26th Parliament · 2nd Session
The House met at 10.30 a.m.
– I desire to inform the House of the unavoidable absence of Mr Speaker on official business overseas. In accordance with standing order 14 the Chairman of Committees will take the chair as Acting Speaker.
Mr ACTING SPEAKER (Mr Lucock) thereupon took the chair, and read prayers.
– Mr Acting Speaker, we learned with the deepest regret yesterday of the sudden death of the Prime Minister of Israel, Mr Eshkol. I inform honourable members that the Speaker of the House of Representatives, the honourable W. J. Aston M.P., will represent the Australian Parliament and the people of Australia at the funeral service for the Prime Minister. Mr Speaker will be leaving Australia later today. Last night I sent a message of sympathy to the Acting Prime Minister of Israel, extending to the Israeli people the condolences of the Government and people of Australia. The message was in these terms:
It is with deep regret that I received the news of the death of Mr Eshkol. He has led his country with great distinction through critical times and I extend to you and the people of Israel the condolences of the Government and people of Australia.
Mr HOWSON presented a petition from certain citizens of the State of Victoria showing that a constructive policy of disarmament by all countries would enable -
The petitioners pray that the House will:
I heir education.
Petition received and read.
Mr BENSON presented a petition from certain residents of Victoria showing that Australia’s largest marsupial, the kangaroo, is near extinction, because of the extensive shooting, for commercial purposes, throughout the whole of Australia. Laws in existence are inadequate, and there are insufficient men to patrol the area.
The petitioners pray that the export of all kangaroo meat be banned throughout Australia; the shooting of all kangaroos be banned throughout Australia and the Government establish a Commonwealth department to conserve wildlife on a national basis.
Petition received and read.
Mr ROBINSON presented a petition from certain citizens of the Commonwealth showing that the lack of some form of control in the banana industry has led to serious over-production and disastrous returns to growers.
The petitioners pray that the House of Representatives will ask for an inquiry into the banana industry.
Petition received and read.
Mr BONNETT presented a petition from certain citizens of the Commonwealth showing:
The petitioners pray that the House will make legal provision for:
Petition received and read.
– 1 preface a question to the Minister for Social Services by stating that the . Social Services Act provides benefit to age pensioners who have student children attending full time education up to the age of 21 years. Will the Minister give consideration at the first opportunity to providing similar benefits to recipients of unemployment and sickness benefits?
– As the honourable member knows, this is a question of policy. I will certainly give consideration to the matters that he has brought forward.
– I wish to ask the Minister for the Interior a question. I refer to the alleged unfair competition between government industries and private enterprise in the Australian Capital Territory. It has been publicly stated recently that government industries in the ACT were receiving most favoured treatment at the expense of private industries. Private industry has been denied the right to tender for the supply of certain materials for schools and government buildings because of certain conditions. WU1 the Minister tell the House whether it is true that certain industries are being handicapped in this way? If it is true, what action does he propose to take in view of the fact that the industry in question was encouraged by his Department to set up in business in the ACT?
– I rather take it that the honourable member is referring to the brickworks established in Canberra.
– Not only the brickworks.
– I do not know what other industries the honourable member is referring to. Perhaps he would care to tell me later. The situation in relation to the brickworks, for which I answer ministerially, is that it has to compete by tender in the normal way for any construction work. If the National Capital Development Commission is trying to match one brick with another in carrying out additions to an old building it may well be that a special type of brick is required and the brickworks may have that particular type of brick. But in the main, as far as the Commission is concerned work is let out, after tenders are called, to a contractor, who can use any particular brick which he thinks suits the job. I cannot answer for the practices of the Department of Works. I will ascertain from my colleague the methods used by the Department of Works and I will give the honourable member a reply.
– My question, which is directed to the Prime Minister, refers to the Meckering earthquake. When did the Premier of Western Australia first ask for financial assistance for people whose properties were destroyed? What assistance was requested, and what financial assistance was granted to the State? Has any further request for financial assistance been made? If so, has a decision been made? Why did Western Australia receive for the victims of the Meckering earthquake treatment which was less favourable than that received by the victims of other natural disasters in Tasmania and New South Wales?
– I am sure that nobody in the House would expect me to have in my mind details of when this application was made and what the procedures have been since then. I will look up for the honourable member the precise answers to the question he has asked me. AH I can do at the moment is give a general indication that I remember an application for assistance for the earthquake victims generally in Western Australia having been made. I remember a grant having been given by the
Commonwealth, but the details of it have now gone out of my mind.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Labour and National Service. I refer to the provisions of the Defence (Re-establishment) Act and to the fact that some national servicemen who, for periods less than 12 months, undertake continuous full time service for more than 3 months beyond the normal period of 2 years are now deprived of benefits particularly under the national service vocational training scheme. I now ask: In view of the injustice occasioned under the existing legislation, will an amendment to give the Minister some discretion in these cases be considered with favour?
– The honourable member will recollect that last year, to meet the practical problems which had arisen up to that time, we did extend the period of national service from 2 years to 2 years 3 months for this particular purpose. Since then affairs have run on and we have had a number of representations to extend the period beyond 2 years 3 months, and in making those representations the honourable member for Maribyrnong has been quite the most assiduous. I have discussed this question with my colleagues the Minister for Repatriation, who has the main policy responsibility in this area, and the Minister for the Army. We have committed this question for urgent study to the regular, established machinery which considers these issues, which often are not so simple as they appear on the surface. I hope that we will get a recommendation fairly soon. I will keep the honourable member informed.
– I ask the Minister for Defence a question. Are chemical and micro-biological equipment and weapons tested or is it proposed to test them at Innisfail? If not, why did the Minister of State for Defence Equipment inform the House of Commons on 11th March 1968 that ‘Britain was sharing facilities at Innisfail for testing equipment and weapons developed at the chemical defence establishment, Porton and the micro-biological establishment, Porton’?
– I am quite unable to tell the honourable gentleman why a
Minister in the British House of Commons should have made a statement of that kind. The agreement between Australia and Great Britain for the operation of the Innisfail facility clearly establishes that it is a station for the testing of military equipment under tropical conditions and to deal with the degradation of materials, packing methods and things of this kind under hot and wet conditions. Under those circumstances it would be expected that protective clothing of all kinds would be tested there. But I give the honourable gentleman an unequivocal denial that there is any chemical or biological warfare or apparatus of any kind associated with it at Innisfail.
The honourable gentleman .may recall that when this matter was raised in the Press some months ago, the Leader of the Opposition was invited to make a survey of the area at his own request. I understand that he could not do so but sent a secretary who reported a complete absence of matters of interest to him. More recently, my colleague in another place, the Minister for Supply, declared open house at Innisfail and invited any member of the public, the House or the Press to examine in detail, as far as he wanted, the facilities at Innisfail. The honourable member for Leichhardt went there and, I understand, could not find a germ in the place; nor could the Press; nor could they find any evidence of activities of the kind referred to by the honourable gentleman. Any time that he would like to go to Innisfail, he will be more than welcome.
– Has the Minister for the Interior seen reports in the morning Press that Aboriginal pay rises have been delayed? Are the reasons given in the Press correct, that the delay is due to lack of Treasury funds? Can the Minister assure the House that these people will not suffer disadvantage in this matter in the future?
– As the House knows, we recently introduced at the Aboriginal settlement a cash economy. I did see the report in today’s Press that delay had occurred in the first payment, to have been made on 14th February, as though this was caused by lack of Treasury funds. Certainly there was no lack of Treasury funds in the first place and, in the second place, as I understand it. there were only minor hitches caused by weather trouble preventing a charter aircraft delivering the money to the settlement on time. The second payment is due tomorrow and it is not anticipated that there will be any trouble.
– I ask the Minister for Air: Is he now in a position to confirm or deny that there will be a postponement in the delivery date of the Fill aircraft? If there is to be a delay, can the Minister now indicate the expected delivery date?
– Mr Acting Speaker, as this matter has come under my control in recent times-
Opposition, members- You are covering up.
– I am not covering up. The honourable gentleman knows all about the aircraft, but I happen to have been dealing with the contractual side of the purchase. I am sure that the history of this project to this point of time is known. The honourable gentleman who asked the question will know also that there has been a more recent failure under stress tests of the wing carry through box of the aircraft. This is at present under intensive study by a very high level committee set up by the contractor and by the United States Air Force. Australia has contributed to this committee experts from both the Royal Australian Air Force and the Aeronautical Research Laboratories. We do not yet have a full assessment of what will be necessary to correct the present deficiency, if that should be proven, and therefore it is impossible to say whether re-work or further modification will be required. So, there must be some question over the proposed date of delivery of the aircraft. Under normal circumstances, we would have expected Australia’s aircraft to be available for delivery by mid-year. I am not quite sure what the date will be now. As soon as some information is available a statement will be made.
– I address a question to the Attorney-General. Because of the high incidence of strikes and stopworks in Australia and the fact that the public and the taxpayer always suffer as a result, I ask whether the court has fined the Tramways
Union in Victoria a total of $8,000 for its defiance of the Arbitrator. Has the Union paid these fines or does it still defy the court and the Government and refuse to pay them?
– A number of separate fines have been imposed upon the Union totalling, in fact, $14,000. Of these, fines amounting to $800 were imposed on the New South Wales branch of the Union and the balance on the Victorian branch. The $800 has been paid in full. Of the fines that were imposed on the Victorian branch more than $5,000 has been paid, leaving a balance of $8,100. Part of the $5,000 was paid directly and part was secured by using garnishee proceedings. Steps are at present being taken to collect the balance. The Federal secretary has been examined as to the assets of the Union and the Victorian secretary is due to be examined on 20th March. That is the position: There is still a balance of $8,100 outstanding.
– Will the Minister for Social Services grant to all pensioners a $1 a week rise prior to the Budget session in October to enable them to exist? Will he take into consideration the present day price of food and cost of living?
– Rises in the cost of living have been taken into consideration already and having regard to them the present pension is far above the rate which existed in the past in terms of real purchasing power. The question of any further rise in the pension is obviously one of policy and is not one which I should be called upon to answer at present.
– I ask the Minister for Shipping and Transport a question. Has the Government considered a recommendation by the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner concerning the construction of a railway line from Tarcoola to Alice Springs? If so, can the Minister say when he will be in a position to inform the House as to the decision made by the Government? If not, bearing in mind the importance of this railway to the development of the northern part of South Australia and the Northern Territory, will the Minister give this vital issue his urgent consideration so that the
Government will be able to deal with it as soon as practicable and enable him to avail the House of the Government’s decision?
– Both the honourable member for Grey and the honourable member for the Northern Territory have, on many occasions, pressed me to ensure that to enable people to move from this part of South Australia into the Northern Territory there should be an early commencement of either the railway line about which the honourable member has now asked me or, alternatively, an improvement of the road facilities. In the last 12 months there have been substantial rains in the region and the present railway line has, as a result, been out of service on a number of occasions. The difficulties with which the people in the area are faced are appreciated. It is true that the Government has received a report from the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner on a projected new line from Tarcoola to Alice Springs. This matter, together with several alternative proposals, is currently under examination by an interdepartmental committee and as soon as a decision has been taken I will inform the honourable gentleman and the House.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Air and is supplementary to the question asked by the honourable member for Wide Bay. I remind the Minister that quite recently he made a statement in which he said that, on everything he knew about it, he thought the Fill aircraft was a beautiful aircraft. In view of what has been said by the Minister for Defence about the more recent fatigue fault that has been discovered and in view of the loss of a further FI 1 1 aircraft, does he still hold this opinion? The Minister also said that he intended to study the brief on the Fill aircraft. I ask him whether he has completed his study of the Fill brief.
– Yes, I did make the statement mentioned by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. I was then Minister designate. I made the statement on all that I knew at that time about the Fill aircraft. In reply to the second part of the question, at this point of time I have no reason to doubt what I said. I believe that the manufacturers and the United States Air Force will find a solution to the present problem.
– I address my question to the Minister for Civil Aviation. Has any action been taken towards arranging a civil aviation agreement between Australia and Indonesia? Is there any information on such an agreement?
– The air services arrangements between Indonesia and Australia up to the present have been on an informal basis by an exchange of letters. Last year Indonesia indicated that she would be willing to enter into negotiation for an air services agreement. When I was in Djakarta just a few months ago I discussed this matter with the Minister for Communications, Dr Frans Seda, and we made final arrangements for the negotiations to be commenced in Australia. I am pleased to say that the Minister for Communications will lead a delegation to Australia and will arrive next Sunday. He and I will commence the negotiations in Melbourne next Monday. I am very hopeful that as a result of the negotiations we will be able to sign a formal agreement between Australia and Indonesia which will be of great mutual benefit to our two countries.
– My question, . which is directed to the Attorney-General, refers to the new receipts tax recently introduced by some State governments. It taxes, amongst other things, bank interest. What powers, if any, have State governments to compel the Commonwealth Bank to furnish information regarding its clients’ accounts, a subject that has been generally accepted as being strictly confidential between banks and their clients? If no such power exists, can the State governments lawfully legislate to achieve this objective?
– The question, calls for a legal opinion and it is not desirable to give such an opinion at question time. I will see what information I can give to the honourable member by way of written advice.
– I ask the Minister for Civil Aviation a question. Can he provide further information on the possibility of an additional airline operating on the Pacific route?
– I assume that the question relates to the United States airline operator which has been receiving quite a lot of publicity over the last 6 months or so. Under the present agreement between the United States of America and Australia the United States can operate another carrier on the Pacific route in addition to Pan American Airlines. Although this is of great concern to us, of course, we would enter into negotiations regarding rights to operate after a decision was made. But some months ago the Civil Aeronautics Board in the United States set up a board of examiners to report on the situation. The examiners recommended to the Civil Aeronautics Board - and this was publicly stated - that Eastern Airlines should be given the licence to operate. However the Civil Aeronautics Board recommended to President Johnson that Continental Airlines should be given the licence to operate. On a technical point this decision was rescinded by President Nixon immediately after he came into power.
The situation now is that the President has set up an adviser from the White House and has asked the Civil Aeronautics Board to withdraw for special reasons. The President has indicated that he will accept the advice of his adviser in relation to the action that he should take. My understanding is that the adviser will give a report to the President before 15th April this year. At that point of time perhaps a decision will be made known by President Nixon. Following the decision it will be necessary for the airline then to apply to us for a licence to operate on certain routes. At that point of time we will, of course, consider particularly the aspect of capacity on the Pacific route as it affects Australia and we will almost certainly enter into negotiations with the Government of the United States.
– I address my question to the Minister for Labour and National Service. Is he aware that the latest statistics released by the Department of Labour and National Service disclose that in the Newcastle district there are 705 junior females registered as unemployed, that for the same period there are only 55 unfilled vacancies for junior females, and furthermore that a substantial number of these unemployed women have passed the Higher School Certificate examination? I ask: Has the Government given any special consideration to granting special Commonwealth university scholarships and teacher training scholarships outside the capital cities to absorb such young women into skilled and useful occupations instead of allowing them to remain on the unemployed market and the advantage of their years of schooling to be lost for all time? If the Government is not prepared to grant special scholarships as suggested, what plans has the Minister for finding suitable employment for these young women?
– Unfortunately, not having a computer mind, I do not keep in my head details of the employment position in every single district. But in Newcastle and other heavy industry centres there is a tendency for male employment to outstrip female employment. Unfortunately in some centres there are very strong prejudices against the employment of women on work which can be performed by them equally as well as by nien. As the honourable member probably knows these archaic prejudices do make the task difficult not only in Newcastle but throughout the rest of Australia. The honourable member is in a good position to exercise his influence in trade unions and in the affairs of Newcastle generally to help break down some of these barriers.
– My union is prepared to employ women.
– I am very glad to hear that. If the honourable member has done good work in the past let him add to it in the future. The state of employment generally in the country is very high. Employment is increasing at a fast rate at the moment and so is the number of vacancies. Currently we are experiencing one of the record rates for a number of years. As far as educational grants are concerned, this is a matter for my colleague the Minister for Education and Science. But even beyond this, it would be necessary ultimately to find employment for the women after they had passed through the educational process. I suggest that the honourable member use his personal influence, not only in his own electorate but anywhere else he can, to break down the barriers which exist, particularly in the environment in which he lives.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Education and Science. 1 ask, first: Has the honourable gentleman seen a report in today’s ‘Age’ newspaper of a speech said to have been made by the Leader of the Opposition to a meeting of parents of Catholic school children in Sydney last weekend, in which he is said to have promised that a Labor government headed by him would make an emergency grant of $50m to schools, half of which amount would go to non-government schools, mainly to meet the cost of teachers salaries? I ask, second: Does this essay b> the Leader of the Opposition in personal policy making, even though undertaken at the beginning of an election year, and in part at least contrary to the authority of his Party’s official policy, serve nevertheless to bring his personal views closer to those long held by the Government?
– If I may make a comment on the financial aspect of the matter which formed the subject of the honourable member’s question, 1 think I should direct the attention of the House to the fact that Commonwealth expenditure in support of education has been growing over the last 5 years perhaps more rapidly than has expenditure in any other direction. In fact it has grown by over 210%. lt should be noted, I think, that many of the policies that have been developed over this time have been ones originated by the present Prime Minister when he was the Minister in charge of these activities. This demonstrates very firmly the Commonwealth Government’s support for education at many different levels, not only in government systems and universities but also in the field of independent schools.
I welcome the statement alleged to have been made by the Leader of the Opposition, because I welcome any statement which tends to reduce the traditional and, I think, old fashioned opposition to state aid. I believe the Government has never been able to see any justice or equity in the view that governments must support to the full education for three-quarters of the population but that governments should give no support of any kind to the other quarter of the population who make considerable efforts on their own behalf to supply educa tional needs. I think the Government has never seen justice or equity in that view. To the extent that the statement of the Leader of the Opposition shows a reduction in opposition to state aid, I am sure the Government welcomes it, as 1 do.
But my pleasure at learning of the statement of the Leader of the Opposition is tempered somewhat by a consideration of the perhaps doubtful authority, even in this year, with which it may have been made. Honourable members may have seen another report today which said that the Leader of the Opposition had been castigated by his shadow cabinet for failure to consult his friends on certain tactics relating to the events of this week. Be that as it may, we will be looking forward with interest to (he results of the Labor Party “s conference later this year, to see whether that conference gives validity to the statements that have been made. Clearly they are not valid in terms of Labor policy as it at present stands and as it was decided at the last Federal conference of the Labor Party nearly 2 years ago. If, as the honourable member for Parkes has suggested, the statement to which he referred represents the personal views of the Leader of the Opposition, 1 am very glad to seq that those views are coming closer to the views of the Government, even if we would not want to welcome him to our ranks.
– My question is directed to. the Minister for Trade and Industry. I refer to his visit to New Zealand last week and to panel discussions, by departmental officials, processors and growers in New Zealand at the end of last year and again recently in Melbourne. Can the Minister tell us of any quota arrangement or formula agreed upon for the import of peas and beans from New Zealand in order to safeguard the important pea and bean industry in Australia?
– Consequent upon a statement which I made in this House some months ago a panel has been set up to study the trade in frozen and dried peas and beans between Australia and New Zealand. The panel consists of representatives of growers and processors and of the government of each country. The first meeting of the panel was held in Melbourne about a month ago and very serious discussions were hel’d. Some progress was made at that meeting but there was some failure to reach agreement on certain aspects of the trade. From memory - if I make an incorrect statement I will correct it later - there was an agreement on the volume of trans-Tasman trade for this year. No agreement was reached for beyond this year, but it was agreed that there should be another meeting of the panel in New Zealand in April. No magic wand has been waved to solve the whole problem. This is now in the groove and in the light of my experience in other matters there will be a reasonable solution which will provide a fair share of the trade to each country.
– 1 direct my question to you, Mr Acting Speaker. On the return of Mr Speaker to the House will you seek an audience with him with the objective of initiating a technical investigation of the air conditioning system in this building to ascertain whether the system is outmoded and is of a type which after extracting the air cleans it and then recirculates it, and whether in so doing it extracts a measure of oxygen each time the process is carried out, thus causing irritation to the eyes and nose but more particularly inducing greater difficulty in two other areas of politicians’ problems - that of dry throats and an inclination to sleep?
-I will have a discussion with Mr Speaker on his return to ascertain whether the air conditioning system is one of the factors which contribute to some of the complaints of honourable members.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister for Health, arises from the honourable gentleman’s announcement yesterday about grants to the States for the provision of additional nursing home beds for aged persons of few means who are chronically ill. The Minister knows that nearly all1 State and church nursing homes are available only for persons in receipt of pensions or who are of pensionable age. Is he aware that the Australian Association of Social Workers in a survey conducted last year found that one-third of chronically ill persons are under 60 years of age? That is the age at which women become entitled to a pension, and 5 years below the age at which men become entitled to a pension. What is being done to assist in the provision of nursing homes for this one-third of the chronically ill Australians?
– I am aware of that statement. This is a problem for which it is difficult for the Commonwealth to find a solution because, as the Leader of the Opposition will be aware, the actual constitutional powers and control over nursing homes are matters for’ the State governments. However, I draw his attention to the fact that although in my statement about the home care programme - it was mentioned also by the Treasurer in his Budget speech - I indicated that the proposals were primarily related to the aged I specifically stated that they did not exclusively do so. It is my intention, in the detailed discussions with the States in relation to the acceptance of this offer of $5m over 5 years for the provision of State run nursing home beds, to seek an exchange of views on making some of these beds available for people in the category the honourable member has mentioned.
– I ask the Minister for Trade and Industry a question. In view of the fact that fertilisers are a major cost factor in Australian agricultural development and production potential, and bearing in mind that the Government’s subsidy commitment on fertiliser production is quite substantial and is increasing year by year, will the Minister investigate manufacturing and distribution methods adopted in other parts of the world in. order to ensure that the potential of Australian manufacturers is used to the best advantage in the interests of the Australian consumer and that their distribution methods are the most efficient? If the Minister agrees to an extensive survey being made of fertiliser manufacturing techniques will he make the subsequent report available to the House?
– I am aware of the significance to primary industry of the cost of fertilisers. Of course, by far the major fertilisers used are superphosphate and nitrogenous fertilisers. With regard to nitrogenous fertilisers, quite recently my colleague the
Minister for Customs and Excise, after consulting me, took steps to apply pressure on those who were selling nitrogenous fertilisers to reduce their price by $10 a ton. This was done. This reduction in price of nitrogenous fertilisers was brought about by the importation of large quantities of urea at prices which are generally believed to be dumped prices. These imports are not at present in serious competition with fertilisers manufactured locally. Action was taken because in our opinion the price being charged for the imported product was excessive, having regard to the landed cost. Quite apart from this issue, the matter of protection for the Australian manufacture of nitrogenous fertilisers was referred by me to the Tariff Board in, 1 think, December. The Tariff Board will reach its conclusions only after a study of all the relevant facts regarding production in Australia. It is the custom of the Board then to compare these facts with costs and circumstances of production overseas.
The honourable member may be assured that the Tariff Board will examine thoroughly the production of nitrogenous fertilisers, but not the matter of local distribution. The result of the Board’s inquiry will come out in due course in a report. As regards the manufacture of superphosphate, in which this country is self-sufficient, in the course of our relations with the island of Nauru, which is the principal source of phosphate rock, we have found it necessary over recent years recurringly to increase the price paid to the Nauruans for the rock. The price is higher now than it has been for many years. This high price is reflected in the cost of superphosphate. However, the Government is procuring a substantial proportion - an increasing porportion - of our requirements from Christmas Island. I have had a series of requests for the Tariff Board to hold an inquiry into superphosphate. These requests are at present being studied by my Department. Subsequently they will be studied by me and a decision will be reached and announced. As to costs of distribution and the mark-up on fertilisers, as the honourable member has requested, I will study the matter and see what can be discovered.
– I ask the PostmasterGeneral a question. Is he aware of the extreme dissatisfaction among business men and pensioners with the once-daily postal delivery. Have the rounds of postmen been extended? Is the Postmaster-General aware that much of this dissatisfaction arises from the fact that postal charges have been increased and services reduced? In view of the deep concern that is manifest over this issue, will the Postmaster-General take immediate action to restore postal deliveries to their original status and thus give the public the full benefit of the amenities they pay for?
– There were two principal reasons for a reduction in the number of mail deliveries in some cases from three to two per day and in other cases from two to one per day. The first reason is an economic one and the second arises from consideration for the postmen themselves. As to the first reason, honourable members will know that for several years we have found it impossible to have a financial surplus in postal service operations. Last financial year the deficit or loss was approximately $20m. One overcomes this problem and creates a situation of profit by increasing charges, by effecting economies or perhaps by substantially increasing turnover.
The postal service area is a very highly labour intensive section of our operations. Approximately 70% of the cost is labour cost. Charges for basic postage over 15 years have gone up from 31d to 5c. This is a rise of some 70% over 15 years. During the same period wages costs in the postal service have gone up by 230%. So I think honourable members will appreciate that to avoid increasing postal rates we had to see whether economies could bc effected in this area. We came to the conclusion, following the example of the United States. New Zealand and Canada, and having regard to the fact that only 10% of letters were being delivered in the afternoon delivery, that there could be an economic advantage in making the reductions to which I referred earlier. This is the reason why the number of deliveries was reduced. I do not believe that a great number of complaints have been made in regard to this. I have had a check made and only a few over 100 have been received throughout Australia. This is virtually a negligible protest against the reduction in the services.
Now I. come to the second matter, which is consideration for the postman or the employee. When deliveries had to be made twice a day, or three times a day in the city areas, postmen commenced work at approximately 6.15 to 6.30 in the morning and many of them had to stay on the job until about 6 o’clock in the evening. Honourable members must remember that they were working a 5i-day week, which required them to be on the job for slightly in excess of 60 hours per week as against what we regard as a normal working week of 40 hours. During each daily period between 6.30 a.m. and 6 p.m., because of the inability to process mail for the afternoon delivery, there was a virtual stand-down or sit-and-wait operation of up to 3 or 4 hours. This was creating a problem so far as the trade union movement was concerned. I do not believethat any member of this House would feel that we were justified in calling upon any employee in the Australian community to be on the job for a period of roughly 60 hours per week. The Victorian President of the Amalgamated Postal Workers Union made it quite clear that in his view this move had been of tremendous advantage to the postman himself. I believe that the Victorian President represented the feeling of the broad area of membership of the Amalgamated Postal Workers Union and particularly of the postmen. I believe that what was done was the correct thing in the total interests of the postal services.
Mr HULME (Petrie - Postmaster-
General) - by leave - Mr Acting Speaker, in a public statement on 24th August 1967, I indicated that the Australian Broadcasting Control Board was investigating the various colour television systems available throughout the world for the purpose of recommending, at the appropriate time, the type of system considered best suited for use in Australia. At that time I made it clear that my statement was not to be taken as an indication that colour television would be introduced shortly. However, there has since been a great deal of uninformed speculation on the matter, and I must preface this statement by saying quite emphatically that the Government has made no decision as to a time of introduction of colour television. It is, however, necessary that some technical work should go forward, since the investigations will take some time.
There are at present three systems of colour television in use: Firstly the system known as NTSC, developed in 1954 in the United States and now in use in North America, Japan and some other countries; secondly, the PAL - Phase Alternation Line - system developed in West Germany and now in use there and in Great Britain and proposed for use in other Western European countries other than France; and, thirdly, the system known as SECAM developed and used in France and now in use also in Russia. All of these systems have their own particular attributes.
The Control Board, by reason of its being responsible directly for determining standards for the technical equipment and operation of television stations, has made a thorough and comprehensive investigation of the merits of the three systems and their application to Australian conditions. The Board has concluded that, for the introduction of colour television through existing stations and its application in the ultra high frequency band should this be required eventually, the PAL system is the most suitable. It has been decided, therefore, that when colour television is introduced into Australia the PAL system will be used.
I have been prompted to make this announcement now to ensure that the entire television industry will be under no doubt as to the system to be used. I know, for example, that licensees of stations have been anxious to ensure that new equipment being acquired to replace obsolescent equipment should be compatible with the colour system to be adopted. At the same time, let me say once again that this statement is not to be construed in any way as an indication that the inauguration of colour transmission is imminent. In the statement I made in August 1967 I emphasised that when the Government reached a firm decision about the introduction of colour television it would give 18 months clear notice so that receiver manufacturers and others would have time to prepare. This course will still be followed.
The Control Board is now proceeding with the preparation of draft system standards and proposes to circularise them in the immediate future among the appropriate units of the television industry before they are finally determined. Following this it will be necessary for the Board, in consultation once again with representatives of the television industry, to proceed to the more complicated and time consuming task of formulating detailed standards for colour television equipment and for its operation. This will involve a great deal of experimentation and many discussions with manufacturers of sets and transmission equipment as well as with station operators.
An essentially similar approach was adopted before the commencement of black and white television and has resulted in our present television service reaching a technical standard which I believe is unsurpassed throughout the world. Although this approach will take time I believe that it is desirable - in fact essential - if colour television in Australia, when it comes, is to provide the best possible service for viewers. I think it will be agreed that the Government is wise in approaching the matter of colour television in Australia carefully. Its introduction has wide economic and financial implications and it behoves us to be quite certain that what we do is in the best interests of the public in general and the industry itself.
– by leave - Mr Acting Speaker, it is noticeable from the statement made by the Postmaster-General (Mr Hulme) that no decision has been made at this time as to when colour television will be introduced. One thing is very clear. This is that it is some considerable time away. I think that this is indicated by the fact that the Minister himself has stated that 18 months notice will be given before colour television is introduced. I think that something more definite is required regarding the date of its introduction. Surely we could get some idea of when that will be. Why cannot an earlier decision be made in this regard? If an earlier decision cannot be made, I think that the Minister should tell the House why we cannot be advised.
Some time ago - I think it was in early 1967 - I asked the Postmaster-General to make an early decision on the type of colour television system to be introduced into Australia so that the technical details could be worked out prior to its introduction. I drew attention to the three systems that were then in operation. The Postmaster-General has mentioned these in his statement today. Firstly, there is the NTSC system used in the United States of America and in North
America generally. It was developed there. Secondly, there is the PAL system - the Phase Alternation Line system - developed in West Germany and now in use there and in Great Britain. It is to be used in other European countries, other than France. Thirdly, there is the system known as the SEC AM system, developed and used in France and now in use in Russia also.
The Postmaster-General advises us that the PAL system is to be adopted for use in Australia. That system might be the best of the three systems for Australian conditions as a result of the investigations that have been made, but I do think that the PostmasterGeneral should make some report to this House on the merits or demerits of the three systems and indicate why the PAL system in fact was selected. He might indicate that he is prepared to do that in the future so that the House will be given the opportunity to ascertain the respective merits of the three systems and so that some comparison can be made. We may then know why the PAL system was finally selected.
Bill presented by Mr Barnard, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
This Bill is designed to liberalise the National Service Act and remove front it certain features which the Opposition finds objectionable. The Opposition is strongly opposed as a matter of principle to the entire national service legislation. Australian Labor Party policy has been stated repeatedly in this Parliament. The Party opposes conscription for Vietnam or anywhere outside Australian territory except in time of declared war. This is the specific policy adopted by the Federal Conference of the Australian Labor Party at Adelaide in July 1967. The Labor Party has always abhorred the selective ballot system, and has condemned this form of conscription in the Parliament. These are the basic attitudes of the Labor Party. However we realise that as an Opposition we cannot overturn the entire national service structure. This Bill is designed to soften much of the impact of selective conscription by providing an alternative form of civilian service for those who do not want to undertake military service. Secondly, it is designed to give much more equitable treatment to conscientious objectors who have been unfairly treated and discriminated against in recent years. These are the basic objectives of this Bill.
Before I outline its provisions in more detail I would like to make some comment on the response of the Government to this measure. The Bill was drafted late last year and it was not possible to bring it on before the end of the last parliamentary session. This gave the Government a chance to examine the provisions of the Bill and incorporate them in the existing national service legislation. It is regrettable that the Government has failed to implement these principles, although the Bill was considered by Cabinet a week ago. It is unfortunate that even adoption of a limited form of alternative service for conscientious objectors has been rejected by the Government. I would like to refer briefly to the statement made by the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr Bury) after the Government’s review of civilian service as an alternative to national service. The Minister said that the overwhelming majority of young men liable for service were carrying out their obligation of 2 years service in the Army. This acceptance of duty, however, does not justify the system of compulsion which has been adopted by the Government. These young men would perform their duties just as honourably if they had the alternative to perform civilian service. They have been denied this alternative.
The Minister said, however, that a scheme which would provide civilian service as a genuine alternative for all national service registrants could be construed as manpower’ control, in which case there would not be a constitutional basis for it at the present time. It is difficult to sustain this argument against an alternative form of civilian service. The basis of conscription to fight an undeclared war when Australia is not directly threatened is just as dubious from a constitutional viewpoint. There have been many doubts expressed whether Australia’s commitment to the Vietnam war could be justified under the defence power of the Constitution. In this context, the provision of civilian service for all national service registrants would be just as viable constitutionally as the conscription of young men to fight an undeclared war for which no treaty has been invoked. In any case the provision of civilian service would give an element of choice to those selected by ballot. It is impossible to calculate how many conscripts who faithfully perform what they regard as their duty would find civilian service more acceptable. But with an alternative they could still fulfil their conception of their duty to their country without performing military service. The Minister said that the introduction of a civilian alternative would mean that increased numbers would have to be balloted in to replace those who opted for civilian service. This statement alone indicates the Government’s attitude to selective conscription.
According to the Minister, in his second reading speech on the National Service Act amendments last year, registrants for national service have a one in four chance of being selected by the ballot. If an alternative service were introduced, this might have to be raised to a one in three chance. This expansion of the call-up would undoubtedly affect the Governments standing in the electorate. By keeping the selective ballot around the level of one in four the Government has managed to avoid widespread unpopularity in the electorate over the call-up. This is significant, because the Vietnam war is the least impassioned war that Australia has ever fought. There is no popular fervour in favour of the war, nor have there been patriotic demonstrations in support of the war. The only heat generated by the conflict has been on the side of those who oppose the commitment to the war and oppose conscription.
In this environment the Government has been compelled to limit its call-up to the minimum because the Vietnam war has never been a popular war and it is growing steadily more unpopular. This is the basic reason why the Government has failed to face up to providing a genuine civil alternative which would remove some of the odium from the selective ballot system.
The second important aspect of the review of civilian service mentioned by the Minister in his statement was the treatment of conscientious objectors. The Minister claimed that the treatment of conscientious objectors in Australia was more favourable than in almost any other country. It is impossible to sustain this claim when three young men have been gaoled for 2 years because they have been unable to affirm their conscientious beliefs and as the final test of conscience have had to disobey callup notices. The treatment of conscientious objectors in Australia is certainly superior to that in the United States of America where the basis of a conscientious belief is extremely narrow. However, it does not compare favourable with the treatment of objectors in New Zealand, European countries or in Britain under the now defunct National Service Act.
I turn now to outline the Bill before the House. The first part of the Bill I should like to draw attention to is proposed section 29A, which is intended to provide alternative civilian service to military service. In brief, this provides that the Minister shall specify forms of service in community or national projects within or outside Australia as an alternative to military service. A person called up under the Act may elect to perform such an alternative service. A person who makes this el’ection may be issued with a certificate certifying that he is entitled to render that alternative service.
The remainder of the section is concerned with machinery matters to implement this proposal and to bring it into line with the principal Act. This amendment sets out in a much more detailed and comprehensive form an amendment put to the Parliament by the Opposition during the debate on the National Service Bill in May last year. We have used the services of the Parliamentary Draftsman to put this amendment in a much more definitive and acceptable form, f do not want to canvass at any length the reasons for this amendment. There can be no doubt that there is a very strong volume of opinion - a volume which has grown - in Australia favouring a civilian alternative.
This aspiration for an alternative service has been expressed by the World Council of Churches, the Returned Services League, the Anglican church and the Presbyterian church. It has been reflected in a wide range of favourable Press opinion. I believe it has also been considered sympathetically by the Minister for Labour and National Service and the Minister for the Army (Mr Lynch). Indeed, when it was first announced to the nation that a Bill would be introduced into the Parliament to provide for an alternative form of service the Minister for Labour and National Service, very shortly afterwards, made a definite statement in which he said that the Government intended to have a look at the question of providing an alternative civilian service to military service. One would assume from what the Minister said on that occasion that he al least was sympathetic to this proposal and, indeed, had been convinced as a result of the numerous representations that had been made to him by people who were interested in this matter - for example, the World Council of Churches and the other organisations to which 1 have just referred. All these organisations over a long period - indeed, since the Government amended the National Service Act in May of last year - have continuously represented this proposition to the Government. Therefore one would believe that the Minister for Labour and National Service was sympathetic. If he put this point of view to the Cabinet, he was not successful; it was rejected.
The amendment is designed to capitalise on the aspirations of a great many Australians to do something to extend political, economic and social freedoms at home and abroad. In particular it is intended to fulfil the aspirations of young people who are seeking ways of expressing their ideals and using their energies in humanitarian service. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) has pointed out repeatedly that Australia would be better regarded and more effective if there were as many young Australians undertaking civilian responsibilities in South East Asia as there are young soldiers from this country.
The Minister for Labour and National Service has said that countries such as France, Italy and the Netherlands operated alternative service schemes as part of their overseas aid schemes. In the direct context of conscientious objection the United States objectors can be assigned to civilian work designed to promote the maintenance of the national health, safety and interest, In the Netherlands, conscientious objectors have been required to render alternative service in public bodies or institutions which are active in the public interest. Another model is the now defunct National Service Act in the United Kingdom which allowed conscientious objectors to be registered as objectors conditional on their undertaking to do civilian work under civilian control for a stipulated period. These are modest examples of what could be accomplished in Australia if the Government were to make serious efforts to evolve an alternative scheme.
The amendment makes it quite clear that this alternative service should be directly controlled by the Minister, who is given the responsibility of denning appropriate civilian projects, both at home and abroad. Quite obviously, the Minister would have to retain direct control because voluntary service agencies such as Australian Volunteers Abroad or church mission departments could not handle placement on the scale envisaged. There are many difficulties in the way of placing people who elect to undertake civilian national service, in particular those with no particular skills or qualifications. But in view of the widespread feeling in this country for such an outlet, this is a problem which should be tackled.
