27th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr SPEAKER (Hon. Sir William Aston) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Mr GORTON presented the following petition:
To: The Honourable, the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled.
The humble petition of residents of Higgins Electorate, respectfully sheweth:
Lt has been scientifically established that the Red Kangaroo, largest marsupial in the world and our national symbol, has through drought and uncontrolled shooting been reduced to a numerical level where, if the shooting is not stopped, the animal will become extinct in large areas, if not throughout Australia.
We, the residents of this nation, want the kangaroo to be part of the Australian landscape. We believe that tourists, who are playing an increasing role in the national balance of payments, want this too, and in this respect we believe that the kangaroo is worth more to the national economy alive, than dead.
Now that the Government has formed a Select Committee, it can be logically assumed that, fearing restrictive legislation in the future, shooters will intensify their efforts to obtain as many ..– as they can, while they can.
We, your petitioners, therefore humbly pray that you will:
And we your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray.
Mr SNEDDEN presented the following petition:
To: The Honourable, the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled.
The humble petition of residents of the State of Victoria respectfully sheweth:
That because of uncontrolled shooting for commercial purposes, the population of kangaroos, particularly the big red kangaroo, is now so low that they may become extinct
There are insufficient wardens in any State of the Commonwealth to detect or apprehend those who break the inadequate laws which exist.
As a tourist attraction, the kangaroo is a permanent source of revenue to this country.
It is an indisputable fact that no species can withstand hunting on such a scale, when there is no provision being made for its future.
We, your petitioners, therefore humbly pray, that:
The export of kangaroo products be banned immediately, and the Commonwealth Government take the necessary steps to have all wildlife in Australia brought under its control.
Only a complete cessation of killing for commercial purposes can save surviving kangaroos.
And your petitioners, therefore, as in duty bound will ever pray.
Mr FOX presented the following petition:
To: The Honourable, the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled.
The humble petition of residents of the State of Victoria respectfully showeth; That because of uncontrolled shooting for commercial purposes, the population of kangaroos, particularly the big red species is now so low that they may become extinct.
There are insufficient wardens in any State of the Commonwealth to detect or apprehend those who break the inadequate laws which exist.
As a tourist attraction, the kangaroo is a permanent source of revenue to this country.
It is an indisputable fact, that no species can withstand hunting on such a scale, when there is no provision being made for its future.
We your petitioners, therefore humbly pray, that
The export of kangaroo products be banned immediately, and the Commonwealth Government take the necessary steps to have all wildlife in Australia brought under its control.
Only a complete cessation of killing for commercial purposes can save surviving kangaroos.
And your petitioners, therefore, as in duty bound will ever pray.
Mr KEITH JOHNSON presented the following petition:
To the Honourable the Speaker and members in Parliament assembled.
This petition from certain residents of the State of Victoria is to sheweth that because of the uncontrolled shooting for commercial purposes the population of kangaroos, particularly the ‘big red’ species, is now so low that they may become extinct. lt is an indisputable fact that no species can withstand hunting on such a scale when there is no provision being made for its future.
The petitioners pray that the export of kangaroo products be banned immediately and that the Commonwealth Government take steps to bring control of wild life under its jurisdiction. Only a complete cessation of killing for commercial purposes can save surviving kangaroos.
Your petitioners as in duty bound shall ever pray.
Mr COHEN presented the following petition:
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The Petition of the undersigned citizens of New South Wales respectfully showeth.
That due to higher living cost, persons on Social Service Pensions, are finding it extremely difficult to live in even the most frugal way.
We therefore call upon the Commonwealth Government to increase the base pension rate to 30% of average weekly male earnings, plus supplementary assistance in accordance with A.C.T.U. policy and by so doing give a reasonably moderate pension.
The Average Weekly earnings for adult male unit wage and salary earner means the figures issued from time to time by the Commonwealth Statistician and published quarterly.
Your Petitioners most humbly pray that the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled will take immediate steps to bring about the wishes expressed in our Petition; so that our Citizens receiving the Social Service Pensions may live their lives in dignity. And your Petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
Mr LIONEL BOWEN presented the following petition:
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The Petition of the undersigned citizens of New South Wales respectfully showeth. That due to higher living cost, persons on Social Service Pensions, are finding it extremely difficult to live in even the most frugal way.
We therefore call upon the Commonwealth Government to increase the base pension rate to 30% of average weekly male earnings, plus supplementary assistance in accordance with A.C.T.U. policy and by so doing give a reasonably moderate pension.
The Average Weekly earnings for adult male unit wage and salary earner means the figures issued from time to time by the Commonwealth Statistician ami published quarterly.
Your Petitioners most humbly pray that the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled will take immediate steps to bring about the wishes expressed in our Petition; so thai our Citizens receiving the Social Service Pensions may live their lives in dignity. And your Petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Mr STREET presented the following petition:
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The Petition of the undersigned citizens of Victoria respectfully showeth.
That due to the higher living cost, persons on Social Service Pensions are finding it extremely difficult to live in even the most frugal way.
We therefore call upon the Commonwealth Government to increase the base penton rate to 30% of the Average Weekly Male Earnings for ail States, as ascertained by the Commonwealth Statistican, plus supplementary assistance and allowances in accordance with A.C.T.U. policy and adopted us the policy of the Australian Commonwealth Pensioners’ Federation, and by doing so give a reasonably moderate pension’. Your Petitioners most humbly pray that the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled will take immediate steps to bring about the wishes expressed in our Petition: so that our citizens receiving the Social Service Pensions may live their lives in dignity.
And your Petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Mr McIVOR presented the following petition:
To: The Honourable, the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled:
The humble Petition of the undersigned members of the Footscray Sub-Branch of the Returned Services League respectfully sheweth:
That the Repatriation Act and the Repatriation (Special Overseas Service) Act are in need of extensive review.
That various War Pensions are not sufficient for the pensioners to support themselves.
That hospital benefits for ex-servicemen should be reviewed.
That the present funeral grant payable is insufficient.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray:
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Immigration. How many migrants arrived in Australia during each of the last 2 years? What is the Government’s immigration programme for 1970 and 1971? What is the basis of this programme? Will the programme be affected by the results of the 4 major studies which the Minister has just announced?
– The total number of new settlers who arrived in Australia for the year ending June 1970 was 185,000 and for the previous year 175,000, that is to say, a total of 360,000 for the 2-year phase. The objective of the programme during the course of the next 12 months will be to hold the immigration programme at this favourable level. This means that during 1970-71 the number of new settlers arriving in Australia will, according to our target objective, be 180,000 which is the average figure for arrivals in the past 2 years although of course it is less than the record figure achieved during the year ending June 1 970. This programme was recommended by the Commonwealth Immigration Planning Council and is based upon an appreciation of Australia’s national needs and objectives, the availability of suitable settlers for Australia and our capacity to effectively integrate those people who come here. The programme will be subject to review during the course of the coming year as it has been in the past and the results of the 3 major studies which I recently initiated will naturally be taken into account because the objective of those studies is that information should be available to the Government on a progressive and phased basis.
– My question is addressed to the Postmaster-General. Is the Postmaster-General aware of widespread unemployment among writers, artists and technicians engaged in the television industry in Australia? If so, will he advise the House of recent considerations by the Australian Broadcasting Control Board of the quota of Australian programmes to be shown over the next 4 years? Will the revised quotas be debated by this House before they are implemented?
– I know that comments are made from time to time by certain sections of the industry concerning substantial unemployment in the industry. I think it is necessary to recognise that although the Actors Equity Association of Australia has a membership of some 4,000 people not all that number - and this has been indicated to me by the Secretary of Actors Equity - would be really suited to television acting. The same principle would apply - perhaps to a lesser degree - to radio acting. Therefore, to use the membership of Actors Equity as an example of the number of employable people in the industry would be a fairly substantial exaggeration. I am not aware of substantial unemployment in the many areas of the industry to which the honourable member has referred.
The Broadcasting Control Board has a responsibility under the legislation passed by this Parliament to determine the standards of programmes and of advertising. It has detailed the standards in relation to programme content. In relation to television it has determined that 50% of the programme content shall be Australian and that 18 hours in a 4-week period shall be televised between 7 p.m. and 9.30 p.m.. including 2 hours of Australian drama. When it is considering the matter the Board consults the parties who are associated with the industry to determine the employment situation and the capability of the industry to meet a particular requirement. At the same time it consults the station management because there is an economic aspect associated wilh this matter.
I would remind the honourable member that some Australian drama programmes cost anything between $16,000 and $20,000 for a 1-hour episode. This has to be compared with the cost of imported programmes, which is in the vicinity of $4,500 or $5,000 an hour, lt is very difficult for stations in Australia to sell off programmes. Country stations are unable to pay very high fees for programmes. There are only 3 networks and it is very difficult to sell off programmes within Australia. lt has nor been easy, except in isolated cases, to sell off on the overseas market. I would like to sec more Australian programmes sold on the overseas market. I believe that this would help to relieve to some degree the very high production costs of Australian programmes. 1 understand that the Broadcasting Control Board is at the moment, in one of its periodic reviews, considering this question of the quota of Australian programmes on television. I am not sure when it will let me have a report but 1 do not think that it will be earlier than within the next month or two. It is a matter for the Parliament to determine whether the Board’s report will be debated. Procedures will be available to honourable members. The report will not come to me in the form of a report which T would table in the Parliament and on which a debate would automatically ensue.
