26th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr SPEAKER (Hon. W. J. Aston) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– I address a question to the Treasurer. When will the extensions to the defence forces retirement benefits legislation announced in last year’s Budget be implemented?
– On Tuesday night.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Civil Aviation been directed to a recent statement made in public by Sir Howard Beale, who is I understand a director of an American airline company, Eastern Airlines, in particular that part in which he claimed that when his company gains access to the Australian air routes across the Pacific he will substantially reduce air fares? Is it possible for him to make this positive statement on fares at this juncture or is it necessary for international agreement to be obtained from the International Air Transport Association on matters such as fares?
– Whilst I have a great deal of respect for our ex-colleague, Sir Howard Beale, I am afraid that I cannot agree with the reported statement that he made in relation to this matter. As I indicated yesterday, a recommendation has been made that Eastern Airlines be the second American company to operate on the South Pacific route, but it is by no means certain that after appeals have been heard this company will be given approval to operate on this route. However, I suppose that on the basis of the examination of the situation so far we can assume that Eastern Airlines will become the second operator at some time in the future. On the question of fares, I am afraid that the gentleman concerned knows, and I think the airlines concerned are fully aware, that before any variation is made in the fare structure the matter must be submitted to the International Air Transport Association for consideration by all airlines which are members of that Association. Even after approval is given by IATA for variations in fare rates, approval then has to be given by the governments concerned. So at this point of time it would not be possible for one airline to indicate that it would change the fare structure on any particular route. I may say in conclusion that the last reduction in fares on the Pacific route was as a result of Australia’s initiative through Qantas Airways Ltd. We are very happy that that reduction took place last year.
– My question is addressed to the Acting Attorney-General. Is the Australian public adequately protected in law against foreign manufacturing companies which export machinery to Australia in assembled form where such machinery causes death or injury to people through inferior workmanship or negligence? Is it a fact that litigation involving common law must be initiated in the country of manufacture and not taken through agents or representatives in Australia? Will the Minister call for the papers and court depositions in the cases of Kulnura Quarries Pty Ltd v. J. I. Case Australia Pty Ltd and Bohlman v. J. I. Case Australia Pty Ltd and examine them to determine whether proceedings in these matters resulted in justice being done to Bohlman. a migrant, in view of the fact that compensation of only $4,000 has been received after nearly 4 years of suffering following an accident in which more than $3,000-
-Order! The honourable member is now giving information. I ask him to put his question.
– In this case, more than $3,000 had been eaten up in medical, legal and other expenses out of a total award of $7,856.
– I will be glad to look at the question as recorded in Hansard, treat it as a question on notice and give the honourable gentleman an answer.
– I ask the Treasurer a question supplementary to that asked by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition about the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits
Fund. Has the work of preparing for Tuesday night been greatly assisted and expedited by the untiring, patient, devoted and dedicated work of the honourable member for Maribyrnong, who has done a job above and beyond the line of duty of a member of the House of Representatives?
– Much as I would like to do so, there is nothing that I can add to the eloquent speech jus; mad.’ by the honourable member for Macarthur.
– I direct my question to the Treasurer. He will recall that provision was made in the last Budget for loans not exceeding a total of $15m to assist the sugar industry and that provision was made for SI Om to be allocated, using the yardstick of a price of $86 a ton and relating to No. 1 pool sugar only. Because of this yardstick, only about $4m will be distributed. Is the Treasurer satisfied that $86 a ton is a fair price for the sugar? Why was No. 2 pool sugar excluded? Will he consider, if the industry requests it, disbursing the $6m saved by the Treasury to give further assistance to No. 1 pool and No. 2 pool sugar or to provide emergency loans to those small producers who are in serious financial trouble?
– The honourable gentleman will know that the Commonwealth Government acted at the request of the Queensland Government and is living up to the agreement. If the Queensland Government wants to make any amendments or changes, the responsibility is on that Government to do so. I assure the House that we have done all we can to live up to the terms of the agreement settled between the two governments.
– My question, which is addressed to the Minister for Civil Aviation, refers to the Dubbo Aerodrome and the efforts spread over many years to improve the function of air transport in this region in keeping with the status of the city of Dubbo and surrounding towns and districts served by this aerodrome. To the mutual benefit of the Department of Civil Aviation, the Council of the city of Dubbo and air travellers, agreement now appears to be in sight for the employment of the local ownership plan under present usage, with appropriate safeguards. Will the Minister give the Council a promise of indemnity if, within a reasonable . time, strengthening or lengthening alterations are necessary to the airstrip resulting from the employment of new type aircraft and outside the scope of current normal maintenance?
– I know that the honourable member has been closely in touch with this matter for some time and I appreciate his efforts to bring it to a satisfactory conclusion. I hope it will not ,be long before we can arrange to sign an agreement with the Dubbo City Council for local ownership of the Dubbo aerodrome. In pursuance of this objective I “would be very happy to approve the proposal that has been made that we reconstruct the runway, which at present is capable of taking F27 aircraft, though only for the existing services. I would be happy to approve the raising of the runway’s strength not only to the full F27 standard but also to a standard which would enable the airport to take an occasional Viscount aircraft. My estimate at the moment is that such a proposal would cost about $300,000. My Department would be prepared to bring the runway up to this standard before handing over the airport for local ownership.
Obviously I could not undertake to give any indemnity in relation to new types of aircraft or changed usage of the aerodrome. But I can say that we have made it clear to the airline operators, and also to manufacturers overseas in our consultations with them, that it is expected that any pure jet replacement for the F27 turbo prop aircraft will require runway strength and length somewhat similar to the standards at present needed for the F27 aircraft. An F28 prototype aircraft is already operating and is being tested in regard to these requirements. We expect that the requirements for that aircraft will be somewhat similar to those for the F27, and we do not visualise anything beyond that intermediate type of jet operating in the Dubbo area in the foreseeable future. But if some additional national requirement beyond a purely local requirement should have to bs considered in the long term future, we would approach the matter on the same basis as we are at present considering and undertaking work at aerodromes such as those at Rockhampton and Mackay, in Queensland. At those airports there is an immediate need to provide for a larger type of aircraft. That is all the information I can give the honourable member at the moment.
– My question is directed to the Minister for the Navy. I am concerned about foreign Ashing trawlers operating off the coast of Queensland. As recently as 5 days ago six foreign trawlers were operating within 3 miles of the port of Weipa. I ask the Minister: How many patrol vessels have been, handed over to the Navy to date? When does he expect the remainder of the vessels to be handed over? Where are they to be based? Can it be assumed that some of them wm be made available to police the law relating to fishing rights?
– The total order is for twenty naval patrol boats. We expect to take delivery of them all by April or May 1969. Six have already been delivered. Of this number, two are now in service in the New Guinea area, two are based at Darwin, and I believe two are working in the Sydney “area. The question of whether some of these vessels could be used for fishing surveillance when deliveries are complete is now being considered by the Government.
– I ask the Leader of the House a question concerning the forthcoming debate on the private members’ Bill which stands in the name of the Leader of the Opposition and which relates to the abolition of capita] punishment. May I very briefly preface my question by suggesting that a free debate and a free vote in this, the most senior of the Australian parliaments, could make a significant contribution to the resolving of this very important social question. In view of this fact will the Minister confer wilh the Leader of the Opposition with a view to discussing ways and means by which members of the Opposition may exercise a free vote on this question in accordance with their individual consciences?
– This is a matter of social importance. Indeed, more than that, it is a matter of social conscience. As a matter of social conscience it would be a matter for the individual conscience of every member of this House. As I understand its policy, the Australian Labor Party has adopted a specific attitude on this matter. While that persists I believe there could be no free vote in this House on the Bill, because there would be a situation in which one side of the House decided what to do about it in caucus and the other side did not do so. Of course, I would talk to the. Leader of the Opposition about the matter; but I should point out to the honourable member that even if the Leader of the Opposition were prepared to adopt the course suggested in the question, notice of the Bill stands, on the notice paper as item No. 7 under general business and, in accordance with the Standing Orders, some considerable time indeed would elapse before it would be reached. So the honourable gentleman should not anticipate that there will be a debate on this matter in the immediate future.
– I ask a supplementary question of the Leader of the House. Can the honourable gentleman give an assurance that, when this Bill comes on for debate, unlike the fate of most private members’ Bills a vote will be permitted on it? I refer to the fact that in my time in the House there has not been a vote on a private members’ Bill, even if there has been part of a debate on such a Bill. On this occasion will the honourable gentleman facilitate a vote?
– Although the honourable gentleman has been in the House longer than I have, I have a distinct recollection of a vote having been taken on a private member’s Bill in relation to divorce which was introduced by a former member for Balaclava.
– There was never a vote on that. There was only debate on it.
– In any event, the major point is whether I will give an undertaking that there will bc a vote on this particular private member’s Bill. I cannot give such an undertaking. The reasons why I cannot do so include the fact that, in accordance with standing rules, the Bill cannot come up for debate for a considerable time into the future, and one could not commit oneself so far ahead. Another point has already been exposed by the honourable member for Higinbotham (Mr Chipp), that is, before the vote was taken, consideration would have to be given to whether or not members were committed to a preformulated policy.
– I ask the Postmaster-General whether he will suggest very politely to the Australian Broadcasting Commission that special programmes on the national stations attacking Anzac Day and all that it stands for, and that slogans such as ‘Let’s Quench the Anzac Spirit’ and ‘The Anzac tradition is gory not glory’ are resented very strongly by those who represent the servicemen who paid the supreme sacrifice so that such critics might have the freedom of speech that they have today. Will the PostmasterGeneral suggest also to the ABC that there are 363 days in the year other than Anzac Sunday and Anzac Day when such antiAustralian programmes can be put over by people who unfortunately and unnecessarily are suffering from a frustration complex?
– This House is responsible for the legislation that gives autonomy in programming to the Australian Broadcasting Commission. I think that the best way in which to impress upon the ABC, and those who are responsible for its programming, that there is dissent within the community in regard to its programmes is for the community itself to indicate it. I will bring the honourable member’s question to the notice of the Chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Commission.
– Is the Minister for Social Services aware that many local government authorities are in financial difficulties due to the economic policies adopted by this Government? Will he inform the House and councils where money may be obtained in order to carry out projects such as the erection of homes for the aged? Will he also state how many of the municipal councils in Australia have applied for the Government’s grant of S2 for Si for the erection of homes for the aged?
– Only one application of the kind referred to by the honourable member has been received. As for the remainder of the question, these are not matters coming within the purview of my Department.
– I ask a question of the Minister for Air. I refer to the crash in California 2 weeks ago of an Orion patrol bomber, one of ten ordered by the Royal Australian Air Force. Fortunately no lives were lost in the crash, but the aircraft was a total wreck. Had the aircraft been delivered to the RAAF at the time of the crash? If so, was the aircraft on charge to the Australian Government? If it was on charge to the Australian Government, is there any evidence to indicate the existence of structural faults in the aircraft?
– The aircraft had been delivered to the Royal Australian Air Force. When the crash occurred it was undertaking training flights with the RAAF. The crash occurred in landing, due apparently to the collapse of the undercarriage. The normal court of inquiry procedures of the RAAF are being taken to ascertain the precise cause of the crash. There are some indications of a possible structural defect or a defect in material. I cannot say what will be the outcome of the inquiry. At present it must be accepted that the aircraft was on charge to the RAAF. Whether any remedies will be open to the RAAF to have the aircraft replaced will depend on the outcome of the inquiry.
– I ask the Acting Attorney-General a question. The honourable gentleman will know that the National Service Bill, which was introduced last night, proposes to impose obligations on the principals of universities, colleges and schools to furnish the names, addresses and dates of birth of present or former students and to require similar information about 20-year-olds, named or un-named, from persons or institutions of which 20-year- olds are likely to be clients or members - presumably from hospitals, unions, sporting clubs, churches, doctors, solicitors, banks and hire purchase companies. Will the honourable gentleman give or prepare references to any similar wide ranging inquisitorial legislation of this Parliament?
– In the final part of his question the honourable gentleman characterised this provision as inquisitorial. The fact is that the Government has a policy in relation to national service. It is a policy taken for high reasons of national security. The policy has been endorsed by the public of Australia. It is a policy requiring the participation by all of those who fall within the age limits. The Government considered this matter and thought it proper to introduce the provision referred to by the honourable member so that those persons who would seek to avoid their obligation could be found in order to have enforced upon them the obligation which is common to all others of their age group.
– My question is directed to the Minister for National Development. I refer to a report relating to a recent meeting of the River Murray Commission. Can the Minister say how far the investigations of the committee appointed by the Commission to examine upper Murray dam sites have proceeded? When may a decision on the construction of further water storages in the River Murray catchment be expected?
– The object of the studies being carried out at present by the River Murray Commission is to ensure that South Australia will at all times receive its entitlement of good quality water without restriction and also that additional water will be made available to the upriver States. At its meeting in Canberra about ten days ago the Commission had before it a number of studies prepared by its technical committee and by the Snowy Mountains Hydroelectric Authority. These studies tended to show that upriver storage would give greater benefits at less cost than downriver storage. We had asked both the Snowy Mountains Authority and the technical committee of the River Murray Commission to look at a number of sites in the upper Murray area. These were at Murray Gates, Dartmouth and Jingellic. We had also asked them to consider the proposed Buffalo storage. For the size of dam in which the River Murray
Commission was interested it appeared that the best and most feasible site was at Dartmouth on the Mitta Mitta River.
Accordingly the Commission decided to ask the Snowy Mountains Authority to carry out drilling operations in that area as rapidly as possible, and to prepare the preliminary design of a dam in order to show what the cost and the optimum storage capacity would be. This work is now proceeding. In addition we decided to ask the salinity consultants of the River Murray Commission to compare the probable degree of salinity downriver which would result from an upriver storage with the likely result from a downriver storage. When we receive the reports of these two bodies we will be in a position to put the situation before the four contracting governments so that they can decide where the storage should be located. 1 find it difficult to say how long this is likely to take. I am informed by the Snowy Mountains Authority that it will take not less than 6 months and perhaps some months longer for the Authority to complete its work. But I point out that this is a necessary stage in the provision of a dam. and that construction will not be delayed after a decision on the location of the storage is made.
– My question is addressed to the Minister in Charge of Aboriginal Affairs, ls it an offence against the Commonwealth Electoral Act to offer a bribe to an Aboriginal elector in an attempt to influence his or her vote? Ls it an offence for an Aboriginal to accept such a bribe? Is the offence of offering or accepting a bribe punishable by a fine of up to S200 or imprisonment for a term nol exceeding 6 months? If the answers to these questions are in the affirmative, does the Minister, having described Aboriginals as being children in many respects, intend to take any action to ensure their protection, as far as possible, against any undue influence or offers of bribes at future elections?
– The law in respect of Commonwealth elections is substantially the same for Aboriginals and for other Australians. Aboriginals are subject to the law which covers the acceptance of a bribe, just as anybody who attempts to bribe an Aboriginal is subject to the law. 1 am not aware of particular circumstances which the honourable member may have in mind, but if there is any specific matter which he would like to bring to my notice, either publicly in this House, or privately, I shall be most pleased to look into it, because I. want to ensure that there is no abuse of the freedom of Aboriginals to exercise a . vote in a proper manner and in accordance with the law, just as any other Australian citizen is free to do.
– Has the Minister for National Development received a petition from residents of Kimba in South Australia concerning the possibility of Commonwealth assistance in the provision of a pipeline from the Polda Basin to the Kimba area? If so, will the Minister give serious and, I hope, favourable consideration to this request?
– Yes, I have received the petition to which the honourable gentleman refers. I have pointed out previously in this House that requests from the States for assistance under, the national water resources development programme are very large in number and that the total cost of these requests greatly exceeds the amount of money which the Commonwealth is at present committed to make available. Nevertheless, this project will go into the mill. We are attempting to arrange an order of priorities so that the most important works will be carried out first.
– I ask the PostmasterGeneral: Since the legislation of this Government guarantees to the Australian Broadcasting Commission freedom in the selection and presentation of its programmes, will the Minister say whether, through the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, he or the Government may exercise any restraint or influence on programmes televised by commercial stations? In particular, will he have an examination made of a segment of ‘The Mavis Bramston Show’ - televised in Sydney last week and through the local station here on Saturday night - in which the segment derided the Australian soldier, presented him in the most unfavourable light and denigrated the
Australian ex-serviceman? Would the Minister have regard to the fact that to young people in this community who do not know from their own knowledge of the deeds of Australian servicemen in times of war the picture that they receive through these wretched commercial station programmes is the picture that they develop of the Australian ex-serviceman? I ask the Minister’ particularly to see that this type of programme is not permitted to be shown:
– The Australian Broadcasting Control Board is charged with the responsibility to develop standards of programming and of advertising. It has produced these standards of control in booklet form. These booklets are available to any member pf the public as well as to the television and broadcasting stations. The , Control Board carries out monitoring .of a substantial number of programmes, but it would be impossible of course to view every programme that is produced. The Board has control over the commercial stations only and not over the ABC.
I have not been made aware of the programme to which the honourable member refers but I mention that, in general terms, The Mavis Bramston Show’ is recognised as being a satirical performance. I appreciate that, within the acceptance of satire, there can be something of offence to large sections of the Australian public. I hope that the Control Board will have a look at this segment of the programme. I believe that the Board would not hesitate to take action on this occasion as it has done on numerous occasions previously particularly in relation to this particular programme and in relation to many other programmes which are shown to the community by commercial television stations.
– I address my question to the Minister for Immigration. ‘ I refer to numerous reports that land sharks are operating in Great Britain, posing as representatives of Australian real estate companies. As it is tragically clear that these people have been selling worthless land to intending migrants, notably land in the Brisbane area - of course, there is very little worthless land in that area - will the - Minister do what he can to prevent such practices? If ii is not possible to do this will the Minister see that intending migrants at least are forewarned of this practice?
– I did see a Press report relating to this matter, and J was greatly concerned that there should be confidence men taking in future migrants te Australia. I therefore asked for a report on the matter from our London office, which is situated in the High Commissioner’s building, and I have, within the last 5 minutes, had a minute sent to me.
– What a coincidence.
– This is literally true on this occasion. The Chief Migration Officer in London, Mr Kiddle, has said that he can find no confirmation of the allegations that were made and he has been unable to obtain corroboration of the story which, up to date, according to his inquiries has not appeared in the British Press. However, I think it would be worth while to inform the honourable member that from time to time the London office does receive requests from English newspapers to check on the bona fides of advertisers. As the number of such requests is increasing, and arising out of this particular matter, a letter was sent on 26th April to the Newspaper Proprietors Association asking it to check on the bona fides of advertisers because Australia could not check on every individual advertiser. The newspapers were asked to bring the letter to the attention of the classified advertisement managers of each of the newspapers. The letter drew attention also to the fact that advice on these matters is available, free of charge, from Australia House, the offices of the AgentsGeneral representing the six Australian States, the London offices of Australian banks and a large number of reputable housing firms which have offices in London. We are anxious that people should not be taken in by confidence men, but the plain fact of the matter remains that there is nothing we can do to ensure that people will not be taken in by confidence men.
– Is the Minister for Social Services aware of the number of persons classified as suitable for light duties only who are on the books of the Commonwealth Employment Service? ls he aware that branch officers of that Department are reluctant to send these persons to positions because of the high rate of rejection by employers? Will the Minister order research into all government departments to ascertain whether these persons could be gainfully employed in the Commonwealth Public Service?
– I am not aware of the number of people concerned but I am aware of the importance of the matter that the honourable member has raised. It is one of the functions of my Department in co-operation with the Department of Labour and National Service to try to find employment for people who are fit only for light duties or who are in any way handicapped. I will see that this matter is followed up. 1 have already been in touch with the Minister for Labour and National Service and have given instructions to my Department to make some investigations because I regard what the honourable member has ‘ said as being important and significant.
– My question, addressed to the Postmaster-General, is supplementary to the . questions asked by the honourable members for Chisholm and the Australian Capital Territory. Did I understand the Postmaster-General aright when 1 understood him to say that there is in existence a code of standards prepared by the Australian Broadcasting Control Board and that the code does not have any statutory force but merely exists persuasively? Further, will the Postmaster-General make it clear whether or not that code of standards applies to the Australian Broadcasting Commission? I think the honourable gentleman will concede that if that, code has any statutory force it should apply also, in common sense, to the Commission.
– I thought that I had made it clear that under the Broadcasting and Television Act the Australian Broadcasting Control Board is charged with the responsibility of programme standards. That provision is contained in a few lines in the Act. In the discharge of its obligations the Board has determined what the standards are, and these are available in booklet form. The Board requires that . these standards be observed by the various commercial broadcasting or television stations. It has no responsibility in regard to the Australian Broadcasting Commission. The Commission is set up under the same Act, but the Board has no control over the Commission’s programmes and, of course, there is no advertising on the ABC.
I should have mentioned, in answer to the earlier question by the honourable member for the Australian Capital Territory, that the Board in addition to setting down standards of programmes also has determined that certain programmes shall not been shown at times when children’s programmes only can be shown. A programme such as ‘The Mavis Bramston Show’ can be shown only at an hour when it is generally expected children are not watching television. Therefore, the responsibility here is thrown on the parents. It is the responsibility of the parents, not of the legislature or the Control Board, to ensure that children do not watch programmes, many of which, if 1 may use the broad term, come into the doubtful class.
If the House desires that the Control Board should have control over the ABC as well as over the commercial stations, that is a matter for the House to determine. But 1 think the House has made it clear in the past that the Board should not have any control over the ABC. It has declared, and continues to declare, that the Commission should remain autonomous in the programme area. Some months ago I made a public comment regarding the programme standards observed by the ABC or by those who produce the ABC programmes. I was taken to task in many quarters of the community, including the Press, for advancing any opinion whatsoever instead of leaving the matter to the Commission.
– I address my question to the Treasurer. Has the recent record capital inflow into Australia resulted in a share market boom which is beyond control? How does the Minister propose to differentiate between the sectors of that inflow which are acceptably developmental or purely genuine portfolio investment, and wholly speculative ‘hot money’, unstable and flight-prone? Has this inflow concealed a serious quarterly deterioration in Australia’s overseas trade balances? Will the Minister consider a graduated capital gains tax on ‘hot money’ speculative profits, based on the period of the money’s domicile in Australia, in order to safeguard Australia’s overseas funds?
– As to the first question asked by the honourable gentleman, about how we differentiate between various types of capital inflow, I think that if he will carefully read the report which was issued by the Government Statistician he will see that an attempt has been made officially to make a distinction between the various types of payments.
As to the second question, about whether or not we would want to restrict this type of capital inflow and whether it means the stock exchanges of Australia have got out of control, I doubt whether it is valid to use that phrase regarding the Australian stock exchanges. In any event, it is not for us, as a Government, to attempt to control share market operations. If this money does flow in, and share prices increase, then the market must take the responsibility for it. I certainly do not intend to intervene. As to the last question asked by the honourable gentleman I make it clear to him that this capital inflow does mean that the international investing public has complete confidence in the Gorton Government.
– I ask the Postmaster-General a question which follows upon the questions asked by the honourable member for Moreton and others. The Minister will be aware of the mock crucifixion which was carried out at the Monash University and he may be aware of the statement on 22nd April by the Vice-Chancellor of that university. Dr Mathieson, who said:
Some may feel that the most disturbing feature of the affair was the contempt shown for the feelings of those to whom the proceedings were sacrilegious - unfortunately lack of consideration for the feelings of others is all too common in the world today and students naturally mirror the society in which they live.
In view of this statement, does the Minister not think that the Government, the PostmasterGeneral and Australian Broadcasting
Control Board and all those who have some control over the Australian Broadcasting Commission and commercial television should, before it is too late, see that standards are observed which will set some code of behaviour for our young people?
– I do not know that 1 can add much to what I have said already in answer to other questions this morning. I am sure that the Government is prepared to look at this, as governments have in the past, but I think that when one considers every aspect of the Broadcasting and Television Act as it relates to standards one will come to the conclusion that there must be on every station some self imposed moral suasion rather than a laying down in legislation of rules and regulations which can always be followed. My view is that we could never reach a situation in which we could cross every ‘t’ and dot every Y in this sort of circumstance.
-I have received a message from the Senate concurring in the resolution of the House as to the power of the Joint Committee on the Australian Capital Territory to move from place to place.
The following Bills were returned from the Senate without amendment:
Science and Industry Research Bill 1968. Native Members of the Forces Benefits Bill 1968. Removal of Prisoners (Territories) Bill 1968. Northern Territory (Administration) Bill 1968. Officers’ Rights Declaration Bil] 1968.
Bill presented by Mr McMahon, and read a first time.
– I move: - That the Bill be now read a second time.
Honourable members will recall that in a statement to the House on 27th March I outlined the action being taken by the Commonwealth to help alleviate problems arising from the drought. This Bill and the States Grants (Drought Reimbursement) Bill are designed to give legislative effect to the two sets of measures to which I referred in that statement. The purpose of the States Grants (Drought Reimbursement) Bill is to authorise reimbursement of the States of Victoria and South Australia for expenditure by those States on certain drought relief measures. Current estimates suggest that expenditure by Victoria on these measures will amount to about S7.5m in this financial year and expenditure by South Australia to about $1.1 5m. However, in case larger amounts should be required, authority is sought to pay up to SI Om to Victoria and up to S5m to South Australia.
In accordance with arrangements agreed with the governments of Victoria and South Australia last October, the Commonwealth is reimbursing these two States for all expenditure incurred by them since 1st October on relief measures similar to those which New South Wales and Queensland have been applying and which the Commonwealth has also been financing. These measures were outlined in some detail in my earlier statement. They include:
I should point out that the Bill authorises reimbursement of expenditure on drought relief measures by Victoria and South Australia after the end of 1967-68. Before then, however, the Government will have to consider, in consultation with the States, to what extent and for how long the present drought assistance arrangements will need to be continued. With the recent very welcome improvement in seasonal conditions I am hopeful that the need for drought relief expenditure by the States, and the need for Commonwealth assistance, will rapidly diminish.
I turn now to the States Grants (Drought Assistance) Bill. The purpose of this Bill is to authorise the payment in 1967-68 of special revenue assistance totalling $14m to the four drought affected States - New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland and South Australia. An amount of $l3m is to be divided between these four States in proportion to the financial assistance grants they will receive this year under the grants formula. The other $lm is to be provided to Victoria in recognition of the effects on that State’s Budget position of special problems which drought has brought to it.
It is estimated that the distribution of the$1 4m will be approximately as follows:
This special assistance is intended primarily to help the States in meeting the adverse effects of drought on their revenues. Hence it is proposed that it be in the form of grants, which the States can use as they see fit. Similar grants of $8m to New South Wales and $2.75m to Queensland were made in 1966-67. As some honourable members may have noticed, the Victorian Premier has indicated that the offer of additional Commonwealth assistance to his State was an important factor in his Government’s recent decision to subsidise purchases of oats and wheat by drought affected farmers.
The Bills before the House are tangible evidence of the Government’s recognition of the need to help alleviate the effects of drought. Commonwealth financial assistance provided since 1965-66for State expenditure on drought relief measures could reach about$59m by the end of the present financial year. In addition, the Commonwealth will also have provided in this period nearly $25m by way of special revenue assistance to the drought affected States. I commend both Bills to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr Beaton) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr McMahon, and read a first time.
– I move:
In my second reading speech on the States Grants (Drought Assistance) Bill I referred to the States Grant (Drought Reimbursement) Bill. The second reading speech therefore covered both Bills.I have nothing more to add to my earlier remarks. 1 ask the House and particularly the Opposition to agree to the debate on the two Bills proceeding concurrently. Separate questions will be put and voted upon for each of the Bills.
– It would be appropriate to deal with that point when the debate is resumed. That is the usual procedure.
Debate (on motion by Mr Beaton) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Sinclair, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The Navigation (Maritime Conventions) Act 1934 amended the Navigation Act to give effect to two international maritime conventions, of which one was the International Convention respecting Load Lines, 1930. It was not until 1966 that load lines were the subject of a further international conference, which was convened in London by the Inter-Governmental Maritime Consultative Organisation. This conference resulted in the adoption by the 52 participating countries, including Australia, of a new convention which, due to the vast technical changes in ships since 1930, requires considerable alteration to load line law. The Bill now before the House will give effect to that Convention, the text of which appears in the Schedule. I think it will be helpful to honourable members if I refer to the main changes introduced by the new Convention which the Bill seeks to apply.
The most significant change is that large ships, such as the new large tankers, ore carriers, and bulk carriers, will be permitted to operate lower in the water by a reduction of some 10% to 20% in the amount of freeboard’ - in simplest terms, the height of the side of the ship above the waterline - thus enabling them to carry a greater weight of cargo. This is being permitted, however, only after the most careful consideration of the safety factors involved, and only provided that the ship complies with more rigorous requirements, particularly for closing appliances in upper decks and superstructures. Dry-cargo ships which are fitted with weather-tight metal hatch covers, and which meet the other requirements of the Convention, are permitted a reduction in freeboard of up to 10%. While the above changes apply primarily to ships built after Australia becomes a party to the Convention, they also apply to any existing ships which meet the additional safety precautions prescribed, or which are suitably modified to meet the conditions laid down by the Convention.
Freeboards for the smaller type of vessels which are built after the Convention comes into force, particularly those under 328 feet in length, will be increased slightly as a result of the 1966 Convention, unless they comply with the requirements of the Convention in relation to length of superstructure and type of hatch covers. However, no existing ship, irrespective of its size, which is not modified to meet 1966 Convention requirements will be expected to increase its freeboard beyond that which it is required to have under the 1930 Load Line Convention.
The new Convention also makes practical changes in respect of geographic zones, areas and seasonal periods which govern the depth to which a ship may be loaded in prescribed areas during specific periods of the year, including changes sought by the Australian delegation. In addition, it establishes suitable criteria for the preparation of relevant weather statistics for Convention purposes.
Detailed provisions such as those referred to above do not, of course, appear in the Bill, which provides the broad framework within which regulations will be made setting out the detailed technical requirements of the Convention. In drafting the Bill to give effect to the Convention, because of the number of changes involved, it was found desirable to repeal the existing Division 5 of Part IV of the principal Act, and insert in its stead a new Division 5, consisting of 15 sections, which gives effect, in an improved form, to the Convention and makes provision for prescribing load line requirements for ships to which the Convention does not apply - principally small craft.
As was done in relation to the Safety of Life at Sea Convention 1960, provision has been made for extending international standards and conditions to Australian ships on coastal voyages. The operative clauses of the Bill, in addition to a number of machinery matters, such as altered definitions and a co-ordination of some of the safety convention and load line convention references, give effect mainly to the articles of the Convention, with the matters set out in the annexes to the Convention being left to the regulations.
Very briefly, new Division 5 provides for the issue of load line certificates to Australian ships which have been surveyed and marked in accordance with the regulations, and which comply with the conditions of assignment. It provides penalties for going to sea without a load line certificate, for offences as to load line and subdivision load line marks, and for overloading of both passenger and cargo ships. It allows for the acceptance in Australia of Convention certificates issued by other Convention countries in respect of their own ships, and provides for all ships to be required to produce their load line certificates to customs officials before leaving port.
The load line Convention now allows for ships to be exempted, either partially or wholly, from the provisions of the Convention under certain specialised circumstances and provided adequate alternative arrangements are made. The Bill also gives effect to these requirements and makes provision for the issue of international load line exemption certificates in certain cases. As has been the practice in the past, most load line certificates will be issued by the various ship classification societies which have been approved for this purpose, although provisions exist for- the Minister or his delegate to issue such certificates.
The Convention has already been accepted by 19 countries, including many of the major maritime countries, and will come into force, in respect of those countries which have accepted it, on 21st July 1968. The passing of the Bill during this session will enable Australia’s instrument of acceptance to be deposited in time for the Convention to come into force in respect of Australia shortly after that date. Action is in hand to have the necessary regulations ready to be made so that they can be brought into operation as soon as Australia’s instrument of acceptance becomes effective, and the main operative sections of the proposed new Act have been brought into operation by proclamation.
The Bill will enable Australia to keep abreast of the latest international standards in respect of ships’ load lines and for Australian ships to reap the benefit of an increased carrying capacity to which I have referred. I commend this Bill to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr Beaton) adjourned.
Commonwealth, State and Local Government Finance - Wildlife Conservation - Compensation Claims against Commonwealth Railways - Port Augusta to Alice Springs Railway - Air Service to Lord Howe Island - Social Services - Taxation - Immigration - Great Barrier Reef - Illegal Entry into Australia - Australian National Anthem - Freight Rates - Papua and New Guinea -
Timber - Fruit Shipments held in Suez Canal - Devaluation of Sterling - Tasmanian Water Schemes - University Students -
Overseas Investment in Australia - National Service - Vietnam - Tasmanian Fruit Industry - Unemployment - Dumping of Goods in Australia
That grievances be noted.
– I wish to make some comments in relation to Commonwealth, State, local government and semi-government financial arrangements, which are of course of great national importance. The Commonwealth Government should display greater interest and pay more attention to the national debt as it affects those bodies. As the GovernorGeneral did not mention this matter in his recent speech to the Parliament, obviously the Government does not consider it to be important. The Commonwealth, the parent body, should be more generous or shall I say more parent-like towards these various bodies, because they are important parts of the government family circle. They may be compared to children who get into financial difficulties. Usually the parents help them out. I believe that the States and local government authorities are in real financial difficulties, as I shall show later by referring to the national debt position. Loans made to the States and local government and semi-government bodies should be free of interest. As local government and semigovernment bodies are’ providing national services to the community, why should they be charged interest on the money they use to provide these services? It would be a different matter if these bodies were operating to make profits. They are not; they are simply service-rendering bodies.
A round table conference chaired by the Commonwealth should be held in regard to the financial relationships of the various tiers of government. Such a conference would promote better understanding of the four levels of government. Municipal and shire councils constitute the level most closely in touch with the needs of the ordinary Australian, yet they are the least equipped financially to supply those needs. Municipal and shire rates are reaching such heights - they will go even higher - that soon many home owners will be priced out of their homes. Land rates, water rates and insurance premiums on houses and effects pose a heavy financial burden for the home owner. In addition to constructing roads, and kerbing and guttering, councils are expected to provide, and in fact they do, many other amenities. Some years ago local government bodies did not have the kind of financial worries with which they are now confronted. They did not then have to provide such amenities as sporting fields, swimming pools, parks and gardens, health clinics for the young and the old, disease prevention clinics, rest homes, senior citizen centres, home nurseries, community centres and baby clinics. In addition to providing and maintaining all these services, councils must provide the necessary staff and meet the continuing expenditure. On 30th April 1968 the ‘Sydney Morning Herald’ published a good article on local government finance and responsibilities. It had this to say about roads:
New South Wales has 131,300 miles of roads. Councils are entirely responsible for 104,600 miles; the State Government for 7,750 miles . . .
Of course the remainder is shared by those responsible for main roads. About 75% of all roads in New South Wales are financed by local councils and that money has to come from ratepayers. Dealing with expenditure by local government bodies on social services the article reads:
Some councils provide money in whole or in part for libraries, orchestras, art galleries, museums, homes for the aged, rest centres, lifesaving clubs, hospitals, baby health centres, kindergartens and home nursing services.