It has been suggested that such a civilian scheme would amount to civilian conscription. I do not agree with this because the establishment of such a scheme brings an element of choice into a system of inflexible conscription for military service. I should also like to emphasise that it is not intended to establish anything of the nature of a civilian construction corps. There should be sufficient outlets for civilian service without an organisation of this kind, even allowing for the constitutional objections of manpower control raised by the Minister. The Minister has said that alternative schemes of civilian service in other countries have been closely studied. An equally intensive study of potential outlets for alternative service in Australia and the projected numbers that could be handled by these agencies should be made by the Department of Labour and National Service. The lack of this detailed information hampers the task of putting up a viable scheme for alternative service. Nevertheless in view of the strong support for such an alternative, it would be a worthwhile objective to make such a study and plan for the creation of a comprehensive scheme of alternative civilian service. Projects for alternative service would best be concentrated in areas such as national welfare, social welfare and health.
The cost of overseas projects should be paid as a contribution to Australia’s civil aid spending with the aim of bringing it up to the figure of 1% of gross national product advocated by the United Nations. The policy of spending at least 1% of our gross national product on such aid has been incorporated in the policy of the Australian Labor Party. We believe that this is the least that this country should be able to provide. What I have proposed could be additional expenditure towards achieving the target of spending 1% of our gross national product in the areas to which I have referred. One provision that has not been incorporated in the Bill is that those who elect to undertake civilian service should not be paid more than those who go into the Army. This principle was included in the New Zealand national service legislation and it should operate in any scheme for alternative civilian service adopted in Australia.
– It was not adopted by the Labor Government in the last war.
– I hope that the honourable member for La Trobe, who is always very vocal on these matters, will be given the opportunity to speak in this debate.
– 1 will.
– Since he has interjected at this stage, let me say how much honourable members on this side of the House deprecate the attitude of the Government, which intends, to curtail the debate on this Bill at 12.45 p.m. today. This is an important measure and surely, if the honourable member for La Trobe is as interested in this subject as he professes to be, he will exercise whatever authority he has with the Government to ensure that a Bill which has created so much public interest will be given much more scope for debate in this Parliament. But the honourable member for La Trobe will remain silent, except for his interjections.
– No, I will not.
– Order! The honourable member for La Trobe will cease interjecting.
– If he speaks in this debate, he will show that I am wrong.
The second element of the Bill I would like to outline relates to exemption on grounds of conscientious belief. It is intended to provide exemption for a conscientious objector who objects to a particular war. There have been two cases in which magistrates have exempted conscientious objectors who confined their basis of objection solely to the war in Vietnam. One was the case of David Monaghan who was exempted in a Melbourne court on the grounds that he had a conscientious belief that Australian involvement in the Vietnam war was morally wrong. A Brisbane magistrate also granted total exemption to Roland Hovey on the basis that Hovey held a conscientious belief that did not allow him to take part or to assist in any way in the Vietnam war. This is the sort of enlightened interpretation the Opposition would like to see extended over the whole range of applications for exemption based on objections to the Vietnam war. Unfortunately, higher judicial opinion has interpreted the Act as excluding exemption on the basis of objection to a particular war. This trend was confirmed last year by the High Court judgment in Thompson’s case. The amendment I propose would give magistrates hearing conscientious objection cases discretion to give exemption on the basis of objection to a particular war.
The third important element of the Bill revises the whole procedure by which a conscientious objector applies for exemption. It makes a complete overhaul of procedures for hearing these cases. The trend in other countries has been to a broader and more flexible attitude to conscientious objection to military service and the treatment of conscientious objection in the courts. In accordance with its civil liberties platform the Australian Labor Party insists on a much more enlightened approach to the administration of the laws regarding conscientious objection in Australia. There is a glaring anomaly in the application of the law relating to conscientious objection. Section 29 of the principal Act states quite explicitly that a person whose conscientious beliefs do not allow him to engage in any form of military service is, so long as he holds these beliefs, exempt from liability to render service. This would seem to give a conscientious objector an absolute right to exemption because of his belief. However this is not the case. The way the law is applied means that a majority of those who apply for exemption are denied it. Although the Act states that a conscientious objector is exempt from liability to render service, three young men have been gaoled because of their conscientious beliefs.
On one hand the Act lays down an absolute right to exemption on the grounds of conscientious belief; on the other it dilutes this absolute right by compelling the objector to prove his belief in a court. Although he is given the right of complete exemption the onus of proving his belief is squarely on him. This is regrettable because principles of conscientious objection to military service have been expressed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, by the Second Vatican Council and in Australia most notably by the Australian Council of Churches which established a special committee to examine conscientious objection. I have had the opportunity personally to have long discussions with representatives of the Australian Council of Churches and other organisations on the question of conscientious objection. No doubt the Minister has had similar discussions with those organisations. I am quite convinced that after the detailed study that these organisations, especially the Australian Council of Churches, have made, their attitude is quite correct. They believe that the law ought to be more liberal. If what is now stated in the Act can be accepted as a proposition that grants automatic exemption, or if it can be argued that what is stated in the Act grants automatic exemption to those who express these conscientious beliefs, it is quite obvious that the Act is open to misinterpretation by those who have to make the decision. If this was not the situation there would not be cases in which young men who applied for complete exemption on the grounds stated in the Act were refused and committed to a civilian goal because they were not prepared, in the light of their conscientious beliefs, to obey the call up notice.
There have been many definitions of conscientious objection. In Australia, the principle became part of the law of the Commonwealth shortly after Federation when section 61 of the Defence Act 1903 exempted from the general obligation of service in time of war ‘persons whom the doctrines of their religion forbid to bear arms or perform military service’. This was broadened in 1910 when the reference to religion was abandoned and persons were exempted who satisfied the prescribed authority that their conscientious beliefs did not allow them to bear arms. In World War II, exemption for persons whose conscientious beliefs did not allow them to bear arms was the only principle applied. This exemption was still only from combatant duties. The parent National Service Act of 1951 adopted the principle of total exemption for conscientious objection, if proved to the satisfaction of the court.
Although the scope of this Act has broadened immensely in recent years with the introduction of compulsory selective service there has been no comparable liberalisation of the law relating to conscientious objection. These provisions have remained unaltered since 1951. It is time these provisions were brought into accord with enlightened thinking in other countries. A person claiming exemption because of conscientious opposition to military service has to submit himself to the intensive scrutiny of the court. He is required to bare his most deeply held beliefs and convictions, the manifestations of his conscience, to the scrutiny of a magistrate who has no special grounding or training in this area of examination.
Under the Act if an applicant’s religion prohibits him from taking part in military activities or if he is a known member of a pacifist organisation then he is in an immeasurably better position than an individual whose beliefs are formed in isolation. People may have deeply felt objections to military service but they may not be able to stress or define them rationally or logically. This applies particularly to people who may not have sufficient education to articulate and express in formal concepts their objections to military service. Their objection may be completely sincere and any form of military service may be abhorrent to their conscience, but under the present provisions they may be incapable of convincing a court of their sincerity.
This is why the Opposition stresses that there must be the utmost consistency in the hearing of conscientious objection cases in this country. This consistency should apply in all cases. There should not be the kind of variation that is apparent under the existing legislation. Instead there has been a quite remarkable variation in the interpretation of the conscientious objection provisions. In particular there are marked differences in the interpretation of the provisions from State to State. Let me quote to the House one or two examples. It is quite well-known that it is easier to gain total exemption as a conscientious objector in some States than in others. For example, in New South Wales until March last year only 35 applicants out of 93 were granted total exemption - a ratio of approximately 4 in 10. In Victoria the comparable ratio for successful applicants for total exemption was 5 in 10, in Queensland 6 in 10, in South Australia and Western Australia 8 in 10.
Quite obviously, it is harder to get total exemption in New South Wales, where the ratio is only 4 in 10, and Victoria than in the other States. This disparity raises strong presumptions that different courts and different magistrates are applying different tests and standards. It should also be noted that of 42 appeals up till March last year 19 were granted total exemption, including 13 out of 27 in New South Wales. The application of different standards from State to State is undoubtedly due to the different procedures for hearing conscientious objection cases in the States. There has been no uniformity of approach in hearing these cases. This is why the Opposition introduces this amendment to establish the same procedure for hearing conscientious objection cases in all States.
This procedure is set out in full in clause 29 (c) and clause 29 (d) of the Bill. Briefly, it establishes a commissioner for conscientious objectors in each State and Territory. This will eliminate differences between the States and give a consistent and uniform interpretation to the law over the whole of Australia. This system will enable a constant body of law relating to conscientious objection cases to be built up so consistent and equitable principles can be applied. It will allow commissioners to develop complete familiarity with conscientious objection and all its ramifications.
These are matters which magistrates unaccustomed to dealing with delicate questions of conscience must find difficult to interpret. It will remove any possibility of individual prejudices on the part of inexperienced magistrates in judging these matters. The Bill makes it quite plain that commissioners shall be either senior judges or barristers or solicitors of at least 10 years standing. It provides also for a much wider right of appeal than exists under the present legislation. It will give right of appeal from a commissioner’s decision to the Supreme
Court of a State or Territory constituted by not less than three judges. At present the right of appeal is confined to district court level.
The Bill will also provide for an appeal to be brought to the High Court by leave of the High Court. In short, this provision will bring conscientious objection cases into the main stream of the administration of justice in Australia. These are the main provisions of the Bill. There are one or two other machinery matters that are incorporated in the Bill. The Minister has some knowledge of them. Indeed, since the Bill was made available to the Minister at the end of last year he has had sufficient opportunity to consider the amendments that are proposed and to judge the merit of them from the arguments that have been put to him on these questions by the organisations to which I referred earlier, most notably the World Council of Churches. This body quite recently at its conference in Victoria determined unanimously that it would support this Bill. It is quite obvious that the Council is in a position to speak with great authority on this matter as it represents a large body of public opinion in Australia. The World Council of Churches has carried out thorough investigations into the questions of alternative service, conscientious objection and the other objectionable features that are now incorporated in the existing legislation. I believe there is a very strong feeling in Australia for more liberal and humane national service legislation. This is reflected, as I have pointed out, in widespread support for suitable civilian alternatives to military services.
There is also an urgent need for the administration and interpretation of the conscientious objection provisions to be humanised, rationalised and made more consistent. This Bill, in the opinion of the Minister and of his Government, may have some imperfections but I commend its basic principles to the House and ask for its sympathetic consideration.
-Is the motion seconded?
– I second the motion and reserve my right to speak.
– This Bill, which has been introduced by the
Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard), proposes a number of amendments to the national service scheme, dealing primarily with measures affecting the position of young men who object, for one reason or another, to render the service required of them under the National Service Act. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition has given me a copy of the Bill and I propose to go through the main features of it, as he did.
The Bill proposes that all national service registrants and serving national servicemen may opt for civilian service rather than military service at any time after they have been passed fit for national service and received their call-up notices, including - and let this be specially noted - any time whilst serving overseas. National service was introduced in Australia as an integral part of the defence programme, to increase the strength of the Regular Army to meet existing and foreseeable defence commitments at home and abroad. There is no other practical way of providing the Army with the 8,400 fit young men it requires annually. A secondary objective of the scheme is to provide, through stronger citizen forces, sufficient reserves of trained men to enable an adequate mobilisation scheme in time of emergency. These remain the purposes of the national service scheme. The proposals in the Bill would, in effect, extend national service beyond these purposes, to provide a degree of conscription for civilian service.
The overwhelming majority of young men liable for national service are carrying out their obligation of 2 years in the Army. Some men have conscientious objections to military service, and the National Service Act makes provision for them. Indeed, the treatment of conscientious objectors in Australia is more favourable than that in almost any other country. Men who satisfy the courts that they are conscientious objectors to all forms of military service - and no country accords the status of conscientious objector simply to those who claim it - are totally exempt from any service whatsoever, military or civilian. Elsewhere men are generally required to undertake approved civilian work in the national interest, in most instances for periods longer than the period they would be called upon to serve in the Army.
A handful of young men have refused, or have said they will refuse, to render the service required of them notwithstanding that they have not attempted, or have failed, to establish that they are conscientious objectors. If the purpose of the Bill is to provide a form of civilian service to accommodate these men, the plain truth is that a civilian alternative would not be acceptable to most of them. To date 3 out of almost 6,500 men who have been called up since the passage of the amending legislation last year have refused and have actually been imprisoned. One of them, shortly after his conviction, was released on licence and enlisted in the Army on his undertaking to render satisfactory service. Since then, I may say, he has gone absent without leave from the Army and has sent his commanding officer a telegram to say that he prefers civilian imprisonment. There are currently a small number of young men who are refusing to comply with the provisions of the Act in any way. It is worth noting that more than half of these object to all service, whether civilian or military, and only a few amongst them have actually expressed any interest in civilian service at all.
There are, too, practical considerations which are relevant to a scheme of civilian alternative such as that proposed in the Bill. Any alternative civilian service must surely be such that it would provide conditions, pay and so on comparable with that which would apply if the man performed his service in the Army. In equity to those who render their military service, it could scarcely be otherwise. Yet it is difficult to imagine any civilian service conditions being adequately comparable with those, for example, of combat troops. And remember that the Bill proposes that the period of civilian service would be the same as, and not longer than, the period of military service. Besides the difficult task which could be involved in organising civilian service, there are considerable enforcement problems of ensuring that men do in fact carry out satisfactorily the approved service. Bear in mind that men would be working in a civilian context and not subject to military discipline.
The effect on the Army cannot be overlooked. The immediate effect of introducing the civilian alternative scheme proposed in the Bill could be to reduce the range of skilled manpower available to the Army, with consequent increases in the Army’s training commitment and reduced productive service by national servicemen in the skilled Army trades, and to deny the Army the balanced proportion of intellectual quality now being inducted through national service, with a loss of valuable leadership potential.
Then there is the question of the constitutionality of the proposals. If they were construed as manpower control there would certainly not be a constitutional basis for them at the present time. Adoption of the proposals in the Bill, moreover, would increase the number of young men balloted in, the extent of the increase depending directly on the number who opted for civilian service. This fact will, I am sure, not be lost on young men who are liable to register for service, and on their families. There is no doubt whatever that the extra numbers involved would increase the disruption both of private life and of the economy generally which the Government has always been anxious to keep to the very minimum.
There is one further point. The Bill would apparently permit serving national servicemen to opt for civilian service at any time. There would be nothing to stop men who had completed all their long and extensive Army training, and who had reached the stage of operational preparedness, deciding to elect for civilian service when their unit was being reposted - or, for that matter, in the middle of an action in Vietnam or anywhere else. Imagine the effect on the efficiency and morale of the Army, quite aside from the waste of public money involved in the men’s training. Then all they would have to do would be to complete the balance of their period of 2 years in civilian service. In summary, the Government rejects the particular civilian service proposals contained in the Bill.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition proposes to extend the ground which would entitle a man to exemption as a conscientious objector. There are serious objections to this. Currently, a man whose conscientious beliefs do not allow him to engage in any form of military service - that is, military service of any kind at any time - is exempt from all service, whether military or civilian. Elsewhere, as I have pointed out, men are generally required to undertake approved civilian work in the national interest, in most cases for periods longer than the period of military service. Moreover, contrary to the restriction in some overseas countries, the Australian law does not require the conscientious belief to be of a religious character or part of the doctrines of a religion. Under the Bill before us, a person would be entitled to exemption - that is, he would not be required to undertake any service, civilian or military - provided he objected either generally or while particular circumstances, including a particular war or particular warlike operations, existed. There is no universal agreement on the philosophical bases of selective objection. Moreover, it is open to argument whether those who object to particular wars are motivated by conscience but are, in fact, exercising an intellectual or political choice.
All this aside, acceptance of selective objection could mean that if two conflicts were going on at the same time a man would be entitled to say that he had conscientious beliefs which did not allow him to serve in one theatre but did not prevent him from serving in another. One can imagine the task of administering military forces all of whose members could decide in which wars they would fight. Selective objection coul’d moreover, in principle, permit a man to serve in the armed forces of any country other than Australia, including those of an enemy country. It is, it might be added, open to the selective objector to opt for service in the citizen forces as an alternative to national service at the time he registers. Finally, no country, at least as far as we have been able to discover, has accepted selective conscientious objection. In short, it is a completely unworkable provision for the armed forces or for those being enlisted in them.
The Bill also seeks to change the procedure relating to conscientious objector applications in that where a man submits a first application for conscientious objection prior to call-up he could not be required to attend for medical1 examination pending the hearing of his application for exemption, including the opportunity to exercise his right of appeal if he so wishes. The present practice is that in his own interests my Department offers every man an opportunity to have a medical examination so that if he is found to be unfit he need not plead his case in court. Similarly a registrant who is granted deferment as a student may elect to have a court hearing postponed until his deferment expires or is about to expire and he has been found fit. In either case the decision is left to the registrant himself.
The Bill before us now would deprive the men of the option they now have of first testing their fitness for service. This Bill would take away the right of a man to be tested to see whether the provisions are likely to apply to him and would give him no choice. He would have to be medically examined in any case. Because in one way or another about 50% of those called up for medical examination do not pass that examination, many men do not enter the total process. Under this Bill, if a man expressed conscientious objection he would have to go right through the procedure relating to his case and would not have the option of a medical examination.
Furthermore, under arrangements agreed upon between the Army and my Department, where a man applies after enlistment to be registered as a conscientious objector and he has not had an application recently adjudicated upon, there is no question of his being forced to continue military service against the dictates of his conscience while the nature of his beliefs is still before the court. If he so requests, he is granted leave without pay until the hearing of the application, and he may be granted further periods of leave without pay in which to exercise his right of appeal or until his final appeal is determined. The proposal contained in the Bill would make it obligatory for the man to be granted leave without pay and he could be faced with a considerable period of unemployment as a result. Under present arrangements he may continue to serve for all or part of the time if he wishes and be employed on noncombatant duties. Thus, under present arrangements, his livelihood continues unimpaired.
In summary, the present administrative arrangements are more favourable to applicants seeking registration as conscientious objectors than are those contained in the Bill. Proposed sections 29D and 29E of the Bill would recast the procedural machinery for the determination of the status of applicants for registration as conscientious objectors. The essence of the proposal advanced by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition is that all applications in each State or Territory will be initially heard by the one commissioner with a right of appeal to the Full Bench of a Supreme Court of such State or Territory. Under present arrangements an application may be heard by any stipendiary or police magistrate throughout Australia so that the individual is within close reach of the place at which his application can be heard. He would be essentially on his own home ground where any witnesses he may wish to call are readily available. Should he be dissatisfied with the decision of the magistrate he may appeal to either a judge of the District Court or County Court or in certain States a judge of the Supreme Court. Should he still be dissatisfied he may take his case to the Full Bench of the Supreme Court on matters of law and, by special leave, on other grounds. Finally he may, with special leave, go to the High Court of Australia.
Let us look at how these arrangements have worked out in practice. From approximately 117,000 men balloted in up to 31st December last, of whom 32,000 have been called up and enlisted, 110 applications for non-combatant duties and 507 applications for total exemption have been determined. Of the non-combatant applications 90% have been successful, while four out of five applications for total exemption have been granted some form of recognition, and only one out of five has been totally rejected. Fewer than 100 applicants have appealed against a magistrate’s decision. A number of those who criticise the present arrangements appear to think that if a man claims he is a conscientious objector he should automatically be accepted in that, status. No country which recognises conscientious objection does this; in equity it could not be otherwise. Others who wish to change present procedures want different decisions in the case of those which are rejected. There is never any criticism where exemption is granted. One is prompted to ask: Would these people ever be satisfied? The real objection that is raised against our current procedures-
-Order! It now being 2 hours since the time fixed for the meeting of the House the debate is interrupted.
Suspension of Standing Orders
Motion (by Mr Erwin) - by leave - agreed to:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the consideration of Notice No. 1, General Business, being continued until 2.45 p.m.
– The real objection is not to the current procedures. Our current procedures for conscientious objection have a long history. They have evolved over a considerable period. They evolved particularly in the course of the last war under the regime of our political opponents and they were considerably liberalised with extra avenues of appeal, when the Act was amended by the Parliament last year. The real objection is from people who never would be satisfied until everybody who said that he was a conscientious objector - everybody who merely asserted the claim - was let through. That is the real essence of this argument. No system can be perfect, and no doubt those people who hold this view will continue to agitate until every man who merely asserts that he is a conscientious objector is able to evade his duty to his country. This is the core of the matter.
There is nothing to indicate that the proposals contained in this Bill would be in any practical way superior to the present arrangement. As the Deputy Leader of the Opposition has pointed out, to have one tribunal in each State would mean that decisions would rely initially on the judgment of one man in that State and not on the judgments of a variety of men, as is now the case. In the more decentralised States where at present cases may be heard expeditiously in local centres there would be considerable delays in cases coming on for hearing. Finally, there may be serious doubts as to the constitutionality of setting up a tribunal with the appeal structure envisaged by the Bill.
The Bill deals also with failure to render service and with the penalties for such failure. Since the reintroduction of national service in 1 965 a small number of men have refused to resort to the procedures provided for conscientious objection or have failed to establish claims for exemption on grounds of conscience. Others have simply refused to serve. When enlisted in the Army or if already in the Army these men have set themselves above the law. Representations were received from a number of bodies, including the Returned Services League and the Australian Council of Churches, requesting that these men be treated within a civil context and not allowed to remain under Army control. Honourable members will recall that last year the Government accordingly decided to provide for civil imprisonment rather than committal to the Army. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition accepts these arrangements, for he has not proposed their abolition, but he would reduce the penalty for refusal to render service from 2 years to 12 months. Adoption of this proposal would mean that with normal remissions the effective sentence for a first offender would be not more than 9 months. What must be recognised is that those who are willing to undertake national service are liable to serve for 2 years, which may include 12 months overseas. In equity, the period of a gaol sentence cannot be reduced below the present 2 years, particularly as remissions for good behaviour would mean that no first offender would serve more than 18 months.
The Bill proposes that proceedings for an offence under sections 51 and 51a of the National Service Act - the sections relating to failure to render service - should be brought in a court of summary jurisdiction which may commit the defendant for trial or, with his consent, determine the proceedings. Trial by jury in a prosecution for failure to render national service has become a political catch cry designed to deceive people. As honourable members will recall, this issue was canvassed extensively in the debate last year on the National Service Bill. The Government emphasised that the issues to be determined were whether a person was liable for service, whether he had been served with a call-up notice and whether he had failed to obey the call-up notice. Those issues are simple, straightforward and uncomplicated. They were determined by a court of summary jurisdiction and conviction led to committal to the custody of the Army. There seems to be no reason for modifying this approach, notwithstanding that the penalty has been altered.
The Bill provides for the deferment of call-up without apparent limit to all full time students in good academic standing in the organisation which they attend.
– Does the Minister disagree with that proposal?
– Wait and see. Apparently the interest of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition is confined to full time students. Apparently he is of the opinion that part time students - apprentices and other trainees currently covered by the deferment provisions- do not require any such provision. As honourable members know, the call-up of full time and part time students is deferred by the Minister subject to their making satisfactory progress until they obtain at least their primary qualifications or in the case of apprentices, until they complete their indentures. These arrangements, with the administrative flexibility that can meet a wide variety of circumstances, have worked well and to the greater advantage of young men generally than the proposals in the Bill could possibly work. In addition, it has become apparent recently that the few students - mainly those undertaking longer courses - who have failed part of their course or who started late would be unable to complete their course before reaching the age of 26 years, at which time their liability for service would have ceased. Accordingly, it has been decided to amend the regulations under the Act to extend the liability for call-up of such people beyond the normal age limit so that their studies will not be interrupted.
The proposals of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition are virtually to make all the deferment proposals statutory matters. In other words, the Minister would have no obligation. All the deferment arrangements would be set out carefully in the Act. Such a situation would be restrictive and would not allow the kind of flexibility that is now available to meet cases which arise from time to time. The character of deferment and the kinds of problems that arise change from lime to time. Under the current provisions we have been able to deal with those changes.
In summary, the Government does not support any of the provisions of the Bill, which we have examined very carefully to see whether, somewhere, there might be a grain of merit. But this search has failed. In some respects the provisions will be worse than the present arrangements for deferment, the treatment of those claiming conscientious objection to service, forced medical examinations, and so forth. So we reject the Bill. The Australian Labor Party, as emphasised again by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition - one never knows, but perhaps a slip provides for the future - is firmly opposed to national service, and many of its members endeavour to undermine and destroy it. This Bill is clearly designed to weaken it and thus reduce Australia’s armed strength.
We have in Australia unique problems in foreign affairs and defence, and the ideas which animate people in other countries and the propaganda to which they are subjected are in many respects quite inappropriate to the position in which we find ourselves. It has still not completely sunk into the national consciousness that we are alone in the world. We have powerful friends and allies, but fundamentally we are on our own. There are many developments in life in South East Asia in which our allies may be disinterested or in which they are uncommitted. The days when we could blow a whistle and call in great powers to come to our assistance have gone. We make arrangements to pursue a foreign policy so that we work in close conjunction with them, but fundamentally we are dependent on our own strength and our own preparations. We have problems of our own that we need to study from the Australian viewpoint instead of adopting thinking parallel to that applied to those problems that exist elsewhere. Particularly, we need a sizeable army that will be ready to meet all kinds of possible emergencies which could well arise quickly in the future and in far less time than it takes to train military forces. The need for an effective army is likely to grow more urgent rather than less urgent in the future. In this context we have to work out our relations with our friends and neighbours.
We are the most technically advanced country in the area of this world, but our numbers are few, and our strength and preparedness are key factors in the stability of the area and can alone win for us the respect which our position requires. It has proved quite impossible to raise an adequate army by voluntary means. This is due very largely to economic and sociological factors which operate in most advanced Western Countries. But the job has to be done and our youth, to whom the future belongs, in any case, have shown their willingness to serve, and have served magnificently, provided that the choice of those who serve and the burden of service are distributed fairly among them. In Australia there are strong forces which affect in considerable degree those who sit opposite and which are attempting positively to infect our youth with poisonous doctrines of a kind which, if they became widely accepted, would render our defence capacity completely ineffective and leave us quite impotent to take our proper part in the affairs of this area of the world. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition was reported on 17th February last as having said that a Labor government would try to establish reasonable defence arrangements with our South East Asian neighbours. That means defence pacts.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
– I am pleased to have the opportunity of following the honourable - I use the term advisedly - Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr Bury) who chose to turn himself into what one might term an attenuated insulting machine at the end of the debate. During the course of his last few remarks he said something like this: That in our opposition to the national service .system we were out to destroy the armed strength of Australia. I forget his exact words, but he also said that it was an attempt to infect the young men of Australia with poisonous doctrines. What manner of speech is that from a man who holds his commission from the Crown in a country which has been notably loyal, both collectively and individually, in which there has never been a traitor and in which, generally speaking, the citizens are basically law abiding and front up when they are called upon.
Of course, it seems that in this issue the Opposition is not alone in its stand. A large number of Australian people object to the national service system. It is a pity and a sad thing that the Government should resort to such insulting remarks and should descend to such gutter tactics in politics in an attempt to bolster up a case which has been based, in a large measure, on chance, caprice and what I would call national immorality. I want to make it clear that 1 have no time for those people in the military age group who are busily calling up other people to send to wars to which they will not go themselves. The ranks of the Liberal Party, the Australian Country Party and the Australian Democratic Labor Party are crowded with such people.
– That is quite wrong.
– The honourable member for Mallee interjects. He has colleagues in the age group who ought to be in Vietnam if they were dinkum. Yet honourable members opposite have the hide to come info this chamber and insult young Australians who say that they have a conscientious objection to serving in Vietnam. Our operation then is an attempt to make this system, much as we dislike it, work with some humanity, justice and equality throughout Australia. The Minister for Labour and National Service is charged with the duty of administering this system.
I remind the House that this is a special system. We are not dealing with car offences or with the theft of property. We are dealing with fundamental human factors - the lives of young Australians. The final price that we are asking from some members of this community is their own lives. Therefore, this is not just ordinary legislation. This is not just some system which we have to see is satisfactorily administered, where the people who sit in the bureaucracies of the country are able to say: ‘The file is completed, it is all tidy.’ It is a case in which we are dealing with something that transcends any other consideration in the community. It involves human lives. Therefore there cannot be any fooling with the system.
When we asked for a jury trial to be provided before people are confined to gaol for 2 years, the Minister said that there is no need for a jury; that it is all simple, straightforward and uncomplicated. This is an odd view of the British judiciary system. It was my understanding that no matter what the case was - no matter whether a person was blatantly guilty or was caught in the act or was apprehended in the street after a murder - he was still expected to go before a court and plead not guilty and the case had to be proven. That is the system that we have developed over the years. But in this instance these people are all guilty until they manage to prove their innocence. This is a system which is beginning to subvert not only the morality of the community and its approach to the system, but also judicial and administrative processes. It is starting to fragment the basic loyalty and strength of the community itself.
It is very difficult to argue from history. Honourable members opposite are inclined to come forward and say: ‘In the last war you did this and you did that’. In the last war we did a lot of things. There was a completely different set of circumstances. The Japanese were at the gates. The whole nation was in arms. At that time 750,000 people in Australia out of a population of 7 million volunteered to serve anywhere in the world. The proportion of volunteers was as great as it was in the First World War. But this is a different situation. This situation has been created by the foibles and fancies of the Government’s foreign policy. It has been created out of the Government’s incapacity to build up the armed services by any other system. The Minister argues that these young men who claim to be exempt from national service or who refuse to serve are setting themselves above the law. I do not think we want to elevate the law to something which is greater than human beings or the nation itself. Law is the creation of a number of law makers, and we are among those law makers. Law is only valid so long as it accepts certain principles. This has been well established in international policy since the Nuremberg trials. Therefore it is not a question of young men setting themselves above the law. It is a question of a fundmental division in the community.
A very large number of young men whom 1 know are at the present time deciding that they will not register for national service. I advise them to register. My own view about this matter is that national service has been part and parcel of the Australian pattern since 1910 or thereabouts. The act of registration does not mean anything in particular. It is what the Government does with people after they have registered that matters. I appeal to those people who happen to hear of any young men who are contemplating not registering to advise them that at least they ought to carry out the act of registration. It is then that they place themselves in the system which we are now attempting to amend in order to give them a better chance. I happened to represent a young man named John Zarb who is presently in Pentridge prison. The fate of John Zarb is so different from that of the young Liberals who sit in this place and others who come to Liberal conventions in Canberra. John Zarb is incarcerated in Pentridge prison which is a few hundred yards from my office. He will be there for another 18 months or so. He has been treated as a common criminal. Some people may say that he is a criminal. As a matter of fact, he has not committed a crime. Somehow in our community, with all the facilities wc have at our disposal and with the background of basic humanity which has been developed in law and order and everything else, we ought to be able to find some system which does not confuse the enforcement of law with punishment for a crime. John Zarb is a few yards from the scaffold on which Robert Ryan was hanged a couple of years ago. John Zarb is incarcerated with criminals who have committed all manner of crimes.
There must be some other way. Some other way must be found. We are attempting to find that way. lt would be presumptuous of us to say that we know exactly what the answer is. But we believe that the national service system ought to be administered with more humanity and common sense and a greater appreciation of the fact that this community is not united behind the kind of law which we are attempting to amend this afternoon. The Minister himself admitted that the Returned Services League, the World Council of Churches and a large number of leaders in the community generally agree that there ought to be some change in the system. But with all the administrative capacity at his disposal-
– The change for which they asked has been made.
– The only change which the Minister tried to make last year was to try to turn this country into a police state. He introduced legislation into this chamber. If there had not been a tremendous public outcry he would have inflicted upon every family in Australia the duty to pimp upon their sons. That is the manner of morality which the Minister brings into this chamber.
– I referred to their request to substitute civilian for military service.
– If we could only substitute something for the Minister we would get along all right. This system is one of the moral challenges in the community, lt is true that the community is torn about it. In my own electorate, over one half of the people voted against the system. All over Australia, only about 40% of the people gave their absolute charter to the Liberal Party. In totality throughout Australia, a large proportion of the people do not like the national service system. They do not like the way in which it is administered. They would like to see it altered. We are challenging it at this stage. We have a Government which, through its foreign policy, has inflicted upon us our adventure in Vietnam. What are we going to do about it? The measure of humanity and civilisation is how the majority treats the minority when the majority finds the minority largely at odds with it. - There is a serious division which is not something to be treated lightly. The National Service Act has not accepted that this division exists.
The Minister himself may well have attempted to find an alternative to military service, but the failure of his Cabinet colleagues and others to find some satisfactory alternative to military service in this context shows that they lack the common sense and morality which is necessary to deal with a democratic community at a time of such crisis. 1 believe that this is one of the moral challenges with which Australia has been faced but which we have failed to meet, lt is true that the system is historic. We saw it in 1910. We had the system during the 1939-1945 war. We had the 1951 system. Now we have the 1964 affliction which introduced conscription for overseas service. Tremendous injustices exist in that system. The Minister has said that we must get some equality. How can we get equality in a system in which some names come out of a barrel but the great proportion of names do not? What is it? Some 8,000 out of a total of approximately 100,000 who enter the age group every year are to be called up. The other 90.000-odd will go their regular ways. They will go to our universities. They will go to our beaches. They will have Christmas at home. Some will have Christmas in Vietnam. One or two will have Christmas in prison. What kind of equality is that? It is a disastrous system. It is an immoral system.
– It happened in the last war.
– 1 am not surprised that the honourable member supports it. He has no sense of equality or justice. We have only to see how the electoral system that his party has foisted upon the country works to understand that. He has no idea of equality or justice or humanity. He is one of the hangers, the (loggers and the riggers of ballots in Australian political life. 1 say that I cannot expect much indeed from the honourable member. But there is an obvious lack of public support for this system. What did the Minister for Labour and National Service say in his arguments against the Bill that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, the honourable member for Bass (Mr Barnard), put forward? He said first of all that difficulties of administration arose. Then there were questions of constitutionality. Then, bless me, he referred to difficulties for the Army. He also said that there were great inequalities. 1 think it would be worthwhile for honourable members opposite to listen to this. We say that provision ought to be made in the Act for objection to a particular war. There ought to be a better method of determining who is a conscientious objector. There ought to be an Australia wide system that accords the same treatment to a person in Perth as is accorded a person in Brisbane. The honourable member for Bass showed from the figures he presented that there is a differential between the degrees of chance a person had of being accepted as a conscientious objector in Melbourne and in Perth. We object to the savagery of the penalties. Not one honourable member opposite can justify 2 years in Pentridge prison for the man who says: ‘I will not serve in a particular war’. There is something wrong with the Government if it cannot find an alternative answer.
– How many people did the honourable member sentence when he commanded his battalion?
– I was an NCO and an officer in our Army for most of the war. I think I put only two people on charges during all that time. But they all turned out on parade when they were supposed to. The trouble with people like the honourable member is that he is unable to get people to face up to their duties in these matters. So, the Government has to get out the whip. In this case it brings charges under this Act. We must find some alternative to this savage penalty of 2 years in gaol. Take a look at today’s newspapers. See what happens to the young men who are charged with assault and battery and with theft, or see what happens to the man who robs people of some S20m or S30m. That man gets only 9 months gaol in the same prison as the conscientious objector who must serve 2 years.
We want to see an alternative type of service. The Minister for Labour and National Service said that there are great difficulties. Indeed there are, but we ought to be able to overcome those difficulties. The Minister says that this is done in other countries. Of course, there is a tendency on the part of honourable members opposite to say that compulsory service or national service of this type overseas is both universal in time and in application. The Minister says that everybody has to do it. If this is so, why is it that Britain and Canada are able to get into their armies and other branches of their Services a higher proportion of volunteers than we feel we need? What is it that the Canadian and British do that they are able to fulfil their duties and obligations to their armed Services without this kind of threat?
– A Labor government did it during the last world war.
– That is right. What ha* happened to the community? One of the proudest things about the Australian community is that when the challenges were there a great mass of the community volunteered. I have nol the figures here. But I looked up the figures once and f. think that back in 1916 36,000 people volunteered for service in the month of July. Honourable members will recall how, during the last war, in 1940 and 1941 thousands of people poured into our Services. One in 9 of the Australian community volunteered to serve anywhere in the world during the last war. This time, the Government cannot get 8,000 men per year. Of course, if the Government had any sense or humanity it would say that there is something wrong wilh the policy that these people are expected to carry out.
So this afternoon we are asking the House to take a second and closer look at the National Service Act. What do we want to see? First, we want to see liberalised the system by which a person is defined as a conscientious objector. We want to see the definition brought to some basic equality so that a person gets the same treatment wherever he is. We do not think that the general system of hearings by magistrates in Australia is adequate for this to be done. We believe that the terminology required makes it impossible for the 20- year-old to prove his case. The young man of 20 may be a plumber or a plumber’s apprentice. He may be a builder’s labourer. All he knows is that he does not like war. He hates the idea of it. He does not want to serve. He has not been given much chance in life. He has left school at the age of 14 years or 15 years. He is not notably literate. How can he prove his case in court?
The Government must do much better. The penalties must be changed. The Minister asked: ‘What if we had two wars on at once?’ Of course, this would be fantastic for any other government, but this Government feels that possibly it might be trying to fight two wars at once, so we all might like to dash off and serve in Europe instead of the Middle East. What rubbish the Minister talks. All we are asking is for the Government to turn the intellectual capacity which we know is at the disposal of the Government, even if it is not in its ranks, on to the problem of finding alternative service. I am not convinced that the Government cannot find some satisfactory system which will give people a civilian alternative.
The Minister referred to the problems arising constitutionally. But section 51 of the Constitution states that the Parliament shall have power to make laws for the peace, order and good government of the Commonwealth with respect to: (vi.) The naval and military defence of the
Commonwealth and of the several States, and the control of the forces ! to execute and maintain the laws of the Commonwealth.
