26th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr SPEAKER (Hon. W. J. Aston) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Mr DOBIE presented a petition from certain electors of the Commonwealth praying that the well-being of the aged, the infirm, the widowed, the deserted wives and dependent children, and the service pensioner be improved to parity with the national general living standard of the Australian people.
Mr ROBINSON presented a petition from certain electors of the Division of Cowper praying that the Government take immediate action to assist banana growers, subsidise the costs of banana production, and establish a committee of inquiry into the banana growing industry.
Mr J. R. FRASER presented a petition from certain citizens of Canberra praying that a public inquiry on the lines of a royal commission be set up to investigate (a) all matters relating to the disappearance of Robyn Anne Collison from her mother’s home, and (b) the failure of subsequent efforts to have the child returned to the custody of her mother.
Petition received and read.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Trade and Industry. Will he inform the House why he considers the Treasurer unfit to be Prime Minister yet apparently quite acceptable as Treasurer and as a Cabinet colleague? Because of the supreme importance of this matter, will the right honourable gentleman make a full statement to the Parliament-
-Order! I think that at this stage I should ask the Minister for Trade and Industry whether the statement to which the honourable member is apparently referring was made in his capacity as Leader of the Australian Country Party or as Minister for Trade and Industry.
– I will answer the question, Mr Speaker.
– Because of the supreme importance of this matter, will the right honourable gentleman make a full statement to the Parliament and thus enable honourable members to consider fairly his objections to the Treasurer?
- Mr Speaker, the reply to the honourable member for Macquarie is no.
– 1 wish to ask a question of the Minister for the Army. Has the Minister considered a request from the Kogarah Returned Services League to have the 18th Light Anti-aircraft Regimental Band released from camp to play at the League’s Anzac Day ceremonies, and, if so, what decision has the Minister reached?
- Mr Speaker, I certainly thank the honourable member for the interest he has displayed in this matter and for the continuing interest he has taken in RSL affairs in his electorate. The matter has certainly received very full consideration. Unfortunately my Department is not in a position to accede to the honourable member’s request because to do so-
– The Minister runs the Department.
– It appears, Mr Speaker, that some honourable members cannot contain their exuberance.
– The Minister should go to Vietnam.
– The honourable member might reflect that I have been to Vietnam on one occasion. The Department cannot accede to the request because to do so would be to take 2 to 3 very valuable days training out of a CMF unit. The position has been very carefully considered, but unfortunately we cannot’ accede to the request.
– I refer the Prime Minister to the Business Paper for today, which contains no mention of a statement to be made by the Minister for the Army in relation to allegations of torture of a Vietcong prisoner by Australian soldiers. I ask the Prime Minister why the Minister for the Army has not been permitted at the earliest possible opportunity in the Parliament to make a statement on these serious allegations. When will the Minister make a statement on this subject and will the Government establish a full inquiry into these allegations under the chairmanship of a judge and open to the Press and public?
– This is not a question, as was suggested by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, of permission being given or not given to the Minister for the Army to make a statement; I completely rebut the suggestion that that enters into the matter at all. The situation is this: Reports contained in a book written in generalised terms by an American correspondent and, in more particularity, statements by an Australian correspondent refer to an incident concerning a Vietcong spy who was observing the activities of the Australian base and reporting on those activities by radio, thereby endangering the lives of Australian soldiers by such possible actions ranging in mortar rounds and supplying information as to the position of ammunition dumps and other mmtory matters. That civilian spy was captured by Australian troops. The matter having been raised in the way in which it was, I would have thought that all members of the House would consider it sufficiently important for a proper investigation to be made by the Minister for the Army. When such investigation has been made the Minister will make a statement to the House on the whole matter. That statement will be made within the next two days of sitting.
– I preface my question to the Attorney-General by saying that an increasing number of people in Australia are interested in seeing that our native fauna are properly protected and that rare species of kangaroos and wallabies are not exterminated. The allegation has been made that two million kangaroos are shot annually for meat and skins and that many animals are killed indiscriminately. I ask the Minister whether the Federal Government could legislate for the protection of our birds and animals or convene a meeting of State Attorneys-General for this purpose, and place restrictions on the export of kangaroo and wallaby meat and skins.
-I am aware of the honourable member’s interest in this subject; some correspondence has passed between us. The Government is in charge of the position in the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory. In answer to the first part of the honourable member’s question I refer to the Animals and Birds Protection Ordinance in the Australian Capital Territory, which prohibits the shooting of kangaroos and wallabies. The position is slightly different in the Northern Territory where there is a wildlife conservation and control ordinance which makes it an offence to shoot kangaroos except for the red kangaroo.
– That is only in keeping with the Government’s policy.
-Order! The House will come to order. It is very difficult to hear the Attorney-General.
– There are grey, red and black kangaroos and they differ in colour according to season. If one desires to shoot red kangaroos in the Territory one has to obtain a permit from the Administrator and this is only granted on tight conditions. So far as wallabies are concerned, there is a prohibition against the shooting of wallabies except a species called the ‘agile Wallaby’. The agile wallaby is classed as a pest above the 15th parallel. The prohibition excludes the Aboriginal settlement in Arnhem Land. I should say that this prohibition does not apply to Aboriginals. On the other hand, if an Aboriginal shoots kangaroos there is a prohibition against his selling them or their meat to persons other than Aboriginals. As far as exports are concerned, this is a different matter of course and the Commonwealth Government has control of the position through the Department of Customs and Excise and the Department of Trade and Industry; but as this involves a matter of policy I do not propose to deal with it in response to a question without notice.
– My question is directed to the Prime Minister. Has the right honourable gentleman seen conflicting opinions on real wage trends made by the Treasurer and the Minister for Labour and National Service? What is the right honourable gentleman’s opinion on real wage trends in the Australian economy?
-Order! The honourable member may not ask for an opinion.
– I withdraw that part of my question. Why did the right honourable gentleman change his mind twice and issue contradictory statements on the interpretation by the Minister for Labour and National Service of these trends? Will he take steps to ensure that in future accurate information is supplied on the Australian economy, either by the Treasurer to the Minister for Labour and National Service or by the Minister for Labour and National Service to the Treasurer? In conclusion, if this harmony can be achieved will the victor then transmit an authoritative view to the Australian public? J
– In the beginning I would like to refute the suggestion that I changed my mind twice, or even once. I would like to take the mind of the honourable member to the events as they occurred: There was stated in one or more newspapers, by means of headlines, that a particular speech had been passed through Cabinet and vetted. In fact, that did not happen to be the case and on being asked if this were the case I said that it was not. Subsequently I read the speech made by the Minister for Labour and National Service and saw nothing in it different to what most honourable members would agree was sensible; that is, that there is a need to choose priorities when spending the nation’s resources. That does not indicate a change of mind, either once or twice. In regard to the economic policies followed, Mr Speaker, the economic policies of a government are evident by their announcement, by their application and by their results. I suggest that on almost any test which people might care to apply in this country, the Government’s economic policies have worked out well.
– 1 direct my question to the Minister for the Army and ask: Has he any definite indication from the Department of Immigration as to whether it intends to discontinue use of the Bonegilla Migrant Centre? If so, what is the current position regarding the proposed use of this centre by the Department of the Army?
– Forward planning for the Bonegilla migrant camp is currently a matter being discussed between my Department and the Department of Immigration. So far the Department of Immigration has not indicated whether availability of that camp will be offered, but if and when such offer is made my Department will consider it.
– I direct a question to the Prime Minister. Were all the recent new appointments to the Ministry supporters of the Prime Minister in the power struggle for leadership within the Liberal Party? Is the new Minister for the Army a long standing personal friend with a swimming pool? Do these appointments indicate that the right honourable gentleman proposes to follow a policy of spoils to the victors?
-Order! The honourable member may not reflect on the Prime Minister’s personal conduct in relation to this matter. A question must relate to a matter for which he has ministerial responsibility.
- Mr Speaker, I feel that the Cabinet is his responsibility.
-Order! I am not prepared to enter into a debate. I cannot see that a swimming pool has anything to do with ministerial responsibility.
– It is common knowledge that the honourable members for Higinbotham and Fawkner worked and voted against the Prime Minister as leader of the Liberal Party. If this action was not responsible for their dismissal, what explanation is there?
– I doubt whether it has ever been the practice - it certainly is not going to be my practice - to express reasons for choosing colleagues as Ministers. This is a matter for which I am responsible and for which I accept responsibility. I act on my own judgments and those judgments are not swayed by considerations of the sort suggested by the honourable member.
– Is the Minister for Defence aware of the concern expressed at a Returned Services League southeast Queensland conference recently with regard to the security of north Australian waters, and the passing of resolutions seeking provision of a coastguard service, the establishment of naval reserves in north Queensland and the provision of a general purpose naval vessel for Queensland waters?
– The subject of the security of Australian waters in general is a matter for very active consideration in my Department I am aware of the special interest mentioned by the honourable gentleman. This subject is being considered by my Department, but I should be glad if he would put his question on the notice paper to enable me to give him a more complete and definite answer.
– My question is directed to the Postmaster-General who may recall that just recently a Babinda radio and television dealer elected to serve a period in gaol rather than pay a fine for having an unlicensed television set, in the hope that this action would speed up the provision of a permanent television station for that area. The Minister knows perfectly well that I have been following this question very closely. Can he state a definite date or provide me with information as to when a permanent station will be provided for this area?
– In relation to the latter part of the honourable member’s question, I cannot state when a permanent highpowered station will be established in the Cairns area. Tremendous cost will be associated with its establishment. Within the last few days I have had from the Australian Broadcasting Control Board a further report on this matter. This is under study by me at the moment. When a decision is made 1 shall make information available to the House. Referring to the first part of the question, I appreciate that the gentleman in Babinda refused to take out a television viewer’s licence, refused to pay a fine and in fact served two or three days in gaol as a result. I should like to inform the House, and the honourable member in particular, that the Broadcasting and Television Act requires any person who purchases a television set to pay a licence fee. In relation to television it is impossible to lay down, as perhaps one can in relation to radio, that reception is possible within a certain area but impossible outside that area. This varies according to the topography of many areas of Australia and therefore the Act recognises only that if there is a set, a licence fee must be paid. This particular gentleman, of course, sells television sets. Doubtless he had induced many people in his particular area, notwithstanding that it was indicated earlier that reception would be poor, to take sets. They have to pay licence fees and he, with them, has to pay his fee. The fact that he has served a term in gaol does not relieve him of the necessity to find the money for a licence fee.
– I ask the
Minister for Civil Aviation whether the New South Wales State Planning Authority has asked the Wyong Shire Council to examine a proposal to place a jumbo jet airport within the boundaries of the shire. Is the Minister’s Department a party to this decision or request?
– I believe that the State Planning Authority in New South Wales has approached the Wyong Shire Council, not for the provision of airport facilities for jumbo jets but to maintain an option on an area of land against future airport development on the coastal belt of New South Wales. I understand from the Planning Authority that some tremendous development is anticipated in the belt from Wollongong up to Newcastle on the coastal side of the ranges. The Authority consults my Department for advice regarding areas which should be suitably reserved for aviation purposes in the future. I saw a Press report relating to this matter which suggested that an airport to take jumbo jets was to be constructed and would be an alternative to Sydney Airport before long.
This, of course, is entirely incorrect. There is no intention to replace the Sydney Airport or airport development in the Botany Bay area which we anticipate will fulfil requirements until somewhere towards the end of this century. It is envisaged that the area of approximately 8,000 acres to be reserved in the Wyong area will be reserved for future development sometime before the turn of the century.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Social Services. In view of the Minister’s well known sympathy for the plight of age, invalid and widow pensioners and his often expressed criticism of Australian social service systems and rates of pensions, I ask whether he will make his first action as Minister the introduction of legislation to grant immediate increases in all pensions.
– In answer to the honourable member for West Sydney I can say only that this will be a matter of policy for the Government, notmyself, to decide. I thank the honourable member very much indeed for his acknowledgement of the fact that I have sympathy for these people. I think he will be heartened - as I have been heartened - by the statements of the Prime Minister on this matter and by the statements in His Excellency’s Speech, shortly to be debated in the House.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether in view of our changeover to decimal currency and the current investigation with respect to the metric system of weights and measures he will give consideration to the adoption in this country of a centigrade system of measuring heat instead of the Fahrenheit system.
– As the honourable member has pointed out, an investigation is being made by a committee from another place into this whole matter of the metric system. I should think that the question should be brought to the notice of that committee and I shall bring to the committee’s attention the point raised by the honourable member.
– I ask the Minister for Trade and Industry a question without notice. In answer to a series of questions in the last session the right honourable gentleman told me that in July 1966, he had outlined to Cabinet his proposal for an Australian industry development corporation; that he had fully presented it to Cabinet in March last year; that also in March of last year he had appointed a highly experienced and qualified consultant to make the necessary inquiries and to advise him, and that the matter had again come before Cabinet in September last year. I now ask the Minister whether the proposal has come before the new Cabinet and, if so, with what result? If not, when does he expect that it will come before the Cabinet?
– The matter has not come before the new Cabinet but I have had a discussion with the Prime Minister about it.
– My question without notice is addressed to the Prime Minister. Will the right honourable gentleman, after conferring with the Postmaster-General, give consideration to setting up an independent inquiry into all aspects of costs in connection with rural telephone services, with special emphasis on the present prohibitive unequal charges imposed on primary producer subscribers when rural manual telephone services are converted to the automatic system?
– It would seem to me that the questioner is inquiring whether the Government will adopt a particular policy in relation to this matter. I would not feel able to deal with that matter in reply to question without notice.
– All I am asking for at this stage is that consideration be given to the setting up of an independent inquiry.
– Well, that is policy, is it not?
-I ask the Prime Minister whether on 2nd February he said that the Australian commitment of troops to the war in Vietnam was limited to what it is now and that, as far as he was concerned, this was permanent. Is this still his view and, if so, in view of his support for the practice of making important statements to the House, will he now reassert that decision to the House?
– The honourable member is referring to an occasion on which I was asked a question as to whether in view of the TET offensive which was breaking into flames at that time, the Australian forces in Vietnam would be increased. My answer was that they would not be, and as far as I was concerned that was a decision that stood. I am not, and never could be held to be, in a position of looking years into the future, but in relation to the matter on which that question was based, yes that was said, and it is adhered to.
– I address a question to the Treasurer. What effect will the pressure of gold buying in Europe have on the Australian economy? Is it correct that the Canadian currency is in difficulties because of this speculation and has now to be supported by the International Bank? Could this type of world economic pressure affect our currency and liquidity?
– I think the question asked by the honourable gentleman is too far ranging to permit me to give a detailed answer. However, I can give answers to some parts of it. First of all, the Canadian dollar was under considerable pressure and the United States Government agreed that it would relieve United States firms from the obligation that applied to B category countries to limit investment to only 65% of the 1965-66 level. Also, special arrangements were made for Canada to borrow in the commercial market in the United States, and Canada itself made a special application to the Internationa] Monetary Fund for stand-by assistance. So I believe that a great deal has been done in order to help Canada solve its own problems. As well as this, Canada has decided to impose a special income tax in order to reduce personal consumption and expenditure in that country. I say no more than to comment that the two countries involved seem to think that the action they have taken will be sufficient.
As to the second question, I cannot say much about gold buying by the Continental countries and the movement of gold out of the gold pool. However, at the recent meeting of the Bank for International Settlements countries which included six of the central bankers of the Continental countries agreed that the price of $35 per oz would be sustained. Much will depend upon the Budget which will be brought down by the United Kingdom on, I think, the 19th of this month, and the support given to President Johnson in his request to Congress that taxation rates be increased by 10%. I can make no comment about these matters. I can only hope that the action to be taken by the two Governments will lead to an absence or reduction of speculation because I believe that world international monetary problems are due more to speculation - and probably to Vietnam - than to any other cause.
– The Minister for the Army will be aware of Press reports that Centurion tanks are being used in Vietnam. I ask: Will these tanks be used in a static defence role? How many tanks are now in Vietnam and is this number the full complement proposed for the area?
– The two Centurion tanks in Vietnam mentioned in Press reports and referred to by the honourable member for Batman were in fact bulldozer tanks used in support’ of a task allotted to C Squadron of the 1st Armoured Regiment. As to the role of the Centurion tank in Vietnam, I point out that this tank can be and will be used in either a static or a mobile support role in accordance, of course, with the operational situation and the requirements of the commander of the task force.
There is at present in Vietnam a mixed squadron of 19 tanks which include tanks used for command, fighting, dozer work, bridge laying and recovery. To date these tanks have not been committed to operations. Therefore, at present we have no operational experience upon which to draw. As soon as there has been some operational experience, a decision will be made concerning the additional numbers and types of tanks to be sent to that part of our commitment.
– My question is addressed to the Prime Minister. In view of the concern in South Australia about the future of Woomera, will he give the House the latest information he has from the British Government about its intentions towards the European Launcher Development Organisation - that is, its future overall intentions in ELDO.
– I think that question would be better answered by the Minister for Supply who no doubt would have the latest information and details at his finger tips. I suggest that the question be placed on the notice paper.
– I direct my question to the Prime Minister. Does his Government intend to sign the Treaty on the NonProliferation of Nuclear Weapons which was recently signed by the United States of America, the United Kingdom and the Soviet Union?
– The Treaty on the NonProliferation of Nuclear Weapons is clearly a matter of considerable importance which will require great study by the Government. This applies not only to the Treaty itself but also to the implications connected with it. We expect to shortly have the full text of the Treaty from, I think, the final session.
– That will be on 15th March.
– We expect to have that full information on 15th March. This is very clearly and definitely a matter of the most significant policy and the text will be examined by the Government with a full sense of all that is involved in these matters.
– I ask the Minister for Health a question. Has his attention been drawn to a report by a leading surgeon in which reference is made to the frequent failure to recognise deafness in young children under the age of three or four years? In view of the claim that much can be done for children so afflicted at this age will action be taken to give wider publicity to the problem and to draw special attention to the services available from the Commonwealth Acoustic Laboratories in the defecting of deafness and the training of children so afflicted?
– As the honourable gentleman has so rightly pointed out the Commonwealth Acoustic Laboratories provide a very valuable service in cases of deafness in children and have achieved a worldwide reputation in this respect. I shall be glad to study the suggestion made by the honourable gentleman that wider publicity be given to the activities of the laboratories in this field.
– I ask the Prime Minister a question supplementary to the question asked earlier by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. Is it a fact that all that will be done in this matter is that an investigation will be carried out by the Army and a report on that investigation made to Parliament by the Minister for the Army with no public investigation of the allegation that an Australian Warrant Officer tortured a Vietnamese woman?
– I thought I had made it plain that the Minister for the Army will be making a statement to the House. I should have thought that when that statement was made questions of this or any other nature could arise but I do not believe that we should anticipate the statement that will be given to the House.
– I ask the Minister for the Army a question. How prevalent is the stealing of Army goods consigned to Vietnam? Is it a fact, as recently reported in the Press, that thefts from Centurion tanks and other vehicles occurred prior to their shipment to Vietnam? Do such thefts affect the operational role of this equipment?
– There have been only very marginal incidents of pilferage from shipments to Vietnam. I am sure honourable members will appreciate that recent moves in the field of containerisation will greatly inhibit the incidence of pilferage. As regards the report to which the honourable gentleman has referred, the first cable we received from Vietnam relating to this matter indicated that the parts missing were from Rovers which were shipped to Vietnam with the tanks. This information has since been corrected and we understand that some parts were in fact missing from tanks shipped to Vietnam. Those parts may be considered as minor. Replacements have been made. In no way has the operational capacity of the tanks been affected. At the present time investigations are under way to ascertain how and why this situation arose.
– In view of the Prime Minister’s attempt to convey to the Australian people an image of progressiveness, does he propose to continue the negative policy of the previous Cabinet of deliberate abandonment of the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority notwithstanding that even his own Liberal Party Ministers from Victoria must now surely realise that water conservation is of the highest priority for both urban and rural development? Finally, should the present drought continue in its savage intensity, is his Government working on an emergency plan to provide for possible movement of livestock and perhaps even people to those areas in the north where millions of acre feet of water are today flowing to waste in the sea?
– It is my understanding that the Commonwealth Government has been providing assistance for the moving of livestock from drought areas to areas where feed and water exist. As regards the future of the Snowy Mountains Authority, the Government’s policy has been announced to the House. Because the Snowy Mountains Authority is not engaged in water conservation work in association with State instrumentalities - work which we regard as of the utmost significance to Australia - it should not be thought that the Authority is idle. My information is, for example, that the Authority has been retained by the New South Wales Government to provide engineering assistance and advice in connection with the building of the Eastern Suburbs Railway.
– For the information of honourable members I present the following paper:
Report of Royal Commissioners on statement of Lieutenant-Commander Cabban.
Arrangements have been made for exhibits, with the exception of those which the Royal Commissioners directed should not be made public, to be available in the Parliamentary Library.
Ordered that the report be printed.
Motion (by Mr Snedden) proposed:
That the House take note of the paper.
Debate (on motion by Mr Barnard) adjourned.
– by leave - In conjunction with its consideration of the report of the Royal Commissioners in the second Royal Commission, the Government has given much thought to the position of Captain R. J. Robertson. On his resignation in 1964 Captain Robertson was ineligible for any pension from the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Fund and received only the repayment of his own contributions to the Fund. As honourable members are well aware, no Services Board either in 1964 or now, had or has authority to grant pensions. Provision for pensions for all three Services is made in the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Act 1948-66. The Naval Board in 1964 could ensure only that Captain Robertson was aware of the consequences of his decision to resign, and this it did.
No officer of the armed Services is entitled to resign and claim his full pension merely because he is dissatisfied with a particular appointment. However, it is widely felt that Captain Robertson resigned as and when he did because of certain critical findings made by the first Royal
Commission and that in the special circumstances of this case, the second Royal Commission having accepted a different reconstruction of- the accident and having said that Captain Robertson was free of any criticism, the Government should take some action recognising this changed position. The Government has now decided that a payment should be made to Captain Robertson. In reaching this conclusion the Government necessarily had to take a particular view. While paying some regard to the pension which Captain Robertson might have received in certain eventualities if he had not resigned as and when he did, the Government did not regard this as the sole criterion. Other factors had to be taken into consideration. Having considered various ways in which this payment might be made, the Government decided that payment of a lump sum as an act of grace would be the most appropriate. The Government has now decided to authorise payment accordingly of $60,000. In reaching this decision the Government took into account advice from the Commissioner of Taxation that he would regard payment made in the form proposed as being free of income tax.
– by leave - I wish to inform the House of certain decisions that the Government has taken in relation to the death penalty under the laws of the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory. Honourable members will be aware that a comprehensive review of the criminal law in the two Territories is being made, a review that requires consideration to be given to the proper penalty applicable to various offences. This, of its nature, is a lengthy task. In the meantime some eight offences, in addition to murder, under the laws of the Australian Capital Territory carry the death penalty. This scale of penalties for crimes is the most severe that can be found in Australia. Also, the laws of the Northern Territory require the death penalty for the offence of piracy as well as for murder.
The Government has decided to take action to repeal the death penalty for these lesser offences. The eight offences, other than murder, under the laws of the Australian Capital Territory for which the death penalty is required are as follows: piracy with violence; certain attempts to murder; rape; carnal knowledge of a girl under 10 years of age; breaking and entering a dwelling house and while therein assaulting with intent to murder or inflicting grievous bodily harm; maliciously setting fire to any dwelling house, vehicle or aircraft, knowing any person to be in such dwelling house, vehicle or aircraft; maliciously setting fire to, or casting away, or by any means destroying any vessel which is afloat, any person being in such vessel; and maliciously masking, altering or removing any light or signal with intent to bring any vessel or boat into danger. In considering what penalties to substitute for the death penalty the Government examined the penalties for these offences in the Australian States, New Zealand and the United Kingdom. Except in relation to piracy in New South Wales and Western Australia, capital punishment is not provided for any of the offences. In all cases of rape in the Australian Capital Territory, the death penalty when pronounced has, in the past, been commuted to sentences of imprisonment.
In the result, the Government has decided to substitute the penalty of life imprisonment in respect of the eight offences listed. The necessary amendments to the law of the Australian Capital Territory will be made by the Crimes Ordinance 1968, which will be gazetted tomorrow and which will come into force on 15th March 1968. The amendments will be effective in respect of all convictions to be made by the Courts on or after that date, whether or not the offences concerned were committed before that date.
The Government has also decided to introduce into the Legislative Council of the Northern Territory in its next session a Bill to amend the laws of that Territory to provide for the abolition of the death penalty for piracy. The offence of treason is an offence in the two Territories and as treason is already dealt with under Commonwealth law it has also been decided to repeal this offence as it exists under the laws of both Territories.
– In accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1913-1966,I present reports relating to the following proposed works:
Technical testing and laboratory centre, Garden Island, New South Wales.
Avionics workshop at the Naval Air Station, HMAS ‘Albatross’, Nowra, New South Wales. Rebuilding of Melville Rehabilitation Centre, Western Australia.
Severally ordered to be printed.
– I present the report of the Joint Committee on the Australian Capital Territory on its inquiry into the proper control of the subdivision and use of the freehold lands which exist in the Australian Capital Territory. I ask for leave to make a short statement in connection with the report.
– There being no objection, leave is granted.
– The Committee believes the report now presented will be of value to the Minister for the Interior (Mr Nixon) and to the Government in the determination of policy and action, and in ensuring fair treatment to those owners of freehold land whose acres must be acquired for Commonwealth purposes consequent on the growth and development of the national capital. The Committee recommends initially that all freehold land in the ACT should be subject to control of its subdivision and use. It recommends further that the Commonwealth should now proceed to acquire areas required for the establishment of a new water storage and the protection of its catchment area; those areas required for urban development of the national capital during the next15 years; and those areas required for institutional and recreational purposes during the next 15 years. In all cases the Committee recommends that all purchases must be on fair and just terms as provided under the Lands Acquisition Act.
The Committee recognises that all land currently held under freehold must ultimately be required for Commonwealth purposes but it recommends against immediate acquisition of all freehold lands unless a survey shows that acquisition now would be more economic for the Commonwealth than acquisition at time of need. In order that the public may be fully advised of future planning, the Committee recommends that the National Capital Development Commission and the Department of the Interior should prepare an overall development plan for the whole of the ACT which should be published in the Commonwealth Gazette and in local newspapers and displayed freely for public inspection.
In paragraph 47 the Committee expresses grave concern at unexplained delays by the Department of the Interior in dealing with applications concerning the subdivision and use of freehold land and the acquisition by the Commonwealth of freehold land. The Committee seeks from the Minister a reference to permit it to inquire further into these matters. I think it must be said that it is not the Committee’s aim to place blame unjustly on the shoulders of departmental officers. It seeks the reference so that it may determine why citizens dealing with the Department have had to face what seem to be extraordinary delays, denying to them the information they were entitled to expect and to receive in respect to their valuable possessions, their freehold lands. Any assumption that the fault lies with the Department could be unjust to zealous officers who may have been inhibited by ministerial indecision or lack of firm Government policy.
Finally, the Committee once again recommends that immediate action should be taken to amend its Resolution of Appointment enabling it to undertake investigations upon its own initiative. The Committee feels strongly that it should not be restricted to consideration only of those matters the Minister for the Interior chooses to refer to it.