The article referred also to the responsibility of councils in respect of miscellaneous matters. It stated:
Councils have control of cemeteries, crematories, community forests, bush-fire brigades, street advertising, noxious weeds, and pounds for animals which have strayed from their owners’ control.
Councils must provide all of those amenities.
Municipal and shire councils are required also to make annual payments to various statutory bodies. I will give details of some of these payments made by the Bankstown Municipal Council, which is in my electorate. Annually the Council pays 5415,000 to the Department of Main Roads, lt pays $260,000 to the Sydney County Council for street lighting. It pays $54,000 to the Board of Fire Commissioners. It pays $54,000 to the Commonwealth in payroll tax. ft pays $69,000 to the State Planning Authority of New South Wales. Salaries for its office staff amount to $247,000 a year. The Council must find more than $ 1, 000m for all these things I have mentioned before it can even think of spending any money on roads, kerbs or gutters. Councils have very great responsibilities.
In 1955 the Commonwealth’s share of the national debt stood at the figure of S3,997m. Ten years later it amounted to S3, 134m. It will be seen that the Commonwealth’s share is decreasing. In the 10 years from 1955 to 1965 it decreased by about 22%. In 1955 the States’ share of the national debt amounted :o $3, 846m. Ten years later the figure stood at $7.090m, representing an increase of about 84%. In 1955 the local government portion of the national debt stood at $353m. Ten years later the figure was $820m, representing an increase of about 132%. The portion of the national debt owed by semi-government bodies in 1955 amounted to Si, 811m. In 1965 the sum had increased to $4,529m, representing an increase of 150%. Today more than 50% of moneys collected by the Metropolitan Water and Sewerage Board as rate payments goes towards the payment of interest on their debts. The total interest on the national debt amounts to $776m. At the present rate of increase in the national debt, in 10 years’ time the interest bill will have increased to $7,776m.
The evidence 1 have produced shows that something is radically wrong wim the financing of our essential local government and semi-government bodies. I could say a lot more on this subject if I had the time. 1 will deal further with the matter at a later stage.
– -1 hope that my remarks this morning will lead to the establishment of a national wildlife conservation authority. Standing Orders permit honourable members only 10 minutes in which to speak during the Grievance Day debate. I hope to avail myself of the first opportunity to elaborate on what I intend to say this morning.
About 2 years ago a person named Virginia Kraft contributed an article to Life’ magazine in which she pointed out that in less than 200 years since Captain Cook sailed into Botany Bay more than 30 species of native birds and animals, including some of the oldest and most interesting in the world, have been either annihilated or so nearly eliminated that they have rarely been seen for decades. She pointed out that thousands of wedge-tailed eagles aru poisoned, shot and trapped each year. She: noi n ted out that one man alone had killed 2,500 wedge-tailed eagles in 30 months, and that another took more than 300 in one day. She stated that some were destroyed for the bounty of 28c a head, as it stood at that time, and others for no apparent reason.
Virginia Kraft referred to the fact that in a 10 weeks period on the Barrier Reef one man caught 3,000 giant green turtles ranging in size from 200 lb to 300 lb. Most of these were exported to Germany for the manufacture of skin creams, suit cases and soups. She referred to the fact that in the 1930s government machine gunners - I believe she was referring to Western Australian government machine gunners - cut down 20,000 emus in one session. She said that in the late 1920s the Queensland Government licensed 10,000 trappers, who wiped out 600,000 koalas in less than one month. During that period approximately 2 million koalas were killed each year. By 1927 the koala had disappeared from South Australia and had almost disappeared from New South Wales and Victoria.
I think we all are aware that the Tasmanian tiger has probably been wiped out. Its existence in any numbers anywhere certainly is doubtful, although one or two recent reports refer to possible sightings of this rare animal in Victoria. T hope there is some substance in those reports.
Virginia Kraft said in her article:
The most spectacular Australian crime against wildlife, the one for which we Australians will be judged most harshly by present and future generations, is the mass murder of its kangaroos. This is not solely an Australian tragedy but one that reaches far beyond national boundaries.
What are the facts of this matter? In July 1966 Mr A. E. Newsome and Mr H. J. Frith of the Division of Wildlife Research of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation provided a paper for discussion at the Wildlife Conservation School of the University of Adelaide. The paper, which was entitled The Kangaroo and the Game Meat Trade’, was provided for the Department of Adult Education. Among other things the authors said:
In Central Australia about 70% of the kangaroo population was shot in 1961 alone and the 2 professional ‘roo shooters operating there went out of business. In western NSW shooting has reduced the numbers to about one quarter of what they were in I960.
The authors pointed out that at Wilcannia in New South Wales 21,287 kangaroos were shot in June 1965. This was an average of about 700 animals a night. In January 1966, only 7 months later, only 5,720 kangaroos were shot. This was not because the shooters had had a change of heart but because more kangaroos were not there to shoot.
Messrs Newsome and Frith provided other figures relating to the number of kangaroos shot at Cobar and Hermidale during the same period and said:
What is really alarming is that at Wilcannia and Hermidale between June and December 196S the take of red kangaroos declined respectively from 10,895 to 143 and from 3,718 to 176.
A few weeks ago 1 spoke to a man named Turner who was exhibiting in Melbourne a film titled ‘Safari’, which covered his recent journey by caravan from Sydney to Darwin. In 4,000 feet of film not one kangaroo was shown. When I asked him why this was so, he said that on the whole of the journey he had seen only three kangaroos. In case anyone should think that this is an exaggeration or that the circumstances were unusual, let me quote from an article by Wallace Crouch, a journalist not’ unknown to many members of this Parliament, in the Sydney ‘Daily Telegraph’ of 3rd March last year. It was headed ‘Slaughter out West - Fauna Guardian’s Concern for “Roo” ‘. It referred to the fact that Mr Les McQueen, a field officer with the New South Wales Fauna Protection Panel, had just returned from a 2,500 mile tour of the New South Wales outback. Referring to reports brought back by Mr McQueen, the article said:
What he saw and teamed on this latest trip convinces him that in the sacred name of wildlife conservation some pretty drastic measures have to be taken - and quickly - if kangaroos aren’t eventually to become only exhibits in zoos or pictures on postage stamps.
The article stated that statistics show that in the years 1964 and 1965 the number of kangaroos shot in Queensland alone was 2,334,392. The total number shot in Australia annually during that period has been estimated in some quarters at as high a figure as 10 million. I believe that a report tabled in the Queensland Parliament on 17th October 1967 stated that estimates made by professional shooters showed that they alone had shot nearly 54 million kangaroos in Queensland between the years 1960 and 1966. At 17th October last year, there were 1,374 licensed shooters in Queensland.
An eminent Australian zoologist, the late Professor Jock Marshall, in 1965 urged Aus-‘ tralians to stop the slaughter. And it is slaughter; it is not sport. What chance has a kangaroo against a shooter armed with a spotlight and a high powered rifle with telescopic sights, and with a rest for the rifle on the dashboard of his motor vehicle? The kangaroos just stand there lo be shot. In a period of drought such as we have been experiencing recently, they become easy prey as they congregate around the known water holes.
Many States have laws relating to the protection of fauna. New South Wales has a Fauna Protection Act, but Mr McQueen stated that he was one of only two persons engaged in enforcing the Act and he saidto Wallace Crouch: ‘Undoubtedly there are scores of breaches of the Act we don’t ever delect”. He is one of only six persons engaged in the protection of fauna, wild’ flowers and native plants in the whole of New South Wales, an area of 309,433 square miles. I understand that Western Australia, with an area of approximately 1 million square miles, has only .seven wardens and a cadet to enforce ils fauna protection laws.
The late Professor Marshall, in his book The Great Extermination’, stated that at least 25,000 kangaroos were killed in western New South Wales every week. I have been told that in Victoria, where the kangaroo is regarded as a protected animal, the Fisheries and Wildlife Department estimates that about 10,000 kangaroos are shot by licensed shooters every year.
Time does not permit me to say what I would like to say about this wanton destruction of Australian wildlife, but 1 do want to make this point: We should learn the lesson, already learned by some other countries, that it is easy to eliminate a species but impossible to bring it back. The American passenger pigeon, the great auk and the dodo have already gone from the world, and if prompt action had not been taken the American bison would almost certainly have been eliminated. The thirty or more species of birds and animals to which I referred earlier and which have disappeared in the period of less than 200 years for which Europeans have occupied this continent, include three varieties of kangaroos. These three varieties have already gone completely. Unless v/e act quickly, zoos will be the only places where one may see kangaroos in Australia.
I urge the Federal Government, firstly, to convene a meeting of State Ministers to see what can be done immediately to conserve Australian flora and fauna; secondly, to place an immediate embargo on the export of kangaroo meat, skins and hides, such embargo to remain until we can devise a method of properly policing our existing laws to ensure the continued existence of all species of our kangaroos; thirdly, to establish a national wildlife conservation authority which not only will -act positively to conserve our wildlife but also will con- duct an intense educational programme, both for native born- Australians and for our new settlers, so that our wonderf ul - heritage of native flora and fauna will be preserved .for all time.
– 1 recount a story which reveals such indifference, such lack of concern and such procrastination and sheer laziness that members .will hardly credit that any administration could so act. On 4th March last year several railway employees were injured when a trolley wasderailed at Fyshwick, in Canberra. One. a fettler, suffered a broken left leg, a broken left thumb and an injured shoulder. He is receiving worker’s compensation paymentsfar below his normal wage. This man, Mr E. Hyden, of 12 Sixth Street, Narrabundah,’ approached solicitors to claim damages from the Commonwealth Railways. He had to be told that he could not claim or be awarded more than S2.000 because of the limiting provisions of section 81 of the Commonwealth Railways Act. These provisions have remained unaltered since the original Act was passed in 1917, over 50 years ago. The Government knows about the weakness in the Acf. It has been drawn to its attention many times during the last 61 years. Here is the history.
On 4th March 1961 a lad was injured in an accident on the railway turntable near Canberra station. He lost his right leg and, through his father, sought to recover damages from the Commonwealth Railways. Solicitors acting for the boy found that section 81 of the Commonwealth Railways Act, unaltered since 1917, limited the damages a court might award for death or permanent disablement to £2,000, and for temporary disablement to £1,000. The solicitors sought amendment of the Act. In July 1961 the then Minister for Shipping and Transport advised that a review of the Act was currently taking place and that this would be followed by amending legislation which would deal with the limitation on the amount of damages. In April 1962, in an endeavour to have the court freed to assess damages as it thought fit, I put a series of questions to the then Minister for Shipping and Transport, Mr Opperman. In a written reply the Minister admitted that the limit of damages or compensation had remained unaltered since 1917. He admitted that no other railway system in Australia had legislation prescribing such low limits. The Minister added - I ask honourable members to remember that this was in May 1962:
A review of the Commonwealth Railways Act is at present under consideration. Draft provisions for inclusion in the new Act are currently being examined by the departments concerned. Amendment of section 81 is being examined.
Later, in reply to my renewed representations, the Minister wrote, on 29th June 1962, that amendment of section 81 was still under consideration but that agreement on several contentious matters had not been reached. He said it appeared unlikely that legislation would be introduced in that year. That was in 1962. The Minister rejected my suggestion that special arrangements should be made to enable the court to award damages in excess of £2,000. These arrangements, he said, were not warranted. I replied that the judge who was to hear the action should be allowed to use his own judgment as to the award of damages. The Minister wrote that it was not proposed to take special action.
The case came before Mr Justice Joske in the Supreme Court of the Australian Capital Territory in September 1962. Approving an agreement for the payment of £2,000, which was the maximum permitted under section 81 of the Act, Mr Justice Joske said it was a shocking thing that a government should continue to rely on the type of provision contained in section
I made further representations to the then Minister for Shipping and Transport. Eight months later, the then Minister, Mr Opperman, wrote to advise me that the Commonwealth had agreed to make an ex gratia payment of £3,000 to the injured boy. There we were in 1963. We had Commonwealth recognition that the limit on damages was unjust, and we had a promise from a Commonwealth Minister that the law would be amended. Yet, in 1968, an employee of the Commonwealth Railways, grievously injured in the course of his employment, has to be told that he cannot claim or be awarded more than $2,000 because of the limiting provisions of section 81. of the Commonwealth Railways Act. I ask the House: Can you beat that? An Act of the Commonwealth Parliament made in 1917 and recognised in 1961 as being inadequate remains unaltered in 1968. lt has been under review - that is the Commonwealth Government’s term - for nearly 7 years.
Early in October last year in reply to my inquiries, the former Minister for Shipping and Transport, now the Minister for Air (Mr Freeth), wrote: 1 have asked that inquiries be expedited and 1 shall write to you again as soon as I am in a position to do so.
A week later, the then Minister wrote again. Referring to the limitation on damages imposed by section 81, he used these incredible words:
Some unforeseen legal and other difficulties have arisen in connection with the general review of the Commonwealth Railways Act mentioned by my predecessor, but the matter is being dealt with as expeditiously as possible.
That was in October of last year. This is May 1968, almost 7 years after the first representations were made. This is hardly expeditious, to say the least.
What legal difficulties exist? The amendment that we need would consist of four words: ‘Section 81 is repealed’. This would bring the legislation into line with New South Wales where there is no restriction limiting damages or compensation which can be claimed or awarded by a court. Mr Deputy Speaker, I used the words ‘indifference’ and ‘laziness’. They apply fairly, in my opinion. Somewhere along the line, from the Minister down, either in the Department of Shipping and Transport or in the Attorney-General’s Department, or both, someone is just not doing his job. The ordinary citizen is denied his rights and, in my opinion, this administration just does not give a damn.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I wish to take just a few moments of the time of the House to draw attention once again to the urgent need for an alternative railway line from Port Augusta to Alice Springs. Since coming to this place, the honourable member for the Northern Territory (Mr Calder) and I have raised this question on numerous occasions. Each time we do this, we are reminded that in this area, particularly the northern part of South Australia, it only rains heavily about once every 25 years. Yet, since I have been a member of this House, the line has been washed out on several occasions, causing great inconvenience to passengers, wastage of perishable goods, disruption of freight generally and, acute embarrassment to the Commonwealth Railways. I believe that at this very moment passengers are languishing in the Finke River on a stranded train from Alice Springs, probably relying on sustenance being dropped from aircraft to keep them happy.
The history of this railway line is pretty interesting. The line at present follows the route traversed by Stuart when he was forced to go from waterhole to waterhole. In the days of steam locomotion this perhaps was a jolly good thing. But in these days of diesel electric locomotion, it must be obvious to all honourable members that the present line follows a watercourse for a large part of the way and that only a few inches of water above the railway line is needed to render diesel electric locomotives inoperative. 1 was very pleased to learn that the new Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr Sinclair) travelled from the Northern Territory over this area recently. I compliment him on his early initiative in familiarising himself with the needs of this area as far as they concern his portfolio. It seems to me quite providential that torrential rains occurred only a day or two days after the Minister visited that area. Those rains rendered that line inoperative once more.
– For the fifth time this year.
– 1 think that this should leave an indelible impression on the mind of the Minister and reinforce the concern of the honourable member for the Northern Territory and myself as well as that of many backbench members who are interested in national development generally and in the development of the Northern Territory in particular, and who recognise the need for a new railway line which will assist in the development of this area.
If the line is constructed on higher terrain, we will be free of the dangers of Hooding and the consequent disruption of traffic. This new line, 1 would suggest, should be constructed from Tarcoola via Coober Pedy. Honourable members may not realise that 1,200 people live in that opal mining area. A railway line passing through that area most certainly would assist in stabilising this industry as well as promoting the development of other industries in that region. For instance, the search for oil is being carried out in this area. This line would facilitate that exploration. The line also would pass within 100 miles of the vast Wingellina nickel deposits that have a potential production of approximately 30,000 tons of untreated ore per annum. This would provide an incentive to send the ore down to Port Augusta or Port Pirie for refining purposes and shipment. In turn this would provide a considerable amount of revenue to the Commonwealth Railways as well as offering stimulus to the South Australian economy which has suffered so badly over the last 3 years. Also it would help to develop the areas in the vicinity of the Mereenie gas fields.
Mr Deputy Speaker, I do not wish to take the matter further except to say that I am glad to see - I should have said this the other day - that the honourable member for the Northern Territory will be given full voting rights in this House. This, I hope, will lend a great deal of weight to his efforts and to my efforts for the provision of this railway line. In closing I appeal earnestly to the Minister and to the Government to make money available so that some accurate survey work can be started on this railway line, which is needed urgently and which will provide stimulation of incalculable value to the development of this important part of Australia.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, the honourable member for Grey (Mr Jessop) has offered a good plea for a new railway line in South Australia. The plea that I wish to put forward now concerns a flying boat. Unless the Government which is in office 18 months hence does something about the matter, at the end of 1969 when the flying boat service to Lord Howe Island is discontinued, there will be no way of reaching that island. I have raised this question in this House year after year but no action has been taken. 1 cannot understand why the Government has not taken this matter more seriously. We hear a lot on television, particularly on Bob Dyer’s ‘Pick-A-Box’ show, about Brampton Island. This island was serviced by aircraft and I understand that the cost of this service was shared by the Government and the companies concerned.
The service to Lord Howe Island, which is 430 miles from Sydney, may last for another 18 months, although there is no guarantee of that. There are often breakdowns in the service and there is no alternative means of getting to the island except by a boat which calls there about once every 4 or 5 months, and it cannot get nearer than a mile to the shore. All goods have to be transferred to the island by tug boat. Honourable members can appreciate the difficult circumstances under which people live in that locality. I hope that the Minister for Civil Aviation (Mr Swartz) will take heed of my plea. I have been requested to visit Lord Howe Island to hear at first hand the grievances of residents and naturally 1 should like to be able to assure them that the Government is considering the position and does recognise the existence of the island. It has done nothing in the past to help the situation.
Many more matters affecting my electorate cry out for attention. Yesterday a deputation representing the totally and permanently incapacitated ex-servicemen of four States visited Canberra to interview the appropriate Minister so perhaps it would be better if I left the presentation of submissions to them; but I appeal to the Minister for Social Services (Mr Went worth) to do what he can to help people in need. He has visited my electorate frequently and in the past has indicated what he would do and would not do were he in a position of authority. He now occupies an important portfolio, so he should deliver the goods. I am sure he will come good eventually but at present whenever he is asked a question in the House his stock answer is that the question involves Government policy. We have heard this argument year in and year out.
At Woolloomooloo the Matthew Talbot Hostel looks after almost 400 practically starving people every night. It gives them shelter for 2 or 3 days. It is unable lc do what it would like to do because it is a charitable organisation and lacks finance, lt gets no aid from the Government. Every day my office is crowded with people who have been unable to secure social service benefits. As many as 20 people are there at the one time and my secretary is constantly ringing the Department on their behalf, but the Department cannot do much to help them. The Department’s activities are limited and it cannot overstep the mark. When these people go to the Department they have to indicate that they have sought work from three employers and have fulfilled other conditions. They travel from place to place seeking employment but frequently employers will not take the trouble to listen to their stories or to offer them employment. Some employers will not give them work because they have been in gaol, but I point out that our gaols are full of respectable people, or people who we once thought were respectable, including businessmen. The other - day I read of a solicitor who was sentenced to 6 years imprisonment and often we hear of sentences of 7 years or 8. years in rape cases. Why discriminate against these unfortunate people who have been in. gaol? Some may have stolen food and have been imprisoned for so doing. I appeal to the Minister to make some provision for. places like the Matthew Talbot Hostel which look after such people who have to be out of work for 7 days before they are entitled to social service benefits. In addition they have to prove that they have looked for work. Sometimes they have come from other States and the Department has to check in those States to determine their eligibility for social service benefits.
I have in my possession a letter from the Glebe North Branch of the Australian Labor Party protesting against recent salary increases for the judiciary in view of the fact that wage justice in the form of award increases has been denied to the average worker. The letter states that it takes a union perhaps 12 months to approach the court and a further 6 months to get a decision and that such decision sometimes grants an increase of only $4 or $2, or even only 50c, in wages. However, when the judiciary is involved not only are salary increases granted but such increases are generally backdated. If the judiciary is entitled to retrospective increases it should get them, but the Government should show similar consideration for the rank and file Workers.
I hope that the’ Minister for Social Services will take action ‘ as I have suggested. I certainly think it is time that the means test was abolished because too many persons are employed in checking whether or not an applicant is entitled to a pension. Inspectors frequently visit my electorate and make inquiries about persons living there. They often suggest that people are getting pensions to. which they are not entitled. I can remember an inspector approaching me and saying that he had found a man’s pants in a lady’s room. .
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Costa)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
Mr CORBETT (Maranoa) [12.19p-I wish to draw attention to a matter which is of particular interest to Queensland. It relates to an injustice that applies to a certain section of the landholders of that State. I refer to the disallowance, as an income tax deduction, in whole or in part, of the payments made to the Crown to acquire a freehold title to land presently held by the owner as a perpetual lease selection. The Commissioner of Taxation apparently has ruled that the payments referred to are of a capital nature. I contend that if this were in fact so, the asset value to the purchaser should be increased. In reality, this is not go. The market value of land held under a perpetual lease title is similar to that of the same land held under freehold title. In other words, I contend that the extent to which these payments are of a capital nature could be assessed properly only after deducting the value of the land as a perpetual lease from the value of the land as freehold.
This particular position arose partly because of the fact that over quite a period under a State Labor Government in Queensland land holders were not allowed to obtain a freehold title to their land. The best they could obtain was a perpetual lease title, which, although a good title in many respects, had some disadvantages compared with a freehold title. But these disadvantages were of a nature which affected only certain people. A perpetual lease title was, in some respects, comparable with a freehold title when it came to a question of obtaining finance. But, as I have said, it had some disadvantages. The sub-division of the land’ was subject to the consent of the Minister. Anyone who had land under a perpetual lease did not know whether or not he was allowed to sub-divide it.
The particular point I want to make is that there is relatively no difference between ‘. the market value of land held under a perpetual lease and of land held under a freehold title. To support this contention I refer to a report which was brought down by Sir William Payne, recognised as one of the greatest authorities on land values in Queensland. Reference has been made to this report ever since it was issued. Section 144 of the Payne report stated:
Although opinions may differ on this matter, it is considered that perpetual lease tenure with rent at 2i% of the present unimproved capital value of the land and without any land tax is the best of the tenures offered.
In the case of freehold tenure, substantial land ‘ tax would be payable each year after the land was freehold.
It is true that the rents of perpetual leases would be reassessed from time to time and would probably be increased but so would the land tax payments on freehold be increased as the market value of the land increased.
It is clear that in Sir William Payne’s ‘ opinion a . perpetual lease title is better or more valuable than a freehold title.
People in Queensland are being allowed’ to convert leases to freehold title. But in ‘ the circumstances, when the present land holder wants to transfer the title to the land from perpetual lease to freehold, no allowance is made by the Commissioner of Taxation for the equity which the land owner holds in the - land. So this payment, which is called a purchase, is not an allowable deduction for income tax purposes. I believe that this is an injustice to which the Government should give some attention. If, in fact, the ruling of the Commissioner of Taxation is correct as the present law stands, then I think that the law could be amended in order to remedy what I consider is an injustice to these people who under a Labor government - and I want to emphasise this point - did not have the option to obtain a freehold title. When a change of government came about, some people were able to transfer their land from perpetual lease to freehold. Is it reasonable that these people should be given a great advantage because they were able to buy their land at a reasonable price at that time?
Over the years this land has increased in value. At the time of the Labor government people were unable to transfer their land from perpetual lease to freehold. Now they are able to do this but the land is of considerably greater value now than it was then. Having accepted that as a fact - and there is no doubt about it - the handicap that is placed on these people because these payments are not acceptable as income tax deductions prevents the transfer of land held under perpetual lease to freehold tenure. I believe that this is to the disadvantage of development. I hope that the Government will give earnest consideration to this matter with a view to remedying the situation.
In the few moments that I have left I want to refer to another matter which has given me some considerable concern for quite a time. I refer to Australia’s immigration figures published in the ‘Quarterly Statistical Summary’ which has only recently been issued. It refers to the total settler arrivals into the States in 1966-67. 1 shall refer to only three States because I have not sufficient time to quote the figures for all. The settler arrivals in 1966-67 were 9,098 in Queensland, 17,637 in South Australia and 18,768 in Western Australia. This is against a population, according to the 1966 census, of 1,666,240 in Queensland, 1,090,723 in South Australia and 835,570 in Western Australia. I believe that an investigation should be made of this particular matter to ascertain why the settler arrivals in Queensland are so proportionately less than those in the other States. I feel that an investigation should be made with a view to remedying the situation.
Queensland is developing quickly. It has great potential and offers opportunity for advancement for people coming into it. I appreciate the fact that the people coming to the other States are of great advantage to Australia, but I quote the figures merely to show that there are not sufficient settlers coming to Queensland. I believe that a greater effort should be made to increase the number of settlers coming to Queensland which, as I have said, is developing very rapidly. Queensland has set an example in decentralisation for the rest of Australia. I believe that it has a tremendous future. Settlers in Queensland not only become citizens to the benefit of our great country, but they can make a wonderful future for themselves there.
– [ should like to bring a matter to the attention of all honourable members in an endeavour to convince the Government on it. I refer to the urgent need to protect this country against the invasion of our preserves by nationals of foreign countries. At the same time I make my personal protest against the Government’s apathy towards and neglect of one of our most valuable assets, the Great Barrier Reef. This magnificent natural structure is our greatest tourist attraction. There is no similar natural structure in any other part of the world. This 1.200 miles of reef must bc protected not only because it is a tourist attraction and offers a wonderful opportunity for oceanic research, but also to safeguard the Queensland coast and all the coastal cities and towns along the eastern coast against the ravages of the disturbing sea. If it were not for the protection given by this reef, many of these cities and towns would disappear into the sea and the land would be eroded even back to the foothills of the Great Dividing Range.
But there are other reasons why the Great Barrier Reef must be protected. From the answers I have received from the AttorneyGeneral (Mr Bowen) and from other people, I am not convinced that we are in fact the owners of the Reef or that Queensland has the right to protect it. I should like this matter to be defined on an international level so that we can pass legislation to prevent the destruction of the Reef. Australia must carry out more research on the Reef. Australia is spending less money than some other countries on research into the Reef. Three of them - Japan, the United States of America and Belgium - have spent more on research on the Reef than we have. It is vital that we continue research on the Barrier Reef and ensure that tourists or anyone else, particularly collectors, do not upset the balance of marine life on the Reef.
Honourable members may have read in the Press reports of damage to the Reef by star fish or, as we call them, the crown of thorns. Perhaps if they did see the report they did not care because the Reef was not in their area and it did not interest them. I cannot speak from personal knowledge, but from conversations with people who know what they are talking about I have learned that the increase in the crown of thorns has been brought about by the action of collectors in lifting what are known as trumpet shells. In so doing they have given the crown of thorns more impetus and consequently have affected the balance of marine life to such an extent that some parts of the Reef have become what we term dead. I realise that people performing research work on the Reef say there is no such thing as a dead reef. Nevertheless, it is being destroyed. We have seen the destruction caused by the crown of thorns on the Reef just off Green Island. They have multiplied in great numbers because the balance of marine life has been disturbed. Damage is being caused also by clam fishermen from Asian countries. 1 have explained before in this place how the fishermen remove the clams from the Reef and, in so doing, cause damage and upset the balance of the Reef. This is a matter that must be considered seriously by the Government.
We want to know whether the right to protect the Reef lies with Queensland or with the Federal Government. The Queensland Government does not have vessels, aircraft or equipment to patrol the Reef, so 1 feel that if Queensland does own the Great Barrier Reef the Federal Government should seek from that Government a right to protect this great wonder of the world for the purposes that I have mentioned. If it is not possible for the Royal
Australian Navy to divert its vessels to that area then other vessels should be made available. I asked a question in this place this morning about the number of patrol craft that the Navy has received so far, where they are presently based and where they will be based in future as they are received. If it is not the intention of the Navy to undertake patrol work of the kind that I have in mind, then 1 believe the Federal Government should institute an organisation like the United States Coast Guard and equip the service with vessels similar to those used by the American Coast Guard. A coast guard service would have to be operated by the Federal Government because its function would be not only to protect fishing rights but also to prevent illegal entry into Australia.
Do not let it be said that there is no illegal entry into Australia; there is, particularly in the north. Crews of fishing boats from other countries go ashore to get water and to collect firewood so that they can burn their clam shells and cook whatever fish or prawns they have caught. These men when ashore come in contact with the many Aboriginals who live along the north coast. Miners have told me that they have spoken to people from these ships. In addition to our objecting to their illegal entry into Australia there is a great risk that they will upset our standard of health, particularly animal health. I refer to the possibility of foot and mouth disease being introduced into Australia. This disease has received much publicity and the last I heard of it was that it was spreading down through Russia, although I have not heard whether it has extended beyond that country. I do not know whether there has been an increase of foot and mouth disease; news of it has not been released. But if it does spread across Asia it could be carried by these people to the northern shores of Queensland and eventually could spread throughout Australia. Honourable members will know from what has happened in England what the result could be. It could happen here. In no circumstance do we want that to happen in Australia.
If the Navy is not prepared to release vessels for patrol work of the kind I have mentioned we should institute a coast guard service. I am very much in favour of having a coast guard because one or two vessels along out coast could not possibly police the area extending out to the 12-mile limit in respect of which laws have been passed in this place. Nor could one or two vessels prevent people from entering Australia. Most fishing vessels operated by Asians are equipped with very good radar systems and radio communication equipment. Their equipment is far better than much of ours. They are able to keep track of any vessel in the area. If a ship leaves Townsville they are able to follow it on their radar screen all the way up the coast. They are able to keep out of its reach and then approach the shore ahead of the ship or behind it. They have done this before and will be able to do it again. Patrol vessels will have to be stationed at ports along the Queensland coast. They should be based at Bundaberg, Mackay, Cairns, Townsville, Thursday Island and Weipa. Only by having them based at those places could we provide an effective patrol. It is not worth while doing anything unless we do it properly. Doing things by half measures will never solve our problems; it can only create other problems. This matter has to be tackled properly. 1 suggest that the only way to do this is to create a coast guard for the protection of our country.
– -1 should like to refer to the changes that have taken place in this world in just over the last 20 years. Specifically 1 refer to our present role in Vietnam alongside the United States of America, New Zealand, the Philippines, Korea and some other countries which are involved there. I should like to compare our present situation with our role during the Second World War and the First World War when Australia and Britain worked together very closely and when for Australia it was very much a case of ‘wherever you go I follow’. Yet today we have a situation, which is often debated and in respect of which notice of a motion has been given by the honourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen), in which we question the action of Britain in sending ships to Haiphong. Twenty years ago it would have been incredible to suggest that we should question Britain’s action. Our ties with Britain were such that people would not have accepted that such a situation could arise. I am not arguing today the pros and cons of Britain supplying stores, etc., to Haiphong; I am using this only as an example to show the change which has taken place in our role in the world.
I propose to advocate here today a matter which 1 believe is being raised here for the first time. I refer to the adoption of a new national anthem for Australia. At the outset 1 should like to state that I believe that the present National Anthem, is one of which we have every reason to be proud. Often we hear people complaining of what a dead and dull anthem we have, but if it is played in the correct manner by an orchestra it is as inspiring as any anthem could be. No anthem played on an out of tune piano would appeal to anyone. Possibly people tire of having to stand in some old hall to listen to a young person who can barely play the piano rendering the national anthem on a piano which is out- of tune. This situation tends to put things out of perspective and leaves people with the impression that our anthem is terrible. But this is not the case. What is important is the meaning behind the National Anthem.-
I should like it to be clear at the outset that I am not against the monarchy but I am all for Australia. We are past the stage of being an emerging nation. Only last week our population passed the 12 million mark. We are not a huge and powerful nation, but we are a mature nation. Let us consider some of our achievements. We are the fourth nation to have placed a satellite into space and there have been many other achievements. Australia’s contributions to the worlds of art, sport - one has only to look at our successes at the Olympic Games in the years gone by - and science are well known’. Our National Anthem should represent a mixture of both Queen and country - our country at that. Such a mixture is shown in the Australian flag. It has the Union Jack in the corner and the Southern Cross, typifying our nation, on the remainder. It combines the two interests and people do not say that we should have a new flag. Our flag is a very good flag. It is one that we have every reason to like and of which we have every reason to be proud. But our National Anthem leave us wanting slightly.
I do not propose that the change in our national anthem should be rushed. The present anthem has served this country for many years. However, we must be tarsighted and be prepared to exhibit our own national pride. The people of Australia have much of which they can be proud. I do not suggest that the change should be made tomorrow; but let us begin. It has been suggested publicly that a committee should be formed to hold a competition so that people can submit their versions of a new national anthem.
– What is wrong with the present one?
– A committee holding a competition is really the only practical way to find a new national anthem. I do hot like to repeat a suggestion made by someone else, but I do not know of any other practical way that we can obtain a new anthem. 1 would like honourable members on both sides of the House to look at the broad aspects of this matter and to regard Australia as a nation of tomorrow. A moment ago the honourable member ‘ for Kingsford-Smith (Mr Curtin) asked what was wrong with the present national anthem. He could not have been listening to the earlier part of my speech, when I said that there was nothing really wrong with it, except that we in Australia have every right to say not only God save the Queen’ but also ‘God save Australia’.
– The subject that I wish to raise in the few minutes remaining before the sitting is suspended for lunch relates to freight rates in the rural areas of Queensland and the freight rate policies of the Queensland Government. I refer not only to the freight rates of the railway but also to permit fees and the general policy applying to road transport that operates in competition with the railways. This policy is causing considerable differences of opinion and heartburning in all areas of Queensland outside the metropolitan area. The newspapers, the journals of the Queensland grain growers and the publications of the sugar industry reveal the concern of the public with respect to the freight rate policies of the Queensland Government. They are becoming very difficult to understand. The railway system is making substantial profits in the central and northern divisions. The annual reports of the Queensland Commissioner for Railways show that in the last 15 years the southern division, which includes Brisbane, has made a total operating loss of $76m whilst the central and northern divisions and. to be fair, the western division, if we take it out of the southern division, have made substantial profits.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Costa)Order! As it is now 15 minutes to 1 o’clock, in accordance with Standing Order 106, the debate is interrupted.
Motion (by Mr Snedden) - by leave - agreed to:
That so much nf the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the consideration of Order of the Day No. 1, Government Business, Grievance Debate, being continued until 3.30 p.m.
Sitting suspended from 1.46 to 2.15 p.m.
– Before the suspension of the sittings I was speaking about the Queensland railways system and saying that the central division, over the last 15 years, had made an accumulated profit of $23m as opposed to the accumulated loss by the railways generally in the same period of $76m. It is patently clear that the Queensland Government, despite trenchant criticism, despite the depressed state of the sugar industry, and despite the clear call from the Commonwealth Government to the States to encourage export income from rural production, is continuing to follow a policy of deliberate exploitation of rural, areas. These areas are vital to the Commonwealth Government because it is they which, because of their export earning capacity, are still the economic backbone of the nation.
The exercise of monopolistic powers by the Queensland Government to prevent primary producers and processors from using low cost road transport as opposed to railways, in order to gain relief from the exorbitant level of rail freights, is a glaring case of exploitation on the part of the State Government. In actual fact - and this has been claimed by many producer organisations - the Queensland Government is inhibiting rural production and development by its foolish policy of exploitation through high rail freights.