Nobody can be sure that it is exactly the defence of Australia that is involved in Vietnam. If the Government can call people up and put them in uniform, it can call them up and put them on the end of a shovel. After all, the Government does not have any difficulty in getting the whips out under its conciliation and arbitration legislation to make sure that everybody gets to work when it wants them to work. Therefore the Government will not have any difficulty in coercing people into this field. All the Government needs to do is to bring a little imagination to work or to get somebody with some imagination to do it.
– It is always a great problem to follow the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant). I sympathise with him in that both he and I have only 15 minutes and we must make a rush of words to try to say all that we want to say in that time. But, unfortunately, the honourable member for Wills flips from bough to bough. In following him, one must pick out what one will answer. The honourable member began his speech with an impassioned plea that surely the Government and the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr Bury) would have the brains to work out some system of alternative employment in respect of the national service issue. I wonder whether the honourable member is aware of what he said previously when he comes here and says what he has said today; or does what he says just come bubbling out as gas does from a Bass Strait oil well? His remarks today will be in Hansard. I remind him of what he is quoted as saying in the Melbourne Age’ of 19th December 1968, only two months ago. The heading of the article is: Labour Slams Civil Role for Objector’. It reads:
Proposals by the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr Bury) to provide conscientious objectors with civil alternatives to national service were attacked by Labor front benchers last night
That is an inaccuracy because the honourable member for Wills is not a Labor front bencher, nor do I think he ever will be. The article continues:
The Labor MP for Wills, Mr G. M. Bryant, commented: ‘It looks as though the Government intends to put a pick and shovel into the hands of young men who at present are totally exempted from national service because of their objection to war.
If the proposals are approved by Cabinet, I am afraid they will become a form of civil conscription on public works for 20-year olds.’
If he said that in December, why the devil is he saying what he said today?
The second point that I would like to make is that in his impassioned plea the honourable member for Wills said that we in this country and in the Australian Labor Party have been fighting earnestly year after year for the rights of individuals, for trial by jury, and so on. I have taken a few extracts from Hansard of 1942 when a Labor Government was in power and when there was industrial conscription and the Civil Construction Corps. In Hansard of that time we find that such people as Mr Calwell, who is the present right honourable member for Melbourne, were asking about rights of appeal. We find that Mr Lazzarini was saying that there was no right of appeal and that indeed the decision of the departmental head was final. Mr Ward, as Minister for Labour and National Service of the time, in answer to a question by Mr Rosevear said: ‘No, there is no appeal to a higher court. It is summary jurisdiction’. If we read these speeches we find that everything that honourable members of the opposition are saying they stand for was not applicable during that time.
I was intrigued to hear the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard)the supremo of the Labor Party and the man who is to control the armies that will protect Australia in the future - say that a person employed in any civil organisation that we propose should be paid at the same rate as the serviceman. Honestly I had the greatest hollow laugh at that and I should think that everybody who was living and conscious during the last war would have been similarly affected. What happened when the Civil Construction Corps was formed? There were strikes and refusals by unionists to work with men who were paid at under award rates. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition knows full well that once his plan became operative strikes and other moves would take place and there would be demands that certain rates of pay should be applied to the poor people who were being sent to work with grape pickers up at Mildura and to dance with wine maidens at night as an alternative to serving with the blokes who had to go to Vietnam. However, let us finish with this.
What is happening in Australia at this moment? Some of the comments of the honourable member for Wills are quite true. There is concern in this country. There is a lack of awareness of what may be in front of us and what we may have to face up to as well as of what is happening both outside Australia and in some spheres inside Australia. I personally believe that what the Minister for Labour and National Service said about people in Australia acting not necessarily in the best interests of Australia was quite true. I have in my possession a cutting from the ‘Sun’ of 26th November 1968. It is interesting to refer back to see the origin of this campaign. Certain left wing trade unions met in Victoria. They were headed by a Mr Carmichael, an innocent enough sounding name, but he happens to be the Communist secretary of the Amalgamated Engineering Union. It is the proud boast of the Australian Labor Party that its members do not associate with Communists. Members of that Party get indignant and demand the withdrawal of comments about their association with Communists, but they never withdraw from meetings at the Trades Hall in protest because Communists are in attendance.
According to this newspaper cutting the right honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Calwell) was present as the leading speaker. A photograph accompanying the article shows that among those present was Mr Goldbloom of the ANZ Peace Corps. At that meeting reference was made to letters from the World Council of Churches - letters written by the Reverend Mr Silverwood. Every time the honourable member for Yarra (Dr J. F. Cairns) wants a debate on any impartial subject it is suggested that the Reverend Silverwood should be the independent umpire. Frankly, I would just as soon have a taipan snake if it were a question of impartiality.
Let us further examine this organisation which was set up by the left wing trade unions - not by any means by the full trade union movement and not supported by the full trade union movement. The right honourable member for Melbourne addressed the meeting. It is interesting to note that a telegram from the National Liberation Front in Hanoi - the political arm of the Vietcong - was read at the rally. That was wonderful, and it puts the Labor Party in perspective. They got congratulations from Hanoi. Fair enough! The right honourable member for Melbourne congratulated Zarb for defying the call-up.
Then the honourable member for Wills talked about how he knew so many young men who were not going to register. Of course he does. There is this little group, which is one of the prize possessions of this country, which is given the greatest publicity in our national newspapers. It is run by Mr Harry Van Moorst. These are the gentlemen who are advertising: ‘If you want to register against conscription and if you want to play a part in this organisation come and see us at some secret meeting place’. Surely that puts this in perspective.
What worries me is that in the 9 years I have been a member of the Parliament I have never heard a member of the Labor Party say anything concerning better conditions for the bloke who is serving. I have never heard members opposite protest at what is not being done for the national servicemen in Vietnam. I have never seen members of the Labor Party in attendance at any of the national service passing out parades. Do I. ever see the national newspapers give any publicity to the bloke who is accepting his obligations and is serving in Vietnam? If we examine the questions on the notice paper we find that the Labor Party wants to know how many national servicemen have been in Vietnam and how many have been wounded in comparison with regular soldiers. In my opinion, in the Labor Party’s book the regular soldier is the greatest fool ever, because members opposite never ask how many times he has served in Vietnam. They are not interested in the fact that the regular soldier might be returning from his third tour of duty whereas the national serviceman, if he is selected, serves one term only in Vietnam. I ask members opposite to look at their questions and to tell me what they are interested in.
On 8th December 1 was at a parade at Puckapunyal of 1,100 of our finest young Australians. They were marching out. There was not one photograph of that passing out parade in the Press. Not one piece of publicity was given to it. If Australia wants to make these young men feel that what they are doing is worth while it is time they were paid some attention. Let members of the Opposition rise and say that if a man is called up for national service and does go to Vietnam he should be entitled not to one year’s rehabilitation at a university but, if he is worthy, to a full course, because he has earned it. However, I do not hear such suggestions from the Opposition. Let me refer again to the passing out parade at Puckapunyal. I arrived at the camp at about 10.30 a.m. I had been told that representatives of the Save Our Sons movement and other organisations supported by the Labor Party would be present to protest. The parade commenced at 11 o’clock. When I arrived there was not a sign of a Save Our Sons member in the whole area. I said to the adjutant: ‘Where is the Save Our Sons movement?’ He said: ‘They were here at 7 o’clock. They had their photograph taken and went home’. In other words they were given publicity throughout the country. They were not protesting; they went to have their photograph taken.
– Your organisations is ‘Shoot Our Sons’.
– I admit that your group has the organisation but I think it is time that the Australian people recognised the situation. I emphaises that 1,100 soldiers got no publicity at all. All I can say is that national service was introduced for one reason and one reason only.
– That is a very considered remark. Australia has a need for a strong defence force for as far as we can see into the future. It may be said that national service trainees go in for only 2 years, but when they come out they go on a reserve. I am not suggesting that it is a formed reserve but it is easier in an emergency or crisis to bring ‘back a soldier who has had training than it is, as was done in the last war, to pull men out of the streets, give them rifles and uniforms and send them into war without any training. This should never happen again.
When honourable members opposite refer to the Returned Services League let them be aware of what the RSL is suggesting. It was not what the Deputy Leader of the Opposition said. If members read the statement from the RSL they will see that it suggests that ultimately there should be full conscription - that ultimately every 20- year-old should be called up and should have an obligation to serve this country. This is not what the Deputy Leader of the Opposition said; this is not what he implied.
I think if members examine the situation they will see that the national service system is working. 1 ask the honourable member for Wills: How many of your loyal protesters who have the Hanoi flag emblazoned on their clothing have been national servicemen who have been drafted to Vietnam and have returned? I would feel there was more power to all these protests if the people who had been compelled to go came back and said: ‘I now know it is wrong’. I have not seen one such person, but I have seen people of the ilk of those opposite who are hollow chested, who would not pass a medical examination-
– Order! The time for the consideration of General Business has expired. The honourable member for La Trobe will have leave to continue his speech when the debate is resumed. The resumption of the debate will be made an order of the day under General Business for the next sitting.
– I claim to have been misrepresented. The honourable member for La Trobe (Mr Jess) mentioned something that was quoted in the Melbourne Press back in December about compulsory civilian service for conscientious objectors. The points we made were that there were three facets concerned - military service itself, conscientious objection absolutely and alternative service. My objection on that occasion was to the compulsory civilian work for people who would ordinarily have been exempted as conscientious objectors. If that was not clear, f am sorry.
– by leave - I present the following paper:
Report of the Delegation from the Common wealth of Aust t atia Branch of the Commonweal th Parliamentary Association to the Fourteenth Commonwealth Parliamentary Conference held in Nassau in October and November 1968. and move:
Thai the House lake note of the paper.
The report deals with the Conference in (he Bahamas, the meeting of the General Council, the general meeting of the Association, the visit to the Bahamas and the subsequent visit to Canada. 1 was privileged to lead the delegation, my colleagues being the honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Daly), Senator Dittmer, the honourable member for Parkes (Mr Hughes), the honourable member for Stirling (Mr Webb) and Senator Webster. We also invited the delegates from the States to confer with us and present a united Australian view. The Clerk of the House of Representatives accompanied the delegation in his capacity as Honorary Secretary of the Commonwealth of Australia Branch and did an amazing amount of work to assist the members both individually and collectively. I feel sure delegates will agree he was the mainstay of a most successful conference. The honourable member for Fawkner (Mr Howson) attended the meetings of the General1 Council and took part in the Conference proceedings by virtue of his office of Chairman of the Executive Committee of the General Council. I very much appreciate the co-operation that I received from my co-delegates to the Conference, particularly from the deputy leader of the delegation, the honourable member for Grayndler, who is now at the table. It was very good teamwork indeed.
There were 120 delegates representing sixty-four branches of the Association attending the Conference in addition to the office bearers of the General’ Council, observers from five subsidiary branches, delegates from the associated groups of the Association in the United States of America and the Republic of Ireland and Secretaries of branches. Delegates arrived in Nassau on 26th October and left on 9th November. Nine days were devoted to the Conference, meetings of the General Council and of the Executive Committee and 3 days were spent in a visit to four of the principal islands in the group of 700 in the Bahamas. The Conference itself was opened on 1st November by His Excellency, the Governor. In inviting His Excellency to open the Conference, the Prime Minister, the Hon. L. O. Pindling, emphasised the importance of 1968 as marking the immediate step towards the creation of the Commonwealth of the Bahamas Islands. He said the Bahamas were at the dawn of nationhood in which they would play a fuller role as a member of the Commonwealth of Nations. He had come to appreciate all that for which the Commonwealth and the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association stood.
The broad headings of the subjects discussed in plenary sessions were ‘World Security’, ‘Problems of Economic Growth’ and ‘Racial Harmony or Conflict’. The subjects discussed in the two Committees, which met concurrently, were ‘Aid: How Effective?’ and ‘Parliamentary Government: Where is it Heading?’ There were nine plenary sessions, morning and afternoon, and two Committee sessions. The subject of ‘Racial Harmony or Conflict’ was the result of an item submitted by the Australian Branch for inclusion in the agenda of the Conference - that is, ‘Immigration Policies throughout the Commonwealth’ - and was undoubtedly one which aroused the greatest interest and in which strong emotions were evident. My colleagues and I took part in the discussions on all the subjects, whether in plenary session or in Committee, and I feel sure our contributions effectively presented Australia’s point of view.
In discussing ‘World Security’, there was agreement that the first thing was to consider the Commonwealth against the background of world security. The Commonwealth is not the United Nations and the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association does not seek to rival its activities but it seeks, nevertheless, to make an impact on world opinion. The Commonwealth has no central legislative authority and is certainly not an armed camp. Its members enjoy de facto independence and equality in status and such common policy as exists within the Commonwealth is forged by bilateral and multilateral agreements reached in meetings of Presidents and Prime Ministers. These meetings create understanding over wide areas but I am ‘ convinced that the Conferences of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association provide the most meaningful forum for members of Commonwealth Parliaments. Some delegates thought that Communism would not be halted by arms but by social and economic development but many expressed a contrary view, stressing that militant Communism is the real danger in the world today.
The British Government came under strong criticism by a number of delegates in relation to Rhodesia. The leader of the
Zambia delegation said that Britain’s decision not to use force had encouraged the Rhodesia Prime Minister in bis policies. He said that the principle that independence could not be granted to Rhodesia before majority rule had become a reality could not be realised without the use of force. On the other hand, many delegates strongly opposed the use of force and expressed the fear that a war could not be limited to central Africa but would involve the whole continent. Others questioned the logic of condemning military action in Vietnam while demanding military action by Britain in Africa. The British delegates confirmed that the use of force would not be contemplated not only for the reasons stated by the other delegates but because it was extremely doubtful whether the British electorate would accept such a policy.
The twin subjects of ‘Problems of Economic Growth’ and ‘Aid - How Effective’ produced many speakers who had undoubtedly made a deep study of these subjects and obviously had a keen interest in promoting the welfare of the Commonwealth, particularly the welfare of the developing countries. Of significance was the disappointment expressed with the results of UNCTAD II which had done much but, despite its efforts, there had been no improvement in the growth rate in developing countries as a whole during the past IS years. Of interest, too, were the statements that population growth, debt servicing and other factors had largely absorbed aid. The public debt of ninety-six of the less developed countries had increased by 28% in the period 1964-67. Delegates, however, found fresh hope from the statement by the World Bank that, during the next 5 years, the Bank Group would lend twice as much as during the previous 5 years. There was considerable agreement among the Australian delegates that the basic problem was the price fluctuations which constantly bedevilled primary producers. Subsidies can be no more than palliatives and are no substitute for a generally agreed Commonwealth policy.
An underlying theme was the urgent need to narrow the widening gap between the rich and the poor countries. The developed countries within the Commonwealth were praised for the assistance they had given but regret was expressed that even the modest United Nations target of 1% of a country’s gross national product be devoted to aid had not yet been universally achieved. A strong preference was expressed by delegates from the developing countries for multi-lateral assistance but it was pointed out that countries with balance of payments problems could not easily justify to their electors the use of their aid for the purchase of another country’s exports. Many delegates said that the benefits of aid were, in many cases, negatived by the brain drain and the crippling effect when top professional and technically trained personnel left for more affluent societies where salaries and living standards are higher.
Delegates with a particular interest in and knowledge of parliamentary government took part in this discussion in committee. No delegate was brave enough to contradict a statement by a woman delegate from the United Kingdom who said that parliamentary democracy had not started in Britain until women were given a vote. Considerable emphasis was placed on methods of overcoming the remoteness of the people from parliament by such means as the broadcasting of proceedings, the promotion of wide Press coverage and other provisions such as encouraging school children to view proceedings from public galleries. A Canadian delegate was given considerable support when he pleaded for greater attention to be paid to local government as a means of training people of all levels and ensuring a greater amount of information on parliament. It was clear that delegate* agreed that parliamentary democracy is the only form of government which ensured the protection of the rights of the people.
The discussion on ‘Racial Harmony or Conflict’ was undoubtedly the most lively and the Prime Minister, Mr Pindling, no doubt had this in view when, at the opening ceremony, he said:
The agenda is like life in the Bahamas Islands, spicy and provocative.
Many extreme statements were made in the heat of debate and I would hope thai many of these were later regretted by the delegates themselves. I was struck by a statement of a United Kingdom delegate that the greatest bloodshed occurred, in fact, between peoples of different ideologies rather than peoples of different races and in this connection he instanced the wars in Korea, Vietnam and Nigeria.
The immigration policy in Australia was criticised, but my colleague, the honourable member for Grayndler, made it clear that any person, whatever his race or colour, with the required skills and qualifications is eligible to enter the country and be granted citizenship. My colleagues emphasised that Australia does not agree with immigration wholly at the bottom of the social and labour scales and that our aim is an integrated community and one in which immigrants would take their place at every level of society according to the skills which they possessed. Despite the somewhat emotional nature of the discussion, there was general agreement that every country had the right to formulate its own immigration policy in the interests of its economic and social wellbeing.
Three meetings of the General Council were held and were attended by myself as the Branch representative on the Council and by the honourable member for Fawkner in his capacity as Chairman of the Executive Committee of the Council. A wide range of matters were discussed which were of considerable interest to branches. At the general meeting a tribute was paid to the memory of the Right Honourable Harold Holt and, as a mark of respect, all delegates stood in silence. On behalf of the Australian delegates, I expressed appreciation of this action by the Conference and of the widespread sympathy throughout the world at the loss of a great Australian.
The report which I have tabled expresses the thanks of the delegation to the Prime Minister of the Bahamas, his Government, the Bahamas Branch and the many people who went out of their way to ensure that the Conference and the visit was the success which it undoubtedly was. 1 would like to refer particularly to Mr Jack Smith, Clerk of the House of Assembly and the Secretary of the Bahamas Branch.
By invitation of the Canadian Branch, the Australian Branch delegates visited Canada at the conclusion of the Nassau Conference and were the guests of the Canadian Branch at Toronto and Ottawa over the period 9th- 14th November 1968. We met many Canadians in many walks of life - Parliament, Government, commerce and industry - and saw much of great interest. We were privileged on the final evening to take part in a discussion in the Commonwealth Room at Parliament House on ‘Australia and Canada in World Affairs’. The subject was opened by the Honourable Paul Martin, Government Leader in the Senate and former Minister for External Affairs, and many members of the Canadian Parliament and of the Australian delegation spoke to this subject which ranged over the many aspects of international affairs in which both countries have a deep concern. We were most grateful to the Canadian Branch for all that they did and for the hospitality which they extended.
We returned to Australia completely convinced of the value of Commonwealth Parliamentary Conferences in bringing parliamentarians together for an exchange of views on matters of vital interest to the Commonwealth of Nations and its member countries. There are differences of opinion vehemently and emotionally expressed but in this there is much of the essence of Commonwealth and in the result there is a blending of thoughts and beliefs and a growth of understanding which must be reflected in the proceedings of the many Parliaments. The Commonwealth Parliamentary Association is the one link between the parliaments of the Commonwealth of Nations and has an important part to play in this field. Its progressive development should be supported at all levels by parliaments and governments.
- Mr Acting Speaker, I wish to support the remarks of the honourable member for Bennelong (Sir John Cramer), the leader of the delegation, in tabling the report of the 14th Commonwealth Parliamentary Conference at Nassau in the Bahamas. I feel sure the sentiments that the honourable member has expressed are shared by every member of the delegation. In that respect I believe that the report itself is a tribute to the leader of the delegation and to the secretary, the Clerk of the House, who devoted much, valuable time to compiling the report I believe also that the speech made by the honourable member for Bennelong not only completely covers the many and varied discussions that took place but also presents impartially and quite objectively the views of the conference which will be of interest to all honourable members of this Parliament.
To my mind the summaries that have been given are quite fair. They give, I think one can say, a short review of some of the very difficult subjects that were debated over a number of days. I know that some of my fellow delegates will endorse this report even in these days of turbulence in the Parliament.
I would not like honourable members to think that I am indulging in some backscratching but I believe that we are indebted to the honourable member for Bennelong for his leadership of the delegation. He was able to do what it is not possible in this Parliament to do - restore harmony from time to time when things become slightly turbulent. I believe that each member of the delegation played his part. Whilst we are privileged to speak and would be within our rights in speaking independently at conferences of this nature I think that, by adopting a spirit of compromise, we were able to present a reasonably united view. This was except on questions such as Vietnam and others where there are broad differences of opinion. But I think that we were able to present in a collective way the Australian point of view. I consider that was good, because I believe that it is better to be able to see who is up with you than to know who is in front.
I believe we had some stimulating debaters in our delegation including Senator Dittmer, who I thought at one stage might involve us in another war besides the one in Vietnam. He made one or two provocative statements, but subsequently we managed to calm down things. It looked at one stage, however, as though Rhodesia might not be the only problem country we would have to deal with. But I believe the leader of our delegation will agree that not only Senator Dittmer, but also my colleague, the honourable member for Stirling (Mr Webb), the honourable member for Parkes (Mr Hughes) and Senator Webster all made valuable contributions to the debates on the various subjects.
T would also like to add my tribute to the other expressions of appreciation that have been extended to the Clerk of the
House of Representatives, who not only did splendid work in organising and participating in the conference as an official, but also bandied the affairs of our delegation from the time we arrived in the Bahamas until we left. He performed his task in a way which won the admiration of all members of the delegation. The work that he has done on the reports and the presentation of matters of importance to the delegation and to the Parliament deserves the commendation of us all.
As one who has been in many difficult situations I found it very handy to have the honourable member for Fawkner (Mr Howson), who officiated as Chairman of the Executive Committee of the General Council, occupying the chair at various times when I wanted the call. It appeared that at such times the honourable member, who was, of course, carrying out his duties as Chairman in a most impartial way, happened to notice me and give me the call. I believe that Australia was privileged to have the honourable member on the General Council, and I believe he upheld with great dignity, decorum and ability that very high position to which he had been elected.
I believe the agenda for the conference was, as the Prime Minister of the Bahamas said, spicy and provocative. The Commonwealth Parliamentary Association is to be congratulated on not sweeping under the carpet, as it were, subjects that are spicy and provocative. When one goes to a conference of this kind and discusses matters like immigration, the war in Vietnam, racial harmony or conflict and world security, one encounters many differences of opinion. I suppose it was because of my nature that I had the task of dealing with the subject of racial harmony or conflict. At times the debate became a little heated, but -that was inevitable in a discussion on such a subject. I must say, in fairness to all the people there, that on a subject that was certainly explosive they endeavoured to present points of view which they thought would help in solving the problem. I believe the debate on that subject was a good one. While the problem involved was a contentious, provocative and human one, it is good that we were able to discuss it in surroundings which one enjoys only at conferences. The bitternesses of years gone by inevitably come to the top in discussions of this nature, but our view was fairly and impartially presented by all the Australian delegates who participated in the debate. I do not think we lost anything in that debate. Our point of view was respected and I think it is now better understood.
I think all members of our delegation who participated in the debates on economic growth and world security, on aid, and on parliamentary government and the way it is heading, had valuable contributions to make, because, to the credit of our country, we are doing a good deal in respect of all those issues. We were able to put an Australian point of view which I believe won commendation from all1 delegates. The matters under discussion were stimulating and certainly provocative. Occasionally one had the feeling of being at a political rally as some of the barbs came over, but there were some lighthearted people present who, while making effective contributions, were still able to calm down what sometimes looked like being fairly lively discussions. 1 woul’d like to endorse the sentiments that have been expressed and to say that I think the conference was very valuable. Although I have been in this Parliament a long time, this was the first CPA conference I had attended. I thought that with the range of subjects that were discussed the people present were given an opportunity to get their teeth into matters of real importance. Not only were we able to obtain valuable background information; we also had an opportunity to see what is happening in other parts of the world and to tell others what we ourselves are doing. I believe conferences of this nature are of great value to everybody, and particularly to members of the Parliament. If they do nothing else they demonstrate the changing face of what was once known as the British Empire. On such occasions one sees taking place changes which it is difficult to visualise except when participating in a conference with the other representatives of the sixty-four branches. One can see the changes that are taking place and hear the various points of view. One can realise the poverty that exists in some countries and the difficulties that those countries have to face. One can understand readily how far Australia itself has progressed. lt is interesting to sit at such a con ference and hear of a kingdom of 85,000 or 100,000 people, a place which would bc perhaps a quarter the size of the area administered by many local councils, and of the problems faced in keeping that country going. On the map the place looks as big as one’s fingernail. One realises immediately how big our country is and how small some others are.
Apart from the conference itself I think our visit did a lot of good for the Australian delegates. One gets to know other members of the Australian Parliament better than one can hope to do in the conflict of debate in this place. In fact I began to think that the honourable member for Parkes was not a bad chap. If the conference did nothing else, it served to bring us closer together, and in this way it made a contribution to the betterment of parliamentary affairs.
I summarise by saying that it was a valuable conference. The Bahamian Government is to be congratulated on the hospitality that it extended to us. I do not know how we would have got there if that Government had not been meeting the costs, as it were, because it is certainly an expensive country to live in. But the Bahamian Government never stinted anything. We were entertained, not lavishly but very generously, by those responsible for the conduct of the conference. For my part I can say - and I think I speak for other delegates on this side, although they will probably have something to say later - that it was a splendid opportunity to meet the representatives of other countries and learn of their problems. We were told something of their history and of their hopes for the future. We had an opportunity to consider in what ways we could contribute to their welfare as well as to the general welfare of the British Commonwealth.
Without being over-optimistic I hope that possibly at some time in the future I may again be selected to attend one of these conferences. I have attended other conferences. Looking across the chamber I see a former conference colleague, the Minister for Immigration (Mr Snedden). We attended an InterParliamentary Union conference together. Conferences of the IPU and CPA and other conferences give parliamentarians opportu nities that would not be available to them unless those organisations were supported by Australian governments of all political colours, and unless the various host governments, such as the Bahamian Government on this occasion, extended their hospitality. These conferences are just as valuable, I think, to the host governments as they are to the visiting delegates, because those governments have the opportunity to show us how their countries are progressing, and they can hear of our development. Their representatives also like to visit other countries, as they will be visiting our country, I believe, for the next conference, which will be held in 1971.
I congratulate the leader and the secretary of our delegation. I am delighted to have participated in a conference which was an invaluable one. I must not forget to mention the tremendous hospitality of the Canadian delegation which provided a splendid wind-up to the CPA conference, provided me with some invaluable background to Canadian affairs and gave me the opportunity of seeing what is happening in Canada and of learning of developments in that great country.
– I would like to endorse warmly the remarks made by the honourable member for Bennelong (Sir John Cramer) and by my friend, the honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Daly). I was going to commence by saying that this conference was an educative experience for everyone in the Australian delegation and that we all came away, if not wiser, at least better informed about a lot of subjects. But I must make an exception to that statement in the case of the honourable member for Grayndler because he said he came away from the conference appreciating me a little better. He was therefore wiser. Adversity makes strange but interesting bed fellows. Of course, I am speaking purely in a figurative sense. I pay a special tribute to those members of the delegation who came from the ranks of the Opposition. I say without any equivocation that, while they in no sense allowed their viewpoints to be submerged or overridden - knowing them in this place one would not expect them to do so - by the Government viewpoint, which was put by members who came from the Government side of the two Houses, they were very tolerant to Government members and allowed us to put the Government’s case without any carping or personal or undue criticism. I think this did much to cement personal relationships between us.
The honourable member for Grayndler said that on the whole his performance was such as to make him more endearing to honourable members on this side of the House, and I thoroughly agree with this. 1 suggest to him that he should carry on as he did in the Bahamas. I am sure that we all will be much more friendly much more often if he does so. It is not often that 1 find myself, certainly in this place, in the happy position of being able to agree with anything the honourable member for Grayndler says, but on the subject of immigration I think that he and I spoke with one voice. Immigration was dealt with by the Australian delegation on a completely non-partisan basis, and in so doing the delegation demonstrated a degree of strength and willingness to stand up to and face criticism. Indeed, at the end of the week’s proceedings more people from other delegations spoke to us on a friendly and altogether cordial basis than was the case perhaps at the outset of the conference, despite what we said during the conference. Of course, one cannot expect a millennium in Commonwealth relations. One cannot expect to come away from a conference such as this with a broad measure of agreement having been achieved on all the controversial issues which were quite properly raised. But at least we all came away with a better understanding of the viewpoints put forward by delegates from other countries. Certainly I came away with an understanding of why in some cases the wells of racial bitterness are so deep and why we all have to work so hard to bridge the gulf of racial differences. It will be a hard, long job, but it is one which we all must strive to perform adequately and well.
Curiously enough, out of the welter of controversy and deeply divergent views on a number of subjects one found in certain unexpected places a measure of agreement. I refer, for instance, to Australia’s immigration policy. Out delegation was bound to point out that every country in the Commonwealth has now, and has had for a very long time, a restrictive immigration policy of one sort or another. We all know that all countries impose restrictions. When the honourable member for Grayndler and I, and indeed other members of the delegation, pointed out this undoubted truth we found ourselves in the happy but slightly ironic situation of being supported warmly by a fervent Marxist, a distinguished delegate from Ceylon. To say the least, it was unexpected for either the honourable member for Grayndler or myself to find ourselves warmly supported by a gentleman of his political complexion.
The conference was never tranquil. At times views were expressed with explosive force and intensity. Nearly ali the rime the atmosphere vibrated with controversy, but out of all this came a better understanding for all of us of the reason why on some e issues Commonwealth countries are divided. If this is all that came out of the conference at least something of enduring value came out of it, because unless we understand the motives behind the attitudes of the citizens of our fellow Commonwealth countries to racial questions, for instance, we will never effectively begin the task of solving these frightful problems.
Because of my inexperience in relation to diverse racial matters, and not having seen or heard people at first hand expressing with great fervour controversial and bitter opinions, one thing that was borne in on me was that a lot of the bitterness goes back - and understandably so - to the origins in slavery of so many of these people of different colour in other parts of the Commonwealth. That is an historical fact which cannot be overlooked. Slavery has left great scars which have to be healed, and they will be healed only by patient understanding on the part of people such as ourselves who did not have (o endure that which ancestors of other people had to endure.
In conclusion I pay a very sincere tribute to the leader of our delegation, the honourable member for Bennelong (Sir John Cramer), and to the deputy leader. 1 pay an equally sincere tribute to the work done by the Clerk of the House. Without the Clerk the Australian delegation could not have functioned as it did. We are deeply indebted to him. I pay a similar tribute to the work of the honourable member for Fawkner (Mr Howson). Not only the Australian delegation but all delegations are deeply indebted to him for his untiring efforts and hard work in making the conference a success and ensuring that the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association worked as effectively as it has been working. It goes without saying that I join with the tributes of gratitude which have been paid by earlier speakers to the Government of the Bahamas, the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association in the Bahamas and in Canada for the wonderful, indeed overwhelming, hospitality accorded to us in both those countries. We will have to work very hard here, when our turn comes to play the part of host country in 1971, to come anywhere near matching the standard of hospitality which we received in the Bahamas and in Canada.
– I am very pleased lo join with other members of the delegation to the fourteenth conference of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association in speaking to this report. As emphasised by both the honourable mem-beT for Grayndler (Mr Daly) and the honourable member for Parkes (Mr Hughes), it is quite clear that politics do make strange bed fellows. This was a very important conference to me, and I am sure to the other members of the delegation. I had attended a CPA conference previously, but one learns something additional by attending another conference of a similar nature. I think that I should emphasise the tremendous value to the conference of the chairman, the Prime Minister of the Bahamas. 1 thought he did a remarkable job as Chairman. He had a way of getting the delegates together and of ironing out any problems that might arise. Instead of determining questions on the voices or on a show of hands he would ask those delegates who supported the motion to remain seated and those who opposed it to stand. I thought that was rather a good method. It reminded me of the story of a strike in a mine when the union official leading the strike said: ‘All those in favour of the strike please stand on my left and the other B’s please stand on my right.’ In opening the conference the Chairman emphasised the changed nature of the Commonwealth of Nations and the important part which delegates drawn from all cultures and races could play in the conference and in the future of the Commonwealth.
The subjects discussed at the conference have been mentioned in the report. Some very important matters were dealt with. There was a very lengthy and interesting debate on world security, touching on such matters as Vietnam and Rhodesia. The honourable member for Bennelong (Sir John Cramer) has already referred to this matter. Another important subject dealt with was the provision of aid to developing countries and the effectiveness of that aid. Another subject was entitled: ‘Parliamentary Government - Where is it Heading?’ The subject was discussed under three sub-headings, namely:
Another matter discussed and mentioned extensively in the report was the problem of economic growth. A subject which I thought was of considerable interest to Australia was that referred to by the honourable member for Grayndler - racial harmony or conflict.
As is pointed out in the report, several delegates criticised Australia’s immigration policy. I would like to quote from the report to indicate the views that were expressed on this matter by the Australian delegates. It was suggested that Australia discriminated against coloured people. The report of the delegation reads:
An Australian delegate stated that the immigration policy of the United Kingdom had through its generosity produced problems and that Australia would not allow a similar situation to arise. Any person, whatever his race or colour, was acceptable to Australia and was given equal rights with any other citizen on entry. At the same time Australia did not agree with immigration wholly at the bottom of the social and labour scale. Australia’s aim was an integrated community and one in which immigrants would take their place at every level of society according to the skills which they possessed. There would always be openings for trained personnel in Australia.
I think we got our views across to the conference, and they helped to clear up a number of misunderstandings. Our speakers were able to show that some non-European countries which were critical of Australia and which were represented at the conference pursued immigration policies far more restrictive than was Australia’s immigration policy. Our speakers emphasised the danger of bringing into a country a large number of people of different cultures and backgrounds. This could interfere with the economy of the country. The experience of the United Kingdom was cited. There the rate of entry of immigrants had increased so rapidly that they could not be absorbed. In order to safeguard the economy and to give expression to public opinion, which was playing a big part in the matter, the United Kingdom had to restrict the admission of these people.
Our delegation told the conference that aid given by Australia to underdeveloped countries was given without any tags attached. Aid given by some countries was subject to conditions but no conditions were attached to aid given by Australia. It was noted that although world trade had almost doubled in the last decade the percentage of world trade in the hands of developed countries had increased while the percentage in the hands of underdeveloped countries had decreased. The view was expressed that the richer nations would have to make a greater effort to reach the United Nations target of 1% of the gross national product being devoted to the provision of aid for underdeveloped countries. The conclusions in regard to this matter, as contained in the report of the Australian delegation, are worth noting. They are:
Aid was not charity. Tt was a form of investment which in the long run benefited donor and recipient countries alike. As a supplement for better trade arrangements, aid, properly applied, could bridge the gap between the rich and the poor nations. The importance of linking trade With aid could not be too highly stressed; the objective must be to enable developing countries to stand on their own feet and to play their full part in the international community.
I was very pleased to be associated with the Australian delegation which was composed of members from both sides of the House and the Senate. We worked as a team, but tt was always emphasised that although we were present as the Australian delegation we had opposing views on some matters, such as Vietnam. However, we were able to handle our differences without causing offence to anybody.
I congratulate the leader and deputy leader of the delegation. They ably led the delegation and were always helpful with advice. The honourable member for Fawkner (Mr Howson), who was Chairman of the Executive Committee of the General Council, was able to render a lot of assistance to our delegation, not only because he was one of us but also because he knew so much about the workings of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association. His advice on procedure was always most helpful. I join with other members of the delegation in thanking the Clerk of the House for his very helpful advice and for the work he did during the course of the conference. He was of tremendous help to the delegation.
Mr HOWSON (Fawkner) [3.331-1 again welcome the opportunity to debate tha report of an Australian delegation to the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association conference. I am interested to see that our example in debating this matter is being followed in several other parliaments of the Commonwealth. Only a week or two ago I received a copy of the Canadian Hansard which showed that the Canadian Parliament has debated the report submitted by the Canadian delegation. I understand that the House of Commons iti Westminster may try to find time to have a similar debate.
This annual review of the work of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association is of tremendous significance. 1 pay a tribute to the Australian delegation, so ably led by the honourable member for Bennelong (Sir John Cramer) and his deputy, the honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Daly). They did a fine job and were largely responsible for the conspicuous role played by Australia at the conference. As for the statement by the honourable member for Grayndler that it appeared easy for him to catch my eye when I was in the chair I should point out that this was due partly to the fact that the seating was so arranged that the Australian delegation was seated in front of the chairman. I can see that that procedure must be followed on future occasions.
I would like for a moment also to draw the attention of the House to the work of the Association as it has developed over this last year. The total membership now is over 8,000 members of Parliament representing 90 legislatures throughout the whole of the former British Empire. As this growth has taken place so rapidly over the last 5 or 6 years, so also has there been a change of emphasis in the aims of the Association. In the early part of this decade, conferences of the Association were largely taken up with examining the tensions that existed between the United Kingdom and her former colonies as they emerged in this process of decolonisation. Now that the process of decolonisation is nearly at an end, there are a new emphasis and a new stirring of activities in the aims of the Association as we endeavour to strengthen parliamentary democracy in all these new nations.
All the branches of the Association have inherited the Westminster model of parliament. Their tasks now, however, are to modify it to suit local conditions. 1 believe that all members who were at the conference in Nassau were convinced that parliamentary democracy is the best method of government but that it requires patience to operate. In Nassau we received a number of requests from new nations of the Commonwealth for help from older nations of the British Commonwealth to assist them in the task of modifying the Westminster model to suit their own conditions. For instance, the Prime Minister of Grenada, in the West Indies, has asked for the establishment of a seminar at which members from Canada and the United Kingdom in particular could join with members of the Grenada Parliament and other parliaments of the contiguous islands such as Antigua and St Kitts. This seminar is to be held in July. A similar task is likely to be undertaken in Fiji in September, and members of CPA branches throughout the South West Pacific in the Solomon Island, the Gilbert and Ellice Islands, Western Samoa and other places will also meet to consider these tasks of modifying the Westminster model of parliament to suit their own conditions. Again, there are moves to hold a regional conference in Africa for a similar purpose.
