26th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr SPEAKER (Hon. W. J. Aston) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– The Minister for Trade and Industry will be aware that the Australian pineapple industry is a creditable asset to the Australian economy. During his recent visit to Hawaii did he find time to study the processing and export methods of the pineapple industry in that State of the United States of America - methods that might be of benefit to Australia?
– I am well aware of the importance of the pineapple industry to Australian exports and to the State of Queensland. I did not take the opportunity to study the processes employed in Hawaii; I was otherwise occupied. I am familiar with the Hawaiian processes but they are not superior to the processes employed in Australia.
– The Minister for External Affairs will have seen Press reports this week of further West Irianese seeking to enter New Guinea and of their having been returned to West Irian by the Australian authorities, ls it expected that the number of West Irianese attempting to enter New Guinea may increase as the time approaches for West Irian’s act of free choice? Is the Minister able to assure the House that asylum will not be refused to genuine political refugees from West Irian?
– I am informed that the crossing into New Guinea of a group of West Irianese last week had no connection with political developments in West Irian. They came across seeking employment and after they had been questioned and it was found that that was their purpose they were returned to West Irian. Since the transfer of administration of West Irian took place there have been a number of crossings, some of them made by persons who just do not understand what an international boundary is and who follow traditional tribal movements or family movements. In most cases when the position has been explained to them they have returned to their village on the western side of the border.
In exceptional cases where some claim is made by the refugee that he is seeking political refuge the matter is referred to my colleague, the Minister for External Territories, and myself for examination. In a number of cases permissive residence has been granted and those who are granted permissive residence are of course, under an obligation to respect the laws of the Territory of Papua and New Guinea and also not to engage in political activities. This requirement is in keeping with the international conventions that govern the status of refugees, the obligation of the refugee and the compassionate conditions which the receiving country should extend to the refugee. I assure the honourable member that any claim for political refuge will be carefully considered on its merits. In granting permissive residence and in requiring conditions to be met by the refugee on the Australian side of the border we will pay full regard to the international conventions governing refugees.
– I ask the Minister for the Interior a question. Is it a fact that servicemen killed in Vietnam or who die as a result of injuries received on active service in Vietnam may not be interred in Australian war cemeteries? Have representations been made to the Government in this regard by Service or other organisations? Has the Government ever considered the matter? If not, will it do so?
– I am not sure of the facts in this matter. I will look into it and provide the honourable member with a direct answer.
– I ask the Treasurer a question. Have negotiations been taking place on an international level to coax the Soviet Union and its colonies to join such organisations as the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank? Was it considered that if these countries did join, relations between the East and the West would be strengthened? Now that the Communists have aggressively invaded Czechoslovakia, an action which their fellow travellers in this country will support, is the possibility of Russia and her colonies joining these world organisations highly unlikely?
– As far as I am aware no action has been taken within the World Bank or the International Monetary Fund to attempt to persuade Soviet Russia to become a member of one of those organisations.
– Ask all the other countries. As to the second part of the question, I did think that there was a detente between Russia and Western countries and a growing desire for increasing trade and financial relations between the Soviet Union and the liberal countries of the world. As to the third part of the question, I prefer not to make a statement on this matter. However, I am sure that Soviet Russia’s action in Czechoslovakia will disturb all liberal countries and will prejudice to some extent - perhaps even to a great extent - any wish that they might have to encourage Russia and her satellite countries to join the world organisations that have been mentioned.
– I ask the Minister for Defence a question. In view of his statement to the House last week that the Australian aircraft industry is being reduced through lack of orders, will he and the Government consider establishing a hovercraft industry within the present aircraft industry factory complex, geared to build all sizes of these revolutionary and versatile transportation units for use on land and water in Australia? Would it be possible to build hovercraft large enough to master the Bass Strait crossing with speed and efficiency, carrying both passengers and motor cars? Could the building of hovercraft become an important national industry utilising workers now employed in aircraft factories?
– I am well aware of developments in hovercraft design throughout the world. Indeed, I have the strongest feeling that in the not far distant future hovercraft will be very widely used both for commerce and military purposes. At the moment the application of hovercraft to military needs is largely experimental.
The Department of Defence is closely watching developments in this field but it is not yet timely to embark on studies leading perhaps to manufacture. It is questionable whether hovercraft should be built in a shipyard or in an aircraft factory. In any event, it is a little too early to embrace actively a programme of the kind suggested by the honourable gentleman. Nevertheless, his proposal is a valuable one.
– I desire to ask the Minister for External Affairs a question. I desire to ask the right honourable gentleman, first, whether it is the intention of the Government to convey to the Czech consular or diplomatic representatives in this country the concern of our Government about the invasion of Czechoslovakia. Secondly, is it the intention of the Australian Government to make representations to the Soviet Union concerning the personal safety of Mr Dubcek and his Government in view of the record in the past of defenestration?
- Mr Speaker, perhaps I might be permitted to answer that question or some parts of the question. I can say that it is not the intention of the Australian Government to express its concom to the Government of the Soviet Republic because the Australian Government has already done so. Indeed, the Russian Charge d’ Affaires called on me this morning in order to present to me a message the gravamen of which was that Russian troops and other satellite troops had entered Czechoslovakia at the request of the Czechoslovakian Government.
On behalf of the Australian Government, I informed him that I found this impossible to believe, and that particularly in view of the broadcasts from Prague Radio during the progress of this invasion to the effect that it was taking place against the wishes of the legal government of Czechoslovakia and of other evidence in our possession. I felt that the Parliament and the people of Australia would find this equally difficult to believe. I asked the Charge to convey to the Government of the USSR this feeling on the Australian Government’s part and also I informed him of the distress, concern and revulsion which the Australian Government feels at this action. I was informed that this message would be conveyed to the Russian Government.
-I ask a question of the Minister for External Affairs. Does the United Nations Charter provide for the application of economic sanctions against countries which are guilty of perpetrating threats or breaches of the peace or acts of aggression? Does the invasion of Czechoslovakia by Russia and countries under her hegemony constitute an act of aggression of a most deliberate and cold-blooded kind? Will the right honourable gentleman instruct Australia’s representatives at the United Nations to voice a strong protest against this act? Will Australia’s representatives at the United Nations press immediately for the application of sanctions against the guilty countries?
- Mr Speaker, just to clear the ground, perhaps I should give precision to what was implied in the question asked by the honourable gentleman. The United Nations Charier does contain provision for the imposition of economic sanctions. But it also sets down the procedures by which those sanctions may be imposed. The procedures broadly are that a matter is referred to the Security Council. The Security Council, having made certain determinations that are required by the Charter can choose among several measures the imposition of economic sanctions. If the Security Council votes to that effect, the other members of the United Nations under Article 25 have agreed that they will comply with the decision of the Security Council.
I am sure that the honourable gentleman will recognise that there are many impediments in the way of reaching a decision in the Security Council, not the least of these being the possession of the power of veto by permanent members of the Security Council. So, it is not simply a question of the Australian Government calling for the imposition of sanctions. This is something that can be done by the Security Council only. The Security Council has been called together. The Security Council at this moment in fact is meeting to consider the Czech situation. I cannot predict what action if any, the Security Council will be able to take. Later in the morning, if I am granted leave by the House,I will be seeking to make a longer statement on this subject.
– My question is addres sed to the Minister for Social Services.Is it a fact that the mother of a subnormal child who is in receipt of a widow’s pension loses that pension when the child turns 16 years of age unless the widow is over 45 years of age? Is it also a fact that an innocent woman in a bigamous marriage who has a child is not entitled to receive a widow’s pension as the child is considered to be born out of wedlock? If so, when will he introduce amendments to the Social Services Act to remove these unjust anomalies?
– The answer to the first question is yes. The answer to the second question is that under the legislation passed by this House the State governments do take account of cases such as those mentioned by the honourable member and the Commonwealth Government does reimburse theState governments for one-half of the costs. The principles under which this decision was made were explained to the Houseat the time the legislation was passed and accepted by the House.
– I address a question to the Minister for the Interior. What plans has the Government for the property known as ‘Bonna Vista’ in South Yarra in my electorate, which was vacated by the PostmasterGeneral’s Department 2 years ago? Is it true that consideration is being given to converting it to be the Kirribilli House of Melbourne, thereby enabling the Prime Minister to be made as comfortable when visiting Melbourne as he is at present when visiting Sydney?
– The situation in relation to Bonna Vista’ is as the honourable member says. The Postmaster-General’s Department handed it over to my Department for disposal 2 years ago. Since that time it has been used intermittently for training purposes. The practice followed by the Department is to inquire from other departments to ascertain whether some other Commonwealth use can be found for areas of land or buildings that become available for disposal. When this is completed, a decision is taken. At present the Government is considering the future of ‘Bonna Vista’ and until that decision is taken I am unable to make any further comment.
– I ask the Minister for External Affairs or the Prime Minister: Will they, when making statements about the incredibly aggressive, cruel and stupid invasion of Czechoslovakia by the Soviet Union, endeavour to give the conviction that they will not be obstructed by any constitutional difficulties or the possibility of veto in the Security Council or elsewhere when they are trying to make clear the opposition of the Australian people to such a stupid and wanton act? Will they at the same time try to clear away the feeling of hypocrisy and humbug that is associated with this Government in its support of aggression on other occasions when it suits its own interest?
– Before I answer the first part of the question asked by the honourable member I wish to express resentment on behalf of the Government at the accusation that there is hypocrisy in this Government and that it supports aggression in other paris of the world.
– Of course there is. You sent troops to Vietnam.
– Don’t be such a hypocrite.
-Order! The honourable member for Hindmarsh will withdraw that statement.
– Yes, I will withdraw the statement, having made it.
– And apologise.
– And I apologise, having made the statement.
– On the question of the invasion of Czechoslovakia, which is not merely an invasion of one country but an invasion of human rights in all countries and which has been properly characterised by the honourable member as stupid, cruel and wanton, I would have hoped that it was a matter that could have been discussed by the House with some dignity and without the intrusion of attacks, on the Government of the sort that the honourable member for Yarra seeks to inject into the debate. It is regrettable that the honourable member should have taken a matter of great world moment and twisted it to his own political ends.
– What humbug.
-Order! I warn the honourable member for Yarra.
– As to the other part of the question asked by the honourable member, I have already informed the House that we have sent a message of protest to the Soviet Union at what we described as an action which caused us distress, concern and revulsion. The Minister for External Affairs will make a statement later and in that statement no doubt will be a record of what is happening in the Security Council and in the United Nations now. The honourable member can be assured that the Government of Australia will do all that it can in the United Nations to express its objection to what has occurred. I would hope that that could be a subject of debate without the intrusion of such matters as the honourable member has put forward.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Customs and Excise. The Minister no doubt will be aware of a customs cancellation of by-law concession on headerharvesters of 20 feet width and larger which is due to come into force on 30th September. It has been estimated that this will cause an increase in the cost of some of the larger headers of up to $2,750. In view of the expected record harvest of wheat in Australia this year, will the Minister for Customs and Excise give serious consideration to continuing the by-law concession on header-harvesters of 20 feet width and larger beyond the announced date of cancellation of the by-law concession, namely 30th September?
– I will refer the question raised by the honourable member to the Minister in another place and obtain for him a proper answer.
– I address my question to the Minister for External Affairs.
– This will be good.
– I thank the honourable gentleman for his homage. 1 point out that political content was introduced into a debate on this subject last night. But I do not propose to bring this note into my question. Will the Minister initiate moves to circumvent the use of the veto in the Security Council if it is applied? How do we get around the veto if it is used? Will the Minister take steps to initiate a system of collective guarantees of borders against the armed forces of another country, say on the lines of some international convention? Will he use ail his diplomatic resources to give world opinion some sort of momentum and teeth in response to the activities ot the Russian Government in Europe? Has he noted the tremendous insult to the people of Czechoslovakia and central Europe by the use of German forces?
– The Charter of the United Nations, is of course, equivalent to the constitution of the United Nations, and its various organs have to act in accordance wilh that constitution. While the Security Council is seised of the matter - and at the moment the Security Council is seised of the question of Czechoslovakia - other organs of the United Nations are precluded from dealing with it. In the event that the Security Council was incapable of dealing with the matter, then in certain circumstances that matter could pass to the General Assembly of the United Nations, and in default of action by the Security Council, the General Assembly might take to itself the right to pass resolutions or to call upon other members of the United Nations to take certain action. I think that answers the first part of the honourable member’s question.
The second part of his question asked for an Australian initiative in trying to get some collective guarantees of frontiers. The sad fact is that such a collective guarantee does exist in the Charter of the United Nations itself but is not as scrupulously observed as we would wish it to be observed. The Soviet Union no less than other members of the United Nations has pledged itself to the principles and purposes of the United
Nations which include this respect for the territorial integrity of other nations. Beyond that, the only method open to us is the negotiation of collective treaties and, of course, you cannot negotiate a treaty simply by the fiat of one nation. One could only get it by obtaining, through negotiation, the agreement of the several nations concerned. [ would ask the honourable member to consider as a matter of political reality what prospects the Australian Government or any other government would have df negotiating a treaty with the Soviet Union which would bind the Soviet Union to respect tha frontiers of its neighbours.
– I address a question to the Treasurer. 1 refer to the lease and purchase of buildings for departmental purposes, ls it a fact that the Auditor-General has criticised the waste of public moneys duc to long delays before some leasehold premises are occupied? Secondly, is it true that a building which was purchased in Paris for diplomatic purposes has now been found to be unsuitable? As Treasury circulars seem to be ignored, has the Government considered the advisability of appointing an able and proved businessman to the service for the express purpose of checking the needs and suitability of buildings being considered for Government use?
– The answer to the first question asked by the honourable gentleman is yes, I have the information about which he has asked. As regards the second question asked by him, yesterday in the House the Minister for External Affairs gave an answer to a similar question. As regards the third part of the question, that is the part relating to whether or not it would be wise to have a businessman investigate matters of the kind to which the honourable gentleman has referred, I personally am of the opinion at the moment that the procedures adopted by the Commonwealth civil service are adequate. Nonetheless, I will have a look at the question in detail and advise him, by letter, as to the decisions that are made.
– I ask the Minister for External Affairs a question. In his next statement to the House on foreign policy could he enlighten the Parliament and the Australian people as to the extent of the barbarity and slaughter, still occurring, which are directed to political prisoners in Indonesia, the only country with which we have a common border?
– I will carefully consider making some reference in the next comprehensive statement on international affairs to this particular situation in Indonesia. In saying that, I certainly do not join in the use of the terms that the honourable gentleman used. I think the position that we have to realise is that when an attempt was made to overthrow the government in Indonesia it was accompanied by murder, including the murder of several senior generals and attempts on the lives of others, in circumstances that certainly inflamed the passions of the people most directly concerned. Following that, there was a period in which, regrettably, there was very considerable bloodshed in Indonesia, and reprisals were taken. The position in respect of political detainees in Indonesian prisons I think has been very much exaggerated in some of the statements that have been circulated and have been given currency. I would rather expect from the tone of the question that the honourable member was drawing on some of this rather exaggerated and partisan statement. There is a situation of which we are aware and to which we will give attention, and at a suitable opportunity I will make some reference to it.
– My question is directed to the Treasurer. As Australia is a country facing the complexities of expansion in population and national development, what is the latest Government view on the establishment of foreign banks in Austrafia? May any bank operate in this country to the exclusion only of the acceptance of deposits? Would it not be true that Australia’s banking and monetary experience would advance in sophistication more rapidly and that the employment of funds in national projects would be more significant if overseas bank competition on a limited basis were permitted?
– The honourable member has asked a question that is of very great political and policy importance. I do not think that I could give him a complete answer during question time. But I can say that it has been the policy of the Australian Government not to permit branches of overseas banks to be established. I think that if we did permit one we would have to permit a minimum of five or six to be established here, and 1 am certain that the banking system would become overbanked I doubt whether it would have any great advantages for the Australian banking system or the Australian people. As to ihe second part of the honourable member’s question, which relates to foreign funds, this is only one of the important considerations. As to the third part of the question, or that which is implicit in what the honourable member says, we do permit representative offices of overseas banks here. These representatives act as intelligence or liaison agents for interests in other countries. On the whole I see no reason to depart from the policy that is now followed by the Government. Nonetheless in deference to the wishes or opinions of the honourable member I will again have the matter looked at.
– I ask the Minister for Primary Industry a question. May I say by way of preface that I noted the absence from the Budget of reference to the proposed $25m rationalisation plan for the dairying industry which was announced by the Minister outside this House earlier this year. I ask the Minister: What has caused the delay in announcing the plan to the House and in budgeting for its implementation? Do the States, as I do, regard the plan as being incomplete and half baked, and have they refused to accept it? What is the position? When can the Parliament expect to hear something concrete on this matter of national concern?
– There is an indication in the Budget that the plan will be operating. There is provision for Sim in the Estimates for the current year. The reason for delay in implementing the plan is that I have been unable to achieve agreement with all the States. Land conditions vary from State to State. The tenure and the rate of interest that is paid on Crown land vary. The amount of money that will be used for a grant as against that which will be on loan and the interest to be paid on the loan money have been examined. We have now rationalised the position of all the States. A proposition is before the Government. I hope to be able to make an announcement on it very shortly and to have a Bill brought before the Parliament during this session.
– The Minister for Shipping and Transport will know that we arc now in the fifth and last year o! operation of the current Commonwealth Aid Roads Act. Is he aware that in this House and elsewhere the stipulated proportion of 40C& of funds for rural roads is being attacked with a view to having it reduced in future legislation? At the appropriate time will the Minister grant interviews so thai the case can be clearly stated by accredited representatives of the greater Australia outside our metropolitan areas?
– The honourable member has referred to the impending expiration of the present Commonwealth Aid Roads Act which provides for the distribution of funds to the States for road purposes, lt is true that consultations are going on, and I will be happy to follow his suggestion and meet people who have particular interests in (his field. All1 the consultations that are going on and that will be necessary are designed to determine the nature and extent of further grants by the Commonwealth. I may add that at this stage no decision has been taken on the nature or extent of new legislation, but I think all of us recognise the tremendous demands throughout Australia for the continued development of our roads system on much the same basis a.s that on which it has been developed in the past.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Defence. What progress has been made in the proposed integration of officer training in a tri-Service defence college at Duntroon? Has the honourable gentleman any idea of the savings such integration would effect? Has he considered giving the proposed college the status of a university or a college of advanced education so that all future Service officers would have degree or diploma standing on graduation?
– I have previously announced the general principles which have guided the Government in considering this question of higher education for Sen ice officers and the integration of all Service officer education in one institute. Unfortunately the planning is not far enough advanced at i his stage to enable mc. to indicate the likely cost or the other matters which concern the honourable member. However, I will give him the information as soon us possible.
– My question is directed to the Prime Minister. In view of the information, which has been given to the House this morning by the Minister for External Affairs, that it is apparently futile to expect any action through the United Nations in respect of what is happening in Czechoslovakia, will the Prime Minister consider obtaining all possible information from his departmental advisers and placing it before the Government in order to decide whether there is any real sense in maintaining diplomatic relations with the Warsaw Pact countries associated with the latest action in Czechoslovakia?
– I did not gather from what the Minister for External Affairs said to the House that it was necessarily futile to expect action through the United Nations. Lt is true - and this is no doubt the basis of the honourable member’s question - that the use of force by the United Nations against a major power is most unlikely to succeed, and indeed in that sense I suppose the word ‘futile’ could be used. But I believe that is not the end of the matter and I think that as the debate develops on the statement which the Minister for External Affairs will later make it will be clear that the Czechs themselves believe that the mobilisation of parliamentary and public opinion in various countries and through the United Nations can be of great assistance to them. That is what 1 would say in reply to the first part of the honourable member’s question. The second part involves such considerable policy matters that I do not think 1 could possibly answer it at question lime.
– I ask the Minister for Defence whether his attention has been drawn to a rather sensational statement which appeared in the Sydney ‘Sun’ in recent weeks to the effect that the United States Government intends to convert the meteorological site at Alice Springs, which it has been operating for some years, into a nuclear site at an estimated cost of $200m, or some such figure. If his attention has been drawn to the statement, will he investigate the matter? In any event, will be state to the House as clearly as he can the use to which the Americans are putting this site, which they have occupied for probably the last 15 or 16 years?
– There seems to be a considerable amount of confusion about this matter and American interest in sires at Alice Springs. What the right honourable gentleman said in respect to the meteorological site is, of course, abundantly true but there is no plan to convert that site into anything having any association at ill with nuclear matters. 1 think the confusion surrounds the joint Australian-American defence space research facility which is now being developed near Alice Springs. As 1 have pointed out to the House on a number of occasions, this is an experimental project only. It is concerned with upper atmosphere and space phenomena, some of which may conceivably have a defence significance. I stress the word ‘experimental’, because most fantastic reports have been circulated about the purpose of this station. I cannot tell honourable members what it will do; I can only tell them what it will not do. It will not do any of the things purported of it in recent articles published in the Sydney Press and, earlier than that, in the ‘Australian Financial Review’. 1 again stress that this is purely an experimental station; it is not an operational station. If my memory serves me correctly, the total cost of establishing the centre has been about S13m, to which Australia will make a contribution of approximately S3m. Australia’s contribution will be in the form of roads and certain housing in Alice Springs which, of course, will have a continuing value to Australia and to Alice Springs regardless of what may happen to the station in the future. The cost of the installation of the equipment is not known to us. The sum of $200m has been mentioned but that figure might well be a flight of fancy. Nobody knows, not even the United States itself, what the cost of the installation of equipment will be at this purely experimental station.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether he is aware of an article written in ‘Dissent’ by the honourable member for Yarra in which the honourable member discussed the relationship between Communist Party policies and the policy of the Australian Labor Party, ls the right honourable gentleman aware of any evidence that the Australian Labor Party favours some parts of the Communist Party’s policy, particularly as the Labor Party obviously is angered by the outcome of Communist Party policy in Czechoslovakia?
– I have not read the article in ‘Dissent’ to which the honourable member refers and consequently I am unable to comment upon it. lt is of course clear to all that there are some common objectives between the Communist Party of Australia and the Australian Labor Party. That, of course, has been made clear by the Labor Party itself, particularly by those spokesmen who have objected to the close association in Victoria in particular between the Communist Party and the Australian Labor Party but who have done nothing about it. But that is a matter which, I think, has no relationship to any overseas events which we are discussing today.
– My question is directed to the Minister for the Navy. What is the Minister’s answer to Rear-Admiral Crabb’s recent statement that prospects of acquiring a fourth guided missile destroyer for the Royal Australian Navy had faded because the production line in the United States of America was almost finished? Does he admit that, in addition to the ineffectiveness of a task force without a reserve unit, we have acquired vessels which are now becoming obsolescent? What are his proposals for preventing a resurrection of the time-honoured policy of bis Government of buying obsolescent craft from the Imperial Navy?
– I have recently had the opportunity to see HMAS ‘Hobart’ in action off South Vietnam and anything less obsolescent I cannot imagine. Ships of this type are very effective and have acquitted themselves very well. There is no doubt whatever that they have served ils well. At the moment we have more urgent requirements than another DDG. The Naval Board has not advised the Government that a fourth one is necessary.
– For the information of honourable members T present the following paper:
Accident Investigation Report - Hell 204B Helicopter VH-UTW at Barracouta Platform on 22nd March I96S.
F seek, leave to make a short statement in connection with this report.
– There being no objection, leave is granted.
– Honourable members will recall my earlier statements in this House in connection with this accident and my undertaking to inform the House of the conclusions reached when the investigation was completed. In the intervening months the officers of my Air Safety Investigation Branch have completed a detailed examination of the damaged aircraft and of the operational circumstances of the accident. In the course of this work assistance in the metallurgical field has been provided by the Aeronautical Research Laboratories of the Department of Supply and advice has been sought from overseas air safety authorities as well as from the helicopter manufacturer in the United States of America.
The investigating officers have submitted the accident investigation report to me and copies are now available for honourable members. The Air Safety Investigation Branch of my Department has a worldwide reputation for the high quality of its investigation and reporting on aircraft accidents and this report is no exception. Honourable members will see in the photo graphs appended to this report some remarkable illustrations of the accident actually occurring. These photographs were taken by members of the visiting Press party and have been made available to assist the investigation. The report itself will, I believe, be an assurance to honourable members that all relevant maters have been thoroughly explored and that proper conclusions have been drawn.
The report confirms my earlier statement that a structural failure of the aircraft’s tail fin occured as it was hovering just above the Barracouta helipad and this quite unexpected event deprived the pilot of directional control at a critical stage of the landing. It is now apparent that the fin failure was the result of errors made in assembly of the tail rotor hub fitted te the aircraft and, in particular, the omission of a small nylon thrust washer. This omission produced a substantial outofbalance situation in the tail rotor which caused fatigue cracking of the tail fin which progressed very rapidly in the last 2 to 3 hours of operation prior to the accident. It is a very significant commentary upon the problem of air safety and the importance of great care by all persons engaged in the aviation industry that the omission of such a small and apparently insignificant component could, in a short space of time, cause a tragedy of this magnitude.
As a result of this error in the assembly of the tail rotor and, because of other evidence of inadequate maintenance procedures revealed in the investigation, the Director-General on 5th April suspended the certificate of approval issued to Helicopter Utilities Pty Ltd authorising it to distribute aircraft goods, to maintain aircraft and to overhaul aircraft components. He immediately instituted a separate and detailed investigation of the company’s engineering organisation, facilities and procedures and at the same time asked the company to show cause why he should not also take action against its aerial work and charter licences. As a result of this special investigation and, in the light of assurances given by the chairman of directors of the company, the Director-General on 2nd May restored the authorisations to overhaul aircraft components and to distribute aircraft goods but required further ‘ improvements to the company’s maintenance organisation and facilities, both as conditions of the retention of its operating licences and before its authority to maintain aircraft would be restored.
As a result of these demands a very considerable strengthening of the company’s engineering organisation, its facilities and maintenance systems has now been achieved. The system improvements required by the Director-General have also been met and as a result no action will be taken against the operating licences. Within the last few days the Director-General has also restored the company’s authorisation to maintain aircraft. From this extensive action in relation to the operator’s engineering organisation, honourable members may discern that the Director-General took the view that the errors which occurred in the assembly of the tail rotor installed on VH-UTW were more a product of deficiencies in the organisation as a whole, rather than weaknesses which could be entirely isolated to the particular engineers responsible for the assembly of the tail rotor.
The other matter of concern in this accident was, of course, the presence of a party of pressmen and public relations officers on the helipad while the landing was being carried out. The report makes it clear that this was an unsafe situation and, indeed, having regard to the consequences of the accident, it would be difficult to draw any other conclusion. It is apparent that the pilot, without undue difficulty, could have asked for the helipad to be cleared using the radio communication channel that was available.
The Director-General issued an instruction relating to the use of helipads some three weeks prior to this accident and this required pilots to take adequate precautions to ensure that persons were clear of helipads during landing operations. Prior to the issue of this instruction, general provisions relating to the safety of persons in proximity to helicopter landing and take-off areas were implemented through operations manuals. The promulgation of the more detailed instruction followed an extensive period of discussions with helicopter operators and was a reflection of the experience gained during the formative years of this segment of the industry.
The investigators have given the operator, and the pilot, the benefit of the doubt as to whether, in the circumstances of mail delays during early March, practical effect could reasonably have been given to the Director-General’s instruction and again on the question of whether there was an explicit contravention of the previously existing requirements. These conditions cannot, however, absolve the pilot and operator from their over-riding responsibilities for exercising proper caution in the interests of safety. Accordingly, the investigators have pointed out that the pilot’s action in landing on the helipad while persons were standing on it was less than adequate discharge of his responsibility for the safety of persons.
Mr Speaker, it goes without saying that this or any other accident involving the death or serious injury of any members of this community is a tragedy of great regret to this House. I am satisfied, however, that this report reflects a thorough and painstaking investigation of all matters relevant to the accident and I am equally satisfied that the action taken by the Director-General to improve the engineering organisation and procedures followed in Helicopter Utilities Pty Ltd was both proper and appropriate to the circumstances.
A commentary on this accident investigation report, giving particular emphasis to the cause - the omission of the nylon thrust washer in the assembly of the tail rotor - will, in the next few weeks, be widely publicised in the ‘Aviation Safety Digest’ which is distributed throughout the aviation industry in this country and in many parts of the world.
– I ask for leave to make a statement.
– Is it on the same subject?
– Is leave granted?
– There being no objection, leave is granted. I call the honourable member for Newcastle.
– Mr Speaker, I rise to a point of order. I do not wish to delay the House. Is the honourable member for
Newcastle seeking leave to make a statement or will we have the chance to debate this matter at a later stage?
– The honourable member for Newcastle has asked for leave to make a statement on the same subject matter as that dealt with by the Minister for Civil Aviation. Leave has been granted by the Minister in charge of this matter.
– Sir, could we not move that the paper be printed? Then the debate could be adjourned. This closes the whole affair.
– This is a matter for the honourable member for Newcastle, if he wishes to do so, or the Minister for Civil Aviation, if he wishes to do so.
– Mr Speaker, if I may make one point-
– Order! If the Minister is prepared to move that the House take note of the paper, the House can debate the motion.
– Leave has been given to the honourable member for Newcastle.
– Mr Speaker, I will be quite happy if the Minister will move that the House take note of the paper on the condition that I can get an assurance that this matter will not come on for debate somewhere in the dim distant future. I think that this is an important question that should be debated. It should not be disposed of very rapidly by the Minister making a statement and me preparing a hurried reply to it. So, I am quite happy provided that 1 can get the assurance. As my Leader reminds me. the item should not lie on the notice paper and never be revived. This is what I am concerned about. If it goes on the notice paper it may never be revived and neither honourable members on this side of the House nor honourable members on the other side of the House will get the opportunity to debate the matter. So, where do we go, Mr Speaker?
– I take a further point of order. I know that I am out of order in saying this, but if the Minister moves that the paper be printed the honourable member for Newcastle could make some remarks and then seek leave to continue his remarks later when the debate is resumed. This would give to all honourable members a chance to debate this matter.
– There is no substance in the point of order.
– 1 know that.
– Leave has been granted to the honourable member for Newcastle to make a statement. The Minister for Civil Aviation has not decided yet whether he will move that the paper be printed or that the House take note of the paper.
– We will put this matter to the Leader of the House (Mr Snedden). I am sure that time can be made available for a debate. An honourable member on the Government side will move that the House take note of the paper.
– I move:
– I do not think that the motion moved by the honourable member for Lilley is in order. This must be done by the Minister.
– Mr Speaker, I move:
– The question is, That the House take note of the paper’.
– Mr Speaker-
– Is the honourable member speaking to the motion now?
– I would like to make a few remarks now and seek leave to continue at a later stage.
– The honourable member made his statement by leave and resumed his seat. The question now before the House is ‘That the House take note of the paper. Those of that opinion say Aye’-
– Mr Speaker, I rise to a point of order. I would think that, inside the Standing Orders, the honourable member for Newcastle was entitled, provided the House gave permission, to make a statement even without in any way interfering with these procedures.
– The honourable member can speak to the motion that the House take note of the paper. He has had leave already to make a statement.
– You can give him leave to make another statement.
– But we can. Ask for leave.
-The question is, ‘that the House take note of the paper’.
– On the assurance given to me by the Minister for Civil Aviation and now by the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) across the Table that time will be made available for this debate in a very short time, I move:
That the debate be now adjourned.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– by leave - When the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) spoke in the House yesterday afternoon, shortly after the first reports about Czechoslovakia started to come in, he was already able to say that from official information he could confirm that forces of the Soviet Union had entered Czechoslovakia and that East Germany, Poland, Hungary and Bulgaria were supporting the operation. The Prime Minister yesterday condemned this interference in the affairs of an independent country and said that armed threats and armed intervention, particularly since they appeared to be motivated merely by a desire for suppression of freedom of thought in the independent country, are a most serious breach of the United Nations Charter and of international law and practice and are deplored completely and utterly by the Australian Government.
Unfortunately information since then has added to the cause for condemnation and repugnance. It is now clear that the invasion by the Soviet Union was not at the request of the Government of Czechoslovakia. It is utterly contrary to the wishes of that Government. I shall read to the House some statements that support the presentation of the views of the Government of Czechoslovakia. First I read a statement made on 21st August by the Presidium of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia, this statement having been issued by the Czechoslovakian Embassy in London. The statement is as follows:
On 20th August at about 11 o’clock p.m. the military forces of the Soviet Union, the German Democratic Republic, the Polish People’s
Republic, the Hungarian People’s Republic and the Bulgarian People’s Republic have crossed the stale borders of the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic. This happened without the knowledge of the President of the Republic, the President of the National Assembly, the Prime Minister, the First Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia and their organs. The Presidium of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia was in session during that time and discussing the preparations for the XIVth Congress of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia.
The invasion of Czechoslovakia and the armed intervention by five states of the Warsaw Treaty were made against the will of the Government, the President of the National Assembly and other constitutional organs. No legal organ of the state power in Czechoslovakia had given consent to it or requested it.
The Soviet Union, Poland, the German Democratic Republic, Hungary and Bulgaria have thus roughly violated the basic principles of international law and trampled down the United Nations Charter which in international relations prohibits the use of force or threat of force against the integrity or political independence of any state. By this invasion the integrity of the State of Czechoslovakia has been violated in an unprecedented manner. Hie invasion occured despite the fact that Czechoslovakia, a small state in Central Europe, has nol threatened anybody and up to the very moment of- the invasion there has been complete calmness on the territory of the whole state. There is no pretext for the invasion.
That ends the first of the statements I wish to read.
I now turn to a statement issued by the Permanent Mission of’ Czechoslovakia to the United Nations. This statement contains a declaration by the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Czechoslovakia on 21st August 1968. Honourable members will recall that at question time the honourable member for Fremantle (Mr Beasley) indicated that the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Czechoslovakia, by sheer coincidence, was not in his country but is still outside the country. This is his declaration:
Today, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs with the endorsement of the President of the Republic informed the Ambassadors of the Soviet Union, Polish People’s Republic, German Democratic Republic, Hungarian People’s Republic and Bulgarian People’s Republic accredited in the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic to transmit to the Governments of the Soviet Union, Polish People’s Republic, German Democratic Republic, Hungarian People’s Republic and Bulgarian People’s Republic a resolute protest with the requirement that the illegal occupation of Czechoslovakia be stopped without delay and all armed troops be withdrawn from Czechoslovakia.
In this historical moment we express our hope that the governments and peoples of the Soviet Union, Polish People’s Republic, German Democratic Republic, Hungarian People’s Republic and Bulgarian People’s Republic will understandthe seriousness of the situation created by this act which cannot be explained in any way. and all the less made stand to reason, and will make it immediately possible for the Czechoslovak people and its legitimate representatives to continuetheir activities without delay.
That is the end of the second statement from which I quote. A further statement also issued by the Czechoslovak Mission to the United Nations recounts in its opening paragraphs the invasion of the country and then gives a message that the Mission in New York has received from the Presidium of the National Assembly of Czechoslovakia. The message from the Presidium of the National Assembly is as follows:
The Deputies of the National Assembly-
That is. our sister parliament in Czechoslovakia - met and unanimously accepted the following declaration atatime when the Government and other organs cannot exercise their functions.
That is, the parliamentarians - identify ourselves withthe declarations of the Presidium of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia and the Presidium of the National Assembly protesting against the occupation of Czechoslovakia by armies of the five countries of the Warsaw Treaty and considering it as a violation of international law, the provisions ofthe Warsaw Treaty and the principles of equality among nations.
I interrupt my reading of the message to point out that this is an indication, through the mouth of the Czechoslovak National Assembly that the leaders of the Czechoslovak Government have apparently been interned and are in custody of some kind or other from the Soviet invaders. The message continues:
The delegation of the National Assembly, which we sent to the Soviet Embassy this morning, has not returned so far.
We protest againstthe fact that the National Assembly, Government, institutions of the National Front and their representatives are prevented from exercising their legitimate rights and further from freedom of movement and assembly.
We categorically request immediate withdrawal of the armed forces of the five states of the Warsaw Treaty and full respect for the state sovereignty of the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic.
We appeal to the parliaments of all countries and to world public opinion and ask them to support our legitimate requirements.