This is made even worse when it is considered that the Queensland Government is really a Country Party Government. The Liberal Party is in the minority in that
Government. Yet the Liberal Party Ministers who control the Treasury and transport departments treat their Country Party farmer-minister colleagues as some type of hill-billies. They are not hill-billies. I know many of them personally and they are not in that category. It would seem that farmer organisations seeking relief from these high freight rates are constantly rebuffed and that representations are simply waved away by the Deputy Premier and the Minister for Railways.
The use of monopolistic State power by the Government is clearly shown in the case of those sugar mills which wish to save large sums of money by switching to road transport if the Government will not reduce rail freights, particularly as the Government is making substantial profits from its railways in central and north Queensland. Instead of trying to assist the sugar industry by reducing rates the State Government is showing its true feeling for cane farmers and millers by increasing freight rates on sugar by up to 15% despite the tremendous profits made by the railways in those areas over the last 15 years.
The two north Queensland sugar mills of North Eton and Cattle Creek, for example, can show figures - and they are the figures of the managers - proving that they could save as much as $100,000 each year by using road transport instead of being forced to use rail transport. But what is the reply of the Queensland Government to the pleas of cane farmers and millers? The farmers and millers simply want the right to move their sugar by road transport if the State Government refuses to reduce freight rates to a fair level. Not only has the State Government blatantly refused this but it also states, by threat, that if sugar millers and cane farmers switch to road transport the railway may close down. The answer, of course, is not necessarily road transport but the charging of fair railway freights.
There is absolutely no excuse for this attitude of the State Government to sugar millers in the Mackay district, for example, because the railway system in central Queensland is making substantial profits. In the last 15 years this system, which embraces the sugar areas of central Queensland, has accumulated profits of $23m. The attitude and policy of the State Government towards freight rates and trans port in general are being condemned more and more by primary producers and their organisations. They were condemned in the Loder Report. The Queensland Government, in my opinion, also should be condemned by the Federal Government because it is deliberately using its powers to depress even further the ailing sugar industry and, also, the grain industry. This is shown, for example, in the ruthless use of its powers by refusing the request of farmers, farmers organisations and sugar mills to be allowed to use road transport if it will not reduce rail freights.
On the one hand we see the State Government coming to the Federal Government and asking for funds to help the sugar industry but on the other hand it refuses to help cane farmers and sugar mills by reducing excessive - and they have been proved to be excessive - freight rates. Why does the Queensland Government continue with this policy of exploitation by charging high freight rates in the country areas? Firstly, it believes it is impregnable in the Country Party rural areas, and that farmers will not vote against the Country Party Government even if it is known that excessively high freight rates are being charged. Well, the truth of this argument remains to be seen. Secondly, the State Government is using the railways in the country as a revenue and profit earner to subsidise the tremendous losses sustained on the railway system in Brisbane and the suburbs. The figures are available if honourable members want to see them. If action of this sort were taken by private enterprise in Queensland it would not be tolerated. Thirdly, State governments are not concerned with promoting export development in the rural areas. They are concerned with the practicalities of running a State, not a nation. Their principal concern is to raise money from whatever source they can.
While the present Federal Government continues to adopt its present tight fisted attitude to State governments regarding the allocation of finance, we cannot blame the States for not giving concessions to industries to promote export income. This is, they maintain - and rightly so - clearly the responsibility of the Federal Government. But there is absolutely no excuse for the State Government’s attitude to the sugar industry which is vital to Queensland’s economy. The Queensland Government has
– 1 would like to make some remarks as a result of a recent visit I was fortunate to have in the recess to New Guinea. This was the first time 1 had been in the Territory for 25 years. I would like to place on record how impressed I am with the progress made in those 25 years. In fact I found it difficult to recognise many of the places we visited. Hospitals are frequent throughout the Territory and in many cases the occupancy of them is less than 50%. Tuberculosis and leprosy seem to have been almost eliminated, or will be eliminated within our lifetime. 1 was impressed particularly with the advances made in local government, in which I have a particular interest. Almost 130 local government authorities exist throughout the Territory. 1 understand that there are approximately 3,000 councillors and that they come from over 8,000 villages This is a tremendous development.
I do not want to say too much about development except to place on record how impressed 1 was with what has been done. But I am anxious to take part in this debate because I am thoroughly sick and tired of reading sections of the Press which continue to knock the Government, the Minister for External Territories (Mr Barnes) and the Administration in spite of the immense development that has taken place in New Guinea. On the very day we arrived in Port Moresby an Australian newspaper carried this heading: ‘Freedom for NG 30 years away - Barnes’. I think the journalist who prepared this headline - and after all, most people tend only to read headlines - should have another look at the words he used. The word freedom, to my mind, conjures up slavery and this does not exist in New Guinea. The journalist corrected this impression a little later in his article by stating:
The Minister for External Territories, Mr Barnes, said today he believed independence for PapuaNew Guinea was still 20 to 30 years away.
So do L Independence could. _be_sever.al generations away. But we are talking about independence and not about freedom. I make the point that the vast majority of the people of New Guinea do not want independence. When independence does come to New Guinea it will come at the instigation of the people themselves; it will not be forced on them by Australia.
Every time a politician in New Guinea or Australia, a journalist or an academic shouts about independence, it seems to me that he is doing a bad thing for the people of New Guinea. In my opinion such action inhibits the progress of that country. Papua and New Guinea is fundamentally an agricultural country. Obviously the Territory needs some form of secondary industry and investment in some other fields. But who will invest his money and talents in the Territory if these shouts for independence are continually heard? We have seen what has happened in other under-developed countries which have achieved premature independence. So I say that articles of this sort do a disservice to the people of New Guinea.
I think it is worth mentioning that Australia makes considerable advances to the Territory, totalling more than $40 .per head of the Territory’s population. We do this with pleasure. It certainly would be no skin off our noses if we did not contribute this money. It is nol in our interests to be giving away about $120m every year. Another article which appeared in an Australian newspaper this morning should, I think, be noted. The article is headed: ‘Lack of students for Papua and New Guinea deplored’. Once again it is the academics - this time from the University of Papua and New Guinea - who express concern at what they regard as inadequate spending by Australia on education in the Territory. I think it is worth placing on record that in 1957 about 41,000 indigenous pupils attended government and mission primary schools in Papua and New Guinea. Now there are in excess of 205,000 attending these schools. In 1957 there were 1,500 pupils attending secondary schools. Now there are over 12,000. In fact, the budget for education in the Territory in the last 10 years has expanded nine fold. I believe that our record of spending on education in the Territory is highly satisfactory and compares very favourably with the record of any other developing country. This fact might not be generally accepted by academics and: some journalists. I would like to place on record the opinion that progress anywhere, and particularly .in the Territory, cannot be achieved by emphasis, on any one factor, alone, even if that factor be education.
My colleague, the honourable member for Hume (Mr Pettitt), and I were confronted with evidence of this everywhere we travelled iri the Territory. Young men are leaving .the villages and going into the towns to obtain an. education. The problem is that once they receive any form of education they are not prepared to go back to the villages. Consequently, the villages are running down and there is an increasing possibility . of: increasing unemployment around the (owns. Indeed, there is evidence of an increase, already. I take the view that progress in education should be geared to the general economic progress of the Territory as a whole. It is no good producing thousands of graduates, as the academic would have us do. if. those graduates arc unable to use .their talents, lt is one I bini! to he critical and another thing to make a suggestion. 1 would like to make two suggestions which, may or may not have been considered. Neither concerns education at the tertiary level. I think one useful form of education could bc implemented quite simply by placing greater emphasis on rural training in the primary schools. This could be done in the belief that many of the primary students, once they have finished their primary education, will be sufficiently equipped to go back into the villages and to undertake the work which will be most useful there. My other suggestion is that there should be a distillation from the primary level into the secondary level. 1 suggest the possible establishment of a programme of what would amount to cooperative education in the agricultural field, by educating young men in centres established on unimproved land which they could improve as they received their train ing. They could also improve adjacent lands. The honourable member for Hume and I were impressed by the tremendous amount of undeveloped but potentially rich agricultural land that there is throughout Papua and New Guinea. One other important factor inhibiting the return of educated indigenes to village and family life is that the existing developed land is owned by clans and tribes and not by individuals. So a young man has little encouragement to go back to his village. He does not have the expectation of acquiring land when his father retires or dies.
I would like to end on the note that I was impressed by the rate at which Papua and New Guinea has progressed. It has changed out of all recognition. 1 say to the Administration and to the Minister for External Territories and his Department that the job they are doing is first rate. I was also impressed by the officers who implement policies in the field. I say to the. journalists, academics and politicians who knock the Administration that every time they do so they are really knocking the people about whom they claim to express concern.
– First of all I wish to speak about the possible threat to the timber industry in Tasmania and onthe mainland as a result of the recent dec:sion by the Government to remove all import duties on New Zealand timber. ‘ In New Zealand recently the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton), out of the blue, announced that Australia would take this action. As a result, the timber industry of the mainland States and Tasmania is under threat. The Tasmanian timber industry earns approximately $30m a year from sawn limber and plywood timber. Nearly 3.000 people are employed in the industry and the wages bill is about $7m a year. Therefore it can be seen that the timber industry in Tasmania is a sizeable one and that it is a very important export industry for the State.
There is more than meets the eye in this ‘ decision by the Federal Government to open the door. New Zealand has lower transport costs than many people realise. The freight cost from NZ to Melbourne, a distance of about 2,000 miles, is S3. 50 per 100 super, feet. From Tasmania to Melbourne, a distance of about 250 miles, the freight cost is S2.50 per 100 super, feet. This is not really much less than the freight rate from NZ. Also. NZ has a lower cost factor than Tasmania or any of the other Australian States. This applies right through the production lines of NZ. down to primary production, and in particular to peas and butter. New Zealand timbermen can cut and prepare timber comparable with Tasmanian eucalypt and myrtle for SI. 50 per 100 super, feet cheaper than the cost to their Tasmanian counterparts. New Zealand is in a perfect position to undercut Tasmanian timber in the mainland markets, because of lower labour costs and competitive freight costs. Tasmania is also under pressure from South East Asian countries such as Malaysia and Borneo which have been exporting timber to this country for a long time at a very low cost. Production costs there are even lower than in New Zealand, which is understandable because the standard of living in Malaya and Borneo is not as high as it is in many other countries. These imports have been a thorn in our side for a long time, and they are still coming in. The importing of New Zealand timber free of duty as well as low cost timber from Asia poses a dangerous threat to the Australian timber industry.
I have in mind particularly the Tasmanian timber industry, which being on an island is rather isolated and is struggling to sell its products. A pile-up of timber is occurring around the State’s timber yards. Statistics of the Bureau of Census and Statistics show that last year Tasmania produced 334,439,000 super feet of native grown hardwood logs. Softwood production was 9,537,000 super feet, bringing the total to 343,943,000 super feet of softwoods and hardwoods. In the same year production of sawn native grown timber, both softwoods and hardwoods, totalled 171,840,000 super feet, which gives a grand total in excess of 500,000,000 super feet. All this timber must be marketed if the industry is to remain solvent. This is why I say the’ position is serious and will become even more serious within a comparatively short period.
The assurance given by the Prime Minister a few weeks ago that the removal of the import duty would not affect the Australian timber industry is suspect. That this bland kind of statement is definitely suspect will become more obvious over the next few months. The Government will have to give serious consideration to the reintroduction of protection in some form within a reasonable period, even if a 6 months trial were given and the position were then reviewed. I believe that ultimately protection will he reintroduced to_ save our timber industry from serious decline.
I was pleased to hear yesterday from the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony) that after being trapped in the Suez Canal for 300 days, 379,000 cases of apples and pears look like being covered by insurance. Of this quantity 200,000 cases were shipped from Tasmania. At the lime of shipment their value was 51,500,000. The growers concerned have not been paid a penny during that period, which exceeds 330 days if one takes into account the time that has elapsed since the fruit was loaded. The German and British insurance companies involved in the transaction have almost completed satisfactory negotiations with the British and German importers of the fruit. It is not yet known how much the growers are likely to get, but at least they will receive some compensation for fruit that is likely to be irretrievably lost, even though recent samples taken from one of the Port line ships - four of them are carrying this fruit - and conveyed to England for thorough testing have been found to be in perfect condition. This is virtually a miracle. No Australian fruit producer ever dreamed that this commodity could be kept in good condition for such an amazing length of time in ship refrigeration.
– It speaks well for Tasmanian fruit.
– I think it does. The mainland fruit has also stood up very well to the test, lt is possible that new handling methods will be devised following this finding. If fruit can be kept without deterioration for such a long time in the refrigerated holds of ships, why cannot we store it in Tasmania in large refrigerated cool stores and release it for the English market over an extended period instead of rushing it all to England within 6 weeks? A new handling system could well be a vital factor in the future of the apple and pear industry.
I should like the Minister for Primary Industry to take heed of this question: Why has the Government decided that all sectors of primary industry, especially fruit growers, must prove losses caused through devaluation of our currency before financial assistance will be granted to them by the Government? After all, the loss through devaluation is a fixed, known figure of 141%. Is not devaluation a part of our economic history, affecting every ton of agricultural production that is exported to Great Britain? Why must each sector of primary industry prove loss through devaluation? It is a ridiculous exercise, causing a great deal of trouble to growers as well as loss of time. Was the Government really fair dinkum when it promised last October to cover losses through devaluation in respect of agricultural production exported to Great Britain? Finally, I should like the Government to announce a decision as soon as possible on the request of the Tasmanian Premier for assistance to be provided for three major water schemes including the Poatina irrigation scheme.
– How did the honourable member find that out? I have been trying to ascertain that for 2 months.
– I am hoping that the Government will announce its decision on these water schemes very soon. The Tasmanian Government and Australian Apple and Pear Board have put up a case for assistance for growers who are exporting their 1968 crop to England in the form of a guarantee of $2.40 a case. We should like an answer to that application also as soon as possible.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– Before dealing with the principal matter on which J wish to address the House I should like to comment briefly on the speech of the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson). Though I agree with much of what he said, I should like to correct an impression he gave that this LiberalAustralian Country Party Government could not care less about people who live in rural areas. 1 think he described these people as hill-billies; or he assumed that we of the Country Party regard them as hill-billies. This is ridiculous.
The State Council of the Country Party in Queensland has formulated a plan for tapering freight charges. The plan has been put forward in the hope that it will be recognised as being a sound one and brought into effect throughout the Commonwealth.
This proposal has received the complete approval of the Federal Council of the Country Party. Therefore I wish to correct the impression that my party is standing by watching freights soar and is doing nothing about it. Of course, I agree in substance with the honourable member when he said that freight rates amount to a penalty. If they are a penalty for him, living on the coast, how much more so are they for the people of my electorate?
Yesterday I attempted to call attention to certain matters involving university students. The two subjects on which I intend to spend my remaining 8 minutes are of fundamental consequence to the nation. A statement by Mr Nucifora, the President of the students university union in Queensland, reported in the Press on Monday must give cause for a good deal of thought. According to the newspaper report he stated that the students of the University of Queensland were most nobly inspired in deciding to attempt to collect $20,000 for deserving Queensland charities. The fact that the students collected only $10,000 was bad enough, but what is of more concern is the fact that wherever they went they received little short of abuse. In other words, they received a fairly warm reception and had to listen to a tirade against the university student movement generally.
Nobody in this House will deny that certain incidents have occurred which have caused a great deal of concern to the people of Australia. Unfortunately a certain student group is being used for sinister motives. I do not know what happens when a lad of about 16 years of age becomes a university student and passes into the vacuum of university life. Apparently he is at the sensitive stage when certain forces are able to exert an influence upon him. A clear-eyed, sport-loving, decent young man of 16 years leaves his home, the family environment and all that goes with it, and suddenly he is taking grog and participating in some of the very low moral activities on the campus. Only a small section of university students engage in this behaviour but unfortunately the people of Australia see fit to condemn the entire student movement for them. I can well understand the attitude of the general public in this matter.
My major concern is for a particular group of students. I am sure that every honourable member will agree with what 1 am about to say. My plea is for the young fellow who more or less works his way through university. During the university vacation he drops everything and gets a job. He earns every penny that he can lay his hands on in order to pay his fees, his accommodation expenses and other incidentals. In this way he may be relieving a struggling workingclass family of some of the strain of putting him through university. But he incurs a penalty. Although he is spending funds that he has earned under most difficult circumstances, he obtains no taxation relief whatever. It behoves all of us in this place to forget our political approach to this matter and to co-operate in no uncertain fashion to bring pressure to bear in all quarters in order to have this pernicious oversight rectified. Out of charity to the Treasurer I have referred to the present situation as an oversight. Let us do at least this much to help the hard working self-propelling student, who is the salt of the university campus, in the sacrifice that he and his fellows are making. Only yesterday I pointed out that in this House we have in the honourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen) and the honourable member for Yarra (Dr J. F. Cairns) examples of men who have attained high academic status the hard way. They are what I call selfpropelled students - men who have had no advantages or privileges.
I turn now to the more fundamental and recent incident at Monash University. Australia is ostensibly a Christian nation. I use the word ‘ostensibly’, because 1 am beginning to wonder whether we are a Christian nation. Are we virtually a Christian nation?
– Billy Graham asked that.
– He will be going in the right direction if he follows the honourable member for Kennedy, because I am well advised in these matters. We live by certain principles. We live by a code. This is evidenced in the Parliament each day when you, Mr Speaker, say prayers. Your action is evidence that we are a Christian nation. Honourable members opposite, who are interjecting, seem to be protesting against my claim that we are a Christian nation. I do not know what their approach is to this matter.I have enough to dp trying to look after my own moral code. If we accept the incidents that occurred recently as indicative of trends in Australia today, where are we heading? A survey made at the University of Sydney indicated that more than 50% of students claimed not be Christians. 1 may be in error with my figures; the proportion may have been 43%. Undoubtedly it was a high percentage. But I am proud to say that every section of the Australian community which I have had the opportunity to gauge protested most vehemently against the mockery of the crucifixion which occurred at Monash University, dragging the highest principles of the code by which we live down to the gutter. Either the students involved are complete and utter ratbags and not really students - if they are so nutty surely they cannot possess the academic qualifications required for university study - or they are motivated by very sinister influences.
– They should be sent down.
– I agree. If this kind of behaviour is to be accepted and we are to drift away from Christianity, what code of behaviour will replace it? By what code will the people of Australia live? To what principles will our young people turn for guidance? Are our young people to throw aside all that Christianity stands for? Believe me, I am not a sanctimonious person. I do not want to play God, but I want to be a realist. Are we being hypocritical in calling ourselves a Christian nation or should this Parliament look deeply into the matter and bring every possible influence to bear to eradicate, or at least counter most forcefully, those forces which would seek to destroy the Christian code by which we live?
– The Vernon Committee of Economic Inquiry said that the flow of overseas capital into Australia should no longer be promoted. This was in early 1965. The Committee said that if £300m of overseas capital came into this country annually for the next 10 years, 46% of the assets of all Australian companies would be owned overseas. Since 1965 overseas capital coming into this country amounted to £572m in one year, more than £600m in the next year and more than £500m in the next.
This year it is expected that more than £] ,000m of overseas capital will enter Australia. In the last 4 years about £2,7 16m of overseas capital has come to Australia for investment. If the Vernon Committee’s predictions were correct there can be little doubt that about 46% of Australian company assets are now owned overseas.
Since the Vernon Committee inquired into this matter there have been two other inquiries. One was made by some undergraduates of the University of Melbourne and their professors. The other inquiry was made by a group of the University’s graduates. Both groups declared that while the predictions of the Vernon Committee may have been high, nevertheless about 40% of Australian industries would pass into the hands of overseas interests in the next 10 years if £3 00m of overseas capital came to this country each year.
Was it desirable to have £2,7 16m of overseas capital, invested in this country in the last 4 years? If it was, this Government has betrayed the best interests of the nation, because it could easily have enticed £5, 000m of overseas capital to bc invested here. All the Government needed to do to encourage further investment in this country was to increase the concessions relating to double taxation as applied to the United Kingdom and the United States and to make double taxation agreements with West Germany and other European nations and with Japan. But the Government did not do this. If the Government believes that the investment of overseas capital is in the interests of this country it should speed up the flow of overseas capital to Australia. This may be easily done. If, however, the Vernon Committee was correct, and an excessive amount of foreign capital is now flowing into Australia, the Government has betrayed the best interests of the nation by not following the recommendations of the Vernon Committee and limiting overseas investments in this country to £300m a year. So on both counts this Government has betrayed the interest of the nation.
– Is not that claim exaggerated?
– Whatever honourable members opposite say, it is obvious that they cannot have it both ways. If the Government holds the view that foreign capital is desirable, it should encourage foreign investment to the full. They should say to the Japanese as they have said to the Americans, and they should say to the West Germans as they have said to the British: ‘We will give you the benefit of double taxation agreements in order to increase the flow of your capital to Australia’. But the Government has not done this. On the other hand it has not restricted the flow, as the Vernon Committee said it should restrict it. The Government has said, in effect: ‘That statement of the Vernon Committee is poppycock; it is rubbish. We ignore it.’ Well, the Government may ignore it if it wishes to, but let it be logical. Let it ensure that foreign capital comes to this country at an ever increasing rate, so that the industries of Australia have to be sold to overseas interests at a more rapid rate.
How has this overseas capital arrived in Australia? Has it come in the form of dollars from the United States of America? Has it come in the form of pounds from England? Has it come in the form of yen from Japan or lire from Italy? Of course it has not. It has come here mainly in the form of goods. Every time there is an increase in the flow of overseas capital to Australia there is either an increase in our overseas funds or an increase in the volume of goods coming here. In the last year, when $ 1,000m of foreign capital has come to this country, our overseas funds have increased by $200m and our overseas trading deficit has increased by hundreds of millions of dollars. This means that to the extent of hundreds of millions of dollars we are not meeting our commitments as we go along. We are not, as it were, paying the grocery bill. We are not meeting the requirements of the nation from what we get from the toil and the production of our people. We are paying our way by giving our farms, our mines, our factories and our natural resources to those people overseas who are providing us with goods. We are giving them the assets of the country that do not belong to the government of today or the people of today, but are the heritage of the people. Those assets were won for us by the toil, the energy and the fighting of those who went before us, and we have an obligation to preserve them and hand them on to those who follow, not deteriorated or reduced in any way, but rather greater than when we received them.
I know that honourable members opposite will say that this statement of mine, like the statement of the Vernon Committee, that body of experts appointed by this Government, is so much trash and poppycock. The fact is, however, that all those nations which have depended upon large amounts of foreign capital to maintain or exploit their economies have got into difficulties. Mexico, Indonesia, Cuba and Argentina have all suffered because of balance of payments difficulties. England today is having similar problems. The United States of America, the greatest, most powerful and richest country in the world, is getting into difficulties at home because of its- war commitments overseas and the aid that it is giving to other nations. Wc in Australia will follow in the footsteps of those countries if we do not immediately take steps to investigate fully the effects of the inflow of capital on our economy, both present and future.
I appeal to the Government not to think that the easy way of financing the economy of this country is in reality the safe or best way. or that it is in the interests of the future of our people and the promotion of our development. We should take heed before it is too late.
Mr SPEAKER (Hon. W. J. Aston)Order! The honourable gentleman’s lime has expired.
– I had intended this morning lo ask a question of the Minister for - Shipping and Transport (Mr Sinclair), but unfortunately you, Mr Speaker, did not call me. Evidently it was not my turn. The question 1 had intended to ask was in these terms:
As the present Commonwealth Aid Roads Act is duc to expire on 30th June 1969, is consideration being given to renewing the legislation for a further 5 years? Does the Minister know that the method of providing’ a definite amount over 5 years was adopted so that road building and maintenance could be planned at least 12 months ahead by authorities receiving grants under the Act? Does he not agree that an early announcement regarding the future of the legislation is highly desirable? Is it a fact that receipts from the excise tax on petrol have increased considerably? Although these, receipts are not directly connected with the funds provided under the Act, should not the increase in their amount allow a substantial increase lo be made in the grants provided under the legislation? lt will be only 12 months from the end of June this year until new legislation will have to be enacted. It is considered that the authorities concerned need at least 12 months in which to make proper plans for road making and maintenance, and they need to know, at least 12 months ahead, approximately how much money will be forthcoming. Therefore I ask the Government to look at this matter as soon as possible. I hope the legislation will be re-enacted for another 5 years, that increased amounts will be made available and that the provision for the expenditure of 40% of the total amount on rural roads will be continued. lt is a strange coincidence that the honourable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes), the honourable member for the Australian Capital Territory (Mr J. R. Fraser) and the honourable member for Kennedy (Mr Katter) have all spoken this afternoon of certain aspects of the conduct of the Australian people. They were all agreed, I think, that it is only a minority of the people who indulge in deplorable conduct. We boast of a high standard of living, and, of course, we have a high standard of living. But what docs this mean? It means good clothes, motor cars, nice buildings and plenty of food. These perhaps are the things which are considered to constitute a high standard of living. But conduct is a part of living, and I ask this question: Have we a high standard of conduct? I say we have. The majority of our people conduct themselves very well. If an example of reprehensible conduct occurs in a particular home in a long city street in which there are hundreds of homes, it is given wide publicity in our newspapers, but the newspapers do not say much about the hundreds of thousands of happy people in happy homes in the streets of all the cities and towns throughout Australia.
In this connection much has been said about our university students. There arc many earnest students at our universities, some of them paying their way by taking part time jobs. They are making a sincere attempt to become proficient in various professions. Eventually they will be of great benefit to Australia. We hear little about those students. We have all heard the line taken from the writings of Alexander Pops: A little learning is a dangerous h i r g’.
Everybody leaves the quotation there. Noone goes any further. Anyone would think that was the end of what Pope said. But he went further. This is what he said:
A little learning is a dangerous thing; Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring: There shallow draughts intoxicate the brain, And drinking largely sobers us again.
This means that there is no substitute at all for experience. These young fellows at 15 years of age or 20 years of age have a little learning. This is a dangerous thing. But later, when they are 25 years of age or 30 years of age we do not hear them calling to high heaven for riots. They have settled down after drinking deep of experience. 1 believe that everything will come right concerning these students. In the meantime, we suffer the great disadvantage of adverse publicity in this country. Nevertheless, this will come right. The trouble is that drinking deep of experience does not rectify the ways of some of them. It makes them worse.
I believe that the three greatest days in Australia, leaving aside Christmas Day and the Easter period, are Australia Day, Anzac Day and Remembrance Day. If it had not been for the circumstances that brought about our observance of Anzac Day, and the spirit of Anzac in this country and throughout the world, we would not have an Australia Day and certainly not a Remembrance Day. Yet what do I see in the paper when I pick it up? I receive the Canberra Times’ and I find that in yesday’s edition someone has written a letter to that newspaper under the name ‘Patricia Skeates.’ The final paragraph of that letter reads:
All change is painful, and a swing away from the ideal of the ‘glorious dead’ acutely so. But we must be glad we have aggressive instincts and use them constructively, not destructively, and the mistaken ideal of Anzac will gradually die away.
You can stagger drunkenly in public places or blaspheme in the street, and no-one will take much notice. But if you stand bareheaded while a troop of old soldiers march by, or if you salute the flag, someone is bound to say: ‘You are showing off. Nevertheless, do it just the same. You will never have a finer sentiment.
The importance of Anzac Day is gradually diminishing. Now the afternoon of Anzac Day, it has been decided, will be devoted *.o sport. I noticed during the last
Anzac Day that some places are holding the dawn service only and leaving the rest of the day open so that people can get away for their sport and good times. This is not the best thing as far as our glorious dead are concerned. I have stated before that they did not go overseas on a quest in search of gain; nor to outrage weaker nationalities in lawless rage of conquest. 1 have said that every time they have gone overseas their mission has been as pure and as noble as any soldier has ever undertaken to rid the world of would-be tyrants. No words of mine nor the words of anybody - else can add to their fame. But as long as gratitude holds a place in men’s hearts, must we suffer our forgetfulness to detract from their renown? Therefore, there must be a fresh awakening in the spirit of Anzac in this country. The spirit of Anzac is essential. I believe that there is no defeat for a nation or an individual save from within. Unless a nation or an individual is beaten there, he is bound to win. So, this country has to look not only at the individuals of the nation but also on the collective result.
An idea in some parts seems to be that we should enter into some kind of international Socialistic state to co-operate with other Socialistic nations. I have heard this said, and I believe that 1 have heard it in this House. The only way that this country can help other nations to feed themselves and to lift their standards is by being strong itself. If we join with other nations we will only fall down to their level. We do not lift them. We have a great responsibility concerning what our nation stands for. Honourable members only have to walk out to the front of Parliament House and look at our flag to see this. Our flag has the Southern Cross on it. In the corner is the Union Jack. It is there for the whole world to see that we are a British people in the southern hemisphere.
Some people say that we should not talk proudly about our national ambitions. Why should we not? Many are taking things for granted. The great ancient nations of the world collapsed not because they suffered hard times but because they enjoyed good times and luxuries. They forgot the very foundations that build and sustain a nation. This country is enjoying prosperity today. For every man who can stand prosperity there are nine who can stand adversity. Let me put it another way: Nine men out of ten can stand adversity but only one man in ten can be encompassed by prosperity and not be affected by it. Therefore, our great danger, as 1 say, is from within. Some university students are acting in a regrettable way because money is plentiful. The Australian people are paying for their education. Thank goodness, this type of university student represents but a small minority of our university students. Thank goodness the true Australian is still with us. The true Australian like the pioneers and like the Anzac spirit, I believe, will lead this country on to greater and greater nationhood.
– I appreciate the opportunity to speak in this Grievance Day debate. It is a pity that a man like the honourable member for Mallee (Mr Turnbull) has seen fit to criticise the university students-
– Only a minority.
– The honourable member did not say a minority. He criticised the university students.
– No, I did not.
– The honourable member did.
Mr SPEAKER (Hon. W. J. Aston)Order! There are far too many interjections.
– As far as the action being taken by university students in this nation today is concerned, let me say that 1 believe that history will absolve them. The honourable member will hang his head in shame for the actions that his Government has taken in recent times. Yesterday his Government introduced legislation which trie Melbourne ‘Sun’ described as: ‘A new bill to clamp down on draft dodgers’. I advise young people that the surest way for anyone to dodge the draft in his nation is to join the Liberal Party and to aspire to gain a seat in the Federal Parliament. There are about seventeen members in the Liberal Party in this House who are under 40 years of age physically and who, I believe, mentally are fit enough to go to the war in Vietnam. But not one of them has taken steps to enlist to go to this corrupt, evil war in Vietnam. Yet, the Government is prepared to send virtual school leavers of 20 years of age before they have the right to vote. The Government in its legislation introduced yesterday now intends - <-
-Order! I advise the honourable member for Hunter that any reference to the National Service Bill 1968 that was introduced yesterday is out of order. If the honourable member is referring to national service he is in order. But he shall not refer to nor mention in any context the National Service Bill 1968 which is before the House.
– Thank you, Mr Speaker, for your great guidance. Concerning national service, we find now that so-called draft dodgers are to be imprisoned. They are to be sent to one of our civilian gaols instead of to one of the military detention camps. This Government is going to put our 20-year olds who it considers are draft dodgers into our civilian prisons with some of the nation’s or each State’s most violent criminals. The boys will be among safe blowers and forgers, sex perverts and murderers, safe breakers and other violent criminals. The fact is that most of our decent boys who would never have incurred a conviction in their lives are to be sent to civilian prisons. I ask the Government where its sanity is in introducing legislation such as this. I say that-
– A point of order.
– There is no point of order. If one cares to look at crime statistics one will see that 75% of persons who serve gaol sentences in our civilian prisons invariably go back to gaol again. This is the type of reactionary legislation-
– No, I withdraw that remark.
-Order! I have warned the honourable member already.
– I have withdrawn that remark, Mr Speaker. This is the type of action the Government is taking. It will send decent boys just out of school into civilian prisons accusing them of a crime which historians will write about in the not too distant future. This is one of the most immoral and filthy wars in the history of mankind. Let us examine what a former great guest of this Government said a short time ago. His remarks were reported m the national Press which frequently criticised the former Leader of the Opposition, the honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Calwell), for leading demonstrations against him. I refer, of course, to the former President of South Vietnam, Air Vice-Marshal Ky who can no longer refrain from telling the truth. His statement is reported in the Melbourne ‘Herald’ of 1st April, and the report is backed up in a rather reliable magazine, ‘Far Eastern Economic Review’, which is printed for and by conservatives in Hong Kong. The report reads:
Marshal Ky said the United States wanted to introduce its own form of democracy into South Vietnam, including respect for the law and freedom of speech.
But what the devil does that mean when you are dying of hunger.’
What sense does it make to talk about an executive legislature, and of elections if the Vietnamese peasant now needs a bowl .of rice to survive?’
This man’s conscience must have pricked him. He knows the great evil that exists and he realises that he is on the wrong side in this very corrupt war into which the Australian Government has led our great nation. Historians will record this Government’s action in leading us into this filthy war.
In the ‘Far Eastern Economic Review’ is a report of a statement made by President Thieu of South Vietnam a few hours before President Johnson made his statement in Honolulu. The Johnson Administration had refused the request of General Earle Wheeler and General Westmoreland for 206,000 more troops and had offered 13,000. President Thieu interpreted this as a climb out of South Vietnam by the United States. He said that if the United States withdrew from Vietnam he would request the Philippines, Thailand, New Zealand and Australia to continue backing him in the war in Vietnam. The Australian Government’s action yesterday indicates that the request has already been made a.nd that Australia will support up to the hilt the present corrupt regime in South Vietnam if America withdraws from the war. The Australian people should be told this, and this
Parliament is the place where these matters should be expounded. Every person on earth should do all in his power to bring the Vietnamese war to an end. Historians may yet call Vietnam the Armageddon of our time for this, spiritually and physically, is what Vietnam is. There are those who would save Vietnam from Communism and those who would save it from capitalism; those who would save it from the yellow peril and those who would save it from the whites; and those who would save it from itself and in spite of itself.
The Vietnamese have now lived in the harsh climate of war longer than any other people in the twentieth century. How much longer will the tragic suffering last? The Government has made no determined or sincere efforts to use its influence on the United States to bring this evil, corrupt, unwin na bie civil war to a conclusion. The day will come in the not too distant future when the people of Australia will adopt the policies of the Australian Labor Party. The Labor Party, when it takes over tha treasury bench of this Parliament in a short time, will use its powerful influence on the United States to bring this corrupt and filthy war to a conclusion, before any more of the cream of Australian youth are slaughtered in the jungles and swamps of South Vietnam, which is what the present Government is permitting.
– 1 should like to refer to some domestic issues and to discuss the present plight of the Tasmanian fruit industry. I directed a question to the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony) on 26th March, during which I mentioned the effect that increased freight rates would have upon- fruit going to England in the current season. I referred to the effect that devaluation might well have upon the crop this year. I mentioned the possible inability of British housewives to buy fruit because of the effects of the United Kingdom Budget and also some of the tariff protections that surrounded some of the industries closely allied to the fruit industry and whose welfare was closely bound to the interests of Tasmanian fruit. I said that increased costs were superimposed on the industry and that the grower himself had little or no control over them. These increases have been related to freight.