Australia has been asked by the Association to conduct here a course for members of parliament from the younger nations of the Commonwealth to assist them also in this same task. This request is to be examined by presiding officers from Australian branches of the CPA at a meeting to be held in April. One task that we can well perform is to demonstrate how the Standing Orders of this House have been modified and improved compared with the Standing Orders of, say, the House of Commons in Westminster or the House of Commons in Ottawa. I believe that our Standing Orders are a model of efficiency that could well be adopted by many of the other branches of the Association. We have had regard to the past but we are not intent on preserving archaic inefficiency in the name of tradition. A great deal of work has been done by the Clerk of the House of Representatives in reviewing the Standing Orders and improving them over the years. This is one of the contributions that we can make to so many of the newer parliaments.
The parliamentary course we hope to establish here can be of tremendous help to so many branches of the Commonwealth in this part of the world. When 1 was in India last week, a Minister there suggested that India also would like to play its part in helping the development of parliamentary democracy in so many of these new nations. Without doubt, the Association has helped parliamentary democracy in many parts of the world in the last few years. In the last few months particularly, we have witnessed a restoration of parliamentary democracy in Sierra Leone, which has now been restored to membership of our Association after a lapse of some years, during which so many of ite members of parliament were locked up in gaol. It was good to see that the leader of the Sierra Leone delegation was elected to membership of the Executive Committee of the General Council. Thus we were able to demonstrate in a forceful way how much we welcome Sierra Leone back into the ranks of democracy.
I want to emphasise that this growth of activity in the Association has been spontaneous. It has been generated by so many of <he newer branches of the Association, but it has been harnessed through the work of the Executive Committee set up a year ago at the original suggestion of the Australian Branch. Again we must be indebted to the Australian Branch, which has sponsored this move over a period of 2 or 3 years. We have now seen how successful it has become. Three or 4 weeks ago a communique from the Prime Ministers Conference in London drew attention to the work of the Association and expressed a hope that the growth in our activities would be continued in the years to come. We are trying to increase the number of delegations that are exchanged between countries of the Commonwealth. There has been a good growth this year, particularly through the work of the
Canadian Branch, and we hope that Australia can again play its part in this field in the corning year.
As other honourable members have mentioned, the conference debates now cover a much wider and much more vital field of work than ever in the past. I believe that Australia will continue to play an effective role in the work of the Association, and we look forward to welcoming the conference of the Association here in 1971. Finally, I would like to refer to a recent speech made by the Hon. Lee Kuan Yew, Prime Minister of Singapore, after the Prime Ministers Conference in London in January. He said:
In the last 2i days-
That was while he had been attending the Conference in London -
I see and I hear signs of a growing realisation . . that it is not just the problem of the moment that should decide our relationships with Britain; a more sober reassessment of the value of these ties and not just sentimental values are being made.
Then he drew attention to a similar situation that had emerged in Indonesia. Referring to this subject, he said:
Three hundred and fifty years of Dutch exploitation of Netherland East Indies was followed by 20 years of hatred and the suppression of Dutch enterprise, industry, expropriation of plantations and mines, and the obliteration of the Dutch language. Today the Indonesian finds himself more at ease with a Dutchman than with anybody else. They established a donor-donee relationship with the Russians, they studied with uneven results the Russian language and culture, and it ended abruptly with hundreds of thousands of Indonesians massacred and an unascertained and probably unascertainable number being Communists killed by Communist arms. Now the Americans have stepped into the Russian status of donor, but the relationship is not a comfortable one. And the hardheadedness of the Japanese, the Indonesians find harsh and rapacious, and so they seek to re-establish their ties with the Dutch.
He draws this parallel because he believes that there are many countries in the Commonwealth today which are going through a period of transition similar to that which Indonesia went through in its relationship with the Dutch. I believe that the task of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, and particularly Australia’s role in this Association, is to watch this period of transition with patience and forbearance. The honourable member for Parkes (Mr Hughes) has referred to some of the problems that existed in the tensions we saw and the controversies we heard in Nassau. This is a period of transition for so many of these countries. But as the very able Prime Minister of Singapore has seen what has happened to other countries getting through this period of transition, so 1 believe we can see a very great flowering of activity and improvement in the Commonwealth if we, particularly Australia, can help in this period of transition over the next few years. This, I believe, is above all the role which the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association is playing in the world at the present time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 26 February (vide page 206), on motion by Mr Kelly:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– The Minister for the Navy (Mr Kelly) in his second reading speech said that this is purely a machinery measure, but there are several important innovations in it. I wish to confine my remarks to some of the problems which I consider confront the Public Works Committee in its deliberations and recommendations to the Government. In the first place, the cost limit below which Commonwealth public works need not be referred to the Committee is to be increased from $500,000 to $750,000. But the problem which always faces the Chairman and members of the Committee is whether the Government considers that work is urgent or not. If the Government considers that the work is urgent, of course, it is not referred to the Committee. If the Governor-General proclaims that the work is directly or indirectly concerned with defence aspects it is not referred to the Committee. There are other types of work which also are not referred to the Committee. This is the matter with which I wish to deal. I think that more consideration should be given to the types of work which are referred to the Committee. I shall deal mainly with specific examples to illustrate the point I am making in this regard.
Before I became a member of this House, on several occasions I gave evidence to the Public Works Committee. On the occasions when I gave evidence to the Committee I found that it deliberated on the questions in a positive and constructive way and it brought out some very important points. I refer particularly to the reference concerning the Wave Hill-Top Springs road which was referred to the Committee in 1961. The Government in its original plans for beef roads in the Northern Territory had made a decision with respect to the Top Springs-Dunmarra road, the Anthony’s Lagoon-Barkly Highway road and other roads in the Alice Springs and Victoria River district. But the work on these roads was considered to be urgent and it was not referred to the Public Works Committee. However, some members of the Committee considered that such work should be referred to it for investigation and report. In the next reference the Wave HillTop Springs road was in fact referred to the Committee.
The Committee can be complimented on the work that it did in that instance, because although the original decision to build the Wave Hill-Top Springs road was based on the existing alignment, for reasons into which I need not go at the present time some authorities decided to alter the course of the road. That would have been very acceptable from an engineering point of view, but it was virtually useless from the beef roads point of view. Here was a conflict between the engineers and the economists or the Government. The Government was building the road for the express purpose of increasing the export income and the development of the area, whereas the engineers were concerned principally with building the best road between points A and B. It was due to the good work of the Public Works Committee that in actual fact it was able to refuse to accept the decision of the Government as to where the road should go. When the Committee reinvestigated the matter it was able to influence the Government’s view so that it adhered to the original decision concerning the Wave Hill-Top Springs road. I instance that, because it is a very good illustration of the work of the Committee.
One matter which concerns me with respect to work not being referred to the Public Works Committee relates to the question of Commonwealth money being spent by State governments. I appreciate that if we referred to the Committee all public works which are constructed in the States with Commonwealth moneys it would have more than a full time job. There would need to be half a dozen committees. For example, the construction of science blocks and certain roads could be referred to the Committee. On the other hand, over the last few years there have been some very glaring examples in some areas of what must be very close to wastage of Commonwealth money. This has been due to many factors, including ignorance and the fact that engineers have refused to take notice of local conditions. Perhaps if the Committee had taken evidence and investigated some of these projects these moneys might have been spent more efficiently.
I shall give one example in this regard. One of the top priority roads in Queensland which the Commonwealth backed in the early stages of the beef roads scheme was the Boulia-Winton road. At the time the Commonwealth ranked this road as being of high priority, based on the cost estimate given to it by the Queensland Government. But when the road was being constructed it was found that there was an underestimation of approximately 60%. As honourable members know, once construction starts on a road there is no alternative but to go ahead and complete it. If one had taken a benefit cost analysis for this particular road, based on a cost which was more than 60% above the cost estimate, the road would not have received the priority which it did. The Commonwealth had no. alternative but to make additional money available to the State to allow it to go ahead and complete the road. I instance that case in order to support what I say. There are many other examples regarding beef roads in Queensland, the Northern Territory and Western Australia.
I think that just because roads are constructed in a particular State that should not prevent the Public Works Committee from investigating the particular work. After all, Commonwealth money is being expended, whether it be spent in a State by the State or by the Commonwealth. Whatever it might be, there should be some liaison and some arrangement whereby the Commonwealth should at least have some say in whether the money is being spent efficiently or not. I can see no difference in principle between a beef road in the Northern Territory and a beef road in Queensland, more particularly if those two roads are integrated in the sense of the breeding and the fattening areas as some roads are. I can appreciate, as I said right from the word go, the problems that would be generated here not only in terms of the work of the Committee but also in terms of Commonwealth-State relations if a Commonwealth organisation started to interfere in such things as the efficiency of the spending of money or estimates concerning or justification for a case put up by a State to the Commonwealth.
I will make only two other observations regarding ways in which I believe the Committee might have done valuable work. I refer first to the rail standardisation project. There is no need for me to emphasise or to detail the tremendous degree of underestimation with respect to rail standardisation in Western Australia. The Chowilla Dam project need not be discussed. I only wonder what would have happened if the Public Works Committee had had some evidence before it perhaps to warn the Government of the conflict that was going on in the minds of people, including technical people, with respect to the Chowilla Dam. I do not agree that the Committee should start setting itself up in judgment on Cabinet decisions. I completely disagree with this idea. If Cabinet in its wisdom decides to go ahead with irrigation work, such as the Ord River scheme, the Emerald irrigation scheme, the Dartmouth proposal or the Chowilla Dam, whichever it might be, I do not for one minute suggest that the Committee should sit in judgment on that decision. If it did, I suspect that chaos would develop in terms of federal policy making. But certainly I think that the efficiency with which money is spent on such projects should be considered very closely by the Committee.
The next point that I wish to make is one which does concern me. It is that the Government takes no notice of the recommendations of the Public Works Committee. I have instanced one example - the Wave Hill-Top Springs road - of the Government taking notice of the Committee. But I am now going to instance one good example to illustrate where the Government takes no notice of the Committee. I refer to the investigation by the Committee last year of the Mackay Airport. As far as I am concerned, an airport consists not just of the pavement or the runway; it consists of the whole complex, terminal buildings and all. If there is one example of apathy, neglect and a complete brushing aside of the recommendations of the Public Works Committee, this is found with respect to the Mackay Airport.
At the present time, this airport is considered to be, and is so named, a disgrace by international tourists. It is the fourth busiest Australian airport outside our capital city airports. It has a higher proportion of international visitors to total travel than any other Australian airport. I am glad to see that the Minister for Civil Aviation (Mr Swartz) is in the House. I did not realise he was here. I will speak a little more than I intended to in giving this illustration because the Minister for Civil Aviation is present. Until recently, if a person wanted to go to the toilet of one of the major national airline operators at Mackay, he had to cross the road. As Mackay has wet weather for several months of the year, honourable members can imagine what international tourists thought of this situation in this magnificent barn-like structure. Not even a public telephone was provided in this most important of all tourist aerodromes in Australia.
Possibly the Public Works Committee investigation has had some effect, although decisions had been taken before its inquiry concerning Mackay Airport, because since its investigation a facelift has taken place at the Mackay Airport to the degree that the public toilet for Ansett Airlines passengers has now been moved across the road adjacent to the shed as I call it - and that is a pretty conservative name for it - that is the airport terminal. Several public telephones have now been installed. Yet Mackay Airport is one of the most important airports for the Australian tourist industry. People arriving at the airport still cannot get a cup of tea. The only drink that they can get, and it is not always available, is cold water from antiquated coolers. This is the situation at Mackay Airport, the gateway to the Barrier Reef and the fourth busiest Australian airport outside our capital cities. The situation at the airport was such that the Public Works Committee and its Chairman, the honourable member for
Perth (Mr Chaney) criticised - I suppose that I could say severely criticised because the Committee is dominated ‘by Government members - the Government for the conditions there.
One would have thought that something would be done to remedy the situation, particularly after the Public Works Committee had been there. The estimated cost of the work at Mackay Airport that the Public Works Committee investigated was $1.2m. Tenders were called and on the tender that has been accepted the Commonwealth will get this job done for approximately $800,000, a saving of $400,000 on the estimated cost. It would be quite wrong to suggest that the Public Works Committee should have another look at this matter because somebody accepted a tender lower than the estimated cost. What I do suggest is that, in view of the recommendations of the Public Works Committee virtually as to the disgraceful nature of this building which is an international airport so far as tourists are concerned, some of this saving-
– Mr Deputy Speaker, 1 rise to a point of order. I draw your attention to the scope of the remarks of the honourable member for Dawson. I suggest that his speech has ranged widely from the substance of the Bill which is concerned with the methods by which the Public Works Committee will operate and the ends towards which it will aim.
Order! I ask the honourable member for Dawson to speak to the Bill.
– It is quite obvious that what I am saying hurts the honourable member for St George, who is a supporter of the Government. I mentioned to you, Mr Deputy Speaker, that I was giving this as an illustration of the Government’s disregard of the recommendations of the Public Works Committee of which the honourable member who has raised the point of order happens to be a member. He does not like it. Of course he does not like it, because his own Government takes no notice of the recommendations of the Committee. This is a very important principle. If this Committee is to be efficient, surely the Government should take some notice of its recommendations. This is the principal reason I rose this afternoon. An important principle is involved.
Despite what the honourable member for St George may think, I do not believe that, as has been suggested by an honourable member opposite, when a tender has been accepted that is significantly lower or higher than the official estimate the project concerned should be re-examined. I do not think that this is at all within the scope of the Committee. It has not the expertise to be able to know exactly what a tender should be. On the other hand, the main point that I want to stress this afternoon is that I do think that consideration should be given by the Government to widening the terms of reference of this Committee so that at least it may be able to have a look, if it wishes, at the way that Commonwealth money is being expended by the States. I instanced this afternoon, Mr Deputy Speaker, the beef roads project, with which I am familiar, in which the considered estimate by experts given to the Commonwealth was found to be 60% out within a matter of 18 months. This is not good enough. As I said before, if a benefit cost analysis had been conducted on the revised estimate the project would not have had the priority it was given. These things go unnoticed because they are not brought to light, principally as a result of Commonwealth-State relationships and, of course, politics.
These are the only points I wish to make. As I said in my opening remarks, the Public Works Committee does a good job. It is a necessary watchdog for Commonwealth funds. The members who serve on it are diligent and positive in their ideas in ensuring that Commonwealth money is spent effectively. This certainly was the position several years ago when I was involved in some inquiries before that Committee.
– Its members are non-political, too.
– If the honourable member can tell me that a politician is non-political, I just wonder what logic he uses. I compliment the Public Works Committee and hope that some of its recommendations and suggestions are considered and adopted by the Government.
– In addressing myself to this Bill may I say that I do not believe that the Parliament as a whole realises the significance of this measure. I will elaborate on this belief later. The honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) referred specifically to the Mackay airport and made certain accusations. I suggest that he try again in respect of this airport; he may be surprised at the amount of sympathy he finds for his problem. He suggested, also, that the Public Works Committee might be enabled to investigate works for which specific money has been allocated to the States. Whilst his motives in suggesting this are good, I submit that be is moving into an arena where constitutional difficulties would emerge, i cannot visualise a welcome mat being put out by the various State Parliaments. If we adopted his proposal, where would it start or finish? Indeed, according to his suggestion the Public Works Committee should be able to examine any public works in any State. His proposal would meet with political opposition and possibly public opposition.
I turn now to the Bill itself. While Parliament has been experiencing the drama of censure motions and defence statements this week the significance of this measure may have been overlooked. The honourable member for Perth (Mr Chaney) has proposed an amendment and it has been indicated that the Government will accept it. I commend the honourable member for Perth as well as the honourable member for Warringah (Mr St John) for his legal advice to the Committee. I hope that before 1 resume my seat I will be able to show that this is a significant happening in parliamentary procedure. It is necessary for us to examine the history of this legislation, which was introduced initially in 1913 although it was suggested first in 1911 by the then honourable member for Franklin, Mr Mcwilliams. After a notable historic Australian figure, Mr King O’Malley, who was then Minister for Home Affairs, had proposed the expenditure of considerable sums of money on various public works, Mr Mcwilliams suggested that such projects should be investigated by a committee of the House. However, it was not until 2 years later that he formally moved for the establishment of such a committee. His proposal was not opposed by any member from either side. I am not certain, incidentally, whether Mr Mcwilliams was a member of the Opposition or of the then Government. At all events, the Prime Minister, Mr Joseph Cook - later Sir Joseph Cook - readily accepted the proposal and it was not necessary for it to be pushed to a division. The proposal was that proposed work could be submitted for investigation by the Public Works Committee, lt was not obligatory for the Government to refer every public work to the Committee. In fact, such an obligation was not introduced until 1960.
The honourable member for Perth has done this House and the parliamentary system a service in submitting a proposition to ensure that there shall be no restriction on the activities or scope of inquiry of the Public Works Committee. May 1 now claim the indulgence of the House to quote what was said by the Prime Minister, Mr Joseph Cook, on 11th September 1913 when the House was considering the establishment of the Public Works Committee? He said:
Huge sums are being, and have been, spent for years past, without proper inquiries and without that information to which the House is entitled. No big public work ought to be undertaken until this House has passed judgment upon it. That is one of the prime functions of a legislative assembly anywhere and always; indeed, this proposition goes to the very root and basis of our system of responsible government and parliamentary control. I have the greatest possible sympathy with the principle underlying the motion.
As I said, the motion was not pressed to a division, so welcome was it in the Parliament. Then in 1960 the proposition was accepted that the Public Works Committee should investigate all public works except where such investigation was not in the best interests of the country or security was involved or where such work had the acceptance of the House.
The honourable member for Perth is seeking to amend clause 17 of the Bill. Clearly his amendment is acceptable to all members of the Public Works Committee and to all members of the Parliament who are interested in ensuring that the status and capacity of the Public Works Committee are retained. Having referred to the base upon which the Committee came into being and having outlined its development in 1960, light needs to be thrown upon certain aspects of the legislation. I believe that these provisions of the Public Works Committee Act will be widened in due course, but I am at a loss at this stage to understand why the Executive has placed restrictions on the Committee and has not seen the light of events that will emerge, whether during its term of office or in subsequent days. To some extent the honourable member for Dalley (Mr O’Connor) has elaborated on this issue. He and other honourable members have dealt specifically with the definition of a public work. May I direct the attention of the House to clause 5 of the Bill. It contains the following definition: public work’ means a work -
As other honourable members have said, paragraph (a) has been interpreted in a variety of ways by various AttorneysGeneral. In recent times we have had some conflict of opinion on this aspect. What is a work of the Commonwealth? If the works carried out by a statutory body, by an administrative arm, by the Northern Territory Administration, by the airline corporations, Qantas Airways Ltd and TransAustralia Airlines, by the Australian National Line and other bodies are not works of the Commonwealth, what works are they? I submit that it is the responsibility of this Parliament to supervise such works and to ensure that the moneys appropriated for them are correctly expended. The very fact that a proposal is referred to the Public Works Committee or to any other committee has a sobering effect on the people who have the responsibility to put together the plans and specifications for the proposal. Some examples have been given and they do not need elaboration by me. I mention the hotel built by Qantas, and the headquarters of TAA in Melbourne which, I say specifically, in accordance with the ruling of the Attorneys-General should have been referred to the Public Works Committee. The wharf in Darwin is one more example of a project that should have been referred back to the Committee.
I believe that in time the Parliament will amend the definition I have already mentioned. If honourable members will bear with me, I will try to rephrase the definition of ‘public work’ in the Bill and I ask them to consider my rephrasing as a possible amendment. If it is not accepted today, it will be in time. In fact I would not be surprised if the Bill were amended in another place. My suggestion is that the first part of the definition of ‘public work’ should read:
The last part, of course, is intended to cover public works of the Commonwealth that are undertaken in overseas areas. I will say a little more on that aspect later. I suggest that, to cover the financial aspects, the second part of the definition should read:
I believe that this would bring within the scope of the Public Works Committee consideration of works undertaken by those individual authorities and public works undertaken overseas. What is the difference between public works in Australia and public works undertaken overseas? The Fortress Australia in Djakarta and the embassy in Washington are two embassies that come to my mind.
Surely we are not back in the parochial days when every time parliamentarians or a parliamentary committee found it necessary to travel overseas the trip was tabbed immediately as being a junket. Surely we have grown up. If we have not, I believe that we will do so in the not too distant future. We, as leaders of the country, should give the lead in this regard. If it were necessary for the Public Works Committee to travel overseas 3 or 4 times a year I could not imagine members of the Committee queueing up. If one views the matter from the personal angle it would not be something that I would relish, but of course the personal angle should not be taken into consideration. It is the principle that is at stake in both these cases.
Without elaborating on the other points which have been brought forward today let me say that I believe that it is in these two specific areas that the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act need review in the future and I would support any move by the Executive to amend the Act to cover those areas. As I said earlier, I believe that there is every possibility that this will happen shortly. At all events, whether it is sooner or later it will happen irrespective of the attitude of the powers that be which control the situation at the moment. In the meantime it is my pleasure to support the Bill in its present form, and the proposed amendment, and I express the hope that the wider moves will be undertaken in due course.
– Before the debate on this important Bill concludes I feel that I should point out a couple of aspects of the legislation that attract my interest and, as a non-member of the Public Works Committee but one who has some experience on the sister statutory committee, the Public Accounts Committee, bring forward a few observations which I think have some little merit. I also have in mind that the present Minister for Works (Senator Wright) had the benefit of being a member of the Public Accounts Committee for several years and I am sure that my references, particularly to the financial aspects of statutory corporations, will register with him.
Two points attract my attention. The first relates to the examination by the Committee of public works outside Australia. My colleague the honourable member for St George (Mr Bosman) has just touched on that aspect in his speech. The Bill before us, as far as I can interpret it, makes it clear that the Public Works Committee may examine only those public works which are carried out by or for the Commonwealth within the Commonwealth or within a Territory of the Commonwealth. As my colleague has just said, perhaps if not now by way of amendment then on the next occasion when the Government looks at this legislation it might well take into account some of the problems associated with building or the purchasing of buildings overseas. Undoubtedly the Government has its own reasons for retaining this particular restriction in the legislation but I do know of the existence now of an interdepartmental committee to handle the construction of buildings for the Commonwealth in overseas countries.
The sister committee, the Public Accounts Committee, which reports direct to this Parliament on the expenditure of funds, shortly will be bringing to the Parliament a report which will cover, amongst other things, quite a problem and a headache in relation to the acquisition of a property in a distant European city where errors were made by the advisers and where perhaps, in the long run, a substantial loss will be sustained on the sale of the building, which has proved to be unacceptable.
In this context I want to underline what the honourable member for St George said. He said that if the Public Works Committee, instead of having the restrictions that the Act places on it, had the right to follow through at the request of the Parliament or in compliance with the present provision - that is on a resolution that the Public Works Committee might have a look if it were able to go overseas - this could be a protection to the Parliament against blunders that unfortunately can occur from time to time. I may as well indicate the case I am thinking of. I refer to the embassy building in the Rue de la Faisanderie in Paris. I am not anticipating what the sister Committee might say. It is general knowledge and has been reported in the Press that this case represents a problem which is not beyond recurrence unless we have a protective device.
– That was a purchase building?
– Even the Act might be widened for that. It could fall into a category of a building to be erected. The same department has acquired sites and has actually erected new embassy buildings overseas.
I want to underline the point that I said was made by the honourable member for St George. No statutory committee such as the Public Works Committee or any other that had the power would run willy nilly round the world just to have a look. The committee would be requested, as is the present custom under this Act, to investigate. It would not lightly undertake overseas travel. But if the Public Works Committee had to travel in the instance that I have just given, surely the expense involved in making a report direct to the Parliament as to whether such an undertaking was justified or not would be much less than any loss that might be experienced. The arrangement in this case might have to be registered as a loss on the resale of a property. The case could also arise where a building is constructed but is not acceptable in its final form. I just wonder whether the Bill, as it is before the House, with this distinct restriction - apparently it embodies the mind of the Government - ought to be left in this form. I would be one to counsel along the lines that I have suggested that in its revision the restriction might well be removed. I certainly cannot see the Parliament allowing a statutory committee to spent unnecessary funds on travel. The committee would travel overseas only when the Minister, in his judgment when remitting a task to the Committee, felt that the journey and the investigation were completely justified.
I come now to my second point which relates to the capital works programmes of statutory authorities. The Minister for the Navy (Mr Kelly) in his second reading speech on 27th November 1968 said: . . where a work of a statutory authority is carried out by the Commonwealth or its agent - and this can be taken generally to mean the Commonwealth Department of Works - and also where the money to pay for that work is appropriated by the Parliament and placed under the control of the Department of Works, then that project is subject to the examination of the Public Works Committee.
He then said:
On the other hand, where the money to pay for a work carried out for a statutory authority is drawn from funds vested in the authority itself and not under the control of the Department of Works, that work is not subject to the scrutiny of the Public Works Committee.
I have had a distinct interest in the development over the years of the autonomy which this Parliament has wisely given to certain statutory authorities. The Minister, in his speech on this point, expressed the mind of the Government. He said that the Government wished to preserve the principle that statutory authorities are established with the express purpose of preserving an autonomy of operation and a degree of independence from the legislature and the Executive. I applaud the setting up of an authority of this nature, because it takes away the day to day control of a department and a Minister of State. A statutory authority is set up under a legislative process and the Parliament does this deliberately. Under this sort of legislation an authority must report to the Parliament annually. The Minister responsible for the overall administration of the authority must be able to advise Parliament when Parliament seeks information. The Commonwealth Auditor-General, in every case as far as I can recall, has to examine the accounts of the statutory authorities and report direct to the Parliament on their financial affairs. The Public Accounts Committee, the sister committee, is under no restriction, as we have proved over the years. This has been taken to a test by a legal authority., The Public Accounts Committee may examine publicly the operations of a statutory authority. That Committee has been reporting direct to the Parliament.
Having made those four points I now pose these questions: Why should the Public Works Committee not report direct to the Parliament on a development such as a major expenditure of funds? Why should there be a deliberate restriction when as a statutory authority it is still responsible to the Parliament? I think it would be a protective device that is quite warranted to be included rather than restricted or excluded in this fashion. In practice it is thought that it might be an extremely rare situation where funds are vested, not in the Department of Works for the construction of a building, but directly in a statutory authority which borrows the funds. Here in Canberra the National Capital Development Commission was investigated in great depth by the Public Accounts Committee only 18 months to 2 years ago. The result of the investigation was reported to this Parliament. In that case the funds that are voted annually go to the accounts of the statutory authority, and it is responsible for its own building programme. It is not necessary to travel very far to find a concrete case that is not a rare exception in the field of statutory authorities.
Without taking any further time I offer two very earnest observations. I believe that the Public Works Committee is a sister committee to the Public Accounts Committee, with which I have been connected. lt is a statutory committee of the Parliament. I have always followed the reports and activities of the Public Works Committee with a great deal of interest and support. I see in the legislation as it is an unfortunate exclusion in two areas, which I think might well be rectified. I commend further thought on both points to the Minister and the Government.
– in reply - I want to make it clear to honourable members that the Government in general, and certainly the Minister for Works (Senator Wright) and former Ministers for Works in particular, value the work of the Public Works Committee. This general commendation could very well include the Public Accounts Committee, the sister committee. I think that the active interest in this legislation shown by the Minister for Works is a clear indication of the value he places on the work of the Committee. I certainly valued the work of the Committee when I was Minister for Works.
The honourable member for Perth (Mr Chaney) raised the very important point that the value of the Public Works Committee lies not only in the quality of its reports. It is of value also because of the simple fact that the departments know it is there. They know that they have to conform to the discipline of preparing proper plans and specifications. Perhaps this is sometimes resented by some departments, but the fact is that this is a discipline to which they must submit if the works they require are to be economically assessed, and often if they are to be quickly carried out. Not only the present Minister for Works but, I am sure, all former Ministers for Works can recall cases in which the Committee was by-passed - this frequently happened in former years - ‘because it was claimed that the work was urgent; but the by-passing of the Committee did not result in an earlier completion of the work. The vitally essential planning has to be done, and the existence of the Public Works Committee ensures that this vital discipline will be accepted.
I would also like to say that I appreciate the responsible attitude of the Committee towards a review of its own constitution, so to speak. Both the previous Committee back in 1966 and the present Committee have taken a very long, careful and responsible look at the Act under which they have worked. It is true that there are areas of disagreement between the Committee and the Government but I think the Committee will be the first to recognise that quite a good deal has been done to improve the situation. Certainly the present Minister for Works in another place has been more than willing to meet the Committee’s wishes in every possible way.
The recommendations that the Government has not been able to accept are three in number. The first is that mentioned by the honourable member for St George (Mr Bosman), the honourable member for Swan (Mr Cleaver) and many others. I refer to the examination by the Committee of overseas works. The reasons for the Government’s decision not to accept this recommendation fall under two headings. First there is the cost. I do not think this is a very important reason, but cost is a factor which any responsible government must take into account. Secondly it is a fact that the Public Works Committee, as the Committee itself is well aware, depends for the effectiveness of its examination on the active and sympathetic co-operation of the Department of Works. There are many examples of overseas works, such as embassy buildings, in which .the Department of Works does take an interest, but in many cases that Department obviously is not, nor could it be, the responsible architect. I can imagine the very great problems that would arise if the Committee were to journey overseas and face the problems of language, of different location, of different building standards from those in Australia, not to mention the difficulties arising from (he absence of the expert guidance of the Department of Works, whose experts constitute, as I am certain the Committee will be quick to recognise, a very important aid to the Committee’s work.
Another matter that has been raised is the position of the Senate. I am not going to discuss that in any way but will leave it to be discussed in a more august chamber. The other matter in respect of which we have not been able to meet the wishes of the Committee is that of the right of the Public Works Committee to examine works carried out for Government authorities. The Government’s decision on .this matter has been referred to many times. It was mentioned last night toy the honourable member for Perth and this afternoon by the honourable member for Swan. I just want to say one thing in conclusion on this question. It is of no use giving an authority responsibility and then looking over its shoulder in the way that is suggested. I am not speaking from the public accounts point of view but rather of the suggested oversight of works that authorities may carry out. An example which has been already mentioned is the Wentworth Hotel which was erected in Sydney for Qantas Airways Ltd. In such a matter the Qantas people have to make their own judgment. They have their own charter under which they work and it is better that they take the responsibility for their own decisions in such matters. The Parliament has given these authorities this responsibility. The Parliament will judge the authorities by their fruits. It is no good giving them this responsibility and then saying to them: *You will exercise only part of this responsibility; we will look after the public works side of it’.
I am glad that the honourable member for Perth proposes to put forward an amendment to clause 17. I was rather surprised to find that there was anxiety about this matter; that it was thought that the Government was trying to restrict the ambit of the Committee. As the Committee has raised the matter and we certainly have no desire to restrict the Committee in the way that was suggested, we are only too glad to. accept the amendment, which the honourable member for Perth, who is also the Chairman of the Public Works Committee, has brought before us with typical frankness and vigour.
I wish to mention two questions that were raised by the honourable member for McMillan (Mr Buchanan) last night. .He complained that there is no authority for alteration. But clause 17 (2.) says:
The Committee may, in its report on a public work, recommend any alterations to the proposals for the work …
So I cannot see any justification for the fear that alterations cannot be suggested. The honourable member for McMillan also complained that the Minister, when bringing a proposal before the House, was hot asked or was not forced to give an estimate of cost. I assure him that the Government always has given an estimate of cost. I am quite certain that if the Government did not give one the Committee would be very quick and lively in demanding one.
The honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) mentioned the Wave Hill to Top Springs road and the effective advice that the Committee of that time gave. I am certain that he would not mind my mentioning that the Chairman of the Committee at that time was Mr Roger Dean, who is now the Administrator of the Northern Territory. It is interesting to recall that good advice was given not only in that case but also on the air conditioning of the high school in Darwin. It must be particularly pleasing for Mr Dean to be able to see now the fruits of his labours. The honourable member for Dawson raised the question whether the Committee should have the responsibility of examining works which are carried out by the States but for which the Commonwealth has given money. I can understand his interest in this question. But I put it to him quite bluntly that most States have their own public works committees. If this proposal were accepted we would have rather unusual meetings on the border, so to speak; we would have our Public Works Committee examining works alongside the State public works committees. The principle of giving the States the responsibility for spending money must stand. We must not take it away from them and say: ‘We will give you the money, but we do not trust you to spend it properly’. In all walks of life a man who accepts the’ responsibility for suggesting works and paying for a large proportion of them should carry the responsibility of the judgment as to the kind of work that is done.
In regard to the Mackay airport, the Minister for Civil Aviation (Mr Swartz) has assured me that the Committee’s recommendations have not been brushed aside and that improvements to the terminal are being processed with all possible speed. That is all I have to say. I thank the House for the responsible way in which it has examined this important piece of legislation. I give prior notice that the Government will accept the amendment that will’ be moved by the honourable member for Perth.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.
– I want to make a brief explanation of the amendment circulated in my name. I refer to clause 17 which reads in part: (1.) The Committee shall, as expeditiously as is practicable -
In sub-clause (1.), paragraph (b), after ‘work’, add the following words: ‘and concerning any other matters related to the work in respect of which the Committee thinks it desirable that the views of the Committee should be reported to the House’.
In the old Act the word ‘upon’ in section 14 (1.) did not prohibit the Committee from reporting on matters incidental to a reference, and the same applied to the word ‘on’ in the first line of section 14 (2.) of that Act. The word ‘generally’ in line 9 of section 14 (2.) of the Act gave the Committee a fairly wide scope for comment. The Committee, after advice tendered to it by the honourable member for Warringah (Mr St John), thought that clause 17(1.) of the Bill confined the Committee to reporting on a particular reference preventing comment on matters incidental to the reference, and therefore approached the Minister for Works (Senator Wright) with the idea of amending the Bill. I must say that the Committee appreciates the fact that the Minister for Works, who took this to the Government and obtained agreement to it, could have had it moved as a Government amendment but he gave the Committee the right to move the amendment in this House, something which could be followed on other occasions with other matters. I thank the Minister for that privilege.
Amendment agreed to.
Bill, as amended, agreed to.
Bill reported with an amendment; report - by leave - adopted.
Bill (on motion by Mr Kelly) - by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from 26th February (vide page 175), on motion by Mr Nixon:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Drury)There being no objection this course will be followed.
– These Bills are machinery measures which simply allow brandy to be manufactured at a rate of 45% overproof as against the current rate of 40% and they make the available strength of brandy consonant with that of rum and whisky. They seem to be reasonable enough technical measures. We offer no opposition to the passage of the Bills.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Erwin) read a third time.
Consideration resumed from 26 February (vide page 176), on motion by Mr Nixon:
That the Bill be now read a second’ time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Erwin) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 26 February (vide page 175), on motion by Mr Swartz:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– This is a simple enough measure. When the Minister assisting the Treasurer (Mr Swartz) outlined it he indicated that already the Act provides for a 50c coin but that the coin that is in existence is made of silver. On the one hand it is confused with the 20c piece and, on the other hand, it does not seem to be very popular with the public because it is round and not some other shape. The Government proposes to mint a 50c coin to be made of cupro-nickel, the same alloy that is used for the 5c, 10c and 20c pieces. The coin will be much cheaper to manufacture than the present coin. The price of silver is relatively high. In addition, an experiment is being tried as to the virtue of having a 12-sided coin, presumably all the sides being equal. It will be near enough to being circular, but at least there will be a slight difference.
– What will be the diameter of it?
– I do not have that specification, but I have no doubt that models showing the size of the coin have appeared already. However, it appears that in some respects the 50c coin in its old form was not popular. One or two of my colleagues have suggested that we have a 50c note rather than mint a new type of 50c coin. At least we offer that suggestion for the consideration of the Treasury in future. It seems that some of the difficulty with the old coin was its size. To some extent that difficulty may be obviated by the new coin being somewhat lighter and being not circular.
– It will not make holes in the pocket either.
– One complaint seems to be the wear and tear on the pocket. That does not make it popular with either man or woman. We would suggest the introduction of a 50c note. I do not see any good reason why a new 50c coin should be minted, with its attendant difficulties, when a 50c note would suffice. Whether the coin will be cheap enough to manufacture to encourage would-be forgers I do not know. The Treasurer (Mr McMahon) has not supplied details of the estimated cost of minting the new 50c piece. Looking briefly at the accounts for the Mint and for other places I would not think it would cost more than lc or 2c to mint this coin that will have a face value of 50c. Whether in this affluent age it is worthwhile forging a 50c coin is a matter for speculation. Certainly it would not seem possible to dispose of sufficient counterfeit coins to make a quick fortune.
– Why not have the head of Ned Kelly on the coin?
– It is proposed later to mint a 50c coin to commemorate the landing of Captain Cook. Whatever may be the position of Ned Kelly in Australia’s history I think James Cook’s is earlier in the point of time and I suggest that it will be more lasting and of greater importance.
I do not wish to say any more about this legislation. It merely enables us to do in a different form something which we have already been doing. I hope that after the new coin has been in circulation for some time consideration will be given to issuing a 50c note if complaints are received about the coin.
– The introduction of a new 50c coin is a progressive move. This is a very useful denomination. I do not agree with the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean) when he says that it would be advantageous to issue a 50c note. Anybody who has dealt with Italian lire in small denominations will know that such notes soon become a distinct nuisance. Anybody who has worked in a bank will agree with me. I believe that it was necessary to discontinue minting the former 50c coin but I think that the issue of the proposed 12-sided coin will be a good thing. There will be no confusion over the new coin as there was over the old coin. Although the shape of the coin is to be different I trust that the general dimensions, and particularly its weight, will not cause inconvenience to the public. We do not have in Australia any vending machines which accept a 50c coin, so no expense will be involved in converting machines. This is an important point.
My main reason for participating in the debate is to speak about the proposal to issue a coin to commemorate the landing of Captain Cook. This matter was referred to by the honourable member for Melbourne Ports. I was delighted to hear the honourable member say that Captain Cook is a character of greater importance in our history than is Ned Kelly. I sometimes wonder whether the same could be said of many people in this House. When the commemorative coin is being designed by Stuart Devlin, the man who designed all our decimal coinage, I hope that he will bear in mind that the most important feature of the bi-centenary celebrations is Cook’s landing place, Kurnell Peninsula. I hope that Mr Devlin will use Kurnell Peninsula and not HMS ‘Endeavour’ as the feature of the coin. The coin should be issued in quantities sufficient to ensure that it will be a fine memento of the bi-centenary celebrations. I hope that the ordinary new 50c coin will not be issued in very large quantities prior to the issue of the Captain Cook commemorative coin.