Again I interrupt my reading from the message to direct the attention of all honourable members to the fact that this is an appeal to this Parliament, as to other parliaments, from a sister parliament in Czechoslovakia to ask for our support for its legitimate requirements. I resume the reading of the message:
It then recites the names - to contact the Chairman of the National Assembly, the President of the Republic and the Prime Minister in order to inform them about this decision and agree with them on further proceedings.
The delegation of the National Assembly will report to the Czechoslovak people on the result of the negotiations without delay.
Working people, citizens. Remain on your working places and protect your enterprises.
For future development of Socialism in Czechoslovakia make use of all democratic means.
If necessary, you will be able to defend yourselves also by general strike.
We are confident that we will overcome these serious moments with pride and character.
That is the end of the second quotation. Looking at these events we find that the Soviet Union justifies its action by saying that it was requested by the Government of Czechoslovakia to render direct assistance, including assistance by military forces, because of the situation created by external and internal conspiracy against the existing social order in Czechoslovakia and against the statehood established by the constitution of that country. That is the Soviet version of the motivation for its invasion. The Australian Government does not accept that justification. It is quite clear from statements that have come out of Czechoslovakia including the statements 1 have read, and it is quite clear from events in that country in the last 24 hours, that what is being done in Czechoslovakia is being clone against the will of the people andthe Government of Czechoslovakia.
Here in Canberra, the Charge d’Affaires of the Soviet Union, acting under instructions from his Government, called on the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) this morning. The Prime Minister at question time has already given an account of that interview. I was also present when the Prime Minister received the Charge d’Affaires, who delivered a message from his Government which attempted to explain the actions of the Soviet Union in the terms 1 have just stated. The Prime Minister indicated that the Australian Government did not accept this and expressed to him categorically and strongly the abhorrence that the Australian Government feels at what has occurred. The Charge d’Affaires undertook to communicate these views to his own Government.
Consideration of this matter has already commenced in the Security Council of the United Nations. The Council assembled a few hours ago at the request of representatives of the United Kingdom, the United States of America, France, Denmark, Paraguay and Canada. The Australian Government fully favours the convening of this meeting. In our view it would have been unthinkable for the Security Council not to meet when an event like this takes place and when the basic purposes and principles of the Charter are being breached so flagrantly. We await the outcome of the deliberations of the Security Council, and for reasons that were lightly touched upon at question time this morning, it is extremely difficult to forecast or even guess at the course of debate and the possibilities of action that might lie before the Security Council.
The Secretary-General of the United Nations, U Thant, has also made a statement and I should like to read part of it to the House. The statement was issued by the Secretariat on behalf of the SecretaryGeneral. It reads:
This morning, the Secretary-General has had meetings with the Heads of Missions directly concerned with the events in Czechoslovakia and with the President of the Security Council.
The Secretary-General does not yet have full official information in regard to the most recent developments and the circumstances which led to them.
It is well known, however, that the SecretaryGeneral deplores any resort to force to settle international problems, wherever it may occur, in contravention of the Charter of the United Nations.
In the present case, the Secretary-General regards the developments in Czechoslovakia as yet another serious blow to the concepts of international order and morality which form the basis of the Charter of the United Nations and for which the United Nations has been striving all these years.
It is also a grave setback to the East-West detente which seemed to be re-emerging in recent months, .and to which the Secretary-General attaches Die greatest importance.
Me has appealed to the Government of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics to exercise the utmost restraint in its relations with the Government and people of Czechoslovakia, and strongly hopes that this appeal will be heeded by the Government of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and its Warsaw Pact allies.
That is the end of my quotation from the statement issued on behalf of the SecretaryGeneral of the United Nations. It is clear that one of the worst features of this very unhappy situation, as the Prime Minister suggested in the House yesterday, is that it is a setback to the hopes of a greater detente in the world power situation. All of us had hoped that the Communist and non-Communist countries could widen the scope of agreement between themselves and work together for peace and economic development to a greater extent than they have in the past. It seems to us that the action of the Soviet Union has been prompted by fear - fear of the movement towards liberalism and relaxation amont their own people, not least among the youth of their own countries. Fear is not a good basis for peace. This return to the brutal use of power in complete disregard of the aspirations of others - and I repeat what I said before - comes at a time when, in many parts of the world, hope was reviving that, as intended in the United Nations Charter, the great powers might find ways of working together for peace. In recent years in matters such as those relating to nuclear limitation, the helpful intervention of the Soviet Prime Minister at Tashkent, restraint of the conflict in the Middle East, and the apparent lessening of tensions in Europe, some nations which had previously seen the Soviet Union in Stalinist days as only a threat to the world had recently begun to feel some hope of a better understanding.
This week’s events in Czechoslovakia have shattered these hopes. They have reduced the international influence of the Soviet Union and have strengthened the voices of those who see the Soviet Union as a threat to mankind and nothing else. The Soviet Union has not only done damage to the hopes of free nations; it has done serious damage to itself. How can free nations respect or trust a power that destroys freedom by force?
As honourable members know, the Australian Government was one of the first in the world to condemn what has happened. It has made its views as a government known to the Government of the Soviet Union, and from this moment on the Australian Government will continue to keep closely in touch with other governments on all aspects of the situation. We believe in, and will work with others to try to bring about, an immediate withdrawal of the invading forces, and we would hope to see that this comes about without leaving a puppet regime in their wake. Having said that on behalf of the Government - and I do not think that any thing can be said more emphatically on behalf of the Government than what has been said already - 1 say that our view as a Government is clear. But the appeal that came to this Parliament and to other parliaments from the National Assembly of Czechoslovakia is something that extends beyond the Executive. Tt is something that extends to all parliamentary representatives assembled in this House. In the view of the Government this is a situation in which the Australian nation and the Australian people have interested and feelings which rise above the contests of domestic politics. Apart from the firmness of action which this Government has shown in the exercise of its responsibilities as the Australian Government, we would hope that this Parliament, as the voice of the Australian people, will be able to express a common view in abhorrence of this action. To that end I am proposing to move a motion for the consideration of the House, and a debate can ensue on that motion.
– Might I say that leave of the House is necessary before a motion can be moved.
– I seek leave to move a motion.
– There being no objection, leave is granted.
– I move:
– I second the motion. When the House assembled at question time yesterday I asked the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) whether he could make a statement on the subject. At the commencement of question time he did not feel1 that he had sufficient facts to be able to make a statement immediately after question time. He did, however, give a reply. 1 supported the reply, as was apparent from an interjection I made. It is clear that the whole House supported the reply. The statement has now been made. I support it in both its matter and its manner. The intervening hours have enabled the Minister for External Affairs (Mr Hasluck) and his Department to present to the House, and through it to the Australian people, at the earliest time, statements by the Czech Minister for External Affairs who is still free, by the SecretaryGeneral of the United Nations and by the National Assembly of Czechoslovakia. All three statements which the Minister has quoted deserve the support of this Parliament and of the Australian people, and I am sure they will receive it.
Early last week my own Party considered the situation in Czechoslovakia. On Sunday week the executive of the Party made a recommendation, and on the following day the Party resolved that it welcomed the extension by the Government of Czechoslovakia of civil and political rights to the people of Czechoslovakia and deplored outside pressure against an extension of those rights. The statement was given to the Press, and on Tuesday week, following a resolution by my Party’s executive, it was conveyed to the Ambassadors of the Soviet Union and of Yugoslavia and the ConsulsGeneral of Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria, Hungary, Poland and Romania.
The Prime Minister also made a statement in answer to a question by the honourable member for Fremantle (Mr
Beazley) at question time this morning. I was not present in the chamber at the time but I was able to bear it on the radio. I believe that the Prime Minister’s reply very properly expressed the views of the Parliament and of the people. The Minister for External Affairs has reiterated the Prime Minister’s response to the Charge d’Affaires of the Soviet Union. He used proper terms expressing the feelings of the Australian people and the Australian Parliament as well as of the Australian Government.
It is difficult to express the exasperation and frustration which people in this country must feel about this gallant people. Over the last half century the Czechs have had a tragic history, illumined by some quite remarkable bursts of political energy and hope. Fifty years ago they were liberated from the Hapsburgs and then 30 years ago subjugated by the Nazis. Then there was the liberation; but 20 years ago a second defenestration of Prague - that of Masaryk the younger. Now again they have been subjugated. This is a people who have had a cultural and social identity for many centuries. They are people who, however, have enjoyed a political identity for only 3 or 4 decades. No-one can be sure when they will recover that political identity. They have many relatives and former fellow citizens now resident in our country.
There is no reason whatever to hope that immediate international action will liberate the Czechs. In the Security Council there may be a majority to condemn the Soviet Union, but the Soviet Union has a veto. In the General Assembly there may be a majority to condemn the Soviet Union but the General Assembly does not have executive powers. The Soviet can be expelled from the United Nations. She was expelled from the League of Nations in 1939 over Finland. That action did not result in the liberation of Finland. Finland is free today purely because she expresses no dissent whatever on any subject concerning her mighty neighbour. Today there are two super powers, and because of the feebleness of international organisation, no dissent is tolerated by a great power in its neighbourhood. There may be occasions when the two super powers feel completely thwarted. I saw this happen in June last year. I was at the State Department in
Washington on the very day that the 6-day war broke out in the Middle East, lt was plain that the United States of America was surprised and impotent. It could not control or quell that war. I have no doubt that the same feelings prevailed in the Soviet Union. That was an area in which it was possible, physically, for the United States to approach the shores of the countries concerned, but because of other commitments she could not do so.
Last night, on the motion for the adjournment of the House, several private Government supporters tried to make an internal political issue of the present situation in Czechoslovakia. I was not here, neither was the Minister for External Affairs. We were at an engagement in Sydney at which one of the Minister’s colleagues spoke. The events which happened in the adjournment debate last night clearly did not have the blessing of the Government, the Minister for External Affairs or, needless to say, the Department of . External Affairs. Nevertheless,, since they occurred I should say, that we can expect that in Australia attempts will be made to make political capital of the situation overseas concerning the two gr,eat powers in the world - the only two powers that can. check each other. It is not inaccurate or irrelevant to say that the’ previous Russian aggression, that against Budapest 12 years ago, took place because Britain and France, which . were the only ,other. significant European powers, were . preoccupied and prejudiced at that time in Suez. A similar preoccupation and erosion of influence and power have overtaken the only countervailing force in the world today to the Soviet Union. There were last night and there still will be attempts to exploit the dashed hopes and crushed spirits among migrants in this country. One only has to look at the whole campaign concerning captive nations. We know quite well that in the 20 years since Masaryk the younger was murdered no attempt has been made to liberate captive nations.
It is quite wrong to., make external threats for internal consumption. As with the treatment by Nazi Germany of Czechoslovakia a generation ago, so in regard to the treatment by the Soviet Union of Czechoslovakia there are no differences of opinion in this Parliament or this nation.
The effect which Australia can have in securing proper respect for nations, not least nations of our size, such as Czechoslovakia, will be determined in two ways - how we conduct ourselves internally and how we conduct ourselves externally. Internally we must show that in Australia dissent is at least tolerated - that people, whatever their occupations, whatever their ages, whatever their beliefs, are free to express their views and to seek support for these views. It is because a mighty neighbour resented this happening after 20 years of twilight in Czechoslovakia that darkness has again descended on that country. We must see that we do not distort Australian democracy by a reversion to the cold war which followed Masaryk’s murder. The second influence we can have is externally. Every nation wishes to look after its own interests above all others. The great powers, the two super powers above all, to a considerable extent can and in many circumstances do, look after their own interests. Each has done so in the last 10 years, even the last 20 years. In some circumstances, a nation of our size, enjoying the good fortune of geography - no power in the world hostile to us can fly or sail to this nation, few can send missiles, and no neighbour can invade - may have more latitude than other nations which are immediately adjacent to great powers. But in the final analysis the survival and the freedom of all nations of our size, even in our geographic situation, depends on the consistent promotion of international organisations which will be powerful enough to ensure the integrity, the survival and the freedom of every identifiable political unit and every nation in the world.
Debate (on motion by Mr Gorton) adjourned.
– by leave - I think I should acquaint the House with the result of my discussions over the last few days with various State MinistersinCharge of Aboriginal Affairs. The House will recall that when the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) spoke at the conference of
Commonwealth and State Ministers responsible for Aboriginal affairs on 12th July, he indicated that as soon as an amount had been allocated in the Federal Budget I, as the appropriate Commonwealth Minister, would be in touch with the various States so that firm proposals could be made, and the States could get their programmes under way as soon as possible. In accordance with this instruction of the Prime Minister, I visited all mainland States last weekend and conferred with their relevant Ministers. I also spoke to the Tasmanian Minister by telephone. I think I can now say that as a result of these discussions an understanding has been reached with all States which should lead to full and friendly cooperation between all of them and the Commonwealth Government in this field of Aboriginal advancement.
The House will recollect that the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) has proposed this year to set aside $10m in an Aboriginal trust fund, of which half would be for capital projects and half would be expended on housing, health and education. I was able to give the State Ministers an outline of the way in which the capital fund would operate. Allocations will be made by the Cabinet, after processing by the Office of Aboriginal Affairs, for Aboriginal ventures - either corporate or individual - which appeared to be economically viable. We would hope that most of the applications would come forward on the recommendation either of the State concerned or the Northern Territory Administration, and I told the State Ministers that under no circumstances would we approve an advance in their State without prior consultation with them. This capital fund would be a revolving fund, so that moneys spent from it would be repayable on agreed terms in respect of each individual project.
The remaining S5m will be for nonrepayable grants, and it is proposed to split it between the States, approximately in proportion to their Aboriginal population, as follows:
This will leave Sim for the Northern Territory and $350,000 for later allocation.
Of the S3.65m split between the States, it is anticipated that approximately $2.3m will be spent on housing, approximately $500,000 on health, and approximately $850,000 on education. However, the division between these three functions is subject to some adjustment in accordance with the individual wishes of the States concerned, in regard to which they will, 1 hope, be putting their proposals to us without delay. In regard to housing, the Commonwealth has suggested certain principles, including the establishment of a special Aboriginal housing fund in each State, and the payment of all rents received from the houses bought or constructed into this fund. I have here a copy of our outline scheme, which with the concurrence of honourable members I incorporate in Hansard, lt is as follows:
COMMONWEALTH ASSISTANCE TO THE STATES FOR ABORIGINAL HOUSING
PURPOSES OF PROPOSED STATE ABORIGINAL HOUSING TRUST FUNDS
Payments to the Trust Fund
Rents received from dwellings acquired by using moneys in the trust fund less 20% thereof as a contribution towards administration and maintenance.
Proceeds of sales of land and/or homes acquired with the assistance of moneys in the trust fund.
Purposes for which moneys in the fund may be expended.
Purchase of residential land for Aboriginal housing.
Purchase of existing dwellings for occupation by Aboriginals.
Construction of dwellings for this purpose including hostel-type accommodation.
Unless otherwise specifically agreed by the Commonwealth, at least 40% of expenditure from the trust fund must be devoted to the construction or purchase of dwellings within the boundaries of cities and towns.
Not more than 20% of expenditure from the trust fund in a financial year may be used for ‘transitional’ housing. As far as possible housing should be of a standard usually required by the local authority. Wherever practicable, tenants of transitional homes should be under tuition during their occupancy and should move to conventional homes as soon as the) demonstrate they are capable of caring for a conventional home.
Aboriginals capable of tilling the normal State Housing Commission prerequisites for Commission homes will continue to be grunted them in the normal manner.
Occupants should pay rentals in accordance with their capacity to do so, with a view to their paying an economic rental as soon as possible. Until this stage is reached, they should pay a rental equivalent to a reasonable proportion, say 15%, of the family income.
Land ‘ and dwellings acquired with any moneys drawn from the trust fund will be vested in the State Minister or Department of Aboriginal Welfare who will nominate tenants. Wherever practicable, the State housing authority should act as agent for the Department in collecting rents and maintaining the properties. The State authority assuming responsibility for rent collection and maintenance would retain the 20% of rent collections referred lo in 1 (b) above.
Houses may be sold to the Aboriginal occupants on terms to be agreed between the Commonwealth and the State.
Houses no longer required for Aboriginal occupancy may be sold, on terms to be agreed by the Commonwealth, to the State housing authority or on the open market.
Each Slate will report from lime to lime to the Commonwealth Office of Aboriginal Affairs on its broad proposals for the expenditure of moneys from the trust fund and, as soon as possible after 30lh June each year, on -
the location, type and number of dwellings purchased, contracted and under construction at 30th June with the assistance of moneys from the trust fund;
the weekly rents being charged for these dwellings; and
the total rents collected during the preceding financial year and the total amount outstanding at 30th June.
All States have agreed to conform to these general principles, though there may be minor adjustments in various States to suit local circumstances.
In relation to education we aim, in co-operation with the States, to have firmly established by the beginning of the next academic year at the latest, a principle which is already operating over a great deal of Australia, namely, that every Aboriginal child or student who is able to reach the required standard should be given the facilities to proceed with his education, either academically or technically, up to the very highest levels. At the present moment very few Aboriginals have been qualified to enter the universities or colleges of advanced education. In the future, however, the Commonwealth will assume the major financial responsibility for seeking that this opportunity is available for all Aboriginals who can take advantage of it. The States are taking most of the responsibility in the primary and secondary field, but the Commonwealth is allowing moneys provided by it under this education scheme to be used for necessary hostels and similar assistance, so that no Aboriginal will be debarred from taking advantage of this educational programme.
In regard to health, special emphasis is to be laid on preventive medicine measures, particularly nutrition and sanitation. The full plan will not be finalised until the meeting of State and Federal health officers in Canberra next October, but this will not delay implementation of some interim measures.
The States have undertaken that this Commonwealth subvention of $3,650,000 will be a net addition to and not a substitute for their normal expenditure on Aboriginal welfare from State funds, and have agreed to minimum amounts for State expenditure upon Aboriginal welfare for 1968-69. Although I was not, of course, in a position to commit the Commonwealth to any figure for the years after 1968-69, J was able to assure the State Ministers that the Commonwealth’s involvement in this field would be a continuing one. The Commonwealth will be administering this programme through the Office of Aboriginal Affairs, with the assistance of and the advice from the Commonwealth Departments of Health, Housing. Education and Science, and the Interior. It is anticipated that moneys will be available for the States under this programme as soon as Parliament passes the present Budget.
I present the following paper:
Aboriginal Policy - Commonwealth Assistance to the States for Aboriginal Housing - Purposes of proposed State Aboriginal Housing Trust Funds - and move:
That the House take note of the paper.
– The statement, I would say, meets with the general approval of the Australian Labor Party, but we wish to study it in detail and discuss this important subject. Will the Minister give us an assurance that the motion will not simply remain on the business paper, and that at some time we will have an opportunity to discuss this very important matter?
– I will give that assurance.
Debate (on motion by Mr Daly) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Anthony, and read a first time.
– I move:
The purpose of this Bill is to amend the Processed Milk Products Bounty Act 1962- 1967 to permit the payment of this bounty on specified processed milk products that have been manufactured from products that have already attracted the production bounty under the Dairying Industry Act. The processed milk products section of the dairy industry has suffered from subsidised competition in export markets to such an extent that butterfat in processed milk products exports was 18% lower in 1967-68 than in 1966-67. The competition in export markets for processed milk products continues. The whole of the Australian dairy industry is concerned at the loss of the export sales of these products. Butterfat that would normally be thus exported is inevitably channelled back into butter production where a world wide surplus already exists.
The Australian Dairy Industry Council has submitted a proposal, which has the support of manufacturers of processed milk products, to help the latter compete in the export field. The Government has agreed to the Council’s proposal for the exemption of specified processed milk products from the restrictive provision contained in section 4 (3.) of the Processed Milk Products Bounty Act, so that the export bounty will be payable on products made from butterfat which has already attracted bounty under the Dairying Industry Act. The amendment will not involve the Government in any additional expenditure but will allow maximum usage of the $800,000 already appropriated by Parliament for payment as export bounty on processed milk products in each year of the current 5-year stabilisation plan which ends on 30th June 1972. I commend the BiD to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Beaton) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Anthony, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time:
This Bill will give effect to the Government’s decision to increase the bounty on phosphatic fertiliser manufactured and sold in Australia for use as fertiliser. Over much of Australia the soils, have a low phosphorus status and a low nitrogen status. In the better rainfall parts of southern Australia the most efficient way of overcoming these problems has been to apply superphosphate to pastures containing legumes, notably subterranean clover. Application of superphosphate is also a payable and virtually essential proposition in stimulating yield in most cereal growing areas. In addition progress in pasture establishment and grain cropping has opened up the possibility of greatly increased demand for superphosphate throughout the north.
The Phosphate Fertilisers Bounty Act 1963 provided for payment, during the 3- year period from 14th August 1963, of a bounty of $6 per ton of standard superphosphate with a soluble phosphorus pentoxide content falling between 194% and 20i%. Bounty was payable on other specified phosphatic fertilisers, for instance double and triple superphosphate and ammonium phosphate, at the rate of $30 per ton by weight of the phosphorus pentoxide content.
In July 1966 the period of the bounty was extended to 31st October 1969. Total bounty payments from 1963 to 30th June 1968 amounted te $1 16.5m. The bounty was designed to serve a twofold purpose, namely, to encourage greater use of superphosphate as a means of increasing production for export and to reduce costs, particularly in the sheep and wheat industries. There is little doubt that both purposes were achieved. Sales of superphosphate rose rapidly following the introduction of the bounty, from 2.8 million tons in 1962-63 to 4.3 million tons in 1966-67.
Some indication of the impact of the bounty can be gained from the rise in volume of rural production in this period. The Bureau of Agricultural Economics index of rural production rose from 166 in 1962-63 to 198 in 1966-67. Some of the increased rural output can be attributed to other factors but the steady upward trend could not have been maintained without the expansion in the use of superphosphate pro*moted by the bounty. One of the most significant effects of the bounty was on the area of improved pastures, which rose from 41 million acres in 1962-63 to 51 million acres in 1966-67, accounting for approximately 66% of total superphosphate usage.
Expenditure on superphosphate still represents a significant proportion of the cash outlay by primary producers. Surveys by the Bureau of Agricultural Economics show that the average expenditure on fertiliser accounts for 14% to 16% of cash costs in the sheep and wheat industries. The surveys also show that primary producers in general have not reduced their cash outlays on fertilisers. Instead, the lower cost resulting from the bounty has enabled them to use greater quantities of fertiliser without additional drain on their working capital.
Although the bounty has been most effective in achieving its purposes, its ability to continue to do so has been affected by unavoidable increases in the price of phosphate fertilisers since the bounty was introduced. The cost to superphosphate manufacturers of the two major raw materials, rock phosphate and sulphur, increased markedly between 1963-64 and 1967-68. The average landed cost of rock phosphate in 1963-64 was $12.80 per ton; in 1967-68 it was $18 per ton. The price of sulphur also rose sharply from $26.50 per ton in 1963-64 to $45 per ton in 1967-68. In addition, wage levels have risen since 1963-64.
Recently there have been improvements in the rate and cost of extracting Christmas Island rock phosphate together with an easing of world prices for rock phosphate and lower shipping freight charges. These more favourable supply factors led to some reduction in the pooled price of rock phosphate to Australian manufacturers from 1st July 1968. This has been offset in part by a further rise in the price of sulphur. Even so, most manufacturers have been able to reduce bulk superphosphate prices by 20c per ton. Whilst it is helpful, this reduction in price is not sufficient to offset other factors weakening the demand for superphosphate, such as the decline in woo) prices and -the financial difficulties faced by many farmers and graziers as an aftermath of the droughts that have affected major producing areas of five States. As a result of the cost-price squeeze on rural incomes, the quantity of superphosphate, including the superphospahte equivalent of other phosphatic fertilisers, bought by farmers and graziers in 1967-68 fell1 to about 4 million tons.
The Government has decided that in the circumstances prevailing some additional incentive is needed to encourage primary producers to continue to expand usage of phosphate fertilisers. The Bill before the House provides for an increase to $8 per ton of standard superphosphate, for an increase to $40 per ton of phosphorus pentoxide content in superphosphate other than standard superphosphate, and for a similar increase related to the phosphorus pentoxide content of other phosphatic fertilisers. The increased rate of bounty applies to all bountiable fertilisers sold by manufacturers on or after 14th August 1968.
It is believed that the increase in bounty provided by this Bill will encourage expanded superphosphate usage since graziers are now more conversant with the management practices entailed by the higher stocking rates needed to utilise fully the fodder available from improved pastures. Furthermore, the breaking of the drought has created conditions favourable to a rapid response by pastures to increased use of superphosphate encouraged by way of a higher rate of bounty.
The Bill further provides that the bounty will continue to 31st October 1971. Extension of the period of bounty to 1971 will enable primary producers to undertake longer range planning of property development. It is anticipated that with the incentive provided by the increase in bounty, sales of phosphate fertiliser will increase to the order of 4.6 million tons in 1968-69.
Bounty payments on this basis are estimated at $37m or Si 3m more than in 1967-68.
The benefits expected to result from the continuation of bounty at the increased rate can be put in this way: Farmers and graziers will benefit through lower costs of production; the nation will benefit through a continuation of the upward trend in volume or rural output; on the export markets there will be an improvement in” the competitive position of our primary products; and in Australia there will also he an enhanced incentive to further development of new lands.
The Bill also provides that’ the weight of approved compounds or’ other substances containing trace elements when added ;.o superphosphate shall be deemed to be superphosphate for the purposes of the bounty. The trace elements involved are copper, zinc,’ cobalt, molybdenum, manganese and boron. Over wide areas of Australia these trace elements, either singly or in combination, are essential for successful pastoral or crop production. They are highly effective in specific areas where deficiencies occur and in some instances the treatment does not need to be repeated for’ several years’. The way that the work of Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation and State Departments of Agriculture has overcome the problem of trace element deficiencies is one of the real success stories in agricultural research in this country. Australian scientists have led the world in these fields of investigation. Members on both sides of the House are aware of the spectacular responses obtained from the use of trace elements in many areas previously thought to be so infertile’ as to be incapable of economic development.
The almost invariable practice is for trace elements to be incorporated with superphosphate in small quantities per ton of fertiliser. Under the current legislation the. ‘ farmer receives a lower . amount of bounty per ton of superphosphate containing trace elements. Under the amendment now proposed, . farmers who purchase superphosphate containing approved trace element additives will no longer be disadvantaged by the loss of bounty on that portion of a ton of superphosphate which is replaced by the trace element additive. This amendment is in line with a recommendation of the Export Development Council, which recently examined the . role of fertiliser bounties in the development of our rural exports.
The measure to increase bounty assistance to users of phosphatic fertilisers is further evidence of the Government’s determination to foster by all appropriate means the primary industries on which Australia relies for a large part of her export income. The inceased bounty will encourage rural output and continued land development in this country. I commend the Bill to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr Beaton) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Hulme and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this Bill is to amend the Post and Telegraph Rates Act in order to adjust certain postal charges. Simultaneously, some other postal tariffs not included in the Act are being altered. I shall outline briefly, for the information of honourable members, the variations proposed.
The Bill provides for lower rates to apply to bulk pre-sorted mail in the form of letters, other articles and registered books. Under this service, the customer must comply with a number of conditions which result in substantial economies in the mail handling and conveyance costs of the Post Office. In return for complying with these conditions, the customer benefits by receiving a proportion of these economies through lower postage rates. The share of the economies retained by the Post Office assists in offsetting the losses incurred on uneconomic services. With bulk pre-sorted mail, the facing-up and postmarking operations normally performed by the Post Office are avoided because the items must be presented by the customer already faced and bearing a ‘postage paid’ imprint which does not need cancellation. In addition, the mail must be pre-sorted by the customer so that the number of Post Office handlings is reduced. Surface transmission instead of the usual air conveyance under operation Post Haste is used, and delivery by the postmen may be deferred for several days.
The introduction of this service last October has created a substantial volume of new business for the Post Office, numbering at least ten million items annually, which would not have eventuated otherwise. This new business not only has expanded the employment opportunities for postal workers but also has benefited such industries as printing and envelope manufacturing. Several international companies which previously posted their Australian mailings from overseas countries have been sufficiently attracted by the service to post in Australia, and it is expected that their mailings will increase further. In addition, by taking advantage of the modern mailing systems in the offices of its customers, the Post Office is able to obtain important cost reduction benefits. This new service is one example of the efforts which are being made to improve the financial position of the postal service. Market studies reveal that there is still a considerable potential for further new business. It is believed that the proposal to reduce the rates slightly will encourage greater use of the service, particularly among smaller firms. Even at the new levels, the rates will be profitable to the Post Office.
In the case of letters up to 1 oz and other articles up to 2 oz, the proposed rates for bulk pre-sorted mail are between lc and lc cent less than at present, the postage payable being 3c to 4±c, depending on the size of the mailing. There are proportionate decreases on heavier items. There is intensive competition for the carriage of parcels containing books, records and other merchandise where individual customers have large volumes to send. To assist the Post Office in retaining its share of this growing market, it is proposed to extend the bulk pre-sorted mail service to cover registered books. Rates for parcels will be prescribed by regulation, with the rapid development of exports, mailings of sales promotion material to countries in the Asian and Pacific areas are increasing. An extension of the bulk pre-sorted mail service to cover mailings of printed matter to this area is proposed and as the necessary arrangements are made with individual countries, the necessary executive action will be taken. As a first step, presorted postings to New Zealand will be eligible for the lower rates on similar conditions to mailings within Australia.
Considerable scope also exists for the postal service to enter into competition for a greater share of the business of delivering unaddressed material into private letter boxes. The householder service - requires little work on the part of the Post Office because no processing is involved and, as delivery may be deferred for several days, this mail is virtually filler traffic which adds little to costs. Because it is highly profitable, such mail assists in keeping the price of other services down and there is benefit, therefore, in encouraging traffic in this area. At present the postage on householder printed matter is 3c on an item weighing up to 2 oz and 3.6c on an item weighing up to 4 oz. lt is proposed that a rate of 2c for each 4 oz should apply to items for delivery within the city of posting - including its suburbs - and that a rate of 3c for each 4 oz should apply to postings delivered in other places.
L turn now to increases in postal1 charges not covered by the Bill. The financial loss incurred in providing the postal service in 1967-68 was about $20m and it is expected that at current tariffs this loss would rise to $23m in 1968-69, notwithstanding the tariff variations introduced last October. Postal trading results in 1967-68 were adversely affected by the cost of higher awards and determinations which added $6m to the wages bill of the postal service. In addition, earnings were well below expectations because of the drought conditions in many parts of Australia and the stoppage by postal workers in January.
The unfavourable financial trend is causing increasing concern and it is necessary for this loss to be reduced by raising the prices of selected services. Uneconomic services such as the concession rates on registered newspapers and periodicals and the provision of delivery services in sparsely populated country areas continue to affect, to a substantial extent, the financial viability of the postal services. Continuing attention to the improvement of productivity of postal service operations is, of course, one of the main functions of management and very satisfactory results have been achieved in recent years. Since 1959-60, a traffic growth of 38% has been handled by a staff increase of only 18%.
Parcel rates within Australia have not been increased since 1959 and operating costs are well in excess of the revenue received. In the last 9 years the salaries of mail sorting staff have increased by. 48% and rail freight charges by up to 19%. lt is, therefore, proposed to increase the charges by about 20% overall, although the rises in respect of lightweight parcels will be higher than this and, in many cases, heavier weight parcels actually will1 be cheaper than at present. The proposed charges have been set only after a close study of costs and competition.
Apart from variations in prices, the proposed domestic parcel post structure incorporates changes in respect of interstate parcels. First by, the far distant States have been grouped into a separate new scale, necessary in view of the heavy transportation costs involved. Secondly, a per pound basis of charging is proposed to give a graduated schedule rather than the present grouped weight structure in which small increases in weight can result in a substantial increase in price. A per pound basis requires a minimum charge per parcel, which has been set at average cost.
The fees for private bags were last varied in 1951 and, for private boxes, in 1956. Since 1951 the wages of mail sorting staff have increased by over 100%. It is proposed to increase the fees for private bags and boxes in line with those wage increases. However, holders of small private boxes who are not served by postmen or mailmen will continue to pay only $2 per annum.
The fees for the clearance of private posting receptacles, mostly sited in large office buildings, also have not been increased since 1951 and prior to that had remained unchanged since as long ago as 1911. This is a very costly service to provide and the provision of such receptacles allows only marginal savings in the provision of departmental letter receivers. Parking problems in inner capital city areas arc also accentuating the difficulties associated with this facility. As initial steps to placing this facility on an economic basis, an increase of approximately four fold in the rates is proposed, together with limits of no more than two clearances on week days and one on Saturdays. The new rate is still quite modest and does not cover costs, so it can not be expected that the previous long intervals between increases will be repeated.
The fees for the registered post, cashondelivery post and certified mail will rise by 5c. Special mail services such as these, and the special and express delivery services and the business reply post, are particularly labour intensive and increases in their tariffs are required to ensure that costs are covered. To encourage the sealing of large postings of printed matter, which facilitates their processing by sorting machines and prevents the trapping of other pieces of mail, it is proposed to eliminate the permit mail fee.
The existing parcel post rates to overseas countries have also been reviewed and the number of charging zones has been reduced to three. There is now no cost basis for separating the three more distant zones and they will be amalgamated. Although freight rates have increased by 24% since 1959. when these rates were last varied, the main reason for the increases are the considerably higher amounts being charged by overseas countries, particularly Britain and the United States of America, for the handling and delivery of parcels received there.
It will also be necessary, to increase overseas air mail rales. Although most of these have not been varied since 1952, charges to Europe and Britain were increased in 1966, and the percentage increase in rates to the latter area will be smaller than in respect of other countries. Although the rate to Europe and Britain will become 30c per i ounce, the amount charged by the airlines for conveying such items is 29c per½ ounce, quite apart from the other handling costs involved. In summary, the financial effect of these variations to postal tariffs will be to. bring in extra revenue of $6.2m in a full year and$4.7m in 1968-69. I commend the Bill to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr Crean) adjourned.
Sitting suspended from 12.42 to 2.1 5 p.m.
Debate resumed from 21 August (vide page 424), on motion by Mr McMahon:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Upon which Mr Whitlam had moved by way of amendment:
That all words after ‘That’ be omitted with a view to inserting the following words in place thereof: ‘this House is of opinion that the Budget is inadequate in that it does not make provision:
to lighten taxes and health costs for families and to increase benefits for them,
to plan defence procurement and expenditure,
to meet the problems of Australia’s capital and provincial cities, and
to return control and promote development of Australia’s mineral, fuel, land and marine resources’.
– Mr Deputy Speaker, there is an inbuilt squeeze on wage-earners and the living standards of consumers in this Budget. It is there by design of the Government. This is not a generous Budget. It merely proceeds at a familiar, uninspiring rate along familiar, uninspiring ways. There are no dramatic and new concepts projected by this Budget in the handling of the welfare of this nation. In fact, it is a conservative document. The Treasurer (Mr McMahon) has featured prominently the claim in his Budget speech that this is a social welfare Budget. Whatever the Budget may be, it certainly is not a social welfare Budget. Whatever the ‘broad and compassionate basis’, to use the Treasurer’s words, which inspired its designs may have been, they were brief, narrow, shallow and selective in their effect. Compassion was quickly put to rest by the cold assessment of a group of orthodox finance managers in Treasury, who are in the quite influential position of controlling public spending, and the managers of the affairs of the nation who sit in Cabinet.
Let us look at social welfare as proposed by this Budget. Expenditures in the fields of social services, repatriation, health and housing are to increase by $111m. These are the main items featured in the social welfare claim of the Treasurer. They represent an increase of $11 lm. If the Government achieves its 6% increase that it is expecting in the gross national product, this increase of constant prices will provide additional revenue of $l,453m. Allowing, rather modestly, for a cost increase of 37r in the next 12 months, this will take the gross national product increase to a level of 52, 180m, So, we get some sort of comparison of just how generous is the contribution by the Government in the field of social welfare. The amount provided for these fields which I have just mentioned is a mere 5% of the expected increase in the gross national product. To make an allowance for the increase of 3% in prices the additional expenditure of $11 1m does not represent much of a real increase at all in this field. It is a myth to try to promote the idea in this community that this is a social welfare Budget.
