with Indonesia than Australia had - contributed more than Australia did. Was their interest greater than Australia’s?
I wish to mention a couple of other matters in respect of international aid which 1 can develop in a later debate. This morning the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard) and I raised the anomalous position that defence aid to Malaysia and Singapore is being reduced by 22% compared with last year. I am including defence aid in this context because earlier this year the Treasurer (Mr McMa’hon) put it in with the general categories acknowledged to be international aid so as to inflate the percentage of our national income which we were devoting to developing countries. I am glad to see that this Budget has not followed this course. Coming strictly under the heading of international aid, as I have just mentioned, there is no increase in the appropriation in this year’s Budget for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine refugees, although the number of refugees has multiplied. There is no change in the contribution to the United Nations
Children’s Fund which is undertaking large scale work in India during its present famine. Drought in India brings famine; drought in Australia merely cuts our export income. To the United Nations development programme, the main agency for industrial development in underdeveloped countries, we are increasing our contribution by §132,000. Last year the Government withheld the transport for Project Concern; it cancelled the transport of milk to India. It has refused to provide surgery ia Australia for Vietnamese children.
Now I come to the third matter which I commenced by mentioning, the Government’s success in intensifying the war on North Vietnam. Yesterday at question time the Prime Minister referred to my Party’s policy as formulated two weeks ago at its Federal Conference. When it is possible for the public to know what the Federal Council, the corresponding body of the Liberal Party, does, we can make some comparison. When it is possible for people to attend meetings of the top body of the Liberal Party as it is possible for people to attend meetings of the top body of the Labor Party; when it is possible for the Press to secure the documents submitted to the top body of the Liberal Party as it can secure documents submitted to the top body of the Labor Party and when it is possible for anybody to get the record, the platform and the minutes in printed form from the top body of the Liberal Party as it is for anybody to get them from the top body of the Labor Party, then we might be able to make some comparison of the respective organisations.
Recently the Prime Minister received envoys about our commitment in Vietnam. They were General Maxwell Taylor andMr Clark Clifford, and their mission followed a Press conference at the White House. At least the right honourable gentleman’s predecessor used to go through the form of saying that the current Government in Vietnam was asking for assistance. 1 well remember that in the escalation which took place immediately after the last Senate election, coincidental with the escalation that took place just after the last United States Presidential election, and rather surprisingly in view of the policies announced before both those elections, we were all assembled here, the diplomatic gallery was packed, but at a quarter to eight there was still some doubt as to whether the then Prime Minister would make his speech because the cable from Vietnam asking for the things that were to be announced in the speech had not yet arrived. The decencies - the formalities, I suppose they were- were observed at least on that occasion. Now however there is no pretence that the Australian Government is being asked by the Vietnam Government or has asked the Vietnam Government about it. The first that the Government hears about it - and the first that the New Zealand Government hears about it, as the rather more forthright and calm Mr Holyoake acknowledges - is from the newspapers, reporting a Press conference in Washington. Our anticipated reaction is announced before we ever receive a request or make a suggestion. What is the Government’s policy on these things? It does not know what its policy is to be until it is announced 10,000 miles away at a Press conference. So I am certainly prepared to bear any comparison between our Party’s policy and that of the right honourable gentleman’s Party.
It is true that the Labor Party believes that the National Liberation Front should be recognised as a principal party to negotiations; so, of course, do half of the United States senators. These names are well known.
– That is not true.
– I can assure the right honourable gentleman that it is true. As he knows, I have discussed this matter with more senators than he has. I have discussed it fully with individual senators and also collectively with many others. I repeat that half of the United States senators object to the Administration’s policy of escalation. They object to the risk which is being taken in bombing North Vietnam within now one minute’s flying time of China. They object to running the risk of a war as happened when the Yalu bridges were bombed and there was some dispute as to whether they were Chinese or Korean bridges and as a result there was a war not just between North Korea and America, Australia and several other United Nations allies, but between China and those allies.
The Prime Minister’s objection to our proposal to treat with the National Liberation Front - I do not know how else one can get any form of armistice or amnesty or arrange asylum - is that the NLF is Communist dominated and Hanoi controlled. I suppose that one could say that about the Ho Chi Minh Government. I presume that it is Communist dominated and Hanoi’ controlled. Yet the whole objective of the bombing is to get negotiations with that Communist dominated and Hanoi controlled organisation. Still the objection to dealing with the NLF is on the basis of the people behind it.
The simple fact is that this war must be ended. It is not succeeding. If the right honourable gentleman had had some more meaningful discussions before he sounded off on this subject he would have known that the whole question was being reassessed in the United States at the time he arrived; and it was much more earnestly reassessed, because, at that time America and the Soviet Union were almost embroiled in war by their proteges in the Middle East, or in Western Asia as perhaps we should call it.
In a conversation that I had with a very senior member of the Administration I asked: ‘How much further can the escalation go?’ He said: ‘Very little further. All that can be done is to mine Haiphong and to bomb a few more airfields and bridges near Hanoi itself.’ I said: ‘Do military supplies come through Haiphong?’ He said: ‘No. So far as we can tell, from all our photo reconnaissances, they do not. Fuel and vehicles come through there. The military supplies come by rail through China from Russia and the pipeline is not squeezed by China on the way.’
– Was it a confidential discussion?
– I said it was with a senior member of the Administration. The Prime Minister knows whom I saw. He can check on what I am reciting. I then asked: How effective has the escalation been?’ The answer was: ‘Diplomatically, not at all. The North has not come to the conference table and it will not.’ He said: ‘Militarily I cannot swear that it has had no effect. The most I can say is that in view of the infiltration of men and supplies from the North into the South, the South ought to be able to concentrate more effectively than it has. But in fact it is not stopping and cannot stop the infiltration of men and supplies to the South.’ This assessment was going on.
– Was this a confidential discussion?
– I am not quoting the person’s name. I am giving an assessment to the Parliament as a result of my conversations in the United States, in the same way as the Minister for External Affairs does and the Prime Minister should do. They do not cite the exact person. I am not citing the exact person. I am giving a truthful account of what I found, as I would expect that they would give a truthful account of what they find. Of course, the Minister for the Army (Mr Malcolm Fraser), who is trying to interject, three years ago in Washington was advocating the bombing of the dikes to destroy the food supply to North Vietnam. The State Department was appalled at his amateurishness. The matter was raised in this House at the time.
– That is as big an untruth as many of the other things that you have said tonight.
– If the honourable gentleman had any reputation for truth I might ask for the withdrawal of that remark. He made a fool of himself at that time by advocating the bombing of the dikes.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! I suggest that the House come to order. Interjections are out of order. I would suggest that the same courtesy be extended to the Leader of the Opposition as was extended to the Minister for External Affairs.
– The Government’s whole attitude towards negotiation has been consistent right from the period when it will be remembered that the former Prime Minister said in April 1965:
If I am the only Prime Minister left to denounce negotiations, I will denounce them.
Since then neither the Prime Minister, the Minister for External Affairs nor their predecessors have ever initiated or supported any peace proposals. When the United States has supported peace proposals they have remained dumb. When the United States has remained silent about peace proposals the Australian Government has denounced them. At least the former Prime Minister used to state in somewhat cynical and blunt terms that it was advantageous to Australia to fight in other people’s backyards. The present Prime Minister puts it in more grandiloquent language: ‘It is bad luck for the Vietnamese that the world’s power struggle is being fought in their territory’.
The right honourable gentleman would take no interest in the economic, political or military conditions in Vietnam if it were not for the state of relations between China and the United States. He would have us believe that these are as immutably hostile as were relations ten years ago between America and the Soviet Union. Now Stalin and Stalinism have disappeared, and Mao and Maoism may disappear as well. In this area we must contrive to establish the same conditions of competition rather than of conflict between China and America as have been established for many years now in Eu>;?pe between the Soviet Union and America.
We in the Labor Party believe that the war must be brought to an end, and that Australia can help to do so. We believe that the bombing of North Vietnam should cease. It has not succeeded diplomatically; it is not succeeding militarily. Looking at the position from the military point of view, we say simply that these policies which have clearly failed should be abandoned. That is forgetting the moral issues involved in this matter. Have we learned nothing from two World Wars? The slaughter, the banging away’, the Passchendaele complex of Field Marshals Haig and Robertson in the First World War are being pursued now in the paddy fields of Vietnam. Is there any prospect of success in this war of attrition, this killing and the respective body counts? Bombing in the Second World War did not succeed very promptly in the highly industrialised integrated communities of western Europe. Is it likely to succeed in the much simpler economies of South East Asia? Let me recall to honourable gentlemen that there have been Chinese armies - Kuomintang armies - in South East Asia since the war, two divisions in Burma and one division in north western Thailand, which have been living off the land. It is possible for armies to remain in being in those conditions.
For years now we have been told that the military situation is improving. The generals have guaranteed military success if they can only escalate the war, if they only had more troops. They have had their way. Political sense has given way to military pressure. Our Prime Minister has allied himself with those elements - the hawks - in the Pentagon, in the Republican Party in the House of Representatives of the United States and among some committee chairmen in Congress, who are in favour of this method. I have stated and I reiterate that the Prime Minister embarrassed and committed the United States Government when in Los Angeles he advocated and justified the continuation of the bombing. Since then his public relations officers have briefed people on his behalf that his speech in Los Angeles was prepared and authorised by the military authorities with whom he conferred in Honolulu to say those things. One wonders whether the justification is not more serious than the accusation.
It is a demeaning role for the Prime Minister of Australia to act as a spokesman for the military authorities of any country. In the United States the military authorities do not always share or control the views of the Administration. There is in fact a constant and often fruitful tension between the military and civilian authorities with the President, who is also CommanderinChief, responsible for the final decision. Why should the Prime Minister of Australia take it on himself to throw his weight behind advice which the President is receiving from the military authorities? Congress is then briefed: ‘We cannot let up on the bombing at this stage; we would be letting down the only two allies in the world who have supported us - the King of Thailand and the Prime Minister of Australia’. This is the briefing which Congress has been given by the Administration as a result of the Prime Minister’s intervention in the politics of the United States.
In Washington on the eve of his departure for Great Britain he advised the British what they should do about Vietnam and South East Asia. In other words, before arriving in Britain for discussions he told the British Government what it should do, just as in Los Angeles before arriving in Washington and before he had had any better opportunity than he had in Australia to know what the Administration thought, he advised the American Government. His public ndiscretions on arrival in the United
States and just before his arrival in Britain have undermined and compromised his private discussions.
What should be our objectives in South Vietnam? They must be to create conditions in which democracy can have a chance to work in that country. What relevance has the bombing of North Vietnam to the creation of democracy in South Vietnam? What relevance has the escalation of the war to the creation of democracy in South Vietnam? How would it help to create democracy in South Vietnam or to permit it to survive anywhere in South East Asia if China were to become directly involved in this conflict? The Government has determined to create the illusion that there are only two choices in Vietnam - either military escalation or immediate withdrawal. It falsely claims that there can be only either a military solution to the situation in South Vietnam or a complete dissolution of the allied effort in that country. Thus it ignores the central need to find a political solution and to use whatever influence it has to pursue a political solution through diplomatic means.
The Government has always admitted that our commitment was essentially political in its motives. It admits that a commitment of 6,000 men - about 1% of the total number of foreign troops involved - can only be marginal militarily. The Government’s avowed political objective is to use our present commitment as an insurance premium for future American support. The Labor Party also believes that our commitment has a political significance. We believe that it should be used positively to influence the United States to change the direction of its conduct of the war which it has pursued over the last two and a half years in order to bring about de-escalation, leading to a cessation of hostilities preparatory to a genuine effort to establish democracy in South Vietnam. Such effort will require the co-operation of all the powers involved, particularly the greatest power of them all - the United States itself.
It is not true that it is impossible to create democratic conditions in the face of Communist subversion. Malaysia and Singapore are proofs to the contrary. If any of us had been asked ten years ago which community in South East Asia was likely to go Communist first, we would have said Singapore.
If any of us were asked now which State in South East Asia was least likely to go Communist’ We would say Singapore. The reason is that in Singapore there is a democratic Socialist government. That is, every person in Singapore has a full education, decent housing and meaningful employment. However the fact is that in Singapore before any other State in Asia, except Japan or Israel, the population sees that expectations not only are rising but are being fulfilled. This is the attitude that the Labor Party believes Australia should be helping to promote. Such an attitude has succeeded in Singapore. When Mr Lee Kwan Yew was first elected as Prime Minister of Singapore the Australian Government had very great misgivings and our diplomats in Singapore took their time about paying their courtesy calls. We ought to strive to achieve in Manila. Sourabaya, Djakarta, Bangkok, Rangoon, the great cities of India and in Saigon itself what has already been achieved in Singapore.
Subversion, not aggression, is the great menace in South East Asia. The chances of a Chinese invasion are small indeed. The chances of subversion are great. This should put the developed countries of the world on their mettle i’o compete to show that there is a better alternative to Communism. The continuing war in South Vietnam is turning the United States not towards internationalism but towards a return to isolationism. United States senators have reacted by slashing foreign aid. The United States senators who are opposed to the Vietnam war being escalated are also those who have joined in slashing foreign aid. That is the form of protest that has been adopted by those who oppose escalation of the wa«.
The Australian Government encourages this attitude by its insistence that the only alternatives in Vietnam are total war or total withdrawal. The real alternative we in Australia should be seeking is an armistice, an amnesty and an asylum. The achievement of these objectives will need an American presence - military, economic and political. By persistently and insistently propagating the simple alternative of American withdrawal the Australian Government is in fact making American withdrawal and disillusionment in the next decade or so more likely. 1 conclude by summarising the attitudes that this Government has taken on international a/fairs during its seventeen years of office. Honourable members will recall the Berlin crisis ten or fifteen years ago and the nostrums that were proposed by the former Prime Minister and the then Minister for External Affairs. What in fact did happen? Were their proposals followed by the Western powers or by the Soviet Union? No. The Labor Party advocated that America and the Soviet Union should talk about the matter together at the summit, and they did. They succeeded in resolving the difficulty. No-one now expects that there will be a war in Europe over Berlin.
Next we were confronted with the Suez problem. What was the attitude of honourable members opposite concerning the British aggression on Suez? They supported the aggression and opposed the methods by which a solution was ultimately reached. For the second time the Liberal policies failed. ‘
I again refer to West Irian. For over a decade the Australian Government dug ils heels in on the technicality that t-his was Dutch territory. It did not matter to the Australian Government what happened to the population as long as the Dutch Government agreed to hand it over or the World Court made a decision concerning the tenants there. That was a purely legalistic approach. As a consequence the Government consistently obstructed efforts by Indonesia to have this dealt with in the United Nations, and ultimately Indonesia resorted to direct action and got arms from the Soviet Union. This again was a matter solved in a way which brought no credit to the Australian Government. This was the third occasion on which Liberal foreign policies failed.