The Royal Australian Mint in Canberra is probably one of the most modern mints in the world. We know that it is no tyro in issuing commemorative coins. The fact that the New Zealand Government requested the Royal Australian Mint to mint its commemorative coin, coupled with the fine results achieved in the minting of our decimal currency, indicates that the Captain Cook commemorative coin will be a good one. The important thing is that the coin should feature Kurnell Peninsula.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Swartz) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 27 February (vide page 37), on the following paper presented by Mr Gorton:
Defence - Ministerial Statement, 25 February 1969- and on the motion by Mr Erwin:
That the House take note of the paper.
Motion (by Mr Erwin) - by leaver - agreed to:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the Leader of the Opposition speaking without limitation of time.
– The Government has lost a very great opportunity. Its failure is Australia’s loss. We have never had so great an opportunity, there has never been so great a need, for a new insight, new attitudes and new initiatives in defence policy. The need has been overlooked: the chance has been passed by. In the past year, great changes have been foreshadowed in arrangements in our region. The British are about to close the imperial episode in their history; the Americans are radically revising their whole attitude to the idea of military involvement on the mainland of Asia. This was the occasion for Australia to make a fresh assessment. The Government, however, still looks to the past, bases its policies on the past, and has a Prime Minister who speaks the language of the past.
What he offers in this document is that Australia should play a vestigial, a nostalgic, role in the affairs of the region. He has passed up the opportunity for Australia to make a truly constructive and crucial contribution to the defences of our region, and to our own defences.
When his statement is stripped to its essentials, he says that Australia’s contribution to regional security after the British have gone will be exactly of the same kind as when the British were there - only less of it. This is what has been hailed as a new policy - the same troops, only stationed on an island instead of the mainland, the same aircraft, and one instead of two ships.
The fact is that the Prime Minister’s chief purpose on Tuesday night was to reassure his own supporters, not Malaysia or Singapore. He had to try to recover from the confusion created by the hints he dropped and the kites he flew last year. Who had ever heard of the notion of an Israeli-type army for Australia until he raised it? How did the notion of Fortress Australia gain currency as a possible government policy? Much of the Prime Minister’s statement was in fact a rebuttal of himself.
The tragedy of this is that while the Prime Minister has been resolving his inner conflicts, a year has been lost. Even more important than that, he has set government thinking about our role back into the old, nostalgic paths and, to the extent that as Prime Minister he is in a position to mould public opinion, he has set Australia back. Is the defence and foreign policy debate of this country for the next decade really to be about a battalion in Singapore or anywhere else? Is this the linchpin of Liberal defence policy? Does this constitute forward defence in any meaningful sense? Is this the key to Australia’s security? Is this now the Liberal response to the ‘downward thrust of China between the Indian and Pacific Oceans’ that we used to hear so much about?
In fact, the Prime Minister’s statement was an attempt to combine a contradiction. He wants to present this as something very new and different, but wants to reassure his Party that nothing has changed. This is why he played down the significance of the abandonment of Terendak - the withdrawal to Singapore Island.
He assures us that it is only a technical decision; he says it has an economic significance, but no real strategic significance. He says Singapore and Malaysia have always been regarded as ‘indivisible for defence purposes, by all concerned’. Why, then, did the Malaysian Government offer to make arrangements to enable Terendak to be used by us even after the British phasing out? Why did New Zealand wish to keep her forces in Terendak? Do the Liberal backbenchers know of this? Have they sought any explanations of why Australia rejected the Malaysian offer and overruled New Zealand?
Or, further, if ‘all concerned’ regard Malaysia and Singapore as indivisible, why did the Prime Minister of Malaysia, Tunku Abdul Rahman, say, as reported on 18th January, 5 weeks ago:
Singapore will provide no effective defence against any attack. As the last war proved beyond doubt, Singapore cannot put up any form of defence?
All allowances having been made for local motives which the Tunku might have had for expressing himself in that dramatic way, it is scarcely the way which would be used by persons who were regarded as indivisible by all concerned. Indissoluble partners do not speak publicly in that fashion.
Or, alternatively, why did the Prime Minister of Singapore say: (From the Singapore viewpoint they cannot add very much to security which we already have with our own forces and we have no problems of counter-insurgency?
These were the comments made by the Tunku and by Mr Lee Kuan Yew 2 weeks after it was announced that the Australian troops would be removed from Terendak and installed in Singapore.
The Prime Minister of Singapore says they have no problems of counterinsurgency. Ten years ago, Singapore was the country in Asia most likely to go Communist. An Australian battalion is an irrelevance in such a context. The Prime Minister speaks of ‘infiltration and subversion of the kind which became familiar during the emergency and judged by our military advisers to ‘be the most likely form of aggression in the area’. Yet the very place in which the battalion is now to be stationed is the very place, in all of Asia, where this infiltration and subversion are least likely. Anyone who knows modern Singapore - this great island city-state - knows this.
The Prime Minister constantly refers to the Malaysia-Singapore area. But Singapore is a country - as independent as Australia. As to ‘indivisibility’, Singapore has no defence agreement with Malaysia. Such an agreement was foreshadowed at the time of Singapore’s separation from the Federation. It has not come to pass. There is no integration of the two defence forces. There are no military ‘ consultations, no joint exercises. There is no standardisation of equipment. Singapore has ordered aircraft; Malaysia has not done so and, when she does, may order different aircraft. It is thoroughly misleading for the Prime Minister to give the impression that the withdrawal to Singapore is nothing more than a decision of technical and economic convenience. Nevertheless he has to keep up appearances; he cannot admit to his followers that the Liberal shibboleth of ‘forward defence’ is in ruins, just as its policy of keeping the United States permanently bogged down on the mainland of Asia is in ruins.
In practical terms ‘forward defence’ was merely a euphemism for a policy aimed at keeping powerful allies, namely the United States and Britain, militarily involved on the mainland of Asia. The reality of the decade about to begin is that these powers, for a whole variety of reasons - economic, political and military - are no longer willing to accept that involvement. Therefore, the whole premise on which the forward defence fraud was based has crashed. And we ourselves have now, symbolically and literally, decided to take our ground forces off the mainland.
The Prime Minister, for the first time, envisages the participation of our 1,200 soldiers in training and military exercises with Malaysian and Singaporean troops. I want to distinguish clearly between these forces and the officers and men who are sent up from Australia on secondment under the military aid programme. The truth is that the Australian military component in the Commonwealth Strategic Force based at Terendak has never carried out military exercises with the Malaysian forces. The exercises have been carried out with their British and New Zealand counterparts, but not their Malaysian hosts. Similarly, although Australia has had naval vessels in the area since the early 1950s, it was only this month that any attempt was made to include the Royal Malaysian Navy in joint exercises in any significant way with the Royal, Royal Australian and Royal New Zealand Navies. Thus, when Terendak is abandoned our presence will have left no lasting legacy to the Malaysian armed forces in terms of future capacity.
There is not the slightest reason to believe that it will be any different in Singapore. Singapore, from the day of separation, set out to raise, train, equip and support an adequate army. As we are all aware, on the day of separation she arranged with her brother government in Israel- to provide men to train her own forces. They were known as Mexicans until the 6-day war 18 months ago.
It is not even clear what legal status our troops have in Singapore. The Minister for External Affairs asserts that Singapore has made an agreement which covers the new situation since September. Sir Alan Watt, former permanent head of the Department of External Affairs, in the book he published in 1967, said:
The legal rights of the United Kingdom Government and of the Austraiian Government to use Singapore bases and facilities are left singularly unclear.
That is the view of an experienced administrator, diplomat and academic. What new agreement has been entered into since 1967?
Incredibly, the Prime Minister says that our forces will be stationed in the area under existing arrangements, the terms of which are governed by the Anglo-Malayan Defence Agreement. The AMDA was signed on 12th October 1957. It was an arrangement between Malaya and the United Kingdom at the time the United Kingdom was relinquishing its sovereignty over Malaya. The intent of the treaty was to provide the newly independent state with a security provided by the former imperial power. Britain had a special obligation. All this was nearly 12 years ago. Britain in the intervening period stood by Malaysia and nurtured its defence development. Britain has made the decision that commitments on the ground are no longer necessary. As the Prime Minister has stated, the British withdrawal will be completed by the end of the calendar year 1971. The Prime Minister added that the circumstances under which they may return to assist in an emergency are unknown. That is, AMDA. the Agreement under which he postulates the presence of Australian forces, will have expired. He is in effect saying that AMDA is no longer operative. It is in fact a dead letter. Malaya is now Malaysia, Singapore is not part of Malaysia and the Angles are disappearing over the western horizon. Yet this dead treaty, which we have never signed, with which we are associated only by way of exchange of letters - a postscript - is the basis of our commitment.
Could anything better symbolise the Government’s attitude - this nostalgia, this yearning for the past, this refusal to shake itself out of the rut of past attitudes, past slogans, past myths. Is there any other government in the world which would commit its forces overseas, for an indefinite future period, on the basis of a 12-year-old agreement which it itself had never signed, which the country to which the forces are to go has never signed, an agreement between a country which no longer exists and another which has abandoned it? Reliance on AMDA only underlines the fact that forward defence in the old imperial concept is dead.
Sir Alan Walt quotes the Prime Minister of Malaysia as saying on 20th May 1962 that under the mutual defence agreement with Great Britain, Commonwealth forces in Malaya could not be used except for the defence of Malaya and British territories in South East Asia without Malaya’s agreement. Sir Alan writes:
The Federation of Malaya will noi agree to the Commonwealth forces stationed in Malaya being sent to Thailand in fulfilment of the obligations of the three Commonwealth countries (UK, Australia and New Zealand) to SEATO. And in fact an Australian Sabre squadron destined for Thailand was first withdrawn from Butterworth to Singapore.
Three years ago when several of my colleagues and I had to proceed from Butterworth to Ubon in Thailand the same subterfuge had to be followed.
The truth is that the very agreement under which we are in Malaysia and presumably Singapore inhibits the use of these forces in any other country in the region. As to internal subversion, that is precisely the situation which the Prime Minister of Malaysia, the Defence Minister of Malaysia, Tun Razak, the Malaysian Chief of Staff and the Malaysian Foreign Office repeatedly, publicly and vehemently assert they are perfectly competent to handle themselves. They have sixteen battalions; we are at most times but not always to have a company - one company - on rotation at Butterworth. And internal subversion - insurgency - is the one situation least likely to arise in Singapore itself.
There is one other fallacy on which government policies rest. It is the fallacy that the presence of our forces in one or two countries of Asia adds strength to our diplomatic arm. This is demonstrably not so. During the current dispute between Malaysia and the Philippines over Sabah, the fact that we had forces on the ground in Malaysia when she had strained relations with the Philippines, a fellow-member of SEATO, proved an embarrassment to us and, far from assisting any diplomatic endeavours, in fact detracted from them. Malaysia depended on Australia to provide an Air Force. She believed she needed an Air Force in Sabah. It did not go there. In an episode which would be hard to match for diplomatic ineptitude, we declined to say plainly that we recognised Sabah as part of Malaysia. In fact, we told the Philippines that we would remain neutral. We encouraged the Filipinos to be more assertive. They knew full well that we would not sanction the use of Australian forces. Meanwhile Malaysia understandably was highly critical of our behaviour.
It is intolerable for the national government of any country to have an arrangement with another country which says it will protect one half but not the other half of its country. Finally the message has got through, the Prime Minister has at long last made a statement on Sabah that should have been made months ago. That is a proper statement. Apart from diplomatic ineptitude, this episode does illuminate the emptiness of the argument that forces stationed abroad add strength to our diplomatic arm. In fact, in this case it weakened our diplomatic initiative in this region. And this brings us to the central problem. In its search after chimeras, its clinging to the myths and slogans and shibboleths of the past, the Government is missing the whole point of what a fruitful, constructive policy should be.
What should be our aim? It is admirably summed up in the British White Paper on Defence of 1967: to foster developments - the White Paper said - which will enable the local people to live in peace without the presence of external forces. What we have to ask ourselves, free of sloganeering and electioneering, is this: Is the proposed deployment of a small proportion of our troops in Singapore, and two squadrons in Malaysia, the best or an adequate contribution to this central task - the task of helping Malaysia, Singapore and the other countries in our region to build up their own defences and stand on their own feet. It is not an adequate contribution and it is an ineffective type of contribution. In many respects, it is counter-productive against this central objective.
In the use of our defences, as of our resources, we should be concentrating on our strengths. In this context, our strengths certainly do not lie in the provision of soldiers, despite their prowess. What sort of delusion is it to say, as the Prime Minister said - speaking, remember, not about the Australian Army, nor about an Australian division or even a battalion, but about a company doing guard duties on rotation at an air base:
Their presence in Malaya . . .
That is the word - ‘Malaya’. That is obviously being used for west Malaysia-
It is not with such inflated bombast that we will concentrate on our very real strengths - our skills, our experience, our adaptability, our ability to train as well as to learn. It is not with such nonsense that we will fulfil our very real obligations, our defence and economic obligations, to Malaysia, to Singapore and to our other neighbours, and their other neighbours.
The Australian Government has incurred special responsibilities towards Malaysia as well as to Singapore. We cannot leave Malaysia in the lurch. We should never have appeared, as the Prime Minister’s maladroitness made it appear in his statement of 3rd January, that we were preparing to leave her in the lurch. We can still play a very great part in helping Malaysia to stand on her own feet in her defences and her economy. We must make not only a greater contribution but a better type of contribution to her ability to build her own defences.
Here is the key to the very real contribution we can make to the defence of Malaysia and Singapore. We should be prepared to help Malaysia and Singapore with the training and equipping of their armed forces. There is a great range of equipment, particularly in the field of radar and electronics, which the British formerly provided and which we should now offer. It will be some years before Malaysia can develop an adequate air force of her own. We clearly have an obligation to assist her in this. The obligation derives from our past commitment and our past assurances. The Malaysian Air Force does not have an interceptor or attack capacity. The Royal Australian Air Force has had to provide it. Australia cannot accommodate her four Mirage squadrons in Australia. If, as one would expect and hope, Malaysia decides to acquire an interceptor and attack capacity for her air force, Australia would be able and should be eager to help her to acquire, operate and maintain such aircraft. Singapore has ordered aircraft. Malaysia is discussing the types of aircraft and the terms of purchase she can obtain from Britain and France. She has contemplated buying sixteen Mirages from France with a credit from France of $Malay200m. It is galling to find that Australia is precluded from supplying and unwilling to finance aircraft _of the same type for Malaysia which Australia herself operates in Malaysia.
While Australia has largely supplied Malaysia with an air force, Australia could not at present maintain and operate that air force at home. By keeping half our Mirages at Butterworth the Government is making a virtue out of necessity, for the time being. We know that the Malaysians and Singaporeans know that we have no option. Last November the former Minister for Air, the present Minister for External Affairs (Mr Freeth), had to admit that the only Mirage bases were at Williamtown and Butterworth and that the fourth squadron would join the one at Butterworth rather than the two at Williamtown because of the overloading of Williamtown resources. If three squadrons are too much for Williamtown, what about four? The government has magnanimously allowed two squadrons to stay in Butterworth, because it has not provided adequate facilities for them in Australia. The Australian Government should be proceeding with plans for the provision of a second base in Australia from and through which at least two squadrons of Mirages can operate. It would be appropriate and it should be possible to have bases in Australia and Singapore and Malaysia from and through which the aircraft of all three countries can operate. We should aim to co-ordinate and standardise as many as possible of our aircraft and facilities and procedures. We should be willing to extend such co-operation and standardisation to other countries in our region.
Sabres and, still more, Mirages have always required complicated radar installations. The Malaysians and Singaporeans do not own or operate radar installations such as are at present to be found in their countries. It will take at least three and possibly more years for the Malaysian Government to acquire and staff and effectively operate contemporary radar systems. The Australian Government’s indecision over the last 12 months and more has deferred Malaysia’s radar preparations by a similar period. It is no longer possible for Malaysia to acquire and operate radar herself by the end of 1971. Australia should be able to manufacture and install such equipment and to help in training the Malaysian forces to service and operate it.
Basically, the Prime Minister has a garrison mentality - whether it is to be in Singapore, or somewhere in Australia, still a garrison - immobile, inflexible, irrelevant. It is an outmoded attitude. Of course, Australian troops should train and manoeuvre in Malaysia and Singapore and, I would hope, in Indonesia and the Philippines, But mobility requires that troops be able to move quickly in an emergency. This is precisely what garrison troops are unable and ill equipped to do. The Australian Army is not being trained or equipped to do it, from Australia. A battalion garrisoned in Singapore is no contribution to our achieving the object of mobility or long range effectiveness More impressive and effective than a 1,200 man garrison constantly visible - ‘how often that term appears - in Singapore would be a regularly demonstrated Australian capacity to transport 1,200 men between Australia, Singapore and Malaysia and between east and west Malaysia, men who would regularly train and exercise with the troops of those countries in those countries or in Australia.
In this statement, the Prime Minister proposes no new logistic, military or economic measures. He proffers only one diplomatic measure - one that has already failed - a non-aggression pact. He proposed it last year. He peddled it in the region. It never got off the ground. We should certainly be seeking to make arrangements - economic as well as defence arrangements - with our neighbours. But let us be seeking arrangements which have some chance of success, arrangements which our neighbours would desire, arrangements which Australia alone of the countries in the region has the economic and industrial and military capacity to promote.
The Prime Minister has taken Australia into a dead end. Australians must now realise that garrisoning meagre forces abroad is by itself no guarantee of security. The Prime Minister has helped to perpetuate that fallacy. To this extent, his ineffectual policies, his attempt to return to the past, his refusal to face the reality of the future, have weakened Australia’s security. He has certainly delayed the day when Australia will be making its maximum contribution to the defences, economies and societies of the countries in our region.
Fundamentally, what is happening is that the Government is being caught up by the course of events and the facts of history. It is only putting off the day of decision by trying to fit new facts into old attitudes. What Australia needs is not a refashioning or refurbishing of old myths. Australia needs new policies and new initiatives. For too long the Australian Government has assumed that the normal and natural state of things is that a country should station a considerable part of her armed forces abroad. Consequently, decisions which have had the effect of reducing the overseas commitment have been seen as a departure from the norm. So sensitive has the Liberal Party been on this score that some of its withdrawals have been secret or unexplained. The withdrawal of our squadron from Ubon in Thailand was neither announced, explained nor debated. This was withdrawal by stealth. Elsewhere there has been withdrawal under cover of semantics. In the Prime Minister’s statement there is still this attempt to play down the significance of the abandonment of Terendak which neither Malaysia nor New Zealand desires. There is this description of a single vessel - one instead of two - as ‘naval elements’. Apparently ‘naval elements’ is the new term for a frigate. We have to realise how entirely unusual it is for a country like Australia to have forces abroad on a permanent basis in peace time. Certainly we are the only medium power which bases its defence policy on the concept of overseas garrisons.
Labor is determined to do three things - to defend Australia, to build the defences in our region, and to build the economies and societies of the countries in our region. There is a simple test as to how ineffective the policy outlined by the Prime Minister is in achieving any of these objects, even with regard to the two countries with which the statement is principally concerned. If we pose the question ‘Will Malaysia in 3 years time be better able to defend herself, to stand on her own feet because of this policy’, the answer is no. This policy would make no contribution to Malaysia’s self reliance or military capacity. For as long as we permit our defence thinking to be bogged down in old paths, we will be retarding progress towards self reliance and failing to make our maximum contribution to our own defence and the defences of our region. The Prime Minister of Singapore said only yesterday - and it was a comment upon this very defence statement which we are debating this evening: ‘In the longer run, it is economic progress and social betterment which decides whether the two countries can withstand external and internal pressure or manipulation.’ It is because Singapore has concentrated on economic progress and social betterment that there is no risk of insurgency, subversion or invasion.
Of all the countries in the region, Australia is the best able to help finance, equip and train the defence forces of our region. The Government asserts that Australia’s defence requirements are too small for most items of equipment to be made here. The combined and standardised requirements of countries in the region are certainly great enough to enable them all, and particularly Australia, to expand the defence capacity of their industries. Of all the countries in the region, Australia is best able to help build the economies and societies of the countries in our region.
It is true that the Prime Minister makes a gesture in his statement towards the need for economic and social progress. But when it came to the test he used his influence to prevent Australia pulling her full weight.
He was responsible for cutting by half the amount of aid to Indonesia for which the former Minister for External Affairs was pressing last year. Australia did not give the amount of aid comparable to that given and urged by the United States and by Japan, our closest associates in this region. And this statement which purports to deal with defence in South East Asia is silent on Indonesia, our nearest, greatest and most important neighbour. As the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) is interjecting, I point out that the Netherlands still gives more aid to Indonesia than does Australia. We would be giving more, it is true, but the Prime Minister withstood it.
It would be tragic if the Australian people were to accept that the Prime Minister’s statement represented the last word on Australia’s future defences and on the role we should be playing in our neighbourhood. This is neither an adequate nor correct response to our very real responsibilities and the very great opportunities history has given Australia in this region. In a very real sense the Prime Minister’s statement is a retreat, a retreat into old modes of thought and outdated postures and a retreat from Australia’s responsibilities in the region.
– I listened with great attention to the statement by the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton), and I have listened with great interest to the reply that has been made by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) tonight. Whereas the Prime Minister’s statement was clear and to the point the statement by the Leader of the Opposition has been wordy and woolly. This is not surprising because his party is split at least three ways. Some are for complete withdrawal of all Australian forces from South East Asia; others are for withdrawal of military forces but not the naval and air forces; and some have other views. It is not therefore surprising that the Leader of the Opposition has fallen back upon a not uncommon tactic of his - that is to say, to start innumerable hares and pursue them with great vigour and draw many red herrings across the trail.
The real criticism of the speech that he has made is that he has failed to meet squarely the great issue of our time. Instead he has talked about all kinds of trivialities and tried to suggest all kinds of things that are totally irrelevant to the great issue that is before us. I do not propose to pursue his hares or to try to catch his herrings, except by way of illustrating what he has done. Me has made a great song and dance about Terendak. Terendak has no significance whatever but a purely technical one and anybody who knows what has happened and read what the Prime Minister said is fully aware of this. It is something that the whole of the public understands. As regards the handling of the Sabah business - I pick out another red herring - he himself has admitted that the handling of that matter in the Prime Minister’s speech was excellent. Indeed, if he likes to read some of the comments in the Press - I do not propose to pursue this in detail because it is only a red herring - he will see it has been, for very good reasons, highly commended.
The Leader of the Opposition talked about the Government’s policy hanging on to the past - the myths, slogans and shibboleths of the past - yet he and his party draw the old rags of the past, from 1917 onwards, about them. I want to say something about this before I sit down because here is a party which is still living 30, 40, 50 years ago, whereas what the Government has put is an adventurous policy indeed. It is a great opportunity that history has given us, and the Government - the Prime Minister - has seized that opportunity. As I said, I do not propose to pursue all the red herrings, but I am concerned with what is the great issue and what is the answer of the Opposition to it.
The great issue is that the British have withdrawn or have almost withdrawn from our part of the world. American policy clearly is disenchanted with involvement on the mainland of South East Asia. These are the facts. In these circumstances we have to readjust the whole of our policy and defence arrangements in this area. This is the great issue. There are certain possible courses of action. The Prime Minister has put forward the course of action that he and his Government propose to follow. What is the alternative to it? That is what we want to know from the Opposition. Here is the clear cut issue. What is the Opposition’s alternative to it? It is a matter no longer of Australia making a contribution to the American effort in Vietnam or the British effort in Malaysia. It is a matter of substituting something else on a lesser scale, but no longer is it a matter merely of making a contribution of some miscellanous forces.
What has the Leader of the Opposition said about all of this? Let us look at the Government’s policy for a start and then at the real Opposition policy. The Government’s attitude is this: We are affected by what happens in our neighbours’ countries. What happens in Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand and the rest is of vital concern to us. What do we intend to do about it? We seek to do what we can to secure political stability in the area.
– The honourable gentleman laughs but I remind him that we have done something about Sabah already. We seek also to ensure, as far as we can, economic progress for all the people in the area; to encourage the defence capability of our allies in South East Asia and, in the immediate future, to retain some military force there in order to stabilise those countries so far as we can, because without that stability there can be no economic progress and no social advance. This, then, is the Government’s policy. It is clear, precise, sensible. It has nothing to do with the policies of the past. It is a policy related to our circumstances after the departure of the British and the withdrawal in some measure of the Americans. This is a new policy and not, as the Leader of the Opposition has said, merely a nostalgic return to the past. It is a new policy in new circumstances. Let there be no mistake about this.
What is the Opposition’s policy? As the Leader of the Opposition has not said anything about it, let me quote from what his deputy has had to say. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard) is the Opposition’s spokesman on matters of defence. He has written a little Fabian pamphlet ‘Australian Defence - Policy and Programmes’. At page 13 he says:
The basic contention of the Labor Party is that Australia’s strategic frontiers are its natural boundaries.
In other words, our own shores. He does not deny it nor does any member of the Opposition deny it. The Leader of the Opposition did not spell it out precisely; so I have done so for him. At page 43 of the pamphlet the Deputy Leader of the Opposition says:
I have referred earlier to the crude and unsubtle propagandist techniques employed by Liberal-Country Party governments which have relied overwhelmingly on proclaiming the existence of an active and co-ordinated Communist conspiracy of world wide subversion. The evidence for such a conspiracy is hard to find at the moment.
So we do not have to worry about Communism. The official attitude of the Opposition is that we defend ourselves within our coastline and we do not have to worry about the advance of Communism. Then he goes on at page 52 to say:
In the belief that in the foreseeable future it is impossible to conceive of any significant external threat to Australia, I would like to outline what I believe to be the basic objectives for the defence of Australia.
The ability to maintain control and surveillance of Australia’s territory, air space and territorial waters.
The ability to deal with military incidents on Australian territory.
The ability to deal with incidents in the ocean areas off the Australian coast.
The ability to defend Australia’s air space.
The ability to participate adequately in peacekeeping operations under the auspices of the United Nations and other international arrangements.
The ability to perform tasks of a quasimilitary nature, such as survival operations, search and rescue, communications and civil aid.
The attainment of this overall ability will require the scrapping of an inflexible forward defence policy which is completely irrelevant to the decades ahead.
That is the Opposition’s policy. It was not stated by the Leader of the Opposition tonight, but the Australian people should know it. That is as it is stated by the front bench spokesman on defence and foreign policy matters, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition.
On the other hand, of course, Labor says that we are to give plenty of economic aid. This reminds me of the situation of a drowning man who is not dead. The Leader of the Opposition would say: ‘Give him a blanket and a warm drink, but do not remove the water from his lungs’. That would be the situation with economic aid but with no military aid to secure stability. The Opposition says that military involvement in South East Asia for Australia is counter-productive. Is it? There are two outstanding examples where it was not One was the ‘emergency* in Malaysia. Who can say that the presence of British military forces in Malaysia was not vital in saving that country from Communist subversion? The other example is the confrontation’ by Indonesia. Who can say that the British forces in Malaysia were counter-productive and against the best interests of Malaysia, of the British or of ourselves?
Let us analyse this. Labor’s policy is unquestionably a policy of withdrawal. The Opposition can talk about economic aid and so on, but basically its policy is a policy of withdrawal. Let us have a look at the consequences of withdrawal. Firstly, this would dishearten our friends in South East Asia. Could we expect the Malaysians, the Singaporeans, the Thais and the rest to brace themselves and make their own defensive effort if we, the most advanced industrial power in this part of the world, withdrew and said we would have nothing to do with them? Withdrawal would have an adverse effect on the United States of America. I do not propose to quote from an article in ‘Foreign Affairs’ written by President Nixon shortly before he became President, but the substance of it is quite clear to all of us. The American policy is that it will help those who help themselves. If we do not help ourselves we cannot expect to get help from America. Neither would any other ally assist us. We would be thrown back on our own power to defend ourselves, and it is impossible for a country of our size and resources to maintain itself in armed neutrality against the world.
We would abandon the opportunity to influence American policy - and the Americans control the seas in our part of the world. We would not have the advantage of United States intelligence and weapons systems. We would have no protection against nuclear attack as, for example, from nuclear submarines off our coast. We would lose the economic assistance we get from the United States in capital and know-how. We could do nothing to shape the future of our region. We would not be trusted by anybody, because nobody trusts those who abandon their old friends. As Polonius said:
The friends thou hast, and their adoption tried, Grapple them to thy soul with hoops of steel.
But the Labor Party would abandon our alliance with the British and the Americans and with the Malaysians and Singaporeans. We would not be trusted and we would not be acceptable, as an honourable member opposite suggested, as an impartial umpire in the area. Who would want us as an umpire - people who abandon their friends and have no credit? I will be fair and say that there is, of course, a cost to pay. An alliance is a two-way thing. We should seek to strengthen the alliance and not to abandon it. We have provided facilities such as North West Cape and Pine Gap, referred to in this chamber the other day. We have also provided facilities for tracking stations. This is the price we pay, but what is the cost of not paying that price? That is the important consideration.
The first possibility is the course proposed by the Government. The second possibility is withdrawal in substance from South East Asia. I say that this is what the Opposition proposes, regardless of what it says about economic aid, or Danegeld, or whatever it may be. But there is a third possibility, and that is partial involvement in South East Asia. We could have troops ready to go, to be thrown in at any time we felt the situation warranted it. This would be rather like the position adopted by the British in two world wars. They were prepared to throw troops across the English Channel, firstly in the retreat from Le Cateau to the Marne in World War I, and secondly on the retreat to Dunkirk in World War II. The British had troops ready to go. All the movement schedules were worked out. There was no doubt whatever that the moment there was a threat of an invasion of France, the British troops would be on the move.
What does the Labor Party propose to do? It will have troops here, but what credibility will we have? What assurance could there be in South East Asia that they would ever move? Would they be ready to move across the seas? There would be the gravest doubts about our sincerity. We would have no credibility. The policy would not work in respect of South East Asian countries whose friendship we seek to cultivate because our future and theirs are bound inextricably together.
There is a great advantage in having forces on the site. Why? Because they can be immediately deployed when they are needed instead of having to be flown in. They cannot be flown in just in the twinkling of an eye. The troops have to land somewhere and they must have their equipment with them. Aircraft particularly need all sorts of complex maintenance arrangements, communications and guidance systems, and so on. If bases are not held there, forces cannot be thrown in. In any event, the credibility that they would be thrown in would be lost. This sort of partial involvement will not work. But perhaps the Labor Party is not concerned with that aspect, but only with economic aid. As I said before, this is like giving a blanket and a hot drink to a drowning man, but failing to get the water out of his lungs.
It would be foolish to pretend that there are no risks in the Government’s policy. It is an adventurous policy, but we have to take risks. We cannot go along in this world without taking risks, but there are safeguards that have been spelt out by the Prime Minister. The Leader of the Opposition referred to the unsatisfactory state of the Treaty arrangements with Malaysia and Singapore. He is a lawyer. I suggest that understandings with our friends in Asia are much more important than a treaty that spells out just what are our obligations. This leaves us a great degree of flexibility, and in the uncertain situation that applies in this area flexibility is very much to be desired. Our presence is wanted. The Leader of the Opposition gave the opposite impression.
The governments of Malaysia and Singapore desire our presence. Does the Leader of the Opposition suggest that Tunku Abdul Rahman has been against our presence in Malaysia. He has welcomed it. Does the Leader of the Opposition suggest that Mr Lee Kuan Yew has been against our presence? He has welcomed it. Are these negligible people? I suggest that they and those at their right hands - people like Tun Razak and Dr Goh - are far from negligible people. These are good friends and allies.
We will not be in South East Asia to maintain civil law and order. The Prime Minister has made that plain. Our presence is not directed against any country. I read today a Press report that the Indonesians have expressed no opposition to our presence there. They understand it. We will help to build up the indigenous forces. The Leader of the Opposition has made great play about that. By having forces there ourselves this will be much easier to do. The point was made that Malaysia and Singapore have separated - they were great friends but they have separated. Surely it is absolutely vital that the defence of Malaysia and Singapore should be indivisible. Surely nothing could better promote that indivisibility and cohesion than the presence of our forces there. The suggestion is that the troops for technical reasons may have their home base in Singapore and therefore will not be exercising or taking part in military exercises in Malaysia or that if an insurgency threat develops there, they will not be able to move to the place where the danger is. This, of course, is utter nonsense. It is one of the red herrings dragged across the trail.
What is Labor policy? First of all it is determined from year to year by thirtysix faceless or double-faced men. So we never know what the policy is from year to year. I do not want to quote from the 1967 resolution of the Federal Conference of the Australian Labor Party; it could be different in 1969 or 1970. But what we do know are the basic attitudes of the Labor Party over the years. They have been against conscription ever since 1917 although at that time there was a war on the other side of the world. Now any war in which we are involved is a war for the protection of the homeland of Australia. In 1917 the war was in France. They are anti-American. We only have to listen to debates in this House to know this. They are pro-Marxist. There is a whole proMarxist wing on the other side of the House. Many of them are rather sympathetic to the Communist insurgents in South East Asia. A lot of them are pacifists which is a very noble thing, morally speaking, but not a defence policy. These are the basic attitudes as revealed by the Labor Party over the years.
We have a great opportunity. Are we to discard the friends that we have had? We have a special connection with Malaysia and Singapore. It is a connection of personal friendship so far as many of us are concerned. Are we to throw this away? Are we to throw away the alliances with our great friends who may be less able to help us now than they have been in the past? This connection should be maintained so that in an emergency or in a dire situation we may still have some friends in the world.
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
Sitting suspended from 5.57 to 8 p.m.
– The statement of the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) carries Australia into the 1970’s with a firm recommitment to the doctrine of forward defence. It is difficult in retrospect to see how the Prime Minister could have abandoned this concept. Certainly he has made vague forays into other concepts of defence. Last year he frequently hinted at the Fortress Australia doctrine he now ascribes to the Labor Party. To the alarm of his colleagues and the defence Services, he even spoke at one stage of an Israeli-type Army. Now, like his new-look Minister for External Affairs (Mr Freeth), he has put his policeman’s uniform on again and gone back to patrol1 the beat.
This so-called rethinking of defence policy has taken a year - a painful and laborious year. Despite the much trumpeted new initiatives everything is now much as it was in 1966-67. The Prime Minister at last has found out that he can say only what he is told to say. His procrastination has been elevated to a virtue and his revival of old doctrines has emerged as statesmanship.
Did the Prime Minister ever really have any options? Is an alternative policy to forward defence possible for a government which has always been irrevocably wedded to it? The answer in each case must be no. The scrapping of forward defence would mean the scrapping of the system of conscription on which it is based. The end of forward defence would mean the logical end to Australia’s commitment in Vietnam. This is what forward defence has brought to Australia: A highly unjust and discriminatory system of conscription to sustain a commitment to one of the beastliest wars in history. The Prime Minister, despite his thrashing and his flounderings, has not been able to throw off the bonds of forward defence. Australia is due to enter the seventies still committed to Vietnam. In the light of history it may emerge as even more reprehensible that Australia enters the 1970’s as the last white garrison in South East Asia. The Dutch, the British, and the French have gone. The only vestiges of empire remaining are two minor Portuguese territories, the British in Hong Kong and now the Australian ground forces in Singapore-Malaysia. This is not a proud legacy.
I would like to compare briefly the Prime Minister’s statement in the Parliament this week with a very brief Press statement he made on 3rd January. This hasty statement was issued just before the Prime Minister left for the Prime Ministers’ Conference in London. The right honourable gentleman’s statement was about Australian forces in Malaysia-Singapore until the end of 1971. He said: lt is planned that two Australian squadrons of Mirage aircraft will be based at Butterworth with a detachment in Singapore and an Australian naval element will continue to be stationed in Singapore. At an appropriate stage during the British withdrawal from Terendak the Australian and New Zealand Army contingents will move to Singapore with a detachment stationed at Butterworth.
This was the policy until the end of 1971 as announced by the Prime Minister on 3rd January. The same disposition of troops was announced by the Prime Minister in this House’ last week. In essence his post- 1971 policy is an open ended projection of his pre- 1971 policy. Certainly there is a lot more padding and window dressing in the Prime Minister’s statement to the House this week. But essentially there is no variation from what was announced on 3rd January. The Minister concluded his statement on this day by saying that any reports on the disposition of forces after the end of 1971 were pure speculation, as the matter remained under discussion between Governments. Despite the Prime Minister’s protestations that it was never a question of whether but one of how, it is apparent from the earlier statement that the Prime Minister left his options open until the last possible moment. By leaving his options open until it was too late, the Prime Minister wound up with no options. He was forced to resort to the stale forward defence concept of his predecessors.
I would like to make a few brief points about the Prime Minister’s statement before stating in some detail the attitudes of the Australian Labor Party to South East Asian defence. The first point I would like to make is that the Labor Party has a special right to talk about the defence of the Malaysia-Singapore region because a Labor Government was instrumental in arranging the Australia, New Zealand and Malaya - ANZAM Agreement. The Labor Party has always recognised the significance and importance to Australia of these great neighbours. However, it is impossible to see what impact the retention of Australian garrisons in Malaysia and Singapore can have on their internal development and security. The Prime Minister has said that Australian troops will be used only to counter Communist subversion inspired from outside. Even if this form of subversion can be positively identified Australian troops can make only a negligible contribution to countering it.
The Prime Ministers of both Malaysia and Singapore are confident that they have the powers to meet this sort of subversion. The Singapore Minister for Finance, Dr Goh Keng Swee, said in Australia this year that he did not see Australian forces fighting on behalf of Singapore. He said also that he did not see why Australia should become involved in Communist aggression by way of insurgency mounted by the local Communists. Dr Goh said that such involvement would probably be counter-productive if South Vietnam was anything to go by. He went on to say - and I quote a Press transcript of his interview:
I think that dealing with the local Communists is a responsibility of the Government of the country. If they cannot deal with the Communists then they deserve to be eaten up.
