26th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr SPEAKER (Hon W. J. Aston) took the chair at 2.30 p.m.. and read prayers.
Mr BUCHANAN presented a petition from certain electors of the Division of McMillan praying that a realistic policy of winning the Vietnam war as quickly as possible be adopted by the Australian Government and that this policy be recommended to our American allies.
Petition received and read.
– The Prime Minister will have noticed that the Minister for Primary Industry gave details of the pending scheme for reconstructing the dairy industry to a meeting at Ipswich last Friday. This meeting had been postponed from an earlier date 2 or 3. weeks beforehand. I ask the right honourable gentleman whether he is aware of the principle frequently enunciated by a former Prime Minister, Sir Robert Menzies - the last occasion, I believe, being on 1 11th November 1965 - in these terms: 1 think it is a very sound and proper rule that when statements are to be made in a period of time when the House is sitting they should be made here, in the House. I have endeavoured, myself, to adhere to that rule very closely.
Does the Prime Minister intend to follow this principle and to ensure his Ministers’ compliance with it as far as possible?
– I think the principle enunciated is an extremely good principle but I find it difficult to see why the Leader of the Opposition thinks it was departed from in this instance. I remember, for example, that in the Governor-General’s Speech it was made clear that there would be a grant of up to $25m - so the amount of money was presented there - over a period of 4 years if required - so the time was presented there - for the purpose of helping those who wished to leave the dairy industry to do so, or for diversification. Now that seems to me to be a statement which perhaps was elaborated by the Minister for Primary Industry, but that is a statement of policy of the amount provided and of the purposes provided which seems to me to fit in with what the Leader of the Opposition suggests should happen.
– I wish to direct a question to the Minister for Shipping and Transport. Can the Minister inform me whether the rail standardisation of the Broken Hill-Port Pirie link is proceeding according to schedule and whether this section will be completed by April 1969, as originally anticipated?
– I am advised that work on the line to which the honourable gentleman has referred is, in part, proceeding well and truly according to schedule. I refer to the part between Port Pirie and Cockburn on the border between South Australia and New South Wales. It is anticipated that this part of the line will be available for operation before the end of the year. Construction of the part between Cockburn and Broken Hill, which I am advised is about 30 miles long, is principally the responsibility of the South Australian Government. While some design work has been undertaken on this part of the line, as yet construction has not commenced. In the result, it seems unlikely that the line will be completed by the scheduled date of April 1969.
– My question is directed to the Treasurer. I ask: Does the Government still ship gold overseas in exchange for British sterling and United States dollars? If so, how much gold produced or acquired in Australia has been shipped overseas in the current year? Is any gold other than for use in manufacture sold in Australia by the Reserve Bank of Australia? Is any person in Australia allowed to hold gold other than for use in manufacture?
– There are too many questions for me to answer specifically, but I think the substance of the honourable gentleman’s question is whether the Australian gold producer can sell his gold on the premium markets of the world. The gold provisions of the Banking Act require that gold produced in Australia be delivered to the Reserve Bank of Australia at the price of $US35 per oz or $A31.25 per oz. Arrangements were made in 1951 that if the Gold Producers Association of Australia, which comprised all of the producers, wished to sell gold on the premium markets of the world it could repurchase the gold at the price of $US35 per oz and sell it in the premium markets. The surplus received was then distributed by the Association to the producers according to the amount of gold that the producers had delivered to the Reserve Bank. It is to be remembered that we have subsidy arrangements and that if gold is sold on the premium markets then there is a reduction in the subsidy. So many cables have arrived in recent days about what the communique issued by the gold pool countries in fact means that instructions have been given that until we can clarify the communique precisely there will be no change in the arrangements that I have mentioned. In other words, the Association can repurchase the gold if it wishes to sell it on the international exchanges.
– My question without notice is addressed to the Prime Minister. I refer to the recent appointment of electoral redistribution commissioners and ask whether any significant departures were made from previous methods of choosing these commissioners.
– I think that the Minister for the Interior answered a somewhat similar question on this matter in the House last week.
– No-one believed him.
– I am told that no-one believed him so I am glad of the opportunity to reinforce the truth of what he said. There has been nothing unusual in the present circumstances. The Commonwealth Electoral Act requires that there should be a commissioner who is the Chief Electoral Officer of the State - to my recollection; secondly, that the second commissioner should be a surveyor-general of a State or some person holding similar qualifications. The Act is silent as to the third commissioner. It has been the constant practice for the third commissioner to be selected from a list of names submitted by the Chief Electoral Officer. As this has been done in the past, so it was done in the present. I might add that neither has there been anything unusual on this occasion in the selection of people from particular departments as the third commissioner. In previous redistributions this has been the case - someone representing the Postmaster-General’s Department, someone representing some other department - and as that has been done in the past, so again it has been done in the present and there is no significant difference.
– As a supplementary question I ask the Prime Minister: How many names were on the list given to him by the Chief Electoral Officer?
– I do not remember the number of names on the list for each State but there were some names and that is all that I can tell. I will seek the information.
– I ask the Minister for Social Services in his capacity as Minister in Charge of Aboriginal Affairs whether he will say what has been done following upon the passing last May of the referendum conferring new powers on the Commonwealth in relation to Aboriginal affairs. Will the Minister indicate any proposals the Government may have in this sphere for the near future?
– I need hardly remind the House that the late Prime Minister was making this matter his own personal concern and that his untimely death interrupted the normal course of policy development. However, he made provision for the establishment of the Council and the Office, of Aboriginal Affairs, which are at present in existence. The Council consists of Dr Coombs, who will be well known to honourable members as the Governor of the Reserve Bank, and Professor Stanner, Professor of Anthropology at the Australian National University, who is himself very familiar with Aboriginal affairs, especially in the Northern Territory and will have a great and valuable insight into the background of this whole matter. The development of policy will depend very largely upon what the Aboriginal people themselves want. It is not easy to ascertain this; different groups want different things and the circumstances of Aboriginals are not by any means uniform throughout the Commonwealth.
Nevertheless it will be our objective to try to ascertain the real wishes of these people and, so far as it lies within our power, to give them effect. At the present moment policies are under consideration. I hope to be able to submit them to Cabinet and when Cabinet has seen them I shall make these public. I should hope, myself, that this would not be over long. May I remind the House, as it probably knows, that sometime during the early part of July a conference of State Ministers concerned and the Federal Minister will b: convened. May I say in conclusion that the present Prime Minister has indicated a continuance of the interest in this matter at the highest level, by himself retaining the primary authority, with myself acting as Minister in Charge of Aboriginal Affairs directly under the authority of the Prime Minister.
– My question to the Treasurer is supplementary to the one asked by the honourable member for Darling. Why has the Government delayed making an announcement on its attitude to sales of Australian produced gold on the free market? Is it a fact that United States gold producers are to be allowed to sell at the new free price? Is the Government aware that restrictions by Australia on the sale of gold by the Gold Producers Association could be justly interpreted as reflecting lack of support for the two tier price system? Will the Reserve Bank of Australia, which presumably intends to restrict the export of Australian gold, pay gold producers the new free price or the old fixed price for their output? Does the Treasurer still believe that there should be an increase in the official price of gold as he claimed at the last two meetings of the International Monetary Fund? “
– Replying first to the last part of the honourable gentleman’s question, I did not claim at the last two meetings of the International Monetary Fund that there should be an increase in the price of gold. What I did argue strongly was that it was high time that the IMF had a good look at gold as the basis of international foreign exchanges. I said that it should quickly make up its mind one way or the other whether it intended to improve the status of gold in the market. As to the remainder of the question, if the honourable gentleman had carefully read the communique which has been issued he would have realised that there was one sentence in it which was very difficult to interpret. That sentence said that any gold that was sold by the monetary authorities - this includes our Reserve Bank - on the free market would not be replaced by official sales of gold from the gold pool monetary authorities.
On the face of it, it appeared that we were to carry out the arrangement that I mentioned a few moments ago and that the possibility was that we would not be able to purchase gold from the gold pool monetary authorities to replace it. Consequently we are taking the maximum precaution to ensure that what we do is consistent with the rules which have been established at the meeting in Washington. We have already made representations to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and we are hopeful that in the course of a few days we will be able to announce our decisions. Already we have conveyed to the Gold Producers Association the information that the Reserve Bank still is ready to purchase gold at the price of SUS35 per oz and that if members of the Association want to sell gold on the international market it will be resold to them at that price and they will be able to get the going price on the international market for the amount they sell.
– My question is addressed to the Postmaster-General. By way of explanation may I quote three sentences from a letter from a soldier in Vietnam. He said:
Mail is apparently back to normal now. For 4 weeks in January and February 1 and most others never received any mail at all. Pretty upsetting as the blokes needed their mail particularly at that time.
The soldier’s mother is concerned that since the postal workers are indulging again in regulation and other strikes this situation could come about once more. I ask the PostmasterGeneral whether, by appealing to the instincts of the postal workers and by special markings or special postings, or otherwise, it would be possible to ensure that our troops in Vietnam receive their mail. Nobody knows better than you, Sir, how vitally important this is to men in the field who are defending this country.
– Within the Post Office we are very conscious of our obligation to move the mails between Australia and Vietnam. This is very difficult to do in a situation such as existed last January. Many people post their mail in pillar boxes or post offices far removed from capital cities, making it impossible for us, for one reason or another, to get the mail from Australia to Vietnam. No great difficulty was experienced in Sydney in respect of mail posted in a special pillar ‘box at the General Post Office but considerable difficulty was experienced in respect of mail posted in the suburbs and country areas of New South Wales as well as other areas of Australia. Not only did we have problems within the Post Office from mail van drivers and mail sorters but we also experienced difficulties with employees of the Railways Department who, at the request of certain members of the Transport Workers Union, would not handle mail on and off internal aircraft.
So I can give no undertaking that in similar circumstances the troops in Vietnam will not have difficulty in sending their mail to Australia and that Australians will not have difficulty in getting mail delivered to the troops in Vietnam. The Post Office would do everything it possibly could but I could not guarantee that we would ‘be able completely to avoid all difficulties. ‘While I would hope that members of the unions concerned would appreciate the value of a good mail service to our troops, when you get circumstances such as we. had earlier this year the personal interests of the unionists are paramount to those of anybody else.
– I rise to order. Just as I completed my question I distinctly heard the honourable member for East Sydney interject and say: ‘You should be there’.
-Order! The honourable member will resume his seat.
– I ask the Prime Minister a question. I refer him to a passage in the Governor-General’s Speech which read: my advisers inform me that the economy is active and promises well for the future.
Will the right honourable gentleman say who is the Governor-General’s adviser? Is he the Treasurer or the Minister for Labour and National Service?
– I am happy to inform the honourable member that the Government advises the Governor-General.
– Will the Minister for National Development say whether a request has been received recently from the Queensland Government for a complete reappraisal of the Burdekin River scheme?
– Some months ago a request was received from the Queensland Government for a reappraisal of the Burdekin River scheme. The Commonwealth has not yet been able to accede to the request. The Commonwealth is assisting the Queensland Government to assess two projects in the tributaries which flow into the Burdekin River, namely the Bowen River and the Broken River. Having received a request from the Queensland Government for funds to assist in the building of a dam on the Broken River, the Commonwealth has not been able to do more than that up to the present.
– No doubt the Prime Minister is aware of the critical situation confronting many farmers in drought striken southern Australia. Is he aware that whilst overseas countries, including China, are able to purchase Australian wheat on terms, drought stricken farmers are required to pay in advance for wheat used as fodder? Is he aware further that the high cost of wheat is severely limiting its use as fodder and therefore contributing to the loss of valuable livestock, including breeding stock? In the national interest as well as that of the farmer will the Prime Minister provide credit for wheat purchases and introduce a subsidy scheme for wheat used as fodder?
– Part of the question which was just addressed to me dealt of course with future policy. But part of it, according to my understanding, did not. I reply to the honourable member on the basis that if I am mistaken in what I say to him now - I do not believe I am - I shall certainly correct what I have to say. I am under the impression that the Government in fact has already in instances made wheat available through the Australian Wheat Board to drought stricken farmers on a year’s terms at 4i% interest. We are making arrangements for that.
– When is that to start? lt has not started yet.
– I believe it has. 1 cannot tell the honourable member when it started. In answer to the specific question that the honourable member asked, I do remember the Government making these arrangements. That answers the part of the question which was not related to future policy.
– I ask the Minister for the Navy whether he can inform the House of the stage that has been reached in the feasibility study to determine the suitability of Cockburn Sound in Western Australia for the establishment of naval supporting facilities.
– I think that the honourable member will know that Maunsell and Partners were engaged by the. Department of Works in a consultant capacity to undertake a feasibility study. The study has now been completed and the report is in the process of being printed. When it is printed it will be studied by both the Naval Board and the Department of Works before it is studied by the Government.
– I ask the Minister in Charge of Aboriginal Affairs whether consideration has been given to adding to the committee consisting of Dr Coombs and Professor Stanner some Aboriginal figure who has distinguished himself in representations concerning the problems of his people.
– This matter is under active consideration. There is difficulty in finding a representative whom Aboriginal people throughout Australia would accept as speaking for them. But I can assure the honourable member that this whole idea of giving Aboriginals a voice and a right of decision in relation to themselves and some responsibility for their own future is one of the cardinal rules which will activate the policy of the Council and the Office of Aboriginal Affairs.
– My question is directed to the Prime Minister. When seconding the Address-in-Reply, I spoke about the need for the member for the Northern Territory to have immediately full voting rights in all matters dealt with in this House. The Prime Minister will know that the people in the Northern Territory are the only sector of the community whose representative does not have full voting rights in this House. I ask: Will the Government please remove the restriction, when legislation comes before the House next week, so that the morale of the people of the Northern Territory will be lifted?
– My recollection of the Governor-General’s Speech is that the Government therein indicated that it proposed to grant full voting rights to the member for the Northern Territory after the next election.
– That is what the Bill says, too.
– Yes. However, that having been said, I must say that the Government has been so impressed by the representations made by the member for the Northern- Territory and by other people in the Northern Territory thai we have again considered the whole of the matters concerned, and there being, according to the forceful representations made to us, no real need for further delay, we shall act without further delay and amend the Act to provide full voting rights for the member for the Northern Territory.
– My question is directed’ to the Prime Minister. Does he condone the action of the Minister for Labour and
National Service in attacking the recent decision of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, which granted wage justice to Australian workers, on the grounds that it was contrary to the Government’s economic policy? Will he say whether his Government’s policy is to interfere with the laws of natural justice? In view of the Minister’s arrogant and irresponsible attitude in attempting to prostitute the workings of the Arbitration Commission, will the Prime Minister give him the order of the boot?
– It is not the policy of the Government to interfere with the laws of natural justice nor is it the policy of the Government to shrink from arbitration or to seek to have matters settled without arbitration. I do not believe that the remarks made by the Minister for Labour and National Service either attacked arbitration as such or attacked natural justice.
– I ask the Minister for Immigration in his capacity as Leader of the House whether he has seen a report that certain Admirals have stated that the Voyager’ ghost will be laid in the debate in the House next week? Can he tell me when the House itself will be told when the debate will take place?
– I expect that the debate on the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply will continue throughout this week and will probably go into Tuesday of next week. I am unable at this stage to tell the honourable member precisely the day on which the ‘Voyager’ report will be debated. I will need to watch the development of the programme for this week before I am able to state a precise time. I will discuss the matter with the Prime Minister within a short period and following that discussion I will let the honourable member and the House know when the debate will take place.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Social Services and Minister in Charge of Aboriginal Affairs. Does he recall his many orations when a militant backbencher in which he advocated a new deal for aged, invalid and widow pensioners and the abolition of the means test? If so, does his reply to a question in this House recently that abolition of the means test is a matter of policy, together with the vague details on social services contained in His Excellency’s Speech, indicate that the Minister has now been emancipated, that he has forgotten his pious ideals and that his ministerial efforts on social services will be limited to the administration of the present Government’s policy with all its injustices, hardships and inequalities for pensioners and other beneficiaries?
– In answer to the friendly and constructive question from the honourable member for Grayndler, may I say that however I may be changed in status I am not changed in myself. I assure him that I shall be looking to the interests of the pensioners and those in need of assistance from the Government. In saying so may I, with great pride, name as my ally the Prime Minister, who has made exactly the same statement specifically. It is not my intention to make statements in advance that would only impede the development of the Government’s policy. My objective and my proper function as a Minister is to carry out the Government’s policy in this House and elsewhere. The advices I may give in regard to the development of that policy are very properly, confidential. I shall do my best not merely to say things that will help the pensioners but to get done those things that will be of assistance to them. I hope the honourable member for Grayndler will co-operate in this.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for the Army. I refer to the accidental drowning of a national service trainee from Victoria in the jungle training centre at Canungra last Sunday. In view of the allegations that have been made about the lack of safety precautions, will the Minister undertake to investigate this matter?
– I am certainly aware of the very regrettable incident to which the honourable member has now referred. I have already received a detailed report, but I have called for additional information and when it is to hand I will let the honourable member have a thoroughly considered and detailed reply.
– I ask the Treasurer a question. Is it a fact that the external liabilities of the United States of America exceed $30,000m, against gold holdings by that country of only $ 11,000m, that the very recent run on gold by international speculators has exposed this serious weakness in the United States economy, that the two-tier gold price policy is a very shaky stop gap action which may be quickly undermined by a central bank breaking from the arrangement, and that in any event the extent of the weaknesses in the United States economy, which have been underlined in the past few days, is such as to force that country to undertake fairly stringent domestic economic measures? In view of the tightening up of the United States foreign investment which then must follow, and also the contraction of British foreign investment, will the Treasurer make a statement on the steps that the Government considers necessary to support the Australian economy and to prevent any follow-on recessionary tendencies in this country?
– It is all very well to be critical of what may be regarded as adverse factors involved in the decisions made in Washington on Saturday and Sunday, but I remind the honourable member that very many things have been done which I think will be of great assistance in international trade and particularly in international monetary exchanges. For example, the United States Congress has removed the gold backing from the United States dollar and has thus released more than $ 10,000m worth of gold that can be used by the United States in the international exchanges. Secondly, under what are called swap agreements’ the amounts available to the various central banks have been built up to $9,300m-odd - I cannot remember the exact figure. Thirdly, the reserve banks and the International Monetary Fund always have made available to the United Kingdom Government something of the order of $4,000m in credits to permit the United Kingdom Government to participate effectively in these exchanges. Much has been done, therefore, to prevent or to lessen any continued run on sterling and the United States dollar.
There are, of course, certain other measures that the world knows, and the relevant authorities know, are essential, and there are certain relevant items of information which it would be desirable to obtain. The first is the nature and extent of the United Kingdom budget to be presented today, and of which we will have details tomorrow. Secondly there is the proposal now before the United States Congress to increase the surcharges by 10% on corporate income and also by 10% on private income. These measures are essential. There is also one other proposal that is now being considered. That is the creation of reserve drawing rights for the International Monetary Fund. What has been done, in the opinion of many world authorities, does give the opportunity to meet the situation until these new reserve drawing rights are created. I express no opinion about these matters, but people more informed than I, such as the Governor of the Bank of England, the central reserve bank of the United Kingdom, are now expressing a hope that the special drawing rights may and probably will come into existence at an early date.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Civil Aviation. Air services form a very valuable and important part of our communications in this day and age, and I preface my question by saying that I commend the efforts being made to spread the benefits of these services as widely as possible. Commuter services were introduced with that object in view. I ask the Minister: How many commuter operators are providing air services in Queensland and other States, and are these services operating satisfactorily in conjunction with the normal airline services?
– The concept of commuter services has been accepted generally throughout all States. They are providing a much needed addition to air services, particularly in outback areas. After a settling down period they have fitted in very well with the normal airline services and thereby are providing a far better general service to people in distant places. In Queensland at the present time two commuter service operators cover quite a number of air routes. In the other four States, excluding Western Australia, there are another ten operators at the present time. An application, which I hope will be approved before the end of the month, has been made in relation to Western Australia. It is anticipated that this type of service will be extended in the future, although the growth will be slow because of the many problems involved. Altogether the concept has been successful and, as the honourable member said, has been accepted by the people concerned.
– Has it come to the knowledge of the Minister for Primary Industry that German insurance companies have decided to accept responsibility for fruit destined for Germany and trapped in the Suez Canal since 7th June last year? If this is so, it is the first break through in the 41 weeks old fruit crisis. If the report is correct, will the Government use its diplomatic strength, or any other strength it has, in the United Kingdom to encourage the British insurance companies to follow suit and accept their responsibility for the fruit in the Canal destined for the United Kingdom? Has the Minister any up-to-date news as to the intentions of President Nasser in regard to reopening the Canal?
– What the honourable member for Wilmot says is news to me. I was not aware that the German insurance companies had accepted liability for the fruit which they had insured and which was held up in the Suez Canal. As the honourable member is aware, a few months ago the exporters of Australian fruit declared it abandoned and the insurance companies rejected it. Up until this point of time the British insurance companies have not issued any writs; each was waiting to see what the other insurance companies had done. My latest information is that the British companies were waiting to see what the German insurance companies were doing, because the German insurance companies seemed to be moving more than the British or other insurance companies involved. I am pleased to hear this information. I will check to see whether it is correct; if it is, it certainly will have a bearing on the attitude of other insurance companies.
– My question, directed to the Minister for National Development, refers to a meeting last Friday of the River Murray Commission. In view of apparent contradictions appearing in Press reports would the Minister be prepared to tell me whether matters other than salinity were discussed by the Commission, whether the future of Chowilla Dam, important to South Australia’s growth, was discussed, and whether the Minister has anything further to add to his Press report?
– The matter of the Chowilla Dam was discussed, as the River Murray Commission had before it a report from its technical committee. The report was discussed, but no decision on the future of either Chowilla Dam or another storage on the River Murray was made at that meeting because we realised that we would require some additional information about other possible sites for up-river storages. Another meeting of the River Murray Commission has been called for 24th April, but the problem that we have before us is that we desire to see that South Australia should receive its entitlement, which is 1,254,000 acre feet in any year, whether there is a restriction or not. In addition, we desire to see that additional water is made available to the two up-river States which at the present moment are over-committed. All I can say at present is that from studies so far undertaken it appears that there are more suitable and cheaper ways of obtaining water up river than by the construction of the Chowilla Dam.
– Can the Treasurer say whether arrangements have been completed and agreed to between the Commonwealth Government and the Western Australian Government in relation to financial assistance for the second stage of the Ord River project? Why has it taken so long - 41 months - to reach an arrangement upon a matter to which the Government has claimed to have given continual attention over the past 4 years? If arrangements have been completed will the Treasurer tell the House what they are, particularly regarding terms of repayment? If he will not do so, is this because it would embarrass the Western Australian Government at this time?
– There were considerable negotiations between the officials as to the method by which loans should be granted and the terms of repayment of the amounts involved, particularly for interest charges. The Prime Minister has written to the Premier of Western Australia stating what the Commonwealth Government is prepared to do - stating it after full and free discussions between the officials themselves. I think that when the honourable member hears the terms of the proposal made by the Prime Minister to the Western Australian Premier he will be somewhat disappointed - politically anyhow.
Debate resumed from 14 March (vide page 154), on motion by Mr Fox:
That the following Address-in-Reply to the Speech of His Excellency the Governor-General be agreed to:
May It Please Your Excellency:
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.
– We are presently engaged in debate on the Address-in-Reply to the Speech with which the Governor-General opened this session of the Parliament. This is the second time in the life of this Parliament that we have had such a debate. Of course, the reason for this is the advent of a new Prime Minister. I take this opportunity of congratulating the right honourable member for Higgins (Mr Gorton) - an ex-senator - on his attaining that high office. I hope that he will have many years in which to enjoy it and that the people of Australia will be happy with the success it brings to them. At the same time we are all greatly saddened by the tragic happening which made it possible for this event to take place. However, we have a new government - the Gorton-McEwen Government. Naturally it is anxious to start its term with a clean sheet. It should have the opportunity to develop its own policies and to determine its own priorities. We all hope that its priorities will assume a dynamic form and we look forward with great interest to the remainder of this session.
Four new Ministers are familiarising themselves with their departments. Of course, several of the other Ministers have been transferred to other departments. This debate gives them an opportunity to get their affairs in order. It allows them some breathing space in which to formulate vital legislation that we hope to see soon. This will be a short session for a variety of reasons, and I hope that this debate, so called, will not drag on. During question time the Leader of the House (Mr Snedden) said that it may extend to Tuesday of next week. I hope that it will finish this week, because there is an urgent need to get on with the business of the country rather than to listen to the bleatings of back bench members who use this debate as a means of airing some of their pet subjects and most of whose suggestions are not likely to be put into effect. Despite this 1 would like to make some suggestions, even though they may not receive the consideration that they might receive if we were discussing definite legislation at the moment.
The dairying industry was given special mention in the Governor-General’s Speech. His Excellency stated that the Government will introduce legislation to provide up to $25m over the next 4 years to be used towards the reconstruction of the dairying industry. It is proposed that the Commonwealth will make the money available and that the States will carry out the plan. The general purpose of the legislation is to enable those dairy farmers on small farms who are experiencing economic hardship and who wish to leave the industry to do so. The idea seems to be that the small farms will be consolidated into economic dairying units. We have been told in some of the discussions on this subject that the smaller farms that are purchased will be made available to neighbouring farms. This would not cut down on the quantity of butter that is produced, which is the real problem in the dairying industry. If a farmer acquires the farm next door and is able to consolidate the two farms, the likelihood is that because of better methods of operating and lower unit costs he will be able to produce more butter from the two farms combined.