Ordered that the report be printed.
Mr Fox, for the committee appointed to prepare an Address-in-Reply to the Speech of His Excellency the Governor-General (vide page 7), presented the proposed Address which was read by the Clerk.
– I move:
That the following Address-in-Reply to the Speech of His Excellency the Governor-General be agreed to:
We, the House of Representatives of the Commonwealth of Australia, in Parliament assembled, desire to express our loyalty to our Most Gracious Sovereign, and to thank Your Excellency for the Speech which you have been pleased to address to Parliament.
The privilege of moving the adoption of the Address-in-Reply to the Speech of His Excellency the Governor-General is usually reserved for newly elected members of Parliament. Although I do not qualify in that direction I am honoured to have been given that opportunity on this unique occasion. The fact that this debate is taking place at all is due to the tragedy which befell Australia on 17th December last when our Prime Minister, the right honourable Harold Holt, lost his life in such tragic circumstances. During the time in which Mr Holt was Prime Minister he did more to build up and develop a good relationship with the countries of South-East Asia than did any of his predecessors. Evidence of his popularity in that part of the world was provided at his memorial service in Melbourne. Although Christmas was a matter of days away the Heads of State of many overseas countries paid their tributes to him. His Excellency made reference to this in his Speech. The esteem in which Mr Holt was held by members of this Parliament was made evident yesterday afternoon.
I take this opportunity to congratulate our new Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) on his election to office and express the hope that his term of office will be a long and successful one. I could not, in the allotted time, traverse all of the matters to which His Excellency made reference. But members of the House are well aware that I am interested in the field of social welfare, and I was particularly pleased to see such a large proportion of the Speech devoted to this subject. On this matter the GovernorGeneral said:
My Government will review the field of social welfare with the object of assisting those in most need while at the same time not discouraging thrift, self-help and self-reliance.
That statement, I am sure, will bring new hope and encouragement to many underprivileged sections of the community.
Different people will place different interpretations on that statement but to me it means much more than merely increasing the base rate of pensions and easing or even abolishing the means test. I make it quite clear that I do not suggest that these things should be done, but I remind honourable members that even the abolition of the means test will not solve all of our problems in the field of health and social services. For one thing the abolition of the means test will not put one cent more into the pockets of those people who are already receiving the maximum rate pension, many of whom are barely managing to exist; nor will increasing the permissible income of pensioners help those who cannot work or who have no superannuation or any other source of income.
In addition, the problems of the sick and under-privileged are by no means all of a directly financial nature. By that statement I mean that an increased rate of pension will not of itself solve all the problems of the sick and underprivileged. What is needed is a complete re-thinking on the subject of social welfare and an attempt to solve the problems. To recognise a problem is much easier than to solve it. Where taxpayers’ money is involved the question is one of priorities. Many of the critics of our system, when making comparisons with what is being done in other countries, fail to realise that Australia is a large country geographically with a very small population, which is faced with problems of development that do not confront many of the older countries. The Australian public may have to make up its mind that it cannot receive benefits without paying for them and if the public demands greatly increased social services it may have to reconcile itself to increased taxation. Personally, I believe that Australians would be happy to pay more in taxation if they knew that the money was to be spent in the field of social welfare and that they would be freed of financial worry in time of need. I want to say something about pensions later, but now I shall deal with one group which I believe is very badly catered for at the present time. I refer to the frail elderly.
In 1954 the Government introduced the Aged Persons Homes Act, which is doing a tremendous amount towards providing good accommodation for persons of pensionable age who are ambulatory and able to care for themselves. Under this scheme, to date, accommodation has been found for 28,097 people. The pensioner medical service provides for hospitalisation in public wards of public hospitals for pensioners, and the Government pays a subsidy on accommodation in benevolent or nursing homes. Frail elderly people have difficulty in obtaining accommodation. They cannot be . admitted to homes for the aged because they cannot take care of themselves. They cannot be admitted to public hospitals because they are not sick; they are merely senile. The waiting time required for admittance to institutions which cater for their care ranges, in Victoria; from 18 months to 2 years. I obtained figures from the Secretary of the Victorian Hospitals and Charities Commission only a few days ago on the last survey taken, which was quite some time ago. These indicated that persons on the waiting list for admission for long term care numbered 3,781 - 2,742 females, 985 males and 54 married couples. The secretary believes that today the true figure would be nearer 4,000. I hope that the review which is to be undertaken by the Government will result in a Commonwealth subsidy being made available on the same basis as under the Aged Persons Homes Act in order to provide accommodation for the frail elderly who require long-term care. I hope that the subsidy will be made available both to private organisations and to State Governments that are prepared to do something about the problem.
I wonder how many people in Australia have heard of multiple sclerosis and how many members of this House know much about it? To those who do not know what multiple sclerosis is, let me say that it used to be known as creeping paralysis. The disease affects the nervous system, is at the present time incurable and attacks people in all walks of life. It has no respect for sex, age, occupation or previous state of health. Young men and women of about 27 years of age are more likely to be attacked than are people in any other age group. The history of the disease in the United States of America shows that about two-thirds of the cases have their onset between the ages of 20 and 40 years. Multiple sclerosis is not a notifiable disease in the U.S.A. nor, I believe, in any of the States of the Commonwealth. There is no accurate record available of the number of sufferers in Australia but I know it has been estimated that there are about 3,500 cases in Victoria alone. This constitutes the largest number of people with an incurable disease of the nervous system. It is the largest group of people with any specific disease after heart disease and cancer.
You may wonder, Mr Speaker, why I have singled out this disease. I have done so for two reasons. The first of these reasons is quoted in a booklet on multiple sclerosis which was issued by the National Multiple Sclerosis Society of the United States of America, which had this to say:
Young adults are our most important national assets. They are the people who are starting and supporting families, and carrying on a great part of our industrial and business activity. The contrast between what they might have been and what they are when afflicted wilh Multiple Sclerosis presents a tragic picture.
The second reason I have chosen this disease is that there is a hospital very close to the electorate of Henty which cares for a number of these cases. I have visited that institution. It is the Bethlehem Hospital in Kooyong Road, Caulfield. 1 have met a number of the sufferers personally and I am aware of the extreme financial hardship which many of them are undergoing. Some of the drugs required to keep this disease in check are not included in the free list. There are drugs on the list of course which are very helpful to some sufferers of multiple sclerosis but other cases require drugs not included in the pensioner medical scheme and to pay for the quantity required represents a very great hardship, whether the patient happens to be solely dependent on the invalid pension or whether he is fortunate enough to have some other source of income to supplement the pension. Many of the people I saw were parents with a number of children. Many of those children were indirect victims of the disease. Some of them have a very badly interrupted education because they have to stay home from school to assist their parents who cannot afford domestic help. Others suffer because they are not receiving the care and attention which they require in a normal household.
I believe we can greatly assist these people, first, by providing them with an adequate pension, free of the means test and with full entitlement under the pensioner medical scheme. This would not be a particularly expensive proposition.
Secondly. I think we could provide a special hospital subsidy so that accommodation could be made available in all public hospitals for sufferers of multiple sclerosis. I remind the House that special arrangements do exist for tuberculosis sufferers. Thirdly, I think we could subsidise domestic help, particularly where patients are left alone by day and are unable to help themselves. At the present time many of them are dependent on kindly neighbours. Fourthly, I think we could help by providing aids in the home such as hand rails and safety devices or appliances. I am referring particularly to things which could be useful in bathrooms.
These are only two of the groups of under privileged people who do not fare very well under our present social service scheme. There are other groups to which I do not have time to refer. A third group I could mention is the dependent children of pensioner widows, particularly those who are full time students. I think it is time we had a look at the allowances paid to them and upgraded the amounts quite considerably.
I want to say something about the aged. We are taking the easy way out if we merely say that at 60 or 65 years people qualify by age for a pension and then sit down to work out what pension the Government can afford to pay and what means test ought to be imposed. It is wrong to assume that once a person becomes 60 or 65 years of age he enters a community group which has a special set of needs and problems requiring special services. It is far more realistic and helpful to view the group known as the aged as being made up of individual aged or elderly people each of whom has different needs arising from different individual circumstances. The extent of these needs varies considerably from individual to individual, according to inherited characteristics, the state of his health and his psychological experiences throughout life. Different people have different needs; they have different attitudes towards meeting those needs and they have different problems arising from needs which cannot readily be met. AH of the needs and problems affecting the aged are not peculiar to that group of people. There are many people of lesser age who are either mentally ill or physically handicapped and who have the same problems, many of them to a greater degree. Nor do I believe these problems affect all aged people.
There is one factor which we should not lose sight of and that is that the makeup of our population is not stable. Today we claim that 40% of our population is under the age of 21 years. This could well change. Last year I visited countries in South East Asia where 50% of the population was under the age of 21. At the other end of the scale we are faced with the fact that 100 years ago people over 65 represented only 1.74% of our population but today the figure is 8.4%. The percentage is not great but it represents a lot of people. I learned from the Department of Social Services that as recently as 5th February there were 667,921 persons receiving age pensions. In addition there were nearly 51,000 service pensioners. When we add to this the number of dependents and those in receipt of invalid and widows pensions, the total number of persons in receipt of some sort of social service benefit would be approaching 1 million. This figure would not include recipients of such benefits as child endowment. Another fact which we have to take into consideration is that all people of pensionable age today had to live through the depression. At that time unemployment was as high as 30% and many of these people did not have the opportunity to save or to contribute to a superannuation fund. I believe that the majority of people working today are contributing to superannuation funds and I feel personally that the financial care of the aged will be proportionally less in 20 years time than it is today. Under present arrangements not all aged people receive a pension but I am quite sure that there are thousands of people in this category who are worse off financially than many pensioners.
As long as we have a means test there will always be someone just outside the range - someone who just does not qualify. Obviously there must be some cut off point but it is very hard when a person whose income is only 10c a week too high to qualify for a pension loses all the fringe benefits paid to pensioners. The Department of Social Services has estimated the value of fringe benefits - that is, the pensioner medical service, the discount on telephone rental and reduced fees for radio and television licences - to be worth $1.56 a week. To that sum we can add the concessions provided by most if not all of the State Governments in the way of fares. If the Government observes the sentiment expressed in the Governor-General’s Speech -that ‘it will review this field of social welfare with the object of assisting those in most need while at the same time not discouraging thrift, self-help, and selfreliance’ - it will see that these fringe benefits are extended to all persons of pensionable age without the application of the means test.
I said earlier that increasing the permissible income of pensioners does not help those persons who cannot work and who have no other source of income. This, however, should not prevent our doing something to assist those persons of pensionable age who are willing to work. Many of these people have no wish to retire and there are a great many of them today fulfilling important roles in our community. Instead of recognising the contribution they are making to our economy we take dollar for dollar from them after they have reached the permissible income limit. In other words, after they have earned the maximum permitted amount their pension is reduced by the amount earned in excess of that figure. We ought to encourage them by reducing this to, say, 50% of the excess or even less. Last year the Government recognised this principle in the sheltered workshops legislation but even there there are anomalies. The concession with respect to earnings applies only to handicapped people; it does not apply to aged persons. I have visited one sheltered workshop in Melbourne which employs both handicapped and aged people. There we have the paradox of one person receiving a concession and the person at the next table or bench, whose earnings are identical, receiving no concession. I hope that this anomaly will be corrected in the near future.
Another way in which we could be helping aged people is by helping them to keep their homes in a state of good repair. In 1954 this Government introduced legislation to provide homes for the aged, which has already provided accommodation for more than 28,000 people at a cost in excess of $75m. This is a wonderful piece of legislation. 1 hope that each year the Government will provide an increased amount of money for this purpose. However, we should not lose sight of the fact that not all elderly people want to live in this type of home. In 1965 a survey sponsored by the Victorian Hospitals and Charities Commission was conducted within the city of Richmond in Victoria, lt revealed that of a random sample of 310 pensioners who were chosen for no particular reason, 84% preferred to remain in their present dwellings. This applied whether they owned their homes or were merely paying rent. They had no desire to be moved to another suburb, even if it meant going into a home for the aged where they could receive a considerable degree of help.
The honourable member for Boothby (Mr McLeay) recently conducted a survey among pensioners in his own electorate. I believe he should be commended for that and that the information he obtained could be put to very good use by the Government. One question which he asked was: Which groups in the community do you think have most difficulty in making ends meet? Although the answers naturally varied considerably, 43% considered that pensioners who own their own homes and are responsible for the payment of rates and maintenance are the worst off. This indicates two things to me: firstly, that it is time we extended the supplementary rent allowance to all pensioners; secondly, that a very good case could be made for the Government to provide financial assistance for home maintenance, that is, for repairs and painting. This assistance could be provided interest free or at a purely nominal rate. I believe that the cost of doing this would be much less than that of providing accommodation for these people in aged persons homes. The money advanced could be recovered from the estate of the pensioner, provided that the estate was not inherited by another pensioner.
I should like to refer to a subject which has received quite a deal of publicity recently - the abolition of the means test. I understand that the cost of abolishing the means test to enable all persons over the age of 60 or 65 years to receive the present full rate age pension would be in the vicinity of $340m a year. I am not opposed to removing the means test, provided that taxpayers are prepared to find the amount of money required. I have never thought it fair that some persons should be disadvantaged merely because of their thrift, which is what happens when we apply a means test. At the same time, I think it would be very foolish to imagine that the abolition of the means test would automatically solve all our social service problems. I believe that there will always be need for an additional pension based on need to help those people whose needs are greatest and who are struggling to exist. If we cannot afford the money necessary to abolish the means test and if we are not prepared to introduce a national contributory scheme, which is what I think we should do, then I hope that we will find some approach to social services other than that of merely increasing the base rate pension by a set amount periodically and paying this amount to all pensioners irrespective of their degree of need. We should see that those whose needs are greatest receive the greatest degree of help. As I pointed out earlier, there are many people who do not receive a pension who are worse off financially than some pensioners. This is because some people are able to arrange their affairs in such a way as to qualify for a pension when attaining the age of 60 or 65 years. It is wrong to take pensioners as a group and to assume that all have the same degree of need. This is very far from the truth.
Before I sit down I should like to take this opportunity to congratulate the new Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) on his appointment. AH honourable members know of his great interest in this subject. The Governor-General in his Speech yesterday provided the honourable member for Mackellar with sufficient scope to put into legislative form many of the ideas which have been dear to his heart for a long time.
– As the member representing the most remote area in our country, I second the motion. In this second half of the twentieth century, in the era of satellites and computers, my constituency - Australia’s front door - is so leg-roped by lack of communications that many of the people I represent will not know of this occasion for days or possibly weeks. I shall say more about this later. I support the remarks of the honourable member for Henty (Mr Fox) concerning Mr Harold Holt who led this country for a tragically short period, but with a very significant and impressive result. He became well known and very much respected by his people and by the people of the world, especially in the countries of our close neighbours in South East Asia. Following the tragedy of Mr Harold Holt’s death, my own great leader, the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr McEwen), was sworn in as Prime Minister. During this time of unique stress he discharged his duties with utter sincerity, precise correctness and with the nation’s welfare his main - indeed his only - concern. I congratulate the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) on being elected leader of the Liberal Party and on his subsequent elevation to the highest office, that of Prime Minister. I believe that under his leadership we can have confidence that our country will enter a new era of growth based on stable and progressive government under this coalition.
Nowhere is there greater scope for immediate growth than in the Northern Territory. I have the privilege to represent this region which has the greatest future. But my electorate is not only the most remote in the nation but also the most isolated because of a shocking lack of means of communication which are regarded as commonplace throughout most areas of the Western world. Such fundamental means of communication as reliable railways do not exist in the Northern Territory. Two railways of sorts were built without much thought for the future. They have both let the people of the north down badly in the last twelve months. The summer rains have caused the southern one to fail four times this year and the northern line, under the strain of carrying iron ore for export and because of the wet weather, has also failed. Every day’s delay is an indictment of the former lack of planning in this place. Why has there been a lack of planning? It is because my constituents have no real influence in this place.
The turn round of shipping in the Northern Territory is one of the worst in Australia. The Darwin waterfront is plagued by industrial troubles. Why? Because the people involved in this industry, although sometimes misled, are treated in this place not as people but as statistics, because they have no influence. The roads in my electorate often hinder communication rather than facilitate it. Why? Because they have been planned by people in Canberra who have no detailed knowledge of the requirements. At the threshold of the twenty-first century a graded track is not a road. I exclude completely beef roads from these remarks, pointing out that these magnificent roads were planned and built to earn exports by shifting cattle as well as to facilitate the movement of people.
Tourism is one of the biggest industries in the Northern Territory and is developing at the rate of 20% a year. Highways - not two wheel tracks through the scrub - are essential for tourists. The key road, from Alice Springs to Port Augusta, is more often than not a nightmare. The Northern Territory has, however, one effective means of communication - an outstanding air service. Why? Not because of the foresight or planning undertaken in this place but solely because of the vision of one man, Mr Eddie Connellan, who, prompted by my Party leader, singlehandedly pioneered one of the most outstanding bush airlines in the world, based on Alice Springs. I say this advisedly and with every confidence as for several years I flew with Connellan Airways.
Once the Government has taken a decision that the honourable member for the Northern Territory will have a vote I see no reason whatsoever why it should be deferred until the next election. I ask the Government to consider whether it would not be an appropriate and forward thinking step to give me a vote now. I should use it in the interests of the Northern Territory and in the defence of this magnificent country of ours. I should use it on behalf of a deserving and enterprising band of Australians. I want more than a voice. I want a vote. Much more must be done by the Commonwealth within the Territory for the Northern Territory. The emphasis for growth in the States comes largely from State Governments. One of the reasons for neglect of the Northern Territory is that we have no State Government. It is imperative that the Legislative Council be transformed and given more of the character of a State Parliament. It must, have more responsibility and more opportunity; it must have a majority of elected members.
We hear much of the growth of Papua and New Guinea towards independence. I call for more growth in the Northern Territory, for independence and for growth of governmental activity in the Territory. I repeat that there must be a government of elected members within the Legislative Council and this must be provided for soon. Here I pay tribute to the Minister for External Territories (Mr Barnes) and the Department of Territories. During the past 4i years as Minister he has visited the Territory on eighteen occasions, the most recent being in November 1967 when he opened the important arid zone research station at Alice Springs. During his term in office there has come about a real awareness of the value of the north and many considerable and important developments have been set in motion. I should like to thank him personally for the assistance that he gave me as a new member and for the sincerity of his and the Department’s advice and co-operation.
The climate of the north places no limitation on industrial growth. Mount Isa, Hammersley, Weipa, Koolan Island and Barrow Island are the sites of basic industries producing in tropical conditions the sinews vital for our growth. Intensive agricultural operations in our tropics are north Queensland’s highly efficient sugar and tobacco growing industries and Western Australia’s irrigation scheme on the Ord River. These are all in the north; but none is in the Northern Territory. The House will note that I must refer to great activities in the north outside my own electorate of the Northern Territory to point out what can be achieved. Why? I know that the Northern Territory has the natural resources. Its people have the initiative and the energy but my constituents have no influence; they are merely statistics.
I now turn to some of the things that are being done in the Northern Territory - far too slowly - for the development of our doorstep to Asia. Could this be because my electorate is closer to Asia than to Canberra? Darwin is closer to Saigon than it is to Hobart. I cite the great bauxite deposits at Gove as an example of what is being done, slowly, in the Territory. I cannot see why the Government should not take the imaginative step of building a nuclear power station in the Northern Territory. We have the uranium and we must search for more.
Atomic power in one stroke would make the production, of aluminium as well as alumina a reality. We must develop a modern port facility in Darwin to prepare for the mineral, beef and cattle exports that will come in huge volume - and just around the corner, the agricultural exports. The search for oil and gas must be stepped up. Production of these could boost the development and population of much of our vast open spaces. Proven gas supplies in South Australia could be used to aid a smelter at Tennant Creek in the heart of the northern mineral area and at the same time provide gas for industrial and household consumption in Tennant Creek and Alice Springs.
Agricultural development must be speeded up. One project, Tipperary, where late in 1967 12,000 acres of sorghum seed was planted in 8 days and growth is now 3 feet high, shows what can be done. This is a bold, imaginative project carried out with plenty of know how but the north is a big region and this is the only way to develop it. Later young, keen settlers can come when many of the pitfalls have become apparent and the difficulties have been ironed out. Then they can successfully farm in these large areas. Rice failed at Humpty Doo but not because of any deficiency in the soil. Surely the Government cannot be satisfied to see this huge area of valuable soil and abundant water lie idle.
Water conservation is one of our greatest national concerns but in the north countless millions of gallons of soft, precious water flow each week wasted into the sea. I sincerely hope that the Snowy Mountains Authority will be long retained to plan further development in the north as well as other parts of Australia and abroad. The Authority is already undertaking important work in the Territory. It has investigated the Darwin River as a source of water for Darwin and its report is expected to be complete within the next 2 or 3 weeks. Since December 1966 the Authority has contributed $7,500 worth of advisory services to the O’rd scheme. Water conservation must be recognised as the key to future development, both industrial and agricultural, in the north. Northern Australia is emerging from the first phase of industrial activity which has been confined predominantly to cattle raising and mining. If the transition into a modern industrial and agricultural region is to be made successfully without another generation of frustration, the things that I have mentioned must be done. The people of the Territory are young, vigorous and determined to make a worthwhile life for themselves in the most remote part of Australia. They are dedicated to making their contribution to the development of our nation and because of this they deserve to be given every possible consideration to make living in these remote regions as pleasant as possible. The Government must give them special consideration in providing facilities and amenities. The people of Darwin and Alice Springs must have television. I am determined that they will have television - not in the never never, but as soon as possible. In consultation with experts I am preparing a workable plan to bring television to Darwin and Alice Springs and progressively to Katherine and Tennant Creek. I intend to present this proposal to the Government in the near future.
I regard the matters that I have mentioned up to this point in my speech as being electorate matters - parochial matters of vital importance to my constituents. To some they would hardly appear to be broad national requirements but I remind the House that the interests of my electorate are national interests, to be neglected only at our peril.
I congratulate the Minister for Social Services and Minister in charge of Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Wentworth) upon his elevation to the Ministry and say to the Government that through him we hope for an intensive and positive approach to a programme of education and opportunity for Aboriginals. At the same time I make the strongest plea to the Government to make sure that Communists do not get an opportunity to indoctrinate the Aboriginals as was attempted at Wave Hill in 1966. The Aboriginals are our own people. We are all duty bound to safeguard their interests.
Now that the Minister for the Interior has the administration of the Northern Territory within his portfolio I extend him every good wish for success. We Territorians feel sure that under him we can bring a new tempo to the administration of the Territory so that its giant potential may help Australia in the mammoth task of developing the vast resources of the north in order to finance this country in its march to leadership and in giving a fine example to Asia.
I now turn to the really great issue that dominates the Australian scene today - our security. With the announcement of Britain’s withdrawal of its forces from the eastern hemisphere, it is even more essential for us to sustain and strengthen the American alliance. With all the difficulties and torment of the war in Vietnam, we must show that we will stand with the United States of America in good times and in difficult times. For Australia, it is of tremendous importance that the front line of the Communist world be held as far away from our shores as possible. It is of great importance also that we help to set an example to the free world, and we hope that the example which we set will become a pattern for world behaviour and help to ensure that small, free countries are not overrun and suppressed by Communist aggression. Nowhere is there a greater consciousness of the needs in this respect than in my electorate, the Northern Territory. Darwin is a gateway to Australia, perhaps even the front gateway. Living in the north of this continent, my electors are highly conscious of considerations affecting our national security.
Debate (on motion by Mr Crean) adjourned.
Bill - by leave - presented by Mr Freeth, and read a first time.
That the Bill be now read a second time.
This Bill seeks the approval of Parliament for an amendment to the New South Wales Grant (Flood Mitigation) Act 1964 to raise the upper limit on the Commonwealth’s financial assistance payable under the Act from $5.5m to $8m. Under this Act the Commonwealth is making available to New South Wales non-repayable grants over the 6-year period ending June 1969 as a general financial contribution towards the cost of flood mitigation works on certain coastal rivers in the State. The financial assistance is made available on the basis of matching dollar for dollar the State Government’s contribution. The State contributes $3 for every $1 spent by the local authority in the case of the Hunter River, and $2 for every $1 spent by local authorities in the case of the Macleay, Richmond, Clarence, Tweed and Shoalhaven rivers. The Commonwealth’s assistance is being provided in recognition of the national importance of flood mitigation works on these particular rivers.
Over the 4-year period to June 1967, a total of $4.2m has been paid to the State by the Commonwealth under the Act. The State Government has advised that the flood mitigation programme on the six rivers over the 6-year period will cost more than had been originally estimated when the scheme commenced in 1963. Because of this, the Commonwealth Government, following discussions with the State Government, has agreed to seek approval for the maximum Commonwealth contribution to these works to be increased by $2.5m - that is, from $5.5m to $8m. Taking into account also the amount still available to the State under the existing Act, namely, $1.3m, there would be a total of $3.8m available to the State from the Commonwealth for expenditure on these works this financial year and next. I commend the Bill to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr Luchetti) adjourned.
Bill - by leave - presented by Mr Kelly, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this Bill is to correct some unsatisfactory features of section 41 of the Naval Defence Act 1910-1966, so far as it relates to the employment of civil staff in the Department of the Navy. This section of the Act at present provides for the employment of all civil personnel engaged by the Department of the Navy, other than administrative and clerical staff who are employed under the Public Service Act. The civil personnel involved are mostly employed in naval dockyards and other naval establishments, for the most part on professional, technical, skilled and unskilled work relating to the design, construction, maintenance and logistic support of naval vessels, aircraft and associated equipment. Personnel at present employed under the Naval Defence Act number approximately 7,600, comprising about 3,100 salaried staff and 4,500 wages staff.
There are two main problems arising out of section 41 of the Naval Defence Act as it now stands. In the first place, it requires the regulations to prescribe the periods for which persons are engaged. This is impracticable because members of the staff are not engaged for specified periods, but are employed either on a permanent basis with a specified retiring age or on a purely temporary basis. Secondly, section 41 requires the regulations to prescribe all conditions of service, although certain conditions are not suitable for prescribing in regulations, being too variable or unpredictable. For example, when a ship is refitting, specific tasks may arise which entail particularly dirty work under very cramped conditions in small compartments. In such cases, unions claim additional rates of pay of, say, 12c to 20c an hour, and the management assesses such rates and eventually pays a special rate. Such special allowances arise on the average two or three times a week at each dockyard. It would be administratively impracticable to prescribe these variations in regulations. Similar provisions for determining variable allowances exist in the Public Service Act, which for example empowers the Public Service Board to determine all overseas allowances rather than prescribe them in regulations. Flexibility in determining conditions of service is essential in administering industrial undertakings such as the naval dockyards in Sydney and Melbourne, so that the ships of the Royal Australian Navy can be kept operational, and planned operations and exercises can be carried out according to programme. This flexibility is at present provided by regulation 5 of the Naval Establishments Regulations which provides that the Naval Board may determine conditions of service so long as they are not inconsistent with the regulations. Although this regulation has been in existence for many years, some doubt is now felt as to whether it is legally consistent with the present terms of the Act. The Bill will resolve the situation by including in the Act itself power for the Naval Board to determine terms and conditions of service, within, of course, the general administrative instructions governing the conduct of Government business. The regulations will continue to provide for the discipline of salaried staff, and other important features of existing section 41 of the Act are being retained. I refer here to Public Service Board control over the classes of work on which persons can be employed under the Naval Defence Act and to Public Service Board control over the fixing of rates of salary.