Let us look at some of the particular fields in which a contribution has been made in this so-called social welfare Budget. I turn to social services. The effective or real improvement in the standard rate of the single pension is only 23c a week. I am using the figures that are provided in the statements appended to the Budget speech. This is 1.6% above the present pension level. With the expected cost of living increase of 3% to 3.7% next year, this improvement, over the present cost of living increase, will disappear quickly. In fact, it will have disappeared within the first 6 months of this financial year. In the second 6 months of this financial year pension rates will be receding below the level at which they should be if they were maintained at a cost of living adjustment standard. These are facts which cannot be denied.
The effective or real increase in the married rate pension is only 5c per week. This is what the total increase proposed amounts to if we subtract the amount that should have been provided as a result of cost of living adjustments to bring the married rate pension to a level which would be consistent. As the married rate pension has not been increased according to this cost of living adjustment we find that there is only a surplus of 5c per week or .4% above the present level of the pension. A similar position applies to the wife’s allowance which in real terms rises only 5c per week also, representing an increase of .7% at the present level. These percentages are significant because they indicate that within a few months of the financial year that we are considering these improvements will have been dissipated and, from then on, a decline will take place in the living standards of the people who are dependent on this sort of income. Yet we are assured by the Treasurer that this is a welfare Budget.
Very few areas of welfare economics have been considered in this Budget. Let us consider some of the areas of neglect. I refer first to the maternity allowance. Surely if the Government is concerned about the declining rate of increase in our population, or the decline in our birthrate, one of the things that it should do is to provide encouragements to married couples to have a greater number of children. One of the problems for low income earners is that large families are very expensive to support. Assistance is needed in this field. Originally, the maternity allowance was conceived for this purpose. Yet no increase has taken place in the maternity allowance since 1947. The allowance for the first child stands still at $30. If it had been adjusted according to cost of living rises, it should stand at over $82. The allowance for the second child is still $32 whereas, following the increase in the cost of living, it should be $87.63. The allowance for the third child or additional children after the third child is still $35 instead of $95.85 which is the adjusted figure.
The figures that I have quoted represent constant costs - 1967-68 costs. The Government is saving on every family with three children the sum of $168.63. If the Government was concerned about welfare economics surely these would be fields in which it would have acted earlier. No increase has taken place respecting these allowances since 1947. The amount of money which the Government is saving by keeping maternity allowances pegged down to the 1947 level is probably between $18m and $20m a year. Can the Government seriously claim in these circumstances that its proposals in the Budget make the Budget a social’ welfare Budget? Of course not!
The Treasurer has said that the Government has been concerned in its domestic programme to promote the objective of helping the aged, -the sick and the needy. The Government had a good opportunity to help the needy by increasing the maternity allowance. It had a good opportunity to help the sick and needy by providing increases in unemployment and sickness benefits. But, in fact, again this field has not been touched at all. Let me put to the House the case of a man with a wife and three children. Let us assume that one child is under 16 years of age, one is between 16 and 18 years of agc while the other child is between 18 and 21 years of age. Honourable members will know that there are varying rates of payments for children in each of those age groupings. By maintaining unemployment and sickness benefits at the present level the Government saves $4.84 per week in payments to each family of the composition that I have just mentioned. Child endowment has not even been touched. It is quite obvious that this is not a social welfare Budget. There is no comprehensive concept of social welfare economics, allembracing in its coverage, and the security which this gives to members of the community.
Surely the time is well overdue for the establishment in Australia of a national superannuation scheme where contributions are made on a sliding scale. These contributions would be adjusted according to one’s income. The lower one’s income, the less one pays. The higher one’s income, the more one pays. The larger one’s family, the less one pays. People below a certain economic level or above a certain family size would be supported by public contribution instead of having to make contributions themselves. Quite obviously the investment required from these people to cater for their requirements would be substantial in comparison with their income levels. We would have an obligation to look after them. This should be the sort of national superannuation scheme in which people on high levels of income can not only have the one unit to which they will be required to subscribe, but also, if they so wish, take out additional units of coverage.
This scheme has many virtues in my mind, from the public point of view, and provides increased savings - I use those Words in the economic sense - which are available to the Government for public works, for national development or for whatever needs the Government may require that money in the interim while it holds it. This would be a much better scheme than the present system which seems to attract so much odium and so much criticism throughout the Commonwealth.
Let us go to another subject, repatriation. There has been no more effective body in this community at exploiting the emotional content of patriotism than the Liberal Party. One would therefore expect that it would be most interested in improving repatriation benefits. But in fact what the Government is providing is an increase of only $3 a week in the totally and permanently incapacitated -rate, bringing it to $33.50. This is still considerably below the level sought by the Totally and Permanently Disabled Soldiers Association, which asked for an increase of $7.05 a week. It is considerably below the level sought by the Returned Services League, which asked for the total and permanent incapacitation rate to be the equivalent of 100% of the minimum wage, which in 1967 was $37.55. The present proposal of the Government is still some $4 below the level sought by the League. The general rate is still $6 a week below the level sought by the League as a minimum.
This, I would suggest, is carefully regulated compassion on the part of the Government, and ‘compassion’ is the word that the Treasurer used to convey that this w.is the inspiring motive that caused the Government to introduce this so called generous Budget of social welfare for the Australian community. It was carefully regulated compassion. The Treasury officials are hard headed controllers of finance who arc not moved so easily by sentiment when they draw up a balance sheet for any approaching year.
In health, the glaring deficiencies that have been a problem in the community for so long still remain. The Budget makes contributions in four separate fields of health, but none of the proposals touches on what is a high priority need in the Australian community. We need a comprehensive medical and hospital coverage, especially for those unable to afford the luxury of our present expensive voluntary health insurance schemes, which tend to be selective and restrictive in their coverage. Certainly it seems to me the priority is to cooperate with the States to build new hospitals to house the sick instead of clinging so firmly to public charity in this field. Of what good is it to provide some fairly selective and fairly shallow improvements in the health schemes for chronically ill people and people in approved nursing homes but to do nothing to provide new hospitals for these people so that they can be properly housed and properly treated for their illnesses?
The musty, crumbling anachronisms in this country which in too many instances pass as hospitals in contrast to the bright, gay and extravagant prestige, half-empty skyscraper office blocks in our major cities stand as monuments to the unimaginative and uncomprehending policies of a national government wearied by office, bankrupt of ideas and out of touch with national needs. This Government is out of touch with the health needs of the nation. The Minister for Health (Dr Forbes) persists with his claim that the present scheme is adequate, that it meets the philosophy and needs of the Government. Perhaps it does meet the philosophy and needs of the Government; but it certainly does not meet the needs of the Australian people and if it does not meet their needs it will be short of philosophical backing from the people.
In 1967 Mr A. J. Eade, president of the New South Wales Health Benefits Organisations, when speaking about the contribution rates of the voluntary health insurance scheme that the Government perpetuates, said:
I cannot see that any increase is justified under present conditions. I think we have reached ihe public’s capacity to pay.
Of course we have. The Manager of the Austin Hospital in 1967 said:
But still the Government docs nothing. It had an excellent opportunity in this Budget to improve the medical and hospital insurance coverage of the people. The 1966 annual report of the Victorian Hospitals, and Charities Commission stressed the need for ‘increasing the breadth and depth of coverage’. All of these comments come from people who are intimately involved in the health and medical insurance scheme as it is operated in Australia today. Every one of them is positively critical in an important sense of the scheme that is maintained by the Government. But still the Government has no plan of action to overhaul the scheme completely.
The problem is that the level of benefits is restricted to the level that the weakest funds can provide. The evidence clearly substantiates the argument that the Opposition has put forward on many occasions, and that is that the existence of so many hospital and medical insurance funds leads to inefficiency. Some funds are much more costly to operate than are others. There is too much duplication and much unnecessary cost involved in the operation of the scheme. The evidence is that the small funds, which are inefficient and whose operating and administrative costs are high-
– What evidence does the honourable member have for that statement?
– If the Minister for Health will restrain himself for a moment I will give it to him.
– Give me the evidence that the small funds are inefficient.
– The benefit rate is geared to the level that these funds can provide.
– Give me the evidence that the small funds are inefficient.
– The Minister should restrain himself for a minute. His attitude is most unbecoming. In the annual report of the Hospitals Contribution Fund of Australia last year, the Chairman stated clearly - I invite the Minister to look at the report and refute this if he can - that the Hospitals Contribution Fund sought, to increase benefits to contributors, that the Fund was quite capable of meeting the cost of the increase and wanted to improve the lot of its contributors by giving them a bigger return, but the Government prevented if from doing so. The reason was that the smaller inefficient funds would be unable to maintain a rate of benefits equivalent to that provided by the Hospitals Contribution Fund. Now the Minister for Health is notable for his sudden silence.
– That is not evidence. The honourable member still has not given me any evidence.
– What is needed now a national health scheme, operated as a public fund, again with contributions from the public on a sliding scale, similar in many respects to the scheme of national superannuation that I mentioned a few minutes ago. We need a national hospital service, with free hospitalisation available throughout the Commonwealth to those people who want it. There need be no compulsion; this is a strictly voluntary scheme. Of course, we want to retain the right of private practice that we now have for those who want to use it, but I am speaking about the people who cannot afford to join these funds. They are the people for whom we have a moral responsibility. This’ problem is not as serious in Queensland as it is in the other States because of the free hospitals scheme implemented by the Hanlon Labor Government in the early 1940s. This sort of scheme could be extended to the other States. We also need a free general practitioner service as a logical extension of the free hospital service on a national scale.
What does the Government do? All that it has come up with - and it claims that thi? is a constructive alternative - is an inquiry into the health insurance scheme, proceeding on the assumption that the present inefficient, cumbersome and crumbling scheme can be shored up to perpetuate its deficiencies and neglect for future generations. This is not good enough. It is not good enough that Australia ranks fourteenth or fifteenth in the world for the social service benefits it provides. This country once was the leader in this field.
Can we be satisfied with the position of housing? There were 71,000 applications outstanding to the various State housing authorities at the end of 1966-67. That is the latest year for which figures are available. This is an indication of the gravity of the housing problem in the Australian community. Most of these people would be low income earners. The housing authorities are the most accommodating source through which they can obtain assistance. We have 71,000 of these people who are in the situation where they cannot obtain help either to rent or purchase a home through these accommodating mediums! The situation is serious and grave. At the last conference of Ministers of Housing in July of this year - the Commonwealth Minister for isHousing (Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin) was present at this meeting - concern was expressed at the inability of the State housing authorities to overcome the deposit gap. The late Premier of Queensland, Mr Pizzey, called on the Federal Government to grant more funds for housing. When we have a look at the statements appended to the Budget, we find that the housing allocations to the States are to be increased by 2.5%. But the population will increase at a greater rate than this, and the increase in the cost of living, it is conservatively estimated, will exceed 3%. In fact, the allocation for housing in the ensuing financial year will, ki terms of real purchasing power, be less than the allocation for last financial year.
I would now like to deal with education, in respect of which the Government claims to be making a’ major contribution to social welfare. This major contribution is to be made by accepting responsibility for providing libraries in secondary schools throughout the Commonwealth. This, again, will be done on a selective basis. If the legislation under which assistance is given for the provision of science blocks for schools is any indication, not all schools will receive this benefit. No mention has been made of the overcrowding in classrooms which is a feature of our education system. No proposal has been advanced to increase the number of teachers entering our education system. In Queensland last year - and surely Queensland is an area of special need in the field of education - 55% of classes at State primary schools had more than thirty-five pupils. Thirty-five is regarded by the teachers union as the maximum number of pupils to be taught. The Government and its supporters have made a great fuss about the 19% increase in the funds to be allocated by the Government for education throughout the Commonwealth, but it has been estimated by Professor Gates of the University of Queensland that, allowing for the natural increase in the number of pupils, the effective increase in funds will be only 2.75%. Again, this is not a very large contribution by any standard.
The alleged generosity of this Budget results from a piece of real deception by the Treasurer. This is not a generous or easy Budget. It is a Budget that has teeth.
It is one that mauls consumers, who have to bear the brunt of added costs to support it. The purpose of this Budget is to raise SI 13m more in revenue than was raised over the past 12 months. Higher company tax rates will raise 5560m. This amount will be passed on to the consumer in higher charges because the higher tax rate will be regarded as an operating expense of companies. Higher sales tax will be directly passed on to the consumer. This will amount to S44m. Higher broadcasting and television fees will raise S7m more this financial year. Out of a total of $113m, S 1 1 1 m will be met directly by the consumers. Because of the Government’s policy, they will be told, rather than asked, to pay this amount. Their living standards will be diminished by the extra revenue raised by the Government. All of this money will come from consumers.
On top of this, the Government proposes, although it did not indicate this in the Budget, to raise an increasing amount of revenue from income tax as a result of inflation. If one looks at the particulars given for personal income tax in statement No. 3 appended to the Budget Speech, one can assess the extra income tax that will be extracted because of inflation in the ensuing year. In this statement, the Government assumes that there will be an increase of 3% in average employment and of 5.5% in average earnings. On this basis, an increase of 8.5% in income tax can be expected. In fact, however, if one makes a calculation on the basis of the figures that are provided in this statement, one discovers that for 1968-69 the increase in income tax will be 13.4% instead of 8.5%. This Budget contains an inbuilt squeeze on the living standards of the wage earners and consumers of the community. This method of using inflationary movements to extract an increasing total of tax revenue from income earners has been adopted by this Government for a considerable time.
In 1966-67, the average weekly taxable income, arrived at after making concessional deductions for a wife and two children, had increased by a fraction over 73% compared with 1956-57, whereas tax payable on this income had increased by 190%. The increase in tax was nearly three limes as great as the rise in taxable incomes. So we can see that tax revenues have increased continually because of inflation. The reason why the Government has never effectively attacked inflation is that, as taxpayers move up into a higher bracket of money income, as distinct from real income, a greater proportion of their earnings is extracted from them in income tax. In other words, their living standards are not rising commensurately with the rate of increase in their money income.
The final subject that I want to mention is the situation of the States in relation to the Commonwealth. They fare quite badly in this Budget. There is to be an increase of 6% in grants and loans to the States. As I mentioned earlier, a 3% increase in costs can be expected in the next 12 months. This is a moderate estimate. The Institute of Applied Economics at the University of Melbourne suggests that the increase will be 3.7%. However, let us work on 3%. The States are to receive a 6% increase in grants and loans. I point out that 3% of this higher allocation will be absorbed by increases in costs. So there will be an effective increase of only 3%. The gross national product, or total wealth, in this community is expected to increase, at constant costs, by 6%, which is twice the rate of the effective increase in the funds that the States are to receive. The Commonwealth, however, controls the nation’s finances, and the percentage increase in its revenues and expenditure will be even greater than the percentage increase in the gross national product. The Commonwealth proposes to increase expenditure by 8% in the coming year. So we can see the disadvantage at which the States are being put by the way they are treated by this Government in contrast to the very generous and advantageous way in which the Commonwealth treats itself.
The States are forced to incur increasing debt to meet their commitments. They do not have the power to raise their own revenue as the Commonwealth has power to raise its revenue. The Commonwealth increasingly forces the States to borrow money to meet their commitments and, at the same time, it uses revenue to diminish its own loan indebtedness. Since 1949 there has been a dramatic increase in the States’ per capita debt for loan money from all sources. The per capita indebtedness of the States has gone from $280 in 1949 to $701 in 1968. Over the same period there has been an impressive diminution in the per capita indebtedness of the Commonwealth, which has fallen from $466 to $299. Therefore, the Federal Government is operating as a credit agency with discriminatory policies which disadvantage the States and, as I said, greatly enhance the financial standing of the Commonwealth at the expense of the States.
In conclusion, I would like to say that this Budget is the result of a short term, stopgap, ad hoc approach to broad national needs which should be considered on a long term basis. Public works programmes, welfare services, educational needs and defence have been treated in a deplorable way. What is needed is a long term approach. We need a national view leading to co-operation with the Slates in an effort to indicate long term targets for balanced investment and development. We need some sort of indicative planning as distinct from mandatory planning for development. The Cabinet was not inspired when it prepared this Budget; nor was the public inspired by the result. This is not a Budget based on welfare economic concepts. It is not a Budget for the family man, the wage earner or the consumer. Nor is it a blueprint for dynamic and purposeful economic growth. This Budget gives no cause for pride on the part of the Government. I support the amendment moved by he Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam)
– There is really not much about which I can take the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden) to task. His speech was what we expected from him before we heard it. He adopted the same old practice of urging more money for this and more money for that in all fields, but he did not say how we are to raise the money. He made one point regarding health. I understood him to say that we needed a free general practitioner medical service. In other words, he wants to nationalise medicine. This is not unusual, because the final paragraph of the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) states that the Budget is inadequate because it does not make provision:
to retain control- and I emphasise that -
There can be no misunderstanding about the Labor Party’s attitude on these matters. I think I have listened to nineteen Budgets being presented in this Parliament, and I say that the present Budget is a very good and well balanced Budget. 1 congratulate the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) who, I believe, is one of the ablest economists in Australia. We are very lucky to have him in this Parliament so that he can prepare a budget of the type that has been presented this year. I congratulate the Government, the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) and the. members of Cabinet, including the Minister for External Affairs (Mr Hasluck) who is sitting in front of me, on the way in. which year after, year they have continued to present a Budget which encourages growth and preserves the welfare of the people of Australia. It is a good and sensible Budget. Notwithstanding what the honourable member for Oxley and other honourable members opposite . have said, it recognises our responsibilities as a nation to the needy, the aged, the invalid and those who receive repatriation benefits, lt is a very humane Budget, particularly as regards health. I see that the Minister for Health (Dr Forbes) is sitting at the table. I draw attention to the assistance which is provided in the Budget to the chronically ill and to people in nursing homes. Many innovations have been introduced into our health programme, and this is very good. We do not appreciate at this tune how far reaching this assistance will be to people throughout Australia who are suffering from chronic and pre-existing illnesses.
The Budget strikes new ground. This morning we heard the Minister in charge of Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Wentworth) present a paper which outlined the Government’s policy regarding Aboriginals. When Labor was in office it had an opportunity to do something for Aboriginals, but it did not do so. A substantial programme of assistance to Aboriginals is contained in the Budget. The Budget makes further advances in our education programme. This Government has provided a tremendous amount of assistance to education, even though it is a field in which it does not have particular responsibility. Of course, money has to be found to pay for the new benefits provided in the Budget, as well as for the increased expenditure on defence. I think it is very good that these benefits have been provided in the Budget with a modest increase of 2i% in sales tax and 24% in company tax. The rate of income tax for the average Australian has not been increased. I think this is a splendid accomplishment.
I believe that the Australian people welcome the Budget. They are satisfied that it is a good, well balanced Budget, and that it will provide stability and room for further growth of this nation. I, in common with every other honourable member, have my own pet theories. We cannot have complete agreement on a Budget. I should like to have seen certain other matters dealt with in the Budget. Had I been making the determination T would have included some other matters. But I want to make it clear that I am not complaining. The members of Cabinet had all the facts before them, and T believe that they have made decisions in the best interests of Australia. However, had I been making the decisions I. would have given number one priority to the encouragement of larger families in Australia. We have to recognise that we spend an enormous amount of money on bringing migrants to this country. I do not object to that, because we must have migrants in this growing country, but I believe that we should give greater attention increasing the number of natural born Australians. Many large families are finding it very tough. I think that additional help could be given to them. I am not suggesting that this help should be provided by increasing child endowment. I think that assistance should be given where it is needed so that we can encourage more people to have larger families.
Secondly, had 1 been making the decisions on the Budget I would have given a little more assistance to education. The assistance which is to be given to school libraries will be appreciated throughout Australia. But it will be of little help in overcoming the real problems concerning teachers and accommodation, which apply particularly to independent schools. Whilst I think that the Australian people appreciate what the Government has done and is doing in the field of education, I believe that the problems concerning teachers and accommodation still remain unsolved, and I should have liked to have seen more assistance provided in those fields.
I believe that this Government and future governments will have to give more help to retarded children. The number of retarded children in our community is increasing. Organisations which are designed to help retarded children are growing up all over Australia, but they are receiving little help from governments. If some more help could be given to retarded children they could play a useful role in our society. Of course, in the oil days they were shut up in a back room and the public did not see them. But today they are brought out into the open and I think that governments have to provide additional assistance for them. I should like to have seen a greater increase in defence expenditure, although it would have been very difficult to have provided it. I am afraid that in the new circumstances not sufficient money is provided for defence. Dangers are confronting us from many quarters, and I will refer to them later on.
It is good to reflect on the tremendous progress that this country has made since 1949 under Liberal-Country Party governments. The two Parties have been very good and loyal partners. Notwithstanding all the criticism, this country has made more progress in the 19 years in which they have been in power than ever before in its history. During that period we have observed a stability of government, which is of great importance. In that whole period there has been no difficulty. Employment has been kept at a very high level; the workers, therefore, must approve of this government. Poverty has been kept to a minimum. There is now a higher standard of living in Australia than ever before. Great opportunities for careers in both the public and the private sectors of our community have been encouraged. When one thinks of the promotion of great new developments such as those associated with mining, oil discoveries, water conservation, primary and secondary industries, and international trade, one must be grateful that a government of this kind is in office. There was no recognition of the independent school’s until this Government took office and commenced to give them aid. In the field of health this Government has achieved what no other government has been able to achieve. Great assistance has been given in the form of social services. The great thing that overrides all these achievements is the generation of confidence on the part of the people in the Government, which has attained a high standing in the world. 1 believe the people of Australia would think twice before they changed a government of this character for some other government. One thinks of what the position might have been if this Government were not in power. Do we ever stop to think of the kind of country we would Have had under the pledged Socialist system that Labor espouses? Let us remember that if Labor were in office our great industries would now be government owned, production and expansion could never have reached the heights they have reached, the encouragement of personal initiative which has been displayed by this government would never have been possible, and our standard of living would never have reached the level it has reached. If Labor had been in -office we would not be enjoying the respect and trust of other countries that we now enjoy and we would not be accepted in the free world as we are. Even though Labor is backed up by the unions, I suggest that internal political turmoil would be rampant under the type of government that Labor stands for. There is no such thing as a perfect government; I am not trying to say there is. They all make mistakes. This Government makes mistakes. Any huge organisation of this kind makes mistakes. No doubt there are weak links in big organisations such as this Government, with a good deal of inefficiency and considerable waste here and there. As was indicated by the Auditor-General’s report, which was tabled only yesterday, this is true.
But all this can be tolerated provided the principles for which a government stands are of a kind we want to preserve. I believe we must hold to the freedom of the individual. It is important for the people of Australia to remember that, the Labor Party stands for Socialism but that this Government stands for the freedom of the individual. Secondly, we must encourage private initiative and investment opportunities for the people if we are to grow into a great nation. We must take our part with the free world and defend our way of life. This Government is doing a magnificient job in this respect under the guidance of our extremely capable Minister for External Affairs (Mr Hasluck). For this I pay him great credit. Finally, we should never forget that we must give help to our fellow man wherever help is needed. This Budget enables us to do that. Notwithstanding what our friends, opposite have said, it is a humane Budget, a welfare Budget. Of course we will have criticism. We do not and must not resent criticism, because it is a healthy sign in any community. If we did not have healthy criticism we would not have a healthy democracy and we would not know that it was working’.
The only danger, as I see the position, is that vested interests, whether they are economic or political, get a stranglehold on the propaganda machine through the Press, radio, television and . other mass media. Facts are very frequently distorted and people’s minds are guided or deceived into coming to wrong conclusions. Although, as I . said, we must never .resent criticism, the danger I mentioned must never be allowed to’ occur.
This nation has a great future provided its sticks to stable government and provided it is sensible in its approach. Australia must inevitably be one of the great new nations of the world if we hold fast to our principles. We will never be a great nation if we do not hold fast to our principles. We must realise that we are on the border of South East Asia and. Asia generally. Whilst the nations of South East Asia are old in tradition in many ways, a great number, of them have only in recent years gained their independence and are sorting out their way of life, endeavouring to maintain and to hold to their own national identity. We must live beside these countries and therefore must do everything in our- power to assist them. We must realise that great changes that will affect the future of Australia are taking place. The greatest of these, of course, is the fact that the United Kingdom is pulling out her forces’ from this part of the world, where she has exerted such an enormous influence over the years.
We must realise that a tremendous change in our approach, is called for. We do not know at this point of- time to what extent the great United States of America will stay in the area. We do not know these things, so we are at a critical stage in our existence. This is all the more reason why we should make sure that we retain stable government and do not run off at tangents because of the wishes of particular people or groups of people. We must try to cultivate in every possible way our friendship with powerful nations. This philosophy has been ridiculed, but how do you live in and develop a young nation into one of the great nations of the future if you do not recognise the importance of having powerful friends? This nation must be a great nation if it is handled right. It has the potential. It is situated geographically on the border between the East and the western democracies. Traditionally we are of the West, yet we live in a geographical position where we must see that we maintain our association with the countries, of South East Asia and Asia generally. We must increase our population and must provide the means by which the increased population can be maintained at the standard of living of which I have spoken.
We must build our trade relations with the countries of the East as well as with other countries. The countries of the East will develop and will become more important to us from the point of view of trade. Above all we must organise our defence structure to protect the zone in which we live. This involves a considerable change, which is being considered by the Government at the present time. We live in a zone which includes New Zealand and the arc of islands which surrounds New Zealand and Australia. We must make great changes in our forward defence thinking in order to give adequate protection to this zone.
We have an affluent society. Of itself this is a very good thing, but there are always dangers in an affluent society. People tend to become soft and flabby. This is the kind of development which has in earlier times brought nations down. Any human being is better for having made some sacrifice in his life. We do not get the best out of people unless they are prepared to sacrifice and suffer hardships in some way. In an affluent society a watchful eye must be kept on the economy lest a drift take place, and this Budget is indicative of the watchful eye that is now being kept on our economy. We have a welfare state in which we must care for our people, but we must not allow our welfare programme to get out of hand, because it can destroy our progress and lower the overall standard of living of our people.
Our foreign affairs arrangements and defence preparations must be at all times co-operative but vigilant. There are warning signs, of which I would like to mention one or two. I think perhaps the most important one in our economy today is the growing conflict between the States and the Commonwealth on the use of our resources. Every year there is a Donnybrook in this place over the carving up of the financial duck, and most States are very critical of Commonwealth expenditure. This criticism is being added to by some of the speeches that we have heard in this House. One cannot altogether blame the States because each is sovereign in its own right and each is keen on its own progress. A State naturally tends to be resentful when some of the money raised within that State is spend in another State.
I have spoken of this matter before and I do not want to elaborate on it at length today. I believe there is a great need for a national body to advise on national priorities. This is most important because, while each State is sovereign and should be prosecuting its own development, it should not embrace the idea that this is the be all and end all of its responsibilities. The States have a responsibility for national growth as well as for individual State progress. The time has come for us to have some national thinking. Who knows whether we are spending correctly the huge sums that we spend each year? Who knows that the money is being spent on the right projects? The Leader of the Opposition spoke of the growth of the cities. I am sure he would not like the growth of Australian cities to be directed from Canberra, although that seemed to be implicit in his proposition. We should be using our resources for the growth of this country according to a proper order of national priorities. It is here, I believe, that we find the number one warning sign in Australia today. We must solve this problem of the conflict between the States and the Commonwealth and use our manpower and our financial capacity to the best advantage of the country, so that we can provide a basis upon which Australia can grow into the great nation that it must become.
The other warning sign in the community is the uprising of youth. This is apparent in many other countries as well as in Australia and it must be disturbing to thinking people. We all read of pack rapes and of the actions of students. We all observe the way in which youth is becoming restive and the attitude of apparent defiance of the law that has been adopted. We in the national Parliament must take notice of these things. Of course there are also many older people in the community who appear to show a moral decadence in many ways. There is a growing emphasis on sex in the Press and in television and radio programmes. There is unfortunately a growing moral decadence in our community which I think must be dealt with in some way.
One cannot adopt too arbitrary an attitude on these matters, but one should ask oneself what is the cause of these developments. I think one of the main causes lies in our education system. We should have in our educational institutions, from primary schools to universities, teachers who are imbued with the right spirit in order to reintroduce into the community an appreciation of moral values and of the need for the observance of the law in an organised society. To this end I believe the Minister for Education and Science (Mr Malcolm Fraser) should confer with the State Ministers for Education for the purpose of laying down a curriculum for primary schools which will place emphasis upon teaching children the difference between right and wrong. I am afraid that at present many of them do not understand the difference. I am afraid, indeed, that many teachers - and I am not blaming them unduly - are doing a great disservice to this country by not placing proper emphasis on the difference between what is right and what is wrong.
Home life, of course, is important in the teaching of moral values. Perhaps it is even more important to teach these things in the home than in the schools. Parents must realise that a child will grow up according to the example that it is set. One great difficulty in this connection is, of course, that there are in Australia many working mothers. Nevertheless we should be thinking about this problem and trying to find a way of correcting the drift in moral standards, which must have a vast effect on the future population of our great nation. It is time we took a stand on these things. It is time we tried to impress on people that they cannot indulge in the kind of loose licence that some of our students believe should be available to them. I am the last one in the world to deny freedom of speech or the freedom of the Press. However, responsibility does rest on the Press and on the television stations.
Television is a very important medium. It can reach every child in Australia. It can place this fundamental emphasis upon teaching children, early in life to understand our moral values and to observe our laws. It is important that children realise how important these things will bc to their own future and how important they are to their fellow men. If we do not do this, and if other countries do not do it, we will destroy ourselves. Therefore it is of the utmost importance that we train them to take their place in the nation.
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– 1 support the amendment to the Budget moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam). I want to comment briefly on some of the points made by the honourable member for Bennelong (Sir John Cramer). Some of his statements intrigued me. He criticised the comments of the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden) and the Leader of the Opposition about the Opposition amendment, which calls for the retention of control over our natural resources, our land, minerals, marine life, etc. He said that this clearly was nationalisation.
The difference between the philosophies of the Liberal Party and the Australian Country Party and that of the Australian Labor Party can be summed up in what has happened in Australia. The Liberal philosophy is to give away the control of our resources - our minerals, our northern lands and our marine life - whereas we on this side of the House believe that they should be controlled and retained for the benefit of our people and for Australians of the future. These resources can be retained. The Government maintains that there is insufficient Australian money to develop our mineral resources, but it acted in respect to our mineral deposits at Gove. This was one case in which Australia retained direct control of one of our major mineral resources. The Government refused to allow complete foreign control at Gove until it had been shown that there was no Australian money available. The Government found, obviously to its surprise, that th-;re was plenty of Australian money available for this enterprise. In fact there was major competition between the BHP consortium and the CSR consortium to join in partnership with Swiss Aluminium Ltd on ihe one hand and the Reynolds Metal Co. of the United States of America on the other hand. So Australian money is available for these enterprises. But that was the last occasion, to my knowledge and to the knowledge of honourable members on this side of the House, on which the Government tried to get Australian money to develop Australian resources.
Another statement made by the honourable member for Bennelong which intrigued me was that the standard of living in Australia had never been higher. I do not want to quarrel with him because I do not know whether he was speaking about an average. I am sceptical of averages. I do not know whether he is right. One would have to look at the figures and convert them to real terms. One could not really give a constructive answer to his assertion. But no-one can convince me that the standard of living of the repatriation pensioner or the age pensioner is the highest, in real terms, that it has ever been. No-one can convince me that the standard of living of our farmers today is the highest that it has been. I have some doubts about the wheat farmers but no-one can convince me that the standard of living of the banana farmers, the wool farmers, the sugar farmers and so on is the highest that it has ever been. One only has to look at the Commonwealth’s official indices to realise that there are grave doubts as to whether, in real terms, standards of living today are the highest they have ever been. I would not like to say that living standards are at their highest level in our sugar growing areas where, even in the crushing season, there is serious unemployment. Certainly the small agricultural industries, such as the pineapple industry in the electorate of my colleague the honourable member for Capricornia (Dr Everingham), are in serious trouble and real incomes are low.
The plea made by the honourable member for Bennelong for a national planning council also intrigued me. Such a council would be in line with the report of the Vernon committee, which advocated rationalisation of public expenditure in terms of priorities. I agree completely with the honourable member in this respect. All honourable members on this side of the House agree with him. This is long term planning, but to the best of my knowledge the Liberal Party completely and wholeheartedly disagrees with it The Liberal Party prefers the ad hoc planning associated with playing politics, lt prefers to put money into a particular irrigation project, a particular road or a particular State, at election time. This is not the rational way to develop a nation. I agree with the honourable member for Bennelong on this point. I hope he will be able to persuade his own Party to pay more attention to a better allocation of money than is the case at present.
My principal comments about the Budget are confined to a few specific matters. I find it impossible to range over all the matters covered by the Budget because each issue is a major one. However, I am again concerned about discrimination against the State of Queensland. This is not only me view; it is the view that has been expressed about Commonwealth-State finances by Queensland Treasurers year after year. Perhaps it is the modern trend today for each State Premier to say that he is being badly treated. But when one looks at the statistics one finds that there are two States which are very badly treated by the Commonwealth. They are Western Australia and Queensland. These States are the two export surplus producing States. They will go further ahead in terms of export production than will the other States of the Commonwealth, whether they are compared on a per capita basis on a State basis, or by any other parameter. More and more will the Australian economy depend on the exports produced from them.
The latest figures I could find relating to our export surpluses are revealing. For Queensland, the export surplus has increased over the last 10 years to $3.180m. That was the value of Queensland’s exports, minus the cost of imports. Western Australia, because of its export growth, reached a surplus of $l,500m over the same period. For comparison, let us consider the performance of the two major States, New South Wales and Victoria. The cumulative deficit on international trading of those two States has now reached just under $5,000m. I). is clear that the two export surplus producing States, Western Australia and Queensland, are vital to the economic growth of Australia and are certainly vital to the economic growth of the major towns and cities in Victoria and New South Wales. It is the areas in the south that are, in fact, producing the Australian content of domestic trading. The deficit on interstate trading has now reached about $5,250m. In other words, Queensland is producing the export surplus and New South Wales and Victoria are using that, surplus to pay for the deficits on imports and to promote further industrial capacity to produce manufactured goods for supply to Queensland and Western Australia. This trend will continue until Queensland gets a bigger share of the financial pie and until a greater weighting is given to export performance, which is vital to this country’s economy. If we have a serious drought or there is a serious drop in the price of such commodities as minerals, beef or grain, the cumulative effects will be greater on the people in the cities than on those in country areas.
If a person reads the propaganda that is often put out he would believe that Queensland is a boom State. It is certainly improving and increasing its economic activity, but one of the vital measurements and vital criteria of a boom State is population. I was not aware until I saw certain statistics that Queensland’s population relative to the Australian population is actually declining. One can only assume that the figures in question are correct. In 1954 the percentage of the Australian population resident in Queensland was significantly higher than it is today; in the last 10 years Queensland’s percentage has been declining.
– What has been the position in the last 6 years?
– In the last 6 years the percentage has been declining. It has been declining year after year. By contrast, Western Australia’s population as a percentage of the overall population has been increasing significantly, as has the Victorian population. The New South Wales percentage has dropped significantly. The amazing thing is that Queensland, the State which is the greatest earner of export income, has a declining percentage of the overall Australian population. This is due to a large extent to the fact that Queensland is not a manufacturing State. It is imperative that more money be made available by the Commonwealth Government to Queensland and Western Australia to enable them to build up their manufacturing industries. If they can produce the export surplus that is the lifeblood of Australia’s economy, then they should get more money to develop their manufacturing industries.
There is an increasing tendency after each Budget for many people, principally academics in their ivory towers, to criticise the primary industries for the subsidies, bounties and non-repayable grants they receive. These people form the conclusion that many primary industries are uneconomic simply because they receive financial assistance. This is not a new approach, but it is an approach that is increasing in intensity, lt seems to be the fashion to attack primary industries, particularly those that are finding themselves in trouble because of declining trade and lower export prices. There can be no objection to legitimate criticism. There can be no objection to attempting to reconstruct an ailing industry such as the dairying industry. It is impossible to make the dairying industry efficient because of some of its marginal areas in terms of soil and climate. However, there can certainly be an objection to criticising primary industries in isolation. 1 object strongly to the criticism of a particular primary industry or a particular secondary industry in isolation, particularly if that industry is well established.