Admittedly costs are higher because of the extra distance involved in travelling around the Cape of Good Hope now that the Suez Canal is unusable.
An evaluation of the cost to the industry has been undertaken and as a result of this evaluation apprehension existed within the industry. There was no alternative but for the Tasmanian Fruit Board to approach the State Government and ask for a section 96 loan from the Commonwealth. It was thought at that time that it would be sufficient to safeguard the industry against the predictions of the evaluation committee. It was after much consideration and realising the importance of the matter that we asked for and secured the united support of the Tasmanian Government, the Fruit Board of Tasmania and others. I am sure that the honourable member for Wilmot (Mr Duthie) will support my remarks and I am sure that all other honourable members would agree on this issue.
An examination of the cost structure was made to determine the growers’ costs and the possible returns. The situation was actuarially surveyed. The growers’ cost was estimated at $2.28 a bushel. Superimposed on that was the fantastically high figure of $2.30 a bushel for freight to put the fruit on the United Kingdom market. A very humble allowance of 40c a bushel was made for the producer himself. For depreciation on equipment 7i% was allowed, and 5% was allocated as a return on the capital investment in a property. This resulted in a fantastically high figure of $5.22 a bushel. It was realised that there was a possibility that the growers might not take the risk of investing so much when there was a doubtful market 12,000 miles away in Great Britain and selling was 8 weeks away. Because of our concern a responsible approach was made to the Commonwealth Government for assistance.
I voiced the industry’s apprehension in this Parliament and I now regretfully admit that I was a prophet. The early varieties of fruit which are being sold on the British market at present are returning 35s to 39s a bushel and another desirable variety, of which Tasmania grows a high proportion, is fetching 36s to 40s. It would be necessary in present circumstances and having regard to the value of sterling for the return to be 57s to enable the grower to make any profit at all. It is apparent that the grower is confronted with a situation where he will lose between 17s and 30s a bushel for the privilege of sending fruit to the United Kingdom. It must be readily appreciated that after the bush fires and the problems of last season, when admittedly fruit brought high prices on the British market although in many instances the grower did not get a high price because he sold the fruit f.o.b. and a guarantee was not given against freight, these people are in a desperate situation. What grower will take the risk of compounding a loss that he knows must occur with the present prices that are being returned on the market in Great Britain? It is impossible for him to carry on. His loss will be far greater than the amount that will be offset by devaluation. So it is essential that sympathetic consideration be given to this industry. I believe that if this is not done there is little doubt that the tragedy which will befall southern Tasmania will be far greater than that which occurred in the bush fires in February 1967. This loss will be more manifold, and a greater number of people will be hurt.
I am sure it is well known to this Parliament that of the 8i million bushels of apples and pears that are exported from Australia, 6i million bushels are exported from our small island of Tasmania. It is well known, too, that we have a disproportionate representation upon the Australian Apple and Pear Board. This Board, which negotiates all of the freight arrangements, agrees with the increases in freight rates, and in many instances the increases are supported by a member of the Board who has a local market right at his own doorstep. When he commits Victorian and New South Wales growers to filling space in the ships to go to England he does so in the knowledge that he can turn his back on his space commitment and in the process capitalise upon a market near his front door, while in the meantime asking Tasmania to make good the shortfall in freight.
If we fail in our obligations in the agree- ment which has been entered into, we then find ourselves in the situation where under the formula agreed to with the conference shipping lines, there is an automatic increase in the rates of freight in the ensuing years. So it is essential that we maintain our obligation to fill these vessels. But what Tasmanian grower will take the gamble of filling these vessels? It has become apparent, though, that there is no gamble associated with it. It is a stark certainty that by shipping fruit in the coming season Tasmanian growers will automatically incur a loss. Is it not better for the grower to cut his losses, leave the fruit where it is, to fall off the tree and rot, and seek other employment? This is the only alternative. There are literally hundreds of growers in southern and northern Tasmania who are faced with no other choice.
So to my mind it is essential that the case which was documented and supported by other persons in this industry should be considered. The case was supported by the Tasmanian State Government and by the Fruit Board. I do not know what the attitude of the Australian Apple and Pear Board was, but 1 say sincerely that had it acted responsibly and in the interests of the industry it, too, would have supported the case. I am glad to see that the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony) is kind enough to nod his agreement. It is imperative that the Australian Apple and Pear Board support the case. If the steps I have suggested are not taken, the whole of the economy of southern Tasmania will be injured. Damage will occur to those organisations and industries which the apple industry is today propping up by tariff protection and other means.
– How much will the guarantee involve the Government in?
– A figure of $2.40 per bushel was asked for and the grants under section 96 were not to exceed S5m. It is appreciated that grants under section 96 are made only in the case of calamity or disaster, but I would argue very strongly that there is a disaster on our hands in southern Tasmania at the present time. As I said before, it is as great a problem as that which confronted Tasmania immediately after the bushfires. I suggest that this industry must be saved. It is essential that in view of present prices, some assistance should be given to the industry while we renegotiate some form of a national stabilisation price scheme for the marketing of fruit in future years. This matter is of the utmost - indeed paramount - importance to the well being of the people of southern Tasmania and of parts of northern Tasmania.
– On many occasions I have drawn the attention of this chamber to female unemployment within my constituency. Last week I was approached by the manager of a branch of a Sydney firm which has a factory within my constituency and which is threatened by the import of shirts, in particular, and other piece goods from Hong Kong and China. I propose to read the exact terms of the letter which was sent to me by this firm, Midford Products Pty Ltd.
– Order! It is now half-past three o’clock and the extended time for this debate has expired.
Motion (by Mr Snedden) - by leaver - agreed to -
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the consideration of Order of the Day No. 1, Government Business, Grievance Debate, being further continued until 4 o’clock p.m.
– The address of the firm is 580 Princes Highway, St Peters. The letter was addressed to the Director, Chamber of Manufactures of New South Wales, and it was dated 17th April 1968. It is headed ‘Imports of Ready-Made Shirts’. It reads as follows:
We refer to our discussions on previous occasions regarding the importation of boys shirts and the following are the facts of what is happening.
This Company at present is experiencing extreme trading difficulties which have been brought about by the mass of imported ready-made woven boys school shirts mainly from Hong Kong and China.
As you may be aware, a shirt has a very high labour content and this labour in Australia is very expensive, whilst in the abovementioned countries it is relatively very cheap. We find that the ‘basic wage’ is insufficient to support any worker under our present high standards and $5 to SIO above the Award has to be paid.
To further add to our difficulties in competing with these imports, we must pay 55% Duty on the raw material which has a composition of 65% Polyester and 35% Cotton, lt is from this fabric that these shirts are manufactured. Of course this Duty is not paid bv the local Asian manufacturers.
We would like to point out that an ‘All Cotton’ shirt would land at about 5 cents to 10 cents cheaper than the ‘Tetoron/Cotton’ shirt and the following is a comparison between the two shirts:
We merchandise similar shirts in School Blue, Grey and White which are wholesaling at $2.30 and retailing at approximately $3.25, allowing 50% mark-up (please refer to our enclosed catalogue).
That, I understand, is the normal mark-up in the trade. The letter continues:
The imported shirt– and I want this to be particularly noted - is landed F.I.S. (free into store) at $1.27 each and retails at, or slightly less than $3.25, therefore giving the retailer an exorbitant mark-up price of approximately 150%, thus the consumer is not benefiting from the cheaper imports.
That last clause is underlined -
We feel that whilst this is not giving us sufficient protection we are prepared to compete with the imported ‘all cotton’ shirt.
Due to the superior quality of the ‘Tetoron/ Cotton’ over ‘All Cotton’ shirts, it is only natural that on the same price basis the retailers as well as the parents are going to buy the ‘Tetoron/Cotton’ shirt. It stands to reason, therefore, that the Duty should either be lifted on the ‘Tetoron/Cotton’, piece goods, the same as the present ‘All Cotton’ Duty, or the Duty should be raised on the Tetoron/Cotton’ Made-up Shirts, as it is now completely out of all proportion. Alternatively, we could be granted a By-law admission under security with end use specified that such material be used in manufacture of boys and girls shirts in our own factory.
As a local manufacturer, the retailers are not giving us their bulk indent orders, which are extremely vital to any business. This indent ordering is being given to overseas manufacturers and we are only receiving small ‘fill-ins’ and these fill-ins’ are in no way profitable, but we have no option but to accept them.
Most of the imported shirts bear the ‘Korotron’ label and clearly specify that they are guaranteed no-iron finish’ which is, in our opinion, far from the truth, especially for the hard wearing boys shirts. For us to use this Korotron label we have to be a licensee of the Korotron Corporation in the USA and a fair percentage of our net sales would have to be paid to them as royalty.
The letter then gives the credentials of the company and these are impressive. The letter states:
This Company has been established for 21 years as specialists in the manufacturing and distributing of girls and boys school shirts and blouses and pyjamas. At present, we directly employ 185 persons, 140 in our main building and plant in St Peters and 45 in our pyjama plant in Wollongong. Our annual payroll is $314,500. We have wide distribution throughout the Commonwealth of Australia, including Fiji and New Guinea with 32 sales representatives.
An area of 45,000 square feet is occupied for manufacturing and administration at St Peters. This building was especially built for this company’s use and activities and we moved into it in October 1965. A substantial ‘term loan’ was obtained from the Commonwealth Development Bank and also from our trading bank to enable us to carry out this project, for which we are still committed.
Upon moving our activities to our new premises, a specialised team of English Production Engineers was engaged to make this plant one of the most efficient in Australia.
From the above facts one point emerges; if we cannot, as an industry, obtain Government protection, within the next few months, we will have no alternative but to dismiss our production staff and import these goods and distribute them through our established marketing division, as so many other manufacturers and retailers are doing. You can be assured that this action will be our last resort, although detrimental to the community. The Development Bank Loan was given to us on the clear understanding that it be used purely for manufacturing industry purposes in order to create employment.
Trusting that you will give us your valuable assistance in this matter.
This company has impeccable credentials. It is experienced and it is being run most competently. The factory was built by experts and every possible economy in a highly competitive trade is being used to ensure that its goods are supplied to the Australian market at the lowest possible cost. But it must compete with sweated labour in Hong Kong and other countries - labour that is being paid at rates that are possibly not more than 20% of the Australian rates. The company is paying its employees above the award rates, and is doing so correctly in view of competition in the industry.It has stated that, in addition to the features of competition that it would normally meet, it is faced with an underlying feature of misrepresentation about the type of material that is being used in the competing product. Further than that, it must compete with the profiteering of unscrupulous Australian importers who bring these goods into Australia at the lowest price and retail them at exactly the same price as is being charged for the Australian product. This is a shocking and scandalous state of affairs.
The company has kept to the letter of ite contract with the Commonwealth Development Bank and has observed the policies of this Government. It is entitled to protection and I propose, on its behalf, to place the contents of the letter before the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Scott). I repeat that it would be a major scandal if this situation were allowed to continue. Today the spotlight is being placed on the dumping of overseas products in Australia. Here is a clear case of dumping, and dumping from which Australian wholesalers are profiting. In my constituency, forty-five female employees have their jobs in jeopardy. The remainder of these people are employed in the constituency of the honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Daly) and their jobs are equally in jeopardy. Relief is appropriate in this case. It ought to be given and T ask that it be given.
-It has been said that events near this chamber and just outside it have been the most important to take place in Parliament House during this week. I refer, of course, to, shall I say, a caucus room quite near this chamber, the events in which have attracted quite a lot of publicity. We know that over a great many years that room has had the capacity to develop some emotional qualities in its inhabitants, and certainly it has a unique capacity to develop a love-hate relationship. So from time to time the gentlemen who participate in events in that room come into the House and in rather a peevish way perpetuate this lovehate relationship. Sometimes they are unable to understand the responsibilities of the Commonwealth Government and most often they are unable to understand where State responsibilities begin and end. This attitude can well be justified.
Our very good friend, the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson), came into the House an hour or so ago and spoke about Queensland - and freight rates in Queensland. He was peevish. He is almost perennially peevish over these matters and I can understand his disappointment. After all, this week he has seen one of his friends, a leader of his own Party, not have a good deal of success, and he could well have said, as was said in King Lear:
I have seen better faces in my time. Than stands on any shoulder I see Before me in this instant.
The tragedy, of course, is that 46% to 48% of his colleagues agreed with that proposition. Having come into the House displaying this type of attitude, he had something to say about freight rates in Queensland. He is simply in error when giving the facts and he does not understand the situation. His proposition this afternoon was not out of line with an amendment relating to these same freight rates that was proposed and defeated in this House a year ago.
He said that the freight rates on sugar have been very high and are unjustifiably high. One or two matters of fact ought to be introduced into his understanding of freight rates on sugar. They are important and it is appropriate to go over the history of his own Party on this matter. He must be the newest member of the Australian Labor Party sitting on the Opposition side of the chamber. As we all know, he has been in his Party for only 21 to 3 years and he may not know the history that has in fact been part of that Party’s heritage. What has been the history of his Party in the State sphere in respect of sugar? He was concerned that the freight rates on sugar on the short hauls were too high. Freight rates are always too high. It is always unfortunate that anything is charged for freight at all. But, when we look at the history over the last 10 years of office of the Labor Government in Queensland, we see that between 1947 and 1957 the freight rates on the haulage of sugar cane for 25 miles were increased on eight or nine occasions by a total of All Wo. That was done by a government formed by his own Party in Queensland. But he criticises the present Queensland Government because it committed the sin of raising freight rates in the 10 years from 1957 to 1967, not by 437i% on the short haul but by 7i%. I suggest that he refresh his memory on these rates.
A similar story can be told about the haulage of raw sugar. On the short hauls, the increases of freight rates in the one instance were well over 200% . The increases under the present Country Party-Liberal Government in Queensland have been of the order of 7i%. So the honourable member for Dawson simply has not understood the history of the performance of his own party. This is understandable but we on this side would suggest that he refresh his memory beyond the period of his own membership of that party, which has been a very short one.
The honourable member for Dawson had certain things to say concerning the carriage of other goods on various parts of Queensland’s railway system. The significance of his proposals should be borne in mind and never forgotten. I refer to the amendment he moved to the Sugar Agreement Bill in 1967. His speech today has not varied from the principle he put forth then. In bis amendment he proposed that certain benefits be given to the sugar industry and that the cost of those benefits be borne by the Queensland Government from the substantial profits made annually on the central and northern Queensland railway systems. Let us explore this proposition a little further. We ask: What commodities enable that substantial profit to be made? We know that the substantial profits are made from long hauls of meat and wool. If the State Government of Queensland is to introduce an extra impost in order to provide increased benefits from such a source, it will have to place the burden on the producers who now enable the profits to be made. This is the proposition that the honourable member for Dawson made previously. He repeated it rather quickly this afternoon. The implications of it are clear and are simply this: Let us press down upon the livestock operators and all those responsible for the long haulage of wool. One could understand, even sympathise with, his attitude in this respect because, in his electorate, he does not appear to have as much responsibility for people engaged in activities connected with those commodities than have, say, the honourable members for Maranoa (Mr Corbett), Kennedy (Mr Katter) and other members of the Country Party.
– The Herbert electorate.
– Not quite so much the Herbert electorate. The honourable member for Dawson made this proposition with a certain amount of technical expertise but the tragedy is that he did not carry it through to its logical conclusion. When he speaks about the haulage of sugar I suggest he should have referred to the situation as it existed over many years; that he remember not just the last 2 or 3 years but the history of his own party. The history of the administration of his own party in this field is not one that those engaged in the sugar industry are very happy to recollect. Further, I consider that when he suggests that there be a different method of distribution of the revenue raised on a railway system he should decide with care the activities to which he is going to apply the increased pressures. If he decides to do this, he should not do it in a narrow or selfish way but should think of people such as sugar farmers who have not grown excess sugar. He should consider also those people who are not living in his own electorate and who are engaged in other industries. I suggest that he should try to strike a balance between people engaged in the various rural industries and people engaged in the export of various commodities’. It was not my intention to be unfriendly to our very good friend, the honourable member for Dawson, this afternoon but one or two of these faults in his proposition had to be pointed out. They have been pointed out in the past. I can only regret that I believe the lesson has not been learned by the honourable member in question.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following Bills were returned from the Senate without amendment:
Income Tax (International Agreements) Bill 1968.
Income Tax Assessment Bill 1968.
Bill - by leave - presented by Mr Barnes, and read a first time.
[3.501- I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time. The main purpose of the Bill is to make provision in the Papua and New Guinea Act for further steps in the constitutional development of Papua and New Guinea in harmony with the recommendations of the third report of the Select Committee of the Territory House of Assembly on Constitutional Development. That report was the subject of a ministerial statement to the Parliament on 26th October 1967 and was circulated to honourable members at the time. The principal object of the changes now proposed is to provide increased participation by elected members in the executive government of the Territory through the establishment of a system of ministerial members. The Bill also proposes changes in some other matters and some machinery amendments.
In conformity with the second report of the Select Committee the Papua and New Guinea Act was amended by this Parliament in 1966 to increase the elected membership of the House of Assembly to eighty-four. The number of open electorates was increased by twenty-five and the ten seats previously reserved for non-indigenous candidates were replaced by fifteen new seats restricted to candidates with specified mintmum educational qualifications. The number of official members was left unchanged at ten. Following these changes in the Act elections were held early this year in the Territory on the new basis.
The establishment of the House of Assembly in 1964 brought into being a representative legislature in the Territory. In 1966, changes were made in its composition in the light of experience and these should enable the House, through the increased number of electorates, to reflect more effectively the views of the people of the Territory.
The proposals now being submitted to the House represent an important advance on the side of the executive government distinct from the side of the legislature. The present Bill would provide for elected members to assume certain responsibilities in the administration of the Territory both in day to day administrative activities and in the framing of policies. Seven elected members of the House of Assembly would be appointed as ministerial members. They would have administrative responsibilities in relation to specified functions of the Territory Administration. They would represent their departments in the House of Assembly. They would be members of the Administrator’s Executive Council. The Administrators Executive Council would replace the present Administrator’s Council. The new
Council would consist of the seven ministerial members, three official members and the Administrator. The Administrator might also nominate to the Minister for appointment to the Council an additional elected member of the House who was not a ministerial member.
The Administrator’s Executive Council will play an increasingly important role in the development of policy in the Territory as well as in major executive decisions of the Administration. Certain Territory ordinances already require the Administrator to seek the advice of the Council and in such cases where he does not accept the advice of the Council he is required to table his reasons in the House of Assembly. He may also seek the advice of the Council on other matters. Apart from the present statutory provisions the Administrator has progressively enlarged both the range and significance of the matters brought before the Council for consultation and will continue to do so.
The role and importance of the Council would be further enhanced under the proposed ministerial member system. In matters of budget policy and planning, the Council would have the final responsibility within the Territory for advising the Administrator. Ministerial members would constitute a significant majority of the Council. In relation to their departmental functions they would make recommendations to the Council and, if authorised by the Administrator, could introduce any matters for discussion in the Council. The cumulative effect of these arrangements, as foreseen by the Select Committee, would be that subject to the duty and responsibility of the Administrator, acting on behalf of the Australian Government, to administer the Territory, the Council would be the principal instrument of policy of the executive government of the Territory. As recommended by the Select Committee, in accordance with generally established practice, members of the Council would not publicly oppose politics or decisions that were in accordance with the advice of the Council.
Combined with their role in the Administrator’s Executive Council ministerial members would also have administrative responsibilities in relation to specified functions of the Administration. In relation to these functions ministerial members would be responsible with the departmental head for overall departmental activities and for the framing of policy proposals including proposals for expenditure. The management and public service aspects of the conduct of departments would remain the responsibility of departmental heads. The administrative functions exercised by a ministerial member would be derived from the Administrator. In accordance with the general transitional character of these arrangements, where there was a difference of view between a ministerial member and a departmental head the matter would go to the Administrator for decision. In the House of Assembly ministerial members would represent the Administration in relation to those functions assigned to them, for example, regarding questions and motions in the House. They would introduce and have the carriage of legislation.
It is proposed that in addition to the seven ministerial members there will also be appointed up to ten assistant ministerial members. The purpose here is to provide a form of junior ministerial office designed to allow elected members to work with departmental heads and to undertake work of a ministerial nature. Responsibility however would remain with the departmental head. As suggested by the Select Committee the duties of these assistant ministerial members would be specified and would follow the lines indicated in the Committee’s report.
Proposed new section 25 of the principal Act, which appears in clause 6 of the Bill, indicates the functions of ministerial members and assistant ministerial members on the basis I have described and provides for these matters to be set out in detail in arrangements approved by the Minister. Arrangements for the appointment of ministerial members and assistant ministerial members and for the termination of appointment would follow the recommendations of the Select Committee and it is intended that they would be set out in detail in regulations. The procedure contemplated i. that the House would establish a standing nominations committee of five elected members. This committee would consult with the Administrator to agree on a list of elected members equal to the number of ministerial offices. The agreed list would then be submitted to the House of Assembly for approval as a list of elected members to be appointed to ministerial offices. If the House of Assembly approved the list the Minister would make the necessary appointments of seven ministerial members and up to ten assistant ministerial members. The same procedure would be used to fill a vacancy in a ministerial office. The allocation of functions among holders of ministerial office would be approved by the Minister and these functions could be reallocated from time to time. In all these matters affecting ministerial offices, the Minister’s powers will be exercised only on the recommendation of the Administrator or after consultation with him.
Should it become necessary for the appointment of a ministerial or an assistant ministerial member to be terminated other than by resignation, a similar procedure would normally be employed. To meet possible contingencies the Bill will also authorise the Governor-General to terminate an appointment if after report by the Administrator to the Minister the GovernorGeneral is satisfied that this would be in the public interest. These arrangements for the appointment of ministerial members and assistant ministerial members are designed on the one hand to give the House of Assembly a full voice in these appointments and on the other hand to recognise the essential responsibilities of the Administrator and the Minister.
The proposed arrangements are an important advance in the constitutional development of the Territory. Through those elected members who are appointed to ministerial office, they will bring the House of Assembly closely into the business of administration and into the making of policy. The new arrangements will provide experience in the responsibilities of government both of a day to day character and of an overall policy nature. It must be borne in mind that these arrangements are essentially transitional in character and. as I have noted, they leave the final responsibility of administering the Territory with the Administrator, acting on behalf of the Australian Government.
The Select Committee gave a good deal of attention to the proposition that the House of Assembly or elected members should be responsible for the preparation of a separate budget in respect of revenue raised within the Territory. In the present financial year’s estimates this constitutes about 34% of the total Administration receipts, 60% of the rest being accounted for by Commonwealth grant, and 6% by loans guaranteed by the Commonwealth. The Select Committee rejected the proposal and expressed the opinion that the ‘ordered development of the Territory would be best served at this stage by a single budget covering all aspects of government spending’.
The Select Committee did, however, propose an arrangement by which members of the House who were not holders of ministerial office could channel budget proposals to ministerial members and the Administrator’s Executive Council. This was that the House of Assembly should nominate a budget standing committee of five elected members not occupying ministerial office. This standing committee would nol have executive authority but could in appropriate circumstances make recommendations. The views of the Select Committee on these matters are in accordance with the Government’s attitude and it has readily accepted them. No amendments to the Papua and New Guinea Act are required to give effect to the proposal. The appointment of the proposed standing committee on the budget will be a matter for the new House of Assembly and the proposed role of the Administrator’s Executive Council in budget matters will come within the continuation and extension of the practice of consultation with the Council. In these ways there will be ample scope for elected members to take a very active part in preparation of the whole budget. At the same time the proposed arrangements recognise the need, while so much of the Territory’s revenue is provided by the Australian Government, for that Government to determine the broad strategy of the budget.
To sum up it will be seen that seven elected members would be appointed as ministerial members. They would have administrative responsibilities for specified functions of the Administration and would represent the Administration in respect of these functions in the House of Assembly. They would constitute a majority of the Administrator’s Executive Council, which would become an increasingly important body. To provide scope for experience in government for additional elected members, up to ten assistant ministerial members would be appointed with duties and functions to be specified. These, then, are the main proposals on political advancement.
The Government does not believe, however, that political development to the point of self government or independence or other status which the Territory may ultimately assume can have substance if it is not accompanied by progress towards self reliance in economic matters; in other words, political development cannot be divorced from economic development. At the same time it has to be recognised that the road to economic development is a long, hard road. I have only recently spoken in this House about economic development in Papua and New Guinea and I need not say more about it now. Nor can the problems of achieving experience in administration at both the political and Public Service levels be overlooked. The acquisition of experience is not a process that lends itself to too much acceleration, but an experienced Public Service and a fund of experience at the political level are essential for efficient and stable government. I emphasise the great importance which, in the interests of the future of the people of the Territory, the Government attaches to securing an effective balance between political and economic development and to securing advance in both areas at a rate which will bc tolerable in human terms - that is, tolerable to the people of the Territory who are called upon to make such tremendous and rapid adjustments.
Another change proposed in the Bill is not related to the important proposals for the executive government of the Territory that I have explained. It relates to the Governor-General’s powers in connection with the withholding of assent. Under the present Act Ordinances on the general run of subjects may be assented to by the Administrator, and the Governor-General is authorised to disallow such Ordinances in whole or in part. The Administrator may also reserve any Ordinance for the Governor-General to assent to it or to withhold assent. The Administrator is also required to reserve Ordinances on certain subjects for the Governor-General. It is now proposed that in parallel to the existing authority to disallow in whole or in part Ordinances that have been assented to by the Administrator, the Governor-General be authorised also to withhold assent from part of a reserved Ordinance as an alternative to withholding assent from the. whole Ordinance. The existing requirement that a statement of reasons for the withholding of assent or for disallowance be tabled in the Parliament would apply also to any withholding of assent to part of an Ordinance.
The power to disallow or to withhold assent was exercised only rarely in the life of the last House of Assembly. The proposed change, however, will enable the possible avoidance of a situation in which assent would have to be withheld from the whole Ordinance because an inessential part of it was unacceptable, or if the procedure for returning the Ordinance to the House with recommended amendments were followed undue delay might occur. It may help honourable members to understand the Bill better if I related the proposals I have described briefly and in general terms to the main clauses of the Bill.
Clause 5 inserts a new title to Part IV of the Act. It will now be The Executive Government’. This change from the former title ‘Administration’ is associated with the general change in the structure of the executive government of the Territory which the proposed appointments of ministerial members and assistant ministerial members are designed to bring about. The main substance of the proposals is contained in clause 6, which deals with Division 2 of Part IV. Proposed Division 2 sets out the provisions relating to the Administrator’s Executive Council. Proposed Division 3 sets out the provisions relating to ministerial members and assistant ministerial members.
The proposed functions of the Administrator’s Executive Council are set out in proposed section 19. Sub-section (3) of this proposed section provides that when he thinks that it is in the public interest to do so, the Administrator may introduce or authorise the introduction in the Council of any matter for discussion in the Council. This new sub-section reflects the progressive development in the processes of consultation to which I have already referred. Proposed section 25 lays down the framework within which the arrangements for ministerial members and assistant ministerial members would operate.
Clauses 7 to 9 contain provisions relating to the House of Assembly, and clause 10 makes provision for priority to be obtained for urgent administration business in the House of Assembly on a message to the House by the Administrator. I need not refer to the other clauses of the Bill.
In the Ministerial statement that I made to the House in October last year I said that the Government accepted the scheme of administration proposed by the Select Committee. I intimated also that all the Select Committee’s recommendations were acceptable to the Government with a single exception, which was a matter of terminology not of substance. This was that since the proposed ministerial officers would not be exercising the full executive responsibility and authority universally associated with the designation of minister, it was proposed to use instead the term ministerial member and the corresponding term assistant ministerial member.
In the proposed amendments to the Papua and New Guinea Act to give effect to the new scheme of administration it is the institutional framework rather than the operational arrangements with which we are concerned, but I have sought to explain how the system would operate within that institutional framework. Some of the more detailed arrangements would, as I have mentioned, be set out in regulations, such as the procedure by which nominations to ministerial offices would be arrived at between the House of Assembly and the Administrator. In some matters also the proposals would provide a measure of flexibility. For example, under proposed section 25 the roles of ministerial members and assistant ministerial members may be adapted in the light of experience.
The Papua and New Guinea Act may be regarded as the Constitution of the Territory of Papua and New Guinea, and it is the responsibility of this Parliament to provide through this Act the institutions for an adequate and effective system of government for the Territory - institutions that must be adapted from time to time to match the evolving Territory situation. The main substance of the proposals in this Bill is concerned with giving effect to recommendations of the Select Committee of the House of Assembly. The changes in the system of executive government now proposed are therefore not changes the Government seeks to impose upon the Territory. Nevertheless they are changes which the Government has readily accepted as an important forward constitutional step completely in line with the high policy objective of orderly and peaceable constitutional development.
The Select Committee took great trouble to consult the people of the Territory in public, open hearings. Its report was accepted by the House of Assembly without dissent and it may confidently be said that the report reflects the view of the overwhelming majority of the people of the Territory. Much effort has been devoted to working out the proposals for the new system of administration and I pay tribute to the work of the elected and official members of the Select Committee.
The new House of Assembly is to meet in Port Moresby on 4th June next. The Government is anxious to have the necessary amendments to the Papua and New Guinea Act made in good time to enable the proposed scheme of administration to start operating at the first meeting so that from the beginning elected members of the new House will be able to play their part in sharing more of the responsibility for government of the Territory, as envisaged in these proposals and in harmony with the views of the people.
Debate (on motion by Mr Whitlam) adjourned.
Bil! presented by Mr Wentworth, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this Bill, the first affecting the administration of the Department of Social Services since I became the Minister for Social Services earlier this year, is to give effect to the Government’s announced proposal to assist the States in helping mothers of children who are not eligible for benefits under the Social Services Act.
Broadly, they are deserted wives during the first 6 months of desertion, wives during the first 6 months of the husband’s imprisonment, deserted de facto wives and de facto wives of prisoners and other unmarried mothers.
Most honourable members will know that the Commonwealth provides social service benefits for general categories of people throughout Australia whereas the States, for reasons both historical and practical, administer certain financial programmes for the relief of individual hardship in addition to offering a number of welfare services, particularly for children. In the case of deserted wives, the fact of desertion may be difficult to establish during the first six months, as the husband may well decide to return;’ and indeed Government action should not be calculated to impede any reconciliation. In such circumstances, administration of relief requires a detailed knowledge of the facts of each case, and general rule of thumb principles should not be relied upon.
In the past women coming within the scope of the Bill who. require help have turned for assistance to the government of the State in which they reside, and that government has met the entire cost. There have, however, been wide differences in the degree to which the various States have developed their welfare services, in making provision for cash payments and other assistance. The aim of this legislation is to provide incentive for a more uniform level of assistance, with ‘ the Commonwealth sharing half the cost involved. This will establish the basis for a substantial increase of benefit in most cases, particularly in Queensland, where the general level of State assistance in this category has been considerably below that obtaining in the other States.
Honourable members will note that under the Bill the Commonwealth will bear onehalf of the total cost of these benefits. Originally the States asked that the Commonwealth should bear the whole cost, but this was obviously out of the question if the administrative machinery were to remain in State hands. Where a high level of individual discretion is necessarily involved, to free the administering authority of any responsibility for expenditure would be to invite carelessness and laxity. The
Commonwealth, therefore, had the choice either of assuming the whole function and setting up duplicate machinery to supersede the States, or alternatively leaving some part of the expenditure in State hands. For reasons which are surely good and sufficient, we chose the latter alternative.
Because the Commonwealth’s offer is one of cost sharing there have been discussions with the States to work out mutually acceptable arrangements about the form and scope of the assistance that will attract a Commonwealth grant. I am happy to report to the House that all State governments with the exception of Victoria have agreed on the principles incorporated in this Bill.
In passing I should perhaps make some reference to the position in Victoria. Victoria relates its assistance to persons in the eligible categories to the number of children in the mother’s care, paying a maximum of $4 per week per child, subject to certain ceilings. The State maintains that assistance is given solely for the benefit of the children and that no assistance is given for the mother.
In 1947 the Commonwealth Government decided that deserted wives and wives of prisoners in Victoria should be paid special benefit at unemployment benefit rates during the six months waiting period required before widows’ pensions could be paid under the Social Services Act. This decision was taken in favour of Victorian residents alone on the grounds that this was the only State where assistance for these wives was not provided by the State government. This benefit is still being paid by the Commonwealth. It is hoped that negotiations now in progress will result in Victoria joining the new scheme in the interests of women who would benefit under it. In the meantime, the Commonwealth will continue benefits currently paid in that State. 1 would now like to turn to some details about the arrangements with the Slates. The determination of eligibility and the rates of assistance will remain the responsibility of each State, but the Commonwealth expects that the existing practice of the States in making individual hardship the test of eligibility for assistance will continue, and that the States will in general raise benefit payments approximately to the level of those payable to a class A widow under Commonwealth legislation. The type of assistance that will attract a Commonwealth grant will include that provided in the form of cash, food or clothing. Where food and clothing are provided in addition to cash assistance the amount of the grant for the period covered by the cash payment will be half the value of the food, clothing and cash provided in that period. Other forms of assistance, such as the provision of school books or free transport, do not come within the scope of the present arrangement.
The grant by the Commonwealth will be half the cost of the approved assistance paid by the State to each eligible person but shall not exceed half the amount that would have been payable to such a person under the Social Services Act had she been eligible for a class A widow’s pension; that is, the amount payable to a widow pensioner who has the custody, care and control of a child or children. For example, a deserted wife who has no income or property, who pays rent for her home and has two children would be, if qualified, entitled to receive a total pf $22 a week by way of pension and supplementary assistance under the Social Services Act. The maximum Commonwealth subsidy in respect of any State assistance granted to such a woman would therefore be $ 11 a week in addition to the normal Commonwealth child endowment payments.
I should remind the House that, under this Bill, the Commonwealth will be undertaking to pay half the cost of benefits to certain unmarried mothers who at present are permanently ineligible for Commonwealth widow’s pension.
In carrying out the arrangement made with the States there will necessarily be close co-operation and co-ordination between my Department and the various departments in the States engaged in looking after the welfare of mothers with children. This should be of assistance both to the Commonwealth and the States in assessing the various areas of need where a mother finds herself responsible for the rearing of her children without the sustenance and support of a husband.
It is expected that Commonwealth grants will be paid at the end of each quarter on the receipt of a statement of the amount expended during the quarter by the State.
As soon as possible after the 30th June each year a statement of expenditure for the financial year, certified by the AuditorGeneral for the State, will be required. The Commonwealth subsidy will apply to State expenditure on assistance to eligible persons made after 1st January 1968. From information furnished by the States it is expected that the cost for a full year would be Sim, excluding Victoria.