The opportunity has been taken to include provision for the preservation of accrued and accruing rights in the occasional case of an officer of the Public Service who transfers to employment under the Naval Defence Act. When a measure amending this Act was previously before the Parliament it came to notice that there was considerable misunderstanding of its purpose. With this in mind, 1 assure honourable members that the present Bill, firstly, will not change the Department’s present employment policy and practices; secondly, will not affect employees and unions’ rights under the Public Service Arbitration Act; and thirdly, will not vary or extend existing disciplinary powers under the Act.
It will be necessary to validate certain payments of pay and allowances made under the existing section. This will be provided for in a separate Bill, to be brought down later, which will provide also for the validation of certain payments made to members of the defence force. I commend the Bill to honourable members.
– Before asking for an adjournment of the debate I should like the Minister to give an assurance that 2 or 3 weeks will be allowed to elapse before the debate on this Bill proceeds. I happen to represent the employees at a naval dockyard. I think there was some misunderstanding on a previous occasion, and I should like the Minister to give me at least a fortnight to contact the employees and discuss this matter with them to make sure they are satisfied that their objections to the existing position are being met.
– I could not give such a specific undertaking, but I expect the debate on this Bill to come on in about a fortnight’s time - probably on the Tuesday.
– I may be able to help the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean). The unions have been told quite clearly in writing what is contained in the Bill and I am sure the honourable member will find that they have no objection to it.
Debate (on motion by Mr Crean) adjourned.
Bill - by leave - presented by Mr Nixon, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
This Bill and the Bill to amend the Officers’ Rights Declaration Act which I will be seeking leave to introduce later, have a single routine purpose. The Northern Territory Administration Bill proposes insertion in the Northern Territory Administration Act of a provision which will mean that if an officer of the Commonwealth Public Service were to be appointed Administrator he will be entitled to retain his existing and accruing rights in the Public Service and his service as Administrator will be counted for the purpose of his Commonwealth service.
The Officers’ Rights Declaration Bill is to include a consequential reference in the schedule to the Officers’ Rights Declaration Act. The effect of this is to identify the rights that are preserved to a Commonwealth public servant who may be appointed as Administrator. Those rights include retention of accrued sick leave, long service leave and superannuation rights and the right on termination of the statutory appointment to be placed in an office in the Public Service of such status and salary as the Public Service Board determines to be reasonable in the circumstances.
There is no particular significance in the amendments being made at the present time. If the measures are passed by the Parliament, however, the office of Administrator of the Northern Territory will be brought into line in this respect with many other statutory offices including the office of Administrator of Papua and New
Guinea and those of Official Representative of the Territory of Cocos (Keeling) Islands and the Territory of Christmas Island.
Debate (on motion by Dr Patterson) adjourned.
Bill - by leave - presented by Mr Nixon, and read a first time.
– I move:
The reason for the amendment proposed by this Bill was explained in my second reading speech on the Bill to amend the Northern Territory Administration Act. I commend this Bill also.
Debate (on motion by Dr Patterson) adjourned.
Bill - by leave - presented by Mr Nixon, and read a first time.
– I move:
Last November my colleague, the Minister for External Territories informed the House that the Government had agreed to the member representing the Northern Territory in the House of Representatives being accorded the same voting rights as the other members after the next general election for members of this House. The question of full voting rights of the member representing the Northern Territory has been under notice for some years. At talks with representatives of the Legislative Council for the Northern Territory and Ministers in May 1967, Ministers agreed to recommend that full voting rights be accorded that member after the next general election.
The Bill now before the House follows the subsequent decision of the Government to introduce amending legislation for this purpose. The opportunity has been taken to include in the Bill amendments of a drafting nature correcting references to the Northern Territory and the Supreme Court of the Territory in the present Act. There are reasons which would justify retention of the present limited voting rights. Nevertheless, the Government’s approach has been to go as far as is reasonably possible to meet the wishes and special circumstances of the people of the Northern Territory, and this has prompted the present decision.
This action does not meet all the representations of the Legislative Councillors, who are also pressing for changes in the composition of the Legislative Council, and for greater participation in the executive government. There are very real difficulties in the way of going further in those matters than the present stage, both in terms of sparseness of population and the financial position of the Territory. Nevertheless examination of the whole question will continue. In the meantime I am confident that all members will support this Bill, and that having regard to the nature of the institution of the Parliament, none of us will regret the passing into history of the special class of member with only limited voting rights within this House.
I might add - perhaps unnecessarily - that it has been the advocacy of the present member for the Northern Territory, along with that of the members of the Legislative Council that have brought this measure, which is so highly desired by the people of the Northern Territory, to fruition. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Dr Patterson) adjourned.
Debate resumed (vide page 42).
– In opening this debate on behalf of the Labor Party I should like to join with other honourable members, even though we did this formally yesterday, in expressing deep regret at the death and the manner of passing of the previous Prime Minister. Our tributes were paid yesterday; nevertheless I should like to say that at one stage as a member of the Victorian State Parliament prior to becoming a member of the Commonwealth Parliament, I represented an electorate that was part of the former Federal division of Fawkner, then held by Mr Holt. I regarded him is a personal friend and a worthy parliamentary representative.
Oddly enough, I begin my speech by praising the Government for one aspect of the Governor-General’s Speech. I refer to the intention of the Government to increase the amount of economic assistance which is to be given to Indonesia. A short time ago I had the opportunity to visit Indonesia for a fortnight. It seems to me that people in Australia feel there is more political stability in Indonesia now than was the case some years ago. I would accord with that. At least the government under Suharto is a more stable kind of arrangement than was the government under Sukarno. However, it seems evident that that kind of stability will be maintained only if economic development takes place in Indonesia. I believe that Australia is especially well cast in helping in this direction both because Indonesia is our neighbour and because we have technical skills and knowhow that would be of considerable advantage to Indonesia if better mechanisms of distribution and administration of aid were evolved. I hope that the additional amount that is forecast will be regarded as only a very small instalment of much more substantial sums that will be required in the future. It seems to me that some of the money that might be regarded as being saved because of a reduction in our defence activities in regard to Indonesia could be devoted to economic aid. In the past there has been an attempt to concentrate on defence as the sole means of protecting ourselves or building stable relations in this part of the world. I believe that not only Indonesia but also India should be given increasing amounts of economic aid and that this aid should be given with something like the same dedication and precision as apply when military operations are undertaken. In my view, only when we make the same kind of systematic arrangements for the administration of aid as are made when warfare breaks out will undeveloped and underdeveloped parts of the world be raised to somewhere near the standards to which people in civilised communities are entitled. The task is a tremendous one.
I noticed this morning in one of the newspapers a review of a report recently published by Professor Gunnarmyrdal in the United States of America which states that about 2,000 million of the world’s population are still living in circumstances that are far below the standards of the more advanced parts of the world. He believes - I think quite rightly - that the main means of improving living standards in the foreseeable future is the rapid development of agricultural production. Of course, this does not mean that industrial production should be overlooked. But it is rapid improvement in agricultural production that is required. It seems to me that Australia in particular is in a position to help at least Indonesia and India in that field.
In many respects the Speech delivered yesterday by the Governor-General is a rather odd one. He said:
My Government will continue the policies of economic development of the previous Government.
I am afraid that not many of us regard the present Government as being very much different from any other government. It is still the Liberal-Country Party coalition Government with a change of one or two r .embers. As I have indicated, all of us regret the circumstances that made the major change necessary. But I do not believe that anyone in a parliamentary system believes that in the middle of the Government’s term of office - after all, it was elected some 15 or 16 months ago - the character of the Government is suddenly to change because of a change in one or two of the personnel of the Government. At least, that is not my view of parliamentary government as it ought to operate. Therefore, whilst not saying much about the previous government as against the present Government, it seems to me that it te still the same wolf in sheep’s clothing.
I would like to look at its thesis that the policies of economic development will be continued. After visiting other countries, I suppose no-one could seriously argue that Australia is one of the lowest countries on the ladder of economic development. I do not believe that and it would be wrong to suggest it. However, what I do believe is that economic development in Australia at March 1968 is not as good as it ought to be. In my view, it will not grow in the next few months as the Government suggests unless some alterations are made in the direction in which things are being done. I want to refer to one or two recent statistics. It seems to me that some statistics can be used to prove almost anything. My colleague, the honourable member for Hunter (Mr James), this afternoon asked a question concerning sets of figures which apparently had been given different interpretations by two Ministers of the Government. I think one Minister was talking about the level of real wages and the other was talking about average earnings. I still contend that at this point of time nowhere is our economic performance as good as it ought to bc.
I would like to take this thesis of economic development as the central point and refer to some statistics. I shall cite only these statistics as they are contained in various official and semi-official publications, and leave the House to draw its own conclusions as to whether what is called economic development is being pursued in Australia as systematically as it ought to be. The Bureau of Census and Statistics the other day issued a document which bears a note that it is secret until noon on Wednesday, 21st February 1968. Honourable members can see that it is a reasonably recent document. The document is entitled ‘Australian National Accounts, 1953-54 to 1966-67. Preliminary Statement No. 1, Gross National Product at Current and Constant Prices’. I refer to Table 2 of this document which gives the picture of the gross national product at average 1959-60 prices. Expressed in current terms the gross national product is significantly different from what it was at average 1959-60 prices and the difference is some measure of the degree of inflation that has occurred since that time. What is called gross national expenditure, expressed in current prices for 1966- 67, is almost $23,000m but when you deflate it and express it in average 1959-60 figures it is reduced to not much more than $19,000m. So over that 7 year period there has been a difference of over $3,000m due to inflation. For those who pin their hopes on what is called ‘economic development’ the important figure seems to be what is called ‘gross fixed capital expenditure’. In an economy which the Government claims to be a private enterprise economy the significant figure is private fixed capital expenditure for the category ‘other’, that is, apart from dwellings. For 1965-66 other fixed capital expenditure amounted to $2,546m but in 1966-67 the figure, expressed at average constant prices, had fallen to $2,429m. In other words, there was a decline in real terms of private investment for other than dwellings amounting to $117m. It would seem that the industrial capacity of the nation declined between 196S-66 and 1966-67 and that that decline has not yet abated. In delivering his Budget Speech last year the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) said that the nation’s defence capacity is intimately linked with its industrial capacity.
I draw the attention of the House to the most recent issue of ‘Business Indicators’, published by the Australia and New Zealand Bank Ltd and dated February 1968. The Bank, under a heading reading ‘Expansion Continues with Restraint’ states:
Although several factors could be expected to have already affected business confidence . . .
The Bank lists devaluation in the United Kingdom, capital curbs in the United States, rising defence commitments externally and drought internally, and continues: the only statistical indicator to remain weak is capital expenditure by industry.
I suggest that such an indicator is too important to be described as ‘the only statistical indicator to remain weak’. That it is weak bodes ill for the future development of our economy. The statement continues: . . this weakness is concentrated in nonbuilding capital equipment, and in certain industry groups. The significance of changes in employment statistics remains obscure . . .
I suggest that it remains obscure when you look at the rather dangerous revelations in the figures contained in the bulletin released by the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr Bury) on 19th February 1968. I draw particular attention to the employment situation as it affects females under the age of 21 years, particularly those resident in Tasmania, Queensland and South Australia. The bulletin shows that as at 2nd February 1968 almost 23,000 junior females under the age of 21 years were registered for employment. In addition, 13,000 adult females were registered for employment, making a total of almost 36,000 females registered for employment. But only 14,000 job vacancies for females were listed. On other occasions I have said that something seems to be wrong with the qualifications of girls under the age of 21 years as far as the labour market is concerned. I see no reason to be complacent about this matter or to claim that a condition of total employment exists in this country.
– Many of these people have been refused unemployment benefits.
– That is so. In the last 2 years for which official statistics are available the rate of absorption of males and females in private and public employment has been of the order of only 100,000 persons in a full year. There have been instances in our history when as many as 200,000 persons have been absorbed in a year. Between June 1966 and June 1967 the increase in the number of persons in employment was only 75,000 and between November 1966 and November 1967 fewer than 100,000 additional persons entered the work force. If Australia is to expand in the way some people suggest it will, our performance as regards total employment should be better. I suggest that progress towards total employment is more sluggish than has been admitted. I suggest further that some of the statistics that have been handed out referring to average rates and nominal rates only conceal the fact that in 1 968 the work force represents a smaller proportion of the total population than it has for several years. Perhaps the Commonwealth Statistician could provide figures to confirm my belief. I suggested that in the last 2 or 3 years the wage force relatively has been declining. If this is so, to refer to statistics as average wages serves only to distort the real position. The Government’s own figures show that fixed private investment in other than the construction of dwellings declined by $1 17m between June 1966 and June 1967. That decline is continuing. In its publication to which I have previously referred the Australia and New Zealand Bank Ltd stated:
Preliminary, seasonally adjusted figures of new capital expenditure for the September quarter 1967 were $25.7 million lower than for the September quarter 1966. While expenditure on building and structures made a significant increase of 9.8% on a year earlier and 10.6% on the previous quarter, spending on other new capital equipment dropped by 13J5% on the year, and 3.6% on the previous quarter.
Industry groups showing the greatest falls over the year were extracting, refining, founding (down 31.9%), chemicals (down 43.7%), textiles and clothing (down 14.1%), other manufacturing (down 16.5%), and other non-manufacturing (down 12.2%). Industry groups showing good increases were vehicles (up 35.1%), paper and printing (up 35.9%) and mining (up 42.6%).
It is most unlikely therefore that the 5.5% rise foreshadowed in the Commonwealth Statistician’s survey for the first half of 1967-68 will materialise, and the outlook for this indicator is not good.
Therefore, I take issue with the contention of the Government - and indeed, the previous Government - that the policies of economic development in this country are satisfactory. I suggest that the position is quite to the contrary. Other man agricultural production - which at the moment is going through the difficulties of a drought - the only place in which one can hope to look for a real physical increase in the production of goods and services in the years ahead is the field of private enterprise other than building. But the records show a decline in this field of $117 in a 12- month period. The latest statistics that are available, and they were published as recently as 16th February 1968, point to the fact that that abatement has not been halted in any fashion and that the situation is still declining.
To my mind it is an indictment of the Liberal Party that the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) had to be brought down from another place to lead this Government. It surely is a reflection upon this Government to suggest that merely by shuffling a portfolio or two there will be a radical change in the performance of the Government. I do not believe that there will be. I am one who believes that the responsibility lies with the majority of the ruling party and should not rest with one person rather than another.
The development that the Prime Minister hopes will take place will not take place unless there is a fundamental reversal in the attitude of what might be called the private investors. They seem to be highly dubious about the future. I do not know whether the future is highly dubious to them because of the fact that real purchasing power is declining. In my opinion real purchasing power is declining. I am one who believes that the greatest stimulus to an economy in the long run is adequate purchasing power in the hands of the great majority of the people. The great majority of the people in Australia are wage earners and people on fixed incomes, particularly pensioners. To my mind no statistics can suggest that their standards are rising.
– The honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean) said that there has been no radical change in the performance of the Government. I am one who thinks that there has been a radical change. In the next 6 months we may be able to give evidence of a radical change from a completely circumscribed era starting with the Prime Ministership of Sir Robert Menzies and followed by that of the late Mr Harold Holt. I think that there will be a complete radical change but it will be nothing like as radical as the change that would occur in foreign policy if the Labor Party was in power. I will deal with that in a moment. In his Speech the Governor-General said:
Our Task Force in Vietnam, comprising more than 8,000 men drawn from all three Services, has been maintained at full operational efficiency and has met all calls with skill and courage, lt has also carried out a vigorous civil action programme. It has built roads, market places and schools, has carried out health surveys and provided medical, water supply and drainage services.
It was stated in the Press a few days ago that since the Tet offensive there had been a collapse in the civil affairs programme in Vietnam. I returned from Vietnam only a few hours ago and 1 know that such a statement is an utter distortion, completely inaccurate, completely false. There has been only a diminution in the civil affairs programme in the same sense as would occur in Australia during the period from Christmas Day to New Year’s Day when people are away from home on holiday or travelling. During the Tet holiday in Vietnam people were travelling.
Some of us were labouring under the delusion that the supposed truce would be honoured by our ‘friends’ on the other side in Vietnam. They are champions at using the untruth and at seducing people into a false sense of security. They did this with Nehru in India over the buffer state in the Himalayas and broke his heart. The Tet offensive was carried out under a flag of truce. A lesson that we should learn from the North Vietnamese and those behind them is that we cannot trust them as far as we can kick them. But even though the Tet offensive occurred, the civil operations revolutionary development support corps did not stop and it is in full operation now.
The interesting thing about the situation is that this is a fight or a battle for the minds of the people in Asia; firstly, the minds of the people in South Vietnam. These people have never known assistance like this in their lives before. Perhaps there was a real attempt to give them some help with schools and that type of thing when they were under French control but that situation broke down with the Japanese occupation and the fighting after the Japanese occupation. The school teachers in South Vietnam then stopped asking for schools, medical attention and the like. But today this form of assistance is in full operation. The Australian troops and the Australian officers who are charged with this responsibility are working with immense enthusiasm and vigour. They are supplying education, which is highly prized. This is not the type of education asked for by the village chief but the type of education asked for by the province chief.
The province of Phuoc Tuy. which is about the size of a country electorate, has a province chief. The population is probably less than that of the electorate of Macarthur but about the’ same as that of the electorate of Eden-Monaro. In that province there are educational, agricultural, medical and public works advisers. When the Government of South Vietnam, through the province chiefs, asks for support - and sometimes the Australians get a village chief or a village educator to ask for support through the province chief - it is forthcoming in the form of very large amounts of money running into millions of dollars. The projected budget for this support is an enormous one. That illustrates the civilian action being carried out by Australian troops, the Department of External Affairs and various Australian organisations that are trying to help.
Distortion in the sensation-seeking Press is the fault of the system. A war correspondent in Vietnam does not get his story printed unless it is sensational. I do not blame the reporters; I do not blame anybody. One instance of complete and utter distortion by the Press is the recent story of an alleged atrocity by Australian troops. That story would induce people to believe the Australian troops are brutal. In fact their bearing and discipline are superb. Their reputation throughout the world is high. Their image is in the classic tradition of the Greek heroes. To see Australian troops moving about in Vietnam stirs one emotionally. The word ‘magnificent’ is not adequate to describe them. The Press report to which I have referred is an utter distortion.
In Saigon I read an article, just as distorted, about an American pilot who was court-martialled because he refused to go to Vietnam. The Saigon ‘Post’ gave two columns to the story. Approximately 500,000 other Americans were there, but not one was mentioned. The soldier who is killed in the service of his country and in an heroic defence of what he believes to be right does not rate a mention in the Press. But the one man who says that he will not go to South Vietnam and is courtmartialled becomes news and the reputation of all American servicemen suffers. This illustrates the distortion of the truth by the Press and this is a reason why members of this Parliament should go to Vietnam before they give tongue to their preconditioned views on these matters. On returning one is asked: “What did you find?’, but before one sentence can be uttered in reply, the questioner has said 100 sentences expressing his own point of view. He does not want to heaT any other point of view. To him, his is the only view. Such people are preconditioned by a sensation-seeking Press which utterly distorts the real facts. No balanced view can be obtained from the Press. Therefore the Press cannot complain if the people show an utter contempt for newspaper headlines and reports.
The Government, by the Speech delivered by the Governor-General in the Senate yesterday, is committed to continue the present operations in Vietnam and to preserve our military alliance with the United States of America. Our support, considered in the context of the American forces, is small - 8,000 men compared to 525,000. America has approximately fifty-five times as many men there as we have. But in morale, image and reputation the Australian effort is tremendous. That is why the American President is so affected by the generosity of the Australian approach. It is all very well to question our moral right to be in Vietnam. What would happen if the Americans, through some act of the Australian Government, lost heart and withdrew? What would happen to the Roman Catholics in Vietnam where years of work have been put in by priests of that Church? What would happen to the provincial chiefs and village chiefs if by some mischance America and its allies did not continue to fight in Vietnam? A lot is said about our commitments in Malaysia,
Indonesia and South East Asia generally. What would any of this matter, or what would the British presence in Malaya matter, if the war in Vietnam were lost? Tunku Abdul Rahman has said that his country would not fight if Chinese aggressors entered his part of the world; to fight would be useless. The security of Indonesia, the Philippines and the whole of South East Asia is being fought out in South Vietnam.
A psychological war is going on in the Press, in the churches and in the left wing of the Australian Labor Party. This psychological war is aimed at weakening the resolution of the Australian people to continue the effort in Vietnam. The Vietcong have discovered that the big obstacle to their winning of the minds of the people of South Vietnam is CORDS - civil operations, revolutionary development support. The big enemy of the Vietcong is the good that is being done by the Americans and by us as their allies. The Vietcong are addressing themselves to revolutionary development support. Here in Australia the same thing is happening. The left wing of the Labor Party has discovered that the strong support for the Government is due to the Government’s attempt to maintain the security of Australia. All the efforts of the left wing of the Labor Party are devoted to breaking down or weakening the resolution of the Australian people.
Headlines have been given to a left wing Pressman’s story of something that allegedly happened in Vietnam 2 years ago. These writings completely distort the view of a gallant operation being carried on by Australians. The people of Vietnam now enjoy an affluence that has not been known before in their history. In the short period of 2 years Saigon has been transformed from a city of rickshaws and basket chairs with bicycles pedalled behind them into a city of motor vehicles. Honourable members can go there today or tomorrow; there is nothing to stop an honourable member from going to have a look. The mobility of the people has been increased considerably in the past 18 months. The situation is that the South Vietnamese are being helped and the Vietcong are very worried about the effect that this assistance is having on the villagers. In Australia the worried people include the left wing of the Labor
Party, some people at Monash University and the people who have in mind not the future of Australia but a lust for power. Such people are seeking to break down the resolution of the Australian people to support a government which is determined to make Australia secure. Their efforts are going on every day.
There is a fight in the Labor Party. I refer to a statement relating to the debauching of Labor Party policy. What does debauch mean? The Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) said that the honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Calwell) had debauched the policy of the Labor Party. Debauch, according to Professor Wyld, means to entice away from the workshop or to lead astray. Debauch was the word used by the present Leader of the Labor Party about the policy statements made by the former leader. It means to corrupt. This is what was said by two Labor men who received headlines in the sensational Press which exhibited a brawling party to the community. One member charged the other with debauching the party policy. Let us have another look at what the word debauch’ means. It can mean specifically to lead a woman astray, to seduce her. So one member of the Labor Party charged another prominent member of the Party with seducing the Party policy. Let us go further into the meaning of this word. It can mean a specific instance of licentious, immoral conduct; a gross example of sensual indulgence, a drinking bout; to dissipate; given to intemperance or indulgence. I will hand this book to the honourable member for Hughes (Mr Dobie) so that he may read it and learn what it is like to be a member of the Labor Party. One member of the Party charges another with sensual indulgence; with debauching the Labor policy: with seducing the policy or leading the Party astray.
What do members of the public learn about the Labor Party from this? The public learns that there was something called the Adelaide Conference and that this Adelaide Conference has complete control of the Party; that is what we are told. I do not know whether or not the Conference does have control but when one listens to the speeches made one must believe that this is so. The Adelaide Conference decided that the policy of the Labor Party in respect of Vietnam would be that unless the Americans stopped bombing Hanoi and the North, unless the National Liberation Front was taken into the peace negotiations - which would mean, of course, abject surrender and the knife for anybody who had views about helping South Vietnam - and unless it became a holding war, Australian troops would be withdrawn. So there we have the debauching of this policy. I do not know whether the right honourable member for Melbourne believes that the Leader of the Opposition is debauching that policy - that he is leading a woman astray - or whether the Leader of the Opposition believes that the right honourable member for Melbourne is doing this. The decision is left to the people of Australia. The people can watch this pretty little interlude. They can watch the Leader and former Leader of the Labor Party - those impressive looking gentlemen opposite. They can decide whether to support the policy of the Adelaide Conference, the policy of the new Leader or the policy of the old Leader. Honourable members can take their pick. They can have any of these policies.
Now we learn that the Labor caucus and the Federal Conference have given the Leader of the Labor Party permission to choose his own policy in order to win the next election, and that is 2 years away. The Leader of the Opposition visualises that there still will be Australian troops in Vietnam. This is probably the product of the idea of the holding policy in Vietnam. But what docs this holding policy mean? Does it mean that Australian troops will stay there forever? Does it mean that troops in Vietnam will conduct a holding operation and remain there because of the fear of what can happen? Let us consider what can happen. The Chinese have not been known to resist the temptation to have a side bet in North Vietnam. I think everybody knows - even honourable members sitting opposite - about Chinese imperialist aggression. They know the tradition of the Han - the middle kingdom - the old idea that the Chinese are the chosen of heaven and the rest of us - the hairy men of the West - are barbarians. The Chinese believe it is their duty to take over the world, to win out of the mouth of a gun or even with nuclear weapons, which they now have. Marshal Lin Piao, the heir and successor of Mao and the first general of China, is a brilliant military strategist and a brilliant organiser. He has said that he is not afraid to use nuclear weapons.
This is the kind of terror that lies behind this operation and the kind of terror faced by the American President and his two predecessors, General Eisenhower and John F. Kennedy - the Chinese determination to do what Hitler tried to do; and Hitler killed 26 million people. Yet here we have a group of people, Mr Speaker, who are trying to wear down the resolution of the Australian people to defend themselves. These actions represent as great a betrayal of Australia as Hitler’s betrayal of Europe when he went to Munich, met Chamberlain and engaged in this kind of shameful negotiation which led to the destruction of all those lives and almost resulted in the end of an era and a culture. The demeanour of Opposition members shows that they would laugh off these threats.
We know of the written threats made by Mao Tse-tung, Lin Piao, General Giap and others. They said recently that they can defeat the cities with the help of the villagers, with the help of terrorists. Terror exists now in the villages even though the troops and the civil affairs people are working in the fields of education, medicine, the construction of water supplies, bridges and roads, and agricultural assistance in the provision of fertiliser and seed. Even though the troops and civilian teams are there the infra-structure of the Vietcong is still at work in the villages. Look at the strength that it has in the use of the weapon of terror. A village chief is warned. If he does not heed that warning he is given a note that on Friday he will be executed, and on Friday he is executed. The same Vietcong infra-structure is taking boys from their families. Most families in a village have a representative in the Vietcong, although he may be only 15 or 16 years of age. He is a member of the Vietcong. He is taken away into the Vietcong and, after some weeks or months, he comes back to his village at night to the door of his home and asks for help.