It is imperative that we consider an industry in relation to all other industries. As an analogy I refer to a railway line. A section of that line may be uneconomic but it is vital to the whole line. One does not wipe out the uneconomic section because if one did there would be no total effective line. Similarly, if we took note of some economists and disbanded some of our primary industries, such as the sugar industry, what would happen not only to the sugar areas but to the beef areas which rely on the efficiency of the railways, ports and towns that were built up through the sugar industry.
What intrigues me is that the attacks on primary industry always relate to one side of the picture only - to the prices received on the export market, or the socalled export-import parity. People say that because we can import something for less than we can produce it locally we should import it. They never analyse the other side of the picture - the cost of production. They do not analyse the effects of tariffs on production costs. When they are asked why they have not done so they reply that they are agricultural economists and it is not their job to criticise the incidence of production costs due to a particular tariff policy. There is no objection to the payment of subsidies, bounties or the provision of financial assistance to industries provided those industries are efficient when judged by certain criteria.
I suggest that many of the people who attack primary industries on the exportimport parity criteria should look at the overall picture. The laissez faire approach to primary industry disappeared many years ago. If we produced only those products that we can sell on the export market Australia would be a giant grain, beef and wool farm; I do not think we would have any secondary industries because we would not have sufficient people internally to create sufficient demand. It is the practice of every country to protect primary and secondary industries and to build up its population.
I want to refer now to what I consider to be a major deficiency in this Budget. In the Budget there is no mention of the sugar industry. The industry, of course, is getting used to this situation. However, as this Government has seen fit to increase superphosphate bounty one would have thought that it would have increased the nitrogenous fertiliser bounty. How can anybody argue that the wheat industry, for instance, is worse off than the sugar industry? The wheat industry is the main beneficiary of the superphosphate bounty. We do not oppose the provision of this bounty. It is an excellent means of expanding production and of establishing pastures in underdeveloped areas, but to be consistent the Government should have increased the nitrogenous fertiliser bounty. No mention is made of water in this Budget. No doubt the Government has its ad hoc priorities, as we have noticed over the years, especially on the eve of an election when an announcement is made concerning water priorities. There is no planning; there is no common sense approach to the matter of priorities.
The sugar industry is vital to the con.tinued growth of no:th Queensland, it is still the backbone of the economy , of the north. Its visibility is fundamental to the successful operation of most of the ports, railways and coastal towns of the north. The industry is fundamental to. the provision of power, hospitals and schools. Practically every town on the cast coast of Queensland can be thankful for the existence of the sugar industry. The industry’s indirect contribution to the contiguous beef cattle areas is recognised. The cattle and sugar industries are interdependent. The Government cannot deny that it has discriminated against the sugar industry. Although the Government gave its approval to the industry’s expansion I suspect that the Government has never been happy with the scope and rapidity of that expansion. The Government has never been happy with the decision of the Queensland Government to expand the industry so quickly. The Government must back the Sugar Agreement, as it claims to have done, but it has not supported expansion of the industry. Year after year we have seen examples of discrimination against the sugar industry. By discrimination I mean the provision, as in this Budget,’ of nonrepayable grants, bounties and subsidies to other primary industries while at the same time ignoring the sugar industry. The Government’s continued discrimination against the sugar industry and Queensland is to be deplored. All other major primary industries have received financial assistance under this Budget, either directly or indirectly, in the form of non-repaya’ble grants or subsidies or bounties. I have dealt with the position of nitrogenous fertilisers.
One must question the policy of the leaders of the sugar industry. Leaders of all other major industries have publicly criticised the Government and brought pressure to bear on it to give their industries a fair deal in the Budget, and they have succeeded. The wheat, wool, and dairying industries all are assisted in this Budget but apparently the policy pursued by the leaders of the sugar industry is akin to that pursued by country gentlemen: Never criticise the Government. To follow such a policy in this world of dog eat dog is fatal, as the Budget proposals highlight. In this Budget provision is made for the wheat industry to receive a further $43m in order to stabilise prices, despite the relative soundness of the industry. An amount of $28m is set aside for wool promotion and research. The dairying industry is to receive $27m. A sum of $3m is earmarked for meat research. The superphosphate bounty is to be increased to $37m. All of these amounts are non-repayable. The farmers engaged in these industries are direct beneficiaries under this Budget. In stark contrast to these grants is the fact that the sugar industry does not receive anything under this Budget. Rising costs in this depressed industry will further eat into the returns of the sugar growers.
It is disastrous for leaders of the sugar industry to be gentlemen and not criticise the Government. Such a policy may have worked years ago when the sugar industry was tied to the domestic market and the Commonwealth Sugar Agreement, with only about 20% of production considered to be an exportable surplus. But today 70% of the industry’s total exports are on the notoriously unstable free market. About 50% of total production goes to this market. So the industry is at the mercy of the export trade, lt is essential therefore that leaders of the sugar industry follow in the footsteps of the leaders of the wool1, wheat, meat and dairying industries, putting the industry first and politics last. One cannot help but notice that when the wool industry is in trouble that stalwart of the Australian Country Party, Sir William Gunn, is not frightened to tackle the Government and place the wool industry’s case before it. Mr Walker is not frightened to take on the Government on behalf of the producers of wool, and beef and other meat. It is time for the leaders of the sugar industry to forget politics. Let them not be afraid to criticise the Government if they have just cause to do so.
Let me cite some figures which speak for themselves. In recent years direct financial assistance to the major primary industries in the form of non-repayable grants has totalled $902m. This sum has been made available for such purposes as the stabilising of prices in the wheat and dairying industries and the provision of bounties such as the cotton bounty. In this period the sugar industry has received the grand sum of nothing. The industry was granted a loan of $24m, which must be repaid with interest. The sum of $19m which the industry received is sometimes referred to in this House as a grant, but it is an interest bearing loan. Interest amounting to $6m will have to be paid, in addition to the amount of the loan - a total repayment of $25m. I repeat, the major primary industries have in recent years received by way of nonrepayable grants, bounties or subsidies a total of $902m; the sugar industry has not received one cent in non-repayable grants.
Some leaders of the sugar industry who always seem to want to move against the industry and side with the Government have argued that the recent sum of $6.8m paid by the Government to cover postdevaluation losses - not immediate losses - is a special grant. It is no such thing as a special grant. This amount has been paid under the Government’s announced policy to make good the losses suffered by those industries affected by devaluation. A total of $56.4m has been allocated for this purpose. The dairying industry is to receive a further $9m in addition to the $2.5m already received. We do not oppose these payments, but they are not in the same category as the financial assistance provided for wheat stabilisation, dairy stabilisation, wool promotion and research or meat research. Some people argue that although the sugar industry has not received any grants it has had the benefit of an embargo on imports of sugar. But if the Government had not placed an embargo on imports Australia would have been flooded with cheap sugar.
It is the avowed policy of this Government, as it has been the avowed policy of every Labor government, to protect not only its secondary industries but also its primary industries. There is no difference of opinion in the Labor Party as regards protection. We are a protectionist party; we believe in protection. We believe in protection of primary industry as much as the protection of secondary industry. There is no difference of opinion within the Party on this policy. However, we always insist on an industry being efficient if it is to be protected. The argument that the Government’s embargo on sugar imports represents direct financial assistance to the sugar industry is valid only in isolation. The embargo does help; there is no question about that. The importation of sugar into this country would wreck the sugar industry and the economy of most of northern Queensland. As I said before, there is no chance of this ever happening now or in the future.
The same thing applies to all other industries. Protection to a degree is given to every primary industry in Australia. The imports of primary products into Australia are negligible. Therefore I deplore again the discrimination in this Budget against the State of Queensland because, as an exports producing State, it is entitled to greater consideration. I deplore again the discrimination against the one major industry that is not helped in this Budget, the sugar industry.
– Mr Deputy Speaker, the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) seems rather to reverse the order of his leader (Mr Whitlam) who complained that too much had been done for the rural sector and too little for the cities, a process which one can only deduce from the speech oy the honourable member for Dawson, he would put into reverse gear. At the very root of government lies the provision of resources for government carrying out all of its manifold activities. But the Budget, in which all the economic and social policies of the Government are manifold, is the most important in our calendar throughout the year. The construction of any Budget is inevitably an exercise in choosing between competing claims of a natural contradictory nature. It is an exercise in good judgment based on the inescapably hard fact of life that resources are limited, a fact which Opposition spokesmen never recognise, least of all the Leader of the Opposition.
Nearly every speech that the Leader of the Opposition makes is a catalogue of expenditure. The millions tumble easily from his lips. His speech last Tuesday night on the Budget was no exception. In large part, it was a repetition of speeches that he has made piecemeal over a period. If, by any chance, he ever mentions the resources required to carry out his policies it is mainly in terms of numerous groups of people paying less. It would be fascinating indeed one day to hear him give numbers and indicate the people, so far mythical, who would be called upon to pay heavy taxes to provide the resources which his policies would require if implemented. Many of the policies that he enunciates do strike a chord in us all. They are the kinds of things which most of us would like to have and to do. It is only, in his case, the means which are missing - in other words, the fundamental factor only.
Above all, this Budget, like its immediate predecessors, is designed to keep our economy healthy, lively and progressive, to ensure that it continues to grow and that the national income goes on rising in real and not just monetary terms as fast as possible. It recognises that this, rather than the excessive intrusion of government, is the basis of our prosperity and the creator of resources on which all wealth depends. Unlike our opponents, we recognise that the most effective way that this country can progress is to keep healthy the free enterprise system that is dependent on unfettered opportunity, good profits and financial rewards for the efficient as well as high wages and salaries rising as fast as increases in productivity allow. It requires stability, full employment and a progressive outlook towards technological change. In this crucial respect, this Budget is successful. It is well conceived and a great deal of the credit is due to the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) personally.
The Budget must be judged firstly in the context of current and likely future economic conditions. The first point to consider is: What has happened since the last Budget? The overall demand for labour has increased strongly. The number of wage and salary earners in civilian employment increased by 128,000 or by 3.4% between the ends of the last 2 financial years. The number of persons registered for employment fell from just over 65,385, or 1.4% of the workforce, at the end .of July of last year to 61,432,. or 1.2% of the workforce, at the end of July of this year. At the same time, the recipients of unemployment relief fell from 22,951. to 19,426. There was also an increase in unfilled vacancies over the past 12 months. This fall in unemployment, reflected in the increase in employment opportunities, occurred despite an increase of approximately 6,000, or 1%, in net migration, and an appreciable . increase - perhaps of the order of 25,000 or 14% - which took .place in the number of school leavers last year over the previous year. This decline in unemployment occurred in all Slates except Victoria. Even in Victoria, since the drought situation has eased, the position has improved markedly.
The strong demand for labour reflected a substantial increase in domestic spending and non-farm production in 1967-68. Private spending increased, by about 7%. Excluding the change in farm stocks, the increase was about 9%. Expenditure in the public sector increased by about 1 1% while non-farm production increased by some 9% in current prices and possibly by about 54% in constant prices. The drought caused a ‘ slump in rural production and hence a slowing down in the growth rate of lbc economy as a whole. It is estimated that the gross national product in constant prices rose by somewhat less than 4% in the last financial year compared with a rise of 6% in 1966-67. This was due to the drought. These facts provided the background for the drafting of this year’s Budget.
The first exercise involved was that of assessing what was the potential increase in productive capacity in the financial year 1968-69. With unemployment down to 1.2% of the workforce and overtime at vcr’. high levels, there is not much in the way of idle resources to be absorbed. At the end of June, there were 3.1 hours of overtime work per employee according to the survey carried out by my Department, compared with 2.8 hours of overtime worked per employee in June 1967 and 2.7 hours of overtime worked per employee in June 1966. At the end of 1968 there were more than three times as many vacancies as applicants in the skilled metal and electrical trades, and applicants and vacancies were roughly in balance in the skilled building trades. Although existing resources of employment are fully used at present, conditions are favourable for a solid increase in both the workforce and our productivity.
The migration programme for 1968-69 foresees an increase of more than 20,000 in the number of settlers arriving. The number of school leavers in the current year should be roughtly the same as the number last year. There has been a consistent annual increase in the female participation rate in the workforce which ought to continue. The increase in the workforce could be very similar to or even higher than that in 1967-68, perhaps of the order of 23%. In 1968-69 productivity is capable of increasing by more than the average of the last few years. This mainly, of course is because of the expected recovery in farm output and a considerable increase in mining production which will not require many more men to bring about. At full employment, therefore, real gross national product should register an increase of 6% or better.
In the light of the estimates I have given and after allowing for an increase in imports, the Government planned its budgetary policy on the assumption of an increase of some 6% in potential supplies of goods and services in this year. In other words, this was the increase in capacity that the Government, when planning the Budget, considered would be available to meet the growth in export and domestic demand. When assessing the forces of demand in 1968-69 and the role of the Budget, it was evident that without some increased. restraint on the growth of government and private spending the increase in aggregate spending in money terms was likely to approach or even exceed 10% in 1968-69. With real supplies expected to rise by 6% or so, as I have just pointed out, this was a prospect that no responsible government could face with equanimity. It would have meant an excessive wage drift, an excessive rise in prices and costs and a heavy spill over of demand into imports and exportable goods. The Government therefore proceeded on two fronts. Firstly, it looked very critically at all its own expenditure plans and commitments and held down the rate of increase to the order of 8% compared with 10% last year. Secondly, it proposed certain changes in rates of taxes and charges with the aim of mopping up some $100m of private spending power.
It is evident that in these days of highly organised pressure groups, whether ot opinion or self interest, armed with the facilities of modern mass media, the forceful persuasive power brought to bear on governments to increase expenditure is extremely potent. But this can only result, if the government gives way to it, in the government making increasing inroads into the resources of the country and taxing both corporate enterprises and individual citizens to an excessive degree, lt is well to bear in mind that greater government spending on social services, which is in fact a central feature of this Budget, however desirable and well planned, entails a bigger dip into take home pay. In face of what the Government needs to do to cope with the increased outlay, the tax increases imposed are modest. In the circumstances it is natural to ask: Is the Budget deflationary? This is certainly not a deflationary Budget; it is definitely an expansionary one. Since it provides for an increase in Government domestic outlay of 8i%, it is clearly designed to add to and not detract from aggregate demand. It is also true that by increasing taxes and charges the Budget is striving to limit the growth of demand; but it is doing so in order to ensure that demand does not outstrip capacity. The aim of the Budget is therefore to preserve full employment but at the same time prevent the emergence of excess demand.
The Budget is admittedly less expansionary than the 1967-68 Budget. But a year ago there were seriously depressive influences at work like drought, and the level of private investment was still showing few, if any, signs of firm recovery from a period of stagnation. There was a need then to give a boost to spending. With private expenditure showing signs of growing in 1968-69 by as much as 10% or more, compared with 7% in 1967-68, there was not the same need for a stimulus in this year’s Budget.
The Budget aims to give the economy enough steam to hit the ceiling, so to speak, but not so much steam that it will crash through the ceiling and thereby endanger internal stability and undermine the strength of our balance of payments. The Government confidently anticipates that high levels of employment will be maintained and that the growth potential of the economy will be fully realised in 1968-69. The Government’s growth target is not illusory; it is based on a realistic assessment of available resources.
The Government is particularly keen to press on with the provision and development of the resources and ingredients necessary to promote economic growth. It has never regarded the prospective supply of resources as a given or fixed quantity. lt actively pursues policies designed to increase their size and effectiveness.
To achieve vigorous growth ‘ additional manpower is needed. It will be noted that this year the Government is planning for a substantial increase in the intake of assisted migrants, and it is providing more than $34m for assisted passages or neatly $8m more than was spent last year for this purpose. The target for assisted passage migrants is 105,000 compared with an annual intake of 84,000 in 1967-68.
Provision is also being ma.de through Commonwealth Hostels Ltd for additional high standard migrant accommodation. In this year S5m will be provided. An amount of $10m is to be set aside for improving the well being, education and productiveness of Aboriginal people. This is not only a matter of social importance, as is so often stressed in this House, but it is also important in the longer term to add to Australia’s effective manpower resources, lt is not enough to do good to the Aboriginals we must see that the Aboriginals can do good for themselves.
Another major element in economic growth is the quality of the work force. To improve the facilities and opportunities for the education of the Australian people the Commonwealth will this year provide an estimated $2 1 Om for education or 19% more than in J 967-68. Recently arrangements were made through my Department for a tripartite mission, consisting of Government, employer and trade union members, (o visit the countries of Europe which are the source of our immigrants and to learn what training arrangements now apply in Europe so that migrants who come to Australia will be assured that their skills will be recognised.
Capital formation is another important ingredient. Apart from its own massive developmental expenditures, the Commonwealth grants substantial concessions to industry to encourage it to invest new capital and modernise its methods of production. The investment allowance alone amounted to about $42m in 1967-68. Another critical factor in growth is managerial efficiency. ‘ Here my Department is playing an important role by organising the creation of productivity groups throughout Australia and these now include more than 3,100 member firms. Since the creation of these groups nearly 11 years ago, cost savings to industry have amounted to several million dollars each year. These groups are promoting productivity in a widespread dispersed fashion throughout Australia. There is still great scope, however, for increasing and expanding these activities both in the realm of top management and in the work force. The more that Australians can be induced to think about cheaper, better and quicker ways of doing things - a wonderful field for initiative which comes so naturally to many of our people - the better chance we will have of increasing our productive sources and promoting material welfare. It is in itself a fascinating task for team effort. If people at large could be persuaded in this respect to be ‘with it’, Australia’s prospects in the world would be considerably improved.
The best chance we have of increasing our resources to match our ambitions is progressively to raise the productivity of the economy at an even, faster rate than we have achieved hitherto. The factors that bring about high rates of productivity are many and varied. Some are elusive but it is certain that they do emerge very largely from the social and economic climate in which they operate. Conditions must be stimulating and competitive, and people lively, imaginative and of progressive outlook towards change. Success depends on many small gains over a wide field. In the United States of America this improvement in productivity and managerial skills has proved more significant an economic than many specific dramatic inventions which have brought big changes in industry. Undoubtedly, one of the chief keys to economic success is management, lt is management which has to promote and lead industry. First class management, given time and opportunity, will overcome most obstacles and be successful in most cases. The most enervating influence is that of people who are passive and inanimate and who seek mainly to blame others. This is so particularly in the case of employers who blame workers and workers who blame employers. Good leadership, which is needed to arouse the enthusiasm and cooperation of the staff and work force of big concerns, is priceless. The attention given to personnel and relations between management and work force, in so many cases, in Australia, is wrongly relegated to junior officers when it should be omnipresent in the daily thinking of top management.
Though we lavish large sums on education, we often give too little attention to the direction of this effort towards the things which make for economic success. For a country of our size and wealth, and the number of students graduating from our institutions, the efforts directed towards harnessing this talent to the essential task of management are so far too weakly organised. Greater economic success requires greater effort in this direction. Recent studies have shown, for instance, that in Europe scientific and technical1 knowledge is often as widespread as in the United States of America, but fails to achieve com. parable results because of inferior management and failure to make use of all the resources which are available.
Many aspects of our economic progress in recent years are, I think it could be said quite fairly, attributable to stable government and good public management by our institutions, as well as to the enterprise of many of our business leaders, coupled with an objective ‘outlook which refuses to be carried away either by pessimism or over-optimism. At any time our efforts and our affairs would deteriorate if the business outlook and those composing the business community became psychologically less stable. It is most important that the outlook of our business world, like that of governments, should be steady and not easily deflected by emotion. Let us freely admit, however, that a great part of our recent progress is attributable to the good fortune of our having made large scale mineral discoveries in Australia and of their having been efficiently exploited by large firms. The Leader of the Opposition seemed to indicate that here was a large fortune which somehow had not been enjoyed by people at large, but had been confined to a limited number of financial interests. Nothing could be further from the truth. Firstly, it has promoted development and employment. It has been accompanied by large scale imports. The benefits of the employment and spending power generated have spread widely through the community. Real incomes and wages all round have been higher than would otherwise have been possible. Much of this demand will continue, even after some of the individual projects have been completed and are in full operation. It has resulted in the development of engineering and other facilities to cope with its daily requirements.
Especially important, however, is the fact that these developments have added considerably to our export earnings and in the case of oil should save us considerable overseas outlay. These earnings, which are rising fact, are timely, both to increase our total earnings and to compensate for the fall in the prices of a number of our more traditional primary products. This extra income is placing Australia in a much more favourable position in the trading world, and thus the effects are diffused widely through the community. It has made possible a quantity and variety of imports which otherwise we would not have been able to afford. Recently, many of us have been looking daily at the spectacular effect that has taken place on the stock exchanges. It is well to remember that this is in a large part a side effect and not the fundamental.
No review of the Budget or the economy would be complete without reference to the balance of payments. We are a -great trading nation by any standards - amongst the first twelve trading countries in the world.
International trade is much more important per head in Australia than it is for most other countries who are in this league. The nature of our economy, with its heavy dependence upon exports of minerals and primary products, the prices of which tend to be volatile, inevitably means that concern about the balance of payments is always with us. On the other side, we are vulnerable both to undue cost rises in our economy and to excessive demand for imports generated by inflationary pressure. However, while it behoves us to be ever watchful, we also need to view it calmly and in perspective.
The relatively favourable position at present indicates that we should proceed with our expansion and development to exploit this position as best we can while it persists. It would be pointless to slow down the economy at this juncture to meet the worries that some might have for the future, which in practice might well prove unfounded. We can hardly expect that readjustment of the American payments position, with its resulting restrictions on capital outflow, and that of Britain will be favourable influences, though we, like other leading Western trading nations, have much to gain from greater stability in international payments. The policy of the Government has in fact been to steer a stable course, but to keep a keen weather eye on likely and actual developments. It should be noted, at this point, that the Treasurer is himself playing a role of increasing importance in the monetary and financial councils of the world, particularly in the International Monetary Fund, where our permanent representation is of the highest quality and therefore wields an influence which high quality alone can bring.
This Budget is a product of humanity and sound common sense. It provides for the advance of social welfare, coupled with good financial and economic housekeeping, and the promotion of a favourable climate for the steady growth of our material welfare. I support the Budget and reject the Opposition’s amendment as out of place and irrelevant.
– The Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) has moved an amendment which in part censured the Government for not making provision to lighten taxes and health costs for families and to increase benefits for them. In discussing the Budget, he dealt with the failure of the Government to take steps to abolish the means test, and other speakers on this side of the House have supported him. The Leader of the Opposition highlighted the weaknesses in the pensions system and the complete letdown handed out to the needy section of the community after the tremendous buildup in statements made by the present Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) earlier this year and continued by the present Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) and other members of the Government. It is quite obvious that the difficulties facing a married couple who, at 65 years drop overnight from an income of from $40 to $50 a week to a pension which is approximately half that amount, with another 50% reduction when one of them is left alone, are neither understood nor appreciated by honourable members opposite. One wonders how these people live. Those of us who come into contact with these people are very worried about them. Their position is a great social problem in the community at the present time. When one considers that rates, taxes and charges for essential services are rising all the time, it is almost impossible to understand and fully realise how people, particularly those who own a house and who receive a single rate pension, can exist today, let alone enjoy any of the comforts of life. It is a tragedy that these people should exist in this way in the affluent society in which we are supposed to live.
The amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition also emphasises the failure of the Government:
These matters were very adequately brought out today by my colleague the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) and they will be dealt with by other speakers from this side of the chamber. I am concerned with the position of the man on the land and his eternal struggle to get better prices for his farm produce in an attempt to keep pace with other rising costs. It has often been said on this side of the House that the farmer is at the end of the line. He has to accept any increases in the wage structure and in the price of plant, machinery and spare parts, but he cannot inbuild these increases into the price of his product and so pass these additional costs on to the consumer, as is done by secondary industry and by companies. There is no doubt that the 2i% increase in company taxation, from 42* % to 45%, and the rise in sales tax will be passed on to the people. But the farmer in this country is in a far different situation.
The announcement by the Treasurer that the bounty on superphosphate will rise from $6 to $8 a ton will be welcomed by people engaged in primary industry and by such small farmers as have the ability to purchase this item. But many of them are in financial difficulties, and this is borne out by reference to the tables which were issued with the Budget papers last week. These indicate that farm income is tentatively estimated to have decreased by 36% to $850m, the lowest for 10 years. The Library has supplied me with figures that go back to 1953-54. I could not get any appropriate figures before that year because it was in that year that a different system of accounting was set up, and tables prior to that time would have no relevance. The figures that have been supplied by the Library indicate that the only year in which farmers in this country received less income than they did last year was 1957-58, when farm income totalled $742m. In 1953-54, farm income totalled $l,021m. Now, in the last financial year, there has been a reduction of 36%, to $850m.
I realise that much of this fall can be put down to drought, and it is to be hoped that the Government’s proposals on drought bonds will in future years help sheep and cattle graziers in arid areas who are unable to conserve water and fodder. These farmers will be able to set aside funds as provision against drought, fire and flood by investing in these bonds within limits to be specified. The main advantages of the scheme are that the amount invested will be a tax deduction and it will bear interest The other big factor which brought about the fall in farm income was the lower prices received for our farm produce sold overseas. The total value of our commodity exports increased in value last year by only 1%. There would have been a far worse performance if it had not been for the mineral boom which this country is experiencing at the present time. The value of exports of cereal grains and cereal preparations fell by 9%. The value of the export of greasy wool fell from $726m in 1966-67 to $644m last year - a fall of 13% in the average export price.
The publication ‘Wool Facts’, which has been circulated this week by the Australian Woolgrowers and Graziers Council, indicates an alarming trend. We all knew that this trend was taking place. Although we are exporting greater quantities, we are getting less money for our products. For example, in 1966-67, we exported 1,572 million lb of greasy wool. Last year we exported 1,619 million lb of greasy wool. Although there was a substantial increase in the quantity of exports, from the figures supplied by the Commonwealth Bureau of Census and Statistics to the Australian Woolgrowers and Graziers Council, income dropped from $806m to $716m. This is an alarming situation for the man on the land. Although the farmer is increasing production and is selling more overseas, he is receiving less money for his products.
Added to the problem of falling overseas prices are the problems associated with devaluation. An amount has been set aside to compensate primary producers for devaluation, but as yet farmers do not know exactly how it will benefit them. In respect of applies and pears we know that the Tasmanian State Fruit Board, the exporters and others who are intimately associated with the industry have calculated that, based on previous sales to the United Kingdom, this compensation should be of the order of 70c to 80c per case of apples, but the Devaluation Reporting Committee which was set up by the Government came down with a figure of only 50c per case for apples. Devaluation of the New Zealand currency was not foreseen when the New Zealand-Australia Free Trade Agreement was signed. This, by itself, represents a 20% advantage to the pea and bean industry in New Zealand over farmers in this country growing the same type of crop. This is particularly important to farmers in my electorate, because they produce over 60% of Australia’s requirements of frozen beans and peas. The Free Trade Agreement allowed for the sliding scale duty on frozen peas and beans to be phased out in progressive steps over 8 years, in five reductions of 20% every 2 years. The industry was gearing itself to meet these reductions and it expected the second reduction of 20% to come on 1st January next year. Now, with this added 20% advantage from devaluation, this represents a 40% advantage to New Zealand growers. The industry has asked the Government for a deferment of the 20% drop in duty. This is a very reasonable request, because the New Zealand growers are getting two bites at the cherry, when it was expected that they would receive only one bite. The pleas of growers and processors have fallen on deaf ears.
We are very concerned over this problem, because we believe that exports of last season’s crop in New Zealand could be as high as 10 million lb. I need only point out that 1 million lb of peas and beans came into this country in May. That was four times the total imports for 1966-67. This is quite an alarming set up in the imports of peas and beans by Australia from New Zealand. We are very concerned. Following a survey it is estimated that the exportable surplus from New Zealand crops this coming season could be as much as 20 million lb. Growers in that country have many advantages over those in Australia. For example, processors in New Zealand pay their pea growers an average of 3c per lb on the North Island and 2.6c per lb on the South Island compared with more than 5c per lb in Tasmania and more than 4c per lb in Victoria. Contracts in our country are on a different basis to that of those negotiated in New Zealand. I point out also that the cost of transporting peas to the factory in New Zealand is less than in Australia. Factory wages are appreciably lower in New Zealand, they are about two-thirds of wages paid in Australia. Overheads are lower in New Zealand due to lower salaries. The New Zealand Government pays exporters a 10% to 20% subsidy on f.o.b. values.
One of the big advantages is that next January New Zealand will have two roll-on roll-off vessels on the Australian-New Zealand run, each giving a fortnightly service to Sydney and Melbourne. The rates for refrigerated cargo have not yet been announced but they axe expected to be much lower than the present rates. Due to the regularity of service - not available at present - a New Zealand exporter will need fewer cold storage facilities in Australia to maintain constant supplies to customers. There is no need to point out how expensive this part of the business is. I point out that next year will be the danger period. Our contracts for acreage this year are much the same as they have been in the past. These things would cause a tremendous upset in the industry in Australia not only because we expect this 20% drop in duty but because with devaluation the drop was not announced in time to operate in favour of last year’s crop in New Zealand. It will operate this year and will mean a 40% advantage to New Zealanders over Australian farmers who grow the same crop. The Government should have made a study instead of saying: ‘We will have to wait until we see how Australian growers are affected.’ The Government should have taken into account the cost figures presented to it by the industry and should have said: ‘We will contact New Zealand.’ For this year alone there will be a 20% cut or drop in the duty. This means that devaluation will affect all primary industries.
I would like to refer briefly to butter because butter sold on our traditional market in the United Kingdom is still attracting about 300s sterling per cwt; the internal prices on that market have not changed this year. I point out that 300s sterling is now worth $A32.14 compared with $A37.50 before devaluation. Thus every hundredweight of butter brings us $A5 less. This represents about 2c per lb of butterfat to farmers and, although, as I have indicated, the Government has set aside funds to compensate for this fanners are anxiously waiting to see what the actual return will be. I hope they will not be disappointed as some of the fruit growers were.
I have referred to falling prices for all farm and dairy products on the overseas markets. We cannot blame the drought for this. These depressed export markets, coupled with other factors, caused difficulty to dairy product manufacturers in setting this season’s rates for cream and manufacturing milk supplied to factories as from 1st July this year. In the past 12 months manufacturers have had to face the fact that overseas returns for skim milk powder dropped from $270 a ton to below $170 a ton, a drop of over $100. Casein prices dropped from $520 a ton to $400 a ton and cheese dropped from 265s sterling to 225s sterling per cwt, in addition to losses from devaluation. These manufacturers had to face up to the fact that the Australian dairy industry is facing difficult times through the over-production of dairy products and the subsequent dumping of this surplus production on world markets by the European Common Market countries. The price support programme in the Common Market countries will cost these countries at least $A700m this year. This of course has led to huge production and large surpluses of butter and skim milk powder being dumped overseas.
A total of 266,000 tons of butter is at present being held in cold storage in Europe compared with 160,000 a year ago. A warning has been issued by Common Market statisticians that butter stocks could reach the fantastic level of 750,000 tons by the end of March 1972. The home market price in France is about 72c per lb but the French are exporting butter at 26c per lb and stored butter for as low as 12c per lb. How can we compete with this in markets we are endeavouring to open up? The Dutch are quoting as low as 22c per lb, and this is having an adverse effect in small but important markets that Australia has been developing in South East Asia and South America. These countries in Europe are unloading their surplus butter throughout the world at whatever price they can get for it. The difference in some cases is up to 40c per lb or more and is made up by government subsidy. The subsidy paid by the Australian Government - I was pleased to near the remarks of the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) in supporting subsidies and bounties and the straight thinking by him on the subject - amounts to 6c per lb, yet we see other countries that export similar products paying up to 40c per lb subsidy for overseas markets.
Some 6 years ago, when the United Kingdom initially considered joining the Common Market, the Australian dairy industry was faced with the problem of surplus stocks over and above normal disposals on their existing markets. The industry was encouraged to diversify its products and many factories branched out into the manufacture of skim milk powder and butter oil. A ready market was available for these products in the reconstitution plants which were built with Australian money and Australian know-how in South Bast Asia. Sugar produced locally in South East Asia was added and the final product, sweetened condensed milk, found a profitable and expanding market in South East Asian countries. However we find now that the overseas return for skim milk powder has dropped from $270 a ton to well below $170, a fall of approximately 40%. This has been brought about again by strong competition from Common Market countries. The policy of high domestic support prices and the payment of export subsidies has led to record production in the Common Market countries. World trade in this product is about 500,000 tons and production has greatly exceeded this. Production in the Common Market countries alone quadrupled to 1 million tons between 1960 and 1967.
In Australia the increase in the demand for skim milk powder for the purpose of making recombined liquid and condensed milk started to lift the price of this product substantially as from the middle of 1964. Many factories, including some in Tasmania, changed to milk powder but now they find that prices have declined sharply in recent months, especially because the increased surpluses from the Common Market countries are selling at cut throat prices on the world market. Price cutting is quite evident within Australia as well. We find some companies sending supplies interstate and offering this product in the northern States of Queensland and New South Wales at $10 a ton below what purchasers would otherwise have to pay. I believe that there is a quantity of some 26,000 tons of milk powder in store in Victoria, and even this is now being taken interstate and offered for sale at whatever price can be obtained.
After considering all these matters, the factory managers decided that they could not take a gamble and expect any rises during the year, as they have done in the past. The prices set give the lowest returns for farmers for the last 17 years. During this period, of course, costs have gone sky high, and this Government has done nothing at all about the matter. In Tasmania and
Victoria 39c per lb is being paid for butterfat in cream. This represents a reduction of 2c per lb on last year’s price. In Tasmania 43c per lb is being paid for butterfat in milk as against 48c last year. I believe the price in Victoria is lower still, being 41c to 42c per lb. Just imagine the reduced spending power of the people who live entirely on dairying. Their cash returns each month have been cut almost overnight by 5%, at a time when the Treasurer says that everything in the garden is rosy.
I have spoken with owners of small country stores in these areas and with people who sell farm equipment and machinery. They also are feeling the squeeze. I feel especially sorry for the younger generation of dairy farmers who have borrowed money from the Commonwealth Development Bank or through their own banking service or some insurance company in order to get a start. They looked at the returns available at the time and entered into commitments and repayments on the basis of those returns. Now they find that through no fault of their own their returns are substantially less. I know that many of them are in difficulties.
By making funds available through the Commonwealth Development Bank, this Government more or less encouraged these younger people to take up dairy farming, and I maintain that it has a real obligation to inject more money into the industry in order to bolster the returns available to dairy farmers and enable them to meet their commitments.
The Government has agreed to underwrite commercial butter at 34c per lb. This is equivalent to 41.35c for butterfat delivered at the factory from the farm. From this the farmer pays an average of 1.4c per lb for cartage to the factory and .47c for promotion and research, leaving 39.45c per lb. Costs allowed in the manufacture of butter by the Commonwealth Dairy Produce Equalisation Committee Limited do not show up until the following year. They cannot be forecast. But during the next 12 months there will inevitably be increases in manufacturing costs, in wage payments, and in power and freight charges, and these will swallow up the .45c, leaving the farmer with the lowest return for his product for at least 17 years. Key men in the industry feel certain that the Government will be called upon for the first time ever to make up the underwritten guarantee. This shows the serious state into which this important industry has been allowed to drift.
There must be an injection of funds into the industry. It is generally an efficient industry but it faces chaotic and intolerable marketing problems, especially with milk powder. Steps must be taken to see that countries with a reasonable or a good standard of living pay a fair price for this product. At the same time we should not deny the product at low cost to countries such as India which is threatened in some areas with starvation. Only by some equitable system of equalisation will stability be brought about.
The Chairman of the State Butterfat Committee of Tasmania, Mr L. A. Gurr, in a recent letter to the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony), directed attention to the urgent need for some form of stability to be introduced. He pointed out that dairy farmers agreed in principle with the new farm amalgamation scheme which is designed to unite certain uneconomic farms and make them economic units and also to help owners of uneconomic farms to leave the industry if they wish to do so. At the same time he pointed out that farmers’ returns from butterfat had dropped by 7c or 8c per lb over the last 10 years. He suggested that if this trend is allowed to continue, amalgamated units that may be economic today will face the danger tomorrow of becoming uneconomic. He went on to stress the need for stability measures now and suggested that these might take the form either of returns based on movements in the national income or of a freezing of costs.
