26th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr SPEAKER (Hon. W. J. Aston) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., andread prayers.
Non-military Overseas Aid
Mr WHITLAM presented a petition from certain citizens of Australia praying that the Australian Government increase by an immense amount its contributions to nonmilitary overseas aid, such aid to be financed, if necessary, by increases in taxation, administered by some international organisation such as the United Nations and offered to countries without reference to political advantage or purposes, but solely on the basis of need.
Petition received and read.
– Can the Minister for the Interior say whether it is a fact that the remuneration paid to presiding officers in charge of subdivisional polling booths during Federal elections in South Australia is much less than that paid to officers performing similar duties during South Australian State elections? If so, will the Minister take appropriate steps to adjust this anomaly?
-I am not aware of the amount paid to South Australian electoral officers, but representations have been made to me about the amount paid to those employed by the Commonwealth during elections. These representations are presently being investigated. I will compare the figures and if there is an anomaly I will try to correct the position.
– Will the Minister for Labour and National Service consider altering the national service training regulations so that not more than one man from any one family may be called up for national service training or, alternatively, so that a widow who has already had one son killed in the Army will not have another son called up?
- Mr Speaker, I will be very pleased to listen in detail to any representations the honourable member may make to me, together with his reasons for so doing. I take it he is aware that in cases where there has been a casualty in a family the Army does take special steps to prevent, as far as possible, a repetition of that unfortunate occurrence. It the honourable member, or any other honourable members wish to put this matter to me in further detailI will examine the question and explain the present policy to them.
– I desire to ask the Prime Minister a question. According to the words of the Deputy Prime Minister, Australia has been able to avoid devaluation only by the massive inflow of foreign capital.I ask: As the measures designed to reduce the balance of payment deficits of the United Kingdom and the United States of America will immensely reduce the flow of capital to Australia, what action or actions will the Government take to prevent devaluation of the Australian currency in the near future? Will the Prime Minister or the Treasurer make a statement to Parliament at the earliest practicable time about what needs to be done to safeguard the Australian economy from the ill effects of the British devaluation, the gold crisis and the United Kingdom Budget?
– I have seen nothing whatever to indicate that the flow of overseas capital for the development of Australia has in fact fallen off or been diminished. In regard to the second part of the question asked by the honourable member, relating to the effects of the devaluation of the British currency on Australian industries, I would point out to him that there have been committees established, both in the primary industries and in the secondary industries, to investigate where losses have actually occurred. The Government has indicated that it would not expect those losses to be borne by those industries - I speak of actual losses, not of avoidance of gains - rather than the community in general.
– My question is to the Treasurer and is supplementary to questions asked yesterday by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. I refer to the last International Monetary Fund meeting at which the Australian representative advocated the development of a new type of international currency to supplement gold. I understand that if this happened many of the vagaries and fluctuations could be taken out of the market for foreign currency. Could the Treasurer inform the House whether this is so and whether the very recent developments in Washington give any hope for the early establishment of such an international currency?
– It is true, as the honourable member said, that at the last meeting of the International Monetary Fund in Rio De Janeiro a decision was taken, with only one nation conditionally agreeing, that a new international currency be established and that it be called a drawing right. It was also decided that the administrative arrangements should be left in the hands of an executive committee to work out ways and means by which this new drawing right could be brought into existence. I have had some doubts until recent months as to whether there was any real prospect of an agreement being reached at the September meeting of the IMF this year so that the money, or the international currency, could actually be created some time in 1969.
In the communique recently issued as a result of the Washington meeting it was stated that the existing holding of gold, together with the prospect of creating this new currency, meant that it was no longer necessary for the international authorities to buy and sell gold in the market. There has also been a very favourable statement - an optimistic statement - made by Sir Leslie O’Brien, the Governor of the Bank of England, the reserve bank in the United Kingdom, in which he expressed the hope that very shortly the executive committee will be able to make recommendations for submission to the Fund at its September meeting. Sir Leslie also has the hope - and he is very close to the centre of this problem - that this new international currency will be brought into being some time in 1969.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Health. Will he obtain for the House the reasons for the restriction of the use of the drug propanalol hydrochloride under the pharmaceutical benefit’s scheme to hospital patients only, particularly when hospital specialists have prescribed it for ambulant treatment after extensive hospital investigation; and for the temporary removal of phenylbutazone from and later its restoration, with restrictions, to the list of pharmaceutical benefits?
– Mr Speaker, the answer ro the honourable gentleman’s question is yes, I will obtain the information that he desires.
– I direct my question to the Treasurer. As there does not seem to be sufficient understanding of the help given by the Commonwealth to the States for drought relief, and other financial assistance, could he inform me of the total amount of money over and above the original estimates that is made available or committed for drought relief by the Commonwealth to the States in the financial grants payable during the year?
– I am sure that the House will be grateful to the honourable member for drawing its attention to the fact that there is generally insufficient information about the extent to which the Commonwealth is helping the States in drought assistance and through general revenue grants. I am referring to the assistance that is given over and above what is provided for in the Budget and that given at the Australian Loan Council and the Premiers Conference this year.
As to drought relief, we did budget for about $7,750,000 to be made available. The amount’ now contemplated for drought relief itself is of the order of $19,370,000. That is a fairly large increase. An amount of SI 3m was also recently granted to those eastern States that were suffering from the drought. This amount was allocated to those States in proportion to their general revenue grants. As well, I can mention that in terms of the grants formula itself, and because of the average increase in salaries and wages, the States will receive an amount of about $5m over and above their Budget expectation. So the total amount that the Government will make available over and above the Budget expectation is very close to $30m. I regard this as substantial, and it is a fact that ought to be made known to the States and to the Australian people.
The House will remember (hat recently I prepared a document which was made available to honourable members, and which indicated in precise terms the extent and the way in which the Commonwealth is prepared to assist the States. As I think this matter is so important I will have that document brought up to date. It should be available early next week. If honourable members would like a copy of that document, together with a statement showing the amount of funds being made available and a break-up as between the States, 1 will be only too happy to make that information available to them.
– I desire to ask a question of the Minister for Social Services. The Minister would be aware that approved organisations are subsidised $2 for $1 in respect of homes built for aged persons as tenants, and in some cases institutional buildings to accommodate large numbers of aged persons. Is he aware that some tenants of houses and some occupants of such institutions complain that they are obliged to pay an entry fee of up to $2,000 whilst others are obliged to pay money into a trust fund to meet likely occurring bad debts? Is he aware of any unjust exploitation of these people? Will the Minister inform the House whether his Department exercises any control over the running of these places after they have been completed and handed over to such organisations?
– It is not the policy of the Department generally to exercise control over the running of these homes. It is hoped that this will be done independently and this was a fundamental feature of the scheme when it was formulated. It is always a matter of choice for a person as to whether or not he enters such a home. Therefore I should have thought that the question of justice or injustice did not arise. However, if the honourable member has a case in mind which he would like to bring to my attention, and in particular if he has in mind anything which would help in the general administration of this wonderfully beneficial Act, which is one of the really great acts of this Government, I can assure him that he will have my personal sympathy and attention. I say to honourable members opposite, as I say also to honourable members on the Government side of the chamber, that if they have in their knowledge anything which would tend to improve the already excellent administration of our social services I would be only too happy to hear from them and to accept any constructive suggestions, from whichever side of the House they may come.
– Is the Minister for the Interior aware that when a divisional enrolment of electors reaches 75,000 the Commonwealth Electoral Office divisional returning office staff is strengthened by one additional senior staff member and that when the enrolment reaches 100,000 a further senior staff member is appointed to the divisional returning office staff? Can he explain why a similar practice cannot be adopted in regard to the office staff of members of this House?
– I am not sure that I understand the implication of the question. Does it relate to the honourable member’s personal staff? I did not hear the last part of the question.
– Order 1 1 ask the honourable member for Mitchell to repeat only the last part of the question.
– That will not be necessary, Sir, as the Prime Minister has explained it to me. The reason why nothing is done about an electorate which reaches an enrolment figure of 120,000 or something of that’ order is that normal redistribution takes care of that problem. I am able to tell the House that the Prime Minister has agreed to this question being looked at. I am aware of the honourable member’s particular problem and I hope to be able to tell him within a day or two that a solution of his problem has been arrived at.
– I ask the Minister for Social Services a question. The honourable gentleman will be aware that entitlements under the means test provisions as shown on the social service benefits brochures are very difficult for the average person to understand. Will the Minister review this matter with a view to having the entitlements printed in more easily understandable wording?
– The problem mentioned by the honourable member is one which has already engaged my attention and, I think, the attention also of the honourable member for Sturt. The simplification of these forms, the printing of them in more understandable language and, indeed, in larger type so that they can be more easily read are matters at present being considered by my Department. I should think also that the colour of the type on the forms is important when we are dealing with elderly people, and it is with elderly people that we are dealing very largely in the filling in of these forms. These are all important matters. My Department is at present considering the possibility of simplifying all these forms and the explanatory pamphlets which are sent out in association with them.
– My question without notice is directed to the PostmasterGeneral. The Minister will appreciate that many companies have just cleared the aftermath of the recent postal strike when delayed shipping papers, bank documents and overseas credits resulted in complete chaos on wharves and at railheads where goods piled up, resulting in cancelled orders and great losses in storage costs. It is bad enough for the public at large-
-Order! The honourable member’s preface is far too long. He will now ask his question.
– I have only a few more words - but the prospect of another strike is appalling for business people. Will the Minister make it clear that the Government is doing everything in its power to avert a strike so that if such a calamity occurs the people will know where the responsibility lies?
– The Government is quite aware of the disruption of industry caused by a postal strike. Indeed, as the honourable member has said, every member of the Australian community is adversely affected. I think it fair to say that no disruption is greater than that which flows from a postal strike which lasts for a week or 10 days, as did the last strike. The Government, of course, is certainly doing everything it possibly can to avert a recurrence of this trouble but this is not a one-sided operation.
Responsibility, we hope, will be shown by the members of the unions concerned as well. When I say this I would impress upon honourable members that the principles of arbitration as they are set out in the arbitration legislation of this Parliament are of course accepted by the Government and must be abided by in relation to any court action or statutory conferences associated with these matters.
– I ask the Minister for Defence a question. Last Thursday night he told the House that a week after the event he flew over the area where the Vietcong woman agent was captured in October 1966. Since, as the Minister for the Army stated that night, the agent was captured on the 24th of that month, and the major appointed by the task force commander to conduct an investigation into the circumstances of her interrogation had completed his investigation by the 31st of that month - a week later - 1 now ask whether the Minister while in that area was informed that such an investigation had been held.
– I thought 1 had made it perfectly clear last night that the Army put this matter in proper perspective, dealt with it on the spot adequately and put the papers away.
– My question, which is addressed to the Minister for Education and Science, concerns the establishment of the Griffith University in Brisbane. The honourable gentleman will recall that I recently asked him whether anything could be done by the Government reasonably to expedite the establishment of that university. Has his attention been directed to a report made by the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Queensland, Sir Fred Schonell, to the effect that general quotas will have to be applied throughout the University of Queensland owing to the freezing - that is the term Sir Fred has used - of the construction of the Griffith University? I ask the honourable gentleman further, and finally: If this term is a happy one, who has done the freezing and what can the Government do to bring about a thaw?
– I have been in touch with the Australian Universities Commission about this matter and have been given no information that would confirm that general quotas will be applied in the University of Queensland. The Commonwealth has tried to keep to the general principle that once the triennial programme has been established for a university it will not be upset within the triennium by supplementary requests or supplementary grants of one kind or another. I would want to maintain this principle because I think that it is important to the sound planning of universities. lt needs to be quite clearly understood, I think, that when the plans and programmes for the present triennium were being agreed, the Commonwealth made approaches to the States and sought from the States information concerning the upper limits of university programmes which each State would be able to support. With minor exceptions, which are not relevant to this case concerning Queensland, the Commonwealth did support the upper limit to which each State including Queensland said it was prepared to go. Thus, any limitation, if in fact there has been a limitation in relation to Queensland, cannot be said to be as a result of a Commonwealth decision. 1 think that the honourable member may be interested to know that the Queensland University in this triennium is getting its capital funds increased to $6.4m compared with $5.4m for the last triennium. The University of Townsville is getting its capital funds increased from $760,000 in the previous triennium to $3.3m in this triennium. In addition to this, the Commonwealth has supported the colleges of advanced education in Queensland on the same basis also. lt sought from Queensland the upper limit to which that State was prepared to go in supporting colleges of advanced education and the Commonwealth matched that limit.
– I wish to ask a supplementary question of the Minister for Defence. Did any officer in Vietnam tell the Minister for Defence when he was in Vietnam on the occasion of his visit that an investigation bad taken place, or give htm the result of that investigation? If this information was suppressed from the Minister, does he agree that it is proper that information relative to breaking the spirit of the Geneva Convention should be suppressed from the Minister?
– As I pointed out last Thursday, nobody had attracted my attention to this incident. It came up in the ordinary course of the Army’s affairs in Saigon; it was dealt with adequately immediately; the officer concerned was removed from that line of duty; and no report was made. All of this was disclosed on Thursday last. Had I been apprised of the report then, the fact that the report was in existence would have been known last week. The honourable gentleman may refer to my speech last Thursday for the answer to the question he has asked.
– In view of the severe drought which is now affecting a large part of south eastern Australia, I ask the Minister for National Development whether he considers that sufficient of our resources are being devoted to water conservation. Does the Federal Government have plans for stepping up the rate of dam construction?
– As I am sure the honourable member would know, the constitutional authority for development of water resources in the States lies with the States. The States have shown indeed that they are very cognisant of the need to increase this development because they have speeded up their rate of dam construction quite considerably over recent years. Nevertheless, the Commonwealth does assist, and plays quite a major part in assisting the States both in the assessment of water resources and in construction work. The Commonwealth assists through the Australian Water Resources Council which makes quite large sums of money available to the States for assessing the resources of surface and underground water. We assist through the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority through which we have spent $623m to date.
We assist through the national water resources development programme and, as honourable members will know, we have announced already that three major projects will be assisted financially through this programme. We have also assisted financially a number of other projects such as the Ord River scheme and the Emerald Dam project as well as through the River Murray Commission, the Western Australian Comprehensive Water Supply Scheme and the Blowering Dam.
However the honourable member asks me whether we are doing enough. Naturally, in every aspect of government resources are limited. Some people think we are not doing enough and others think we are doing too much. All I can say is that, so far as water conservation is concerned, when this Government came to office the total capacity of all major storage dams in Australia was 7,000,000 acre feet’. Today it is 26,000,000 acre feet and it will be over 40,000,000 acre feet when all the projects now authorised or under way are completed. To put it another way, when we came to office the amount of money being spent per annum on water conservation for irrigation was $15m. Today it is over $100m per annum. This sum will be increased when other major schemes such as those at’ Emerald and the Ord get under way.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Defence who represents the Minister for Supply. I ask: Have the Malaysian and Singapore governments placed orders in Japan for large quantities of Armalite rifles? If so, what efforts were made to secure such valuable orders for Australia? Further, why cannot Australia compete effectively with overseas countries in obtaining armaments orders from South East Asian countries linked with us by treaty?
– I have only a Press report that the Government of Malaysia had purchased Armalite rifles from Japan. So far as I know, the manufacture of Armalite rifles has been licensed to Japanese manufacturers. We do not manufacture the rifles here in Australia because our needs are so small that production would be completely uneconomic. In that case, if the Government of Malaysia chose the M16 rifle, or the Armalite rifle, as it is called, as its standard weapon, clearly that Government would have to look elsewhere for supplies. I must point out to the honourable member that we have been singularly successful in sales of associated equipment in the South East Asian areas.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Social Services. Is the Minister aware that three women, all relatives of ex-servicemen, who are tenants of the Vasey Homes in Hawthorn, Victoria, have been served with eviction notices because, on the advice of their solicitor, they have refused to pay greatly increased management charges? In view of the fact that this Government subsidised the building of these homes under the Aged Persons Homes Act, will the Minister investigate the circumstances in which these eviction orders were issued?
– The answer is yes, 1 will have some investigation made. As I said earlier today in reply to another honourable member, the Government does not intend to interfere in the internal management of the homes. But, if as has been suggested to me in this case, the charges made are not in accordance with the conditions under which the ladies concerned entered the homes, then I think this is a matter which the Government might properly bring to the attention of the management of the homes. I am not in possession of all the facts of this matter and I should be obliged if the honourable member would give me any facts in his possession.
– I ask the Minister for Labour and National Service whether he stated in an address to the Associated Chambers of Manufactures of Australia at Canberra on 29th February 1968:
Until 3 years ago average wages in real terms were rising year by year, sustained by heavy investment and progressive improvements in productivity. This has since ceased to be the case. . . .
Will the Minister supply the table of figures of real wages on which he based his statement so that current confusion and debate on the validity of his claims might be removed?
– I am aware that this particular thing has been kicked around by the Labor Party and others. That was the subordinate part to a general proposition I was making, that is, that if wages, salaries and incomes in this country rise a good deal faster than the capacity of the economy to produce goods and services, the end result will be inflation, a rise of prices and general instability. I also pointed out that this process is further complicated by the fact that for obvious reasons of which all honourable members are aware there had to be a considerable increase in Government expenditure, much of it to finance increased defence outlay. In those circumstances there was a danger of instability developing, and we had to decide on relative priorities. I imagine that all this is a fairly simple and obvious proposition, although I know it is not recognised by the Australian Labor Party because it is not prepared to face some of the facts of the situation. I finally pointed out that if we want to do all this and have all these things the only sensible course to set is the one we are trying to follow as hard as we can, which will lead to a great and increasing productivity in Australia.
– I seek the assistance of the Prime Minister. Will he institute immediate action to ensure that Vietnam casualties will be given recognition in war cemeteries? Is it not a fact that the Australian public has made it abundantly clear that it wishes to have no discrimination between present day servicemen and those of previous wars? Will he see that any impediment to having a lad killed in Vietnam buried in an official war cemetery is removed by the quickest possible administrative action?
– The position as I understand it is that the bodies of servicemen killed in Vietnam are returned to Australia if the next of km so require and that they are buried in Australia at cemeteries chosen at the wishes of the next of kin. My understanding is that they are buried either with full military honours or in civil cemeteries with Government financial assistance. In those cases where it is not desired by the next of kin that the bodies of those killed should be returned to Australia they are, I am informed, buried in military cemeteries in the South East Asian area. If the honourable member has some indication that this is not being observed I would be happy if he would bring it to my attention.
– I ask the Minister for Trade and Industry: Has he noted reports from spokesmen of the motor vehicle industry that imports of Japanese motor cars made possible by the application of the Government’s plans, which were intended to guarantee the Australian industry, will increase so rapidly that production of 4-cylinder motor cars in Australia will be seriously endangered, something already evidenced by the withdrawal of Volkswagen after a very costly investment of capital? Is the Minister concerned about these trends? Does he think that they might show that the Tariff Board and the Treasury were right and he was wrong in rejecting the Board’s report, which called for more flexible protection than was adopted in Plan A? What does the Minister propose to do now? If he has any proposals to meet the situation, and if they have not been recommended by the Tariff Board, will he promise to make a statement to the House so that the matter can be debated before the plan is put into operation rather than present the House with a fait accompli, as he did on the last occasion?
– It is true that the importation of a certain type of Japanese motor car - the smaller 4-cylinder motor car - has increased quite substantially. It has become a matter of concern to the automotive industry and a matter with which I am not unconcerned myself. I have been having the facts of the situation studied quite closely at the departmental level, and at that level there have been recurring conferences between officers of the Department of Trade and Industry and representatives of the automotive industry. This may or may not - I am not sure - be lifted to the level of a conference between myself and leaders of the automobile industry. This has been suggested, but no arrangement has been made yet. As to what the end result will be, I will not guess at this time. But I say this quite firmly: The Australian automobile manufacturing industry is too important for it to be allowed to be undermined; it is the second biggest employer of labour in Australia. As an industry it is an employer of labour second only to the building industry. The honourable member, the House and the industry can be assured that the investigations that are being conducted will not end in an empty manner but that some appropriate steps will be taken to protect the Australian industry.
– My question without notice is directed to the Treasurer. I refer to the almost complete disappearance of the 50c coin from circulation. I ask whether minting of this coin has ceased and whether it is proposed to replace that coin with any other coin of similar value.
– The price of silver has fluctuated violently during the last 3 or 4 months. When the 50c coin was first minted, the value of the silver content was about 40c. The value rose to about 76c and now is at 63c. For these reasons, as well as many others, it was decided that no further coins would be minted and supplied to the banking institutions. I can make no comment about a replacement, other than that we have been looking at alternatives to see whether there should be a different type of coin both in terms of shape and mineral content. I can go no further than to say that it is under consideration. I hops to make a statement in the House on this matter as soon as I possibly can.
– Did the Minister for Labour and National Service, in his address to the Associated Chambers of Commerce recently, state flatly that defence expenditure had brought growth in living standards to a halt in the last 3 years and that this phase must continue? Did the Minister also state that until 3 years ago average wages were rising year by year, sustained by heavy investment and progressive improvements in productivity? Is the Minister aware that today a Press release, circulated in the name of the Treasurer, stated emphatically that in recent years real wages and consumer spending had, on the average, increased as in the past, notwithstanding increased defence expenditure? Will the Minister examine this statement and rebut it if he can?
– I will send the honourable member a copy of my speech so that he can get the facts straight. The answer to the second part of the question is no. I have not received this Press release yet, so far as I know. When 1 do receive the Press release I will look at it with interest and form my own views about it, which is quite a usual and natural process.
– My question without notice is directed to the Minister for the Army. Having a close association with the Army, as I have, and having some knowledge of its problems and requirements, I ask the Minister whether all troops proceeding to Vietnam receive an outfit allowance to cover the purchase of tropical civilian clothing.
– I certainly appreciate the interest shown in this matter by the honourable member for Herbert. As the honourable member has said, he has had a very extensive record in the Army. Also, he represents an electorate in a tropical climate. In reply to the question raised by the honourable member, I am advised that all Australian troops proceeding to Vietnam receive an outfit allowance of $40 per member to cover the cost of tropical civilian clothing.
– I address a question to the Minister for the Army who has just answered a question asked by the honourable member for Herbert about the provision of tropical clothing for the Australian Army in Vietnam. Can he say whether it is a fact that the United States authorities in Vietnam recently placed an order with the Japanese Government for 400,000 nylon bags in which to place bodies? Does this mean that American losses this year are expected to be heavier than in the past and consequently that Australian losses can be expected to rise also?
– I can understand the honourable member’s preoccupation with clothing, but I have no knowledge of the matter he has raised.
– Will the Prime Minister let me know whether he has yet received an application from the Government of New South Wales for an extension of the drought assistance arrangements to meet the
Costs of subsidising the movement of stock to agistment by road transport in cases where rail transport is not available in that State?
– The answer is yes, the Government has received a request from the Government of New South Wales for the payment of a subsidy on the transport of starving stock by road when rail transport is not readily available. We have received that request and, I might add, the Government has informed the Government of New South Wales that the Commonwealth accedes to the request.
Motion (by Mr Snedden) - by leave - agreed to -
That the Right Honourable the Prime Minister be appointed a member of the Standing Orders Committee in place of the Right Honourable Harold Holt, deceased.
Bill - by leave - presented by Mr Fairbairn, and read a first time.
– 1 move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this Bill is to make some formal amendments to the principal Act of the offshore petroleum legislation which was passed by the Parliament in November 1967. The amendment is necessary by reason of abolition of the former Department of Territories and the allocation of administrative responsibility for the Northern Territory to the Department of the Interior, and for the Territories of Papua and New Guinea to the new Department of External Territories.
Section 16 of the Petroleum (Submerged Lands) Act 1967 provided for the designated authority in respect of an adjacent area of any of Australia’s territories to be the Minister of State for Territories. The Act specified separate adjacent areas for the Northern Territory, the Territory of Ashmore and Cartier Islands, the Territory of Papua and the Territory of New Guinea. The effect of clause 3 of the amending Bill now presented to the House will be that in respect of the Northern Territory and the Territory of
Ashmore and Cartier Islands, the designated authority will be the Minister of State for the Interior. In respect of the Territory of Papua and the Territory of New Guinea, the designated authority will be the Minister of State for External Territories.
The same powers and functions which were formerly to have been exercised by the Minister of State for Territories as designated authority in respect of the adjacent area of a territory will now be exercised by the two Ministers to whom I have just referred in respect of the territories for which they are responsible. Apart from the foregoing, clause 3 of the amending Bill in no way affects the principles which were enacted in 1967.
Clause 4 of the Bill corrects a reference in section 146 of the principal Act of 1967. This section provides for the transitioning of the Barracouta and Martin fields production licences and in sub-section (2.) refers to a licence granted under section 43 of the Act. This should have read section 44 which is the section under which grants of production licences may be made.
The House will recall that the Agreement between the Commonwealth and the States which underlies the joint offshore petroleum legislation provides for consultation between the Commonwealth and the States prior to the introduction of any amending bill. However, the relevant clause of the Agreement, clause 6, specifically excludes from this requirement any bill in so far as the effect of its provisions would be formal or transitional. The Government regards the Bill now before the House as involving formal amendments only. However, I have been in touch with my State colleagues and advised them of the intention of the Government to introduce this Bill.