The fourth matter I wish to mention concerns the crisis in Sabah and Sarawak during the 1963 and 1964 elections. The situation was brought about because British Conservatives determined to hand over two of their colonies to Malaya. Would anyone say that this arrangement is a permanent or natural solution? All who observe the situation in Sabah and Sarawak now have their misgivings. Australian assistance there amounted to a road - a road built only half way to nowhere.
I have given examples of four great issues which this Government has played up over the last fifteen years - Berlin, Suez, West Irian, Sabah and Sarawak. What success attended any of the Government’s efforts? In the current matters how honest or dependable has the Government been? The Government has at least dropped the pretence that its intervention in South Vietnam is under the SEATO pact. The Minister for External Affairs (Mr Hasluck) did not mention Vietnam in the SEATO context this afternoon, and for a long time the Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt) has not referred to it in this context.
– It is a well established fact.
– Let me recall to the right honourable gentleman the evidence give/i by Secretary Rusk to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in August 1964 prior to the Tonkin Gulf resolution. Mr Rusk said:
We do believe that … the SEATO Treaty is a substantiating basis for our presence there and our effort there, although, however, we are not acting specifically under the SEATO treaty.
The right honourable gentleman’s replies to precise questions on the notice paper have always avoided the issue of whether we are or are not in Vietnam under the SEATO or the ANZUS pact. There is in fact no written agreement in this matter at all. At least the Government is no longer trying, to obscure the situation in that way. Secondly, the Government has now abandoned the myth that our presence in Vietnam is solely or in any way due to a request from the Vietnamese Government. The third matter concerns negotiations. The Government has refused to acknowledge the lack of interest of the allies in negotiations. Above all, Australia herself has opposed negotiations. Fourthly, the Government has reassured us of the soundness of the military strategy, particularly the bombing. The Secretary of the Department of the Army states that the considered view of the Government’s advisers was that the bombing was unlikely to achieve its purposes. For political purposes the Government wilfully says that it will. I have quoted, because it is known, the person in the Defence Department in Australia who has given this view, but the view accords with the view of the corresponding United’ States departments.
Fifthly, the Prime Minister attempted to deceive the Australian public over the British defence decision. He knew eighteen months ago, and the Minister for Defence predicted eight months ago, what would happen. The Prime Minister thought that he could hoodwink the Australian public. He must have known, as we all knew, that the British were going to withdraw.
Finally, the Minister for External Affairs a short while ago claimed that the world did not understand the need for our participation in Vietnam. He has yet to try to rally worldwide support for a campaign to end the war instead of a campaign to justify the war. The simple fact is that Thailand is the only other country in the world which has spoken in support of the bombing of North Vietnam. No other government in the world has done so. In fact, as we all know, a very great number of leaders of other countries have objected to it and have continually expressed their objection. The Minister for External Affairs, commenting on the statements made by U Thant and Pope Paul, said that both have missed the central point of the attempts to terminate the war. He would like the Australian public to believe that the Holt Government is more knowledgable than U Thant and more compassionate than the Pope. Nobody who has met them or the leaders of governments associated with Australia politically and economically, such as the Prime Minister of Canada, could have any doubt as to the intensity of their feeling that Australia could, and should, do something to end this war. Australia is the only self-supporting ally with a significant commitment that the United States has in Vietnam.
The Prime Minister has promoted this course. He has compromised the American Government. His words are used to call off the doves in the United States Congress. He has promoted a course which is militarily and diplomatically a failure, and morally is worse. There is no person, except in the Thai Government or in the Australian Government - there are some in the United States Administration - who believes that this course is proper or successful. Australia could have more influence than any other country in correcting the present course, reversing this trend and bringing about the armistice, the amnesty and the asylum which are required for the people of South Vietnam.
– The Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) started on an agreeable note, but I suspect that there was a strong odour of camphor about his agreeableness, because he shed it before too much time had elapsed. Those listening to the honourable gentleman should bear in mind one dominant fact. lt is this: There is no person in this country who has the same gift for seeking to convert a heresy into a truth and a superstition into a dogma as has the Leader of the Opposition. It would be difficult indeed, certainly in the ten or twelve minutes that remain before the suspension for dinner - and I can assure honourable members that we will eat at 6 p.m. - to pin down all these translations of heresies into truths and superstitions into dogma. So I content myself with culling out one or two of the more conspicuous of the honourable gentleman’s attempts.
What an extraordinary speech we heard from the honourable gentleman this afternoon. If the honourable members closed their eyes and ignored the honourable gentleman’s position here they could well have reached the conclusion that here was a person suffering from an acute form of Bonapartism. He said, remember: T have spoken to these people. I discussed privately with more than half of the United States Senate. I told’ - we got this by inference - His Holiness the Pope this and U Thant that’. The honourable gentleman has a massive sense of modesty. Why does he not fry on some occasions to conceal it? He began his speech by an attack on the Prime Minister and said what I thought was a curious thing. He said that we should welcome the British decision to withdraw from Asia. The simple truth about the result to us of the British decision to withdraw east of Suez is this, both in the short term and the long term: The people of this country will have to pick up a larger bill for defence. Does the honourable gentleman seriously advocate, and will his Party, in its turn, advocate, throughout the country, that we should pick up and be cheerful about a larger bill for defence? Then he followed hot on the heels of that by saying that it is a delusion that Australia’s security depends upon Western forces in Asia and has done for the last twenty years. I hope the honourable gentleman will not take offence if I regard the American presence there as Western, at least largely Anglo-
Saxon, in origin. Acknowledging that fact, is the honourable gentleman seriously putting forward this proposition: If the Americans, the British or the Australians had not been in various parts of Asia during the last twenty years this country’s security would be strengthened? I never heard such humbug in all my life.
The honourable gentleman referred to the history of Malaysia. If 1 were the Leader of the Australian Labor Party I would hesitate to invoke the history of Malaysia. The President of the honourable gentleman’s own party has gone on record as saying: ‘No decent Malayan wants our troops in Malaya, and we should bring them home”. That was the attitude of the honourable gentleman’s Party during the time of the Malayan insurrection. The honourable gentleman said that there was no clear cut treaty on Malaya. I take it from that that one must conclude that unless one has something spelt out’ in the plainest possible terms there is no obligation upon one to give any form of assistance. I suspect that the whole of social life would be brought to a halt if one were to say: Before I do anything I want to see this in black and white*. I ask the honourable gentleman to put forward an authority for the proposition that before giving assistance to any country you need to have a treaty in force.
– Well, what is the position?
– Let me say this to the honourable gentleman who interjects: When I was in the bush and had to get tucker by means of a gun 1 never wasted shot on grass birds or peewees. I always kept it for the big black duck. I am shooting now at the big black duck. The Leader of the Opposition said that none of us should be prepared to give a blank cheque. As far as the Labor Party is concerned it is not a case of its giving a blank cheque; the Labor Party is not even prepared to acknowledge its own signature.
The honourable gentleman warmed up, as all men of destiny, to his task, and said, in dulcet tones: ‘My Party’s policy is open to the broad light of day. The Liberal Party’s policy is not.’ I do not know. I have been going to Liberal Party conferences for a long time - some people say for too long, but I do not agree. I have been in Parliament for a great number of years. The distinctive feature of a Liberal Party conference, above all other things, is that it, in contrast with the Australian Labor Party, makes no attempt at all to direct the Liberal Party’s members of Parliament. The 36 faceless men of the Labor Party have been converted, by some strange twist of Euclidean mathematics, by adding 1 1 to make them 47, into a now respectable body. Those 47 people are the governing body of the Australian Labor Party. If in future the Australian Labor Party came into office this Parliament would perforce be bound by the decision of the 47 members of the Labor Party’s Federal Conference. I have counted a lot of sheep in my time. Forty-seven still seems to me to be an odd number. I do not think that by adding 11 to 36 you confer upon that body any respectability that it may not have had before.
This singular fact remains and I hope that people outside this Parliament will not lose sight of it: The forty-seven members of the Federal Conference of the Australian Labor Party make up the supreme governing body of that Party and every member of it must bow to their authority. But the Leader of the Opposition was going along to Adelaide to change all this. There is no doubt about that. He has drawn on some historical analogies this afternoon and possibly he will not be too offended if I say that he reminds me strongly of Prince Rupert: His charges are glittering, dashing affairs, but when he returns to his camp he always finds it in the hands of the enemy. The situation has not changed one little bit. The honourable gentleman went off to Adelaide determined to convert the thirty-six faceless men into some acute state of sanctity. He failed and now he has fortyseven of them. But, mark you, he is still governed by them all.
What were the decisions of the recent Federal Conference of the Labor Party? I shall take just one of them. First of all, as the honourable gentleman said this afternoon, it was decided that the bombing of North Vietnam must stop. May I ask him: If he were an Australian serviceman serving in Vietnam, recognising and accepting the fact that all of the supplies provided for the Vietcong - the enemy - came from North Vietnam, would be, as a matter of deliberate choice, say: ‘No, do not bomb them. Give these people an opportunity to bring in their supplies unhampered and unhindered’? That would be a very strange attitude for him to take and I am quite sure that in his heart of hearts he does not mean that. Let us consider what happened during the truce in Vietnam on the occasion of the last lunar new year. In the first thirty hours of that truce, more than 900 vessels moved from the nineteenth parallel of latitude to the seventeenth parallel taking supplies to the Vietcong. Yet the honourable gentleman, on behalf of his Party, says: If we stop the bombing, all will be well’. I would say that if anything in the conduct of the war in South Vietnam has corroded the strength of will mere it is the inconclusiveness of the conflict. Until such time as the world is resolved to say to tyrants, no matter in what form they appear, that their stock in trade will not be tolerated, we shall find recurrences of aggression here and there. The Leader of the Opposition referred to Berlin. I would have thought that it was simply because there was a deliberate display of courage by those concerned in the Berlin situation that the Communists - the Russians - withdrew.
Nobody wants to see the conflict in South Vietnam go on, Sir. This afternoon, the Leader of the Opposition has not put forward something thai’ we can identify. He has put forward nothing. He has made no concrete suggestion for ending the conflict in South Vietnam. I ask him, as a simple exercise in intellect, to look at all the efforts to secure peace in South Vietnam that have been made by his friend, U Thant, by. his friend, His Holiness the Pope, and by many other people in high places all over the world who are representatives of powerful nations. Every effort to secure peace in South Vietnam has been rebuffed. It is not for the want of trying to achieve peace that the war goes on. No honourable member on this side of the House can yield or should yield to any person on the Opposition side in the wish to see and the hope of seeing the end of the conflict in South Vietnam. I certainly do not do so and I would be surprised if any of my colleagues who sit around me were to take a position different from mine. 1 said that I would finish at 6 o’clock, Sir, and I shall. I come back to this one point I believe is the starkest of points in the whole of our consideration of this issue: If we tell those who seek to destroy people who believe in liberty that they may subvert our liberty and deprive us of it by whatever brutal attack they wish to make but we shall not care or be greatly interested, the consequences will be disastrous. If that is to be the attitude, it will be only a matter of time until Australia is poised on the brink of disaster, faced with the direst of dangers. This country then will have to face up to the realisation that because in the past people were content to succumb and say that they did not care very much about their liberties, we shall have to defend our own liberties, and defend them on our own land. Because of these considerations, 1 believe that the Government’s policy is completely correct and is supported by the majority of the Australian people.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
- Mr Speaker, this evening’s debate on external affairs takes place at a very important time, because the Minister for External Affairs (Mr Hasluck), the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam), and other speakers have rightly pointed out that Britain’s recent announcement of her intention to withdraw in a military sense from South East Asia by the middle of the 1970s ushers in a completely new phase in Australia’s foreign relations. I feel it is fair to say that this is part of a continuing process since 1947, a process which has applied not only to Britain but also to other colonial powers, most of which have already withdrawn. One can think of France, Holland, in no small measure Portugal, and America, Britain being one of the last, if not the last. Now we are faced with a challenge to order our own affairs in such a way that we may properly provide for the security of Australia and this region in which we live. We are fortunate to have approximately 8 years advance warning from this point in time before this withdrawal will actually take place.
It is the British intention to maintain a capacity to assist in this region, but Britain obviously believes - and I feel that the British argument has much to commend it - that the defence of this region should remain basically the responsibility of the nations in the area itself. In other words, this is an area mostly of nations bich up to the end of the Second World War were colonies of great European powers. They have now come to independence and they are very proud of their independence, and it is up to them, having attained a constitutional independence, to take the whole situation a further step by properly providing for their own defence.
There is a challenge for Australia in the British withdrawal just as there is a challenge in Britain’s intention to go into the European Common Market, and it is the responsibility of this Government and the Labor Opposition to evolve policies which will enhance and maintain the security of Australia in the years ahead. Having said that, 1 think that we ought to agree honestly that there are many defects in our existing treaty arrangements. The Labor Party has always been critical of the South East Asia Treaty Organisation, recognising that it was a pact which depended very much for its teeth on great powers living outside the area and not necessarily permanently involved in the area. The difference between the attitude of the Australian Labor Party and that of the Government is that we see the future of this area as being tied up more and more with the nations of the area making their own contribution.
Security, of course, does not hinge on military factors alone. I am not suggesting that one can do without them but on the other hand the history of Malaysia with the long period of insurgency in that country indicates that the political events themselves, with the actual giving of independence to Malaya in 1958, were a substantial factor in bringing the insurgency to a close. So the real independence, the real security of these countries depends on political factors as well as military factors and Australia needs to assist all of these things by making a greater contribution. I feel that there are some people in the Australian community - indeed many of them - who talk and act as if Britain had an obligation to protect us and our neighbours irrespective of the degree of sacrifice that we are prepared to make ourselves. I have no doubt - I do not think that any member of the House will have a doubt - that should Australia be threatened at some time in the future the British will be prepared to come to Australia’s aid, as we were prepared to go to the aid of Great Britain in the two world wars. The Labor Party sees Australia’s future role as having stronger and more flexible defence forces, capable of operating in conjunction with the other nations of the region and not as dependent upon the involvement of great powers from outside this region as we are today.
We feel that in many of these factors Canada has shown the way. Canada has been prepared to play a role in supporting the United Nations by having a force of up to 10,000 troops available speedily to go anywhere in the world on demand, and Canada has been prepared to play a role on international control commissions and the like, which is a very commendable role to be played in the world. I know, Mr Speaker, that it can well be argued that Canada conies under the nuclear umbrella of the United States and is protected by its proximity to that great nation in a sense that we are not protected. On the other hand, in the event of a nuclear holocaust Canada’s very proximity to the United States would be a factor imperilling its safety, which does not apply to Australia. So there are two sides to the argument. The, Labor Party’s point of view is that our future is tied up with regional defence arrangements operating through and in conjunction with the United Nations.