The Governor-General indicated that small dairy farms might be used for other purposes for which they are suitable, such as grazing and cropping. More importantly, be also indicated that they might be used for forestry. Australian Paper Manufacturers Ltd has shown that tree farming is a most profitable venture on the marginal lands of Gippsland, mostly in awkward spots on the tops of hills in the poorer soils. This is a new industry which is badly needed in Australia. Perhaps this same firm will be able to apply these principles on the north west coast. However, I hope this is not contemplated for our good dairying country in Gippsland, although it might be mentioned in passing that many dairy farmers would be well advised to devote an area to tree farming as a long term investment because its profitability is well known.
I do not like the present proposal for the reconstruction of the dairying industry. I do not think that it will work. The intention is to cut down the production of butter, which is now being produced in excess in practically every country in the world. The countries in the European Common Market are meeting at present to try to overcome this very problem of over production. The present scheme was foreshadowed by the former Minister for Primary Industry in a debate on the butter subsidy in the middle of last year. Honourable members will also recall that reconstruction of the dairying industry was recommended by a committee of inquiry which reported, to this House in 1960. If honourable members examine the two recommendations they will find that they are very similar. The whole purpose of the scheme seems to be the provision of finance in order to enable the less profitable dairy farms to be used for another purpose, but mainly to enable the people who are working on those farms to get out of the dairying industry. Most of these unprofitable areas are on the north west coast, in the Richmond district, in Queensland and in special areas of Western Australia which have their own problems. This scheme does not appeal to me. It is of very little interest to the dairy farmers in Victoria. I should like to point out that there is a rather large discrepancy between the figures that are used now and those quoted in 1960. The Minister, in a Press release, mentioned the 62,000 commercial dairy farmers in Australia and said that more than half - 55% - had net farm incomes of less than $2,000 a year. I noticed that in another statement made at a meeting he pointed out that there were 2,500 subsistence dairy farms on the north west coast where they had specific and particular problems. He mentioned also last year that people had been leaving the industry in that area at a rate of 3% per annum for the past 5 years.
In 1960 the Dairy Industry Committee of Inquiry referred to a figure of 70,000. Some movement and some reconstruction are taking place. At least a figure of 8,000 has disappeared from the statistics. In 1960 the 70,000 dairy farmers mentioned were made up of 30,000 in the prosperous section, 11,000 in the poorer section with a potential of 8,000 lb of butter fat if given financial assistance while 3,000 were not capable of producing 8,000 lb of butter fat and it has been stated that these should be financed out of the industry. These I take it to be the hard core of the industry which we shall deal with in the relevant legislation when it is introduced. There are also 26,000 farmers who claim recognition but who should not be given any assistance as dairying is a sideline for them and brings in less than one-third of their income. I believe that no assistance should be given to these people who contribute to our export surplus purely as a sideline and for their own convenience. They should get export values only for the cream they take along to the butter factories.
I referred to the figure of 8,000 lb which was used in 1960 in determining whether operations were profitable. Today it would be necessary to increase that figure to 10,000 lb of butter fat. Australian wage rates have increased by about 16% since 1960; the consumer price index has increased by about 15%; but the retail price of butter has increased by only 6i%. Conditions in Australia are set on an Australian pattern which includes a subsidy as well as the normal costs and I point out here and now that there must be no intention of trying to nibble away at this subsidy which has become such an integral part of the industry.
In spite of all that is said about the inefficiency or poor state of the dairy industry, I should like to remind my city friends that in only two countries is butter cheaper than in Australia. These are the United Kingdom and New Zealand. In only two countries is the return to producers lower; those are Argentina and New Zealand. The return to the producer in the United Kingdom is a good 66% higher than it is to the producer in Australia. Yet for years we have been supplying Great Britain with a cheap product. One can see the tremendous assistance that must be given to dairy farmers in the United Kingdom. What most people overlook is that this is a very complex industry. Some people in it are having a pretty bad time. This applies to every industry. Hotels may be looked upon as profitable but many of them are working only for the tax collectors. The motor car industry is mentioned as doing very well in Australia but many motor car firms are pretty unprofitable at the present time. Many small businesses find it unprofitable to operate in the face of competition, and they have to meet the situation and adjust their investment according to the profitability that they can enjoy. I find that I must come to the conclusion that if it is reconstruction at which we are aiming - that is the word used in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech - and if it is rationalisation that we want, any plan must be applicable to the whole range of products and affect the whole range of industry. I have two suggestions which I submit to the House for consideration. I put these suggestions forward purely in the form of theories. I believe that the principles contained in them are sound enough, but the suggestions would need some tailoring to turn them into plans. I would not have time to put forward fully as a planned operation the ideas that I am about to mention. However, I am convinced that the Bureau of Agricultural Economics could do so if the Minister so directed.
Firstly, let us consider the real problem, that is, over-production of butter. In 1966-67 Australia produced 218,000 tons of butter of which 114,000 tons were sold in Australia at a reasonable price and 104,000 tons were sold overseas at a depressed price or, if one prefers the expression, at a loss. So the problem is to discourage the production of that surplus. A few years ago the distribution was 60% sold locally and 40% exported. In the first 5 months of this year we returned to that basis because of the drop in total production and the consequent drop in export surplus. The figures for the first 5 months showed that 102,000 tons were produced. Of that amount, 61,000 tons were sold in Australia for local consumption and 41,000 tons were exported. Again a break up shows that the distribution was about 60% local and 40% for export. For the purpose of my argument I proposed to use this proportion, although the argument is the same even if the figures are 55% as against 45%. I have made several calculations using those figures and the answer comes out very nearly the same.
The proposal that I advance is not original. Several authors claim to have thought of it first and no-one knows from whom it did originate. But that does not alter the fact that here is a definite proposal which I believe should be given considerable thought. Each butter producer would have an annual domestic market quota fixed in terms of butter fat. There would be no restriction on total production and of course there would be no compulsion; it would be up to the individual farmer to decide what he would do, according to the economics of his own situation. New areas which are opened up put a great strain on the present system. Dairying is the only farming process from which one can receive quick returns. In this industry money comes in each month, whereas in other primary industries farmers have to wait for a year to get a return. I suggest that anyone coming into the dairying industry would not be entitled to a quota on the basis I have suggested until it was obvious that we needed to enlarge our production. Farmers of perhaps 3 years standing would be allotted a quota based on their average returns for the last 3 years of the period and the quota would be paid for at the Australian market price, including subsidy. Any production over and above that would be paid for at the equivalent of its export value.
It is important to note that at the introduction of such a scheme farmers would receive the same return as they had received for their previous year’s production. This is so whether we use the existing method of payment of one amount or divide it into a statement of two columns and base the payment on prices received on the Australian market and for the export surplus. To put it into figures as a practical example, a producer with 10,000 lb of butter fat would be paid at the Australian market price for 6,000 lb of butter fat, which at about 48c per lb would yield $2,880. He would have 4,000 lb of butter fat surplus which would be worth only about 30c per lb and this would return, in round figures, $1,200. His total return would be $4,080. Factory prices vary a little, but at the present time the average price is about 41c per lb, so for the 10,000 lb of butter fat he would now receive $4,100. There is a difference of only $20 in the two methods of calculation. Any farmer who studied the progress he was making would decide whether it was worth his while to put his energy into producing the surplus 4,000 lb for the very low return of $1,200 if he could use his land or his cows for some better purpose.
The present equalisation committee could handle the scheme, paying for milk and cream up to the quota limit as a first payment with interim payments based on returns from overseas. That, I believe, would be a very easily adopted scheme which would produce very much better results in the long run than the present proposal to buy out. the poorer or less profitable producers and to incorporate their lands with somebody else’s. This problem should be solved by a natural process and under this quota scheme this result would be achieved. But I should like to go a little further with my suggestion.
My second proposal is a little more controversial, being based on the disparity between the profitability of whole milk supplies as against butter fat supplies. Again, if it is reconstruction that we are talking about, the whole milk section should also be brought within the equalisation scheme. I noted the following statement by Sir Earle Page some years ago. His remarks interested me at the time and 1 have kept a report of them by me ever since. He said:
Stabilisation and equalisation should cover all dairy products including whole milk.
Why should dairying differ from every other form of primary production which enjoys a stabilisation scheme? In what way does it differ from wheat? In fact, milk is a more uniform product. My first proposal involves no more than a transposing of the figures into two columns instead of one, with some extra supervision needed perhaps in the handling of the quotas. But buying whole milk on an Australian wide basis would require a thorough reorganisation of the present milk boards which would be made subordinate to an overall central marketing authority. For the sake of discussion I shall name that body the Commonwealth milk marketing board. This body would be set up and would be required to arrange distribution and marketing of liquid milk and all milk products, including condensed milk products as well as butter and cheese. The basis on which it would work would provide for equalised rates to be paid to all producers for milk in its raw state as delivered to the factory door. Payment at the equalised rate would be made to all producers operating a genuine dairying business, and I emphasise that they would have to be genuine dairy farmers engaged in true commercial ventures. Those people who like to keep a few cows just to give themselves milk for the house would be debarred from taking part in the properly run commercial business of dairying. The billy can operators who are in the dairying business as a sideline could receive export parity for the butter fat content; there would be no harm in that.
In 1960 the Dairy Industry Committee of Inquiry saw the possibility of an equalisation scheme being required by the industry. I hope that I have time to read the relative items which bear on this point. At. page 1 1 5 of the report the Committee said:
The liquid milk sections of the industry are generally on a price basis entirely unrelated to - and considerably higher than - the bases adopted for butter and cheese. The high prices have detrimentally ,’iffccleil consumption and have nurtured a cost growth of disturbing proportions.
The Committee also said:
If producers of milk for butter could be assured of a price equivalent to a retail price of 70 pence a lb for butter there would bc no need for any inquiry.
In other words, if we could be assured of a price equivalent to the price obtained in the whole milk sector there would be no need for an inquiry. My proposal is for some evening up of this unequal distribution of return for the production of the same product - milk. I can almost hear the screams of rage from milk producers with large - often quite excessive - milk contracts. Many of these people arc my friends. They refer to the money they have invested, to the high price they have paid for their property, to their huge investment in improved stock, to the cost of maintaining pastures and, above all, to the high cost of providing winter milk. I submit that with refrigerated vats and containers it is not necessary today to build up the business of winter milk to the bogy that it is. If the scheme were given proper consideration and put into plan form I am sure that we could arrive at a satisfactory conclusion. If we want to reconstruct the dairying industry it is essential to treat it as an industry with a great future but one which is required to conduct itself along modern lines of supply and demand. Those people who are best able to produce the product we so badly need as a health food for the nation should be encouraged to do so. Those not able to to produce because of cost disabilities would of their own accord turn to some other avenue.
– We are debating the Governor-General’s Speech. Nothing is more certain than that the Australian public is wondering why the Government felt that it was necessary to delay the normal proceedings of Parliament in this manner. I thought that the honourable member for McMillan (Mr Buchanan) was very generous in apologising to the House for the Government’s action. The Governor-General’s Speech to assembled members of the Senate and House of Representatives is normally delivered at the opening of a new Parliament following a general election and is nothing more than a speech prepared by the Prime Minister. Such a speech has always been accepted as an outline to members of Parliament and to the general public of the Government’s policy and its intentions with regard to legislation. But this year the situation was different. We had a speech by the GovernorGeneral, not following a general election and at the opening of a new Parliament, but simply as a result of an election by the Liberal Party of a new Prime Minister. That election proved conclusively the bitterness that exists between the Australian Country Party and the Liberal Party. It proved also that on the Government side in this House not one man was capable of carrying out the responsibilities of Prime Ministership.
When it became known that the Governor-General would make a speech and that a debate would ensue on that speech - this is what we had only last year - the people of Australia were entitled to believe that the Government had something new to propose. Surely we all were entitled to expect to hear from the GovernorGeneral an indication that the Government intended to introduce legislation different from that proposed early last year or that since last year the Government had found it necessary to place before the Parliament and the people something of significant importance. After all, the debate on the Governor-General’s Speech consumes a considerable amount of time. Unless the debate centres on something which was not placed before the Parliament last year it is a consumption of time which could be better used in dealing with important legislation. I am sure that all honourable members and the people of Australia will agree with me that plenty of material exists which could be brought before the Parliament and dealt with as quickly as possible in the best interests of Australia and its people. This is particularly so in respect of certain sections of the community and certain areas of the country. There could be no good reason for delaying the introduction of such legislation by debating the Governor-General’s Speech unless that Speech contained something significantly different to what was announced early last year.
What did the Speech contain? It contained absolutely nothing that we had not heard before. There was nothing new in the Speech - nothing of fresh importance. I suggest that those who listened to it. and who have since read it must have been very disturbed, surprised and disillusioned - even disgusted - with its vagueness and with the Government’s failure to grapple with the many problems that face Australia at home and abroad. The Speech was mainly a rehash of old problems and proposals. The same old things were dished up. The only bright spots were the indications that the Labor Party’s policy was to be implemented in certain respects. It was a Speech from which only one conclusion could be drawn - that the Government under its new Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) and with the reshuffle in the Ministry is still barren of ideas for handling Australia’s problems and will simply muddle along as it has in the past.
This second session of this Parliament commenced 3 weeks later than would normally have been the case. I offer no criticism of that. The delay in resuming was largely outside the control of the Government and, in the circumstances, was something which we all could expect. But 1 think we are entitled to criticise the Government for aggravating the position with an unnecessary Speech by the Governor-General and an ensuing debate. We are also entitled to attack the Government, not only for having delayed the introduction of vital legislation, but also for having prevented the Opposition from introducing into this Parliament during the first 2 weeks of the session measures which would be of far greater importance than the Governor-General’s Speech.
The first subject of any importance dealt with by the Governor-General was the situation in Vietnam. Notwithstanding its importance, it was dealt with in a mere sixteen lines of rather large print. It is disturbing that no suggestion is made for halting the conflict and the useless loss of life and destruction of property on both sides. The Government simply says that it seeks a just and lasting peace. These are exactly the words used by President Johnson. The Government states that it will support every effort to negotiate for peace. But it offers no suggestion as to how peace may be obtained. It must be disturbing and frightening to the people of Australia to see the situation in Vietnam becoming more serious every day. There is the possibility that Australia will be asked to send more troops there. This Government, which is prepared to conscript lads for Vietnam, should be exploring every possible avenue for peace and should not simply rely on the views, suggestions or actions of some other country. It is not good enough to say that we will support every effort for peace. The Government should be making its own efforts.
Recently we received details issued by the United States Information Service of casualties in Vietnam. That information shows that between 1st January and 2nd March this year 3,229 United States soldiers were killed in action, 9,275 were wounded and required hospitalisation - it does not say how serious their wounds were - and 8,297 were wounded but did not require hospitalisation. But it must be remembered that no matter whether or not the wounds were serious, those people could just as easily have been killed. The number of the enemy listed in the report as killed is 3,847, which is some 600 more than the number of Americans killed over that period of 2 months. The report does not state - apparently it is not known - how many of the enemy were wounded. It does not give
Australian, New Zealand or South Vietnamese casualties. Nor does it give civilian casualties. But it does show that over the short period of 2 months 7,078 Americans, North Vietnamese and others fighting on the side of the North Vietnamese were killed and 17,562 Americans and God knows how many on the other side were wounded. However, I have no doubt that we can safely say that 50,000 to 55,000 persons were either killed or wounded in that short time of 2 months in this rotten and useless situation in Vietnam.
It is not a very nice situation to dwell upon. I admit this. The reason I have given these figures is to make it clear - and it must be clear - that unless something is done in the near future to bring about peace in South Vietnam, it is pounds to peanuts that under the present Government’s policy Australia will become more and more deeply involved. If this is permitted to come to pass, we shall find Australian parents and other relatives facing Australian casualty lists similar to those of the Americans or of the North Vietnamese to which I have just referred. Notwithstanding this obvious possibility, we find from the Governor-General’s Speech that all that this Government intends to do about solving the problem is to support negotiations for peace initiated by someone else. If we in Australia continue to sit back and do nothing about initiating peace proposals, on whom do we rely to initiate them? Almost certainly they will not come from countries that are directly improving their own financial position as a result of the war. Nor are they likely to come from those governments that are indirectly making some profit or gain from the present situation.
Let us examine the position of Japan, for instance, and see how many countries are depending on it for trade. I refer to an article dated 27th February 1968 which is headed ‘Japan Profits Most From Vietnam War’. The article states:
Japan easily heads the list of Asian countries which continue to make increasing sums of money out of the war in Vietnam.
United States military spending in Japan during the present financial year, which will end in April, is likely to exceed $446m. By the end of the halfyear which ended in September, Japan had already received a record $216.9m from military expenditure, an increase of 6% on the corresponding 6 months of 1966-67.
Japanese officials say it is impossible to determine just how much of this is based directly on the Vietnam war. However, the Japanese stock market is very sensitive to any possibility of the war being suddenly settled as a result of secret negotiations.
The general feeling is that Japan is not only profiting from the procurement orders directly related to the war, but also indirectly from increased exports to countries in South East Asia and the US.
Some Japanese economists assert that Japan was able to overcome its last recession faster than expected because of the Vietnam war. If the war ended suddenly, there would be some compensating factors, but the economics experts say aircraftmanufacturing, textile, communications and the non-ferrous metal industries in Japan would be badly hit.
The article then deals with Singapore. It states:
In Singapore, official figures show that exports to South Vietnam in the first half of 1967 totalled more than $44m, an increase of more than 160% in the past 2 years. US and South Vietnamese purchases for civil and military projects have made South Vietnam Singapore’s biggest overseas market after Malaysia.
Political observers believe that this fact must have weighed heavily on the mind of Singapore Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew when he recently opposed any sudden American military withdrawal from Vietnam.
Singapore’s exports to South Vietnam are mainly building materials, steel plates and rods, metal containers, petroleum products, photographic supplies, lighters and beverages. Shipping schedules show that sailings to ports in South Vietnam have nearly doubled since 196S to cope with the additional cargoes.
Hong Kong’s big increase in trade with South Vietnam since 1965, when the US began its massive buildup of troops, consists mainly of exports of textiles and clothing. Exports totalled about $2,357,000 in 1965, and the 1966 figure showed a three-fold increase at $7,129,000.
The article then goes on to refer to the trade situation in Malaysia and the way in which it has developed. It also refers to Formosa. If that article is anywhere near correct it gives room for a lot of thought. For instance, what would be the actual effect on Japan if the war in Vietnam were to fold up? What would be the effect in turn on those countries that export in a big way to Japan? Are they likely to take any serious steps towards bringing about success for peace proposals that this Government says it will support? The trade situation leaves a rather nasty taste in the mouth, I suggest, when one thinks of our own position in this regard. We have a fairly large trade with Japan and we rely to a very large extent on her to buy our iron ore, wool and so on. At the same time we are sending troops to Vietnam to fight in a war in which Japan, both directly and indirectly, is reaping a considerable profit from the sale of materials and goods that she manufactures from raw material that she buys from us. While all this is going on, the Australian Government apparently is content to sit back and wait for peace moves to come from God knows where. Australia must explore every opportunity to bring peace to Vietnam. The position in Singapore and Malaysia has made this even more necessary. It is a rather disgraceful state of affairs when we find that the best statement than can be made by the Government of Australia is that it will support any peace proposal that comes from some other country.
Last Friday, I had the opportunity to attend the opening of the iron ore pelletising plant at Dampier in the north of Western Australia. Apparently some people have very short memories or are more concerned about putting lucre before lives. It made me feel ill to listen to people like the Liberal Premier of Western Australia referring to our very good friends, our very dear friends, from Japan. Anyone would think that Japan was doing us a very great service by buying iron ore or catching our crayfish or prawns, when in actual fact it is receiving a much better deal than it deserves at the expense of this country. No-one is more pleased than I am to see the progress and development in the north. But this, as we all know, would have taken place and continued irrespective of which Government was in office. The only difference is that under a Labor government the people of Australia would receive much more benefit from northern development than they receive at the present time. I was authoritatively informed while I was at Dampier that some 450 houses are to be built there, and some 500 at Mount Torn Price, by the middle of next year. But these are company houses. They are not to be built by the Government. As we all know, if we were to wait for the Liberal Government to build houses in the north, progress there would be seriously restricted unless people employed there were prepared to camp under mulga trees until they could get houses.
The Governor-General’s Speech contains very little indication of better things to come, but I notice that it is intended to review the field of social services, as His Excellency said:
It is quite certain that at existing pension rates, a very large number of age, invalid and widow pensioners, other social service pensioners and repatriation pensioners are living in a state of either poverty or near poverty. At least, they are merely existing. Whilst a further easing of the means test is very desirable, it will in no way help the people I have mentioned. Those who have no money, no income and no likelihood of ever having either will not receive any benefit whatever from the easing of the means test. Their situation in life will not be improved simply by giving them another 50c or $1 or some such miserly amount. Much more than that needs to be done if they are to be given the opportunity to live decently. I will certainly be very interested to see what comes from this review of pensions, lt will be very interesting to see the overall result of the review. Of course, the field of social services goes much further than the payment of pensions. It includes the maternity allowance, unemployment and sickness benefits, child endowment, supplementary assistance and funeral benefit. In all the areas in which these benefits are paid, we can find large numbers of people who are in very poor circumstances and who require more assistance than others do.
I hope that the committee making the review will give favourable consideration to the difficulties facing married couples who have no income other than their pensions and who own their homes or are renting a home. They deserve some additional help. When the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr Sinclair) was Minister for Social Services, he told me that a pensioner who owns his home already receives the benefit of a concession under the Act because the value of the home is disregarded for pension purposes. I point out at once that if such a pensioner has no income or money he receives no concession whatever because the value of the home frequently is nowhere hear the permissible maximum allowed under the Act for property or moneys other than a home. Many of the people in this situation are in real need of assistance and I hope that the review will result in consideration being given to them.
We were also told in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech that the Government intends to conduct an independent inquiry into the operations of the medical and hospital funds. This action is certainly not being taken before the proper time, but if the past practice of this Government is followed the report will not see the light of day for a considerable time after it is given to the Government. If the report recommends that the Treasury subsidise further the operations of the funds, it is most unlikely that we will ever see it. Some funds, of course, are providing a very good service to their subscribers and would do even better if the Minister and his Department permitted them to do so. I should like to refer briefly to a fund in Western Australia. I was a member of the management committee from the inception of the fund until I became a member of the Parliament a short time ago. Although the fund may not be classed as one of the major funds, having regard to its size, it still has a fairly substantial membership. Its management committee is constantly looking for ways and means of increasing the benefits, giving better service and reducing costs without increasing subscriptions. It is easily one of the best funds that we have in Australia and I will be very surprised if the inquiry does not prove that this is so.
The administration expenses of the fund for the year ended June 1967 were only 5.5% and they have never exceeded 6.3% in the 14 years it has been operating. Its expenses would certainly compare more than favourably with those of many other funds. I understand that the administration expenses of many funds are as high as 15% and even higher in some instances. Not only are the administration expenses of the fund I have mentioned low, but it is also paying 83% of the cost of all medical services obtained by its members and it wishes to increase the benefits. As all honourable members would no doubt know, funds in all States except Western Australia have announced, with the approval of the Minister for Health (Dr Forbes), that benefits paid for major surgery will be increased.
I understand that the fund I have mentioned has made submissions seeking permission to do likewise but has been told that, as major funds in Western Australia have not made a similar approach, it is unlikely that approval will be given. If this is correct, and I have no doubt it is, surely the situation is not only ridiculous but also quite unfair to the contributors. A financially sound fund that has been operating for 14 years is prevented from providing further benefits for its subscribers simply because the major funds in the State are not willing to do likewise. I hope that the inquiry into hospital and medical benefit funds will explore situations where Government action is proving to be an obstacle to better service. 1 am quite certain that the fund I have referred to will welcome an inquiry and will hope that it is commenced as speedily as possible. The management committee will be pleased to see placed on record the fact that its good sense and good management have not only kept the fund on a sound footing but have also enabled benefits to be provided to the maximum extent. An inquiry will reveal that subscribers are not receiving much better benefits not through the fault of the management committee but through the action of the Government. The fund will shortly be opening new offices, not in the city but in the country. The fund certainly will not be putting on a lavish opening ceremony, similar to those we have witnessed elsewhere - and I do not refer only to other funds.
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I commence my remarks on the Speech delivered by His Excellency, the Governor-General of Australia, by congratulating the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) on his elevation to his high office. His selection shows the sound judgment of his Party colleagues. He has the confidence not only of his own Liberal Party colleagues but also of the members of my Party, the Australian Country Party, which works closely with the Liberal Party, especially in the Federal sphere. I congratulate him and wish him well. I hope he has a very lengthy term of office. This debate gives honourable members a wonderful opportunity to discuss current issues of interest. Rather than go through the Governor-General’s Speech and deal with the matters he has mentioned, I shall confine my remarks generally to a subject that has not been mentioned and that is the drought in southern Australia.
– 1 mentioned it.