This is the attitude of a senior member of the Singapore Government towards internal Communist subversion, whether inspired from outside or not. This confidence of both Singapore and Malaysia that they can deal with what the Government’s defence advisers describe as the most likely threat in this region makes futile the stationing of Australian ground troops in both Singapore and Malaysia. The Australian commitment is reduced to a vague public relations gesture which could prove counter-productive. The presence of foreign troops in an Asian country gives Communist insurgents a valuable propaganda weapon against the Government because the Communists can say that a Government dependent on foreign troops has not the capacity to attract the loyalty of the population. To a very great extent this is what has happened in Vietnam with disastrous consequences for the United States.
The second area of concern is the basis of this commitment to Malaysia and Singapore in a post- 1971 context. It is nonsensical that the commitment should be made on the basis of the Anglo-Malayan Defence Agreement of 1957. It is extremely doubtful that this agreement still applies in the light of imminent British withdrawal. With the retreat of the major partner to the other side of the globe, how can an agreement signed in 1957 govern Australian presence in Malaysia and Singapore after 19717 Yet the Prime Minister is content to garrison Australian troops overseas on the basis of an agreement that must be made null and void by the repudiation of a major partner.
What sort of sense or logic is there in a commitment based on a defunct agreement? As the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) has pointed out, this Agreement does not extend to Singapore. What sort of policy can countenance such a slipshod and sloppy posting of troops on the basis of this sort of agreement? The Prime Minister admitted in the House only yesterday, in answer to a question that I directed to him, that there was no defence pact between Malaysia and Singapore. Therefore, under what arrangements is Australia committing a battalion to Singapore?
The Prime Minister has said that the defence of Singapore and Malaysia is indivisible. He has opted for a concept of peninsular defence. But there is no defence arrangement between Singapore and Malaysia. If Malaysia had a dispute with a third country and Singapore remained neutral, what would happen? Australian forces would be straddled uneasily between the two states. This is the sort of difficulty that could arise under such an ill conceived and illogical commitment.
In his speech the Prime Minister said that while a capacity for swift additional assistance should be maintained within Australia it was essential for some forces to be stationed within Malaysia-Singapore.
The Prime Minister neglected to say where this capacity for swift additional assistance is to be found. At the moment Australia has three battalions of infantry stationed in South Vietnam. They are not capable of operating independently but are dependent on American backing for helicopters, heavy artillery and other support. Another battalion is stationed in Malaysia. The remaining battalions in Australia are heavily overstrained in providing a pool for the overseas commitments. Australia lacks the mobility and in particular the air-lift and sea-lift capability to move troops quickly from the Australian mainland. There is not the remotest possibility of providing swift assistance from Australia if the garrisons in Malaysia-Singapore get into trouble. This is yet another argument against this senseless commitment.
The Labor Party believes that it is complete folly to garrison Australian troops in Asia with British withdrawal imminent and the future of the United States commitment to South East Asia extremely uncertain. The policy of forward defence in practice has boiled down to the scattering of meagre units of Australian forces through South East Asia in such a way that they have no effective capability anywhere. The Government has made the tragic mistake of extending Australia’s strategic forces to Nui Dat, Ubon and Terendak. Rather than admit the failure and folly of this policy in the past or in the present, the Government still clings tenaciously to it against the trends of history in South East Asia.
The Labor Party has always stated its policy on South East Asia with the utmost clarity. The 1967 Conference of the Party adopted a declaration on British defence policy which has proved remarkably prophetic. We said then that Australia must develop flexible forces to ensure Australian security and be able to co-operate with allies in South East Asia. The declaration said also that Australia should be prepared to provide assistance to train military forces in Malaysia and Singapore. This is the essence of our present policy.
It is the declared policy of the Party that there is no place for small contingents of Australian land forces on the Asian mainland. We say that their presence cannot promote Australia’s national security and can only act against Australian defence interests. The Opposition has said frequently that the bulk of Australia’s forces should be concentrated on the mainland of Australia and not thinly spread through Asia. It is strategically useless to dissipate military strength in stale and sterile commitments of this sort. The basic strategic fact that Indonesia effectively interposes between Australia and South East Asia limits Australia’s capability and incentive to perform any effective role in the defence of Malaysia-Singapore.
The Opposition believes, therefore, that all ground forces should be withdrawn from Malaysia-Singapore and that Australia’s strategic frontiers should be established at its natural boundaries. This does not mean that we support isolationist policies or so called Fortress Australia policies. Australia’s defences can best be secured by developing the sort of highly mobile and flexible forces that can be deployed swiftly, in response to need, from the Australian mainland to South East Asia and in the Pacific and Indian Ocean regions. This would require a substantial reorganisation of the Australian Services to give them the required mobility and flexibility.
The Opposition says that the Government should be thinking in terms of mobile general purpose forces stationed in Australia but capable of rapid deployment from Australia in response to need. This would mean the provision of more helicopters, transport aircraft and fast deployment logistic ships which would be essential for Australia to build an effective independent defence capability. It would certainly be impossible to build these forces while troops are committed to Vietnam. This is another example of anomalous defence thinking. Australia cannot build the sort of forces it will need in the 1970s while the bulk of its strength is committed to Vietnam, Malaysia and Singapore.
With mobile general purpose forces, Australia could effectively fulfil its obligations in South East Asia, not only to Malaysia and Singapore but to other countries, without the stationing of garrisons in the region. It would be possible for air-mobile forces to train regularly in South East Asian countries, for example on a rotational basis in Malaysia, Singapore, the Philippines and Indonesia. This is the sort of co-operation we would like to see between Australia and South East Asian countries - not the pathetic and empty gesture of futile garrisons. The Labor Party has always recognised Australia’s obligation to assist in the training of indigenous forces in Malaysia and Singapore. For this reason we support the provision of specialist staff and equipment for Malaysia and Singapore for this purpose. With the departure of Britain, Australia has a duty to make more facilities available for the training of military forces in Singapore and Malaysia.
In summary, the Labor Party believes that all ground forces should be withdrawn from Malaysia and Singapore. The garrison concept should be replaced by a concept of mobile defence, emphasising co-operation with the military forces of South East Asia but based on the Australian mainland. In addition, we should provide specialist equipment and assistance to develop military forces in Malaysia-Singapore. Direct military presence in these countries should be confined to specialist units and personnel requested by these countries to assist in their training and re-equipment. In the circumstances as they exist at this time, with our complete dependence in many respects, particularly in Vietnam, upon the equipment that is provided by the United States of America, we would find it extremely difficult to provide the kind of technical assistance and equipment that may be needed in these areas.
The Government has fumbled an opportunity to rethink and revitalise its outmoded attitudes. In the belief that the ultimate withdrawal of all Australian forces from South East Asia is inevitable, the Opposition confidently asserts its attitudes to future defence policy. We believe that our stand on this issue will be vindicated, just as our Vietnam policies have been shown to be right.
– The Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) has seldom been heard to poorer advantage than in his reply to the defence statement made by the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) on Tuesday night. One would need to dig deep to find a trace of gold in the mullock. The Leader of the Opposition has accused the Government firstly of having lost a great opportunity to introduce new initiatives. On his own part, there clearly showed through his dreary 40-minute recital the fact that the Opposition clings firmly to a defence policy which is completely out of touch with the times and the environment in which we live. His speech revealed him as the arch proponent of the Fortress Australia philosophy. He is not alone in the Labor Party on this, of course. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard) has established that the policy of the Opposition is to regard Australia’s strategic frontiers as being the shores of Australia. Behind that barrier, the Opposition would withdraw, as though there could be any validity in a policy of isolationism in a world of intercontinental missiles, nuclear power and armed submarines, to say nothing of the possibilities of subversion and political warfare which recognise no international boundaries.
The Leader of the Opposition offered what was in my view and, I am sure, in the view of the House, a thoroughly dishonest commentary on the several matters about which we are vitally concerned at this time. I think it will be necessary to deal with only a few of these in a factual way to establish that his views in their entirety ought to be disregarded. The Leader of the Opposition would have us confine ourselves to aid of one kind or another to our South East Asian friends and allies. This approach disregards entirely the very considerable forces which both Malaysia and Singapore are developing in their own defence - forces which, I may say, are developing to a high state of competence. Our approach to this problem is one of cooperation within a partnership of countries devoted to a common effort for our mutual defence. The honourable gentleman pays very little compliment indeed to our allies in implying - indeed, in charging - that there was a failure to get together in coopera.tion. There is, on the public record, a declaration of their joint belief in the indivisibility of defence for Malaysia and Singapore, and there has been nothing to bring into question the sincerity of their obligations in relation to that statement.
The Opposition claims that the contribution of Australian and New Zealand forces is of no value. It is, of course, complete nonsense to suggest that well trained and well equipped land, sea and air forces have nothing to contribute by way of complement to the growing military strength of Malaysia and Singapore. But even if the effort were only psychological - which it certainly is not - it is apparent from the statements of the leaders of the two countries that they welcome it. The Opposition constantly reaffirms its faith in industrial and social development as being the great need in Souh East Asia. But the presence of Australian and New Zealand miliary power in the area, and the implications of it, are the very foundation of this kind of development in Singapore and Malaysia. The Leader of the Opposition went on to quote the Prime Minister of Singapore as having said:
In the longer run, it is economic progress and social betterment which decides whether the two countries can withstand external and internal pressure or manipulation.
What the honourable gentleman left out was this introductory remark:
The Australian and New Zealand decision has enhanced the prospects for stability in the area and so promoted economic growth.
It is clearly understood by students of South East Asia that it is the promise of security and stability in the area which underwrites the confidence of those who can best contribute to regional development - and here lies the importance of our decision and of the powerful aid which our contribution will make to security and development of all kinds in South East Asia.
The Leader of the Opposition, in his Jong and involved analysis of the legal position under which we are contributing to the defence of the area, denies that there can be trust and confidence between friends and allies. Certainly, we are there through our association with the Anglo-Malaysian Defence Agreement. Certainly, this does not formally apply to Singapore since separation, but the fact of the matter is that Singapore has continued in all its relations as though the conditions of the AngloMalaysian Defence Agreement still applied. These arrangements have proved a satisfactory basis for the deployment and operation of our forces in the past. They are acceptable to the Malaysian and Singaporean Governments. Our Government’s decision to continue to station Australian forces in Malaysia and Singapore after the British withdrawal in 1971 was taken in the context of consultations between the five Governments of Malaysia, Singapore, Britain, New Zealand and Australia - consultations which will continue at the conference in Canberra in June, and even beyond that conference. We are to stay at the request of the Governments of Malaysia and Singapore. They have expressed publicly their pleasure in the continued association. It would be hard to find any reason to think that necessary arrangements for the continued presence of Australian forces will not continue to exist in pursuance of the common purposes and understandings of the five governments.
The Leader of the Opposition declares that Australian forces have never carried out exercises with the Malaysian forces. Presumably the honourable gentleman does not know that in the Malayan emergency of 1948 to 1960 elements of the three Australian Services co-operated with Malayan forces and that the Australian Army subsequently continued operations on the Thai-Malay border in conjunction, again, with Malaysian forces. During confrontation, the Royal Australian Navy undertook extensive patrolling activities with the Royal Malaysian Navy, while the Australian Army was engaged in ground operations in Borneo and the Malayan Peninsula, again with the Malaysian Army and the Police Field Force. In all that time the Royal Australian Air Force provided fighter and air transport support for the Malaysian forces in these areas. This gives the lie direct to the statement by the Leader of the Opposition that Australian forces have never exercised with the Malaysian Services. Indeed, we have done more than that: We have fought side by side with them.
The Leader of the Opposition sought to make capital out of our decision to move our forces from Terendak to Singapore. Let me put him right. As far back as the five power conference in Kuala Lumpur last June, we let it be known that a decision to retain military forces in MalaysiaSingapore after the British withdrawal would inevitably call into question the continued occupancy of the Terendak area. Late last year, the agreement of the two governments was obtained for an Army
Defence team to conduct studies necessary to determine the best location for our Army contribution. There were extensive discussions with senior officials in Kuala Lumpur and Singapore. The decision to move the Army to Singapore was based on military and economic factors. The dominant consideration was how best to provide most economically a ground force as a contribution to the security of Malaysia and Singapore, and to make the best use of the resources Australia had at its disposal. We discussed this question in great depth with our New Zealand friends. We were aware of the views of Malaysia and Singapore. We weighed them carefully; then we exercised our own judgment.
The withdrawal of the British means the end of the British logistics organisation which has served our forces at Terendak. We and the New Zealanders will have to build up a logistics and communications support structure to support our forces or at least we would have been obliged to do so had the decision been one to remain at Terendak. Movement to Singapore shortens our lines of communication and lessens logistics problems. It avoids problems of medical and other support. We have immediate access to Singapore’s highly developed port and other maintenance facilities. We have the means of developing a basic organisation which could be expanded rapidly if the need for that should arise. The value and availability of our forces in Singapore is no less than if they were in Malaysia.
The arrangement under which Air Force and Army units will be deployed away from their main base means that the Air Force based on Butterworth will have a detachment at Tengah in Singapore, whereas the Army based in Singapore will have a company stationed at Butterworth. Remember in all of this that in numbers the Australian forces in Malaysia at any one time will be greater than those in Singapore and our annual maintenance and capital costs for Butterworth far exceed those committed at Terendak or to be incurred at Singapore.
With Singapore and Malaysia accepting that their defence is indivisible, there surely must be tremendous psychological as well as military value for our forces to be distributed between the two countries, contributing not to the defence of one country but seen to be available to both. What more needs to be said than to quote the Malaysian Minister for Defence, Tun Abdul Razak? Although expressing some natural regret at the departure of the Australian and New Zealand forces from Terendak, Tun Razak acknowledged, in his own words:
Their decision is made not only in the interests of Commonwealth friendship but also in the interest of peace and security in this region. Thendecisions will certainly help to maintain peace, stability and security in this area.
We welcome this evidence of the complete understanding of our Allies. What is the peculiar compulsive force that moves the Leader of the Opposition to dishonesty in these tremendously important matters of international concern. The Leader of the Opposition then confounded his own argument. He claimed firstly that our departure from Terendak will leave no benefit to the Malaysian armed forces. Minutes later he acknowledged that it was Britain, in response to her special obligation, that stood by Malaysia and nurtured its defence development.
The honourable gentleman does not seem to understand that a new situation is about to come into being; that Australia and New Zealand and the countries of the region are taking up, willingly, new responsibilities and new obligations to bring new teamwork and, through it, new security for the region. Clearly, the transition from the old to the new will take time, but the process is already well advanced. A number of working parties have been at work for months on proposals for submission to the five power conference to be held in June.
Let me deal with one more myth that is constantly and foolishly fostered by the Leader of the Opposition. He seeks to credit Australia not only with the policy but with the ability to keep the United States permanently bogged down on the mainland of Asia. Let me quote from the recent assessment of the international situation presented by the then Secretary of Defence, Mr Clark M. Clifford. In support of the Pentagon’s budget proposals for this financial year, he pointed out that:
A basic principle of United States’ policy in East Asia for at least 30 years has been opposition to domination of the region by a single political force hostile to the United States.
The challenge is immense for it must include planning not only for what we will do in Vietnam in the transition to peace and in the post-hostilities environment, but also for the security problems that will emerge or persist throughout the region after the conflict. If there is to be an effective counterweight to Communist China in East Asia in the years immediately ahead, some degree of United States’ presence and commitment will be required.
Mr Clifford then went on to anticipate the need for continued United States’ effort to cultivate friendly relations with nonCommunist countries and to contribute to their economic and military development. Does this sound as though Australia’s influence alone maintained American interest in Asia for 30 years?
In his address, the Prime Minister set out the historic nature of changes now taking place in South East Asia. He rightly pointed out that this is the beginning of a new era. Our response is explicitly covered in the statement on defence, but the decisions will have an importance far beyond defence in that Australia has indicated its joint concern with Malaysia, Singapore, New Zealand and potentially other nations in the area for the stability and security of the region. The statement acknowledges that what happens in South East Asia is of immediate concern to us and that this country’s security can be, generally, no greater than that of the region of which we are a part.
The Opposition is welcome to its opinion that our decision and our contribution are of no value. That opinion is an exclusive possession of the Opposition. The governments of the two countries concerned, the entire Press of Australia, the Returned Servicemen’s League of Australia, and the majority of Australian people disagree with the Opposition. But clearly our initiatives will be of enormous value in another direction. We have long been aware of the United States’ view that it would look to the nations in the region to take on the primary responsibilities in the South East Asian area and would hope for broader indigenous Asian regional collaboration in the years ahead. Nobody with any sense of responsibility would quarrel with that view. This country, having so clearly accepted and given evidence in physical form of its acceptance of responsibilities in this region, cannot now but be in a better position - vis-a-vis our relationship with the United
States, if that should be necessary - than if we had followed the sterile line so beloved of the Opposition in this Parliament, of retiring to isolation within our own borders and regarding the coast as the limit of our responsibilities.
Clearly there emerges from the statement of the Prime Minister and the response of the Leader of the Opposition a line of demarcation between the defence and foreign policies of Government and Opposition. When the attention of the Australian people is devoted to the enormous historic changes taking place in our region and to the increased responsibilities which this country will be asked to bear in the new relationships which will develop not only with our neighbours but with nations of the free world around the world, then surely the invitation to the Australian people to consider well this division of policy between Government and Opposition in what is clearly an election year will attract a tremendous amount of attention.
I commend to the House and to the people of Australia the statement made by the Prime Minister, which clearly sets out the Government’s maintenance of what we believe to be unavoidable responsibilities in a new, developing region of the world in which we are now, and hope increasingly to be, an influential nation. If we are to achieve the destiny which I am sure lies immediately ahead of us, clearly there will be some risks to take; but those risks are manageable. I believe that our future contribution is a reasoned and well thought out one, having the support not only of our own people but also of those nations with which we can share the responsibility for securing peace, prosperity and development in South East Asia.
– I believe that this evening we are not debating a tremendously important matter. I do not believe that the defence statement made by the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) is a matter of great significance. Whether 1,200 Australian troops, 42 aircraft and one frigate are to remain in Malaya and Singapore after 1971 is not a vital question. I believe that it is not even significant. However, the Government thinks that it can turn this question into the great political question in this election year. This is John Grey Gorton’s rabbit out of the hat. We are familiar with other rabbits that have come out of hats on other occasions. We were familiar with Sir Robert Menzies and his technique of pulling a rabbit out of a hat. This proposal for Australian combat troops to be in Malaya and Singapore is the rabbit out of the hat for the 1969 elections. I do not believe that anybody should lose any sleep caring whether a few Australians remain in Singapore or are withdrawn. I do not think the world will lose any sleep about this. I would feel confident in predicting that within 5 years there wil be no white combat troops in South East Asia. So I do not for a moment think that this is a matter about which honourable members opposite, whose Wood pressures are not the best under any circumstances, should get unduly excited.
It is apparent that the Prime Minister has now demonstrated that he has little independent power of judgment. The Australian people will now be satisfied that we do not have a new man as Prime Minister; that we do not have an innovator. As the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) said earlier this afternoon:
The British are about to close the imperial episode in their history; the Americans are radically revising their whole attitude to the idea of military involvement on the mainland of Asia. This was the occasion for Australia to make a fresh assessment. The Government, however, still looks to the past, bases its policies on the past, has a ‘Prime Minister who speaks the language of the past.
For a few months last year the Australian Press was giving the impression that we had in John Grey Gorton a Prime Minister who spoke the language of the future. Judging from his participation in debates in this House, short as it has been, we may be satisfied that we have a Prime Minister as much in the past as was Sir Robert Menzies or the late Harold Holt. We do not have a new man for Prime Minister.
The Prime Minister had been able to see that a succession of Liberal-Country Party governments had been wrong about the buying up of Australia at low cost by foreign industrial monopolies. But on Tuesday last he announced his capitulation to the big business establishments which have always determined Liberal-Country Party government policy. Indeed, when he was announcing his capitulation one of the leading spokesmen for those international monopolies was present in the House to watch the procedure. The Prime Minister had been able to see with respect to defence policy that the policy of sending Australian troops into foreign countries in the belief that it would be necessary for Australia’s defence must be reviewed and changed. He spoke of a Fortress Australia and of Australia building an Israeli-type army. But here, as in the case of the sell-out of Australia to foreign interests, the Prime Minister has proved unable to withstand the political pressures that determine LiberalCountry Party policy, no matter who is Prime Minister. He has returned to a policy of Australian military intervention in the affairs of other countries. As the Leader of the Opposition said earlier today:
Fundamentally what is happening is that the Government is being caught up by the course of events and the facts of history, lt is only putting off the day of decision by trying to fit new facts into old attitudes. What Australia needs is not a refashioning or refurbishing of old myths. Australia needs new policies and new initiatives.
But there are no new policies and no new initiatives in the Prime Minister’s statement on defence. There is a return to the oldfashioned intervention in the affairs of other countries that has purported to serve this country as a defence policy for 20 years.
The Prime Minister can make no effective claim to be a new man - to be an independent minded Australian. He is showing himself to be nothing but the spokesman of the international military and industrial complex that is increasingly dominating our affairs. As we approach our own version of George Orwell’s ‘Nineteen Eighty-four’ we cannot pretend that we have as Prime Minister an Australian who will resist foreign influences and foreign pressures. He will involve Australia in military intervention. He will be as ready as any to make Australia a nuclear target in the event of war. He will empower the secret police. He will go along with the creation of militaristic atmospheres just as much as did his predecessors.
I have said that the Prime Minister sold out on his judgment that there should be a real defence policy for Australia and that he has done so not for reasons that have anything to do with defence but for political reasons. What the Prime Minister stated last Tuesday is not a defence policy; it is a political policy. It is not a policy worked out to achieve what is necessary to defend Australia but a polciy worked out to ach;?ve what is necessary to defend the Liberal Party. It is not a policy to win security for Australia; it is a policy to win elections for the Liberal Party. The Prime Minister has returned to the methods and traditions of Menzies and Holt, who for 20 years played with the defence of this nation in order to win elections. This is not a defence policy; it is a political policy. Everyone knows where the political pressures came from. They came initially from spokesmen for the Australian Democratic Labor Party and from militarists in the ranks of the Liberal Party. They came from those people in Australia who react alone from xenophobia and religious prejudice. The Prime Minister has submitted to their threats and persuasions.
What will be the result? The immediate result is that Australia has been left with a political policy instead of a defence policy. We will have a policy that will leave Australia undefended and our best forces vulnerable in a foreign country, unlikely to be aided by either Great Britain or the United States. Indeed, the weakness and inadequacy of Australian forces being alone in Asia for the first time is recognised by the Prime Minister. Written between the lines of his speech is a very serious reservation - these forces which he thinks are so significant for the future of South East Asia cannot be allowed to become involved in any dispute between countries in the area. They cannot be allowed to become involved in maintaining internal law and order. Should they become involved in any operations against what he calls subversion and infiltration from outside, the scale of which may be too great for Australian resources, he says that we would have to look to the support of allies from outside the region. What allies? Has the Government any assurance or hint from Great Britain or the United States that it would assist? Has the Government any hint from France, Germany, Pakistan or the Philippines? Has it any hint from even Thailand, South Korea or Formosa? Is there any treaty such as SEATO or ANZUS that relates to Australian troops in Malaya or Singapore? Is it not a fact that our having a few thousand troops in Malaya or Singapore is like placing our hand in the fire in the fervent hope that if the heat becomes unbearable Great Britain or the United States will come to our aid?
For the first time in Australian history Australian troops are being sent alone into Asia. Now the Gorton Government, in my opinion purely for what it considers to be a political advantage, is sending Australians into a foreign country without any assurance of assistance from allies in the event of need. How can anyone imagine that this is a sound defence policy? I do not believe that it is even a sound political policy.
This so-called forward defence policy is militarily unsound for three reasons. Firstly, it is inefficient and unnecessary. Secondly, it is against the trend of events in South East Asia and everywhere else and, thirdly, it leaves Australia denuded of defence. Let me have a look at the first point - that it is inefficient and unnecessary. The Australian forces in South East Asia, as the Prime Minister recognises, cannot be used in any conflicts between nations in the area. They cannot be used to maintain internal law and order. What can they be used for? The answer that the Prime Minister gives is that they can be used to meet subversion and external infiltration. But how does this differ from maintaining law and order? There is always in an insurrection some incitement, some advice or assistance from Peking, Moscow or somewhere else. But the insurrection is always indigenous. There can be no effective Malayan insurrection unless it is done by Malayans. No foreign troops are effective in action against indigenous national forces, as the experience in Vietnam has proved up to the hilt. That is why no-one wants them to be used in maintaining law and order.
Insurrection can be dealt with only by political reform and economic progress. The Government now admits this. The Prime Minister has said that stability and security rests on the economic progress of these countries and on the capacity and willingness of rulers there to see that economic progress is reflected in the raising of standards of living of ordinary people. I welcome this emphasis. It has been long delayed in the attitude of the Government. But there is no mention whatever of political changes. There must be deep seated political changes. Recently Pope Paul in his encyclical of 26th March 1967 spoke of bold transformations and innovations that go deep. He said that it will be necessary for these to take place in underdeveloped countries before there will be any real progress. There is no real appreciation in the Prime Minister’s speech of the need for such deep seated changes. There is no awareness of how land reform, lower rents and interest charges and State bank loans and marketing arrangements are held up by the princes, sultans, merchants and officials. Indeed, there is a suggestion that the Australian Government is on the side of those who resist these changes.
But I leave that aside. There is the question of what the Prime Minister calls immediate security’, which he sees as a military matter. It may be a military matter, but two things are outstanding here. First of all, the governments of Malaysia, Singapore, Cambodia, Laos and Thailand say that they can handle insurrection with their own forces. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard) quoted at length from Dr Goh Keng Swee. I have myself had long conversations with Lee ‘Kuan Yew, Sihanouk, Souvanna Phouma, Tun Razak and Malik. Every one of them tells the same story. They do not want foreign troops in their countries to deal with insurrection. They recognise that this intervention is counter-productive, and there is no intention to use Australian troops in Malaya for this purpose at all. This is a false situation that has been created by the Government for political consumption in Australia. Hence the whole exercise may be ineffective and unusable for its stated purpose. It is unnecessary.
Secondly, it is against the trend. In 5 or 10 years there will be no foreign troops in South East Asian countries at all. This is said all over South East Asia. Those countries which will not have them now are Indonesia, Cambodia, Laos and Thailand. I was surprised to read a statement by the Thai Foreign Minister, Thanat Khoman, reported in the Melbourne Herald’ of 14th September 1968. He said:
The presence of foreign troops is always corruptive to the morality of a country. .11 is harmful to the self esteem of the people, particularly when the troops are from a larger, more powerful country.
If after the righting is over -
That is Vietnam - there is no compelling reason for the troops to stay -
That is American troops - then they will have to leave. Every government in South East Asia will take up this position in the next 3 or 4 or 5 years, and this Government, if it remains in office, will be the only one in the South East Asian area that is concerned with a policy of putting foreign troops in somebody else’s country. The next generation in Malaysia and Singapore are clearly and completely against this. I refer to those coming up behind Tun Razak and Lee Kuan Yew in their own political parties. This proposal was a proposal that originated here with the Prime Minister for Australia. It was put to the leaders of Malaysia and Singapore in London at his initiative. They will not say: ‘No, we will not have your troops’. They know that the Prime Minister wants them there for reasons of Australian political campaigning, and they will not embarrass him by saying: ‘We do not want your troops here. Take them home’. They know that our troops are of no assistance to them in any of the matters that are vital to them. Australia is likely to be the last white country in the world to have troops in somebody else’s country as long as a Government like this remains in office in this country.
This may not worry some people, but let us have a look at the third reason for this. 1 said that this kind of so-called forward defence policy deprives Australia of defence in the north and weakens our defence everywhere. Where are our defences in the north? The Army has four battalions north of Brisbane - one at Enogerra, one 800 miles away at Townsville, two Pacific Island Regiments in New Guinea another 1,000 miles away. That means two men per 1,000 miles. There are 43,000 men in the Army. That is one man for every 75 square miles. The Air Force has three bases north of Brisbane. There is one at Amberley - there is a stores depot at Toowoomba - one 800 miles away at Townsville and one 1,000 miles away at Darwin. Then we come all the way round to Western Australia. There is a base 2,000 miles away at Perth. There are twelve squadrons in Australia, which means there is one per 250,000 square miles. The Navy has all its ships based in Sydney. There are three patrol boats in Queensland and northern Australia for a coastline of 4,000 miles. That is about one patrol boat for every 1,000 miles. There are five patrol boats at Manus 2,000 miles away for an area of 5,000 square miles, and there is one patrol boat down at Fremantle for 3,000 miles of coast.
This so-called forward defence policy has left the north of Australia undefended. It is really an internal political policy for winning votes in Australia. It is a substitute for a defence policy for application in the defence of Australia. I cannot understand how people in the north of Australia or anywhere else can fall for this gimmick. The north of Australia is undefended. I have told the House what kind of structure there is. Why do we not have an airfield in the north of Australia comparable to the one at Butterworth? Why is it that if the forty-two Mirages were threatened or had to be brought back to Australia for the defence of Australia there would be no airfield in the north of Australia from which they could operate? Why is it that our Navy can patrol the coast of North Vietnam but we cannot patrol the coast of the Gulf of Carpentaria? The reason for all this is that the so-called forward defence policy is a substitute for the defence of Australia, and as long as we continue to be fooled by it we will remain as vulnerable as we were at the fall of Singapore in 1941.
Let me sum up briefly what I think about this. It is only if the Australian people can rise above their traditional isolationism and look towards the security and progress of the area that we can solve problems. Australia may soon be prepared to face the challenge of living in the modern world and no longer sneak from behind the skirts of Britannia in the hope that America will keep us like a dependent female, not even made respectable by the presence of some contract in law. We may have been the lucky people. I hope we will be determined to be people with a choice rather than fondly imagine that we can become chosen people. This defence policy recognises the need to break out from the old mould of dependence but it achieves not one of its implied objectives. It is a substitute for independence, not the genuine material of progressive Australian nationalism.
– The House has heard the honourable member for Yarra (Dr J. F. Cairns) deliver one of the most remarkable contributions on defence that has been heard in this Parliament for man)’ years. He has not only given a complete indictment of his own past performance in this field; I think he has laid open and naked the full score as to where he stands in his Party in relation to the allimportant question of the defence of Australia. Is it any wonder that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) is showing a little worry as a result of what he has heard by way of repudiation of the policy of his Party by his erstwhile opponent, the honourable member for Yarra? The honourable member for Yarra described the announcement of the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) of the Government’s defence policy as ineffective and unnecessary. Surely this must be one of the most remarkable comments that has been made by a front bench member of the Opposition in this decade.
The honourable member for Yarra has stated fairly clearly the real policy of the Australian Labor Party. He has unveiled the real facts which the Leader of the Opposition, earlier in this debate, strove so hard to keep under cover and to treat as merely something on which he would not comment or give any precise detail. The Leader of the Opposition left these facts veiled in mystery when he spoke on behalf of the Opposition and the Australian Labor Party. One has only to turn to the record of speeches on the issue of defence by the Leader of the Opposition in recent times to see clearly the fallacy of what he tried, by pretence, to tell this House this afternoon. I want to refer in particular to a speech which he made in July last year on the subject ‘Beyond Vietnam’.
On that occasion the Leader of the Opposition gave a catalogue in a very long contribution which was later reprinted. The Fabian pamphlets drew on this speech very extensively. Some of the newspapers used the same speech by way of an article written under the name of the Leader of the Opposition. In that speech the Leader of the Opposition documented very clearly the fact that the Australian Labor Party is firmly bound by the decisions of its Federal conference on these issues of defence. He clearly stated that the declaration by the 26th Federal Conference held in Sydney in August 1965 set out and applauded the earlier statements by his illustrious predecessor. On that occasion the subject was clearly Vietnam. We must regard the references made at that time as being significant as to the exact policies which are the premise upon which all statements are made in relation to Australia’s defence. In that speech the Leader of the Opposition referred to the declaration of the Conference, which stated:
Conference declares that on’ the Vietnam crisis. Labor’s policy, strongly presented by the Federal Leader, Mr Calwell, is to seek mediation by the United Nations for a permanent, settlement which will place economic rehabilitation above fruitless war and establish- and this is the key point - a United Nations peace-keeping force in Vietnam.
We have now heard not only the Leader of the Opposition but also the honourable member for Yarra say quite clearly that Australian forces are not wanted in Singapore and Malaysia. Of course, they have pretended to claim that having forces in Singapore is ineffective from a military point of view, and the honourable member for Yarra says that the governments of these countries do not want these forces. Who are the Leader of the Opposition and the honourable member for Yarra trying to fool? Does the honourable member for Yarra deny that the leaders of the governments of Malaysia and Singapore have applauded the announcement made by the Prime Minister in this House yesterday? Does he pretend for one moment that what he quoted as being the view, of some government leaders is in fact the official view and policy of those countries? What rot. Of course it is not.
The honourable member for Yarra referred to the successors of -Razak and Lee and said that they would not want these forces in their countries. One can only conclude that the honourable member is advocating that their successors should be the real representatives of Mao, the real representatives of Communist insurgency and of intrusions into those countries of people who, so far as Australia is concerned, are the real enemies of the free world. I challenge the honourable member for Yarra to state clearly in this House or outside it what he meant when he said that the governments of Singapore and Malaysia did not want Australian forces on their soil.
The defence statement of the Prime Minister which we are debating is a precise indication of the continuing policies of this Government looking to the interests of Australia and the Asian region. The Prime Minister made it clear that the statement related to the military requirements of Malaysia and Singapore after British withdrawal. His statement did not go on to cover, to any great extent, the overall questions of regional problems in the Asian area. I have no doubt that this was for the obvious reason that the announcement was completely within the context of Government policy and of earlier statements in this House as to the pattern and progressive shaping of Australia’s defence attitude, the background to it and so on.
Of course, it is well known to the Opposition and to the Australian community that in late 1967 there was a series of major developments, the premises of which had a bearing on what our defence planning and preparations would be. Not the least of these developments was the sudden decision of the United Kingdom to withdraw its forces from east pf Suez. The Opposition has said very little about the import of this action except, of course, that the Leader of the Opposition claimed - this is the meaning of his words - that it was a bit of a joke that we should declare quite clearly that we will have troops stationed in Singapore, that we will have a firm commitment on the part of our Air Force in Malaysia and that we will have a firm commitment on the part of the Royal Australian Navy in this region. He regards this as writing down our strength in that region. How could anyone for one moment place any reliance on the views expressed by the Leader of Opposition when he tries to construct upon this basis a view that Australia is not doing enough in this area, whilst his front bench supporters come in and say that we should not be sending any forces to that area at all and that they are not welcomed by the governments of the respective countries?
If we take into account the views expressed by the spokesman on defence for the Australian Labor Party then, of course, the whole thing becomes ludicrous. His views, which have been expressed in his contributions earlier in this debate and in recent months, show quite clearly that he is very firmly determined to have Australia’s security whittled away and that he wants to see the future defence of this country so beset by restrictions upon what will be done and how it will be done that we would really be defenceless in the Pacific region against the risks of insurgency and the real actions which we have experienced in the last 15 years in Malaysia, Korea, Vietnam, Thailand and every other region in which Australia has made a contribution to assist in the protection of freedom. We have tried to bring about a strengthening of the defence against the kind of insurgency that has become the pattern of those who are the Communist leaders, those who are their fellow travellers and those who work against the freedom of the western world.
Of course, there is no separatism in this if we think of what has happened in Europe only in the last 6 months, if we think of what has happened in Czechoslovakia and the problems that those gallant people had in trying to encourage a continuation of the work of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation while France withdrew its complement of troops, while there was a cut back in the military strength of that organisation which is the hope of Europe for the future. What are we seeing in Australia today? What are we seeing in this Parliament? We are seeing a very similar pattern.
We are urged to convert to another system, to adopt another approach, lt is suggested that all our activities in Asia should be directed to aid, trade and the rest, and that no action should be taken by us, who have the capacity and strength to assist, to supplement and assist the military defence of the people in the area who deserve the support of their nearest neighbours. We heard the Leader of the Opposition say, in his double talk, that we are the strongest country in this region, that we should be doing more and that we should be spending more. Yet what was his policy pronouncement? Here was his opportunity. He spoke of the Government and the Prime Minister having changed the course of history by virtue of this decision, of having turned back the clock, so to speak; but it is very interesting to note that no proposition at all for Australia’s defence is being advanced by the Leader of the Opposition. He failed completely to put forward to this Parliament any proposition, any outline of what he felt was the action that should be taken.
This failure, I believe, provides complete justification for the action of the Government, for the leadership of the Prime Minister and for the support that the Government has in its attitude to the defence of Australia. There have been suggestions that the Government has been slow, that the Prime Minister has been’ slow to come to a decision on this all-important matter. I put this question to the House: How could we have formulated an Australian defence policy when we and the countries to the north of us who share this great responsibility were confronted with so many matters of great moment that had to take their course? I refer to the announcement of withdrawal by the United Kingdom; then the need for the countries that would have to shoulder the responsibility to have a chance of negotiating; the need for all the normal diplomatic processes to take place, as they have done; to the conferences that occurred last year; and to the great conference that took place in Kuala Lumpur. These most, important requirements had to be met before any decision could be made.
The decision of the President of the United States to take sterner action to try to gain peace in Vietnam was a very important consideration in the formulation of an Australian forward defence plan. Consideration had to be given to the fact thai changes were occurring in world leadership, with a presidential election in the United States of America. Would it have been a positive approach for an Australian leader to have come forward with a quickly defined, quickly thought up and devised defence policy in the light of all of these world developments? Of course, it would not. But what did we experience between last March and the current month of February? Eleven months went by.
– You tell us.
– I will tell the House very clearly. The Australian Labor Party made destructive comments about Australia’s role in Asia. Week in and week out during those 11 months it made no constructive contribution whatever, and on several visits to the respective countries the Leader of the Opposition himself spoke in the same way as he has spoken in this Parliament today. He engaged in double talk. He engaged in all the subterfuge that one could imagine. But at no point of time did he put forward a firm policy on behalf of ‘ the Opposition, which of course is very regrettable for Australia. So I am confident, and I am sure that every thinking member of this House and of the community is confident, that what we have now seen embodied in a very comprehensive, precise and firm announcement by the Prime Minister for our participation in the defence of this region is not only the right course of action but also one that will set a foundation upon which we will be able to build, together with our friends and allies, a very much stronger policy for the Asian region. It is true that we are not committing vast numbers of troops.