Mention of the United Nations now brings me to the second area that I wish to cover very briefly, and that is the involvement of the United Nations in the recent crisis in the Middle East. This crisis was a useful reminder to us and to all of the other peoples of the world of the capacity and ability of the United Nations and also, I think, its limitations. We were taught again a lesson we had learned before that the Security Council can operate effectively only when there is unanimity and unity of action among the great powers. Indeed, one of the weaknesses of the United Nations system is that it presumes that the great nations, the victor nations of the Second World War, would carry into the peace that unity which they maintained during the war. Now that the history books of that era have been published in the main we know how tenuous and how strained the unity was at various times during the war, and this factor has continued into the peace.
The Labor Party sees Australia as playing a greater role in support of the United Nations because obviously - and the Middle East crisis underlines this situation again - there are limitations to the field within which the great powers can operate. Unless the great powers have unity among themselves it may well be that they can take no action and the lesser nations of the United Nations will operate through the uniting for peace resolution. In this regard Australia must also be prepared to play a role and it is Labor’s policy that Australian forces should be available for peace-keeping operations in the areas of responsibility as outlined by the United Nations and decided by that body. It is our belief, then, that our future defence policies will have to take into account this increased degree of flexibility, a degree of flexibility that the British have already outlined as being their policy in the years ahead.
I now turn to the question of Vietnam. In that country war has continued for over twenty years and has been the subject of innumerable and interminable debates in this House and elsewhere throughout the world. I do not think that there is any honourable member who has not a pretty fair idea of the complications of this war and the many sided issue that it really is. Unfortunately we all have tended, I suppose, to simplify the war in accordance with our own ideological attitude from time to time, but it is a fact that there is no apparent end in sight and that the process of escalation which has been operating now for the last several years continues with the increased bombing of North Vietnam and with the increased troop build-up of both sides in South Vietnam.
No-one can be happy about the present situation, not only because of what it is today, with numbers of Australian troops committed in this area and laying down their lives, but also for what it means for the future if the process of escalation continues. The Labor Party differs from the Government and from the Government of the United States in that we believe the time has come to make a gesture towards negotiation, and that gesture should be the discontinuation of the bombing of North Vietnam. There is always the danger in a war, of course, that when nations have committed their troops and their prestige they are reluctant to unbend because this might be regarded as a sign of weakness. But we on this side of the Parliament believe that if the United States were to agree to a suspension of the bombing of North Vietnam at this time, taking into account the things that have been said over a long period of time by the Government of North Vietnam, the United States would be making a gesture not of weakness but of strength. lt may well be said that a suspension of bombing now would provide an opportunity, as did earlier truces, for the North Vietnamese to reinforce their troops and consolidate their positions. But the fact is that the suggestion that bombing be suspended is not just a message from President Ho Chi Minh to the President of the United States; it has been conveyed through the Soviet Union, through discussions with the Government of Great Britain, through Poland, through France and in many other ways. Surely some means could be evolved whereby the Australian Government could make the suggestion and the United States could make a ‘gesture that might provide the starting point for negotiations. I do not think that any member of this House would claim that the problems of Vietnam will be settled by military means alone. At some time in the future they must be settled by some form of negotiation, some form of amnesty, some form of international guarantee.
If a decision is to be made to suspend bombing regard must be had to the fact that North Vietnamese troops are already committed in South Vietnam. I think there are some 50,000 of these and they would need food and other supplies and medical materials. Some provision could surely be made to maintain these troops during the period when negotiations were being conducted. I know it is a complicated situation. Nobody suggests that the solution is easy. But the sooner the road towards negotiation is explored - and it must be explored again and again if need be - then the sooner these negotiations will take place.
I know that it can be well argued as it has been argued before - we have heard the argument here today - that the United States has indicated time and again that it is prepared to cease the bombing if the other side will make a gesture first.
– Not first.
– Well, in conjunction. This is no doubt true. For my part, I have no doubt that the United States would like to see peace in Vietnam just as we would al! like to see peace in Vietnam. But the Government of the United States, like the Government of this country, has tied itself to the concept that the war in Vietnam consists almost entirely of aggression from the north. It is seen as a manifestation of the hand of Peking stretching down throughout South East Asia. There can be no solution to this war in Vietnam that does not take into account the nationalism and the aspirations to independence of the peoples of both sides in Vietnam. It may well be that negotiations will eventually result in the two countries, the North and the South, being unaligned and under some form of international guarantee. Certainly these are the fields that the various nations of the world ought to be exploring instead of escalating the war in Vietnam.
The Labor point of view is simply this: We believe that from its position of strength the United States, this enormous military machine, the greatest military machine the world has seen, with the capacity to drop as many bombs on a small country like North Vietnam as were dropped in many years in the Second World War over all of Europe, could make the real gesture of strength of suspending the bombing of North Vietnam in an endeavour to get a conference under way and get the dissident parties back to the negotiating table.
Of course the point has also been made that there is a decided shortage of targets in Vietnam. We are approaching again the danger area. Bombing is taking place ever closer to the Chinese border. We know the difficulties of China today. We know the truculent attitude of its Government. We know the areas of sensitivity within which it operates. We also know the history of the war in Korea, and in bombing closer and closer to the Chinese border we may well be placing ourselves in a situation in which a pilot will make a mistake. Because of bad weather or defective instruments a bombing raid may take place on Chinese territory and wc will have a far more serious situation on our hands than the present one, involving all the people of South East Asia.
This is the alternative: escalation or negotiation, and neither is an easy road to travel. But the Labor Party believes that from its position of strength our great ally, the United States, should at this point of time make this gesture. The argument is advanced that American troops are laying down their liv;s in Vietnam, and it could be rightly pointed out that Australian troops also are doing so. But this gesture should be made for the sake of the untold numbers of lives that could be saved if peace were achieved in Vietnam.
This brings me to the fourth matter on which I wished to touch briefly; that is the question of China itself. I would like to emphasise, as has been emphasised by speakers on this side of the House from time to time when discussions on these subjects have taken place, that there is no permanent and long term solution to the problems of this part of the world that does not take into account the eventual recognition of China as a great power in east Asia. The Labor Party does not believe that China or any other power should of itself be able to embark upon military ventures in this area or any other area. But we do believe that Australia ought to be looking clearly at the facts of foreign policy as they exist today. For so much of her long history China has been on her knees, under the Manchus and in the regime of Sun Yat Sen, but since that latter time China has been rising towards the position of the great power of East Asia that it traditionally occupied in the past and will occupy in the future. There is no lasting solution to these problems because we all recognise that China is tied up with them - although perhaps not in the sense that the Government suggests at election time. The fact is simply that China is there and we cannot ignore it. Guide lines for the future should be laid down, and again the Labor Party believes that Australia should be playing a more independent role in the United Nations and in the councils of the world than it has done in the past.
On the question of United Nations membership for China Australia ought to have a more clearly defined position than it has at the moment, or certainly a different position. I see nothing wrong with the policy of two Chinas. We know it is not at present acceptable to China, but we ought to be able to say to the Government and the people of China that we want them in the United Nations eventually, that it is not Australia’s attitude that they should be excluded for all time. Once the nations of the world agree that they want China in the United Nations I feel that the first step may well have been taken towards negotiating out some of the difficulties of the present situation. It is one of the ironies of the present situation that the China which is now confined to Formosa was negotiated into the Security Council by the United States itself because Britain wanted to bring France in and the Americans, believing that France would align itself with Britain in the Security Council, wanted to bring in its Chinese friends, as they were then, as a balancing factor. In this we see one of the lessons of history.
There is no solution to the problems of Asia that does not take into account the position of China, and we ought to lay down our guide lines towards the admission of China to the United Nations in a way that we have not done previously. We all recognise the fact that there are great problems in China today that are not well understood. I thought the Minister for External Affairs handled the situation very cleverly in his speech when he said that this is not the time to spell out these problems, or something to that effect. As I heard him say it I could not help thinking that I would not like the task of spelling out what these problems are either. It may be that many of the problems the Chinese have, apart from ideological ones, are problems of a great nation turned in towards itself and not being able to play its proper role in the world. I say again that these are the sorts of things we ought to keep in mind when our foreign policies are being developed. I do not propose to delay the House to any great extent tonight. The Labor Party has recently carried out a review of foreign policy and some comments have been made from the Government side.
– -Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– This debate was initiated by the Minister for External Affairs (Mr Hasluck) who, I think it will be agreed by all sections of the House, gave to this chamber one of the most thoughtful, informative, articulate and valuable statements on the foreign affairs of this country that has ever been presented to the chamber. It is to me deplorable that it was followed by such an incredible speech from the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam). I use the term ‘incredible’ in two senses. It was incredible in the sense that anybody who had any knowledge of the facts about which the Leader of the Opposition spoke could place no validity on the comments which he made in relation to those facts. It was also incredible in the sense that a man holding himself out to be the leader of an alternative government should have such a disregard for the facts and make such reckless and loose use of them as he did during the debate. I shall give some instances of that as I proceed.
The Leader of the Opposition has put to the House what purports to be the views of the Australian Labor Party on a variety of important issues. I say ‘purports’ because nobody in this country can be sure of the views of the Australian Labor Party, taken as a whole. I shall deal with that, too, in a little more detail as I go along. He holds himself and his colleagues out as the source of an alternative government for this country.
There is, of course, a very direct link between the welfare, security and economic progress of a nation and the Government that leads it. So it becomes an obligation of citizenship in a democratic society to examine closely the policies offered by those who aspire to national leadership. And there is an obligation on the part of the public and of the Press of Australia to bring the same strong searchlight of scrutiny to the policies of the Australian Labor Party which they direct so penetratingly and persistently to the policies of the present Government.
I stress that because there has been for so long a disposition on the part of some sections of the Press and some members of the public to say: ‘There is no effective Opposition, so we are the Opposition.’ If they are going to alter that role and look to honourable members opposite led by the present Leader of the Opposition as an alternative government, then they have a responsibility to probe as closely as they would the policies of this Government what is put forward by honourable gentlemen opposite.
It is not easy to pin down in any precise form the policies offered by the Australian Labor Party under its present leadership, either on foreign affairs or on domestic affairs. In this respect, the Leader of the Opposition has already revealed himself as something of a political chameleon. At times, we find him assuming the guise of a Christian crusader charging down against the infidels of the Victorian executive of the Australian Labor Party. But when he speaks to an audience consisting predominantly of Liberal sympathisers, as when he talked to the Junior Chamber of Commerce in Victoria the other day, we find him uttering honeyed words about the Socialist objective, an objective, incidentally, to the implementation of which he has pledged himself.
– I rise to order. This is a discussion of a statement delivered by the Minister for External Affairs. When discussing a previous statement made by the Minister for External Affairs I was called to order by the Chair for not speaking to the statement. My point now is that on this occasion the Prime Minister is not speaking to the statement delivered by the Minister for External Affairs.
-Order! There is no substance in the point raised by the honourable member.
– I can understand the concern of honourable gentlemen opposite at any analysis which challenges the credibility of their spokesman. But, Sir, this is tremendously relevant ito the policies of an alternative government in Australia. Unless there can be faith and trust in the policies of those who offer themselves as an alternative government, then the country is put at peril if those people take over the Government of the country. I want to question tonight whether honourable gentleman opposite have a valid claim to govern this country.
I repeat that the Leader of the Opposition is committed to the implementation of this policy. But at times he is to be found tilting, like Don Quixote against imaginary Liberal windmills. I can quote instance after instance of that. Many of them occurred during the recent Corio campaign. On that occasion he alleged that I had made some sort of deal with the former member for Corio (Mr Opperman) before the last general election. That was a completely false allegation which I shall deal with in more detail later. He also made the false allegation that by advocating a continuance of the bombing of North Vietnam I was seriously embarrassing the American Administration. Then he made the completely false allegation that I had openly advocated an extension of the formal hours of working in Australia. Not only was that allegation made by the Leader of the Opposition but it was repeated by the newly elected member for Corio (Mr Scholes). Yet he quoted from a Press release of mine that clearly indicated that I had specifically said in answer to a question on this matter that I was not advocating a longer working week in that sense.
As I have said, these are just imaginary Liberal windmills that the honourable gentleman has created for himself. But then, after emerging from the throes of his Federal Executive discussions, he publicly expounds, admittedly not very enthusiastically, policy decisions that have taken him significant strides leftwards. He is not so much a man for all seasons as a man for all policies. The essence of his approach is: If you want it I have got it. What the honourable gentleman will discover as he proceeds in this course of leadership is that what he has said on earlier occasions will come up to haunt him in the statements which he will be making thereafter.
Some of these allegations I shall document as I proceed. I apologise in advance to the House for having to quote so extensively in what remains for me to say. But when you have loose and reckless assertions I believe the most effective answer is a carefully documented reply on the facts as they can be presented.
Let me return now to one or two of the matters to which 1 have referred. I spoke of his attack on the Victorian Executive. This is significant because of the bearing it has on the foreign policies which were subsequently produced. Speaking to the Victorian Labor Party conference on 9th June, the Leader of the Opposition said:
The Victorian Executive included an influential handful of men who had flouted ALP policy on unity tickets, organised or led political strikes in defiance of the ACTU, disregarded and repudiated party and ACTU policy on the manning of ships to Vietnam-
– I rise to a point of order.
– I rise to a point of order.
– Cannot honourable members opposite take it? We gave the Leader of the Opposition unlimited time.
-Order! The House will come to order. The honourable member for Oxley has taken a point of order.
– Mr Speaker, I direct attention to the inconsistency with which the rules of the House are being applied.
-Order! The honourable member will withdraw that remark. He is reflecting on the Chair.
– 1 too rise to a point of order. The matter before the House is the statement that was made by the Minister for External Affairs. The Prime Minister is not discussing that statement.
-Order! There is no substance in the point of order. The honourable member will resume his seat.
– Mr Speaker, I take a point of order. At an earlier hour the Leader of the House moved that standing orders be suspended so that the Prime Minister could speak without limitation of time on the subject before the House. As a matter of courtesy, no opposition came from this side of the House.
-Order! The honourable member for Wills cannot debate the matter. What is the point of order?
– My point of order is that the Prime Minister is trespassing upon the decision of the House.
-Order! The point of order is without substance
– This has a wide bearing on the foreign policy decisions which emerged from the Labor Party’s Federal Conference in Adelaide. The comments of the Leader of the Opposition from which I am quoting go on to show that these men whom he now condemns could be in a position to exercise influence on the policies of the Australian Labor Party at the forthcoming conference. Let me proceed with the quotation:
It is disgraceful that these men should be on the ALP Executive which can appear to influence Federal policies and selections.
He is quite right. He continued:
I will exercise my right to repudiate such men as I believe disloyal to the ALP, disruptive of its electoral prospects and destructive of all the ALP stands for.
As I shall show in greater elaboration later this has considerable relevance to what emerged in Adelaide. Mr W. Brown, the State President of the Australian Labor Party, commenting on the Conference, is reported as follows:
The Labor Party throughout Australia was moving further to the Left, the State ALP president Mr W. Brown, said yesterday.
This had been shown at the party’s Federal Conference in Adelaide two weeks ago.
The trend at the Federal Conference was Leftwards,’ Mr Brown said.
Mr Brown was speaking on the 3K.Z Labor Hour.