I should mention that following discussions between the Commonwealth and i he States, action is in hand to proclaim the off-shore legislation with effect from 1 April. lt is therefore the wish of the Government that this legislation be given speedy passage so that the off-shore legislation may become operative over the whole continental shelf of Australia and its territories. 1 commend the Bill to the favourable consideration of the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Connor) adjourned.
Bill - by leave - presented by Mr Malcolm Fraser, and read a first time.
– I move:
This is a Bill which makes some minor changes to the Universities (Financial Assistance) Act 1966-67 in order to provide legal authority for proposed changes in the building programmes at two universities - the University of Newcastle and La Trobe University - for the 1967-69 triennium. The changes that are proposed are merely re-arrangements of the programme within the total capital grants that have already been approved for the current triennium and no increased Commonwealth commitment is involved. The variations have also been agreed to by the State governments concerned.
The changes proposed for the University of Newcastle are to permit the erection of separate buildings for the Departments of Metallurgy and Chemical Engineering because the University now desires to transfer chemical engineering from the Faculty of Applied Science to the Faculty of Engineering, and to provide out of the total grant already approved of Sim - of which the Commonwealth contribution is $500,000 - for engineering and architecture, an amount of $127,500, of which the Commonwealth contribution is $63,750, for a separate building for architecture.
The amendments in respect of La Trobe University provide for the substitution of four buildings - first year science, physics, chemistry and a building for biological sciences and agriculture - for three buildings already approved - first year science, later year science and a building for biological sciences and agriculture. A second change is to substitute for the science lecture theatre block originally proposed the humanities and social sciences lecture theatre block because enrolments in the Schools of Humanities and Social Sciences have changed the University’s order of priority for these two buildings. I emphasise that all these changes will be made within the total grants already approved, for the current triennium. I commend the Bill to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Dr J. F. Cairns) adjourned.
Bill - by leave - presented by Mr Snedden, and read a first time.
– I move:
This Bill has three companions, the Native Members of the Forces Benefits Bill 1968, Removal of Prisoners (Territories) Bill 1968 and the Science and Industry Research Bill 1968, which I will immediately ask leave to introduce in turn. These Bills are in fact companions to the Petroleum (Submerged Lands) Bill which was recently introduced by my colleague the Minister for National Development (Mr Fairbairn). In this speech I will explain in turn the four Bills which I will introduce.
The Acts to which these Bills relate make provision for certain powers and functions to be exercised by the Minister for Territories. It is now necessary to take account of the creation of the Department of Externa] Territories and to provide in the Acts concerned that, subject to one exception, powers and functions formerly exercised by the Minister for Territories should now be exercisable by the Minister for External Territories (Mr Barnes). The exception to which I have referred occurs in the Fisheries Bill.
The Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony) has for long been .responsible for the Northern Territory of Australia in relation to the Commonwealth’s fisheries legislation. In addition, it has been the practice in the past to link the administration of the Territory of Ashmore and Cartier Islands with that of the Northern Territory. By way of continuation of this practice, it has been decided to include the Territory of Ashmore and Cartier Islands in the area for which the Minister for Primary Industry is responsible in relation to fisheries and to provide for the exercise of certain powers under the Act by the Minister for External Territories in relation to the other Territories that do not form part of the Commonwealth. The purpose of the Bills which honourable members now have before them is to give effect to the formal changes in administration to which I have just referred, and I commend the Bills to the House accordingly.
Debate (on motion by Mr Beaton) adjourned.
Bill - by leave - presented by Mr Snedden, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
I have explained the purpose of the Bill in the speech which I made in relation to the Fisheries Bill.
Debate (on motion by Dr Patterson) adjourned.
Bill - by leave - presented by Mr Snedden, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
I have explained the purpose of the Bill in the speech which I made in relation to the Fisheries Bill.
Debate (on motion by Dr Patterson) adjourned.
Bill - by leave - presented by Mr Snedden, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
I have explained the purpose of the Bill in the speech which I made in relation to the Fisheries Bill.
Debate (on motion by Dr Patterson) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 19 March (vide page 248), 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.
– It is indeed regrettable that the second session of the 26th Commonwealth Parliament had to be initiated by the tragic passing of the late Prime Minister, Mr Harold Holt, on 17th December last. I fully support the tributes paid to his memory by the mover of the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply, the honourable member for Henty (Mr Fox), and other speakers. In my 18 years in the Parliament 1 had always received the utmost courtesy and assistance from the late right honourable gentleman. For the purpose of the record I feel that I should say to honourable members that at the invitation of the Bishop of Newcastle, the Right Reverend A. J. Housden, who had written to me and asked whether I would attend a memorial service for the late Prime Minister which he proposed to hold at Christ Church Cathedral, Newcastle, at about the same time as the memorial service was to be held at St Paul’s Cathedral in Melbourne, 1 remained in Newcastle and, accompanied by my wife, attended the service in that city. I mention this because the Newcastle Press did not see fit to report on my attendance at the service and some honourable members may have thought that political parochialism caused my absence from the service in Melbourne. In my view the Australian political scene can ill afford to lose men like the late Harold Holt. Australia as a nation will be much poorer as a result of his passing.
The Governor-General’s Speech presages the intentions of the Government over the next few months. It is apparent from what His Excellency said that the Government is to indulge in something of a nationwide stocktaking of its electoral image following the greatly reduced vote which it received at the Senate election in November last year. It is patent that the Government intends to pursue the Holt line in Vietnam, despite the hardening line of opposition in America as evidenced by Senator Robert Kennedy’s nomination for the forthcoming presidential election. The senator’s nomination to the Democratic Convention as a candidate for presidential honours I think shows clearly that the American Democratic Party is badly split on its foreign policy and its handling of the Vietnam dispute. Most certainly the senator’s outburst about how the South Vietnamese are conducting their part of the war, together with the fact that tens of thousands of young Vietnamese are able either to buy their way out of induction into the military service or to escape it in other ways, confirms what many people in Australia have been saying for a long white in opposing Australia’s participation in the whole unsavoury affair.
The fact that the Government has at this lime seen fit to refer to so many matters of policy in which improvement of existing legislation is promised is in my view indicative of its electoral uneasiness, both at home and abroad. Perhaps this is brought about by the fact that many of the younger supporters of the Government, who have never known poverty, want or unemployment, are pressing the Government to be somewhat more humane in its application of social welfare legislation. This may provide a little common justice for the ordinary decent people of their electorates who, like hundreds of my own electors, are incapable of rising above the bottom rung of the ladder of life and need help to bring up their families but have never been able to get it. Perhaps the Government has a guilt complex brought on by its treatment of 8 class widows er its steadfast refusal to assist the mothers of illegitimate children and the children themselves. Who knows? The Government may be waking up to its indifference to the unemployed, or the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) may have read that although in December 1967 there were 83,589 persons registered as unemployed only 26,311 were receiving unemployment benefit. Does anyone know what the other 57,278 have been living on? Perhaps means are being considered to enable widows and workers who are more than 80% incapacitated to be provided with financial help, although I very much doubt it.
I view with reserve and very much doubt the sincerity of the Government’s proposal to review the field of social welfare with the object of assisting those most in need, while at the same time not discouraging self help and self reliance. I doubt the sincerity of its proposal to set up a standing Cabinet committee, the members of which will include the Ministers for Health, Social Services, Repatriation and Housing, to deal with social welfare matters. I doubt also the proposal to remove from the minds of Australians the fear of the economic consequences of long continued illness. In my view these proposals can well be described as political gimmicks. In the first place, such a committee could never be effective until the Treasurer, who must give his blessing to any increase in departmental expenditure, was included in the membership of the committee. Nor could it be effective until many of the public servants who administer social welfare, who delight in refusing to help people in trouble and in rejecting representations that are made to them, are brought into line with departmental thinking. Social welfare legislation has always been the medium by which some bureaucrats in the Public Service have been able to exert their authority and vent their feelings of ill will towards the illiterate, the sick, the unemployed and, often, the aged.
Over the years I have seen some classic examples. Of course bad legislation often assists and encourages the bureaucrats to adopt certain attitudes and this is where Ministers must accept the final responsibility for what goes on. For some years now 1 have had reason to question Ministers about the refusal of the Department of Social Services to register some persons for social service benefits. I am glad that the new Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) is in the House and listening to the debate. The grounds of refusal have always been the same, that the Department of Labour and National Service is not satisfied that the person is making sufficient effort to obtain employment on his or her own account. The edict of the Department of Labour and National Service that an unemployed person must personally hand into one of its offices each week his income statement is in itself tyrannical. The requirement must eventually cease unless the rate of benefit is vastly increased.
I say this because of the excessively high cost of fares, especially for people who live in non-urban areas. I feel that the fares themselves should be included as part of the services that the Department renders. Of course, place of living, distance from industry and lack of money for fares have never been questions with which the Department of Labour and National Service has concerned itself. It is safe to say that many people are being forced to thieve, live in shacks and almost starve simply because of the Government’s refusal to recognise that some persons who are unemployed need money for fares if they are to look for work. In many cases where work becomes available money is needed for fares to and from the place of employment until the first pay has been received. In my electorate return bus fares from home for employment range from 25c to more than $1 a day. Can any Minister tell me where that sort of money can be found by an unemployed person, male or female? I simply hate to think of the alternatives that face unemployed females. Unfortunately officers of the Department of Labour and Industry do not give a damn whether their clients ever get work, so long as the Department gets them off the unemployed register. I urge the Government to introduce work travel warrants for unemployed persons whom it refers to employers. I further suggest that where a worker is sent to employment to which he must travel more than 2 miles, he be allowed a week’s fares which he must repay after his first pay.
Let me demonstrate a chain of events that occurred recently, following the alleged refusal of the Department of Labour and National Service at Newcastle to recommend unemployment benefits for an unemployed married man between February and June of last year. The case was first brought to my notice on the morning of 17th January this year. The person concerned has a wife and five children to provide for and had lived in makeshift accommodation for years. Four of the children were under 5 years old; one was 11. Prior to his unemployment the man had been employed at the Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd and was dismissed from that firm’s employ on the grounds of ill health. I was told that the employment officer at Newcastle had referred this person to two places of likely employment, one at Tomago and the other
Beresfield, both places being something like 15 miles from where he lived. Seven hungry mouths had taken every cent he had and as a result he could not accept employment offered or seek work except at industries nearby, so that he could walk to work.
During the next 5 months debts mounted everywhere and in that period a child was born at the Newcastle Western Suburbs Hospital. In July the man obtained work by his own efforts but no sooner did he receive a pay than garnishee orders began to be served on his employer by his creditors, including a garnishee order from the hospital where the child was born. Towards the end of September the family were fortunate enough to obtain a Housing Commission home and paid their first fortnight’s rent of $22. A few weeks later the employer told his employee that he had better find other employment; he said he could not have people serving garnishees on him for the collection of debts. The family being again out of work and with no dole it was only natural that the rent could not be paid and arrears quickly mounted. I understand that after the garnishee orders had been satisfied the family bad had approximately $16 a week on which to live.
As 1 stated earlier, on the morning of 17th January this year the wife of this man came to my office and complained tha. her husband was in prison and that an order had been issued on her for the family’s eviction, which was listed to take place on 18th January. My first reaction was to try to learn the cause for the eviction and the reason for the husband being in gaol. It was then 1 learned of the matters that I have referred to and that the husband’s imprisonment was owing to a failure to pay a fine of $28 imposed in the early months of 1967 for having a balding tyre on a vehicle that he had purchased on time payment to try to earn a living for his family. The vehicle ultimately was repossessed because he could not pay for it. I told the woman that housing evictions and prison offences were the responsibility of State governments and that she should see a State member about those things, but that I would ascertain why her husband and family were denied the dole over such a long period, for it appeared that this had been the prime reason for the eviction order having been made by the Housing Commission.
The woman immediately became hysterical and was completely overcome. She had been left alone with five children, herself almost 7 months pregnant, with no food and with an eviction order hanging over her head. Unfortunately no State members were available either in nearby Newcastle or in Sydney at the time. During the next 8 hours I went through a form of nightmare. It was an experience that I shall never forget as long as I live. It was during that time that I met some of the real bureaucrats of the public service who virtually could not care less what became of the woman and her children. That especially applied to everyone - and I repeat everyone - whom I contacted in the offices of the Housing Commission of New South Wales. On the other hand the police, officers of the Commonwealth Department of Social Services and the Smith Family organisation were most co-operative. In fact police officers expressed their disgust at what was occurring. Officers of the Department of Child Welfare were understanding although within a week they had taken the five children into their custody.
From the very inception of my inquiries of the Housing Commission it was to be seen that all the Commission officers, from the Minister, the Hon. S. T. Stephens, down to the officer in charge of the Newcastle office, Mr Davis, were insistent that the family had to be evicted. In fact it was said by one of them that it would not help one little bit if the Department were to be offered $400; the family would still have to go. I found that departmental officers lied - whether intentionally or not I do not know - about the family. Mr Davis told me that the case was the worst that the Department had ever dealt with. If that is so, God help some of the other cases.
The Department had received complaints about the children being uncontrollable, concerning the throwing of offensive matter into the yard and relating to drunken rows and brawling. One officer in Sydney asked mc whether I had heard about the wife’s embezzlement of funds belonging to an association of which she was either the secretary or the treasurer. Needless to say, Mr Deputy Speaker, my inquiries failed to reveal any truth in any of the allegations that had been made except that I understand one woman had been owed 30c as a refund of a membership fee in the welfare club that she had never attended.
I do know, however, that one officer of the Housing Commission told me, on my acquainting him of the fact, that the husband was in prison serving a 13-day sentence for having failed to pay a $28 fine for a police traffic offence and that in the officer’s opinion the husband had gone to gaol deliberately to attract attention and to gain sympathy for the proposed eviction of the family which was due to be carried out by the Housing Commission on 18th January. I know, Mr Deputy Speaker, that evictions and police offences are not matters that come within the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth Government But because employment and much of the finance used by State governments in housing are provided by the Commonwealth, I assert that the Commonwealth should display more than a passing interest in issues such as that which I am speaking of.
I have never accepted the fact that men and women should get something for nothing, for I personally would not feed a man who would not work. However, there is a big difference between refusing to work and being denied the right to work. I suggest that work should always be available in this country to those who need it. In fact, local government authorities should be the agencies by which unemployed people are provided with work while the Commonwealth acts as the medium for financing such expenditure. I refuse to accept the fact that a family consisting of five small children, the father and the mother, 7 months pregnant, should have been evicted from its home under any circumstances because if it were finally determined by a statutory authority, which could be set up for that purpose, that the husband would not work, action could be put in train whereby he could be compelled to work or put somewhere else, and the mother and her children taken care of.
In this case - and this is important - a rental of $11.30 per week was not being paid by the tenants. Yet, the cost to the State Government of farming out the children to private families through the Child Welfare Department in New South Wales was approximately $12 per week for each child in addition to administrative expenses. This means that the State Government was prepared to spend upwards of five times the amount of money that it was losing in rent to obtain what its Housing Commission administrators referred to as departmental satisfaction.
Earlier, I pointed out that officers of the Housing Commission have lied. This I shall prove. Not only did they lie but also they demanded that the police should carry out the eviction almost immediately after they had received the warrant of possession which is known as ‘Form G.163’. When the police refused to carry out the eviction, they were threatened with being reported to their superior officers. I point out, Mr Deputy Speaker, that the warrant specifically provided that it was not to be executed until 5 clear days after it had come into the hands of the police who were to execute it. The initial application for an order for eviction had been taken by the Housing Commission in the Belmont Court on 8th December 1967. Although the husband had been in attendance at the courthouse from 10.5 a.m. until after 3.30 p.m. on that day his case had never been called. I am informed that, having called the appearances at 10 a.m., the court did not call any of the cases again. Neither did the Housing Commission officer who was proceeding against the tenant bother to ascertain whether or not the tenant was in attendance at the court. On the basis that there was no appearance by the tenant, the Housing Commission obtained an order of eviction. From that point onwards, Housing Commission officers have had things all their own way.
No complaint was ever made with the family although the Housing Commission claimed that it had advised the family of its intentions. It was not until the police, who had received the warrant of possession on the afternoon of 16th January, had called on the family to advise that the eviction from the premises had been asked for by the Housing Commission and was to take effect as from 2 p.m. on 18th January, that the occupants knew of their plight. In my representations on 17th January to Mr Davis of the Housing Commission and to the secretary of the Minister for Housing, I pointed out that the evidence in my possession showed that the family appeared to be the victim of circumstances and was not aware of its plight until a short time earlier. My representations had no effect. I pointed out to the officers that to evict the family in the absence of the husband would amount to gross injustice and that in my view the family had not received departmental advice of its proposed eviction which, if such had been sent, may have been delayed through the postal dispute.
I asked Mr Davis to give me a chance to investigate the matter. I invited him to join me in the investigation. This he declined to do. The Department adamantly refused to delay the eviction and this caused me great inconvenience. It meant that if the husband was to be home when the eviction listed for 18th January took place someone would have to obtain his release from prison. I personally paid $23.70 and had it sent to the governor of the Maitland Gaol. The husband was released. I am pleased to say that, at a later date, the Smith Family at Newcastle repaid me $23. Earlier, I had given the wife $2 for food.
I point out to the House that the husband voluntarily had given himself up and had gone to prison to liquidate his debt to the State at a time when he was out of work and broke. This was done so that he would be free and available for work should a job turn up. In conversation with the police, I learnt also that the order for possession was typed on 12th January and was handed to the Charlestown police to executeon the afternoon of 16th January. Yet, the Housing Commission had asked that the warrant be executed on 18th January. If the request had been acceded to, the action would have been illegal.
Despite the allegations against the family by the Housing Commission, proof is available that the family did not know, when the husband first elected to go to gaol to pay his debt, that the eviction was to take place on 18th January. I have here a letter dated 8th January 1968, signed by Mr J. J. Carr, District Estates Manager of the Housing Commission of New South Wales, Newcastle District Office, advising that the eviction was proposed to be carried out on 18th January. That letter did not come into the hands of the family until 26th January or 4 days after the eviction had taken place.
Mr Deputy Speaker, the mother of this family is a Dutch migrant. She has given this country now its sixth bonnie child. Her sixth child was born about 2 months premature, a week or two after her eviction had taken place and her five other children had been taken from her and held in the custody of the State. At the present time the baby is in the Newcastle Hospital struggling to live. Probably it will not be known for 12 months whether the child will be fully matured or not. 1 point out that nearly 2 months ago 1 wrote to the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr Bury) and the New South Wales Minister for Housing, Mr Stephens, seeking reasons why the Commonwealth had refused to pay unemployment relief and why the New South Wales Housing Commission had carried out the eviction of this family under the circumstances and in the light of the representations that were being made. 1 still await a reply to that correspondence.
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I wish to make some observations during this Address-in-Reply debate to the Speech delivered by the GovernorGeneral. Before I do so, I congratulate the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) on his appointment. I also congratulate the Government on the recommendations contained in the Speech delivered by the Governor-General. That Speech reaffirms all that the joint parties on this side of the House believe in.
Let me address myself to some aspects of the Governor-General’s Speech. For the last 20 years, it has been abundantly clear that Australia’s security is bound up with that of Asia. We have adopted a defence policy based on the principle of forward defence. In other words, it is in our interests to help our neighbours to defend their countries and their security rather than for us to wait for a direct military threat. There are plenty of examples for our action in this regard during the last 2 decades. I believe that- the policy of the Australian Government in the past has been a good one in this respect. But I do not overlook the fact that it will take an enormous effort on the pan of the Government if we are to fill even a portion of the defence gaps that will be left by Great Britain in South East Asia, lt would appear that the United States of America is unwilling - and indeed understandably so - to accept at present further commitments in this part of the Pacific in which Australia is interested.
Although Australia’s participation in Asia has always been directed against Communist aggression and towards the stability of Asia, Australia has not in any way alienated from itself other non-Communist countries. In fact, we have made friends in this part of the continent. The Government is to be commended on giving high priority to consolidating the neighbourly feeling that exists between Australia and our friends in South East Asia. At present, Australia’s regional obligations with Asian countries are many and widely diverse in character. The Asian and Pacific Council is the newest of the organisations concerned with these obligations. It has its headquarters in Canberra. Our pattern of trade in these areas - imports and exports - covers a wide field of 12 or 13 countries. In fact, during the last financial year the volume of our trade in the area represented 27.5% of all imports and exports. As honourable members know, Australia has in the past given most of its external economic aid to Asian countries. This has been done under the Colombo Plan and the civil aid programmes of the South East Asian Treaty Organisation. Today many thousands of Australians are members of private organisations which voluntarily help Asian countries with funds and the assistance of civil aid personnel. What is most important is that Australian economic assistance has always been provided in the form of gifts.
I understand that later this year Australia, Malaysia, Singapore and New Zealand will meet to consider arrangements to replace treaty organisations under which Britain agreed to defend Malaysia and Singapore. Discussions like this might be the proper means of arranging for widening the membership of ASPAC. The opportunity could also be taken to formulate a policy to provide some non-spectacular but effective defence arrangements for all of South East Asia or, as I heard it described, west of Fremantle. Each country could look to its own defence, with the right to seek help from outside from any country prepared to give it. I am sure that under such club arrangements Australia could formulate new and bigger technical assistance programmes in the developing countries, concentrating on job training in particular. This would still leave Australia free to develop its arrangements with the United States of America. Programmes like this would appeal, I believe, to our ally, the United States, for no other reason than that they do at least contribute to regional security. Brushfire wars that become bushfire wars, as has happened in Vietnam, should remind us of the importance of integration of all non-Communist South East Asian countries.
I am gratified by Australia’s acceptance amongst South East Asian countries. We have seen at least two bright instances of this in the last 6 months. Our own Minister for External Affairs (Mr Hasluck) was made Chairman of ASPAC with its headquarters in Canberra. Secondly, the Prime Minister of Laos, His Highness Prince Souvanna Phouma, as every honourable member will recollect, during a visit to this country concluded a most flattering speech in this House last year by saying:
Our people are happy to be able to count on solid, sincere friendship like that of Australia. Respect for liberty, respect for men, solidarity between people, these are the qualities we like you for; they are sincere, friendly and human.
I am sure that our Prime Minister will make use during his term of office of all the doors that are open in South East Asia to strengthen Australia’s alliances. 1 am sure all non-Communist countries in this region are concerned, as we in Australia are concerned, with the stability of this region of the globe. 1 referred earlier to the ASPAC Conference which, I understand, will be held later this year. I hope this meeting will find ways and means to increase its membership with countries of South East Asia, and will review on a neighbourly basis the defence and stability of South East Asia, with each member looking first to its own defence and the soundness of its own economy, f am sure that our Minister for External Affairs will Jake the initiative. The question of economy in relation to the problems of defence is exercising the mind of many countries at the present time. All honourable members will know that our Australian net expenditure on defence and war over the last 5 years has increased enormously, from $484m to SI, 054m. I remember the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) having something to say about this matter in the Budget speech he made on 15th August 1967. Today 1 refreshed my memory by looking up that speech. I found what he had to say gave me a fresh desire to have another look at our economy as affected by our defence expenditure over the last 5 years. The important words of the Treasurer can be found on page 9 of Hansard. He said:
Total defence expenditure is one aspect of the problem: Our mounting external defence costs are another and more serious aspect. Five years ago, our external costs of defence were well under S 10Om a year. This year they could rise above $350m. At this level they would represent 11% or more of our export earnings. Some of this expenditure will be met from credits arranged abroad but. (hough helpful in spreading payments, credits simply carry the liabilities forward. Even so the net cash outgo (his year will be well above $200m. Outstanding defence orders abroad for ships, aircraft and other equipment and supplies at 30th June last were costed at more than $600in. Further orders will have to be placed overseas this year and later for replenishment or replacement as well as to provide fur new and additional requirements.
These remarks are certainly though:provoking, particularly at this time of the year when Britain and the United States are having great strains placed on their currency. Our record of overseas expenditure foi the last 5 years has followed a similar pattern of escalation to that of our defence costs. On the other side of the coin, our real personal consumption has fallen by 6%. This compares unfavourably with overall Government spending which has increased by 25% over the same period. It is obvious from these facts that the Government will have to give more careful thought lo any further proposed expenditure of oveseas funds on military hardware, as well as economising on the side of our overall defence force expenditure. This will be particularly true if we are going to continue our overseas defence commitments at the same rate.
I hope the Government will maintain its defence interests in South East Asia because 1 consider any other alternative at this point of time would weaken Australia’s security. The Prime Minister said:
We have other important financial commitments. Australia has beside its defence requirement, requirement of development, requirement of immigration, requirements of looking at our own population which at some stage must bc considered as being something which in effect has some effect on Australia’s defence.
Does it not add up to this: Wc must not let our defence expenditure weaken our capacity to support our defence effort. What then is the answer to reducing our expenditure on defence? Time will not allow me to canvass all the proposals that have been suggested. But 1 would remind honourable members of a statement made last year at the Australian Chief of the General Staff exercise in Canberra. Major-General Wilson of Canada, when referring to the unification of the Canadian armed forces, said:
There is no question that our three Services separation favoured waste and triplication and such was the vigour with which each Service advanced its position that the system worked against corrective change.
He concluded by saying:
We do not pretend, however, to have the final answer to this most complex problem. We do feel, however, that advantages accrue to a small country with small Services.
In supporting the integration of the Services and referring to economies in defence expenditure, he said:
Just as there must be a size at which it is necessary to break into three Services, there must be a size where it is more efficient to be in one. We feel we are paying too big a penalty in supporting three separate autonomous Services.