Mr Deputy Speaker, I view this measure as a progressive step forward in CommonwealthState relations and it should prove of great benefit to many mothers who are without a breadwinner and are undertaking the upbringing of their children. The Commonwealth will be making additional funds available to the States for this purpose, and this should enable them to raise the level of the benefits which they are paying to these mothers. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Daly) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 1 May (vide page 1014), on motion by Mr Hulme:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Upon which Mr Webb had moved by way of amendment:
That all words after ‘That’ be omitted with a view to inserting the following words in place thereof: ‘the Bill be withdrawn and that a Joint Select Committee be appointed to inquire .into the desirability and practicability of removing the Australian Post Office from the administrative influence of the Public Service Board and of establishing a public corporation to control the business of the Post Office’.
– Four months or more ago, just after he was sworn in, the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) gave the impression that he would make great changes in the composition of his ministry and in the administration of Commonwealth departments. He raised many hopes in that regard. In one particular respect he acknowledged that there were problems and said that they would be investigated. He was referring to the Post Office, the largest business in the southern hemisphere, the greatest employer in Australia, the organisation which absorbs the greatest amount of capital every year and which has the largest turnover each year. The Post Office is the organisation in which incomparably the greatest amount of industrial turmoil has occurred in recent months and years. It is the organisation where some of Australia’s most valuable technical skills-
– I rise to order. Late last night I obtained the adjournment of the debate on this Bill. I wonder why the Leader of the Opposition has been given the call on the resumption of the debate.
– Order! The honourable member for Gwydir did not rise when the Bill was callen on. I understood that by arrangement the Leader of the Opposition was to speak.
– I hasten to assure the honourable member for Gwydir (Mr Ian Allan) that I did not mean any discourtesy to him. I have no doubt that there will be an opportunity for him to speak in this debate. So far as I can facilitate his having an opportunity to speak I will do so, as will my. colleagues.
I was about to say that the Post Office is the organisation in which some of Australia’s most valuable technical skills are practised and taught. I recall the Prime Minister, at his early Press conferences, making statements about the Post Office. On 17th January he said:
The running of the Post Office is the responsibility of the Postmaster-General, and the Public Service Board also comes into the picture. There have been, as you so rightly say, a number of disruptions in the Post Office. I would hope that we could, through the responsible Ministers, and I would include the Minister for Labour and National Service in that, although they are really a client Ministry for the Postmaster-General, to see whether there was some underlying malaise whic’h could be removed. But that is a matter of looking into seeing whether there is some underlying malaise, to see what action could be taken if it is there. I don’t think it is directly concerned with the immediate problem which faces us today. But it is something clearly that needs to be looked at.
Again, on 2nd February, the new Prime Minister said:
All I will say in reply to that policy question, to use the words that you used to me - has any thought been given to it? Some thought has been given to it, but that is not to be construed into any suggestion that something will be done or might be done or is likely to be done. It is just that the matter hasn’t escaped attention.
It is clear that whatever attention may have been given to the matter in the intervening four months, nothing is at present being done. From the second reading speech of the Postmaster-General (Mr Hulme) and from his speech on the amendment moved by my colleague, the honourable member for Stirling (Mr Webb), we can have no certainty that anything will be done; we have no inkling when anything may be done.
I am speaking not on the Bill as a whole. It is not a substantial Bill in any respect, but is largely a machinery measure. I will concentrate my remarks on the amendment moved by the honourable member for Stirling, in these terms:
That all words after ‘That* be omitted with a view to inserting the following words in place thereof: ‘the Bill be withdrawn and that a joint select committee be appointed to inquire into the desirability and practicability of removing the Australian Post Office from the administrative influence of the Public Service Board and of establishing a public corporation to control the business of the Post Office’.
The Postmaster-General seemed to discount unduly the utility of a select committee. This Parliament uses select committees more rarely, I believe, than any other well established parliament in the English speaking world, or any other well established congress or state legislature in the English speaking world. We have had few select committees. The ones that I recall in recent years have considered the production of a daily Hansard, parliamentary and government publications, and extensions to Parliament House. One such committee is now considering a new and permanent Parliament House. There has been one to consider the voting rights of Aboriginals and another to examine the grievances of Aboriginals at Yirrkala. It might not be thought that these are very momentous matters. They were, however, matters which select committees were appointed to investigate. The proceedings and the unanimous reports of those select committees did result in desirable reforms. Everybody in both chambers supported those reforms. The Government has no reason to think that any differences of opinion which may be thought to exist between honourable members cannot be resolved in a practical way by a select committee. Select committees which we have appointed have had achievements to their credit. All the other parliaments with which we compare ourselves regularly appoint select committees. Those committees have achievements to their credit.
Reorganisation of the Post Office is not a new idea. It is now coming to pass in Britain. It is being considered in West Germany. It is already in force in Japan. These countries are all highly advanced in communications and all other relevant and related matters, and they have adopted or are considering the adoption of the form of reorganisation which my colleague has suggested a select committee should investigate. It is not enough for the Government to be unable to make up its mind or to assure us that the matter has not escaped attention, especially when it has not given any inkling of the attention which the matter has received. This is something in which the Parliament might be able to assist. This assistance might be obtained if we appointed a committee.
I mentioned in my opening remarks the industrial and technical aspects of the operations of the Australian Post Office. I think it is fair to say that the Postmaster-General, in commenting on my colleague’s amendment, confined himself to financial matters, while not always very precisely stating my Party’s case in these matters. For instance he asserted:
For a long time the Opposition has made it quite clear that in no circumstances will it have a bar of an interest charge paid by the Post Office on money borrowed from the Treasury.
The attitude which my Party in fact has adopted is that it is wrong, after half a century of operation of the Post Office by the Commonwealth, suddenly to introduce the concept of a notional capital amount which must be repaid with interest. The whole object of the exercise was to increase the Commonwealth’s revenue in respect of money which had been invested years ago. We have never said, as to future or current operations, that borrowings were in all circumstances to be disregarded, or that a profit should never in any circumstances be achieved in the operations of this great business undertaking.
I should make some comments on the financial aspects, since the PostmasterGeneral has done so. I believe that there has never been a person holding that position who has had such high qualifications and wide experience in financial matters as the present Postmaster-General has. There is clearly room for difference as to the extent to which various operations of the Post Office should be conducted for recoupment of cost only or for profit. There is room for difference as to the extent to which the cost of various new facilities should be covered by borrowing, with resultant repayments of capital and payments of interest. There are differences between various kinds of installations in the Post Office and there are differences in functions. There is a difference, for instance, between the duration of the life of equipment and of buildings. A local post office building might have a life of at least 30 years. On the other hand, certain telecommunications equipment might have a life of 10 years at most. There is a difference between the functions of various installations of the Post Office. The functions of the local post office, for instance, might well be regarded as a public service and no more. Other operations, in fields such as telecommunications, might properly be regarded as functions of a business undertaking and no more.
In wider fields, the Postmaster-General made some comparisons between some operations of the Post Office and some other governmental operations in Australia. The whole field of government finance in Australia, both current and capital financial operations, reeks of anomaly. The honourable gentleman and his colleagues have said with pride for many years that the Commonwealth spends no loan moneys, that it finances all its construction from current revenue. The States, on the other hand, have to finance practically all their capital works from loan moneys. In the semigovernmental field, construction work is financed from a combination of charges and loans. One will find neighbouring electricity commissions or county councils using wholly charges or wholly loans for their construction or their additions. Some use both. Still again neighbouring councils frequently operate different policies. One council will build all its roads from rates. Another will build all its roads from loans. One will build its new municipal baths from the accumulated surplus of rates and another will build from loans.
Perhaps the operations of the Post Office in many fields might be best compared with such utilities as roads, railways or airways. In these respects the Commonwealth follows no consistent policy. The Commonwealth provides nearly half the money that is spent on building, rebuilding, broadening or improving roads in Australia. The Commonwealth aid roads grants come, one supposes, entirely from petrol tax gatherings. I am not saying that the whole of the petrol tax goes into Commonwealth aid roads funds. But Commonwealth aid roads funds are usually regarded as coming from the petrol tax. They do not have to be repaid. Accordingly, the users of roads provide this money for the construction of roads. In the case of beef roads the Commonwealth follows a somewhat different principle. The money for the construction of the hard top or the black top has to be repaid. This is regarded as a loan. The money for the initial construction up to that stage is an outright grant.
With railways the States carry out all their construction work from loans. The Commonwealth mostly does not. In respect of airways - the most heavily subsidised utility in Australia - the taxpayer subsidises every flight that we make. In all this range of anomalies- Commonwealth, State, semigovernmental, local government and the various utilities that are provided by a combination of these fields - there is no consistent public policy in Australia. This is a field which the suggested committee might well investigate. I do not recall any committee of this Parliament or of any other Australian parliament that has made a comprehensive survey of this field. It would give some general enlightenment if it were to look into the financial operations of the Post Office. It could consider the various aspects of the operations of the Post Office, how they might be best conducted and how the Post Office might be best equipped.
One aspect upon which the suggested committee could inquire further in deciding whether the Post Office should be a corporation might be dealt with in the companion Bill dealing with the financial reorganisation of the Post Office. But some interesting questions arise from the answer which the Postmaster-General gave to my colleague, the honourable member for Stirling, on 3rd April of this year concerning the losses in regard to the various domestic mail categories in Australia - letters, other articles, registered publications and parcels. For instance, in the last financial year before Postal Department charges were increased, the cost of handling letters in Australia was $71 m. The loss in rendering ;hat service was Sim. To take the other extreme, the cost of handling mail in the registered publications category was $13m. The loss incurred in handling that category was $10m. Registered publications are heavily subsidised indeed. The PostmasterGeneral gave my colleague an estimate of the additional revenue which will come in each of the categories following the new charges. He was unable to estimate the cost of handling the mail in each of those categories. It has frequently been said that the telecommunications operations of the Post Office finance the mail operations of the Post Office. This however does not apply to letters themselves; it applies to the other articles.
I now refer to the very grave and increasing disruption in the Post Office. The public is concerned in this mater. I recall today receiving 2i years ago a letter from the New South Wales Branch of the Commonwealth Postmasters Association. Perhaps I might refer to it for expressions of opinion by the postmasters concerning their relations with the public and how they feel about the service which they have to provide under present circumstances. The letter reads:
It is soul destroying for one to spend a lifetime in a Public Service and leave it in a worse state than it was when you entered it. Therefore, we Postmasters feel obliged to invite your attention to the marked decline in the efficiency in the postal service in the past few years.
We were once proud of our postal service and were partly recompensed for our efforts by the high esteem in which we were held by our customers. Unfortunately we have now reached the stage where we are embarrassed because of our association with our own Department and it does not rest easily on one’s conscience being connected with the decline of this once very efficient Department.
The postmasters largely blame the Public Service Board because of its negative attitude towards conditions adversely affecting the standard of service at the expense of the people of Australia.
– How old is that letter?
– I said I received it 24 years ago. On 9th October 1965 all members of this Parliament received that letter. I think that it would be conceded that the staffs of the post offices are no happier now than they were at the time the postmasters sent that letter to members. The public is suffering because of the operations of the Post Office. No Commonwealth public servants meet the public so much and in such a friendly fashion as do employees of the Australian Post Office. It is disappointing to this loyal and friendly staff that it is unable to provide as good a service as it wants to. The staff still wishes to provide that service. There is no criticism of the staff in anything that I will be saying in this speech.
Half the men and women subject to the control of the Commonwalth Public Service Board are employed in the Australian Post Office. Over 100,000 men and women are involved. The Australian Post Office employs men and women from a greater number of unions and in a greater variety of skills and classifications than any other Commonwealth department, any other State department or any private enterprise. Is it any longer proper to deal with this vast industrial organisation under the Commonwealth Public Service arrangement? My colleague quoted from an article written by a retired Director-General of Posts and Telegraphs, Mr F. P. O’Grady in the Australian’ of 30th October last. Nobody knowing Mr O’Grady would doubt his dedication and competence. He rendered a public service in stating the facts as he saw them after a very distinguished career of public service. I will quote from this article one passage which my colleague quoted last night. It states:
I believe the Post Office should have only two bodies concerned - the Post Office managers themselves and the Full Court. There should be no other intermediary because this at best results in prolonged delays and at worst causes unnecessary friction between employees and management.
The Post Office management is denied the right to settle questions of pay and conditions with its own staff according to its own judgment. Instead, negotiations are conducted through the Public Service Board, and the Minister for Labour and National Service may intervene as an interested party. A situation has been created in which the Post Office is unable to compete effectively with other organisations for staff.
Standards of service are constantly suffering erosion, and industrial’ discontent constantly threatens to bring operations to a halt. It is well known that the Post Office would have liked to make an offer on wages to its staff before the disputes developed at the beginning of the year. This course was overruled and a stoppage inevitably followed. Then, similarly last year there was the confrontation on the 5-day week for postal employees. This was not simply a demand for Saturday closing; the real issue was whether there should be a 5-day week. The Post Office would have liked to negotiate but was restrained by an intransigent Cabinet.
Associated with the more general questions of pay and conditions there has been the issue of automation. The relevance of automation to the operations of the Post Office is clear cut. Devices such as electronic letter sorting machines and automatic telephone exchanges hold out new prospects for efficiency and economy. Such devices, however, cannot be introduced to maximum effect without the consent of the postal unions, and that consent cannot be obtained without consultation. The Government took its decision to install sorting machines in 1962, but it refused to take the onions into its confidence. The Postmaster-General said that it was unnecessary for them to be consulted. In this, the Minister’s attitude differed from that pf his counterpart in Britain where consultation over automation has been going on under both Conservative and Labor governments for more than 5 years. The Minister refuses to admit that the unions have a legitimate interest in technological innovations which, judging by the West German experience, may reduce the number of jobs available for mail sorters by up to 20%. If he persists in this refusal it is highly likely that further automation will have to be introduced against a backdrop of bitter industrial resistance. The Government insists that the Post Office must be a business, but it seems to have little idea of how to run it like one.
An analytical approach to the problems of the Post Office suggests that it would fare much better as an independent statutory corporation. This view is shared by former Directors-General of Posts and Telegraphs. Freed from the tutelage of the Public Service and from the caprice of the Minister of Labour and National Service, the Post Office could get on with the business of regulating its industrial relations in accordance with its own estimate of situations. Freed from the tyranny of the Budget, it could settle down to really long term planning which might result in really significant improvements in the quality of Australian communications. Freed from direct political manipulation it could begin to follow a pricing policy’ geared to international criteria and to insist that where communication subsidies are judged desirable they should be provided by open rather than covert means.
The Post Office is Australia’s largest business undertaking, but it has the least adequate financial arrangements and the worst industrial machinery in Australia. Britain’s Socialist Government has recognised the futility of administering the Post Office as a department of the Crown and has re-established it instead as an independent statutory corporation. The Australian Government betrays its professed loyalty to the values of enterprise and efficiency by hesitating and procrastinating on the matter.
In two speeches in the last week the Postmaster-General has made no reference to .the industrial trouble in the Post Office. He has made no reference, except last night in answer to my colleague’s amendment, to the necessity to establish a contemporary framework for Australia’s greatest business undertaking and to simplify Australia’s most combersome arbitration procedures. Technically there is no field of government in Australia which is so advanced as the Post Office. Structurally there is no field of government in Australia that is so archaic as the Post Office. What substantial business in Australia would have changed its structure so little as the Australian Post Office? I support the amendment moved by the honourable member for Stirling.
– When the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) discusses such a measure one expects him to give honourable members the benefit of his wisdom and to make some really worthwhile contribution to the debate. Indeed, I drew a pad out from my desk on which to make notes of appropriate passages of his speech but I find the pad as empty of notes now as it was when I drew it out of the drawer. We have rarely been treated to such a disjointed rambling speech from anyone on the
Opposition side, let alone the Leader of the Opposition, as we have just heard in the last half hour. A rambling discussion about the Post Office and all aspects of its activities customarily takes place inside and outside the Parliament, and has done so for as long as I can remember. This is a useful exercise, generally speaking, but it is not the sort of thing to present as a speech in this House. It is not a useful contribution to a debate on the subject. Presumably what we are debating is the amendment moved by the Opposition. The proposal contained in the amendment, in itself, is extraordinary. It envisages a radical change in the whole structure and organisation of the Postmaster-General’s Department, and it is tacked on to the motion for the second reading of a Bill which simply seeks . to make three small machinery amendments to the principal Act. It is rather like a swarm of bees settling on a twig. Here we have a minor, unexciting Bill to which the Opposition proposes an enormous amendment which bears no relation whatever to the Bill.
The organisation and structure of the Post Office have received attention from the Public Accounts Committee, and members of the Parliament inside and outside this chamber for a number of years. I hope this will continue into the distant future, because that is the way in which the Parliament can keep control of the day to day affairs of the Post Office and in which it can scrutinise its activities and gain a proper knowledge of them. The Post Office is an institution that touches the lives of every person in Australia. It vitally affects their lives because it provides everyone with a means of communication, whether by letter, telephone, telegram or through the news media. It is a vital institution.
The Labor Party’s sudden interest in the formation of a statutory corporation to take over the affairs of the Post Office is, I have no doubt, prompted by the fact that this sort of thing has been done recently in the United Kingdom. But no valid comparison can be made between the situation in the United Kingdom and the situation that exists in Australia. Take, for example, the size of the United Kingdom. My own electorate of Gwydir is big enough to hold England and Wales, so there is no basis of comparison on that score. Again, the United Kingdom economy is relatively static. It is not moving very much in any way. It is not expanding. It is fairly stable. Contrast that with the Australian situation. Australia is booming and expanding in every possible direction. It is going places. There is no basis for comparison there. Equally, one cannot make a comparison on the basis of capital and labour because the United Kingdom has an ample sufficiency of both capital and labour whereas we are desperately short, in this booming economy, of both. It is absolutely ludicrous to try to compare any aspect of the situation in the United Kingdom with that in Australia and to try to implant in Australia a statutory corporation to look after the postal affairs of this country simply because it has been done in the United Kingdom. This shows the Labor Party’s shallow approach to the whole problem. The Opposition has brought forward a ridiculous proposition which, significantly, is not supported with any weight of numbers on the Opposition side of the House.
The Australian people, through their representatives in this House, for very proper reasons, have constantly resisted the idea of any radical change in the organisation and control of the Post Office, and they will continue to do so for a long time. The Post Office is now operating as an efficient organisation. It is highly valued by all sections of the community. Everyone is aware that we are living in a time of rapid technological change. We want to make sure that the Post Office keeps on moving ahead, keeping up with the times, and giving us the best technological facilities. The best way to ensure this is not by setting up some remote select committee but by using this Parliament as a form of select committee to keep a constant watch on the Post Office and to provide it with the necessary stimulus to prevent its becoming a rigid and fixed body, unable to plan with any degree of flexibility and purpose. This Parliament exists to watch the activities of the various departments, including the Post Office, to keep them up to the mark and make sure that they spend public money as wisely and fruitfully as possible. The Australian people are aware of this, and that is why they will always resist any change from the present system that would remove the Post Office from the close scrutiny of members of Parliament, the parliamentary system, and the public.
Having just lauded the efficiency of the Post Office I must add that it is not perfect. To give an example of the way in which Parliament can and does operate to keep the Post Office up to the mark, I propose to give instances of several improvements which I believe could be made to the service now provided. Let me first deal with the mails. I suggested some time ago that first class mail which is now transported within Australia by air should, where this is advantageous, be treated in the same way when it is addressed to destinations overseas. This principle, which has operated most successfully in the domestic sphere since it was introduced a couple of years ago, should be extended to first class overseas mail at the last port of shipment, wherever it might be, and from the first port of arrival of first class mail. In that way up to a week’s travel would be saved on a lot of mail, facilitating business between Australia and countries overseas. I put forward that suggestion with the certainty that it would not cost very much to implement and in the hope that it could be wedded with the existing system of transporting first class mail by air wherever this is advantageous.
The second matter dealing with mail which I bring to the notice of the House and the Postmaster-General (Mr Hulme) has caused me grave concern. 1 have already brought it to the notice of the Minister by letter and I have received a reply from him promising to take action. Although this action is pending and I am sure it will be effective, I should like to ensure that the same sort of thing cannot happen again in other places and at other times. This is the situation. An Australian soldier stationed overseas in Malaysia posted a camera back home. He was obliged by the military authorities to itemise the nature of the contents of the parcel on the outside of the parcel, but he was refused permission to register or insure it. The Post Office gave a receipt for this parcel which contained a camera which was subsequently lost. It did not reach its destination. When the soldier claimed some recompense from the Postal Department, knowing he had the receipt for the parcel, the Department denied responsibility and refused to reimburse him in any way whatever.
This is quite unfair as the soldier was unable to register the parcel when he sought to do so at the post office at the garrison in Malaysia. The post office gave him a receipt, but he was obliged to show on the outside of the parcel the nature of its contents. This provided an open temptation to somebody to pilfer the article, and he could get no compensation whatever when it was lost. This is most unfortunate. I am very pleased that the Minister has expressed concern about this case, promising to do whatever he can to protect soldiers in Malaysia against this sort of thing in future. I want to make sure that this does not happen again in other parts of the world where at some future time an Australian garrison may be stationed. I believe that something should be written into the postal regulations, or the Act, if need be, to make sure that our troops stationed overseas have proper protection when sending parcels home. They should be able to insure them and register them, and to claim compensation if they are lost.
I am surprised that something has not already been done to make parcel post charges uniform. They vary, of course, according to distance but also between the States. Perhaps the best way to explain this is to read from one of the scales of charges. A parcel weighing 2 lb posted to addresses beyond 30 miles within the State :s charged for at the rate of 25c, but the same parcel posted to an adjoining State is charged for at the rate of 30c, and to any address elsewhere in Australia at the rate of 40c. I believe that this differential in charges as between the States for the same sort of parcel is ultra vires the Constitution. It is quite wrong for the Post Office to penalise people who wish to send parcels interstate. I do not think the Post Office has any special privilege to cut across the provisions of the Constitution in this way. In particular I grieve at the fact that this differential rate penalises especially those who live in the border regions and have friends or have business to transact in the other State just over the border. Why should they be compelled to pay a higher rate simply because the parcel has to cross a State border? This is not equitable and I think it is contrary to the letter and spirit of the Commonwealth Constitution. It could be put right at very small cost to the Post Office.
I shall now deal with telephone matters. The Australian telephone system is an extraordinarily efficient system by comparison with the systems in other countries. I pay tribute to the officers who plan and manage it. Although those of us who live in the country areas may not always think so, it is an efficient service in country areas too. In fact, it can be more efficient in the country than in the cities. In some other countries, notably the United States of America, those who reside so far away from established services that it does not pay the telephone company to run a line out, must do without. The telephone companies say: That is too bad, Jack. You are out of it. You are excluded because you are too far away.’ But in Australia the PostmasterGeneral’s Department makes an attempt to provide a telephone service to all residents, wherever they may live. That is an admirable quality of our telephone service and is much appreciated by those who are aware of the distinction between Australian customs and those in the United States.
As I said at the outset, it is always necessary for the Parliament to keep jogging the elbow of the officers of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department to help them with their task of administering and planning its services. Last year, for example, there was a proposal to increase trunk line charges. This was an unfortunate necessity; it is one that happens periodically. We must accept it in a society that is burgeoning as ours is. However, the scale of charges originally proposed by the Department provided for some increases at the rate of 50%, some at 10% and other at 25%. They were all over the place; there was no standardisation. Some people were hit to leg and others were let off almost scot-free. It was an extraordinary scale of charges and fortunately the Department was persuaded to reframe it before it came into effect. Now everyone is slugged by about the same additional amount. That is an instance of the way in which parliamentary control operates to assist the Department to manage its affairs, and it is a very important aspect.
At this present time there are some even more glaring inequities and I want to draw the attention of the Postmaster-General to two of them now. They can be corrected and should be corrected, just as the scale of charges was corrected last year. The first matter I raise is the enormous jump between the cost of a local call and the cost of a trunk call. A local call costs 34c and the subscriber has unlimited time. He can make a call up to a distance of 30 miles for this charge. In the country areas, the man who originates a trunk call is sometimes closer to the subscriber he is calling than is his neighbour who can make the same call in the same district at the local call rate. This is due to the peculiar way in which trunk lines have been arranged. The person making the trunk call, if he is within the same radius of 30 miles, must pay 16c for 3 minutes. Very few calls can bc concluded within 3 minutes, so in fact he pays nearer to 24c for the ordinary, average call. But the man who can make the same call for the local rate pays 4c. The difference is far too great; it is almost 6 times as much. Why should there be such a gap between the charge for a local call and the charge for a trunk call? lt is quite inequitable, unfair and unreasonable and must be corrected if our telephone system in country areas is to be truly efficient.
This matter demands attention. It is a charge of 4c compared with a charge of at least 24c. Why should there be this enormous difference in the cost of telephone services for neighbours who may be only a mile or two apart? There does not seem to be any rational explanation. It shows a lack of appreciation of the needs of country residents and is possibly the best argument for moving the headquarters of the Postmaster-General’s Department from the city of Melbourne to some rural area such as Canberra where the officers would come to closer grips with the true needs of country people. It is very satisfactory and convenient in the cities to be able to call the butcher, baker, doctor or friends and speak for an unlimited time for a charge of 4c. In the cities, 90% of the calls are made for social purposes; in the country areas, 90% of the calls are made for essential purposes. That is another point of difference between the telephone services in the country areas and those in the cities, and it should be brought home to those located in Melbourne who plan the services.
Another aspect of the telephone service in country areas is the charging distances.
When the extended local service area system was introduced the country was mapped out into districts and each district was subdivided into charging zones. No doubt every effort was made by the officers of the Department to ensure that subscribers within the trunk line charging zone were given the fairest possible treatment. But the fact is that the zones were limited to a maximum of 30 miles. This may be all right in the very closely settled districts but is certainly quite unrealistic in the less well populated districts. It would have been much wiser for the Department to have taken the limits of the wheat-sheep zones in Australia. They are very clearly defined limits. The Department could have said that within this area it would extend the charging zones from zero - 1 have forgotten what the smallest size of the zone is - to a maximum of 40 miles. If the radius of the charging zones were 40 miles as a maximum, where it is necessary to have such a limit, almost every settler out to the limits of the wheat and sheep zone in Australia could be accommodated. He could be given access by local call to his town, his doctor, his school and essential services. A maximum of 40 miles would solve most of the problems which we encounter from day to day in the country areas. A radius of 30 miles is completely unrealistic in the larger States of New South Wales, Queensland and Western Australia, particularly in the wheat and sheep zones where properties are so much larger and where towns are so much farther apart. Perhaps a limit of 30 miles is satisfactory in Victoria. I have not heard of any serious problems arising from a limit of 30 miles in that State. But I am continually encountering this problem in the western part of New South Wales. 1 know that it exists to perhaps an even greater degree in Queensland.
I urge the Postmaster-General to give consideration to applying a limit of 40 miles for local calls, where such a limit is necessary. I am sure that the maps could be redrawn to make this adjustment with comparative ease. Changes would have to be made only in certain cases and would have to be made only in the western parts of the region to which I have referred. 1 have said nothing about the pastoral zone, which is farther out, because I am sure that the only way in which we can provide this service to people who live in that area will be through some technical improvement. It will not be done by an extension of this zone charging pattern. I am confident that an extension of this service to outer areas will yield to proper treatment in the course of time. I have great hopes that in the course of time we will be able to provide proper telephone communications for people wherever they live in Australia and however sparsely settled their districts may be, because the rate of technological change is so great now that we can almost translate space fiction into real terms.
This afternoon I have spoken of some of the problems which I have encountered with the service provided by the Post Office. I have mentioned the mail and telephone problems which I am constantly coming up against and in which many cases appear to me to cause quite grievous distress and hardship to people who could be suitably accommodated with only a small change in the administration of the Post Office. I urge the Postmaster-General to take note of the various matters that I have raised and to give to them the sympathetic consideration that he has already given to the case of the soldier at Butterworth in Malaysia. I trust that soon we will see an improvement in the matters to which I have referred.
Finally I emphasise that I raise these matters now principally to illustrate the importance of parliamentary control of the Postmaster-General’s Department. It is through members of Parliament acting as representatives of the people, bringing for-‘ ward suggestions, and pointing out complaints and troubles in the way I have done today that we can keep the Post Office on its toes and ensure that it continues to provide us, as it has done over the years, with a service which is excellent by world standards. We all know that it is a. first rate service. It has always been able to command the close loyalty of its staff, contrary to the remarks made by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) this afternoon, which do not bear examination in the light. Our experience - I say ‘our’ because I know that it is an experience shared by other members - is that postal officers throughout the Commonwealth are dedicated to their work and to the service of the Australian community. That is the way we want it and that is the way they want it. The Post Office is a most praiseworthy institution.
Question put -
That the words proposed to be omitted (Mr Webb’s amendment) stand part of the question.
The House divided. (Mr Speaker - Hon. W. J. Aston)
Majority . . . . 27
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
– in reply - I do not propose to take long in replying becauseI am not going to regard this debate as if it were an Estimates debate and attempt to cover all the detailed items referred to by honourable members who have participated. Members of the Opposition have raised certain queries which I believe I should answer. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) entered the debate this afternoon and made one or two comments which perhaps require a brief answer. He referred to the principle on which interest is charged to the Post Office and said that it was a method of raising revenue for the Treasury. At page 50 of the Twelfth Report of the Public Accounts Committee the statement appears which was the basis for the appointment by the Government of an ad hoc committee. The Public Accounts Committee said:
The present basis of charges for interest on capital has long been anomolous. .
In view of that statement it seems that the comment of the Leader of the Opposition was intended merely to mislead. He later quoted from a letter written 2 years ago by the Commonwealth Postmasters’ Association which claimed that the Post Office was unable to provide as good a service as it once had. I completely disagree with that comment. I do not think it is necessary for me to cover all activities of the Post Office in order to prove my point.
The honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean) spoke in this debate last night. At page 1012 of Hansard he is reported as saying that the British Post Office has a target of 8% to be earned on capital. He said that in 1967 the earning rate of the Australian Post Office was 4.983%. I have to admit that that figure relates to the average rate of interest for 1966-67. However, in order to establish the appropriate return for that year, from that interest charge would have to be deducted the loss of $21. 5m for that year. After deduction of that loss the revenue which could be regarded as return - or surplus, if some prefer to put it that way - represented only 31/2%.
– The increased charges made by the Post Office will alterthat position.
– I am referring to 1966-67. It is clear from the figures I have given that the Australian Post Office was 4i% short of 8%. To have recovered that 4J% in order to bring the figure up to 8% would have required additional revenue of about $72m. I have mentioned that matter simply to correct a wrong impression that might have resulted from the honourable member’s comments. I come now to the comments of the honourable member for Stirling (Mr Webb), who has led for the Opposition in this debate. He referred to an employee who might cause damage and said that he could be held responsible to make good that damage. I refer the honourable member to the proposed section 139b (1.), which states:
An employee is never under an obligation to pay compensation. Liability rests always on the employer, who in this Bill is referred to as the ‘person’. Perhaps that explanation solves the honourable member’s problem. The honourable member also referred to proposed section 139c which relates to damaged property. I do not wish to appear niggardly in dealing with this matter. I am not suggesting that the honourable member dealt with it in that manner. As I explained in my second reading speech, very often we have difficulty in recovering compensation from people who damage Post Office property. As the law stands at the moment it does not give us the full power of recovery. I mentioned this matter particularly in my second reading speech because work is being done today for the Post Office by authorities other than ones which are covered by the law. Not long ago, I recall, a bulldozer did not have sufficient clearance to travel through a culvert under a railway line. The driver of the bulldozer simply dipped his blade 2 or 3 feet into the ground and made sufficient clearance. In doing so the blade interfered with PMG cable. A sign nearby pointed out the presence of the cable. It h not always easy to recover compensation. Surely that bulldozer operator must be accepted as the person responsible for the damage in such a situation.
The Post Office co-operates to the absolute maximum with every local authority in Australia and is prepared to co-operate with every person who makes inquiries about the location of Post Office facilities. Anybody wishing to work in a street - perhaps a contractor to a council - can obtain details from the council or the district engineer of the Post Office. It is necessary only to make contact. This Bill seeks to encourage the co-operation which is essential in this area. In some locations there are gas mains and water mains, and the PMG has responsibility for cable. If there is no co-operation untold damage can occur in some areas. The Bill therefore provides this extra precaution: If the person doing the work consults with the Department and gives it the opportunity to nominate someone to be there when the work is done, that person is then relieved of any responsibility for payment for damage.
The honourable member for Stirling made references to several matters relating to getting mail from a ship or onto a ship. I think it could be said that the same thing would apply in respect of aircraft, as this is provided for in the Bill. The honourable member mentioned that there had been consultation with the Australian Council of Trade Unions and, I think, with one or two other unions. He raised the question of what would be the attitude in respect of a black ban or an industrial dispute. He suggested that perhaps there ought to be some amendment to the Bill to provide for this. I do not want to become too legal about this matter but there are laws of the Commonwealth which declare certain industrial disputes to be illegal. If we were to make provision in this Bill for industrial disputes which are illegal then we would be legislating for something which is illegal. I do not think this would be an acceptable proposition to the Government or to the Opposition. As to the justification of any industrial dispute, I do not think this enters into the matter at this moment.
Honourable members will appreciate that during the Post Office dispute in January we tried to use the normal facilities for the movement of mail. The railways are common carriers and are contractors to the Post Office for the movement of mail. We delivered mail to the railways and when railway employees said that they would not handle it because it had been handled by other than union labour we did not insist on our rights under the law. We accepted the situation and no effort was made to insist upon railway employees handling mail. Exactly the same situation prevailed in relation to mail at the wharves, or more particularly in relation to mail carried by aircraft. There are members of the Transport Workers Union working on the tarmacs who are not members of the Post Office section of the union. There was no attempt on the part of the Post Office to force the issue on the tarmacs. I point out these things to indicate that there is no desire on our part, as may have been felt by some members of some unions for these clauses to be regarded in any way as an endeavour to overcome the problems which arise in an industrial dispute.
I think I explained in my second reading speech that there had been a problem in respect to a ship contracting to take Christmas mail from Australia to the old country. The ship left before it had loaded all the mail. We believe that a ship should be in a contract situation. If it contracts to take mail then it should do so irrespective of whether it is running late. It should not leave mail behind at our expense and at the expense, whether monetary or sentimental, of the community. Sentiment is involved in Christmas mail. A ship carrying mail has an obligation to the Australian public. Our obligation in the Post Office is to move the mail and make it available to the people to whom it is posted on behalf of those who post it.
The provisions of this Bill are aimed simply at ensuring that to our maximum capacity, quite unrelated to industrial disputes but in the normal course, we are able to achieve the result which we believe to be essential. The provisions of this Bill are not peculiar to Australian legislation. They are in the legislation of most countries, including New Zealand, the United States of America and the United Kingdom. Unless we have this type of control we can be held to ransom by the shipping companies. I do not think the honourable member for Stirling, or any other honourable member would believe that to be an appropriate situation for the Post Office, on behalf of the Government, to be in.
Question resolved in the affirmative. Bill read a second time.
– I refer to clause 6 which reads, in part:
Part II. of the Principal Act is repealed and the following Part inserted in its stead: “ Part II. - Carriage of Mail by Ships and Aircraft.
a requirement under the last preceding subsection has been made with respect to the carriage of mail on board a vessel from a port or place;
mail for carriage on the vessel is delivered alongside the vessel at that port or place, or to any other part of that port or place that is agreed upon between the officer who made the requirement and the person on whom the requirement was made, in sufficient time to permit the vessel, after taking the mail on board, to depart from that port or place not later than the intended time of departure at the time the requirement was made; and
In paragraph (b) of proposed section 67 (2.) after made’, second appearing, insert ‘, not later than a time so agreed or, if no time is so agreed’.