He said the conference had ‘strengthened’ policy on the Vietnam war.
It attached a meaningful set of objectives to what basically was and remains a ‘troops out’ policy,’ he said.
Possibly we could say now that it is a policy of “troops out unless”.’
– I rise to a point of order, Mr Speaker. What has the ALP Federal Conference got to do with the statement made by the Minister for External Affairs?
-Order! Honourable members will cease interjecting. The House will come to order.
– Mr Speaker, I respect the Chair. I respectfully point out to you that we are discussing the statement made this afternoon by the Minister for External Affairs, not’ the ALP Federal Conference and not what Mr Brown or anybody else has said.
-Order! There is no substance in the point of order.
– We were discussing the statement made by the Minister for External Affairs.
-Order! The honourable member will resume his seat. There is no substance in his point of order. It has always been the practice of the House to acknowledge that foreign affairs statements have a broad base. The policies that are now being referred to are related to the foreign affairs policies of members of this Parliament.
– May I point out to the honourable gentleman, if the fact has escaped his attention, that the foreign policy that he will be required to advance publicly if he is not to forfeit his preselection at the next election is the foreign policy that was worked out at the Adelaide Conference at which those condemned by the Leader of the Opposition were present and in which they participated. I do not need to rely on authorities from this side of the House as to what occurred and the significance of the policies declared there. The honourable member for Yarra (Dr J. F. Cairns) himself has been vocal on this matter, as I hope I will be able to show shortly.
The former Leader of the Australian Labor Party, the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr Calwell), at least had this virtue in our eyes: However much we disagreed with him, we knew where he stood and what he stood for and we could challenge fairly and honestly the views that he put to us. In an article in the Melbourne Herald’ on 8th August of this year which he headed ‘My stand on Vietnam vindicated’, the former Leader of the Opposition said:
Decisions on Vietnam at the AI.P Federal conference in Adelaide show there has been no weakening of Labor opposition to the continuation of the war and Australia’s part in it.
I will not read the whole article but it is available if anybody wishes to read it. He went on to say:
The conference refused to be stampeded by all sorts of people-
No doubt, including the present Leader of the Opposition: and influences, and the policy in all its essentials is the same as it was in November last, and as it will be when the 1969 election is held.
I feel that my stand before the last election and since has been vindicated.
If I may bring the honourable member for Yarra in as further support for my comment, I take the Australian Broadcasting Commission’s news bulletin of Monday, 7th August, which reported an Hiroshima Day rally held in Melbourne under the auspices of the Association for International Cooperation and Disarmament at the Princess
Theatre. I quote directly from the ABC news bulletin. It reads:
Dr Cairns told the rally that unless the United States stopped the bombing of North Vietnam and recognised the National Liberation Front, a Labor Government would have no alternative to withdrawing Australian armed forces. Dr Cairns said the ALP now had a precise policy on Vietnam which condemned and opposed the war. He said it did not matter what the ALP leader, Mr Whitlam, or the Deputy Leader, Mr Barnard, said on Vietnam. It was the Federal Conference which had decided the policy.
So, we have Mr Brown saying that they have been taken to the left and we have Dr Cairns, the honourable member for Yarra, saying: ‘lt does not matter what interpretation the Leader of the Opposition or the Deputy Leader of the Opposition puts on it.’ We have the precise policy now which the former Leader of the Opposition says was fully in line with the policy he advocated at the last election and which will be the policy of the Australian Labor Party at the election in 1969. I believe that these matters are relevant.
– Was that a newspaper comment?
– The Prime Minister was not very happy about a newspaper comment this morning.
– Which one was that?
– During question time I asked the Prime Minister a question about his comment in an interview with him at London Airport.
– The honourable member for Yarra will be speaking in this debate. If the honourable member for Yarra tells the House that he was misreported by the Australian Broadcasting Commission
– Which he will do.
– We will be glad to hear it.
– It was not repeated in later news items.
– I do not wonder.
– It was not repeated because the ABC checked with the honourable member for Yarra.
– Mr Speaker, I claim that I have been misrepresented.
– Order! The honourable member will resume his seat.
– You are spoiling Harold’s speech.
– It is not spoiling it for me. Let me turn now to one or two other statements made by the Leader of the Opposition and 1 do not think an attempt will be made to interrupt my remarks now, because these statements to which I will refer were made in the course of the honourable gentleman’s speech this afternoon. I quote first from a report which appeared in the Melbourne ‘Sun’ at the time of the Corio by-election. Under the headline ‘PM embarrassed U.S. says Mr Whitlam’ the following statement appeared:
The Prime Minister, Mr Holt, had embarrassed the U.S. Administration by his recent support for the bombing of North Vietnam . . .
Mr Whitlam claimed the bombing had to go on for ‘a bit longer’ because it had been supported by Mr Holt and the King of Thailand.
That, surely, is one of the most audacious and fantastic propositions ever advanced by a political leader in this country. What the Leader of the Opposition is saying in effect is that the President of the United States, in order to humour me and the King of Thailand and not embarrass us, would sacrifice American lives and aircraft. This is the purport of what he has not only seriously and solemnly put in the heat of a by-election but has repeated here in a considered speech in this House. He aggravated the offence by saying that I constituted myself as the spokesman for Admiral Sharp. It is true that as I passed through Honolulu 1 had a very thorough briefing, as did others in the official party, with Admiral Sharp and senior colleagues of the Pacific Command. They were quite convinced in their minds of the effectiveness of the bombing. They were convinced also that any lull in the bombing merely presented the North Vietnamese with an opportunity to build up rapidly supplies which could be used against American, Vietnamese, Australian and other allied troops in South Vietnam.
In Honolulu I saw films taken over one North Vietnamese port. In the film taken on the day before the lull in the bombing there was scarcely a ship to be seen in the port but on the day afterwards the port was seen to be crowded with shipping of one kind or another, rushing in to take advantage of the lull. Every time there has been a lull in the bombing that is what has happened. This fact has been made public repeatedly but this does not prevent honourable gentlemen opposite from urging that the bombing be stopped, notwithstanding the cost in lives, as well as in terms of security, to the American, Vietnamese, Australian and other allied forces in South Vietnam.
When I spoke in Los Angeles it was not merely with the knowledge of views or facts presented to me in Honolulu by Admiral Sharp and his colleagues. This Government is in virtually daily contact with the American Administration. We know its views intimately, as it knows ours. I knew with complete confidence that the views which I expressed in Los Angeles would certainly not be unpalatable views to the United Slates Administration. I do not have to go into confidential discussions, as the honourable gentleman sought to do this afternoon, in order to prove my point. I make that assertion and I do not purport to quote anybody in relation to it.
T will summarise the reasons for a continuation of the bombing, as I stated them in Los Angeles: It has consistently been the view of the Australian Government that North Vietnam must not be permitted to remain a haven immune from military risk from which military aggression against the south can be mounted with impunity. The case for controlled bombing is strong and the bombing has been conducted with great care and precision. The principal reasons are that the bombing upsets the flow of men and materials to the fighting zones; it damages the transport systems through which that flow goes forward; it helps to destroy the enemy’s base areas, thereby weakening his capacity to fight and so saving the lives of allied fighting men; it ties up hundreds of thousands of the North Vietnamese work force in repair and reconstruction; it demonstrates to the fighting forces of South Vietnam that America and her allies are giving them full support; it demonstrates to the people of South Vietnam as a whole that we do not expect them to suffer and to fight the aggressor only where he chooses to fight; and it has the political and psychological effect of reminding the North Vietnamese that they cannot hope to win this conflict.
The United Stales Government has not accepted arguments in favour of cessation of the bombing. Indeed, if anything, in recent times it has increased the tempo and the scale of bombing. The Australian Government has not accepted the arguments against the bombing. I make the reasons for that abundantly plain here tonight.
The next matter which the Leader of the Opposition chose to throw at me was what had developed in respect of the British position east of Suez and in particular in the Malaysia-Singapore area. He said that we should have known for the best part of the last two years that the United Kingdom intended to withdraw in the SingaporeMalaysia area. Do I quote the honourable gentleman correctly?
– The honourable gentleman says that we should have known. In other words, as I will demonstrate, he is saying that I should have placed no reliance whatever on the firm, publicly stated assurances of a British Labor Government. I will quote the assurances - not private assurances or anything of that sort, but publicly stated assurances by spokesmen for the British Government in the relevant period. I do not do this in any spirit of recrimination. I have reason to believe that there has been an appreciation in the United Kingdom of the temperate way in which I have addressed myself to this matter in this country. I say that not inadvisedly. But when I am taunted by the Leader of the Opposition that we should have known what the British were going to do, I say: ‘Here is the record on this matter. What would he, as head of a Labor Government in this country, have felt about assurances given to him by the head of a Labor Government in the United Kingdom, and chief spokesman for that Government?’
I cite first the defence review made by the United Kingdom Minister for Defence, Mr Healey, in the House of Commons in February 1966. He said:
It is in the Far East and Southern Asia that the greatest danger to peace may lie in the next decade and some of our partners in the Commonwealth may be directly threatened. We believe it is right that Britain should maintain a military presence in this area. Its effectiveness will turn largely on the arrangements we can make with our Commonwealth partners and other allies in the coming years.
I hasten to add that there has been no factor of that kind which has led to the ultimate decision. I have never heard it suggested by any spokesman for the British Government that its decision has related to any failure on the part of ourselves or any of the other countries in the region. Mr Healey continued:
As soon as conditions permit we shall make some reductions in the forces which we keep in the area. We have important military facilities in Malaysia and Singapore as have our Australian and New Zealand partners. These we plan to retain for as long as the Governments of Malaysia and Singapore agree that we should do so on acceptable conditions.
Nobody has imposed unacceptable conditions. The review continued:
Against the day when it may no longer be possible fur us to use these facilities freely, we have begun to discuss with the Government of Australia, the practical possibilities of our having military facilities in that country if necessary.
Anyone who was party to the discussions knows that what the United Kingdom meant by the expression ‘against the day when it may no longer be possible’ was some action on the part of one or other of the countries in the area which would make it impracticable for the United Kingdom to continue to use the facilities in Malaysia and Singapore.
I pass over the statements made by Mr Healey in Canberra in that year and turn to Mr Wilson’s speech to the British Parliamentary Labor Party in London on 15th June 1966. He said:
Our policy is based on full support for the United Nations, not just with words but with the ability to be able to act for and with the United Nations.
What we have to ask is whether it is or should be the policy of this Party to pull out of all influence in Asia except the very limited influence we shall be able to exert in United Nations debates, telling other people what they ought to do. If this is the policy the result will be our inability to intervene whether in a United Nations or Commonwealth context to stop a small conflagration becoming a big one.
It will mean this as well, that you will be leaving Asia to three main powers, China, the United States and the Soviet Union with a small peripheral influence exerted by Australia and New Zealand, but Japan coming up fast on the rails.
It is really said that we have nothing to contribute except speeches that no-one will listen to. I believe that Britain through . history, through geography and Commonwealth connections has a vital contribution to make - I believe a Socialist Britain has even more.
Perhaps there are some members who would like to contract out and leave it to the Americans and Chinese eyeball to eyeball to face this thing out. The world is too small for that kind of attitude today. It is the surest prescription for a nuclear holocaust I .could think of.
Do we want to force countries like India to choose between the power blocs? Or go nuclear herself? Our presence in Asia gives us a chance to prevent polarisation. Do we really believe the only way to world peace is world polarisation?
I believe Britain has a role, and not at prohibitive cost, in preventing polarisation. We have a role in influencing America.
My final quotation is from the last statement made before the announcement of withdrawal, and that is in the Defence White Paper of February of this year. Mr Healey said:
We are continuing to study the scope that exists for reducing our foreign exchange expenditure throughout the world always with a proper regard to the interests of our allies and our ability to meet our commitments . . . there is much to learn from the arduous three years’ campaign against confrontation … it was a fine example of what British forces can do outside Europe to maintain international stability. Without their contribution to the Commonwealth effort much of South East Asia might have collapsed into disorder perhaps inviting competitive intervention by other powers with the consequent risk of general war.
But provided that they are needed and welcome, the continuing presence of British forces can help to create an environment in which local governments are able to establish the political and economic basis for peace and stability. There can also be no certainty- so long as threats to stability remain - that those forces will not be required to give help to friendly Governments, or to play a part in the United Nations peace-keeping force as they have done in recent years.
– When did he say that?
– That was in February of this year. I have not quoted the passages as a means of criticising the United Kingdom Government. I believe that it is a measure of the difficulties that the United Kingdom Government has found itself compelled to face that, despite these assurances which I believe were given by the men who uttered them in good faith and with good intention, it had to depart so radically from the assurances in the final statement it made. We continued our discussions with representatives of the United Kingdom Government until the time of that announcement. We have not sought to rake over the embers of the past. As my colleague pointed out, we are devoting ourselves to the problems of the future and we hope to have cooperation with the United Kingdom and other countries in the area.
Perhaps having made a passing reference to co-operation with other countries in the area, it is interesting to note that one passage in my colleague’s speech that attracted some commendation from the Leader of the Opposition was the passage in which he spoke of the development of regional co-operation for security and other purposes. But this comes from the man who recently told the world publicly on television that Australia is the only respectable ally that the United States has. That is not a very good way to encourage regionalism amongst the free countries with whom Australia is co-operating in a military, economic and civil sense. This is the man who demands a process of regionalism.
There is another statement that I wish to correct. The honourable member stated quite directly that this Government was bent on securing a military victory in Vietnam regardless of all else and that we had given no thought or support to a political settlement. Since I became Prime Minister 1 do not think I have made a statement in which I spoke about military consequences without having commented that a military result of itself will not be sufficient to meet the situation; there must also be a political settlement. I have said that with the full knowledge of the problems we had in Malaya, as it then was, over many years. I know that if the military effort of our opponent is defeated without a political settlement having been reached, in the kind of country with which we are dealing guerilla activity can go on indefinitely. This happened in Malaya. So we must work for a political settlement, but we do not include in that the kind of recognition that the honourable gentleman and his colleagues want to give to the Communist instrument of the Government of North Vietnam. We will negotiate with the Government of North Vietnam, but he is demanding that the Government of South Vietnam and the Government of the United States recognise the Communist organ of the Government of North Vietnam in South Vietnam. This is one of the points that the North Vietnamese seek to have fulfilled before they will negotiate.
Before I left the aspect of the bombing. I should have said that this Government has as much access to information as any other government has, almost without exception. We have almost as much information as the United States possesses on this matter. Nothing has come to our knowledge that would warrant us holding the belief that there would be a reasonable prospect of negotiation if only the bombing were to cease. If the North Vietnamese want a negotiated settlement, there are many ways for them to make their wishes known. All possible avenues have been explored by us. The honourable member for Brisbane (Mr Cross) said that there have been many occasions in recent years when the United States could have sought a peaceful settlement. I think he said that some forty countries in all have sought to achieve some sort of peaceful negotiation. So the avenues for negotiation are there if the North Vietnamese want to follow them. I know of nothing that has emerged during the period of the dispute that would suggest that the North Vietnamese are ready to negotiate.