– Of course, we hear the idiot laugh from the Opposition side of the chamber, Mr Speaker. This boy comes home, says that he is tired, worn out and hungry, and asks for shelter for a few days. We must also consider the Vietcong promises of land and of everything that the people have wanted in the way of concessions. They are told that they would get these things from a National Liberation Front Government. The villagers have to face these inducements, these promises, this propaganda and the terror which goes on within the village. This is the kind of struggle we face, not in the cities but in the villages. Each village has an average of 1,200 people. There are villages which have been built by Australia. I think the village of Soie Nghe was rebuilt because of the damage done to it. But the recent Tet offensive was a complete defeat for the Vietcong because they had told their own people that the people of South Vietnam would rise and that the South Vietnamese Army would go over to them. But this did not happen. There was a victory for the Australian and American troops. There was a victory in the campaign to win the minds of the people during the Tet offensive. The Communists - the National Liberation Front and the Vietcong - have to explain away to their own people what went wrong with the Tet offensive.
– I have listened with the closest attention to the honourable member for Macarthur (Mr Jeff Bate) but I am no more enlightened now than I was at the commencement of his remarks. That being the case I shall not attempt to answer him in any way. The United Kingdom Government had been pledging itself at intervals over the last 3 years not to devalue the £1 in any circumstances. Yet on 17th November 1967 it devalued the £1. That action caused consternation among many nations and quickly a number of those nations devalued their own currency so that their economies would not suffer as a result of the British devaluation. The Australian Press, in a report from London dated 21st November, stated:
The chain reaction to Britain’s devaluation continued early today with six more currencies joining those of the nine smaller countries who have already followed Britain’s lead.
Countries which had devalued by 21st November included New Zealand, Ireland, Denmark, Israel, Hong Kong, Spain, Fiji, Malta and other smaller nations. Since then a number of other countries have devalued their currency. The late Prime Minister of Australia, Mr Harold Hole, commenting on the devaluation by the British Government, said that in its implications for the economy of Australia the results would be very grave. He said it would be more difficult to sell goods in countries with devalued currencies and easier for such countries to sell goods to Australia. It was pointed out also that immediately the British decision was arrived at the value of Australian overseas reserves held in London fell by more than $90m. That is quite a considerable amount to lose because of one single action by a government outside our shores. The Australian Government made it clear that it was aware of the difficulties that would be encountered in the sale of Australian exports as a result of devaluation but decided that it would not follow Britain by devaluing the Australian currency. It was of the opinion that the disadvantages to Australia of devaluation were greater than the advantages. The Deputy Prime Minister of Australia, the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr McEwen), was not present at the meeting at which it was decided not to devalue the Australian currency and he rushed to the Press with a criticism of his Government’s decision. He said in a long and strongly worded statement that Australia had avoided devaluation only by massive foreign capital being poured into the country. He said also that the Government’s decision was taken at a time when most traditional and technical indications pointed to a devaluation. In His Excellency’s Speech delivered yesterday it was pointed out:
As a result of the devaluation of the British pound, it was recognised that some Australian industries could be adversely affected and we undertook to give assistance in those areas which suffered direct loss.
Special committees set up by my Government are examining the problems in those areas.
A devaluation reporting committee of senior officials under the chairmanship of the Secretary of the Department of Primary Industry has submitted its first report on the losses suffered by rural industries as a result of devaluation and this report is receiving the attention of my Ministers.
That was the only reference to this question which was one of major importance, not only in Australia but also throughout the world for about 3 or 4 weeks after 17th November. Everybody will admit that it is most desirable to find out the exact effects that a devaluation of the British £1 by 14.3% will have on Australian industries. However, it is more important that we should find out exactly what made it necessary for the British Government to devalue its currency and to find out whether there exist any trends in our economy which may make it necessary for us in the near or distant future to devalue our currency. Even if no reasons for a devaluation of Australia’s currency are revealed by an examination of the reasons why Britain devalued its currency, at least that examination may reveal the economic paths that Australia should not tread if it does not want ultimately to end up in the disastrous position in which Britain has found itself.
– It is not a question of Socialism or non-Socialism; the present position results from an inheritance by the British Government of conditions which made it inevitable that it would have to devalue the British £1 or face international insolvency. Bearing in mind the remarks of our Deputy Prime Minister, what did bring about the necessity for a devaluation of the British £1? I propose to state the main reason. I do not advance this as my reason; it was the reason stated in every article which appeared in the Press in connection with the devaluation of British currency. For several years Britain has not been paying her way in the world; she has been spending more abroad than she has been earning abroad and consequently there have been persistent deficits in her balance of payments. Those same Press articles suggested methods by which Britain could have avoided devaluation.
According to the experts, there were three ways in which Britain could have got out of her difficulties. One way was by having no loans but devaluing her currency by 30% . It was suggested that by devaluing by 30%, which in effect would have meant a 30% reduction in the standard of living of her people, she would have been enabled to sell goods abroad more cheaply and would have been able to get out of her difficulties. A second method was by having a massive loan of up to $3,000m. The third method was by having a loan of about $ 1,000m together with a devaluation of the currency by about 15%. Britain chose the third of these propositions. She decided to borrow $ 1,000m and also to devalue her currency by 14i%.
Let me compare the positions of Australia and Britain. The Deputy Prime Minister has said that Australia’s balance of payments deficit for the past 10 years amounted to S4,700m. This is a statement of the Deputy Prime Minister of Australia - the Leader of the Country Party and the Minister for Trade and Industry. That deficit of $4,700m over a period of 10 years would be a bigger deficit per head of population and in relation to the economic resources of Australia than the deficit that has accumulated in Britain over the same period. Great Britain has had to devalue; Australia does not have to do so. Why is this? The Deputy Prime Minister again supplies the answer when he says that Australia does not have to devalue because of the inflow of foreign capital.
The inflow of foreign overseas captal into Britain during the period of 10 years was immeasurably less than the inflow of capital into Australia. In fact not 10% of all the industries in Britain at the moment would be owned overseas but in Australia the figure would be about 30% . That means that had Britain sold her industries to overseas investors to the same extent as Australia has done, Britain not only would have had that £3,000m necessary to permit her to avoid devaluation but would in fact have considerable reserves over and above that figure. Therefore our position, as the Deputy Prime Minister says, is that even with our increasing deficit - $4,700m worth over a period of 10 years - we do not have to devalue. To quote his words, this is due to the massive inflow of foreign capital. He calls it foreign capital and of course he is right. This is the reason that we have not had to devalue. If Britain instead of obtaining a loan, instead of devaluing or instead of getting a loan and devaluing as well had sold a proportion of her industries to make up a figure of 30% of industry owned in the United Slates of America, Japan, or Europe, then she and her people would not have had immediately to suffer the severe results of devaluation.
The position is this: The fact that we depend, as the Deputy Prime Minister has said, upon an inflow of foreign capital means that our very standard of living and the prosperity of our people as well as the capacity of Australia to defend itself anywhere in the world depend on the willingness of nations overseas to allow their capital to flow into this country. If tomorrow, the flow of capital - the tap, as it were from which the flow of capital issues - into this country were shut off, this country of ours would not only be unable to supply the requisites found in other countries of the world but indeed could not provide the requisites to maintain the living standards of our people. These arguments are irrefutable. The attitude of the Government is the dictum of the famous Frenchman - after him, the deluge. The Government does not care what happens in the future. It is the Australian Labor Party that says that what this country should have been doing for the past 15 years was to build up the industries of Australia and our capacity to export more and more goods overseas.
Never in the history of this nation has there been an occasion or period during which a nation had at its disposal the instruments for national development which Australia has had during the past 15 years. Australia has imported from other countries tradesmen of every description. These have been skilled artisans, not babies that have to be nurtured from the cradle, in the kindergarten, through the primary and the technical school and through a term of apprenticeship until ultimately they become capable of productive activity. Hundreds of thousands of fully fledged workmen, capable immediately of entering industry and adding to the production of the wealth of this nation, have come from overseas. Our capacity for national development and national production should have been greater than ever before.
– It is greater than ever before.
– That is right. It is greater, but because of the misdirection of this Government we have fewer farms today than we had in 1929; we have fewer rural producers than in 1929.
– We have less unemployment.
– We have less unemployment, it is true, but because of full employment our production should be greater than ever before. Instead, production has been misdirected. In Melbourne vast edifices for life assurance companies and hotels are being built. All kinds of things that are unnecessary are being built and we are bringing to this country for sale and distribution exotic products from other countries. This is what is being done in this nation and the Deputy Prime Minister has told us 50.
A massive inflow of capital into this country has determined our ability to withstand devaluation. It is not I who say that; the Deputy Prime Minister of Australia has said so, and said so emphatically. In my humble way I agree with the Deputy Prime Minister. If I am guilty of anything, that is all - guilty of agreeing with the Deputy Prime Minister. He has said these things and he has said them to the members of the Liberal Party outside this chamber but he never comes into this chamber and says to the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) that the policies being followed are bringing this country to the verge of national disaster. The Deputy Prime Minister says these things outside the House. I have not the slightest doubt that the opinion that he holds of the Treasurer is influenced by the view that he takes of the Treasurer’s economic and financial policies.
The Deputy Prime Minister, when asked earlier today to tell the House exactly why he thought that the Treasurer should not be Prime Minister, did not say the things that I am saying now. However, his stated views about devaluation and the policies that have protected us from it, even if only temporarily, lead me to believe that he shares my opinion about the Treasurer’s policies. Unfortunately, members of the Australian Country Party and their leader are a lot of limpets.
– Yes; we stick to our job.
– The honourable member has anticipated what I was about to say. They are limpets and in no circumstances will they be scraped off and removed from positions of power, even if the retention of those positions of power involves the sacrifice of every principle for which they once stood and which they used proudly to enunciate. The hour is very late for this nation. We have reached a stage in out economic life at which, if we take many more steps along the path that we have been treading recently, it will be too late for us to turn back. I ask the Deputy Prime Minister, whose lead, I know, will be followed by every heeler in the Country
Party, to stand up for the principles that he has enunciated in the past concerning the economic policies of this Government.
The Governor-General, in his Speech, told us that special committees have been established by the Government to examine problems arising from the devaluation of the £1 sterling in the United Kingdom. One of these committees will consider the extent to which Australian rural industries will incur direct losses. The £1 sterling has been devalued by 14.3%. This means a reduction of 14.3% in the prices that we receive for our exports to sterling areas. Probably at least 70% of our exports are made up of rural products. So we shall lose many hundreds of millions of dollars as a result of the depreciation of the value of our exports in overseas markets. If the returns from a great proportion of our export trade are reduced by 14.3% in this manner, the ulitmate effects could be disastrous for Australia. With respect to the bulk of our export trade, this would be equivalent to devaluation by 14.3% in Australia. Everybody in the Government’s ranks knows this, but all, like Micawber, are hoping against hope that something will turn up after all and that the inevitable may be postponed until we all have been translated to another sphere. The attitude of honourable members opposite is: ‘Then, what matters the deluge!’.
Sitting suspended from S.45 to 8 p.m.
– Before commencing my main remarks on the Governor-General’s Speech I feel that I should first pay tribute to a great and wonderful man. I refer, of course, to our late Prime Minister, Mr Harold Holt. He assumed the position of Prime Minister at a difficult period when few men would have been game to accept the challenge. It is easy to follow an average man, a mediocre man; but to follow a man of the stature of Sir Robert Menzies was no mean feat. Harold Holt accepted this challenge and the mantle of Sir Robert Menzies. He attained the position in the best, noblest and highest traditions of a gentleman and a sportsman that we all agree Harold Holt was. His great knowledge was surpassed only by his great kindliness and his love for his fellow man.
Though we were a great party under the leadership of Sir Robert Menzies, I believe we became a greater party under the guidance of Harold Holt. We were becoming more united and, certainly within the party, more democratic. He assumed this high office without injury to any other member of our party. Mr Harold Holt has been succeeded by John Gorton. Though our new Prime Minister may not be any Beau Brummell - unfortunately brought about by war injuries - I have been delighted by the reaction of the electorate and the appreciation that the man in the street has for him. I have been heartened by such remarks as, ‘He is a typical Australian. I am proud that we have as our leader a typical Australian.
Dealing with His Excellency’s Speech, I am pleased that it has been decided to reiterate and confirm our foreign affairs policy and our stand on Vietnam. We have fought in two world wars, in Korea and now in Vietnam, to prove that we must not ever allow an aggressor to succeed. The South Vietnamese did not challenge the North Vietnamese. I disagree in some respects with the way the war is being carried on. Four hundred years ago William Shakespeare said:
Beware of entrance to a quarrel; but being in, Bear ‘t that the opposed may be aware of thee.
What he then said applies with equal force today. The situation in Vietnam amounts to war, whether declared or not. To allow the demilitarised zone to exist and to permit the Hon Chi Minh trail to be used to bring supplies, men and material to assist the Vietcong and the North Vietnamese to wipe out the South Vietnamese to my mind is stupid. We must attack, and attack. By comparison with our friend and ally the great United States of America our effort is small but our supplying men and material - a total of 8,000 men in the three Services in South Vietnam - proves that for a small nation, particularly a small developing one, we are playing our part.
Just as in 1914 when the great Billy Hughes was a member of the war council in London and later in the 1939-1945 war we had a council of war with our allies, I think the time has arrived when such a council should be held in regard to the war in Vietnam. We should have a more accurate determination of the policies that are to be pursued. I feel that the United States has been hampered by endeavouring to fight a most peculiar war with kid gloves on, rather than prosecuting it with as much vigour and determination as possible. It grieves me to hear the remarks that are made from time to time about our troops who, in the grand tradition of their forebears, are just as noble as soldiers and fair as fighters as they were. To seize upon a trivial article written by a sensationalistjournalist and throw it up at our troops, thereby casting a slur on their good name, is unforgivable. Our men are renowned in South Vietnam for their kindliness and for their actions on behalf of the unfortunate people there. Yet the Opposition at the slightest provocation is willing to throw dirt on the reputation of these men whom we hold so dear and of whom we should be so proud. Our task force has done a tremendous job for the alleviation of suffering. What we have done in civil aid stands to the credit not only of the men who are serving in Vietnam but also of the other people who have left Australia to render civil aid, to build schools and hospitals, to construct roads and to perform similar good works in Vietnam.
Mr Speaker, we can have all the great amenities and social services which are reflected in our standard of living, but unless we provide a defence force capable of defending our shores then all these great things that we enjoy and the freedoms we enjoy will stand in stark jeopardy. I am pleased that our new Prime Minister has brought to bear good management in regard to Parliament and I hope that he will continue to bring more management - I hate the word ‘control’ - into the affairs of State. I congratulate him upon setting up the Cabinet Secretariat. I hope this will be the forerunner of many innovations where management and direction will prove so wonderful to this country.
The Governor-General spoke of Aboriginal affairs. The Government is taking a very commonsense and practical approach to these people. We cannot overnight improve their conditions as much as we would like to improve them. It must be a gradual improvement. We must assist these most lovable people to develop with dignity and honour and become citizens with rights equal to ours.
Despite the effects of the drought there has ‘been economic development. Had we had such a drought not many years ago we would have been hard pressed to surmount the difficulties that such catastrophes bring about. But the effect of the drought has been minimised by the management of the affairs of this nation by the Government that is in charge.
– It ain’t gonna rain no more.
Mr -IRWIN - Unfortunately, it may not rain for some time. But I think honourable members will all agree that we have not felt the effects of the drought as we have in previous years. Despite all this, employment continues to rise. We absorb the migrants who come to this country. It is no light task to absorb the great number of young people who leave school each and every year. Again, the good management of the Government manifests itself in the fact that we are able to do this. Most of the school children who left school just before last Christmas have been absorbed in our work force.
It is good to reflect on matters: The Labor Government in Western Australia was opposed to receiving migrants. What did we see there? We saw unemployment. The economy of that State ran down to a very low level. There was a change to a Liberal Government which received migrants. Western Australia is now one of the most progressive States in Australia. Its rate of unemployment is lower than that of any other State. But our friends on the other side of the House live in the dim and distant past. They keep to old ideas that have long disappeared. Over and above the factors I have mentioned, the Government is making a trade drive through Europe, Africa and South East Asia in order to gain more export opportunities for manufacturing industries. It is offering incentives to export. This will assist in adjusting our balance of payments. Again, this is brought about by good management.
The development of our natural resources and the expansion of our mineral industries is terrific and wonderful. The Government is assisting our dairying industry which for many years has been subject to subsidies. Those who are employed therein have had to live very hard and frugal lives to exist. But the Government, again used good management in handling the Farm Loan
Development Account which was established in 1956. The sum of S50m was taken from the Statutory Reserve Fund. That amount has run down to SI 5m and the Statutory Reserve Fund is now to supply another S37m. I think we have learned the lesson of 1960 and 1961 that it is easy to break confidence but very difficult to restore it. I believe that this Reserve Fund should perhaps be used more liberally. I am one of those who are not opposed to slight inflationary trends.
I now refer to water conservation. An amount of $50m has been made available to the State Governments over 5 years. 1 would like to put a plug in for my own electorate in regard to this. The Hawkesbury district is the oldest and the greatest food producer in Australia. It had been neglected by the former New South Wales Labor Government which did not include it in the scheme of things when this Parliament made money available for the development of the northern rivers and the Shoalhaven. I wish to refer now to the devaluation of the £1 Sterling. It is my opinion that the Australian Government took the wise course in this matter. It must be remembered that since 1930 we have been working on devalued currency. After about January 1931 £100 Sterling was equal to £A125. This situation was brought about not by Government action but by the action of one of the greatest financiers and bankers Australia has ever known. I refer to Sir Alfred Davidson. In those days the banks had control of their overseas funds. Sir Alfred Davidson suggested that by devaluing our currency we would be better able to get rid of our wool, wheat and other primary products. Much of our wool and wheat was going to waste. It was rotting in silos and in storage exposed to the open air. But by this masterful act of devaluing we were able to sell our wheat and our flour to our friends in South East Asia - something we had not formerly been able to do because of competition from Canada and America.
– With which bank was Sir Alfred Davidson associated?
– The Wales. I was pleased to hear the Governor-General refer in his Speech to social services. There has been a great upsurge in the erection of homes for the aged. My friend the honourable member for Henty (Mr Fox) told us that 28,000 people have found homes under this scheme. I am sorry that the GovernorGeneral did not say more about the gradual elimination of the means test. I am disappointed that a supplementary Budget has not been brought down to assist aged people, many of whom have faced difficulties throughout their lives. These people went through the First World War and through a depression - not just an economic depression but also an industrial and agricultural depression - the like of which had never been seen. They had no opportunity to provide for their old age. I am disappointed that a supplementary budget was not brought down giving these people at least $1 a week extra in their pensions.
I am sure that there is room for considerable improvement in the operations of hospital and medical benefits funds. Some of the lodge societies, which do not advertise freely, manage their schemes very well. They could offer greater benefits than are offered by some of our huge overcapitalised societies, and this they should be allowed to do. I think that many of the large benefits organisations could do better than they are at present. Any scheme that provides for only 12 weeks of sickness in any 1 year is not a good scheme. I am pleased to note that the Government is to hold an independent inquiry into the hospital and medical benefits scheme. I trust that a compulsory scheme of hospital and medical insurance will be instituted. This will not destroy freedom of choice. Everybody should belong to a health insurance scheme. I was told recently by the Minister for Health (Dr Forbes) that 80% of Australians are members of health benefits organisations. My rejoinder to his statement was that the remainder of the community must live in Blacktown, New South Wales, because as Deputy Chairman of the Blacktown District Hospital Board I know that in the last 3 years the hospital has been left with unpaid accounts amounting to more than $88,000. So do not tell me that this is a good scheme.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– In commencing my remarks on the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply I would like first to congratulate the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) on his assumption of that office. For Australia’s sake I hope that his term in office will be a successful one. He faces great difficulties in achieving success because he leads a Liberal-Country Party coalition, but for Australia’s sake I hope that he is successful. I congratulate those honourable members who have recently been appointed to the Ministry and I hope that their terms of office, although short, will be successful.
The Governor-General’s Speech purports to outline the Government’s proposals for the current session of Parliament, but I think everyone will agree that the Speech we heard yesterday was disappointing. It left out far more than it included. The southern parts of Australia are at present suffering the worst drought in their history. The only reference in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech to drought was a qualification regarding our overseas balances. There was no mention of the drought as such in the Speech. For some time members of Parliament, farmers and graziers organisations and the Victorian Government have been making approaches to the Commonwealth Government seeking more assistance for drought affected areas. Not only farmers are affected by the drought. Everybody in industry and commerce dependent on primary industry is affected. The Commonwealth has made some money available for drought relief. I understand that this money is made available interest free. But unfortunately the farmers of Victoria cannot get the money free of interest. In its wisdom the Victorian Government has decided to charge an interest rate of 3% for drought relief money. The terms under which this money will be made available to farmers are so harsh that if you do not qualify to be declared bankrupt you have no hope of getting money under the scheme. There is nothing we can do about this as the money is under the control of the Victorian Government. But the terms under which wheat is made available for fodder are within the power of this Parliament and I hope that something will be done in this matter very quickly. I trust that here I will have the support of honourable members opposite. I do not claim to be the first honourable member to take up this matter with the Government. I imagine that others before me have taken it up. I first took up the matter in October last year.
I was told then that it would be unconstitutional and a breach of the Wheat Stabilisation Agreement if concessions were made in the sale of wheat to farmers in drought affected areas. On 7th November last year in another place Senator Poyser asked a question relating to assistance to drought affected farmers in the form of fodder wheat concessions - either credit or subsidies. He was told by the Minister replying that some concessions may have been made available in New South Wales during a period of drought 2 or 3 years ago and that the matter would be further investigated. To this date Senator Poyser has had no further reply. I understand that it is still necessary for farmers wishing to use fodder wheat to pay cash in advance for the grain. Money which would normally be used to help these farmers - money made available to the States by the Commonwealth - is not available to them while they have any assets. I presume that those assets would include their stock. The situation is extremely grim for these farmers. This fact is of importance to the nation because the rate of recovery after the drought will depend largely on the numbers of breeding stock that the drought affected farmers are able to keep alive and in good condition. In a letter to the Prime Minister, the Premier of Victoria said:
The failure of farmers to purchase wheat in substantial quantities, coupled with the increasing slaughter rate as noted earlier, demonstrates to me there is a buyer resistance against current feed prices and a preference to sacrifice breeders rather than to feed at current costs.
I understand not only that wheat is extremely dear as fodder but also that the prices of the normally marketed stock feeds have nearly doubled because of the drought. This means that a farmer who does not have considerable financial backing is placed in a very difficult position. If he wishes, he can keep his stock and run himself into debt. I have been given figures which indicate that by October of this year a breeding ewe would have a capital value of about $15 if fed a current feed prices. This is hardly an economic proposition. At these costs, farmers cannot afford to keep their breeding stock.
I ask the Government to give urgent consideration to providing some relief, both in the form of a subsidy on wheat which is produced for feed and which is purchased to keep breeding stock alive, and in the form of credit to those farmers who wish to keep their farms going and do their best to recover when the drought is over. We have surplus wheat. I do not know the economics of wheat, but I believe that we have sufficient wheat to be able to provide it for fodder, at reasonable rates, when required for the preservation of animals that are a very important asset for Australia. We can say what we like about secondary industries and minerals, but at this stage primary industry is still our greatest export earner.
Water conservation also was mentioned in the Governor-General’s Speech. The Government has indicated that it will spend $50m over 5 years on approved schemes of water conservation. Urban water is excluded from this programme. If we examine the costs of any major water conservation scheme in Australia, we shall find that not much will be done with $50m. The Government’s approach is hardly one that would fill one with enthusiasm for the future of water conservation in this country. I do not think that the States are in a financial position to undertake water conservation schemes. I believe that the Commonwealth Government must finance these schemes to a large extent and it must do the planning and research for the conservation of as much of Australia’s water as is possible.
Another matter that was mentioned in the Governor-General’s Speech was a proposal that an independent inquiry into medical schemes operated under the National Health Act be held. Obviously this has been decided on by the Government in order to counter a proposal for the appointment of a select committee to inquire into hospital and medical costs which was the subject of a motion placed on the notice paper of another place during the last sessional period and which the present Prime Minister was instrumental in preventing from becoming operative. There is need for an inquiry not only into health schemes but also into the question of whether the money is spent in the best possible way and into what can be done to improve the situation. I believe that an inquiry of the nature now proposed by the Government is far too narrow. Health covers a much bigger field than just the national health scheme. The question of the provision of hospitals and geriatric institutions also is involved. An inquiry of the nature suggested by the Government will hardly achieve more than possibly the streamlining of the scheme itself. It will hardly alter the financing of the hospitals in the various States, which is under the control of the State governments. It will hardly alter the rather exorbitant rates which are being charged in hospitals and which in turn result in very high contribution rates being charged by hospital benefit funds.
The honourable member for Mitchell (Mr Irwin) said that he believed in freedom, but he also said that these schemes should be compulsory. I do not believe that any scheme should be compulsory unless it is based on a person’s ability to pay. If a scheme is to be compulsory it must also be comprehensive enough to give adequate insurance to those persons who are compelled to join so that they will not have to put their hands into their pockets all the time to supplement their payments to the insurance funds, as they have to do at present. Far too little of the money paid to the funds is being used in the field of health. The moneys which are invested by the funds cannot be used for the furtherance of health institutions but must be invested in other ways. This may well be good financing, but I doubt very much whether it is of any benefit to the health of the community.
The field of geriatrics is not mentioned in the Governor-General’s Speech, nor are the needs of elderly people who have to find places to live altogether met by the Aged Persons Homes Act. The cost of building a reasonable old folks home, as it is described, is extremely high and only with considerable help can communities raise the money that is needed. It is very difficult, if not impossible, to provide adequate care where it is necessary for a community also to raise money to build its own public hospital and practically every other community service that is needed. In Geelong there are 130 geriatric beds for over 100,000 people. A new wing will be added to the Grace McKellar House in the not too distant future. Those persons who will be then admitted to this centre will have been on the list since 1962. If a person is 65 when he puts his name down he may get in at 70 if he is still alive. This wing will allow for another thirty people. However, another 600 are still on the waiting list. The House has started what it calls a day hospital whereby elderly people can live at home and receive necessary treatment at home during the day. This is an excellent scheme. 1 have seen it work. I think that other honourable members who have had some association with schemes of this kind agree that they are a really worthwhile exercise. However, because such activities are not covered in any way by the health scheme at present, Government assistance is not available to the Grace McKellar House to operate this ancillary service. It does an extremely good job and it allows those patients in need of treatment to remain at home if they are able to do so. Unfortunately the cost is such that extension of this scheme may prove impossible in the future.
There is no mention at all in the Governor-General’s Speech of any proposed rise in age or other pensions. A few days ago the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) made a speech - most likely in rebuttal of views expressed by the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr Bury) - in which he claimed that the economy was buoyant and that the measures that the Government adopted in the last Budget were bearing fruit. I am afraid that those measures are not bearing fruit for those who are dependent on social services. In the last Budget such people were asked to bear the costs of increased defence charges. No one else in the community was asked to do this only people on social services - those who are dependent on the Government for their sole source of income. No easing of the means test, no increase in the amount of allowable earnings or any other means by which the people can earn more money and still receive a pension will alter the circumstances of those who are actually dependent on pensions for their income. They must live on what they receive from the Government. To date the Government has given no indication that it intends to make any improvement whatsoever in pensions. We are led to believe by the Press that pensioners will receive something like 50c when the next Budget is approved by this Parliament, about next October. By that time, if the cost of living continues to rise at the rate at which it has risen during the last 12 months, the incomes of pensioners will be some 6% to 8% down on their incomes of last year. No-one could expect a pensioner, who has to depend on that income alone, to continue to live on it.