This is merely a machinery matter about which no comment is needed from me.
Amendment agreed to.
Bill, as amended, agreed to.
Bill reported with an amendment; report - by leave - adopted.
Bill (on motion by Mr Hulme) - by leave - read a third time.
Sitting suspended from 5.53 to 8 p.m.
– by leave - Perhaps nowhere more dramatically than in our own sphere of interest in South East Asia are we in the grip of history in the making. The colonial era has gone. Newly independent nations have risen. The British have taken decisions about their forces east of Suez which, for so long, have meant so much to the stability and security of our part of the world. Communist China has emerged as a major power with a developing nuclear capability. Vietnam is still an unfinished chapter in history. In these circumstances, Australia must make its response in its own present and long term interests. The decisions that fall to be made in this rapidly changing situation are not to be taken without the most thoroughgoing study. Some cannot be taken because of uncertainties still1 persisting as a result of the British decisions. The coming five power talks should help to resolve those uncertainties.
There has been lively debate on the defence aspects of these issues, on our involvement in Vietnam and the likely consequences of the British decisions. Questions have been raised. about the merits of our forward defence posture; whether the needs of regional defence might be met by garrison forces, .by contributing to the training of local forces, or by mobile forces capable of swift deployment as required; the value of our treaties; how much of our national resources should be devoted to defence; the nature of our changing relations with New Zealand; and the state of our defence preparedness.
Before 1 proceed, 1. wish to mention two matters, to me of some consequence. Firstly few appear willing to concede that silence is essential to much being considered or done in the defence field and is not indicative of failure to perceive, let alone cope with, the problems that face us. Next, it is in the nature of things that achievement earns little acclaim. But the fact is that over the last 10 years a first class and highly effective job of increasing, training and re-equipping our fighting forces has been done by those concerned with defence - civilians and servicemen alike: I believe their efforts ought to be widely applauded.
Our whole nation should be proud of the performance, in peace and war, of our Defence Services. It would be a boost to their morale to have it acknowledged. Whether on land or sea, or in the air, whether national servicemen, regular servicemen or members of the Citizen Military Forces, our men and women have done their duly steadfastly, courageously and competently - in a way that merits the nation’s admiration. The Government believes this. I believe the Parliament as a whole, and the Australian people, believe this. This needs to be emphasised.
On Vietnam, Australia’s military contribution to the struggle for peace and security accords with our capacity and national interest. The Government has supported United States bombing of North Vietnam. We have equally supported the numerous peace initiatives of the United States. We have accepted the reduction of bombing as another and more powerful encouragement towards an end of hostilities, lt is a ‘measure of the sincerity of our search for peace that the bombing of North Vietnam has been reduced and the prospect held out that other steps could follow. We would ourselves be prepared to support even further reductions, consistent with the safety of our forces. It would be reasonable to expect that those reductions would be conditional on reciprocal steps being taken by the other side - in accordance with the San Antonio formula. It is a measure of the effectiveness of the bombing that the reduction decided on was sufficient to bring a response, however preliminary, from Hanoi. Now we are witnessing another attempt to bring about talks that might lead to a solution in Vietnam. This is a time when we must watch, both hopefully and carefully, all moves that are made.
I say no more at this stage than that whatever situation ultimately emerges in Vietnam will have a positive and direct bearing on our defence effort, and the disposition of this country’s forces. Conceivably, situations could arise which would call for a complete re-appraisal of our strategic situation. Hopefully, we would look forward to the progressive development of regional security arrangements amongst the nations of South East Asia, for only in regional peace can there be a guarantee of those conditions essential to development - economic, social and political - among those who need it so much.
No-one could assert that a progressive reduction in the British military presence in the Far East was not inevitable. Certainly, successive modifications in the last 2 years of the plans presented by the British Government in February 1966 have measurably increased the pressure upon us to consider the problems facing Australia.
The critical development was the sudden decision, only 3 months ago, to compress greatly the period within which the British withdrawal should take place.
But even with the decision of last January before us, we should remember that post 1971 Britain will still not have renounced all her interests in our part of the world. She is not withdrawing from the South East Asia Treaty Organisation. She has not taken the line that never again will her forces be deployed, or be engaged in exercises, in the area with which we are most concerned. On the contrary, the British Government has stated that the United Kingdom will sustain its interest in the stability of South East Asia. The British Minister for Defence contemplates a continuation of training exercises in the Singapore and Malaysia area. But having said this, the last British decisions vastly change the conditions in which Australia must fashion and apply her own defence policy. I would not wish to minimise the importance of these changes.
Following the British announcement of last January, the tempo of our study of the implications of the British decisions was stepped up. We sent to Malaysia and Singapore a team from the Defence complex of departments to make a thoroughgoing reconnaissance of facilities and installations’, to secure the data on which various alternative plans might be based. More recently, representatives of each of the three Services have participated with Malaysian and Singaporean representatives in detailed technical studies of particular military aspects initiated by the CommanderinChief, Far East, who is, of course, also the Commander of the Commonwealth Strategic Reserve. Now we are preparing for five-power talks involving Malaysia, Singapore, the United Kingdom, New Zealand and Australia, which are scheduled to take place in Kuala Lumpur in early June. To date we have taken no decisions. Final decisions cannot be taken until after the five power talks. Indeed no final conclusions may emerge from those talks. They might be the forerunner of others. At this stage I may only make several observations.
Nobody imagines that Australia could, or should, take over the present British role or commitments in Malyasia and Singapore.
These grew out of Britain’s position as a colonial power. Whatever our role there may prove to be, it must be in the setting of co-operation between and with the governments and peoples of Singapore and Malaysia. Their primary interest in the preservation of peace and security and the promotion of development within the region belongs to them, and because of this, the need for close and co-operative defence arrangements between them is evident. So, if we are to maintain a military presence in the area, it must he in the context of a total co-operative effort, involving all five powers to be represented at the June conference. We would not visualise our participation as being against anybody. Rather it would be for the preservation of peace, stability and development in an area which vitally affects Australia’s interests. We would be looking to the day when truly regional co-operative arrangements would extend beyond Malaysia and Singapore.
Moreover, it should hot be assumed that any contribution we may make would necessarily retain the form or composition, or be maintained at the levels, of the forces presently in Malaysia and Singapore. It would seem sensible that any contribution on our part should be directed to areas where the growing capability of the Malaysian and Singaporean forces most needs help. There can equally be no assumptions about the period during which any contribution we may make would be sustained.
I conclude, on this matter, thai at the five power talks we will be prepared, as indicated in the Governor-General’s Speech, to discuss the size and role of any contribution to combined defence arrangements which embrace a joint Malaysia and Singapore defence effort.
Through all of the studies arising from the British Defence Reviews over the past 2 years, Australia and New Zealand ha/e kept in the closest possible touch - through the exchange of papers, frequent visits at ministerial, official and Service- level. New Zealand officers were members of the reconnaissance teams which recently visited Malaysia and Singapore. Discussion; on matters of mutual interest arising, continue. F see in this, practical expression of a growing accord with our partners across the Tasman, in defence as in other directions.
Australia and New Zealand have what approaches an identity of strategic interests. It is expressed in common membership in SEATO, ANZUS and ANZAM, in which we share common aims and work closely together. In two major wars - in Korea, and now in Vietnam - our common interests have been expressed in common military effort. For a decade past, both countries have contributed forces to the Strategic Reserve. lt has long been the aim of our policy to develop close co-operation with New Zealand in all matters affecting defence, and the extent to which this has already been achieved may not be generally realised. Each country maintains defence staffs in the capital city of the other. Defence planning, intelligence and equipment policy papers are freely exchanged between the two countries. The Australian Services assist in the training of- New Zealand personnel at the Royal Australian Naval College, the Royal Military College, and the Officer Cadet College, our staff colleges and a variety of other schools and technical courses. Elements of New Zealand forces participate regularly in exercises with all three Australian Services. There are officerexchange arrangements between the two countries. In New Zealand recently, I offered exchanges of Australian and New Zealand civilian and Service officers in our respective Departments of Defence. The Government of New Zealand welcomed the offer for consideration.
On the supply side, Australia and New Zealand look to standardisation of equipment wherever practicable. The two countries have, for example, Canberra. Hercules and Orion aircraft in common. While New Zealand has looked to the United Kingdom for much of its defence supply, because of its traditional trade and other links with that country, there have been important and growing purchases from Australia. It may well be that economic circumstances will encourage New Zealand increasingly to regard Australia as a source of supply. We would welcome such a move, but accept that it would impose upon us an obligation to develop more actively arrangements for joint or reciprocal defence production.
Three years ago, I had the pleasure of extending to the New Zealand Government an invitation to attach scientists and/or technicians to our defence research and production organisations here in Australia, and generally invite them to avail themselves of such Australian technology and experience as would be useful to them. I believe that such an arrangement could be widely beneficial to New Zealand in her already growing industrial competence. It seems inevitable that events in South East Asia will draw our two countries still closer together in defence, and that this will be to the benefit of us both.
The 3-year period of the current defence programme which has yielded so much in terms of strengthened and re-equipped defence Services, will end next June. While the content of a further 3-year programme to follow has been under study, a number of factors, including the uncertainties which surround the still fluid situation in Malaysia and Singapore, makes it undesirable to go firm on the future at this stage. This does not mean a cessation of, or any loss of continuity in, defence planning. It does not mean that the process of maximising the capability of our defence forces is to be halted. It does mean adaptation of planning to changing circumstances. It does mean that it is, at present, premature to make a final choice between various possible plans. In the meantime, the defence expansion of the unprecendented kind we have had in recent years has a momentum which will carry on. Some orders placed for new equipment, and some approvals given for the raising of new units, have yet to become fully effective. Expenditure generated by the present 3-year programme has still to be brought to account.
May I run briefly over what has been achieved over the last 3 years. In November 1964, the then Prime Minister announced the Government’s decision to introduce national service. He also outlined proposals to strengthen the Service in terms of manpower, ships, aircraft, and military equipment of all kinds. For the 3-year period ending June 1968, in all the programme was estimated to cost $2,44 lm.
Events added new obligations. At the beginning of the period, we had forces deployed in operations in both Borneo and South Vietnam. In 1965 we added to the Army training team in Vietnam a battalion, built this up to a battalion group later in that year, to a two-battalion task force by the middle of 1966, and finally towards the end of 1967 to the three-battalion task force with tanks and artillery presently deployed in South Vietnam. The air component was similarly built up over the period to a force consisting of a Canberra bomber squadron, a squadron of Caribou, and a squadron of Iroquois helicopters. Naval assistance was added by the attachment to the United States Seventh Fleet of a newly purchased guided missile destroyer, a clearance diving team and naval pilots. Other changes and additions were made to the original defence programme, the cost of which now seems likely to be $2,8 13m for the period to 30th June next. Of this amount, expenditure on ships, aircraft, weapons, vehicles, machinery and plant and other equipment for the Services and for the Departments of Defence and Supply will total $l,094m.
The national service scheme has been an unqualified success.
– You are the only Minister who has ever said that.
– The right honourable member will have his chance to speak later.
– Order! The right honourable member for Melbourne will come to order.
– It has provided the Army with the strength it needed to carry out the role allotted to it, where no other form of recruitment could have done so. National servicemen have been integrated with voluntary regulars, without distinction either in conditions of service, or training, or indeed in anything else. In their Service life, the two are indistinguishable. They are simply Australian soldiers, all doing a thoroughly professional and praiseworthy job.
The number of regular servicemen now stands at 64,150 and should reach 65,400 by June of this year. The Pacific Islands Regiment is now approaching a strength of 2,400. Altogether, the numbers in the Services on full-time duty will have risen by 27,600 over the past three years, to a total of 83,750. During this period also, the Citizen Forces will have increased by 9,300 and the Emergency Reserve by 1,750.
The Navy has taken delivery of three Charles F. Adams class guided missile destroyers. The destroyer tender ‘Stalwart’ was commissioned last February, the first of the Oberon submarines was commissioned in March 1967, and the second has just been commissioned. Eleven of twenty patrol boats being built in Australia will also have been delivered. Two more type 12 escort ships are due for completion in 1969. Two more submarines are building and the balance of nine patrol boats h duc for delivery by the middle of next year. In aircraft, the Navy has now received its 10 Skyhawk fighter bombers and 14 Trackers. The aircraft carrier HMAS ‘Melbourne’ is currently undergoing an extensive refit. The Australian designed anti-submarine missile system, Ikara, has been installed in four of the type 12 escorts that are in commission, and in the guided missile destroyer Perth’. On behalf of the Royal Navy, research and development on the Ikara system continue, and we are currently engaged in a vigorous effort to sell the system to the United States Navy.
Army expenditure on capital equipment will have covered a wide variety of weapons, ammunition, transport, equipment and stores. Some of the more significant purchases include light aircraft and helicopters, armoured personnel carriers, surface to air man-portable guided missiles, man-pack radios and counter mortar radar sets. Material changes and additions have been made to the RAAF’s aircraft inventory during the last 3 years. Eighty-eight of the Mirage fighters on order will be delivered by June next. Delivery has been taken of ten dual Mirage trainer aircraft. The programme is on time and within the estimate.
The production of the Macchi jet trainer is now well under way: twenty-one will have been delivered by June. Twelve Hercules CI30E transport aircraft were delivered on schedule and the Orion antisubmarine aircraft will have been received by June. Eight HS748 trainers, in replacement of the Dakota navigational trainer, will come into service in the latter half of 1968. Eight of twenty-two Iroquois helicopters on order have been delivered ;>nd the balance should be on hand by the end of June of this year. Production of the twenty-four F111C fighter bomber aircraft is on schedule and all twenty-four are expected to be delivered between July and December of this year.
– At last.
– For the pleasure of my honourable friends opposite I will have more to say about the Fill later. One of the two portable control and reporting radar units on order have been delivered.
Industrial backing for defence has been strengthened by the growth of Australian industry during the past 3 years. Specialist capacity in government munitions factories has also been augmented in important respects. One example is the establishment of the guided weapons repair and maintenance facility. The Government’s prime concern is to ensure that its forces are equipped with the most modern weapons appropriate to our needs, and within resources which can be prudently set aside for the purpose. As far as is practicable, the equipment requirements of Australian forces and the repair and maintenance of that equipment are met from Australian sources.
In some cases, the quantities of highly complex equipment that we need are so small that the cost of development, tooling and production would be completely prohibitive. In these cases, importation is indicated, with the establishment of domestic facilities for repair and maintenance. There are other cases in which the cost of equipment from domestic sources may be two or three times the price of imports, without introducing either new technology or experience into Australian industry. Here again, normal international trading considerations must apply. I believe that the development of modern technology and the application of advanced techniques, generally first demanded in the defence field, bring benefits to Australian industry, and to the extent that these benefits are reasonably attainable, they are eagerly sought.
Research and development, in relation to military equipment, are tremendously expensive, particularly when applied to Australia’s small requirement, and the cost of research must be prudently contained. But this does not mean that there is no scope for Australia. Indeed, there are some notable examples of Australian development and production which have enriched industry. I would instance Malkara of earlier years; the Jindivik pilotless target aircraft system, still earning foreign currency for Australia; and more recently the Ikara weapons system, in which something over 250 Australian sub-contractors participated, to give the Australian Navy the world’s most advanced anti-submarine weapons system.
Australia’s participation in Project Mallard is another illustration. This project is for the design, development and production of a tactical communications system, in which the United States, Britain, Canada and Australia are interested. For its success, Project Mallard will demand the development of new techniques in the electronics field, and the broad application of the most modern technology. Australia will be both contributor and beneficiary. The current phase of the project calls for competitive systems studies, four of which, within this country’s technical competence, have been awarded in Australia. Relevant to what I will say later about the Fill project, it is prudent to point out here and now that Project Mallard will call for a considerable amount of research and development. There will therefore be a degree of uncertainty about final costs, which the Government accepts as justified because of the necessity of our participation.
The alternatives here were that we joined with our American, British and Canadian allies in the development of the free world’s tactical communications system - with all of its advantages - and accepted a share of the essential costs of research and development, or that we opted out of the arrangement altogether. In the latter case, when the system went into service we would have found ourselves obliged to buy at commercial prices, which would cover the cost of research and development - receiving none of the benefits from participating in that research - or alternatively we would have been limping along behind our allies, with inferior, and perhaps incompatible, military communications. This is the kind of dilemma which increasingly faces governments in respect of modern defence preparations.
Since World War II Australia has developed a defence scientific service of high competence. A substantial part of this has been employed in scientific support of the Australian Services, but the larger part of our capacity has, to date, been used in support of British development of guided weapons and related technologies. From this, considerable benefits have accrued to Australia. The whole of our defence science activity is now under close review. This carries with it no intention to duplicate scientific work done overseas, merely for domestic prestige. Nor have we any intention of attempting to cover all areas of technical development. We do, however, need a vigorous scientific effort to harness world developments to our own military needs - always subject to the limitation imposed by resources available to us for this purpose. As well, we have reached a point where Australia needs, and is able to take, more independent initiatives in the solution of military problems.
I come now to that prospective powerful addition to this country’s defence strength, almost invariably described by the Press as the controversial’ Fill. I pause to recall that Mr Roger Lewis, President of the General Dynamics Corporation - the manufacturers - giving evidence before one of the unending succession of political inquiries into this project in the United States, said that whatever his company did was controversial, in that projects undertaken generally ranged far ahead of present technology, and looked to performance which would greatly advance the present state of the art. The problems encountered in this kind of endeavour are not readily understandable by the layman, and the skill and persistence of scientists and engineers are completely under-valued in the solutions which are then accepted as a matter of course. The Fill project has encountered its full measure of this kind of misunderstanding.
On the Fill, memories are short. I propose to refresh them. Since its inception, the Fill project has been under constant criticism, here in Australia arising generally from political opportunism, and in the United States for this and other reasons which seem to be adequate to the critics, but which are nevertheless largely irrelevant to our interests and concern. If I should appear to introduce a political note into this recital, it is only towards the restoration of some objectivity in our consideration and to prevent irrelevant, unfounded and uninformed criticism from continuing to obscure the facts about a project which will contribute so greatly to this country’s future military security.
I propose to traverse the history of the project, deal with the criticism, expose tha error, attract attention to the difficulties, and leave it to the Australian people - to whose defence the Fill is I believe a valuable addition - to judge whether or not the project is sound, and has been as well managed as the circumstances I will establish permit.
– Does it fly?
– I do hope the Opposition members will listen carefully to this recital. They are ignorant enough on this subject and they need the instruction.
The decision to purchase the Fills was no panic operation. Our Canberra bombers went into service with the Royal Australian Air Force in 1953. In the late 1950s it became clear that the Canberras were becoming progressively more vulnerable as modern defence systems developed. Nevertheless, the Government of the day had to give a greater priority to other defence equipment programmes. In June 1963 a RAAF mission was sent overseas. In August 1963 the mission reported a detailed evaluation of five aircraft, including the British TSR2 and the TFX- now the Fill - and concluded that of all the aircraft evaluated, it was clear that the TFX should meet the Air Staff requirement in almost every respect and, if considered in isolation, should be the logical choice of aircraft with which to replace the Canberra. However, in view of the production time scale for the Fill aircraft, then known to the RAAF mission, and a deteriorating strategic situation, it turned to the purchase of another type, the RA5C. It is valid to point out that, had aircraft of this other type been purchased - their estimated cost was $US196m - our defence would now be firmly attached to an aircraft, able barely to meet our requirements when it was first considered. The Government of the day took the view that the urgency for the replacement of the Canberra was not such as to deny procurement of the aircraft best suited to our needs. Subsequent events have confirmed the prudence of that decision.
In the event, the then Prime Minister, on 24th October 1963 announced the Government’s decision, accepting a proposal put forward by the Secretary of Defence in the United States, Mr Robert McNamara, in the course of personal negotiations with our then Minister for Defence, under which his Government offered to supply twenty-four FI IIA aircraft to Australia, according equal priority with deliveries to the United States, at a general order of magnitude of cost, based on a production run of 1,500 aircraft, which was then estimated to be approximately $US125m to cover the aircraft, the first year’s spares, ground handling equipment and crew training. The offer made by Mr McNamara, obviously with great sympathy for our position, took account of a number of potential difficulties. There was firstly the question of whether the aircraft would finally go into production, and then the problems of earlier delivery and price. Secondly, there was the tremendously important’ question of interim protection if our strategic situation should deteriorate before delivery of the Fill occurred.
These negotiations produced a virtual guarantee of production and an offer of delivery of the aircraft as early as 1967, should we so desire, on a priority basis equal to that of the United States Armed Forces, from the first production aircraft, a hitherto unheard-of arrangement with a major operational aircraft. Thirdly, it gave us a price formula under which we would pay only the average unit cost of development and production of the aircraft based on the total production run, the cost being as determined at the time of delivery of our last aircraft and not as calculated on actual costs as at the time of delivery, lt offered us the use, on loan until the Fill deliveries commenced, of the American B47E, although, in the event, we did not take up this offer. It provided for a cooperative logistic arrangement, linking the United States and Australian supply systems, under which we are able to draw our spare parts directly from the inventory of the United States Services. Finally, financial arrangements enabling us to spread the cost of the purchase were offered. The Government was familiar with the risks, particularly price risks, in committing itself to a developmental project of this nature.
It could have waited until the position was clearer, sacrificed early delivery of the aircraft, and in doing so, taken perhaps a serious risk with the security of this country. The Government did not think this was acceptable.
Let me look firstly at the need for an aircraft of this kind in Australia’s defence inventory. The Air Staff requirement of 1963 looked forward to an aircraft of the Fill’s capability. The requirement was written for the future, and not alone with relevance to the circumstances of the time. This should surely answer the sometimes heard criticism that we have no use for a strike reconnaissance aircraft of the F111C type and that somehow it is a mistake to proceed with the project. The inference is that, within the life of the aircraft, in one of the world’s most turbulent areas, of vital concern to Australia’s future, no situation could arise demanding the use of strike reconnaissance aircraft of the Fill’s capability. It would be folly of the worst kind not to provide against such a possibility. It is a risk no responsible Government could take.
Every reasonable appreciation of the strategic position in our sphere of interest supports the need for a strike reconnaissance aircraft capability. If there should be lingering doubts about the suitability of the FI 1 1 for this role, it is worth noticing that the United Kingdom, certainly not inexperienced in air warfare, proposed to deploy their Fill’s into South East Asia. The cancellation of their order in no way invalidates their assessment of the aircraft’s capability. As is well known, the Fill is in service with the USAF in South East Asia. Regrettably three aircraft have been lost in operations, lt is public knowledge that in one case the loss was due to avoidable causes having nothing to do with the aircraft itself. As to the other two, the House would not expect me to go into details. I merely say that, if it is established that the cause had anything to do with the functioning of the aircraft, it will be rectified - with profound respect for American technology, of that I am sure. Australia has an established need for strike reconnaissance capacity best provided by the F111C
Let me now turn to costs. Here a criticism which might be accepted by the Government is that it should have been more sceptical of the order of magnitude figure of $US125m. But I point out the Government’s awareness that the cost of the Fill, to use Mr McNamara’s description, was a general order of magnitude of cost. The purchase of the alternative operational aircraft, the RA5C, which is subject to early obsolescence, was prudently put aside in favour of an advanced weapons concept which would meet this country’s needs, perhaps into the 1980s, although the Government was aware that the tremendous research and development component might push the price forward. It is relevant to point out, in this latter regard, that the Anglo-French Concorde began with an estimated research and development component of £130m sterling. The cost is now expected to exceed £500m sterling. This and any number of similar experiences in the field of advanced weapons technology indicate that modern technology must be expected to be tremendously expensive.
As the House will be aware, an agreement was subsequently reached with the United States authorities that $US5.95m would be the ceiling price of the aircraft in fly away condition, subject to escalation of labour costs and materials after April 196S, modifications requested by us such as the longer wings and stronger undercarriage we have ordered which are estimated to cost approximately $3m, and modifications proposed by the United States and accepted by us costing approximately $US100,000 per aircraft. Putting aside the modifications sought by us, which most certainly we must pay for, it is not possible to say at this juncture whether the ceiling price quoted will be pierced by the application of the provisos I have just mentioned. However, our last advice from the United States authorities was that the ceiling price would not be pierced. This permits me to make another completely valid comparison. It is to compare the Fill, a highly complex military weapons system of quite outstanding performance, at a fly away cost of SUS5.95m with the fly away cost including all fittings of a Boeing 727 civil aircraft at $US5.l4m or of a DC9 at SUS3.98m. Surely no reasonable observer, having an appreciation of relative military and civil performance, could regard the cost of the FU’, as other than reasonable.
I turn now to other costs associated with the project. First of all, there is the supporting equipment and services, including spare engines, spare parts, test equipment and ground handling equipment, simulaters and other training equipment, the cost of training crews overseas, the production of technical data and publications for the aircraft and its equipment, delivery and other incidental costs. It is in this area that major cost increases have occurred. The indications are that the cost of these items will be in the order of $US120m. There is a simple explanation for much of this. The decision was taken to procure more equipment than was in the minds of the Americans when the original deal was made, and for two reasons. Firstly, extra equipment was required to enable the aircraft to be deployed away from their home base at Amberley, to deploy them to any area of strategic interest to us, to confront any threat that may arise. This meant duplication of test equipment and other items. Next we needed extra equipment to enable us to maintain the aircraft in this country with the support of the Australian aircraft industry. This was the counterpart of equipment readily available to the United States in the factories of the manufacturers. The Government believed that the course decided on was essential in relation to an aircraft which will be so powerful a deterrent to hostile military adventures in our sphere of interest.
I point out that there are 75,000 individual and separate items in the inventory of spares and ground handling equipment. Understandably, to provide the inventory has been a tedious and demanding task, and this has contributed to our inability to put a final figure on the costs of this element. Let me now come to the reconnaissance element of the project, since the reconnaissance version is essential to the effective use of the Fill. As the House knows, the plan we had in mind was to return six of our aircraft to the United States in 1970 to be fitted with equipment which will permit the six aircraft to be used, either in a strike or reconnaissance role. Research and development on this equipment is still under way and final figures for reconnaissance equipment and retrofitting charges and services will not be available until 1970, although the present estimate of $US34m, which allows generously for contingencies, is believed on the closest possible consideration to be adequate to meet the programme.
Bringing together all the figures, and subject to the qualifications that 1 have indicated, the total cost of the Fills with their equipment should be of the order of $US300m or, in Australian currency, $266m. lt could be less; it could be more - for the reasons I have given. But clearly the area within which changes either way may occur should be small. As at 31st March, the Department of Air had entered into commitments amounting to $US236m.
The figures we have been discussing relate to the original offer by the United States and 1 have sought to compare like with like. However, there are other costs associated with Air Force weapon and service development which could, from one point of view, be put down to the FI 1 1 but which sooner or later would have been necessary as we proceeded to develop our Air Force capability. The costs I have given for the Fill make provision for one particular weapon. As weapon development proceeds we will, no doubt, from time to time consider the purchase of more modern weapons so as to increase the effectiveness of the aircraft. This we would be doing with any aircraft we possessed, and as well a number of the weapons might be used on other of our aircraft.
The housing of the new aircraft and supporting equipment calls for improvements to facilities at Amberley, which will be the home base for the Fills. Consideration is being given to further runway extensions at Amberley to upgrade the safety factor for the FI 1 ls and their crews during certain phases of training. Provisions of these kinds have to be made for any new operational aircraft joining the RAAF. What is done, will of course have permanent value to the Air Force and be adaptable to Service aircraft into the distant future. Indeed, some of the facilities have been designed specifically to meet the requirements of other aircraft in the Air Force inventory, and the costs of these and other improvements should not, therefore, be attributed entirely even to the support of the Fill project.
This, then, is the story of the Fills, the first of which will be delivered to us in the United States of America in July and will fly in Australian skies in September. That the cost of introducing the FIJI into the RAAF has been high serves dramatically to point up the cost of modern defence equipment in a field where second best is not nearly good enough. But the facts indicate that Australia has a need for the kind of capability into the future, that the cost of the aircraft is not unreasonable having regard to its role and performance, and that the cost of spares and ground handling equipment is the price we pay for the ability to deploy the system wherever it is needed and to maintain a reasonable degree of national independence in repairs and maintenance of our own equipment. One thing is certain - the Fill provides for Australia a strike reconnaissance capacity ahead of that of any other aircraft now flying or known to be in production. It will immeasurably strengthen our defences through the 1 970s and beyond.
The resources that can, from time to lime, be devoted to defence are for consideration by the Government at the appropriate time. Normally this is at budget time. In this statement it is proper that I make some observations of principle. Strong and diverse as our economic base is, there is a limit to what we can do in the defence field. Clearly there is a point beyond which allocation of resources to military activities become counter-productive. The ordinary purposes of growth will be prejudiced if too much manpower, equipment and materials are devoted to defence purposes, and, of course, every development of our natural resources, every strengthening of our industrial potential, adds to our defence capability.
But there is one particular aspect which must be emphasised. Defence in its modern forms grows more and more costly in point of resources. If we are to have the latest and best in combat equipment, much of it has to be purchased overseas and at high cost. Our overseas defence expenditure this year, largely for equipment, will reach $350m and next year, in all probability, it will be higher. Although the defence credits we have obtained are helping to defer the liability, the whole account has to be settled sooner or later for cash and out of our earnings abroad.
Fortunately, these recent years of rapid defence expansion have seen remarkable developments, especially in mining, which have raised, and will still further raise, our export earning capacity. But even as the United States has found, and the United Kingdom has found, our balance of payments problems must be constantly in our minds as we consider our defence programmes. So far we have succeeded fairly well in combining a large defence effort with a high rate of domestic economic expansion. It could not be said that defence has so far imposed a serious pinch on our economy; but a sharp down-turn in export earnings, or a falling away of capital inflow could fairly quickly show up the real weight of our external defence commitments and demand close examination of national priorities.
It is proper that I should say something at this time under the general heading of defence administration. Operational and technological factors tend to pull the Services closer together and to blur the traditional distinctions between those who fight in the respective environments of the sea, the land or the air. We are carefully studying movements towards Service integration in other countries, particularly in Canada where a quite revolutionary change has established a unified defence force. We, however, retain the conviction, at this stage at least, that the separate identities of the three Services should be preserved. But this does not mean that, in every respect, the status quo should be maintained.
I mention two current studies of particular interest directed to the development of a common outlook in the three Services and recognition of the interdependence of their roles. Last year I announced the appointment of a special committee, chaired by Sir Leslie Martin, which had been given the task of developing a plan for the establishment of a Joint Service College to provide tertiary level education for officer cadets of all three Services. The study is now well advanced and I would expect shortly to have final proposals for evaluation. In these, provision will need to be made for the transitional period prior to the establishment of a Joint College.
Under the Joint College concept which we have in mind, officer cadets of all three Services would work together at the outset of their careers in many aspects of their education and training. Working, living and constantly mixing together must tend to break down Service differences, develop a deeper awareness of the problems of Australian defence as a whole, and create common bonds of comradeship between the cadets who, themselves, will be the senior officers of tomorrow. But, of course, further training of a joint Service nature is required - in particular, to train selected Service officers for joint Service staff and command appointments. With the growth of the defence Services, it is both logical and highly desirable that staff training requirements of all three Services should be provided for at one location - preferably in Canberra where the Defence Departments are established.
The proposal now being studied is to establish, in Canberra, an Australian Service Staff College, which would provide in the one complex for both single Service and joint Service training. It would be a second important step in shaping the outlook of our forces for the future. Detailed planning is now proceeding.
Changes in the joint planning arrangements centred in my Department are under close consideration. Much of the work now carried out by present committee machinery would, I believe, in future, be better done by planning and executive staffs of mixed civilian and Service composition - with the tours of duty of the Service personnel being rather longer than the present two year rule. A working party study of present joint intelligence arrangements and means of improving this is in an advanced stage. Progress has been made in integrating activities in the medical and dental fields. In another area we are working towards a common code of discipline applicable to all three Services and towards a common series of arrangements for the conduct of investigations into Service matters.
The foregoing are illustrative only of the efforts we are making to improve the efficiency of our forces and the defence machinery at large - all directed to obtaining the best value from the resources devoted to our defence effort.
Our forces are in good shape. In the light of developments it is clear that we have made the right choices in the equipment we have selected. But the future carries many uncertainties. We start from our alliances, but I do believe that within their framework we must more and more contribute our own independent judgment of situations and act accordingly. In the defence sense, Australia has now fully come of age.
The South East Asian region is Australia’s strategic environment. The security of Australia itself is intimately affected by developments in the region to our near north. We cannot but be concerned with the stability and security of the South East Asian region as a whole. Our concern extends, of course, far beyond merely military matters. We want to see, in South East Asia, free and independent countries, with developing economies and progressive societies. Necessarily, any great change for the worse in the conditions of South East Asia would equally be a change for the worse in respect to our own ultimate security.
In relating our continuing objectives of South East Asian security and stability to changing circumstances, we shall be guided by our independent judgment of what best serves Australian interest. We recognise and welcome the importance our neighbours attach to regional security. Doubtless, in relation to this, there will be a part for us lo play. I present the following paper:
Defence - Ministerial Statement, 2 May 1968.
Motion (by Mr Snedden) proposed:
That the House take note of the paper.
Motion (by Mr Snedden) agreed to:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the honourable member for Bass speaking without limitation of time.
– Mr Speaker, early in his statement the Minister for Defence (Mr Fairhall) made an extraordinary claim. I quote:
This is the essence of the Minister’s statement and the essence of the Government’s attitude to informing the Parliament and the public of its defence policies. The Minister certainly believes that silence is essential in the area of defence policies.
The Opposition does not accept this assumption and we expect complete frankness by the Government to this Parliament and to the people. There are many examples of the Government’s failure to inform the people of the implications of defence decisions. Far too much information about Australia’s purchases and policies has to be gleaned from reading overseas technical journals. I cite as a noble example the joint defence space research facilities now being built at Pine Gap in the Northern Territory. This was announced by the Minister for Defence in a brief statement in December 1966 which gave not the slightest indication of the significance of the project. It was reported in the American technical journal ‘Aerospace Technology’ that the project would cost $US225m - roughtly three times as much as the North West Cape radio station. If the defence correspondent of the “Financial Review’ had not noticed that item and publicised its implications, the public would have remained completely unenlightened about the significance of this immense project which has been described by Aerospace Technology’ as the most sophisticated military space installation outside the United States. The magazine also stated that the installation might well play an important role in future United States detection and interception of missiles. The suppression of important facts about projects such as the Pine Gap one is the sort of silence that the Minister for Defence considers essential if defence policy is to function. That is only one example. The Opposition strenuously resists this attitude and insists on maximum disclosure of what vitally affects the Australian people.
The Minister’s statement appears to be an interim substitute - and a very pallid substitute it is - for the 3-year defence review which was due in November last year. Honourable members will recall the last review made by Sir Robert Menzies in November 1964. The Opposition disagreed completely with much of that review, but we acknowledged its comprehensiveness. The same acknowledgement cannot be made for the very sketchy outline given by the Minister in this House tonight. His reasons for delaying the 3-year review are not convincing.