Now let me come to the present policy on Vietnam of the Australian Labor Party, if we can find it. I introduce my remarks on this point by quoting from the policy speech made by the honourable member for Batman (Mr Benson) during the course of the last election campaign. lt reveals the background to developments inside the Australian Labor Party in its decisions on foreign policy since then. I quote him as having said:
The Labor Party’s Federal Conference last year removed the clause from the Party platform which said Labor would honour all existing treaties. The Labor Party now did not recognise international security treaties. This is not the time for Australia to break her treaty ties but it is the time to strengthen them and to stand by any nation wishing to remain free.
I have quoted that passage because I have in my hand the text of the decisions taken at the recent conference of the Australian Labor Party as they were handed out to the Press. Without going through the full document, I take the summary that appears at page 2 of the roneoed copy. I do not think anybody opposite will challenge its accuracy. The report states:
Satisfied that the war in Vietnam does not involve any obligations for Australia under ANZUS, SEATO or the United Nations charter - -
I pause there to remind the House that South Vietnam was one of the protocol States mentioned in SEATO. I concede that the legal point could be taken that there was no obligation, but it was not so remote from the consideration of the SEATO powers as this statement would imply. Secondly, I point out that under, ANZUS we are linked with the United States of America and with New Zealand. Can it be seriously argued that the policies that I shall be outlining here as they appear in this document have no bearing on the strength of our alliance with the Americans under ANZUS? For example, could an Australian government which withdrew its troops, having virtually served an ultimatum on the United States, look with the same sense of security to ANZUS in the future as we feel we are able to do today? Having interpolated to make that comment I go on to read from the document: and does not assist the Vietnamese people to determine their own affairs-
Apparently they are to be determined for them by the Government of North Vietnam: and that no threat to Australian security from China is involved-
My colleague dealt with that in his own paper, as I did briefly during question time today: the ALP seeks primarily to bring the war to a conclusion. To do so, the ALP on achieving office will submit to our allies that they should immediately
Should our allies fail to take this action, the Australian Government would then consider that it had no alternative other than to withdraw our armed forces.
No wonder the former Leader of the Opposition said that this was in essence what he put to the electors on the last occasion, but here it is put more strongly in the form of an ultimatum to the United States. Just as in the North West Cape matter the policy of the Labor Party was to serve up a set of conditions which it knew would be unacceptable to the United States, this is its policy again. Time will not permit me to go at any great length into these particular matters, but let me, without speaking at too much length on the situation of Vietnam, remind the House of this.
The fighting primarily involves the Vietnamese, of course, but this is no civil war. In 1954 a fourteen-nation conference at Geneva agreed that newly independent Vietnam should be separated into two parts - North Vietnam for followers of Communist leaders and South Vietnam for those who wanted another way of life. Since then the two parts have gone their own ways - North Vietnam as a typical Communist dictatorship. The war against South Vietnam is directed from Hanoi. The National Liberation Front is a creature of Hanoi. After partition the Vietnamese were given an opportunity to move north or south, and so select the type of government they wanted. Less than 100,000 went north, to become subjects of the Hanoi Communist regime. Ten times as many - almost one million - fled from the Communist dictatorship to South Vietnam. Yet we are now told that this is a nationalist movement, that all we are doing is interfering with the normal nationalist processes inside this particular country.
Those who heard the honourable gentleman will recall that he made a great deal of the state of Congressional and Senate opinion in the United States. Again I can give some facts which 1 think will be rather more persuasive to this House. I suggest that it would be difficult to obtain more convincing evidence of Congressional support for the President’s policies than the votes taken in March this year in both the Senate and the House of Representatives in Washington on the supplementary Bill on the military budget relating to the war in Vietnam. In the Senate the voting was 77 in favour of the Bill and 3 against. In the House of Representatives the voting was 385 in favour of the Bill and 11 against. We are parliamentarians. We know the significance of voting figures. When I am told that half the senators and a great proportion of the Representatives of the United States are against what the present administration is doing, I throw those figures in the teeth of the honourable gentleman. Unfortunately, in the United States as in this country, minorities can be very vocal and the mass of people can be much less vocal if they are in support of the Government’s policy. Some of those vocal minorities will form part of what I have to say now before I conclude.
Yesterday when we were dealing with a question in relation to the collection of funds for the Vietcong or the National Liberation Front I said that there was a species of psychological warfare being waged in this country, as indeed it is being waged in the United States, and that I thought we should be made much more publicly aware of this than we are at the present time. I want to give the House a few manifestations of this. I start with a reference to the Association for International Co-operation and Disarmament. I do not need to go into detail about this organisation. Our colleague who was then AttorneyGeneral, the present Minister for Immigration (Mr Snedden), mentioned it in this House on 3rd September 1964. But it is rather interesting to recall that in March this year the executive of the New South Wales Branch of the ALP decided that:
ALP members can no longer associate with the AICD and directs all ALP members of this organisation to resign ….
But the Federal Executive of the ALP, chaired by Senator Keeffe, who, I understand, was unanimously re-elected recently President of the Party, ruled on 30th March 1967 in Canberra that the NSW Branch had exceeded its authority in proscribing the AICD. I understand that in July Senator Keeffe and the honourable member for Yarra (Dr J. F. Cairns) spoke at a protest meeting organised outside the United States Consulate in Melbourne under the auspices of this organisation, a meeting which has been described as an all night vigil. It was the Victorian arm of the AICD which sponsored this meeting.
The August mobilisation committee was set up by the Association’s New South Wales’ division to conduct the annual Hiroshima Day celebrations. The committee was obviously carefully selected to involve as many groups as it could in the Vietnam protest movement. It would appear to me that as a tactical move Communists were exclude from the committee but were active in organisational matters. August mobilisation includes certain members of the clergy, academic students, Youth women, professionals and trade unionists. A new feature of the demonstration this year was a short religious service before the march.
There was an overseas speaker at this demonstration, a Dr Takman Let us consider Dr Takman. He is the chief medical officer of the Child Welfare Board of Stockholm city. He is a member of the Swedish Communist Party and is currently on its central committee. In 1950 he was refused admittance to the United Kingdom to attend the Sheffield Peace Congress. Early this year he visited North Vietnam to gather medical evidence for use at the Russell tribunal which, as honourable members will be aware, sat in Stockholm in May. He has also attended various other Communist Party conferences and has participated in other activities concerned with Vietnam. Since September 1966 he has been a Communist Party member of the Stockholm City Council. These facts are all ascertainable. I am surprised that honourable gentlemen opposite have not asked me why we admitted him to this country. A business visa was issued to him on 3rd August. In his application he explained that the object of his visit was mainly scientific and that he was engaged in a social and medical study of Swedish gypsy minorities for Uppsala University. He said that for this purpose he needed direct information about aboriginals and other minorities, particularly in Australia and Japan.
I referred a little earlier to a meeting at the Princess Theatre in Melbourne which was addressed by the honourable member for Yarra. The meeting was held after an Hiroshima Day march under the auspices of the same body. A number of organisations connected with the peace movement joined in the march and the subsequent meeting. A television programme showed the march. I did not see it but I have been informed - I think reliably - that the representatives of the Victorian Branch of the ALP carried a large banner and that several members of the Monash University Labor Club carried Vietcong flags. That was one occasion on which members of the ALP apparently were not too unhappy to associate with members of the Monash University Labor Club.
It may be felt that many people associated with the bodies to which I have referred are well meaning people. I have no doubt- that many of them are. I am sure that at least some of them have no knowledge of the use to which they are being put by background influences. In order to give the House an idea of the nature of the organisation to which 1 am referring, I have in my hand a quite scurrilous sheet’ issued - it is so endorsed - by the Queensland Peace Committee for International Co-operation and Disarmament, 608 Ann Street, Fortitude Valley, Queensland. It is an attempt to poison the minds of Australian people in relation to the proposed visit by American servicemen to this country under the rest and recreation programme. As honourable members can see. it has on its cover a picture of a young lady partly clad. The text alongside the picture refers to the worry that Australians will have about their womenfolk on the arrival here of United States servicemen. On the other side of the sheet is what purports to be a genuine report bur I question very much its authenticity because it bears no authentication, no date and no source reference. It purports to be an account of a rape committed on a twenty year old Vietnamese girl by four United States servicemen. This sheet has been circulated as poisonous literature by an organisation which has an aura of respectability and attracts to it the eminently worthy people to whom 1 have referred.
I place in a rather different category the activity here in Canberra today of the International Committee of Conscience on Vietnam. I make no allegation in relation to the background or the attitude of mind of the people associated with it. I have no doubt that they are well meaning people. 1 suppose that many members of this Parliament were given a copy of the little pamphlet that they were distributing. The emotional quality of the pamphlet I think can be illustrated by this quotation from it:
We, who in various ways have assumed the terrible responsibility of articulating the human conscience, must speak or, literally, we should expect the very stones to cry out. 1 would like to say that there are people who have a conscience in relation to Vietnam; who have a conscience in relation to aggression, terrorism, oppression subversion and the other crimes that have been com mitted in the name of a national liberation front. By way of antidote I shall quote, with the full authority of the writer, a letter I have received from the Reverend Colin McLean.
– Why did the Prime Minister refuse to see the church leaders?
-Order! The honourable member for Hunter will cease interjecting.
– I wrote very politely, I can assure the honourable gentleman, to the Reverend Alan Walker who had asked me to receive representatives of the organisation. I explained the reasons why I could not do so.
– Why did you refuse to see them?
-Order! The honourable member for Hunter will restrain himself.
– I said in effect that I had carefully read their pamphlet and that it was evident to me that a very different interpretation was placed by the sponsors of the movement on events in Vietnam and the courses which should be followed in relation to them. I said that while I had studied their views it was quite impracticable for me, or tor that matter, any senior Minister to see all the people who had views to express in relation to Vietnam. However, I paid them the courtesy of studying what they had to say and of writing to them.
– But you refused to see them?
– Did the Leader of the Opposition see them?
– That would not surprise me. i wish now to quote from a letter i have received from the Reverend Colin McLean, who is the minister of the Hughesdale Congregational Church at Oakleigh in Victoria. He writes:
T write to disassociate myself from that vocal group of clergy who are opposed to your Government’s policy in Vietnam.
Lately I received a letter from an ‘International Committee of Conscience on Vietnam’, inviting me to take part in a demonstration outside Parliament House on Thursday, 17th August. I deplore this demonstration.
The growing number of rallies and demonstrations of a semi religious nature, in our country, which play into the bands of International Communism is alarming and is not representative of the majority of Christian people.
The letter referred 10 “an amazing consensus among Christian leadership around the world in opposition to the Vietnam war’. This simply is not true: many o£ c% realise thai if Godiess Communism is not halted, the ensuing bloodshed and suffering in the world will be far greater than that being inflicted by our forces in Vietnam. We too, want peace, but only peace with honour and justice, and which guarantees the great freedoms and Christian heritage we enjoy.
You have our prayers and support.
I have quoted that letter to show that other views are held around this country than those to which we have had to listen.
– Did he sign the letter?
– Yes, and the honourable member may read it if he wishes to do so. Not only did he sign it but he authorised mc. when 1 asked if ( might do so, to give it full publication. The final reference I make is to the document Ramparts’, which no doubt has reached many honourable members. I will nol discuss it in dentil because its bona fides have been attacked. I think convincingly, by others.
– Is it a Communist paper?
-I warn the honourable member for Hunter.
– h was released iti thousands during the Corio by-election campaign by the Liberal Reform Group, so styled. I mention it, not in association with any other organisation, but as an illustration of the processes of psychological warfare which are designed to confuse and perplex the people of this country and to destroy support for the policies of the democratically elected Government of this country. Unlike the Labor Opposition, I am in the happy state of being able to stand here tonight knowing that there is not one member of the two Government Parties which provide a record majority behind me who does not support the Government in its policy on Vietnam. I feel it my duty in those circumstances to bring home to the Australian people that these processes which are poisoning the minds of the people and creating disquiet in their minds are processes which are designed to weaken Australian support for policies which the people at a democratic election have endorsed in their Government. T believe that we have heard the Leader of the Opposition today give expression to policies which I suspect are by no means entirely tasteful to him, but which have merged from a conference which senior members of the Party have described either as an endorsement of what they presented at the last general election or as a move leftwards from where they were before. I say that these things, too, can only confuse and perplex the Australian people, and it is a responsibility of the Australian community as a whole to have a clear and plain understanding of what is put to them by spokesmen of the Opposition.
– I claim that the remarks made by the Prime Minister misrepresented me.
-The honourable member has not spoken yet in this debate. He will have to resume his seal.
– Under what Standing Order is that ruling given?
– The Speaker is not here to give advice in relation to standing orders. He is here to interpret the rules. I say that the honourable member has not yet sp.’ken in the debate. Therefore I ask him to resume his seat.
– I seek leave lo make a short statement.
-Is leave granted?
– Leave is granted.
– The Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt) has misrepresented me in two ways in the remark* he has made this evening. This morning he to d us to be careful about using Press reports when he himself was complaining about their use. He has used them twice tonight - and only twice - in reference to me and in both cases they are wrong. The first reference was to an Australian Broadcasting Commission broadcast and the second was to a report about speaking outside the United States Embassy. Both are contrary to fact. In the ABC broadcast I made no reference whatever to the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) or to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard) as was claimed in the broadcast. About half an hour after the first broadcast, as I understand it, the Assistant News Editor - I think a Mr Nelson - telephoned me and said that the ABC had made a bad error. He apologised and said that the matter would not be broadcast again. I listened to subsequent broadcasts and it was not. I would have expected that the ABC may have informed the Prime Minister’s staff of the error or they may have discovered it when they obtained the material for the Prime Minister. In the second case I did not speak outside the United States Embassy as reported, apparently, in some newspaper which the Prime Minister was prepared to use. I was not there. I think that this indicates that the Prime Minister, like the rest of us, should be more careful when he uses newspaper reports in this way.
- Mr Speaker, I want to speak this evening about the Government’s attitudes towards the Vietnam war. They are attitudes which the Australian Labor Party believes to be incorrect, fallacious and harmful. In reply to a question in this House yesterday, the Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt) spoke in slighting and sneering terms of the Vietnam policy declaration adopted by the Adelaide conference of the Australian Labor Party. Tonight the Prime Minister repeated these allegations against the Australian Labor Party. I thought it unfortunate that the Prime Minister should refer in these terms to what is an honourable attempt to apply principles of humanity and justice to an agonising and highly complex war. When the Prime Minister commenced to speak tonight he described the speech of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) this afternoon as a ‘remarkable’ one. I am sure that those people who have had the opportunity of listening to the Leader of the Opposition this afternoon and the reply of the Prime Minister this evening will have every reason to appreciate the comparison between the Leader of the Opposition and the contribution of the Prime Minister.