A definite approach was made by the Menzies Government some years ago when it set up the Morshead Committee in 1957 to examine the defence organisation. The Committee’s report was never made public, but the Prime Minister at the time explained that the Government was unable to accept the recommendations of the Committee in full and that the task of overall defence and political administration was far too great for one Minister. Of course, he said far more than that. But some progress has been made towards integration of the Services in a number of areas. This is only partial and relates only to such areas as canteens, communications and training. There are still opportunities for greater integration in the armed forces, such as in the field of medical services. A considerable body of military men believe that for a country with Australia’s limited reserves this is an important means of achieving efficiency and economy. However, I raise the matter only to remind the Government again of the point made by the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) who said when he delivered his speech on the Budget last year:
Defence must and does rank high in our national priorities, but we would not be helping either ourselves or our Allies were we to attempt to over-reach our capacity.
Perhaps this is the time for the Government to have another look at the report of the Morshead Committee in 1957 to see whether some of the recommendations could now be adopted with the great advantage of taking some pressure off our economy.
I was glad to learn from the GovernorGeneral’s Speech that the Government proposes to review the operations of the hospital and medical benefits scheme. I have been agitating in this House since 4th October 1961 for an independent and comprehensive review of these services and I can recall that my request was acknowledged at the time by Dr Cameron, who was Minister for Health. We should make no mistake about this; there is no such thing in the free world as the perfect health service. Because there is no such thing, we are perhaps entitled to put a finger on some of our own anomalies without saying that it is a bad service. One certainty about the present service is that we can afford it. In addition, it functions without the nationalisation of the medical profession and its ancillary services. But some problems are developing.
Contributions to hospital and medical benefit schemes have been increasing, as have the costs of other services in the community. Unfortunately improvements to the service tend to lag behind and so the community is paying more for health services, not only because of increasing costs of materials and labour but also because more scientific treatment is being introduced and better techniques are being used. All of these are more costly and more people are demanding them. Under a socialist service the costs could be stabilised. The government would simply dictate the amount of doctors’ fees and hospital fees and in the process would stifle more incentive and destroy more freedom. Under our present health system, the State Government largely determines the charges of the hospitals. The State Government in turn depends upon the hospital boards for the running of the hospital and to a large extent it is the decisions of these bodies that are responsible for cost control. Any suggestion that these boards are not generally efficient usually raises a cry of protest because the members give their services voluntarily. Indeed many individuals on these boards make great sacrifices in order to serve. But we should not be under any illusions. The plain fact is that Australian hospitals, however efficient medically, are not always efficient economically.
Just as the Commonwealth is unable to control hospital fees, so it is unable to control doctors’ fees. Attempts have been made to persuade the profession to exercise restraint when fee increases are being discussed and mostly the doctors have cooperated. Most doctors are members of the Australian Medical Association. Whilst this body does not control them in any absolute sense, it does exist for their mutual benefit. Its influence, therefore, is substantial. The medical responsibilities of doctors are considerable these days and they are growing yearly. But it is also becoming accepted in the community that doctors generally should accept more responsibility for making the health scheme work more economically. One section of the national health scheme, the pensioner medical service, provides a case in point and a particularly difficult one. I have received a circular from the Australian Medical Association - I am sure that it has been sent to all honourable members - in which the Association makes it quite clear that it is dissatisfied with the pensioner medical service. It notes that the Government has agreed to review the service and sets out in some detail the reasons for the doctors’ dissatisfaction. The main grievance is that doctors are expected to give a discount of 40% on their fees when treating pensioners. Should the number of people covered by the pensioner medical service increase, as it would if the means test were lifted, further inroads would be made into their incomes. They also object to their services being given away to more and more people by political decisions on which they are not consulted. In consequence of all this, they ask for an immediate full scale review of the service.
In the same statement the Association serves notice on the Government that it is examining the situation and will present its terms to the Government. This declaration, if I may say so, points up an undesirable trend. The doctors have a point. The new Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) has already indicated outside the
House that his aim is a further easing of the means test. Expressed in another way, this means putting more people on the pension. With the doctors in the mood that has been expressed in the statement made by their Association, it would seem that they and the Minister for Social Services are on a collision course. All this merely demonstrates that a review is needed and that it should not be a sectional affair or one carried out by the Australian Medical Association or any other financially interested group. It should bc a public review, not only of the pensioner medical service but of the whole gamut of our national health service, including fund benefits and the like. Perhaps this review goes a little further than what was proposed by the Government in the Governor-General’s Speech, but I believe that this review would give the community a full opportunity to appreciate all the difficulties, weaknesses and advantages of running a pensioner health service such as is in operation in Australia. During the past 18 years that the present service has been in operation we have gone a long way in providing a service to the community whereby the patient can go to a doctor and chemist of his own choice, at fees which are much lower than if the scheme were non-existent. I doubt whether the community would be prepared to exchange the present service for a nationalised one. It would be much easier for the Government to provide a nationalised medical and hospital service, but it would not be efficient. The community should know at first hand the difficulties involved in running the present service and why the difficulties exist. After all, the community pays for the service. I see no better way of informing the community than by having an open review of our medical services.
I hope I have made my few points clear. Time will not permit me to go further into the details of the Speech, which so very well represents the views of honourable members on this side of the House.
– This is the first meeting of the Parliament following the tragic death of the former Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt). 1 take this opportunity, therefore, to express publicly my sympathy to his family and my regret at the sudden and unfortunate ending to his distinguished parliamentary career.
The Governor-General’s Speech was disappointing, uninspiring and uninformative. This is no reflection on His Excellency, who carried out, with dignity and clarity, the difficult task of reading a dreary document. One fortunate aspect of the Speech was that it was short, even if it was not sweet. The proposals outlined dealt sketchily with the great issues facing Australia and offered no solution to the many great national and international problems. The Speech was all the more disappointing because it was, in effect, the first statement of policy by the new Prime Minister (Mr Gorton), a distinguished and, so we were led to believe, forthright and progressive Prime Minister with an exhilarating programme of social and economic reforms which would transform political events in this great country of ours.
The new Prime Minister was elected - and 1 am pleased that the Minister foi Shipping and Transport (Mr Sinclair) is in the House - in an unsavoury atmosphere of political machination, sordid intrigue and public displays of disunity within the ranks of the Government parties. It could be said - and you would know this, Mr Deputy Speaker, as you belong to one of the parties - that the new Prime Minister was not able to say, as the former Prime Minister had said, when elected: ‘I did not walk over anybody to get the job!’ The new Prime Minister walked over not only his Senate colleagues but also over every member of the Liberal Party of Australia in this House. That statement is no personal reflection on the Prime Minister, because these things happen in politics. But it is indeed a reflection on his ministerial colleagues and members of the Government in this House that not one of them was considered worthy of the position. There are eighty-odd of them. However I exclude the Treasurer (Mr McMahon), whose great capacities, energies and abilities were somewhat less than appreciated by his beloved colleague in the Australian Country Party, the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr McEwen), who stated that he would lead the Country Party out of the Government if the Treasurer were elected Prime Minister. The honourable member for Mallee (Mr Turnbull) also said that he would not support the Treasurer. That shows how bitter the campaign was. This was a mortal blow to the Treasurer and indicated to the world at large that all was not harmony and goodwill in the ranks of the Government parties and that the days of ring-a-rosy were evidently in the past.
– Mr Deputy Speaker, do I have to sit here and listen to the honourable member say things that are untrue? I rise to a point of order.
-Order! There is no substance in the point of order.
– Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker, for the wisdom of your ruling. Following this startling announcement by the Deputy Prime Minister that the Treasurer was not good enough to serve as Prime Minister, one is left to wonder the reasons for this outburst against the Treasurer. The Deputy Prime Minister has made no statement to the Parliament and it has not yet been explained why the people of Australia should accept him in his high position when the Country Party - and the Country Party will accept nearly anything - will not serve under him as Prime. Minister. This certainly requires explanation. If it is not good enough for the Country Party to put up with the Treasurer as Prime Minister, why should the people of this country, the Opposition or anyone else put up with him?
Following the statement made by the Deputy Prime Minister we then had the amazing spectacle of the new member for Higgins, the Prime Minister, being introduced to the Speaker by the Treasurer and the Deputy Prime Minister. This phoney display of unity bordered on the burlesque but did nothing to hide the grim, savage jungle warfare in the ranks of the Liberal and Country Parties. See how members of the Country Party smile when I say ‘jungle’; they are continually waging jungle warfare against members of the Liberal Party.
The new Prime Minister announced his ministry. Two members disappeared and were replaced by rebels. Whilst we welcome the cheerful member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth) and his wayward colleague in the Senate, Senator Wright, we wonder how other members of the Government parties accept these promotions in the light of the many indiscretions of these members in days gone by. Naturally we look forward to the Minister for Social Services (Mr
Wentworth) giving expression by policy to those many inspiring proposals regarding benefits to pensioners and others which he made in fiery orations from his place on the backbench in his many years of exile. Similar remarks apply to Senator Wright in another place. Let us hope he brings to the Ministry the fulfilment of some of the ideas to which be so often gave expression.
I am delighted to see the new Minister for the Army (Mr Lynch) at the table - a new and enlightened recruit, we are told. He may be a new and enlightened recruit, but he made an unfortunate entry to the Ministry. His immediate defence of Armyauthorities, without knowing the facts, in the torture case is difficult to excuse, despite his newness to the portfolio. His explanation to the House did nothing to destroy the facts, which he said were substantially true, that Australia had been guilty of torturing an enemy in Vietnam. The Prime Minister was not at his best in defending the torture and the handling of this matter is almost on a level with the VIP aircraft scandal of not so many weeks ago.
The Governor-General’s Speech contained little that is new. There is no new approach to the great problems of the Vietnam war and the programme outlined falls far short of the Prime Minister’s promises when he said that he had ruled off the book and was starting afresh. In relation to social welfare, the Governor-General said:
My Government will review the field of social welfare with the object of assisting those in most need while at the same time not discouraging thrift, self-help and self-reliance.
To this end my Government will set up a Standing Cabinet Committee including the Ministers for Health. Social Services, Repatriation and Housing, and that Committee will direct its attention to co-ordinating the approaches and proposals of the various Departments concerned with social welfare.
Later on the Governor-General made a slight reference to mothers and children. The Government has had 20 years to look into the matter of medical benefits funds, an examination of which the Australian Labor Party has been advocating for years in this Parliament. Consequently the most disappointing aspect for those individuals who receive benefits must be that aspect relating to social services. I find that it is a very disappointing statement, particularly on social welfare, that was proposed by the Prime Minister and the Minister for Social Services. If the Government has any new ideas it is certainly keeping them very dark. Probably the Government will reveal its secrets, as is generally the case in relation to social services, in election year, whenever that may be.
However there are two important matters on which I wish to say a few words today. The Governor-General’s Speech said very little about the war in Vietnam, which I believe transcends in importance any other national problem at this time. The Speech said nothing new on this subject, lt is the same old policy of All the way with LBJ’. Whether this will still be the Government’s policy in the light of Senator Kennedy’s nomination as candidate for President of the United States of America and his criticism of the Johnson administration and conduct of the war remains to bo seen, ft is worth while to quote some of Senator Kennedy’s statements on the Vietnam war, particularly as Australians are dying there at this moment because the Australian Government supports the stated policy of ‘All the way with LBJ’ irrespective of whether that policy be right or wrong. Honourable members opposite cannot call Senator Kennedy a Com. He is not a Com. by any means. Senator Kennedy said: 1 won’t be his Vice-President; I’ll give you a new America. President Johnson’s only response to failure is to repeat ti. on a bigger scale. The political side of the Vietnam war may now be lost beyond recall. If you will give me your hand, I will work for you and we will have a new America.
I remind honourable members that this statement was made by the late President Kennedy’s brother; and President Kennedy was a great man. He chose Senator Kennedy as one of his right hand assistants. When Senator Kennedy submitted his nomination for the Presidency, the Press report of his announcement was as follows:
I am not running for the Presidency merely to oppose any man, but to propose new policies,’ Senator Kennedy declared.
I run because I am convinced that this country is on a perilous course, and because I have such strong feelings about what must be done I feel I am obliged to do all that 1 can.
I run because I want the Democratic Party and the United States to stand for hope instead of despair,’ Senator Kennedy declared. 1 run because it is now unmistakably clear that we can change these disastrous policies only by changing die men who are now making them.’
The man he wants to change is the man responsible for the American policy to which our Government has tied its foreign policy, irrespective of how disastrous it might be and what might be the position in Vietnam.
– I think I should refresh the mind of the honourable member. It is interesting to refer to an article that appeared in ‘MacLean’s’, which is Canada’s national magazine. The article related to American intervention in Vietnam and stated:
As Walter Lippmann wrote recently: ‘There ls a growing sense of guilt. The American people are becoming revolted and ashamed by the spectacle of themselves engaged in a war where a big, rich, super-armed giant is trying to beat the life out of a’ dwarf. Less and less are Americans enjoying the idea of themselves in such an uncivilised, unchivalrous, inhuman role. This is the most unpopular war in American history. It is also the war which most deeply affronts the American conscience.’
This point of view is supported broadly by Senator Kennedy, Senator Fulbright, Senator Mansfield and by demonstrators from one end of the world to the other. Even in Great Britain, where people temper demonstrations with restraint, an outburst recently resulted in mounted police riding into a crowd. For my part I am not all the way with LBJ or with Senator Kennedy or with anyone for that matter. My attitude to the conflict in Vietnam is unreservedly in line with the policy of the Australian Labor Party, as I believe it offers a practical approach to peace in war ravaged Vietnam.
– What is the Labor Party’s policy?
– I will read it later. Vietnam is a major problem for Australia mainly because of the blind allegiance given by the Government to American policy in this theatre. With more than 8,000 Australians involved, including conscripts who represent almost 40% of that number, and many being killed every day, there appears to be no end to the conflict, and eventual victory is by no means certain.
Let us survey the situation briefly. Since 1954 American forces have been increased from eighty advisers to about 550,000 men, and this number will be greatly increased in the near future. In fact, General Westmoreland has asked for 230,000 more men. Australian forces in Vietnam have increased from 800 to 8,000. The South Vietnamese have an army of about 600,000. These forces are supported by modern military equipment. Pitted against them are, I believe, a couple of hundred thousand North Vietnamese. The allied casualties are very heavy. I pay tribute to those men who have given their lives in the war, the Americans and Australians. The United States forces have suffered 20,000 deaths and about 120,000 wounded. America’s casualties in 1968 are on a scale which it is almost difficult to contemplate. To the end of February Australia had lost 187 men killed and a further 935 had been wounded. This represents a battalion and a half. Honourable members opposite cannot laugh at figures like these. Men are dying in this conflict which Senator Kennedy says is being directed by the man he seeks to replace. The figures indicate the tremendous cost to the United States and to Australia in the dead and wounded because of our involvement.
World opinion at home and abroad has been critical of and opposed to not only participation by the United States and Australia but also our very involvement. This attitude is aggravated by the fact that the conflict is worsening from the allied point of view, and the horror and suffering being inflicted on men, women and children in this area of war have appalled people from every country. American policy has been under strong criticism both in the United States and elsewhere. Senators Mansfield, Fulbright and Kennedy, and now former Vice-President Nixon - an extreme right winger, I should say - have indicated their dissatisfaction with the efforts being made by the United States to bring the war to a peaceful conclusion. It is safe to say that those involved in the conflict - particularly the United States and Australia - have few friends and, whatever their avowed intentions, they are receiving little support, practical or otherwise, from other nations. In fact, protest meetings all over the world condemn our participation in the conflict - and I mention especially the demonstration outside Australia House in London.
The policy of the Australian Government is based on the simple philosophy of our late Prime Minister - a policy carried on by his successor - of ‘All the way with LBJ’. This means, in effect, that whatever the American policy is, we evidently are committed to it. It is true that the new Prime Minister has said that no more men will be sent to Vietnam from Australia - or he is supposed to have said so. But he has qualified this statement slightly in replies to questions in the Parliament and elsewhere. This indicates that he realised that he was discarding the policy of his predecessor in this regard. However, be this as it may, Prime Minister Gorton has not produced any new ideas or suggestions as to what pressure, if any, Australia will bring to bear on the United States to terminate this dreadful conflict. Because of this negation of our right as a sovereign country to decide where our men shall fight and die, under the policy of ‘AH the way with LBJ’, Australia is now involved in a conflict without end, and evidently we have no say whatever about effecting a conclusion of the war.
We are told that our forces are in Vietnam to defend our future security. U Thant does not subscribe to this view. The Canadians certainly do not subscribe to it, and evidently a lot of nations in Asia and elsewhere do not take the same view. Apparently the Government does not subscribe to it either, otherwise why does h still ship wheat and wool to Red China which it says is shooting down Australian troops m Vietnam? Australian military participation in this conflict should be condemned by all who believe in freedom and independence. The war was never justified, and it is not justified now. Let us examine the situation. National service training on a conscript basis for 20- year olds was introduced, so we are told, for the defence of this country. It was said that about one national service trainee in every three would serve in Vietnam. But what is the position? At present about one in every three servicemen killed in Vietnam is a national serviceman. The same proportion applies to the wounded, too. These men should not be in Vietnam. They were called up to defend Australia, and in my view they are not defending Australia by being in Vietnam now. It is business as usual at home, as honourable members know, while a few 20-year olds are giving their lives to protect - or so we are told - 11 million Australians.
I can find no reason to support the policy followed by the Government in respect of Vietnam, particularly when it is realised that the Army authorities, at the instigation of the Government, are handpicking, by conscription, the pride of Australian youth. The Government should explain why conscripted national service trainees are being sent to Vietnam while an alarming number of men who are volunteering for Regular Army service are being rejected. About 73%, or seven out of every ten volunteers, are rejected. If they are being rejected on medical grounds, it is a sorry commentary on the Government’s physical fitness campaign. If they are being rejected on educational grounds, it is a disgraceful commentary on our education system, particularly as I understand that the education test for the Australian Regular Army is equivalent to the education standards expected of a 10- year old child.
Recent events in Saigon and other parts of South Vietnam indicate that Vietcong forces still have considerable reserves and are far from defeated. It appears also that a continuance of the present American policy in Vietnam will only add to further loss of life and suffering, particularly of civilian men, women and children in both North Vietnam and South Vietnam. In the light of all this criticism it might well be asked: What should be done? I suggest that the first practical approach is that described in the Labor Party policy and I will quote that policy for the benefit of the honourable member for Barton (Mr Arthur). I am reading from page 33 of the Official Policy of the Labor Party’ which states:
Satisfied that the war in Vietnam does not involve any obligations for Australia under ANZUS, SEATO or the UN Charter, and does not assist the Vietnamese people to determine their own affairs, and that no threat to Australian security from China is involved, the ALP seeks primarily to bring the war to a conclusion. To do so, the ALP, on achieving office, will submit to our allies that they should immediately:
cease bombing North Vietnam.
recognise the National Liberation Front as a principal party to negotiations.
transform operations in South Vietnam into holding operations thereby to avoid involvement of civilians in the war, cease the use of napalm and other objectionable materials of war and provide sanctuary for anyone seeking it.
Should our allies fail to take this action, the Australian Government would then consider that it had no alternative other than to withdraw our armed forces.
The ALP, as a Government, would thereafter assist in providing all forms of aid necessary to restore the damage done by the war to Vietnam and to aid her political, economic and social advancement.
This indicates a practical approach towards bringing peace to that country. Furthermore, if the conditions are not met by the United States, the Australian forces should be withdrawn in accordance with the laid down policy which I have just read.
For my part I am opposed by conviction, policy and conscience to Australian participation in this war. I cannot in conscience support the policy which results in the death in far off Vietnam of Australian men in a conflict in which we should never be militarily engaged. Whatever the penalty, I cannot support any policy which results in the death and wounding of Australian soldiers in a conflict of this nature. It is for that reason that I believe the implementation of the policy of the Australian Labor Party by a government determined to bring peace to this area would be a contribution towards the successful termination of this horrible conflict in Vietnam.
I finish on that issue of Vietnam. In the few minutes remaining at my disposal, I want to say a few words about immigration. At the Australian Citizenship Convention held in Canberra last January the question of Asian immigration quotas, and increases in them, was raised. This question comes up now and again and it comes to light from various sources. Australia today enjoys the benefit of having a high measure of harmony, understanding and happiness among its people. This condition is in direct contrast to the position in many other nations of the world where racial problems have brought conflict and suffering. One need only to look at Great Britain - the problem was imported in to that country - at America - where there are examples of black versus white - and at Malaysia and the Philippines where it is brown versus yellow. I mention this as an indication of the fact that we owe much to the success of the Australian immigration policy. If more people knew and understood it they would have a greater realisation of the need to continue it, subject, of course, to certain modifications in the light of changing times.
Briefly, the basis of our policy was humanitarianism and a desire to prevent the exploitation of coloured races by unscrupulous employers in the latter days of the last century. Despite that background, statements are made occasionally - as was done at the immigration convention - claiming that we should have a quota of Asian migrants. People do not realise that by a recent amendment to the immigration legislation, or in a policy statement by the Government in March 1966, the number of Asians that could come to Australia was increased and this change was given expression on both sides of this Parliament, but with certain reservations. In Great Britain at this moment immigration is presenting the Government with one of its major problems because British citizens have been refused admission to the country. If the British Government was honest it would admit that its immigration policy had failed. People who suggest such proposals are looked upon as idealists and those opposed to them are regarded as racialists.
For my part, I say that whatever the intention of those who sponsor these proposals may be there is one thing they have in common; they refuse to face the facts of life and will not show how these things will work. Although my time is limited I want to record my appreciation of the administration of Ministers from both sides of the Parliament of the immigration programme. Without being a racialist in any shape or form, I believe that neither the Government nor the Opposition has a mandate to importing to Australia the problems now ravaging Great Britain and other parts of the world which, in many cases, were selfinflicted wounds. I am sorry that I cannot elaborate on this subject. I hope that those who are studying the matter and others who believe that changes should be made - those people in favour of the quota system - will study the Kenyan situation as it affects Great Britain at this moment. I hope that they will study the great problems that confront our own kith and kin in that country and understand the importance of the question. Without being in any way racially inclined I say that I hope they make no contribution towards importing such a problem which ultimately could not be controlled and could destroy the harmony and unity that exist in our society today.
I am sorry that the Governor-General’s Speech did not present any more informative subjects for honourable members to discuss. This absence is apparent because honourable members have bad to go beyond the Speech to some extent to give expression to their views on our great national problems. Realising that the Prime Minister is new to his job we believe that his performance in the early stages has offered no solution to the dreary policies of this Government. Those policies can be changed only by a change of the people sitting on the other side of the Parliament.
– lt is a pleasure to follow the honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Daly) in this debate. He told me before he commenced speaking that he would like to have a kick at the Country Party and that he was disappointed that I would be speaking afterwards. I can understand his feeling of deflation after the way he was treated the other night by the honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Andrew Jones). I make no excuses for the excesses of the honourable member for Adelaide but 1 give him full marks for the way he stood up and, I think, completely demolished the honourable member for Grayndler.
I propose to discuss some of the matters mentioned by the Governor-General in his address, and at the outset 1 want to deal with one of the most important problems facing Australia today. In his Speech the Governor-General said that his Government had announced its intention to set up a national water resources development programme with the object of increasing water conservation. No more important question faces this country today; nor has there been for some considerable time. We need to put into action a national plan of water conservation, covering both surface and underground supplies, by effective reticulation, conservation and economic usage. Much research and work have been done by the Commonwealth but I do not think we are moving nearly fast enough. I appreciate the difficulties that there are when State and Federal governments are involved. I appreciate how difficult it is to get a State government to accept assistance from an organisation like the Snow Mountains Hydro-electric Authority.
Water, of course, is our most valuable commodity. There can be no life, no development and no decentralisation without it. The limited resources we have must be used economically and effectively. Tremendous losses of water occur through evaporation and soakage. Engineers estimate that losses sometimes are as nigh as 60% to 70%. They estimate that from 60% to 70% of the water leaving the Snowy Mountains area is lost before it reaches the irrigation areas. We must look seriously into this as the years go by and face up to the problem of the capital cost of providing piped water. Almost every country town in New South Wales - at least every country town on the western side of the mountains - is subject to water restrictions practically every year, and severe restrictions whenever there is a dry period, let alone a drought. I instance towns in my electorate like Gundagai, situated on the banks of one of Australia’s greatest rivers, which is short of water and experiences water restrictions almost every year. There are other towns such as Temora. Cootamundra and Young. They are beautiful and pleasant towns in which to live; but given 3 months of water restrictions and a hot dry summer, they are little belter than deserts. The water reticulation scheme supplying most of those towns was installed 40 years ago. Today, people bath a little more often than they did 40 years ago. They have washing machines, hot water systems, sewerage systems and all the other amenities that were not available 40 years ago. Yet the water supply scheme has never been extended in order to provide more water.
It is true that we have done much in this country to make the desert blossom like the rose, but too often we have not prepared for these dry times that inevitably occur. It is a fact that droughts are part of our normal phenomena and we know we are going to get them from time to time, but we never know when they are going to occur. Yet we have never seriously been prepared to deal with them. I believe that the fault lies with government at all levels - Federal, State and local - and to a degree with the people because they have not insisted that government at all levels do something more effective to provide for these times which inevitably occur. Every time we have a drought there is a tremendous stampede to shift stock away to better pastures and there are requests for all sorts of economic aid. This occurs because we have not prepared ourselves for drought.