One of my constituents, when approaching the age of 20 years, filled in his national service application form, forwarded it to the Department of Labour and National Service, but received no reply. Subsequently he wrote a second letter to the Department, but again received no reply. Following this one of his friends, whose birthday fell on the same date, was informed that he had not been included in the ballot. My constituent did not press the matter. At the age of 21 he registered to be placed oh the electoral roll. Shortly afterwards he was visited by a Commonwealth officer who informed him that he had failed to register for national service. My constituent was subsequently taken to court in Geelong. After evidence had been given the court accepted the fact that he had endeavoured to register for national service but that his registration had been posted at such a time that it would have arrived early.
In reply to a question I asked last year the Minister for Labour and National Service said that early applications were in fact registered. In this case the magistrate accepted that the man concerned had registered early and because that constitutes a breach of the Act the magistrate found him guilty of failing to register within the prescribed time. Following a motion by the solicitor representing the person concerned the magistrate dismissed the case; he entered no conviction. On behalf of the person concerned. I took the matter up with the Minister. On the first occasion I received a reply which, to me, suggested that the Minister was not fully aware of the outcome of the court case. On that occasion the Minister informed me that the person concerned had been charged with the offence but did not mention in his letter, and I believe that he was not aware, that the person concerned had been charged and found guilty, not as charged, but of a technical offence of registering early and because of the minor nature of the charge the court had seen fit not to enter a conviction.
Under the terms of the National Service Act the person concerned has been called up for compulsory national service as a person who has failed to register. Apparently the fact that no conviction was recorded and that the court was prepared to accept that he had attempted to register early carries no weight at all in the matter. I believe that an injustice has been done. The person concerned would not have been called up had his registration been received by the office and entered, as the Minister informs me that such applications are entered when they arrive early. But because the Department is not prepared to accept what the court was prepared to accept this person will be required to undergo national service at an age of approximately 22 years when, I believe, he will be at a considerable disadvantage. The person concerned is quite prepared to serve - he is not objecting to serving - but both he and I feel that an injustice has been done and that at this stage he should not be asked to undergo national service.
Some time ago the Minister for Labour and National Service made a speech in which he is reported to have stated that real incomes in Australia are falling and have been falling for 3 years and that they will continue to fall because of the need to increase expenditure on defence. Whilst the Treasurer’s speech in rebuttal has been circulated, unfortunately honourable members have not received a text of the rather controversial speech delivered by the Minister for Labour and National Service. Therefore honourable members are not in a position to judge what the Minister actually said. I have a Management News Letter which supports the statement to which I referred and which claims that in all probability blue collar workers have suffered more than the figures show because during the last 3 years white collar workers through industrial and other actions, have improved their relative positions, which had been slipping for some time in relation to blue collar workers. Everyone will agree with that statement.
The Governor-General’s Speech makes no mention of industrial upheaval or industrial trouble throughout Australia. I do not know whether the Governor-General’s advisers do not consider the present troubles to be serious or whether his advisers believe is better not to raise such an issue. But I wish to raise the issue because I believe that it is important. Industrial upheavals are not accidents, but when they are widespread they are symptoms of far deeper trouble than mere agitation; they have a real economic base. The economic base at the present time is that the wages and salaries will not buy as much as they could a couple of years ago. Any member of the House who talks to his constituents would realise that if overtime were suddenly cut out onehalf of his constituents, except those who are well off, would find themselves in very sorry straits. Costs are rising very rapidly. Wages also are rising but are not keeping pace with prices at this particular stage. In a number of instances secondary rises take place, disadvantaging other sections of the community.
The industrial trouble which is besetting the country at the present time has a cause which the Government should take very seriously. Not since the late 1940s has similar industrial strife spread throughout Australia. The situation should be reviewed more seriously than it has been. To cry that the trouble is Communist inspired will not solve the problem. The Premier of Victoria is making that suggestion in relation to the dispute with the Municipal Officers Association of Victoria. He is virtually blaming the Trades Hall Council for the troubles in the State Electricity Commission. The union concerned is not affiliated and to my knowledge never has been with the Trades Hall Council. The problems that exist are real and should be dealt with in a serious manner.
I hope that the Minister concerned and the Government will take a long, hard look at the industrial troubles and that the Government will not go on record, as it did earlier this year in relation to the Post Office dispute, in an attempt to spread industrial trouble and cripple the nation. The Prime Minister and Ministers concerned took action which they knew would cause the strike to spread far wider than it would have, by endeavouring to employ non-union labour. Never in the history of Australia has non-union labour been accepted as an alternative to a strike. I doubt whether any organisation, even the Parliamentary union, would stand up for nonunion labour.
- Mr Speaker, first of all, in common with other honourable members who have spoken in this debate, I want to refer to the tragic event of last December and the death of the former Prime Minister, the Right Honourable Harold Holt. Over recent months - towards the close of last year - I had a great deal to do with the late Prime Minister because of my attendance at two conferences in the Asian area, as I think most honourable members would know. The contribution that he made to this Parliament and to the Commonwealth of Australia was revealed by the attendance at his memorial service of the leaders of Asian countries. I had the privilege of travelling in some of the countries in Asia after his visit there and I know the impact he made, both personally and for Australia. The results of his visits and of his approach to the Asian problem will be of benefit to Australia in the years that are ahead. This country has lost a man who served Australia in the highest traditions and, as was said in this place yesterday, all honourable members of this House have lost a friend.
I congratulate the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) upon his appointment. I had the privilege in 1956 of attending a conference in Taiwan with Senator Gorton, as he then was. I formed then a very high opinion of his abilities and his qualities. I am sure that in the time be is our Prime Minister these qualities will be revealed more and more as he leads this Government in the further development and progress of Australia.
After, listening to speeches made by members of the Opposition, I would like to make one comment at this stage. Most of those speeches stressed the point that this Government had done nothing about the drought. The drought problem of course is a complex one but members of the Opposition have shown a complete lack of appreciation of what the Government has done. Apparently, they have not listened to any of the statements made in this House by Ministers and by honourable members. They have not even taken note of what was contained in the Speech of His Excellency the Governor-General. If honourable members read through that speech they will find numerous references to the primary producers and the problems that confront them. At one point in his speech His Excellency said:
My Government will introduce legislation during this Session to authorise expenditure on water conservation projects already agreed upon with the States. These will be financed from the $50m being made available by the Commonwealth over 5 years for these purposes.
There have been other references to this particular problem by Ministers and by honourable members.
I want to congratulate the honourable member for Henty (Mr Fox) and my colleague the honourable member for the Northern Territory (Mr Calder) on the speeches they made in moving and seconding the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply. The great deal of thought given to those speeches by both honourable members highlighted some of the problems and difficulties that confront Australia and this Parliament. I will mention some of those problems at a later stage. I want now to comment on the speech made by the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean). He congratulated the Government on the increased aid to be given to Indonesia. That, Sir, brings me to my point about the primary industries of Australia. I will have a great deal to say about primary industry at various stages and I want to highlight the problem that confronts us. I believe that, with it, an opportunity confronts us at this moment. Recently there was a conference in Delhi about the problem of food production, and assistance for underdeveloped nations. This also links up with the point made in the Governor-General’s Speech about the policy of the Government in the field of rural industry. The Governor-General said:
Honourable members have commented in this House on a number of occasions on the complexity of the problems of the dairying industry. I think that this is a move in the right direction and it is one that has been given consideration over a period of time. One can never hurry these things along. But, Sir, one of the great factors influencing the progress and development of this country, to my mind, is the sustenance of the primary industries of Australia. If we lose sight of this fact we will lose sight of one of the major contributions to the economic foundations of this land. I am a little perturbed about the attitude of some people - I call them ‘academic economists’ - who do not appear to realise this. In many instances they approach a problem from a purely mathematical point of view and one cannot solve problems purely by mathematics. I think that it is in this regard that one mistake is being made. Following on from there, if we are to assist underdeveloped countries and if we are to increase the population of our own country, we will need to increase our primary production. Because of advances made in the field of science and technology and all the other things that have contributed to an increased production despite falling manpower, we have made great progress; but we cannot afford to allow people to leave primary industry at the present rate and still achieve the objective of Australia being a food bowl for Asia. I think this is one of the problems that confront us. One of the areas in which we have an opportunity to go forward is in the development of increased primary production.
I now want to say something about the Postmaster-General’s Department. It concerns something that happened in my electorate. Let me say, first, that I am extremely fortunate in my electorate because of the people holding executive positions in the Postmaster-General’s Department. I pay a tribute to those men in the Kempsey, Newcastle, and Maitland areas. I have had the utmost co-operation from people holding executive positions with the PostmasterGeneral’s Department in this general area. But, Sir, a post office at West Kempsey, in my area, has been closed. I was not informed that this would be done. The first information I received on the matter was an announcement in the Press. I immediately contacted the Postmaster-General and said that I objected to the West Kempsey Post Office being closed. Members of the Chamber of Commerce in that area and other people in the district also objected to its being closed. There are many points which can be raised in regard to this matter. The West Kempsey area is a developing one. A large food fair is being built in the area by one of the chain stores. One thing, incidentally, is that when there is any flood and Kempsey is cut, it is from the West Kempsey Post Office that the mail can be taken to the railway. 1 believe not only that all these factors should be taken into consideration but that they must bc taken into consideration. To my mind there should have been a conference between the postal manager and the Chamber of Commerce in that area before the Post Office was closed on Saturday mornings.
I appreciate the problems and the difficulties which are confronting the Postmaster-General’s Department at this moment and I understand some of the factors that have been taken into consideration in reaching this decision. Economy must be a factor in reaching such a decision. Perhaps it can be said that on the basis of economy and of good business the Post Office at West Kempsey should not be kept open on a Saturday morning, but surely there are other factors to be considered. As my colleague the honourable member for Calare (Mr England) has said, this is a matter of service. Surely there could have been a conference between the business people and the administrative officials of the Postmaster-General’s Department in that area so that something could have been worked out. Perhaps a compromise could have been arrived at with an understanding of both points of view. In this matter there has been a weakness which should be rectified.
This brings me to the problems generally of the Postmaster-General’s Department, which I believe should be examined. I, and I am sure other honourable members, have received a circular letter staling that a group of officers in the Department were concerned about the standing of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department today. I am sure that the majority of people who work in the Department are conscious that they are there to give a service to the community; that they are a vital part in the progress and development of this country. I am sure that they desire to give a service. We must give them encouragement; we must assist them to build up morale which, unfortunately, docs not seem to be very high. I believe that we have a responsibility in this regard. I remind the House that when the postal charges were increased the
Austraiian Country Party, with others, said that it was prepared to accept the increases, provided that as a result there would be better service to people in country areas. But this certainly has not been so. Since then we have seen a number of work to regulations strikes. There was a major strike in January. Looking at the overall picture one can see that the service to country areas has not been improving. The honourable member for Kennedy (Mr Katter) has reminded me that no strikes originate in country areas. I say quite frankly that there is a responsibility to see that something is done in this regard so that we may have an organisation which provides a real service to the community. The Post Office is a vital factor in our development and progress, and we must see that the public does not suffer in the way that it has suffered recently.
I propose now to say something about the Commonwealth Development Bank. Again 1 am not criticising officials. I have had contact with the Bank many times and have the utmost confidence in those who administer it. However, I believe that the policy of the Bank is wrong. 1 feel that it is not making the contribution to our development that it should be making. To illustrate this I shall cite a case that was brought to my notice recently concerning somebody who was seeking finance from the Commonwealth Development Bank. A firm to which I shall refer as firm A, although operating in only a small way, is contributing to Australia’s progress and is also helping in the export field. Money was made available by the Development Bank to a State banking instrumentality to finance the purchase of machinery by firm B from firm A. The State to which the finance was made available paid firm B, which passed on to firm A only a portion of the funds necessary for the purchase of equipment and spent the remainder in some other manner. When firm A applied for payment for the machinery it was told that no funds were available.
I immediately approached the Commonwealth Development Bank which originally had been responsible for the finance being made available and I said that in my opinion the Bank had a responsibility to see that the firm received full payment. I pointed out that because it had not received payment in full its financial liquidity was restricted. 1 asked the Development Bank to finance the firm to help its liquidity. I know the firm to which I am referring and I know that from a financial point of view this would have been a good investment. The Development Bank official said that this finance did not come within the Bank’s particular scope. Because the money had been made available to the State instrumentality, I believe that the Development Bank had a responsibility to ensure that full payment was made to firm A, which was the original supplier. Yet when I approached the Bank I was told that it was not within the Bank’s scope. In instances of this type I believe that the Development Bank is failing in its task. I make no criticism of those who have been in control of the Bank, but I feel that one of the greatest mistakes that this Government ever made was in not appointing Sir Arthur Fadden as the first chairman of the Development Bank. I believe that Australia and the Government have suffered, both economically and politically, because of the Government’s failure to appoint a man with greater understanding, greater appreciation and greater knowledge of what the Development Bank could do. I feel that in this way we made a very grave mistake.
I propose to refer also to the arbitration system. We must acknowledge that once we had an arbitration system which had the respect and confidence of many people and of other countries. Clearly our arbitration system now needs to be overhauled, yet I feel that there is a complete lack of appreciation of the total situation by those who are concerned. Speaking quite frankly, I say that the trouble which flowed from the recent decision of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission came about because the decision was unjust and unfair to all concerned. Neither the unions nor the employers felt that the decision was just. There must be times when one disagrees with a decision given by the Commission. Only the Archangel Gabriel or a Solomon could put forward a decision with which everyone agreed. But to my mind the only thing about which one could be sure in the recent decision was that everyone would disagree with it and that it would upset relationships in the economic and industrial spheres.
Because of the vital importance of a stable wage structure, both to those who are within the unions and to the employers - particularly those in primary industry - I think that we should have a real look at the arbitration system to see what can be done to derive greater advantage for Australia. The State Chairman of the Australian Country Party said last year:
The statutory interpretation of the Arbitration Act imposes on the Commission the one and only function, namely, the prevention and settlement of disputes. lt is not necessary for the Commission to have regard to the economy as a whole or to any individual industry, however greatly it may affect the economy, nor is it compelled to consider what effect any decision of the Commission may have on industry or a particular industry.
In this respect the effect of a wage decision on the exporting industry should be of primary importance. Costs- consequent on continued wage rises have resulted in a two-level economy, one where increased costs are passed to the consumer and the other where costs cannot be passed on but must be borne by the industry itself.
This has the result that the ratio of prices received by farmers, and prices paid by fanners, is continually falling and now stands at 78. lt is as long ago as 1952-53 that prices received and prices paid by farmers were level so that they were neither at an advantage or disadvantage. Since then costs have increased to such an extent that the wool industry, which is the only industry completely without protection of any sort, cannot continue to support Australia in the unreal economic conditions that exist at present.
Mr Hunt said that he believed that the Conciliation and Arbitration Act should be amended to make it mandatory for the commission to take into consideration the state of the economy when determining national wage cases. As I said, that was in February of last year. I have said before in this House that because we in Australia have such a vast area with so small a population, with the result that the cost per capita of development is so high, we more than any other country must give serious consideration to anything that affects the cost of the development and progress of Australia. As I say, we should look at these. To my mind many things could be done to improve the structure of wage fixation in this country. I think that we have people within the trade union movement who could be appointed to the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission to give advice and to assist in the formulation of what must be an ultimate decision. I know it is easy enough to say that things should be done to make a change but it is difficult in all the complexities of our present day living to set up the machinery that will achieve this ultimate result. The progress and development of Australia are of such importance not only to the wage earner and the primary producer, but also to every person in this country, that we must give serious consideration to this aspect of our economy.
Looking at the Speech of His Excellency the Governor-General and taking into consideration that as usual it reveals a continuing of a policy already presented, I congratulate the Government on its presentation. 1 trust that the serious consideration being given to many of the problems that confront us will continue to take this country forward with continued progress and development in the future as in the past.
– Because we have a new Prime Minister and several new members of the Ministry, following the sacking of two others, the Australian people must not be fooled. Many people in Australia may think that because the personnel of the Government has changed we have a change of government. This is not so. The Liberal-Australian Country Party coalition has been on the Treasury bench since 1949. The Government parties would like to be there through eternity but the Australian people will have something to say about that at the next general election. I emphasise that we have not had a change of government; we have still the same conservative Government that has been vacillating on many national decisions over many years and has failed to tackle some of the great development tasks that need to be undertaken.
It is still the same Government with the same sort of ideas that the Liberals had back in 1949. Only one member of the present Ministry was in the first Menzies Cabinet of 1950. Vast changes have taken place; Ministers have come and gone; they have been sacked, reappointed and sacked again. The same old Government goes on with a few changes in the shop window. It is the same goods in the shop at the same prices but there have been a few changes in window dressing.
– All the old deadbeats are still here.
– Something like that. Irrespective of the capabilities, personality and knowledge of the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton), we on this side of the House deplore the fact that we have to have a new Prime Minister. In my opinion it was a tragedy not only for this country, but for the whole democratic world that the late Mr Harold Holt was taken from us in such dreadful circumstances. It has never before happened in world history that a Prime Minister has been taken in such circumstances. This leads me to the question of whether we care enough for our leaders. Do we think enough of them to give them adequate protection all the time? They are important people in our national life and economy. The Prime Minister, irrespective of whether he is Labor or Liberal, is the head of the Government and the country. I feel that we have to look at the processes by which our leaders - both the Leader of the Opposition and the Prime Minister - are looked after all the time wherever they go. I do not want anything like what happens in America either in basis or size of protective staff, but we have been rather careless in our attitudes towards the leaders of our nation. To my mind this tragedy pinpointed that weakness in our international affairs.
The Speech of His Excellency the GovernorGeneral was fairly short. It had many gaps and from our point of view those gaps are significant. The important matters are the things that were missed. We wish the new Prime Minister well in his difficult task. I should not like to be transported from the Senate to the House of Representatives and then take over the conduct of the affairs of this country. When I sent the Prime Minister my congratulations out of courtesy I said: ‘Though I cannot wish you a long term as Prime Minister I hope that you will have immense satisfaction in your new job and good health.’ I thought it my duty to mention that. Naturally we shall do our utmost to shift him as quickly as possible, regardless of who he is or what sort of job he does. He has the difficult task of coming into this House as a new member still to make his maiden speech and at the same time Prime Minister.
I want to speak tonight almost entirely on the matter raised by my colleague the honourable member for Corio (Mr
Scholes) - water conservation. Our survival as a nation is dependent upon adequate water supplies. That is the simple truth. If finance is the blood flowing through the arteries of our economy, then water represents the bone, the heart, the muscle, the sinews and the flesh of our economy.
Without water for food production, for industry and for human and animal consumption, we should have no economy to worry about. We are putting the cart before the horse even in this jet age when we think of the economy and production without thinking of how we are to get that production. The ‘how’ of getting it is water, without which no one would survive for long in this country, or in any other. Water conservation has been left largely to muni,cipal and State authorities and is a hit or miss affair without any drive, planning or finance. Water conservation must be given top priority at Commonwealth Government level. The wasted water running wildly and extravagantly to sea in Australia is a frightening and challenging feature of our country. Failure to stop this waste of badly needed water will be almost criminal. In 1966, for instance, the water wasted in Australia would have covered 280 million acres to a depth of 1 foot. In Queensland alone 67 million acre feet of water rushes unchecked to the sea every year.
– It has a Liberal Government.
– This was going on before then, since time immemorial unfortunately, in spite of the great vision of Bradfield who tried to impress on the nation the need to change the course of rivers in the north so that they would flow inland instead of to the sea. This is surely a process of bleeding to death for our nation. The continuing drought in one or more of the eastern States over the past 4 years is a grim challenge to this Government to begin a national approach to the crippling shortage of water and to the lack of proper conservation. Water is a problem of national, not State or regional development. Until we realise this, the problem will go unsolved. It is not enough simply to pay out drought relief. This is a sidestepping of the real issue, which is to beat the drought by conserving water on a massive national scale. There has been too much politics in drought action over recent years and not enough statesmanship. There is too much emphasis on short term rather than long term solutions. We do not do anything about drought till it happens. We do not try to stop it in any national way.
What is needed is a national water conservation and constructing authority set up by legislation of this Parliament, operating with federal finance on similar lines to those of the Snowy Mountains Authority, with power to investigate water resources in Australia, to recommend action for water conservation and to carry out the actual work of construction with State co-operation. We in this country have been spending for many years now approximately $36m a year from Consolidated Revenue - not loan funds - on the Snowy Mountains Authority, our greatest national project ever. Why not continue this allocation when the Snowy Mountains Authority finally finishes its work? Why not continue to make this allocation of $36m a year through a national conservation authority such as I have just outlined, which will be mobile, moving from State to State where the work is to be carried out and not anchored in a particular area like the Snowy Mountains Authority? This expenditure would not be felt. We would just go on spending the same amount as previously on water conservation and irrigation projects approved by this Government. The task of this authority would include the provision of dams and water storages for our cities and weirs on our rivers, and the sinking of bores for underground water. I think assistance should be given to city authorities in their tremendous task of providing enough water for the growing city populations of Australia. These storages are at a very low level indeed, tragically so in Canberra and in Melbourne, as they have been at times in Sydney, and as it is forecast they will be m a few years time in Adelaide.
This does not mean that individual primary producers should neglect dam construction or boring for water on their own properties, with financial help from the authority that I have outlined, where this is practical and where it is approved. What can be done in boring for water is evidenced in a Press report today of an American living in the Liverpool Plains area of New South Wales. The report in the Daily Mirror’ comes from Quirindi in northern New South Wales and reads:
While drought grips southern New South Wales, farmers on the Liverpool Plains have an untapped supply of water. The underground supply varies from depths of 12 feet The President of Denman Shire Council, Councillor C. T. Turner, said today even the Water Conservation and Irrigation Commission could not assess the bonanza. But American Mr Roy Eykamp has fixed bores capable of pumping 200,000 gallons per hour, 24 hours a day, at his 1,200 acre property. After 4 years his property is totally irrigated, growing lush crops of cotton, maize, sorghum, soya beans and other cereals.
This is drawing 1,200,000 gallons a day and is one small illustration of what can be done by individual farmers if they are really searching for water, building storages and from these irrigating their properties. This sort of thing multiplied throughout the whole of our primary producing community could solve the problem of drought within 10 years. Of course, loans and assistance would be needed from time to time in special cases and these people should get this assistance. My brother is farming near Nhill in Victoria, about half way between Melbourne and Adelaide, on a wheat farm where 1 was bom and where I was brought up during my early years. He bored foi water about 6 years ago to a depth of 250 feet. Water was found and it came up the bore to the 140-foot level. He is pumping from that level now with electricity - formerly he used tractors - to a huge turk’s head dam built on the hill where our home is. The tremendous pressure of water in a 4-inch pipe is keeping that dam constantly full and irrigating an area of 36 acres for cows. During the last 5 years this has been the only green area for 50 miles around. It is incredible what can be done when magnificent, crystal clear water, perfectly good for human consumption, is found in this way. 1 have seen it, of course, many tunes when I have been home to visit my brother. He has worked out the economics of the installation, which has long since paid for itself. This is the sort of thing that can be done on a widespread scale.
Side by side with this water conservation and construction authority we should set up a national drought research institute patterned on the Commonwealth Scientific and industrial Research Organisation. Don Campbell, in a recent book entitled
Drought: Causes, Effects, Solutions’, published by Cheshire Publications, points this out. He says that this authority could be in constant operation, seeking the causes of drought and formulating a scheme for every farm holding in Australia, to encourage every farmer to be his own water conservationist and hoarder of fodder. He goes on to state:
The institute’s views on the financial needs of rural industries and a plan for a new system of loans would constitute the most significant phase at the whole programme.
The institute could be researching every aspect of drought, keeping the authority I have suggested completely up to date with the day-by-day facts that would be required in a water conservation programme throughout Australia. This excellent book by Don Campbell is reviewed by Leslie Carlyon in today’s ‘Age’.
Another answer to this terrific problem will be found in the desalination of sea water. An enormous project which we could emulate in Australia on a smaller scale, using nuclear power to pump water from the sea and to set up desalination plants, has now begun in America. An article by S. T. Butler, Professor of Theoretical Physics at Sydney University, headed ‘So Who Needs Rain?’ appears in today’s ‘Daily Telegraph’. It reads:
The United States is embarking on a venture which could have great potential significance for Australia. It is building a giant power station in which atomic energy will be used on a large scale to de-salt sea water and produce electricity. The possibility of this has been under discussion for several years but now it has become a reality in the United States where the Government and four groups representing interests in southern California have embarked on a co-operative venture . . .
It is a Government-private enterprise project. He said also:
Australia will watch this development with great interest as it need hardly be stressed that water is one of our major national problems.
These are a few points in regard to the scheme that has been undertaken off the east coast of the United States of America, 25 miles south of Los Angeles:
The plant is to be built on a man-made island in the Pacific Ocean about half-a-mile off the coast of California, 25 miles south of Los Angeles. The depth of the ocean in this area is 25 feet and the 43-acre island will be connected to the mainland by a two-lane causeway.
The power plant itself will consist of two nuclear reactors generating about 2,000 million watts (2,000 megawatts) of power. It will de-salt 150 million gallons of water a day, thus providing daily fresh water needs for 250,000 people. At the same time it is capable of providing electrical power for a city of two million people.
The significance of the project was stressed by Dr Glen T. Seaborg, chairman of the United States Atomic Energy Commission, when he said:
This project is a key element in extensive plans for additional uses ofdesalting to meet the water requirements of the future.
Great interest has been shown in the potential of large-scale de-salting using nuclear energy to change the character of the arid regions of the world, and de-salting is becoming an important consideration in the plans of many countries.’
The area in southern California which the station will service with electrical power and water is semi-arid–
– Would you support a nuclear reactor?
– Of course I would-for a purpose like this - 100%. We have the threat of nuclear energy being used to destroy the world. Here is a great chance for us to do something quite the reverse - to use nuclear energy to produce clear, pure water and overcome our drought problem.
– What is the cost for a thousand gallons?
– Just a moment until I finish my reference to the article by Professor Butler, which continues:
The new plant is complementary to existing sources of power and water, and will be built at a cost of 500 million US dollars.
That is not a very large sum of money when compared with our rate of spending on defence. The article continues:
It should be realised, of course, that the fresh water produced will be pure in all aspects and most certainly will not contain any radio-active contamination.
This is marvellous and it is the sort of thing that would definitely suit us here. An authority such as the one I have mentioned could study the possibility of desalination of water in this country, and it could enter into a completely new field in the use of nuclear power. Thousands of megawatts of power could be generated while producing pure water. I believe we have a small test plant at Rottnest Island in Western Australia, but we have nothing else in this country similar to the plant that I have just outlined. My friend the honourable member for McMillan (Mr Buchanan) asked about cost. Interestingly enough Professor McMillan told” Mr Frank Mangan, who wrote the article ‘World’s Driest Continent’ - Australia - a couple of years ago that the United States has plans for nuclear desalination and will produce ISO million gallons of water a day. Professor McMillan told Frank Mangan also:
The electricity is to be sold at the usual rates and the water will cost about ls a thousand gallons. . . .