– I ask the Prime Minister a question in his capacity as Minister representing the Minister for External Territories. I understand that during the recent evictions at la Palik, which the Administration calls Japlik, officers of the Administration destroyed and burnt a total of 9 houses. 1 am not asking the right honourable gentleman about the legal aspects of the matter, since an officer of the Public Solicitor’s office has inspected the sites. However, I do ask him what steps have been taken to accommodate the families which, I am told, were left to shelter under the trees.
– The honourable member is talking about action which was taken to eject unauthorised squatters from land which had been acquired by the Administration for the purpose of distribution, through application to a land board, to Tolai and Baining people. It is quite true that a number of unauthorised squatters entered upon this land and built themselves shelters while they were there. They had to be removed, and the shelters were also removed. I have had no intimation wilh any veracity behind it that I can check that people had to shelter under trees, because as I understand it these squatters came from villages round about and returned to those villages after that.
– I ask the Minister for Labour and National Service: What has been the response to the call by the Australian Council of Trade Unions for a national stoppage today?
– There has been some extraordinary confusion in the trade union movement, in the Press and among the public as to what was called for. Apparently there was a call by the ACTU Interstate Executive for protest rallies in combination with pensioners. In some way which has noi yet been able to be identified, this was allowed to be thought to be a call for a national strike. There has been confusion among unions, among union leaders and as between the industrial wing of the Labor movement and the political wing of the Labor movement. There has, I believe, been very real conflict between leaders of the trade union movement. This in itself is a pity. One of the interesting things about this and something which I have not yet able to determine is the role of the leader of the Opposition. I do not know whether he was a leader of the call for the strike rallies or whether he was a follower. No doubt in his own good time he will make that clear. I. presume that he will wait until he knows the outcome of today’s events before declaring himself.
There are in Australia more than 4,000,000 wage and salary earners. Slightly fewer than 2,000,000 workers are affiliated to the Australian Council of Trade Unions, the Australian Council of
Salaried and Professional Associations and the Public Service unions. The numbers at the rallies that have been held in the capita] cities today have, as reported to me, amounted to several thousands. This is about 0.5% of salary and wage earners in Australia. Powerful speeches have been made by a number of people. As they have made their powerful speeches they have looked out over a great many people and have no doubt misled themselves into the belief that this has been a powerful protest, very solidly supported. The facts suggest the reverse. It was not a powerful protest and it was not strongly supported. I think it can be categorised only as a triumph for common sense among the Australian people over the irresponsibility of the call that was made to them.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Shipping and Transport been drawn to a statement inferring that the passenger ship ‘Empress of Australia’ has been used to ship potentially explosive cargoes? Does his Department appreciate the serious risks involved in carrying explosive compounds on a passenger ship? What action is being taken to ensure that the practice is discontinued?
– lt has been reported to me that there were some voyages of the Empress of Australia’ on which dangerous cargoes were carried in normal containers without those containers being specifically marked. The way in which this happened and the extent to which it happened are now under investigation. To the extent to which the Australian National Line has laid down procedures, these have been brought to the notice of shippers. The ANL is introducing new inspection procedures to try to ensure that there shall be no carriage of explosive goods in unmarked containers. There are restraints on the carriage of explosive goods in passenger ships but the difficulty in this instance seems to lie in the fact that there was no outward indication of the contents of the cargo. The way in which this happened and the extent to which it happened are now matters currently under investigation. When I have some knowledge about this I will be glad to bring it to the attention of the honourable member.
– My question which is directed to the Minister for Labour and National Service, is supplementary to that asked by the honourable member for Henty. In view of the latest blatant, politically motivated and irresponsible strike action initiated by Mr Hawke, President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, and bearing in mind the prior announcement by the Leader of the Opposition of Mr Hawke’s intention, as well as the other recent politically motivated industrial disorders, can the Minister for Labour and National Service give any lead to decent law abiding unionists in Australia who presently have no say in such decisions, as to what action these responsible unionists should take.
– The industrial climate at the moment cannot be separated from the economic situation of the moment. The economic situation of the moment is, I believe, an excess of total aggregate demand over total aggregate supply. In these circumstances a great number of people feel that they can make demands. Having made a demand, if it is not granted they believe they can enforce it by strike action. Very often we hear the term used that people would prefer direct negotiation to arbitration. I think direct negotiation is a good thing. But when direct negotiation ceases to be direct negotiation and becomes direct demand which, if not granted, results in direct action by way of strike, then a very serious situation emerges and there is a great deal of lost time through industrial disputes.
To make the matter worse there is, I believe - and I am quite sure my belief is accurate - a competition in militancy that emerges in these circumstances. When a claim is granted as a result of use of direct action there is a competition in militancy in other areas to make bigger demands and not be prepared to negotiate them. If the demand is not met, direct action is made as effective as possible to achieve the demand. What comes out of all this is a very melancholy fact: It is the very affluence of our society and our economy which leads to the circumstances in which demands are made and enforced in the way they are. What we need to do in Australia is to come to terms with the fact that we have had full employment for 2 decades. All political parties are committed to the maintenance of full employment. What we need to do is to live in a state of full employment without having recourse to strike action on the scale that it is in Australia today because that erodes the very wealth that brings about the circumstances. My advice to unionists is to attend their union meetings, take responsible decisions and not to allow trade union leaders to use their position of power and influence to further their own political aims instead of the industrial aims of the members of the union.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Immigration. I refer to a part Aboriginal child named Barry McKenzie who was taken out of Western Australia without his mother’s consent in April 1964. I have raised this matter by way of question several times and have been told that inquiries were proceeding. At one stage I was told that it had been referred to Interpol. Is the Minister in a position to advise the House of any later development in this matter?
– The case of the Aboriginal boy, John Barry McKenzie, to whom the honourable gentleman has referred, has certainly been a most distressing and tragic one. I can assure the honourable gentleman and the House that it is a case which has been followed most closely by myself and by my colleague the Minister for External Affairs. As the honourable gentleman has mentioned, the lad was taken from Australia in April 1964. Subsequently it was discovered that he had left the country under an assumed name by having had his name entered on a woman’s passport as the child of that woman although in fact he was not her child. Since that time the most extensive inquiries have been initiated through my Department and the Department of my colleague the Minister for External Affairs. But those inquiries have not elicited any official information about the boy’s whereabouts, his well-being or in fact his availability for return to Australia. I can tell the honourable gentleman that quite recently there have been some new developments which are as yet not clarified. As soon as these developments can be clarified, if they add any light whatsoever to the situation as it is known at present, I will certainly notify the honourable gentleman immediately as will I notify the boy’s mother in Western Australia.
– 1 ask the Minister for Labour and National Service whether his attention has been drawn to the part the Leader of the Opposition played in cahoots with Mr Hawke in bringing about the disruption of industry today? Did the Leader of the Opposition announce the. stoppages at 1 p.m. whereas the Australian Council of Trade Unions made its decision at 4 p.m. on the same day? Is not his action political cowardice?
– -Order! The honourable member will withdraw the word ‘cowardice’.
– I withdraw it.
– I rise to order. Honourable members are not supposed to ask questions unless they can verify them. I realise that it is quite possible to make a personal explanation afterwards. However, in the meantime the question has been broadcast and recorded and can be reported. Therefore, I suggest that to what is quite obviously a concerted batch of questions to the Minister for Labour and National Service you should apply the Standing Orders. The honourable gentleman who asked the question is quite unable to verify the statements upon which he bases his question.
-Order! The point of order raised by the Leader of the Opposition concerning verification applies to newspaper reports. The honourable member for Mitchell is simply seeking information without basing his question on a newspaper report.
– Then am I to take it that you. Mr Speaker, will hold any question from this side of the House to be in order if it is not based on a newspaper report?
– No. This is the point I am making: The honourable member has not indicated to me the source of the information. The Chair does not know whether it comes from a newspaper report, from a radio report or from any other particular source.
– The honourable member has not verified it.
– Order! The Chair is not responsible for the source from which the honourable member gets his information. As far as I am aware, he has not mentioned any source.
– The honourable member is assuming certain facts. I submit that you, Mr Speaker, should require him to take responsibility for the statement of facts.
– 1 can see the honourable member’s point of view to a certain extent But if the Chair were to do that, it would be doing so in relation to almost every question asked in the House. As I said, the honourable member for Mitchell has not mentioned any source of information. He is asking a question, apparently seeking information. As I said previously, my interpretation of the standing order is that it relates to the accuracy of a newspaper report or other publication and provides that an honourable member must vouch for the accuracy of that report.