I repeat my concern for the people in the dairying industry. The industry has a great decentralising influence in this country. It is responsible for the economic wellbeing and prosperity of many country towns. It ranks third among Australian primary industries and employs 4% of Australia’s total work force. Dairy farmers represent 25% of all primary producers, and about 600,000 people are directly dependent on the industry. Capital invested in dairy farm land and buildings amounts to more than $200m, and a further $100m is invested in butter and cheese factories which employ 10,000 workers.
I was pleased to read that the Federal Dairy Committee of the Australian Primary Producers Union has decided to recommend widespread changes to help alleviate the generally depressed condition of the Australian dairying industry. Discussions are being held throughout the country on four proposals: First, a reorganisation of the Australian Dairy Produce Board; second, the placing of all milk for manufacture under one marketing authority; third, the allocation of a quota of total sales to each farmer; and fourth, a restriction of imports of fancy cheese. I understand that a reorganisation of the Australian Dairy Produce Board would make it a far better authority than it is at present. The Board now has the power to license exporters, but we know that even with this licensing system some managers of factories have gone into South East Asian countries and undercut the prices of products marketed by other Australian exporters. There is no stability in a system under which this sort of thing can happen. Like the Australian Primary Producers Union, I believe the Board should be reorganised to give it power to contract sales overseas and also to tender for sales. There should be one selling authority, as is the case in New Zealand.
Time does not permit me to deal in any detail with the other recommendations of the Australian Primary Producers Union, but, as I have said, they will be discussed throughout the country. The time to plan for this industry, if we are to prevent it from collapsing entirely, is now. I agree in principle with the plan to provide $25m to help the dairy farmers on uneconomic properties to get out of the industry, but this is not the sole answer. We know that in Queensland, for instance, when the number of farms decreased milk production increased. This is the kind of thing that will happen. The situation will become intolerable because of the problems we face in trying to sell our products in overseas countries.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– There are critics of every Budget. I would like to quote a remark made recently by a prominent Australian industrialist. He said:
Most industrialists wear blinkers. We concentrate our efforts and our energies on our own immediate business affairs and fail to concern ourselves with the overall picture.
The only objection I have to that statement is that it is limited to industrialists. It recognises the manner of our age and points, in our complex affluent society, to a selfishness or narrowness - whatever it may be termed - which causes us to overlook the national well being. Critics of this Budget are pretty well in this class. Of course, honourable members opposite may be excepted because, after all, their philosophies tend to divorce them from the private enterprise system.
This Budget is a most notable one since it follows eighteen successive Budgets presented by this Government which have advanced the national interest of Australia to the greatest period in its history. Australians now enjoy one of the highest standards of living in the world. This country’s high ranking in world affairs and trade is out of all proportion to its population. The prospects of this country and the policies of this Government have attracted hundreds of thousands of people to enrich this country with their skills and energies and to provide a better future for themselves and their children. It has been possible to develop our vast mineral resources far beyond our own capacity by attracting not only hundreds of millions of dollars from oveseas but also the necessary skills, technical know-how and marketing opportunities - they are of paramount importance - in the countries from whence these funds came.
It is not by chance that all this has come about. Other countries have vast resources but as yet they are undeveloped. The catalyst for this great change since 1949 - that was the last year of Socialist policies and controls - has been the climate of opportunity provided by a free enterprise government, the knowledge that contracts entered into and agreements made will be respected, and that excessive and discriminatory taxation will be avoided. In this period our population has increased from about 8 million to about 12 million. Our work force has increased by 2 million.
Yet despite the existence of this tremendous work force our employment rate is a low 1.2%.
This great advance, this rapid development, has at times put great strains on our economy. This is understandable. We had to change from the rigid controls of socialist planning to an expanding economy. This Government has never failed to impose measures, sometimes unpopular, in order to preserve our economic stability. After all, the well being of every individual in the community depends on our economic stability. Happily, this Budget contains no drastic regulatory measures. This has been made possible by previous prudent Budgets. It indicates a sensitive hand on the throttle - a hand ready to accelerate or ready to restrain, anticipatory of the grade ahead.
This is an excellent Budget; my previous remarks would support the comments of the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) when he said that it provides for stable and well balanced growth. It provides increased expenditure in those sections which concern most responsible and reasoning people. Defence spending has been increased by $102m to $1,21 7m. Expenditure on social services, repatriation, health and housing benefits, has increased by $11 lm to $l,446m. This figure represents approximately $500m more than the estimated revenue to be derived from taxes paid by companies in Australia, including the proposed increased tax. The great merit in these particular provisions, which should receive the support of everyone, is that they will benefit those whose need is greatest. The original intention of welfare assistance was to assist and not to keep. It would be a sorry day for Australia, with all the opportunities this country affords to the individual, if the individual felt that he need no provision for his future knowing that he could rely on the more industrious section of the community to provide for him. The Government is to be congratulated upon resisting the pressures exerted on it to bring this country into the demoralisation, which many people believe it should be called, of the welfare state.
Primary producers who use superphosphate will welcome the increase which will bring the cost of the bounty to the Government to $37m this year. The provision of drought bonds will mark a new era in the grazing areas of the arid zone where the conservation of fodder is impracticable. Many people in Australia do not realise the problems experienced in some of the remote areas of our arid zone. It is quite uneconomic to conserve fodder or even to try to grow fodder because dry seasons or droughts last, in some cases, for many years. These drought bonds will provide tremendous relief to some of these areas.
The agricultural protectionism so evident in the world today in industrialised countries has developed over recent years. Australia, the great supplier of bulk foodstuffs, is gradually being denied its traditional markets. Our efficiency gets us nowhere against the protective devices erected by these nations against our products. Added to this are the heavily subsidised sales of their own surplus products which compete aginst us on other available markets. This is the great change that has come over Australia in the last decade. In this period we have experienced a tendency to reduce tariffs on an international basis to provide freer trade. In its place has come agricultural protectionism. I refer particularly to the European Economic Community, a group of nations which were very large buyers of our foodstuffs. This area has become a protected area against all the commodities which we export. Not only that; they use enormous subsidies to compete in our markets. For instance, I recall that last year butter from the European Economic Community was sold in the Caribbean area at 15c per lb. We all know that flour and wheat has been subsidised in some South East Asian areas to compete with out commodities. This is the tremendous problem that faces Australians, particularly our agriculturists. We are, after all, the most efficient producers of agricultural products in the world; but it does not matter how efficient we are because these markets have been closed to us by impossible levies, an armoury of devices of protection which we are unable to penetrate.
Of course, we have to look to the alternative of finding other markets. I believe that the Department of Trade and Industry is to be congratulated for its most vigorous efforts to find markets all over the world. We are exploring for markets at all times. The alternative is to build a larger consumer market for these products within Australia. Here again, our secondary industries and our tremendous development have made it possible to increase our population and to provide job opportunities, as I remarked earlier, for two million additional workers. When I point out to honourable members that the per capita consumption of beef in Australia is approximately 86 lb, of butter 22 lb and of mutton 40 lb they will appreciate that for every million people we have in this country a tremendous advantage accrues to our primary producers. We are making great strides in our industries and we must increase our population not only as the basis of our economy but also to protect the industries which are so vital in earning export funds. Despite our increasing mineral wealth and despite the funds our minerals are earning overseas we still depend to a great extent on our primary industries.
We have lived on the sheep’s back for many years. We are faced with a difficult situation today and I am certain that we will not be able to live on the mineral back alone, if I may use that expression. It is unfortunate that our home market does not offer a larger market for wool. The wool industry is in great difficulties but it has a great advantage over the manufacturers of other products. At least the world market is fairly free for wool, particularly our merino wool. I believe that wool will eventually come into its own for this reason. After all, it is the finest textile in the world. I have mentioned drought bonds, which will affect certain of our wool growing areas, but a lot more has to be done to assist the wool grower.
The Budget provides substantial funds for Papua and New Guinea and is evidence of the major contribution by Australian taxpayers to the development of the Territory. In 1968-69 the grant to the Territory budget will be S87m and total Commonwealth expenditure is estimated to be SI 10m. The grant has doubled in the past 5 years, but I am pleased to be able to tell the House that our policy of steadily reducing the Territory’s dependence on the grant is being successfully applied, despite great pressures for developmental expenditure. In meeting their obligations to Papua and New Guinea the Australian people are making a very substantial sacrifice in financial terms, but the policies of this Government have been, and are, progressive and realistic. Above all they have been consistent. These polices are now paying off and we can see outstanding progress in all fields.
Let us look first at the political field. I take this first not because it is more or less important than other fields but because it tends to occupy a central position in the day to day news and public discussion. In 1963 there was a Legislative Council for the Territory with a majority of members nominated by the Commonwealth Government. In 1964 the first House of Assembly began its work with 54 elected and 10 official members. This year the second House of Assembly has met with 84 elected and 10 official members. In 4 years the first House of Assembly passed nearly 300 ordinances of which the Commonwealth Government rejected only one, and part of a second. I suggest that this is an impressive testimonial, to both the responsibility of the House of Assembly and the sincerity of the Government. On the executive side of political development in the Territory there have been major advances also with the appointment this year of ministerial and assistant ministerial members. The ministerial members are jointly responsible with the departmental heads for the administration departments. The ministerial members form the majority of the Administrator’s Executive Council which, subject to the duty and responsibility of the Administrator acting on behalf of the Australian Government, is the principal instrument of policy of the executive government of the Territory.
There has been marked success in encouraging greater participation by the local people in the management of their own affairs. Today they make up twothirds of the total strength of the Territory Public Service. In addition, 95% of the police force is staffed by local people and within a very few years it will be drawing all its new officer strength from within the Territory. Tertiary education has expanded rapidly and courses are now available in the Territory in arts, science, law, engineering, surveying, accountancy, business studies, medicine, agriculture, forestry, public administration and other subjects. Some 1 ,700 students are at present enrolled at institutions with at least form
III entry standard, including some 460 full and part time students at the University of Papua and New Guinea and the Institute of Higher Technical Education. The university commenced operation in 1966 with 58 students, and an increase to 570 students is planned for the 1969 academic year.
Self sustaining economic growth in the Territory is our objective and major indicators show a very encouraging trend in this direction. The total value of exports has doubled in the past 5 years. The value of primary production has risen by more than 50% in the same period. Manufacturing started from a small base but in 5 years production has nearly trebled. Rising imports reflect the accelerated pace of economic development but I am confident that we are at present laying the foundations for substantial increases in Territory exports. I have already mentioned that although the Commonwealth grant has increased greatly in recent years it has become less important in the Territory budget. This is because Territory taxes and loans raised in the Territory have risen faster than the Commonwealth grant. At the same time private investment both of Territory and overseas money has doubled since 1964. Commonwealth aid and private investment from overseas have helped to finance a rapid growth of imports, especially imports of machinery and other goods needed for development. Progress on these lines has brought the country closer to economic self reliance, but we still have a long way to go.
These are examples of the very rapid changes that are occurring in the Territory. This pace of change is in itself a fundamental problem. The Government objective is development, but balanced development - economic, social and political. Difficulties can arise if political progress moves ahead of economic progress. The answer is not in restricting political progress but rather in accelerating the pace of economic development. In 1964 the World Bank Mission recommended greater emphasis on economic development and, following acceptance of this principle by the Government, the Territory Administration and the Department of External Territories have worked in close co-operation in planning the course of economic development in Papua and New Guinea. A programme covering the period to 1972-73 has been prepared, and within the next few weeks I shall be making a statement in the House on this important subject.
Economic progress provides the means for the social progress that the people want. I have been to the Territory many times and have talked to many hundreds of the people. The vast majority ask me for advisers, teachers, roads and schools - not independence. Some may feel that we are moving too slowly, but 1 would remind the House that there are some in the Territory who believe that we are going too fast. The Government believes that it is going as fast as is desirable in the light of its policy of balanced development, and the Government will not be stampeded into going any faster.
Another problem facing the people of the Territory is that of achieving national unity. The United Nation Visiting Mission to the Territory earlier this year was concerned at finding that a sense of nationhood had not yet developed to any marked degree in Papua and New Guinea. The fact that the people speak more than 700 languages will give some idea of the extent of the problem. Obviously, a complete solution will be achieved only in the long term. The Government regards this matter very seriously but we do not as yet claim to have all the answers. Until we have all or most of the answers the existence of this problem tends to act as a sobering influence in our consideration of how fast development may be pushed in the best interests of the Territory as a whole.
Earlier I spoke of progress in getting the local people involved in running their own affairs. This is a continuing objective, but I must make it clear that Australians and others have a vital role to play in carrying out the Government’s plans. We must get the skilled people, and our plans call for the recruitment of about 1,000 professional, semi-professional and otherwise skilled expatriates in 1968-69 and, in round terms, a total of about 4,500 over the 5-year period to 1972-73. I hope that there will be no shortage of Australians coming forward to undertake these challenging and worthwhile tasks.
To return to my earlier point concerning the Commonwealth grant to the Territory for 1968-69, 1 stress that in the final analysis the most important factor in the degree of success achieved in efforts to develop Papua and New Guinea will not be the size of the Australian grant. The deciding influence will be the people themselves - the efforts they make to work together in building their nation and the success they have in winning international confidence, capital, know-how and co-operation. I reject the amendment and support the Budget.
– In supporting the amendment I would label this Budget as a crocodile Budget. There are three kinds of crocs for which it stands. There is the crocodile that proverbially weeps as it delivers the kiss of death to its prey. This Budget presents the kiss of death to the hopes of the superannuated souls who pinned their faith on the Treasurer (Mr McMahon). Although we are told in ringing tones from time to time how we all are shareholders in a great democracy, it seems that we must face the fact that our shares will not gain in value after we have to stop work. The shadow treasurer, the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean), has shown in plain figures that the $1 increase in pensions will just restore their buying power, which has been eroded by unbridled prices since the last pre-election increase in 1966, while at the same time other consumers have had an increasing dividend in the national product.
The Government is ever ready to intervene to deter courts from adjusting minimum wages to keep pace with unchecked prices. When did the Government ever use arbitration to adjust prices or dividends? Even going all the way with LBJ it does not find itself able to talk to the BHP company about petrol price increases, as President Johnson and the late President Kennedy talked to the Bethlehem group in the United States about steel prices. Why not? Would it be too un-British to do so? No wringing of the hands over Vietnam, the Fill or any other foreign investment by this ‘Goldwater’ Government can conceal those facts. On average, we are more affluent in Australia, come drought, hell or oil wells, than we were in 1966, but our pioneers and our parents are as mouse poor as they have ever been since this
Government came to power. What an epitaph to the constancy of this stayput Goldwater’ Government. It came in on a promise and will go out on that same promise. That is its epitaph. When told of the Government’s concern and compassion - that is a biblical term for sympathy - one old lady had tears of grateful anticipation in her eyes as she whispered to the Treasurer: ‘Is that a promise, dearie; or will you really do something for us?’ Now she knows.
– Since when has the honourable member been quoting from the Bible?
– Since the Treasurer mentioned compassion. There is a second sense in which this is a croc Budget. It is regressive. Crocodiles are called the dinosaurs that Father Time forgot to retire. This Budget is of a similar vintage. It steps back to the horse and buggy days, when all that the taxpayer wanted was a gentleman perched on a podium balancing the ledger with his quill pen. Modern democracies are not run that way. But Australia in the computer age is planning the nation’s economy by the abacus method. We put on 10% here for twenty-four electronic angels - or are they fairies or fireflies? - and we take off 2i% there to sober Santa Claus, as if to say: ‘Fewer toys and lollies this year please, Santa: we cannot afford them and freedom too; we are too busy with the fairies’. We give tax relief to foreign investors because our Goldwaters would rather give our land away than let what they call those dreadful Socialists maul it. One honourable member opposite who is now whispering was heard to say that those dreadful Socialists had the audacity to set up an efficient aluminium industry here when private enterprise was too timid to do so. He said: ‘Fortunately, old chap, we managed to wheedle our way into power and sell it out to our mates in the aluminium oligopoly’. Such was the regressive Government approach to the nation’s first oil refinery, Commonwealth Oil Refineries Ltd; to our first successful export secondary industry - Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Ltd; to our first successful research and production drug laboratory - the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories; to the overseas trade of our national shipping line or to any other initiative in the public sector.
The Commonwealth Serum Laboratories, you will recall, Mr Deputy Speaker, were saved from a sell-out by the outspokenness of the former director, Dr Bazeley of Salk vaccine fame, who was demoted for his frankness.
The Budget is not only regressive in its provision of increasing tax concessions to the foreign and home grown affluent, as has been documented by the honourable member for Melbourne Ports; it is not only regressive in slowly increasing the tax load on people dependent on middle and low incomes, as demonstrated by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) and the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden): It is also regressive in its demonstration of the Governments stubborn refusal to accelerate the takeover from the States of the increasingly complex responsibility for national planning and national priorities in enterprise, as some honourable members have pointed out to Cabinet. The Government has refused to take any initiative in planning new industries for shrinking towns or for towns with sectors of unemployment, as most of our provincial cities have at the moment. The Government has refused to take any initiative in housing and the provision of civic amenities for rapidly growing towns. In all these respects it is abdicating the growing responsibilities of a growing nation.
The Budget resembles a crocodile in a third respect. This is the crocodile that people form at a party when they do not know where they are going. Each one puts his hands on the back of the person in front. That is the way in which this Budget is designed. Instead of cost benefit analysis and programme budgeting we have a jockeying for priorities by ministeries and lobbyists. Then they settle down to follow the leader who, in turn, follows his tail. This failure to give guidelines to industry and public authorities and failure to provide any 3-year, 5-year or 10-year plan, as other modern countries do, are the major failures of the economic portfolios of this Goldwater government. Its planning may be compared with that of the shipyard in Wonderland. Alice noticed that there was an engine shop producing a new oil-fired engine while the shipwright was retooling for his advanced coaldust turbine design. The paint shop had developed a superb new paint for a steel hull while the shipwrights were switching to aluminium. That is the way we plan our economy. This is the sort of co-ordination we have between our power, water, mineral and other sectors of the economy. So it is with our urban, rural fertiliser, farm machinery and export policies. So it is with our cultural, educational, scientific and technical policies, and so on. The Government survives by steering with the currents and- trimming its sails to the wind, not by starting its engine and studying the chart.
We are taken to task by our critics for not balancing the Budget. Honourable members in this debate have stated that all we on this side of the House would do is tax less and spend more. This proposition they find beneath contempt. Unfortunately for them we are in more informed company than they are. Honourable members opposite ignore cost benefit analysis which proves that investment in the right directions improves prosperity and revenue and so reduces taxes. The Minister for External Territories (Mr Barnes) who has just sat down has given us a perfect example where, by increasing the money that we put into New Guinea, we are going to make a profit. We will get more coming out of New Guinea than we put into it. This the Treasurer cannot see. This honourable members opposite cannot see when they build a Budget - that in order to balance a Budget one must spend more and then one will be able to tax less.
– Does the honourable member know that this is a deficit Budget?
– It is a very tiny deficit, and the deficit is to be made up with government securities. I am going to touch on that matter very shortly. Such informed investment, in other words, does not cost; it pays.
As far as this deficit il concerned, H. W Herbert has shown how this should have been done 10 years ago. It still is not being done this way. H. W. Herbert wrote of the 1958 Budget in the ‘Australian Financial Review’ of 25th June 1959 in this way:
The Commonwealth Government budgeted for a deficit of £110 million last August, desiring to keep its own expenditure (and that of the States) moving forward in a year when lower export prices were dampening other spending. New money was created to cover much of the £110 million. As a result the trading banks now hold an embarrassingly large volume of Government securities.
Note that the Treasurer in the Budget for this financial year proposes to use government securities if necessary to finance this deficit. Mr Herbert continued:
Why- embarrassing? Because under orthodox banking procedure Government securities are regarded by the banks as part of their liquid assets (being readily convertible into cash). And the larger the banks’ liquid assets, the more they are enabled to expand ordinary advances to business and individuals.
Let us step lightly over the fundamental anachronism of this orthodox procedure - that the banks having created millions of new money and lent it to the Commonwealth. Government, are thereby empowered’ to create millions more and lend it to other clients. One would have thought that the creation of a large amount of new money for the Government to spend should restrict, not enhance, their ability to create new money for other people to spend. . . .
Nevertheless, the trading banks might use their high liquidity as a basis for expanding advances very greatly, and. some people ate worried as to how to prevent that happening.
Yet thU whole situation of high unwanted bank liquidity need never have arisen.
That new money is created by stepping up bank advances is a fact on which all modern monetary authorities agree, just as the reduction of advances extinguishes money. . . .
The banking system has created money which it has then lent to the Commonwealth Government, and holds Government securities (bonds, treasury bills) in return.
Isn’t there something very strange about this manoeuvre?
The Commonwealth Government, the supreme power in the land, has decided that expenses shall exceed receipts to the tune of £110 million in 1958-59.
Someone must create extra money for this purpose. Instead of doing it itself and having the extra money as its own, it empowers someone else, the banks, to create it and lend it to the Government.
It spends the money and is left with a debt - Treasury bills or bonds on which not only interest must be paid but which must eventually be redeemed out of revenue or converted to new issues in perpetuity.
The banks create new money and are handed on a platter a new asset- interest-bearing Government securities, in embarrassing quantity.
It was quite unnecessary for the Commonwealth Government to hand over to the banks the job of creating new money in 1958-59 (or in 1959-60 if another deficit is in the Budget).
I may add that it is equally unnecessary in 1969. Mr Herbert continued:
It left the Government with an unnecessary debt and presented the banking system with an unjustified asset.
The Government could have, created the money itself, and had it debt-free. It could have passed over a large portion of this money to the States, debt-free. (This is quite separate from the tax money the Commonwealth channels to the States and on which it also quite unjustifiably charges interest).
Direct money creation by the Government to cover a planned deficit may sound radical, it may sound inflationary. It is neither.
It is radical only in the sense of being new, but in fact is more direct and logical than the present system. . . .
How could direct Government money creation be achieved? By the Commonwealth Treasury depositing with the Commonwealth Bank a cheque entitled ‘Deficit Authorisation £110 million’. The Bank would allow the Treasury to draw against this as required (but no more than usual Treasury bills would be issued). If it was found during the year that export proceeds increased, or overseas money came in strongly, or that bank advances- to private clients were expanding rapidly and loan subscriptions were booming, part of the Deficit Authorisation would remain undrawn and would be cancelled.
I come now to an important part of this quotation. Mr Herbert continued:
Mr Menzies considered the £110 million deficit radical but justified’ at the time.
I ask honourable members opposite to note that quotation before they start to criticise the article by Mr Herbert in the ‘Australian Financial Review’. He went on to say:
Now complete the second part of the picture - raise deficit money in a way that is radical but safe, and doesn’t create unjustified public debt. And here is an opportunity to pass on some of the advantage to hard-pressed State Governments, along with remission of interest on tax money.
I have quoted very fully from that article because this has not been mentioned by a Treasurer in the 10 years since the criticism was first raised. The Government is still increasing the debts of the States and the local government authorities. We still saddle them with more debts and more interest. We are still passing taxation money on to them and charging them interest on money that is coming from taxpayers. This is quite unjustifiable. It is high time the Treasurer gave some answer to that criticism.
To give an example of a country that does not have this short sighted policy, I quote from the ‘Australian’ of the 6th of this month. It reported:
The Japanese Government is sponsoring . . . low-interest loans from the Japan Development Bank for shipbuilding projects.
At the moment the Idemitsu Maru,. 209,300 tons, is the world’s largest ship. But Japanese shipbuilders are continuing the trend with even bigger vessels.
Apart from these, the Tokyo Tanker Co. . . . has been asked to work out plans to build a tanker of some 330,000 to 380,000 tons.
. Nippon Oil has already started to build an oil depot to receive it.
These are the actions of a country that knows where it is going. These are the plans of a national government that concerns itself with national planning. This is no crocodile budget like the one presented to us in this House.
Health is a problem that has long been beyond the capacity of the States to handle. It is a subject on which the people of Australia voted at a referendum to give powers to the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth has responded by abdicating, as our Leader has shown, in favour of a hotchpotch of inefficient and half baked voluntary schemes. Unfortunately, the medical profession, which devised this system over 20 years ago, is still frightened of the Red bogey that drove it to promote this scheme rather than have a per capita or salaried service, which it feared. Only last week the President of the Australian Medical Association, Dr C. O. F. Rieger, was reported in the ‘Australian’ as having used the following self-contradictory terms when he was addressing the first joint AMA-BMA annual meeting:
We in this country believe that the individual should accept the responsibility of providing for bis personal medical care.
He gives the impression that he is speaking for all Australians. I assure the House that he is not. He is reported to have said:
We adhere firmly to the opinion that the present form of service . . . provides the best basis for . . . the most efficient plan of national health.
Again he does not speak for all Australians. The report continued:
Dr Rieger said it was accepted that the . . system now needed overhauling.
This is where he is beginning to contradict his earlier statement. The report went on:
The problem was basically how to finance it best to cover all members of the community. There’s the rub.
In other words, on my interpretation of Dr Rieger’s statement, it is good that people have to pay medical, hospital and pharmaceutical fees, but the poorer ones should not have to do so; they should go to public hospitals for anything not covered by repatriation or pensioner services. I am sorry to say that the wrong attitude is all too common in the medical profession. It is tragic to see trained administrators and skilled clinicians unable to perceive their selfcontradictions when they adopt this bipartite approach to the practice of their profession. By what right do doctors in this affluent lotus land, as the former Prime Minister described it, divide our citizens into the responsible and the irresponsible, identifying them respectively with the paying and the powerless, the private patient and the public patient, the private room occupants, the pampered and the patronised, and the open ward patients? If there is a political party that endorses this division into watertight categories, it is not this Party.
There is no sign in the Budget, in the Government’s committee on health costs, in the statements of the Minister for Health (Dr Forbes) or anywhere else that this Government concerns itself with a broad fiscal approach to personal medicine. There is no sign of a move towards a medical audit, a system by which the profession would set up self checking to improve the standards and practices of all its members, including the matter of reducing redundant and wasteful expenses. A system of medical auditing has been suggested in many quarters over the years, but quite recently Mr Royce Kronborg, Federal Secretary of the Australian Hospitals Association, referred to this subject. He is reported in the Melbourne ‘Herald’ of the 21st of this month as follows:
Yet the doctor is not subject to audit, even by his peers … It would be best if this was done without Government coercion.
Mr Kronborg warned that unless hospitals formed a strong national association, they would be threatened with loss of identity, power to act within their own administration, and an effective voice in the total affairs of hospital development.
He is also reported to have said:
The last 20 years have seen unprecedented erosions by Governments into every facet of our hospitals’ autonomy without any significant consultation, bargaining or opposition.
It can be expected that hospitals will only obtain a fair share of the tax dollars . . . when they can vocalise their problems and demonstrate their unity.
The amount raised in public appeals is peanuts compared with the real moneys hospitals are spending.
What has this Government done to meet the problems of the hospitals? Again it has abdicated in favour of anybody it can get to carry the baby. This is usually the State governments and other people ill-fitted, ill-equipped and ill-financed to carry out this task.
There is also no sign of a government move to encourage the accreditation of doctors by their own profession as distinct from the auditing of their standards, which I mentioned earlier. Accreditation would bind hospitals to allow only those specifically qualified to carry out specified procedures. This is done unofficially to an extent. I know that in a country area a specialist was progressively barred from every hospital in the town, and finally he could not get a theatre booking because of his incompetence, which became obvious to the most junior nurses. This should not be necessary. No doctor should be allowed to get to the point of blinding five patients unnecessarily before the hospital theatre sisters step in and bar him from practising eye surgery. There should be medical accreditation for every medical and surgical procedure where the skill developed requires supervision by a more experienced practitioner. This accreditation must lay down the degree of supervision over the doctor concerned or the supervision by one doctor over another doctor who may be less experienced in the procedures concerned.
There is no sign of a move to integrate private with salaried practices. Some doctors are salaried and have also the right of private practice in small country areas, but in towns that are a little bit bigger the doctors are strictly divided. No private doctor is allowed to attend a public ward patient. He was allowed to do this in Queensland 20 years ago. No public hospital resident is allowed to treat a private ward patient. A public hospital resident was allowed to do this in Queensland 20 years ago, though it was not done very frequently. If a patient takes a private single room at his own expense and still chooses salaried public hospital staff, the salaried doctor ought to be able to charge the private patient a fee and this fee could go to the resident medical officers’ fund. In the reverse case, where a patient is admitted to a public bed but still wants to be attended by a private practitioner, the policy of the Australian Labor Party provides for the patient to pay 15% of the private doctor’s fee. A Labor government would pay the remaining 85%. This does not cover all possibilities. There would have to be provision for doctors to charge more than a set fee in some cases. There is no need for any doctor to be conscripted under such a policy. The medical profession need not be frightened about being conscripted. As a matter of fact, the Constitution of this country, by an amendment adopted at a referendum, specifically forbids such conscription.
The Government has shown no concern about integrating salaried practices with private practices. It has shown no concern about integrating experience inside hospitals with experience outside hospitals. As a result, the patient is the sufferer. Under the present arrangements, an outside doctor must stop at the door of the hospital and cannot accompany his patient inside, and an inside doctor cannot visit patients at their homes. There is no sign of concern about the basic causes of diseases of civilisation nor any public initiative in research which would shift the emphasis from expensive cure to economical prevention. There is no sign of a move to place on the doctor the onus of deciding which treatments are necessary and cause most financial loss to the sufferer, and so should not be charged to the patient, and which are trivial or even frivolous and vexatious, thereby justifying a deterrent charge. But each of these matters is capable of solution, and each is being solved in more than one country without loss of mutual choice by doctor and patient, loss of their inter-personal contractual relationship, or loss of the incentives to maintain high standards of medicine. Failure to point this out to the profession, to draw the inevitable conclusions and to act on them, is the record of this Government over almost 20 years.
– When the honourable member for Capricornia (Dr Everingham) started his speech and talked about crocodiles, I became quite excited. I thought we were off on a safari. But somewhere along the line he lost me in that wierd economic world in which he dreams.
– I shall give the honourable member a copy of my speech.
– I thank the honourable member for his offer. There is one aspect of the Budget which I believe is extremely important and which must be given a lot of serious thought in the very near future - the provision for defence. We realise that the extra provision for our defence spending in this Budget is necessary and I commend the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) on such a realistic view. One of the major tasks of any nation is to ensure its security, and as our country develops, so should our security precautions develop. That is the price we must pay for rapid development and the maintenance of strength.
In the last 10 to 15 years we have seen some quite dramatic changes in that part of the world in which we live, and I believe we must condition our thinking to these changes in order to meet all future changes. The days when we could worry about changing situations and foreign problems as they arose have gone. We must keep an even closer watch on these problems and be big enought to plan ahead to deal with them before they arise. If we adopt this attitude we may even prevent them from arising. I believe we are entering an era in which tremendous responsibility will be thrust upon us politically and militarily. We must be prepared to lead by example. We realise that we are not Asians, but the Asians are our very close neighbours and will be looking to us to guide and assist them. This is obvious. There is no doubt in my mind that when the dust of the Vietnam war settles, our responsibilities in the South East Asian area will be increased tenfold and we must be prepared to accept them. I believe our previous attitudes in Asia have been heavily conditioned by concern for our own security and in view of all the present circumstances, a critical review of our defence policy and our political thinking on Asian affairs is imperative at this stage.
There must be a reassessment of established facts - the facts as we know them. We must undertake a re-examination of basic, assumptions and the defence concept must be boldly revised to meet any new situation. Any halfhearted attempt at this could lead to our needlessly expending a lot of blood and money with no productive results. Again, to my way of thinking, a solid defence concept must be political as well as military; it must be constructive and not destructive. Political conciliation and construction to avert a war are much more sensible than the reconciliation and reconstruction that inevitably come at the end of a war. That, is why I believe our foreign affairs experts must work even more closely with our Asian neighbours in order to anticipate any change in any political situation.
Communist political domination of the South East Asian area is no doubt our greatest threat and worry, and whilst some learned men whose works I have read have said that Communism is a passing phase, because it germinates within itself the seeds of its own destruction, the Communist ideology has a strong appeal in certain parts of the area in which we live. It must be contained in those regions where it is desired and must not be forced on those regions where a Communist state is not desired. Here again, sensible and sound political policies applied at the. right time can avert, a difficult situation and play an important part in defence policy. I believe we mustdo our utmost to achieve political and economic stability within the area in order to combat the subversive tactics that have been evident there for quite a while. The political and economic plight of some of the people of South East Asia makes them highly susceptible to these tactics, and thousands of agents can be infiltrated throughout the area without detection.
A prime example of this is China, which for centuries has been colonising Asia by peaceful penetration. She has no need to fight to achieve this while she employs such tactics. This quiet infiltration has now reached a point where Chinese form 75% of the population of Singapore and nearly 50% of the population of Malaysia, with millions more in Thailand and Indonesia. We may not be able by force to stop subversion completely but it can be stopped by political and economic means. Further development of our foreign aid programme in South East Asia and especially Indonesia would also help to a great degree.
In order to achieve a well balanced logical defence policy which would be effective for some years to come and which is within our own economic capabilities, we must consider politics, strategy and tactics, and study all these factors together. Wars, whether they be between communities or nations, have always been the result of a political condition. They have been started from a political motive. A political design becomes the objective, with war as the means to achieve that objective. In short, war is a political instrument. It is npt the act of blind passion about which we read. lt is dominated by the political objective. Therefore., the value of that objective determines the measure of the sacrifices by which it is to be purchased. After studying history, it would appear that armed insurrection wilt play a prominent part in any disturbance that may be caused in the countries of South East Asia, and it must be realised by those who plan our defence policy that armed insurrection is a special form of political
Struggle and, in fact, is one of the most destructive weapons of modern warfare.
I also believe that the people who will be responsible for planning our new defence policy must have a national1 aim, a national policy and a national strategy. They must have a national aim because the attainment of that aim will further national interests and produce effects conducive to national security and well being. They must have a national policy because this could provide a definite course of action which could be adopted and followed by the Government and designed to control and establish the l’imits for all actions directed towards the attainment of a national aim. They must have a national strategy because it is the sum of the national policies, plans and action designed to support the national interests. It would also provide for the development and the use of the political, economic and psychological powers of a nation, together with its armed forces, during peace and war, to attain a national aim. Once we have decided on the political and economic structure of our defence policy, I believe, we should then take a
Close look at our capabilities in the military sense. Modern warfare is the product of all types of war and these days it demands special consideration.
A complete revision of the composition of our armed Services and their equipment must be undertaken. To my way of thinking, conventional warfare, as some of us have known it and have studied it, is finished. Modern warfare demands even more mobility and flexibility, and, without losing sight of the principles of war, more attention should be placed on these two factors. Our Army could well be reorganised into a number of task forces. Each force could be capable of operating independently and being entirely selfsufficient, and it could have its own infantry, armour, engineers, transport and logistic system. It should be small enough to be moved quickly and conveniently yet large enough to pack a solid punch and be able to hold ground. The state of preparedness should be constant so that, in the event of trouble arising and a neighbour requesting assistance, a task force could be moved immediately. If, on present planning, it would take 5 days to reach any given trouble spot, the time factor should be reduced to 2 days. This would probably mean the provision of additional and speedy air transport, but I believe that it would be worth it. This speedier movement would give our troops a better chance to hold until assistance arrived.
I also believe, and this is my own opinion - that pressure should be applied to other neighbouring countries also to alter their military organisation to conform to ours. By that I mean that they should utilise the task force system based on our own organisation, which would be complete and neat. This would make overall defence planning much easer. The South East Asian countries that should be interested must share in the regional defence responsibility. Then these task forces could train together throughout these countries, and with this training they could become quite a formidable force in fighting for peace as well as in any trouble spot. Our own units could do a 6 to 10 months tour of training in other countries on a rotation system. For quite some time units in Malaya have been on a rotation system. The scheme could operate just as well in this instance. Units from other countries could do a 6 to 10 months tour of training in our country. Our Citizen Military Forces could be organised on the same task force system, expanded to include women’s services and operated on lines similar to those employed by the Regular Army.
Our Air Force would probably have to be reorganised to include more troop transports and supply craft. Our strike aircraft should be exercised in close co-operation with the Army. Maritime aircraft, which would have a larger role to play in antisubmarine warfare, in this instance would work closely with the Navy. I could visualise the role of the Navy being revised possibly to include a much greater number of torpedo patrol boats as well as vessels of the type of the ‘Perth’ and the ‘Hobart’ in order to keep our sea lanes open and for combat operations similar to those for which the ‘Perth’ and the ‘Hobart’ are designed. Fast torpedo patrol boats would appear to be an efficient and economical weapon. They could be of the conventional or the hydrofoil type, and with their speed and mobility they could provide an excellent coastguard service.