That is 10c in our present currency:
The water board charges about 2s 9d a thousand gallons now, so that surely the nuclear plant is an economic proposition. Adelaide needs such a plant right now.
We could also send water from such seaboard plants 100 miles inland through pipelines to provide irrigation water.
That the cost of drought is tremendous is clearly established in the report of a symposium on drought which was held by the Australian and New Zealand Association for the Advancement of Science last year in Melbourne. It is pointed out in the report that from 1900 to 1966 our primary production losses alone amounted to $806.868m. This interesting statement appears on page 7 of the report:
In the long drought in the early 1940s Australia’s sheep population declined from 12S.2 millions lo 96.4 millions, a decrease of 26%.
It is significant that the number of sheep did not return to the 1942 level until 19S4. It took Australia 12 years to recover from the effect of 4 years of drought in respect of sheep alone. One of the tragedies of drought is that it takes a long time to recover from its effects.
I am now holding a newspaper picture that should frighten everybody in New South Wales. It shows Burrinjuck Dam almost empty and depicts the area as a mass of cracked earth over which one can walk. A man is shown standing where 100 feet of water was stored a year or two ago. Now it is a wasteland. This is the place where the waters of the Murrumbidgee River are usually stored. Yesterday a story appeared in a newspaper that the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area had been proclaimed for the first time in its history to be a drought area. As a result 650 farmers and another 200 in a nearby area will be entitled to claim 75% freight rebates. In the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area alone there are 540,000 sheep and 25,000 cattle.
Another newspaper article contains this heading:
In the land of the Big Water, the dust chokes the living.
This is what is occurring in vast areas of the Murrumbidgee and it is a tragic story. This statement appears in the article:
Throughout the countryside the farm-.-rs are reopening wells and bores their grandfathers found and which have remained untouched since the First World War.
The action these farmers are now taking proves that we should have been doing this sort of thing a long time ago. In conclusion, I should like to emphasise that it is high time a national authority were established to deal with water conservation on a massive scale and so get away from the hit and miss, short-term methods of the past, replacing them with a long-term plan that might take 20 years to fulfil. However, at the end of that time we should be able to say that substantially drought has been beaten in the driest continent on earth.
– It has been gratifying to observe from the GovernorGeneral’s Speech that our aid to Indonesia is to be doubled. Our annual contribution to this country will be $12,700,000. It is most desirable that we should increase this form of aid, because after all Indonesia is our nearest neighbour to the north and we have always shown a willingness to be friendly even throughout the troublesome times of Dr Sukarno’s misgovernment. We have now taken the opportunity of showing tangible evidence of our willingness to help Indonesia in her desperately hard struggle towards recovery.
This occasion is probably a suitable one to review the problem of overseas economic aid as a whole. Australia gives generously. Our rate of giving at 0.75% of the national income is greater than that of any other country except France. Our total expenditure on aid has been more than Si, 000m since the war, and our aid is increasing, unlike that of other countries where it is static or diminishing. If one were to view the position depicted on a graph, one could readily see that our contributions are rising rapidly indeed. In fact, our expenditure in the financial year 1967-68 will be $148m, which is more than twice that of 6 years ago and represents $12 for every man, woman and child in this country.
Viewed from this aspect, that is the amount of aid per capita, Australia ranks third in the world after the United States and France. We have the distinction, however, of making outright gifts of assistance, whereas most other countries give a great deal of their aid in the form of loans. The purpose of our aid, of course, is to assist the under-developed countries to make economic progress and become more selfsufficient, and to help eliminate ignorance and want from those countries. The aid that we give will be of some help, but we must never forget that the ability and will to succeed of the countries receiving aid are crucial to the success of any scheme. The aid we give may be divided into three broad categories - aid to Papua and New Guinea, bi-lateral aid and multi-lateral aid. Papua and New Guinea receives 65% of our aid which is the greatest proportion. So it should because of our special responsibilities to this country. By June this year we will have given more than $700m to Papua and New Guinea. Most of our bi-lateral aid is given under the Colombo Plan which provides the framework to assist the economic development of the Asian region through a network of bi-lateral programmes between member countries. Our aid here to date exceeds SI 60m of which more than $100m has been spent on economic development projects including machinery and equipment to help establish secondary industries, irrigation schemes, roads and communications. As well as this we supply wheat and wool. I will refer to this later. Technical assistance to date has been of the order of $50m. This has included scholarships to study in Australia and the services of experts and advisers and the sending of technical equipment to the less developed countries. This form of aid is increasing but I would remind the House that overseas students already represent 10% of all full time enrolments at the Australian universities.
We also give aid under the South-East Asian Treaty Organisation. In fact, we are the only SEATO signatory to do so. We do this under article 3 of the Manila Treaty which records an agreement to co-operate with one another in the development of technical and other assistance to produce economic progress and social well being. Pakistan, Thailand, Vietnam and the Philippines are the recipients of this aid.
We do give other bi-lateral assistance. This includes $12m to the Indus Waters Scheme and many other smaller schemes which I will not weary the House with at the moment. Multi-lateral aid is different in that we have no direct connection with the countries being assisted by us. We give moneys to international financial institutions and various United Nations bodies which channel the funds. I refer for instance to the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development and the International Finance Corporation. There are many United Nations programmes including those dealing with development, refugees, children and the world food programme. I will briefly refer to these programmes later on. Most of our aid is giving to Asia and Pacific countries, some is given to African and other countries.
I have in my possession a chart which shows the aid given by us under the Colombo Plan and SEATO. Twenty countries are listed on the chart. This is apart from the all-embracing ‘miscellaneous’ at the bottom of the chart. From the chart we see that amongst the smaller contributions we have made, $61,000 is given to Afghanistan, $80,000 to Burma, $583,000 to Korea, $576,000 to Nepal and so on. The nature of this aid is various. It includes railway waggons for Burma, a survey vessel for the Philippines and $40,000 worth of fertiliser for Burma. Mention is also made of agricultural seed, medical aid, pumps for irrigation, motor vehicles and vaccines for stock. In other words, we give a very large amount of money but it is spent in various ways and in a very large number of different countries. The only conclusion we can reach from this is that our aid is badly fragmented. I believe we must ask ourselves the question: Is this money being spent to advantage? Is it gradually and imperceptibly, as has been said, forming a great foundation for progress in these countries or is it just like water running into a crack in the Nullarbor Plain? I am a bit inclined to take the latter view.
The production of food grains, for example, in the Colombo Plan countries actually fell in 1966-67 to less than the recent average amount. Industrial growth, which had averaged a fair 6%, was also less last year. [Quorum formed] I am indebted to the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden) for directing attention to the state of the House. 1 think that some of what I am saying is worth hearing. I was saying that I believe our overseas aid is being badly fragmented. I was indicating that the results obtained from overseas countries which are receiving aid would seem to show that this aid has produced no significant effect. I was about to say that exports of SEATO aid countries had increased by 3%, but that their imports had increased by 10%. This indicates less self sufficiency. All the modest improvements that have been made are being offset by the catastrophic increase in the population of all these under-developed countries. Today malnutrition accounts for 1 out of ever 13 deaths in the world and the position is getting worse, not better. The breeders are out-producing the feeders. I hope to make a speech about this grave problem in the House soon if I can obtain the opportunity.
I believe our aid is not only fragmented, and thus less effective than it should be, but that the great deal of it in fact is being wasted. A paragraph in the ‘Courier Mail’ of yesterday states:
Two and a half thousand million rats in the Indian state of Rajasthan are estimated to destroy two and a half million tons of food annually. The rats are worshipped at one temple near Bikaner where food offerings average 110 lb daily.
When I was in India recently I saw a number of references in the ‘Times of India’ newspaper to the fact that there was no storage space for a great deal of the grain that was there; it was lying in the open. The Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr McEwen) recently said that our substantial contributions of food aid had all entailed a sacrifice of foreign exchange earnings as well as a burden on our national budget. I ask whether this grain, which is worth millions upon millions of dollars, is being sent overseas just to tot or to be eaten by rats, weevils and birds? Surely it is time for an urgent and complete reappraisal of the whole problem of overseas aid.
Mr George Chapman, the chairman of the Chase Manhattan Bank, said recently that Australia, the United States and Japan must get together promptly to plan joint programmes for the development of South-East Asia to prevent costly waste of scarce capital resources. He pointed out that there was a world wide shortage of capital funds and that large scale investment should be allocated between the countries of the region to ensure development of large scale productive units and promotion of trade within the region. Mr Chapman said that there is nothing worse than building a lot of small non-co-operative fertiliser plants when most of what we need could be produced by a few large ones. Of course, there are difficulties in adopting such an idea in that one has to decide where to put the large fertiliser plants and whether one will create disaffection between those countries which do not get fertiliser plants and those which do. But in any proper appraisal of these problems there can be a balancing out. The fertiliser plants can be put in the areas where they will be most effective economically and will do good for the countries which do not get them. These latter countries would also have other compensating schemes devised for them. So, although objections to these suggestions have been raised, I do not consider that they are valid objections. There is a great deal in what Mr Chapman has said.
Referring to underdeveloped countries, he said that two-thirds of the world’s population needs an extra $US3,000m to $US4,000m a year in aid if it is to make only the most modest improvements in its economic growth. We should remember this, because, if we do not do something about it, very soon these problems will assume such enormous magnitude that the world will be thrown into the gravest convulsions. Communism as an ideology will be like 18th century conservatism compared with the type of ideology that we will get when the underdeveloped countries, with over-population, starvation and economic stagnation, are thrown into the desperate straits towards which they are at present inevitably and inexorably heading.
The underdeveloped countries are most short of educational facilities, machinery, power supplies and a variety of other capital items. Mr Chapman underlined the three main causes of the shortage of capital. First and foremost, of course, is the increase in the world’s population. The capital required to cope with the needs of the growing population alone more than eats up the modest improvements being made in the national incomes of the underdeveloped countries. Another cause is business com- petition where businesses are faced with the choice of modernising or losing their markets. Naturally they must modernise, and doing this consumes capital. The other cause is an increase in scientific research where we have more scientists at work than ever before, creating a demand for capital which we did not have before. So we must try to do as Mr Chapman has suggested. But I do not think we should wait for the agreement that has been referred to. We must consider this problem now and act on our own. If we can make an agreement later, so much the better. But first we should consider urgently the aid we are giving. We must face the fact that this aid Ls being fragmented. Notwithstanding that we are giving assistance with all the good will in the world, and notwithstanding that the money is coming out of our own pockets, with some sacrifice of our own development, the aid is being fragmented and much of it is useless. Some of the grain which we are giving as aid goes to waste. It is eaten by rats and other vermin or, through sheer inefficiency, is allowed to waste and rot.
We must consider these problems. If we are not to fragment our aid, we must concentrate it. If we are to concentrate it, we must concentrate it substantially in one country. This is excepting Papua and New Guinea, which is in a separate category, and where our aid is not fragmented but is effective. This is excepting also our neighbour, Indonesia, which must receive special consideration. When looking at this problem, we come back to one country only - India. One could consider many countries but in view of the time factor I shall not pursue that line. Suffice it to say that India is an enormous country of more than SOO million people. It is a parliamentary democracy, striving desperately to solve its problems. However, it seems to be gradually failing in its attempts and is becoming more and more a prey to Communist activity. Though the problems of India may be appalling now, they are very small compared to the problems which will be visited upon us if India becomes a Communist country, as she very well could if something is not done urgently. If one considers the problem, one sees that India is too big for our aid to be concentrated unless we concentrate on one section of the country.
One could consider many different States, but I suggest that one could concentrate on the State of Bihar. I take Bihar purely for the sake of argument. 1 suggest that we concentrate on one State in India so that we may produce some significant effect from our aid. Bihar, for example, could fulfil our requirements in that it is a compact State about one-tenth the size of Queensland, with a potentially rich soil. It has a population of SO million people and is still subject to the most appalling recurrent famine. The conditions in Bihar are responsible in many ways for the problems confronting surrounding States and their cities. Again, I do not have time to develop this theme. But I believe that if Australia were to take a further look at the matter of aid and use her imagination, she could make a substantial impact on India. For example, despite the fact that Bihar is subject to the most terrible famines, with many deaths from absolute starvation at regular intervals, there is a regular water supply in the enormous Ganges River. The IndoGangetic Plain is potentially very rich but insufficient is done about it because the technical aid necessary for results to be produced is not available. Australia has enormous numbers of people with technical knowledge who would undoubtedly be available to assist in India. We have water resources experts, including the staff of the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority. These people could give advice on the use of the water presently going to waste in Bihar and the surrounding areas. We have agricultural experts who could consider the best ways of fertilising the soil. Perhaps even the new state of Nauru could show its adulthood, its sense of responsibility and its good will by allowing its phosphate to go to countries such as India without claiming royalties.
All of the aid that I have mentioned could be given by Australia alone, and not only by government agencies. If imagination is used, the services of many volunteers could be available for this work. Teachers are needed badly in India. We have in this country large numbers of teachers who have 6, 7 and 8 weeks holiday a year. Surely many teachers would volunteer if such a scheme were given encouragement and if interested people could see that by volunteering they would be making a proper contribution to the development of a crucial area of Asia. Similarly, we have medical experts who could help not only in improving the health of the people of the country but also in family planning schemes, for it is the terrible curse of population increase which is creating the problems that exist there. Proper teams could make an impact in India. It is overpopulation which is responsible for so much of the trouble in Bihar. I ask you, Sir, to give these matters consideration. We need imagination. We need volunteers. If the matter is looked at from the angles 1 have suggested, it will, be seen that far more aid can be given without increasing our expenditure. Giving grain is out. Every ton of grain that we send is almost a national calamity. We should forget about giving grain, because it is not properly used and in giving it we are not getting at the root of the problem. If we were to spend on fertiliser what we are spending on gifts of grain, we would produce a better result over the long term, provided that we see to it that the fertiliser is applied correctly. I do not mean that we should not give aid to any other countries at all. 1 think that we should give the overwhelming bulk of our aid to one particular country. 1 have just cited one State as an example. Aid could be given to some other countries if necessary but the aid must not be fragmented and must be concentrated to have some effect, otherwise we can forget about it and devote the money to the development of our own country. We are short of things here as it is.
I would like to mention briefly the moneys that we give to United Nations agencies. I am not greatly in favour of this. The United Nations agencies do a very good job but they are very expensive and very uneconomical. Too many people get a very easy living from these agencies. Those engaged in the Food and Agriculture Organisation live in Rome, travel first class by air and stay in the most luxurious hotels. A lot of these people are not productive. The men in the field are productive but a lot of the administrators are not. If we want our money to show its best results we should contribute as little to the United Nations agencies as we can.
I wish I had a little more time because I would very much like to develop the theme of Africa and the tremendous impact that we could make on that country with a minimum amount of money. Just to quote a small example, the majority of African people, unlike the Indians, are very anxious to receive education and yet there are insufficient schools and insufficient school buildings. We could help to satisfy those needs for a very small expenditure of money and at the same time create enermous goodwill.
I think that I have made my point in rough outline. Finally, I point out to the House the fact - and it is not theory and it is not ‘might be’ - that the hardearned money which this country is giving in aid to underdeveloped countries is not being used effectively; it is being fragmented, with a little amount given here and a little amount there, which is having no impact. If this aid could be concentrated in one area - with that area being determined after considerable thought and consultation - then it will have an impact in that area. In the meantime we should be reaching agreement with the other countries which are giving aid so that the aid that is concentrated in various areas can be co-ordinated. In that way we will at least see something for this money that we are giving to overseas countries.
– At the present time we are debating the GovernorGeneral’s Speech. His Speech was amazingly brief when one considers the almost infinite number of things which are so urgent and pressing in the community. We have social problems, economic problems, and things of the spirit, perhaps one could say, such as civil liberties and aid to culture and arts. There is a whole host of things - they are almost innumerable - which require urgent attention from the Federal Government, from the central authority which virtually has control of finance in the Australian community. The Governor-General’s Speech - a copy of which I have in my hand - comes to us rather as a bad case of malnutrition. It is remarkable for the vague way in which it deals with the few points to which it refers. Where some specific points are dealt with, it is possible to get from what has been put forward any number of interpretations. One can get an interpretation of positive action or an interpretation of no action on the same subject. I will deal with this aspect in a few minutes.
Where is the bold outline drawn bravely on the canvas that we were promised would be coming forth from the new Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) on such important things as national development? Where is the planned policy for balanced and integrated growth in the various sectors of the Australian community? It is absent now, just as it has continued to be absent for the past 20 years. What is the policy of the Government on economic growth? Is it to continue allowing the Treasury to adopt stop-go, up-and-down, concertina approaches to economic growth; a slump followed by a boom and back into a slump? Is this the economic policy that we will continue to have? We have had it for 20 years. There is no suggestion here that we will get away from it.
We have a number of new frontiersmen in charge of the affairs of the Commonwealth, yet there is not one iota of change in any point which has been outlined in the Speech. Nothing has been proposed in regard to a more equitable distribution of the wealth of the community. On the one hand we have untaxed unearned capital gains, excessive profits and extravagant expense accounts for businesses written off at the taxpayers’ expense. On the other hand we have blanket appeals in the capital cities every winter for pensioners and people living in poverty. There is so much that has to be done for these people who live in this unhappy shadow of poverty and who are dependent on the warm-hearted generosity of a few charitable people in the community. The Government neglects its responsibilities.
We are told that we can expect some sort of an assault on the deficiencies that are caused by poverty because we have a new Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth); a man who will give a new deal in this field; a man who has made some very forthright statements in this Parliament on what is necessary in this field. He made it quite clear today at question time that we can expect little. He is a man who in 1962-63 had the opportunity, when the Government the Government and compel it to bring had very narrow majority, to vote against about far-reaching reform in social service payments. He reneged at the last moment He was tried under pressure and found wanting. In the first week of this Parliament he has again been tried and found wanting. The pensioners need expect no change to their unhappy lot. So much for the Minister for Social Services, the virtuous exemplar who is going to fight for the under-privileged in the community.
I now refer to housing. There are 70,000 outstanding applications for the rental and purchase of housing authority homes. The people who go to these authorities in the States are the people who have real social problems. They are the lowincome earners who are living in depressed conditions and paying high rentals for unsuitable accommodation. There is no mention of housing in this Speech.
Surely education would be the field where the new Prime Minister would burst through with new concepts. After all, he was the Minister for Education and Science in this Government for some years - since about 1963 if my memory serves me correctly - yet we are ranked thirteenth in the world in respect of expenditure on education. If I have time I will show that he has done little to get on top of the problem of social and economic discrimination that exists in the Australian community insofar as education is concerned, which discriminates against the low-income earner when he wishes to provide adequate, equal opportunity for his children to go on to higher standards of education.
How will we finance defence expenditure? This matter was vaguely passed over in the Governor-General’s Speech to the Australian people. How will we finance this huge defence bill, which is increasing? Will we do it by the way which the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr Bury) suggests - a belt-tightening process? Again, there is insufficient time for me to discuss this now, but I will mention this a little later. What about the new deal for exservicemen? Where are the new repatriattion provisions that will increase payments to our ex-servicemen in order to bring their benefits up to a livable level, up to the real level of purchasing power which they have lost over recent years? There is no mention of these provisions in this Speech, yet we have a new Prime Minister, a man of opinions, a man of new ideas who is going to change the face of this country. There is not one iota of change mentioned in this Speech. In regard to the future programme for Papua and New Guinea, suffice it to say that we still have the same Minister in charge.
Some months have passed since devaluation was announced by Great Britain but Australia still has no policy. The primary producers, who are the most concerned about devaluation in the Australian community, are most concerned because they have no idea of what the Government proposes. The dairy farmers, too, are alarmed at the Government’s proposal, which is so vaguely stated, to remove some of them from their farms. Just what is intended by this proposal? I have some qualms that the intention of the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony) might be to fully outline for the first time this policy when he is away from Parliament, in my electorate, on Friday night. The policy should be outlined in Parliament first because Parliament is the democratic body to which the Minister is answerable.
The country has a new Prime Minister. From his performance to the present time I believe it is fair enough to dub him ‘Mr Confused Decisions’ because he has yet to give one decision to which he firmly adheres or one opinion that he will not vary as time of day changes minute by minute or the temperature goes up and down. The country has been dazzled and overwhelmed by the public relations effort to promote the political image of the new Prime Minister - a man of dash and decision. The motive behind the public relations effort of the Government, through the Press, seems to be to promote him as a man of dash and decision. Just how much dash and decision have we seen from him in the short time that he has been in office? He dashed in on the postal strike and said: We must keep the mails* moving.’ So many people said: ‘Hooray! This is a jolly good effort.’ Within a matter of a few days the country was almost plunged into a national strike, not only with the postal workers on strike but the railway workers, waterside workers, seamen and transport workers, all of whom were threatening to go out in support. The country was on the verge of immobilisation. The economy was about to bog down because of the incompetent way the negotiations on the strike were handled. For the first time for some decades the welfare of the country was threatened through the incompetent, bungling manner in which the top administrators of the Cabinet handled the postal strike over the Christmas period. Of course the Prime Minister was happy to get away from the situation - to slide out from under, to use the vernacular.
What happened over the Christmas period? This was a time of great action - a time when great announcements were made. Great Britain was to withdraw from the Malaysian scene at a much earlier time than expected and a heavy responsibility was to be cast somewhere. What was Australia’s position? What were we going to do? A senior Minister of the British Government came to this country to speak to the Cabinet and outline the proposals of the British Government. The Cabinet mct for long periods to discuss this. As I mentioned earlier, the Post Office strike was on. At this time Hanoi issued tentative offers on peace talks. Three important matters came up for consideration by the Government. What came out of its deliberations at this particular time? An announcement was made which clearly indicated that the Liberal Party, under its new Prime Minister, had truckled down under pressure applied by the Australian Country Party. In four States of the Commonwealth men were to be appointed as distribution commissioners. They were public servants and would be under the control of Country Party Ministers which is not without significance. That is the most important thing that could be announced, in spite of the fact that peace efforts had been made by Hanoi, that the Post Office strike was practically paralysing the country and a British Minister was out here discussing Britain’s future role in Asia and Australia’s obligations thereafter. Britain’s decision to devalue was made at this particular time also. All that the country could get from the Prime Minister was a concession that the distribution commissioners would be influenced largely by some members who were under the control of Country Party Ministers. We all know that the country is about to face up to a gerrymander where members of Parliament will be representing goats instead of people, which is appropriate perhaps for the Country Party.
During the interim between the Prime Minister accepting office and the opening of Parliament the hopes of the pensioners of the community were fostered by certain statements that he made. The Prime Minister said:
The goal must be to relieve those in the greatest need without penalising those who have saved to help themselves, and without destroying the incentive so to save. This is not easy, but it is a goal (hal we must seek as a nation and a government.
That statement sounds very grand and as though something positive would be done almost as soon as Parliament reconvenedLe’ us look at the statement again:
The goal must be to relieve those in the greatest need without penalising those who have saved to help themselves.
The Prime Minister was going to help everyone. When Parliament resumed the Prime Minister did not help anyone; he sent a telegram to pensioners to tell them that they need not expect anything. The honourable member for Mackellar is in charge of social services - a man who was going to do so much. On the first day of Parliament he failed to do anything when he had the opportunity. The Prime Minister is a man of confused decisions; he makes a public statement early in the piece that the pensioners can expect a radical change and improvement in their situation. A little later, after the pensioners have been beguiled and perhaps intoxicated by the happiness of the thoughts that have been aroused, the Prime Minister announces that they will receive nothing.
Then there was the glorious example of the Prime Minister backing out of the issue of Vietnam. How thrilling it was to have a Prime Minister who came out forthrightly and declared that there would be no buildup of Australian troops in Vietnam - that there are as many there as there ever would be. That was a very positive, very precise and forthright statement. In a matter of days the crusty old establishment which dominates Cabinet and which rules the destiny of this country so badly got at the Prime Minister and he came out with an ‘all the way with LBJ’ speech. We were back where we were 3 years ago. We had the promised reshuffle of portfolios in the Cabinet; the promise that this man, who was going to be an efficiency expert in political and public administration, would merge certain departments. The three defence junior portfolios would be merged into a single defence departments - a very appropriate suggestion. Health, social services and repatriation would become one department - Health and Welfare. Treasury would probably absorb Housing; transport would be in one department. Everyone was excited. Here was the efficiency of a radical change. Here was a complete deviation from anything that had been seen before. It was new thinking and frontier-like statesmanship. Then the announcement was made that no changes would be forthcoming, except that two unfortunate individuals would no longer be in the Ministry. Their main sin seems to have been that they backed the wrong starter in the Prime Minister stakes. These are the only changes.
– They did not have a swimming pool.
– That could be right. The Prime Minister did not eject the lightweights who had been passengers for so long. The Department of Territories still groans under the load of an autocratic, unimaginative Minister with an end of the last century colonial outlook and policies of a similar nature when in fact he should be thinking of the beginning of the next century and where we stand. The Territory of Papua and New Guinea will focus, from international sources, more attention upon ns and cause more criticism of us than any other single issue that we are handling within this country; yet the Government seems to be doing everything it can to encourage the maximum amount of criticism that can be attracted from outside sources. So much for the much vaunted reformer who was going to change the face of government administration in this country. Nothing has happened.
The Prime Minister has been hailed as being able to give direct answers. It has been said that he does not hedge but is very down to earth when interviewed on television. I have seen his interviews on television. From what I can see, he has two stock answers. His first answer is: T have not been in office long enough to discover yet, but give me a little time.’ The other answer is: ‘I am looking at the matter at the present time.’ If he keeps looking at matters all the time he will get the name of being the looking glass Prime Minister. The Prime Minister is the key appointment in this country. The position is not one for an apprentice. Someone who has served extensively in various departments, who has proven administrative ability and who can look after the country is the man to fill the position. The position is not one for a learner. The Prime Minister is certainly a man of dash and decision; he has dashed all hopes through the lack of positive decision.
It is said that he is a man of opinions. Well, as I said, he has an opinion on just about any subject you like to mention. The only trouble is that his opinion varies with the hour of the day. This firm man who is going to mould the Public Service into the efficient bureaucracy and take away its autocratic power has become a victim of that same autocratic power, lt is well known that he wanted to eject Sir John Bunting from the position of Secretary to the Prime Minister’s Department for which he receives a salary of $17,500 a year. He wanted to kick him upstairs to some sort of appointment elsewhere. It is well known in Canberra that Sir John Bunting refused to accept this. He pointed out that his was a Cabinet appointment and that Cabinet would have to unappoint him. The result was that Mr Hewitt was not able to take over the complete field of the Prime Minister’s Department and so the responsibilities are being cut in two. On the one hand there is to be the policymaking section under Mr Hewitt and on the other the Cabinet secretariat under Sir John Bunting. Both men are to receive $17,500 a year for doing the work that Sir John Bunting did alone until a few weeks ago - and that work can in fact be done by one man.