– I am referring to the Governor-General’s Speech. Before I do so, I would be failing in my duty if I did not express the sincere sympathy and regret of the people I represent at the passing of a great Australian, the Right Honourable Harold Holt. His contribution to the cementing of good relations with our neighbours, particularly to our north, will be remembered for many years to come. He took office at a very difficult time. The situation in South East Asia, especially in South Vietnam, was not good, lt can be said that the world is divided on the Vietnam issue, with the Communists on one side and the anti-Communists on the other. Many people claim that they do not believe in the principle of Communism or in war. It is fair to say that no-one wants war. Like thousands of others, I fought in the Second World War and thought that I was fighting for peace and democracy. 1 am not very happy at the way in which events are shaping in South Vietnam at the present time. 1 believe that our cause is showing some weaknesses. Some official reports are very misleading. We are led to believe that our forces have control of certain areas when there are grave doubts that this is actually the fact. One such area I might mention in passing is the Saigon Airport. We were told that our forces had effective control of this airport, and then later we heard reports that the airport had been shelled, causing a great deal of damage and some loss of life.
I think the honourable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr Collard), who preceded me in this debate, made some reference to reports emanating from South Vietnam, and I also would like to make some comments on these reports. The figures given by the United States authorities on enemy casualties are, to my mind, far too accurate to be convincing. It has been my experience that it is always very difficult to keep up with one’s own casualties, let alone those of the enemy. However, I have before me a couple of Press statements, one of which appeared in January and gave the number of the enemy killed in action in the week ended 30th December as 1,438. Another report which was released on 8th March gave the casualties from 1st January to 2nd March. Without going through all the figures of our own. casualties, this report showed the number of the enemy killed in action as 3,849. How in the name of fortune these reports can be presented with such apparent accuracy I do not know. We do, of course, face a very serious problem in South Vietnam. As Australians we must face up to our responsibilities. Australia is in this conflict to the full, and we must continue to give the problem in South Vietnam the priority that it deserves.
The subject I wish to discuss chiefly this afternoon is that of drought relief. Since I last spoke in this chamber the drought in southern Australia - and I speak chiefly of Victoria - has become a good deal more severe. The House will recall that during the last sessional period I and some of my colleagues raised this issue on a number of occasions. Fortunately the Government responded and, I believe, very effectively. It made grants immediately available to South Australia and Victoria. Many conferences and discussions took place and no doubt many agreements were reached on how the money should be spent - grant money as well as loan money - to minimise the effects of the drought on the community. What are these effects? I believe it is fair to say that most people throughout Australia appreciate the fact that there is a drought in southern Australia. To many people this is not unusual; we have had droughts before and no doubt we will have them again. But I want to point out that this is the most severe drought on record. To make k even worse, it follows 22 or 23 very good years. It may be suggested that the people in these circumstances should be prepared for this kind of setback. This may be true, and many primary producers are, following the succession of good years, in a sound financial position. But not all of them are well situated. Many of them are comparatively young and have been operating for only a short period. They have not bad the benefit of a number of good seasons. I can mention as an example a young person on my own property. He was actually born during the last drought, so what chance has he had of appreciating the problems that one faces in times of drought? He would be only one of many hundreds.
The wheat harvest in Victoria has totalled 26 million bushels, or one third of the previous year’s total, while Western Australia had a record harvest of about 100 million bushels. However, these figures can be very misleading. Some people may think that a harvest of one third of the normal crop is not so bad, but the figures do not give a clear picture. A very large proportion of the 26 million bushels was grown in eastern Victoria, where the conditions were not nearly as bad as in other parts of the State. In many parts of the Mallee and Wimmera the crops were classed practically as write-offs. Again I may be excused for mentioning my own property as an illustration. During the last 20 years my lowest average yield was 25 bushels an acre; last year it was 2 bushels an acre. There are many properties in a similar position, and some are even worse off. Some have had no harvest at all.
Feed is practically non-existent and stock numbers have been greatly depleted. In some areas there has been practically no wool clip, and in others the quantity of wool shorn has been greatly reduced. Water supplies have reached a dangerously low level. The total amount of water stored for use in the Wimmera-Mallee system is now well below 40,000 acre-feet. Much of this cannot be extracted because the storages are so low. It is now agreed that if we do not receive a normal year’s rainfall in 1968 hundreds of properties in the area will not receive any water from the storage system. This in turn means that irrespective of the quantity of feed that may be available in the year there will be no water at all for stock. This is one aspect of the situation in which the cost of the drought just cannot be calculated.
Stock are pouring into the various markets. I have been informed by a reliable source that at present there are about 20,000 breeding ewes under 4 years of age being delivered to the Newmarket stockyards each week for slaughter. These sheep will be very hard to replace, and the replacement will certainly cost a good deal more than the grazier is receiving for the sheep he is now selling. Reliable estimates from stock firms, producers and interested bodies of various kinds indicate that the Wimmera-Mallee area has less than 25% of normal stock numbers. Those primary producers who have tried to retain their stock because of its high quality - I refer to breeding stock, stud ewes and the like - find the cost of purchasing fodder almost prohibitive. I know of one grazier - a member of this House, I may add - who is trying to hold on to his valuable stock and is paying $750 a week for stock feed. It would be fair to say that the necessity to purchase this feed will continue for quite some time. If it went on for another 10 weeks a simple calculation shows that such a person could spend §7,500 simply to keep his stock. Of course he would also have the added costs involved in the extra work entailed in feeding.
The Commonwealth has agreed to assist financially, but the information I have received from the Prime Minister’s Department is that Victoria will get $7.5m this financial year. It. will be made up in this way: Loans $2.3m, freight rebates $2m, employment $3m, other expenses S.2m. Most of this grant money, as far as I can ascertain, is being used very satisfactorily. Men are being employed doing all kinds of work throughout the drought area. I think practically every shire council in the drought stricken area has taken advantage of this assistance even to the extent of carrying out works which could possibly be classified as capital works. I understand that the Commonwealth in these circumstances contributes towards the cost of labour and the State provides for the materials. This is most satisfactory, provided it continues until things become normal.
Reduced freight charges on stock and fodder are very much appreciated, because this provides an opportunity for stock to be shifted over comparatively large distances, and fodder can be brought from areas a long way away where conditions are much better. I notice that we are even importing oats from Western Australia. The assistance given by the Commonwealth has enabled this to be done. However, it is in the loan field that I take issue with the Treasurer (Mr McMahon). In answering questions and in making general statements he has said that sympathetic consideration can be expected from the banks. I quote from an article published over the name of the Treasurer and dated 9th November. The article states:
Mr McMahon also said that, following inquiries by the members for Corangamite and Wimmera, he had obtained an assurance from the Managing Director of the Commonwealth Banking Corporation that the Commonwealth Development Bank adopts a most sympathetic attitude towards requests from farmers affected by drought for deferment of payments due or falling due on loans in respect of either interest or principal.
In most of these instances primary producers are receiving every consideration, but not always. Interest rates vary from 51% to 6i% for virtually the same type of loan. To my mind this situation should be corrected. I had one complaint from a fellow who purchased a piece of machinery for which, naturally, he could not pay. It was essential for him to obtain this piece of machinery to carry on his farming duties. The only way in which he could purchase it was through a hire purchase company, controlled by a bank, and the interest rate was something like 13%. This fellow approached the bank manager and informed the bank manager that he would not be able to fulfil his commitments for this financial year. He was told: ‘That will be quite OK. You will be able to carry this on for the following year and you will have no worries.’ This was very kind of the bank manager, but then the bombshell fell. The fellow was informed that the interest rate would rise. I believe that the new rate was to be in the vicinity of 17%. This is not an exaggerated statement; it is a statement of fact. The cost of the drought in western Victoria is almost incalculable. I turn to another statement, issued some time ago, in relation to loans and drought relief. It reads:
In theory this is good, but in actual practice there is a breakdown somewhere; the scheme does not work. I have met dozens of primary producers interested in securing some of this $2. 3m. Up to date only one of these has had any success at all and this was not a case of receiving money at 3%. His classification was such that the loan was a continuation of his present soldier settlement loan and the interest rate was somewhere in the vicinity of 5%.
– Who makes the classification?
– This is a case where the State Rural Finance Commission has the say as to whether or not a man will qualify. Another case, which is of great interest to me, is that of a young share farmer who owns plant worth approximately $7,000. He owes approximately $1,500 on it; in other words he has an equity of $5,500. On top of this he has 500 acres of fallow ready for seed. Anyone who has had experience of wheat farming will appreciate the true value of this. He applied for a carry-on loan of $3,500 for fuel, super, and that sort of thing. His property was inspected by an officer of the Rural Finance Commission. After his case was looked into he was told thai he had little or no equity in his assets and it would be difficult for the Commission to make a loan unless he could secure a suitable guarantor to cover all of the $3,500, plus allowing the Commission to take out a lien over the entire crop. This is absurd. The first condition in these loans is that a person cannot obtain finance from normal sources. Here the person concerned cannot obtain money from his bank or stock agent. He goes along to the Commission and is then told he cannot have the loan until he can get someone to give him a guarantee. This particular case is rather interesting. The farm that he is operating has returned an average of 39 bushels per acre over the last 7 or 8 years, including last year’s drought when his figures were something like 7 bushels per acre. What must this man do? He is told that if he cannot get money from the bank he should go to the Commission, but his application is refused. To sum up. if he has assets and can mortgage them, naturally he will not get a loan. If he has any family backing, irrespective of the connection of the family, he still receives no loan. I want to know who is entitled to a loan.
Another case is that of a landowner with an irrigation right. Because he has an irrigation right automatically he is refused a loan. He was informed that because he has a water right he is not going through a drought period. What I want to point out in this particular instance is that because of lack of water in the area he had no purchasing right for a start and his normal water right was cut to two-thirds of the original amount. I understand that since that time it has been cut out entirely. On top of all this, this particular fellow, who is a dairy farmer, relies on purchasing, fodder from his neighbours and relies also on agistment. At the present time he is not permitted a loan to buy sufficient fodder to carry on. These are some of the things that should be looked at very closely.
I was rather amazed to read in the Melbourne Press this morning an article in relation to drought assistance, stating that the State Government has decided to give a subsidy to drought stricken Victorian farmers to buy wheat and oats. In answer to a question this afternoon the Prime Minister made reference to the fact that wheat can be purchased from the Australian Wheat Board on terms at a low rate of interest. If the State authorities were to fulfil the requirements as they were set out to be, that is, to assist farmers in drought stricken areas through rural finance, there would be absolutely no need for the State to come in and contribute along the lines we are led to believe that it will contribute, according to the article that I have in front of me. I certainly will be very interested to see what the legislation will bring forth, because on numerous occasions we have heard that the Victorian Government is short of funds. We have heard about the special tax that has been introduced because it is short of funds. One of the newspapers made some reference to the provision of $lm - I may have misunderstood this - to subsidise the purchase of fodder. Representations have been made by a number of people, including the State Government, in relation to a subsidy for fodder. This was refused. Whilst I have not been able to obtain the real reason why the representations have been rejected, I am led to believe that the cases presented were not presented in such a way as to prove that the purchase of fodder could be carried out most efficiently. 1 believe we have reached a stage when there must be a showdown in relation to drought relief in Victoria. I cannot speak for South Australia or even for southern New South Wales because I am not sure of the situation there, but when we see articles in the Press, such as we saw this morning, and when we realise that an important political event will take place in western Victoria on 6th April, 1 start to wonder whether we have encountered an instance of sheer politics. It is time we determined whose responsibility it is to sec the implementation of relief the way the Commonwealth Government would like it implemented. Last year the Commonwealth said that ample funds for drought relief would be available where the State and the Commonwealth could agree on the distribution of such funds. It is a question of deciding who is entitled to relief. Literally hundreds of primary producers want assistance but because of the conditions laid down in respect of assistance they are not entitled to it. That is fair enough; however, there are numbers of primary producers, particularly young ones, who have been in the game for a short period only and are not able to carry on. 1 made representations on behalf of one primary producer and was told by the officer to whom I spoke that a great risk was involved in providing assistance to that primary producer. The officer asked me what would happen if we had another bad season next year. All 1 can say to that is: What would happen if we did have a bad year next year? If because of commitments a man cannot carry on this year and we have another bad season next year, what will be the position? I can see dozens, hundreds, possibly thousands, having to reconsider their position in relation to their future in primary industry.
– 1 was most interested to listen to the honourable member for Wimmera (Mr King), and particularly to hear remarks about the drought in southern Australia. I do not think that anyone would disagree with what he said. I remind him that he is a member of one of the Government parties and as such is in a better position to influence his own party and Government than h the Opposition. Also of interest has been the emphasis that many Victorians in the Parliament are now placing on water conservation. It was difficult to get them interested in this subject not long ago. South Australians, too, are revealing a keener interest. It is only a few weeks since the present Minister for the Navy (Mr Kelly) delivered a rather trenchant criticism of irrigation plans in the north. This criticism was in direct contrast to the views of Cabinet which, in good faith, examined the northern situation and endorsed proposals for the Ord River and the Nogoa Dam and which will honour its obligation to examine closely other projects such as water storages on the Burdekin, Dawson, Burnett and Kolan Rivers that have been or will be submitted through the State Government to the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton). However, I am not here to debate the propriety of the remarks of the Minister for the Navy; that can be done later.
I shall speak primarily of the present position in the Australian sugar industry because it would seem that 1968 will be one of the most critical years in the history of that industry in respect of both international and Federal policies. In the last 3 years we have been confronted with promises and incorrect prophecies and as a result the rank and file cane grower is extremely bewildered about the market prospects of his product and the position of the industry. As an example of the seriousness of the position, I instance my own area, the Mackay district, which is the most intensive sugar growing area in Australia. In the last 3 years about $600,000 has been paid by the Federal Government in unemployment benefit in the Mackay district. Certainly, in a seasonal industry there will always be unemployment, but the present situation is like a festering sore. Unemployment is growing and its effect through the circulation of money is causing problems not only in the sugar industry but also in other industries directly associated with and dependent on it. Leaders and rank and file members of the industry are asking where we are going.
When presenting the last Budget, the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) referred to assistance to be given to Queensland and said:
We have decided to provide further assistance to the State to enable it to provide assistance to the sugar industry in respect of the 1967 sugar crop. The provision we are making for this purpose is $10m. Depending on prices realised for export sales we are prepared to increase this assistance up to a total amount not exceeding $15m.
For anyone listening to that speech there was only one interpretation, namely, that the Federal Government was providing $10m for the sugar industry for the 1967 crop and that in certain circumstances the assistance could total $15m. This was, in fact, reported throughout the sugar areas of Australia. On the day following the introduction of the Budget an article in the Courier-Mail’ stated:
The Queensland sugar industry will receive assistance of between $10m and $15m for the 1967 crop, to help it meet interest and repayment obligations. This was announced by the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) in his Budget speech last night.
The cane growers could be forgiven for believing that they would get a minimum of $10m and perhaps SI 5m if world prices declined further. But the true position is that they will receive only about $4m because of factors that were not stated in the Treasurer’s speech. The average price for No. 1 pool sugar was $86 a ton. The industry has made it clear, as has the State Government, that a price of $86 a ton is completely unsatisfactory. If that price is unsatisfactory, why is it that at least an additional $6m, which would make the amount up to that which was provided for in the last Budget, cannot be distributed to the industry? This would certainly help many of the smaller growers and new growers. The Government, in fact, made provision for $10m in the last Budget. At the most it will provide about $4m. This means that at least $6m will not be distributed to the industry.
In recent months there has been mounting criticism of the Government within the industry. This has been due principally to those people who are financially affected trying to galvanise either the Government or their own organisations into an accelerated rate of action in at least putting forward some concrete proposals to the industry. It would seem that anybody who dares to criticise the industry or any cane farmer who dares to criticise his organisation or the Government is immediately branded as disloyal or is said to be doing a disservice to the industry. I remind honourable members that the Queensland Cane Growers Council is in fact a breakaway organisation.
The sugar industry has changed in the last 3 years. I suppose that it would be fair to say that never in its whole history has its structure changed so much as it has since the expansion. It is dependent today to a very large degree and to a very dangerous degree on the notoriously unstable free market. Fifty per cent of the total production and 70% of total exports have to be sold on the free market. This free market is not like a wool market or a beef market. Because of the very small quantity of sugar it handles compared with world production - approximately 6 million metric tons out of about 65 million metric tons - there is a delicate elasticity of demand and supply with respect to price. Recent years have shown that all that is needed is, say, a 1% increase or decrease in quantity and there may be a very marked increase or decrease in price.
In the last 2 years I have been somewhat critical of the Government and at times of some of the leaders of the Queensland Cane Growers Council because of what I believe to be pussyfooting around. I could be wrong, but that is my belief. It must be made very clear that the present Federal and Queensland Governments must share full responsibility for endorsing the expansion without first making firm provision for a guaranteed price. Probably the best arrangement that could have been made is a bilateral agreement with Japan, but we went ahead and expanded - admittedly on the best advice that we could find - without safeguarding our surplus production by having such a bilateral agreement with Japan based on a fixed guaranteed price. It seems to me therefore that until world prices rise it is the unqualified responsibility of the Federal and Queensland Governments to guarantee the economic livelihood of the great bulk of growers who are in a serious financial position today.
Honourable members will recall the speech made by the Leader of the Australian Country Party (Mr McEwen) when he stated quite categorically that expansion of the sugar industry was made possible only - and he used the word ‘only’ - by the great market in Japan, and nobody will argue about the quantity of sugar that is required by Japan. But we do not have the benefit of a guaranteed price as we did when the Government encouraged expansion of the beef industry in 1949-50 in association with the 15-year meat agreement with the United Kingdom. This proved of tremendous benefit in 1958 when deficiency payments had to be met. Because of the expansion without a guaranteed price or a bilateral agreement, Japan has had a bonanza. Because Japan has been able to buy at the world parity price, which has been fluctuating around £Stg20, it has been able to tax its own consumers of sugar at a very high figure. In the last 3 years the actual revenue to the Japanese Government has been in the vicinity of $60m. It is obvious, of course, that Japan can afford to pay and should pay more for Australian sugar. It is to be hoped that if the Government is not successful in securing a new international sugar agreement it will be able to encourage Japan to pay a higher price for Australian sugar. As I said previously, Japan has reaped a bonanza in the last 3 years.
There is no point in talking about the past any more in regard to the sugar industry. I have always admitted that the Government acted on the best advice that it could find and that the expansion in the long term will be good. My criticism has always been directed to the fact that it has been shown time and time again that encouragement to expand a primary industry should be given only when a long term and satisfactory price has been teed up. But the time for talking is over. As 1 said before, 1968 is an action year. If negotiations for a new international sugar agreement towards the end of this financial year are not successful what will happen then? Let us get one thing straight, there is a lot of woolly thinking about the International Sugar Agreement. It does not guarantee a minimum price. It is more or less a ‘hoped for’ price. It is simply an agreement between countries which will control stocks and this in turn provides a large measure of control over the floor price. Under the last two agreements the floor price was reached only a little more than 50% of the time.
Even if there is an international sugar agreement there is not the same security in the sugar industry as is obtained from a firm pricing arrangement, such as our own domestic price, our price under the Commonwealth Sugar Agreement or the position which applies with the sale of sugar to the United States of America. What happens if the International Sugar Agreement fails? It is obvious that the Government and the industry cannot afford to monkey around any further with interest bearing loans. It is obvious that some permanent system of price stabilisation must come into effect in this industry. This may be full price stabilisation of the industry embracing all markets and giving a guaranteed average price to the whole industry or there may be a partial system of stabilising the export side of the industry. Whatever happens, something has to be done in 1968 to put t is industry on a secure footing. If the industry expanded on the advice of the Federal and Queensland Governments then surely the rank and file cane grower is entitled to be able to go to bed at night and wake up in the morning knowing that he will get at least a reasonable price for his crop. He has not been able to do this in the last 3 years.
I feel that the greatest opposition to an approach to the Government by the sugar industry will come not from the growers but from milling interests. The quicker the canegrowers of Queensland realise that it is about time that they spoke with one voice - as growers - and refused to ba influenced to a large degree, as they now are, by the millers or those who have a vested interest in the milling side of the industry, the better it will be for cane farmers. The growers and the millers have a definite conflict of objectives. The cane grower and the miller have conflicting interests just as the meat operator and the meat producers have conflicting interests. In economic terms, both parties seek to maximise their profit and both cannot maximise their profit if, in fact, they speak with one voice.
It is quite clear that there needs to be co-operation and advice. As I said before, the quicker the Queensland Cane Growers Council speaks with one voice - ‘the voice of the growers - and listens to millers only for sound advice, the better it will be for the cane farmer. This is, in fact, why the growers broke away from the Australian Sugar Producers Association, as they did many years ago. For example, could anyone imagine the Vestey and Swift meat organisations being in agreement with the policy of cattle producers? The same principle must apply to any conflicting policies of the Colonial Sugar Refining Co. Ltd and those of the cane growers. It would seem, also, that any current moves to approach the Federal Government by cane growers for assistance is to be met with opposition from the Government.
I noticed the statement made by the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony) last week in Brisbane on this point in which he said that the extent of community assistance to the sugar industry and other industries is being questioned. Of course it is being questioned. We shall always have knockers who will question financial assistance to industries. We shall always have people who will question the provision of funds for water conservation, for the dairy industry or for research, for example. There is nothing new about this but provided that proposals are based on sound arguments there is nothing to be afraid of. The Minister said:
While you are being helped, you will attract attention. You will attract criticism. People will want to look at your private accounts. The bigger your problem is, and the more it requires the allocation of public funds, the more critical you must expect the community to be, and the more your freedom of action may be inhibited.
I think this is a type of blackmail. In other words, the Government is saying: ‘We do not want you to come to us at this point of time’. As far as I am concerned the industry should ignore this type of advice. It has to fight for everything it gets and if it thinks it has a good case it should present it to the Government. Certainly there are valid arguments why we should wait to see what happens with respect to a possible international sugar agreement, but the most important thing at the present time is for the Queensland Cane Growers Council to speak with one voice - the voice of the growers - and present its case for assistance, fully documented, to the Government.
On the question of growers versus sugar millers I point out that I have noticed in my own electorate and the far north a growing discontent at the tremendous influence that sugar millers and the Colonial Sugar Refining Co. Ltd have on the industry. I refer the House to the policy of the Australian Labor Party on this point. A Labor government would arrange for a referendum amongst bona fide cane growers to establish once and for all whether cane growers wanted the dominant say in determining policy with respect to the production and marketing of sugar on the export market. In effect this would weaken the say of millers such as the CSR. This would be effected by means of the establishment of an Australian sugar board, the main representation on which would be from cane growers. This certainly does not mean that millers would be excluded but the main representatives on such an Australian sugar board would be cane growers. This would give the cane growers the same effective say in their own industry as cattle producers through the operations of the Australian Meat Board have in the beef industry. The cattle producers have the dominant say in the Australian Meat Board but the Board has the advantage of the sound advice of operators. Policy is always determined by growers rather than operators.
The same thing should happen in the sugar industry. The cane growers should determine policy and should not be subjected to the tremendous influence of private sugar millers and the Colonial Sugar Refining Co. Ltd. I say this because the structure of the industry has changed drastically and 70% of total exports today have to be disposed of on the free market. Because of this, cane growers must face the stark fact, so apparent now, that they themselves must look closely at their own organisation to see if constructive changes are necessary. This must be the guiding force in the future because the industry today is facing a serious crisis. Let nobody refuse to believe that. Any industry that has to sell 70% of its total export on the notoriously unstable free market is in a most dangerous position unless there are guaranteed prices.
This is a most important point. As I see it, in the future the sugar industry will have to re-organise its own ranks and speak with greater determination as growers rather than be dominated by CSR and the proprietary millers. Millers and growers have different objectives. The Queensland Cane Growers Council can speak as growers only.
Mr SPEAKER (Hon. W. J. Aston)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I have heard many interesting speeches from the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson). From all these speeches it becomes apparent that he must have a large number of electors who are vitally concerned with the Australian sugar industry. I cannot help feeling that the many important international issues which have found their way into the Speech given by His Excellency the Governor-General appear in the mind of the honourable member for Dawson to be very much in second place in the order of priorities.
I support the motion moved by the honourable member for Henty (Mr Fox) and seconded by the honourable member for the Northern Territory (Mr Calder). I would begin this speech by recording my own personal and humble tribute to the late Prime Minister of Australia, the Right Honourable Harold Holt. His tolerance, humanity and devotion to duty when added to several decades of ministerial experience at home and overseas representing our country, produced a rare standard of statesmanship. When in the early days of 1966 he became Prime Minister he knew that the time was ripe for a new Australian Prime Minister to develop closer and stronger bonds with the countries of Asia. It is now recognised that his tour of Asian countries early in 1966 was a great success and his sagacity and compassion made friends for him which will be of tremendous importance for Australia in the next 20 years in political leadership. The tragic manner of his’ death was a stunning blow and all Australians were profoundly touched and impressed by the warmth of the sympathy and expressions of distress that came to us from overseas. No Australian of the past has caused by his death such a gathering of world leaders in this country. Those of us who were privileged to be present at the very moving memorial service held in St Paul’s Cathedral in Melbourne will remember our privilege and honour for the rest of our lives. I trust that I do not presume if I pay tribute also to Mrs Zara Holt whose courage and morale in these terrible circumstances were a magnificent example to us all. This gallant lady, who accompanied the late Prime Minister on his tour of Asia in 1966, was also a worthy contributor to Australia’s future in overseas relationships.