I do not want to refer at any length to the Minister’s comments on Vietnam, which has been debated recently in this House. He does make some incredible statements on the reduction of bombing. He says:
We have accepted the reduction of bombing as another and more powerful encouragement towards an end of hostilities.
This statement is ludicrous in the light of the Minister’s repeated and fervent advocacy of the bombing. Honourable members will recall how the Minister for Defence and his colleague, the Minister for External Affairs (Mr Hasluck), were humiliated and discredited on their statements in this House when President Johnson announced the unilateral reduction in the areas of North Vietnam which would be bombed. The Minister for Defence then revealed himself as completely uninformed on changing United States attitudes to the bombing. Although President Johnson has said that the reduction of target areas is a unilateral gesture and no reciprocal action is expected, the Minister sticks to the San Antonio formula which no longer applies. He says that it is a measure of the effectiveness of the bombing that the reduction decided on was sufficient to bring a response, however preliminary, from Hanoi. In other words, the Minister is completely intransigent on his attitude to the bombing. He fails to see that strategic bombing of this sort is futile; that it has the effect of stiffening resistance of the civilian population.
I turn now to the Minister’s account of the British withdrawal from the Far East. The Minister says that no-one could assert that the progressive reduction of the British presence was not inevitable. The Australian Government certainly seems to have considered up to the last moment that the British withdrawal was not inevitable. We all recall the great blaze of enlightenment which produced a panic response when the British determination to withdraw finally came home to the Government. The Minister seems to be clinging to the fond hope that Britain will not renounce all her interests in the Far East; that she remains a member of the South East Asia Treaty Organisation. Any virtue this may have is nullified by the impotence of SEATO in this region today.
The Minister says with unconcious irony that, in accordance with the announcement of British withdrawal in January, the tempo of the Government’s study of its implications was stepped up. It should have been obvious to defence authorities for many years that Britain’s withdrawal was inevitable, and contingency planning should have been adopted. Only now, according to the Minister, is the Government making a reconnaissance of facilities and installations to secure the data on which the various alternative plans might be based. Why was not such a reconnaissance made before?
The Minister snatches the excuse of the five-power talks set down for June for not giving some indication of Australia’s defence plans for this region. He puts extreme emphasis on co-operation with the governments and peoples of Singapore and Malaysia. Undoubtedly our relations with these two close allies must be immensely important in the future. But the Minis-er says that the primary interest - I emphasise the word ‘primary’ - in the preservation of peace and security and the promotion of development within the region belongs to Singapore and Malaysia.
It is extraordinary that Indonesia is not directly mentioned in this section of the Minister’s statement. The Minister does seem to be referring by implication to Indonesia when he says that the Government does not visualise its participation in the five-power talks in June as being ‘against anybody’. The Minister has emphasised the words ‘against anybody’ in his text. In view of his failure to mention Indonesia his emphasis can only be regarded as extremely clumsy. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) has made it clear that we favour close Australian links with the nations of the Association of South East Asian Nations. ASEAN has easily the greatest potential for regional co-operation in this area. If a plan is evolved for the cooperation of the five powers at the June conference, Australia should insist that such an organisation works to achieve increasingly closer links with ASEAN.
The Minister concluded by saying vaguely that at the five power talks the Government would be prepared to discuss the size and role of any contribution to combined defence arrangements which embraced a joint Malaysia-Singapore defence effort. I emphasise the phrase ‘any contribution’. The Minister says that this was indicated in the Governor-General’s Speech.
What the Governor-General said was that the Government would be prepared to discuss the size and role of ‘an Australian contribution”. The Governor-General said quite specifically that Australia would participate in a combined defence arrangement. The Minister is rather more vague; his emphasis on ‘any contribution’ leaves open to doubt the question of Australia’s participation in such arrangements. This may be playing with words, but it points up the extreme vagueness of the whole section of the Minister’s speech dealing with Australia’s defence policies in South East Asia in the context of the British withdrawal.
I turn now to the core of the Minister’s statement - the F111C aircraft, or the ‘prospective powerful addition to this country’s defence strength’, as the Minister terms it. Like the 3-year defence review, this accounting of the Fi 1 1C is considerably overdue. The Minister will recall that during the Senate election campaign he said expansively that this total cost would be somewhere between $US237m and $US300m. The late Prime Minister, Mr Holt, promised a statement on the final cost of the aircraft ia January this year. Some 4 months later we are now given yet another cost estimate by the Minister- a figure of $US300m.
The most obvious point to be noted is that this is not a final cost; it could be less, it could be more, to quote the Minister. Despite repeated promises made to this House last year, the Government is no nearer to achieving a final cost for the aircraft. Furthermore, the honourable member for Fawkner (Mr Howson), who is the former Minister for Air, said that there would be no variation in the unit cost, which was given at $US5.9m. The Minister for Defence repeats this statement that the fly away cost will be $US5.95m but says it is not possible to say certainly at this stage whether this will be the final ceiling price. This is a direct contradiction of the repeated claims by the former Minister for Air that there could be no variation in the fly away cost. The Minister for Defence tonight mentioned provisos concerning this fly away cost which I do not recollect hearing previously in this House. He gives the fly away cost as SUS5.95m, a figure which, as I have said, both he and the former Minister for Air have given in this
House before. The Minister now says this unit cost is subject to the escalation of labour costs and materials after April 1965.
The modifications proposed by the United States and accepted by Australia cost about $US1 00,000 for each plane, bringing the cost up to $US6.05m. Other modifications requested by the Australian Government will cost $A3m. Why the Minister has put this figure in Australian dollars whereas every other figure listed is in American dollars I do not know. I hope it is not an attempt to deceive the House about the fly away cost of the plane. Quite clearly, the fly away cost will be more than $US6m and possibly more, even though it has been claimed repeatedly that the ceiling price of the plane could not exceed $US5.95m. The Minister then goes on to say it is not possible to say whether the ceiling quoted will be pierced by the application of the provisos mentioned. Quite obviously it will be pierced; the Minister admitted this when he said that approximately $US100.000 a plane would be added to the previous ceiling price. lt is impossible to understand the flagrant contradictions in this section of the Minister’s statement, particularly as the Minister goes on to refer again to a fly away cost of $US5.95m. This costing does not stand up to close analysis; it is unbelievably shoddy, illogical and incoherent. If this is the sort of accounting procedure used in costing defence expenditure it is no wonder that incredible price increases have occurred. There can be no credence put in the other costs mentioned by the Minister when such unbelievable carelessness is contained, in his statement. It is inexcusable that the Minister should put such an incoherent and carelessly argued account of costs to this Parliament. He went on to compare the fly away cost of the Fill with the fly away cost of civilian aircraft. This is an incredible comparison - indeed, a ridiculous one. It is inconceivable how the Minister justifies comparing the cost of a weapons system with the cost of a Boeing 727 machine. It is like comparing the cost of an aircraft carrier with the cost of an oil tanker.
Earlier the Minister referred to the misunderstandings which have arisen over the Fill project and claimed that criticism has arisen from political opportunism. The Minister should never dare to use the term political opportunism’ about criticism of the Fill project. He said further that the decision to buy the Fill was no panic operation. I would like to refresh the Minister’s recollection of the period when the decision was made to purchase this plane. He is left in solitary splendour to justify the Fill purchase. Sir Robert Menzies has retired and other distinguished former members of the Parliament - Mr Townley, Mr Holt and Sir Shane Paltridge - are dead. The present Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) virtually repudiated the purchase on a television programme earlier this year, saying it was too late to cancel the order. The most dedicated advocate of the plane apart from the Minister for Defence, the honourable member for Fawkner, has retired to the back bench. The Minister stands alone in justifying the plane he once extravagantly claimed as ‘the greatest thing with wings since angels’. Earlier tonight the honourable member for Watson (Mr Cope) referred to the Fill aircraft as a flying opera house.
I refer the Minister to what he has described as the unending series of political inquiries into this project in the United States. I refer him to the TFX Contract Investigation heard before the United States Senate Permanent Sub-Committee on Investigations of the Committee of Government Operations, held in Washington on 18th November 1963. The Minister will recall the proximity of this hearing to the 1963 elections. I refer him to a passage at pages 2524 and 2525 of the transcript, where Mr Roswell Gilpatric, who was then the United States Deputy Secretary of Defence, was questioned on the Australian purchase of the plane. Mr Gilpatric was asked what sort of contract Australia had made on the purchase of the plane.
Referring to Australia, Senator Mundt asked him:
Are they going to buy planes willy nilly? If your figures are off two million and the cost is seven and a half million dollars a piece, are they going to buy them for ten million dollars? Have they no top limitation, or do they simply say ‘we will take two dozen planes at whatever price they are’?
Mr Gilpatric in reply said:
That is the way the agreement reads.
In other words, according to a United States Deputy Secretary of Defence, Australia made a willy nilly agreement to buy twentyfour planes at any price. Mr Gilpatric went on to say:
It is a Government-to-Government agreement and I do not know how you would enforce such an agreement other than by the goodwill and the comity of the two countries involved, but that is the agreement.
He emphasised that the agreement could be enforced only by the goodwill of the Australian Government. The Government has certainly displayed this goodwill in ample measure. The terms of the agreement with the United States Government and with the contractor have never been revealed to this Parliament. But we have it on the sworn testimony of a United States Deputy Secretary of Defence that it was a goodwill purchase at any price. On the basis of such an incredible arrangement the Minister has the effrontery to accuse valid critics of the repeated escalation of the cost of this aircraft of having given way to political opportunism. The Minister says that financial arrangements enabling Australia to spread the cost of the purchase were offered by the United States.
Honourable members will recall that when the cost of the purchase rose from $US125m to $US205m, a loan of $US80m was negotiated to cover the difference. He does not mention whether arrangements have been made for additional United States credits to cover the increase of $US95m since this loan was negotiated. This is an important matter which should be clarified and I hope we hear from the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) how the increase is to be financed. The Treasurer must shudder at the impact on his budgetary planning of repeated increases of this magnitude in defence expenditure. I do not want to comment at any length on the Minister’s justification of the merits of the Fill. As the Prime Minister has said, it is too late now to cancel the order and we must hope for the best. There is little ground for optimism in the performance of the aircraft so far in Vietnam, but quite possibly the flaws will be ironed out by the time the plane arrives in Australia. There is certainly immense disquiet in the United States of America and the United Kingdom about the performance of the aircraft. There are repeated reports in technical journals and responsible newspapers in this country criticising its performance. It has even been reported that the development of the plane will be cut back sharply and its future limited to delivery of nuclear weapons. If this turns out to be true and the Government signs the nuclear nonproliferation treaty it will have $US300m worth of useless merchandise on its hands. I hope, for the sake of the Minister and of the Government, his claims for the Fill are proved correct. Certainly on the evidence available so far the Fill is not the virtual impregnable flying fortress it was claimed initially to be.
Another point which should have been clarified by the Minister is the acceptable wastage rate for the Fill. With the introduction of a new aircraft, and the training of pilots, some losses are inevitable. On the Government’s attitude towards the crashes of the Mirage, a wastage rate of about 10% seems acceptable. This would indicate that the Government would not be appalled if three of the Fill aircraft were lost. This could mean a loss of around $30m for the running-in period of the aircraft - a rather expensive training exercise.
This raises the question of whether any casualties will be replaced at recurring expense to the taxpayer. The Minister envisages a life of at least 12 years for the Fill and, unless the plane is kept on the ground, wastage through accidents is inevitable. The Minister should make clear the Government’s attitude to replacement when casualties inevitably occur. If squadron strength is to be maintained, replacement aircraft will be needed and this will represent a continuing drain on resources. The Minister indicated that the Government has selected the weapon for the FI 1 1 and he included an estimate of the cost of this weapon in his assessment. It is difficult to understand why he has not taken the Parliament and the people into his confidence and named the weapon to be used. Perhaps this is another example where, in the Minister’s opinion, silence is essential.
The Minister has dispelled rumours that the Government would scrap plans to refit six of the aircraft for reconnaissance purposes. This is a wise decision, even though an additional cost of SUS34,n in involved. The Minister rightly points out the obvious when he says that the reconnaissance version is essential to the effective use of the
FU 1. The only factor I can find on which to praise the Government on this issue is that it has not sought to contain the final cost of the aircraft by scrapping a modification which would have made the purchase even more absurd.
The Minister dealt very briefly with defence administration without putting forward any recommendations which would produce economies of wasteful defence expenditure. For example he rejected at this stage the concept of a united defence force on Canadian lines. Certainly, while Australia is involved in the Vietnam war, it would be impossible to make such an integration. But it must be emphasised that while other countries have achieved a significant degree of integration, Australia has made little progress in this direction. The Minister has spoken of rationalising the defence forces but his proposals to achieve such a rationalisation are only minimal.
Honourable members will recall how the Government 10 years ago rejected the proposals of the Morshead Committee on the amalgamation of the Service departments into a single Department of Defence tinder a single Minister, assisted by two associate Ministers. Such an organisation has been adopted in the United Kingdom, which has also integrated many functions common to the three services. The organisation of Australian defence portfolios on these lines and substantial integration of functions common to the armed Forces is essential if economies are to be made in defence expenditure.
I would (ike to conclude by summarising briefly the principal defects of the Minister’s statement. Firstly, the Minister has failed completely to dispel the uncertainty surrounding Australia’s future defence policies in South East Asia. Secondly, it seems that Australia’s defence planning will be suspended until such time as the Government gears itself to producing the new defence review. This could be as much as a year away. Thirdly, the Government has failed in its undertaking to give a final cost of the Fill aircraft. Fourthly, the Minister’s account of the costing of the plane is completely unsatisfactory, incoherent and careless. It is marred by elementary mistakes and attempts at evasiveness. Fifthly, the Government reveals no awareness of its responsibility to curb defence expenditure and introduce economies by reorganisation and rationalisation of the defence Services and their functions. The Minister for Defence made a deeply disturbing and disappointing speech.
– The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard) covered a wide field in rather more time than I will have in my reply to him to deal with all the arguments he raised. I want, therefore, to confine most of what I will say tonight to the question of the FI IIA and F1HC aircraft. First of all, the honourable gentleman did not offer very much criticism of the performance of the aircraft. He seemed mainly concerned with the price. The Minister for Defence (Mr Fairhall) gave a complete summary of the costs of the aircraft so far as they are known to us, to which the Opposition replied, as it always does: ‘But you did not know what it was going to cost when it was ordered, and you still do not know’.
I put it to the House and to the country that the cost of the aircraft has to be balanced against the requirement for the aircraft, and I propose to examine that matter in a few minutes. Secondly, we were protected in that we were to receive the aircraft at the same price as the United States Government is paying for it and that cost is averaged over the whole of the production run of the aircraft as known at the time of the last delivery to us. Therefore we had the best protection that could be obtained if it is conceded that we had a requirement for this aircraft when it was ordered. That is the first point I want to make. We had the best protection that could be obtained if we had a requirement for the aircraft when it was ordered.
This takes us back to 1963. Let us look at what we required in 1963. In order to prevent a discordant political note from creeping into this debate, I can do no better than read what the present Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) had to say in 1963 about what we needed. In October 1963, in this House, he said:
Later in the same speech, he said:
The main force which could deter attacks on Australia is a modern bomber strike force, which would have a greater chance of getting through to ils targets and particularly the enemy’s bomber bases.
Up to this point I must congratulate the present Leader of the Opposition at least upon beginning to lay down the specifications which were previously spelled out in far greater detail by the experts of the Royal Australian Air Force. So far as those comments go, there is no substantial difference between the Government and the Opposition at that point of time in 1963. However, the present Leader of the Opposition went on to say:
The Labor Party believes that the Canberra should be replaced immediately. . . . We would acquire a small number of replacements possibly the Vigilante or the Phantom to fill the bill until the TFX or some other suitable plane is available in 4 or 5 years time.
That would bring us up to 1967 or 1968, he having said that in October 1963. At that time the Government had the benefit of a detailed evaluation by a team of senior RAAF officers who had been studying requirements for a replacement bomber for some time. Their advice to the Government was that the first squadron of Vigilantes could be delivered in 1966 or of Phantoms in 1965. So in 1963, according to the Leader of the Opposition, we had the option of getting a small number of those bombers by 1965 or 1966 and then replacing them in 1967 or 1968 with a plane such as the TFX. Neither the Phantom nor the Vigilante filled the fairly sketchy specifications that the Leader of the Opposition laid down. They did not have the range that we required in a strategic bomber and of a long range bomber, except with in-flight refueling. This procedure makes an aircraft far more vulnerable as well as much more subject to the hazards of the weather. Therefore, these two aircraft types did not have the capacity to get through to enemy targets wilh sufficient certainty. Above all, they did not have anything like the versatility of the TFX. In short, to use the words of the Leader of the Opposition again, a small force would not have been a deterrent that was really credible.
The net result of a decision to buy either of the two aircraft types suggested at that time by the Opposition in quantities required for a reasonable deterrent would have involved an expenditure of between $150m and S200m for aircraft which, delivered from 1966 onwards, would have been replaced, according to the Leader of the Opposition, by the TFX or some other suitable plane. However, no other aircraft on the market today could reasonably be substituted for the TFX, or the Fill as it is now known. I have heard talk of the Fill- the TFX as it was in 1963- being ordered in panic before the 1963 election. If there was any panic it lay in the proposals of the present Leader of the Opposition in October 1963. The Government could quite easily have bought these other aircraft the Leader of the Opposition named for slightly earlier delivery if there had been any real advantage to be gained from such a move. With the benefit of hindsight I think the House can agree that the Government’s decision was wise, and that the Leader of the Opposition’s proposal would not have fulfilled the requirements of the RAAF and would have cost this country considerably more.
Looking back from 1968 to 1963 we can ask whether the requirement remains the same. I see questions like this frequently posed. We are urged to state precisely what role we see in the years ahead for the Fill. Firstly there is a requirement for a bomber aircraft. The need for filling a gap in our Air Force between the short range fighter role for which the Mirage is required and the various patterns for which the Fill can be used still remains. 1 am saying this because it has been suggested that as the tension of confrontation has been eased, there is no longer a requirement for the Fill. I should perhaps lay some emphasis on the versatility of this aircraft. Initially it was required by the United States Air Force Tactical Command. TFX, the name by which it went in its earlier stages, stands for Tactical Fighter Experimental. At top speed and maximum altitude it could well qualify as a fighter aircraft in terms of performance, but that is not the purpose for which it is required by the RAAF. It has been suggested that it is stretching probability to say that an aircraft, the initial research for which was as a tactical fighter, should qualify as a bomber - almost the two extremes of the spectrum of military aircraft. Yet in all respects it does this.
Let us consider one item - the range of this aircraft. In ferry conditions without external fuel tanks and without refueling it has flown the Atlantic, a distance of approximately 3,100 nautical miles. Of course this was a ferry flight and in assessing the range of an aircraft one works down from the maximum ferry range to the pattern of ranges caused by various factors which reduce range. Here is an aircraft developed as a high speed, supersonic tactical fighter that has flown at altitudes in excess of 60,000 ft and at more than twice the speed of sound and which in ferry condition has actually flown without external tanks more than 3,100 nautical miles. I hope there are none quite so naive as to expect that this aircraft can do all these things at once. Inevitably there are reductions of range, altitude and speed as the plane is progressively loaded.
Under the wings are attachments that will carry external fuel tanks or bombs. There are four of these on each wing. Fully loaded with bombs the plane will carry at least 30,000 lb, which in general terms is about six times the weapons pay load of a World War II strategic bomber. Obviously with hardware of this quantity hanging under its wings, tremendous additional drag will occur. Alternatively there can be a combination of fuel tanks and bombs, the fuel tanks increasing range but reducing weapon load. Again, with a large number of, say, 500 lb bombs on the racks there will be greater drag than with half that number of 1,000 lb bombs. If necessary the external fuel tanks and bomb racks can be jettisoned to give the performance of a clean configuration when nearing maximum range, altitude or speed.
One of the popular accusations once made against the aircraft in the United States was that fully laden, with maximum bomb load and under full military power, it could not climb over Pike’s Peak, which is a 14,000 ft mountain. On analysis, this criticism was obviously designed deliberately to discredit the aircraft without complete regard for the truth. Full military power is a technical term which means that an aircraft is not using its afterburners. The aircraft has in fact only 45% of full power without afterburners in use. The plane would climb considerably higher with the use of afterburners, although naturally it would not climb as high as is possible in clean configuration.
I was quite astounded to read in an Australian newspaper a report that was obviously based on this kind of accusation, which suggested that the Fill could not climb higher than 14,000 ft. Such is the kind of criticism that has appeared in the Australian Press. The situation is that we are to have an aircraft which in various configurations can fulfil a wide variety of roles ranging from long range bomber to tactical bomber and close support aircraft. There are many other advantages that 1 shall not detail to the House. Included among them is that its swing-wing design gives it relatively short takeoff and landing capacity so that it can land and take off from an aircraft carrier. 1 am mentioning this point to emphasise that the aircraft’s versatility enables it to fulfil a wide variety of roles and to meet whatever strategic or tactical requirements we may have for it in the years ahead. Proof of this lies in the fact that the United Kingdom Air Force intended to deploy the F1 1 1 in South East Asia and that the United States is using this plane in tactical operations in Vietnam. It was quite false for the Deputy Leader of the Opposition to say that there was disquiet in the United Kingdom about the performance of the F1 1 1 which caused her to cancel her contract. That was unworthy of the honourable gentleman. He should know that it was a general contraction of her obligations which caused the United Kingdom to cancel the contract for those bombers. In fact, Air Chief Marshal Sir Wallace Kyle, who is in command of Strike Command in the United Kingdom, is on record within the last couple of days as expressing regret that this contract had to be cancelled.
The Minister for Defence tonight emphasised the uncertain and fluid nature of Australia’s defence commitments in South East Asia at this time. No other aircraft in the world today can be said to be able to fill, even remotely, the wide variety of roles which the FI 1 1 can fill as required. In 1968 even more than in 1963 the Fill is ideally suited to the place assigned to it in our Air Force. 1 should like to take some of the time remaining to me to deal specifically with certain criticisms which have been voiced. One criticism is that There is a problem with compressor stall at high speeds under high G conditions. There have been compressor stall problems since flight trials began. They are concerned with the design of the air intake into the engine and its effect on the air flow at various heights and speeds. These problems have been overcome progressively until there is left a relatively small area at high altitudes, near maximum speeds and in violent manoeuvres, in which a compressor stall may occur. This is unlikely to be included in the flight conditions under which “ the Royal Australian Air Force would operate the aircraft.
The second accusation is that the aircraft was sent to Vietnam without adequate flight testing. The original flight test evaluation plan for the aircraft was in three parts. In category I were the contractor proving trials; in category 2 were the United States Air Force trials to confirm that the aircraft satisfied their requirements; and in category 3 were the United States Air Force trials to determine operation capabilities and to develop tactics. About a year ago the trials programme was reorientated, the category 2 trials having been delayed by the engine intake problems to which I have referred. Accelerated service trials were planned to evaluate the aircraft from a service point of view. These were carried out at Nellis Air Force Base. As a result of this experience six aircraft were sent to Vietnam for combat evaluation. That evaluation will be part of the overall category 3 test programme. If at any time in its operation a fault which calls for rectification is discovered, 1 suppose it can be said that the aircraft had not’ been tested completely, but it must always be a question of judgment, in this case the judgment of the United States Air Force.
At this stage let me refer to the number of Fills which have been lost in the course of testing in the first 5,000 hours of flight. The number of major accidents that occurred with the Fill compare more than favourably with the number that occurred with any other aircraft tested recently in the United States. There were 7 major accidents when the FI 00 was being tested, 11 with the F101, 9 with the F102, 14 with the FI 04, 8 with the FI 05, 7 with the F106, and 6 with the F4 and 2 with the Fill. As I have said, those accidents occurred in the first 5,000 hours of flying. In the first 9,700 hours of flying, which includes the operations of the aircraft in Vietnam, there were seven accidents with the Fill. That number is well below the average losses with the other aircraft I have mentioned.
There has been a suggestion that there will be a major model change starting with the 1 60th aircraft, that this will be the first perfected production aircraft and that we should wait for it. In the United States Air Force new models are being produced just as motor car manufacturers produce new models of a motor car. it is true that aircraft numbered 160 to 235 in the production line will be known as the FI HE and that they will incorporate several major modifications. If it is suggested that we should wait for that new model we could end up rather like the person who never buys a car because he is convinced that he will get a better one if he waits for next year’s model. Depending on the kind of modifications that are introduced into the new models, we could have to pay more for the aircraft under our arrangements about paying for major modifications. Undoubtedly there will be other model numbers from 235 onwards. However, to buy the FI I IE would mean a wait of at least an additional 18 months to get probable marginal advantages, probably at greater cost. The number of improvements that are introduced into the aircraft from time to time will almost certainly be made available to us by way of retro-fit should we think they are needed.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The Minister’s time has expired.
Mr BRYANT (Wills) 19.461- The Minister for Defence (Mr Fairhall) and the Minister for Air (Mr Freeth) have said just about everything about the FIN except what it is for. The Minister for Air cited the analogy of a man putting oil buying a car because he thinks he will get a better model next year, but you do nol buy a car if you do not know where you want to go. Let us examine Australia’s portion. What is this aircraft for? Wc are told that it has a range of 3.000 miles. I presume that is its limit. 1 do not presume that it will fly 3,000 miles and then come back, lt is about 3,000 miles from the most northerly point in Australia to the most southerly point of China. What of the people who lie between Australia and China? Disregarding for a moment the fact that China is our most valuable customer for wheat, let us regard the Chinese as a potential threat, ls this aimed at the Indonesians? Is this aimed at the people of Malaysia? Are we defending ourselves against the Thais, the Burmese, the Vietnamese or the Filipinos? Of course we are not. We have simply entered an area in defence in which two magnificent mistiques have taken over: According to the Government, national service is good for young men; the FI 1 1 is the best plane we can buy.
In the field of defence we must look at our environment to see what we want and design something for ourselves to meet those circumstances. From what I have heard tonight 1 am convinced that we are just as far from that as we were 20 years ago. We rely on the decisions of other people. We make no decisions for ourselves. 1 do not believe that this aeroplane has anything to do with the defence of Australia. I believe we are buying it because we are an American satellite. Having shed the British protective apron or whatever it was, we are now searching for another. We see no role for ourselves. Wc arc part of someone else’s system. Wo arc the perennial colonials.
I ask the House and the people of Australia to start examining the defence system in the light of Australia’s relationship with countries in this pan of the world. To hear the Minister tonight one would think that wc lived in the heart of Europe or Asia where all our potential enemies were located, hut I doubt whether we have any potential enemies.
In his 20 page speech tonight, the Minister for Defence told us thai the Fill would be good for the next 12 years. Would it not be desirable to see what the people who live so close to us in the countries I have mentioned are capable of doing in the next 12 years to mount a threat against Australia? 1 doubt whether the Chinese, even if they started now. could mount a threat against us. That is the problem we face. The Government’s attitude does not result from a simple logistic or strategic appreciation but from a failure to face up to the facts of modern history. We are living in the past. This Government is leading us continuously into serious errors on cost and everything else.
The Minister for Defence quoted Mr McNamara as describing the position as d general order of magnitude of cost. What does that me-‘m in English. I do not think it means anything. In his document, the
Minister for Defence mentions three times that Australia has a need for this aircraft. He does not say why. It happens to be the one we want. Why do we want it? We want it because we can buy it. Why do we buy it? We buy it because we can get it. Why can we get it? We get it because we want it. We have this continual circular argument which means nothing as far as I can see except a cost of $300m for twenty-four aircraft which is equivalent to the cost of two full scale Australian universities. This is a convincing demonstration of the inability of the Government to face up to the necessities of Australia’s defence and our whole situation.
Take the illustration given by the Minister for Defence in his twenty pages of jargon. That is all it was - cliches and descriptions. Descriptions all right of what we have bought, but no explanation of what we are getting these aircraft for. Then there is the argument that defence ought to be conducted in an air of secrecy. What nonsense. Defence involves every citizen. A year or two back we passed a law which gave the Government the right to call up every male citizen if necessary. Defence is a public question. It should be a public matter, lt should be for public discussion. The public should be taken into the Government’s confidence. So we have twenty pages of disappointment.
What did the Minister not say? He did not say what our objectives were in defence. He did not give any strategic appreciation. What is the strategic appreciation of Australia as we see it now? Neither did the Minister say what steps he has taken to remove the disorders that led to the ‘Voyager’ disaster. He did not say when we were going to get a real defence review. We are living in a world of uncertainty. Nothing is more uncertain than the way in which this Government faces the whole matter of defence. For instance, we have run into the case of the Fill. Wc arc not too sure why we are buying it. The Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) is not too sure why we are buying it either. Let mc quote one brief example of how we have doddered along in defence. It was mentioned tonight that we will evenutally have an Australian Services Staff College here in Canberra. This is something some of us talked about 10 or 12 years ago. We were not necessarily concerned with where it should be placed but we were concerned that at least there should be integration of the Services at the beginning with officer training. In the last 10 years we have shifted the Naval College to Jervis Bay at a cost of about $4m. We have launched the Royal Australian Air Force Academy at Point Cook at a cost of $2m or $3m. This is the way in which we continue with our defence policies.
I believe that we are living in an era of false assumptions on the part of the Government. It was said this evening that the British had established an area of stability in this part of the world with their presence and that the imminence of their going had changed the whole face of the defence situation. What military stability had the British established in this part of the world? In the last 20 years no stability has been guaranteed by British or other military forces. The day of military power has gone. If the British contributed anything to this part of the world I think it was the political contribution that Britain has made with the beginnings of democracy and the parliamentary system in such places as Ceylon and Malaysia. In other areas, too, the British contribution has been valuable. But military presence means very little in this world today. I believe that the day of effective military power as a decisive factor has gone. I believe that we have gone through such a change in history (hat no more will we see the powerful and compelling influence of great military might. We have seen in the last 12 years or 15 years two examples of this fact.
The Russians mobilised for 4 or 5 years on the borders of Yugoslavia. In the end. they did not take the Yugoslavs on. The Russians knew, first of all, that the world would be in revolt if they attacked. They knew, in the second place, that the Yugoslavs were prepared to fight to the last man. Thirdly, I suppose, they said to themselves: What is it about, anyhow?’. In Vietnam we sec the final challenge to military power with the greatest military might in history still unable to produce a solution in that country. So, what we are doing is living in the past. We still think in terms of military power, and our defence system is designed this way. It is not designed to be part of
Australia’s defence system; it is designed to be part of some world power bloc over which we have no control whatsoever.
The whole statement delivered by the Minister is full of uncertainties. Why should Australia be uncertain? Why should we be uncertain? Why should we be dithering on other peoples’ decisions? The United Kingdom is going home. What does it matter? Why should the cost of Britain staying in this part of the world be imposed upon the British taxpayer? We have known for years that Britain ought to go. It is part of the pattern of recent history. Empires are out. New independent nations are in. Now we are to wait on the five-power conference for something else. Who are these powers? They are not powers who are likely to contribute much to Australia’s security anyhow. Their friendship will be valuable. Are we going to wait until Malaysia and Singapore decide what they want? It will be years before Malaysia and Singapore can decide anything. Neither country has any industrial base from which to mount a significant defence force.
This, I think, is the challenge of the times. We have to overcome the air of uncertainty. If there is anybody in this area who ought to be certain it is us. Our affairs have been stable and our nation is prosperous and secure. Geographically, Australia is the most secure country in the world, in all probability. So what are our requirements? First of all, we must decide that we will make our own decisions for ourselves. I do not know whether the Minister for Defence has the title ‘honourable’ or ‘right honourable’. These titles fly around this place so much. I think he is still just ‘honourable’. The Minister mentioned that we are tending towards developing some self reliance. That is what I want to come to as I think that we have misjudged history. As I said, I think that the power blocs are out. Power has bowed out of history for the first time in 6,000 years. And now it is for us to make our own decisions about what we have to do.
The first thing that we have to do is to overcome 20 years of dithering about our defence policies and overcome 20 years of building up a national inferiority complex as a political gimmick. What has been the situation? This Government and its predecessors have for 20 years in office been speaking about the surging hordes from the North. They have told us of the threat from Asia, the Communist tide, the cold war and all the rest of il. Of course they did very little about it. I do not think that they have believed in these things themselves. But it was a very good political gimmick and it spread an atmosphere throughout the nation. Australians were in fear and trembling of what the Asians were going to do. Because of our history, our strength and the general industrial capacity of this nation there was nothing that any other country was likely to do.
What are the threats to Australia? We on this side of the House believe that we should demonstrate amply the capacity of Australia to defend itself and that every young Australian called to the colours or joining our Services should have at his disposal everything that the wit and will of mankind can supply him with. Australia ought to start to develop its own external capacity over the whole field of industrial organisation and, of course, in the network of relationships internationally in which this capacity will be used. We have for so long talked about ourselves as being so weak. But we aTe not so weak. Australia, I think, is the ninth or tenth largest industrial nation in the world. Only a few months ago, significantly with very little fanfare and trumpets, we put a satellite into orbit. Only half a dozen countries have been able to do this. Australia ranks ninth or tenth among the motor car manufacturers of the world. Our automotive industry is one of the world’s largest. And we are waiting for the Americans to produce a light tank for US! Australia has a national morale which, generally speaking, is second to none. The history of this country is one of morale, loyalty and sticking together. A government that is able to take this country into its confidence can get it to do anything. In fact, compounded with our geographic isolation, these factors put us in a unique situation.
I believe that we ought to re-evaluate the way that we go about defence. What is the problem? It seems to me that in any evaluation of the system we must understand that none of our neighbours within the next 10 or 15 years could launch an assault against us unless by some means they were able to do so by rockets. Of course, that would be simply destruction rather than conquest, and it is conquest that, it appears to me, the Australian people fear. It would take 5 years, 6 years or even 10 years for China even to build the shipyards to start to build ships before it could launch an attack on Australia. It is not predicted, I believe, that the Indonesians, the Indians or anyone else are going to do this. What we probably need is some system where we do not commit ourselves to major defence commitments except under a 5-year scheme. We are buying things now that we know are unlikely to be used in the next 12 years by which time, we believe, these things will become obsolescent.
In the short time that is available in a debate such as we are conducting tonight, I cannot do much more than outline some of the things that I think the Government should do. Firstly, it must take the citizens into its confidence. It is ridiculous in a democracy such as ours for a Minister to say that defence preparations must be carried out in secrecy. The pattern of Australia’s history in matters of defence has been one of citizen participation. I believe that in the long term the basic requirements of the defence system are the industrial and social organisation of the community. On the one hand there is the industrial organisations, which should fuMy support defence requirements, and on the other hand there is the social organisation in which the citizens are involved. 1 think it is logical at present to maintain our regular forces at something like the present level, but as soon as the Vietnamese commitment is over - we on this side believe that Australia should never have become involved in the Vietnam war - the requirements of the military forces can be reduced by one-third. We also believe that the national service system which has been foisted on the country will no longer be valid and that if there is a decent defence system the Government will not have much difficulty in maintaining a decent level of recruitment. No young, intelligent Australian will join the Services at present, however, to be dragged into the kind of involvement that our present attitudes in external affairs lead to. No young person with any sense of morality will enlist and fight in Vietnam for a cause in which very few Australians seem to believe though a lot of Australians, by putting pencil marks on ballot papers, agreed to send others away to fight. Not many Australians are enlisting to fight in Vietnam.’ This applies particularly to honourable members in this House in the military age group.