– Why commit any?
– Our’ old friend is just confirming the Australian Labor Party’s policy. We are accused of announcing that we will have troops stationed in Singapore. It is said by the Leader of the Opposition that this is a fruitless proposition because there will be no insurgency, in that particular location and there is no need lor those troops. But the Leader of the Opposition fails completely to recognise that his senior supporters on the front bench would come forward and say that the requirements not only of Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand but of the whole region, including Cambodia and Laos, were important. He linked all five countries as a region that required the concern of this country.
Why are we sending troops to Singapore? Why are we sending the Air Force to Malaysia? We are sending them there for the very good reason that this is the only way to give confidence to the people in those countries and to give our own men the chance of familiarisation, of becoming capable of playing a useful role in any circumstances that might arise. It is quite wrong and stupid to claim that they have no part to play in Singapore. If any problem is to arise in the future it will not be in the industrial or commercial centre of that humming little area of Singapore. It will be somewhere further up. But because we have the men right there they will quickly be able to get to whatever location it is found necessary to send them to. It would be a very different proposition if they had to go from the Australian mainland.
There is so much in this total issue. I want to appeal to those who have spoken so disparagingly about this important contribution to Australia’s future to have a look at our total defence commitment and to see what it means in terms of integration with the full plan that has been announced in this House, and of which every member is well aware, in relation to equipping, training and preparing so that we can play not a leadership role but an active part as partners with the United States and the rest of the free world for the protection of those who need our help and who will always need our help while there is a threat. That threat, God knows, is there and it will not go away simply because we say it should go away. So this, of course, is a very vital matter.
- Mr Acting Speaker, it is always interesting to hear a member of the Country Party talking on the issues of defence and foreign affairs. We do not often hear Country Party members speaking on these subjects because they normally concentrate on selling their wheat and their wool to the Peoples Republic of China and leave matters like defence and foreign relations to members of the Liberal Party who have, of course, much greater skill in these matters. It is always, if I may say so with respect, of great interest to hear these people talking about democratic government and the like because they are the people who support electoral gerrymanders in every State of the Commonwealth, except Tasmania, and in relation to the Commonwealth Parliament itself.
– Do not except Tasmania, please.
– I would answer that statement by saying that there is no Country Party in Tasmania. One understands why that is so. There is one observation in the speech made by the honourable member for Cowper (Mr Robinson) that I think I should answer on behalf of the honourable member for Yarra (Dr J. F. Cairns), who, having spoken already in this debate, has no opportunity to speak again in it. The honourable member for Cowper said that the honourable member for Yarra would want Tun Abdul Razak and Lee Kuan Yew succeeded by Communists, by people who would take over Malaysia and Singapore by insurgency and subversion and change their democratic systems. I can truthfully say - and not one Labor man in this Parliament would not support this statement - that every member of the Australian Labor Party is dedicated to the democratic system of government. None of us would wish to see a Communist government in any of the nations of South East Asia. We want to see democratic governments, governments representative of the people, in all those countries.
Having made those brief introductory remarks, Mr Acting Speaker, I wish to come back to the alleged defence, review. For a long time, we have heard about a defence review. We have been asking for a defence review for well over a year. This request was being put forward when the late Mr Harold Holt was Prime Minister. The call for a defence review has been made in this Parliament not only by members of the Opposition but also by members on the Government side. The call certainly has been made by those people who lead the armed forces of this country. The present Prime Minister (Mr Gorton), when he came to office early in 1968, ordered a defence review. We know that a draft of this review was distributed to Cabinet Ministers in August, because we were told that the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr McEwen) had a copy of that defence review in his bag when he went overseas at that time. During the rest of the year the question of a defence review was raised on this side of the House in many a speech on the Budget, including my own. But we received no answer to our requests.
Now, on 25th February of this year, we have a statement about Malaysia and Singapore which purports to be an Australian defence review. The first point that I wish to make is that it is not a defence review. It is not the defence review that this Parliament and the nation are waiting for. It in no way spells out the future plans and needs of the Australian armed forces. Indeed, the honourable member for Yarra, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) and other speakers have been quite right when they have suggested that this alleged defence review is a smokescreen and a political device in this election year. We still have no defence review. But a great need exists for a defence review.
– Is the honourable member worried about it?
– Of course I am worried about it. If the honourable member is not worried about it, he does not deserve to be in this Parliament. We have a defence review narrowly concentrated on Malaysia and Singapore. What a very poor and inept review of our defence relations with those countries it is. All it says is that this Commonwealth, together with New Zealand, will provide garrison Army battalions and various units of our other Services in this part of the world. If we were to have a statement concerning Malaysia and Singapore, surely this statement should have waited until after the five-power conference to be held in Canberra in June of this year in order to permit a proper statement to which the five powers concerned had agreed and in which the Australian involvement could be spelt out properly against the background of the involvement of the other nations in the region. So, for political purposes, we have what is alleged to be a defence review. It is a non-statement on defence. It neither replaces the defence review that we so urgently need nor fills the need for an accurate statement of forward planning for the defence of Malaysia and Singapore.
I emphasise again the need for a defence review. The Army needs a new light tank for the replacement of the Centurion tank. I asked a question about this last year. I was told that the matter was still being looked at. None of these questions of logistics - or hardware, as it is termed in the profession - have been dealt with at this point in time. I wish to quote from the Current Affairs Bulletin’ on 7th October 1968 some observations that are very apt. The ‘Current Affairs Bulletin” states:
A new light tank is long overdue.
Dealing with the Air Force, the ‘Current Affairs Bulletin’ states :
There is a good case for claiming that the Air Force is the wrong kind, although it was developed for reasons which appeared sound enough at the time. Australia needs from air power: Close support in counter-insurgency operations: extensive maritime reconnaissance and strike capacity; good supply and transport capability.
Instead we have a force mainly comprising a hundred Mirage fighters of limited range (from a few highly sophisticated bases) excellent of their kind but unsuited to close support in much of South East Asia or New Guinea, and soon to come into service a strike aircraft (the Fill) possibly of incomparable performance, but whose incomparable cost must preclude the purchase or even construction of much more relevant equipment.
The Navy is equally unsuited for its present role - not that it has the wrong kinds of ships, but that it does not have enough of the right ones. It is designed to fit in with the Royal Navy (now departing) and with the US Seventh Fleet (not in the Indian Ocean). Its role has been essentially anti-submarine, but it needs a greater reconnaissance and strike capacity against aircraft (which means having more Naval aircraft), and against surface shipping (requiring surface-to-surface missiles), ft needs more fleet replenishment vessels. It needs more submarines. Such a programme would obviously take time to be realised.
The point that I am making is that a great need exists for a defence review. We have not yet had it in what has been said to date.
Every officer of the Royal Australian Navy with whom one talks is concerned about the present position of the Navy and the fact that it has no indication as to whether its requirements for ships will be met. The Air Force is concerned, because so much money is being tied up in the Fill at a time when there is a great need for reconnaissance and transport aircraft if we are to accept the sort of role that we should be prepared to play in South East Asia and in the Indian and Pacific oceans. So, I again make the point that the Australian armed forces are greatly concerned at the failure of the Government to produce a defence review. I hope that it will not be very long before we have a real defence review and not just what purports to be a defence review narrowly channelled towards Malaysia and Singapore.
What is the position in South East Asia today? 1 think we all recognise that it is an area of great tension. Tensions exist even among nations with which we have been friendly over recent years. We have seen
Singapore expelled from the Federation of Malaysia. We have seen confrontation between Malaysia and Indonesia. We see at the present time the conflict between the Republic of the Philippines and Malaysia over the Sulu Archipelago and Sabah. We know that there has been tension in Malaysia itself on its border with Thailand. So the need for increased stability and for strong, well armed and well trained defence forces in this region is obvious.
The difference between the attitude of the Australian Labor Party and that of the Government on these questions is that we are prepared to help train the armed forces of friendly nations of this region in those countries and in Australia. We are prepared to have flexible armed forces capable of playing a role where they may be needed. We do not believe that we are making an effective contribution to the wellbeing of this area in which we are all vitally interested by placing garrison battalions there. What is the position in Malaysia and Singapore today? Malaysia is probably the most stable country in the region. When one goes from any of the other countries of South East Asia to Malaysia, one recognises the great role that the British played in this country in the past in building up a civil service, an honest police force, competent armed forces and the like. So if we are going to station troops anywhere in South East Asia, why pick on Malaysia and Singapore? One could well come back and say: ‘Because of the ANZAM agreement to which the Chifley Government was a party. It regarded the Malay Peninsula as being vital to the defence of Australia’. Of course the Malay Peninsula is vital to the defence of Australia but the debate at the moment concerns what contribution should we, as an Australian Commonwealth, make towards the defence of the Malay Peninsula should it need defending at some time in the future. We have the statement by the Prime Minister who said that our forces will not remain there unless their presence continues to be actively desired by the governments of the countries in which they are stationed. If we are asked to go home, we go home. Then he said:
While there they are not intended for use, and will not be used, for the maintenance of internal civil law and order which is the responsibility of the government concerned.
They are not going to take any action against insurgency, racialism or anti-Chinese riots and the like. The Prime Minister continued:
Their presence, and their military co-operation with Malaysia and Singapore is not directed against any other country in the region, and this we believe is well understood and respected.
They are up there not to fight anybody internally or externally. One might well ask: Why are they there? This, of course, is the attitude of the Australian Labor Party. We believe this is an empty gesture. If we had the presence of Australian forces in this area for a training programme or if they were there in a role which would enable these people - these two nations - to make a more effective contribution towards their own defence, then there would be some purpose in it. However, the Prime Minister’s statement spells out all the reasons why these troops are not there.
The next question I should like to pose is this: Is Malaysia the base from which we can involve ourselves throughout the region? It is being put to the Parliament tonight that Malaysia is closer to the tensions of the area and that we could move our troops to Singapore and from there to wherever they might be needed in the region. But we all know that it is not as simple as that. When we wanted to send planes to Thailand they could not go from Malaysia to Thailand because the Malaysian Government would not let us do that. We had to take our planes out of the region and bring them back into it. With all of these tensions in the area there is no place in the whole of South East Asia where we can garrison Australian troops in the certain knowledge that we could shift them at will to any other point in the area where they might be needed. The only place from which we can shift our troops so that they will be available in the region is from the mainland of Australia itself and sadly enough we have not the facilities to do that.
A number of us recently went on an exercise with the Royal Navy off the Queensland coast at Shoalhaven Bay. It was called ‘Operation Coral Sands’. This was a most impressive exercise because a number of vessels were involved, including landing ships and logistic vessels. The HMS Intrepid’ was there as well as a whole range of vessels designed to enable forces to be shifted in our area. They were equipped with helicopters and hovercraft and they had communications equipment to enable them to co-ordinate with aircraft. The Royal Navy from Singapore was able, within a few days, to bring this force down, have it in operation and land on the Australian coast.
We are doing what we did in the Second World War. We are sending troops a long way away and we have not the logistics - the transport - to back them up. We have neither the naval vessels, the fast troop carriers nor the transport aircraft capable of servicing a force of this kind operating from Singapore. We cannot support it from Australia or shift it anywhere else in the area. These are the sorts of problems to which the Government should be turning its attention in any defence statement today.
What are the needs of Malaysia and Singapore? Why is it that Malaysia and Singapore have been singled out? I know, and most honourable members would agree, that we all have a great sympathy and understanding for the problems of the people of Malaysia and Singapore. We have had an association with those countries extending over many years, because they are Commonwealth countries. Australian troops shed their blood in those countries in the Second World War and their contributions at that time will always be remembered. So it is true that we have a close family interest in the area. They are democratic countries. There are not too many democracies in South East Asia so we have an affinity with them in that we share with them a parliamentary system of government, lt is obvious - and I doubt whether any honourable member in the House would disagree - that we ought to show sympathetic consideration in assisting the people of Malaysia and Singapore; but the debate tonight is whether this is the right way in which, to assist those countries.
The honourable member for Cowper (Mr Robinson), who preceded me in this debate, mentioned statements that appeared in the newspapers from various leaders in South East Asia welcoming the decision of the Government as expressed by the Prime Minister. I thought the statement in this morning’s ‘Australian’ by the Singapore Prime Minister, Mr Lee Kuan Yew, who can be regarded as the most intelligent and far-seeing statesman in his area, was most interesting. The newspaper report read:
The Singapore Prime Minister, Mr Lee Kuan Yew, said in a brief statement that the decision had enchanced the prospects for stability in the area and would promote economic growth.
He said: ‘In the long run, it is economic progress and social betterment which decide which countries can withstand external and internal pressure or manipulation.’
The Press article went on to quote what Mr Romulo, the Philippines Foreign Secretary, said on a different matter. Mr Lee Kuan Yew will welcome Australian troops in Singapore mainly because of the economic significance.
– What about the stability?
– I think I have been fair. I have read that part of the report in which he said it would contribute to the stability of the region. Having read the article once I do not propose to read it again, but in his statement he said it had economic significance. If the purpose of putting troops into Malaysia and Singapore is to aid economic growth, surely there are more effective and more direct ways in which we can promote economic growth and, incidentally, more efficient ways than stationing troops there so that they can buy vegetables from the market gardeners of Singapore or spend money in the well-known emporiums in that city.
We now get back to the general philosophy behind the Government’s attitude. Many honourable members on the other side of the House look back nostalgically to the role the British played in South East Asia. We all recognise that British withdrawal from the area is inevitable. For my part, I think that properly carried out it will probably be a good thing, because from the first occasion on which British withdrawal was announced and for 18 months thereafter, as it was so far off the Malaysians made little attempt to show any effective response in terms of increasing their defence forces. But now that the British withdrawal is accepted and understood and the timetable is clearly spelled out there is no doubt that Malaysia and Singapore, and other nations in the area, are greatly increasing their defence forces.
I should like to make the point that the debate concerns our sending two battalions into the region. If we examine the ‘Strategic
Review’ we find that Malaysia, with a population of 10,100,000- not too far behind our population - operates under a system of voluntary military service, which I have found very interesting. It has total armed forces of 33,800 and an Army strength of fourteen infantry battalions, at present being built up to sixteen infantry battalions. In effect what we are doing is sending troops to a country which will have, if it does not already have them, sixteen battalions. We are adding our small contribution and saying that we are making a great contribution to the stability and defence of the region.
I should like to close by reaffirming what I said previously. The suggestion that the Australian Labor Party is an isolationist party is not borne out by facts. The debate tonight concerns how we should assist the defence of Malaysia and Singapore and so strengthen the fabric of democracy in those countries. The Labor Parry strongly believes that this is not done with garrison battalions but with training and by assisting them economically and with weapons and the like. We would be prepared to do all of those things. I should not let my enthusiasm deter me from saying again that this is not the defence review that the people of Australia, the Armed Forces of Australia and this Parliament have awaited for a long time, and I hope it will not be very long before we get a real defence review from the Government - something that will enable Australian defence forces to spell out their future in the years ahead. We have not got it before us tonight.
– The honourable member for Brisbane (Mr Cross), who has just spoken, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) and other Opposition members have criticised the speech of the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) merely for the sake of opposing it. Not one Opposition member has made a suggestion that would improve it. They have criticised the speech, but the leaders of the countries concerned, such as Lee Kuan Yew of Singapore and Tunku Abdul Rahman of Malaysia, have said that the Prime Minister’s proposal will contribute materially to the general stability of their countries. Surely these people who are on the spot know what is good for them. They see that the proposal will enable swift additional assistance to be given when it is needed. I will refer to this again later. They realise that only seasoned troops on the spot, such as we are willing to provide, will be able to adjust themselves climatically and be effective in strengthening local defences if the need arises.
The clear cut policy announced by the Prime Minister is practical. It is natural that it should win international respect and approval in South East Asian countries. I think that the reply of the Leader of the Opposition to the Prime Minister was one of the most pathetic speeches we have heard in this chamber for a very long time. The art of political deception was practised to the fall by, 1 would say, one of the great political deceivers of all time. The Minister for Defence (Mr Fairhall) referred tonight to some dishonest statements that had been made and 1 will refer to one or two myself. Have Opposition members forgotten the history of the Australian Labor Party on defence? Or are they trying to deceive the people of Australia?
I want to direct attention to some of the remarks made by the Leader of the Opposition in this debate, and I will quote them verbatim as he gave them to the House. Referring to the Prime Minister’s speech, he said:
We have to realise how entirely unusual it is for a country like Australia, to have forces abroad on a permanent basis in peace time. Certainly we are the only medium power which bases its defence policy on the concept of overseas garrisons.
The Australian Labor Party, when Mr Chifley was Prime Minister and Dr Evatt was the Minister for External Affairs, sent garrison troops to Japan after the last war. They were there for many years and were part of Australia’s defences. This was the policy of the Australian Labor Party, which is now in Opposition. Indeed it was a Liberal-Country Party government that brought these troops back from Japan. I will say more about this action later. I do not condemn Labor for sending troops overseas in peace time, but I do take exception to the Leader of the Opposition saying that his Party would never take such action. His Party has taken such action and took it in time of peace.
Let me now talk about another aspect of defence policy for a few moments and express some of my own views and my own opinions. On the present world outlook, Australia can look forward to the prospect of an increase in military costs for some time. This prospect results partly from the far-reaching changes that have occurred in Australia’s strategic situation in the past 18 months. In fact, deferred costs “will increase so much that they will have an important influence on our national economy - too important, I believe, to be left entirely to military planners. I think it is fair to say that the. Western alliances dictate the level of our defences, both in sophistication of hardware and costs. Australia and New Zealand have never sought international prestige through armament expenditure, and for very good reasons.
When I came into this Parliament, the feeling of solidarity with the United Kingdom on defence issues was as strong as it had been at any time during the last war. Unfortunately, today the feeling of solidarity with the United Kingdom over defence issues no longer exists, and the present United Kingdom Government must, unfortunately, accept a share of the blame for that. Mr Michael Stewart, the British Foreign Secretary, declared in this city of Canberra in June 1966:
You can take it from me that my Government has neither the wish nor the intention to turn its back on the world east of Suez.
Notwithstanding that statement, 13 months later a White Paper gave the timetable of the withdrawal of Britain from her bases in Aden, Malaysia and Singapore by the middle of the 1970s. Last year the British Prime Minister, Mr Wilson, cut this departure date to 1971. It is well to remember in passing that Mr Stewart said also that just as Australia and New Zealand came to the help of Great Britain in two world wars it is inevitable that were Australia and New Zealand the victims of aggression the United Kingdom would similarly come to their assistance. One hastens to remind Mr Stewart that during the past 80 years Australia has served alongside forces from Britain on seven occasions and outside Australia. This assurance that Britain would be of help to Australia during times of extreme danger has been given on more than one occasion.
We heard the honourable member for Brisbane refer tonight to what Great Britain could do and he mentioned the Coral Sea exercise that some of us saw off the coast of Queensland. The question remains: What would Britain be able to do to help Australia if the need ever arose? Could it during mid-winter in Europe fly troops into a tropical South East Asian summer? Mr Denis Healey, the Minister for Defence, seems to think that this is a practical proposition. Fortunately very few people in Australia think so, and I am glad to say that, by no means least, the Gorton Government believes that it could not be done. That is one of the reasons why the Prime Minister announced the Government’s defence policy just a few days ago. We have very good reason to doubt the ability of Britain to fly out fighter air support to Malaysia and Singapore in 24 hours, as Mr Healey said it could. The recent exercise that Britain tried to carry out a few weeks ago, called Operation Piscator, was intended to demonstrate Britain’s ability to fly out air support to Singapore in 24 hours, but it took 2 months to plan. The pilots, after 18 hours in the air travelling at speeds of more than 1,000 miles an hour, with their aircraft fed by Vulcan fuel tankers along the route, were hardly likely to arrive in a mood for military action. I say nothing of the 2,000 men deployed in the exercise and the complete lack of logistic support for the aircraft on their arrival at Singapore.
When one hears mention of the British assurances of prompt support and of prompt British intervention should we become involved in a war in this area, one asks oneself: Who is Britain trying to impress? Who is Britain trying to impress? Is it trying to impress Australians or the Asians, themselves or even their constituents? Let me get back to my earlier remarks about the overseas garrison troops in peacetime and the reasons for their being in places where we propose to place them. In many countries it is true that military spending is partly or even largely determined by internal security. Fortunately, Australia is not in that category. In this country defence spending, by and large, has little function other than to reinforce foreign policy. Our overseas commitments are extremely small in pure military terms and what commitments there are are aimed at assisting the United States which is directly involved in the security of the Pacific, as well as developing a special close relationship between the United States and Australia and supporting friendly and stable governments in the regions close to Australia. We have never made any secret of that. These aims are not new but have always been the cornerstone of Australia’s foreign policy. lt is clear that they started with the Lyons Government before World War II and have been respected and reinforced by Ministers of successive Labor Governments. The initiatives taken to improve AustralianUnited States relations were started with the late Dr Evatt of the Labor Party. How successful or perhaps how unsuccessful he was in this endeavour, of course, historians will one day tell us. But we do know in spite of what has been said tonight to the contrary, or what would appear to have been said tonight by the Labor Party that they are not in favour of garrison troops. Dr Evatt, himself, tried very hard, 1 understand, to bring the United States into some formal specific security relations with the Labor Government. This was done during the time the Labor Government sent garrison troops to Japan. The interesting thing about what I have said is that the initiative to improve Australian-United States peace relations was taken by the Labor Government immediately after World War II. They were responsible for Australia’s first overseas peacetime military commitment. This was Australia’s operational force which I referred to. These forces were sent to Japan at a time when Australia’s economy was going through a very difficult economic period. The reason for this action was that military spending is basically a part of a government’s foreign policy. It is axiomatic that the amount spent on military services should be in direct relation to the security required. This applied to the Chifley Government just as it applies to the present Gorton Government.
The present Labor leaders and members of their party tonight have spoken directly against this policy of earlier days - .the days of Mr Chifley and Dr Evatt. Instead of trying to strengthen Australian-United States security they are doing everything calculated to prevent it. They are doing the same things as they did when we discussed the Bill dealing with the North West Cape transmission station. They are doing the same thing tonight as they have done continuously for the last 4 or 5 years in regard to sending troops to Asia. If it was important in the post-war period during a United Kingdom military presence in South East Asia to spend heavily in developing our military strength as part of our operation policy, as the Labor Government did in the post-war period, how much more important is this course of action today when the United Kingdom is about to withdraw its forces from South East Asia?
The Gorton Government fully realises - and this is something which most people endorse today - that the position of Australia’s security just does not finish with a forward defence posture in South East Asia. The former American Defence Secretary, Mr Robert McNamara, put the matter very succinctly in his recent book, Means Development’, regarding what defence security meant. He said:
Security is development. Without development there can be no security. Australia’s security depends on a measure of order and stability in South East Asia and the security of South East Asia depends on its continuing economic development. Therefore, it is important that our Commonwealth neighbours should be allowed to get on with the business of economic development without outside interference. That is why Mr Lee Kwan Yew referred to this matter in the way that he did yesterday in his Press conference. At the same time these people must develop confidence in themselves and in each other. As I said previously, the security of this country and our neighbours in South East Asia depends upon development because where there is no development there can be no security. Military hardware alone is not security.
It might be well to say something in conclusion about our economic aid in both bi-lateral and multi-lateral forms because this Government places considerable value on the maintenance and development of the direct contacts that come into being through bi-lateral aid at all levels. The Government directs nearly all of its bilateral aid to Asia and the Pacific countries because we believe the economic progress and sound well being of neighbouring countries is of prime concern to Australia. Why do we believe that? Because, as I said before, defence aid to these South East Asian countries alone is not enough. It neither provides defence protection to them nor to us. Without development there can be no security.
Australian international aid over the last financial year to these countries - and this does not include Papua and New Guinea - was about $48m. Some critics might say: Well, that is not sufficient’. It may well be said that it is not sufficient but it is certainly more than we have been giving for many years now. I am quite sure that it will be increased in the future. It is very well to know that in terms of official economic aid measured as a percentage of national income Australia continues to rank second after France among the western aid donors. We are still only a country of 12 million people. There are at least sixty different western countries providing aid to South East Asia. I think that the fact that we are providing the second greatest amount is something worthy pf consideration.
– We do not merely lend to them.
– What is more, as my honourable friend has just said, we do not ask anything back in return for what we give. The Prime Minister has laid down a policy not only on defence but on economic aid that will help these countries to develop confidence in themselves and in each other. I believe this is an essential ingredient not only to the security of South East Asia but to our own security. I believe that the Australian people will fully support this Prime Minister’s statesmanlike approach to the all-important problem of Australia’s defence.
– The statement of the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) on defence is a model statement. It is a magnificent example of clear thought clearly expressed, and I want to express my admiration of it here and now. In the statement, which is not the final word on the matter, as he clearly indicated, the Prime Minister laid down certain principles. He set out what we have attempted to do in the past and underlined that this is the kind of thing we intend to do in the future. He laid down certain guide lines for the continuance of our efforts in this direction. The Prime Minister said:
It is not to be thought that we look on our activities in that region as being purely, or mainly, military. Any examination of our policy in relation to our neighbours of the north will show that we have encouraged them to develop policies promoting political stability and economic growth, promoting their own defence capabilities in association with our own forces and those of our allies and in promoting regional co-operation.
Indeed, the stability and security of the area rests on many things. It rests on the avoidance of territorial or other disputes between the countries in the region, lt rests on the economic progress of those countries and on the capacity and willingness of rulers there to see that that economic progress is reflected in the raising of the standards of living of the ordinary people.
Later in his statement the Prime Minister said:
Yet just as ultimate stability depends on progress and rising standards of living, so does the possibility of progress depend on maintaining immediate stability . . . Indeed, helping in conditions of stability to accelerate progress, and helping by military means to preserve conditions of stability, arc two sides of the one coin.
That is a very clear exposition of the situation. The Prime Minister has slated quite clearly that it is the policy of this Government not only to ensure economic growth in these countries and to encourage them to defend themselves, but also to make sure that the environment there is conducive to the carrying out of these objectives. I was, I must admit, very disappointed in the rather miserable performances of some of the honourable members of the Opposition in this debate tonight. For example, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard) referred to the Australian troops in Malaysia as the last white garrison in the area. I sincerely hope that our friends in the Asian world do not get the impression that these are the views of the Australian Government. I do not think we look upon our presence in the area as constituting the last white garrison there. I do not think questions of race come into it at all, and I do not think we have intended to establish a garrison of this kind. It is simply a force which is an earnest of our interest. The Prime Minister has made it quite clear that all the protestations in the world will not carry conviction unless we show some actual earnest of our interest, and we show this by stationing our troops within the area. This practical demonstration is worth very many words. I consequently deprecate the making of this statement by the Leader of the Opposition. I do not think he really believes it to be accurate in this context at all.
Then he went on deliberately, I believe, to confuse the issue as between internal and external Communist subversion. Of course the Opposition has not a very happy record in this regard. At any time when there has been externally inspired Communist aggression it has taken a very long time for many of the honourable members opposite to acknowledge that this has occurred. I remember honourable members opposite on many occasions trying desperately to defend the Communist activities in South Vietnam and to show that there was no aggression on the part of the North Vietnamese, indeed that the North Vietnamese simply were not involved. Even the honourable member for Yarra (Dr J. F. Cairns) can surely not hold that view at the present time. So I can understand the quandary of the Opposition in this regard. I believe that a Socialist party of this type must always be reluctant to identify subversion by more radical propagators of its own political philosophy.
I was particularly disappointed also in the effort of the honourable member for Yarra. 1 did not think it was really necessary for him to misrepresent the defence situation in Australia. In running through a catalogue of Australia’s defence stations he deliberately overlooked many especially in the Northern Territory. He also indicated by his speech that his military thinking is apparently on a par with his political thinking in that it dates to the latter part of the last century.
The honourable member for Brisbane (Mr Cross) also was disappointing in this regard. He also misrepresented the situation. He said that the Prime Minister, in his speech, made a number of negative statements but made no positive ones. I have already indicated some of the positive aspects of the statement, but there are others. The Prime Minister said in one part of his statement:
Indeed, by helping to strengthen the defences of one part of the region it is hoped that they will indirectly contribute to the stability of the whole.
That is one reason for the troops being there. The Prime Minister went on to say:
Their presence in Malaya and Singapore, and their participation in training and military exercises with Malaysian and Singaporean troops will we believe have value in helping to build the indigenous defence capacity of both Malaysia and Singapore, will provide additional security while that indigenous defence capacity is built up, and will make it more possible for Malaysian troops to be assigned to other parts of Malaysia should the Malaysian Government so desire.
That is positive enough, surely, for anyone to see. And that is not all. The Prime Minister went on to make a number of other positive statements. Taking this small portion of the speech alone, surely it is highly significant simply to ensure stability and to build up indigenous defence forces. Surely those are laudable and highly desirable objectives, to which certainly no-one on this side of the House can take any exception.
The honourable member for Brisbane said also that many matters were left up in the air. He mentioned the Navy. Of course, that again is a complete misrepresentation. The Prime Minister said towards the end of his statement:
This study is still proceeding. But 1. commend to the House the decisions here announced: That we are prepared to provide to the region in which we live military assistance for which Malaysia and Singapore have asked-
That is another point which should be emphasised to the Labor Party - military assistance visible to them - and an assurance that both we and they have a common purpose in being prepared to combat that Communist inspired military subversion which our advisers consider to pose the major threat to the region.
The statement is a very clear enunciation of principles, but it does not pretend to be final or a detailed analysis of the situation at all. I believe that it was reprehensible of the honourable member for Brisbane, who must have known full well that that was the situation, to indicate that it was simply a fragmentary statement. That is definitely not the case.
I wish to consider one aspect of this statement in somewhat greater detail. It is an aspect which has been emphasised by the Prime Minister. As was mentioned earlier, the Prime Minister of Singapore, Lee Kuan Yew, also spoke about the desirability of it. I refer to the first paragraph of the statement and the desiderata indicated by the Prime Minister, namely, ‘policies promoting political stability and economic growth’. In fact the Prime Minister referred to this later when he said:
Again, if economic development in the region is to occur at the pace required, and if the stability needed for this is to be maintained, the immediate economic support of great nations outside the region, and the potential military support of great nations outside the region, will be needed. Australia, the most industrially and technically advanced nation in the region, surely would not wish, in these circumstances, to refrain from helping the region in aM ways.
We could not turn our backs on our neighbours, refuse to help provide forces for their security, and wash our bands of the possible consequences to them and to ourselves.
Throughout this statement the Prime Minister emphasised that economic growth and political stability are the prime desiderata for the area and that defence is primarily for the purpose of providing an environment in which this economic growth and political stability and also political maturity can develop. It is my view that the world at large and Australia in particular have not adopted a very systematic or enlightened approach to this problem. I have adverted to this before. Australia is a very generous country, one which has given from its resources on a comparative basis probably much more generously than any other country in the world1. But it has done this in a manner which is less than effective. For example, one sees one country receiving a dredge, another railway wagons, another fertiliser and another a gift of food. All this is very laudable and it spreads goodwill, lt is desirable, but is it effective? Obviously, the answer is no.
For our aid to be effective it must be concentrated in certain areas so that it is self generating and not just an isol’ated gift. Greater thought and greater imagination should be devoted to this problem. I believe that it should be done not merely by Australia itself, but, as the Prime Minister indicated in bis speech, in co-operation with other nations. The nations that are most immediately interested are the nations bordering the Pacific, especially the North Pacific. There should be a series of conferences held between Australia and these Pacific nations to lay down a systematic programme for aid to ensure that it is given in the most efficient way and that money spent on aid will be spent in the most effective way possible.
Australia’s richest resources are in the technical field. They are. our technologists, and our brain power. It is my belief that Australia’s brain power and training are not being used to advantage. If they were, the money that we are now spending on aid would produce, infinitely greater results. Only by using these resources to the best advantage will we make some impact, I defy anyone to indicate any positive contribution by Australia’s aid to the improvement of the functioning of the economies within the countries it has assisted. Our aid has spread goodwill, but I maintain that it has not produced any effective economic growth in the countries so assisted. In this regard, Australia’s riches are in its teachers, nurses, doctors, agricultural1 scientists, geologists, technicians, engineers and mining and irrigation experts. These people could make a tremendous impact on the world if they were rightly motivated and these resources were tapped in the proper way. I am sure that if people such as these and other people in many other categories in this country were motivated to give up some of their time and devote it to the under-developed countries, the whole situation would be vastly improved. These resources should not be dispersed afterwards. There should be a deliberate programme whereby areas of greatest need would be identified and these helpers would be directed to those areas in consultation with all of the countries in Asia. This should be recognised quite clearly as part of a systematic programme. Ail these countries have Australia’s goodwill.
Many recently retired people would gladly donate their services to aid less fortunate countries. A tremendous amount of the work that is waiting to be done in these countries can be achieved with a minimum of expenditure. The geological and water resources can be investigated and plans made for better and more systematic irrigation. For example, the State of Bihar, which is devastated periodically by drought, has an enormous volume of water flowing through the middle of it. The Ganges River, which is an almost unlimited source of water, flows through Bihar. Thousands of people suffer and many die from drought simply because the water has not been utilised effectively. Health education could be carried out - not only health education of the laity, to improve sanitation and hygiene but health education in a professional way, so that more doctors and nurses can be trained in these areas. Doctors and nurses can play a tremendously important part in family planning programmes which are very sorely needed, especially in India.
I believe that if a new, more enlightened and adventurous approach were made to these problems the moneys at present spent on aid could be used to infinitely greater advantage. Consequently I urge the Government to reappraise the situation to try to ensure that the money spent on aid is not wasted, as it virtually is now, but that it is concentrated in such a way that it can be used with the greatest effect. I commend the Prime Minister’s defence statement as being a model of’ clarity of thought and of expression.
– I am always intrigued by the honourable member for Bowman (Dr Gibbs) because when he speaks he gives me the impression that he is saying: ‘Aren’t you lucky to have me?’ He knows everything about everything from medicine to foreign affairs. Having in mind some recent appointments to the Ministry I can only think that the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) has the same view of the honourable member’s ability as honourable member’s of the Opposition have. Earlier the honourable member said that the Prime Minister’s statement was a model one. He should have added that it was not a working model and he should have remembered that a model is only a small imitation of the real thing. Broadly that is what the defence statement is. Therefore tonight it was interesting to hear the enthusiasm with which honourable members opposite supported the statement. It was interesting also to hear the members of the Government speaking about defence.
Does the honourable member for Bowman, who has just spoken, remember that in war time, when this country was threatened with invasion, a Liberal government was thrown out of office by its own supporters because it could not provide the country with adequate defence? If it had not been for John Curtin and a Labor government, today we would be under Japanese domination. Honourable members on the Government side should never forget that when they talk about troops being brought back. The people Of Australia were delighted when the Australian troops were brought back from the Middle East, with the Japanese at our door and this country defenceless. Labors policy always has been that we should have adequately equipped mobile units of troops in this country, able to defend it in times of war. The short memories of honourable members opposite do not impress me because I was a member of the wartime Labor Government which, with the assistance and support of the Australian people, was able, because of the leadership that it gave, to save this country from Japanese domination.
I cannot help but wonder about the attitude of the Government from the Prime Minister down, and about the reasons for all these moves. We are always told of the threat of Communism - that Red China is about to engulf us. We are never allowed to forget the presence of the Communist threat. We are constantly told that the menace of Communism hangs over Australia and Asia, and that unless Australian boys are conscripted to fight overseas and Australian troops stationed on foreign soil the Communists will engulf us.
Listening tonight to the honourable member for Cowper (Mr Robinson) I thought that if the Communists were to hear him they would surely cancel the wheat orders that they have placed in Australia. 1 felt sure that all arrangements to sell our wheat and wool to the Communists would go by the board. The very people who in this Parliament claim that Communism is a threat to Australia and who want Australians to be stationed in Malaysia, Singapore and Vietnam to save’ us from Communist domination are helping to feed and clothe the Communists while at the same time berating them in this place. As our boys die in Vietnam tonight negotiators representing the Government are in Peking and other places selling our wheat and wool to the people who. according to honourable members opposite, are fighting our soldiers and posing a real threat to this country.
Of course, the Country Party is a very strange Party when it comes to a matter of defence. When the people whom it represents are selling wheat to Red China the country is described as mainland China. But when the country is accused of aggressive intentions it is described as Red China. Having regard to the claim by members of the Country Party that Communism poses a threat to this country, let me quote the words of the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony) who said:
I am very glad to hear of the recent substantial sales of wheat by the Australian Wheat Board, outstanding amongst which was a sale of 2.2 million tons of wheat to Mainland China. This must be welcome news to all concerned with the wheat industry and the impact of its fortunes on the Australian economy. Growers have reason to be grateful to the members and staff of the Wheat Board who participated with such success in the negotiations.
Honourable members opposite should remember that as they sit in this place tonight Australian boys who have been conscripted and torn from their homes to fight in Vietnam are dying at the hands of the people whom honourable members opposite help to feed and clothe. This is the measure of the hypocrisy of honourable members opposite. I do not mind our selling wheat and wool to any nation. I believe that we should trade with all nations. But I regret that any boy should die in a war under the guise of defending Australia against the people to whom the Government sells goods and equipment. It was not until the Labor Party intervened that the Government ceased selling tallow and other items of an explosive nature to North Vietnam. The Government was trading with the enemy.