As time has moved on and our new Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) has now occupied his place in this House I feel that it is proper to say a word of welcome to him. The right honourable member for Higgins, the newest and at the same time the most senior on the floor of this House, has gained his very considerable parliamentary experience in another place. T feel sure that the dignity and the wisdom of that other place will prove beneficial when added to the experience that my honourable and gallant friend acquired during the great struggle against aggression and tyranny which is known, at least to middle aged citizens and to students, as World War II. Although forgotten by many, the truth is that great and paramount lessons were learned by those who survived those vital years of 1939 to 1945. The right honourable member for Higgins is the first Royal Australian Air Force officer to become Prime Minister of Australia. It is my view that aviators all over the country will wish him good fortune and success with the ‘fearsome responsibilities’ of his high office.
The Speech of His Excellency the Governor-General deals wilh the problems of Government which constitute these fearsome responsibilities’ that I have just mentioned. First in significance is the war in South Vietnam. I note that the Australian Government will continue to support the Governments of South Vietnam and the United States of America and their allies: . . in an endeavour to ensure that aggression by force of arms, terrorism and subversion is not successful in subjecting the people of South Vietnam to rule by an aggressor.
However much we may find the horrors of war repugnant, the truth is that our objective will be achieved only when the aggressor is convinced that victory is impossible. We have stated again and again that our objective does not include the aggressor’s destruction. Thus the enemy knows that his own country, although subjected to limited bombing, is not threatened with invasion. This comfort to the aggressor has found a place in His Excellency’s Speech. He said:
I venture to suggest that no aggressor has ever been impressed by an enemy’s objective which begins with or contains the adverb merely’. The objectives of the enemy are clear and I feel sure that the majority of Australians see this position clearly. The election results over recent years have proved this point. There can be no quarrel wilh the statement that over the recent years, from 1963 through until 1966, the great issue in all these elections for this House of Representatives was - as it still remains - the war in Vietnam. It is clear that underlying the terror and the harassment of the South Vietnamese by the Vietcong, is the purpose and the objective of North Vietnam, backed and encouraged by Communist China in order to expand Communist control over the peoples of the independent nations of South East Asia. Such techniques of clandestine warfare, of covert aggression leading to the overt aggression and ultimate defeat of the victim nations if they were to prove successful, would lead to the development of the Vietnam technique’ against the independent peoples throughout the world in the undeveloped areas of Asia, Africa and Latin America. From North Vietnam the military commander-in-chief, General Giap, is on the record as saying that the war in South Vietnam is the very model of the national liberation movements of our time. Also from North Vietnam its Prime Minister is on record as saying:
The experience of our compatriots in South Vietnam attracts the attention of the world, especially the peoples of Latin America.
Only a few years ago the ‘Peking People’s Daily’ carried an editorial which stated:
It is advantageous from the point of view of tactics to refer to the desire for peaceful transition from capitalism to Communism, but it would be inappropriate to emphasise that possibility.
The editorial continued:
The Communist Party must never entertain the illusion that the transition to Communism can be achieved through the parliamentary road. Violent revolution is the universal law of proletarian revolution. To realise the transition to Communism, the proletariat must wage armed struggle.
Finally there is the now world famous statement of Mao Tse-tung:
Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun.
People like this have only contempt for adversaries who use words like ‘merely’. For my part I should have preferred to see the phrase ‘in a total sense’ used in the Speech instead of the adverb ‘merely’. Then the Speech would have read like this:
My Government believes that the South Vietnamese people should retain the elementary right to determine their own future in their own way and will, besides the effective military assistance it is rendering to this end. continue to provide economic and civil aid to South Vietnam.
In doing this, my Government desires neither the destruction of North Vietnam, nor the overthrow of the Government of North Vietnam but in a total sense the cessation of aggression against the people of South Vietnam . . .
In my view this would have been a more appropriate expression in these circumstances.
I turn now to another aspect of this matter which is exciting the attention of Australia’s people in view of recent events. It is my view that the time has now arrived for a limited form of Press censorship in relation to matters concerned with the war in Vietnam. Troop movements and shipping movements are referred to in our Press in a manner which I regard as militarily irresponsible. The enemy is watching and listening for 24 hours of every day to collect and collate all information which would be of interest to the intelligence officers of the North Vietnamese headquarters and the Vietcong. I have watched detailed television reports on particular areas of South Vietnam which I know would be of real interest to the enemy and I cannot help feeling that there are in this country people who have ways and means of passing information to the enemy.
I wish now to turn to that section of the Governor-General’s Speech which deals with the British Government’s decision to withdraw from Malaysia and Singapore. Reference is made to those ground forces which for so long have contributed to the stability of the region. I have some comments to make on this matter and some members of the Cabinet may feel that I am critical of Australian statements designed to indicate that Australia has no intention of taking over Great Britain’s responsibility in South East Asia. In my view those comments are singularly unfortunate because they create in the minds of the Australian people a false concept. They create the idea that it may be possible for Australia in some way to avoid the dire responsibilities of ‘emergency’ in South East Asia. This is wrong. No matter what the Australian Government says about not accepting responsibilities that are being handed over to the Governments in Singapore and Kuala Lumpur by the British Government, the truth of the matter is that if ‘emergency’ in a real sense does arise the people of Australia will have to help in that fight.
The threats to stability which have been referred to may be reviewed over the last 25 years. First, there was the Second World War. From the late 1920s, the United Kingdom Government provided a plan which was described as the ‘Main Fleet to Singapore’ in the event of a conflagration in South East Asia. It will be recalled that in the early 1930s the Japanese conquest of Manchuria had begun. It was at this time that the Main Fleet to Singapore concept was announced by the United Kingdom Government as being the main plan to protect the interests of the British Empire in the Far East. We now know from experience, which to many honourable gentlemen has been of a very personal nature, that this was a policy based upon a complete misunderstanding of circumstances and without a proper appreciation of equipment needed to implement that policy. It is true to say that the efforts of the United Kingdom to protect Singapore, particularly when it was necessary in 1942, were fearfully unfortunate having regard to those policies which were being carried out by the United Kingdom Government in the early 1930s at the precise time when it was talking about a Main Fleet to Singapore’ concept. This was a time when the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom was conducting political campaigns on the basis that the United Kingdom would take no part in war and would not re-arm. The people who lost their lives or who went into captivity in South East Asia in 1942 found themselves on the receiving end of these policies of appeasement - policies which failed to face realities in the 1930s and left the armed forces ill-equipped in every sense of the term for 1942 when the first great threat to the stability of this area arose.
When the threat from the Japanese developed in 1942 it was the Europeans in the area who at least fought to stop the area from being conquered. I know of nobody who can speak at great length on the efforts made by those people indigenous to the area. The second attempt to create instability - to destroy prosperity, peace and good government in the area - was the Communist attempt to subvert and conquer Malaya in the post-war period. It was here, culminating in the success of Field Marshal Templer, that the British Army carried out a series of policies which resulted in the failure of the Communist campaign. That campaign was part of a concerted effort which was developed side by side with the efforts being made in Indo-China and in the Philippines by the Hukbalahaps. as well as in Burma and Thailand in those days. It was the soldiers from the United Kingdom, supported by considerable forces from Australia, who protected Malaya on that occasion. So on the second occasion when the threat and the emergency developed, Australians, whether they liked it or not, were involved.
The third threat to stability has been Indonesia’s confrontation. On this occasion also, like it or not, Australians were involved. The truth is that Australia’s front line is in Malaya and whenever our front line is threatened we will participate. I therefore find unacceptable statements indicating that the people of the United Kingdom are ignoring their real responsibilities and retiring from the area and that we, for a variety of reasons which are purely selfish, propose to do nothing to replace the defensive power that is being removed. After all, that power is ‘people’. There has been no suggestion from the Government of the United Kingdom or from the Australian Government that naval power and air power would not be available to protect Malaysia or Singapore, because it is apparent to most people that naval power in 1968 refers to such ships as H.M.S. Revenge’, which was launched recently and which carries sufficient power to destroy an enemy that may launch an armed attack upon the city of Singapore. Naval power of the future will be seen in the form of the Polaris submarine in the area to which I have referred.
Reference is made in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech to the absence of the mobile amphibious force. I suppose this is a reference to the special commando force, escorted by aircraft carriers and protected from submarine attack, to be based in close proximity to Malaysia so that it would be possible for the government attacked to call upon the United Kingdom Government to send the force to its assistance. I think it is clear that if such a force were to exist it could be based only in Australia. It would be childish to suggest that it could be based in India and absurd- to suggest that it could be based in South Africa. It is quite apparent that the port facilities for maintenance of the vast vessels involved in such an amphibious force would need to be in the Commonwealth of Australia. It is my view that as future defence commitments develop within this country it will be clear to all that such a powerful naval base will be needed somewhere on the northern shores of Australia.
As I said earlier, Australian participation in the circumstances of the first two threats and the third threat is now an established fact of history. If there is to be a fourth threat to Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and the Philippines, we must ask ourselves what form it will take. We have the evidence of the Prime Minister of Singapore, Mr Lee Kuan Yew, who states that if the West withdraws from the area, his nation will go into the Communist mincing machine within a couple of years. I assume Mr Lee Kuan Yew knows what he is talking about. I understand that he has many friends on the other side of this chamber. He ought to be taking steps to prepare some of his own citizens so that they will be able to prevent this process from taking place. I am confident that if Singapore and Malaysia look like being swept into the Communist mincing machine - and there is justification in what Mr Lee Kuan Yew and Tunku Abdul Rahman have said about that possibility - Australia will be represented in efforts to defend them. It is of no help to the people of Australia to let them imagine an absolutely false set of circumstances. It is far more valuable to the welfare of this country to tell the Australian people the truth. They are interested in the facts and are prepared to stand up and face them when the need to do so is shown to them. 1 want to make two or three comments about recent events in Papua and New Guinea. I am delighted to observe in the Governor-General’s Speech mention once more of the view that the Commonwealth sees the destiny of Papua and New Guinea as a self governing country, and regards it now as developing towards the attainment of independence at a time when it is clearly demonstrated by the majority of the indigenous people that this is what they wish. I hope we shall adhere to this policy. We shall have to provide great sums of money to assist the indigenous people along the road to education and economic viability.
– The honourable member for North Sydney (Mr Graham) made a fairly fundamental criticism of the Government’s foreign policy when he spoke about - these are my words not his - the immunity from invasion given to the Government of Ho Chi Minh. This is referred to in the Governor-General’s Speech as expressing the policy of the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton). There is not any question that if one side has a fundamental aim to drive out an enemy and the other side has no such fundamental aim and virtually guarantees immunity for the bases of its opponent, the war can last for 15 years. The point about this war is that it has just grown. It grew from the overthrow of Diem. Before that, only a few advisers were needed for an operation that was apparently unplanned. What are we now doing? There are now 600,000 or more foreign troops in South Vietnam. The aim is solely to exclude an invading force without pursuing it. It is this seeming endlessness and pointlessness of the policy that has to be explained. It was merely stated by the Prime Minister. There is in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech no reference to any Government thinking on the nonproliferation treaty in relation to nuclear weapons. It was instructive for me recently to be in India and to have sensed, at least in some political circles, the idea that this treaty would leave India utterly dependent on someone else. If China possesses nuclear weapons and India binds herself not to possess them, India will depend for her defence on the good offices of either the Soviet Union or the United States of America. There is no guarantee that these good offices would be forthcoming.
I think there has been a marked tendency in Australia to discuss this subject in the terms of possession or non-possession of nuclear weapons. In fact, the nonproliferation treaty would prove to be a major diplomatic victory to the Soviet Union in that it would rivet firmly her control of the eastern European Communist countries and might drive a wedge between the United States and West Germany. It would make India subordinate to the Soviet Union. This is why it is surprising to find, even in Indian circles, where one would not expect it, the Socialist Party issuing statements such as the following:
Against such a contingency India must provide herself by striving for self-sufficiency in every branch of weaponry, conventional as well as nuclear, and by inculcating in the people a new sense of urgency, discipline and nationalism . . .
India must learn to draw the correct conclusions from the fact that while the big nuclear powers loudly denounce the Chinese nuclear blasts, they . . . have started showing new respect for China. As the gap between China and India grows pari passu would increase the power vacuum in the Afro-Asian world, and India will have to lean more and more heavily on one or the other foreign power, a consummation that would spell ruin to all our cherished dreams.
This was a statement on behalf of the Praia Socialist Party of India. This question needs looking at closely. I am despondent at not seeing in the Governor-General’s Speech any revelation on the Government’s thinking on this problem.
I would like to commend some aspects of the Government’s policy in relation to India which I saw when I was there. India has received 590,000 tons of wheat from Australia as a gift over the last 2 k years. This is worth $A35m. I believe that the famine situation which was in mind when this gift was made has disappeared. I would like to see the equivalent of that gift of $35m invested in the development of fertiliser plants in India. I was left in no doubt, as 1 travelled through areas which are normally of secure rainfall, of the beautiful and surprisingly empty country, and my impression was that it was far richer than Australia. A man whose friend I became and his father took up 60 acres of what was classified as waste land 40 miles north-east of Delhi. This man was rather derided by the Indian agricultural experts. After very few years, that waste land produced the world’s record production of wheat - 160 bushels to the acre, compared with our 18 bushels to the acre. This was due largely to the applying of trace elements. If the Government can show generosity to the extent of a gift of wheat worth $3 5m, it may be the path of wisdom also to invest an equivalent sum in the production of trace elements and in the establishment of plants to produce fertilisers in India.
The Minister for External Territories (Mr Barnes) has remained wedded to what he calls the Westminster system of government. There is a touching belief that we have been, and that in the African colonies Britain had been, training people in the Westminster system. It is really astonishing that we cannot see what system we have been training these people in. Liberal opinion in France and Britain did not expect the swift centralisation of power that took place in African states after independence.
Yet this was a reflection of most of their colonial history. Whatever last minute changes were made before independence, there was no separation of power and no distinction between administration and policy making in the powers vested in the Governor and his subordinate officials. Since 1884 the Governor or Administrator in the Territory has exercised a concentration of political and administrative power. Elected legislatures are very recent. If some figure of the future reverts to the exercise of all administrative and political power in Papua and New Guinea, let us face the fact that this is the result of 80 years of our training and of British training since annexation. I honestly believe we will get more secure separation of powers if we have a president separate from the legislature, and independently elected, choosing his cabinet and men having to work out a modus vivendi with the legislature. In all the African states the fusion of the Cabinet with the Parliament has led to the one party state. It has led, therefore, to the executive and the legislature supporting one another in absolute power. Having for years seen the Governors and their entourages exercising such power, we can understand that this is the vision of power that they have. I frankly believe that the vision of power that thinking people in Papua and New Guinea have is the power now exercised by the Administrator and not the power, or the absence of power, at the moment vested in the House of Assembly.
The references to the Territory made in the Governor-General’s Speech are perhaps not intended to reveal the depths of Government thinking. However, as the Territory moves towards independence, what problems will face Australia and what problems will face the people of the Territory? A recent commentator said that we have put a lot of talent into the effort to build motive - for development, welfare, education, health, independence and the like, even to the point of teaching the vocabulary of demand and the technique of making demand effective in the legislature.’ He suggested that there is an inbuilt accelerator of demand that in the long run beat the British in Africa and will beat us in New Guinea. But an inbuilt accelerator of demand has also beaten some of the independent governments of Africa. The newly emerging countries emerge into a world chronically difficult for them, because of the expectations of their people.
The newly emerging countries have accepted the determination and even fanaticism of European 19 th Century nationalism. But to it has been grafted 20th Century welfare state ideology. People not only expect independence; they expect a standard of living. Economic goals can be derived from easily imported ideas. The attainment of these goals, however, may depend on physical resources and human resources - the skills, technology and discipline of the population. The idea of welfare may move with quick-silver mobility. The capacity to attain it may move on leaden feet, The process of transforming a simple rural village agricultural economy to a diversified export economy can be very arduous. Ordered and steady development cannot take place without a highly efficient educational, administrative and technical structure in the country, and the discipline which will eschew reaching for guns on the Nigerian model when the going is difficult.
Emerging nations find a terrible gap between their aspirations, which are often derived from the standards of the former colonial governments, nations and nationals, and their own resources. No doubt this is what underlies the decision of the Australian Government to cut the salaries paid to indigenous civil servants - an independent New Guinea would not be able to afford such salaries.
What worries me, however, is the breach of trust. I think a continuing trust that we stood for race equality is more important than the savings effected by the reduced salary scales, more important than the discrepancy between civil service salaries and plantation labour wages, and more important than the increased difficulties of adjustment New Guinea would find arising from a high salary structure on independence. I do not want to labour the point. I believe we must be committed to generous economic assistance to Papua and New Guinea for at least 30 years and that political independence leaves this unaffected. New Guinea, as an emerging country, must attract its people to acquire high skill, and if the resources of the country cannot at first afford this attractive policy we must assist to bridge the gap.
Coffee, cocoa, tea and rubber are at the mercy of the world market, and at the mercy of powerful buying nations which can manipulate that market. In a decade Ghana and Nigeria trebled or quadrupled cocoa production and got either no more or less for it. They had to run very hard to stand still. New Guinea will face the same hard facts and we may well be wise to guarantee a paying market in Australia and regard the cost as part of ideological defence. I believe, realistically, we must campaign massively for English as a unifying language. I do not ignore pidgin as a lingua franca, but English must be the unifying language of government and education. The relatively radical Pangu Pati recognises this. I believe this means a trebling of our present educational expenditure.
I believe the Government is wise to want to attract private investment to New Guinea, but ports, roads, communications, power, irrigation, agricultural training and investment, fisheries and the whole economic infrastructure which must be the physical basis of independence seems to me to involve a deliberately and realistically planned capital grant of something more than $50m a year for 30 years. Australia is respected^ in the field of foreign aid because its gifts are gifts, and not loans, and are not with strings attached. Similarly we need a policy over a generous period of time of generous capital assistance in Papua and New Guinea. The World Bank report projects an increasing demand for primary and secondary education and makes recommendations which would increase educational costs. It estimates a primary school age population of 400,000 in 1969 with 250,000 of them in primary schools. It estimates about 25,000 in secondary schools at the same time. The report of the mission of the Bank for International Reconstruction and Development comments:
In a society that is moving so rapidly from a primitive economy into a cash economy with the consequent need for all types of skilled manpower, it has not been possible to estimate with any degree of accuracy what numbers and skills are needed. The Administration will have to keep the question under continuous study. … It is reasonable to assume, however, that an increased enrolment by 1969 of 3..000 pupils or more in the technical stream would be required.
I agree with the policy of the Government in not naming a definite date of independence but I believe that our grant, our educational policy, our economic and developmental policies should all be framed with the clear objective of creating an independent nation, and trust is a vital factor.
Everything that makes for stability in the Territory, including our own trustworthiness, plays a part in Australian defence. Out of their poverty and out of scarce skills, scarce materials, scarce resources and desperately scarce capital the low income emerging nations have to try to allocate a proportion for development. To accumulate capital they must force down any increases in consumption by the majority. This creates the tensions which threaten society. In the case of New Guinea we can do much to prevent this.
Is generosity wise? I believe it is. It is wise because there is no alternative. When we talk of foreign private investment we in fact talk of the extractive industries - especially the oil industry, the refineries associated with it and the extraction of metals. These become focal points of dissatisfaction as foreigners appear to cart away resources. Foreign firms engaged in service industries and manufacturers do not attract similar hostility, but New Guinea, I am afraid, offers better prospects to the extractive industries, and in Bougainville we are already seeing the resistance.
I do not think that we should be wedded to the Westminster system for New Guinea. A President and Congress may better suit their need for unity.
I believe the expatriate Civil Service should become part of the Commonwealth Civil Service and be treated as a force on loan, paid directly from Canberra, not through the Territories grant. This would be a clear step towards independence and away from dissatisfaction. It would also, incidentally, increase the skills available to New Guinea without the accommodation charges of permanent residence of expatriates if short-term services of technicians in the Commonwealth Service became available to do jobs and return to Australia. I mean by this that experts from the Post Office, for instance, could go there for a few months to do particular jobs - some of which, by the way, having regard to the state of the telephone system in Papua and New Guinea, are urgently required.
Where does all this lead to? May I conclude by quoting the economist Barbara Ward:
To me, one of the most vivid proofs that there is a moral governance in the universe is the fact that when men or governments work intelligently and far-sightedly for the good of others, they achieve their own prosperity too. Take our Western experience with the welfare state. We did not plan it as a good stroke of business. It was a moral decision with ancient antecedents. Yet one of the consequences has been to reduce business risks. Mass consumption, secured by social security, enables the economy to avoid the boom and collapses of the old economy.
I believe we should see the same outcome if in the world economy we could determine to build up the purchasing power of the poorer nations. We should find that, once again, our own prosperity had been helped by underpinning of world consumption and by the creation of a world economy free from the ups and downs, the uncertainties and incoherences, of the system as we know it today.
Honesty is the best policy’ used to be said in Victorian times. I would go further. I would say that generosity is the best policy, and that expansion of opportunity sought for the sake of others ends by bringing well being and expansion to oneself. The dice are not hopelessly loaded against us. Our morals and our interests - seen in true perspective - do not pull apart.
I share with the honourable member for North Sydney (Mr Graham) a view which I believed him to be expressing. The Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) has said clearly enough that we cannot replace the United Kingdom if the United Kingdom withdraws from east of Suez. But, after all, in the White Paper that was issued there were many statements about the availability of naval and other forces to come back in the event of an emergency. Lee Kuan Yew has disputed the idea that the British would actually come back into a land operation and live again in Singapore or Malaysia, but in any event there is an undertaking given by the United Kingdom. I think it would be wise for us, instead of dwelling upon what we cannot do, to state what we can do. I think there is a very great deal that we can do. Lee Kuan Yew, who believed that the British withdrawal would take place over 8 years, has suddenly been confronted with British withdrawal over 3i years. If he wants to build the patrol boats or acquire the aircraft to replace the ones that have been provided up to now by the British, then he faces a telescoping time period and a multiplying defence expenditure. He must complete his replacements in 31 years instead of 8 years. He will face a very heavy economic burden. I would have been pleased to hear the Prime Minister state this clearly and to say also that our assistance was directed towards helping him to make these changes.
I believe that the diplomatic efforts of Australia should be bent in another direction also. When I recently came into Singapore I was impressed by the honesty of the Government. One was also impressed by the magnificent quality of the Chinese children in Singapore, and one was oppressed by the sense that one of the matters weighting the minds of the people in Singapore was the extermination of the 300,000 Chinese in neighbouring Indonesia. We are friendly towards Indonesia, but I still say that genocide is a crime, and I hope the whole weight of Australian influence is directed against this extermination. We are never going to escape the price of these crimes. They have a cost. They must mean something in the minds of IS million Chinese in South East Asia, who make up a very important community. This was not a pogrom directed against Chinese Communists - although I am not, indeed, interested in a pogrom directed against anybody. It was a pogrom directed against the Chinese business community, and if we have an atom of intelligence we must realise that it does add very greatly to the feeling of insecurity in Singapore. I do not expect the Government to blather representations on these matters all around the world, but I hope that the direction of Australian diplomacy will always be towards making representations designed to check the insanity of actions such as the one that now greatly disturbs me. If we do show without any doubt that we stand as a force for sanity in this part of the world then I think we will also be making a contribution to our own security.
T would not expect a comment on -this to appear in the Prime Minister’s speech. I am a member of the Opposition and have been a member of the Opposition for a great many years, and I personally feel free to speak on this matter. I have not an atom of hostility towards Indonesia or an atom of bitterness towards the Government of that country which has taken over with a military coup after all the confusion. But the killing of 300,000 people merely because they are Chinese is a crime, and 1 hope we will never see a repetition of it.
– I always listen with a great deal of interest to what the honourable member for Fremantle (Mr Beazley) has to say. I think that other members on this side of the House, as well as I, share his feelings about Indonesia. None of us has an atom of hostility towards Indonesia. But my mind goes back to the days when this Government came under severe criticism, not from the honourable member for Fremantle but from some of the leading members of his Party, over our attitude towards Indonesia and its policy with respect to West New Guinea. At one stage I believe the then Leader of the Opposition proclaimed that we should, on our own, attack Indonesia for its moving into Wes* New Guinea when this, of course, was something that the whole world would have revolted against. The policies we pursued in those days have slowly borne fruit. Indonesia’s policy of confrontation of Malaysia has been ended, and indeed we look forward to Indonesia doing what we hoped she would do - joining us in some kind of regional aid in this part of the world.
I do not think that any one of successive Ministers for External Affairs or successive governments has at any stage of our political thinking wanted to declare that Indonesia was our sworn enemy. That is all I have to say on that matter. I repeat that I pay close attention to what the honourable member for Fremantle says, and I only hope that some members of his own Party listen as closely as I do when the honourable member puts forward his theories on subjects like that of Papua and New Guinea.