– In his question the honourable member for Mitchell said that the Leader of the Opposition is in cahoots with another person. I ask you to rule, Mr Speaker, whether a member is entitled to impute actions to another member without being able to verify those actions.
-If the honourable member for Mitchell were to use another word to describe the relationship between the Leader of the Opposition and somebody else, I think he would be quite in order. I asked him to withdraw the last part of his question. I think the other part is in order.
– 1 do not know the time at which the Leader of the Opposition said there were to be rallies. I believe I know the time at which the Interstate Executive of the Australian Council of Trade Unions passed its resolution. 1 believe that to be in the late afternoon. 1 believe that the decision was announced after the adjournment of the meeting of the Interstate Executive, at about 6 o’clock. I will not pursue the answer any further because at this point of time the Leader of the Opposition, who is the one person who does know the answer to the question, has not indicated to me what the position is. Therefore I will not make the assumption and will leave it to the Leader of the Opposition to clarify it - perhaps by interjection now.
– Does the Prime Minister recall telling the House on 8th April, in answer to a question 1 posed to him, that proper assistance and not just a palliative to the wool industry had a high priority with the Government? Did he subsequently describe the industry as being in a horrible condition? Is he aware that deferment of essential reformation of wool industry marketing could mean projected export losses to Australia totalling $350m in the 1970-71 season? Can the Prime Minister reconcile his own statements and the projected losses to the nation and the growers with the deferment implied, by both the Treasurer and the Minister for Primary Industry, of any urgent action to put wool marketing on a reformed basis and the substitution instead of an anomalous handout? Does this represent a victory for foreign buyers and their local representatives inside and outside Parliament? Will he intervene immediately either to put a national buyer in the field as an interim measure or to establish forthwith the authority sought by the growers in the industry?
– The answer to the first part of the question - do I remember telling the House something on 8th April - is yes. The answer to the second part of the question is yes, probably - certainly if not in a horrible position in a very difficult position indeed as regards very many wool growers. Wool growers grow different classes of wool and they are not all in the same category, but many wool growers indeed. So the answer to that is yes. The answer to the third part of the question is that I believe there could be a great deal more loss and disruption caused to the wool industry by the implementation of ineffective measures, particularly if they do not meet with the wool industry’s own considered opinions, than there could be by a proper consideration of all the factors involved. Severe damage could be caused to the wool industry by the sort of impetuous action which 1 believe the honourable member seems to be suggesting. The answer to the fourth part of the question is no, this does not represent a victory for whoever it was the honourable member thought it was a victory for.
– Is the Minister for Health aware that some thousands of people throughout Australia are prevented by religious belief, based on a literal interpretation of the Bible, from becoming members of the Commonwealth health benefits plan? Is he aware that these, people - and I base this assertion on representations made to me in Hobart - are prepared to pay the equivalent of health scheme subscriptions into consolidated revenue in order to qualify for benefits? Can he say what effect this might have on the Government’s decision not to implement the Nimmo Committee’s recommendation that religious or conscientious objection to joining voluntary organisations such as the health scheme should be accommodated?
– As the honourable gentleman is aware, this particular matter was covered by a recommendation of the Nimmo Committee. I should like to assure him that the Government gave it long and careful consideration before deciding to reject that particular recommendation, because one of the Government’s basic purposes in the national health scheme is to encourage people to make appropriate provision, through a system of voluntary health insurance. . to cover their medical and hospital costs. The Government provides quite substantial Commonwealth benefits as an incentive for people to do so. As the Government sees it. it would be contrary to the basic concept of the scheme if Commonwealth benefits were to be made available to persons who, for various reasons - any reasons - were unwilling (o undertake health insurance. In relation to his suggestion that these people pursue the course of action described by him. f will be glad to have that examined to sec whether it would make any difference to the situation.
VIETNAM Mr JAMES - I address a question to the Minister for External Affairs. Has the Australian Government taken any action whatsoever concerning the revelations of
United States Congressmen about conditions in the prison on the South Vietnamese island of Con Son? Further, has the Government ever taken any steps to induce the Governments of North and South Vietnam to observe the conventions relating to prisoners of war?
– As to the last part of the honourable gentleman’s question, I will obtain an answer and let the honourable member know immediately. As to the first part of his question, the Australian Government has responsibility for only one prisoner of war gaoled in the Con Son prison camp. Consequently an Australian representative has visited at frequent intervals in order to see whether he has been properly treated, whether he has any complaints to make and whether we can do anything to ensure that his conditions are better. The last report I received was during the course of the last 10 days. The prisoner had no complaints to make. We have ascertained that his living conditions are considered to be satisfactory. I will certainly give instruction to ensure that Our ambassador keeps watching the welfare of this gentleman and does all he can to ensure that he is properly treated.
– The Minister for National Development will be aware of the numerous times that my colleague, the honourable member for Maranoa, and I have waited upon him requesting the Commonwealth Government, under the national water resources programme, to assist the governments of New South Wales and Queensland financially in the construction of the Pike Creek dam. Because of the delay that has occurred in making a decision-
-Order! The honourable member will ask his question. The preface is far loo long.
– Can the Minister give any information on what progress has been made and when an announcement can be expected?
– lt is a fact that the honourable member for Gwydir and the honourable member for Maranoa have been in touch with me fairly constantly regarding this matter. As they are both aware, at their request I met a deputation in Brisbane some time ago from the local authorities and people in the district who were interested in this developmental project. As I indicated at the time and have mentioned in the House previously, when the new water resources development programme came into operation after the Prime Minister’s announcement there were 4 projects from the previous programme left over for consideration. The Pike Creek Dam in the border rivers scheme was one of those projects. At the same time I indicated the priority that we expected would be given to the surveys which had to be undertaken in relation to these programmes. I said that the Bundaberg scheme in Queensland would be the first examined. As honourable members know, that survey was finalised and approval was given by this Parliament. I understand that work has now commenced. The second project in order of priority for consideration by the team of experts involved from both my Department and the Bureau of Agricultural Economics was the Pike Creek Dam. The third was the flood mitigation scheme in New South Wales and the fourth the York-Corrigin scheme in Western Australia.
The survey had actually commenced on the Pike Creek Dam when, as honourable members will appreciate, the question of flood mitigation in New South Wales arose as a matter of urgency and there was extreme pressure at that time to have the survey completed. This was, firstly, because of the fact that it was a continuing work, that is. some work had been undertaken over past years and if the survey had not been completed and approval given by this Government at the time there would have been a good chance that that very important work of flood mitigation in the northern rivers of New South Wales would have stopped and the work force would have dispersed. In view of those factors we had to take the survey team off the Pike Creek Dam work and send it to New South Wales on flood mitigation work. That work was completed, the flood mitigation project was approved and the team was returned to the Pike Creek Dam. The survey in connection with that work has been completed and is now in the final stage of preparation for submission to the Government. I can assure the honourable member that everything possible is being done to expedite the finalisation of the documents for presentation to the Government for consideration. I expect this to be done in very quick time.
– My question to the Attorney-General springs from the report which the Commissioner of Trade Practices furnished to him 4 Fridays ago and which he tabled last Friday. Does he know the industry in which the main companies, after consultation with the Commissioner, had given up the agreement that they had had at the national level to preserve uniform prices and had now replaced it with a series of price agreements, each operating within a particular State? If so, will he name this industry?
– He cannot name a company.
– 1 am not asking for the name of a company; I am asking for the name of the industry. As I read the Act, that is not something which is confidential to the Minister. I also ask the honourable gentleman whether, in his 9 months or more as Attorney-General., he has inquired of the Liberal AttorneysGeneral in New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland and Western Australia whether they will at last sponsor related trade practices legislation as the Labor Attorneys-General of South Australia and Tasmania did some 21 years ago? If he has, what response did he get?
– The answer to the first question is yes, 1 do know the industry concerned. The answer to the second question is that T would like to consider whether T ought to reveal it or whether it would be beyond my proper function to do so. I will give that matter my very early consideration. The answer to the third question is this: I have a pretty clear idea as to the attitude of my colleagues in States where there are non-Labor governments towards the proposals that have been made for complementary legislation. One does not persist in asking questions to which one knows the answers. T have not specifically asked the question for reasons which, 1 believe, will be apparent to my honourable friend.
– Can the Minister for Defence say what steps are being taken to have Service representation on the committee in his Department which deals with the pay and conditions of servicemen? Is this Committee giving urgent consideration to the many urgent matters before it having regard to the special careers, risks and skills of servicemen? I mention the last matter because the Minister was reported in the daily Press last week as suggesting that the skills of Service pilots were less than those of Department of Civil Aviation pilots.
-The Press reports that came from a question that I answered last week did allow somebody to make the interpretation to which the honourable member has referred. I should like to say at the outset that the skill of Royal Australian Air Force pilots and of Australian Service pilots in the other 2 Services is, I believe, without equal. I am quite certain that nobody really believes that pilots in any other areas would be better skilled than Service pilots.