We are often told by sheepowners in the western areas that in a drought it pays better to let sheep die than to feed them. This is probably true. However, it does not pay the nation as a whole to do this. Wool still earns in the vicinity of 30% to 33% of our export income, and if we include the mutton from the woolgrowing sheep the figure is increased to over 40% of our export income. This income is tremendously important to Australia. Only 2i years ago there was a drought in parts of Queensland and northern New South Wales. On that occasion 14 million sheep were lost in New South Wales alone. When one includes the progeny of those sheep, plus the value of their production, one realises the effect that that drought had on the whole economy and on the ability of this country to earn export income, build more factories and to provide jobs for those people that we must have if we are going to make this country safe.
We hear a great deal about the tremendous importance of minerals to our economy. Minerals are becoming important, but it is interesting to note that in 1967 minerals earned only 13% of our export income as against over 40% earned from sheep alone, excluding all other primary industries. Fifty years ago minerals earned 27% of our export income. Unquestionably minerals will be a tremendous income earner in the future, but that is a long way away as yet. We have to see that our principal export industries are prosperous and do not suffer from unnecessary losses whenever a dry time occurs. There is always a drought somewhere in Australia.
A great deal of work can be and has been done towards drought mitigation in Australia. The provision of subsidies is of value in some cases - for instance the subsidy on superphosphate has enabled landowners to increase production tremendously - but I would sooner see some sort of tax concession to encourage the enterprising man and make it economically profitable for him to save his stock. This is not easy to do. We hear a lot of uninformed criticism that the man on the land has not made provision for drought. Those who have properties within the safe areas, say, west of Canberra, which includes a very large portion of my electorate, experience a severe drought period only once in 10 or 15 years. It is nearly 22 years since there has been anything like the present drought in my electorate. lt costs a tremendous amount of money for a small farmer to put away fodder over a period of 2 years in order to make himself safe from a drought. It could cost between $10,000 and $20,000. As we all know, most fellows on the land are short of working capital anyway and they want to spend what money they receive on a new tractor, water supplies, subdivision or something like that. These people find that they cannot afford to put away fodder and have that amount of money virtually standing in a corner waiting for the next drought. I think that much could be done here by having drought bonds. 1 have spoken on this matter several times in this House, as has the honourable member for Riverina (Mr Armstrong). In a very good year a landowner - and this applies particularly to the owner of land in the west - should be permitted to invest in drought bonds a percentage of his income. He would not be taxed on drought bonds that he takes out but he should be taxed on the interest received. The Government then would have the use of this money. Provided he cashed his bonds only for drought relief, in order to provide fodder, agistment, restocking or to take effective means to overcome drought he would pay no tax, but if he bought a new motor car or a new home with the money he would certainly be subject to taxation. I suggest that that would do a tremendous lot towards encouraging progressive men to provide for drought and it would eliminate the enormous cost to the nation of drought relief.
As I have already said, the tragic losses of stock are not only hitting the stockowner but are hitting the nation. We can do so much to alleviate the effects of drought by the storage of wheat at the point of production. This is another suggestion that has been put forward, whereby a certain amount of the crop - perhaps a third - could be stored in government silos until the next crop was in sight. We know from work done by the Commonwealth
Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation that in most cases wheat is the cheapest fodder in drought times, and if we stored it in this fashion it would save tragic losses of stock and losses in our export income and would provide employment in country areas. Recently I saw a lot of drought relief money being spent in country towns. I think that a lot of that money was not being spent very effectively because most of the fellows who receive it are fellows who generally do not want to work anyway. However, drought conditions do put out of work a lot of fellows who are dependent on good seasons, such as the casual and seasonal workers. A lot can be done to alleviate drought, keep incomes constant, and save costs.
I believe that we have to get down to hard facts and establish a long range plan. We know how to mitigate a drought, but we cannot get a plan off the ground or moving quickly enough. For instance, I am quite sure that the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) is in for a much greater shock this year than he expects, because the areas affected so severely by drought at the moment are some of the most productive and wealthy areas in the whole of this Commonwealth. I refer to the southern parts of New South Wales and Victoria and parts of South Australia which are so productive. The loss of export income and personal income in these areas will be extraordinarily heavy and I am sure it will be much heavier than the Treasurer has faced up to as yet.
I want to deal with another matter that is particularly important to this country and to the people that I believe are the backbone of the country - the people who produce the export income, who make it possible for this country to grow and who make it possible for our balanced development programme to continue - and I refer to the matter of telephones. In bringing up this matter I would first like to pay tribute to those senior officers who work in the post offices in my electorate, which is a fairly large electorate, nearly 400 miles by 170 miles. I would like to pay a tribute to the co-operation and work that these people give within the limits imposed on them by conditions. I cannot altogether take the Postmaster-General (Mr Hulme) to task because of the Government’s policy at the moment as far as telephones are concerned, but there are a thousand and one anomalies that occur and a thousand and one costs involved. In many areas people have had applications in for the installation of telephones for many years but are still waiting for them. The position is appalling at the moment and it is not being met or improved nearly fast enough.
Many of the people who have been running our country post offices are reaching retiring age. In my own electorate - and I am sure in other country electorates in the Commonwealth - there are dozens of post offices closing down because the people who have been running them are not fit enough to do that work any more and also because the remuneration for running a small country post office is so small. We have all had instances of post offices closing down and telephone subscribers being put on party lines. In my area there are cases where six or seven subscribers are on the one party line. They get only a part-time service and still have to pay very high costs for the service. There is a tremendous shortage of rural automatic telephone exchanges. Many areas have been waiting for years for an RAX service. We have been told that there is a shortage of cables and a shortage of technicians, but this situation has existed for far too long. Perhaps we could have expected such a shortage to occur immediately after the war, but we do not expect it to happen now. The situation is not improving quickly enough. If we do not have sufficient rural automatic exchanges, let us do something about it. If we are unable to produce them here let us import them, if necessary, to catch up the backlog and give the people the service to which they are entitled. The same remark can be made with respect to cables. If we are unable to produce enough cables here - I do not believe that this is the situation - let us import them. I have been told by senior men in the Postmaster-General’s Department that there is a tremendous shortage of technicians in the Department and that an increasing amount of work is being done by contract. If the Department is unable to do the work then I say that we should permit more to be done by contract.
I have had brought to my notice in my electorate many instances of people needing a telephone service. One woman who applied for a telephone service 9 years ago still does not have it. One of my constituents sent me a cutting from a women’s magazine which interested me. It said: Tell him you love him when your heart begs you to - he is just a call away.’ She has been waiting 9 years to call him. This is a situation which is facing many people. One quite tragic case occurred at the northern end of my electorate not far from the town of Oberon. The woman to whom I refer applied for a telephone service 9 years ago and the nearest phone to her property is still 5 miles away. One night her husband suffered from a heart attack and died. She had an elderly father and could’ not drive their vehicle but had to wait until daylight to saddle a horse and ride 5 miles to ask a neighbour to call a doctor. That happened, about 5 miles from Oberon which is not very far from Sydney. This is an indication of how desperate the situation is in some areas. The telephone is a necessity in business and a great convenience to anybody. In many cases to the city housewife it ls a luxury, but for a woman who lives many miles from a township or from a telephone, or to a woman whose husband is away with their only means of transport while she has young children at home, how desperate is her situation? Many instances have been reported to me of people waiting for years for a telephone.
About thirty families are now living in a completely new settlement in my electorate not far from Gundagai. I know that the local telephone engineer and the local district telephone manager have been doing their best to provide a telephone service for that area, but they say that it is impossible to do so at the moment. Young families are living at that settlement. The roads are not good as yet. Some people there have been waiting for 3 years with no prospect of a telephone service being connected. This situation has gone on for too long. The telephone is absolutely necessary in case of accident, where a person is ill and needs the services of a doctor or in the event of bush fire or flood. There are a thousand reasons why people in country areas must have a telephone service. To them it is an absolute necessity. They pay very dearly for the service they get because, as I mentioned earlier, so many of the services which are connected are on party lines which are shared by six, seven or eight subscribers to the one line. In many places the service is available from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. only for 5 days a week. No service is available to them over the weekend. I believe that the Government must give more consideration to this question which is one of the most important problems facing country people today. It is a problem which the Government must face up to.
Australia is a great country - surely it is one of the greatest countries on earth. I know that the honourable member who was recently overseas with me will agree that it is one of the best countries and one of the countries with the greatest future. People overseas believe this. They believe in Australia’s future more than do many of us. I think it is time that we dealt with these problems which have been afflicting us for some time. We should have more faith in our country and be prepared to take a punt on the future. We should invest in the future, particularly in those areas where we still have pioneers and people who are developing our productive potential. No other country has a greater potential, nor has any country a greater potential market. There are countless millions of people on our doorstep who want to trade with us. We have opportunities. Everywhere that I went while overseas the Australian image was bright, but it will not always be so unless we do some thing to maintain it. Australia’s future is dependent to a very great extent on our rural industries and on the people who bear the heat of the day in the developing areas. If we do not encourage the people of vision, courage and determination who have gone out into new areas we will find that Australia will slip behind. The Government claims to be a free enterprise government. It is time that it gave more encouragement to people of courage and vision; otherwise we will find that the dead hand of Socialism will overcome the country and we will go down in the way that Britain has gone down. This could come about because we have not encouraged people to get up and help themselves.
There is one other matter with which I should like to deal very quickly. I refer to national service training. I support the Government’s action in introducing national service training. I accept the principle of the ballot because no better method of choosing trainees has been suggested. However, I do not think we can continue with the ballot system indefinitely because I do not think it is fair to everyone. In the interests of Australia I feel that the time has come when we must look more closely at the possibility of training all our young men. Today our young men have the option of training for 2 years under the national service scheme or spending 5 years attending evening parades or 5 years in special units. There is no reason why every young man cannot be given military training. We have been told that we have not enough officers to train everyone, that we have inadequate facilities to equip them and inadequate accommodation for them. I do not accept the suggestion that we have not enough accommodation available; plenty of halls are available. Most of us were trained in camps during the last World War. If we are to face up to the changing situation in South East Asia we must ensure that every young man learns to handle arms. It must be remembered that the life of an untrained soldier is particularly short. Those of us who have been at war know this to be so. I hope that my sons do not have to go to war, but if they do I hope they will be well trained and fit. I believe that every young man should be compelled to fit himself to defend his country, his family and his responsibilities. If we really get to work on this problem we can progressively re-introduce a complete national service scheme. This may involve sacrifice, but is not Australia worth sacrifice? Does not the future of this country warrant our paying a little more tax?
When in Singapore recently we were told - and honourable members have heard the Prime Minister of Singapore say so - that the people of Singapore do not want the Americans, they want the Australians. I am realistic enough to know that we cannot take over that great base at Singapore, but I believe that we have a tremendous responsibility to give a lead. If we are to give a lead in this part of the world - we have the productive potential, we have the image and we have the confidence of the people - we must have the strength of arms to play our part and make the effort. If we train our young men we shall unquestionably make better citizens of them. I do not agree with those who discount some of the young people with long hair whom we see about the place, nor do I agree with the suggestion that the youth of today is deteriorating. If it is deteriorating it is a temporary situation which exists because the parents have not exercised proper discipline or given the proper training. I believe that if we were to re-introduce national service training a tremendous benefit would How from it in building up the strength and the character of our young men. It would be worth the cost involved.
– I have precious few moments, but I cannot fail to comment on some of the remarks made by the honourable member for Hume (Mr Pettitt). I listened to him for the 23 minutes that it took him to make his speech. For the first 20 minutes of that time he continually criticised the Government. He asked why the Government cannot provide telephone services. He asked why the Government did not alleviate the position. He criticised the Government because it has been unable to finance public works and to provide water conservation schemes to help those in the situation brought about by the drought. He made the criticism that it was the fault of governments that we have not alleviated the distress of drought, and he put the responsibility on governments at all levels. We know that the only government that can truly solve the problems of the country is the Federal Government, and the honourable member is a supporter of the coalition Federal Government. He talked about the great faith that we should have in Australia, yet the same coalition Government that he supports is selling our life blood. It allows overseas interests to mine our mineral ores but does not compel them to process the ores in this country. All that is left are holes in the ground. I agree that we should remove the effects of drought and that we have the knowledge to solve the problems of drought. But the honourable member who advocates this supports a government which has been in power for nearly two decades and which has not tackled the problem realistically.
The honourable member for Hume (Mr Pettitt) in the final 3 minutes of his speech, claimed that limited national service training was not enough; he said that what we have to do is to widen the scheme and that all our youth should be included in a national service training scheme. Does he think that this does not cost money? In an early period, when national service was on a much broader scale, Australia spent $300m on the scheme. When that scheme was in operation in the early 1950s a greater amount was spent on full national service training than at that time was spent in construction of the Snowy Mountains project. The honourable member is a confused man. He is like many Government supporters; he has no solution to our problems. Honourable members opposite trot our the bogy of socialism but this same free-enterprise, laissez-faire Government has no solution to the grave problems that confront it
With all due respect to the honourable member for Hume I feel that I have devoted enough time to his remarks. The negative document that we have been debating for the past week is only window dressing and it is planned to give the new Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) time to get control of the reins of Government. It could not be for any other purpose; it is an empty shell - as empty and frail as the party that the Prime Minister leads. It is not my wish to pass judgment on the right honourable gentleman. It was once said to me: ‘You cannot judge a Welshman until you have eaten a bag of flour with him.’ From my personal experience I have changed that expression to: ‘You cannot judge a man until you have eaten a bag of rice with him.’ I am far from having eaten a bag of rice with the Prime Minister but I make this observation.
The reputation of the Prime Minister when he was m another place was that of an extreme right-wing politician. During the leadership struggle in his party he stated that he was left of centre. Watching him on television I thought: ‘That is fair enough.’ But who were his appointments to the Ministry? All four appointments were from the extreme right wing of his party. There is no doubting that two members have some proven ability, but no appointment was made, of members from the centre of the party and none from the liberal wing of his party. I must admit there are few liberals within his party. Never in its history has this parry had such extreme right-wing tendencies. This party of the Prime Minister’s is an ultra-conservative party from stem to stern, with few liberals floating around.
I am not trying to ignore that the Government is a coalition but from a personal point of view I believe that it would have been better in many respects had the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr McEwen) remained Prime Minister until the next elections. However, the Liberal Party as the major party of the coalition made its decision and the Prime Minister appointed his friend, the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth) as Minister for Social Services. No-one doubts the Minister’s ability but all honourable members with any length of service in this House know quite well that the Minister for Social Services has been one of the chief advocates of increased and increasing defence expenditure. All honourable members are aware that the continuing increase in defence expenditure has been at the expense of all other Federal activities, especially social services, health and education at all levels.
How does the Minister intend to finance his social service proposals? Will he advocate a reduction of defence expenditure? Has the mystic threat that he saw so often vanished or does he see Australia in greater peril? Here he will be faced with a dilemma. How will he finance his proposals? Will it be by increasing taxation and, if so, will it be direct or indirect? 1 have no doubt that if there are increases in the next Budget, they will be further increases of indirect taxation.
If the Prime Minister and his friend the Minister for Social Services want to ease the plight of those living in difficult circumstances, why not make an immediate increase in aged and invalid pensions? The miserable Government that the Prime Minister leads failed to provide in the last Budget for any increase in pensions. Wages have risen since last August. Employers have taken the easy way out and passed on the increase in higher prices. The pensioners’ purchasing power has been frozen and their position deteriorates daily. Pensioners should get an immediate increase of $1 a week with a similar amount added in the Budget to be brought down in August, so that their burden may be lightened.
I turn now to the Nuclear NonProliferation Treaty. No mention was made of this in the Governor-General’s Speech, although it is such an important matter for mankind. I believe that the Nuclear Non-Pro iteration Treaty, recently signed by the United Kingdom, the United States of America and the Soviet Union, was a step towards sanity. I ask why we have not signed this document. One of the most positive actions of the Menzies Administration was the spontaneous decision of the Government of that day to sign a partial test ban treaty. A statement was made by the Minister for External Affairs at that time, Sir Garfield Barwick. On 26th July 1963 he said:
Australia should become a party to the treaty and the necessary steps should be taken immediately.
He went on to say -
It was the earnest wish of the Australian Government that all other powers, particularly those who aspire to develop their own nuclear capacity, would follow this lead and would decide to become parties to the agreement, thus widening its operation and making it more effective.
It was a positive contribution - a step forward - to sanity by the Menzies Government. On this occasion there seems to be hesitancy by the Government forces. Are they to join the nuclear club of lunacy? I believe that it is well worth examining what the Prime Minister stated in another place on 8th May 1957. I quote from pages 606 and 607 of Hansard: on this question of where we are to get guided missiles and whether we should make our own, that the inter-continental guided missile, if we had it - and I hope we do get it - is of little use without a hydrogen or atomic warhead . . .
That statement was made by the Prime Minister of today. Admittedly it was many years ago but the expression of thoughts and views was there and the words are on record.
Is this one of the reasons why the Government hesitates now? On the last occasion when something of this type was before the Government and it was under the leadership of the then Prime Minister, Sir Robert Menzies, and the then Minister for External Affairs, Sir Garfield Barwick, Australia joined in immediately. Australia said that it entered the agreement spontaneously and hoped that other powers - particularly those who aspired to develop their own nuclear capacity - would sign. Why do we now hesitate?
What will it cost if we are to go it alone? Our defence expenditure is rising. If honourable members read the Speech delivered by the Governor-General they will note that expenditure on conventional defence weapons will be Sl.lOOm this year and that it will continue to increase over the next 2 years. Let us examine the position in the light of that great expenditure. The United Kingdom decided to scrap its guided missiles. It did this because when a country joins the nuclear club it is not much use having an atomic bomb only. A country must develop a thermo-nuclear weapon and after that must acquire guided missiles. It must move then from guided missiles into the field of inter-continental ballistic missiles. Then that country must develop anti-ballistic missiles.
It is interesting to note in this regard a very informative article published in the Sydney Morning Herald’ on Wednesday, 13th March 1968. The article was sent from New York by Maurice Adams. The article is entitled: ‘New factor in the balance of terror’. In his article, Maurice Adams explains the cost of anti-ballistic missiles to the United States. He quotes the words of the former United States Secretary of Defence, Mr McNamara. The article reads:
Such a system would cost an estimated $US40,000m and Mr McNamara has time and time again dismissed the plan as a ‘futile waste of our resources’.
That is the cost of this system to the United States of America, the wealthiest and most powerful nation on this earth. The United States cannot afford an anti-ballistic missile system.
If honourable members wish to move on to consider the question of lunacy, I shall quote for them some details from this article. Maurice Adams says:
America’s arsenal of strategic offensive forces alone is already immense. It includes 1,054 Minuteman missile launchers, an additional 656 missile launchers in 41 Polaris submarines, and about 600 long-range bombers, nearly half of which are always kept in a high state of alert.
These forces carry more than 2,200 nuclear warheads averaging more than one megaton (equivalent to one million tons of TNT) each.
Let me express those statements in simple terms. One million tons of TNT, or one megaton, has approximately 50 times greater explosive capacity than the force of the atomic bombs that were exploded on Hiroshima or Nagasaki. The number of people killed at that time is variously estimated at between 100,000 and 200,000. So, imagine the arsenals that the two nations, the United States of America and the Soviet Union, have. Those two nations had sufficient explosive capacity at the time the nuclear ban treaty was signed in 1963 to kill and overkill all mankind at least 25 times over. Yet, there are individuals within the Australian Government and amongst its supporters who are advocating going it alone in the nuclear field. They want to eat the guts’ out of the Australian economy. lt is my view that we should support the draft Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. We know that Great Britain, after spending $400,000m on the Blue Streak missile, scrapped that project. Britain is immensely more wealthy than our country is. For this reason I believe that it is important that we sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. There is also a moral reason why we should sign.
I ask all honourable members to read the thought-provoking article in today’s ‘Sydney Morning Herald’ by T. B. Millar which is headed ‘In nuclear peril, can Australia rely on a pledge?’. I do not know whether in this day and age we cannot afford to stand by international obligations to try to bring forward some agreement in this matter. There are some safeguards in this Treaty. The fact is that certain provisions are made in the draft with respect to the matter of withdrawal. The draft Treaty provides that a State may withdraw ‘if it decides that extraordinary events, related to the subject matter of this treaty, have jeopardised the supreme interest of hs country’. The Treaty provides further that that State must give 3 months’ notice of such intention, with reasons, to all other parties and to the Security Council. I believe, as the article says, that the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty does not provide for an actual control of the spread of nuclear weapons but merely brings moral pressure against proliferation for finding out which nations are taking steps towards the production of these weapons. Surely at this stage Australia should give its moral support and should sign this Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
Others have thoughts of going it alone. On 13th April 1967, the honourable member for Hunter (Mr James) asked the Minister for National Development (Mr Fairbairn) a question about restrictions that were being placed on the export of uranium. He asked the Minister whether Australia might be considering producing it’s own nuclear weapons. The Minister replied:
Mr Speaker, the answer is yes. I was referring to those restrictions.
That question and answer appear at page 1214 of Hansard of that date. That answer is one of the reasons why I have raised this matter. It appears that there must be some thought on the Government side about Australia becoming an independent nuclear nation.
In the few minutes that I have left, I feel that it is appropriate that 1 speak about the most important question - the most immediate question - confronting the world today, that is, the matter of Vietnam. We have read of the struggles of Vietnam in the Press and they have been presented to us in television programmes. We have seen the Tet offensive. We have seen what the people of Vietnam have had to suffer particularly since 1965 when the war was escalated. We know that this has been a long struggle by the Vietnamese people. Yet, there seems to be a monolithic, granite-like unity among members on the Government side. They have no doubts that the policy of the Government is correct. Only one supporter of this Government, the lata Senator Hannaford, expressed doubts. He had the moral courage to resign from the Liberal Party and adopted a different attitude from that of the Government.
If honourable members examine tha opinions of people in the United States they will see that there are members of the Republican Party in the Senate and tha House of Representatives and also members of the Democratic Party in both Houses of Congress, including the majority leader in the Senate, Senator Mansfield, who are against the policy of the United States Government concerning Vietnam. Great newspapers such as the ‘New York Times’, and such influential magazines as ‘Life’, Newsweek’ as well as other publications doubt the policies being carried out by tha United States Administration in Vietnam. But there are no doubts about our Vietnam involvement held by any member of the Government parties. Government members are too fearful to think about this matter.
I believe it is important to challenge thought. 1 want to quote words from a speech made by a great American. I quote from the ‘Congressional Record’, from a speech delivered by John F. Kennedy when he was a senator. I ask honourable members to consider the time when this speech was made. It was delivered on 6th April 1954, before Dien Bien Phu. The late John F. Kennedy said:
The time has come for the American people to be told the blunt truth about Indo-China . . . despite tremendous amounts of economic and material aid from the United States … I am frankly of the belief that no amount of American military assistance in Indo-China can conquer an enemy which is everywhere and at the same time nowhere - an enemy of the people which has the sympathy and covert support of the people. The time tostudy, to doubt, to review, and to revise is now, for upon our decisions now may well rest the peace and security of the world, and, indeed, the very continued existence of mankind. For the United States to intervene unilaterally and to send troops into the most difficult terrain in the world, with the Chinese able to pour in unlimited manpower, would mean that we would face a situation which would be far more difficult than even that we encountered in Korea. It would seem to me that it would be a hopeless situation. 1 ask honourable members to think over those words. Surely the war in Vietnam is a quagmire, a bottomless pit of human suffering, in which thousands of Americans have died. In fact, 500 Americans have died each week for the last 3 weeks. People in the United States Administration who were supporters of President Kennedy and then of President Johnson have changed their ground. They include men such as Arthur Schlesinger, John Galbraith who was United States Ambassador to India, Mr Sorenson, who was Press Secretary to President Kennedy, even Robert McNamara, Secretary for Defence, who recently resigned from the Administration and who expressed certain reservations; George Keenan who was the United States Ambassador to Moscow; and Roger Hilsman who was United States Secretary of State for Far Eastern Affairs. These are just some of the men who in fact doubted United States policy in Vietnam, challenged it and changed their minds about how the war was being conducted by President Johnson. Many people say that President Kennedy supported involvement. I say - and honourable members can check the records - that when President Kennedy was assassinated on 22nd November 1963 there were 16,000 Americans as advisers in South
Vietnam. President Kennedy was carrying out a commitment left to him by earlier Presidents. On 2nd September 1963, a very short time before he was assassinated, President John Kennedy said:
I don’t think that unless a greater effort is made by the Government–
He meant the South Vietnamese Government to win popular support the war can be won out there in Vietnam. In the final analysis it is their war. They are the ones to have to win or lose it. We can help them. We can give them equipment. We can send our men out there as advisers. But they have to win it - the people of Vietnam - against the Communists. We are prepared to assist them but I don’t think the war can be won unless the people support the effort.
I ask honourable members whether Air Vice-Marshal Ky and General Thieu have gained the support of the South Vietnamese people. They have not been able to defeat the National Liberation Front forces that oppose South Vietnamese government forces, United States forces and our forces in Vietnam.