In rising to speak in this debate on the motion for the adoption of the AddressinReply I feel that I must make some reference to the sad event that occurred in December last. I join with other members in paying a tribute to the late Prime Minister. These tributes have been offered at various sittings of this Parliament and I believe they adequately express the thoughts of us all. But I want to make a comment about one aspect of that tragedy which disturbed me at the time. I refer to the suggestions that appeared in many of our newspapers that we should at all times mount an almost impenetrable guard around the Prime Minister. 1 am pleased to see that the new Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) does not think that in this country such action is necessary. 1 hope the time will never come when it is necessary to surround an Australian Prime Minister, even in his most relaxed moments, by people in a position to see that no harm comes to him. We have become accustomed to Royal visits to this country; we are conscious of the fact that the Queen is under some protection but that protection is something that goes unnoticed, lt is there but it is difficult to detect, which is the sort of protection we want in this country, without bowing to some television idea of gunslinging mcn standing in close proximity to those who accept public office. The Australian people expect not that sort of situation but a situation where the Prime Minister can walk freely among us and can spend his relaxed moments the way he wants to spend them. If his relaxation consists of something that has an element of danger in it, then this tends to make him an ordinary Australian, which is how, I am quite certain, any Prime Minister of this country would want to be regarded.
I agree with honourable members on both sides of the House that the GovernorGeneral’s Speech does not cover the whole field of Government activity. Neither I nor any of my colleagues would expect it to do that. Nevertheless its contents caused some of us deep thought on many of the subjects that were raised. I intended, in this particular debate, to speak on some of the matters of social welfare, but last Thursday I listened with a great deal of interest to the honourable member for St George (Mr Bosman) when he made a speech touching on these particular points. He is one member of this House who is very ably qualified to speak on such matters because of his long association, in an official capacity, with an association which has taken upon itself to look after the civilian widows in the community. I refer of course to the Apex movement, of which the honourable member has been a most prominent member in New South Wales.
I ask the Government and the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) to pay close attention to what the honourable member for St George said because I firmly believe that the field of social services is one area in which a lot could be done to assist the needy section of the community, that section which covers the civilian widows. If something can be done to lighten their burden then the gratitude of the whole community will be bestowed on the Government. We have to move away from the philosophy that a civilian widow shall be allowed to earn. My own feeling is that they should be put in a position where they can devote their time to bringing up a family, if they have one, without thinking in terms of how hard they work and what limit will be put on their earnings. In this country when we speak of our affluence, our position in the world and our capacity to withstand the economic shocks that are taken by other nations, the least we can do is look after the least fortunate section of our people.
I noted with some interest that, as usual, the Governor-General’s Speech, following suggestions made by his advisers, mentioned some of the primary industries. Year after year 1 hear mention made of the sugar industry and the dairying industry and sometimes the wheat industry or the wool industry, ail of which are very important to our economy and all of which help to sustain our economic trends and to maintain the stability of Australia. It has struck me always as rather strange that the only indigenous primary industry in Australia, which is fishing, never gets a mention. I sometimes wonder why. I know that the numbers engaged in fishing are only approximately .9% of the total workforce or about 1.3% of the workforce engaged in primary industry. I suppose fishing is not mentioned because it does not have what one would call a direct representative. I know that if someone spoke about something that was to happen to the sugar farmers one would have the sort of situation that arose this afternoon when the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) devoted 25 minutes to discussing sugar farmers. One has only to mention Mrs Jones and four or five speakers rise to extol the virtues of the dairying industry as against margarine. Of course, wheat has its champions. Fishing is the only indigenous primary industry in the nation and it rarely gets anyone to speak for it. I have the feeling that the fishermen themselves, a very small band of people, have the idea that not enough is done for them both by the State governments, which have in the main the responsibility for inshore fishing, and by the Federal Government, through the Department of Primary Industry, which is responsible for offshore fishing between the 3-mile and the 12-mile limits.
It is rather alarming when one looks at the industry to realise that from one nation alone, Japan, we are importing the bulk of our fish and to it we export such a small amount. We are paying something for the product of an industry which we could develop ourselves thereby saving a lot of overseas currency. I have taken, from the Australian ‘Year Book’, some figures in respect of fishing. In 1965-66 - the latest year for which figures are available - we imported some 91 million lb of fish valued at some $29m and in the same period we exported some 22 million lb of fish valued at some $24m. When one realises that most of the exports were of crayfish tails, in the main from my own State, it is seen that the rest is not a very great amount from a country which has some of the best edible fish in the world. Out of this total of $29m spent on imports some $7m was spent on imports obtained from Japan, yet we send there only some $1.2m worth of fish out of a total of $24m of our exports. I know that the fishermen - I speak not for the fishermen on the east coast of Australia but for those who are earning a great amount of our export income around the west coast and up towards the Gulf of Carpentaria - are very disturbed about the fact that the Commonwealth Government now allows the Japanese fishermen to come in on an experimental basis to test the capacity of the fishing grounds. Numerous Australians with this knowledge at their fingertips could develop the fishing industry and earn money for us, provided they are given assistance of the general pattern of that which is given to any other primary industry. I mention only those two points because I want to devote some portion of my speech to what was, to me, the other disturbing item in the Governor-General’s Speech, namely, the British withdrawal from east of Suez.
Sitting suspended from 5.58 p.m. to 8 p.m.
– Before the suspension of the sitting I omitted the customary practice of congratulating the mover and seconder of the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply. By tradition the mover and seconder of the motion are usually new members. However the only new member we now have is the Prime Minister and it might have been somewhat difficult for us to get him to move this motion. I congratulate the honourable member for Henty (Mr Fox). The tribute that was paid to him in asking him to move this motion was some reward for the hard work that he has done as a member of this House. Of all the members on this side who could have been chosen to move this motion, none was more deserving than he. 1 had referred to a couple of aspects of social welfare and to the fishing industry, and had indicated that I intended to speak of the proposed withdrawal of British forces from east of Suez. I do not know whether I can link the British withdrawal of forces with social welfare, and there may be some doubt about whether I can tie it to the fishing industry, but I hope to show some relation between the two matters. The section of the Governor-General’s Speech which concerns me and, I know, a number of honourable members, and probably people in my own State more than Australians elsewhere, was where His Excellency said:
In our near north, in the areas of Malaysia and Singapore, the situation nas altered since the close of the last Session.
Since that time, the British Government has decided to speed up the withdrawal of those ground forces which has for so long contributed to the stability of the region. In the result, a withdrawal which was scheduled to be completed by the end of 1975 will now be completed by the end of 1971.
This is, of course, a significant acceleration of the rate of withdrawal on which previous thinking and planning was based. But even more significant is the apparent abandonment of the previous intention that there would be a British mobile amphibious force available at all times for use in the area, of significant capability, and able rapidly to reach the region.
My friend, the honourable member for North Sydney (Mr Graham), when speaking earlier this afternoon seemed to cast some doubts on the value of a British presence in the area east of Suez and he referred to what happened in 1940-41. I do not think that we should look at this in terms of the effect of a presence. If hostilities broke out or a conflagration started, the great value of the presence would be as a deterrent rather than as an offensive presence. The value of the presence lies in the fact that it might continue to give us peace in this region rather than the use that might come of it if some country decided to commence overt aggression. I deeply regret the British decision. 1 realise that the United Kingdom Prime Minister, Mr Wilson, stated in the House of Commons that it was useless for Britain to build up military power in other parts of the world unless she had economic stability at home, and that Britain’s first consideration must be economic stability. This is the sort of argument that one could engage in at length: Which should come first? It is almost the argument about the chicken and the egg. I do not think that we have to consider the possibility of Australia taking over the British role east of Suez when Britain withdraws her forces, because we are east of Suez and live in the area. We are not 10,000 miles away. We should be aiming at developing our own independent capacity. We have a responsibility to do this, but it might hurt a little when we set about doing this. It is no good standing idle and thinking that Britain ought to be here and that America should fill the vacuum. This is a task for Australia and we must meet it from our own resources. On 16th January, discussing the Royal Navy, the Prime Minister of Great Britain, said:
The aircraft carrier force will be phased out as soon as our withdrawal from Malaysia, Singapore and the Gulf has been completed.
As honourable members know, Britain decided to scrap two of her carriers and to keep two in service for a further period. As Mr Wilson said on 16th January, this would coincide with the British withdrawal from east of Suez. He continued:
There will also be reductions in the rate of new naval construction, for example-
And 1 emphasise the words ‘for example’ - in the nuclear powered hunter-killer submarines.
I suppose that most honourable members know enough about politics to realise that when it is said in the Parliament that something is to be done and the words ‘for example’ are used, one can conjecture about what will follow. I think we can see in this decision by the British Government that naval construction not only of the hunterkiller submarine type but also perhaps of other types will be curtailed. This, of course, will have grave implications for Australia. In the same statement the United Kingdom Prime Minister said that Britain had decided to scrap her Fill programme, not because the aircraft was not operationally sound but on purely economic grounds. Britain’s previous decision to close down her own aircraft industry, abandon the manufacture of the TSR2 aircraft and adopt an American aircraft would now, in effect, be reversed. Even worse, Britain will not have an aircraft at all. So we get a situation in which Great Britain, one of the players in the big league of the past, has now decided to join the little league and not be equipped with the sort of forces that could be used as a deterrent in various parts of the world. In the same speech the British Prime Minister said:
We have told both Governments - Malaysia and Singapore - that we do not thereafter plan to retain a special military capability for use in the urea. But ive have assured them both and our other Commonwealth partners-
This includes Australia, of course - and lillies concerned that we shall retain a general capability based in Europe, including the United Kingdom, which can be deployed overseas as, in our judgment, circumstances demand, including support for United Nations operations.
The next matter to which I direct attention is his reference to the Royal Air Force. He said:
The reduction in our overseas commitments will make it possible to cut down the Transport Force.
He was speaking of heavy lift aircraft like the Hercules aircraft. It seems to me that if it is decided to withdraw troops from east of Suez, and a promise is made to develop a mobile force that will be able to go quickly to the assistance of Commonwealth countries, a decision to cut down the transport force cuts across that objective. lt is interesting to study copies of the British ‘Hansard’ of this month when a British White Paper on defence was debated. Bearing in mind Mr Wilson’s January statement, 1 should like to refer honourable members to what Mr Healey, the Minister of Defence, said in reply to an attack on the Government’s decision by Mr Heath, the Leader of the Opposition. On 4th March 1968 Mr Healey said:
But once our withdrawal from the Gulf and Singapore and Malaysia is complete any forces we provide for operations outside Europe and the Atlantic area - whether under United Nations auspices or otherwise - will have to be drawn from the capability which we maintain for the defence of Europe subject, where necessary, to the agreement of our NATO allies. We shall not maintain a special capability for operations outSide Europe.
The only comment I make on that is that if Britain is going to build up a force to meet any NATO demand, or for her own defence in the area of Europe, and if we then say that we need some sort of assistance and the matter has to be referred to a NATO power to get agreement, then, as I said earlier, it is time we looked to our own capabilities, ft appears that as much as Britain would like to assist in maintaining stability in this part of the world it is in fact not in a position to do so. We will have to undertake a greater acceptance of our responsibilities. As I said earlier, my idea of continuing forces in this part of the world is for their deterrent capacity rather than their offensive capacity. Ever since its foundation this country has been - except for a short period during World War II - under the shelter of the umbrella of the Royal Navy. This situation has changed, as honourable members will realise from the quotations that I have read from the British debates on defence.
I believe that we should realise how Russia is increasing her influence in the Indian Ocean area of the world. I do not see this statement as dragging up the old Communist bogey. The facts are before us. Russia’s influence is continuing and growing in areas such as the Suez Canal, the Gulf of Aden and the Yemen and there is ample evidence of an increasing interest and influence in the Indian Ocean area. More Russian ships are daily using this seaway for various purposes. I think that the presence of Russia in this part of the world can have a profound effect on the policies of certain African countries. As I said earlier, we live east of Suez. I live in Western Australia. The British withdrawal of forces from east of Suez has probably made a far greater impact on the people in my own State than it has in other parts of Australia. This area is of vital importance to Australia. It is the most important section of the trade route to Europe as some 45% of all our trade passes through the Indian Ocean. Trade between Australia and Japan is increasing and most of it originates on the west coast of Australia. Although I read in the Press today that some day we will be self sufficient in oil, it is well to remember that 70% of our supplies come from the area above us, which is directly affected by the British withdrawal. I think therefore that we have to give earnest consideration to a lot of matters affecting our defence in the near future.
We can discount any quick movement of Army and Air Force personnel from Great Britain. We cannot help but realise that there is no quick method of moving naval forces from Britain to a distant area like the Indian Ocean. This will take some weeks as they must go around the Cape or through the Panama Canal. I am assuming that the Suez Canal could not be used in that situation. We have only to look over the past 3 years to see how quickly that waterway can be put out of commission. I think that our naval planning must soon look for a replacement for the aircraft carrier HMAS Melbourne’, which is being refitted at present, because with the complete phasing out of the British aircraft carriers we will need to have a mobile airstrip in the Indian Ocean. The only effective mobile airstrip is an aircraft carrier which can be at sea for most of the time and act as a deterrent to the countries that border us.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
Suspension of Standing Orders
Motion (by Mr Barnes) - by leave; - agreed to:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the Leader of the Opposition speaking without limitation of time.
– Since I became a member of this Parliament I have heard seven speeches by the Governor-General. The Speech we heard on Tuesday was incomparably the least substantial, the least significant, of all those speeches. Never has a Speech contained so few proposals; seldom has a regular session of a Parliament been asked to examine so little legislation. The new Prime Minister declared his intention to ‘rule off the book’. He has written nothing on the new page. Briefly, let me itemise the most obvious and in some cases quite astonishing omissions from the Speech.
In his speech opening the Senate election campaign, the late Prime Minister said that the present Prime Minister (Mr Gorton), who was then Minister for Education and
Science, was examining proposals for Commonwealth aid for school libraries and preschool training centres. No such proposals are contained in the Governor-General’s Speech. If Mr Holt had not disappeared, the Parliament would presumably have met weeks ago and the Minister for Education and Science would have been obliged to produce legislation to honour Mr Holt’s election promise. On the same occasion, Mr Holt foreshadowed proposals for dealing with the problem of the chronically ill. We could fairly expect that this election promise, too, would have been presented to the Parliament in the form of legislation if Mr Holt had lived. But now, more than 4 months after the late Prime Miinster’s promise, the Speech merely refers vaguely to ‘proposals to remove from the minds of Australians the fear of economic consequences of long continued illness’.
Shortly after the new Prime Minister was sworn in, the postal workers went on strike. The Prime Minister said on 17th January that there was ‘an underlying malaise in the Post Office’. But there is not one word about the strike or, more importantly, the need to establish a contemporary framework for Australia’s greatest business undertaking and to simplify Australia’s most cumbersome arbitration procedures. For the past 3 months the Arbitration Commission has been subject to a series of frontal attacks by the Minister who is responsible for industrial relations at the national level, the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr Bury). The Speech was silent on the implications of this Minister’s statements.
At a time when eastern Australia faces the severest water restrictions in history, the Speech mentions the drought only to note its existence. No mention is made of plans for further allocation of the $50m for water conservation projects over a 5-year period promised by the late Prime Minister 16 months ago. The late Prime Minister subsequently inserted prohibitions against any of this money being spent on urban water or hydro-electricity projects. These prohibitions presumably still apply. Elsewhere the Prime Minister has referred to his interest in national development, yet in the Speech he gave no justification for continuing the Commonwealth’s plans for the winding up of the Snowy Mountains Authority or its suspension of work on the Chowilla dam.
New oil and gas discoveries in Bass Strait received perfunctory mention. There is still no suggestion of the need for the development of a national fuel policy to dovetail and distribute our sources of power. The Prime Minister has admitted that the problems of urban development are part of national development problems, but again the Speech is silent on the matter.
The financial relations between the Commonwealth and States have reached an impasse. In his correspondence with the Premier of Victoria, the Prime Minister said on the one hand that the States would not be permitted to enter the income tax field, but on the other hand he has encouraged the States to proceed with the State receipt taxes already imposed by Victoria and Western Australia.
– That is not true.
– These taxes were suggested at the last Premiers Conference by the Treasurer (Mr McMahon), as the former Queensland Premier, Mr Nicklin, has publicly stated. Yet on a question involving the whole matter of Commonwealth control over national economic policy, the Speech says nothing. Last October, the late Prime Minister gave an undertaking for an early meeting of Commonwealth and State leaders of the Parliamentary Liberal Parties for talks on Commonwealth-State financial relations. This undertaking has been ignored.
While detailing the overseas purchase of defence equipment, nothing is said about the final cost of the Fill, despite the promises by the Minister for Defence (Mr Fairhall) during the Senate campaign that the final cost would be given in January of this year. There is no reference to the new 3-year defence programme which should have been ready to go into operation next July.
The Speech performs the remarkable feat of dealing with foreign affairs without mentioning Japan or China. Vietnam is discussed as if the disastrous events of the past 7 weeks had never happened. No reasons were given for the Prime Minister’s expressed belief that the present Australian commitment has reached its ‘permanent’ limit, or for what appears to be his new position that it has not. The Government’s response to the accelerated British withdrawal from our region was couched in negatives; we cannot fill Britain’s role; although we will participate in any fivepower meetings, we will not initiate them. Nor does the Speech present any positive proposals to meet the changed situation. The meetings of ANZUS and SEATO in Wellington next month, the meeting of ECAFE at Canberra, are ignored. Perhaps the most striking omission is the utter silence of the Speech on the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty. There is not even the broadest indication of the Government’s attitude towards it.
This catalogue of omissions applies only to matters which have arisen since last session of the Parliament, lt would be an interminable list if extended to all the important matters which should engage the attention of this Parliament over the rest of its life. One of the most notable aspects of the Speech is its lack of any originality. Its proposals, sparse as they are, are all left-overs from the previous Administration. This is demonstrated in a striking way if we examine the matters of legal significance which will be dealt with this session - half the ascertainable proposals for legislation in the Governor-General’s Speech. The Commonwealth Superior Court was authorised by Cabinet in December 1962. The Tokyo Convention on Crimes on Aircraft was drawn up in September 1963. Mr Holt, when Treasurer, appointed a committee to recommend a new Cheques Act in April 1962 and received its report in May 1964. Amendments to the Commonwealth Employees Compensation Act were promised by Mr Holt as Treasurer in November 1964. Still, however, no steps have been taken to co-ordinate the score of workers’ compensation Acts in this country - State, Territorial and Federal.
The new law on copyright was promised in the Governor-General’s Speech of August 1954. A committee was appointed in September 1958. In December 1959 the committee recommended a Bill which would at last enable Australia to become a party to conventions drawn up in 1948 and 1952. The Bill was introduced in May last. It was already out of date, for it was not wide enough to permit Australia to become a party to a further copyright convention which had been drawn up in the meantime in 1961. That Bill was further outdated when yet another convention was drawn up last July. Australian authors and artists and scriptwriters are now denied the benefits of four international conventions concluded over the past 20 years.
The plain fact is that, while the Ministry has a new name, a new Prime Minister, it remains unchanged in its essential parts. We have neither new men nor new measures. For all the earlier talk about upheaval, the changes made in the new Ministry are marginal. If the Prime Minister had really intended significant changes and reforms, he had by far his best and probably his last opportunity to make them at the very outset of his Prime Ministership. The great offices remain unchanged. The Treasurer, unacceptable to the Deputy Prime Minister, the Minister for Trade an’1 Industry (Mr McEwen) as head of the Government but acceptable presumably as Treasurer, remains at his post. He is the architect of the policy which has compelled the States to raise new forms of taxation. By pegging all pensions, he has placed the burden of the defence build-up and the war in Vietnam upon those dependant on the Commonwealth for their income. He has forced the States to raise new taxes and increase charges. By his refusal to review the taxation schedules, he has placed an increasingly inequitable burden on the lower and middle income groups. He has conducted a running public argument with the Minister for Labour and National Service on the true state of the economy. He remains Treasurer.
The Minister for Labour and National Service has launched a sustained and deliberate campaign of abuse upon the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission and on trade union leadership. He has encouraged employers in their resistance against the application of longargued, long-deliberated and long-delayed judgments of the Commission. He remains to repudiate what he refuses to reform. He remains Minister for Labour and National Service. The Postmaster-Genera] (Mr Hulme) has presided over two years’ turbulence, discontent and decline in the Post Office. He has failed to take the postal unions into his confidence over the crucial question of automation. He remains PostmasterGeneral.
The Minister for National Development (Mr Fairbairn) held the Ord scheme in doubt and indecision for 3 years. He unceremoniously suspended the Chowilla programme, unanimously agreed upon by five hundred members of four Parliaments. He is winding up the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority at the time of one of the worst droughts in our history. He will not or cannot devise and develop a national fuel policy. He remains Minister for National Development. The survival of the Minister for External Territories (Mr Barnes) is a remarkable illustration of the Country Party’s power to maintain its influence at the expense of the national interest. Under his administration, industrial conditions in New Guinea have deteriorated, educational opportunities have been reduced and independence has been retarded. Only yesterday, the ViceChancel lor of the University of Papua-New Guinea, Dr John Gunther, said that in 3 years New Guinea would be ‘less equipped with tertiary manpower’ than any country in the world - but the Minister remains.
The Minister for the Interior (Mr Nixon) has remained in his post to promote an electoral gerrymander on behalf of the Country Party. The Minister for Repatriation (Senator McKellar), under whom repatriation benefits have sunk to their lowest real value for 50 years, is retained. The Minister for Health (Dr Forbes), bravely insisting that Australia’s health scheme is the best in the world, is retained. The Minister for Social Service is changed. To bear out the Prime Minister’s professed interest in social welfare, the Ministry goes from the Cabinet to twentyfifth, second last place, in the outer Ministry.
The real point of difference between this Ministry and its predecessor is that its internal tensions have become, spectacularly, public property. Three months ago, we could only have guessed at the depth of antagonism, personal and political, between the Deputy Prime Minister and the Treasurer. Now we have seen the Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party branded by the Leader of the Country Party as unfit and unacceptable as Prime Minister. Three months ago, we could only have guessed at the differences between the Treasurer and the Minister for Labour and National Service. Now we have had the demonstration evidenced not merely by their dispute on the state of the economy, but by the very deliberate and public manner in which the Treasurer has been at pains to contradict the Minister. Perhaps, then, it is not surprising that the GovernorGeneral’s Speech was such a disappointing document. A government which cannot agree even on its propaganda can hardly be expected to produce policies.
What should the Speech have contained? It should have dealt with the initiatives which a national government could take to ensure that our resources, particularly our human resources, are used in the best possible way to raise the quality of life in this nation, and to increase our ability to influence events in this region. It should have shown how the National Government proposes to do better those things which it alone can do; how it proposes to do those things which it can do better than State or local governments; how it proposes to make arrangements with those other authorities to do better those things which cannot be done, or done well, by private individuals or groups; and how it proposes to marshal, use and develop Australia’s available resources so that our standards can equal and surpass those achieved in comparable countries. The Government is clearly inhibited by its refusal to admit that our performance is falling behind that of overseas countries with the same standards and systems as our own. The Prime Minister has consistently emphasised the difficulties in the way of advance. In fact, in important areas such as health, social welfare, education, water conservation, transport and urban development, better arrangements for spending the vast amounts which governments already find would achieve immeasurably better results even without increasing expenditure.
This is made very clear in the field of health. The Government’s sole action, as indicated by the Speech, is to inquire into the sole contribution it makes to health costs in Australia, namely Commonwealth benefits paid through the health funds. This is the least relevant way of approaching the problem of personal and governmental costs in health. It is fundamentally irrelevant to the nature or quality of health services available to the public. It is entirely irrelevant to the health services available to people not covered by the voluntary schemes. The Prime Minister said at the opening of the by-election campaign in Higgins on 13th February:
We have here in Australia a health scheme which is good; it is amongst the best in the world which permits choice by the patient of a doctor, which does not ration hospital or other accommodation.
As a picture of the actual operation of the health scheme, this is pure fantasy. The fact is that the present Government has established and entrenched an extremely expensive form of voluntary health insurance, Australian health insurance has special features which inflate operating costs and reserves to grotesque proportions. As a result of high operating costs and high reserves, Australians pay their health insurance funds $4 for every $3 that they get back. Seventeen percent of Australians have no medical cover whatsoever, and 15% no hospital cover. The cost of voluntary health insurance falls most heavily on those least able to afford it. Contribution tables are fixed without regard to the contributors’ ability to pay. Contributors on higher incomes can deduct the cost of their health insurance and the uncovered portion of their medical and hospital bills from their taxable incomes.
The key to an effective health service lies in the hospital system. Expensive medical equipment and specialised medical services can be economically provided and effectively used only within a network which integrates small community hospitals, base hospitals and metropolitan general hospitals. Hospital treatment is by far the most expensive aspect of health for both governments and individuals. It is in hospitals that doctors and other qualified persons exercise their greatest skills and that patients receive their most vital attention. The Commonwealth Government is the only government in Australia which can shoulder the high cost of hospital services, but the present Government has reversed the immediate post-war trend towards Commonwealth responsibility for hospital finance. The present Government has preferred an uneconomic and inequitable system to one which is economic and equitable.
The Commonwealth spends as much on pharmaceutical benefits as on medical and hospital benefits combined. Its expenditure on pharmaceutical benefits has doubled in the last 7 years. Through the national health service, the Repatriation Department and hospitals, Australian governments pay for at least 85% of the drugs prescribed in Australia. In these circumstances, it is deplorable that the Government still deliberately limits the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories to supplying no more than 2% of the market and prevents it from increasing its production, purchasing formulas and generally competing in a way which would increase Australian skills and reduce government expenditure. The inquiry promised by the Government will achieve little if the Government intends merely to dabble in fringe improvements to the existing health scheme. A radical new approach is urgently required. The Prime Minister’s comfortable acceptance of the basic merits of the existing scheme hands out little hope that anything significant will be achieved.