The point that I had been trying to make was that the jobs of people in the Department of Civil Aviation area are different from the overall tasks of RAAF pilots, and in that area that was the only point that 1 was seeking to make. May I re-emphasise 2 points? These are that the Secretary of the Department of Air had been a party to the recommendations about which I was then speaking and that the Chief of the Air Staff had concurred in the figures concerning his own pilots.
I come to the main part of the honourable member’s question. A number of decisions have come from the Defence (Conditions of Service) Committee in recent times concerning military skills - that was earlier in the year - flying pay, flight pay and a number of trade grouping decisions including the application of the Maritime Industry Award. There was an interregnum between the time the decision was made to establish this Committee and the time it began to work. I think that, roughly at this time last year, a decision was made to get this area of activity out of the Department of the Treasury and largely into the Department of Defence, but with equi valent responsibility, because the recommendations come to the Treasurer and to myself and not just to the Minister for Defence. The Committee was established late last year. It had one meeting only under the previous Secretary of the Department of Defence because he was retiring and was trying to finish some other matters. Another senior person in the Department also involved in this area had retired. Therefore, the Committee really began work when the present Head of the Department of Defence took up office in March of this year.
As a full Commitee, it has had about 20 meetings since March. Forty-eight subcommittee and ad hoc committee meetings have been held. Decisions totalling the payment of an additional $9m to Service personnel have flowed from the Committee. These have been quite apart from national wage flow-on decisions. The Head of my Department and myself are both very conscious of the need to make sure that Service personnel not only do provide adequate advice on matters that affect the personnel of the Services but also that they be seen to be providing that advice in this Committee which is, after all, a body that advises the Government. In this financial year I do not think a Committee meeting has taken place - there might have been one - at which the personnel members have not been present and been fully involved in the work of: the Committee. This is the way in which it is going to go on in the future.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Shipping and Transport. In recent weeks have there been savage increases in Australia-United KingdomEurope conference shipping freights on north bound and south bound services? Is the Government satisfied that these freight increases are justified? If not, what positive action has been taken to prevent the decision of the conference line from being implemented? Did representatives of conference lines who appeared before the Senate Select Committee on the Container Method of Handling Cargoes give assurances that the introduction of containerisation on the Australia to United Kingdom trade would prevent any increases in freight rates?
– The honourable member has asked me a question relative to 2 trades - the south bound and the north bound - between Australia, the United Kingdom and Europe. It is of interest, first of all as far as the south bound trade is concerned, that where no protection is given to British exporters as exists under the Trade Practices Act, there has been imposed a very substantial increase in freight rates which is considerably above that which is currently suggested as the rate which should be applied on the north bound route. The north bound route is the only one that comes within the ambit of the Trade Practices Act and the only one on which the Australian Government has any consultative powers. Since last April successive discussions have taken place between a body known as AESA - the Australia to Europe Shippers Association - and thi. conference. In addition to these consultations a discussion took place in Paris between a group of European wool buyers known as Interlaine and the shipping conference wherein an increase in wool freight of some 4% was negotiated. This increase was negotiated apparently with the agreement not to disagree of those who represented the Australian wool buyers and the Australian wool interests. Consequently at the subsequent discussions which took place in Australia there was a presentation of this 4% freight increase on wool and a suggestion that a 10% increase should be applied to other general cargo trades. The position of the commercial negotiations at this point of time is, I understand, that the AESA executive is to meet later on this week and will consider the last response made to it in correspondence from the Australian London Tonnage Committee and determine what action will then be taken upon it.
- Mr Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. During question time today on 3 occasions and also last Friday reference was made to a report in last Friday morning’s issue of the Sydney Daily Telegraph’ attributing to me a statement concerning the lunch time rallies which the Australian Council of Trade Unions sponsored in the capitals today. The origin of the story comes from the conference to which I invite the Press after every Caucus meeting of the Federal Parliamentary Labor Party on Wednesday at lunch time. The understanding at these conferences is that 1 am on the record insofar as I announce decisions of the caucus or volunteer explanations or respond to requests for explanations of those decisions. The clear understanding is that everything else is off the record. If a general or an individual conference is sought by the Press or any member one has only to ask. On this occasion I left the room for a telephone talk with Mr Hawke. When I came back, to be courteous I told the Press why I had left the room. To be helpful, I. told the Press that it might be interested in a decision which Mr Hawke would be announcing later that afternoon. Sir, I do not propose to say any more on this occasion as to what I said. I am not the only person from the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) down, who has been the subject of Press reports made as a result of a breach of confidence, understanding or ethics. It is sufficient for me to say that on this occasion, as far as I know, no newspaper reported it other than the one to which I have referred. The understanding was appreciated by every other newspaper and observed by this newspaper also for nearly 2 days.
– Mr Speaker, I ask for leave to make a personal explanation.
-Does the Minister claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes, Mr Speaker, It was reported in the Sunday Press that recently I visited Lake Callabonna and made an important archaeological discovery. Unhappily, the report is entirely untrue. I visited Lake Callabonna in order to acquaint myself with the work of a scientific team which was operating in the district and was itself making very important discoveries in regard to prehistoric animals which had met their death some 40,000 years ago in the bed of Lake Callabonna. I cannot claim any credit whatsoever for the discovery. A more serious matter, however, is that I was also reported to have brought back ‘a carload of old bones’. This is a most serious matter because it is important for amateurs like myself who find any old bones in Australia to leave them there for excavation by competent persons. I did not bring back a carload of old bones.
My wife did bring back one small piece of bone - the tail bone of a diprotodon - which had been discarded by the investigators on their rubbish heap. She took it with the permission of the expert excavators. I regret to say - and the House will find it difficult to believe me - that the dog at home did take to that bone, which had to be retrieved from him. This shows how well the remains in Lake Callabonna have been preserved for 40,000 years.
– 1 have received from the honourable member for Bass (Mr Barnard) a letter proposing that a definite matter of public importance be submitted to the House for discussion, namely:
The withdrawal of all Australian forces from Vietnam and international action to end hostilities and undertake rehabilitation in Indo-China.
I call upon those members who approve of the proposed discussion to rise in their places. (More than the number of members required by the Standing Orders having risen in their places)
– The Opposition has raised this matter in order to draw from the Government a statement of its intentions in relation to the war in Indo-China in particular. There are many aspects of the Government’s belated scaling down of its Vietnam commitment which must be clarified. Let me state briefly the Labor Party’s policy on the commitment, as enunciated by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) during last year’s election compaign. This was that a Labor government would, on election, immediately notify the governments of the United States and South Vietnam that all Australian forces would be withdrawn from Vietnam. This withdrawal would then be carried out as swiftly as possible, having regard to the security of Australian troops and the need for a brief transitional period so that alternative arrangements could be made.
There was no doubt about our policy at that time, lt was clearly understood by all honourable members on this side of the House and, I believe, by the Australian electorate that if the Australian Labor Party was returned as the government all Australian troops in Vietnam would be returned to Australia by the end of June 1970. Under the policy outlined by the Leader of the Opposition there would not be a single Australian serviceman in Vietnam. This policy of swiftly phasing out the Australian commitment was condemned by the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) during the election campaign. But the course of events in Vietnam has forced the Prime Minister to accept an incoherent and dilatory version of this policy of disengagement. On 22nd April in this House the Prime Minister made a conventional statement seeking to justify the presence of Australian troops in South Vietnam. He went on to initiate a policy of phased withdrawal - completely opposed to all his previous statements on the need to maintain a viable force in Phuoc Tuy province. The Prime Minister, who had always adhered to the thesis of one out, all out, was forced into the position of a phased withdrawal, although a leisurely and in many ways extremely risky phased withdrawal. According to the right honourable gentleman this would be begun by the withdrawal without replacement of the 8th Battalion.
Several aspects of the Prime Minister’s statement warrant re-examination in the light of what has happened in the intervening period. He said the timing of the Battalion s withdrawal would be determined by the general circumstances in the task force area. This would depend on the progress of Australian projects to assist the greater capability in the South Vietnamese forces.
The 8th Battalion was posted to Vietnam in November last year. In the normal course of posting to Vietnam the Battalion would have been relieved in
November this year, after one year’s service. The Prime Minister indicated this in his speech on 22nd April. He went on to say that whether the Battalion’s departure could be brought forward would depend on general circumstances in Phouc Tuy and the progress of Vietnamisation. It must be emphasised that the Prime Minister posed a clear alternative. He did not say that the 8th Battalion would serve its full 12 months and not be replaced. He clearly implied that the Battalion could be withdrawn before serving its full 12 months.