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– My friend the honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren) spent a lot of time on nuclear weapons. No-one in this House has anything but a very great dislike of nuclear weapons. We all would like to see nuclear disarmament. At the same time the honourable member and myself would not be here if a nuclear bomb had not been dropped at the end of the last war. We were both due to leave on death marches within 24 or 48 hours of the bomb being dropped. But this does not make me like nuclear weapons. I wish the world could abolish nuclear weapons and not even use them as a deterrent. However, the honourable member came out in his true colours at the end of his speech. I apologise for having once referred to him as a political radish - red on the outside and white on the inside. I withdraw this. The honourable member reminds me much more of the baby elephant who went to sleep and dreamt he was lord of the jungle and lord of the herd with all the cows and calves following him, but found when he woke up that he was just another item in the Moscow Circus. After all, this propaganda which the honourable member, his leader and his
Party are putting out has been instigated in Communist circles. Mao Tse-tung knows of such tactics very well and has said so. If honourable members read the Thoughts of Mao Tse-tung* - I have the little red book too - they will find the statement that to bring a country down you must work inside first and bring down the government. So, today we find ourselves in a difficult position because Australians are not using large enough maps.
Last week I proposed that we should bring in ordinary, normal, routine war censorship. I was criticised for this, as I expected I would be, in one or two newspapers. I will not waste time in answering this criticism because I was supported by the chairman of the Commonwealth Press Union at the National Press Club luncheon two days later. But this is indicative of the disturbed minds of many people on what is happening in regard to this particular war. My critics said I could not distinguish between this war and World War II. The other reason they gave was that the security of Australia is not at stake except in a very remote sense. I will answer this second criticism later on. But there is not really any difference between this war and World War II. No-one wants war. Anyone who did would be put out of court by every member of this Parliament. But there are a lot of people who are afraid of the situation. In the words of the old song of my youth: ‘They would lie down under the champagne spring and let it trickle down their throats while the bluebirds sang in the Great Rock Candy Mountains’. In modern terminology they follow the slogan: ‘Better red than dead’.
I believe this is not the feeling of the vast majority of the Australian people. They believe that there are certain principles which should be upheld and that without these principles life is not worth living. This does not apply only here in Australia. If we are to maintain our own principles we have also to understand that force and aggression have to be stopped wherever they may appear. As Lord Vansittart once said, you cannot be forever blowing bubbles when the lives and livelihood of millions of people depend on your policies and actions. No Australian today can afford to be blowing bubbles and saying that the Vietnam war has nothing to do with us.
We are righting Communism not only in South East Asia and the western Pacific. There is a second Communist front in Africa south of the Zambesi. Communist forces are endeavouring to create in Southern Africa the same chaos that occurred north of the Zambesi during the tribal barbarism, bestiality and bloodshed in the Congo and Nigeria.
The honourable member for Warringah (Mr St John), in his misguided zeal, for some reason or other seems to fasten on to both Rhodesia and South Africa as a target for his shafts. Why are South Africa and Rhodesia taken as the target by all these organisations? Why does Mr U Thant, Secretary-General of the United Nations, never mention what happened in Burma where 200,000 or more Indian traders were sent back to India? Why does nobody ever mention that Ceylon is trying to send 400,000 to 500,000 Tamils back to India? Why does nobody ever mention that the casualties in the Southern Sudan, where the Moslem Africans are trying to wipe out the Christian Africans and those who are neither Christians nor Moslems, are greater than the casualties in South Vietnam?
We have had the recent example of Kenya and we will have another example in Tanzania. Kenya is probably one of the best of the newly developed African nations. Its recent attitude towards Asians is nothing new. An article that appeared in a supplement to the ‘New York Times’ in June of last year said:
The Dukka wallahs are outcasts in Africa.
This has not come as some sudden rush, but everybody hoped it would not happen and did not consider the possibility that it would. We know that Britain cannot take all these people. India will not take back even those of her own race. We will have a lot of unfortunate stateless Asians whose situation will be far worse than that of anybody living under separate development in South Africa. As I said when I came back from southern Africa I did not return starry eyed about any of these policies. But I believe that sympathy and understanding of these problems is better than criticism and ostracism, which only drive people into the hands of the right wingers and the Verkramptes, who are the extreme right wing as distinct from the Verlichr.es, who are the moderates and are led by Mr Vorster. Most of the South African politicians genuinely believe that they are creating a situation that will produce the greatest good for the greatest number. It is no use talking about South Africa being a police state when you find that 1,750,000 Bantus in Transkei have 700 police, of whom not more than 300 are Europeans. That could not be classed as a police state: it has fewer police than the city of Melbourne, if I remember rightly.
We do not like and the South Africans do not like the provision for 180 days detention. But the South Africans say: ‘We are at war with Communism. We had 453 serious bomb outrages between 1960 and 1962 and we do not have them now. We would like to get rid of the provision.’ But nobody ever criticises Northern Ireland for having the same provision on its statute book, and it is very much closer to England than South Africa is. But let us take another illogical situation. Mr Wilson, the Prime Minister of Great Britain, told the House of Commons that Britain’s recognition of the Greek Government seemed to be invalid because of the departure of the Greek King. He added that even if the present recognition was no longer valid it was Britain’s policy to recognise a government that was in effective control of a country, even though that government may be distasteful.
Why do we find Rhodesia regarded as it is? Is it because people like the honourable member for Reid and the left-wingers in the British Government through their policies have brought Britain to her knees and want to rub her nose in the dirt? It was the left-wingers and the fellow travellers who upheld the ban on arms for South Africa. But since the Suez Canal has been closed, between forty and fifty British naval vessels have called at the Cape for revictualling, refuelling and repairs. Can anything be more illogical? Nonetheless the ban denies to Britain an export order worth £200m. For the same reason, these people do not want to see any satisfactory understanding reached with Rhodesia. This dispute probably costs Britain another £200m a year. And so it goes on. I ask Australian politicians to remember that if the Suez Canal is ever re-opened it will be under Russian domination. The Russians are now right down to the Perim Island, at the mouth of the Red Sea, to Somalia on the Horn of Africa, are arming Yemen and are trying to extend their influence into the Persian Gulf. Recently Mr Kosygin visited New Delhi and offered ships for the Indian Navy so that Russia with India could control the Indian Ocean when British withdrawal from east of Suez created a vacuum there. A report to this effect was published in our newspapers only a short time ago.
Southern Africa is one of the most important strategic regions for Australia. It provides the only safe trade route to Europe, especially since Peking is concentrating its efforts on trying to cause more trouble in Panama. It may provide the only safe air route. Therefore, we should learn much more than we know now about the conditions in the region. I cannot say whether the ‘assimilado’ of the Portuguese in Mozambique or Angola is right or whether separate development in South Africa or the half way measures in Rhodesia will succeed. But 1 am very grateful that we in Australia do not have to solve the problems of those countries. Many people seem to feel that at a distance of 6,000 miles they can solve the problems. Many others seem to be encouraging, if not directly then indirectly, the terrorists who come in through Zambia, over the Zambesi or Lake Kariba
While I was visiting Rhodesia I heard a debate in the Salisbury Parliament in which, one after another, four African opposition members rose and, almost in these words, said: ‘Mr Prime Minister, will you tell the British Prime Minister that we in Rhodesia are all one family’? I have the Hansard report if anybody doubts this. They said: ‘We may have our family quarrels and disagreements, but we do not want interference from outsiders. We do not want our wives and families roasted by a burning brand on thatched huts while we are away. We do not want our cattle maimed and our dips destroyed.’ Yet some people support the African National Congress, which is sending terrorists into the country. When I was there an invasion of 200 terrorists occurred. They were led by a man trained in North Vietnam. The demolition experts had been trained in a crash course held in Peking and Moscow. The small arms and other equipment were of Chinese origin. They were seen by the honourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen) and myself.
I think we should take another look at some of these problems and consider where they are leading us. Secondly, I want to say a word about the home front. Here the influences that have brought Britain almost to bankruptcy are at work. There can be no doubt about this. The Communists and the left-wingers appeal to the greed that is in all of us. They promise bigger and bigger profits, higher and higher wages, shorter and shorter hours and bigger and bigger handouts, but in the end it means bankruptcy. We have strikes that are not recognised by the trade union leaders but organised by the shop stewards and the juniors who seek to disturb the economy. However, I cannot deal with all these aspects in the time I have at my disposal.
I want to deal especially with the universities. Here we have a situation that is rather frightening. Naturally, the Communists appeal to the idealists, the students, the socalled intellectuals and the ministers of religion. They are attacking our freedoms through our own slogans to achieve academic freedom.
Consider what happened at the Melbourne University just recently. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) and his party supporters were banned from the campus and the honourable gentleman took no action. Here in this House a member of the Liberal Party of Australia rises to support the freedom of University Clubs and the freedom of speech. The Melbourne University ALP Club was formed in 1948 or 1949. Other clubs - the Liberal Club, the DLP Club later and then the Labor Club - have been formed but nobody worried about the Melbourne University ALP Club until last year when the Labor Club - it is backed by the Victorian Central Executive, and I need say no more as to its policy - decided that it would raise funds for the National Liberation Front; in other words, the Vietcong. To its credit, it was not the Liberal Club; it was the ALP Club that was the chief opposition to the raising of these funds. For that it has been marked down for destruction by the Labor Club, backed by the Victorian Central Executive.
Orientation week last week introduced the new students to university life and activity. I have with me certain photographs.
I wish they could be incorporated in Hansard, but photographs are not incorporated in Hansard. I have three photographs of the Labor Club exhibit, which should not be mistaken for the ALP Club. One photograph shows the Labor Club inside the union building and also shows a large NLF flag and our enemies’ literature available for distribution. The ALP Club, because it had been disaffiliated by the students’ union, was not allowed to set up an exhibit in the University Union. It had been charged with showing cause why it should not be disaffiliated from the students’ union. When they asked what the charges against them were one member from the Labor Club said: ‘You have not come here to be charged, you have come here to be discharged’. That is evidence of a very good kangaroo court or people’s court! As they had been banned they set up a stall outside in the courtyard, not in the building. I have a photograph of their exhibit. It says, ‘This Club has been banned because of its opposition to aid to the National Liberation Front’. There is a picture of the Leader of the Opposition speaking and a poster about freedom of speech. Members of the Labor Club did not like what was happening. They went in and complained and asked officials to remove Mr Whitlam and his party from the market place, as it might be called. They were told they could go out in some back alley, where there were no people.
Why has not the Australian Labor Party taken exception to this? It seems extraordinary. The ALP Club appealed against the disaffiliation on Monday night and the students’ council decided, six to four, to maintain the disaffiliation after they had received a letter from Mr Hartley, the Executive Secretary of the Victorian Branch of the Central Executive. I ask whether honourable members opposite approve of this. 1 give this as an illustration of some of the things that are happening on the home front, which people do not consider as being of sufficient importance to take much notice of. I have the photographs if any honourable member would like to see them. If the honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron) - much binding in the Hindmarsh - would like to see the photographs I will pass them over to him.
J have referred to the home front and the attempt to create chaos in South Africa. I come now to the other active front; namely, South East Asia. Is the honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Calwell) the only honourable member opposite who says that this war is an unwinnable one? If I am not mistaken, the Leader of the Opposition came out with the same thoughts in the debate last night. He certainly made the headlines in the newspapers and if he was maligned he has not asked for a withdrawal. The Leader of the Opposition signed the Labor Party policy, but he has made a very big attempt to try to tell the Australian people that the policy is not fair dinkum and does not mean what it says. Yet it is not only the honourable member for Melbourne who is the old man of the sea around the neck of the Leader of the Opposition; there is also the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean) who visited South Africa recently. I wonder whether the Leader of the Opposition will call the honourable member for Melbourne Ports a racist and a rebel, as the honourable member for Moreton and myself were called because we had the temerity to visit Rhodesia and South Africa. The Leader of the Opposition did not brand as racists and rebels the three members of his Labor Party who on the way home from the Conference of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association in Uganda were guests of the Speaker of the South African Parliament for 10 days. Why not? The Leader of the Opposition referred to the honourable member for Moreton and myself in those terms. All the arguments put forward by the Leader of the Opposition are fallacious and, very largely, untrue. I quote from an Associated Foreign Press bulletin, which reads:
Singapore AFP in English 0609 GMT 24 Feb 68 B (Text) Capetown-Frank Crean, shadow minister of finance in the Australian opposition Labor Party, said here Friday that when his party comes to power Australian forces would be withdrawn from Vietnam. We are likely to be the alternative government in a short space of time, he added.
Crean, who is currently visiting South Africa, said the government is taking part in the Vietnam war ostensibly to stop what is rather picturesquely described as the downward surge of Communism.
I do not like entering into discussions on the home politics of other countries, although the honourable member for Yarra (Dr J. F. Cairns) and Senator Wheeldon had no compunction in criticising the United States Government when they were in America in the middle of last year. I warn the Australian people that if Senator Robert Kennedy is successful in the United States elections, we will have to look after our own defence and not rely on the ANZUS Treaty. Everything that Senator Robert Kennedy has advocated in Asia has been proved wrong. In 1964 I was in South East Asia. President Sukarno had just received a hiding on the Borneo frontier at Sarawak, and was crying out for a cease fire. Howard P. Jones, who was then the United States Ambassador, evidently cabled Senator Kennedy and he replied: ‘Bring President Sukarno up to Tokyo and we will have a talk about it.’ President Kennedy met them in Tokyo. Not only did President Sukarno try to get the short armistice or ceasefire that he wanted but Senator Robert Kennedy started to push a ‘be kind to Sukarno’ policy a short time later in Kuala Lumpur. Unfortunately the results of the Kuala Lumpur conference are confidential. It is a pity that what he was told is not allowed to be published. That Conference was within 12 months of the coup of 30th September 1965 when the PKI and Sukarno very nearly took over. The war in Vietnam is not unwin.nable, but people who have held back, who have not taken the necessary action, who have been promulgating Communist propaganda have stopped the war from being successful so far.
I conclude by repeating the wisdom of the sages of the ages, as given by one Cicero, who lived a long time ago. I quote:
A nation can survive its fools, and even the ambitious. But it cannot survive treason within. . . For the traitor appears no traitor; he speaks in the accents familiar to his victims, and he wears their face and their garments, and he appeals to the baseness that lies deep in the hearts of all men. He rots the soul of a nation; he works secretly and unknown in the night to undermine the pillars of a city; he infects the body politic so that it can no longer resist. A murderer is less to be feared. The traitor is the warrior of the plague.
Sitting suspended from 5.59 to 8 p.m.
– Mr Speaker, before I commence my actual speech, may 1 thank you and through you, members of the Cabinet, honourable members on the other side of the House, the President of the Senate and various senators, members of the Australian Country Party, particularly its leaders, and members of my own Party who extended to me so much consideration and so many kind thoughts during the trying time through which I have passed since we last met here. I appreciated tremendously their comments. I do not think I have lost my sense of humour and I hope in the near future to show this in the debates in the chamber.
I take part in this debate for one purpose only, and that is to direct attention to what I regard as the greatest omission in the Speech with which His Excellency the Governor-General opened this session of the Parliament. It is of great national urgency that the Parliament direct attention to the need to overhaul Australia’s conciliation and industrial arbitration machinery. The Parliament must take stock of the present position and consider what has developed during the last 2 years. After all, it is the responsibility of this Parliament, under the Constitution, to deal with conciliation and arbitration at the Federal level. When I last spoke in the House on this subject I referred to the inherent dangers to the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission at both levels of its activities in relation to specific matters that arise at short notice from time to time. Tonight, in the time available to me, I want to refer to the situation that has led to the present industrial unrest and to the complete lack of confidence that the trade union movement and workers generally have in our conciliation and arbitration machinery. The Parliament must take note of what is happening and must decide that our present industrial law is out of date and incomplete to handle the national requirements of the trade union movement and of employers. I hope to show that as a result of developments in the last 2 years the employers as well as the trade union movement have lost confidence in the existing machinery.
When the Liberal Party-Country Party coalition took office Australia had a system of conciliation and arbitration which kept in two separate compartments the questions of a basic wage and standard hours - which is the main feature I want to discuss tonight - and of award payments, conditions, margins and so forth. The Commission is trying to get back to the principle that was established by the Chifley Labor Government but which was destroyed by the coalition Government after it came to office. This Government, believing that too much was being granted to the workers through the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission set up by the Labor Government, introduced changes which have destroyed the confidence of employers and employees in the arbitration system. People who read the comments of employers immediately after the last decision of the Commission must surely have been stopped in their tracks. The employers said that the Commission had left the issue to be slogged out - they were the actual words - between the employers and the employees.
When this Government came to office the basic wage, which was linked to the economic capacity of the country to pay it, was in a compartment of its own. The Government decided to change the whole framework and it extended the powers of the Commission. Not only was the Commission charged with determining the basic wage - and I do not care whether honourable members call it the basic wage or the minimum wage; it must be linked to the economic capacity of the country to pay it - but also was given the responsibility for determining what subsequently came to be known as the metal trades case. The first step in the dark taken by the Commission was in 1956 when the 2i times metal trades increase, based on the 1937 margin rates, was introduced. It was said by the Commission, bluntly and fairly, that this was the new marginal rate and that it would flow to every other Federal award. This was the pattern that was struck in 1956. In 1959 the 28% increase in margins granted by the Commission was also designed to flow to all other awards in the Federal jurisdiction. Again in 1963 the 10% increase was intended to flow similarly. Anybody who was following the work of the Commission would have realised that it could not go to the same economic pot and give satisfaction to both employers and employees. It could not determine a basic wage as well as margins and perhaps one day also determine standard hours. The Commission was saddled with a completely unworkable responsibility. In 1961 the
Commission attempted to level out the situation. I pay a tribute to the President of the Commission for the long years of service that he has given in the industrial field and for his attempts to grant justice to the workers while at the same time not injuring the economy for which the responsibility rests with the Government.
In 1961 the Commission, headed by the President, brought down a decision which had for its purpose the virtual pegging of costs in Australia, lt provided, firstly, that the basic wage would be increased by 12s a week and, secondly, that as from 1961 there would be no automatic adjustments of the basic wage but that regard would be had to the consumer price index, which had the blessing of this Government and finally the blessing of the Australian Council of Trade Unions and of employers. It was to be the measuring stick for future minimum wage levels for the Australian workers. The 1961 decision provided that in future the onus of responsibility would be on the employers to show that there should not be an increase in the basic wage if in fact costs increased.
Mr Speaker, this was the first real attempt in Australia since this Government came into office, in fact the first real attempt ever made in the history of industrial arbitration in Australia, to bring about a balance between what the workers were entitled to and what the economy could properly afford. That decision operated for 3 years- in 1961, 1962 and 1963. In that period there was an increase of only 2s in the cost of living, according to the consumer price index. In 1964 the same Commission virtually, with the same President, decided that there should be a review, as the Commission had decided in 1961.
The Commission did not do anything drastic. It merely said that in that 3-year period there had been an economic evaluation in the community which entitled the workers to an additional 18s a week plus the 2s that had come into being because of the added costs in those 3 years. The Commission allowed the 1961 principle to operate. So in 1965 the position was that even though the trade union movement received an increase of 18s in the basic wage there was an increase in the cost of living, according to the consumer price index, of only 12s. The trade union movement applied for an increase of 12s. It was then that the Commission, with two judges in addition to the three judges who made the decision in 1961 - I refer to Mr Justice Sweeney and Mr Justice Nimmo - delivered a majority decision against the President and Mr Justice Moore which set aside completely the 1961 principle. For the first time since 1920 the trade union movement and the workers of Australia were faced with a situation, following that 1965 decision, that no longer would the cost of living be in any way associated with the basic wage. Clause 5 of the 1961 decision provided this:
For the specific reasons set out in the judgment we consider that in February next the only issue in regard to the basic wage should be why the money wages fixed as a result of our decision should not be adjusted in accordance with any change in the Consumer Price Index . . .
That is fair enough. In 1964 this principle was still operating satisfactorily and would have operated satisfactorily. It would have given the Australian economy the lift it needed and has needed over a period of years.
But in 1965 this new bench, two members of which have never been seen since on the bench, brought in a majority decision which completely reversed the 1961 principle. The decision said that the tribunal:
I put it to every thinking member in this House that he should be staggered at a reversal of principle such as this oy any arbitral authority charged with the responsibility of doing what it can to keep in balance the national economy and to provide the necessary amount in the workers’ pay envelopes. Since then chaos has developed. I would not have thought in 1968 that any Ministry, blind though it may be, incompetent though it may be, would allow this national situation to remain as it is without some comment in a Speech by the Governor-General. From that decision onward, the arbitration machinery never again settled down as to what is needed.
Following on from there the Commission decided on the single unit wage. Then it decided on a review of work value in the metal trades group. Mr Speaker, no person in this country has ever yet attempted to find out what the words ‘work value’ mean. These are the most bandied words ever uttered in industrial arbitration. Then there commenced the long tortuous hearing of the metal trades work value case. Time does not permit me to say all I want to say about this case. I now want to refer to where we stand at this stage.
In December last the tribunal hearing the argument about work value decided that there should be an increase of S7.20 in tradesmen’s rates. But the tribunal tied two tags to this decision. For the first time since 1956 it attempted to throw overboard completely the principles that had been established in 1956, continued in 1959 and extended in 1963. The tribunal said two things. It said, firstly, that there was to be no flow-on from the metal trades decision of December 1967 and, secondly, said that the decision was to absorb all over award payments.
I will now spend a moment or two of my time to speak about over award payments. In the Australian wage structure, over award payments are a national development of hungry private enterprise control. This Government has always set its face against any form of prices control. It has always pleaded that it is a free trade government. The employers of Australia, with nobody to control them, offered S2 a week, S3 a week and $4 a week in some cases so that they could get the employees that they wanted and they passed that cost on to the people in Australia who bought their commodities. If the industry concerned happened to have foreign competition it received Tariff Board protection. When the tribunal made this decision it had evidence before it that the over award payment in New South Wales for members of the boilermakers and blacksmiths industry - one of the industries within the framework of the metal trades group - was $11 and that this would be common. What the tribunal did was to say that it would give the workers $7.20 but that this would be swallowed up by the $11 over award payment already being received. I never heard anything so ridiculous in my life. The tribunal also decided that there should be no flow-on. The union I have the honour to represent was told in 1934 - and it was engaged in award making long before the present Commission was created - that the courts of those days had regard to the wages paid in the metal trades industry when determining what rates were due in any other award. So, Sir, here we had a situation where the employers went back to the tribunal and asked it to wipe out the $7.20 after this important hearing had taken place.
I now want to read the long decision given by Mr Justice Moore who, next to the President of the Commission, was the most trained man in the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission and who was possibly one of the best brains ever known in this field. I am reading this because shortly, in the time I have left, I want to analyse what he said. I am reading from his minority judgment. Firstly, he was dealing with this question of work value. This is what he said:
The argument that everyone in an industry from the managing director to the labourer in the yard is working as a team is attractive but the rewards for this kind of teamwork which leads to increased productivity will be distributed to employees generally in National Wage cases. Unless the Commission confines itself in work value cases to forming views about the value of the work itself the new approach introduced earlier this year may be frustrated. In work value reviews employees will be guaranteed a consideration of the work they do in the knowledge that its value will bc assessed on factors related to their work.
In annual economic cases they will receive the fruits of overall economic improvements. There is no room in this situation for a work value case based on the kind of claim made by the unions in this case to increase all rates merely for economic reasons.
This decision was given by Mr Justice Moore in December 1967. When the employers made a further application to the Commission just two months later a pronouncement was made by the Commission that the $7.20 that was awarded in December 1967 would not have all been awarded had the Commission been aware that over award payments would not be absorbed The Commission then decided to grant immediately 70% of that $7.20, which is a sum of $5.40, and it decided that that sum would be in addition to any over award payments. It also decided that the payment of the other 30% would be examined on 6th August 1968. Let me repeat the words of Mr Justice Moore in the decision that he made in December 1967:
There is no room in this situation for a work value case based on the kind of claim made by the unions in this case to increase all rates merely for economic reasons.
But what happened in February was that 30% of the sum that was awarded in December was held over to the following August for further examination, and the two decisions were coupled together at the same time. This kind of reversal of decisions, this kind of reversal of principles, has put the Commission in such a position at this time that there is only one avenue left. What the Commission tried to do in this instance was to get back to what the Chifley Government did by legislation between 1947 and 1949, and that was to segregate the economic wage. Honourable members can call it what they like. They can call it a basic wage, a minimum payment or whatever they like - a rose by any name smells the same - but it is the minimum payment that comes out of the economic pot.
What this Commission attempted to do was to get back to the principles established by the Chifley Government in 1949 and put the economic wage in one pool and bring back all margins into another area. That was the Chifley Government’s principle, which was destroyed by this Government.
If ever there was a case of a government being caught up in a whirlwind of its own sowing, this is it. This Commission is deadlocked and it knows not where to go. It decides something in December, reverses the decision in February and decides to look at the position again in August. I suggest to the Government that this situation cannot be left to take care of itself. We will have no more industrial peace in Australia while the present position exists. The Commission is not able to sort out the problem handed to it firstly by this Government and secondly by the employers in this free society we talk about. 1 do not blame the employers, as the way was opened to them by this Government and they took advantage of it. Over award payments are here to slay. The employers would be the first ones to say - if they were truthful - that it is part of their set-up, that they are able to get their profits out of the worker’s pocket. The employees get over award payments and the employers get the profits on the added turnover. In this case the Commonwealth attempted a detailed, methodical approach to wage fixation which has been discarded by the Arbitration Commission. The Commonwealth’s own methods were wiped aside by both the employer and employee organisations. Today these organisations are deadlocked.