Before he announced his Ministry there was a great deal of speculation, certainly not discouraged by the Prime Minister, that the Departments of Health and Social Services would be consolidated. Any plans of this nature have been shelved. Instead, we are to have a sub-committee of the three Ministers who have some responsibility for aspects of social welfare - repatriation, social services and health - none of them in the Cabinet. The Department of Health should be merged with the Repatriation Department and the Department of Social Services to form a new department of social welfare. The new department should be responsible for providing an integrated welfare service based on research into the needs of persons at various stages of their lives and the circumstances in which they become dependent upon the community for the satisfaction of those needs.
If little can be expected on those matters which the Speech does mention, how much less can we look forward to improvement on matters on which the Speech is silent? The present Prime Minister was virtually Minister for Education and Science from December 1963. The Speech continues the silence he has consistently maintained ever since he became Prime Minister on this very matter for which he held ministerial responsibility for 4 years. He accelerated the policy of the last decade under which university fees doubled and in some cases tripled. At the University of Western Australia, as a direct result of the Menzies Government’s insistence that fees should be charged, the cost of a degree rose eightfold and in some cases tenfold. University quotas have been introduced and have been defended by the present Prime Minister, not merely as a necessary evil, but as a positive good in ensuring that only the most able students can go to university. He rejected the teacher training proposals of the Martin Committee on the Future of Tertiary Education in Australia, the most vital part of that report, since teachers form the whole basis of any educational system. He rejected the proposals of the Weeden Advisory Committee on Educational Television Services on the grounds that educational television was a matter for the States. The education policy of the Government when the Prime Minister was Minister in charge of education was to slash or shelve the recommendations of its own expert committees.
We now have it on the authority of Sir Robert Menzies himself that Melbourne University had been obliged to reduce its allocations for research, thus ‘severely limiting the vital provisions for post-graduate students and gravely handicapping the university’s future service to the community’. Sir Robert went on to say in his Dunrossil Memorial Lecture a week ago that the Prime Minister had given a misleading explanation of the Government’s action. Last weekend, he said that the explanation by the new Minister for Education and Science (Mr Malcolm Fraser) is equally misleading. Let it be said that Sir Robert Menzies was never much interested ir. schools. He retrenched half the staff of the Commonwealth Office of Education. He never allowed the attenuated staff to carry out its statutory duty to advise the Government concerning the grant of Commonwealth financial assistance to the States and to other authorities for educational purposes. But he was interested in universities, for the ablest students at least, even il not for all qualified students. Australia is one of the few countries where most of those who qualify for matriculation are prevented from matriculating - due to doubled fees and tougher quotas. The real significance of Sir Robert Menzies’ dispute with the present Prime Minister and the new Minister for Education is that Sir Robert knows that
Australian universities desperately need staffs, and that staffs of Australian universities must now be produced by Australian universities.
It is now clear that, under its new leadership, the Government will still not draw up a long term and consistent plan for education, the whole basis of which must be that the Commonwealth should accept increasing responsibility for education at all levels. Between the First and Second World Wars, Australia accepted the principle that education up to the age of 14 or IS should be available to all and free to all. It is now essential that this principle should be accepted for tertiary education. It would cost less than $10m a year to abolish university fees altogether. In short, we must extend the principle of free education already accepted in primary and secondary education to university level, and we must extend the principle of Commonwealth participation already accepted at the university level to all other levels of education, primary and secondary schools and technical and teachers’ colleges.
The same prodigal attitude which the Government has shown in the treatment of our human resources is apparent in the Government’s failure to develop plans for the development of our natural resources. Clearly there is no intention to reverse the decision by the previous Ministry to wind up the Snowy Mountains Authority, despite the drought, despite requests from the Premiers, despite the warnings by Sir William Hudson that the team, once dispersed, can never be re-assembled. The new Minister for the Navy (Mr Kelly), formerly Minister for Works, said on 22nd February in Adelaide that it was ‘unrealistic to expect the Snowy Mountains Authority to be the development and construction authority for irrigation schemes’. He said it was ‘sloppy and sentimental’ to view the Snowy Mountains Authority in this role, and went on to describe the Authority as ‘a wonderful mob’. The Prime Minister himself said last Wednesday: lt 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.
The Snowy Mountains Authority is the greatest planning and construction body this country has ever seen. It is uniquely equipped to handle problems of water conservation. The members of the Snowy teams, both Australian and those brought from overseas, possess together an unparallelled amount of skill and experience in the problems of investigation, design and construction involved in any worthwhile developmental project. The retention of these teams and the retention of the Authority itself as the nucleus of a national water conservation authority is essential if we are to reduce the losses from drought and the waste of our rarest and most precious asset, water, and the salting up of our greatest river system, the Murray-Darling.
The Government does not even follow through the planning for projects it has already started. Although the Minister for National Development announced on 1st November last that the Commonwealth would assist Western Australia to proceed with stage 2 of the . Ord irrigation project, the Government has still held no negotiations and made no arrangements with Western Australia concerning inundation and irrigation in the Northern Territory, where at least one-third of the additional Ord water must be used, if it is to be used at all.
Australians live in a great continent with large concentrations of population hundreds of miles apart. We are an urban and industrial country living by the export of primary and mineral products. In the Australian economy today, cheap, fast and flexible transport is the key to efficiency in almost every field. Equally, it is essential for civilised living in our crowded cities.
Perhaps the most significant change in the Ministry will prove to be the appointment of the former Minister for Social Services (Mr Sinclair) to the Ministry for Shipping and Transport. While this confirms the Country Party hegemony on all trade matters, it does permit the Ministry to escape from the Liberal Party’s prohibition, contained in its platform, against Australian participation in her own overseas trade. But if so desirable a result follows, it will be fortuitous. It will not be the result of a forward policy for transport.
Under existing Administrative Arrangements Orders, 8 Federal Ministers share responsibility for Australia’s transport facilities with 6 State and 900 municipal authorities. Our 90 ports are administered by more than 30 different authorities under arrangements which have remained essentially unchanged since early settlement. The key to Australia’s transport needs is an integrated transport system. We should make a start ait developing such a system by integrating federal responsibilities under a single Minister for Transport. The Commonwealth’s financial grants should be made with a view to co-ordinating the activities of State and municipal authorities which have responsibility for some aspects of transport.
In particular, our aim should be to bring together the mainland railways under Commonwealth management. To compare other federal systems, the railways of West Germany are run by the Federal Government; the railways of Canada consist of one Federal Government corporation and one nation-wide company; and the railways of the United States, which have for generations been co-ordinated by the Interstate Commerce Commission, are now rapidly merging.
Our railways should bind the continent, and bring its resources efficiently together. No State acting alone can link its capital by rail with the capital of another State. No State can tap resources or supply markets in another State by rail, lt is 80 years since neighbouring States last built railways to meet at their border. The Commonwealth alone can now finance such railways. No State has refused to give it the consent required by section 51 (xxxiv) of the Constitution. The Commonwealth has now built standard gauge railways to link Brisbane and Sydney, Melbourne and Sydney and Perth and ‘ Sydney. In 1949 the Chifley Labor Government passed an Act to link Adelaide by standard gauge with Brisbane and Sydney and the west. The Menzies, Holt and Gorton Governments have not implemented the Act. Adelaide is still out on a limb, still separated from its markets, east and west.
The Parliament has still not been told the arrangements, if any, which the Commonwealth has secured for the acquisition of the Silverton tramway pursuant to the 1949 legislation; it has not yet considered the legislation promised in the 1966 Budget for the up-grading of the Parkes to Broken Hill railway.
Transport is one of the keys to the kind of cities we are to have in the Australia of the future. Opening his Higgins campaign, the Prime Minister said on 13th February:
We have here developing in Australia, cities which are going to be at least twice as large as they are now, and cities in which the congestion of traffic is going to pose really vast economic problems in the future and the beginning of studies by the Commonwealth and State Governments which I would hope would take place, which I would seek to see did take place, into this matter and how it could be overcome, must take its place with development, alongside the development of areas outside the cities.
Yet again, the Governor-General’s Speech is silent. Vague generalisations about the existence of the problems of urban development are not enough. Clearly the activity and the responsibilities of the Department of Housing should be greatly expanded to include urban affairs. The Commonwealth regulates almost all the funds for the acquisition of residential land and houses. It takes no responsibility for the cost of land or housing. The Commonwealth takes a great interest in the number of housing units constructed. It takes no responsibility for the quality or siting of houses. Directly or indirectly, the Commonwealth is in a position to regulate 90% of housing finance. This gives the Commonwealth a very great opportunity to enforce proper town planning principles. Where there is the opportunity, there is the responsibility.
In accepting increased responsibility for town planning, the Commonwealth should simultaneously pay more attention to the plight of local government authorities throughout Australia. We hear a great deal about the difficulties of the States, but in fact the indebtedness of local government and semi-governmental authorities has risen over the past IS years at a markedly higher rate than that of the States, while the Commonwealth indebtedness has fallen. In these circumstances, it is not at all surprising that essential urban services provided by local government or statutory authorities such as the Melbourne Board of Works are lagging. Between 1946 and 1966, the number of homes served by sewerage authorities fell in Melbourne from 95.3% to 76.8%, and in Perth from 76.4% to 43.4%. Over the same period, Sydney was able to lift its proportion of sewered homes by only 1.4% and Brisbane by only 0.3%. No wonder migrants are appalled. Forty-one years have gone by since the signing of the first Commonwealth-State Financial Agreement. The Commonwealth should convene a conference of interested parties with a view to amending the Agreement and clearing the way for tripartite financial agreements between the Commonwealth, the States and local government.
Overall, there must be a total reappraisal of the role of the Commonwealth and the States in planning and co-ordinating the conduct of governmental activities and the development of national resources by both Commonwealth and State governments. The present balance of finances and functions is unsatisfactory. If State governments are not to be forced to adopt regressive and unjust taxation measures, then CommonwealthState fiscal relations must be more flexible. In Australia the balance between Federal and State finances is weighted much more heavily in favour of the Federal Government than in the federal systems of the United States, Canada and West Germany. In Australia the balance between Federal and State functions is still weighted more heavily in favour of the States than in those other federal systems. The Australian Constitution provides two methods of redressing the balance of finances and functions. Under paragraph (xxxvii) of section 51, the Parliament or Parliaments of any State or States can refer functions to the Commonwealth Parliament. Under section 96, the Commonwealth Parliament may grant financial assistance to any State on such terms and conditions as the Commonwealth Parliament thinks fit. The important issue is not whether the Commonwealth or a State should discharge a particular governmental function, but that the governmental function should be well discharged.
Australians will continue to suffer in the quality, availability and equity of services which governments alone can provide, or which governments provide better than anybody else, so long as they allow themselves to be fobbed off with the ruling philosophy of the Liberal and Country parties that the basic matters with which I have dealt - education, health, housing, urban planning and transport - are solely or primarily matters for the States; they are no longer regarded as solely or primarily State or local matters in any country with which Australia compares herself. The Federal-State wrangle between the Premiers and the Treasurer is applauded by those who wish to minimise or discredit comparable government activity, intervention or initiative in Australia.
This Government is in the rat of inherited attitudes, inherited philosophies, inherited policies and inherited personnel. Its inability and refusal to take initiatives at home is paralleled by its inability and refusal to take initiatives abroad. In particular, in Vietnam it refuses to take any initiative whatsoever to change the course of this disastrous conflict. It denies that it has any influence. Even at this stage of the war, it has nothing to substitute for the policy enunciated 3 years ago by Sir Robert Menzies: ‘Just keep banging away’. In the last debate on Vietnam in this House, on 26th October last, the Minister for External Affairs (Mr Hasluck) said:
I am able to report to the House on the improved military outlook in Vietnam … a careful assessment of the facts leads to the clear conclusion that the military situation in South Vietnam is moving steadily in our favour . . . The proportion of population under enemy control steadily declines … lt is worth bearing in mind that the full weight of the -allied military effort in Vietnam is only now beginning to be felt . . . The war is by no means over but it is not at a stalemate. The immense build-up in strength and the logistic preparation give today a capacity to increase pressure at al) points. In short, we are steadily winning the war.
Could anyone accepting the Minister’s remarks last October have expected that a mere 4 months later the United States of America would be contemplating a 40% buildup upon the enormous buildup which, as the Minister correctly, said, had been brought to completion last year?
The events of the last few weeks prove once more what has been repeatedly made clear throughout the course of this war: Every escalation brings its counter escalation. The Vietcong are stronger now than when Australians first went to Vietnam. When the bombing of the North began in February 1965, there was one battalion of North Vietnamese regulars confirmed by American intelligence as fighting in South Vietnam. As America enlarged the number of her ground combat forces, the North Vietnamese increased their commitment.
The intensification of the bombing of North Vietnam has resulted in the development in North Vietnam, with increasing Russian assistance, of the most formidable air defence system yet used in war. lt has resulted in increased losses of American planes and pilots. As the Americans have introduced more and more fire power, so have the Vietcong and the North Vietnamese become better and better equipped. Five years ago, the Vietcong relied largely on obsolete homemade or captured weapons. Today they are equipped with the very latest and best Russian, Chinese, Czechoslovakkian and German weapons. The very steps which the allies have taken to end the war by military means and to win the war by military means have guaranteed its prolongation and its intensification. The escalation and intensification have happened, not despite the allies’ strategy, but because of it. Prolongation is inherent and inevitable with the present method of conducting the war. The most significant result of the present mode of conducting the war is that its original objectives automatically are obscured even to the point of disappearing. Increasingly, it becomes a war not about the rights of the Vietnamese people but about the prestige of America, on the one hand, and Russia, on the other, in Asia. In these circumstances, the people of Vietnam increasingly are forgotten and the South Vietnamese Government itself falls increasingly into a subordinate, almost irrelevant, role.
If this process continues, all the declared objectives of the Manilla Conference - a viable South Vietnamese Government, free elections, withdrawal of all allied forces within 6 months of pacification - become absolutely meaningless and unattainable. Either the conduct of the war must bv redrawn or its objectives must be redefined. The current course of the war cannot achieve the present avowed objectives of the allies. The strategy is inherently destructive of the objectives. Perhaps the most revealing comment of the whole war was made by an American officer after the recapture of one of the thirty-six provincial centres overrun during the Tet offensive when he said: ‘It was necessary to destroy the town in order to save it’. Is the epitaph of this war to be: It was necessary to destroy Vietnam in order to save Vietnam?
One of the declared objectives of the Manila Conference was that the war would be ended on the basis of a negotiated settlement as soon as North Vietnam would negotiate. It is time that the Australian Government - one of the signatories - insisted on a return to the objectives of the Manila Conference. The history of the attitude of both sides to the negotiations is a tragic one. Both sides have claimed that their objective is to negotiate at some time - but never now. A temporary advantage for one side has been used by both sides as a reason to postpone negotiations. A temporary setback has equally been used as a reason against negotiations. When one side appears to be making ground, the argument advanced is that if it holds out a little longer, it can win complete victory. Conversely, if it loses ground, the argument is that it cannot negotiate from a weakened position. Thus, the relatively promising appearance of the war early in 1967 and the darker appearance of the war in 1968 are used equally as arguments against the possibility and desirability of trying to negotiate now. This is a recipe for perpetual war.
It is in this context that the absolute necessity of ending the bombing of North Vietnam becomes apparent. The truth of the statements last year by the former United States Defence Secretary, Mr McNamara, has now become very clear. He said that the bombing had not substantially hampered the flow of men and materials to the South, and it would not bring Hanoi to the conference table. Cessation of the bombing is the most fruitful act of de-escalation now open to the a;lies. It could not guarantee that negotiations would begin, although Hanoi states that it could, the French Government asserts that it would, and U Thant believes that it would. In the perspective of world wide diplomacy, the continuation of the bombing represents a grave and continuing source of weakness in America’s international stance. Stopping the bombing would overnight change this situation. It would change the nature and direction of the pressure being put upon the combatants by their respective allies and friends. While the bombing continues, North Vietnam is encouraged to resist; America is pressured to desist. If the bombing stopped, the pressure would be on North Vietnam to negotiate.
More than anything else, America’s European allies and Asian friends object vo the bombing of North Vietnam. Russia, Hanoi’s chief backer, will put no pressure on North Vietnam to negotiate while the bombing continues. Russia cannot afford to see America humiliated in this war; it is a blind mistake to believe that Russia wants to see an end to American influence and the American presence in South East Asia. To believe otherwise is to have total disregard for every significant development in the Communist world for the last decade. But equally, Russia cannot afford to allow North Vietnam to be defeated in this war. There is no contradiction in this Russian attitude. The reason is the same in both cases - her relations with China. But Russia will not, and cannot, put pressure on Hanoi to negotiate unless the bombing is stopped.
In the case of the nuclear nonproliferation treaty, the two great super-powers have clearly shown how well and how effectively they can co-operate when they believe their vital interests are involved. But there will be no co-operation to end the war in Vietnam until the bombing stops, and no government is so well placed to insist that it should be stopped as the Australian Government.
There is a curious contradiction in the Government’s approach. In domestic matters, it exaggerates our current performances; in international matters, it downgrades our significance. The present Prime Minister always emphasises the limitations imposed by our own demands and desires. The former Prime Minister used to assert: We are not a major power’. The fact is that in our region we are a very significant nation indeed by any standard. Even in terms of population, we are in the middle range of the South East Asian nations. We are the most industrialised of these nations. We are the most highly skilled of these nations. Except possibly for Indonesia, we have the greatest known resources. We have by far the highest gross national product. Not the facts of geography alone compel us to play an increasing role in the affairs of this region; our strengths demand it.
The Prime Minister said on television on 21st January:
If all our resources were directed towards assistance in these countries, they would not make a significant amount of difference there.
This is a totally fallacious view. It underrates the value of what could be done; it under-rates the power of Australia to help do it. It is necessary to see both the need and our own resources in perspective. In the current financial year, the Commonwealth has granted to Western Australia an amount exceeding 85% of all the international aid received by Indonesia from the eight donor countries last year. Is it suggested that this aid does not make a ‘significant amount of difference’? But, of course, we are not acting alone. The Pacific area is bordered by the richest power in the world, the United States, the third richest, Japan, and two of the leading developed nations, Canada and Australia. With each of those three, we have special relationships, and Australia, Japan and Canada each stand in special relationship to the United States. These are the basic fact’s to be taken into account when assessing Australia’s capacities for influence in this region, and her responsibility to use her influence in this region.
I have spoken of the need to establish conditions whereby Russia and America can co-operate to end the war in Vietnam. If it is true that we would not be in Vietnam except for the United States, it is also true that the United States would not be in Vietnam except that Vietnam is adjacent to China. In the end analysis, this war is one of the results of a mutually mindless animosity with which these two nations have viewed each other through the lens of hatred and ignorance for nearly two decades. Our responsibility is to work to create the conditions in which the two systems can compete rather than conflict. In such a competition, I have no doubt whatsoever that the United States and the best she represents is truly invincible. In creating the conditions for competition, and in the competition itself, Australia has a major role to play in building the economies, the societies and the defences of the nations of our region. Japan and Canada are ready to co-operate in this task.
We will fulfil that role better if we develop and use our resources here better. The Prime Minister seems to see these as mutually exclusive. In fact, they are complementary. We shall adequately achieve neither if the negative, unimaginative, inhibited and half-hearted policies of this
Government, as expressed in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech, are continued or condoned.
– I commence my remarks by paying a personal tribute to our late Prime Minister, the Right Honourable Harold Holt. History judges a man, but whatever it may say of our late Prime Minister he will be known as the Australian who made us aware of Asia and Asia aware of us. I should also like to mention our new Prime Minister (Mr Gorton). He is a practical, down to earth Australian who has gained what he has by hard work. He is an academic with practical knowledge, and practical knowledge is not a quality possessed by every academic. The oration we have just heard from the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) would lead listeners to believe that Australia is in dire straits. However, when we travel around the world we find that Australia is the envy of, and admired by, other countries. The Government could not have been as inefficient and the Ministers mentioned by the Leader of the Oppositioncould not be as lacking in quality as he suggested or Australia would not have attained its present standing.
I want to make brief reference to a matter that was debated in this House on Thursday last. I did not intend to say anything about external affairs, but I want to put forward an aspect of the questioning of the Vietnamese spy that has not been mentioned. Nobody condones cruelty or violence. During the Second World War I acted as brigade intelligence officer for a few months. Our manuals lay down that we must not resort to cruelty or violence. But the aspect that I want to put before the House and the Australian people is that this woman was captured in a tunnel complex from which it was possible to observe completely the movements of the Australian company that was cut about at Long Tan in August. I rely for my information on a member of this Australian company and not on a correspondent. It is reasonable to believe that the information given by the people in this tunnel complex resulted in the heavy casualties that the Australians suffered on that day. The fact of the matter is that the two North Vietnamese battalions that formed the ambush into which the
Australians walked were not quite in position. Had they been in position, our casualties would have been far heavier than eighteen killed and twenty-one wounded. The position as it is put to me is that we would have been very fortunate if any of our men had escaped. Only the superb fire discipline, the high standard of training and the courage displayed by the men on that day enabled any of them to get out. They acted in the best traditions of the Australian Army.
I want to speak particularly about water conservation. The honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) said today that no honourable member from Victoria had mentioned water conservation before the present drought.
– I did not say that at all. Be fair.
– If the honourable member did not say that, I apologise to him, but that is the impression he conveyed to me. If he did say that, it is not correct. If he did not say it, we will leave the matter as it is. It is nothing new for honourable members on this side of the House to talk about water conservation. I mentioned in my maiden speech that it is vitally important and we must conserve every drop of water that we can. I heartily endorse the remarks made the other day by the right honourable member for Fisher (Mr Adermann). The $50m which has been granted to the States for expenditure over the next 5 years is only just the beginning of what we will have to provide. Tonight the Leader of the Opposition mentioned the Snowy Mountains Authority. The Government Members National Development Committee, of which I acted as chairman for a few months in the absence of the honourable member for Balaclava (Mr Whittorn), considered in very great detail the future of this undertaking. We are indebted to the honourable member for Cunningham (Mr Connor) for giving us a degree of publicity and importance that we could not have achieved by ourselves. The basis on which we suggested the Snowy Mountains Authority should be retained in any case was not new; it was simply co-ordinated and condensed. The honourable member for Bennelong (Sir John Cramer) and the honourable member for Gwydir (Mr Ian Allan) - I am not quite certain who was first in chronological order - put forward the concept of a national body able to advise the government on various national development matters including water conservation schemes. The decision made by the Government to retain the research, investigation, design and major contracts sections of the Snowy Mountains Authority, together with sufficient administrative staff to constitute a viable entity in the context of Australia’s requirements for national development, is a very wise one. The creation of a national development organisation would be of immense value to all aspects of our progress. The possibility of the establishment of a national organisation is governed by the degree to which the States will cooperate in its use. A concrete example of the way in which a national body could be used to great advantage is the River Murray. My colleague and friend, the honourable member for Mallee (Mr Turnbull), has spoken in the House about river valley authorities. These are the only bodies by means of which we can make full and proper use and take full advantage of our water resources and deal adequately with the conservation of water, its utilisation, soil erosion, salinity, forestry and other associated matters. Mention was made of the fact that the constructing section of the Snowy Mountains Authority was only very small. I personally would like to see some construction activity still carried out by the Snowy Mountains Authority.
One matter that was not mentioned directly in His Excellency’s Speech is the situation that exists in the wool industry. Approximately 30% of Australia’s wool, the percentage varying with the seasons, is produced in areas of a semi-arid or arid nature and on country that has a very low carrying capacity, running perhaps one sheep to anything from 4 to 15 acres. The country is not suitable for any other activity. Because of its low carrying capacity, it is not suitable for fattening. Because of a lack of water facilities over a large part of the country, it is not adaptable for cattle raising. So it is confined to the production of wool. With the state of the wool industry today these areas are in very great difficulties.
The wool industry, as a whole, is going through a bad period, which is worse in these dry areas than it is in the areas that can diversify and adapt themselves to some other form of economy. The continued survival of our wool industry and its prosperity are matters of very great concern. Australia has excelled as a producer of wool, because we are the one continent in the world with a temperate climate and with a vast amount of our area at low altitudes. These conditions make Australia particularly suitable for growing fine wools. Added to that we have been fortunate, over genera-lions, to have had stud masters who have had the energy, ability and foresight - and there have been comparatively few of them - to produce high class sheep. I want to say this about stud breeders: The idea that is conjured up in people’s minds is that stud breeders make a tremendous amount of money out of breeding animals. Most stud breeders put nearly all their resources back into the improvement of their flocks or herds and make a very real contribution to the welfare of this country. They build up an asset but do not build up large sums of money.