– I rise to order. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition stated that the Prime Minister said that the Leader of the Opposition had made a ‘remarkable’ speech. The words used were ‘an incredible speech’.
-Order! There is no substance in the point of order.
– The Prime Minister had every opportunity to deal with a statement delivered this afternoon by the Minister for External Affairs (Mr Hasluck).
Although I do not agree with everything that the Minister for External Affairs had to say this afternoon from his carefully prepared document, at least I believe that he endeavoured to provide an accurate assessment of his views of the situation in Asia and in other parts of the world. But the Prime Minister tonight completely ignored the statement made by the Minister for External Affairs. The whole tenor of the Prime Minister’s speech was an attack, first, on the Leader of the Opposition and secondly on the Labor Party. I believe the electors of this country will apply the same judgment to the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition in this debate that they applied to the relative merits of the two leaders in the recent Corio by-election.
I want to refer to the bombing of North Vietnam. I believe that the continued escalation of the bombing is the most tragic mistake that has been made in the Vietnam war. There is no evidence that the bombing has weakened the resolve of the Vietnamese to send reinforcements and supplies to South Vietnam. It has achieved no military dividends and I believe it can have only fatal consequences. There is definite evidence that it has strengthened the will of the North Vietnamese administration and the people to maintain assistance to the National Liberation Front in South Vietnam. The bombing has had no impact on the industrial resources of North Vietnam. Rather it has produced the dispersal of industrial and technological resources from major cities to smaller workshops scattered throughout the country. Despite the bombing, trains and convoys are still running. Aircraft and other military resources destroyed in the raids have been replaced swiftly by Russia, and damaged airfields have been patched up quickly. The massive bombing of North Vietnam has had absolutely no effect on the ability of that country to maintain a dominant role in the war. What the bombing has achieved is the strengthening of the unity and determination of the North Vietnamese who are immensely proud of their achievements over the past twelve years.
I refer honourable members to a report in the 6th May 1967 issue of the Economist’, a responsible and authoritative English journal. A correspondent of the Economist* visited North Vietnam to report on the effects of the American bombing. According to his report, to the end of 1966 about forty-five hospitals had been destroyed by bombing raids on North Vietnam. Undoubtedly this tally has been increased by intensified bombing this year. What effect must this destruction of health services have on a people who have made immense efforts to eliminate disease and to raise standards of public health? The ‘Economist’ said that in one major provincial city the city hospital and a big tuberculosis institute which provided treatment for two million people had been destroyed by the bombing. How can such destruction further the objectives of allied operations in South Vietnam? An aerial onslaught which deprives any country, and in particular a developing country, of hospitals and public health facilities must be condemned in the strongest terms.
It is said that the basic objective of the American commitment in Vietnam is to contain Communist China and the spread of Communism in Asia. How can Communism be contained if every day brings a weakening of the social and economic structure of both North Vietnam and South Vietnam? The real test of strength is not between America and China; it is between America and North Vietnam, certainly a Communist state but also a nationalist state. There is no evidence that the suppression of Communism in South Vietnam will strengthen resistance to Communist inspired nationalist movements in other states of South East Asia. The situation is rather the reverse. American military intervention in South Vietnam has certainly made the going much rougher for the Communists, but has this had the effect of curbing insurgency in Thailand and the Philippines? The evidence points to the fact that guerilla activity in those countries has intensified and the very
Teal prospect exists that preoccupation with Vietnam will blind America and Australia to the dangers of sick societies elsewhere in Asia.
The Australian Government has supported without demur American commitments in Vietnam. The greatest nation on earth and a handful of its allies have become obsessed with a small country, poor and divided among a host of factions. This obsession has meant that the Australian Government has a Vietnam policy but no coherent defence and foreign policies. The
Government has made no attempt to question and to evaluate American attitudes and motives in South East Asia. Instead, it has slavishly accepted and supported them. There has been no evaluation of its attitude to the war since the initial commitment was made although it has become increasingly apparent that there can be no purely military solution to the Vietnam agony.
Anyone who has had the opportunity to see Vietnam and to talk to people who have responsibility there must conclude that a military solution is not possible. This is the opinion of some members of the Constituent Assembly in South Vietnam who believe that opportunities do exist for a peaceful solution. But the Australian Government completely ignores this fact. This is evident from the performance of the Prime Minister tonight. Not one positive approach did the Prime Minister make to the constructive suggestions made by the Leader of the Opposition on behalf of the Labor Party. The Prime Minister completely ignored any question of finding a peaceful solution to the problem in Vietnam.
The Government has never clarified for the Australian people its ultimate objectives or what it hopes to achieve in Vietnam. Above all, it has made no attempt to bring moral suasion to bear on the American Government to scale down the war so that normal economic activity can be resumed and moves initiated for a negotiated settlement. It has not used the initiative it enjoys as the only important military participant which does not rely heavily on American financial support. The Government has adopted the attitude that the only alternatives in South Vietnam are continual escalation or immediate withdrawal of foreign troops. The Secretary-General of the United Nations, U Thant, in a recent speech at Greensboro in the United States said that nothing could be more dangerous than that form of thinking. Like U Thant, the Labor Party believes that there are alternatives besides those extremes. Our policy is clear and unequivocal. We state that we will work to achieve a peaceful solution of the war, and we assert that such a solution cannot be achieved by military means.
The Australian Government’s preoccupation with Vietnam has blinded it to the realities of South East Asia in the light of Britain’s withdrawal from the region. When
I was in South East Asia senior officials told me that Britain would be withdrawing its troops from the region. When the announcement was made the Australian Government complained that Britain’s action was completely unexpected.
Yet the Governments of those countries had knowledge, and clearly understood that Britain would be withdrawing its troops from South East Asia. The Holt Government has made no attempt to question or evaluate the American attitudes or motives in South East Asia but has continued to support them in every way. Above all, the Government has made no attempt to bring moral suasion to bear on the American Government to scale down the war so that normal economic activity may be resumed and moves may be made for a negotiated settlement. Rather the reverse situation applies. This is the attitude that this Government has consistently adopted in regard to the war in Vietnam, lt is not reasonable at this stage to contemplate immediate withdrawal of American forces from Vietnam. The Americans have made a commitment and have undertaken serious responsibilities. Perhaps between 5 million and 7 million people in South Vietnam have a vital interest in the American presence and continued American support. But the security of these people cannot be assured by ceaseless escalation of the war. We assert that only by scaling down the scope of the war can a start be made somewhere towards evolving an honourable solution to the agonisingly complex war in Vietnam. There is no possibility of a rational negotiated settlement if the conflict between America and North Vietnam continues to intensify.
It is undeniable that North Vietnam played a major part in inciting the original formation of the National Liberation Front, and it is now heavily supporting the Front and is carrying much of the burden of the war. But the Labor Party believes the essence of a negotiated settlement to the war exists only in South Vietnam. Every attempt must be made to resolve what President Johnson has called a bloody impasse. The allies must put maximum pressure on the new Saigon Government to negotiate with the National Liberation Front. The present attitude of Saigon that a solution can be reached only with Hanoi is completely unrealistic. Hanoi’s assertion that the Americans withdraw unconditionally from South Vietnam as a prerequisite to negotiations is also unrealistic and unacceptable. I believe there is sufficient common ground in the public statements of the objectives of both sides for the fighting to be scaled down and the parties brought to the conference table. It should be the objective of America and Australia to create conditions which would permit the new Saigon Government, whatever its composition, and the National Liberation Front to negotiate among themselves. This will be a major policy aim of the Australian Labor Party in the period ahead.
In Saigon I found a refreshing element of realism among members of the Constituent Assembly as to negotiations with the National Liberation Front. I believe there are powerful elements in the Assembly which want to end military rule and shorten the war. They are prepared to negotiate with the National Liberation Front and believe that the Front may be prepared to negotiate with a properly elected and constituted government in Saigon. The Australian Labor Party is not ashamed to emphasise the importance of the Front in its policy declaration. Despite substantial North Vietnamese backing the Front is still the overwhelming Communist force in South Vietnam and it cannot be ignored. It is impossible to write off an organisation which still controls the major part of South Vietnam despite massive attempts at pacification over the years. This in essence is our policy: That the bombing of North Vietnam must be ended; that the war must be reduced substantially in scope so that negotiations can begin; and that the National Liberation Front must be recognised as a participant in the negotiations.
I should like to emphasise strongly the urgent need to restore some measure of normal economic life in South Vietnam. There can be no solution in Vietnam unless the almost total economic dependence of the Saigon Government on the United States is reduced. The paralysis of the rural areas by the war has heightened the alienation in South Vietnam between the ruling elite in the major cities and the ruled in the countryside. This is one of the great sources of strength of the National Liberation Front - that it has cultivated the aspirations of the rural dwellers for land reform and justice.
– Tonight we saw the Prime Minister skin the hide off the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) by pointing at the many inaccuracies that that honourable gentleman used in his speech this afternoon. I now want to see where the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard) finds himself, because since he attained his elevated position he has heaped confusion upon confusion in respect of the Labor Party’s foreign policy. For years members of the Opposition have been saying that the war in Vietnam is a cruel unwinnable civil war. This has been the line followed by the former Labor Leader, the Honourable A. A. Calwell and leading Labor spokesmen including the honourable member for Yarra (Dr Cairns), the honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren) and others on the Opposition front bench. I have seen the honourable member for Yarra kick himself spellbound proving that there was no interference in South Vietnam by the North Vietnamese. He said that the war in South Vietnam was only a guerrilla war, with only a few rifles and a few old grenades coming from North Vietnam. But what happened after the Deputy Leader of the Opposition had been to Saigon? A report on 26th May in “The Age’ states - and the same thing was repeated tonight-
Mr Barnard said he was satisfied there was a large-scale invasion of South Vietnam by North Vietnamese troops. [ am satisfied that this is more than just a guerrilla war and I suppose it can be compared with the earlier conflict in Korea’.
This sudden change of heart by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition followed his visit to South Vietnam. He has thrown overboard the long-held policies that we have heard from the Labor Party in debate after debate. Following on this we have his remarkable about-face in respect of American troops in Vietnam. The Labor Party has screamed about the American aggressors in South Vietnam. We have heard this from many spokesmen both from the front and back benches of the Labor Party, including the honourable members for Yarra, Wills (Mr Bryant), Oxley (Mr Hayden) and Hunter (Mr James). They have devoted speeches to trying to prove that the Americans should not be in Vietnam. But, what did the new Deputy Leader of the Opposition say at a meeting in Cooma in respect of this matter? A report read - lt was regrettable that continued United States presence was necessary to assure the security of South Vietnam, the Deputy Leader of the Federal Opposition, Mr L. H. Barnard, said tonight.
Only when that security was assured could the role of the South Vietnamese Army be transformed to that of pacification and reconstruction of the provinces - the only way a stable, broadly based government could be established in Vietnam,’ he said.
Again, another change of attitude, another change of heart by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition - another embarrassment for the rest of the Labor Party. Following this, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition made a statement about an independent foreign policy for Australia at Queanbeyan on the 18th July this year. This was reported as follows - “The Holt Government has reduced Australia to international impotence by plugging in to American policy,” he said.
How does this add up with his statement in Perth to the Labor Party conference in which he described the United States as a great ally? I do not think any of the ambiguities of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition has either strengthened Labor’s case or the people’s appreciation of Labor’s foreign policy.
I now want to turn to two parts of the statement made by the Minister for External Affairs (Mr Hasluck). First I will refer to the British withdrawal and then to Vietnam. Australia’s role in foreign affairs has changed over the years because of events in Asia. It would be fair to say that in earlier years, certainly prior to the fall of Singapore, Australia played a complementary part with the United Kingdom in any activities throughout the area. Britain’s role is historic. For generations she maintained strong forces in the cast of Suez area. She has been a force in maintaining peace and security. Throughout these generations when naval power was pre-eminent it was under the umbrella of Britain’s navy and the impregnable base at Singapore that Australia was fostered as a nation. Australia’s early incursions into foreign affairs as a nation were usually under the watchful eye of a benevolent mother country. But following the fall of Singapore the Second World War brought a sudden maturity to Australian thinking and to international activity. As a maturing nation Australia recognised early that we had a responsibility to assist in preventing aggressors having their way. An example of this maturity was Australia’s decision to send troops to repel aggressive Communism in Korea. Indeed, Australia was one of the first nations to do so. On this occasion Australia’s action was followed by Britain. Then Australia decided to send troops to Vietnam. For the first time in our history British troops are not fighting alongside our troops.
Now we have the historic decision taken by the Wilson Government to withdraw all troops east of Suez by the mid-1970s. What a different result this is from what was anticipated when the Minister for External Affairs addressed the House in February and quoted statements made in Britain. He said:
The Australian Government has been glad to know from the latest British White Paper on Defence and from the recent visit by Mr Bowden and from its own contacts that the British Government intends to continue the presence in the Far East.
That was as recently as February. This nails what the Deputy Leader of the Opposition said about Britain’s presence east of Suez and Australia’s lack of action. At that time Britain must have believed that her presence was still necessary. Confrontation was ended and a reduction in troop numbers from the highest point ever was to be expected, but total withdrawal is another matter. The long term political reasons for British beliefs that in February they should maintain a presence cannot and have not dramatically altered. One comes to the obvious conclusion that total withdrawal is, therefore, caused by economic and not political circumstances. Britain has had to make a judgment to strengthen her own position. No-one can challenge her right to do so; we can only regret that the burden of years of peacekeeping around the world over a long period of time should force Britain into a position of isolation in comparison with her previous role.
Despite such regret, once Britain withdraws, her force as a world power will diminish as time advances. Whilst her diplomatic corps may continue to be active it may be only on invitation that United Kingdom forces will enter the area again.
In the future the United Kingdom will find it much more difficult both politically and financially to send troops based in Britain to far away South East Asia as against deploying troops already based in Asia. One of the intriguing aspects of the proposed withdrawal is the effect on the AngloMalaysian Treaty. Prime Minister Wilson, when pressed at question time in Parliament, said that the withdrawal date would depend on settled conditions in Malaysia, but that withdrawal would be final by 1977. According to a report of 13th July from Malaysia the Malaysian Prime Minister believes that under the terms of the Anglo-Malaysian Defence Agreement Malaysia has a right to say how many British troops are required in the defence of Malaysia. Certainly until clear statements from London are made it would seem that there could be misapprehension on this point.
Information about the future of the Commonwealth Brigade is somewhat limited. But if the British are determined to replace their battalion with some other concept such as carrier based commandos or British based troops then the idea of a Commonwealth strategic defence force looks like lacking British support. Obviously if Australia is to follow through with the defence concept of forward bases, it is necessary for us to give consideration to joining with Malaysia and Singapore in some form of mutual defence force. Certainly there is a great deal of unease throughout South East Asia following China’s recent nuclear explosions and the continued subversive activities in various countries.
In speaking of China, Mr Chagla, India’s Foreign Minister, said on 20th July that the explosion of nuclear bombs by China had added new dimensions to India’s defence problems. He said:
We have to carefully consider what effect it is going to have on our defence strategy.