There are some interesting sidelights to the Government’s claim that our security is endangered by Communism from Red China. We are told that the real threat to Australia is Communism and that Australia stands in jeopardy from attack by the Communists of North Vietnam. This is why the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) made his statement on defence. Who is defending Australia today? A handful of 20-year-old boys, whose names have been drawn out of a barrel, stand between this country and its complete decimation at the hands of the Communists. Nothing is more scandalous in Australia today than the fact that boys are doing time in gaol because their principles will not allow them to fight. This Government brands these men as criminals. It is disgraceful that at a time when we are told that we are in danger all that stands between us and destruction is a handful of 20-year-old boys. Everybody else in the community is doing well. The Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd and other organisations are making millions. Those who speculate on the share market are carrying out their activities as never before. For young girls, families, and boys more fortunate than our conscripts it is a case of business as usual. They are able to play .their football, cricket or tennis while a handful of conscripts, torn from their homes, are obliged to defend us against what is described by the Government as the greatest menace of our time. War has not ever been declared.
If Australia is in such danger why does the Prime Minister not legislate to make everybody in the community contribute to Australia’s defence instead of placing the burden on a small section of the community? Let us not delude ourselves: Under the Government’s defence proposals other boys will be conscripted to fight on foreign soil in undeclared wars that are fought on issues with which Australia should not be involved. In every way people want to be warned. Every mother with a boy from about 15 to 20 years of age wants to remember that if this . Government goes back to a policy such as that enunciated of stationing Australian troops in Asia and other places conscription will be increased and these kids will pay the supreme sacrifice whilst the rest of Australia goes hang under a Government that will defend Australia by conscripting kids whose names come out of a barrel in the most unfair system of our time.
The Government does not say where it will get the troops. It has never tried to get volunteers since World War II. The fact of the matter is that the Government of the day is prepared to defend this country with a small section of the people. The policy of the Australian Labor Party on these matters is clear and defined and has been expounded by members on this side of the Parliament. What has the Prime Minister come down with in relation to defence in Malaysia and Asia? He said that he will leave there 42 aircraft, one ship - that would give great heart to the people up there if they were in a lot of trouble - and 1,200 men. That is the initial contribution that he intends to make to the defence of these countries. The Government says that it is not committing many men and that the commitment does not matter. But I remind this Parliament that Australia’s initial contribution to the war in Vietnam was 800 men. There are now 8,000 Australians there, and a lot of them have not come back and will not come back. Once troops are based on the spot in other countries, as this Government has done, we never know what conflict will arise and how we will be involved. As the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) said tonight, the agreement under which our troops will be stationed in Malaysia-Singapore is worth reading. The Prime Minister said:
They will be stationed in the area under existing arrangements, the terms of which are governed by our association with the Anglo-Malayan Defence Agreement Should that Agreement in the future cease to be operative we would wish general understandings rather than specific treaty obligations to be worked out with the countries concerned and ourselves.
Do honourable members opposite realise that under that agreement, which the Leader of the Opposition showed tonight had not been signed by one of the participating countries and was outdated because it went back to 1957, the people of this country are being asked to commit thenboys to risk their lives in this part of the world? Can any responsible member of this Parliament accept the obligation to send troops to theatres of war under nonexistent treaties, with no conditions laid down, playing it by ear as the Prime Minister has said, and take the responsibility for what might happen to Australian servicemen? The Australian Labor Party’s policy is one that every Australian will embrace, lt states:
Australian forces should not be committed overseas, except subject to clear and public international agreements which accord with the foregoing principles.
They are the principles we elaborate in our policy. What is wrong with that? If a man is to give his life, should he not know under what terms and conditions and on what basis he is in the country involved. The Prime Minister is to conscript thousands more boys as time goes on and send them overseas to play it by ear according to what might turn up. Nothing is more scandalous. There is no treaty or agreement under which these troops will go abroad. The Australian public wants to be warned that it will mean an increase in conscription of younger people who are called upon to make the full contribution to the welfare of this nation.
The Australian Labor Party’s attitude to the war for which they are being conscripted is quite clear. Australia is one of the few countries in the world today that maintains conscription for service at home or abroad. It has been abolished in Great Britain, and President Nixon in America has given instructions, in accordance with an election promise, that the draft system has to be ended. As the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr Curtin) said the other day, this is in accordance with President Nixon’s policy. The Australian public wants to remember these things when it deliberates on this defence statement. As the honourable member for Yarra (Dr J. F. Cairns) said tonight, it is undesirable for Australia to be the last white garrison in Asia. There is no doubt about that. The honourable member for Bowman disputed it. But what other white races are in that part of the world or will be there when the British go out and the American policy is changed? These matters must be remembered.
Reference has been made to Australian troops being stationed abroad. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard) said tonight that if troops are stationed in Australia they are more mobile and are able to be shifted from place to place, whenever necessary. What is better than to have troops readily available to be used where neeessary, and so give an earnest of our intention to assist these countries if we consider that to do so is in accordance with the obligations into which we have entered with them? These are matters which the Australian public might well keep in view. Great Britain is pulling out of South East Asia. Heaven knows, it has taken that country a long time to realise the situation there, lt will withdraw its troops shortly. In addition, after Vietnam America must give serious thought to its policy in Asia. Australia will be the only nation to have troops stationed in Asia if this Government policy is followed. They will be stationed there on terms and conditions which will be unknown even to the Prime Minister if we accept what he says in his statement.
Tonight the Labor Party has been criticised for not making its policy clear. The Labor Party’s policy is quite clear. It can be read by all. The only point is that the Liberal Party, for its own purposes, seeks to misconstrue the Labor Party’s policy and in every way to try to cloud the issues involved. Anyone who reads the Labor Party’s documents will see stated clearly and concisely its policies on these matters. Tonight the Deputy Leader of the Opposition stated our attitude in regard to troops. We believe that having mobile forces stationed within our own boundaries and properly and adequately equipped with modern weapons is the ideal arrangement for the defence of Australia. They would be able to defend this country or be used wherever necessary under treaty obligations into which we have entered or under a United Nations commitment. Troops stationed abroad have always been sacrificed in the first phase of a war. It happened in Ambon, in Rabaul, in Timor, in Singapore and in Java in 1942. It could happen with members of the Air Force and other troops who are stationed abroad at any time should a conflict break out. If troops are stationed in an area, particularly without treaty obligations having been entered into, one never knows in what way they might become involved, quite contrary to what the situation or the immediate needs might be.
I do not wish to speak at greater length on this subject other than to repeat my concern at the lack of detail and the uncomprehensive nature of the statement which was delivered by the Prime Minister and the fact that the Prime Minister has I think retreated from his position in many respects. Recently we heard that he wanted an Israel-type of army and that he was a Fortress Australia man. But he was rolled out along the line by members of Cabinet. Therefore, we have been presented with a half baked proposition, simply in an endeavour to embarrass the Labor Party. I remind the Parliament that they should not be taken in by this short statement which the Prime Minister made to cover up for the inefficiency of this Government as regards defence generally. Honourable members opposite talk about defence equipment. I mention the Fill aircraft which Australia will receive in a year or two. When one considers that Australia is prac tically defenceless, one realises the inability of this Government to administer in wartime or in peacetime.-
Having said so much I, along with other members on this side of the House, place on record my support for the policy of the Australian Labor Party. 1 shall repeat it broadly for those who wish to note it. We believe in the defence of this country. We have given an earnest of our intention in the last great conflict and in the one before that. We believe in adequate forces being available in Australia; We believe that Australian troops should not be committed abroad except under treaties and conditions to which the Australian Government is a party. We believe that at all times it is much ‘ preferable to have mobile forces readily available and able to defend this country. We do not believe- in conscription for overseas service in any undeclared war. We believe that the Government’s policy at this time is half baked, If implemented it can only result in a greater number of 20-year-olds being conscripted. In no way does it add adequate, to the defence of this country; rather, it. weakens the whole structure.
– This debate, of course, relates to the defence statement made by the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton), ft has wandered away from that, : but at the risk of reiteration I shall try to stick to the subject as closely as I can. The’ Prime Minister’s statement was clear, concise and positive. In view of the many imponderables that still exist in South East Asia it was a courageous Statement and it was made as soon as a -statement could be made, lt has been well ‘ received by the leaders of South East Asia, who seem to differ in opinion very strongly from members of the Opposition. Tunku Abdul Rahman, the Prime Minister of Malaysia,, said:
I consider that Australia’s decision is a clear demonstration of the continuing interest and support for the welfare, defence and security of Malaysia and Singapore. The . Prime Minister of Australia’s defence statement and that of the Prime Minister of New Zealand were as much as Malaysia could expect.
The Tunku said that he had been trying to stress all along that Malaysia is Australia’s front line, that Australia should not look elsewhere than to her near neighbours for a close link up and that this has now been accepted by Australia. The Prime Minister of Singapore - to repeat what the Minister for Defence (Mr Fairhall) said and what was half said by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) - stated that the decision of Australia and New Zealand would enhance stability and promote economic progress in the area and that in the longer run it was economic progress and social betterment which would decide whether the two countries could withstand external pressure or manipulation. The Indonesian Foreign Minister has said that if Australia wants to have forces in Singapore and Malaysia, Indonesia has no objection at all. The Foreign Minister of Thailand stated:
If our friendly neighbours to the south are reassured by the presence of Australian and New Zealand troops, that is good enough for us.
The Leader of the Opposition said that the Prime Minister of Singapore had said that there were no problems of counterinsurgency. The Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr Sinclair) was the leader of a delegation of which I was a member, to the area in 1966. The honourable member for Brisbane (Mr Cross), who spoke earlier in the debate, also was a member of the delegation. The Prime Minister of Singapore spelt out in clear terms to that delegation how Communism was regarded. He was asked whether there was much political opposition to the present regime in Singapore. His answer was: ‘You will see a certain amount of it tomorow morning.’ The following morning we went to Changi gaol where we saw 150 members of the Barisan party imprisoned. Dr Goh, who is the Finance Minister and Minister for Defence in the Singapore Government, delivered a paper to the Summer School of Political Science in this city in 1966, and he left no doubt in anybody’s mind about what he, his Government and the people of Singapore thought of the threat of Communism. The Leader of the Opposition said - the Minister for Defence has contradicted this very emphatically - that Australian troops have never carried out exercises with Malay forces. I, too, can emphatically deny that. Australian troops ‘have carried out such exercises on a number of occasions.
This defence statement has been made in the light of the very changed circumstances that exist in South East Asia. The
Leader of the Opposition said that British troops were being withdrawn because they were no longer necessary. The fact is, as stated by the British Labor Prime Minister, that Britain can no longer afford economically to maintain forces east of Suez. That is why they are being withdrawn. It is not because it is militarily unwise to have them there; it is because Britain is simply not able to maintain the forces there in her financial straits. The United States of America is quite obviously anxious, and understandably so, about the situation that exists in South East Asia and many other parts of the world. It has borne the lion’s share of maintains the independence of countries which have endeavoured to resist totalitarianism. There is obvious frustration in the United States at the prolonged conflicts. This is entirely against the national desire of the Americans for speed and efficiency in anything they attempt. They are becoming a little weary of being the principal defenders of democracy and receiving nothing but vicious and destructive criticism from many quarters, some of them not far away.
What is expected of the Asian nations is more self help, and this defence review will make a contribution towards achieving that objective. In the ultimate, this is the only way that these newly emerged nations can establish themselves and become a permanent source of stability. The presence of Australia in South East Asia shows where we stand and that we are to play a positive role in helping Asian nations to maintain this stability which is always necessary during a period of economic development. A very interesting statement was made recently by the retired President of the United States of America, Lyndon Johnson. This statement did not seem to get very wide coverage in the Australian Press. Tt sets out very clearly the sequence of events in Asia in the last 20 years. Former President Johnson said that the policy that had been promoted by President Eisenhower and maintained by President Kennedy and then by himself was the one that would continue to be maintained by President Nixon. By the way, President Nixon did not say that he would do away with the draft system. What he said was that he was giving instructions to have it examined, which is an entirely different thing.
What has happened in South East Asia in the last 20 years? There was the Korean conflict. If we look at a map of Asia we will see that the peninsula of Korea is one of the most important strategic areas in Asia. It has complete command of Japan. Then there was Communist guerilla activity that brought Malaya to its very knees from 1948 until 1960. There is the situation in Vietnam. It is readily admitted now that North Vietnamese forces are involved and that the conflict is no longer a civil war. There was the Indonesian/ PKI activity - admittedly that was Chinese inspired - which almost overcame that country in 1965. We should not forget what the situation would be in Australia today had Indonesia been overcome by a Communist regime.
Great play was made of certain matters by the honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Daly). I hope that I will have time to deal with some of his assertions. I believe that every young man has the right to be trained to defend his country. It is negligence on the part of any government not to give a young man the right to be trained to defend his country. Honourable members opposite have spoken about conscription. Great play was made by the honourable member for Grayndler on this point. I was in command of a unit in New Britain late in the last World War. Part of my unit would have had to stay at the Equator, had we reached it, while the rest of the unit went on. This was a farcical situation.
Let me quote what the Prime. Minister (Mr Gorton) said. I will shorten his remarks. He said that the stability of the South East Asian area depends on the avoidance of disputes between countries in the region, on the economic progress of those countries and on their peaceful cooperation. This is spelt out in very definite, concise words in his statement. The Prime Minister went on:
Therefore these are the goals which Australia, through diplomatic effort, through economic assistance, through assistance in the field of trade, will strive to help these countries attain.
No higher purpose could be sought by any government. Australia’s approach is a positive co-operative effort to assist peaceful change and progress, and provision for defence is necessary to help achieve immediate stability. These countries have said, not only on this occasion but repeatedly, that they do want assistance and they do not want troops in their area. Last September the Tunku Abdul Rahman said that if the United States of America vacated South East Asia Malaysia would succumb to Communism in a very short time.
All this talk about a large mobile force that can move quickly is nonsense. The reason for having troops on the ground is elementary. To move a modern force of any effective size requires a large number of aircraft. The supplies, equipment and ammunition needed by an army, not to carry it on momentarily but to maintain it, are of tremendous proportions. As earnest as I believe the British are in their intentions - this was dealt with, by the honourable member for Isaacs (Mr Haworth) - when they say that they will fly to our aid or to the aid of any .other friendly country in the Asian region, this simply is not possible to achieve rapidly. Unless our forces on the ground, can get reinforcements quickly it is not worth while. It is in the first few days of an action, as was amply demonstrated by ..the Israeli war of 1967,. that military advantages can be gained.
– That is a’ comical analogy.
– It. would be comical to the honourable member. He would not understand it. The intentions of Australia, spelt out clearly in the Prime Minister’s defence review, will, I hope, be the forerunner of wide understanding with and closer ties with all the countries in Asia that will resist totalitarianism in any form. In the long run .this is the only way that the stability necessary for these countries to develop their resources, create a better standard of living and secure a lasting peace, can be achieved.
The honourable member for Brisbane referred to the speech made by my colleague, the honourable member for Cowper (Mr Robinson), and said he was surprised to hear a member of the Country Party speaking on defence or external affairs. I suggest, with respect, that his statistics are quite wrong. It was a remarkable statement for him to make, particularly as two or three positions on the debating list have not been taken up by the Labor Party tonight. The fact of the matter is that our coalition colleagues outnumber us by three to one so naturally there are three of them to one of us in a debate. This we understand. If the honourable member for Brisbane looks back through Hansard he will find that my party plays its part. The honourable member for Cowper made an excellent contribution to this debate tonight. The honourable member for Brisbane referred to the evergreen- or should I call it ever-red bogey about sales of wheat and wool to China. I might mention that I seldom refer to China as anything but Communist China. But let us get the record straight. Is the honourable member suggesting that if Australia refrained from making sales to China the Chinese would be deprived of wheat? Of course they would not be. The Argentine, which is an extreme anti-Communist country would sell China wheat and China could get wheat from many other countries. Are we going to disrupt completely our open auction system of selling wool because China is a buyer? When we severed diplomatic relations with Russia the Russians bought more wool than ever. More wool was consigned to Russian ports in the ensuing 12 to 18 months than had been consigned in the previous period. A country cannot restrict trade or modern commerce unless it is going to blockade by force. There is a large amount of trade between the United States of America and China through Hong Kong.
– There is not.
– Of course there is. That is the absolute fact. Most of the other points that I have noted have already been dealt with. Just as the honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Daly) said that he emphatically spelt out that he supported the Party that did not believe in conscription and so on, I want to spell out in emphatic words that I strongly support the defence statement made by the Prime Minister. I repeat that it is an excellent, concise defence statement that spells out the least contribution that Australia can make to the future peace of this area.
Debate (on motion by Mr Street) adjourned.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
Motion (by Mr Erwin) proposed:
That the House do now adjourn.
– I wish to deal tonight with a matter that is causing a great deal of concern amongst a substantial number of people in a very large area of Western Australia. The concern arises from a situation largely, if not completely, created by the Minister for Civil Aviation (Mr Swartz). I feel that he could very substantially correct the situation if he was inclined to do so. I refer to the very high cost of air fares and freights recently imposed upon people living in the outback and the remote areas of Western Australia and also the possibility that air services will be drastically reduced and perhaps terminated in some areas.
The air services to which I refer are operated by Ansett-MacRobertson Miller Airlines Ltd and certain commuter airlines. As the House is aware, Ansett-MMA has a monopoly of the air route between Darwin and Perth. Until recently this included all coastal towns and all those inland towns that the company was willing to service. However, towards the end of last year Ansett-MMA started to drop out of a number of services that it had been providing and these runs have been taken over by commuter services. Ansett-MMA apparently dropped out at the request of the Minister for Civil Aviation. The ‘West Australian’ of 19th October reported:
The airline, Ansett-MMA, is withdrawing from these areas to comply with a request from Civil Aviation Minister Swartz that all public transport airlines reduce where possible uneconomical and heavily subsidised routes.
I questioned the Minister as to whether this was so. Though he did not actually admit that he had made the request, he certainly did not deny that he had. He said:
MacRobertson Miller Airlines and the Commonwealth were concerned at the trend towards increasing subsidy needs.
I do not know to what extent MMA was concerned; it has complete protection under the agreement between the company and the Commonwealth and the agreement does not expire until, I think, September 1971. So I would suggest that the main concern came from the Minister.
However, not only did Ansett-MMA withdraw its services from the uneconomical routes, but it also, with the approval of the Minister, substantially increased the freight charges on the routes that it continued to fly, although apparently it considered that they were reasonably economical. The Minister has the final say as to the air charges that will be imposed and the services that will be operated under the agreement. According to the Press the increases ranged from 3% to 20%. For instance freight charges to Port Hedland increased by 18%; to Broome by 15%; to Roebourne and Dampier by 13.6%; to Wyndham by 13%; and to Kalgoorlie by 20%.
When the commuter service took over the services that Ansett-MMA had dropped out of. we found that both fares and freights to most centres were further increased, again with the approval of the Minister. For instance, to fly from Perth to Shark Bay was a direct flight with MMA costing $21.80. But MMA diced Shark Bay and as a result the passengers had to fly back from Carnarvon by commuter at a total cost of $51.40 as against $21.80 which was charged previously. The freight charge went from 13c per lb to 27c per lb. Perth to Gascoyne Junction fares went from $39.90 to $49 and freight from 16c to 27c per lb. Perth to Marble Bar air fares increased from $56.80 to $72 and freight from 22c to 36c. These are just some examples of the increases that people in the north and the north-west are facing. From what I can gather they are now faced with a strong possibility that the charges could increase still further. Also, they are faced with the possibility that they could lose their service.
The Minister for Civil Aviation agreed last year in answer to a question I put to him that the figures I have just quoted were substantially correct. A daily newspaper costing 5c in Perth costs 15c in the north. This is a 200% increase. Surely no-one will suggest that this is a fair go for the people of those areas. Now it seems that the position could become even worse. I want to quote from an article that appeared in today’s copy of the ‘West Australian’. This article has caused further concern to the people who are affected. The article states:
The future of commuter air services to some towns in the north-west was under review, the manager of Murchison Air Charter Pty Ltd, Mr Oliver, said yesterday. The whole operation - including fares and freight charges - was being reviewed, he said.
The company already knew that some services were uneconomical. These services might be withdrawn, or the company might apply for a Commonwealth government subsidy to continue the services, he said.
The article went on to state:
Mr Charles Mutart, the Manager of Noeska Aviation, which operates from Kalgoorlie south to Norseman and Esperance and north-east to Leonora and Laverton, said yesterday that the company was running at a loss.
This must mean that there will either bc further increases in charges, a withdrawal of service or a subsidy will have to be granted. At the moment it would seem that the only answer for the immediate future is the payment of a subsidy. I know that the Minister has said that any application by these companies will receive proper consideration. But I know also that a subsidy granted recently to Hicks Aviation Co. which provides one of the commuter services did not bring about any reduction in charges, even though it may have prevented any further increases just for the moment, anyway. But all the charges, as I said before, had to be approved by the Minister. I say that this subsidy question should have been decided before MMA was asked to drop out of the service and before the charges for the commuter services were approved.
Surely the Minister had some responsibility to the customers - the people in the outlying areas - in regard to fares and freight charges. Surely he should be concerned as to bow they will be situated. Surely his concern should not be only with Ansett. Yet that is how it appears to be. The Minister expresses concern at a possible $400,000 subsidy. Surely that is not too much to pay to provide a service to the people in remote areas - people scattered over more than nine-tenths of Western Australia. These are the people who are out in those tough areas where Japanese and American interests have been given a birthday every day over several years with regard to iron ore and other minerals, lt seems that $400,000 is te much for these people but S26m is not out of the way for the dairy industry.
If the Minister is really concerned about the subsidy why does not he allow TransAustralia Airlines to go in and operate in those areas? This organisation has already said that it is prepared to operate the Darwin-Perth route without any subsidy at all. The matter of air services and charges is a serious one and should receive the urgent attention of the Minister. He should not wait for applications for a subsidy. He should, for a change, act in the interests of the customers, the people of the outback and the outlying areas. He should take whatever action is necessary to ensure that these people continue to enjoy airline services, and not at high charges but at reasonable charges.
A number of charges today are practically prohibitive to people other than those who can pass the cost on, who work on an expense allowance or to whom money is no object. If charges go any higher the situation will be almost the same as if the service was withdrawn, because people just will not be able to afford to use the service. So 1 make a plea to the Minister to treat this matter as serious and urgent. I ask him not only to ensure a continuation of services but also to investigate the possibility of reducing charges, and certainly to take whatever steps are necessary to prevent increases.
As 1 said earlier, one way in which the Minister or the Government could assist materially towards providing better services at lower charges is to allow Trans-Australia Airlines to operate between Perth and Darwin in the same way as this airline operates in other parts of Australia, that is, in competition with Ansett-ANA. The fact that Ansett-ANA has been allowed to retain a monopoly of the run, even after Ansett Transport Industries Ltd gained a controlling interest in the company, is, as I see it, contrary to the intentions of the Airlines Agreement Act, which embodies the agreement between Ansett-ANA, TAA - or the Australian National Airlines Commission and the Commonwealth. But apparently the Government is not prepared to give TAA the green light. It would rather have the people pay unreasonable charges and fares for a service provided by a monopoly company. If this is so, the Government should not quibble at subsidy costs which become necessary as a result of its own actions.
– I wish to direct the attention of the House to a matter which concerns a very large number of people in my electorate and also a considerable number of people in Canberra. I refer to the question of the future of the Canberra abattoir. I think I should first make quite plain the division of ministerial responsibility in this matter as there has been a great deal of confusion about it. The Department of Health is responsible for administering the abattoir, and the Department of the Interior has acted at the request of the Department of Health in offering the abattoir on a couple of occasions recently for sale by public tender.
The Minister for Health (Dr Forbes) announced on 22nd August 1966 the Government’s decision to offer the abattoir for sale or lease to private enterprise as a going concern. In his statement at that time the Minister referred to an interdepartmental committee which was appointed to study the future of the abattoir and which considered that the undertaking could better be run by private enterprise than as a government instrumentality. Following a consideration of the proposed conditions for the offer of the abattoir for sale or lease, the Department of the Interior, acting for the Department of Health, invited applications on 28th March 1968, specifying that they would be received until 2 p.m. on Tuesday, 4th June. There were no successful tenderers. On 2nd September 1968 the Department of the Interior announced that fresh applications were being invited for the purchase or lease of the abattoir. This second appeal was also unsuccessful. There was no tenderer that even came near to being acceptable to the Minister for Health and the Government.
The Minister announced only last Friday, 21 st February 1969, that no acceptable application had been received for the purchase or lease of the Canberra abattoir on the second occasion on which the abattoir had been put on the market. In his statement the Minister said that the Government would now offer the abattoir’s chilling facilities for lease or purchase or for use as a meat hall or for other food preserving activities as soon as the details had been worked out. This is a completely new context in which to examine all the previous arguments about who should run the abattoir and whether there should be one in this area or in Canberra. The abattoir is situated just inside the Australian Capital Territory. It is only just over the border from my electorate. Most of its supplies of meat come from the Monaro and some even from the north-eastern corner of Victoria. That is one reason why I am particularly concerned. I am concerned also from the point of view of Queanbeyan consumers.
To indicate the widespread concern, I inform the House that at a meeting which was held this afternoon in Queanbeyan, attended by more than 100 people representing organisations in Canberra, Queanbeyan and throughout the Monaro, and organised by the Queanbeyan-Canberra Branch of the Graziers Association of New South Wales, the following resolution was passed unanimously:
This meeting is concerned at the far reaching effects that the decision by the Minister for Health on the closure of the Canberra Abattoir will have on this community, and the meeting therefore requests the Minister to reconsider his decision to close the killing section and to sell or lease the chillers of the Canberra Abattoir.
Further, it is also requested that the Minister give consideration to the feasibility of the Abattoir being transferred to another Commonwealth department and run as a public utility under the management of an independent authority.
– Our Rural Committee supports the honourable member on this matter.
– I am very glad to hear that. I understand that the honourable member for the Australian Capital Territory (Mr J. R. Fraser) basically supports this proposition and that the Australian Capital Territory Advisory Council basically supports the retention of the abattoir. I believe that it should be made quite clear that the people to whom I have referred are speaking for a very substantial section of the people of Canberra. This indicates quite widespread support within Canberra, as well as in Eden-Monaro on the supply side.
I make this appeal not only on behalf of those people and organisations but also on behalf of thirty-three men who live in Queanbeyan and work at the abattoir, and their families, and about twenty-four men, who live in Canberra, and their families, as well as the farmers and graziers of the Monaro who produce the stock, the carriers who bring it here, the meat operators and retailers and the consumers of Queanbeyan and Canberra who in this instance, as in many other instances, have a similar point of view. I appeal to the Minister to ask the Government - and I appeal to the Government - to reconsider this matter because it is now in a completely new context. It has virtually been proven that it is not a proposition for private enterprise to come in and buy the abattoir at this stage.
What has led to this situation? The Canberra abattoir commenced operations in late 1944. It was set up by a Labor government. It was designed to supply about 100% of the Canberra market. The Labor Government gave it a monopoly. It. was also designed for the killing of anybody’s stock. Any individual could have stock killed there. So it never had a coherent management. One could not have imagined a worse way of setting up a business in the hope that it would be successful. It turned out to be unsuccessful. In the initial stages the Government found that prices for meat in Canberra tended to be high compared with prices for meat in the other capital cities of Australia. So, in 1958, after considerable study, it was decided to open the market to other meat. Since 1958 the abattoir’s share of the fresh carcass meat supplied to Canberra has been dropping. I will quote some more recent figures. For the year 1965-66 it was 42% of the market; for 1966-67, 35%; and for 1967-68, 34%. The run down of throughput was not quite so dramatic, but of course the market was going up. In 1963-64 it was 9.7 million lb, and for the next 4 successive years it was 9.5, 8.4, 7.9 and 8.2 million lb. There is another side to this picture. From 1958 onwards the Government virtually starved the abattoir of the money which was necessary to keep it going. The Government put money into the chiller works, but it did not put matching money into the killing side of the operations. There should not have been a change only in the managerial side. It was bad from the beginning. I believe that it was badly managed, even to the point where it ought to be embarrassing to the Department of Health, because the abattoir scarcely met the Department’s own health standards. I have seen the abattoir myself and I very much doubt whether it is up to the health standards of the Department.
For the reasons I have already mentioned I appeal to the Minister to reconsider his decision and to rescue this operation. The Government itself has substantially contributed to the mess the abattoir is now in, and at this stage, having proven the point that private enterprise cannot carry out this operation efficiently, I believe that it should be prepared to put the money down and to transform it into a statutory authority so that it can operate and help supply this market with meat and promote the consumption of beef and lamb produced in this area.
– I congratulate the honourable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr Munro) on his fight in this place to preserve and retain a socialised industry. 1 know that it must be hard for a member of the Liberal Party to pursue this policy, but I am certain that he realises he is fighting for the retention of a socialised industry, and I support him in his objective.
I did not rise to take part in a discussion on the Canberra abattoir. I rise to speak on a matter which is causing great concern to a lot of people in the Newcastle district. As 1 indicated during question time today to the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr Bury) - and the Minister can take my word for this even though he has not a computer mind - there are 705 unemployed junior females in the Newcastle district, according to statistics supplied to me by his Department. For the last 10 years I have been keeping records of the movement of employment in the Newcastle area and at no time has the number of unemployed girls been below 500 in any one month.
This is not a new problem. It has been a continuing one, and I have been fully aware of it for some considerable time. I can show the Minister correspondence from a former Minister for Labour and National Service back in 1965. 1 had asked whether he could do something about having young women apprenticed to suitable trades which up to the present time have been the sole preserve of the male. The present Minister told me this morning that unfortunately in some centres there are very strong prejudices against the employment of women on work which can be performed by them equally as well as by men. I agree with him. I personally have done all that 1 could to have unions accept females as apprentices and later to accept them as union members. I draw the Minister’s attention to a statement which appeared in an article by Mr John Burney which was published in the ‘Daily Telegraph’ of Wednesday, 26th February 1969, at page 25. It discloses that the secretary of the Sydney Branch of the Boilermakers and Blacksmiths Union - which is my union - has been unable to place in employment a Czechoslovakian woman who came to this country recently after getting out of Czechoslovakia during the recent troubles there. The lady is a qualified welder. Mr Grant has been unable to obtain employment for her. The union is prepared to accept, as it did during the war years, lady welders.
I draw the Minister’s attention to certain figures. I admit that they are not up to date; they are about 3 years old, but they give some idea of the number of tradesmen employed in some Commonwealth departments. The Department of Works employs 3,193, Commonwealth Railways 272, the Postmaster-General’s Department 1,498, the Department of the Interior 66, and the Department of Supply 2,308; and the Department of the Navy employs, as civilian tradesmen, not servicemen, 2,092, making a total of 9,429. What are the Minister and the Government departments doing to break through to establish and to prove that young girls are suitable apprentices and ladies are suitable tradesmen? Here is any amount of opportunity for the Minister to try his hand with his colleagues in the various fields. Whilst I admit that I would not like to see women working in some trades, the Australian Council of Trade Unions, the trade union movement and various employers federations have acknowledged that women could be employed in many trades in which the Commonwealth Government employs tradesmen. Will the Minister consult with his colleagues to give the lead? Somebody has to start somewhere sometime. This is the opportunity for the Government. When the Minister challenges me to do what I can, I reply that I am not an employer of labour, and 1 cannot do very much. The Government is an employer of labour. It employs 9,429 tradesmen in six departments; one could practically say five depots because the Department of the Interior employs only 66. The opportunity is there. I await with interest to see what success the Minister has. I assure him that I will give him all the support that 1 can possibly give, through the trade union movement, to ensure that an experiment of this type is successful and it can be so. The opportunity is there for the Minister.
Can the Government see its way clear to provide additional Commonwealth scholarships and additional teacher training scholarships for students who live outside capital cities? 1 draw the attention of the Minister for Education and Science (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and of the Government to a question asked by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) which appears on page 112 of Hansard of 25th February 1969. The reply states that in 1968 the number of applicants for Commonwealth scholarships was 46,527. Only 10,683 were offered. In other words only 18.3% of those who applied were granted scholarships.
Of the 705 unemployed junior females in Newcastle, 70 have obtained the Higher SchOol Certificate. In normal circumstances the girls could expect to be awarded at least a teacher training scholarship. If the Government had granted additional Commonwealth university scholarships, obviously some of the girls that accepted teacher training scholarships would have been awarded the university scholarships and in that way additional opportunities would have been created for those with passes in the lower group to gain a teacher training scholarship.
I draw the attention of the Minister and of honourable members to a news release by the Minister for Immigration (Mr Snedden) on 23rd February 1969. When addressing a church function, as a guest speaker at the Ringwood Presbyterian Church in Victoria, he said:
Iti a world where many nations were concerned with ‘brain drains’, Australia, by denying recognition of their skills, was turning away substantial numbers of professional people.
The Minister continued:
No nation is so rich in precious human skills that it can afford the social and economic losses which result from this situation.
Could we not say the same thing about all these young girls who have passed their Higher School Certificate? Could we not say in respect of them: ‘No nation is so rich in precious human skills that it can afford the social and economic losses which result from so many young people being qualified educationally but not being trained in some professional or semi-professional skill’? The Government should closely examine the possibility of providing additional scholarships. Some blame must attach to the New South Wales Department of Education because these young girls have not received any training in shorthand and typing. None of them has been trained so that she may leave school and move immediately into commerce. The Government should also consider decentralising some of its activities. The British Government has decentralised its social service activities. The headquarters of the British department is at Newcastle-on-Tyne. There is no reason why the headquarters of the Department of Social Services in each State should not be transferred away from the State capital. Similarly, the assessment section and other sections of the Taxation Branch not involved in interviewing people could be decentralised. Some effort could be made to correct the imbalance of employment of males and females that occurs in some heavily industrialised cities. For example, the Taxation Branch could be located in Newcastle and the Department of Social Services in Wollongong.
On several occasions I have contacted the Sydney office of the Public Service Board seeking employment for these young girls. I have been told to send them to Sydney where employment will be found for them, but no employment is available in Newcastle.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
I wish to refer to a couple of matters raised by the honourable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr Collard). He referred to the proposal for TransAustralia Airlines to take over the service between Perth and Darwin. Involved in this proposal is the possibility of reducing the subsidy and of providing increased services. Under present circumstances, this being a major payable route, it would render a disservice to the people of Western Australia to allow TAA to operate this service. The only effect of TAA’s operating the service would be to increase the subsidy payment to MacRobertson-Miller Airlines Ltd or to reduce services in other areas in order to maintain the subsidy at the existing level. So this is not the answer to the problem at this stage. As the honourable member knows, the current agreement does not expire until 1971. This matter will be reviewed before the agreement expires.
The honourable member referred to a Press statement and claimed that I had suggested that MMA should withdraw services from certain areas. If that is the purport of the Press statement it is entirely incorrect. 1 have never made any such suggestion and have certainly not given any directions along those lines. Yesterday, in answer to a question on notice, I told the honourable member that the Government was concerned at the high rate of subsidy still being paid to MMA to maintain services over principally developmental routes. The subsidy is in the vicinity of $400,000. When the Commonwealth entered into the agreement with MMA it anticipated that increased traffic would enable the subsidy to be reduced. The subsidy is in fact at present increasing. It is being maintained at a high rate. MMA has suggested that because of uneconomic operation in certain areas and because of the introduction last year of commuter services, which are designed to fill the gap between economic and uneconomic airline services, we have changed the subsidy policy. I have stated in this House and also in answer to a question asked by the honourable member that a subsidy is now to be paid to a commuter operator who takes over a regular public transport route and in this case the subsidy will be less than paid to MMA. Already one operator has been paid a subsidy. It is up to other operators to submit their applications if they conform to the conditions which have been laid down.
The question of freights and fares is certainly one that has to be submitted through my Department to me for approval. I can assure you, Mr Deputy Speaker, that this is looked at very carefully in the context of the developmental atmosphere associated with the services provided in this region and the impact that any change in fares or freights has as far as the locality is concerned. But we must be realistic about this situation. The fares and freights which - now are being charged are a realistic approach to the economic operation and requirements of the area. It is undoubtedly a fact that the operation of commuter services has caused a change upward in the fare and freight structure in some cases, as I have already indicated in writing. But we consider that this is the only way in which these services can be maintained. At the same time, in addition to this, we are paying a very substantial subsidy to see that the services are maintained.
The question that was raised as to whether some commuter operators might withdraw from routes which they have taken over is one that has not arisen yet. I have seen the article referred to in the West Australian’. If this matter does arise, we will have to examine it in the light of the circumstances. Our desire is to see that services are maintained and provided to all these areas, particularly to the developmental regions of Western Australia, as they are in parts of Queensland and other parts of Australia, even to the extent of maintaining the subsidy, although we hope that the traffic growth will be such that this will be reduced substantially as time goes on. I can give an assurance that we will be watching this situation very carefully to ensure that the best possible service is provided on the most economic basis.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11.28 p.m.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
Canberra and Darwin: Parks (Question No. 992) - Mr Whitlam asked the Minister for the
Interior, upon notice:
What is the planned ratio of public open space to population in (a) Canberra and (b) Darwin?
What has been the per capita expenditure in each of the past five years for the development of (a) parklands, (b) sporting facilities and (c) children’s playgrounds in (i) Canberra and (ii) Darwin?
Note - This information, which was supplied by the National Capital Development Commission, is not readily available under the particular headings requested and in some instances has had to be calculated because the items concerned are part of the component costs of lump sum contracts. The Commission has advised that the per capita expenditure figures do not include any facilities provided in conjunction with schools.
Note - The per capita expenditure shown does not include expenditure on school grounds where ovals and playgrounds have been developed as part of the facilities. Separate figures for this expenditure are not available. It does include expenditure by the Darwin City Council, which is responsible for parks and gardens and playing areas in the municipal area, so far as this expenditure can be identified from available’ records.
asked the Attorney-General, upon notice:
– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows:
To inquire into and report on the extent of the protection afforded to the investing public by the existing provisions of the uniform Companies Acts and to recommend what additional provisions (if any) are reasonably necessary to increase that ‘ protection.’
The members of the Committee are:
Mr Justice R. M. Eggleston (Chairman),
Mr J. M. Rodd, C.B.E., and Mr P. C. E. Cox.
In addition to the abovementioned amendments, the uniform Acts have been the subject of a general review by the Standing Committee. A number of proposed amendments have been included in a draft General Revision Bill, which is still under consideration by the Standing Committee.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 27 February 1969, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1969/19690227_reps_26_hor62/>.