Many things could be clone to case the lot of people in the outback areas to which 1 have referred. Finance, as I have mentioned many times in the House, must be made available on longer terms if these people arc going to continue to prosper. There is another problem which is hot large in itself, but which contributes to their difficulties. A revision of the Postal Department’s Extended Local Services Area telephone system, which would allow local telephone calls to be made to outlying centres, is urgently needed. 1 have one particularly good example of this in the Balranald district in my electorate. In addition to the major exchange, the Balranald telephone district has three minor telephone exchanges, all of which are obliged to pay trunk line charges for calls to the only centre of commerce and culture with which they can communicate. The local call zone, which is about 20 to 30 miles in the outer environs of metropolitan areas, should be increased to a much greater extent in inland areas to assist those people with their only means of communication. Another matter of vital importance to country areas is the provision in the Commonwealth Aid Roads Agreement that 40% of the money made available be used on rural roads. These are important matters for the wool industry.
The International Wool Secretariat plays a very important part in the wool industry. The cost of advertising and promotion costs may be high, but in commerce today one simply cannot do without these activities. The Managing Director of the International Wool Secretariat, Mr Vines, is an extremely able and dedicated man. His officers, whom I met in several parts of the world, reflect his ability and energy in their operations. We must endeavour to produce wool on a much wider basis because its statistical position in relation to other fibres is declining. Australia could well have another look at the merino sheep export ban. I spent some time in South Africa just after the export ban was placed on merino sheep. I have no hesitation in saying that the South African sheep had reached a standard where the ban that was placed on the export of our sheep made very little difference to the advancement of the South African industry. If the object of the ban was to retard other countries producing fine wool and threatening to rival us, the object of the ban was not fully attained. I do not suggest that the ban should be lifted completely, because I do not think this would serve any good purpose. We want to export only those sheep of reasonable quality. I suggest that an export tax be placed on such sheep, which would ensure that only those of a certain reasonable standard would be exported. The number should be limited proportionately to the sheep population in the country supplied. In order that Australian breeders should have equal opportunity to obtain top sheep it might be wise to limit sheep for export to those obtained at auction. Sheep should bc exported only to countries that are prepared to make a contribution to the International Wool Secretariat. This would be a gesture to these countries - 1 refer particularly to South American countries - which would encourage them to come in as members of the International Wool Secretariat, make a contribution and take an interest in the promotion and the betterment of wool. Another point is that if wc are to export merino fine wool sheep to the United States of America it is a reasonable thing in the cold hard world of commerce that the United States should do something about modifying the tariff that it applies to our wool. America itself does not buy a large proportion of our wool but its competition is extremely important.
I should like to mention one matter in relation to the promotion of wool. It would bc very presumptious of me to stand here in our Parliament and talk about what the International Wool Secretariat has not done, but I think that more time and energy could be spent in promoting the idea of the use of wool by younger people, in children’s clothing and that sort of thing, because if the younger people form the habit of wearing wool they will carry this habit into their adulthood. Wool is the only fibre that will readily blend with any other fibre. Every other fibre has its limitations in relation to blending. We are approaching the era of blends. This is an aspect that I hope will be promoted to a greater extent. Many people are inclined to say that wool is finished as a fibre. This is very dangerous thinking. Wool will always be a big factor in the earning of our export income. There will always be a demand and a place for wool. The question is: At what price? To suggest that it has become unimportant because we have made such big mineral finds is not in the best interest of our community. Undoubtedly, minerals will increase in importance but wool will always be an important commodity that is worth promoting. There is a human element as well as an economic element in nin in lain ing the people in the industry.
I should like to refer briefly lo the speech made in this debate on the subject of New Guinea by (he honourable member for Deakin (Mr Jarman) and to congratulate him upon it. It was an excellent, very well prepared speech. I also take this opportunity to congratulate my colleague the honourable member for the Northern Territory (Mr Calder) who wilh energy, persistence and ability has kept knocking on the door until he has obtained a full vote for the Northern Territory. He is a man to whom the greatest gratitude should be owed by the people, of the Northern Territory for having obtained a vote for their member. We could talk a lot about the subject of New Guinea. I could not disagree more strongly with what the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) said tonight about Ministers, particularly the Minister for External Territories (Mr Barnes). As I have said in this House several times, what Australia has achieved in 20 years in New Guinea is an example that the rest of the world should praise instead of criticising. There are tremendous problems in forming people so divergent in language, outlook and everything else into one community, lt is a job that cannot be done quickly but must be undertaken with commonsense. There has been mention of the great need that these people have for tertiary education. Nobody denies this but there is a much greater need for a large number of New Guineans to have secondary, technical and sub-technical education to fit them for the task that is ahead of them. Rather than condemn our Minister I congratulate him particularly. In my opinion he has done a very remarkable job since he has held his present portfolio.
– Year in, year out since my election to this honourable House I have urged the Government lo consider the establishment of a Commonwealth overseas shipping line, which I am sure would be of great benefit to the community generally and to the economy. It is a source of great wonderment lo me why this Government which boasts to all and sundry thai it comprises men of great business acumen does not set about the establishment of an oversea* shipping line as quickly as possible so as to ensure the transport of the produce of our great continent to overseas markets by the cheapest possible route. But we find just exactly the opposite. The Government insists on maintaining ils support for the great overseas shipping combine which I am sure must be a lavish contributor to the Liberal Party and Australian Country Party coalition election funds. Otherwise, how can this combine maintain its unbreakable grip on tuc control of cargoes to and from Australia? Freight charges, of course, are very important in this category. Knowing this, one would think that the leader of the Country Party, the Minister for Trade and Industry and Deputy Prime Minister (Mr McEwen), who until recently was the caretaker Prime Minister, would be sponsoring the establishment of a Commonwealth overseas line; but it appears to all members of the Australian Labor Party that he is a colossal humbug who is only hoodwinking the supporters of the Country Party, the average mcn on the land, by pretending-
– Order! I suggest that the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith withdraw that remark.
– 1 think, Mr Deputy Speaker, that ‘humbug’ is a very modest description indeed.
-Order! I suggest that the honourable member withdraw the remark.
– I withdraw, Sir, in deference to you. The average man on the land is hoodwinked by the Minister’s pretending to be their champion while he is actually just the opposite. As the records will show, all he is concerned about is the exploiters of the man on the land, the big city business interests and the overseas shipping combine which increases its freight charges at will, while he, a senior Minister, remains silent.
Of course, we have in the Government ranks the Minister for Air (Mr Freeth), who was previously Minister for Shipping and Transport. After a long period of silence on this question he reported to Cabinet the result of negotiations with the Japanese Government for the establishment of a Japanese Australian overseas shipping company, which led to the amazing decision that two cargo vessels be built, one. to be manned by an Australian crew and one to be manned by a Japanese crew. More remarkable still is the fact that that Minister agreed that both vessels be built in Japanese shipyards. Advance Australia fair! This caused consternation, of course, amongst the members of the various shipbuilding and engineering unions and it clearly shows a lack of interest by this Government in shipbuilding generally. An overseas shipping line is vital to all Australians who are interested in the future development of our country as a nation. We need our own overseas shipping line to reduce crushing freight burdens, to increase cheques to farmers and other exporters, to open vital new markets for Australian produce and to provide extensive employment in shipbuilding, metal industries marine industries and related occupations.
Need one ask why Australia needs an overseas shipping line? Australia is an island continent with 12,000 miles of coastline, many rivers and bays and beautiful harbours with deep anchorages. It is situated in the southern hemisphere, of which area 90% is ocean, and it depends mainly on markets in the northern hemisphere, 50% of the area of which is land and which has a resultant larger population. Australia ranks in the top eight exporting nations. It is not generally known that Australia has an annual export income of more than $l,000m, and that she pays approximately 25% of that to foreign shipping companies and insurance companies.
We have our own Australian National Line of over forty ships. But these are restricted, by this anti-Labor Government, to the least profitable cargoes and almost entirely to the coastal, shipping trade. Indonesia, a so called backward nation which is actually receiving monetary aid from Australia, is now developing its own overseas fleet. Switzerland, which has no coastline, has a large fleet of vessels. Norway, with a population of 3 million, has a vast fleet, as has Sweden. New Zealand, with a population of a little over 2 million, has more than twenty-five overseas ships manned by New Zealand seamen. Australian seamen walk the streets in search of work. This is the price that Australia pays for being the only country that has not a suitable ship trading overseas. I must remark here that India refused to submit to the demands of foreign interests; so she now has her own fleet. The situation makes one wonder what evil influence has control of the Australian Government and prevents it from establishing our own overseas shipping line.
I wonder whether it is generally known that after World War I we had a fleet of over sixty vessels sailing overseas. It kept freight charges down to a reasonable level and still showed a profit in its own right. Many of the ships were built here. The Fordsdale’ and ‘Ferndale’, refrigerated ships of 12,000 tons, were fine examples of the Australian shipbuilders art. This fleet of ships of the Commonwealth Government Line of steamers was so successful in keeping freights down that extreme pressure was applied by foreign interests on a gentleman - and I hope you will pardon my pun, Mr Speaker - the Prime Minister of the day, then Mr Stanley Bruce, who belonged to a party that was a forerunner of the Liberal Party of Australia. He betrayed the people of Australia and sold the Commonwealth Line to its rivals, the members of the foreign shipping combine, at a small fraction of its value. At that time a prominent his- torian. referring to ibis sellout, stated that intelligent creatures such as the kangaroo and the emu should be replaced on our coat of arms by a shorn sheep. The reward that was received by the Nationalist Party Prime Minister for his betrayal of the Australian nation by the disposal of this valuable asset was his elevation to the House of Lords. From then on he was known by the doubtful title, Lord Bruce.
Shipbuilding in Australia then went into decline and did not revive again until World War II when, because of the loss of shipping due to enemy action, we found it necessary to build our own ships, starting from scratch, with a shortage of skilled labour and materials and, of course, saddled with cost-plus racketeering. We built 1 6 merchant ships, 3 destroyers, 1 1 frigates, 60 corvettes, 2 boom defence vessels and I floating dock. Sixteen other ships of various designs have been built since or are being built as replacements for the coastal fleet. During the war years 11,987 ships, totalling 51 million tons, were repaired or overhauled in Australia. All this has been achieved despite the comparatively small number of men engaged in our shipbuilding industry. We employ 15,700 men compared with 243,100 in the United States of America, 228,000 in Britain, 140,000 in Japan, 94,000 in Germany, 57,000 in Holland and 55,000 in France.
The State Dockyard at Newcastle in New South Wales is an example of how modern ships can be built in Australia. It has produced ships like the ‘Bass Trader’ and the Princess of Tasmania’, both of which were completed well ahead of schedule. It is well known that this Dockyard owes its continued existence to public agitation. Now, however, we see signs, under a Libera] Government, that the industry is dying. An existing shipyard at Maryborough in Queensland is capable of building ships of up to 2,000 tons. One at Brisbane can build ships of up to 12,000 tons. One at Newcastle can build ships of up to 6,000 tons. Another at Sydney can build ships of up to 30,000 tons. One at Williamstown in Victoria can build ships of up to 12,000 tons. Another at Whyalla in South Australia is capable of constructing ships of up to 20,000 tons. One at Adelaide can build ships of up to 1,000 tons. These shipyards should be brought into full production and should be made increasingly efficient.
Where necessary, modern and efficiently run yards should be built by the Commonwealth Government.
But what do we find? We find that even Poland, which has been long accustomed to the souds of guns and marching armies, is getting used to a newer and happier sound - the tinkle of champagne bottles crashing against the bows of new ships, usually follower by a lusty shout in praise of Polish shipbuilding. This seems unreal in a country that was landlocked for more than a century and whose meagre Nazi controlled shipbuilding industry was turned to rubble by Allied bombing during World War If. But since the post-war boundary settlements, when Poland’s vengeful Communist leaders snatched a large chunk of German territory on the Baltic, the nation’s shipbuilding has boomed. Now only Japan, Sweden and West Germany lead Poland in the export of ocean going vessels. Polish built ships fly the flags of Britain, France, Norway, Brazil and China.
Only recently it was reported that a sleek 23,000 ton bulk carrier was delivered to Poland’s largest customer, the Soviet Union. Poland can look back on her biggest shipbuilding year ever. No fewer than sixtytwo ships, totalling 480,000 tons, were com.pleted at three major Polish yards. Order backlogs to 1970 total 1.3m. tons, which is more than the annual production of 945,000 tons from the United States and British yards combined. Since 1947, when the yard at Gdansk - formerly Danzig - launched its first post-war ship, Poland has turned out 851 vessels, including 220 merchant ships for itself. Poland has earned a solid reputation for innovation. It pioneered European production of welded steel vessels instead of rivetted vessels and it designed and built 13-000-ton factory fishing ships equipped with processing and refrigerating facilities, 100-seat movie theatres and hospitals. To speed production at the big Gdyina yard, fully automated Japanese style assembly techniques are used and fore and aft sections are constructed separately and then joined. An enthusiastic official of United Polish Shipyards, the State holding company that runs the industry, is reported as having said:
Because we have not been steeped in tradition, we have been ready to try anything new.
The building thrust has given rise to hundreds of support industries and fully 90% of ship parts are made in Poland. Polish shipbuilders are proud of their comeback from wartime destruction and they have no intention of letting up. There is also talk of building supply tankers and additional container ships, although Polish yards are not yet geared for such challenges. Mr Speaker, I ask again of the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton): What does his Government propose to do towards the inauguration of a Commonwealth overseas shipping line?
On looking around the House one observes the number of Liberal-Country Party members, approximately eighty in all, who were given great publicity at a period prior to the last election as men of high academic and intellectual standard and one wonders why it was necessary, on the death of the late Prime Minister, for the Liberal Party to be forced to consider an aspirant from the other place who, on his selection, which could not have been due to his ability ant! administrative powers, and 1 quote Sir Robert Menzies: . . quickly divested himself of his Senate robes and sought election to the House of Representatives, an election in which he was successful.
The new Prime Minister voiced his support for the general development of the Australian nation. Could I suggest to him that the basis of such development relies on the quick, cheap transport of our products to all markets of the world? Could I also humbly suggest that it is obviously most essential that a Commonwealth shipping line be constructed without delay? This is most essential to our development. Otherwise the members on this side of the House who represent the great Australian Labor Party may see the pathetic figure of our Prime Minister - despite his utterances, which are given full weight in the daily Press in an effort to build up a very ordinary Prime Minister into a public figure - crushed under the weighty influence of the powerful overseas shipping conferences, which no doubt will put him in bis place.
My information indicates that the Federal Government, under the leadership of the Prime Minister, and the New South Wales Government, under the leadership of the very negative Premier, Rob Askin, have already instructed the New South Wales Maritime Services Board to make a general survey of Botany Bay for the purpose of a secondary harbour in which shipping combines will be generously assisted at the expense of the Australian taxpayer and the inconvenience of residents of the La Perouse-Yarra Bay area in my electorate of Kingsford-Smith. The New South Wales Government suggested to the Commonwealth Government that it should seriously consider the building of a substantial breakwafer at La Perouse with the ultimate intention of using the foreshores of Botany Bay adjacent to the water frontage of the Australian Paper Mills, Bunnerong Power Station, Yarra Bay and Frenchman’s Bay for wharves, factories and other industrial development purposes. A committee known as the Botany Bay Port Development Committee was set up. The Chairman of that Committee was the Honourable A. D. Bridges, MLC, who is not an elected member of Parliament but’ an appointed member of the Upper House. The proposed development is causing great concern to the inhabitants of the area that I have mentioned as it is rumoured that the work proposed by this anti-Labor State Government will encroach along the foreshores and take full advantage of the protection offered by the breakwater.
The State Government also favours the Banksmeadow site which was proposed by the Committee, lt is proposed there to dredge the Bay as a deep harbour and construct 3 miles of wharves for a container port, lt is also proposed to construct a huge breakwater system at the heads of Botany Bay. The cost of such a scheme is conservatively estimated at $90m. It appears that Wallingford Laboratories, a top United Kingdom hydraulics firm, was preparing a report on this proposal. The provisional proposal was to reclaim 2,000 acres of Botany Bay for the port from the north-south airport runway extension to Bare Island at La Perouse. A wharf 3 miles long would be established on this frontage and a wool market would be established behind the wharves. This would cut down the handling of wool from 47 to 6 operations.
It is interesting to note that this site was selected for its proximity to railway transport and the inner city area of Sydney. It is also interesting to note that some time ago the Maritime Services Board commissioned a team of overseas experts, Sir Alexander Gibb and Associates, to report on the potential of Botany Bay for port development. That firm reported that it favoured the Banksmeadow site. In view of the proposed development of this second seaport close to Sydney, I think that it would be appropriate and good organisation for the Government, under this socalled dynamic leader, to begin the construction of ships for an overseas line which could be ready to operate by the time the Botany Bay facilities were established. Perhaps the Government proposes to continue supporting the unbreakable grip that the overseas shipping conferences have and so leave the Australian manufacturer and farmers at the mercy of this combine, which will be able in the foreseeable future to dictate economic policy in regard to world trade. I challenge the Prime Minister to carry out his proposals for the development of Australia generally by the construction of an overseas shipping line.
Mr TURNER (Bradfield) [9.481- At present we are engaged in what is known as the Address-in-Reply debate. It is a debate on a motion for the adoption of a reply to the Speech made by the GovernorGeneral last week - a Speech which is in fact the programme of the Government led by a new Prime Minister (Mr Gorton). Tonight we have had an instructive example of what such a debate can be. A long speech was read by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlarn) in which he sought to extract every ounce of political capital that he could from every section of the Australian people. He did it very well. It is part of the principal function of this Parliament to provide a platform for the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition to conduct a continuous election campaign, having regard to the next election. Besides this, other members of this House leap onto their various hobby horses and gallop off in all directions.
The honourable member for KingsfordSmith (Mr Curtin) has had something to say about the building of ships in Australia for use in overseas trade. The building of such ships in Australia would be very expensive - much more expensive than to build them in other places. Also, the manning of these ships by Australian crews would mean not only more expense but more uncertainty because Australian sailors are not renowned for being on the job at all times. Nevertheless, we should save some exchange and we should break the monopoly of the overseas shipping lines. These things are worthy to be balanced. I do not think that the honourable member has sought to balance them at all. It may well be that the new Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr Sinclair) will look at these matters. When the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith talked about the old class war and all those things, it brought hack an echo of 30 years ago in the State Parliament of New South Wales. After all, the Labor Party docs live a long way back in the past. I pass this by.
Whether or not this House or the people outside know it or not, the fact is that Australia faces a totally new situation and a new era. This is the subject to which I propose to devote my attention tonight in order to put matters a little in perspective. Whether or not Australia knows it. I believe this is a year of challenge demanding decisions by the Government of greater importance than any that have been made for many vors. This is a climactic year in tl:e history of the Australian people if I am not mistaken. I could be quite wrong. It could be business as usual. Nothing in particular may be happening at this point of time. I do not. know. But this is my assessment of the situation.
Dramatic events at home and abroad have conspired to make it so. First, we had the tragic death of our former Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt), a man who ‘~ad brought Australia into a relationship with South East Asia and the United States of America in a way that it had never been so brought before - a man whose death consummated the great achievement of his short life as Prime Minister. Secondly we have had the imminent total withdrawal of the British from east of Surz. Kipling, the poet laureate, you may say. of the Empire, foresaw this situation:
Far-called our navies melt away;
On dune, and headland sinks the fire:
Lo, all our pomp of yesterday ls one with Nineveh and Tyre!
We have witnessed nothing less than the fall of an empire in our part of the world - something that greatly concerns us. Generations of dedicated British men have brought peace and justice to peoples bordering on all the seven seas and the oceans of the world but that is gone and finished. We have to adapt ourselves to a new situation and we have not even time to weep.
Thirdly, our American allies are hard pressed in Vietnam. The mounting fury of the battle for Vietnam and for much else is coming to a climax and we are on the horns of a dilemma between devastation and defeat. Do we devastate the countryside; or do we accept defeat? Is there a third course in between? Fourthly, we are faced with a world currency crisis concerning gold, sterling and the dollar. This casts a chill shadow over international trade and the investment of funds from across the ocean. In general terms this could mean a reduction in international trade. This may not be but it could be. These four matters represent the situation in which we stand, whether or not we know it, whether or not we care at this moment. This is the situation that faces this Parliament and this people. Perhaps I am wrong in supposing this is a climactic year but this is my view. Where do we stand? We stand, I believe, on a watershed in our affairs.
We are like stout Cortez when he and all his men gazed on the Pacific ‘with a wild surmise, silent on a peak in Darien’ - the old familiar Atlantic that he knew behind him, standing on a watershed looking out at the Pacific Ocean - the unknown. What does all this portend? We stand on a watershed, as Cortez stood. Behind us is colonialism. Whether we like it or not, we have been a colony in everything but name. Whether or not we like it,, we now must be a nation in reality. The old ocean that we know is behind us and the new one that we do not know is in front - the colonial past and the national future.
What are the stigmata of colonialism in reality? Now we have to make our own alliances. Once we had an alliance with Britain that needed no making. We have to consider our own defences. Once we had the bastion of Singapore and we were protected by the British Navy. This is no more. Once our trade was all with the United Kingdom to all intent and purposes. It was ready made. It is no longer so. Our capital came from the United Kingdom. We did not have to go round the world looking for it; we did not even have to accumulate it ourselves. The skills that came with capital and the skills that were learned when people went abroad to be educated all came from the United Kingdom. This is finished. Colonialism has finished. The old familiar ocean is done; we face a new world. We face it with a new leader and a new future. I am glad the new leader is Australian to the fingertips, not British to the boot heels because we need a national leader in these times as we go into a national future. His responsibility is an awesome one. He deserves understanding, support and loyalty from us and from the nation. His responsibility is great and he is leading us as a nation into an unknown future. He faces a destiny for himself and the nation as well and he may succeed or fail. This may lead to triumph or disaster for him and for us.
The task is what? It is to promote the security and progress of this minuscule European community on the fringe of an Asia inhabited by two-thirds of the human race seething with the discontents of the past, poverty and disease and the rest, striving after the hopes of the future, seething with the revolution in rising expectations, distraught by contending political ideologies, frustrated by social and material obstacles, handicapped by creaking administrative customs and inefficiency - indeed, a witches brew if ever there was one. What are the requirements? Qualities, I suggest, both of character and intellect in our leaders, in ourselves and in the Australian people. The qualities of courage and steadfastness - just names maybe - but lack of these has broken empires and nations before now - courage and steadfastness. Skill and efficiency are qualities of the intellect that we need as well. All these of the highest order are what the nation needs now - not fiddling policies about sewers. Sewers are important but these other things are more important at this time than sewers. What is the end? What is the goal? What is the task? Nothing more, nothing less, than the survival of this new nation. We dare not fail. We have to confront our problems - problems which for so long have been swept under the carpet. I have not the time in the brief period allotted to me to give, nor would the House wish to know from me, in detail what these problems are and what solutions I suggest. Who am I to suggest solutions? But I will. We have a little time. First of all I take the frame of Parliament itself, and look at it very briefly. Let us compare it with two vital features of the American system of government. The President of the United States of America can choose whom he will to be his Ministers. In Australia the Prime Minister can choose only those who are members of Parliament. Here the Government can be no better than the members of Parliament. Let this sink in as it is vital. The second aspect of the American situation is that Congress has independent powers. There are checks and balances and a division of powers under the American system and, therefore, Congress is vigorous and dynamic.
For those who live under the Westminster system, so called, the party that supports the Government tends to be a rubber stamp. Whether it is a party whose political ideas are similar to ours or a party with opposing ideas does not matter; I am talking about systems. In our system the opposition party, as I said at the outset, simply continues an election campaign from one election to the next, extracting the last ounce of political capital from every issue but otherwise unconcerned with what may be a solution to the problems which face the nation. What are the disabilities in Australia? First of all there is the image of the member of Parliament and remember that the Government can be no better than members of Parliament because Ministers have to be drawn from the Parliament. I suggest that by reason of our history, by reason of our colonial past, the image of a member of Parliament - confused, incidentally, always with the image of the State member of Parliament, and, indeed of the contemporary State Parliament - is an image of roads and bridges, an image of persons concerned with internal domestic matters of development. Let me contrast the situation in the United Kingdom for the sake of making the point. Britain has gone through many crises from the days of Cromwell tq the days of Churchill.
– If the honourable member chooses he can go back to the days of Boadicea. Britain has had many crises in her history and any man who goes into the House of Commons knows that there at the dispatch box once stood William Pitt. William Ewart Gladstone or Churchill. He knows that they were worthy of the emulation of the most qualified people in the country, that no man can rise higher than they did, and that the position of a member of that Parliament is worthy of the compe tition of the most worthy people in the community. Is that the situation here in Australia? Secondly, we have no leisured class here as they have in England, where it was the pride and privilege of British citizens to contend for this highest office in the land. Thirdly, we have our geography. Who can attend to his affairs in the great metropolis and at the same time be in his place to vote in this Parliament? Ali this was expressed in an interview given by Dr David Butler, who some members may recall was here for 2 or 3 months at the end of last year. He was a political scientist from Nuffield College at Oxford. In an interview which was reported in the Melbourne Herald’ on 13th December 1967 he said:
The people I’ve met - the top civil servants and academics - are from the same level of talent as in Britain. 1 think they are just as talented.
The politicians are quite a bit farther down the scale. There are fewer politicians than in Britain, but even allowing for this the number who seem fairly able men, compared with others in other walks of life, is very small.
Tt is disheartening when you look at them by international standards.
– Who said that?