This is a defeat at the hands of the Public Service. And the pressure of resentment and opposition from the Public Service has not finished because there are serious rumblings of discontent among the permanent heads. They feel that their guaranteed future progress, their security of position, and so on, have been threatened by this appointment of Mr Hewitt. So confusion is rampant, indecision is engendered and the public is bedazzled and bewildered as it follows the Prime Minister through his kaleidoscopic moves and his gyratory decision making.
We could not have a better example of this than the statement by the Minister for Labour and National Service containing his interpretation of how the economy was performing. At 4 p.m. on the day after the Minister made that statement the Prime Minister was reported to have criticised it trenchantly. At 7 p.m. on the same day, however, the ABC news had a different story. The Prime Minister’s Press Secretary, Mr Eggleton, was quoted as having said:
The Prime Minister, having read the text, finds nothing extraordinary about the speech.
The Prime Minister thought that there was nothing extraordinary about the speech. It was a rather gloomy, dour sort of assessment of the performance and future role of the economy, yet the Prime Minister found nothing extraordinary about it. The Prime Minister is a remarkable man. He had a quid each way about how the economy was performing because only the night before the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) delivered his interpretation of the state of the economy - an interpretation which had already been endorsed by the Prime Minister and which was completely contradictory to the interpretation of the Minister for Labour and National Service. In a speech to the Motor Vehicle Manufacturers on 28th February the Treasurer said:
Figures for consumer spending at constant prices in 1966-67 were released last week by the Statistician. These indicated that in the year ‘real’ consumer spending per capita increased by 2.2%, which compared with an average increase of 1.7% in the previous decade. There is little doubt that since 1966-67 ‘real’ consumer spending has been increasing as strongly as it did in that year.
The Treasurer went on to give a very optimistic interpretation of what good results we can expect from the economy in future. Yet according to the Prime Minister there was nothing extraordinary about the statement made by the Minister for Labor and National Service. Nothing extraordinary? After already endorsing what the Treasurer had said about the optimistic outlook, increased real wealth, real income and the real rate of growth being achieved in the economy? Nothing extraordinary? I will read two extracts from the statement made by the Minister for Labour and National Service. His statement was made on 29th February at a luncheon given by the Associated Chambers of Manufactures of Australia. The Minister said:
Until some three years ago average wages in real terms were rising year by year, sustained by heavy investment and progressive improvements in productivity. This has since ceased to be the case largely because the Government has been obliged by events to make greater demands for real resources in large part, but not wholly, to meet the rapidly increasing requirements for Defence.
This statement is a complete denial of what was put forward by the Treasurer, who said that real income - after the deflation of cost of living increases - had increased in the last few years. On the morning following the Treasurer’s statement the Minister for Labour and National Service completely contradicted him. The Minister for Labour and National Service also said:
It is most important, therefore, that the whole community realise that for the time being at least thoughts of increasing their personal standard of living must be subordinated to the needs of the Nation.
There is no relationship between what was said by the Treasurer and what was said by the Minister for Labour and National Service. There is an extraordinary difference of interpretation revealed in those two statements. On the one hand the Treasurer told us that things were going to be good and that we could sit back and take it easy; on the other hand the Minister for Labour and National Service told us that we had to tighten our belts!.
Frankly, I believe that the Minister for Labour and National Service was telling the truth. Although I do not endorse the sort of policy he puts forward I believe we will have real problems in the future in meeting our defence payments, facing up to problems of overseas trade deficits and possibly a shortcoming in the inflow of foreign investment. These are serious problems for an economy such as that of Australia. Australia has been allowed to gear itself for dependence on a heavy inflow of overseas investment. If there are to be deficiencies of inflow into one section of the economy then they have to be made up in another sector. If we depend for inflow on external sources and those sources are cut off or reduced then the deficiencies have to be made up internally. This can be done only by extracting the funds from somewhere within the circular flow of the economy, domestically, and that means a belt tightening process in any person’s language.
Here we have the short term record of the Prime Minister - not a particularly illuminating record. Certainly it is a record that does not create great excitement or an opinion that he is a man of decision, a man of positive thought or a man who knows his mind. On every important issue that he has handled since becoming Prime Minister he has had several changes of opinion. I did want to talk about his record as Minister for the Navy and about the way in which the fleet was run down while he was in office. For instance, more than half of the six destroyers we had were more than 10 years old - the age regarded as the maximum life before obsolescence seriously sets in. Of a total of nine frigates, seven had a total age of 111 years. In other words, 78% of the frigate fleet was over age. So one could repeat the unhappy list of circumstances. There was the shocking tragedy in north Queensland when five midshipmen lost their lives and the report of the Naval Board Court of Inquiry was suppressed so that Parliament could not debate it. There was the HMAS ‘Voyager’ incident which revealed glaring deficiencies in administration and the inefficiency of the Navy. These things were allowed to set in during the present Prime Minister’s term of administration.
Now I will deal with deficiencies in education. These are so glaring that they resulted in a serious rebuke for the present Prime Minister from the former Prime Minister, Sir Robert Menzies. All these things can be pinpointed as clear evidence that the present Prime Minister, on his past record, has not established that he has the capabilities or the experience to handle the affairs of this country. This is not a job for an apprentice; it is a job for an outstanding man with administrative ability.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– The honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden) obviously wants a government to be like instant coffee - just add some hot water to an idea and it reaches instant fruition. I am happy to say that our Government has the reputation for basing its ideas on sound reasoning and solid research - something which the honourable member for Oxley does not engage in, obviously, when preparing his speeches. I feel I should commence my contribution to this debate on the Governor-General’s Speech by paying my small but very sincere tribute to the late Harold Holt. Besides being my Prime Minister for all too short a period he was also my very good friend. I consider that when a backbencher can say this of his Prime Minister he is paying him one of the finest tributes that one Australian can pay to another. I wish also to add my congratulations to our new Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) who has had the most amazing acceptance by the entire community. People are saying that he is an outstanding leader and also a good bloke, and from Australians, this is indeed fine praise. I hope that when I have been here as long as the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr Curtin), who is interjecting, I shall not still be sitting on the side of the chamber on which he now sits. At the risk of sounding fulsome I wish to say also how delighted I was to hear that the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth) had been given dual portfolios, both of which he will administer with distinction and humanity, I believe. The new Minister for the Army (Mr Lynch) is a young man with outstanding ability and a balance which makes me sure that in. his term of office he will continue the high standards set by the former occupants of that important office.
As a Liberal member I should like to say also that the present coalition with the Australian Country Party is stronger than it has ever been, and all the febrile attempts by the Opposition to divide the two parties only tend to weld us more strongly together. Last year, I made a plane trip with members of the Liberal and Country parties to look at many of our great national development projects. Also on the plane were some non-parliamentary observers. After travelling with us for 6 days, several of them remarked to me that they could not, even then, walk through the plane and pick out which were Liberal Party members and which were Country Party members, so great was our accord. I am very proud of this great country of ours and I believe that part of its greatness is due to the stable and forward looking administration of the Liberal and Country Party governments over the past 18 years.
With years of widespread drought, and lower prices for most of our primary products, we should at this time, according to all economic theories, have massive unemployment in Australia, but we have full employment and prosperity. Much of this is due to the sound economic sense of the Treasurer (Mr McMahon). I pay tribute to his management of the economic affairs of Australia over the last few years and to the Government for backing him in the measures he has recommended in order to achieve and keep this stability that we enjoy. I know that Opposition members say that the vast mineral discoveries have saved us. Of course they have. But these discoveries have not come about by accident; they are the result of sound Government planning and encouragement to private enterprise to get out and find minerals. Some honourable members opposite have said that we are selling our birthright. What rubbish. We arc realising our birthright. If one goes out to Dampier and travels inland to Mount Tom Price, one can see what Hamersley Iron Pty Ltd has wrought out of a wilderness in only 2 years. There are new port facilities, a new railway line to Mount Tom Price, and a township which is a model for other tropical towns to copy. Mount Tom Price is staggering. There are no dingy mine shafts; the entire mountain sides are being bulldozed away and railed to Dampier for shipment. Huge pelletising plants are being installed to process the ore and to add to Australia’s earnings.
Honourable members opposite should try to tell the employees of Hamersley Iron that the Government has sold Australia’s birthright and see what they say about it. Perhaps they should go to Port Hedland where the Mount Newman Mining Co. Pty Ltd has two of the biggest dredges in the world digging a deep water port and is using the sand and rock to reclaim miles of what was waste swampland. They should see what this Company is contributing to this one time wasteland in Western Australia. They could then go a little farther inland and see the huge piles of steel rails - all made in Australia by Australian workmen - stacked for miles, as far as one can see. Let them then say that this company is not making a great contribution to Australia’s economic needs. Opposition members could look at the thousands upon thousands of hardwood sleepers, all made from good Western Australian timber and all ready to be laid by Australian workmen, as well as inspect the new township that the mining company will build at Port Hedland. This township will be serviced by schools, hospitals and all the ancillary services that a township of this size requires. All this will be done at a cost of $200m before the mine starts to operate to its full potential capacity. Let honourable members opposite try to convince the workmen and residents there that the Government is selling them out.
I congratulate the Government on placing the Northern Territory under the Minister for the Interior. On a recent tour of the Territory hope that this would be done was expressed to me many times. So it is most pleasing to see it happen. I should imagine that it results from the strong and effective representations of the honourable member for the Northern Territory (Mr Calder) who has already done much for this magnificent part of Australia. Once again, honourable members opposite who criticise the Government for being niggardly in spending money in the north - I include the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) - should look at the tremendous amount of Government money which is being spent for domestic and business building in Darwin alone. Even in our largest cities I have never seen such a staggering amount of building activity as there is in Darwin today.
One of the most pleasing aspects of legislation introduced by this Government in recent years has been the setting up of the Australian Tourist Commission. The future of tourism in Australia is almost limitless, provided that we are far seeing enough to make provision for its rapid expansion in the near future. It is useless to spend huge sums abroad to encourage overseas tourists to come to Australia if we dp not have the facilities to offer them. In this regard I believe that as a matter of urgency, the Commonwealth Development Bank should make available to private enterprise organisations in many of our leading and potential tourist areas long term low interest loans to enable them to build accommodation of a high standard. The north west of Australia has some of the potentially most beautiful and interesting tourist spots in the world, but finance is needed urgently to develop them to a standard which overseas tourists expect - in fact demand - if they are to travel through and see our magnificent country. I mention only the Kimberley region in Western Australia as an example. For the relatively small sum of $6m this could become one of the tourist attractions of the world. This may sound a large amount to invest, but once overseas tourists began to arrive in large numbers the returns would be quick and far in excess of the outlay.
If I may speak about another area which has enormous tourist potential and which needs financial help to develop it, I shall mention the Northern Territory. I was pleased to hear the honourable member for the Northern Territory make such a spirited speech this afternoon. He has done much to encourage tourism in this area. The single thing which most fascinates overseas tourists is the outback, and there is nowhere more outback than the Northern Territory. I visited the Territory recently in the rainy season and so destroyed one of the best and most repeated jokes of the local residents. They have always said that they knew when the dry season started because then the flies and the politicians came out. But I went there in the wet this year and would recommend it to people visiting this lovely part of Australia. In Alice Springs I was fortunate enough to spend some time with a great Australian artist, Wesley Penberthy who said to me: T wish more Australians could come and spend some time wandering in the gorges and chasms around the Alice, because here they can identify themselves with the real Australia.’ I believe that this is true. I have never seen more unbelievably beautiful country than there is around Alice Springs, with the infinite variety of its shapes and colourings. Nor have I met more friendly and hospitable people.
I should like to make some suggestions to the Minister in Charge of Tourist Activities (Senator Wright) regarding the needs of this great area with its potential for Australian tourism. Firstly, I would suggest that the amount of money allotted to the Northern Territory Tourist Board be substantially increased. Secondly, I suggest that we advertise Australia abroad as the leisurely country, because most overseas tourists travel great distances to see all there is to see in this great continent of ours and spend only about 6 days here. To identify oneself with Australia one has to see it in a leisurely fashion. Most tourists coming here arrive exhausted and leave exhausted with only a superficial vision of Australia.
This does not encourage them to spread the story about our great outback. I believe, further, that we should have direct air services to Alice Springs and that we should make it possible to build far more accommodation there, and build it quickly. There are, of course, other areas of Australia where the needs in this field are great also, but I do not have time tonight to detail them. 1 have already commended the Prime Minister for appointing the honourable member for Mackellar to the Social Services portfolio. 1 have felt for a long time that we should find out what the needs of the people are and devise a formula to fit these needs - not devise a formula and then look into needs. I have interviewed hundreds of pensioners in my electoral office in the heart of my electorate of Barton, and the thing about them which struck me most is that, almost without exception, they are absolutely honest. It is easy to be honest if one is a millionaire, but people who come to see me have pathetically little money in the bank. They say to me: ‘We have been told that if we do so and so we shall get another dollar a week, ls this absolutely honest?’ If I say that it is not, they do not want to hear any more. This is a most rewarding experience for a politician to have. If 1 may say so, I find that the work in the electorate is most satisfying and gratifying because, with the co-operation of Ministers and their departments, one can do so much for so many people. This is truly a rare privilege. I feel that the new Minister for Social Services will make this work far more satisfying. I commend the Government on the Speech delivered by His Excellency the Governor-General and look forward to a period of human and exciting achievement in the year ahead.
Debate (on motion by Mr Webb) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr Swartz) proposed:
That the House do now adjourn.
– Less than a year ago, on 2nd May 1967, an arrogant though temporarily humble young man rose in his place and made the most abject apology that this Parliament has ever heard for having lied about the behaviour of members of Parliament; he promised all members faithfully to do what he could to redeem himself in the eyes of his colleagues on both sides of the Parliament. I refer to the honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Andrew Jones). He was apologising for remarks that he had made on 27th April at the inaugural dinner of the Adelaide Liberal Dining Club, a club which was formed by the honourable gentleman. After having a dinner of T-bone steak and claret - according to the newspaper - the honourable gentleman then rose to his feet and said that half of his colleagues were half drunk half the time and that filth, smut, jealousy and friction characterised the politics of Canberra. He said that one day he saw nine members out of 124 in the House during a debate; the rest were absent. He said three were asleep; two were doing crossword puzzles; the Minister was asleep in his chair and one member was reading an outdated Donald Duck comic.
Sir, that was an untrue statement. The Parliament made it clear to him, at the instigation of the Prime Minister of the day himself that the statement was untrue and an apology was expected. Moreover the gentleman who made the statement knew it was not true; he knew every word of it was untrue. So utterly irresponsible was the honourable member towards this Parliament and its members that he concluded by saying: that ‘this was the way the Government was being run on that particular day.’
For this man to talk about the way the Parliament behaved was in extremely bad taste. In the Sydney ‘Daily Telegraph’ of 28th April 1967 the Government Whip was reported to have complained about the behaviour of the honourable member and his failure to attend a division. This is the nian who was pontificating on how people should behave in the Parliament. His excuse was that his room was too far from the chamber. The Government Whip very correctly pointed out - and these were his words - ‘that the honourable member could have left his room when the bells started ringing, paused to answer the calls of nature on the way, and still have reached the chamber in time to vote.’ The honourable member for Adelaide explained his real aptitude for the position that he holds down by saying, as reported in the Sydney ‘Daily Telegraph’ of 28th April:
It is no joke to be sitting on your backside all day, not fully understanding what is going on.
In the ‘Herald’ on 14th April 1967 the honourable member is reported as saying:
I’m just a prawn, a puppet in a big machine which goes on above my head.
To show that he still has the same attitude towards politics I quote from a statement of 5th March 1968 in the ‘Sun’:
Politicians would bc judged more on how they did their hair than on their politics.
This is what the honourable gentleman has to say about his job. He considers it is more important in doing his job correctly to comb his hair properly than to bother to pick up a book and read about politics. This jackdaw in peacock’s feathers who comes here in the guise of a member of Parliament-
Order! The honourable member will be more temperate in his language.
– May I quote a remark made by the Postmaster-General (Mr Hulme) reported in the Melbourne Herald’ of the 29th April 1967:
Mr Jones speaks complete nonsense. He is a notoriety chaser.
I quote what the honourable member for Watson (Mr Cope) had to say about him because it is all leading up to the central theme. He said:
The honourable member is castigating men he will never equal. He is just a top off.
These are serious charges to make about him as also was the charge made against him by the honourable member for Lilley (Mr Kevin Cairns), another Liberal member, who said: ‘Mr Jones is better with his adjectives than with the truth.’ That was reported in the Melbourne ‘Herald’ of 29th April. The comment of the honourable member for Watson and the honourable member for Lilley about being better with adjectives than with the truth and being a top off are serious comments that ought to be examined before they are repeated. First of all he is a top-off. He is a pimp. He is a-
– I am going to prove it, Sir. He is a dobber and he is a common informer.
– On a point of order: The word ‘pimp’ applied to a member of this House is offensive and I ask for its withdrawal.
-It was not applied to you. But if I have to withdraw it, I withdraw it.
-Order! I ask that you withdraw the remark.
– I withdraw the remark. On Saturday, 2nd March last - on election day in South Australia - this gentleman proved himself to be nothing but a common informer against a soldier in the Queen’s uniform. A conscript is in uniform and before the end of the year is out might be in the jungles of Vietnam either maimed for life or a corpse while this young gentleman sits here in comfort and in the safety of Parliament House. This self same gentleman had the cheek and audacity to dob this soldier in with the military police which led eventually to the soldier being fined $15. No-one will criticise the regulations prohibiting a man in uniform engaging in political activities. It is a proper regulation and no-one will condone what happened. The facts are that it was a minor offence. Before I say this I should like to add that I believe no-one will condone any breach of the civil law but no-one respects a thief who informs on another thief. He is a common pimp and common informer of the most despicable kind.
– I am not talking about him; I am talking about a pimp.
-I have already requested the honourable member for Hindmarsh to watch his language.
– If you think the cap fits him-
-If you are referring to the honourable member for Adelaide as a pimp, I would ask that you withdraw it.
– You may have thought, Sir, that I was referring to him; I was not. One law breaker ought not to set himself up as a paragon of virtue and begin informing on another. It is no excuse for such a person to say: ‘But someone reported it to me’. The answer should have been: ‘My hands are not clean enough for me to act as informer. Why don’t you do it yourself?’ That is what he should have said. There is a report in the Melbourne ‘Age’ of 15th June 1967 showing why that should have been the reply that the honourable member gave to the people who allegedly reported this poor unfortunate soldier. It is reported in that newspaper that the honourable member was convicted of driving at 75 miles an hour through a built-up area. He was fined $80 and lost his driver’s licence. He admitted to having four previous convictions for breach of the traffic laws. That is the person who has the cheek to come along and report some poor devil of a soldier who is handling how-to-vote cards. On the occasion of this offence the honourable member produced his gold pass to the officers and said: I am a member of Parliament’.
– He did not have the gold pass, you fool.
– Oh yes he did. He produced his medallion and he also told the police officer that on the previous occasion that he had been caught driving at 48 miles an hour he had reported the officer to Superintendant Brebner. The veiled threat was: ‘If you try to report me I will dob you in too’.
Is he a truthful person? Of course he is not. He told me that he had served for 3 years in the Navy. That is not true. He then changed it and on a television programme he said that he had served in the Royal Navy Far East Fleet. 1 took the trouble to arrange for contact with Mr Dennis Healey. Minister for Defence in the British Government, and this is the cable I got back:
No trace in the UK records of Jones serving as either an officer or a rating in the Royal Navy.
I have a letter from the Minister for the Navy in this Parliament to say that there is no record in the Royal Australian Navy records to show that the honourable member served in the Australian Navy. A person who will lie about his service in the armed forces will lie about anything, and a person who will lie about anything is not a person one can believe on a single utterance that he makes. I have not enough time left to deal fully with this matter but this man,
Sir, this charlatan, this lump of affectation who poses as a responsible member of Parliament, this blatherskite, this blusterer, this blowhard-
-Order! The honourable member will resume his seat. His time has expired.
– I desire to make a personal explanation. The honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron) inadvertently mentioned the honourable member for Watson. For the Hansard record let me say that he was referring to the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr Curtin).
– That is true.
-Order! The House will come to order.
– Mr Speaker, after that character assassination I believe it to be my duty and my right to put the record straight once and for all. The honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron) in his latest character assassination has accused me of misinforming the Australian public regarding my service overseas with Shell Tanker London. I would like to inform the honourable member - had he read my book he would have realised - that the last six months of the service I spent with the same international overseas tank ship company was with the Royal Navy Far East Fleet on a supply tanker for Royal Navy ships east of Singapore. Not at any stage have I ever said that I served with the Royal Navy or the Royal Australian Navy. Consequently the only thing that the honourable member has said tonight that happens to be true is the statement that the Royal Navy authorities in London could not find a record of my service - simply because there was no record of my service with the Royal Navy.
I think it important that we make a couple of points fairly clear and I do not want to get quite as emotional as the honourable member.; Indeed, 1 am flattered that a frontbench member of the Australian Labor Party should take it upon himself to criticise a backbench member of the Liberal Party of 15 months standing. I am only sorry that the Labor Party showing on television in South Australia is not quite as good as it could be. He accused me of being a common informer but I venture to suggest, with due deference to decorum and to the state of the House, that he should look to his own record in the Parliament and to his own history in the State of South Australia before he casts aspersions against another member of Parliament. The honourable member for Hindmarsh is well known in my State, as the next election will certainly reveal. In the time that I have available I would like to make some points that I consider pertinent, which concern the affairs of Private Kerry Seebohm, the national serviceman whom I reported on 2nd March during the South Australian elections.
– You are a top-off, are you?
– If the honourable member likes to listen he will find that the facts are simply as follows: At 25 minutes to 11 on that Saturday morning some representatives of the Returned Services League in South Australia rang me to find out why the Army was handing out how to vote cards for the Australian Labor Party. Because this complaint was registered by two members of the Labor Party and others who rang I then, as a member of Parliament, sworn to uphold the law and order of this country, took it upon myself to investigate this complaint.
-Order! I would suggest that the House come to order. There are far too many interjections from both sides of the House for the dignity and decorum of this chamber. The honourable member who is endeavouring to answer some charges that have been made against him should, in Australian parlance, be given a fair go.
– I cast an arrow. It fell I know not where, but I know it stunned those that it hit. At 5 minutes to 111 arrived at the polling booth, saw that the complaint was justified, and then spoke with the soldier, Private Kerry Seebohm, and asked him whether he was aware that it was against military regulations to hand out how-to- vote cards and solicit support for a political party while dressed in military uniform. He said - and I have two witnesses who are prepared to come forward to testify to this - that he was aware that he was breaking military regulations and that he was doing it as a protest against the Australian Government’s support for the Vietnam war. He made his case plain. I understood. I did not begrudge him his right to hand out how-to-vote cards. Nor did I deny him his right to hand out howtovote cards, but I did object to his wearing the Queen’s uniform in so doing and in attempting to solicit votes on behalf of one party. I then did not order him but advised him to take off his uniform. I gave him 30 minutes to do so.
-Order! The honourable member for Hunter will restrain himself and the House will come to order.
– I heard the honourable member for Hindmarsh who is now interjecting. If he wants to hear the truth he should hear me because I was there and he was not. I gave the soldier 30 minutes to take off his uniform and cautioned him that I would report him to the authorities if he did not. lt seems to me that if a man is prepared to risk wearing an Army uniform in these circumstances he should take the responsibility for it. He broke Regulation 210a. He was not away from the polling booth within half an hour. He lived just around the corner and could have changed his clothes. I gave him ample warning and I then did what I considered to be my duty. I did it after giving him fair warning and I stand by it to this day because I know that what I did, whether it were pleasant, palatable or otherwise, at least was right.
– The honourable member is a pimp.
– The reputation of the honourable member for Oxley is pretty well known in Queensland, too. I gave this soldier a fair warning. He knew that he was breaking Army regulations. What could I do? Mr Cameron charged me with being a pimp and informer but he was forced to retract this. I take it he does not have the courage to back up his remarks either inside this House or outside. I would like to ask Mr Cameron the following question. I will finish on this note. If Mr Cameron-
-Order! The honourable member will refer to the honourable member for Hindmarsh in the correct fashion.
– Very well, sir. If the honourable member for Hindmarsh chooses to use innuendo and aspersions to belittle., berate, humiliate and condemn the character of a South Australian colleague, if he in fact chooses to stoop so low as to use the tactics that he did use when he had the floor of the House, that is his prerogative, but as one who has sworn to uphold the law and order of this country-
– What about the traffic offences?
-Order! The honourable member will cease interjecting. He has already spoken.
– As one who is supposed to make the law of this country in all honesty, as an Australian, I ask this man how in fact can he condone the breaking of regulations? His honourable friend Senator Cavanagh appeared on television with me the other night but Senator Cavanagh did not do too well. I am sure that the honourable member for Hindmarsh will agree that this stings even more because he knows jolly well that what I did was right. I gave him fair warning. I had no alternative. Therefore, to hide behind the shield of innuendo, to cast an aspersion, as he has done, on my character, and to defame my name because he knows he will get support from the Press gallery, is most unfair. I wonder what the honourable member for Hindmarsh would have done had it been a Liberal handing out how-to-vote cards. Would the honourable member have given him half an hour’s warning? No. His reputation and his history certainly do not suggest that he would have done so.
I did what I considered on the day to be my duty. I stand by it. I consider that I acted not only as a citizen of Australia but also as a member of the Parliament. What is more, the law has upheld me. The soldier was found guilty. I regret the incident. I am sorry it happened, but my conscience is clear. I can sleep at night because I know that whether the outcome was good, bad, happy or unhappy, what I did was right.
- Mr Speaker, I have been misrepresented by the honourable member for Adelaide.
-Does the honourable member wish to make a personal explanation?
– I do. The honourable member claimed that I had told an untruth when I said that he had made the statement that he had served for three years in the Navy. Sir, I tipped that this would happen.
-Order! The honourable member is making a personal explanation. He cannot go on to debate the matter.
– I am not going to do that. 1 guessed that this might happen so I came along prepared. I wish now to present a statutory declaration signed by Mollie Veronica Byrne, member of Parliament, of 1123 Main North-East Road, Ridgehaven, in the State of South Australia, which I will table, lt states:
I do hereby solemnly and sincerely declare-
-Order! I must direct the honourable member that he cannot table the document.
– Then I will read it. I will need to read it to clear the name-
– This is getting beyond the bounds of a personal explanation.
– No, Sir. This man has accused me of telling an untruth and surely-
– Order!- The honourable member will withdraw the remark that the honourable gentleman is telling untruths in relation to this matter.
– I did not say that, Sir. I said that he had accused me of telling an untruth.
– I am sorry; I misunderstood you.
– Surely I must have an opportunity to clear my name.
-If the honourable member proposes to make a personal explanation he cannot use up his time by continuing to debate the matter.
– I am not going to do so.
-I ask the honourable member either to make a personal explanation or to resume his seat.
– This statutory declaration, which is signed by Mrs M. V. Byrne, M.P., states-
– This is not a personal explanation.
-It is. She declares that she heard Andrew T. Jones say in front of Parliament House:
I was in the Navy for three years.
This is a statutory declaration that I will produce to the Press.