This was the last heard from the Prime Minister on the withdrawal of the 8th Battalion. The timing of the 8th Battalion’s withdrawal from Vietnam remained cloaked in secrecy until a cryptic statement by the Minister for Defence (Mr Malcolm Fraser) in answer to a question asked by the honourable member for Boothby (Mr McLeay) last Thursday. The Minister quoted the Prime Minister’s statement that the Battalion would be withdrawn in November or before if circumstances made it possible. He went on to say that the 8th Battalion would be withdrawn in November, culminating in a march through Brisbane on 12th November. This was the first public reference to the withdrawal date by a member of the Government. The Prime Minister had strongly indicated a possibility of pulling out this Battalion before its posting expired.
However, the 8th Battalion will have served its full term of a year before it is returned to Australia. The 900 men to be withdrawn will have received no dispensation, although it was the Prime Minister who raised the hope that their term of service in the war zone would be cut. The Government has made no attempt to explain or to justify the decision to keep the Battalion in Vietnam for the full term. It was clear in November 1969, at the time of the last general election, when Labor’s policy on Vietnam was announced by the Leader of the Opposition, that if Labor won our troops would be withdrawn from Vietnam by the end of June. It was just, as clear from the Prime Minister’s statement, since he had specifically referred to the 8th Battalion, that the phased withdrawal into which he had been forced would begin before the expiry date for the withdrawal of the Battalion from Vietnam. Yet the Prime Minister has remained singularly silent on this question in the House; but, as 1 have pointed out. the Minister for Defence, in answering a question put to him last week, pointed out that the 8th Battalion would march through Brisbane on 1 2th November next.
So the Prime Minister had strongly indicated a possibilty of pulling out the Battalion before its posting expired. However, the 8th Battalion will have served its full time of 1 year before it is returned to Australia. The 900 men to be withdrawn will have received no dispensation, although it was the Prime Minister who raised this hope. The Government has therefore made no attempt to explain or to justify the decision to keep the Battalion in Vietnam for the full term. The only conclusion that can be drawn is that the general situation in the task force area is not satisfactory and that the progress of Vietnamisation is lagging. At any rate the 8lh Battalion has been made to serve out its full 12 months virtually to the day.
There can be no doubt that hopes of an early return were raised by the Prime Minister; they have since been cruelly dashed by the Minister for Defence. It is regrettable that 900 soldiers and their families in Australia should have been exposed to this sort of psychological and emotional barrage in a year of heavy casualties in the task force area. Certainly this failure to set a firm withdrawal date and the vagueness of the Prime Minister’s statement have been felt by the troops in Vietnam. I refer to a report from the Australian Associated Press correspondent in Saigon which appeared in the Melbourne Sun’ on 1 0th August under the heading Diggers: When do we leave?’ The report stated that it had been widely anticipated by 5,300 men at Nui Dat that an early date for the Battalion’s withdrawal would bc set at its fourth battalion parade. Now the Minister for Defence has made the bald statement that it will nol be back before mid-November. This has been done without any explanation of what the general circumstances are in the task force area and what has been the progress of South Vietnamese Army units in Phuoc Tuy province. These were the determining factors of the withdrawal date. The troops qf the 8th Battalion will be kept in Vietnam to the last possible moment.
In the absence of any explanation from the Minister for Defence it must be concluded that the situation in the task force area is lagging sadly behind the Prime Minister’s expectations in April this year. This raises many implications about what the battalions remaining in Vietnam can be expected to achieve balanced against the potential hazards. In April the Prime Minister said that after the initial withdrawal further cutbacks would be made in the next 12 months if pacification and Vietnamisation succeeded as President Nixon hoped. This means that in the 12 months from the middle of November the Government will consider phasing some more troops into the overall withdrawal. By the end of 1971, according to the Prime Minister’s logic, the Government may have been able to pull out another battalion. The commitment to the end would then remain at around 4,000 combat and support troops remaining in Vietnam in 1972. This is a reasonable projection to make on the basis of the Prime Minister’s statement. It is up to the Government to refute it or state explicitly what it intends in Vietnam.
It is worth recalling that the Prime Minister’s decision to cut troop levels was made in April after President Nixon announced United States withdrawals of 150,000 in the ensuing 12 months. This would leave around 250,000 men in Vietnam by next April - about 45% of the peak build-up reached in 1968. This target was put back by the subsequent ill advised thrust by the United States into Cambodia but withdrawals have since been resumed with an objective of 100,000 out by May next year. According to present plans the Americans will have at least 50,000 of these men home by the middle of October. The first Australian withdrawal will just be getting under way by this time.
In the 2 years that America has been slashing its troop level in Vietnam the Australian Task Force and air and naval units have remained intact. The withdrawal of the 8th Battalion will cut the Australian commitment by about 12%. In the same period America will have halved its force. lt is probable that by the end of 1971 all
American combat forces will have left Vietnam. If the Government persists on its present policy lines a substantial Australian combat component will still be there. It has never been explained what the role of the remaining troops will be in the Task Force area after -the one battalion cutback. Is it intended that these troops should be used to protect the Australian training teams and the jungle warfare school announced by the Prime Minister? Will they be confined to a defensive role at the Nui Dat base? What effective South Vietnamese units will be available to support them if an aggressive role is to be maintained in the province?
It is no reflection on the professionalism or the heroism of the Australians who have served in the Task Force to question what has been achieved in securing Phuoc Tuy province. The province has been a traditional stronghold of the insurgents since the time of the war between the French and the Viet Minh. In the opinion of one observer, Professor Milton Osborne of Monash University, it is doubtful whether the level of security in the province has changed greatly since 1967 despite the presence of the Task Force. In such a context the presence of the Australians in Phuoc Tuy province becomes increasingly meaningless. This year has been a particularly bloody one with a number of mine disasters and several accidental deaths. Even on the Government’s terms it is pointless and wasteful to push the commitment any further. If anything is to be achieved by Australia to redress the mistakes and prodigious waste of the war it has to be along the lines of a political settlement directed towards the rehabilitation of the whole of Indo-China.
The Government’s reluctance to justify or even state its revised objectives in Vietnam contrasts dramatically with the reassessment of the war in the United States. In June the United States Senate voted overwhelmingly to repeal the Tonkin Gulf Resolution of 1964 which was used to justify full scale American intervention. There have also been moves by influential sections of Congress for legislative action to get all the troops out by the middle of 1971. Certainly President Nixon still has overriding authority on the timing and scope of American withdrawal. But there is a very real chance that all American troops will be out of Vietnam, at least by the end of next year.
Unless there is a swift reappraisal by the Government the pace of the American withdrawal may be so swift that the Government will be caught up willy-nilly in a whirl of events beyond its control. This would cost it the last semblance of credibility or any capacity to act with decision and independence. Even on the level of cynical calculation it is the Government’s duty to explain to the Parliament and the people what it intends for the Australian Task Force. The events of the past few months have been marked by a callous indifference to the impact of the withdrawal announcement on the men in Vietnam, and in particular on the members ot the 8th Battalion in Vietnam. This must not be repeated with the remaining troops in Vietnam. The Government’s intentions must be made perfectly clear to these men. It is too late for vague generalisations about the military situation in the Task Force area or the progress of Vietnamisation. The only objectives must be to get the troops quickly out of Vietnam and stop the needless waste of Australian lives.
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard) said something about credibility. There was one occasion when he went to Vietnam to try to see for himself what was happening there and to make some judgment from first hand knowledge as opposed to some theory unrelated to the facts. He came back saying, as reported at a Press conference in Saigon, that the Australian Labor Party may have to have a good hard look at its policies on Vietnam. He was satisfied that there was more than just a guerilla war and he supposed it could be compared with the earlier conflict in Korea. He was satisfied that there was a large scale invasion of South Vietnam by North Vietnamese troops. These were his remarks as reported in the ‘Age’ of 27th February 1967. I do not know whether the Deputy Leader of the Opposition has been in Vietnam since but the further he gets away from that country the further he gets away from the facts and the reality of the situation. Clearly he would like a withdrawal from Vietnam unrelated to its impact in Vietnam, unrelated to its impact on allies on 2 sides of the Pacific and unrelated to its impact on the rest of South East Asia.
Every honourable member in this House would like to see all Australian troops in Australia if that were possible. But the difference between those on this side of the House and members of the Opposition is that we recognise that we just do not live in that kind of world. The Opposition wants to shut its eyes to the kind of world that we live in and wants to have all our forces here, believing that that would add to Australian security when in fact it would do a great deal to harm it and damage it over a period. Our objective in Vietnam is the same as it was: to establish circumstances in which the people of South Vietnam can work out their own future without interference, without aggression and without fear. There has been progress; there has been military progress. The 1 million men in the South Vietnamese armed forces have been improving their capabilities and accepting additional obligations, especially in the last 18 months.