I also believe that in such a scheme of defence there is a place for intercontinental missiles. They should be included in the planning as a powerful support weapon. I could also visualise a unified planning staff and then a unified command, with our own people playing a leading role. A possible name for such a body could be the South East Asian Regional Defence Organisation. That is merely a suggestion, but I feel that such a scheme has to come. These countries concerned must get together and plan matters for their own protection. I do not care who does it. Since the year dot the practice has been that as you develop you must secure and hold your development. This lesson has been learnt right through the ages, and it must be done now. There has been a lot of talk about defence policy and defence review, and these thoughts have been exercising my mind very considerably. The forces I have described would be a deterrent. They would have the job of acting as peace units as well as fighting in war. 1 am positive that in a very short space of time we, in conjunction with our neighbouring countries will be called upon to make a critical review of our defence policy.
What I have offered is just one man’s thoughts on this question. They may or may not be accepted. But what I do know is that we, as a country, must shoulder the responsibility. We must be prepared to take the lead and to have the other South East Asian countries follow our example.
Debate (on motion by Mr O’Connor) adjourned.
Sitting suspended from 5.55 to 8 p.m.
Debate resumed (vide page 459).
– Mr Speaker, the House is debating a motion proposed on behalf of the Government by the Minister for External Affairs (Mr Hasluck). The motion is:
That the House expresses its distress at and its abhorrence of the armed intervention in Czechoslovakia by the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, the East German regime, Poland, Hungary, and Bulgaria; condemns this action as a breach of the United Nations Charter and of accepted international conduct; calls for the immediate withdrawal of the forces unlawfully on Czechoslovakian territory and expresses the sympathy ot the House for the people of Czechoslovakia in their ordeal.
It may be thought, Mr Speaker, that a parliamentary motion of support for the Czechs and a condemnation of the invaders in this place is a frail weapon, at least in the short term, to set against the tanks and the tommy guns of the Russian invaders; but it is a weapon available to us and, in the long term, in this and other parliaments it may not be as frail as it at first might appear. At least it is a weapon which the Czechoslovakian mission to the United Nations, at the behest of the Czechoslovakian National Assembly, asked us to use, saying:
We appeal to parliaments of all countries and to the world public opinion and ask them to support our legitimate requirements.
Tonight, Sir, this Parliament has its chance to respond to that appeal. The history of this sad affair is this: On 5th January this year Mr Novotny, First Secretary of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia, a Stalin type, hard line Communist, was replaced as First Secretary by Mr Alexander
Dubcek. The Communist Party and the Government of Czechoslovakia began reforms of the existing political and economic system in Czechoslovakia. One of their objectives was to improve the material well-being of the Czechs by diverting to consumer goods those resources which had been almost entirely used for the development of heavy industry and of defence to such an extent that all that was left for the Czechoslovakian people to live on were the bare necessities of life.
The second objective was to infuse some elements of democracy into the previous tyrannous, totalitarian Communist system of government which had prevailed in Czechoslovakia, and so freedom of speech was permitted, censorship of the Press, of radio and of television was abolished. Real discussions began in the national parliament. The courts were instructed to administer the law in accordance with the rule of law. The activities of the secret police were curbed and the free practice of religion was permitted. At the same time the Communist Party, under Mr Dubcek, remained in control of the country. The Czech Government reaffirmed its ‘immutable friendship and alliance with the Soviet Union’. Czech forces remained committed to the Warsaw Pact and the military alliance between Russia, Czechoslovakia and the other Warsaw Pact members remained as firm as ever. So, Mr Speaker, there was no abandonment of military union; there was no abandonment of Communist ideology. There was merely a brave experiment, seeking to give material benefit and seeking to give the right to think and speak openly and freely to Czechs. It was sought not to get rid of Communism but to keep Communism and have a measure of freedom too.
This brief endeavour was soon to be crushed. Russia and the Communist regimes in eastern Europe, who depend for their existence on Soviet military power, could not stomach the revival of free speech and the revival of the rule of law. So at once a hostile Press campaign against the Czech Government began. In June of this year 25 infantry and tank divisions ringed the frontiers of Czechoslovakia on the north, on the east and on the south. In July tension between Czechoslovakia and Russia began to run high but it appeared to have abated following a series of meetings between Czech and Soviet leaders, ending at Bratislava on 3rd August - the third of this month - 1968. After that meeting, in the communique issued at its end, the Czechs pledged their commitment to the Soviet Union, to the Warsaw Pact and to Communism, and in return the five other countries taking part in that conference expressed their ‘firm intention to do everything necessary to extend all round cooperation on the basis of the principle of equality, respect for sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity’. That was in the communique issued by Russia and the other Warsaw powers on 3rd August - this month.
But in spite of that Soviet troops remained on the border and yesterday at approximately 8 o’clock in the morning Canberra time, which was night time in Czechoslovakia, Soviet and satellite troops launched an invasion over all the frontiers of Czechoslovakia in overwhelming strength while the Czech citizens slept. It is worth noting at this point, as was said at the Security Council meeting today, that that invasion so launched by Communist countries had obviously taken weeks of preparation. Millions of leaflets were dropped on Czechoslovakia; massive forces had been deployed; a dummy radio station and newspaper had already been set up. This surely indicates that the Soviet leaders, who embraced the Czechs at Cierna and Bratislava and who had issued the communique I have just quoted to the House, had already been planning all this invasion at a time when the public air was filled with smiles. This must be taken to be a gross act of perfidy that should be universally condemned by world opinion.
By morning on the day of the invasion the country was under military occupation. Airborne troops had taken over Prague. Four to five hundred tanks ringed Prague, and the other centres of population were under military control. The glimmer of freedom which had begun to be seen in Czechoslovakia had gone, at least for now. The experiment was over, because that measure of criticism, that measure of free expression of opinion, that permission of argument which the Czechs had sought to introduce into the Communist body corporate had been judged too dangerous, too poisonous for that body to imbibe and to tolerate and to live with. The invaders believed it impossible for a Communist government to survive with the consent of or even subject to any public criticism from the governed of a Communist country - surely in itself, Mr Speaker, an eloquent commentary on the Communist system as seen from within.
As the Russian tanks rolled over the border to occupy the main centres of the country, as airborne troops dropped throughout Czechoslovakia, reports came over the Prague Government Radio. Those reports announced the invasion, announced that it was happening without the knowledge of the President of the Republic, the Chairman of the National Assembly, the Premier or the First Secretary of the Communist Party Central Committee. Indeed, the Central Committee of the Czech Communist Party met and asked for calm in the population. They sought a lack of resistance to the marching troops, for the odds were too great and they did not wish a repetition of the blood bath of Hungary.
On the next day, 21st August, the Czech Embassy in London issued a statement from the Central Committee of the Czech Communist Party which said:
The invasion of Czechoslovakia and the armed intervention by five states of the Warsaw Treaty were made against the will of the Government, against the will of the President of the National Assembly and other constitutional organs.
No legal1 organ of the state power in Czechoslovakia had given consent to it or had requested it. Then came statements from the Czech mission to the United Nations, issued by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, transmitting a resolute protest at the Russian action and demanding the withdrawal of all armed troops forthwith. Mr Speaker, the troops remain. The whereabouts of Czech Government leaders are unknown. Whether or not they are safe, whether or not they live, is unknown. Faced with the need to justify an action which the world had hoped it would never see again, a repetition in the same unhappy country of that aggression which Hitler committed in 1938, the Soviet Union now seeks to pretend that its troops were invited into Czechoslovakia. It has issued, through Tass, a long statement which purports to be the text of an appeal by a group of members, unnamed, of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia and of the Government. The text of the statement is signed simply and anonymously: ‘A group of members of the Central Committee of the Communist Party’. They are still unnamed, or at least they were still unnamed this afternoon. They will remain unnamed unless and until some puppet government can be installed by the military. Some people who, I believe, will forever after be reviled by the Czechs may be bought into accepting the rule of these invaders.
On this matter our own mission at the United Nations has cabled us tonight that the shattering weakness of the Soviet case was that Malik, the USSR Ambassador to the United Nations, was unable to name even one prominent Czech in the Government or the Communist Party who could be identified as one of those who allegedly had asked for the Soviet intervention. He did not in fact name any Czech Government or Party leader at all.
Because of what I have said in recounting the history of this matter and because of the facts I have previously presented I do not believe the Russian claim. The Government does not believe the Russian claim. I think the Parliament and people of Australia do not believe the Russian claim and I doubt that anyone really believes the Russian claim, although it is perhaps significant that as far as we know only one government has made a broadcast in firm support of the Russian action in Czechoslovakia, and that broadcast was made over Radio Hanoi.
What we have seen is brute military strength used to crush a military ally, an ideological partner, because some measure of free opinion had been risked. All that is needed to add a postscript, almost tragicomic, to this sombre story is something that appears in a letter written by the Soviet Ambassador to the United Nations to the Secretary-General of that body. In that letter the Soviet Ambassador said, on instructions from his Government, that the Soviet Union vigorously opposed consideration of this question by the Security Council and takes this opportunity to call once again upon all states to observe strictly the principles of sovereignty and independence and of the inadmissibility of direct or indirect aggression against other states or peoples’. There must be, Mr Speaker, no limit to the impertinence of these people. This is a perfect example of what George Orwell called double-think.
There is the history of this sorry matter. There are the reasons why this Parliament is asked on behalf of the Australian people to vote - unanimously, I hope - in condemnation of this Russian aggression, in support of the Czech Parliament, which has asked for our support, in support of the immediate withdrawal of the invading forces. The telling of this story may, perhaps necessarily, have been dull and detailed. But behind the words that describe the events that have happened are human tragedies in Czechoslovakia and a check to humanity’s hopes in the world. I ask you to imagine the scenes, reported over Prague radio to a stunned world, of bloodshed as an invading tank crushed those who stood in its way and of bloodshed as’ a Czech woman was cut down by a tommy gunner in the streets. Perhaps a transcript of one such broadcast will underscore this point. Over the sound of cannon and machine gun ure which came across on the broadcast came the announcer’s voice as follows: ‘
This is the last appeal. Shooting is heard outside. The end is near. Dubcek - Dubcek - Dubcek.
And then the broadcast ended - as, for a while, Czech hopes for freedom are ended and as, in sadness, are ended the hopes of so many of us who had hoped that European Communism might slowly allow the leaven of freedom to work and might slowly become more liberal. The falsity of these hopes, at least for the present but I hope not for the future, are now starkly clear. [Extension of time granted]
I thank the House. I will not trespass for long on what has been granted to me. Perhaps it may be said that this event does not at once impinge on the Australian people, but it does. Czechoslovakia, striving for freedom and some independence, never was and is not now ‘a far away country of which we know nothing’. Indeed, that excuse for ignoring its agony, which was once before used in the time of its former travail, impinged not only on Australians in the long run but on the world, since it was one of those steps which led to World War TI.
Czechoslovakia is a part of the community of nations. When the bell tolls for her attempt at freedom it tolls for attempts at freedom everywhere.
There may be little enough that we can do at present but let us do the little we can. Let us pass this motion in the belief that in this Parliament and in the other parliaments throughout the world, and in the minds and hearts of people who elect the members of this Parliament and the other parliaments of the world, there will come a force which, in the fullness of time, will see that the torch of Czech freedom is again raised high, as I believe it will be; that in those other countries which now have crushed Czechoslovakia the leaven still will work; that they will get those measures of freedom and, having them, will not feel in any way impelled to interfere with the rights of other countries - because in this way, Sir, and in this way alone, ultimately lies the path to peace.
– The House is now debating a statement and a motion proposed this morning by the Minister for External Affairs (Mr Hasluck). The Minister was followed in this debate by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) who, indeed, supported the motion. Tonight the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) has restated the proposition submitted by the Minister for External Affairs and which was supported by the Leader of the Opposition.
The Opposition joins with the Government in expressing its repugnance and abhorrence at the brutal repression of Czechoslovakia. We join the Prime Minister and the Minister for External Affairs in condemnation of a flagrant breach of the United Nations Charter and the international rule of law. We join in the call for the immediate withdrawal of the forces of the Warsaw Pact countries from Czechoslovakia. We state our sympathy for the people of Czechoslovakia when, after 8 months of comparative freedom and enlightenment, their hopes have been ruthlessly crushed.
We support the Prime Minister’s firm rejection of the attempt at explanation given him by a representative of the Soviet Union. There is neither truth nor justification in the claim that the Soviet’s inter- vention was sought by internal forces in Czechoslovakia, lt is beyond doubt that in recent months the great mass of the Czech people have overwhelmingly supported their new regime. There has been massive backing from rank and file members of the Communist Party for Mr Dubcek and his associates. This exposed the claim by the Soviet Union that external and internal conspiracy against the state of Czechoslovakia had justified intervention. This falsehood was rightly and contemptuously rejected by the Prime Minister. lt is just 12 years since this House debated another cruel repression of a revolt in a Communist country of eastern Europe. Despite subsequent hopes of an enlightened new world nothing has changed; the Soviet Union has learnt nothing. So much has been offered by the Soviet Union in the past 7 years. It had made great advances in restoring its moral authority and prestige in the world community by such actions as acceptance of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty.
Now an unwarranted and unconscionable aggression has dashed this restored faith in the Soviet Union. A great power which had so much to gain by a display of tolerance has surrendered . the great gains which were ready to fall into its hands. By a single stroke it has pulled Europe back into the postures of the cold war and has destroyed favourable prospects of a detente with the United States. It has made a lie of the policy of the 1961 congress of the Soviet Union. This twenty-second Party congress formally recognised the right of each Communist Party to blaze its own path (o Socialism.
Now the Soviet Union has failed in the first and sharpest test possible of the good faith of the assertion. It has suffered immeasurable losses in international prestige and in its moral leadership of the world Communist movement. This is emphasised by the condemnation of the powerful Communist parties in France and Italy. In Australia it is shown by pungent criticism of senior officers of the Communist Party of Australia. Above all the Soviet Union has merely deferred the long term problems of the communist philosophy.
This humiliation of Czechoslovakia will not solve the essential dilemma that rigid Communism cannot meet the demands of rapid social and economic progress in the countries of eastern Europe. lt is impossible to justify the Soviet action on the ground of a threat to Russian security. Unlike Hungary, Czechoslovakia has stressed that it intends to remain a member of the Warsaw Pact, lt has asserted basic loyalty to the Communist bloc and has denied any intentions of neutralism. Unlike Yugoslavia, which left the Warsaw Pact in 1948, and Romania, which has shown independence in its foreign policy, the new leaders of Czechoslovakia have reiterated that their external policy will be based firmly on alliance with the Soviet Union. Even if Czechoslovakia did become neutral or turned to the West, it is impossible to see it as any sort of threat to Soviet security.
The only basis for Soviet intervention is fear of the increasingly democratic and liberal spirit which has appeared in Czechoslovakia. This spirit has been reflected in recent years in other Communist bloc countries. There have been signs of it among intellectuals in Poland, East Germany and the Soviet Union. Within the Soviet Union there have been indications of unrest among Ukrainian nationalists. This is the background against which Russia conducted a sustained war of nerves against Czechoslovakia. The clumsy manoeuvres of Soviet troops and the severe pressures put on Mr Dubcek and his colleagues failed to overawe Czechoslovakia. With the choice of getting Czechoslovakia to abandon its reforms or reducing it to orthodoxy by invasion, the Russians made the tragic decision of repression. It is worth recording what Czechoslovakia has lost by the imposition of the Soviet version of Communist orthodoxy. It has lost the substantial measure of intellectual freedom which was gained by the change in regime. Reimposition of stringent censorship is assured.
A sincere and serious attempt to make Communism more liberal, human and national has perished. A trend away from monopoly Communism and control by direction of the smallest detail of social life has been destroyed. Attempts to guarantee minority rights and to achieve a radical departure from the traditional model of Communist Party organisation by separation of state and party have ended in ashes. In essence, counter-evolution has been defeated by counter- revolution. Now, a harsh and ultra-conservative regime will be reimposed under the tutelage of the Soviet Union. This, in bare outline, is what the Czechs have lost by the overthrow of the Dubcek regime. The great pity is that this great experiment in liberalisation came so close to success.
The Russians have delayed intervention until the last possible moment in the hope that the Czechs would capitulate, renounce the heresy of revisionism, and return to rigid practice of conventional Communism. An extraordinary general congress of the Communist Party had been called for September. This congress would certainly have destroyed every vestige of the old reactionary regime and opened new vistas of liberalisation. The Russians had failed in their clumsy attempts to bring Czechoslovakia to heel by diplomatic measures and military bullying. Quite clearly economic sanctions were not feasible because deterioration of the economy had been a major cause of the moves to a more liberal administration. In these circumstances Russia could either accept the new liberal Czechoslovakia or assert Communist orthodoxy by military measures. With a cowardly lack of enlightenment and against the demands of historical progress it chose to invade Czechoslovakia and to strike down reform. A cautious and moderate progress towards social and economic reform has been denied the chance to develop.
According to the latest Press reports, the leaders of Czechoslovakia have been taken into custody. The Prime Minister referred to this matter during his speech. We pay a tribute to these men. We believe that in this House tribute should be paid to them. In particular, I would like to pay tribute to Mr Dubcek who by a combination of courage, dignity and restraint sought the advancement of his people. Czechoslovakia has clearly lost a leader of exceptional nerve and ability, and every possible pressure must be put on the Soviet Union to ensure that he and his colleagues escape the fate of the Hungarian leaders.
The Leader of the Opposition has outlined to this House the swift response of the Opposition to the rape of Czechoslovakia. He pointed out that the parliamentary executive of the Party raised this matter last week and made protests to Australian representatives of Communist bio: countries. These protests were supported yesterday immediately news of the entry of Soviet troops was reported. We have stated in the strongest possible terms our revulsion at this mindless act of aggression against a country and a people which have endured much. It is a tribute to the fortitude of the Czech people that they have accepted their fate with dignity and resignation. The scale of the intervention by Warsaw Pact countries would have made any resistance a futile and bloody exercise. On the facts available so far the repression of Czechoslovakia has avoided the heavy loss of life and civilian disruption of the Hungarian uprising. The only weapon available to the Czech people is passive resistance and I am sure that this will be employed with the customary courage and resourcefulness of the Czech nation.
The Leader of the Opposition has pointed out that attempts were made in this House last night by Government members to exploit this incident for political purposes. I am not prepared to suggest that the Prime Minister, members of ihe Cabinet or of the Ministry were party to this kind of tactic, but such tactics are to be deplored. However, because of what was said in the Parliament last night, I believe that the opportunity should be taken to express quite clearly the Opposition’s opinions on these matters. I must say that it was a most reprehensible way to approach an incident so abhorrent to his Parliament and to the people of Australia. It is an issue on which all Australians have joined in expressing horror and condemnation.
The Labor Party has always been consistent in stating its opposition to intervention in the internal affairs of any nation. We condemned the aggression of Russia in Hungary and the annexation of Tibet by mainland China. We have not hesitated to express our deep concern when our international friends have transgressed accepted principles of international conduct. We condemned the intervention of the United States in Cuba and the Dominican Republic in the strongest possible terms. We have never faltered in our condemnation of attempts to impose a military solution in Vietnam. Here our record of consistency is much superior to that of the Government, which unerringly has condemned aggression by ideological opponents and has glossed over the transgressions of Australia’s friends. We maintain that this is a hypocritical approach which does little credit to the Government. In these circumstances any attempt by Government members to resort to the ancient tactic of kicking the Communist can is to be deplored.
Certainly the moral credibility of the Soviet Union has been totally destroyed by the plain and clumsy violation of Czechoslovakia’s sovereignty. But it is just as certain that America’s international stature has been compromised by the Vietnam war, which is vehemently opposed by a majority of the members of the United Nations. It is a fact that most of the nations of the world regard Soviet intervention in Czechoslovakia in the same light as the American prosecution of the war in Vietnam. This compromising of America’s moral position also stigmatises the Australian Government, which has supported without equivocation the American intervention in Vietnam. This inevitably puts the United States and Australia at a disadvantage in assailing the immorality of the Russian repression of Czechoslovakia. I do not expect honourable gentlemen opposite to see the similarity between the American and the Russian actions but I assure them that to a majority of members of the United Nations the war in Vietnam seems immeasurably more cruel than the Soviet intervention in Czechoslovakia, however reprehensible.
The Opposition supports the motion in the strongest possible terms. We are shocked by the writing of another black chapter in the sombre history of a nation and a people repeatedly betrayed. The longings of millions of Czechs for greater freedom of expression, creative freedom, economic advancement and limitation of censorship have been savagely obliterated. Every member of this House must applaud and encourage the triumph of social democracy in a country such as Czechoslovakia, which has a noble democratic socialist tradition. In particular, a democratic socialist party such as the Australian Labor Party must abhor the blighting of the aspirations of the Czech people. At this dismal time in world history we can hope only that ultimately truth, freedom and decency will prevail again in Czechoslovakia.
– I join with the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard) in supporting the motion before the House. I do not think any of us wants to speak to this motion merely for the sake of taking part in a debate. We speak to a motion which has caused a great deal pf emotion in this Parliament, to the people of Australia and to the people of the world generally. The motion that we condemn the immorality of Russia and her colonial countries for their military intervention in Czechoslovakia merits our unqualified support. It is a tragedy that some members of the Opposition last night tried to draw a parallel between what has happened in Czechoslovakia and what is happening in Vietnam. However, I do not wish to develop that theme. I do not think anybody in this country wants to see politics introduced into a debate such as this. Russia’s intervention in Czechoslovakia has upset all decent thinking people, particularly Australians, who love freedom of expression and the right to criticise and to exercise their minds. Our hearts go out to the people of Czechoslovakia. 1 know that all of my colleagues in the Australian Country Party would like to join with me in expressing utter abhorrence and revulsion at what has happened to this proud little country Czechoslovakia. We all would express our sympathy to Mr Dubcek and his parliamentary colleagues, who, with great fortitude and courage, stood up to the Soviet politicians who tried to apply pressure to make the Czechs change their liberal views which, after all, amounted nothing more than allowing a human being the dignity of thinking for himself and expressing himself as he wished. No, even this could not be tolerated by Russia.
My feeling of despair is perhaps a little greater than that of other honourable members because recently I had the privilege of visiting Russia. There I was extended courtesy and hospitality. I came home thinking that there might be some hope of greater understanding between the western world and Russia. I certainly gained the impression from the Russian people to whom I spoke that they wanted to live in a world of peace; they wanted to know more of how other people lived. There was a desire - almost an obsession - to know more of what was going on in the rest of the world. This was particularly evident amongst the young people. A large number of educated young people wanted to know more about the world. Many of them have been listening to programmes broadcast by the British Broadcasting Corporation, which were being freely received in Russia. Unfortunately, since the invasion of Czechoslovakia the Russian authorities have clamped down on foreign broadcasts. This act itself indicates a guilty conscience and I believe that the Russian people will be giving earnest consideration to the action of the authorities in blocking these broadcasts.
I visited Russia to investigate agriculture. On such a visit one cannot help but form impressions about other things. I was told that within about 5 years the ability of the Russian people to obtain the material things of life had improved greatly, but they are still probably decades behind the Western world. However, things are improving. One cannot help but be impressed by the way authority works in the country. There is no litter. Traffic moves in an orderly fashion. Nothing is likely to be stolen. But the most amazing aspect of the Communist philosophy is the denial of the right of the individual to express himself freely or to think for himself. I felt among the Russian people a desire to think more and to do what the Czechoslovakian people have tried to achieve only to be harshly repressed by the Soviet and her colonial satellite countries.
After the rape of Hungary in 1956 there were repercussions around the world. There were repercussions even in Russia. There was dissension amongst students in Russia. Some were imprisoned, but out of all the repercussions emerged a certain amount of right for poets and writers to express themselves a little more freely. From the liberalism that has developed in Czechoslovakia we may see an acceleration of freer thinking in Communist countries. Once you have freer thinking, I believe, the barriers between East and West may tend to collapse. Why were the Russians so worried about the liberalisation movement in Czechoslovakia? I sensed this concern while I was in Russia. I felt that the Russians were worried about student demonstrations around the world. The Russians were fearful that such demonstrations would occur in their own country. Of course, the Stalinists and the orthodox Communists could not allow such a thing to happen. They fear liberalisation; but they gave other reasons, apart from ideological ones, why freer thinking could not be permitted. They produced strategic, military and economic reasons why freer thinking, and liberalisation could not be permitted in Czechoslovakia. The said Czechoslovakia was the corridor from Germany into the Soviet. A liberalised country which was not violently opposed to Germany at all times presented a danger to the Russian people. These were the arguments which the Russians presented to their people. I believe that in the few decades that have passed since the last war the Russians have tended to over-emphasise these arguments. In Russia today there is an almost pathological hatred of the Germans. The Russians have exploited this hatred in their invasion of Czechoslovakia. The military arguments for invading Czechoslovakia cannot be substantiated. The great fear of the Russians was the ideological changes that might take place in Czechoslovakia. The Russians cannot allow people to think for themselves, to dissent from the Communist party ideology or to expose the weaknesses in the Russian philosophy. If the Russians permitted these things their entire political philosophy would tend to be fractured and to crumble around them. The orthodox Communist does not want this to happen. But I believe that a new generation is growing up in Russia. Although these people may not dominate the scene now, they are reasonable and sensible people. I hope that what has happened - this dastardly thing in Czechoslovakia - will stir the minds not only of the people in our country and elsewhere in the world but also of the Russian people.
Why is this motion before the House tonight? It is before the House because as the tanks rolled into Prague the Parliament of Czechoslovakia made a plea to the world to express its abhorrence of and revulsion at what was being done to Czechoslovakia solely because that country wanted to have a soul and the right to think. So, we join with parliaments throughout the world in expressing our feelings. We hope that some massive demonstration of expression of feeling somehow or other will penetrate the minds of the Communist leaders. We hope that they might modify or change their thinking a little so that the great world family can live in peace and harmony instead of living constantly with the threat that some day there might be a clash between the two great forces which, with nuclear war, could be devastating to all of us.
But, of course, realising that liberalisation was against their Communist philosophy, the Russians went down to Czechoslovakia and tried to negotiate. They did it by the orthodox and conventional method of conferring with the Czechs. They tried to bully the Czechs and to harrass them. But no, the courageous politicians under Dubcek resisted. The Czechs felt that this was a once and for all effort that they had to make to give their people a degree of freedom. The Soviet mission did not succeed. It retreated. And in the most repugnant way, the Soviet invaded the nation of Czechoslovakia with military force saying that the people’s armies of Poland, East Germany, Hungary and of the Soviet had come to liberate the Czechoslovakian people. Yet, what underscores the true situation more than any other point is the fact that the Russians have not been able to prove that one Czechoslovakian leader got up and asked whether the Soviet or its satellite countries could come to the aid of Czechoslovakia. This point is indefensible by the Russians. The whole world recognises that the Soviet is in an indefensible position.
So, the Soviet invaded the little country, Czechoslovakia. What has been the reaction throughout the world? Every Communist Party in the world has found itself in an unenviable position. The Communist parties of the world have come out and bitterly attacked the actions of their Communist allies. It is most notable that two of the greatest Communist Party organisations in the world - those in Italy and France - were among those who led this bitter attack. I think that all of us feel a degree of depression and futility about this whole exercise. There is so little that we can do. To become directly involved in it could precipitate a global war. Certainly none of us would like to see a global war. I have exactly the same feeling now as I had when the assault on Hungary took place in 1956. This is a feeling of absolute despair. 1 had the same feeling when Tibet was invaded in I960 and genocide was carried out. What a tragedy this is.
I believe that nothing damages the expansion of the Communist ideology more than these acts of aggression that have taken place. I do not believe that the Communists will ever have the chance of winning round to their philosophy the free people of the world while they say that their philosophy allows no freedom of expression whatsoever. The Soviet talks about the people’s armies of these countries coming into a democratic republic. What a mockery of the English language it is to use the word ‘democracy’ in this respect. What does ‘democracy’ itself mean? It means freedom of speech and freedom of expression, the very things that the Czechoslovakian Communist Party was aiming at. It was seeking a new enlightened Communist philosophy. Yet it is quite obvious that under orthodox Communism there can be no enlightenment.
– Why do you sell them wheat?
– The honourable member for Grayndler wants to interrupt me. I do not know whether he has a point of view different from that expressed in the motion now before the House. I was hoping that all members of this Parliament would join in this motion and express their own emotional feelings about what is happening in Czechoslovakia. I did not think that there would be any doubt about this in respect of any members in this House. I am pleased to see that the Opposition has come in and given support to the motion although I regret that some of the support has been a little qualified by the Opposition, at the same time as supporting this motion, trying to involve the United States of America.
This aggression was not due to any outside ideological interference. It was not due to any internal subversion. One cannot say that circumstances existed that precipitated the crisis. Why, the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation’s exercises that were being carried out in West Germany were postponed for the very reason that the NATO authorities did not want these exercises to provide an excuse for the armies of the Soviet and of its satellite countries to invade Czechoslovakia.
The world had goodwill towards and hoped that this proud little country would succeed in its desires to allow man to think and speak for himself and dissent if he wished to do so. But no, this could not be allowed. It had to be crushed once and for all. I know that what has occurred has been a great disaster. It has imposed great hardship on the people of Czechoslovakia. But out of it all I hope that by the world expressing its view and demonstrating its opinion the message will get through to the Soviet leaders not to repeat this sort of action. I hope that the message will get through to the new young generations in the Soviet Union, which is a great country, so that they will come forward to present sensible policies that respect the rights of the individual.
I think that the action of the Soviet Union in carrying out this invasion was largely a stupid one. Here was a race of people in one of the few satellite countries of the Communist world that probably did have some tolerance of the Russian nation. Historically, over the last half a century, Russia has been the main ally of Czechoslovakia. Yet, in one single action, Russia has poisoned the minds of all the Czechoslovakian people against the Soviet Union. Of course, this action has damaged the ideological expansion of Communism throughout the world.
Weill, maybe all is not lost. After Hungary, some thinking was brought into the Soviet Union. There was some liberalisation. Maybe this action will accelerate thinking amongst the people in the Soviet Union. Maybe there will be a backlash, the result of which will be that sooner or later these people will be able to live in decency like all free living people around the world. Mr Speaker, I wish to be associated with this motion and to express my sympathy to the people of the nation of Czechoslovakia and to their brave leaders who, against great forces, stood up and defended what they believe was right in the dignity of mankind.
- Mr Speaker, I support the motion. The House should take note of the claim of the Warsaw Pact powers to invade other countries of whose internal politics they disapprove. This takeover is fraught with very great danger for Europe. I wish to deal only with one rationalisation by which it has been sought to defend Soviet policy, namely, that Czechoslovakia is a corridor for German invasion. The House must take note of the fact that it is the Soviet Union which is bringing German troops back into Czechoslovakia. The second thing that the House needs to recognise is the absurdity of that argument militarily. Western Germany does not possess nuclear weapons. As Khrushchev said to the German Ambassador, it could be totally destroyed in less than 24 hours by the Soviet Union. The idea that the Soviet Union fears that 48 million Germans will attack 224 million people of the Soviet Union, Germany not possessing nuclear weapons, is too absurd to be worth discussing.
Soviet troops have entered Czechoslovakia fundamentally because the searchlight has been allowed by the Czech Government to be trained upon the politics of murder. The roots of the present crisis lie in the events of 18th February 1948 and 10th March 1948. On 17th February 1948 non-Communist Ministers in the Czech National Front Government had protested strongly at the action of M. Nosek, Communist Minister for the Interior, in appointing Communists to important posts in the security police and dismissing non-Communists, despite the Cabinet’s majority decision that such appointments should not be made. On 21st February the Czech Socialist Party, the People’s Party and the Slovak Democratic Party withdrew twelve Ministers from the Cabinet when Nosek refused to cancel the appointments.
On 22nd February 1948 Klement Gottwald, the Communist leader organised Communist demonstrations in Prague, accusing the resigned Ministers of endeavouring to break the alliance with the Soviet Union, apparently on the assumption that unless the security police were all Communists there would be no alliance with the Soviets, but actually because there was to be a free election in May 1948 which the Communists knew they could not win. On 25th February 1948 Benes, the President of Czechoslovakia, the possessor of one of the two great names in Czechoslovakia’s brief 50 years of identity - the other being Masaryk - accepted the new predominantly Communist Cabinet, saying in a letter, however:
You know my sincerely democratic creed. I cannot but stay faithful to that creed. … I insist on parliamentary democracy and parliamentary government
I said two great names. A third, Dubcek, has now been added.
In the 1948 crisis, a crisis artificially and deliberately created, the Communists replied to Benes professing acceptance of Parliament, which institution is no part of the Communist creed, and praising Benes. Their praise of Benes, like the appointment of Dr Jan Masaryk, who was non-party, as Foreign Minister, was for their own propaganda purposes. Benes virtually vanished from public view. Masaryk obligingly fell out of a window only 19 days after entering the new Cabinet.
On 10th March 1948 the Gottwald Government announced that Dr Jan Masaryk, the Foreign Minister and son of the first President of the Republic, had committed suicide by throwing himself from a window in his apartment in the Czech Foreign Ministry, the Czernin Palace. In an extraordinary statement the Gottwald Government said:
On March 10th, 1948, in the early nonning, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr Jan Masaryk, voluntarily ended his life, filled with labour for the Fatherland and the nation. As a result of his illness, combined with insomnia, he evidently decided, in a moment of nervous breakdown, to end his life by jumping from the window of his official apartment into the courtyard of the Czernin Palace. The day before his tragic end, and also during the evening, Minister Masaryk did not show any evidence of mental depression, but on the contrary was full of active life and of his usual optimism. A detailed investigation is taking place.
Eight days before this, on 2nd March 1948, the National Executive of the British Labour Party declared:
The seizure of power by the Communist faction in Czechoslovakia closes a period in post war history. A nation conceived in the principles of liberty and outstanding in its devotion to parliamentary democracy has for the second time in 10 years fallen victim to aggression from without aided by treachery from within. For democratic Socialists the fall of Czechoslovakia is a warning and a lesson. For 3 years the Czech people have shown itself united alike in its will for friendship with the Soviet Union and its determination to carry through great social and economic transformations without sacrificing its democratic heritage. This national unity has been shattered this week, because the Communist minority in the
Government, afraid of defeat in free elections, chose instead to impose a dictatorship. No clearer demonstration could be possible that Communists consider as enemies all those who do not surrender unconditionally to their slightest whim. Slave or enemy-there is no third way.
That was a clear and valid declaration by the British Labour Party evaluating Communist action at that time. The election referred to was due in May 1948. Czechoslovakia could not be permitted a free vote.
Masaryk was murdered on orders from Stalin. A free vote, a free Press and the murder of Masaryk in 1948 were again the issues of 1968. On 3rd April of this year the Czechoslovak State Prosecutor’s Office announced that an investigation would be held into the death of Dr Masaryk in 1948. A five-man commission of investigation was set up. Two Czechoslovak newspapers, ‘Smena’ of Bratislava and ‘Svobodne Slovo’ of Prague, published on 7th April first person accounts by eye witnesses. The eye witnesses had been imprisoned for years. One was a Foreign Office official but the other was an obscure taxi driver. Their evidence pointed clearly to murder. The murder of Masaryk was apparently carried out by a Major Schramm, one of Beria’s men. lt is noteworthy that the Soviet Union can accuse Stalin and Beria of crimes at home but not abroad. This latter would affect their grip on their satellites. If any Polish Government, however vehemently Communist, were to publish the truth about the Katyn massacre, the Soviet Union would smash it, for what would be called into question would be Soviet methods of subordination of its neighbours by destroying their elite. Similarly the searchlight on the murder of Masaryk was a searchlight on the methods of Soviet intelligence and Soviet embassies.