I never thought that I would live to see the day when the great Australian Council of Trade Unions would be endorsing a strike by Public Service employees but this has happened with the mail van drivers. I never thought that I would see the day where the build-up of antagonism against the present industrial system would be so great among the trade unions and the workers that if the Australian Council of Trade Unions backed down on a demand for strike action it would be destroyed. We are in a position which has been created by this Government’s legislation, which brought about the destruction of established principles. The Postmaster-General (Mr Hulme) has stood up in this House and said that the Government is doing all it can to settle the postal dispute. I said to him the other day that he was pulling his own leg. Unless the Government grapples with the situation directly, I urge the setting up of an immediate inquiry representing employers, employees and representatives of this Parliament - and I do not care if a competent Minister represents the Government, as long as he has a voice - to try to bring this industrial situation back to a degree of sanity and back to a position where the trade unions are trusted by the Government. Unless that trust is rebuilt then this country is in for the saddest period of industrial relations it has ever experienced.
– I would like to join with those other honourable members who paid tribute in this debate to the late right honourable Harold Holt. I do so with a feeling of the greatest respect for his contribution to this Parliament and to this nation. I am sure that the sentiments which have been so ably expressed are a fitting tribute to his great work. I believe that those sentiments are justified, because he can be so well described as a truly great Australian. I join also with those who have congratulated the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) on his elevation to that office and the Leader of the Australian Country Party (Mr McEwen), who became Prime Minister for a short period.
The motion for the Address-in-Reply to the Governor-General’s Speech was moved by the honourable member for Henty (Mr Fox), and I congratulate him on his contribution. He is no stranger to debates in this House. The motion was seconded and supported by the honourable member for the Northern Territory (Mr Calder). I particularly want to congratulate that honourable member, because not only did he deliver a very fine speech on this occasion but he put to this House a proposition which has resulted in a very important decision being made. I refer to the action of the Government in announcing that the member for the Northern Territory will henceforth have a general vote in this House. I believe that this is a demonstration of the very positive approach that this Government - the Gorton-McEwen Government - is taking towards its task of administration.
I want to refer to some of the matters which are under consideration by the Government that were mentioned in the Speech of His Excellency the GovernorGeneral outlining the policy of the Government. We have just listened to the honourable member for Blaxland (Mr E. James Harrison) discussing the arbitration system and giving us his views of the economy, if I may express it in that way. I am afraid it was a very one-sided approach to the present state of affairs. Certainly he failed miserably to put forward the facts in relation to the economic situation in this country. I hope that not only will the Government stand firm in its approach but that we will not see any departure from the firm stand that is already being attempted in these matters, because this is vital when we consider the trend of the world economy and the problems which this nation faces as a result of what has occurred in a comparatively short time. I will later mention specifically the devaluation of sterling, trends that we see affecting directly the economy of this country and matters of great import which, fortunately, this Government is taking into consideration.
But first I want to reiterate the support which members of the Government Parties have expressed for the Government’s announced policy on Vietnam and the international situation in general. The GovernorGeneral very properly referred in his Speech to the precise situation in which we find ourselves. With very strong support through the ballot boxes of the nation and because of the tremendous support given at the last Federal election, the Government adheres to the policies announced in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech. His Excellency said:
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.
He then goes on to refer to the importance of ensuring that we do not allow aggression to continue its march towards Australia. We have no intention of participating in aggression in North Vietnam, but equally we are determined to ensure that this does not happen to South Vietnam. This is an issue which is dominant in the mind of every thinking Australian. I deplore the speech which we heard last night from the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam). It was one in which he catalogued a whole range of headings but failed miserably to give any account of his own policy beliefs in respect of even a minor proportion of these headings. But then we read in the Press today of the glee and delight which is expressed by the honourable gentleman and, perhaps on his behalf, by those who sponsor news items to the Press at what has occurred in the United States of Ameria as a result of the decision by Senator Kennedy to contest the presidential nomination. The honourable gentleman sees in this decision some vindication of his own so-called policy for Vietnam.
I want to say right here and now that the only analogy one could fairly draw between these two points of view is from the fact that both are expressions which come from people who happen to be in opposition. Senator Kennedy is doing exactly what the Leader of the Opposition has been doing in Australia for a considerable time. If we analyse in any detail at all the propositions that are offered from either quarter, I venture to say that neither gentleman has constructive plans to implement his policy.
In the unlikely event of Senator Kennedy being successful and in the unlikely event of the Leader of the Opposition being successful, there would be no risk of the policies of which he talks today being implemented. We would certainly never experience the implementation of the Opposition’s policies so-called, policies which we have to put together piece by piece after listening to those of the Opposition who speak in support of their leader in this place and throughout the nation. It is important to recall that the present important policy in South East Asia to which this nation adheres, to which the United States of America so strongly adheres and to which a number of other nations adhere with equal strength or support in one way or another, is exactly the policy which was established by and had its origin in the work of the late President of the United States, John F. Kennedy. There is no doubt at all that the policy which he said would be followed by that nation will be followed in the next 9 months, come what may in the political arena in the United States.
– That was Bobby’s brother.
– Of course Bobby, as was said earlier today by a very highly respected member of this House, has never been very precise in his forecasts, nor has he been very accurate in his assessment of the world scene or the integral parts of international affairs affecting his own country, particularly when they have affected also other countries. It is worth recording also that there is another famous American who today is using a little double talk.
– What is his name?
– Richard Nixon. It is not very long ago that his expressions of opinion were totally different from what they now are. I recall that he visited Moscow about 18 months or 2 years ago and attempted to call on the former leader of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, Mr Khrushchev. He was unable even to find Mr Khrushchev. Nor was he allowed the courtesy of paying his respects to a man with whom he had worked at an international level, when he was Vice-President of the United States and Mr Khrushchev was leader of the Soviet Union. On that occasion Mr Nixon expressed very clearly his views on Communism and on its danger to the world as it is today.
The Government’s policy on Vietnam is important so far as it has been expressed by the Prime Minister since his election to this House, but there are other aspects of vital importance. I refer to our defence preparations and our adherence to the established policy of this Government to ensure that we in no way slacken in our approach to defence requirements. Consequently I was pleased to hear the reference by His Excellency in this direction, to hear him speak of the forward thinking and planning and enunciate what is being done to strengthen the three arms of the Services. This is good and commendable. I referred earlier to the problems which we face on the economic front. I propose to refer in particular to the effects on the devaluation of sterling. This came as a very sudden but not unexpected occurrence at the end of last year at a time when this House was in recess. When it occurred there were expressions on behalf of the Government and expressions on behalf of individual political parties in this country. I want to say tonight that as a member of the Australian Country Party and as a member representing a country electorate I believe that there is a very big task ahead of us to ensure the productivity of our primary industries and also some sections of secondary industry.
There is an important factor which must not be lost sight of in this present period which can be described as the lull before the storm. As surely as the sun will rise, within 6 months or so we will begin to feel the direct effects of the devaluation of sterling. The returns for some of our primary products will be directly affected. I am pleased that the announced policy of the Government is to give assistance where there is evidence of loss. I had noted, of course, that expert committees have been appointed by the Government to assess precisely what this loss will be. We must expect to think in terms of many millions of dollars to compensate for the direct loss to the dairying, sugar and fruit industries and to a whole range of industries concerned with other primary commodities. Wheat, which was mentioned by the right honourable member for Fisher (Mr Adermann), is equally important. I shall not attempt in this debate to speak in detail of these matters; I say only that the principle which has been soundly established in the pronouncements by the Government is that action will be taken. It is vital to ensure that this action is taken and that the industries affected have full opportunity to express their views, to put forward facts and figures and, in collaboration with the officials of the respective Government departments, to be able to assess quite clearly the loss that will be sustained. In this way hardship will not be suffered by any section of primary industry that feels the severe effects of sterling devaluation.
A number of other matters affecting our primary industries have been mentioned in this debate. Not the least of these is the special assistance proposed for the reconstruction of the dairy industry. 1 look forward to the debate that will take place later this year on this subject. It is too early now to talk about the details of the measures that will finally be adopted. Suffice to say that the mere provision of funds and the making of arrangements with the States for the reconstruction of the dairy industry will alone be insufficient to solve the problem. For that reason I commend the Government for providing an additional $37m for the Farm Development Loan Fund, bringing the total amount to some $87m since the fund was established in 1966. Of course, the demand for funds will continue.
I refer to this matter because it relates directly to such problems as the reconstruction of the dairy industry. Primary industries constantly need capital funds to enable them to expand, to introduce modern methods and to become productive. There should be a real relationship between production costs and returns or potential returns. I remind the honourable member for Blaxland (Mr E. James Harrison), who spoke about wages, that he ignored the difficulties faced by primary industries in trying to obtain a real return from exports. He cannot claim that our economy is capable of withstanding the great demands placed on it by the impact of wage increases unless he acknowledges the other very pertinent factor that I have mentioned. After all, our export earnings are still a vital ingredient in the ultimate economic well being of Australia.
I want now to turn my attention to other problems that affect my electorate. In recent times much emphasis has been placed on the problems of the banana industry. Interest has been shown by some people who want to be helpful but who do not know very much about the industry. The major problem of the industry stems directly from over-production. Seasonal conditions favourable to the growing of bananas and the efficiency of the industry have resulted in over-production. Over-production in any industry that supplies a restricted market results in a fall in the price of the product. This has happened in the banana industry. It is an important industry. Some 2,970 growers are in it in New South Wales and 2,025 in Queensland. The acreage in New South Wales is 23,400 and in Queensland it is 11,280. When prices are reasonable, the return to the industry is about $20m. Unfortunately and tragically, over-production has caused a substantial decline in the price and growers are receiving an amount that is below the cost of production. This has happened periodically over many years. Seasonal gluts have caused a price decline and the return to the growers is very often lower than the cost of cutting, packing and forwarding the fruit to market.
What can we do to solve this problem? The two organisations representing the growers in New South Wales and Queensland have made tremendous efforts over the years to find a. solution. It is beyond the ability of one or the other independently to solve the problem. Unless there is agreement between the two States, there cannot be a positive control of marketing or production. So in face of the present difficulties an approach has been made once again, seeking assistance in the efforts that are being made to find an answer to the vexed question of a payable return to the growers of bananas. I am pleased to know that next week the Australian Council of Banana Growers will meet to discuss the possibility of an agreement being reached between the grower organisations in the two States. I hope they will find common ground so that the difficulties of the industry can be solved.
– Why not can the bananas?
– The honourable member for East Sydney, of course, pretends to be an expert. He must know that bananas cannot be canned successfully. He should know also that if this were practical it would long since have been done and I would not be making this speech now. There is good reason to believe that continued research will be helpful to the banana industry. There is also a possibility of increasing the volume of bananas that is exported, but this depends on a solution being found to the problem of the community fruit fly. Research on this aspect is being carried on at the Gosford Research Station. It is backed by Commonwealth assistance amounting to about $10,000. So far we have not had a scientific breakthrough and the problem is still with us. The industry cannot take advantage of the markets that may exist in New Zealand, Canada and Japan for reasons that are well beyond the control of the growers and well beyond the control of this or any other government. In the normal course of events, the important’ task is to try to find a solution in the face of tremendous difficulties. I pay a tribute to the grower organisations for the efforts they are making. I assure them that I will give them all the help I can and I know that this Government and the State governments of New South Wales and Queensland will do whatever they can to help. This is a very important question and deserves to be mentioned in the House.
I had hoped to mention other matters of import, but time does not permit me to traverse them all. 1 commend the action being taken to improve water conservation. My interests are a little different from those that are normally mentioned. The rainfall in my constituency for the 24 hours to 9 o’clock this morning was about 300 points. My friends from Victoria will be envious. The average rainfall in my area is 70 inches a year. Our problem is a problem of surplus water rather than a problem of drought, although we do suffer droughts from time to time. The Government has set aside $50m for water conservation and part of this has already been allocated. This is a tremendous help in the nation’s efforts to make the best use of its natural resources. The possibility of adopting further measures to conserve water has been foreseen but the proposition has not been assessed. The highest engineering skills should be used in this field.
I mentioned the very high rainfall in my constituency. This water runs to waste into the sea. A great deal of it could be turned inland, and I believe an economic scheme could be devised to achieve this result. I have in mind storages in the headwaters of the Clarence, the Macleay and other rivers and streams on the north coast of New South Wales. If this can be done - and undoubtedly it will eventually be done - it will bring great benefits for the north west of New South Wales and for the nation. This is just one aspect of the enormous potential we have in this country, and upon which I am pleased to see this Government working so positively. I am sure that its efforts will be supported by every thinking Australian.
– The honourable member for Cowper (Mr Robinson) rather astonished me by stating that positive steps are being taken by this Government in a particular field. The honourable member spoke about bananas, and perhaps I may be allowed to make one or two remarks on the same subject. 1 represent what might be called in this context the banana eaters. Despite the rather serious glut of bananas in the area the honourable member comes from, I have not noticed any reduction in the price of bananas in Melbourne. My friend from Rockhampton tells me now that bananas are no cheaper there. A good deal of the blame for the present situation can be laid at the door of people like the honourable member for Cowper. He is a State-righter. He is parochial in nearly all of his approaches to everything. He is also an advocate of private enterprise and tries to prevent Governments from doing anything. The present Government is one which believes that it is the job of private enterprise to develop this country, and if the Government is not prepared to take action, then action will not be taken. I believe the Commonwealth Government should adopt a constructive approach, particularly in the field of internal transport, which has such a vast effect on our internal trade.
We are also paying the price of our own foreign policies. Three or four years ago I travelled across Siberia. I stayed at 2 or 3 towns in Siberia, and I may say that I got away from there safely enough. I was interested in the Siberian country. It is the kind of place to which most of my friends on the other side of this Parliament would send their political opponents if they could get away with it. There are millions of people in that country who have no fruit of any kind. It is a matter of 10 days sailing from northern New South Wales to eastern Siberia, and I have no doubt that if any kind of imaginative attitude were brought to the subject, and if we could get rid of the rather nonsensical ideologies that the Government and its supporters follow in the field of trade, we could find a ready market for many of our tropical fruits in that part of the world.
I recently had a conversation with a Soviet ship captain which convinced me that the people of that country are eager to develop trade with Australia. They have newsprint and chemicals and other commodities to sell to us. The inhibitions of our foreign policy and our failure to adopt a more rational transport policy are killing many of our industries, particularly fruit growing. We are finding it more and more difficult to sell our fruit to Australians themselves, let alone to people in other countries. I believe a good deal of the blame for this siutation lies at the door of the members of the Country Party and the Liberal Party who have been mishandling the affairs of this country for so long. 1 want to address some remarks to the motion for the adoption of the AddressinReply, which forms the basis of this discussion. Unless one raises piecemeal at this time various topics in which one is interested, there will be little opportunity to do so later on. Nothing demonstrates the attitude of this Government to the Parliament more clearly than the fact that it was 124 days from the time of finishing the previous sessional period until the time when we recommenced this year. In any concept of Parliamentary or representative democracy this is a disgrace. A third of a year has passed during which we have seen some dramatic events internally and externally. We lost a most respected Prime Minister. A real crisis developed in industrial relations. The war in Vietnam went from bad to worse, and there was apparently a dramatic change in the situation in the Far East as a result of decisions made by the United Kingdom Government. Yet the Australian Government did not think it necessary to call the Parliament together. There has been a growing tendency - and I see no change under this new Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) - for the
Government to make decisions about the Parliament and affecting the people of Australia without any attempt whatsoever to consult the Parliament itself. I believe that all of us should take strong exception to this. The proroguing of the Parliament itself - which is a simple enough procedure and probably only a technical matter - showed an attitude of proprietorship towards the Parliament and its activities which we ought not to tolerate.
There are many matters connected with the operations of the Parliament which are baffling to the community. If honourable members opposite will not raise these matters at this stage of the new Ministry’s existence, I certainly will not hesitate to mention them on behalf of the Parliament itself and with a view to its wider participation in the affairs of the nation. There is a great deal of waste of members’ talent in this place. When one studies the membership of this Parliament one finds that it includes almost every field of human endeavour. There are people who have been very successful in business. I counted either 98 or 100 people in this Parliament who had seen active service in one or other of the defence forces. There are about 40 university graduates. There are large numbers of farmers and trade union officials. Yet we allow the 25 or 26 or 27 - whatever the figure is for the time being - members of the Ministry or the Cabinet to take over the operations of this place. The rest of us can come here and talk our heads off while 2 or 3 Ministers sit in the House during our discussions. The Parliament meets always under the pressure of having to get things talked about and off the plate, so that very little debate is carried on in a continuous way. It is very difficult for members to raise matters at particular times when the occasion warrants the raising of such matters.
Ministers inevitably tend to become arrogant in such a situation. They show a continuing ignorance of the way their own departments operate. Last year we had the debate on the VIP aircraft. In the last few weeks we have had a debate on the torture allegations in Vietnam. Some time ago we had a debate on the ‘Voyager’ tragedy. In each of these debates we saw how Ministers in important fields of Commonwealth activity knew very little about what was going on in their departments.
Honourable members will have last week’s debate fresh in their minds. Not only did the Minister for Defence (Mr Fairhall) apparently know nothing of the matter; he did not seem to care about it. I personally believe the attitude of honourable members opposite was disgraceful. Perhaps there was very little they could do about it after the event. All the Prime Minister had to say was: ‘We know it has occurred. We regret that it has occurred. We will see that it does not happen again.’ But what the Government has done is to apply the whitewash brush to this whole affair. The man responsible has apparently been removed from further interrogation. If he had been foolish enough to hand out voting cards at a State election he would probably have been fined or otherwise punished for doing so.
What is the Minister doing about the continuing allegations in very many reputable Australian newspapers that other forms of torture have been indulged in by Australian troops? I served a long time in the Australian Army in one way or another, and with complete discretion - like some honourable members opposite who are now trying to interject and who have not shown any eargerness to don a uniform, even though they are well within acceptable age limits. Let me read a passage or two from Ian Mackay’s book ‘Australians in Vietnam’. At page 199 we find an interesting passage. I wonder whether the Minister has carried out any investigation of this. Mr Mackay, an Australian journalist, said:
One young man I know was an artist, and served in South Vietnam in an armoured personnel carrier group. He arrived in a relief column after the battle of Long Tan to see an Australian soldier walking through the enemy dugouts shooting any wounded he could find.
Everybody was pretty angry after the battle. I didn’t really blame the bloke and some of the others said that a fair bit of that sort of thing went on.’
That is a much more serious allegation than one that was contained in the American account a few weeks ago, and it ought to be investigated. It ought to be cleared up. Did it happen or not? If it did not occur - and I think perhaps it may not have occurred - at least it ought to be cleared up. But there is no doubt that a continuous stream of this kind of information is coming forward, and the Ministers are responsible to see either that the allegations are refuted or that steps are taken to ensure that these things do not occur again. 1 am convinced that the Minister for Defence and the three Ministers for the different services know very little of their departmental affairs. There is continuing evidence that they do not know very much about these things. This is important at the present stage of our history.
– Was not a Labor Minister in charge of the Department of the Army at the time the honourable member for Reid made his allegations about what went on in New Guinea?
– He was in Timor.
– There was a Labor Minister then?
– That is true. The fact is that there are continuing allegations about such occurrences and they should be investigated; they should be cleared up. The Australian Army is in Vietnam fighting for ideals, so I believe. I completely disagree with the way the Government has gone about it. I believe Australian troops ought not to be there. I do not believe we can achieve the aims the Government says it will achieve while we are there. Australia should be setting standards - high standards - in this matter. That is the point I am making. I am not attacking or defending the Australian Army in this regard. The Australian Army has a proud record, both as a military machine and in its own behaviour but the Ministers have to accept the responsibility when they call people up and when they send them out to fight a war. The Government has sent men into an area where the battlefields are not quite like those in the past, where passions are likely to be of a different sort, and where men are fighting an enemy almost incognito, unknown and unseen. There ought not to be any tolerance of criticism of the Australian servicemen in this regard and we should take every step to clear the name of the Australian Army.
I want to bring to the notice of the House the consortium of contradictions we call the Cabinet. We. have now reached a stage where there is a fracas developing between the Country Party and the Liberal Party about redistribution of Federal seats.
– If there is not there ought to be. The Country Party attitude in this is completely disgraceful and undemocratic. In my view it is completely un-Australian. We have the situation in which the Deputy Prime Minister and The Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr McEwen) and the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) apparently completely distrust one another. The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr Bury) has one interpretation of the state of the Australian economy and the Treasurer has another. We have seen promoted to the management of education al The Federal level a Minister who was Minister for the Army for a long while. I have no objection to the people on the other side as persons but I have strong objections to their philosophy, political morals and political ethics. The Minister for Education and Science (Mr Malcolm Fraser), until recently the Minister for the Army, earned a formidable reputation as an administrator of the Army. From my personal observations I can see that the Citizen Military Forces are under-equipped and under-trained in many regards. If he were as good as it is said he is, these defects would have been cleared up. We have had disastrous allegations made against the Australian Army. There have been serious allegations about disciplinary problems in Vietnam, allegations of torture and so on. We have had removed from the Cabinet the honourable member for Higinbotham (Mr Chipp) and the honourable member for Fawkner (Mr Howson). I would not have any of these men in a Cabinet that I wanted to run the country. There were two humanists in the Ministry. One was the former Prime Minister, Mr Harold Holt. Some of his ideas and attitudes on immigration were much more liberal than anything in the past, and I recall that the honourable member for Higinbotham walked out of the House when we had a debate on capital punishment. One is dead, the other has been removed from the Ministry. This is a sample of the philosophy behind the Cabinet making of the Prime Minister. I say what I have to say about the Minister for the Army (Mr Lynch) and his appointment with no reference to his personal capacities. I believe that the Minister for the Army, who I understand has shown good capacity outside this place, has been placed in command of the Australian Army at a critical stage of its history.
Eight thousand young Australians and older Australians are at present committed in Vietnam. They are involved in a battle for life which involves a great deal of stress and strain on the whole system. It was a cynical act of the Prime Minister to place his most junior Minister in charge of the Army at this stage of its history. He could well have been given some other post. There is nothing personal about this but as one partially responsible for the way in which this country is administered, I regard this as a cynical act or one which has a poor regard for the administration of the armed Services.
Over recent years we have had serious situations developing in the armed Services. As an Australian who is the father of two sons I believe that the Australian people when they pass their sons into the armed Services impose on those Services the most precious trusteeship they can give. We are handing over the lives and the fate of those we hold most dear. In recent times there has been something seriously wrong with the conduct of the armed Services. The Voyager’ disaster should never have happened. Some of the allegations about the Army in Vietnam should not have to be made. There are aspects of Royal Australian Air Force accidents and so on which seem to observers such as myself to imply serious criticism of that Service. The Minister for Defence shows very little regard for the whole general system and seems to have very little care about it. We have such things as the purchase of the FI 1 1 aircraft and all the doubts about the whole operation, as to their cost, usefulness and so on - this at a time when there is a need for a firm grasp on the Services to bring them into gear.
For 20 years we have had peacetime Services. Though the commitment in Vietnam is serious, only 1 0% of the regular Services are involved there. It is one of the unavoidable facts of life that the armed Services become more and more isolated from the community that they serve, lt is only when armies, navies and air forces are expanded during time of war with a great influx of civilians and people from different segments of society, with different views. that things may be shaken up. At this stage the most imperative requirement of the Prime Minister was that he should get one of his senior Ministers to knock the Services into shape and get a complete parliamentary grip on the system.
This is the most precious trusteeship of any imposed on a public servant. Generals, admirals and air vice-marshals are public servants and therefore a most important duty is imposed upon us to see that the Services are conducted properly.
During the recess we had the prophesied retirement of Britain from east of Suez. There was a great brouhaha - I think that was the wordthe Prime Minister used in reference to some other matter - that developed about this. It was a complete puzzle to me. I wondered what it was all about. I do not blame the Prime Minister for what has happened in Singapore. The British troops perform a social service for Singapore. They are not defending anything but they are vitally important economically. My recollection is that even the base at Malacca was established not because it was strategically or tactically the best place but because economically Malacca needed the assistance. It seems to me that the Government is operating, in its foreign policy and attitudes, in an area in which most of its decisions are irrevelant and based on anachronisms. The Government talks about power vacuums and says that as soon as British aircraft carriers go home a flock of other carriers will come into the area. We still have some muddled thinking associated with the Domino theory and we still have the China neurosis that seems to be the background of everything that is thought about the other side. We are clouded by 1942.
I take the opportunity to place on record my belief that there is a complete misunderstanding by Australians of the 1942 situation. In a few weeks time we shall have the Coral Sea celebrations. Each year when the Coral Sea celebrations take place I wonder what it is all about. We shall have a bevy of American admirals who will even tell us that we should do more about defending this part of the world.
Gradually, the young people of Australia are forgetting what actually happened in 1942. They have forgotten that the great battles in the islands to our north were carried out 90% by Australians. While Americans made the sea contribution, the land battles were being fought by the Australian Army and by the Australian infantry. What we have managed to do out of all this is to build up a national inferiority complex, as if there is a handful of people cowering in this country waiting for somebody to save them.