– The honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron) has referred to an incident involving the honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Andrew Jones) which I believe has brought a feeling of shame to every decent member of the community. This young man, who ought to be in uniform himself, was instrumental in having taken into custody a conscripted soldier who might well be killed in a war for which he should never be conscripted - a soldier who is being asked to fight for the right of this honourable member to be in parliament. The soldier was taken into custody because he was wearing a uniform while handing out cards at a polling booth. Would the honourable member have put that soldier in had he been handing out Liberal howtovote cards? Would he have been put in had he been giving out dodgers on how to conscript young men? You know, Mr Speaker, that in districts such as you and I represent, persons who tell on others are called top-offs or informers. What is the difference between the honourable member for Adelaide as a member of parliament putting in and reporting a person in uniform and a common informer or a common top-off? This matter is worthy of consideration in this Parliament. To think that the soldier concerned was fined $15 dollars out of his miserable pay, because he was informed on by a member of the National Parliament, is a disgrace to the party to which that member belongs and a disgrace to this Parliament.
Let me refer honourable members to the famous book ‘Andrew Jones M.H.R., by Himself - nobody else would be silly enough to write it. At page 90 this lovely, handsome young top-off says-
-Order! The honourable member will restrain himself in the use of his words.
– I will use the term ‘gallant young informer’. He says at page 90:
Looking back, I wonder and even marvel at my courage in going to University, for it seemed that everybody I met was violently opposed to everything I stood for, and in most cases to me personally.
You cannot blame them, can you? But listen to the next sentence, written by Andrew Jones himself:
Whether it was jealousy, envy, or the fact that I was an imbecile, I still can’t determine.
This is a book written by a man who has t’opped-off a soldier in uniform, perhaps on his way to die in Vietnam. What a contemptible and miserable action even for an imbecile, let alone a member of this Parliament. This is the individual who informs on a serviceman, who creeps around like a common pimp and puts him in because-
-Order! I ask the honourable member for Grayndler to withdraw that remark.
– I withdraw that remark. If members like to read this book by Andrew Jones they will find that further on he says that he was saved by a Communist doctor when he was on one of those vessels on which he was meandering around the world at one time. I do not know what happened to that Communist doctor, but I think he ought to be expelled from the party. The charge against this member, who is a man of military age and ought to be in Vietnam if he were sincere, is that he informed on a soldier who was protesting and certainly breaking a minor regulation. Mr Speaker, you will not let me use the expression I want to use, but this soldier was taken into custody as a result of an action by a member of this Parliament. Let us see what the Melbourne ‘Age’ said about this on 4th March. I will read all of it’ because no more striking condemnation of the contemptible action of a member of this Parliament has yet been printed, and it is worth repeating. This is what the article says:
Youth, as someone recently remarked, is the only thing Mr Andrew Jones, MHR, has in his favour, and time, alas, will soon take care of that. Certainly ia the 16 months since the 1966 Federal elections popped him out of obscurity-
To which he will soon return, of course. he has established a reputation, but it is not likely to be envied by his Parliamentary colleagues or to impress his electorate. He has indulged in name-calling on a grand scale, made a gra’mophone record almost staggering in its nationalistic hysteria, published an extravagant autobiography-cum-manifesto, and rightly been hauled over the coals inside and outside Parliament, for the enormity of his indiscretions.
But surely no one could have imagined that this 23 year old sensationalist would be guilty of the petty nastiness be showed on Saturday.
That is a very polite phrase to use in relation to his action. The article continues:
Mr Jones reported to the military police a national serviceman who was distributing Labor how-to-vote cards at Adelaide polling booth.
The honourable member should be ashamed of this forever. The article continues:
The regulation that prohibits uniformed members of the services from engaging in political activities is essential in any society that wants to maintain a democratic barrier between the rights of ordinary citizens and the proper duties of the military. But an apparently minor breach of this principle should not inspire a Federal parliamentarian to act like a common informer.
The paper says ‘to act like a common informer’. The report continues: lt might have been assumed that even Mr Jones, who was just old enough to escape the hazards of the national service ballot, would have shown some charity towards a conscript.
The trouble is that Mr Jones’ antics have made him a national figure. He cannot resist any opportunity to keep himself under public notice. But his performance on Saturday lacked even the entertainment value of a joke in bad taste. His senior colleagues - particularly the Minister - should give him, in public, a crash course in behaviour fitting for a parliamentarian.
I conclude on that note because I believe that a common informer does not deserve any more comment from me.
– We have been treated tonight to what some people might find amusing performances by the two chief clowns of the Opposition - two people quite out of touch with the modern thinking of this country. They are two oldtimers who will be saying good-bye to us in time with a nice flourish. They amuse on the one hand and sling mud on the other. The honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron) is always trying to indulge in character assassination. He is trying to bring back his youth, energy and vitality out of sheer jealousy of people such as the honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Andrew Jones). There is a reason for this and 1 think it is just as well for the House to know what this reason is. The twin of the honourable member for Hindmarsh, his running mate in another house, his left wing colleague, took a father of a hiding from the honourable member for Adelaide on television last week. Tonight the honourable member has tried to offset that in every way he can. He has tried to drag something out of the wreck for the sake of his Party which suffered badly from this incident in the eyes of people who exercise judgment in South Australia. An issue that did not amount to very much at all has been built up by the Labor Party, which tries to pretend that it is a real issue. Labor has attempted to make a mountain out of a molehill.
What happened in Adelaide on polling day was quite simple and ordinary. Some members might not have handled it the way the honourable member for Adelaide did; I do not know. This is a matter for individual judgment. But what the honourable member for Adelaide did was to uphold the law insofar as military regulations were concerned. What has been insinuated since is that there is something dirty in one’s attitude if one does not encourage breaking of the law. This is a stupid and comical attitude. I do not know whether or not to take honourable members opposite seriously. I do not know whether the honourable member for Hindmarsh is so naive as to let someone pull his leg about being in the Navy. Apparently his leg is being pulled. I do not understand the intricacies involved at all. The fact of the matter is that it is no earthly use for any member of any Party, in this place or anywhere else, to do other than protect the law. I would like to quote what a senator in another place said, as reported in the Advertiser’ of 11th March. The report reads:
In fact, quite a portion of my time is taken up trying to get out of trouble persons who have been detected in minor breaches of some law or regulation.
This is fair enough. I think, as everyone here knows, there are times when we try to help people who unavoidably or perhaps unintentionally have got themselves into trouble. But the issue here is whether a man should respect a military regulation and not whether we should protect someone who breaks such a regulation. This is not a situation, I suggest, in which we should sling off and try to assassinate the character of a person who makes an honest attempt to uphold the law. Surely this is the principle involved.
I have permission from the Minister for the Navy (Mr Kelly) to quote an instance that occurred a short time ago when two soldiers, I believe, wished to hand out cards for him. He suspected that a regulation covered such a situation. I think the regulation was No. 210a. He rang up and ascertained that it would be wrong for the two soldiers to hand out cards. The honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Daly) asked how a member of the Liberal Party would handle the situation. What happened with the Opposition Party in that situation? Only the members concerned know. But I think it is quite obvious that the members of the local committee of the Australian Labor Party in South Australia selected a person to hand out how to vote cards and gave him a time at which he was to turn up at an appointed place. They probably knew who the person was. Did they or did they not know that this man would hand out cards while in uniform? If they did know, they did not act properly as the Minister for the Navy did. On the other hand, did they purposely plant this person to hand out cards? I do not know. Only the consciences of the members of the Opposition can say that with any certainty. At any rate, I think that their whole stand is open to a great deal of doubt. We have witnessed some unfortunate mudslinging tonight. It is out of place. I believe that the honourable member for Adelaide acted with proper dignity in answering calmly the various criticism that were flung at him from many quarters.
Finally, I say that it is of no earthly use for people in this place to get out of touch with what is going on today. It is quite certain that the honourable member for Adelaide is in touch with the opinion of a very big section of the Australian people today. A judgment of his television ratings bears this out. It is no use honourable members opposite getting their noses out of joint because they are not in a position to cut down to size or damn in some way a person such as the honourable member for Adelaide who is well known in this country and respected in a great deal of it. I say that the honourable member for Hindmarsh in particular is out of touch with reality. He is outmoded and oldfashioned. I do not know whether he was humorous or fair dinkum. He has been more un-Australian than was the honourable member for Adelaide, who made an honest attempt to do the right thing as a member of Parliament.
– I would like to say a few words because I had one or two personal experiences of the honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Andrew Jones). He has been, of course, the centre of a lot of interest in the Australian community. He has done some unconventional things at times. I suppose one should not be too critical about this, because he is young. He has been in Kings Hall without any shoes on and has been hauled over the coals by Mr Speaker. All I want to mention is the fact that he will be memorable for his mendacity during the period when he was in Parliament. When I was in Adelaide, the university students there told me how distressed they had been during the election campaign of the honourable member for Adelaide, in which he claimed to have been trained in the political science department, or some similar department, of the University of Adelaide. There was a clear implication in one of his manifestoes or public statements that he was a graduate of the University of Adelaide. This was totally and completely dishonest. It was a clear case of the mendacity of the honourable member for Adelaide, to use a euphemism, out of deference to the House.
The honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron) has directed my attention to the fact that it was not just a matter of the university students telling me this. The honourable member for Adelaide was completely dishonest. The only way that we can describe his action is by saying that it was wilful, intentional dishonesty.
-Order! The honourable member will withdraw the remark ‘wilful dishonesty’.
– All right, I will refer to his intentional dishonesty. Is that all right?
– No, the honourable member will withdraw and apologise now.
– 1 withdraw it and apologise. The point 1 make is-
– I rise to order.
-Order! The honorable member for Oxley will resume his seat.
– If the honourable member for Oxley cares to call me dishonest-
-Order! Is the honourable member for Adelaide making a personal explanation?
– No, I am raising a point of order, lt is simply that the honourable member for Oxley should have the courage to stand by-
– Order! The honourable member for Adelaide will resume his seat. There is no substance in the point which he raises. I call the honourable member for Oxley.
– I was saying that the honourable member for Adelaide is notoriously careless in his handling of the truth, so much so that the Students’ Representative Council of the Adelaide University has carried the following motion which applies to the honourable member and to him alone:
That tin’s SRC dissociate itself from any person(s) who, to further their own interests, claim to be University trained while enrolled in one subject only and rarely attending lectures in that subject.
The Students’ Representative Council is so upset over this matter that it has stated:
That this could be a bad reflection on the University student, if we accept this preposterous claim, can bc seen by Jones’ tendency to confused thinking, for instance, his confusing ‘sovereign democracy’ with ‘military dictatorship’.
The students at Adelaide University are under no illusions as to the integrity of the honourable member for Adelaide. In the short time that he has been in this Parliament we have seen him forced to stand, with tears in his eyes, and retract dishonourable allegations which he sweepingly made against members of this Parliament concerning their intemperance. I am not one to criticise but really, he is not without hilarity himself when he turns up at a party. He has turned in some fine performances round the place one way and another. For this he is notoriously known. Then we had the shocking and incredibly disgusting performance of dishonesty when he claimed that people stood in the lobbies of the House flicking cigarette butts-
-Order! The honourable member will withdraw that remark and apologise.
– I withdraw it and apologise. The honourable member for Watson (Mr Cope) appropriately reminds me of the unseemly conduct of the honourable member for Adelaide when he claimed that members stood in the lobbies of the Parliament flicking cigarette butts at the then Leader of the Opposition as he walked past. Has there ever been anything more disgustingly expressed than that? The man must be completely devoid of integrity and principle to say such a thing. He has described himself as an imbecile; perhaps that explains his actions. I am not one to argue with such a forthright statement.
The honourable member for Angas (Mr Giles) has said that the honourable member for Hindmarsh and the honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Daly) are out of touch with youth if they take exception to the honourable member for Adelaide performing the function of a common, cheap, unprincipled police informer.
-Order! I remind the honourable member for Oxley that his language is not the kind of language that can be tolerated in this House. I remind him also that Standing Order 76 reads:
All imputations of improper motives and all personal reflections on Members shall be considered highly disorderly.
If the honourable member persists in this kind of language I will deal with him.
– I rise to order. I did not say that the honourable member for Hindmarsh was out of touch with youth. I said he was out of touch.
– There is no substance in the point of order.
– Quite candidly 1 apologise to you, Mr Speaker. As you know I had almost 9 years experience in the police force, some of it in the Criminal Investigation Branch and from practical experience I formed a fairly accurate assessment of the qualities of informers. In defence of his informing on this young lad the honourable member for Adelaide said that it was his duty to uphold law and order; that he was a member of the Queen’s Parliament. Oh, he made a number of other rather glorious claims. He forgot to mention that he has had four convictions for traffic offences. Here is a man who stands before us and says: ‘I am a man of complete virtue and integrity. I am sworn to uphold the law’, but who has four convictions for traffic offences. Not only has he four convictions but on the last occasion he said to the policeman who stopped him: ‘I am a friend of so and so’, naming a senior officer in the Police Department, and implied that if the policeman did not refrain from booking him, he would be in trouble. Where is the virtue, honesty and principle in a man who acts in this way?
Here is a man who claims to be concerned about democratic rights and about upholding the liberties of the people. I am reminded by the honourable member for Hindmarsh that the honourable member for Adelaide threatened to have sacked for refusing to serve him liquor a woman employed in the refreshment rooms of the South Australian Parliament. She may have been justified in refusing to serve liquor to the honourable member for reasons which may readily recommend themselves to honourable members who know him well.
While we are on the subject of the honourable member’s honesty and integrity let me refer to an experience that I had with him. Several months ago he suggested to me that we take part in a debate. I thought the idea was good. 1 suggested that we debate the subject of Vietnam, since he was making terrific money out of a record on the subject of Vietnam, in which he exhorted others to go away and fight to protect him while he stayed at home. He said that he did not know enough about the subject and suggested a debate on why the Liberal Party should form the Government. I was to defend Labor’s policies. I said: ‘Fair enough’. Later he got in touch with me and said: ‘Look, old man’ - we all know he has the affected way of speaking - ‘The Prime Minister wants me to go away on a trip for him and we will not be able to undertake this debate’. As far as I could discover the honourable member never went on any trip except backwards and forwards between Canberra and
Adelaide. Later he had the cheek to tell some Labor Party supporters at the Adelaide University that he wanted to debate with me but that it had not been possible to make the necessary arrangements. Here was a man who eased himself out of a debate with me by claiming that the Prime Minister wanted him to undertake a trip. Can you rely on a man who is dishonest in some miserable small things, a man - who will go down in the memory of this Parliament as being the most objectly mendacious member-
– I rise to order. You, Mr Speaker, have already ruled that the honourable member for Oxley should not use the term ‘dishonest’. He has just used it and I ask you to have him withdraw it.
-Order! The honourable member for Oxley will withdraw the word dishonest’.
– Certainly I withdraw it if you instruct me-
-Order! The honourable member will withdraw unconditionally.
– Of course.
-Order! The honourable member will withdraw the word ‘dishonest’.
– I withdraw the word dishonest’. It is suitable for the purpose of this exercise to say that the honourable member for Adelaide is a man of great mendacity - a word which he does not understand.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– Mr Speaker, this debate started as a bit of fun. It is a great pity that it did not remain a bit of fun. I have never heard this House demeaned by the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden). Some honourable members have been here a great many years. I have not been here so very long but no matter how long I am here I am sure I will never hear the like of what we have heard in the last 10 minutes. I propose not to say another word about the speech made tonight by the honourable member for Oxley. It does not deserve comment.
So far as fun is concerned, this debate was a bit of fun. We know that the honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron) and the honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Daly) are great fun makers. I remember Freddie Daly telling me–
– I rise to order.
– All right, I remember the honourable member for Grayndler–
– Such a senior member of this Parliament as is the Leader of the House should know better than to call an honourable member by his name. The Minister knows the correct procedure and I ask you. Mr Speaker, to ensure that he follows it.
– Order! I call the Leader of the House.
– Very well, I shall refer to the honourable member for Grayndler. I remember the honourable member for Grayndler, as I am reminded by the honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren), telling me about going out one night during the course of an election campaign and on the telegraph posts was the legend ‘Change Daly’. What did the honourable member for Grayndler do? He thought: ‘Now, how can I overcome this?’ He came up with a brilliant idea. The next day on every telegraph post was the legend ‘Give us our Daly Fred’. The honourable member for Hindmarsh has had his fun, too. He has got us in on many occasions in this chamber. He has built up a Hitchcock dramatic situation and scored great successes from it. I have no doubt that he will go away tonight saying that he has had his little bit of fun at the expense of the honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Andrew Jones). In this House, in truth, people can have a bit of fun with other people when they do things or say things which are taken up by the Press and given publicity, as a result of which the microscope goes on them. I can assure you, Mr Speaker, knowing these chaps as I do, that if they are determined to have a little bit of fun, fun they will have, and fun they have had tonight.
– Does the honourable member think that he should have informed on him?
– The honourable member has informed the whole House about it tonight. What we must bear in mind at this point of time is that a young man aged 21 years was elected to the Parliament at the last general election. If he was elected to the seat of Adelaide, which, and I hope I do not do him an injustice in saying it, nobody thought he had the remotest chance of winning. In fact, he received a swing of 17%, as a result of which he won Adelaide, to the great surprise of everybody, including the honourable member for Hindmarsh who was a close friend of Mr Galvin, the former member for Adelaide, and the honourable member for Grayndler, who was a close friend of Mr Galvin. The honourable member for Adelaide won the seat with a swing of 17%.
– It was not Mr Galvin.
– It was Mr Sexton who was member for Adelaide.
– Order! I have already warned the honourable member for Scullin and the honourable member for KingsfordSmith in this debate and I now request that they cease interjecting.
– I rise to order. I was just pointing out–
– He was making a false accusation.
– Order! No point of order is involved. The honourable member will resume his seat.
– With a turnover of this kind it is not surprising that the Opposition want to recapture the seat. The honourable member for Adelaide, acting as he believes he should correctly act, will have his every action closely scrutinised by honourable members opposite in the hope that there will be a possibility of the Opposition winning back the seat at the next election. For my part,I greatly hope that the honourable member for Adelaide wins on the next occasion. Whether he will do so remains to be seen. Let us not make any secret about it. In order for him to win he will have to maintain the vote which he received last time which will be no easy task. I am quite sure that he is working very hard at this task. I am confident that we will see him back after the next general election. What he did on this occasion has been exposed for everybody’s gaze. He did it. He does not detract from the report in any way. He said: ‘This is what I did.’ This is what he is reported to have done. He went on to say: ‘I believe I acted rightly.’
The whole matter has been exposed. j do not think that it is necessary for me at this point of time to make a judgment. The judgment will be made by the people who will vote for the honourable member for Adelaide. I believe that the clear way in which the honourable gentleman has stated his responsibility and what he saw to be his duty is the action of a man of principle. He acted in this way. Now, I said that 1 would not make any reference to the honourable member for Oxley. 1 do not propose to do so. But I would hope that this debate has gone far enough on this subject. There is no divergence on the facts of the situation. Any further debate on this matter will only do what has been done already, Mr Speaker. It will demean the forms of the House in order to cast personal implications on the honourable member for Adelaide which he does not deserve. By trying to interject now, the honourable member for Oxley is making worse the offence that he has already committed.
For these reasons, I hope that there will be no necessity for anybody else to make the sort of implications that have been made. Events in the future will show the story. I say that I accept without reservation in any way at all that the honourable member for Adelaide acted in accordance with a principle that he felt to be proper and has not at any moment detracted in any way from the facts. He has strictly maintained that he did what he thought was proper and that he will take what is coming to him as a result of his actions. This matter will be determined al the next House of Representatives election. I have confidence that the honourable member for Adelaide will be back here after that election.
– Mr Speaker, I have sat here tonight, as I have on previous occasions in this Parliament, listening to apologies and to sanctimonious explanations such as those which have just been given by the Minister for Immigration and Leader of the House (Mr Snedden) in defence of the honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Andrew Jones) to the effect that what the honourable member for Adelaide did in the South Australian election was correct. The Leader of the House tried to justify the actions of the honourable member for Adelaide.
I recall an incident here not so very long ago shortly after the honourable member for Adelaide had been elected. The honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden) made reference to it. This was the alleged flicking of cigarette butts on the former Leader of the Opposition, the honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Calwell). Reference was made also to the statement by the honourable member for Adelaide about half the members of this Parliament being drunk half their time. What does the Leader of the House have to say about this one? Were these the ravings of a young man trying to do what was right? Does the honourable member acknowledge that half the members of this Parliament are drunk half their time, because I do not. I do not accept that statement. Honourable members opposite know it is not true, just as I do. The honourable member for Adelaide was let off the hook at that time very easily when he made his apology allegedly with tears trickling down his face. Was he using onions to bring on those tears? I think that we ought to have a look at his conduct when he talks about people being drunk half the time in this Parliament. Let us have a look at him. What happened at the function that was held in King’s Hall in connection with the opening of the First Session of this Parliament? How long did it take the cleaners to clean up King’s Hall? Let us have all the facts on this matter. If we are going to have a fight in this place, let us have it. I have sat in here and listened to the ravings of the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth), who is now the Minister for Social Services, the honourable member for Mitchell (Mr Irwin), the honourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen) and other Government supporters. When one of the members on the Government side of the House puts his foot out of place, all sorts of explanations are offered for it.
If the honourable member for Adelaide is a young man, let him keep a young man’s place. Let him not come into this House and start criticising men who have been here for many, many more years than he has been on this planet. As far as I am concerned, his accusation about members being drunk half the time is a complete fabrication and a figment of his own imagination because he himself has been one of the leading frequenters of the bar here.
So the honourable member should know. He has been in that condition many times and that is the reason why he judges other speakers-
– Order! The honourable member for Newcastle will withdraw the imputation against the honourable member for Adelaide and his conduct in the House.
– What I said I believe to be true.
– I name the honourable member for Newcastle.
Motion (by Mr Snedden) proposed:
That the honourable member for Newcastle be suspended from the service of the House.
-The question is that the honourable member for Newcastle be suspended from the service of the House. Those of that opinion say Aye, to the contrary No.
– Before the question is put, I believe that the honourable member for Newcastle will withdraw the statement to which you, Mr Speaker, have objected, if you give him another chance. I would ask you to do that.
– Although I moved the motion, Mr Speaker, you may find it convenient to ask the honourable member again.
-I agree. I call the honourable member for Newcastle.
– I withdraw the Statement, with great difficulty.
-The honourable member will withdraw it unconditionally.
– I withdraw the statement. I believe that the Parliament has been very lenient to the honourable member for Adelaide. I believe we have been lenient with him far too long when he comes in here and makes such statements or when he conducts himself in the manner in which he has conducted himself since he has been a member of the Parliament. As far as I and members of the Opposition are concerned, we will take him to task for the way in which he has conducted himself.
– The honourable member would not know; he has been away for months.
– 1 have been here for a long time and a lot longer than the honourable member for Franklin has been here or will be here. I strongly object to what the honourable member for Adelaide said on the occasion to which I have made reference. I believe that people making accusations in this chamber ought to be perfect and have a look at themselves before they start reflecting on other honourable members who have conducted, and do conduct, themselves in an orderly and gentlemanly fashion here.
– The honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Andrew Jones) has been attacked in a manner the like of which, in over 40 years of parliamentary political experience, I have never heard - and I have heard some pretty vicious and excited attacks and challenges made in Parliament. The accusations have been answered. Honourable members opposite have accused the honourable member of petty nastiness and contemptible action; this from the Australian Labor Party which accused a fine, brave soldier who had volunteered to save the necks of some of these people and who was a prisoner-of-war and suffered as such because of bis actions in trying to save his country. Yet this kind of people accused him of using his gold pass in order to obtain preferential treatment from the Japanese at the time he was in Sandakan. Of all the people who should talk about mean, contemptible, petty nastiness, the Labor Party or its elder members should be the last.
– by leave - I have been accused of conducting myself in Queen’s Hall in a manner not befitting a member of Parliament. This accusation I deny unequivocally. It is the most serious aspersion and the most spurious, nasty, evil comment ever cast upon an honourable member.
-Order! The honourable member cannot debate the matter again.
– My second point is that at no stage have I been instrumental in having any dealings with any member of the parliamentary staff, whether in the refreshment rooms or otherwise. I stand on my record. My word is my law. I again deny this.
– My remarks will be as brief as any that have been spoken in the House tonight. I appreciate the criticisms of the honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Andrew Jones) by members of my Party. I think they are justified and somewhat overdue. I believe that the real underlying reason for my Party’s attack on the honourable member for Adelaide is that our members feel he may meet with a violent end. They know of the deep resentment of the Australian people towards informers. With great restraint and without any intention to humiliate you, sir, I say that you would not inform on a person who recently put you in an embarrassing position. You know what the Australian people would have thought if you had gone to court to testify against the person who humiliated you. You would not do it, sir. Let me return to the real reason for my Party’s attack on the honourable member for Adelaide. If you could get access to police files, asI had for 241/2 years, and looked through the history of violence in recent years, you would find, sir, that many unsolved crimes relate to the violent deaths of police informers. Here is the real reason for our criticism tonight of the honourable member for Adelaide. Members of my Party who have spoken against him told me outside the chamber that they feared that if something were not done to put a brake on this man, his parents will be put to the expense of erecting an expensive tombstone. I hope that the attack by members of my Party tonight will prevent the sadness to his parents which could follow if he pursues the line that he has been pursuing in public life. It is against his own physical interests and the interests of his near and dear ones. That is the underlying reason why members of my Party brought this matter forth tonight.
The first real crime with which the honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Andrew Jones) is charged is that of winning the seat of Adelaide from the Labor Party. The second crime arises from the fact that the Labor Party knows he will hold the seat. The third crime is that he has a magnificent television show in Adelaide that is making it extremely difficult for the Labor Party to survive.
At the election in which the honourable member for Adelaide won his seat the Labor Party’s South Australian representation in this House was cut from six to three. When we look at the voting we see that the honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron) was very close to becoming a casualty. We wish to sympathise with him for the pathetic situation in which he finds himself. We sympathise with him for something else too. Members of the Australian Labor Party had a name for being good losers, once. But one would not expect any person who had respect for that party to sink to the pathetic situation that the honourable member for Hindmarsh found himself in tonight. He could not take a licking; he could not take a hiding. We saw the spectacle of the Labor Party badly beaten by the young man from Adelaide as well as being badly beaten in two other seats in South Australia and the honourable member for Hindmarsh just surviving.
It is a very sad matter indeed to see a party sink to this level. It is indeed a very sad affair when that Party brings the matter into this House and its members use this venom and spleen, these vicious words, and this temper, envy and malice. The Labor Party has attacked the honourable member for Adelaide because he saw something happening at a polling booth. What was it that he saw? The Labor Party prostituted itself by getting a young man under 21 years of age - a man who had not reached the age when, according to the electoral law, he could make a judgment for himself - to hand out how to vote cards while he was in uniform. This is what really happened. Somebody got this boy to hand out the cards. The Labor Party did this. The actions and statements tonight are those of people who cannot take a beating. They cannot take what we handed out to them. Those people came into the House tonight and made this attack. Mr Speaker, I think everybody has been saddened by this occurrence and the fact that this once great party has sunk to the level of being unable to take the beating handed out to it.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at11 . 53 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 13 March 1968, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1968/19680313_reps_26_hor58/>.