The Soviet ‘Tass’ agency moved promptly to attempt by Press intimidation to forbid such inquiries. As the inquiries into Masaryk’s death proceeded, high ranking officials of Czech intelligence suicided. These were Major Bedrich Pokorny, who was supposed to have investigated the Masaryk death in 1948, Dr Joseph Bretansky, a judge who had passed crushing sentences on people lately rehabilitated, General Vladimir Janko, the Deputy Minister for Defence, and Lieutenant-Colonel
Joseph Pocepicky, head of the investigation department in Prague. Apart from the Masaryk affair, an inquiry was ordered into the judicial murder of Rudolf Slansky, a former Secretary General of the Communist Party. Evidence emerged that the ubiquitous and perennial Anastas Mikoyan was sent by Stalin to Prague in 1951 to order Slansky’s death. Judges like Bretansky ensured this. These investigations threatened Soviet control. It is not just a question of freedom emerging in Czechoslovakia; it is a question of the Czech Government training the searchlight on the politics of murder, the quintessential Soviet policy.
There were other aspects of this affair that threatened the Soviet ideological control of Czechoslovakia. On 16th April Bishop Frantisck Tomasek, Apostolic Administrator of Prague, in the absence in exile of Cardinal Beran, the Archbishop of Prague, gave an interview in which he said that the Dubcek Government had taken steps to restore religious freedom and that the Church need no longer be silent. Catholic students were admitted to seminaries for training for the priesthood and three deprived bishops were reinstated to the sees of Brno, Litomerice and Ceske Budejovice. Rehabilitation had begun of 1,500 deprived priests. This clearly marked the cessation of efforts to crush and subvert the Church and was defiance of everything the Soviet leadership stands for. Stalin’s dictum was that ‘he only is a Communist who at all times furthers the power, the interests and the influence of the Soviet Union’. To investigate the murders of people on Russian orders and to liberate the Church and the Press are actions that do not further the power and interests of the Soviet Union; hence the Soviet Union has acted to smash the Czech Government.
The sources of the criticisms that are emerging are noteworthy. They are emerging from the elites trained in Communist universities. The rising in Hungary was a rising of students who had been educated for 10 years in universities that were completely Communist controlled. The youth of Czechoslovakia who have led this movement in Czechoslovakia are the youth who have been trained in a Communist controlled educational system. When the youth of Poland made demands for freedom, the Government of Poland, which is headed by a man who was himself tortured on Stalin’s orders by having his fingernails pulled out, closed the universities and called up the university youth into the army.
All of these episodes show the complete inability of these dictatorial regimes to be credible before the questing mind. What they fear more than anything else is the questing mind. The whole Czechoslovakian episode raises the question of how true are Mao’s charges that the Soviet tried to destroy him. It was claimed that the Soviet Embassy in China tried to destroy him. Of course, we have the past of Tito. But the simple fact emerges that the Soviet Union by this action shows that it accepts the Stalinist definition. A Communist, in Stalin’s definition, was not one who accepted a certain economic creed; a Communist was one who would be subordinate to an international discipline. If a person is not subject to the international discipline of Soviet power, it does not matter twopence whether he calls himself a Communist. Similarly, if he is subject to that discipline, it does not matter twopence if he does not call himself a Communist, provided that he is willing to advance the power, influence and interests of the Soviet Union at all times. In other words, the Soviet Union is actually operating on an expansion of its own power.
Soviet policy, of course, has antecedents very deep in Russian history, lt is worth while just to glance at them. The Russians went through a revolution in 1917 with remarkably little consequential change in foreign policy. Soviet foreign policy in 1945 secured the annexation of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, and also the Karelian Isthmus from Finland. Czar Peter the Great annexed all these areas from Sweden in the eighteenth century. Stalin partitioned Poland in agreement with Hitler in 1939. It is, of course, one of the respects in which we can point some kind of accusation at ourselves that at the war crimes trials at Nuremburg when various German leaders were justly put on trial for planning an aggressive war, on the benches were Soviet judges whose government in 1939, in agreement with Hitler, had planned the attack on Poland and the partitioning of that country. This means that at root those war crimes trials became not a function of justice but a function of victory.
I return to the parallels and the consistency of Soviet foreign policy with Czarist foreign policy. Czarina Catherine the Great partitioned Poland with Frederick the Great of Prussia in the eighteenth century. Stalin annexed the Polish Ukraine in 1945. Czarina Catherine the Great did so in the eighteenth century. Stalin annexed Rumelia in 1945. The Czars did so in the 1880s. Stalin drove east to annex Sakhalin in 1945. The Czars drove east to Vladivostok in the nineteenth century. The Soviet Union has a fleet cruising the eastern Mediterranean today. This was also a policy of Catherine the Great, and an aspiration of many of her successors. A succession of Russian rulers was alarmed if liberal constitutions developed on Russia’s western borders. They at one stage attacked Poland immediately it developed a liberal constitution. The modern Soviet is alarmed at any liberal developments in Czech, Polish or Yugoslav Communism. The Czars always went into alliance with Britain if a threat developed in central Europe, as against Napoleon and Kaiser Wilhelm II. The Soviet Government allied itself wilh Britain in the face of a threat from Hitler. Then there is a constantly recurring factor of anti-Semitism, common under the Czars and powerful in Russia today.
The crisis that began in 1948 shows that Czech aspirations to freedom have not died and will not die. The issues of 1968 are that there should be genuine parliamentary elections; that the Church should be free; that the Press should be free; that the organs of state should bc subject to objective judicial inquiry; and in particular that the secret police should be controlled by civilian Ministers. The Soviet Union has moved to smash these aspirations in 1968 as it did in 1948. From 1945 to 1948. Czechoslovakia had a brief period of freedom. These traditions have never been forgotten in Czechoslovakia.
There is one other aspect of Czechoslovakia which is equally true of Poland. We ought to remember that it was not the cynicism of Europe which recreated Ihe independence of Bohemia or the independence of Poland. It was in fact the determination of President Woodrow Wilson which brought those countries into being. He pressed strongly for self-determination.
I know we can draw all sorts of parallels. For example, Britain decided to support him on self determination for Poland when it did not allow self determination in Ireland. The British are justly twitted for this inconsistency. But let us deal with one issue at a time. The Soviet Union is the subject that we are discussing at present. I know perfectly well that every government on earth has something discreditable in its record. But what are we to do? Are we to stand idly by and say that no-one has the right to say anything because in the past all have themselves done something wrong? Let us admit what we have done wrong in the past, the present or at any time. The fact remains that there is not the slightest excuse for this Soviet intervention in Czechoslovakia. The only reason for it is the fear of ideas. It is once again, a perfectly clear sign that Communism has lost the youth of the world. There is one tremendously cheering aspect in all of this tragedy: Notwithstanding 20 years of repression, a new generation of Czechoslovakians has arisen to restate the same objectives of freedom that appeared to have died in 1948.
– For all who were told again of the tragic events in Czechoslovakia by the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) this evening, there can only be one action, and that is to condemn the action of the Soviet Union in terms as strong as possible and to express our sympathy and our admiration for the stoicism of the Czechoslovakian people in their renewed hour of trial. As we heard from the Prime Minister, there has been no aggression by the Czech people. There has been no request by any citizen of Czechoslovakia for aid from other countries within the Czech borders. There has been no provocation. As we read what the representative of Czechoslovakia said today at the meeting of the Security Council, we can but admire the way in which the Czech people have withstood the tremendous pressure that they have faced. Mr Muzik made it quite clear in the Security Council that Czechoslovakia was not preparing for the liquidation of Socialist achievements and did not threaten the security of Socialist states. Here was a Communist government carrying out Communist policy. The Czechoslovakian Government tried to convince the Soviet Government, as Mr Musik tthis afternoon tried to convince Ambassador Malik of the Soviet Union, that this is what Czechoslovakia had been trying to do. Mr Muzik reminded us that Czechoslovakia had always striven to protect the rights of the workers and the security of the Socialist camp. Here were people in a Communist country trying to pursue the ideals of Communism. Yet they are the people who have been faced with this violent action of the Soviet Union and her satellites in the last 48 hours.
The important point that we must remember is that Czechoslovakia is a nation which over the last 10 years has tried to pursue its doctrines in the way which it believed was in the best interests of its people. As we have heard the story so well told to us tonight, I believe that now we can unanimously agree with the motion that we are discussing. We must, in every possible fibre of our being express our distress and abhorrence at what has occurred, and we must express our sympathy to the Czechoslovakian people in their ordeal. I think we all are glad that so far this has been the unanimous view of the House tonight, as I am sure it is the unanimous view of the Australian people.
This is not something which is dividing us. It is something that has brought us together, because we are bound in this one feeling of abhorrence. All honourable members on both sides of the House have been brought together by this terrible act of aggression committed by the Soviet Union. This is particularly so because we - I for one - did not believe it would happen. Over the last few months so many things have happened in the Soviet Union that we were led to believe that there was a new feeling amongst the leaders of the Soviet Government. We have seen what they have been trying to do with the nuclear proliferation pact. We have seen what they have tried to do to help preserve peace in the Middle East. We have seen the way in which they have been helping Pakistan and India to solve their problems in a peaceful way. All of these matters gave us some indication that changes were taking place in the attitude of the Russians. Also, we have heard their expressions of sentiment concerning ideology in the new era after the end of Stalin.
We felt that what happened in Hungary in 1956 would not happen in Czechoslovakia. But all our beliefs have been shattered by this one filthy act. It seems clear now that when the vital interests of the Soviet Union are threatened, action takes precedence over all statements and viewpoints that may have been expressed in the past few years. Fear is overtaking reason. This xenophobia, which has been part of the Russian nation for centuries and which was so well expressed and analysed in the speech of the honourable member for Fremantle (Mr Beazley), has held sway, and it has been demonstrated once again that when the vital interests of the Soviet Union are threatened everything else is forgotten.
All honourable members welcomed the recent developments that were taking place in Czechoslovakia. The Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) emphasised them again tonight. He referred to freedom of speech, relaxation of censorship of the Press, radio and television, withdrawal of the secret police, changes in economic enterprise in order to provide more of those goods that the Czech people desire to see in their shops, and extension of travel so that the people of Czechoslovakia could see what is happening in the rest of the world. We welcomed all of these steps forward, and we felt that they would be extended in the future. Yet they have all been set back interminably. So as we have received a plea from the Parliament of Czechoslovakia we must respond to that plea. This is not a plea from government to government; it is a plea from parliament to parliament. That is why I think it is so important that this motion should carry the unanimous expression of the whole of the Parliament of Australia, lt should carry not just the view of the Government, but also the view of all parliamentarians, because we have seen what can happen to parliaments in other countries which have tried to follow some of the principles of the democracy in which we in Australia so earnestly believe.
There has been a clear indication that the Czech people desire the policies that they have been adopting over the past few months. It is quite clear that the Czech situation is different from that which existed in Hungary in 1956. On that occasion there was, in effect, a revolt in Hungary against a minority Communist regime. Therefore there might have been some excuse for intervention by the Russians. But there has been no such revolt in Czechoslovakia. Liberalism has evolved within the ruling party and there was widespread support within the country for a more liberal approach to socialism. This makes it quite clear that there was no pretext on which the Soviet Union could allow its troops to enter on Czechoslovak soil. The Soviet Union Ambassador to the United Nations could not find one person who had requested the Russians to take this action. At the meeting of the Security Council not one bit of evidence could be produced to justify the action taken by the Russians. It was quite clearly naked aggression.
But, having said all that, what are we here in Australia going to do? Quite clearly, first of all we must pass this motion, because we must express our abhorrence at what has taken place in Czechoslovakia. But what are we going to try to do about it? Our aim is to try to secure, as soon as possible, the removal of Soviet Union troops from Czech soil. What we desire, above all other things, is in due course to see freedom restored to the Czech people. But unfortunately I believe that action by the Soviet Union is the only possible way in which to ensure that the Czechs regain their freedom. So I believe that from now on our whole aim must be to influence public opinion in the Soviet Union. Quite clearly the Soviet Government realises this, otherwise it would not have resorted to radio jamming. For the first time in many years the Soviet Government is doing everything it can to prevent its own people from learning world opinion of their Government today. Quite clearly the Hungarian revolt in 1956 had an effect on the Soviet Union and its intelligentsia. So I believe that in due course, over the next few months, world opinion will have a further effect on the Russians. It is quite clear that changes did emerge in Russia after the Hungarian revolution. The youth of the Soviet Union, trained, as the honourable member for Fremantle (Mr Beazley) pointed out, in Communist universities, still reacted to what had taken place in Hungary and changes did occur even at that time when it was so difficult for world opinion to be heard in Moscow and in other Russian cities. Now within a few hours of the aggression against Czechoslovakia a reaction has already emerged in other Communist countries. Yugoslavia and Romania have been amazingly quick to condemn the action of Russia and her satellites, and so have many other Communist parties which have realised the iniquity of what has taken place. Quite clearly rifts are emerging in the Communist parties throughout the world. There is reason to believe that those rifts will be reflected in the Communist Party in the Soviet Union. It is quite clear that the symptoms that have been manifested in Czechoslovakia have also existed in other countries of eastern Europe. Otherwise why would there have been delays on the part of Russia in taking the action which she has taken?
All these reforms have been set back, but I believe that the torch that has been lit by Czechoslovakia will be carried into the countries of eastern Europe as the years go by. The trends that have been taking place in Czechoslovakia and other countries of eastern Europe, and of which we have approved so much, have been delayed by this Russian intervention. They have been set back perhaps for years, but I believe, that as a result of what has taken place they have deepened. In the past the blood of martyrs has been the seed of national freedom. Martyrdom is not to be sought but history shows that this can be the means whereby new trends towards freedom can be maintained and even extended. I believe that the trend towards and the desire for greater freedom in Communist countries cannot be reversed. It has been set back; it has been delayed. But when it re-emerges it will be even stronger fundamentally and more irreversible than it is today.
What should we be trying to do in Australia after we have given our assent to this motion? We should, first of all, be encouraging the Czechs to keep their faith. They have lit this torch which has won the admiration of the world. It has now gone underground; but when it re-emerges, as I am sure it will, maybe within months, maybe within years, it will light fires throughout the whole of eastern Europe. Above all we must see that world opinion reaches the young people of Russia, showing them the mistakes their Government has made and encouraging them in due course to remove the stain on their national history and to display in their own country that desire for freedom that has been exhibited, until yesterday, by their allies in Czechoslovakia. These are the actions we should continue to take after we have agreed to this motion tonight. Let us remember that this is not one thing that must be done tonight Sui something that we must continue to do as long as the Soviet Union tries to prevent world opinion being heard amongst its own citizens.
– -1 am very pleased to have an opportunity to participate in this debate and to say with all members of the Opposition that I very strongly support the motion proposed by the Minister for External Affairs (Mr Hasluck) and that I agree with the statement of the facts outlined by the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton). I agree not only with his statement of the facts but with his analysis of those facts. I agree with him also in the restraint he expressed this evening and with the hope he expressed for the future of the people of Czechoslovakia. I think it is significant that the Prime Minister spoke with restraint and with hope. There was no call for any kind of military intervention, no call for the sending of troops to Czechoslovakia to try to resist the invasion by the Soviet Union forces and other forces.
This examination of the matter with restraint is very desirable. But I wonder whether the restraint with which the Prime Minister spoke and which the Government seems to have shown - to me, it is surprising restraint - is not perhaps some indication that it has under-estimated the significance of the return to Stalinism that this adventure in Czechoslovakia indicates - a return to the Stalinism that we had much reason to believe over the last 10 or 12 years might well have disappeared, a return to Stalinism under circumstances and conditions which I think were accurately outlined by the honourable member for Fremantle (Mr Beazley). This is what has occurred. I wonder whether in arriving at their judgment the Prime Minister and others have underestimated this return to Stalinism, which characterises the objectionable feature of world Communism and which has not always been accurately identified by speakers on the other side of the House.
There has been too great a tendency to identify as a Communist a totally different sort of person - the person who believes in doing certain things in Australia, the person who adopts certain attitudes on radicalism and dissent. This description of Communism has been very suitable for Australian political consumption. But the definition given by the honourable member for Fremantle when he referred to a person who is repugnant in a civilised society, who gives a kind of monolithic loyalty to foreign powers, is perhaps what is involved in this return to Stalinism. 1 am not quite sure that those who have spoken so far on behalf of the Government understand it. I wonder whether this is one of the reasons why they have taken this extraordinary action by the Soviet Union, and by the puppet governments in Europe who have followed it, so lightly. I wonder too whether they would have shown the same kind of restrain if the Soviet Union was not such a massive power. If it had been a small Asian peasant action to which they objected they might have been much more inclined to support military intervention. 1 wonder whether the moderation expressed this evening and the almost hopeless attitude of the Government that the Minister for External Affairs (Mr Hasluck) exhibited when he was talking about the United Nations this morning simply derived from the fact that the invader was a massive power and that the Government tends to talk in massive power politics. It is all very well to show less restraint when your enemy is a small Asian peasant country. lt is all very well to talk about military action in circumstances such as that, hut not when one’s enemy is a massive power with nuclear weapons. One must accept a great deal more in those circumstances.
I do not think any country can claim to have struggled harder for freedom than Czechoslovakia has done. Few countries have been more imposed upon by their neighbours than that country had been. I think the Czechs had a right to expect, when they were freed from the Nazi occupation and were submerged by Soviet troops, that those troops would have come as liberators. But, as the honourable member for Fremantle has said, 1948 very soon showed that this was not the case. In some significant ways, as he pointed out, the events of 1948 were the cause of the events of 1968. In the intervening period Communist regimes in Czechoslovakia probably made less progress than did similar regimes in a number of other Eastern European countries. They made less progress because they were more authoritarian than most of the others and because they were more willing to follow the Communist Stalin line, even when, later, there was no longer a Stalin in the Soviet Union. But I think that throughout this period there was no good reason to believe that greater freedom for Czechoslovakia could result from external intervention than from internal development, and those who supported external intervention to liberate captive people in Eastern European countries did no service, 1 believe, to those people. Military intervention in wars of liberation, whether emanating from the East or from the West, whether from capitalism or from Communism, can contribute very little to the welfare and liberty of the countries in which such wars are waged.
I believe that the freedom of Czechoslovakia is still in the hands of the Czechoslovak people. It is a matter of their very careful and skilful and courageous resistance. lt will be won by the Czechs and not by anyone else. The need for this careful and skilful resistance perhaps should suggest to them that they might be a little slower in trying to disinter the crimes of the past. The honourable member for Fremantle rightly emphasised that it may have been better for them not to have proceeded quite so rapidly to disinter what had happened in 1948. I know that the truth should be made known and established, but when one is concerned with the liberties of people - when the future of men, women and children is involved, as fs the case in Czechoslovakia - one should be skilful and careful in fighting for liberty and freedom.
What has happened, of course, is a return to Stalinism, a return that 1 think we had a right to bel’ieve was not probable. Liberalisation will be set back not only in Czechoslovakia but also unfortunately, in many other places. The choice that 1 think confronts people in Eastern European countries is between liberalisation won in a very careful, skilful and courageous way in their own countries, and Soviet intervention in the interests of a police state. I think we have had some reason to believe over the last 10 or 12 years that these were not the alternatives, but it appears now that they are. The point I want to emphasise, however, is that the possibility of freedom for Eastern European countries will not be improved by a lack of restraint, by the talk of holy war that will take place in this country as well as in others. The prospects of freedom will be improved by the kind of restraint which we have heard from the Prime Minister this evening and for which I feel great gratitude - a restraint that 1 think recognises that the liberty of the people of Czechoslovakia depends upon them and cannot be won by outside forces or by anyone outside that country.
The action that has been taken is, as I say, incredible. It is incredibly stupid on the part of the Soviet Union. It sets back that country’s reputation al’l over the world by more than a decade. It could be explained perhaps only in terms of desperation on the part of the Soviet Union - a desperation that the facts and circumstances do not seem to indicate, because Czechoslovakia is not being used as a corridor of power for neo-Nazism. What has produced this is in a sense an undermining of the monolithic sort of government that the Soviet Union still appears to want in Czechoslovakia, the sort of government that I know the Australian Government would complain about if it were set up in our own sphere of influence, although I hope our own Government would not go as far as the Soviet Government has been prepared to go in this case. I looked at the situation last night and I prepared for myself a statement of my view of it so that if somebody happened to ask me later what I said on the day that this thing happened - that sort of question is sometimes asked - I would be able to answer. This is how I saw it:
The invasion of Czechoslovakia by armed forces of the Soviet Union, East Germany and Poland, is wrong, unnecessary and unjustifiable. The action of the Soviet Union has destroyed much of the grounds for belief established during the last decade that she was able to contribute to the peace of the world by more intelligent and humane policy. The invasion of Czechoslovakia, evil in its consequences, will set back the prospects of peace and progress all over the world. Those who have supported aggression in other places like Vietnam have no right to protest against aggression by the Soviet Union in Czechoslovakia. They can best help Czechoslovakia and best expose the inhumanity of ihe Soviet Union by ceasing themselves to support and carry on aggression. Everyone, however, must act to show the Soviet Union and its European puppet supporters that they are isolated from humanity in their aggressive, cruel and incredibly stupid act. The armed forces of the Soviet Union and the others should immediately be withdrawn and the Government and people of Czechoslovakia must be left alone to settle their own affairs with that programme which has won wide support from the people and which will improve life in their country and set an example for others.
The Soviet action was taken only 18 days after a communique was signed at Bratislava by the Soviet Union and others and by the representatives of the Government of Czechoslovakia. In that communique this basic proposition appeared:
The participants in the conference expressed their firm resolve to do everything in their power for deepending all-round co-operation of their countries on the basis of principles of equality, respect for sovereignty and national independence, territorial integrity, fraternal mutual assistance and solidarity.
What was done was done to a nation that was prepared to sign that document; what was done by a nation that was prepared to sign it. It was done to a military ally, an ideological partner. To suggest that this invasion is consistent with the proposition in that communique is to enthrone the age of nightmare, the age of insanity. That agreement, 18 days old, has been torn up and thrown in the faces of the Czechoslovakian people. But when people accept propositions of that kind, those propositions have real meaning. I suggest we consider that proposition against the actions of our own Government over the last few years. Government supporters are inconsistent in their condemnation of aggression.
– They are not.
– They recognise aggression only on one side. The honourable member for Evans, who has just interjected, is one such Government supporter. He has a single minded, flame throwing attitude towards these things which makes it impossible for him to identify aggression when it is committed by somebody to whom he is evidently dedicated. One has to have a more objective attitude in this world today if the authoritarian stances that are so harmful are to be changed or modified. This action was taken 19 days away from the conference of the Czechoslovakian Communist Party which was to discuss and decide on a policy for Czech leaders on the basis of Socialism, in complete co-operation with the Soviet Union and as part of the Warsaw Pact, as the Prime Minister indicated. There was no indication that the conference would depart from that objective.
What all honourable members are supporting tonight is a Communist government - a government that was moving towards liberalisation of Communist regimes. So do not tell me that there are not times when this House will support Communism in principle. We are here this evening united in support of a Communist government. We are here united in support of that Communist government because that Communist government was right. This is the attitude that we have to apply to governments and to people - to support them when they are right and to oppose them when they are wrong, and not simply to fight them or to support them because of their political label. Those honourable members who are interjecting, as well as the rest of us here, are standing in defence of the freedom of a Communist government and I compliment every honourable member upon his stand.
The process that was going on in Czechoslovakia was one which unfortunately is going to be set back. The intervention of the Soviet Union, as I said, is wrong, unnecessary and unjustified. This is a stand that one has to take upon principle. It is wrong for both the Western countries and the Eastern countries to carry out aggression. We have supported aggression from the West on a number of occasions in the last 10 or 12 years. 1 said that I think this action of the Soviet Union has destroyed much of the ground for the belief that that country is able to contribute to peace. This has to be made clear to the Soviet Union, lt has to be made clear in every possible way that in this country in particular the cold war shall not be permitted to return. The attempt made for political purposes last night by certain Government supporters to reintroduce the cold war into Australia must be deprecated by all who want to see clearly what is involved.
The Soviet Union has shown that it hates liberalism, a free Press and the elimination of censorship. It hates demonstrations and political compaigns. There are other people also who hate these things. There are many critics of political compaigns and demonstrations in this country. The Soviet has reacted in a far more ruthless way. it is the reaction of people who are powerful, authoritarian figures and who are nervous at the possibility of some radical action, some dissent, or some questions being asked.
Everyone must act over this aggression, no matter what has been his fault in the past, and in this I agree with the honourable member for Fremantle. We all have a feeling of frustration and impotence over this. I believe there are quite a number of people who would like to take their place in front of Soviet tanks, ruthlessly though they be driven. We feel impotent and frustrated at being able to do so little. I felt some dispair this morning when the Minister for External Affairs was detailing the cumbersome machinery of the United Nations and its ineffectiveness because of the veto. 1 want to see the United Nations used. I look forward to the day when some Australian statesman shouts his defiance against this kind of thing, even when it is done by the Soviet Union. We have accepted too much bureaucracy in this kind of thing. We have left it to the others to make decisions for us. 1 believe we should use the United Nations General Assembly. We should endeavour to support the strongest possible resolutions over this matter - resolutions that may even extend to sanctions - to bring home clearly where we believe the fault lies. Above all, 1 agree with the restraint that was shown tonight by the Prime Minister. I believe in that restraint because fundamentally the future of Czechoslovakia depends, as T think I said before, on the careful, skilful and courageous resistance of the Czechoslovakian people. I believe that we have to show tonight in this Parliament that we stand with them.
– I think every honourable member welcomes the fact that the motion proposed by the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) is being supported by both sides of the House. We on this side of the House would be the last to underestimate the significance of the return to Stalinism. I hope that those who have supported Stalinism in the past now realise the error of their ways. I hope that the
Opposition will maintain its opposition to Stalinism. Indeed, I noticed that even the Australian Communist Party, in its resolution of 24th July, professed itself to be opposed to Stalinism. Whether it was sincere I do not know.
There are some people who say that the events in Czechoslovakia have changed everything. I do not believe this. They have changed nothing; but somebody has turned on the light. In the illumination of these terrible events we can see not only what is happening now but, looking back in perspective on the past, we can see what has happened and how some of us have been deceived by what has happened. If one looks at Soviet policy in the past couple of decades, from Stalinism to its successors, one finds that there are two alternative explanations. The first is that there has been a real thaw in the structure of the ruling regime - a real movement towards liberalism. The second explanation is that there has been a pretended thaw in the structure of the ruling regime and that it has been put out for propaganda purposes in order to deceive us, to make us think that the reality was different from what it was, to make us adopt and maintain wrong policies.
So far as the rulers are concerned - and I do not refer to the Soviet people - only the second explanation is possible. What need have I now to talk about duplicity? Let us just think of what has happened in the past few days. The Prime Minister and other honourable members have quoted sections from the recent declaration at Bratislava, the fraternal accord between Communist parties based upon mutual respect for independence and sovereignty. All the time, preparations were being made by the treacherous rulers of the Soviet Union to plunge the knife into the back of Czechoslovakia. This event in Czechoslovakia did not happen with any sense of urgency and it did not happen without preparation. It was done as a result of cold, implacable and vicious planning. Duplicity! It deceived even the Australian Communist Party in Sydney. I refer to the editorial headed ‘Poison Pens of Polities’, which appeared in the ‘Tribune’ of 7th August. The editorial pointed out, so the author thought, how the Soviet Union had bien slandered. The article staled:
Soviet manoeuvres that stretched from the Baltic to the Black Sea were depicted as if they related exclusively to Czechoslovakia . . .
On the other hand one newspaper picture showed Czech tanks in ‘crisis’ exercises - but amid what looked curiously like winter conditions (in July!). . . . They thought they saw a chance to undermine the prestige of the Soviet Union, the greatest of the socialist countries, as part of their incessant campaign to denigrate socialism itself and to divide progressives.
The Australian Communist Party either believed, or said it believed, that the Soviet Union had no intention of attacking Czechoslovakia. If one looks at the Soviet Union’s own publication, the ‘Moscow News’ of 10th August, one sees the same kind of thing under an article headed ‘Unity Triumphs’. Yet all the time the treachery was being prepared. The Russian rulers are treacherous and there is no point in evading that sombre truth. What they are doing now they did in 1956 in very similar circumstances in Hungary. Honourable members will remember how in the few days before the attack was launched all sorts of statements were put out saying that the Soviet Union was peace loving and that it intended no aggression, but all the time the blow was being prepared. They will remember, too, how the Hungarian Premier, Mr Nagy, went out on a Soviet safe conduct and was murdered by the Soviet Union in defiance of the safe conduct it gave him. Mr Dubcek would know this. I wonder how he is feeling tonight.
– If he is alive.
– Yes. if indeed he is not already dead. The sham thaws which we had under Stalin, the 100 flowers blooming under Mao - these things which are meant to deceive us and to pervert our policy arc all made more plausible by well meaning people who do not understand what it is about and who become simple apologists for the Soviet Union.
As 1 listened tonight to the honourable member for Yarra (Dr J. F. Cairns) my mind went back to 1 1th November 1956 and the statement he made apologising for supporting, almost, the Soviet butchery in Hungary. This is the kind of thing that we have to weigh all the time. Perhaps these people were genuinely deceived. Perhaps they did not know what they were doing. But al least let them be warned now; let them realise now that on the part of the Russian rulers, not the Russian people, there is an organised, continuous and concerted plot to make us believe that there is real liberalism inside the Soviet Communist
Party. There is no such thing. The proof of it is to be found in the events of the last few days in Czechoslovakia. There was a fear in Russia that in their new found and newly allowed liberty the people of Czechoslovakia would pass beyond the point of no return - that having found some measure of freedom they would refuse to return to the destined chains. This could not be allowed and it is for that reason that tanks are rolling in Prague tonight.
In Soviet Russia the touchstones of freedom would be freedom of the Press, freedom of assembly and freedom of political organisation. These are the things which are vigorously and continuously denied to the Russian people by their Soviet rulers. They have shown us tonight that Communism and freedom are incompatible. Hence, unhappily, we have to take this second view - the view that the pretended thaw among the Russian rulers, not the Russian people, is for propaganda purposes only. It is meant to deceive and those who, whether wittingly or unwittingly, do things which make it more plausible are playing into the hands of the Communist rulers and against the real interests of the Russian people and of people everywhere in this world as well as against the real possibilities of freedom.
The moral and intellectual base of those who helped these things in the past is now in ruins. The policy of reliance on the goodwill of Russia’s leading rulers is obviously nonsense, because these mcn are liars who are out to deceive. They will do to the world, if they can, what they are doing tonight and have done in the past fortnight to the people of Czechoslovakia.
– And what they did in Hungary.
– Yes, they did it in Hungary in 1956. We forgot it and we should not have done so. We forgot it in our dealings with these men - these Stalinists. Remember, if one denounces Stalinism now one must show some penitence for one’s support of Stalinists in the past. Now there must be a new policy - a policy based on the realisation of what the Soviet Union is trying to do and what allies it is trying to recruit in Australia and in other countries of the West. The campaign that it wages is waged in the domain of public opinion here. The great point about this motion is not just that it will help in the United Nations - it is justified for that purpose and I hope it will help - but that may make the Australian people realise the kind of dangers that are being prepared for them.
Last night an attempt was made by the Leader of the Opposition to import politics into this matter by trying to link up the present situation with the situation in Vietnam. This is the kind of thing that was done in the statement he put out. He was too clever by half. He was trying to make political capital out of the agonies of the Czechoslovakian people. If the Opposition denounces, as it does rightly - I welcome it - the Russian intervention in Czechoslovakia, it must remember always that in a sense Vietnam is the Czechoslovakia of Asia. We are in Vietnam to stop Communist aggression. Now, by a clever bit of propaganda in which many members of the Opposition have participated-
– And some Americans.
– Yes, and some Americans, because the Communist Party does not operate only in Australia. By a clever bit of propaganda, in some people’s minds there has been this reversal. One might almost think that we were the aggressors. We have gone to Vietnam only to save Vietnam from aggression. Perhaps we shall fail. 1 see a kind of gloating look in the faces of honourable members opposite whenever they think they see us failing in Vietnam. It would be there tonight. Perhaps we shall fail. Perhaps the Czechs will fail. But this does not mean that the cause is wrong. There is a campaign of confusion, sponsored by the Communist Party and participated in by numbers of well meaning people who do not know why they are being used. But surely what has happened in Czechoslovakia exposes that campaign for a fraud.
Last night the Leader of the Opposition said that the power of the United States has been eroded by what has happened in Vietnam. What does that statement mean? Does it mean that the power of the United States has been eroded in a physical sense because of the great drain on America’s resources in keeping up armaments? Or does it mean that the power of the United States has been eroded because world opinion has turned away from it? Whatever the statement means, remember that the Opposition had a part in that erosion. When I hear that power is thus eroded I seem to hear the termites. The Leader of the Opposition has tried to make propaganda out of Czechoslovakia. There was no cause to do this. Surely the agony of the Czech people is sufficient to justify our expression of opinion - the passing of this motion - without trying to make capital out of the situation, as the Leader of the Opposition did.
I believe tha* the House will agree to this motion unanimously. Those members of the Opposition who vote for it - and they will - will see, when they look at the situation soberly and moderately in the light of tomorrow, by how much the events that have taken place in Czechoslovakia invalidate the premises on which their past policy was based - the premises that in point of fact all you had to do was to be nice; all you had to do was to believe in the Soviet rulers; all you had to do was to believe that Stalinism was dead and gone and it would die. Tonight we have heard - even from members of the Opposition - the truth that Stalinism in the Soviet Union is resurrected. It was never dead; it was only concealed. The Russians put a sheet over it. Many members of the Opposition - it would be wrong to say all members of the Opposition - have assisted in this world wide campaign by the Communists to mislead us as to their real intention.
I thoroughly support the motion. 1 am glad that the Opposition supports it. I am sorry that the Opposition has taken so long to realise the nature of the spiritual alliance which it has been maintaining for so long with the Russian rulers.
– The remarks of the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth), as usual, carry their own refutation. The Opposition unanimously supports the terms of the resolution. It is not, as the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) stated, the motion of the Government; it will be the resolution of the whole Parliament. We can moralise, we can rend our garments and we can criticise, but fundamentally the most we can do at this stage is what the rest of mankind can do, will do and is doing, namely, express our horror at what has happened. Australians have had the opportunity this morning and tonight to compare the stature and capacity for expressing the national sentiments on this grave issue of two opposing national leaders. The Prime Minister has suffered by comparison. Long before this Government first took up the cudgels on behalf of Czechoslovakia, we had, through the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator Murphy), made our position clear, made our public statement and communicated with the representatives in Australia of the countries that are implicated in the present aggression against Czechoslovakia.
World War I destroyed the absolute monarchy in Europe. From it emerged a new map of Europe framed by the vindicitive peace treaty of Versailles. The treaty contained within itself the seeds of World War II. The German, Austrian and Russian empires were destroyed, and from the dismemberment of the AustroHungarian empire there emerged a new nation - Czechoslovakia. It was an amalgam of Czech and Slovene peoples, with a Sudeten German minority. From the same war also emerged the ideological antitheses of Nazism, Facism and Communism.
In turn, World War II ripped to shreds the 1919 Versailles map of Europe. Czechoslovakia survived, but as a tutelary nation with treaty and ideological commitments to a bloc of eastern European nations under Russian hegemony. Its economy was also integrated with that of its associates on terms which have proved to be to its general economic disadvantage. World War II destroyed colonialism in Asia and Africa, and a political and economic vacuum remained and still remains in each of those continents. The present Vietnamese conflict is a prime example of such destruction. Czechoslovakia is seeking, at a markedly different level of economic and social development, liberation from a similar colonial situation. It is following a pattern of similar rejection of tutelage by Yugoslavia and Romania, whilst continuing in a diminished degree its ideological nexus. Of all the countries in the Soviet bloc, it has easily the closest cultural and traditional links with the parliamentary democracies of western Europe. The present collective invasion of Czechoslovakia has political, economic and strategic motivation.
The invasion of this country will emerge as a watershed in world history - in other words, the emergence in full force and expression of the collective thinking of the common man in opposition to any form of aggression, tyranny or subversion in any part of the world.