I have said this before, and 1 intend to continue to say it in the hope that eventually Australians and the Government will realise that something more than political gimmickry is required to develop a proper Australian attitude. I do not believe that we have a Cabinet of Australians. We have a Cabinet of suburban Europeans living in the southern hemisphere. I see them completely clouded by their European past. This statement applies to so many other people in this part of the world. Their world is still Europe-based. Most of our thinking is based upon attitudes that developed out of an area defined by a line that I could draw from Moscow, through Paris to London and to Washington. It is terribly difficult to get the rest of the world to shake itself free of this influence. I believe that it is our duty to start to shake this part of the world free of it. I believe that we need to develop an attitude of self reliance. We need to show people that we are self reliant. Also, we have to move north, not so much in an aggressive way but more in a helpful, brotherly and neighbourly way. Millions of friendly neighbours are to our north. I believe that if there is any challenge that faces us in the near future it is not so much a military threat, which I believe is non-existent in the foreseeable future, but the challenge of a prosperous, stable and homogeneous community on the edge of a great teeming mass of people which is short of food, while we cannot get rid of our bananas and dump our pineapples and other things developed in the tropics which go to make up our food supplies.
As I said earlier, it is unfortunate that at this stage one has to move from topic to topic. But I think that it is important that we keep before the House the position of Papua and New Guinea. I believe that some of the things that we have done in Papua and New Guinea are a credit to this country. The evolution of parliamentary government in Papua and New Guinea cannot be described as proceeding according to plan because I do not believe that how a parliamentary government should go can be planned. I personally believe that it would be futile to try to set a timetable for independence in Papua and New Guinea. Our own parliamentary system has developed through 700 years of evolution. Each time a new requirement appears, some sort of new procedure is developed. In Papua and New Guinea, we have laid the basis of continuing democracy, I think, by the adult suffrage in municipal elections over large areas of the country. It is ironical that in Australia at large and, I think, in South Australia, Western Australia, Tasmania and Victoria - I am not sure about the other States but this is certainly true of Victoria - we have not adult suffrage in municipal elections yet.
I believe that it is important that the Minister for External Territories (Mr Barnes) should exercise his prerogative to veto a decision by the House of Assembly of Papua and New Guinea in very extreme instances only. I find it difficult to think of any instance in which 1 would agree with the Minister using his power of veto. It might be used in a case where it was obvious that civil rights and freedom were being trampled. I would certainly hold very strong views against capital punishment and such things. But in anything else in the ordinary development of society and its laws, I think that the House of Assembly in Papua and New Guinea ought to be given its head. If it makes laws about card playing or no card playing, about taxation, about equal pay for women or the rights of equal pay for the people of the Territory and so on, Papua and New Guinea ought to be made to live with those laws. The development of parliamentary and representative democracy is a history of living with one’s mistakes and struggling out of them.
My colleague, the honourable member for Fremantle (Mr Beazley) did advocate what he called the presidential or the congressional system. I do not think that either of the parliamentary systems will work unless the grass roots are properly there. In other words the citizenry has got into the habit of voting at elections. I think that each one of these elections has been a dramatic demonstration to the rest of the world that parliamentary democracy will work or at least that we have faith that it will work. I hope that we will do everything in our power to encourage the Parliament of Papua and New Guinea in these matters.
I would like to see much greater facilities placed at the disposal of the members of the House of Assembly there. I believe that they ought to have more rights of travel to Australia. Probably more rights of travel to Australia ought to exist for all people in Papua and New Guinea. Personally, I would impose upon the House of Assembly the duty of saying who should go to and from the Territory. In recent weeks we have heard and seen complaints from Papua and New Guinea. These have been highlighted by the complaints of Dr Gunther in the last few days about the failure of the Commonwealth Government to supply adequate funds to the University of Papua and New Guinea. This, and, I believe, the Aboriginal position represent the two great social challenges of the day to the Australian people.
I hope that in the near future this House will have the chance to do something effective about the Aboriginal question. I believe that the most effective approach that this Parliament can adopt to this problem in the first instance is the establishment of a parliamentary standing committee on this subject similar to the committee which was recommended and established in relation to the Yirrkala Aboriginals, which heard evidence some 4 years or 5 years ago, but which was not retained. I hope that if honourable members opposite have any powers of persuasion with our colleague, the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth) who is now the Minister for Social Services and Minister in Charge of Aboriginal Affairs, they will see what they can do with him about the matter.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, initially I wish to congratulate briefly the mover and seconder of the motion for the adoption of the AddressinReply to the Speech delivered by the Governor-General. In passing, might I comment on the fact that the seconder of that motion, the honourable member for the Northern Territory (Mr Calder), is to be given full voting rights in this House for his electorate. I add my congratulations to those already offered in this respect. I am sure that this has come about for many reasons, including the high respect in which the honourable member for the Northern Territory is held by members of all parties in this House.
Mr Deputy Speaker, I suppose that I must try to comment on some of the remarks - I had a job keeping up with them - made by the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant). His speech was one of his best fruit salad addresses that I have heard for some time. Not only did it contain ordinary fruit but also it included tropical fruit including bananas. Quite frankly, I find grave difficulty in understanding his train of thought, no matter how excellent he is in other fields, but he denigrates himself, I think, by making such statements as he did to the effect that the ‘Voyager’ disaster was absolutely avoidable and that aeroplanes should not be allowed to crash. I do not quite know whom the honourable member for Wills thinks he is or whether indeed he can walk on the water but the fact remains that these sorts of statements are surely out of touch with reality. I think it rather unfortunate that these remarks should be thrown into the middle of other comments some of which were quite successful in making his points. These other remarks rather detracted from his speech.
I wish to make a few remarks tonight, some of which some honourable members may find provocative because I am going to refer to the South Australian electoral position - the redistribution of boundaries there - and I will endeavour to correct if I can some of the anomalous and direct misstatements which have been made and referred to over the last few months. I start off my remarks by saying this: It seems to me a very poor thing indeed when the Premier, the leading citizen of the State, decides to put himself in a position where people might well think that he is leading a demonstration against the law of the land and against the law that he, as Premier, is responsible for upholding. He is responsible also for amending that law.
I do not suppose that the AttorneyGeneral (Mr Bowen) would agree with me if I said that this was unconstitutional or illegal in any way. But I do say - and I do not retract one word of this statement - that the Premier of South Australia has put himself into a position where he is guilty at least of amoral action and of unethical action when he as the senior citizen of South Australia becomes involved to the extent possibly of leading a demonstration against the law of that State.
I suppose that one can forgive the natural heat of someone who has lost power to a degree. But it seems to me important that people should recognise what is going on and understand that, even though legally the South Australian Premier may not be culpable, morally and ethically in terms of bad taste he certainly is doing the wrong thing in his position as upholder of the law of South Australia and as senior citizen, if I may put it that way, in that State. If any other national leader or any other State leader took advantage of these situations and acted in this way, 1 suggest, the country would run into a state of anarchy very quickly.
There must be responsibility. There must be proper actions by people in high places. I deprecate the action of the Premier of South Australia insofar as he has offended sensibilities in this matter.
I would like to have a look next at the historical position which is responsible for the state of affairs that has arisen as a result of the recent South Australian elections. I introduce my remarks by saying that I personally do not know of one South Australian, or indeed one Australian, who would agree with the present balance of country and city votes in South Australia.
– The Legislative Council does.
– 1 am glad the honourable member reminded me. I will come to that later, but meanwhile I will keep to my train of thought. I want to be quite insistent that I do not know a South Australian who agrees with the current position. For proof of this I think we need to go back over the last few years. Originally - this goes back many, many years - the South Australian Liberal Party and South Australian Country Party got together and formed the Liberal Country League. The position has remained firm and relatively unchallenged over the years. This single action has meant a great deal to South Australia’s industrial growth and well being and this has, of course, continued for many years.
My own Party - in South Australia that would be the Liberal Country League - started to alter its thinking in terms of conditions set down by the formation of this League, which contained a clause providing that there should be 26 country and 13 city seats. This was administered honestly and accurately. There were no gerrymanders by way of unusually shaped electorates and this was accepted over this period by most South Australians. This policy continued until probably the late 1950s. The reason why my Party and probably every other person in South Australia started to change away from this proportion was, of course, the tremendous growth of Adelaide at that time. The growth was so astounding in some areas that individual electorates immediately got out of balance. It became painfully obvious that no matter to what degree one believed in one vote one value something had to be done in a hurry to correct these unjustifiaable conditions.
This Sir Thomas Playford proceeded to do in - I think - 1963. He introduced a Bill into the State Parliament which instead of providing for 26 country seats and 13 city seats provided for 20 country seats and 20 city seats and, from memory, one country industrial seat to give an odd number. This was a pretty fair departure from the traditional method of Sir Thomas Playford in looking at electoral boundary redistributions at that time. In fact, the change from 26 and 13 to 20 and 20 is a change that would probably be considered quite enough for the time being. This piece of electoral reform would have gone through except that at that point of time the parties were in balance with nineteen each, with an independent in the chair. This will probably happen again. The key to the situation was that with the parties being in balance with nineteen each, the Speaker’s vote had to be exercised before a constitutional majority could be gained. In other words, to alter the South Australian Constitution there had to be a majority of the whole. This would be twenty votes. So we could have a constitutional alteration quite easily if both sides were nineteen all and the Speaker gave a casting vote. But all that the new look Labor Party at the time had to do to dodge this position was to pull out a man sick or accidentally and thereby get rid of one from that side. The Government at the time would win 19 to 18 but it would not have a constitutional majority. I think I am being quite unbiassed but historically this was the reason why at that time no electoral reform could be brought in. Whom do we blame for this? No doubt the Australian Labor Party, which was the Opposition at the time, had its eyes fixed on certain electoral redistributions that would give it a nice electoral advantage. It did not want to accept what in those days was a very extensive piece of reform
– That is not really fair.
– Does the honourable member think it would be a little fairer than 26 country and 13 city seats?
– Would you regard it as democratic?
– Might I ask the honourable member for Bendigo what percentage of votes the Liberal Opposition had to obtain in order to oust the Australian Labor Party Government in New South Wales some years ago? From memory it was 54%.
– No, be accurate. The honourable member’s memory is not good enough.
– All right; it was 53.71968%. However, the point is that this percentage was necessary for the New South Wales Government to be beaten. I am not concerned with whether there was half a percent here or there. At any rate a greater percentage was required for the Australian Labor Party Government to be beaten in New South Wales than that which the Australian Labor Party Government has in South Australia today, in spite of all the screaming that has been going on. I would offer this by way of suggestion to the honourable member for Bendigo because I think he should look at it.
I have dealt with the Playford attempt at electoral reform. I went back to those years and explained what happened and why the legislation was not passed. I now would like to move on to the fact that even in 1962 or 1963 the 1955 electoral boundaries still applied. Let us face the fact that these were getting a trifle out of date at that stage in a rapidly expanding metropolitan area. While I am on the subject I would like to go over what happened in the lower House in South
Australia at the time. The formal motion that the Bill be read a third time was put. There were no dissentient voices and the Bill was read a third time and passed. It is an historical fact that the Labor Party, up to the attempt by Sir Thomas Playford to introduce his 20/20 House, had never opposed any electoral boundary bill brought in by the Playford Government. 1 do not really think that this is known or acknowledged in Australia or that anyone is very interested in it. But if South Australia is to be condemned and if Premiers are to try to whip up demonstrations against the law of the land, then we want to remember that that Labor Party never dissented on any electoral bill brought forward by the Playford Government.
I have not checked my facts on individual instances in this respect, but the only occasion I can remember on which a voice was raised in protest was when Sir George Jenkins, the Liberal Minister of Agriculture, vociferously objected to the change in the boundaries of his electorate. But according to my memory no Labor member of the Opposition objected at all. At any rate, on divisions there were never any dissentient voices from the Australian Labor Party. I ask honourable members therefore to keep these matters in mind, because I think they are important.
On 1st July 1965 the man whom I think is the Premier of South Australia brought in his amendments to the Constitution Act. Naturally they went further than a 20-20 city-country redistribution. With a great fanfare of trumpets he announced that there was to be. on vote one value, and so it seemed until one studied the facts. The amendments protected the smallest electorate in South Australia - the electorate of Frome - which has been held marginally for some years by the Australian Labor Party. Even if the statements with which the Premier introduced his electoral reform to provide for one vote one value were accepted generally, the fact was that he took no account of the principle of one vole one value when he examined the electorate of Frome, represented by Mr Casey, which contains 5,000 electors.
– Which is the largest electorate in South Australia?
– 1 think the largest electorate would be Enfield, and I thank the honourable member for Hindmarsh for reminding me of this because it leads to my next point. I am not cross with anyone over this but I point out that even much respected journals like the ‘Bulletin’ and the ‘Sydney Morning Herald’ have been commenting that the LCL vote in the 1962 election represented 35% only of the total vote. I suppose this can be said to be true, but let us look at the biggest electorates in South Australia, because this reveals an important feature. The Playford Government did not provide a candidate in the electorate of Edwardstown, which has almost 30,000 electors; nor did it have candidates in Enfield, with about 33,000 electors; Hindmarsh - and this electorate should not be confused with the Federal electorate of Hindmarsh although it also has a most admirable representative - with about 23,500 electors; Port Adelaide, with 23,800 electors; Semaphore, with 23,000 electors; Stuart, with just over 8,200 electors and Whyalla with almost 10,000 electors. These were seven scats that were not contested and there were two other seals also not contested by the Playford Government. The Press added up the LCL votes at the time and concluded that they represented 35% only of the total vote. This has been bandied about throughout Australia, but it is an inaccurate conclusion and is a deliberate attempt to misinterpret the position. I regret that this was done and 1 am glad that I have had the opportunity to point this out to the House.
– Did the LCL run candidates in every seat this time?
– 1 think it did.
– Then that cancels out what the honourable member said.
– lt cancels it out just as well as the fact that the LCL won the third Senate seat, lt is an argument that is applicable. One can look at the votes of the Democratic Labor Party, the Country Party and all manner of undoubtedly helpful splinter groups in South Australia. In the Senate election and in the State elections, particularly in country areas, they went to the LCL. 1 am glad that the honourable member agrees that there is a correlation between the result of the Senate election in South Australia - where the LCL for the first time in 20 years won the third seat - and the need for a review of electoral boundaries. Actually a 53% vote for the Labor Party in South Australia was not a very good result. It was not as big as the vote that was needed to overthrow the New South Wales Labor Government, yet it is suggested that the situation in South Australia today is extraordinary.
I repeat that there is not one South Australian who would agree with the present position, but I have given the historical facts in as unbiased a fashion as I can do. Perhaps now I may return to what I was about to say regarding the introduction by the Premier of South Australia of his electoral reform Bill, because I answered an interjection and did not make my point. This Bill passed through the House of Assembly with a constitutional majority, but the Legislative Council threw it out. The reason why the Legislative Council threw it out was interesting. It rejected the Bill, quite correctly I think, because the Premier of South Australia did not have a mandate from the people to eliminate the upper House. If honourable members examine the policy speech of the South Australian Premier they will find no mention of the elimination of the upper House. Incorporated in his Bill seeking boundary reform, which undoubtedly the Legislative Council would have passed if it were considering just that, was a proposal, rather sneakily inserted, to abolish the Legislative Council. There was no mandate for the Labor Government to eliminate the upper House. This possibly had some effect during the recent election, particularly in some country areas or nonmetropolitan areas. That is the position as I saw it, and I trust I have not been inaccurate. I have attempted to explain historically why the 1955 amendments to the Constitution Act still apply in South Australia.
No-one would wish the present situation to continue, least of all myself, but what can be done about it? It is rather interesting to note that we are in almost the same situation as that which existed when the Playford Government was in office. It could well be that an independent member will be in the chair of the House and that there will be a deliberate attempt not to let a constitutional majority apply. 1 should hope that the Party leaders in South Australia - indeed, the Parliament of South Australia - will be big enough to try to get together to resolve the situation. There has been a heavy population growth in and around Adelaide and when South Australia has twelve Federal seats it may be appropriate to divide those twelve Federal seats into quarters to provide for forty-eight State seats. This would be slightly more than the forty-five seats suggested by - and I am getting muddled as to what position he actually holds at present - Mr Steele Hall, and considerably fewer than the fifty-six seats suggested by Mr Dunstan.
– Would the LCL support that suggestion?
– I think that both Parties should get together. I do not speak for the LCL and the honourable member for Hindmarsh is not the Leader of the ALP in South Australia, so I cannot speak for him either. But if the Parties got together in a friendly fashion nobody would be more pleased than I or the people of South Australia. It would seem to me that to divide twelve Federal seats into quarters for the State Parliament would be an economic and beneficial way of overcoming the present situation without too much political haggling.
– Would they be equal quarters?
– The division into electorates is a matter for the Distribution Commissioners. I would leave it to more competent people than the honourable member for Hindmarsh or myself to decide Federal boundaries. I remind honourable members that the present LCL Leader, Mr Steele Hall, has suggested a forty-five seat House of Assembly as compared with the ALP’s suggestion of a fifty-six seat House. Frankly, I think fifty-six is far too big a House to represent the importance of the State. However, that is the business of the State, and it is not my business. Mr Steele Hall has suggested that the quota for metropolitan seats be 22,300 and for country seats 9,000. This would be the simple city-country ratio. There is an interesting point about all this which might surprise honourable members. I am surprised that the honourable member for Hindmarsh did not interject more forcibly. In other States, according to my information, the quota range between metropolitan and country areas is as follows: In Queensland, 18,000 to 7,000; in New South Wales, 33,000 to 18,000; in Victoria, 30,000 to 17,000; in Western Australia, 13,000 to 2,000; and in the United Kingdom - and I presume that Prime Minister Wilson is inviolate in this matter - it is 110,000 to 23,000. So much for the utter belief in one vote one value. I believe this in principle but I would also apply proper principles to enable honourable members to give proper service to their electorates, as does every other State and the United Kingdom, as I have just mentioned. I hope that there will be some sensible thinking about this question in the future.
– I desire to commence my remarks by briefly but very sincerely expressing my personal sympathy to Mrs Holt and her family on the sudden and tragic loss of her husband the late Prime Minister. He was a very kindly man and truly a great Australian.
The honourable member for Angas (Mr Giles), who just resumed his seat, a former member of the most undemocratic House of Parliament in the free world, the South Australian Legislative Council, saw fit to criticise the Premier of South Australia for acting outside the law in addressing the citizens of that State.
– I did not say that this was outside the law.
– All the Premier did in fact was to explain to the people the almost unbelievable mystery of how his Party received approximately 54% or some 50,000 more votes than did its opponents yet still is in danger of losing its place as the Government. This happened in a situation in which every seat was contested by both parties.
– The Liberals did that in New South Wales.
– I am talking about South Australia. It is true however, as the honourable member for Angas said, that when Sir Thomas Playford was Premier of South Australia he tried to alter the electoral boundaries by having so many city seats to so many country seats and so many country industrial seats, as I think they were termed. But what the honourable member did not say was that the Playford proposal in the final analysis made certain that the Liberal Country League would be sure of election if it received only 38% of the votes in the State. In other words, the Playford proposal would make a bad position very much worse.
– That is hypothetical.
– It is possible. Mr Deputy Speaker, I wish to extend my congratulations to the new Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) and the new Ministers on being appointed to their respective high positions. At the same time I commiserate with those who were discarded in the reshuffle of the Ministry. While on the subject of the Ministry I suggest that we must be prepared for further casualties now that the shy, modest, publicity hating member for Adelaide (Mr Andrew Jones) has openly staked his claim for the Defence portfolio.
The address by His Excellency the Governor-General, whilst magnificently delivered, did not contain much information that we did not already know. I for my part welcomed the references made by His Excellency to social services, hospital and medical benefits, defence forces retirement benefits and the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act. I trust that the action to be taken by the Government on these most important matters will be both bold and generous in approach. I point out however that similar promises about the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act have come from senior Cabinet Ministers during the past 4 years but we have seen no action of note.
My concern is not with what His Excellency had to report but with the number of important issues to which he made no reference. No mention was made of what the Government intends to do to improve industrial relations in this country, bearing in mind the undeniable fact that during the past months they have reached an all-time low. In almost every field of industry, disputes of a very serious nature are occurring week by week. Both employers and employees are concerned at the situation and the economy of the country has been seriously affected as a result of these disputes. In spite of this, plus the almost absolute certainty of a continuation of this trend, the Government has not given any indication that it is contemplating action designed to bring peace and good relations back into industry and thus benefit all involved and, more importantly still, the country as a whole. In fact, recent history clearly shows the conflict. The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr Bury), the Government-appointed spokesman in this field and the person responsible for maintaining industrial harmony, has, in my view, either by accident or design, been the cause or architect of the current industrial situation.
I remind the House that some few months ago the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, after a very lengthy inquiry, which included personal inspections of plant, equipment and the skills involved, delivered a judgment in the metal trades area of industry. Immediately following the decision by the Commission the Minister for Labour and National Service, in extremely bad taste, severely criticised the decision in a public statement. This, in effect, gave management an avenue, or, as so many people say, the green light, to go to a higher tribunal to get the Commission’s decision rescinded or broken down. For the first time in my long industrial experience this major decision, covering so many of our skilled workforce, was reduced by 30%. This happened at a time - and this is of particular interest - when many employers throughout Australia, including the South Australian Government, were already paying the increased new rates.
After having achieved his purpose in getting the award rates reduced, the Minister for Labour and National Service, apparently not satisfied that he had provoked enough trouble, then added fuel to the fire by making a further statement to the effect that, in his opinion, over the past 3 years wages had not risen in real terms. I ask honourable members: How can we expect to maintain industrial harmony in such an atmosphere? The Minister, with a background of little or no knowledge of industry, has consistently adopted an attitude of forced arbitration. Of course, with the penal sword hanging over the employee’s head, the Minister does not support or encourage conciliation and negotiation which, in the final analysis, is the only way to achieve stability in industry and industrial peace. The Minister smugly sits back and relies on the penal provisions of an outdated industrial Act to force employees to acquiesce in unjust decisions which, in many cases, are made in the very terms of the Government’s submissions. I say quite frankly to the Minister and the Government that if the Government continues to act on similar lines in the future the industrial unrest existing today will continue and, indeed, become worse.
During a previous debate in this House I quoted official figures covering many years which clearly showed that in Great Britain, where no penal provisions apply, fewer man hours were lost because of industrial disputes than was the case in Australia. Although no up to date figures are available I feel it fair to say that during the past few months the man hours lost in Australia because of industrial disputes would be far greater than the figure for either Great Britain or the United States of America where negotiation and conciliation prevail. Surely this in itself warrants due and earnest consideration being given for at least a trial period based on a system of negotiation and conciliation without the barrier of penal provisions.
I firmly believe that the commencement of the current bad industrial relations followed the total wage decision which was handed down by the Industrial Commission on 5th June 1967. In this case the unions claim was for the restoration of the purchasing power of the basic wage to its 1953 level, together with a fair and equitable share of the increased national productivity which has been achieved since 1953. Surely no-one could describe this claim as being anything but reasonable and fair. At this stage I desire to place on record my protest and disgust at the Government’s partisan submissions in this case; submissions which could have achieved no result other than industrial unrest. I sincerely believe that the Australian concept of a basic wage, which has played such a major part in maintaining industrial stability for more years than I can remember and which has been an effective instrument in ensuring a measure of justice to all wage and salary earners, with particular protection for the lower wage earners in our community, must again become the basis of the Australian wage structure. In the interests of wage justice and industrial harmony I strongly urge the Government to do all in its power to achieve this end.
I was surprised and disappointed that two other matters of grave importance in the long term were not included in the Government’s proposals. I refer to the problems associated with national disasters and automation. After the terrible beatings that this country has experienced over the past few years from flood, fire and drought it is almost unbelievable that any responsible government could continue to ignore completely the fact that some effort should be made to ascertain whether or not it is possible or practicable to initiate a plan to create a national disaster fund or to establish a national organisation to deal with the effects of national disasters. T do not wish to worry the House by tabulating the series of terrible and tragic disasters which have occurred in Australia in recent years, nor do I desire to comment on the human tragedies and sufferings arising from such disasters. I am sure that all honourable members are well aware of what has taken place. My main purpose in raising this most important issue is to appeal urgently to Government members - particularly members of the Australian Country Party - to do all in their power to encourage their colleagues in another place to support our proposal for a select committee to inquire into the desirability and practicability of establishing a national organisation to deal with the effects of national disasters. If a committee W appointed and fails to achieve its objective, at least we can say that we have tried. On the other hand, should the committee come up with a practicable and workable proposition a major breakthrough will have been established in this so far forgotten area.
On previous occasions in this Parliament when I have spoken on automation I have laid special emphasis on the human anil social problems which have arisen in other countries where this modern industrial technique has been introduced without proper planning and supervision. At this stage I again make it clear that I believe it is most desirable that our industries are equipped with the most modern plant and equipment and that they employ the very best industrial techniques. However, I do believe that the social and human problems associated with this type of industrial revolution must not be left to solve themselves. Since I last raised this matter I have exchanged correspondence with numerous friends th;p I have in the United States of America; some Democrats, some Republicans and others who choose to be described as liberal thinkers. Without exception they described the recent racial riots in that country as having been caused in the first instance oy an economic depression arising from unemployment due to automation. From then on it became comparatively easy for extremist and opportunists to plug a line of extreme racial hatred and violence.