There has been political progress, lt is worth noting the difference in the standards of judgment that are used. During the last world war in conditions which were never so difficult inside the United Kingdom, the United Kingdom decided that it was right to suspend a principal pillar of democracy; that because elections would be too divisive there would be no elections until the war was over. The pillar of democracy was suspended. Yet the free world demands that South Vietnam, without long experience of democratic government behind it as there was in the case of the United Kingdom, establish a democracy. It demands that elections be held throughout the country in the midst of the most frightful difficulty and turmoil that one can imagine. At the end of 1969 there were over 2’,000 villages and nearly 10,000 hamlets which had elected administrations and only 90 villages and 330 hamlets which had appointed administrations. Elected governments have been established at the national level. No government and no democracy is perfect. This is certainly true in Vietnam. But what the Vietnamese have achieved in establishing an elected regime at the national level and at the village and hamlet levels is something for which they deserve some credit. Also, in more recent times, rice production has been rising and imports this year are likely to be half what they were last year. This indicates improvement also on the economic front.
The United States of America has announced programmes of withdrawal. From a peak of 550,000 troops in November 1968 the American Government has at the moment over 400,000 troops of the 3 Services in Vietnam and according to the decisions announced this will come down to about 260,000 during the middle part of next year. But 260,000 troops remaining in Vietnam is still a great commitment. It is a very substantial commitment indeed. With those troops remaining the United States still will be supplying a very significant effort to help preserve and maintain the integrity of South Vietnam. Our commitment in proportion to our resources and our population has, of course, never been so great as that of the United States. We have announced the withdrawal of a battalion and some supporting troops. But in addition, to make it easier for the South Vietnamese to undertake the additional military obligations that will thereby be necessary for them in Phuoc Tuy province we are establishing mobile advisory training teams - certainly 12 and probably 15 teams in all - to assist the regional forces and popular force companies. The initial reports of the 5 teams in operation indicate that this programme is being successful. The jungle warfare training scheme to assist 500 junior leaders in South Vietnam will be established a little later.
I think it is pertinent to ask why the Australian Labor Party wants withdrawal from Vietnam immediately? Is it because it is tired? Is it because it is merely looking for votes in Australia knowing that everyone would prefer to have troops here if this were the responsible and proper course to undertake? Is it because it believes that South Vietnam is not worthy of protection? On what ground is it not worthy of protection as a small independent country wishing to pursue its own course? Is it on the grounds that it is a civil war? The Deputy Leader of the Opposition himself is on record as denying it is a civil war. He said that he is satisfied there is large scale aggression from North Vietnam. He said that it was similar to the conflict in Korea. If North Korea now attacked South Korea or if East Germany attacked West Germany, would the Opposition say it is just a civil war or would they say it is aggression, just as it is aggression of North Vietnam against the South?
I would have thought that what has happened in Cambodia in more recent times has revealed North Vietnamese aggression even to the most blind. While he may not be one of the most blind, this conflict certainly revealed North Vietnamese aggression to the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant). But the point here is that it is not a matter that concerns just North and South Vietnam. It never has been. It concerns the whole area. There has been aggression in Laos; there is aggression in Cambodia; and there is aggression against South Vietnam.
It is proper to ask: Who is obstructing the peace? There have been 41 international initiatives over the years. There has been the bombing halt, the Paris talks and the withdrawals themselves, all designed to make it easier to get a proper and sensible negotiation. Is it the South Vietnamese, the United States or the Australians who have opposed or made life difficult at negotiations? On every hand it has been the North Vietnamese negotiators or those of the National Liberation Front. Some of the people whom Dr Cairns, a possible Minister for External Affairs if there were ever to be a Labor Government, has asked to Australia to take part in moratorium discussions are representatives of the people against whom Australian troops, are fighting. Significant members on the Opposition front bench including the Opposition’s shadow Minister for External Affairs have asked representatives of the people against whom Australian troops are fighting to come to Australia and take part in these discussions.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition had something to say about the parents and relatives of Australian troops. What would the parents and relatives of Australian troops think of a political leader in this country asking the leader of the very people against whom our troops are fighting to come to Australia? Does the Deputy
Leader of the Opposition come and try to pretend that his party’s policy in relation to these matters might lead to some sensible Conclusion? On the other hand, if the Australian Labor Party wants the North Vietnamese to win, as Senator Wheeldon does, it should say so. But the logic of all the policies it has espoused over recent years would lead or tend to lead to a North Vietnamese victory. If this is what the Deputy Leader of the Opposition and the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) want they should have the courage to stand on their two feet in this House and say so and not hide the objective of their policies under a whole lot of mumbo jumbo designed to be palatable and popular to the Australian public but really concealing their true objectives.
– You know that is not true.
– If the honourable member does not want the North Vietnamese to win is he prepared to work for the independence of South Vietnam? All of the policies of his Party, if put into effect in their entirety, would obstruct the achievement of this objective in South Vietnam. It is also worth noting that the immediate withdrawal of our troops, as the Deputy Leader of the Opposition has indicated, would involve repudiation of allies on both sides of the Pacific. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition may believe that this doss not matter. He might think that it is only a matter of one ally on the other side of the Pacific. But there are other allies in the South Bast Asian region. If we repudiate undertakings and arrangements that we have- made with countries in our own part of the world this is something that we will not be able to live down, lt is something that will stand with Australia. We cannot move away from this part of the world as other people, perhaps, can. It is important t© be a loyal and proper ally in matters in which the cause is just and in which the cause is proper, as it has been and as it is.
I have said that isolation was the only logical conclusion that comes from the policy of the Australian Labor Party. It is withdrawal from Vietnam and the withdrawal of all forces from Singapore and Malaysia. The Leader of the Opposition has been lecturing people in Singapore and
Malaysia at the very time when the United Kingdom Defence Minister was in those 2 countries beginning to work out the terms and conditions and circumstances in which there will be a continuing military presence of the three arms of the British Forces, arms which are welcomed very much by these 2 countries and by Australia as adding once again to the general security of the region and as continued acceptance of traditional British responsibility in this part of the world. But with his traditional Tack of tact and diplomacy the Leader of the Opposition chose this particular time to visit Singapore and Malaysia to say that all our troops should be out He lectured the people in Singapore and Malaysia, saying that what they want is bad for them and bad for Australia and that they should not do it. This is the sort of thing one would expect if the Opposition were in charge of defence and foreign policy of this country.
The views of the Opposition are totally unreal. How can one expect to be a reliable partner in the kind of circumstances and with the sort of policies that the Opposition would pursue? How could we expect to be effective in helping to shape our own environment if we rendered all efforts to establish and maintain security null and void by our own actions? It is all very good and it is all very easy to talk about economic aid, and assistance in trade. It is all very well to talk about technical assistance. But none of this means anything unless we are prepared to help provide general security in addition. Without genera] security, economic aid and policies of trade designed to help are worth nothing. They fall to the ground.
Sometimes members of the Opposition speak as if they are the only advocates in this country who want peace. But there is not a person in this House who does not want peace in this area and security in South East Asia. But we want a peace which does not deny what decent men stand for. The Opposition’s policies would, I believe, make that denial. We well know that there are risks in regionalism and involvement. But we also believe very strongly that there are much greater risks for our children in isolation. We believe that there will be no permanent security for Australia unless we can establish a kind of world in which there is security for all the small countries in our own part of the world. This is the background and the basis of our original commitment in Vietnam and our involvement in the region, as it has been over recent years and as it is at the present time. Quite obviously and quite clearly in the changing circumstances of Vietnam the commitment and level of our forces there remains under constant review. This will be the case. But there is no decision at the moment to make any change from the policies announced by the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton).
There is one thing that can do most to achieve a North Vietnamese victory - that is a precipitate withdrawal of Australian forces, a precipitate withdrawal of United States forces and a precipitate withdrawal of free world support for the long suffering people of South Vietnam who want to work out their own destiny in their own way. After all the years of struggle on their part and the lesser number of years of support from ourselves and others it would be tragic indeed if our own stamina and fortitude gave up when we are getting into the last stretch of this problem and difficulty. At least that is the hope, that is the belief, and that is what we are working for. If the policies of the Opposition prevail the great deal of suffering and sacrifice of recent times will come to nothing. The Opposition must believe and must understand that this would be the result of its policies if they were put into effect.
– When listening to the speech of the Minister for Defence (Mr Malcolm Fraser) it occurred to me that it was strange to present the point of view that be holds and for Australia to be withdrawing a battalion from Vietnam instead of putting in a division. The whole thrust of the Minister’s argument was his great concern for the people of South Vietnam. Yet at the same time he and his Government are agreeing to withdraw Australian forces. If they were serious about the arguments they have put forward to the Australian people time and time again, this is not the time to be withdrawing forces; it is the time to be introducing more forces.
The Minister for Defence made great play of the terms of aggression. I would like it to be known once and for all whether it is aggression from the North or whether it is civil war.
– It is aggression from the North.
– I am very pleased that the Minister for External Affairs (Mr McMahon) is maintaining a certain consistency. Paragraph 6 of the final declaration of the Geneva Conference, dated 21st July 1954, states:
The seventeenth parallel should not in any way be interpreted as constituting a political or territorial boundary.
I find it very difficult to understand how it can be regarded as aggression from the North when the General Conference on Indo-China regarded the whole territory as one territory and the division line as not constituting a political or constitutional demarcation.
– That is a new line of politics.