Mr Chagla said there was no doubt that recently China had taken up a more bellicose and belligerent posture. She was interfering more and more in the internal affairs of other countries, including India. Her whole attitude seemed to be to subvert the governments of other countries through setting up revolutionary bodies, dissatisfied elements and rebellious elements. This is India’s Foreign Minister speaking, not somebody from Australia. His statements confirm what the Australian Government has been saying for a long time. Tunku Abdul Rahman, also a very prominent Asian, reviewing the threat posed by Chinese Communist expansion to the region of South East Asia, said that the situation in Vietnam should be looked at within the framework of this threat. He added that wherever the Chinese Communists have their agents at work - in Laos, Korea, Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand and the Philippines - the same pattern of troubles has occurred. I ask honourable gentlemen to note the number of countries that the Tunku named. He went on to say that those who criticised the Americans for their assistance to South Vietnam should not be blind to the intervention of Communist powers in the war in Vietnam. How does the Australian Labor Party look at this? This is not the Prime Minister of Australia speaking; this is the Prime Minister of Malaysia, a very prominent Asian. This is the view of both the Malaysian Prime Minister and the Indian Foreign Minister. It is in the face of all this that the United Kingdom has taken the decision to withdraw.
Obviously the problems created by withdrawal mean not only fewer combat troops and less military, naval and air force equipment but also less leadership, military experience and skill. A multilateral defence treaty with a combined defence force must be considered to replace the British presence. I believe that it would be necessary to form a close knit regional defence pact between Malaysia, Singapore, Australia and New Zealand with opportunity for both Indonesia and Thailand to participate at a later stage. I remember what the Minister for External Affairs said today about Indonesia not wishing to take part, but room should be left for Indonesia and Thailand to participate in the years to come.
One of the startling facts that emerges from a trip that I made through nine Asian countries is the awareness of Communist China. I recall the words of one Asian sage when discussing China’s intentions. He said: The Chinese invented the wheel; it was not a perfect wheel, but once it got under way it was hard to stop.’ There are many people in Asia who believe that China is under way today. It is quite obvi ous that the Indian Foreign Minister and Tunku Abdul Rahman can be added to that group. Certainly when one looks a! the subversive activities in the many countries around China this statement has an air of reality.
Vietnam continues to dominate the minds of all people interested in foreign affairs. That there has been an improvement in the military situation over the past two years I do not doubt. This has been brought about at tremendous cost, in both lives and money. The American nation has had heavy demands made upon it in peacekeeping operations around the world. The cost of Marshall Aid projects, the countless international aid programmes and the cost of maintaining large forces at home and overseas must exceed billions and billions of dollars. President Johnson, in an effort to successfully prosecute the war, has asked for another 45,000 men as well as higher taxes from the long suffering American people. Such determination deserves its reward. The internal political situation in South Vietnam is full of interest. 1 was satisfied that, following a succession of civilian governments, what was required was a military government that could provide the necessary discipline in a war torn country such as South Vietnam.
That Prime Minister Ky and General Thieu with their military cabinet have succeeded in this reflects credit on their efforts. The country had its first vote on the formation of a constitutional assembly, held under the greatest difficulties with threats nf intimidation from the Vietcong, yet the elections drew a very heavy percentage vote. That the country is now ready for a general election is incredible and shows the improvement that has taken place throughout South Vietnam. No thinking person would expect the election to be on lines quite as sophisticated as those of older democracies such as Australia. But I hope that it proceeds with a minimum of interference. Charges are being made that Prime Minister Ky is interfering with the opportunities of other candidates to campaign. No country is free of charges of some sort at election time. Even in Australia charges are laid by one party against another at election time. If there is any equality between the charges in our two countries, I do not fear much for the election in South Vietnam.
It was interesting to note the change in the ticket for President, with General Thieu leading off as candidate for the No. 1 position and Air Vice-Marshal Ky as his deputy.
The House will recall the charge made by the former Leader of the Opposition and parroted by the present Leader of the Opposition that Australia, by inviting Prime Minister Ky to visit here, would be tied to his electoral coat tails. That this is nonsense can now be seen by all. I am sure that whoever wins the election in South Vietnam will be shown the usual courtesies by this Government.
The Australian Labor Party is still racked by ideological differences. The speeches made by the Leader of the Opposition, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition and the honourable member for Yarra over recent months point this up. It is common for ALP members when in South Vietnam to see the error of their ways and to say so. On their return to Australia, however, we see the left wing cracking the whip and the returning members having second thoughts. I believe that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition is a typical example of this. He went to South Vietnam and was really convinced of the correctness of the views that he formed as a result of what he saw while there. He made a statement about the situation, but found on his return to Australia that it did not agree with the policy of the left wing of the Labor Party. He has been trying to ameliorate this situation ever since.
Then we come to the recent Federal Conference of the Labor Party, with its ambiguous conclusions. If there is one thing that the people of Australia want, it is clearly stated policies in foreign affairs. This they get from the Government, and this they do not get from the Opposition. The Leader of the Opposition claimed that great changes had been made at the recent Federal Conference, but the only changes were expedient ones that were made as a sop to his wishes. What came out of the recent Conference? On this point, I would like to quote from the column ‘Labor Speaks’ that appeared in the Melbourne Herald’ on Saturday, 5th August.
– That is a good source to quote.
– I am pleased that the honourable member for Reid agrees that this is a good source to quote. The article stated:
The ALF has decided that a Labor government would withdraw troops unless a specified set of conditions were fulfilled.
If the conditions were fulfilled the war would virtually be at an end, and its only military aspect would be a holding operation to permit negotiations to proceed and to guarantee the safety of troops still in the region.
Of course the war would be at an end, because the Vietcong and the National Liberation Front would run all over their opposition if the conditions were agreed to. The article continued:
It would be mandatory for the United States to fulfil the conditions set down by Australia.
I emphasise that the Labor spokesman who prepared this article stated that this would be mandatory. The article went on:
If the conditions were not met, notice would immediately be given that Australian troops would be withdrawn.
Exactly what does that mean? The simple truth is that the demands made by Labor coincide with demands for negotiations made by the Communist National Liberation Front for South Vietnam. This is the simple truth: There is a similarity between the demands made by Labor and its Federal Conference and the demands for negotiations made by the Communist National Liberation Front.
– Why does not the honourable member go and fight the Vietcong?
– Does the honourable member who has just interjected deny that what I have just said is the simple truth? Does any member of the Australia Labor Party deny it?
– The honourable member for Yarra denies it. Yet one of the first demands made by the Labor Party at its Federal Conference at Adelaide was that bombing of North Vietnam cease. And one of the demands made by the Communist National Liberation Front is that the bombing of North Vietnam cease. The Labor Party declares that it is mandatory for the United States to fulfil conditions and at the same time talks of maintaining the American alliance. The defence of South Vietnam against Communist aggression receives the support of Asian countries. Lee Kuan Yew, the Socialist Prime Minister of Singapore, is more completely aware of the conditions in South Vietnam and more heartily appreciative of the work that Australia is doing there than is the Socialist Labor Party in Australia. Tunku Abdul Rahman, as well as the Prime Ministers of Thailand, the Philippines and South Korea, support the policy adopted by the allies in South Vietnam. This Government’s policy received the support of the vast majority of the Australian people at the last Federal general election. The Leader of the Opposition has failed in his attempts to rethink Labor’s policy. This is one of the reasons why the present Government will continue to receive the support of the Australian people for its policy in South Vietnam.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, probably nothing more concerns this House and the Australian people in foreign affairs than the war in Vietnam and its possible outcome concern us now. Most of the other matters that were mentioned this afternoon by the Minister for External Affairs (Mr Hasluck), important though they are on the world scene, are not so important to us as that matter is. All the issues that arise in foreign policy in Australia can be seen particularly in relation to the war in Vietnam. Speaking for myself, I have been a close student of this war since 1957. I have referred, I think carefully, to everything that has been published. I have visited Vietnam. 1 have been to the United States. I have come to some very positive conclusions about that war and I am concerned about it. My mind is troubled and I am deeply involved; I very often wish I was not. It might be easier for me and for others who have reached these conclusions to be able to go along with the tide, to be able to support, as so many members of this House seem able easily to support, without taking any part in it themselves, this war that is going on. Probably it would be much better for us, much easier for us, if we were able to dismiss the war, as many people in Australia dismiss it and direct their attention to other things which are much less important. lt may be very easy but I cannot do that because I am committed by what I have found - by the evidence - and I am not pre pared to support a policy which is doing to people of Vietnam what the policy that is supported by the Australian Government is doing. Even if our security is involved, and I do not think it is, I am not prepared to buy our security at the cost of destroying the people of Vietnam.
A great many other people have come to this conclusion and these people are growing in number very rapidly both here and in the United States. But the Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt), who frames the way in which the attitude of his Patty is presented to the people of Australia, is preparing to make a new presentation. The people who take the position that I have just described, Mr Deputy Speaker, on the whole, are people who know more about what is happening in Vietnam than does anyone else who has an attitude or does not have an attitude to the question. What they say is confirmed by those who have studied and written the history of Vietnam. Recently an excellent book has been published but I doubt whether the Minister for External Affairs (Mr Hasluck) or his advisers have yet taken much note of it. It is by Kahen and Lewis and is entitled ‘The United States in Vietnam*. This is a thoroughly documented history from beginning to end and, like the greater part of the academic work that is available, it confirms the position taken by myself and by the Australian Labor Party about the war in Vietnam. It contradicts the superficial, glib, jar.gonish newspaper headline attitude that is taken by the Minister and unfortunately, I submit, by many of those who are his advisers.
How deeply have they gone into the history of this situation? How much has the Minister himself studied the history? Has he read even a line of Joseph Buttinger’s recently published complete history which occupies two volumes and covers 1.346 pages? Does he even know what Kahen and Lewis’s book looks like? This is a legitimate argument and I ask the Minister please to take a little of it into account. The people who take this position are now going to be described by the Prime Minister as emotional, naive, stupid, part of the international conspiracy of Communism, involved in a process of psychological warfare, and possibly guilty of treachery. Have we reached a stage in Australia where legitimate opposition on this question of Vietnam is going to be outlawed in that way? Does the Prime Minister intend to conduct his subsequent campaigns with his staff members dredging into the field of inaccurate newspaper reports to support this position? Does he intend to conduct political campaigns with this modern version of McCarthyism? It is up to the Australian people to say whether opposition in this country on this question should be regarded as loyal opposition or stigmatised as treachery. I say to this House and to the people that it will be a sorry day if we cannot demonstrate against the policy of the Government in Vietnam without being stigmatised in this way.
I say that no person who has any desire to see freedom rejoined in this country can afford to go an inch of the way with the kind of presentation that was made tonight by the Prime Minister. China and the revolutions in South East Asia are important and perhaps vital to Australia. Everyone who has any knowledge or concern about these matters and who has any concern for our own stability and security will want to see stability in South East Asia. He will want to see a reasonable containment of China. He will want to see peaceful change in the countries to the north of us. When depressed people rise up in any country he will want to see the change they need take place peacefully. He will want to see prevention of aggression. Everybody wants this, and we on this side of the House want it as much as those on the other side. The only question is how it is to be achieved.
This problem is difficult enough and complex enough, as I am sure the Minister for External Affairs (Mr Hasluck) will agree, to justify a debate on this subject, to justify two points of view about what is to be done. If the time is to come when the presentation of an alternative point of view on this complex and vital question for the future of Australia is to be stigmatised as treachery, then not only democracy but also initiative - the enterprise that is necessary for the solution of these problems - will have disappeared from this country.
– Are you supporting these-
– I do not intend to be sidetracked by any stupid interjections from the Minister for the Interior. What the Labor Party says and what I say is that the method that has been adopted in Vietnam to deal with this problem is the wrong way to go about it. The method adopted by the French and carried on later by the American Administration, and now supported by Australia, is the wrong way to go about it. This is proved by the course of the war and by the years of failure that have followed the adoption of this method. AH this began in 1946, not just the other day. There has been movement from one method to another and, as I have said, the analysis of this is now in the history 000ks but apparently the Minister and his advisers are unaware of this. The criticism that I have offered from the very beginning is a criticism that I have adhered to almost word for word. There were some inaccuracies. I have made some mistakes, but they have been minor ones, with regard to this matter. I adhere to the position that I have taken from the beginning as to the background to this situation, and this is now in the history books.
Again, today, the Minister for External Affairs has come in with an optimistic assessment of what is happening in Vietnam - with the same kind of optimistic assessment that has been made continuously since 1957. The numbers of Vietcong defections, we are told, are twice as high as they were in 1965 or 1966. Yes, this is right, but the forces of the Vietcong are more than twice as numerous as they were in 1965 or 1966. Defections have increased but they have increased only proportionately to the increase in the Vietcong forces. And would there not be defections, with thousands of tons of bombs raining down upon people who have nothing with which to answer back? Would there not be some proportion of them who would go for cover and safety? And is it not an amazing thing that only a few thousand of them ever do so? Is it not an amazing thing that these people in South Vietnam who have only the weapons that they can carry in their hands to fight back with, who are underfed and undersupplied, are strong enough to meet what the greatest industrial power in the world can put up against them? Despite bombing from high levels, bombing from low levels and having 600,000 troops brought against them from outside, only a portion of them have defected. Is it not amazing that the proportion has not been higher? The right honourable gentleman tells us about areas that have been cleared and which are more secure now than they were in 1965 or 1966. Of course there are areas that have been cleared. There are areas that have been bombed until they are as bare as the table in this chamber. They had to be cleared. But they will remain as they are only while there is strong occupation of them. As soon as the occupation troops go out, they will return to their former state. Even in the province of Phuoc Tuy, the little village only half a mile from the Australian Task Force would return to exactly the same condition tomorrow if the Task Force was taken away. There has been no change in the basic structure of that province. Unfortunately the Australian forces have been there at the cost of lives. They have achieved nothing more than that.
The Minister has told us about the Revolutionary Development Programme, but he is not optimistic about it. In his statement today he said:
Progress has not yet been as rapid as we would like to see-
The Government said that about the Strategic Hamlet Programme six years ago -
But a number of initial problems are now being overcome and more fruitful results can be expected in the future.
As I said, the Government used precisely those words about the Strategic Hamlet Programme in 1962. The Government is expecting an anti-revolutionary class to lead to a Revolutionary Development Programme. It is expecting the people who are great landlords in South Vietnam, the merchants who are exploiting the peasants and the officials who live on corruption suddenly to change the whole basis of their existence. But, as I said, the Minister is not optimistic about results, and he certainly cannot afford to be optimistic about them. My inquiries show that there has been no land reform of any significance in South Vietnam.