- Dr David Butler, who then went on to say:
The voice of Dr David Butler is not the voice of God, but I have given some reasons for feeling that what he said is true. The best government that we can have in Australia is chosen from the Parliament and Dr Butler says that our Parliament is third rate. I have given reasons which lead to this conclusion.
– He is third rate.
– I am not building myself up; I am third rate like the rest. Nevertheless, I hope. Honourable members may recall:
Hope was ever on her mountain
Watching until the day begun. Crowned with sunlight over darkness
From the still unrisen sun.
And so I hope. We can only live by hope. So there are three reasons why I believe that in 1 0 years time when I am out of this Parliament and, I hope, dead, we will be dealing not with trivial affairs, not with colonial affairs, not with roads, bridges and skeleton weed, but with what are called great affairs which will attract men of quality.
They will see that these things are worthwhile and worthy of the best intellects and the highest characters in this land. ‘These things’, they will say, ‘are worthy of me and I shall go into the Parliament.’
– Do you want to change Australians?
– I shall come to the point about changing Australians in a moment. There is no reason on earth why there should not be a sacrifice on the part of successful men in the community, business men and professional men. Some barristers have come here already, as well as solicitors, engineers, accountants and others. Why should there not be a sacrifice? Why should not a man of this kind, having at the age of 50 perhaps acquired something of a fortune, say: T owe something to my country and a job to be done there is a job worth doing. These are great and important affairs.’ Why should he not, instead of continuing to make more money when he has enough, come into the Parliament? I admit, as my friend the honourable member for Warringah (Mr St John) has said, that there is a whole band of people who cannot afford to come into Parliament. These are people, perhaps executives in large companies, university teachers and others, who cannot afford to come into Parliament. But I agree with the honourable member for Warringah - though it is not the whole answer, but only part of the answer - that salaries should be adequate to attract that kind of man, not only to this side of the House but also to the other side.
Another important point is that when we have men of this quality in the Parliament in 10 years time, they will not be content merely to sit on a bench and be counted when there is a division. They will not be content merely to attend to the individual affairs of their constituents. They will not be content to rise in their places and to say ‘Yes, yes’ to whatever the Government says or, on the other side, to say No, no* to what the Government says. They will be people who will insist on playing some part in the process of forming policies. But there is another and a final point. In 10 years time we will have a better educated youth in this country than we have ever had before. More young men and women are staying at school longer; more are going to universities; more are going overseas. Even things like television bring home to them what is going on in the world. They will not all come to this side of the House; some will come to the other side. They will not be content very much longer to put up with the kind of fustian stuff that we have just had from the honourable member for KingsfordSmith. So I say that I have hope that in 10 years time this Parliament will be worthy of this nation.
I have only a little time and a dozen matters to deal with. I shall not have time to deal with them all. I move to one other point just to indicate the kind of practical problem which has been with us for many years without our seeking a radical solution. I refer to the financial relations between the Commonwealth and the States, lt is essential that the Commonwealth should have the whip hand for two reasons. The first reason is that it has the responsibility of ensuring economic stability, which is vital. Secondly, if there is to be some question of priorities as between those matters in which the Commonwealth is concerned and those matters for which the State is responsible, in a case where national security requires that we forget for the time being the needs of education, hospitals and all the other highly desirable things, plainly we must come down on the side of those responsibilities for which the Commonwealth must make provision. So there are two reasons why the Commonwealth should always have the whip hand.
There are three possible solutions. The first is a re-allocation of fields of taxation or responsibility or of both. The second is an amendment of the relevant formula. This, of course, could lead to no solution. There could be endless bickering and great inflexibility that could be broken up only by an actual state of war. The third solution is the English system of grants in aid. The Commonwealth, in other words, could accept responsibility in these fields and ensure that the States had the necessary finances having regard to the total situation and requirements right through the spectrum. Surely these are things that should be in the mind of one parliament or one government If one government is looking in one direction and is concerned only with one type of thing whilst another government is looking in another direction and is concerned with another type of thing there is no meeting and putting of proper priorities on these matters. So I suggest that the answer is that there should be in the Prime Minister’s Department a section devoted entirely to the needs of those matters dealt with by the States. At present the demands of the various Commonwealth departments are loud in the ears of Ministers. The States are far away and their cries are faint. But if you had in the Prime Minister’s Department a section really concerned in detail with what the States require in their fields you would have a louder voice in the Prime Minister’s ear to ensure a proper balance as between Federal and State requirements. lt may be said that the States would dig in their toes and that we could not do this. There are two trump cards in the Commonwealth’s hand. The first is that offers are hard to resist, if the Commonwealth accepts this responsibility and makes offers to provide for this or that function of the States more funds than they have so that they may meet their proper needs it is very hard for the States to resist those offers. The second trump card in the Commonwealth’s hand is that none of the people in the States wants two taxing authorities. The people in the States know that if they have two taxing authorities, each unconcerned with the other, they will be ground into the earth. This, I believe, is the problem and this is the solution. I do not have time to discuss half a dozen other major problems that hitherto we have swept under the carpet. It is essential for us as a nation that we confront and deal wilh these matters. We cannot afford the inefficiences of the past. We have to be a nation. We have to go forward.
– 1 was glad to learn from the honourable member for Bradfield (Mr Turner) that our new Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) is Australian to the fingertips. I hope that he continues to go forward to the benefit of this country. I take this opportunity of congratulating him on his election. I would like also to congratulate the honourable member for Capricornia (Dr Everingham) on his speech, although I do not go along with all that he said. I know that he put a lot of time into his speech. It is a big thing to make one’s first speech in this place.
I want to make a few comments about the tragic loss of our former Prime Minister at Portsea. A suggestion has been made that the area should be known as the Harold Holt Memorial Park or Reserve. I support that suggestion. I think this would be a fitting tribute to our late Prime Minister. But I cannot agree that the area should be open to the general public. This is a very wild area. It is not an area in which people should swim. The only people who should swim in the area are exceptionally strong swimmers and people who know the right time to enter the water. When our late Prime Minister went swimming on that fateful morning everything was against him. I have spent a few years off this beach in my profession as a pilot. I have studied at length the tides and conditions in the area. I would like to make a few comments which may be of value to parents listening or later reading Hansard. After the disappearance of Mr Holt an expert was brought from New South Wales to measure the run-out at Portsea. We pilots know that at times the tide runs in and out through the heads at a velocity of 9 knots. About 1± miles from the heads where the tragedy took place the backwash was found to run at 5 knots. Let us understand what 5 knots means. A knot is a nautical term of speed. A nautical mile is approximately 2,000 yards. So if the tide, current or stream, call it what you will, is running at 5 knots it means that in 1 hour a distance of 10,000 yards is involved. In 30 minutes a floating object free to move would be swept out 5,000 yards. In 15 minutes it would be swept out 2,500 yards; in 7i minutes 1,250 yards; in 3$ minutes 625 yards; in 2 minutes about 300 yards; and in 1 minute about 150 yards. I make this observation because it is important that people who go into the water where strong currents are running know quite what they are up against. As soon as you get your feet off the bottom you are unable to swim against the current. I do not know what happened to our unfortunate and revered Prime Minister other than that he was swept out like a leaf, as one witness described it.
I make a plea to the people responsible for alerting various authorities when such incidents take place: promptness is the key at all times. A few years ago some commandos were caught in the heads when crossing Port Phillip. A general alarm was given immediately. The pilot vessel from which I used to work went to the position at once and picked up out of the water 27 of the commandos. Those men were saved because the pilot vessel was alerted promptly. The captain of the ship did such a wonderful job that in the Queen’s birthday honours list he was made a Member of the British Empire. But at Portsea last December it was not until 2.50 p.m. that the pilot vessel was notified that something was amiss. That ship could have been in the area in 20 minutes, lt could have lowered four boats and patrolled the area close to the shore. I do not suggest that it could have done anything at that stage but the point is that when incidents such as this occur it is imperative that the appropriate authorities be notified immediately so that they may get on the job. I hope than when the Victorian authority concerned is considering this tragedy, as it must, it will think about the points I have raised and sec that in future everybody is notified as quickly as possible so that the best possible course of action may be taken in the least time.
I just want to say something about what is happening in Britain at present and how it affects this country. I know that at this time my speech is of insignificant importance because the British Government is about to bring in its new Budget. 1 feel that some of the measures that have been adopted in Britain recently have not been in her interest. Honourable members will recall that the British Parliament decided by a very small majority not to provide South Africa with arms. I think this was ill advised. As soon as Britain said that she would not supply arms, France, the nation next door, said that it would do so. So France obtained South African orders instead of Britain. The irony of the situation is that France is the nation that is continually keeping Britain out of the European Common Market. So when Britain said that she would not supply arms to South Africa, France took the opportunity.
– The French do not have the principles that Britain has.
– A very great principle is involved. I shall discuss it later. I think what was done was wrong. The recent arms embargo and vetoes on South Africa and other countries have cost Britain dearly. Over £Stg300m has been lost in warship orders alone. On top of this, Britain has lost the opportunity to tender for the building of warships for countries that have always dealt with her. According to ‘Lloyds List and Shipping Gazette’, some 50 vessels are concerned - 28 destroyers and frigates and 22 submarines. These orders would be worth about £Stg300m. Portugal has always traditionally leant on Britain for the supply of warships and arms. It has recently ordered 4 frigates and 4 Daphne class submarines from France. The honourable member for Hunter (Mt James) spoke of principles. I do not like to see these ship orders going from Britain to France; I think they should go to Britain. These ships will be built no matter what happens. West Germany is having three guided missile destroyers built in the United States of America. Argentina, because of what she described as bad terms, has abandoned an order for the construction of four Leander class frigates in Britain. Pakistan has acquired a submarine from the United States and has ordered three Daphne class submarines from France. Spain wanted British Leander class frigates. Her order has been cancelled and she has now ordered 5 Daphne class submarines and 5 United States Brooke class guided missile destroyers. India could not obtain suitable terms. She wanted Oberon class submarines. She has now ordered 3 Daphne class submarines from France and 3 submarines and 15 other warships from the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. Indian and South African personnel have been trained in Britain to man British built ships, but as these countries have had to look elsewhere, the training has been for naught.
I am very much concerned at the turn of events in Britain, for Britain cannot afford to lose orders such as I have just described, lt is very hard to get a clear picture of which way Britain is going. Whatever Britain does in the maritime field brushes off on us in Australia. We depend a lot on British ships for the transport of our primary products and for the carriage of our goods to markets in Europe.
– We should build our own ships.
– Now that the Suez Canal is closed this is more important than ever. 1 was very pleased to hear the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith say that we should build our own ships. 1 go along with him on this point. But we have to be realistic about some matters. I just want to say that if a country whose commerce and trade depend on maritime activity is to prosper, those who man the ships must be non-political. They must keep politics out of their work altogether. I say to the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith and all other honourable members that when we commence our service to Japan we should consider what will happen if it is necessary to divert our new ship to Vietnam, whether or not this is done to transport’ war material. Will the ship go to Vietnam? Will the seamen who man the ship take it there? It costs a lot of money to run ships. When we start our overseas shipping line, will the seamen who man the ships run them to South Africa? I do not say that they will not. Until we are prepared to trade to all parts of the world the operation of an overseas shipping line will be a very costly exercise. If ships are not run efficiently, you and 1 will pay, because no matter what government is in office, if the operation is not running profitably taxes will have to go up. I wish our overseas shipping line the greatest of success. I want to see it come about as quickly as possible. But I want to see politics kept out of its operations altogether. Come what may, no matter what the seamen think about this country or that country, the ships will be manned.
As the House knows, at present the Suez Canal is closed and it is necessary for us to send our goods to the European market via the Cape of Good Hope. The extra distance via the Cape of Good Hope is not as great as most people think. Let us take Sydney as a central point in Australia and Liverpool as a central point in Europe. The distance from Sydney to Liverpool via the Suez Canal is 11,501 miles. The distance from Sydney to Liverpool via the Cape of Good Hope is 12,595 miles - an extra 1,094 miles. A modern ship travelling at 20 knots would take two extra days to travel this additional distance. However, a ship travelling to London via the Suez Canal has two days delay. A day is taken in travelling through the Suez Canal even if she is lucky enough to get a convoy straight away, and another day taken up in bunkering in Aden. In my opinion it is essential that we in Australia have a better understanding with South Africa, because if South Africa falls out with Britain and says that British ships cannot use South African ports, this would mean that ships would have to bunker with enough oil for the entire trip to Australia. The more oil that is put into a ship the less cargo can be carried and vice versa. So when ships are in Australia loading cargo for Great Britain and are not allowed into South Africa-
– I do not think thai the British believe that will happen.
– I have read in the newspapers that South Africa has said thai it will deny use of the Simonstown Dock to Britain if the present British attitude is maintained. This is a very serious development. So that Australia can send its primary produce to European markets, it is essential for South Africa to remain open to ships sailing from Australia to Great Britain. If the ships must complete the entire journey to Britain, they must take more oil and less cargo. I hope we will reach a better understanding with South Africa.
– Could the ships not refuel at Mombasa?
– No, we are not going that way. We must go around the Cape of Good Hope. I hope that these factors will be understood. I was speaking to a Government official recently about the surcharge. I was informed that this has been imposed because of the two extra days that are added to the journey when ships go around the Cape of Good Hope. The current events in the Indian Ocean make it most important for us to have a good understanding of what is happening. As the honourable member for Perth (Mr Chaney) said, the Russian Navy has moved into the- Indian Ocean. Time’ magazine of 23rd February 1968 reported that a Russian admiral, Admiral Sergei Gorshkov, who was visiting indian ports, said:
The flag of the Soviet Navy now proudly flies over the oceans of the world. Sooner or later, the United States will have to understand that it no longer has mastery of the seas. I have never known the United States to claim that it has mastery of the seas, although it has a mighty fleet. When words such as those that I have read are uttered, they show that one nation is cognisant of the activities of another nation. If the Suez Canal remains closed, we must, as the honourable member for Perth said, ensure that our sea lanes are always open. We will always need the means to take our exports to other markets. The apple season in Tasmania is commencing now. The crop will be exported from ports in the south of Australia and it is only natural that the ships must go south about and around the Cape so that the goods will reach their destination. But we must ensure that we have the ships available and, if necessary, the protection for them so that they can ply on the world’s sea lanes.
The Governor-General said:
Therefore, in addition to providing economic and technical assistance and training to Singapore and Malaysia to help them build up their own forces, my Government will participate in Five Power consultations when they are called and will be prepared to discuss the size and role of an Australian contribution to combined defence arrangements which embrace a joint Singapore/ Malaysia defence effort. 1 hope that the Australian Government will work out a plan with the Singapore Government that will enable the two governments to take over the Singapore naval base when Britain vacates it. If necessary, the governments should allow merchant ships to use the base for repairs and docking. Mr Lee Kuan Yew has pointed out that 30,000 Singapore families depend upon the base for their livelihood. While we have forces in South East Asia and while our naval forces are patrolling in the area, we will need to have somewhere to dock and repair our ships. Therefore 1 make the plea that action be taken to ensure that the dock will remain open for (he use of Australian ships if we continue operating in the area, lt must also be kept open for the. use of merchant ships that need to be docked and repaired, ( hope the Government will offer to take over the dock with Singapore when Britain leaves.
I was very pleased a few weeks ago to learn of decorations that had been awarded to some members of our forces, especially to national servicemen fighting in Vietnam. ] was very pleased to see on television a young national serviceman being awarded the military medal.
– lt is a terrible war.
– I am not talking about the war. This young man had been discharged from the Army and was back in civil life. Nine months after he had earned the award it was presented to him. That is not good enough. I am glad to know that the deeds of these men are being recognised and I hope they will always be recognised. A military medal is not easily won. But a delay of 9 months after the event, when the man is discharged, is much too long. I hope, that the Minister for the Army (Mr Lynch) or the Minister for Defence (Mr Fairhall) will take this matter up with the British Government. It should recognise that we are a responsible nation and should give us the right to issue, decorations readily instead of continuing with the old-fashioned idea of getting the approval of the British Government, because they are British decorations, before they are awarded, lt is time that we made our own awards, especially decorations as significant as the military medal is. I am very glad to see that the national servicemen are receiving a full measure of these awards and are playing their full part for the benefit of Australia.
-! have very much pleasure in strongly supporting the last remarks of the honourable member for Bittman (Mr Benson). It is odd that the first item I wished to mention in this debate was the delay in the award of medals for bravery. Some servicemen have had to wait for a year from the date of the action for which they were awarded a decoration until the date on which it was approved. Today I made some inquiries and I found that one reason for the delay is that final approval for the award must be given by Her Majesty the Queen. I do not suggest that this is a reason for very much of the delay, but it is a procedure that 1 find unattractive. The time has come for us to make our own awards and the GovernorGeneral should approve of them. I am very sensitive about this. The awards are being earned in a war in which Great Britain is not taking a part and is not supporting us. I find this offensive. Not only is she not supporting us; in Government circles and in other places she is critical of our involvement. Britain is not involved in sending civil aid. The only record I could find of any help being given by the British Government in Vietnam concerned one specialist doctor and some medical supplies. - Britain has washed her hands of the whole of our involvement in Vietnam and it is not proper that Britain should have any connection with the approval of our awards for gallantry. I am concerned about the series of broken promises made by the United Kingdom not only to us but also to Malaysia and Singapore. The final piece of irony about the whole business is that
Britain is making money out of the war by shipping goods to North Vietnam, our enemy. I support the honourable member for Batman and urge the Government to implement this system whereby our own awards for gallantry are approved by the Governor-General.
I deal now with that part of the GovernorGeneral’s Speech which deals with defence. I do not think any honourable member has noticed this item. The Governor-General said:
My Government regards defence as a major responsibility and the expansion and reequipment of our forces steadily proceeds. 1 deal with the question of expansion. We all know that very shortly my colleague, the honourable member for Henty (Mr Fox) will be supervising a national service ballot. At the moment one in nine young men are balloted for national service. I have no argument with the system, which is the only fair one. No-one would want to see introduced here the system that exists in the United States of America, where a draft board consisting of leading citizens is set up to select candidates. This system could be open to corruption and is entirely unsatisfactory. I am happy with the system of balloting that exists at the moment, but I am not happy with the numbers being called up; not enough are called up. The Defence Report 1967, tabled last session, deals with national servicemen and volunteers. Much of the Report suggests that we could maintain our defence commitments with volunteers. I do not believe w can.
The attitude of young people today is different from what it v.as in 1939. The Report confirms increased enrolments in the Citizen Military Forces. Increased enrolment is not due to any rushing to the colours by young men but is due substantially to the fact that by enlisting in the CMF a young man is exempted from national service. I am not critical of this, but we must be realistic. We must expand our forces rapidly. As the honourable member for Bradfield (Mr Turner) said tonight, an emergency exists now that the United Kingdom is rapidly withdrawing from east of Suez. I would not want to see the same situation exist that existed in Australia between 1940 and 1943, when I was a recruit. I remember one 19-year-old friend of mine, who enlisted, went to Buna, saw his first action and came back to a hospital in Australia, all in approximately 6 weeks. That is an indication of how poorly trained we were. At one stage my unit was in position to defend Port Moresby. We had 18-pounders which were used as artillery weapons in the First World War. If the Japanese had attacked Port Moresby we could not have defended the place. In the first action in which my unit took part we were using 35 lb howitzers of 1908 vintage.
– Bob Menzies was to blame for that.
– We do not want to go over that subject as we did during the last sessional period. I am anxious that our soldiers should not again be given such inadequate training and be provided with such antiquated equipment. I realise I do not have sufficient time to build up a tremendous story but I am anxious that ultimately - perhaps not in 5 years or 10 years but al some point in time - we will have a society in which every young man will be called up for national service. Whether it takes 5, 10 or 15 years to implement that policy is not very important provided we decide upon that policy. In my opinion every young man should be trained at some stage in his life so that he will be able to defend this country. We would have a formidable Army - we have one now - which would be 8 or 9 times its present size.
The expansion of our forces, to which reference was made in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech, should be speeded up as a matter of extreme urgency. The Government, while hoping for the best, should be preparing for the worst and national service should be stepped up progressively to the ultimate target of every Australian of military age having undergone military training. At the same time we should be doing something about the young women in the community. They should be given an opportunity to train and relieve men from base duties.
I want to refer briefly to the disgust 1 felt at the debate last week on the so-called torture of a Vietcong spy. I was concerned to note that honourable members opposite, certain sections of the Press and the Australian Broadcasting Commission went to a great deal of trouble to belittle our soldiers. Let me quote from the excellent speech made by the Minister for Defence (Mr Fairhall) which was not reported very ex- tensively. He said:
The Leader of the Opposition - surprisingly, unbelievably - is reported in today’s Press as having urged that we should give safe passage to this Vietcong spy, that we should bring her to Australia to give evidence against one of our own compatriots.
– Mr Speaker, I raise a point of order. Has there been an alteration in the standing order relating to a reference to a previous debate in this House?
– No. The fact is that the honourable member for Boothby is making a passing reference to the debate.
– He can do that?
– Yes. He is quite in order in making a passing reference to the debate but 1 say to the honourable member for Boothby that he should not continue along that line for any great distance.
– I will not mention it again and I am sure that will satisfy all honourable members. However, I should like to refer to a letter 1 received on 10th February from a young friend of mine who is a national serviceman at present serving in Vietnam, and to a second letter I received from him a few days ago. 1 am concerned because what I believe to be important points of view put forward by honourable members on the Government side are rarely properly and fully reported. I am anxious to say something tonight because the proceedings of this House are being broadcast and only in this event can we be sure that what we believe in is transmitted to the public. Some sections of the Press are very good at using headlines such as one which appeared in a Victorian newspaper last Friday. It reads: ‘PM Admits Torture Charges’. The word ‘torture’ is not even in parenthesis, as it should have been because this was a long way from being torture. I propose to illustrate to honourable gentlemen opposite just what torture or sadism really is. I have a letter that I received from a national serviceman serving in Vietnam which reads:
These Vietcong are dirty little sadistic animals. Over half the people in Baria have been murdered by these . . .
I cannot use the next word, Mr Speaker, because I think you would rule it to be unparliamentary, but it is a word that I, too, use to describe them. The letter continues: . . when they had control .of the town. A lot of women were raped over and over and then bad their throats slit. The old lady who did our laundry for us was found crucified, nailed to » wall, with her throat cm, so that will give you an idea of what goes on. If any of these Vietnam war sympathisers try and rubbish our commitment here when I’m around there will be a considerable number of knuckle sandwiches handed out, I’m afraid.
This is the final sentence that I would like to read:
God help us if we don’t slop them here and they get to Australia.
That is what I call torture. Another letter from the same young man has just arrived. A very brief extract reads:
I Inn a letter from Dad this morning and he is worried sick about me as are the rest of my family.
This is what worries me - the sort of rubbishing which is done to secure political advantage and which obviously has an effect on the morale of our troops up there. I would say to all of the men on service and to their parents and sweethearts that we in this part of Australia are proud of them, and I am sure that 1 speak for almost all Australians. To the parents, families and sweethearts of the 18 killed and 21 wounded as a result of the action referred to earlier tonight I say: ‘We are proud of you.’ I should like to read, because they are appropriate, brief extracts from statements made by a British journalist in the Daily Mail’ just a couple of weeks ago. Referring to the war in Vietnam and his own shame that Great Britain was not involved with us, he wrote:
The war there is confused and horrible, its aims blurred, its methods savage, ils cost in innocent blood uncountable. But if it is lost, if the Americans finally get. tired of doing the world’s work for nothing but the world’s abuse, if South Vietnam is left too ils fate, then what will follow is not merely the piecemeal engulfing of the rest of South East Asia. What will follow, as surely as Austria followed the Rhineland, and Czechoslovakia followed Austria, and Poland followed Czechoslovakia, and 6 years of world war followed Poland, is a nuclear confrontation on a global scale between the forces at present engaged in one tiny corner of the globe.
I will go along with that. To those who have loved ones serving in Vietnam and other theatres of war, I pass on these final words of the journalist:
Our words may be useless, but they are all we have to offer. We understand why you are there, and know that your cause is ours too.
I close on that note, and I am pleased to be able to do so while we are on the air.
Debate (on motion by Mr Cope) adjourned.
House adjourned at 10,55 p.m.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
asked the Treasurer, upon notice:
What amounts were paid during 1966-67 to the recipients of benefits in New South Wales under the following heads: (a) maternity allowances, (b) child endowment, (c) unemployment and sickness benefits, (d) widows’ pensions, (e) age pensions, (f) invalid pensions, (g) payments to blind persons, (h) wife allowances, (i) child allowances, (j) funeral benefits, (k) rehabilitation payments, 0) reciprocal agreements payments, (m) homes for the aged, (n) accommodation for disabled persons and (o) health benefits?
– The relevant Commonwealth payments to or in respect of beneficiaries in New South Wales in 1966-67 are as follows:
asked the Treasurer, upon notice:
What amounts were paid during 1966-67 to the recipients in New South Wales of (a) war pensions and (b) other repatriation payments?
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Exter nal Affairs, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s questions is as follows:
The position of the Australian Government continues to be as given on 19th October 1967 by the late Prime Minister, Mr Holt, to the question asked then by the honourable member. No specific initiatives have been taken by the Australian Government, but the appeal of His Holiness is kept in mind in the Government’s approach to the questions of world disarmament and of international economic development.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 19 March 1968, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1968/19680319_reps_26_hor58/>.