The invasion of Czechoslovakia will emerge as a watershed in world history, the emergence in full force and expression of the collective thinking of the common man in opposition to any form of aggression, tyranny or subversion. Czechoslovakia is no longer a ‘far away country’ as it was described by Neville Chamberlain. It is no longer the Bohemia of Shakespearean imagery. It is more than the bastion of Europe whose ruler is the Continent’s strategic master. It is the testing point of democratic achievement and human progress since the end of World War II. It was Pitt the Younger who said in a former century at the outbreak of war: ‘You can roll up the map of Europe. It will , not be wanted for the next 10 years’. Today, the charter of democracy and of democratic freedom can be rolled up and similarly put away for a like period. Thanks to the marvels of technology and communications the agony and tribulations of Czechoslovakia are the instant, the immediate concern of the freedom loving peoples of the world. Peace is today as never before truly indivisible. Freedom both politically and economically is the dearest aspiration of all mankind. The world is now one in fact as well as in name, and surging passion for the oppressed, the underprivileged and the subjected is instant and universal. Contrary to the historic words in scripture we are now in fact, in thought and in responsibility really our brothers’ keeper. We are collectively the keeper of all mankind’s fundamental rights of freedom of opinion, freedom of speech, freedom of worship and freedom of assembly; we are the collective keeper of his freedom from aggression; we are the keeper of his right to choose democratically the government to which he will subject himself and which will answer to him in turn for its deeds.
There is a parliament of mankind, the great assize of the human race, and before it all nations must surely stand in judgment.
Some few nations may boycott the United Nations; others may seek to subvert its prestige and authority. But inevitably all must submit to its judgments, backed by the moral forces of the collective conscience of mankind. Those nations which resort to the arbitrament of armed force have yet to learn, and will pay a bitter price in the learning, that the motive of all forces in this world is the power of ideas in the mind of mankind and the ideals on which they are based - the ideals of freedom, liberty and justice. It was the Prince of Peace himself who said on earth that his Kingdom was in the hearts and minds of men.
The tragedy of Czechoslovakia is the tragedy of its history, the tragedy of its strategic geography and the tragedy of extremes in the exercise of political ideology. From the farthest Antipodes we in Australia have watched the tragedy of continental Europe, is cumulative fears and hatreds, suspicions and antagonisms, the product of its long and bloody history. Its divisions of nationality, language, creed and ideology are the products of 20 centuries of turmoil. The continent which has created and cradled Western civilisation also has produced the two bloodiest wars in all history. We Australians have observed the beneficial effects of opening a new continent to the people of Europe where they could migrate to forget the feuds, fears and armed oppression of their native lands and its neighbouring nations. In Australia a new tongue and the wholly democratic tradition of our people have erased, in part at least, bitter memories of their earlier years.
When future historians pass judgment on our race they will surely record that our greatest contribution to the human weal have been the parliamentary institution and the English Language. Our tongue, spoken by over one quarter of the human race, is one of the greatest unifying forces in mankind today. At the scores of naturalisation ceremonies which I have attended I have always been moved to the deepest emotion by the sight of immigrants swearing allegiance to a new land in a new tongue - men and women, poor, honest and sincere, who have come to this land following the greatest Diaspora since Titus. I have watchedtheir fears dissolved and their understanding of Australian democratic sentiment grow. I have seen their pride commence in a new land. They share with us an opportunity unique in history of forming one people with a common parliamentary and democratic tradition united by a common tongue and a common though brief national history. To do this we are uniquely in possession of a whole continent and its resources. 1 speak for more of our newest Australian citizens than any other member in this chamber.It is possible in this country to give a shining example of tolerance, freedom, peace and culture to all mankind. Australia can speak with unequalled moral authority in the councils of the world, if we wisely conduct our internal affairs.
For this reason I deprecate, together with the Leader of the Opposition, the spontaneous efforts by some very little Australians in this House last night to stir up internal political dissension on such a grave international issue. For years Australian foreign policy, in which is integral our national survival, has been perverted and distorted as the means of political survival of our opponents. Their vested interest in this has done a grave disservice to Australia both at home and abroad, and any attempt to glean some political advantage from these developments will be spurned by all Australians.
The tragedy of the world today is that neither of the two world powers has the depth of experience nor the maturity fully to comprehend the consequences of their actions, their impact on world opinion, their influence on the welfare of mankind, or even on its survival. In neither case is their massive nuclear based power matched by a sophistication or a mellowed approach to human needs and frailties.It has been the hope of millions that their respective achievements in technology, the new vistas of universal welfare flowing from them, and the interchange of such technology would have led to peaceful co-existence and resulting mutual respect and understanding between them. Great Britain, the one nation - no longer of world stature - capable of wisely guiding from experience the future of mankind has no longer the strength to do so. It is in such a situation that the world forces of the middle way, the way of social democracy, between the extremes of authoritarian ideology and dogmatic materialism will show the path to the future salvation, peace and happiness of mankind.
– in reply - Mr Speaker, 1 think this has been a singular occasion in the House where we have found complete unanimity and, I think, a very high standard of debate with the unanimity. As the mover of the motion I would like to say in concluding that I have listened very carefully to all that has been said on both sides. I think what has been said by various people has helped to illuminate the very sad and very difficult situation in which we find ourselves. I feel sure that on this rather singular occasion when members on both sides of the House have found themselves able to agree on a single proposition we ourselves have found something about the interests of Australia and the principles that all of us on both sides of the House could wish to uphold.
I would reiterate what 1 said earlier: The action of the Parliament in this House is an action that is being taken in response to a direct request made by another parliamentary institution in another country that is trying to establish its own freedom. We as parliamentarians, speaking on behalf of a nation that enjoys an exceptional amount of freedom, are expressing our hopes for our fellow parliamentarians in another country. If I may do so without patronage, I would like to commend all the honourable members who have contributed to this debate and all the honourable members who have listened with close attention and patience.
Motion (by Mr Gorton) proposed:
That the Standing Orders be suspended to enable the names of those in favour of the motion to be taken down by tellers and recorded in the Votes and Proceedings so that the opinion of this House can be made known to the world.
-I second the motion.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
That the motion (Mr Hasluck’s) be agreed to.
The bells having been rung, the following names were recorded. (Mr Speaker- Hon. W. J. Aston)
Original question so resolved in the affirmative, with the concurrence of an absolute majority.
Prisoners in Malaysia and Indonesia - Trade Unions in Fiji - Government Aircraft Factory
Motion (by Mr Gorton) proposed:
That the House do now adjourn.
– Tonight I should like to raise for the consideration of the House, and especially for the consideration of the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton), the case of eleven Malaysian men who are in prison under sentence of death. These men have been in prison since before the end of confrontation between Indonesia and Malaysia. Honourable members will recall that confrontation terminated with official agreement between Indonesia and Malaysia during August 1966. I repeat that these men have been in prison continuously since before confrontation ended. They have been charged and found guilty, in the Malaysian Supreme Court, of collaboration with Indonesians. It appears that the men had gone out of Malaysia into Indonesia and returned at a later stage, when they were apprehended. There are a number of mitigating circumstances to the case of these eleven men.
I want to stress at this stage that my purpose in raising this matter is to impress upon honourable members the terrible torment that has been the lot of these eleven men. These men have been imprisoned over a continuous and lengthy period with death sentences over their heads. On several occasions they have been taken almost to the point of having the sentence carried out, but in each case have received a temporary respite when commutation was obtained for them. But my main purpose in speaking is to ask the Government to consider making some sort of approach to the Malaysian authorities. After all, we are closely involved with Malaysia. She is our ally. We have military commitments and certain economic commitments in that area. We look forward to a successful future in co-operation with that country as well asthe other countries of this overall area of Asia in which our future is so much involved. I should imagine that this Government is in a position where it can make these approaches with some hope that its views will be listened to. I repeat that the purpose is to have clemency extended to these 1 1 men, the death sentence commuted and whatever other action may be necessary taken to enforce the law, whether it be life imprisonment or something else. The essential thing is that the death sentence be abrogated.
In the appeal made by the attorneys representing these eleven men, a number of points were put forward to indicate that there is every justification for extending clemency towards them. The first was that they were all young, immature men between the ages of 1 7 and 20 years. It was claimed that they were grossly misled and lured by the prospect of legitimate non-military employment in Indonesia; that they were encouraged to leave Malaysia, not fully realising what they had done or how they had committed themselves in entering Indonesia. They returned to Malaysia and it was stated on their behalf at the appeal that they were duped and did not fully realise what would happen to them. They were apprehended very early after their arrival back in Malaysia. Not one of them put up any sort of struggle or offered any resistance against the servicemen who apprehended them. They surrendered meekly when confronted with the security forces. Indeed, it was suggested that some of them were on the point of surrendering some little time before their capture and, because of the attitude they adopted, their capture was in fact made that much easier.
Their case was taken to the Privy Council and the Privy Council has apparently recommended the quashing of the convictions under section 58 of the Malaysian Internal Security Act of 1960. The argument is that there is no evidence that there was any intention established at law on the part of these men to conduct a war against the state; that in fact each of them acted independently and without knowledge of what the others intended to do. To sum up, the situation is that these men have been convicted. The period from the date of their conviction to the present time has been a prolonged one, and all that time they have been expecting the death sentence to be carried out. In the meantime, a historic development of great significance has taken place in that the situation of conflict between Indonesia and Malaysia no longer exists. In fact, it ceased some 2 years ago and it seems totally wrong to want still to impose the supreme penalty on these eleven very foolish young men.
What justification can there be for wanting to carry out the death sentence at this late stage? One can see no achievement in international relations being gained by the carrying out of the death sentence. The men will be killed and nothing will be satisfied in any way because, in fact, two years ago, in August 1966, the confrontation between Malaysia and Indonesia was concluded by agreement. The carrying out of the death sentence seems purposeless. One cannot understand why there should be this persistent tormenting of these young men by their being almost taken to the trapdoor of the gallows and at the last minute being reprieved for a further brief period - God knows for how long! One can well imagine the terror and suffering in the minds of these men as they wonder what is before them - what lies ahead; will they ultimately be killed? One cannot envisage a worse form of mental and physical torture than this expectancy which reaches a climax and is then suddenly whipped away only to be built up to another climax. The last incident relating to these eleven young men who are expecting to die occurred last weekend. The death sentence was to be carried out but again there was a reprieve. God knows how long this reprieve will last. 1 suggest that as a matter of Christian clemency on the part of this Parliament, and particularly on the part of the Government, some approaches ought to be made by the leaders of our Government to the Malaysian authorities pointing out that the eleven men committed this offence during a period of hostilities between two countries, that the hostilities no longer exist and that there seems to be no relevance in persisting with the proposed line of action.
Another area of doubt has been thrown up. In addition to the eleven men to whom I have referred, another person was charged with the offence of collaborating with the Indonesian enemy. The gentleman’s name is Teo Boon Chai. He appealed to the Privy Council. It was Privy Council appeal No. 15/67. The appeal was successful and a retrial was ordered on a point of law. The case was heard in the Johore High Court on 1st July 1968. The accused pleaded guilty and was sentenced to life imprisonment. He was not sentenced to death. My information is that the circumstances surrounding this case were identical with those surrounding the case of the eleven men to whom I have referred.
This is a most unhappy situation. I am totally opposed to capital punishment. I could not justify the taking of any human life under any circumstances - not even under the circumstances of a so called mercy killing, which, I think, would be a very dangerous precedent to establish. However, I am putting forward my own personal point of view at the present time. 1 am not asking that the question of whether we are for or against capital punishment should be taken into consideration in the cases which I have raised. I think that special circumstances establish clearly that it would be completely unjustifiable to execute the eleven men to whom I have referred. Such a long period has elapsed since the offence was alleged to have occurred, and in that period a significant historical development has taken place; that is, the conflict between Indonesia and Malaysia, which was the central cause of these men being charged and convicted of an offence, no longer exists. In fact, an amicable relationship exists between the two countries. I ask the Minister for External Affairs (Mr Hasluck) to approach the Malaysian authorities and to try to have the death sentences commuted. It is inhumane and callous to allow the present situation to continue, for these men have lived too long under the threat of death.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I want to place on record in the Parliament a matter that I think should be of deep concern to very decent, thinking Australian. It has received very little publicity in the Press. It concerns one of out closest neighbours, Indonesia, which is the only country with which we have a common border. I am concerned at the material which appears in an article in the publication ‘New Republic’. I understand that h is an American magazine. The article was written by an Australian writer who visited Indonesia not so long ago. Tonight the Parliament has debated the very interesting and important question of the present conflict between Czechoslovakia and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. I think that because of the geographical situation of Indonesia, the maltreatment of political prisoners there is more important to the Australian people than is the present conflict between the USSR and Czechoslovakia. I realise that the conflict in Europe could start a global war. Each and every decent, thinking person in the world hopes that it will not go so far. I do not believe that it will, but it could. An article in the ‘New Republic’ of 13th April 1968 refers to the treatment of political prisoners in Indonesia. I believe that only one Australian newspaper has given any publicity to the barbaric and inhuman treatment that is being meted out to political prisoners in Indonesia by the Suharto Government. The Melbourne “Age’ of 26th June 1968 published an article under the heading ‘80,000 Forgotten Indonesians’. The article was written by Dr Herbert Feith, a Reader in Politics at the Monash University in Melbourne. The article states:
The Suharto government has, however, done much less than it could to live down the shame that surrounded its birth, the slaughter of probably well over half a million people in t’‘.e anticommunist holocaust which followed the abortive coup of October 1965. Most of the widows and orphans of that massacre are still pariahs; so are many former members of communist mass organisations. A majority of these are villages whose political consciousness went no further than the belief that the communists’ peasant front could get them laud or cheap fertiliser, or school teachers who, when their union split into proand anti-communist factions, joined the group which more militantly pressed their claims for a pay raise.
I think that situation is a deplorable one. I am glad that the Minister for External Affairs (Mr Hasluck) has paid me the courtesy of being in the House while I raise this matter. It is obvious from what I quoted that many of these political prisoners who are suffering barbaric treatment at the hands of the Suharto Government in prisons in Indonesia today, particularly in Java and the Islands off Java, have done no more than support a union that has promised them, if successful, cheap fertilisers, more teachers and other concessions which would raise their standard of living. If the Australian people had to make a decision as to whether they would support a militant union to get the bare necessities of life for their wives and children, many Australians would support such a militant union. The prisoners of the Suharto Government would know little or nothing about politics or the basic principles of Communism or Marxism. They are merely existing. They are deteriorating. They are skin and bones. Dr Feith visited several of them in prison. He was not allowed to visit some of the prisons. He spoke to the prisoners in some cases. His articles state that they were being fed warm, slightly coloured soup, containing a few vegetables, twice a day. These prisoners are virtually starving.
No-one in this Parliament, no newspaper, nor the Minister, a man whom I respect, has raised a voice against the Suharto Government’s action. Many honourable members on this side of the House believe that the Minister should be in a higher position in the Government. I believe that he should protest to the Indonesian Government to show that Australia abhors the treatment meted out to these political prisoners. That would keep our name high among the countries of the world. It would show that we are impartial and criticise a Communist regime when criticism is justified. The honourable member for Yarra (Dr Cairns) treated the House to a most impressive speech tonight, as did other honourable members both on the Government side and this side. We should protest against the barbaric treatment that our neighbour. Indonesia, is meting out to these political prisoners. I do not think it is fair to criticise the government of one country that is in the wrong and not criticise another that is committing the acts that the Suharto Government is committing. We know that the Minister for External Affairs is well respected by the Suharto Government because of the number of times that he has visited Indonesia. He was there as recently as last year when, on behalf of the Australian Government, he opened a new embassy in Djakarta. If he protested on behalf of the Government his protest would carry a lot of weight. Dr Feith’s article continues:
On a modest estimate the number of GESTAPU-PKI prisoners is 80,000. The last official total, given by the Attorney-General last July, was 55,000. But well-informed persons, inside as well as outside the Government, give much higher figures, ranging up to 150,000. Probably over 80% of the total are on the island of Java and about 50% in the one province of Central Java. ls it the objective of the Suharto Government to starve these people to death? I say shame on it if this is its objective. The article continues:
Last November and December I visited 11 camps and gaols in Java and Kalimantan (Borneo) where GESTAPU-PK1 prisoners are detained, most of them classified as not very dangerous.
We know that the abortive coup has been over for some years now and I believe that the Indonesian Government could well release those prisoners and let them go back to their wives and families. I think it is shocking, barbaric treatment in this year of 1968. The article also says:
The prisoners’ belongings hung above their mats; some were largish bundles, and 1 noticed two badminton racquets. Though poorly dressed, none of the prisoners was actually in rags. But many of them walked slowly and shakily and most of their handshakes were frail.
These are the words of a man who holds a responsible position. The man who wrote this article is a lecturer in politics at the Monash University and I suggest that we should heed the facts that he has disclosed in it. The article continues:
When I asked the prisoners about food conditions, their faces fell. ‘Bulgar wheat gruel once a day and a few stalks of bajem (a kind of spinach).’ According to one warder, about half of them managed to add to this by earnings from work they did outside the camp - killing and weeding for local farmers, or cleaning barracks and officers’ houses in the town - wilh this additional income benefiting the prisoners as a whole. But the warder stressed that the resulting improvement was small.
At least the warder was able to say that the resulting improvement was small. The article in the ‘New Republic’ goes on:
And the budget the Government gives us is a fraction of what we need. A year ago there was still quite a lot of food coming in from the prisoners’ families . . .
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I will not detain the House for very long but I do support the plea made by the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden) in respect of the Malaysian citizens of Chinese origin who have been sentenced to death. I hope the Minister for External Affairs (Mr Hasluck) will intercede with the Prime Minister of Malaysia. Malaysia owes us a lot. We want to live in amity with the Malaysians. I think it would shock Australian opinion if the Malaysian Government went on with this plan to execute these people of Chinese origin. At the same time I hope the Government will not execute that Portuguese citizen of this country whose appeal to the High Court was dismissed by 4 votes to 1 today. I want to support too the honourable member for Hunter (Mr James) in his plea for proper, decent, humane treatment for the prisoners of the Government of Indonesia. I have always felt that we were wrong in 1962 when we allowed the present American Ambassador to Vietnam, Elsworth Bunker, to talk us into forcing the unfortunate people of West Irian into membership of the Indonesian nation. It was a very cynical approach. As there were only 200,000 or 300,000 of these Papuans it was thought that rather than insult or affront 100 million Indonesians we should let the Indonesians take them over.
I thought - indeed I said so - that Sukarno was another Hitler. Many members of the Australian Labor Party - and some are still here tonight - did not agree with me. But Sukarno went. He had to go. He should have gone. He was another Hitler. He was an enemy of this country during the war. he was a friend of the Japanese. He was decorated for what he did against the members of the various Services who were fighting in the area of Indonesia. Sukarno was succeeded by Suharto. Six generals were bumped off in very cruel and shocking circumstances by Sukarno and his associates. Then Suharto and his generals took over and between 500,000 and 1 million unfortunate people in Indonesia were liquidated, to use a euphemistic phrase, because they were regarded as a menace. 1 have no respect for Suharto.
I have no respect for any military regime at all; but, for the time being at any rate. Indonesia is our friend and I think that Australia should do what the honourable member for Hunter suggested - that is. use our good influence, whatever it is and whatever it is worth, with the Indonesian Government. 1 would like to promote friendship with Indonesia. I would like to promote friendship with everybody in the world. 1 do not fear Chinese Communism and I do not fear Russian Communism, despite the vote that has just been taken. But I do fear a resurgence of Japanese militarism. Japanese militarism allied with Indonesian expansionism and nationalism could be a menace to this country. Let us not forget that now that Indonesia has taken over West Irian the nearest Indonesian post is only 400 miles from Thursday Island. Still, we have to face the reality of the future, or our descendants will have to. I wish them well1. I wish ourselves well. But for the moment let us try to promote what goodwill we can, and if we can help the unfortunate people about whom the honourable member for Hunter has spoken then let us try to help them. The Minister for External Affairs is a very kind, humane man. I have known him for a long time now. I know that he wants to help relieve the poverty and destitution that exist in Indonesia. But the Indonesians have to come part of the way. They have to realise that human beings, whatever their colour, race or creed are entitled to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
– I rise to support the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden). I think that it may encourage the Minister for External Affairs (Mr Hasluck) if I say that we on this side of the House are unanimous about the matter. I presume the position is much the same on the other side of the House, lt appears that the problem associated with the threatened executions in Malaysia is partly a constitutional one. I understand that the Tunku himself has taken up with the authorities the matter of a reprieve, lt. seems to me that Malaysia has run into some constitutional difficulties. The Minister for External Affairs may know more about this than I do. But I hope that we will he able to exercise some influence and pressure upon the Malaysian Government to extend clemency in this instance.
I completely agree with the honourable member for Oxley that the crime was probably inadvertent. Their crime was one of youth, lt was not serious even though it was strictly treason in the terms of Malaysian law. I hope that the Government will use its influence to obtain a reprieve. I hope that the Government has the kind of influence and prestige that will bring results.
Now I come to the matter 1 originally meant to raise. I thought I would be alone in bringing this to the attention of the House. I refer to the threatened execution in Darwin. 1 do not think the Australian Government ought to sully its record with the execution of anybody. We on this side of the House have for many years had a policy of abolition of capital punishment. I believe there is a great feeling of revulsion in Australia against capital punishment. Last year Ronald Ryan was hanged in my electorate only a few hundred yards from my home. I was impressed with the reaction of the community. Four or 5 years ago a man called Tate was threatened with execution and there was a good deal of public concern, although it was not vigorously demonstrated. But on the night before the Ryan execution there must have been between 3,000 and 4,000 people around the prison between midnight and the early hours of the morning. About 7 a.m. when I went back I found that about 1,000 people were still there. What interested me on that occasion was that the crowd was a very representative cross-section of the Australian community. It included new Australians, old Australians, working people and obviously people of different kinds of economic status. I believe that to carry out the impending execution in Darwin would be a serious breach of Australia’s duty to show humanity to the world.
On the question of political prisoners in Indonesia I may say that I know and respect Mr Herb Feith. I have known him for many years. His integrity and reliability are unchallengeable as indeed, I think, is his knowledge of Indonesia. Last year I visited one of these prisons in Madang in northern Sumatra. The honourable member for Higinbotham (Mr Chipp) was in command of our party, and he simply put it to the local governor that we would like to see one of these prisons, so we were taken to see it. At that time the people were in a sorrowful state but not in a seriously deprived state. The authorities found themselves seriously embarrassed because hundreds of thousands had been arrested. I would think that the estimate of political prisoners which has been given as 80,000 is probably much too low. From the information we received there were more than 12,000 in that immediate district in northern Sumatra where the population is only about 2 million. The Indonesians have found themselves so embarressed with this situation that in many instances they have allowed people to return to their villages, but the hostilities engendered over the years have been so strong that many of these people have vanished. I believe there must be something that this country can do to assist to solve the problem. If the Indonesian Government is in breach of its duties to its citizens, as it appears to be in many instances and as it appears to be in this case, we should be able to bring pressure to bear on that Government. If it is not, or if, as in these circumstances, it finds itself embarressed in an administrative situation, we ought to be able to do something to help.
The final point I wanted to make concerns the current French aggression in the Pacific. If we were to demonstrate to the French the same kind of unanimity that we have displayed tonight in regard to Czechoslovakia it might produce some result. I believe the behaviour of the French in the Pacific is conscienceless. It is in breach of the general international attitude on atomic testing and it is unforgivable. The French are carrying out an act of aggression against all humanity. I wonder what the French would do if we were to set off one of these bombs in the Bay of Biscay or somewhere out in the Atlantic. Their behaviour should be challenged in the most forthright and loudest possible way in this Parliament, and perhaps next week we can do something about it. I assure the Minister that he would certainly have the support of all Australians if he issued such a challenge. We hand these matters over to him at this moment and are grateful for his presence in the House to hear what we have to say about them.
DrJ. F. CAIRNS (Yarra) [11.14]- I want to make three or four points very briefly. I join with the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden) in asking the Minister for External Affairs (Mr Hasluck) to intervene with the Prime Minister of Malaysia on behalf of the eleven prisoners who have been detained for so long and are threatened with execution. I know that a constitutional problem is involved, but it should be solved much more quickly. It is totally inhumane to allow it to continue. Surely our Government can do something to make clear to the Government of Malaysia that action should be taken.
I support also the appeal of the honourable member for Hunter (Mr James) on behalf of prisoners in Indonesia. It has been said, and with some truth, that prisoners are retained in Indonesia because they would be victimised if allowed to go free. This is one of the reasons commonly given for their detention. It is a little unfortunate that such concern for prisoners was not exhibited by the Suharto Government during November and December 1965 and January 1966. I think it is wrong to accept the glib but totally inaccurate explanations about the role of Sukarno, the cause of the coup, and the aftermath. Most of what is commonly understood by people in Australia about these matters is quite inaccurate, if not false. I have never yet seen evidence that the Communist Party in Indonesia played a role in the coup, except to approve of it, and that very much after the event. I have never seen evidence that Sukarno was associated with the action during the coup, except to approve of it afterwards. I think that both Sukarno and the Communist Party in Indonesia made terrible mistakes in what they did, but it was not a PKI coup. I do not believe Indonesia today is a police state; quite far from it. i think we have grounds to hope for considerable progress under the Suharto Government.
To turn to another matter in Fiji during the week the only genuine and strong labour union, the Airport and General Workers Union, was deregistered without a hearing. An Australian company, Qantas Airways Ltd, was very closely associated with the application for deregistration of the union. To my mind it is a disgrace that an Australian company should be backing action against that union in Fiji, particularly in circumstances much more closely related to a police state than those figuring in the complaints we have been making about countries to our north. Tt is an utter disgrace that Qantas should have been associated with the action that resulted in the deregistration of the union.
I have been to Fiji and have first hand knowledge of the situation there. I have great respect for officials of the union concerned. They have been subjected to charges. One official was charged with a very serious capital offence. At his trial the Chief Justice of Fiji warned members of the jury that they would be running a risk to convict the accused person and warned them of the falsity of the police evidence. The union has been struggling to set a decent and attainable standard for the working people of Fiji. Yet a great Australian company engaged in international activities has allowed itself to be associated with an attempt, which has proved to be successful, to obtain the deregistration of the union.
Fiji is much closer to a police state than many people in this country understand. British imperialism is not responsible for that situation; it is Australian imperialism. Most of the large employing concerns in Fiji that want docile, tame-cat unions, or none at all, are Australian companies, lt is a disgrace to the name of Australia in the Pacific and at present Qantas has that disgrace emblazoned on its flag.
-! wish to refer to a matter completely different from those that have been raised by my colleagues who have preceded me in this debate. I wish to draw the attention of the Government to the fact that the Government Aircraft Factory at Avalon, in my electorate, contrary to undertakings it has given over a long period, has again commenced major retrenchments of staff. Last week some seven employees were notified that they were to be retrenched. This week thirty employees received notices stating that it was intended to retrench them. A number of other employees are expected to receive similar notices within the next couple of weeks.
This establishment is important to Australia’s defence programme. The maintenance of this and similar establishments in Australia is as vital to our defence as is the maintenance of a standing army, lt is absolutely useless for a country to maintain an army and equip it with sophisticated, modern weapons if we do not retain the basis of the industrial and technical skills required to maintain and service those instruments of war which we would be dependent upon if we were ever attacked, lt may well be very easy at this time to equip our armed Services and to have their equipment maintained overseas, lt may appear to he good economics to close down our own establishments and to use those in other countries. But if it came to pass that we had to defend ourselves we would have to depend on our own skills and our own experts. In all probability we would not be able to obtain assistance from others.
In a statement made in another place today, the Minister for Supply (Senator Anderson) said that the Government is examining plans for the manufacture of a light aircraft to be used for defence purposes. This aircraft has been spoken of for 12 months or more but no decision has bees reached. If something is not done immediately to retain the skills of the persons who are to be dismissed at our aircraft establishment, it will not be much good starting such a project. These skilled people will have dispersed and it will not be possible to re-recruit them into the industry. Who would return to an industry knowing full well that he would again lose his employment at the whim of a government? These people would seek employment elsewhere and would stay in that employment.
A similar situation developed in 1956. These people were good enough to build, equip and service the Mirage and the Sabre aircraft. The Government is spending something like $500m to re-equip the Royal Australian Air Force; yet we cannot keep our own aircraft manufacturing and servicing establishments in operation. I think this is a disgrace. It is a serious weakness in our defence structure. I ask the Government to reconsider this matter and to look seriously at its policy of running down and destroying vital defence establishments such as ihe one I have mentioned.
- Mr Speaker, various matters have been raised during this debate on the motion that the House adjourn. Some of them relate to my own portfolio; others do not. The remarks made about retrenchment of staff at the aircraft factory at Avalon will be brought to the notice of the appropriate Minister. In respect of the remarks made about the man at Darwin under sentence of death, I would assume that this is a matter for the Executive Council, and therefore it would not be proper for me to comment upon it.
Reference was made to the testing by France of nuclear devices in the South Pacific. I want to inform the House that the Australian Government did make a direct protest against this testing to the French Government. The Australian Government also joined with other nations at the South East Asia Treaty Organisation conference and the ANZUS conference in issuing a communique which also deplored the holding of these tests. In spite of this direct diplomatic protest and the joint expression of opinion the French Government decided to proceed with the tests. Our present concern is to ensure that as the French have decided to proceed with the tests, precautions will be taken to ensure that no damage is suffered by the Australian people or any living creature in Australia.
Then there were two subjects which were related in the sense that they came within the same region of the world and arose out of similar circumstances. I refer to the position of the eleven prisoners in Malaysia who are under sentence of death and the position of large numbers of prisoners who are under detention in Indonesia. Without seeking in any way to condone what has caused great concern to honourable members, I would ask them to appreciate that in the present day in many countries - not only in the two mentioned, but in many countries - governments have changed and new nations have been established in circumstances of great turmoil, violence and bloodshed. When passions have run high, great resentments have been caused. New governments have been established in circumstances in which danger still exists for the newly established government. One cannot expect to apply to other countries the same sort of expectations that we would reasonably have about our own country where, happily, governments can come and go by constitutional means, where electoral violence or even the overthrow of governments by violence not only does not take place but is almost unthinkable. To try to apply to countries where bloodshed and violence have been associated with political change and social upheaval exactly the same expectations of conduct that we would apply to ourselves seems to me to be slightly unreal and perhaps lacking in understanding of the people whom we criticise. These general observations apply to countries in Africa and in the other continents, as well as to countries in Asia.
I pass now to the two particular cases which have been referred to. I do not agree with some of the detail presented by the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden) regarding the eleven prisoners. Indeed, it seems to me, if I may say so with respect, that in presenting a case for clemency he was inclined rather to reduce the nature of the situation in which the offences were committed and the nature of the offences themselves. I content myself with resting on this, that the condemned men were brought to trial under the laws of Malaysia in the State of Johore, that they had a fair trial according to law and were condemned, I believe justly, according to law. That does not affect the general question of clemency. However, I certainly would not want to enter into any debate which either by implication or direct statement conveyed the impression that the Australian Government was questioning the processes of law in Malaysia. We believe that those processes were properly applied and properly carried out. We are left with the fate of these eleven men who were condemned to death and have been under sentence of death for some time. They were tried and condemned in the State of Johore.
The Malaysian Government, with whom we have contact, is the Federal Government of Malaysia centred in Kuala Lumpur. Just as it would be difficult for the Foreign Minister of any foreign State to expect, say, the Minister for External Affairs in Canberra to exercise direct influence on an execution that may have been decided upon by the courts of one of the Australian States, so we are in a similar case here. Nevertheless, in a quiet way, and using as much discretion as we could, we did make what I might call private approaches to express to the head of the Malaysian Federation our concern at the way the Malaysian reputation would suffer by these executions and our hope that something might be done. Partly as a result of those purely private discussions, and possibly as a result of his own volition, the Malaysian Prime Minister did have conversations with the authorities in Johore and a reprieve was granted from execution. My memory is not exact enough at this moment for me to say whether it is a reprieve in the sense that it is just a putting off of an execution without a variation of the sentence or whether there has been a commutation of sentence.
– Was that the last reprieve?
– It was on 16th August or about that date. There was a reprieve. I will undertake to make further inquiries to find out whether there has been a commutation of sentence or whether the matter is under reconsideration, and let the honourable gentleman know.
In respect of the Indonesian prisoners, 1 would not like to join in any exepression of opinion that either directly or by implication amounted to criticism of the Suharto Government. In the view of the Australian Government the Suharto Government, with which we are in very friendly relations, is a government that has brought a measure of political stability and, what is more important, a measure of good government and of hope for social and economic advancement that Indonesia did nol have before. We give the Suharto Government credit for good intention and a rising capacity to deal with the problems of the country. It is correct that as a consequence of the circumstances in which the Suharto Government took office large numbers of persons are in detention, some for protective reasons, others because they are considered dangerous to the stability of the State and some because they have been convicted of criminal offences or identifiable offences against the laws of Indonesia. On that subject, too, through our embassy in Indonesia we would hope to exercise a friendly - and I emphasise friendly - influence on our neighbouring country to ensure that what can be done to allay public fear and concern shall be done.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11.34 p.m.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice:
– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows:
asked the Treasurer, upon notice:
What later statistics on the cost of income tax deductions have become available since his answer to me on 30th August 1967 (Hansard, page 642)?
– Since 30th August 1967, statistics have become available for the 1965-66 income year. The answer is as follows:
Estimates of the cost to revenue of allowing deductions for dependants and other items for which statistics were tabulated from 1965-66 income year returns are as follows:
asked the Treasurer, upon notice:
What would be the estimated loss to Consolidated Revenue if taxpayers were permitted to deduct from their taxable income the amounts they pay in interest on housing loans up to (a) S7.500 (b) $10,000 (c) $12,500 and (d) $15,000?
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The loss to revenue which would result from the allowance of deductions for interest on housing loans without limit as to amount is estimated to be of the order of $60,000,000 per annum. Although complete information as to size of housing loans is not readily available it is thought that the cost would be only marginally less than $60,000,000 if interest were to be allowable only on so much of a loan as does not exceed any of the particular limits specified in the question.
The estimate of $60,000,000 is based on the estimated amount which would be deductible in respect of amounts identifiable as housing loans by the traditional lending institutions. It does not, for example, include the cost of allowing interest on loans for housing obtained from finance companies or from personal sources.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice:
What would be the estimated loss to Consolidated Revenue if taxpayers were permitted to deduct from their taxable incomes depreciation on buildings used in the production of assessable income as recommended by the Hulme Committee in 1955?
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The cost to revenue of allowing depreciation on buildings on the basis recommended by the Commonwealth Committee on Rates of Depreciation under the chairmanship of Mr A. S. Hulme, M.P., in 1955, is estimated to be of the order of $50,000,000 in the first full year of operation. The cost to revenue could be expected to increase at the rate of about $4,000,000 per annum while the present annual rate of investment in buildings used in the production of assessable income is maintained. Without any change in the annual rate of investment, the cost could be expected to increase eventually to an amount of the order of $225,000,000 per annum.
asked the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice:
– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows:
asked the Treasurer, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s questions is as follows:
Provisional tax was first imposed in respect of the income of the year ended 30th June 1945.
Available statistics do not indicate precisely either the revenue collected from provisional tax each year or the number of persons who paid provisional tax each year.
Prior to 1950-51 only limited information is available relating to provisional tax charged in assessments. The amount of provisional tax charged in respect of 1944-45 income in assessments issued to 31st December 1945 was $ 152.9m. The amount charged in respect of 1945-46 income in assessments issued to 31st December 1946 was $l23.4m.
Available statistics do not indicate the amount of provisional tax charged in respect of the income years 1946-47 to 1949-50.
More detailed statistics have been maintained since 1950-51. The table which follows shows the amounts of provisional tax charged in respect of each of the income years 1950-51 to 1966-67 in assessments issued up to one year after the close of the relevant year of income. Also shown in the tablefor the same period is the amount by which provisional tax in respect of the income years 1952-53 to 1966-67 was reduced following applications by taxpayers for variation of the amount charged. The right to have provisional tax varied on the basis of the taxpayer’s estimate of his taxable income first applied in 1952-53.
For the 1967-68 income year the relevant details up to 30th June 1968, i.e., to the end of the year of income, were as follows:
Number of assessments, 1,097,335; provisional tax charged, $607.3m; provisional tax variation - net reductions, $58.8m.
asked the Minister for Shipping and Transport, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable members questions is as follows:
The Commonwealth Railways Commissioner has not yet submitted his report on this subject to the Government, but it is expected that it will be available in the very near future.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 22 August 1968, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1968/19680822_reps_26_hor60/>.