– It is not a new line. It has been sitting there since 1954, if the honourable gentleman had got around to reading it. We are talking about aggression in Cambodia. We on this side of the House have not denied that the North Vietnamese have been in Cambodia at any stage.
– What was Gordon Bryant saying?
– I do not think honourable members opposite should start calling the kettle black. I have here a document dated 13th May 1964. It is the message to the President to the United Nations Security Council from the permanent representative of Cambodia to the United Nations. I shall make the document available. It states:
On the same day the International Control Commission visited the site, made its inquiries and prepared reports on this absolutely unjustifiable act of criminal aggression, which is in fact a repetition of the attack made at Chantrea on 19th March 1964.
That was an act of aggression by South Vietnamese forces, but not entirely by South Vietnamese forces. The message continues:
In the course of interrogation by the members of the Commission the South Vietnamese prisoner confirmed that United States officers had taken part in these last two acts of aggression.
The United States Government made a public apology at that stage for the aggression in Cambodia in 1964.
Let us talk about aggression in Laos. For many years we have been told that all the Air Force flights out of the 4 bases in Thailand have been reconnaissance flights. It so happens that these reconnaissance planes are B52s, the largest bombers in the world, and the number of attacks in the last couple of years has been running at 14,000 to 15,000 movements a month.
I turn next to my understanding of the forces and pressure that go into the making of the United States foreign policy. As the Minister for Defence mentioned, we cannot act unrelated to our allies. I refer to this subject because for many years we have been marching to the beat of another drum. I think we should at least understand when the beat of that drum is changing. We have been all the way with LBJ and we have gone a-waltzing Matilda with Nixon: but let it be understood that our involvement in Vietnam was not the result of any purported request from the South Vietnamese Government and still less a request from SEATO. It was purely and simply a request - a direction - from the United States Administration. It was not a strategic requirement but a public relations requirement. We should be looking at what is going on in the United States, because no United States President can ignore any groundswell that builds up in that country. The anti-war movement in the United States has already compelled the retirement of one President and is forcing the hand of the present incumbent. There is little that Australia can do in this process, but at least we should try to understand it.
To put the matter bluntly, it is just as important for us to examine the motives of our friends as it is to examine the motives of our foes, otherwise we will be left, as this Government has been left on so many occasions, out on the end of a very fragile limb. Domestic considerations led the United States into Vietnam and domestic considerations will lead the United States out of Vietnam. President Eisenhower came to power on one issue. Following the 1940 takeover of China by the Chinese Communists, he argued that the Democrats had lost China. In the period between 1950 and 1954 under President Eisenhower the Republicans realised that by the 1954 election they would be tarred with exactly the same brush - that they, the Republicans, had lost Vietnam. From that period on, as a matter of domestic political consideration, the United States adopted a policy of open ended commitment to South Vietnam. It started off with aid to the French and was followed by aid through the American puppet, Ngo Dien Diem. The Americans developed from this the idea of ringing Communist China, from Korea right round to Pakistan, with a series of bases. In the domestic field the anti-Communist movement took the form of Senator Joe McCarthy, the Red baiter, whose words still echo in this chamber and around Australia.
The Government sought to obtain the support of the United States business group. We heard President Eisenhower talking about the value of tin and tungsten. Now, strangely enough, the voice of the American capitalist is being heard. The Chairman of the Board of the Bank of America, Mr Louis B. Lundberg, stated publicly:
The war in Vietnam has seriously distorted the American economy, has inflamed inflationary pressures, has drained resources that are desperately needed to overcome serious domestic problems confronting our country and has hampered the rate of growth in profits on both a before and after tax basis.
Vietnam is not a lost cause. It was a wrong cause. The Americans have come to realise it, and the Australian people have come to realise it. It seems to me that the Government has come to realise it, because one can point to the inconsistency of its policy towards Cambodia compared with the course it has adopted in Vietnam.
In the words of the proposal before the House, it is time - in fact it is past time - for the withdrawal of all Australian forces, lt is time - indeed past time - for international action to be taken to end hostilities. It is time to get on with the constructive job of rebuilding a country, north and south, that has nearly been destroyed in the ill-guided efforts to save it.
– This very serious and important proposal is not before the House merely because the 3 Labor Party members who are to speak to it - no doubt more would speak if the opportunity were available - thought it was a good idea to have a discussion. Such a tremendously important proposal can come before the House only with the authority of the Labor caucus and it represents the present policy of the Australian Labor Party - the withdrawal of all Australian forces from Vietnam. Today that is Labor’s policy. Labor’s policy is based on international action to end hostilities - which may or may not bring results - and rehabilitation in Indo China. Note carefully, that no discrimination is made between rehabilitation of our allies, the South Vietnamese, and rehabilitation of our enemies, the North Vietnamese. This is the policy of the Labor Party as stated here today. What is occurring outside the House today, and what is occurring inside the House - perhaps as a distraction from what is occurring outside - reveal the Labor Party as having 2 major points of policy. The first point of policy is for action at home to approve, to encourage and to incite the forceful defiance of governmental policy.
The whole democratic system of government is based on the fact that although there are differences of opinion within a community, free elections are held, a government is elected by the majority and the laws that the Parliament passes prevail. They are not supported by all, but they prevail. Now the left wing of the unions with the left-wing leader, Mr Hawke, and the left-wing-dominated Australian Labor Party with Mr Whitlam as its voice, all combine, forcefully, by demonstrations outside, which on occasions are quite violent, by strikes and threats of strikes, to defy elected government and defy the laws of Parliament. It is clearly the policy of the Australian Labor Party today in respect of affairs at home to swing democracy from accepting the rule of the people through elections and the rule of the Parliament through laws. Instead we are to have the rule of the mob. Do not ever forget that a mob never collects spontaneously; there are always leaders at the back of the mob - the dictators, the inciters and the provocateurs. It is time today to look at those who are behind the demonstrations which, quite often, bring violence in the streets and, as one of my colleagues can testify, violence even in the homes of Australian citizens.
An attempt is being made to undermine the will of the people to continue resistance to Communist aggression.
The constant theme of the Labor Party, whether by using the Parliament for such a debate as is provoked today or by inciting the people as is being done outside today, is violent opposition to democratic government - the rule of law and the authority of the Parliament. I think there are moves, desperate efforts, to embarrass the Government and to give effect to the urgent ambition of some who, for the passing advantage of destroying a Government and changing sides in this House, are willing to pay the price of sacrificing all respect for Australian democracy. That is the purpose of this attempt. That is the policy of the Labor Party at home.
This motion gives us an opportunity to view the policy of the Labor Party on international affairs - the withdrawal of all Australian forces from Vietnam. The Labor Party, with more than a smell of Communist influence within it, urges an act discreditable to Australia’s tradition as a reliable and a staunch ally. Men in our community have, through turmoil and tears, built our reputation as a staunch and reliable ally. This motion comes from the same stable as a resolution passed under the chairmanship of Mr Crawford, the Leader of the Australian Labor Party in Victoria, calling upon our troops in the field to mutiny. The proposal we are now debating is the same thing put in different words. Today the fact is that by treaty and de facto we are an ally of the United States of America and to withdraw our troops and abandon our allies would be an act of shame in the eyes of the United States, South Vietnam, South Korea, New Zealand and others with whom we stand. This motion, if passed, would be a decision to walk out and leave our allies in the field. Do honourable members think that our treaty with the United States would remain unimpaired? The proposal before us is calculated to destroy that treaty. Who in the world wishes to destroy the treaty with the United States? I am not accusing the Labor Party of wishing to destroy it. Who but the Communists wish to destroy it? I am saying that there are many who are unwittingly acting as tools of the Communists. The Communists wish to destroy our alliance with the United States and to end the trust iri which we are held in South East Asia - the trust and respect which South Vietnam has for us; the trust and respect which Malaya, Singapore and South Korea have for us.
With one stroke, Labor’s proposal that we withdraw our forces from Vietnam would make Australia a shameful object of derision internationally. Most important, it would draw the attention of the world to the fact that Australia, by its own choice, alone in a lonely part of the world, had thrown away its alliances. Could we turn to another ally? Where is there another powerful ally in the world to whom we could turn if we threw away the alliance with the United States? We would bo presented as a neutral country, and that is what we would be. It is the purpose and intention of the Opposition to convert Australia, a rich and empty continent, to a lonely neutral. Australia in an emergency would have no ally to turn to, no friend, and no entitlement to have its word respected and trusted. Who is prepared to say that this is a state to which we should reduce the Australian nation? I say to my friends in the Parliament on both sides that there is nothing in the recorded history of man which shows that a rich, undefended country will not be the subject of aggression. God knows we all hope that it will never occur but there is no instance in thousands of years of history which entitles anyone to believe that this will be the state of affairs.