What about the bombing of North Vietnam? The Prime Minister talked about not consenting to its becoming a haven. Every town and city in North Vietnam with the exception of Hanoi and Haiphong has been flattened to the ground. A greater weight of bombs has been poured into North Vietnam than was poured into Germany during World War II, and many of the bombs dropped over North Vietnam were far more powerful than those which were dropped over Germany. But apparently this does not interfere with the capacity of the North Vietnamese to put people into the South. Certainly I would think that this bombing attack has been a serious handicap and that it has greatly harmed North Vietnam. It has set it back almost to the stone age in many respects, for the people are underground. It is claimed that 50,000 North Vietnamese are in South Vietnam. This represents only about 20% of the total Vietcong forces. I think that is all they need. I am sure that if they thought they needed more there more would go in. They do not need more because apparently the people who are fighting in South Vietnam are strong enough to do the job.
This means that there is a long war ahead of us. Can it be undertaken? I think there is a great reassessment of this going on in the United States. It is my belief that the Government has been caught out by the changed British decision about troops in Malaya. Twelve months ago, the Government was confident that it could rely on the statement made by the British Prime Minister that British forces would stay in Malaya. But Britain could not retain forces there and those who understood the facts knew that she could not. Prime Minister Wilson was trying to paper over the facts; he is a politician.
– He is a Labor politician.
– I do not care whether he is a Labor politician, a Liberal politician or anything else. This Government papers over the facts all the time; that is one of its characteristics. It is no particular criticism of Harold Wilson to say that he was doing that. I am trying to put these things before honourable members opposite who are interjecting, so that they may become aware of the facts. The facts emerged there and changed the situation. The Conservative Party was in exactly the same position. As the facts have changed the position respecting Great Britain in Malaysia, they can change also the position respecting America in Vietnam.
Two programmes were recently put to the American Administration. One was for an invasion of North Vietnam which would take, I understand, a minimum of 250,000 troops. The other programme was to hold the initiative in South Vietnam, which, they expected, they would need 75,000 troops to carry it out. The second alternative was chosen. It cost only $6,000m extra and not too many men. The first one was not chosen because there would have to be general mobilisation to bring it into existence and it would cost probably $9,000m on its own. Now, the Administration cannot do this. I find that people in America are extremely concerned about this situation. Because of the difficulties of carrying on this war, the completely unsatisfactory nature of the war and the increasing conviction that it is neither tactical, strategically nor morally sound, there is a great reassessment going on in the United States.
– That is not reflected in the votes in the Congress.
– Like them we have never voted against a Budget in this House. Is that to say that there are no great critics of the policy of this Government on this side of the House? Of course the Americans have not voted against the appropriation of funds in Congress. But there are great critics there. I know, because I have spoken to them. I have spoken to the Mansfields and to the Fulbrights. I know what their attitude to the war is from my own personal conversation with them. Do not tell me that there is no great opposition in the American Congress, because I was in the United States of America in June and I found such opposition face to face with the men responsible for it. Fulbright told me that the best friends that America has in the world are those people who are working to stop this war and who will back negotiations. I know from -my own knowledge that the very conditions-
– He was one who voted against it.
– He was not. He voted for the appropriation. I know that the very conditions that have been adopted by the Australian Labor Party are also backed by the Secretary-General of the United Nations, U Thant, by Senator Robert Kennedy and by Fulbright and Gavin. These are not proposals conjured out of the air. They are proposals that are backed by the convictions of those who have tried to stop this war and from long and close experience.
Finally, I wish to refer those who want to know what is going on, to the leading article which appeared in the ‘Sydney Morning Herald’ this morning. This article said:
The time is coming when our own Government will be forced to express its views. It hardly makes sense to go on murmuring ‘All the way with L.B.J.’ when the President may either escalate the war by all-out attacks on North Vietnam or, at the opposite extreme, withdraw from Vietnam altogether. Our own view is that neither of these courses is right but that the Allies should try to de-escalate the war by restricting the bombing in North Vietnam and by holding and securing areas already won in South Vietnam on the lines suggested by General Gavin. The war has already reached a point where the forces employed and the suffering caused no longer seem commensurate with the official war aims of the Allies.
That is from the ‘Sydney Morning Herald’. Has that come from the Communist Party? Has that come from North Vietnam? Has that come from, according to the Prime Minister, naive and stupid ministers of the Christian religion who were standing outside this Parliament today? Of course it has not. It has come from a very serious consideration in the minds of people on a very serious newspaper. It will not be satisfactory for the Prime Minister or anyone else to try to dismiss all this by saying that it is some example of psychological warfare. It is part of the legitimate opposition in this Parliament and in this country by people who are convinced that what the Government has done is wrong and who have an idea to contribute about what is right for this nation.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– The House owes a great debt of gratitude to the
Minister for External Affairs (Mr Hasluck) for the lucid exposition he gave us today in setting out the problems of foreign affairs which confront this country. His paper will, I believe, long be an important document of record and will be a matter of great interest for the future.
Tonight I want to turn from the rather heated discussion which has taken place on the pros and cons of the Vietnam conflict to try to work back from objectives. We reached at one point some common ground with the Opposition on this. It agreed that there should be regional arrangements for the future security of the South East Asian area. There are certain prerequisites for regional arrangements. The first of those prerequisites is the independent nations with which regional arrangements can be made. I do not think anybody will take great exception to that unless he is proposing to have regional arrangements with the Communists. The regional arrangements presuppose that there are independent countries willing to trust one another and willing each to make some contribution for the common security.
It is at this point that we part company with the Opposition because as I understood the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam), although he said that he was in agreement with regional arrangements for the future, he quoted Labor’s policy that there was no obligation for Australia under the South East Asia Treaty Organisation. He even went so far as to try to suggest that the Americans had abandoned any suggestion that they were acting under the SEATO agreement and he produced in support of that argument a statement which he attributed to Dean Rusk in 1964. I find this quite remarkable. It may well be that there are compelling reasons why we would be in South Vietnam and why the United States would be in South Vietnam even if there had been no SEATO agreement. But I submit as strongly as I can to the House that if those compelling reasons exist, they are exactly the same reasons which forced us to go into the SEATO agreement, namely the need for our own security to have a South East Asia of independent nations free from the threat of aggression and subversion. Those conditions existed in 1954. They were the reasons why this Parliament, including the Labor Party, accepted the
SEATO agreement as a regional arrangement necessary for Australian security.
To correct any impression that this House might have gained from the statement by the Leader of the Opposition that America no longer pretended that there was any obligation under SEATO which sent it into Vietnam, let me quote the President of the United States in his address to Congress on 5th August 1964. His words might well be noted by the Australian Labor Party. Referring to SEATO he said:
This treaty with its accompanying protocol obligates the United States and other members to act in accordance with their constitutional processes to meet Communist aggression against any of the parties or protocol states. Our policy in South East Asia has been consistent and unchanged since 1954.
Can the Labor Party say that? He added:
I summarised it on 2 June in four simple propositions -
America keeps her word. Here as elsewhere, we must and shall honour our commitments.
The issue is the future of South-East Asia as a whole. A threat to any nation in that region is a threat to all, and a threat to us.
Our purpose is peace. We have no military, political or territorial ambitions in the area.
This is not just a jungle war, but a struggle for freedom on every front of human activity.
That was in 1964, the year in which the Leader of the Opposition suggests the Americans had abandoned any pretence of acting under SEATO. Lest he suggest that they have since abandoned it, I support the statement I have just read with a quotation from a statement by Dean Rusk made on 24th May 1966. Dean Rusk said:
The assertion that the Department of State only recently rediscovered the SEATO Treaty is untrue. I have referred to it frequently, beginning with a public statement in Bangkok on March 7, 1961, that the United States would live up to its obligations under that treaty and would ‘continue to assist free nations of this area who are struggling for their survival against armed minorities directed, supplied and supported from without’, just as we would ‘assist those under attack by naked aggression’. President Kennedy referred to our obligations under SEATO on a number of occasions, including his last public utterance. President Johnson has done so frequently.
The Australian Minister for External Affairs, quoting Dean Rusk, said:
It is plain, as the Secretary of State said, that the treaty obligation is individual as well as collective.’ The United Stales Secretary of State, Mr Rusk, has confirmed on 18 February 1966, in hearings before the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, that its participation in the war in South Vietnam is in fulfilment of the obligations of the United States under SEATO. He said: ‘lt is this fundamental SEATO obligation that has from the outset guided our actions in South Vietnam.’ Mr Rusk went on: ‘The language of this Treaty is worth careful attention. The obligation it imposes is not only joint but several, that is, not only collective but individual. The finding that an armed attack has occurred does not have to be made by a collective determination before the obligation of each member becomes operative on actions to be taken to meet the common danger.’
I make those observations because, if there is one aspect that has been consistent throughout our foreign policy, it is our action since 1954 when we undertook obligations to SEATO. As I said earlier, it is not only because we bound ourselves by this treaty that we take action there, but because the objectives that led us into SEATO remain constant objectives and they are a set of free and independent nations in South East Asia, free from the threat of aggression or subversion, and this is essential to our security. Why cannot the Australian Labor Party get away from all its political dickering after votes and face up to realities? The preamble to its assessment of the situation in 1967 is that it is satisfied that the war in Vietnam does not involve any obligations for Australia under ANZUS, SEATO or the United Nations Charter. This is the Party that says that Australia should enter into regional arrangements. With whom would an Australian Labor government enter into regional arrangements? Who would trust the word of a party which in 1955 in this House supported the SEATO agreement and has ever since been trying to run away from any obligation or any understanding that we had with overseas countries to take any stand against Communist aggression. This is the situation into which the ALP has forced itself.
The Leader of the Opposition, as the Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt) rightly said, made an incredible speech. He talked about matters which are so obviously false that his credibility is indeed in very strong doubt. I refer to the statement that he has made and the support that he has given to the views expressed by the honourable member for Yarra (Dr J. F. Cairns) and Senator
Wheeldon. They have all visited the United States recently. He spoke about a great change coming over American opinion and this was the view expressed by the honourable member for Yarra a few moments ago. I appeared on a television programme with Senator Wheeldon in Western Australia and he spoke in the same terms. An American citizen cross-examined Senator Wheeldon and asked: ‘How many States of America did you visit?’ Senator Wheeldon replied: Eight or nine’. He was asked: ‘How many members of the American Senate and how many Congressmen did you speak to?’ He replied: ‘About a dozen’. He was then simply asked: ‘How many American States are there and how many congressmen are there?’ It was patently clear that what Senator Wheeldon was propounding was what he hoped to be the situation.
Tonight in this House we heard the honourable member for Yarra begin, as so often he has begun, by saying how troubled he was in his mind and conscience by what he had seen and heard abroad. He has done this before. What a remarkable thing it is that he comes back from his overseas travels and says that he is still troubled in his conclusions. But they are exactly the same conclusions that he has expressed before in this place. It could be said that he has come back fortified in his views. But is this terribly remarkable? Did he not go overseas intending to be fortified? Was not the visit sponsored by the American National Committee for Sane Nuclear Policy? Was he not telling the Americans about the great opposition in Australia to the Vietnam war? Was he not trying to weaken American opinion which supports the Government? This is the kind of psychological warfare which was referred to by the Prime Minister. We do not object to genuine dissent, but false propaganda is most objectionable.
– That is only humbug.
– False propaganda is objectionable. The Leader of the Opposition has said in this place, as he said at the Corio by-election, that the Prime Minister’s statement about the bombing of North Vietnam had embarrassed the Americans. In triumphant support of this statement, as corroborative evidence which we are all expected to believe, he said: T know because
I was in Washington and I spoke to someone.’ I remember as a boy reading a poem about a Viking who came to the court of a king and told incredible stories about his adventures in the Arctic. In support of these stories and as corroboration he eventually triumphantly produced a walrus tooth. The Leader of the Opposition has acted in the same way.
To suit Labor Party policy he has patently twisted the responsibilities that Australia and the United States have assumed under SEATO. He has done that by suggesting that those responsibilities do not apply. He has come back from America and has made the obviously stupid allegation about the Prime Minister’s statement in reference to the bombing in Vietnam. That his allegation was stupid is borne out by subsequent events. He has asked us to believe this because he was in Washington and spoke to someone. We can see quite clearly the Leader of the Opposition’s motives in this. The Australian Labor Party is trying to sell the idea that we did not undertake any regional obligations under SEATO. The Leader of the Opposition is trying to sell the idea that the war in Vietnam does not involve us in any obligation. Yet he comes out with a policy in accord with that of the Government to the extent that the Opposition believes in future regional agreements and pacts for the security of the area. I ask again: What kind of regional obligations could a Labor Government enter into after having approved in this Parliament in 1955 of the SEATO agreement for the very good seasons that, because the war in Korea was much closer to us, it recognised then the Communist threat. The Opposition now says that we have no obligations under that pact but that we should enter into more pacts. With what result? It is rather distressing that the Australian Labor Party, which offers itself as an alternative government, seeks to mislead the people because it believes that they have short memories. Our course of conduct has been consistent throughout with our beliefs which have been clearly and steadfastly expressed. The Labor Party has chopped and changed, seeking to find a compromise with the views of its Left wing, which favours a Communist victory or, at least, would do nothing to stop a Communist victory in South East Asia. Members of the Opposition say that any action we can take will contribute nothing to our security in the future. They seek to find a compromise between this and acceptance of obligations under regional arrangements. There can be no compromise in this matter and it is about time that the Australian Labor Party realised it.
Tonight, for the first time in seventeen years in this Parliament, I am taking part in a debate on a paper on foreign affairs. I do so for one simple reason: I believe that the time has come when the common, ordinary citizen of Australia should realise that the issues are relatively simple. Many complexities can be attached to the fundamental issue which is, stated simply: Do we believe for our future security in a South East Asia which consists of independent nations? Are we prepared to enter into agreements and honour them?
I again remind honourable members that the Leader of the Opposition has said that our future depends on regional arrangements in this area. His argument that follows is that we should abandon South Vietnam to its fate; we would persuade the United States to stop bombing and have them enter into some kind of holding operation; we should let South Vietnam be over-run by Communists. Again I ask: With whom do we enter into a regional arrangement? The kind of holding operation that the honourable gentleman suggests is impracticable. Is it not a fact that from the time that the National Liberation Front started to operate in 1960 until 1965 the South Vietnamese people received no greater assistance than was given by military advisers and instructors? It was only when it became apparent that the war in Vietnam was being stepped up - not by the Americans but by North Vietnam and the Vietcong - that it became necessary to intervene in a military sense. It was then that the South Vietnamese Government made a formal request as it was entitled to do under the SEATO agreement, to Australia and to America for assistance.
These are all matters of history, but the Opposition has a policy which changes from day to day. Members of the Opposition seem to think that the people of Australia have no memory of what has taken place in the past. I ask honourable members and the people of Australia to examine the simple logic of the situation which confronts us in this area. If we are to have an Australia that is secure for the future then clearly we must honour our obligations. We must try to establish an area of independent countries which can be secure because of regional arrangements and which can proceed to develop in their own way according to their own ideas of self determination.
Debate (on motion by Mr Bryant) adjourned.
House adjourned at 10.45 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 17 August 1967, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1967/19670817_reps_26_hor56/>.