When we look at the position in the United States we find that during a period when tens of thousands of the normal workforce are in Vietnam, and at the same time having in mind the gigantic increase in arms production and in many other fields for requirements to supply the armed forces in Vietnam, one would imagine that over-lull employment would exist in that country instead of the present high level of unemployment. This clearly shows to what extent the machine is replacing the human in so many fields of commerce and industry. Whilst 1 am not for the moment suggesting that such riots will take place in Australia in the foreseeable future, I do believe that if we do not prepare properly for a planned introduction of these new production methods we will almost certainly have a large army of permanent unemployed. Accordingly, I once again urge the Government, in order to avoid so far as possible a situation such as this, to establish a section of the Department of Labour and National Service as a permanent organisation equipped to deal with the effects of automation and mechanisation and to co-ordinate the measures that must be taken to replace labour and overcome the social problems involved. Such a section should establish an advisory committee consisting of representatives of the trade union movement, employer organisations and the Federal and State governments, and when problems concerning any particular industry are involved, representatives from that industry on an employer-employee basis should be co-opted.
Having expressed my views on some issues which I believe are most important L now desire to convey to the House my firm impression of the current thinking of the electorate. This, of course, represents mainly the views of South Australians whom I meet in much larger numbers than people from other States. Firstly, I am certain that due to the recent State election in South Australia, the time taken to obtain a result and the fact that one party with 54% of the votes or some 50,000 votes more than its opponent is still in danger of losing control of the Government has made people in that State more politically conscious than ever before. Not only are they anxious to discuss politics on both State and Federal levels but they appear to be hungry for any political news. As a consequence they are closely following political news in the Press, on radio and on television. They are aware of the rivalries and jealousies that exist within Federal Government Parties. Many have expressed concern at the attitude of the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr McEwen) that the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) is unfit to be Prime Minister but is all right to continue to hold the next most important job in Cabinet. They are worried at the conflicting views on the economic position as expressed by the Treasurer and the Minister for Labour and National Service. They are frightened of the gold situation and puzzled at the silence of the Government about it. There is a greater concern about Vietnam than ever before, especially when they read in the Press what was said recently in the General Assembly of South Vietnam, and I quote:
We are not going to draft our young men to fight America’s wars for them.
In this terrible period of drought they are bewildered at the Government’s decision to fold up the Snowy Mountains Authority and are disgusted at the Chowilla situation. They agree with and endorse the attack on the Government by the former Prime Minister, Sir Robert Menzies, in connection with post-graduate research grants for universities. They are critical of the high cost of medical services and disgusted at the low level of social service and repatriation benefits. In short, I think that the people believe - and I agree with them - that it is high time, after 17 years in office, that the Government accepted its responsibilities and got down to the business of running the country on the basis of proper planning instead of the stop-go lazy attitude it has followed for so long.
– Firstly, I wish to pay a brief tribute to our late Prime Minister, Mr Harold Holt. I am going to speak tonight about Australian education and the need to infuse a knowledge of Asia into the educational system. No man did more to focus the eyes of Australia on Asia and, conversely, no Australian caused Asia to take an interest in Australia to the extent that Harold Holt did. We owe him a great debt. I know that I personally owe him a great deal. During my term as State President of the Libera] Party prior to my entry into this Parliament he was consistently of assistance to me. All members of the Government developed a great affection for him and he will be sadly missed by all honourable members on both sides of the Parliament and by the nation.
As I have said, I wish to speak tonight about Australian education and Asia. I accept that it is inaccurate to talk specifically about Asia as it is to talk of Europe as one concept. We recognise that within Asia are differing nations with widely differing backgrounds, ethnically, historically and culturally. Accepting that one is cognisant of this fact, nevertheless I should like, for the purpose of the discussion, to refer to Asia as such. I believe that Australians are appallingly uninformed about Asia and Australia’s role within it. For example, much of the criticism of Australia’s military commitment to South Vietnam is manifested by slogans and demonstrations. Such forms of dissent should not be encouraged because dissent is empty without practical alternatives, and the present argument about our commitment to Vietnam is far too important to be taken over by uninformed extremists. I cite this as merely one example of the need for a greater understanding and awareness of South East Asia.
If we are to increase our awareness of Asia we need to start now. We must ensure that our secondary students become fully aware of the role that we can play within Asia. Therefore I believe that a national assessment of the place in education of Asian studies and of the Asian regions is long overdue. I submit that the Federal Government should give the same aid to Asian studies in secondary schools as it gives in cash and equipment to assist science training. On this point I refer to the concluding lines of the editorial in today’s ‘Australian’ as I believe that they are worth quoting. Under the heading
Wanted: a dash of Asian flavour’ there is a discussion of the need for a greater interest in Asia in our educational system. The editorial concludes:
The nation needs bold new attitudes. We may have grown up in blissful ignorance of our neighbours - but we cannot afford to let our children do so.
These words are so very true. Frankly, so many attitudes of Australians to Asia seem to be based on ignorances and prejudices. It should be of great interest to all Australians to know, for example, how Vietnamese nationalism developed. But this can never be understood without a knowledge of the background of colonial history, which in turn is unintelligible without an adequate knowledge of Vietnamese history before the French intervention, and so on. The later the commencing date for the study of history, the less chance there is of coming to grips with the complex issues involved and the greater the danger of viewing them as simply black or white in the manner which is unfortunately so prevalent today. Without such understanding, how can we be conscious of the part we must play? Without consciousness, how can we evoke a conscience? Therefore it will be seen that I believe that merely to increase the extent of teaching of an Asian language or Asian languages, valuable and necessary though this will be, is not sufficient. If we are sincere in our aim of becoming mentally as well as geographically integrated into Asia we must go further than mere language training.
Knowledge of another country’s language is an important and useful tool for understanding that country’s attitudes and problems, but it is merely a tool and not an end in itself. Our real aim should therefore be to learn as much as possible about the civilisations of these near countries. It is not the task of universities to transmit basic information of this kind. Theirs is the task of directing adult students in basic knowledge already absorbed. It is at school that young Australians should learn basic information about the peoples, countries and cultures of South East Asia, and the earlier the better. Ideally it should be learned at the same time as learning that two and two makes four.
I have a love of our European history and culture, and my love for British history stems from my school days, but I would go so far as to say that history of Asian countries should now be taught, not as a replacement for, but nevertheless in preference to, British history. Our knowledge of Greek, Latin, French and German to the exclusion of Asian languages is now disappearing and certain Asian languages are being taught. I am not advocating the abolition of classical languages, but I do believe that knowledge of Latin, for example - and I speak as one who was formerly a student of Latin - is secondary to the need for a knowledge of Malay, Bahasa Indonesian and so on.
I am fully aware of those people, perhaps more conservative than myself, who will decry these suggestions because they fear any further decline in the emphasis of the European classics and because they feel that merely learning a language will not of itself promote friendship. As implied earlier, I would agree with that latter view, but I believe that we have now reached the stage where an urgent appraisal of the role of Asian studies in secondary education is desperately needed.
– Once more the members of this Parliament find themselves engaged in a debate on the Address-in-Reply. On this occasion it is due to the unfortunate and tragic loss of our former Prime Minister, the right Honourable Harold Holt. As honourable members on both sides of the House realise, Harold Holt was a wonderful man. He was a wonderful Prime Minister and the areas are legion where he did excellent work for Australia and for Australians. He put Australia on the map in the world of international affairs. But Prime Ministers, like leaders of parties, have to be replaced and we have replaced our former Prime Minister with the Right Honourable John Grey Gorton. I congratulate him on reaching the high office of Prime Minister of this country. I feel that he will carry on the good works that were initiated by his and my former leader and that we as a coalition will go from strength to strength if this Twenty-Sixth Parliament.
It has been said by members of the Opposition that the Governor-General’s Speech said very little. Perhaps that is true, but if so it is because in this Twenty-Sixth Parliament all that the Prime Minister, his Cabinet and those who follow them have endeavoured to do is to follow the initiatives which were set out in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech early in 1966. Nevertheless, the Speech reiterated the support of Australia to our intervention in the affairs in South Vietnam. We have added our verbal and other support to the South Vietnamese Government because there has been aggression there and there has been subversion of the activities of that Government. We have reiterated our support to the Government of the United States of America and those other countries that also wish to deny aggressors the right to take over the affairs of South Vietnam.
The Governor-General spoke also of some aspects of the impending withdrawal of Great Britain . from East of Suez. To some extent he dealt with the subject of immigration and with national development. He mentioned that the Department of Trade and Industry will carry out trade drives throughout various continents. Many other matters were brought to the attention of honourable members at the beginning of this Twenty-Sixth Parliament.
But now, half way through the life of the Parliament, the Government faces a number of dilemmas. I have referred to them mentally as ants in the jam. The Government will need to give attention to them if we are to have a continuity of good government.
I have listed seven items, not necessarily in order of importance. The first centres on the activities and decisions of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. I know that this subject has been discussed at length by honourable members opposite and by honourable members on this side of the House too. I will later elaborate on the proposition that this dilemma facing the Government needs some attention in this Twenty-Sixth Parliament. The second dilemma is the financial relationships between the Commonwealth and the States. State Premiers have rightly put their view that the central government should provide more finance for the State governments to spend. I believe that the Premiers have a case. The third dilemma centres on national development. I have been interested in this subject ever since I have been in the Parliament. It is my belief that the people of Australia want to see national development implemented in the areas that are populated by the people who pay the taxes. They will concede, as we all do, that priority must be given to expansion in the remote areas, but the people who live in the cities and provincial towns can make an excellent case for more money to be spent in their areas. The next item is the devaluation by Great Britain and the effect that the rush on gold will have on the economic progress of Australia. Only time will tell how Austrafia will be affected and whether Australians will need to pull in their belts.
The fifth dilemma centres on defence. This is important to all Australians. We realise that Australia must play a greater part in the defence of the areas to our north, in South East Asia and elsewhere, if necessary. That leads me to my sixth dilemma, and that is that Britain will shortly bc withdrawing all her forces from those areas east of Suez. We have already observed some of the activities of the Soviet Union that followed the announcement of Britain’s withdrawal. The ‘Australian’ reported only this week that representatives of the Soviet Government had spoken to representatives of the Indian Government regarding the use of its Navy in the Indian Ocean and the use of naval bases on the coast of India. A member of the Indian Government, who is a spokesman on naval matters, has already said that very shortly India will rule the waves in the Indian Ocean. This must cause our Government a good deal of concern. Yesterday the honourable member for Perth (Mr Chaney) gave an excellent expose on the effects that this withdrawal could have, particularly on developments along the western coast of Australia. My last point is that the Government must take more positive action to implement drought relief in Australia. We have heard our colleagues in the Australian Country Party speak about this matter today and yesterday. The Government will need to be much more positive than it has been to relieve the effects of the terrible drought that has struck the southern part of Australia.
I mentioned seven dilemmas. I will deal with one or two of them before my time runs out. The first relates to the activities of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. While we leave the Commission as an autonomous body, as we should, we continue to scarify selfinflicted wounds, and we should attend to -the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. Honourable members on this side of the House realise the need for arbitration and for conciliation, too. But I personally will not concede that autonomous bodies acting under Commonwealth legislation should be allowed to strain the economy and impede the economic progress of Australia to the extent that has been evident in recent years. In 1964, without the wage earners providing any added productive effort, the basic wage decision of the Commission injected $200m into the economy. I do not contest the right of the Commission to do this; it was done. In 1966, because there were more workers on the payroll, another basic wage decision injected a further $280m into the economy without one extra pound of work being done for that money. This year workers employed under the metal trades award will, as a result of a decision given by the Commission, receive further increases amounting to $70m or $80m as over-award payments.
This in itself may not be serious in a country of the size of America, but Australia must be pricing itself out of the export markets on the one hand and on the other hand imposing hardship on those people who do not receive the basic wage and margins increases. The Governor-General in his Speech said that we need to study the possibility of extending our welfare services. This is essential. Our welfare services should be extended not only in range but in quantity as well. But I find it difficult to concede that while these extra costs are being injected into the community any government can make a proper survey of the welfare needs of the people and act for the benefit of those people who need assistance. The decisions of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission are really startling. They take some time to be felt throughout the community in general. It is impossible to assess the total costs resulting from the Commission’s recent decisions. It may be true that those who receive increased wages can keep up with increased costs, but I speak for the indigent, the needy, the sick, the superannuated and the exporters. How is it possible for these sections of the community to keep up with the increased costs that are regularly given to wage earners? The Conciliation and Arbitration Act needs amendment. It should contain economic guides so that when the Commission reaches a decision it will be able to see the economic effects of it. Once this is done, I am sure the Commission will have full regard for the economic consequences of its decisions inside and outside Australia.
Another matter I mentioned in my seven dilemmas was the reimbursement to the States of taxes collected by the Commonwealth Government. I do not agree with the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) that the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) is the evil genius that the Leader of the Opposition said he is. However, the Treasurer should look at the foundations of the original financial relationship between the Commonwealth and the States. Financial inequities are being caused and the Government should introduce legislation to overcome them.
State premiers certainly have problems which to them seem insurmountable. We contribute to the problems of Sir Henry Bolte as Premier of Victoria and ci Mr Askin as Premier of New South Wales while we leave the arrangements in their present form. No premier of any State can predict what his costs will be in any given year, because he does not know - and neither do we - what costs will result from decisions of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. But I believe we should help the States to overcome their problems because we are the tax gathering authority for the Commonwealth. In fact I will go so far as to say that unless and until this Government does something about these financial arrangements between the Commonwealth and the States an economic sickness will pervade the Commonwealth until the reasons for it are rectified - and it could easily become a chronic condition.
The concept of distribution of tax revenue by the Commonwealth to the States was a good concept and a well founded one in its original form. It was founded some 41 years ago. There have been modifications to these arrangements but not sufficient to help those States in which the population is greatest. As I have said, the concept was well founded, ingenious and efficient prior to World War II, but changes are necessary. The concepts need to be changed for this year of 1968 and for later years, and those concepts should not be used in the arbitrary fashion in which they are now used.
The Federal Government is the most efficient tax gatherer in a country such as Australia, and it is our responsibility to ensure that while we can maintain our efficiency in gathering the tax from the people of Australia we should also ensure that the State Premiers maintain their efficiency, within the limits of their boundaries, in spending the money. Having a look at the figures presented to us by the Treasury I find that the tax yield of the Commonwealth has been growing faster and faster than inflation itself, because each wage rise, whether it be as a result of an application by the metal trades unions or whether it be a basic wage increase, usually brings all contributors into a new tax bracket. Certainly within recent years the tax bite on the ordinary taxpayer has become quite considerable. We have been transformed in the last 6 or 7 years from a country whose taxpayers contributed very small proportions of their incomes to one in which the average taxpayer contributes more than taxpayers in most other countries.
As I have said, workers who get these increases in wages have been brought into new tax brackets. In 1953, 58.4% of average male workers - without concessions - received between $1,000 per annum and $1,999 per annum. According to the tax scale the average male worker paid between 6% and 11.7% of his income in the form of tax. But by 1964-65 - and these are the latest figures available to me, and I can say that the tendency on present day figures would be even more obvious - this average male worker received between $2,000 and $3,999. In other words, 59.6% of average male workers now receive, or did receive in 1964-65, between $2,000 and $3,999, and on that kind of income paid in the form of tax between $234 a year and $406 a year. The average male worker has had his wages doubled since 1953, but his tax contributions have increased fourfold.
As I say, the tax bite is considerable on average male workers under the conditions I have mentioned, and it is because of this that many people, particularly professional people, have reached a condition of what I might call disincentive so far as work is concerned. They do not work overtime. They have more time off than they ever had before, and I suggest that the Department of Labour and National Service should combine with the Treasury in making a survey to ascertain how much disincentive has crept into the system as it affects the ordinary worker and the professional man and woman in Australia.
This takes me to the crux of the problem of the States. As I have said, the original concept of the financial arrangements between the Commonwealth and the States was well founded. It was ingenious and it was efficient. The States receive from the Commonwealth two-thirds of their revenue, and we do not leave them many opportunities for taxing the people so as to increase their revenue on a State basis. The State Premiers say, firstly, that they do not get enough money. Secondly, the larger and more populous States say that the division of money between them is not being made fairly. On this latter question 1 think the figures again will prove my point. In 1965-66 Victoria spent on public works $221 per head of population; Tasmania spent $331. I will concede that good management by the Commonwealth should ensure that more money is spent on public works and services in remote areas, in those areas that need development, than is spent in States like New South Wales and Victoria, but the difference between $221 per head in Victoria and $331 per head in Tasmania is too great.
– Turn it up.
– My honourable friend from Watson tells me to turn it up. I can tell him that on a population basis Victoria lost in 1965-66 - because it contributed to other States - a total of $76m. But the State in which the honourable member’s electorate is situated lost infinitely more than Victoria in terms of total revenue. It lost $108m. So I wonder whether he still wants me to turn it up.
The formula for the tax reimbursement can be found on page 14 of a document giving particulars of Commonwealth payments to or for the States for the year 1967-68. As I have said, it seems a reasonable formula because it takes into account the possibility of increases of population, it takes into account increases in wages and it also adds a betterment factor of 1.2%. But the basic figure is worked out on the amounts contributed to the State in the previous year, and this is a fallacious proposition. I think the Treasurer and the Treasury will have to look again at the need to assess realistically what the States should get in the initial assessment. It is now based on the percentage increase in wages, whereas the Commonwealth Government, as I tried to show earlier, is now receiving twice as much revenue as it did in 1953 because average wages have come into new tax brackets. This is why the State Premiers have found it so difficult to meet their obligations for works and services. In fact the Commonwealth Government has received since 1962 an additional amount of $l,572m, of which only $249m has been returned to the States. So although the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) has said that our Treasurer is an evil genius, at least he is getting a lot of money to do a great many things.
– Who said that?
– The Leader of the Opposition said it. 1 ask the question because the Premiers of the populous States asked: Why cannot the city people get regular water supplies? I ask the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) and the Government why cannot the city people have modern suburban trains. I point out that some of the carriages used in Victoria are 80 years old. Why cannot the metropolises of Sydney and Melbourne get better freeways and overpasses? The people who live in those cities travel to New Zealand and are amazed to see the good road systems there. They even travel to Hobart and Perth and see in those cities well constructed road systems which are most efficient and much more effective than those in the populous areas.
Why cannot 700,000 people in Sydney and 300,000 in Melbourne have sewerage services? Seven hundred thousand people - more than the population of Brisbane - who live in Sydney have no sewerage. These people must have sewerage and it is this Government that must do something about it. Why cannot Newcastle and Port Kembla get better port facilities, better wharves and improved harbour installations? I wonder how many people realise that the ports of Newcastle and Port Kembla will take ships up to 35,000 tons but ships using the harbours at Weipa, Westernport Bay and other places are as big as 150,000 tons or will be in a very brief time. This matter of national development is one of real importance so far as the Government is concerned and I should like to see the Cabinet, particularly the members of the coalition generally, do a great deal more than has been done before.
Debate (on motion by Mr Corbett) adjourned.
Electoral Motion (by Mr Fairhall) proposed: That the House do now adjourn.
– I want to say a few words on a very important matter concerning all members of this Parliament but in this case it has particular reference to the Australian Labor Party and the Australian Country Party. I feel that I should reveal to this House what I consider to be further disunity in the Government and attempts to destroy certain members of the Country Party as well as a number of members of the Labor Party. I refer to the redistribution of boundaries of Federal electorates. Only on Monday under section 18a of the Commonwealth Electoral Act objections and suggestions that were made to the Distribution Commissioners were made public. Consequently they are available for all to see. One of the most interesting documents was one sent in by the Liberal Party of Australia and signed by Mr Carrick. It is a remarkable document; it spreads over a number of pages and not only makes suggestions but in fact draws up the complete boundaries for what the Liberal Party believes should be the electorates for this democratic country. Various suggestions are set out on page 1. All the electorates are divided into various regions. In the course of the suggestions it sets out regions such as city, inner-city, regional, country and so on. One o! the suggestions reads:
It also seems unarguable that at least three divisions (and probably four) should be eliminated from the inner metropolitan area delineated by us as region No. 4. Since there are barely eight quotas involved and since these declining divisions merit enrolments appreciably above the quota, there is a persuasive agrument for the abolition of a fourth division in the region.
Within the region of 14 existing rural divisions, the population trends (which’ now encompass only 11.7 quotas) viewed in isolation would suggest the abolition of two divisions.
Thus the Liberal Party members suggest that some of their colleagues in the Country Party are no longer wanted in the machine that operates in the interests of the country. The suggestion continues:
However, the application of subsections (b), (d) and (e) of Section 19 (2) in our view swings the balance of judgment in favour of the abolition of one division in this region.
For the Country Party’s generous measure of support the Liberals suggest eliminating one division instead of two. The suggestion continues:
In such circumstances, four rural votes would equal five metropolitan votes in terms of parliamentary representation.
The submissions are summarised in these terms:
In consequence of the above, our suggestions embody the following basic changes: Divisions to be abolished:
That represents in effect four Sydney Labor seats. Parkes was only an accidental victory for the Liberal Party on the last occasion. The divisions to be created are set out as follows:
Beecroft, Pymble West etc’ ‘Sutherland, Bulli, Corrimal etc’ ‘Lalor Park, St Marys etc’ ‘Fairfield, Merrylands etc’
In their generous way the Liberal Party suggests that another two or three Liberal seats be created. This is what could be called by the Liberals a spontaneous and generous approach. Let us look at it. The Country Party seat of Lawson is to be abolished. This seems strange. Is it not unusual for the Liberal Party to submit a proposal to eliminate one of the Country Party members in this chamber? Whom does the Liberal Party want in Lawson? Does it want another honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Andrew Jones) or some spectacular character like that? We find that the seats have been generously distributed. The Liberals like Calare. They have given the seat of Calare 13,000 electors from the existing Lawson electorate. Gwydir, the Liberals suggested, should get 18,000 from the existing Lawson electorate. The honourable member for Paterson (Mr Fairhall) a member of the Government’s own Ministry has been given only 1,300. The only seats that the Liberal Party in its proposals has submitted as needing any alteration are seats held by Country Party members of this Parliament.
If by accident a Liberal happens to hold a country seat such as Macarthur the Liberals have made no suggestion for changing the seat. Apparently they want to let him have what he has. The honourable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr Munro) was lucky to win but will want luck to hold the seat and the Liberals are leaving him the whole division with the exception of a few votes. If honourable members look further along to Mitchell and others they will see that wherever a country seat has been held by the Country Party or the Labor Party there has been a vicious attack but in Robertson, Macarthur and EdenMonaro, held by the Liberal Party, the Liberals have recommended no change whatever.
I am concerned about this ;or a number of reasons. As a democrat 1 hate to see disunity in the Government Parties and following as it does so closely upon the disclosure of the attitude of the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) and the Leader of the Country Party (Mr McEwen) towards one another, it is not good for the Government of this country. Is it not another vicious move in the jungle war? Is it not bad for the unity of government? The boys in Vietnam think that the Government is united. The Government wants to be so, but here the Country Party’s own colleagues are trying to wipe them out. I am not criticising the Country Party tonight. 1 am asking for a united front against its vicious opponents who sit in government trying to eliminate it and the members of the Labor Party. What better appeal could 1 make? It is distressing to the honourable member for Watson, to me and others. We know the redistribution Commissioners will not take notice of intimidatory tactics like this and we do not like to see them practised on the Labor Party, the Country Party, or anyone else. I speak tonight on behalf of the Country Party and the Labor Party because I believe the Country Party is trying to maintain a measure of unity by being silent under great provocation from members of the Liberal Party. I have never seen anything worse than the general secretary of the New South Wales Branch of the Liberal Party writing a letter to the Commissioners asking for a gerrymander and trying to wipe out not only the Labor members of this Parliament and to create a number of seats but also to eliminate
Country Party members of the Cabinet and others who are supposed to be their friends.
These tactics are damaging in every possible way. Naturally, if they are given effect they will be bad for the Australian Labor Party. But we understand the desire of the Liberals to eliminate some potential members of the next Federal government or make our chances of election impossible if this can be done by redistribution. We also believe that it is very dangerous for this blatant intimidation to be practised against electoral commissioners. I do not quite agree with the idea that it is a good thing to tender submissions in advance, because this does give some semblance of truth to the belief that this is what one could describe as intimidation.
I ask the House: What will be the position in this Parliament if the redistribution commissioners do find it necessary to bring to this Parliament exactly what the Liberals have suggested? Even the most biased honourable members opposite would have to agree that if this happened it would be looked upon as intimidation and a rort. My purpose tonight is to speak generally on the matter, to enlighten the people as to what is happening in this country and to awaken the Country Party to the fact that its colleagues in government do not want some members of the Country Party here. The poor member for Lawson, who is absent from this Parliament tonight, is the subject of an appeal to the commissioners by his colleagues of the Liberal Party to wipe him out irrespective of what the effect of this would bc on the country or anyone else.
I bring this matter to the notice of the Parliament. 1 am sorry that members of the Country Party are with us in this because they are the colleagues of the Liberals and we want nothing to do with them. But we would not expect any better. I am sorry to see that the Liberal Party has turned against the Country Party in retaliation, 1 would think, for its outspokenness on the question of leadership on which, evidently, the Country Party has followed lines of high principle.
Question resolved in the affirmative. House adjourned at 10.42 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 20 March 1968, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1968/19680320_reps_26_hor58/>.