The first thing we have to do is redesign the Citizen Military Forces. I have said this quite frequently here. I am not referring to the system of Saturday afternoon soldiering. The United States National Guard, for example, has highly sophisticated service units operating as part of the citizen service. Its members, like members of the Swiss citizen forces, fly supersonic aircraft and control and develop armoured divisions. In recent years, we have dismantled most of the citizen forces system. At present there are about 18 or 19 battalions but 40 years ago there were about 50 or 60.
I do not want to live in the past, but in the end the strength of a nation depends on the way in which the citizens participate in its defence. Somehow we have to get back to the system of a general call-up of citizens to participate, and we should integrate our defence needs with the needs of the local community. The honourable member for Wide Bay (Mr Hansen) and the late member for Capricornia, Mr George Gray, were involved in this sort of citizen defence activity in the Maryborough-Rockhampton area. In that region there is the basic structure for the defence of the whole area. There are workshops, which are never used for defence and there is an integrated transport system. There are also highly skilled people, who are never called upon.
What is the use of joining the CMF today? I know one young man who joined and who spent some time in a signals unit. As far as I can determine he learned nothing while he was there. In vain I pointed out to him that he was not there to learn anything or to be entertained, that he was there to keep back the surging hordes of Asia. Being a young man of the modern age, he wanted to feel that he was doing something useful. The Cinderellas of the Services are the citizen forces.
I believe that one of the fatal errors that the Government has made, if it is taking any steps at all to prepare the nation to defend itself, is that it has chosen to develop our jungle fighting skills to the nth degree.
There is no doubt whatsoever that our men in Vietnam are the best jungle fighters in the business. But why should they fight in the jungles? Jungles are maneaters; in the jungles the fight is man for man. Though the jungle fighting qualities of our soldiers are a cause for national pride in their skill, enterprise and courage, the jungle fighting in which they are engaged is a futile waste of humanity. The greatest capacity we can put behind a young man is the best fire power our industry and technology can produce, allied with his own education and developed skills. We should not involve ourselves in jungle warfare. I believe it is an exercise in futility. We are still training our infantry in rauch the same skills as 20 years ago, though they now have more sophisticated skills, better food and greater fire power. 1 do not think we need to be training people to hold back the surging hordes of Asia. I believe that we must re-evaluate our geographical position. We must decide where our potential enemies are. I personally believe there are very few of them indeed. Then we have to design a social system behind our defence force which will employ the skills in the community and integrate the citizen into it. The whole defence system that has been developed in the last 20 years is, I believe, irrelevant. We have failed to develop our industry. We have failed to take our citizens into the confidence of the Government, we have failed absolutely to evaluate the present tide and trend of history and we have placed ourselves at odds with most of our neighbours, but fortunately most of them do not seem to take us seriously.
– Anyone who listened to the flow of words from the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant) but did not know him would wonder what he was basically trying to get at. He delved into all aspects of military philosophy. He criticised all aspects of defence in Australia but, of course, those who know him and know which branch of the Australian Labor Party he belongs to know that his fundamental and basic belief is that there is not any need for defence in Australia, that there is no aggressor in the world, that we can all live in isolation, that peace will reign for evermore and that the old philosophy that we had to have defence forces as an insurance against attack is no longer valid. The chance to speak in a defence debate is an opportunity to delve into the philosophy of the Government’s defence efforts and also to answer any criticism of the moment. I should like to compliment the Minister for Defence (Mr Fairhall) on his very comprehensive and informative statement. It was an excellent statement - one of the best that I have heard in the 11 years that 1 have been in the Parliament.
But tonight l shall deal with two aspects. I want to delve into this question of the philosophy of defence and security and what we should be aiming at, and 1 want to speak also for a few moments on the immediate question which seems to be taking up a good deal of the time of the debate tonight, that is, the purchase of the. Fill aircraft as a replacement for the Canberra bomber. First, it is the task of government to see that there is security for the nation, its land and its people. The Party to which 1 belong - the Australian Country Party - ‘believes in a strong Australia with proper safeguards against threats of aggression. That is why this Government, consisting of the Liberal Party and the Country Party, stands firmly united on this vital and all important matter. Despite the fact that there are two separate parties making up the coalition there is one firm, definite, cohesive government policy as far as defence and foreign affairs are concerned. This, of course, is in considerable contrast with what we see on the other side of the House where there is alleged to be one party, but I think I need make no more comments in that direction. lt is perhaps the nature of people who wrest their living from the land to be essentially practical in their day to day affairs. They face the vagaries and vicissitudes of an environment which often proves to be very difficult. So it is not unexpected that in the matter of the defence and security of this nation we are prepared to face facts and not to lose sight of the basic objectives by wandering aimlessly like the honourable member for Wills through the wilderness of ideological argument or floundering in indecision and procrastination. We no longer live as we did in the nineteenth century, an isolated outpost of the British Empire, with our security guaranteed by the might of Britain and the Royal Navy. Whether we like it or not we have now inherited the responsibility for our own security and there is no retreat to a world which no longer exists and which cannot be brought back.
The announcement earlier this year of the accelerated British withdrawal from east of Suez has brought home to us the urgency of our task. But it is a task that we can face with confidence provided we attack it with determination and in co-operation with our tried and trusted allies. Whilst we are not a great power, our resources and strength are not inconsiderable. As a nation we hold what I believe to be the most desirable country in the world, a continent wilh vast resources. The great discoveries in recent years of minerals, oil and natural gas are an indication of our potential. Our population of 12 million, although relatively small by world standards, is united and progressive, enjoying a high standard of living, and our labour force is technically advanced and efficient. In terms of gross national product. Australia ranks tenth in the world in absolute terms and eighth in per capita terms.
We are a great country and a lucky country. As a trading nation, Australia looms large, ranking among the top fourteen nations of the world. Australia can thus justly lay claim to a position of some importance in the councils of the world. As such, we have a duty to adopt an active role and to join with other countries which are si riving to achieve peace and security for all nations. We have our obligations to share in this tremendous responsibility and we must fulfil them. We cannot, as some would seem to desire, be isolationist and neutral, hiding our heads ostrich-like in the sand and oblivious to the ebb and flow of events around us, particularly in Asia where active Communist aggression has manifested itself more openly and directly than in any other part of the world. This is a region of greatest importance to our security and one in which we have forged strong links of co-operation and friendship in defence. I have particularly in mind Malaysia and Singapore.
Our resources, however, are limited. We must tailor what we can do in the field of defence to fit in with the necessity for continued rapid development of our country at home including our primary industries, which are a major source of overseas earnings, so necessary to pay for our ever increasing import requirements, and our industrial sector which is the basis of our continued development of strength as a nation and a source of employment for our rapidly increasing population. Without growth in population and industrial and economic strength there would be very real limits to the extent to which we could build up our defence strength. The two things go hand in hand and it is up to us to strike a reasonable balance between the two. Neither, however, can be neglected. I am sure the people of Australia recognise this.
History has clearly demonstrated that no country with a small population can safely work on the principle that if it minds its own business the rest of the world will let it dwell in peace. The following perfect quotation relating to this appeared in the London ‘Observer’ last week:
The doctrine that you should always give way to those who use force - and everyone knows, Marxists believe that they jml they alone are entitled to use force - is suicidal, lt used to he called appeasement.
There is no appeasement; there can be no appeasement. Force must be met. and the people who use force must realise that it does not pay. This is why we are in Vietnam. There is no security in allowing people to get their own way by using force. We must be strong and prepared in ourselves, but our strength alone is not enough because, after all, we are only a young nation and the calls on our resources are many. We need powerful and reliable friends. In this regard, our alliance with the United States and New Zealand under Anzus is of crucial importance. The United States pledges to defend us and to safeguard our security. This, it seems to me, is a vital factor not merely for the immediate future but. I hope, for generations to come.
We must nol forget, however, that we cannot write history in advance. We can try to influence its course, but we cannot record today what will happen tomorrow. Therefore we must, while working to maintain and strengthen our alliances and to build new alliances, always bear in mind the need for building up our own strength. The day might come when dependence on treaties will not be enough. Nations which today see their responsibilities as extending a long distance beyond their own shores might not always see their responsibilities that way. But no alliance can be onesided. We must play our part. We must continue to help stem the advance of aggressive Communism in Asia, as we have already done in Malaysia and Korea. Indeed, we are committed to such a course by obligations under the Seato Treaty signed in 1954, which specifically recognised the possibility of the new form of aggression which now confronts our Asian friends and allies.
So I make no apology for our policy in regard to Vietnam. Australia is involved in Vietnam because there is the clearest possible evidence that freedom there is threatened by aggression, with our own security ultimately at stake. Moreover, I believe that the people of South Vietnam have a right to be a free people and there can be no question of leaving these people to become enslaved; nor can there be any question of deserting our allies, our treaties or any people under aggression from Communism.
Our active assistance in resisting aggression is only part of our foreign policy. Another important aspect is the economic aid granted to developing countries to assist them in their self-developmental efforts which form an important basis of their capacity for self-defence. From 1967 to 1968 a total of $147m has been budgeted for international aid programmes. Of this, 62% is directed towards Papua and New Guinea, an area of direct and continuing responsibility to us. The balance, some $56m, is directed to a wide range of bilateral and multi-lateral programmes of economic aid, a large part of it going to the Asian region. Our outward looking defence policy, allied with our outstanding record in the field of international aid is, I believe, a manifestation of the growing nationhood of our people and a recognition that we can stand on our own feet and play our part in achieving world peace and security. Never before, I believe, have Australians had such real grounds to recognise the threat of Communist aggression. I am confident that all thinking Australians will agree that this is something with which we cannot compromise. It is a threat to our national security, which must be faced and overcome. This is not jingoism or warmongering, but sound Australian commonsense. As a nation, we have a reputation for being realists and being down to earth. It is only being realistic to face the fact that we must make sacrifices now to ensure the present and the future security of this country.
The other subject with which 1 want to deal for a few minutes is the controversial Issue of the moment, the FI 1 1 as a replacement for the Canberra bomber. Tonight we heard the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard) make some criticism of the Government’s action. I was surprised that it was not more severe. To me it almost seemed like luke warm approval. He was hesitant, guarded and was not over critical. Perhaps honourable members opposite are beginning to learn some of the facts. The Minister for Air (Mr Freeth) went into great detail about the performance of the Fill. I, myself, would like to speak for a few moments on the facts relating to this aircraft because I think they can stand repeating. I think that the Australian people ought to hear the truth, the clear facts, because no aircraft has been more misrepresented or has had more criticism surrounding its initial stages than has the Fill. We all know the Labor Party’s attitude to this aircraft. We particularly remember that during 1963 honourable members opposite said that the Fill was no good and that the Government should have bought the TSR2, But of course these matters have been forgotten. Nothing has been said about them tonight, so I do not want to embarrass honourable members opposite by raising them again. But the Fill really had a difficult birth. All the relations were around doubting the aircraft’s legitimacy and usefulness and whether it ought to be allowed to live.
This criticism, fog and misunderstanding arose for a number of reasons, but the main one was that there was intense competition between the British with their TSR2 and the Americans with their TFX, as the Fill was called originally. Another reason was that two great American companies, Boeing and General Dynamics, were competing for an American contract. Whatever the eventual decision of the American Government was, we must recognise that the relative merits of the two aircraft were very closely examined. Two hundred and fifty eight civil and military experts looked into the potential and performance of the two aircraft. They decided on the TFX. The dispute was also manifested by the fact that McNamara had difficulty with congressional committees. Another factor which added to the dispute was that McNamara was trying to do something which I thought was quite sensible, that is, to rationalise the aircraft in the American Navy and the American Air Force, but, of course, the defence services would not agree to one aircraft for the two jobs. This was the situation which surrounded this magnificent aircraft, the most revolutionary aircraft of its type to come out in the last decade. In this country added confusion arose regarding the Fill because the Labor Party believed that the selection of the Fill was a good ground on which to criticise the Government. Let us have a look at some of the criticism. The Labor Party repeatedly has made the accusation that the decision to purchase this aircraft was hasty. That is far from the fact. Back in 1959 it was recognised that we would need a replacement for the Canberra bomber. In April 1963 a committee was set up to investigate a suitable replacement aircraft In June of that year a committee of Australian military experts went overseas. They came back and reported to the Government. A decision regarding the Fill was announced in this Parliament on 24th October 1963. The Labor Party accused the Government of making this decision to purchase the FI 1 1 because there was an election forthcoming. But in 1963 we were not expecting an election. An election was due in 1964, but it was held one year earlier.
The Government went through the normal procedure in assessing and evaluating the various aircraft. The only other aircraft which was available at the time and which might have been a replacement for the Canberra bomber was the Phantom, the F4. but it had a limited life. We wanted an aircraft which we could be sure would be satisfactory well into the late 1970s. So we assessed the aircraft which were available and selected the aircraft which had enormous potential and great versatility - a radical aircraft with swing wings enabling it to operate from low performance aerodromes. The Fill aircraft has enormous range and offensive capacity. There was no other aircraft in the world to match it when we placed our order. None can match it even today. No other aircraft in production or even on the drawing board could compete with it. We have purchased an aircraft which will see us through the next 15 years. So far as the Government is concerned, this is wise buying.
A great feature of the FI 1 1 aircraft is its terrain following radar system. It is the first aircraft produced with the ability to avoid radar and guided missiles on the way in to enemy targets. It is the only aircraft with that capacity. It is of no use to employ conventional aircraft that will be knocked out of the air by the enemy.
– Three Fills have crashed.
– There is no complete answer to the FI 1 1 . It is true that three of them have been lost, as the honourable member points out, but too much significance can be attached to the fact that a few aircraft have been lost at this stage. There are always bugs to iron out. The Fill is still going through its testing period and up to this stage only a relatively small number of aircraft have been lost. When the model of the Holden motor car is changed, even after hours and hours of trials on the testing tracks bugs are discovered in the new model. The Fill has flown and performed exceedingly well. I have every confidence that if difficulties arise and there are bugs to be ironed out, American technology will find the answers.
-Order! The Minister’s time has expired.
– I do not wish to say a great deal about the Fill aircraft in particular. When Sir Robert Menzies was Prime Minister he announced just before an election that the Fill aircraft we were to buy would cost about £56m, or $11 2m in present currency. The latest estimate is that these aircraft will cost us $US300m or $A266m. It is clear that the original estimate was a long way out. I suggest that that error is typical of the attitude of this Government towards defence expenditure. It seems to be satisfied that what appear to be good round sums can be cited to show the proportion of the gross national product being spent on defence and to demonstrate that somehow the country is safer than it is. Surely the country is no safer because the Fill aircraft we are purchasing will cost us nearly three times as much as the original estimate. On all occasions we must try to view these matters in correct perspective.
The Minister for Defence (Mr Fairhall) said tonight in his final remarks and in dealing with resources for defence - and this was also said in March by the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) - that it is time we got down to evaluating how much we are spending on defence and particularly how much of that sum is being spent overseas. We should ask ourselves whether we can alford to continue our expenditure on defence at the present rate and whether we are getting value for what we are spending. In my view, the Fill provides the best exercise in that respect.
– I would say that that remark would be typical of a Treasurer.
– I suggest that it is a matter in which there ought to be a careful assessment. I wish to refer to two statements made by the Treasurer and to a statement made this evening by the Minister for Defence. A Press release of the Commonwealth Treasury, reporting a speech made by the Treasurer on 10th March of this year, stated:
Mr McMahon concluded by saying that in recent years real wages and consumer spending had on average increased at much the same rate as in the past. Undoubtedly, increasing defence expenditure absorbs resources that would otherwise be available for consumption or development. A higher rate of economic growth in recent years has, however, permitted continued growth in consumer spending despite larger outlays on defence.
Four days later, a further statement, which seemed to be part of an argument with himself on the matter of real wages, was issued to the ‘Australian Financial Review’. It included the following paragraph:
Mr McMahon emphasised that in saying this he was in no way denying that increasing defence spending had the effect of reducing the rate of growth in real income and consumer spending. Of course it had, he said. His earlier statement was directed to show that nevertheless real incomes and spending had been rising fairly well. Increasing defence spending does, of course, reduce the potential rate of growth of real disposable incomes and, indeed, of the economy as a whole. The fact that the economy has grown strongly in recent years, Mr McMahon said, is not a rebuttal of this but merely an indication of how well we might have done had more resources not had to be diverted to defence purposes.
– What is wrong with that?
– Let me tell the honourable member what is wrong with it. It is time honourable members opposite made an examination of their criminal folly in not thinking that there is anything wrong when something that was supposed to cost $US125m will now cost near enough to $US300m and when the additional amount that is being expended limits Australia’s ability to develop in other ways as well as its ability in the long run to defend itself adequately.
– Does the honourable member want to reduce the expenditure?
– I ask the honourable member to allow me to develop my theme in my own way. To my mind, one matter that demands serious examination at the moment is the large amount of the current Australian defence expenditure that is not being spent in Australia at all. The figures that 1 am about to quote are contained in a document which was issued at’ the time of the presentation of the last Budget and which is called ‘Supplement to the Treasury Information Bulletin’. It gives figures on Commonwealth expenditure on war and defence from 1958-59 to 1966-67 and the estimated expenditure in 1967-68. In 1958-59 the expenditure was $363m. In 1967-68 the estimated expenditure is Sl,054m.
The document goes on to show the amount of defence expenditure incurred overseas. To my mind, it shows an alarming situation. When we take into account the fact that a large amount of the total defence expenditure is made up of payments to personnel - that expenditure is incurred mainly in Australia - we get some indication of how little of our defence equipment is being supplied from this country. In 1965- 66 domestic expenditure on goods and services for war and defence was $530m and overseas expenditure was $151m. In 1966- 67 the figures were S651m and $222m respectively. In 1967-68 the estimated figures are $733m and $32 lm respectively. I suggest that when we take out, as we should, the manpower component of our defence expenditure, and buildings and the like, it is clear that more than half of such expenditure would be incurred in Australia. The reality is that in the buying of armaments - ships, aircraft and so on that are supposed to frighten an enemy if you have to confront him - Australia is becoming more and more dependent on foreign suppliers, particularly the United States of America. Added to this is the real economic difficulty that Australia in recent years has been running a deficit balance of payments in its trading. We have maintained solvency in our balance of payments account only by reason of a large capital inflow, the proceeds of which are being used to make us dependent on foreigners for our defence equipment. As one of my colleagues suggested yesterday, we are becoming dependent on foreigners for a large amount of our internal industry. At the same time, as I have said, we are allowing ourselves to become dependent on them for our armaments.
I suggest these are serious situations that demand some attention by the Government. I have already indicated that for the year ended June 1968 there is an expected overseas commitment of $321 m for defence. When the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) delivered his Budget Speech on 15th August 1967, he said:
Outstanding defence orders abroad for ships, aircraft and other equipment and supplies al 30th June last were costed at more than $600m. Further orders will have to be placed overseas this year and later for replenishment or replacement as well as to provide for new and additional requirements.
Bad and all as the position was this year, it will get worse next year. 1 want to contrast that situation with the position of Australian industry which believes it is well able to provide some of our defence potential. I suggest again that the soothing syrup of the Minister belies the situation of Australian industry. 1 propose to quote from a document entitled ‘Director Reports’, which I think is as authoritative in this field as the Minister is. lt is the monthly bulletin of the Australian Industries Development Association. The issue to which I refer, that of March 1968, has a leading article dealing with the machine tool industry. That article states:
The Australian Metal Working Machine Tool industry which did such a remarkable job during World War ii and in the immediate post-war period, has been allowed to fall into a parlous slate. Yet in the modern industrial world the machine tool is the base of all production - the looms and equipment used in a textile factory, the implements for the farm, the plant; for mining, the equipment for defence- all are produced with the help of machine tools.
It further states:
The number of manufacturers has been declining and is likely to continue to do so unless some strong action is taken to maintain and strengthen the industry.
It is time a little attention were given by this Government to its own industry so far as defence procurement is concerned. If we are making, as we are, a number of aeroplanes under licence already in this country, and if we have naval dockyards of our own that are capable of building the finest ships in the world, why is it that in the last 3 years about $A700m has been expended overseas on defence procurement? I would submit that if the full figures relating to capital expenditure in the Australian component were given, $700m would represent more than half the cost of procurement of the physical things that have gone to equip the Army in recent times. According to the Treasurer, there was still $600m on the books at 30th June last year, and further orders were likely to be placed. 1 submit it is time the Government gave more serious attention to what the ‘Director Reports’, the official bulletin of the Australian Industries Development Association suggests is the parlous state of one of the fundamental industries of Australia - the machine tool industry. This is the sort of thing that is glossed over by citing the types of figures that we have heard given here. The Government has stated that defence expenditure in a 3 year period turned out to be $2,81 3m, instead of 52,44 1 m as originally estimated - an increase of S360m. How can anybody in Australia evaluate what the true position is? lt would seem to me that most of the difference of $360m was due to lack of planning in the ordering of the Fi 1 1. Surely the Parliament of this country ought to be evaluating whether we are getting value for the money we are spending on defence. But how can we do that in these circumstances? I suggest that there is loo much of this seeking to bamboozle by staling large figures. It is suggested that we are spending 5% of the gross national product on defence. It probably would have been nearer to 4i% if the Government had been accurate in its estimate of the cost of the Fill. What sort of evaluation can we make in circumstances such as that? I suggest that we have no chance whatever.
It is about time that a re-evaluation of the situation were given, especially when we have people, including the Treasurer, saying that we have to make the choice between guns and butter, as it was picturesquely put years ago. I suggest that the people who are denied the butter are going lo find it hard to be satisfied when they are told that something that originally was to cost $125m will now cost something nearer to $300m. I would submit they would be a little dubious about the accuracy of some of the other figures that are being supplied by members of the Government.
The reality of the situation in Australia at the moment is that we have an industry which in my view has the potential to produce many of the things that are necessary. Candidly, I do not know whether we would not be just as safe in this country if our defence expenditure were $200m or $300m less.
– That is what you really mean.
– That is all the honourable member cares about. Apparently he goes home and smugly sleeps, feeling safer because his Government has spent another $100m. He is supposed, while in this Parliament, to look responsibly at every aspect of Government’s finance, including expenditure on defence. Yet we have this sort of waste and inefficiency going on. lt is easy for waste to occur in defence spending, which is almost an impossible field to scrutinise. Even when it is revealed that the Government’s original estimate was wrong, it brings forward a!1! sorts of clever estimates to explain why it was wrong. I must confess that it is almost beyond my understanding when the Government now wonders how anybody could ever have thought that what now justifiably costs $A266m or $A300m, would have cost only $A120m or $A125m. Something was wrong, and in my view if something was wrong there, I should think that there may well be things wrong somewhere else.
– You do not want defence at all.
– It is easy enough for the honourable member to say that we do not want defence. Nobody on either side of the House is arguing about whether or not we should have defence. What I have tried to put forward is that we are procuring defence at a very high cost. We have more than one example that the cost is too high, not in real terms but because somebody made a bungle in the initial assessment. We should begin by asking how much we can afford for defence. Like anybody else we have to cut our cloth according to our circumstances. At least it is time we began to ask whether we are getting value for the money that we can afford to spend. In my view the Fill is a prime example of how we have not got value for our money.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Fox)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– This has been a most interesting debate, but if I had not read the notice paper I would not have known what it was about. Tonight I have heard very little about defence. The only thing that our noble Opposition has discussed at any length has been the cost of the Fill. As a member on the Government side I am amazed that Opposition members would even agree to discuss this paper on the short notice they had. The debate tonight shows how little concern they have for the defence of this country. They were not even prepared to seek the time that could have been made available for them and have the debate on the statement made by the Minister for Defence (Mr Fairhall) stood over until next week so that they could confer and seek advice to enable them to make recommendations for the defence of this country.
– On a point of order. We proceeded because there was nothing in this paper to debate.
– There is no substance in that point of order.
– If there was nothing in it to debate the honourable member and his colleagues should have thought of something to suggest in regard to defence. Indeed I agree with the honourable member mat there is very little in the Minister’s statement, in view of the world situation I was amazed to find how little there was in it. This might easily have been merely a debate on a statement about the TFX. We expected to hear more of what is planned for the future defence of this country. To that extent the debate has been quite astounding. As the Opposition does nol appear capable of attacking the Government for any shortcomings in regard to defence, it becomes necessary perhaps for Government supporters to say something that may be taken as criticism of Government policy, ft gives me no pleasure to do it. I should prefer to hear honourable members opposite doing the job that occasionally some of us on this side have got to do for them. However, we on this side side of the House are permitted to do it and our action is not held against us. This is considered by Government members to be part of what is required of a member of this Parliament. Let it be clearly understood that the people of this country depend on us to plan the defence of the nation and to arrange alliances that will stand to us should our country be threatened in the future. Early in his statement the Minister for Defence said:
In these circumstances Australia must make its response in its own present and Iona term interests.
We have heard very little about the future, about what planning is necessary and about what is intended in the circumstances which surround us today. In the third paragraph of his statement the Minister said:
Questions have been raised about the merits of our forward defence posture-
We were given no answer to those questions - whether the needs of regional defence might be met by garrison forces, by contributing to the training of local forces . . .
It may be argued, as the Minister argued, that until the five-power conference takes place we cannot and should not enter into any unilateral commitment or plan the final fulfilment of our commitment in these areas. But let us understand - the Minister mentioned it and if it is not understood by the Opposition or by some Australians it is understood by us - that the whole scene in
South East Asia has changed. We know that the United Kingdom has withdrawn and it would be most unsafe to place any reliance on the hope that the United Kingdom may be prepared to meet some commitment in the Indian Ocean area. We in Australia have to plan on the basis that the United Kingdom will not be here, and be grateful if she is here.
Let us look also at what is happening in Vietnam and South East Asia. Having regard to the political pressures on the United States of America at this time and what is happening in the presidential election campaign there, there is no doubt that there could be changes in United States policy. If peace talks are arranged and they are satisfactory, it could well be that the United Slates would remove herself from South Ea* Asia. We have no alternative but to remain here, and we do not know what time is available to us to plan for defence.
I believe that 1968 bears a close resemblance to 1939 when everyone was saying: ‘Nothing can happen to us’. Our defence planning was inadequate and we never believed that suddenly in the early hours of the morning Pearl Harbour could be attacked and destroyed. Mr Dedman in a book published recently - I think everyone should read it - had this to say:
The swift advance of the Japanese forces in Malaya during January 1942 caused the Australian Government, its Service advisers and those American officers who were in Australia principally to advance the supply of American aircraft to the Netherlands East Indies to become increasingly concerned about the inadequacy of Australia’s defences. . . . With the forces then at his disposal-
He was referring to Major-General Sir Iven Mackay - and the absence of aerodromes, roads, communications and workable harbours in the northern parts of Australia, he had the soundest of military reasons for avoiding a wide dispersal of an inadequate force.
I wish I could read all that Mr Dedman had to say under the heading ‘Initiative’ but I will have to content myself with the following extract:
After making it clear that any appreciation of the present situation must be based on resources now available to us and not on those which may become available in the future. . .
We are talking now of the future as if we had time unlimited.
The Minister told us in his statement that the situation in South East Asia is fluid. Indeed it is fluid. In a fluid situation things can happen suddenly - things of which we are unaware and for which we are unprepared. It is not necessary to mention the enemy at this time. Circumstances can change. Treaties and alliances are only as good as the government in power at the time. Indeed, they are only as good as the priority of the situation relative to other situations which may exist in the world at that time. There is nothing to say that we in Australia are No. 1 priority. Therefore, in my opinion we should be planning now - we should have been planning long ago - even if we are not sure what our commitment to South East Asia, particularly Malaysia and Singapore, will be. We could not even send instructors to Malaysia and Singapore without stripping the Regular Army. This could not be done without putting a greater strain on those who are already under a great strain at this particular moment. We should now be planning not for Fortress Australia but for the expansion, should it be necessary, of our Services in the future.
Commissioned officers and noncommissioned officers cannot be found overnight. It takes a long lime to train a soldier efficiently and capably so that he can in turn train the recruits that may be called up in an emergency. We talk as though time is at our disposal. It is not at our disposal. If we are to station further battalions in. say, Malaysia or Singapore where are they to come from? They are not available at the moment. I think that we should work out our priorities for defence and that home defence should be the first priority. However, this does not preclude us from playing our part in South East Asia.
The whole defence concept has changed in recent years. Previously we thought that we would be involved only in brush warfare and that we would have to send one or two battalions which would work with allies who would provide the logistics and naval support and the heavy lift helicopters and other equipment that we do not have available in Australia. It is now necessary to plan for a balanced defence force that can protect this island and also play its part in supporting our allies.
I ask the Minister and, indeed, the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) whether they think that the people of Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Cambodia and Loas are looking to see what we in Australia, as one of the industrial nations in this area, are doing to increase our defence forces and to show that we are fair dinkum and prepared to fight, to defend ourselves and to give assistance when necessary. I have seen nothing in the last 6 months that would give them any indication whatsoever of this. I can not but wonder whether some of those countries think that perhaps if the United States did decide to get out of Vietnam and South East Asia it might be safer for them to seek a compromise with an enemy that may be threatening them.
As I said earlier, we can plan our priorities without waiting for a five-power conference. As an island we need naval power. Therefore, we need to give priority to the Navy as it will have to protect our shores if we are ever attacked. People may ask: who would attack us? We should not be unaware of what is happening in the Indian Ocean. 1 am not saying that we can fill the role of the British or that we should try to do so, but the Russians have moved into the Persian Gulf and are influencing the Indian Ocean area. I have no doubt that they will move further into this particular field. Indeed, this is something that we should take into account when we are determining our ultimate defence.
We have also to give priority to the Air Force. It is all very well to have Daring class destroyers but unless we have counters to such weapons as the Komar missile which some of our friends close by have, we will be in trouble. The situation could again change as the result of a coup or something of that nature. We should learn the lesson of what happened in the Mediterranean during the war between Israel and Egypt. When a Komar missile is used a ship can be shot out of the water very quickly and it is only air power that is a counter at such a time.
It is time that we got out of our beads the old idea that one white man is equal to ten men of any other colour. People are not fighting with bows and arrows now. Many Phantom fighter-bombers and sophisticated aircraft of the United States are being shot down in North Vietnam. We should ponder on the ground to air missiles that are being used to achieve this result. We should get into perspective the twenty-four FI 1 1 aircraft that we have ordered and the expenditure involved. The Government has decided, and I think rightly so, that we should have the most sophisticated aircraft available for the conditions in which we are likely to fight. The British also ordered the FI 1 1. They were satisfied with the price. lt was not the price that caused them to cancel the order. They were buying the aircraft for use east of Suez - in the Far East, as it is to them. Indeed when we talk about the two Fills, or whatever the number is, that have crashed in Thailand, let us be grateful indeed that the aircraft have been battle tested not by us but by the United States and that if any modifications are needed we can make them. But I do not wish to speak just of the Fill. Let the Opposition, if it does not like the FI 11, tell us what should have been bought. Honourable members opposite must have some thoughts. What aircraft would they buy? The Phantom is going out of date. lt has been in operation and it is proving to be successful but the Fill is without any doubt a most modern, up to date aircraft which will, I think, provide defence and give some strength to what Australia says in the future.
In the short time available to me I should like to say something in respect of the Army also. We have eight battalions now but they are stretched. They are not fully supported logistically and they are not fully supported with back-up troops. We have four battalions away from Australia. If anything happened in Vietnam as a result of which two of our battalions were hit hard it would be a most mortal blow to the Australian Army. We should expand the Army in the near future, not by increasing the Regular Army but by going back to the old Citizen Military Forces concept whereby we had in Australia people trained in the various areas, with divisions, brigades and battalions to recruit to and to train with. We must have equipment ready, with men who know how to use it. We must now set up training schools to train officers and non-commissioned officers.
It is essential to do this now because we may not have time to do it later if things should go wrong for us.
I agree with the Minister when he says that the Services have done a magnificent job. I compliment every man in the three Services. I know that they have worked overtime. I know that they have had little thought or thanks. But this is the time when we should be preparing to expand our Services and to train the right type of men. It is not right that we should go back to the days of 1939 and, if we are suddenly confronted with an emergency, send untrained men into war. We must not put rifles into their hands and, after two or three months or whatever the period may be, say: ‘You are first class soldiers and you will go out and meet a sophisticated enemy’. Let us realise now that the enemies surrounding us are not unsophisticated. The majority of them are regulars. They are using sophisticated equipment which is supplied by the Communist powers and we can be sure that if there were any threat to us in the future they would be equipped perhaps much more readily than we would be.
Therefore I say to the Minister and to the Government that the people of this country at this moment want to be led. They want to be told of the situation. They want to be told of the planning, lt is essential that the basic primary planning be undertaken at this particular time and not at some time in the future. Our prime objective must be to defend Australia, and the planning for that must be done now. The buying of equipment is not done in 1 8 months, lt takes 18 months to send procurement experts around to see what we want. It takes 18 months, 2 years or more to buy equipment. Just look at the Fill purchase and consider how long it is taking us to get the aircraft; we have not got it yet. If we can be sure that nothing will go wrong for another 5 years or 10 years and that the United States will not leave this area and we will not find ourselves alone, let us be confident and do nothing. Let us argue about expenditure. I am one of those who, perhaps wrongly - I hope wrongly - think that thinks around us are not as well as some would think and that they could go bad very quickly. If we are an adult nation, this is the time for us to show the rest of the world that we are prepared to accept responsibility and to arm ourselves to ensure that the thinks that could happen and which did happen in 1939 do not happen again merely because our enemies think we are weak and not prepared to take the necessary action that I think we should take to show the world that we will fight, together with others, to protect our freedom.
Debate (on motion by Mr Cross) adjourned.
AUSTRALIAN CA I’ll AL TERRITORY COMMITTEE
– Order! 1 have received a mr ige from the Senate acquainting the House of the discharge of Senator Cotton from the Joint Committee on the Australian Capital Territory. I have also received advice from the Leader of the Government in the Senate that he has appointed Senator Marriott to be a member of that Committee.
House adjourned at 11.7 p.m.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s questions is as follows:
The information in the particular form sought by the honourable member is not available in relation to every country. Details of schemes operating in many countries are available in a number of publications, for example ‘Social Security Programs Throughout the World’, published by the United States Department of Health Education and Welfare, to which the honourable member may wish to refer.
asked the Minister for External Affairs, upon notice:
– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows:
asked the Minister for the Army, upon notice:
– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows:
asked the Minister for the Army, upon notice:
– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows:
The main reason for withholding the personal issue of clothing for the initial period is that it has been the Army’s experience that recruits often change physically in this period because of the changed environment. If personal issues were made initially the turnover of clothing would be accelerated unnecessarily.
Part worn protective dress is used generally throughout the Army and is issued on a unit basis and used by troops as required. In all instances these are laundered after each issue.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 2 May 1968, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1968/19680502_reps_26_hor58/>.