Nothing could more jeopardise the survival of the Australian nation than the kind of proposal which the Labor Party has put before the House today. Labor, influenced by ambition and by sinister leftist forces, would leave Australia friendless internationally. It would put a label on Australia: ‘I am a lonely, remote, rich, helpless country; come and take me’. Labor’s policy is to destroy the authority of Parliament at home and to spurn alliances abroad. There has never been a more tragic policy in the national interests of Australia and her survival than the policy that Labor is propounding today.
– The Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr McEwen) has made a very powerful speech and in view of what he said I think I should devote some of my time to spelling out the attitude of the Australian
Labor Party on some of the matters which were raised in what I have said was such a very powerful speech. The Deputy Prime Minister made many references to the Labor Party; to the alleged left wing direction to which the Party is supposed to be subject; to mob rule; to Communism - ‘more than a smell of Communist influence’ was the term the right honourable gentleman, used - and to the fact that in his belief Labor would take action which would imperil our treaty associations with the United States and leave us virtually naked and alone in this part of the world.
Let us look at the basis on which the right honourable gentleman has made his allegations. First of all, he referred to the matter of public importance that we desired to discuss, namely, the withdrawal of all Australian forces in Vietnam and international action to end hostilities and undertake rehabilitation in Indo-China. He made the point that we made no distinction between our allies and our enemies in the matter of rehabilitation. I think that what the Minister for Defence (Mr Malcolm Fraser) said is true, that every man in this House would want to see peace come to Indo-China and remain in our part of the world, but it is one of the lessons of history that when a war is over all of the people concerned have to be rehabilitated. We are too close to the Vietnam war to be making value judgments on numbers of these things but I think we all recall that after the Second World War the Western countries - Great Britain and the United States in the case of Germany, and very much so the United States in the case of Japan - contributed greatly to the rehabilitation of those war torn countries which had been our enemies but a short time previously.
The Labor point of view is that peace will come to Indo-China, not by military means alone - because the military events which have taken place in Indo-China have been discredited in the United States, in Australia, in Great Britain and throughout the world - but by proper international settlement, an international settlement which takes into account ethnic and political considerations and the wishes and needs of the people of Vietnam, South and North, the people of Laos and the people of Cambodia.
The right honourable gentleman went on to associate the Labor Party with the recent demonstrations at the home of one of his colleagues. We know that he was referring to the Attorney-General (Mr Hughes). I would think there was not a man on this side of the House who would not dissociate himself, as I dissociate myself, from any intrusion into a man’s private home and any intimidation of his family. I certainly disassociate myself from that kind of thing and I think it ill becomes the right honourable gentleman to suggest that the Labor Party would condone such an intrusion. The people who took part in the demonstration did not assist any cause with which the Labor Party would care to associate itself by their disgraceful actions there recently. We have been told that we show violent opposition to the rule of law and that we stand for mob rule. There have been 2 examples of that recently when Ministers and members on the Government side have seen fit to attempt to associate this Party with violence in the streets. One was the Moratorium early in the year. Happily that passed off peacefully in that I know of no person who was injured in the course of any of the very large demonstrations which took place at that time. The second example relates to the situation today.
I do not know what happened in every capital city of Australia but I do know what was arranged to happen in Brisbane. There were not mass strikes. There was a public meeting at which the Trades and Labour Council sought the support of a wide range of people throughout the community particularly to assist pensioners in their fight for a pension which would give them a reasonable standard of living. A permit was sought to hold a meeting in a public place, advertisements were placed in the newspapers and the attendance of police was arranged, as it always is at these functions, to ensure that the meeting took place in an orderly and responsible way. That has always been the attitude of the Labor Party. We do not stand for mob rule; we stand for law and order. We believe in law and order in Indo-China and throughout the world.
We believe that the history of recent times has shown just bow little can be achieved by military involvement. What has the war done for the people of Vietnam? lt has given the Government of South Vietnam, if you take the principles on which the Government puts its points of view, the opportunity to consolidate its position in the countryside of that nation and to make friends with its own population. We are told that the pacification programme has been a spectacular success, and we are told that Australian troops are now training SOO leaders in jungle warfare and the like in order that responsibility in the future may be assumed by the Government of South Vietnam. That is akin to the Nixon Doctrine which was submitted recently to the world by the President of the United States that any nation in our region will have, to stand on its own feet. The President of the United Stales clearly indicated that there would be no more Vietnams. This means that he has recognised the fact that Vietnam has been a futile exercise. Only time will tell whether the sacrifices made by young Australians in Vietnam have produced any permanent advantage to the people of that country.
The Labor Party introduced this matter today, not because we believe in mob rule and the kinds of things that were ascribed to us but because we feel that we should put our point of view within the Parliament of this nation and put the Government in the position where it is able to state its point of view on a number of important matters. As follows in debates of this kind, the Government has leaned strongly on the aspect of aggression from the North and on the military side of the issue. That has been dealt with as well by speakers on our side. But there are other important points of view that the Opposition puts to the House.
The Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) has said that Australian troops will be withdrawn commensurate with the withdrawals being made by the United States. I point out that the Philippines has already withdrawn its 2,400 troops following the recent election there so that Australia in withdrawing its troops will not be alone. In other words, we are asking that Australia spell out a timetable, as the United States President has spelled out a timetable, for the withdrawal of troops. We agree with our Prime Minister that if we withdraw some of our troops we cannot leave a fairly small number behind if their situation will be imperilled. The Labor Party believes that the time has now come when we should withdraw all of our troops.
Another important feature of the matter we have raised is the taking of international action to end hostilities. We have yet to see what diplomatic initiatives this country is taking to help the efforts of the United States to end the war through diplomatic negotiations. Unfortunately we have given the impression throughout the world, particularly throughout our part of the world, that we just tag along and leave the United States with all of the larger responsibilities. The Labor Party does not believe that Australia is without some influence in the world and we would like to hear of the diplomatic efforts that the Government is making to end the war.
Finally there is the question of rehabilitation. This is one thing about which honourable members on the Government side hardly ever talk. Having involved ourselves militarily in Vietnam surely there is an obligation on us to do something at the end of the war to help restore that war torn country. The problems are very great indeed. There is the problem of an economy which is geared almost entirely to the very substantial troop involvement of the United States, Australia and a small number of other nations. As those troops are withdrawn South Vietnam will be faced with tremendous problems, and we have yet to hear the Government spell out what it proposes to do about those problems. We know that in the Budget which has yet to be debated military expenditure in Vietnam shows a tapering off but we see no provision for an increase in civil aid and in economic assistance. Aid of that kind will be absolutely essential if Australia is to discharge its responsibilities in this part of the world in the years ahead.
– I rise to speak to 2 parts only of the matter of public importance which has been raised for discussion by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard). The first one relates to international action to end hostilities and the second one to undertaking a rehabilitation programme in Indo-China. Indo-China, I take it, embraces the 3 former Indo-Chinese States - South Vietnam and North Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. The Australian Labor Party must be 10 years behind the times in asking us to initiate this type of programme which was commenced many years ago and which has been built up by the Australian Government and other governments.
Let me mention first of all this question of international action to achieve peace. What have we been doing to achieve peace and who have been the opponents of the peace movement? lt must be known that our objectives are clear cut and that we are willing to come to an accommodation provided only 2 objectives are achieved. The first one is that we should have a just and fair peace; in other words, that we should provide that the South Vietnamese, the Laotians and the Cambodians should have the right to determine their own future. As well, in the case of Laos and Cambodia we adhere strictly to the terms of the Geneva Conventions of 1954 and 1962 which provide those 2 countries should be free and that they should be neutral. These are the ideals of the Australian Government. They are ideals for which the Australian Government has fought and is still fighting. These are ideals for the achievement of which the Australian Government has provided civil assistance and for which it will continue to make provision for as long and as effectively as it can.
Let us look at what we have done. Over and over again, the plea has been made: Make some concession or offer to the North Vietnamese and, in time, they will come to the conference table and will come to a just and sensible settlement’. What happened? The bombing of North Vietnam ceased. Immediately afterwards, a conference was called in Paris. With what result? Despite the fact that concession after concession was made the North Vietnamese refused to abandon any of their own policies or any of their own objectives. What were those policies and objectives? The first was that there should be a coalition government, not elected by the people of South Vietnam but determined by the Communists themselves. Consequently the context of government was pre-ordained by the Communists of the North. Secondly, the North Vietnamese wanted the total evacuation of the American, Australian and Cambodian troops from South Vietnam. They did not think in terms of evacuating Cambodia themselves or of ridding that country of the enclaves of North Vietnamese troops that had been established there. No! The North Vietnamese wanted total domination of South Vietnam. As well, they wanted total domination and Communist oppression throughout the length and breadth of the Indo-Chinese peninsula. 1 turn to Cambodia and, to a lesser extent, to Laos. In Cambodia, our objectives in accordance with the 1954 protocol were these: We wanted their independence and neutrality. The North Vietnamese - the Communists themselves - had given an assurance at Geneva that they would respect the neutrality and the independence of those countries. But they established vast enclaves of between 40,000 and 60,000 troops in Cambodia, immediately adjacent to the South Vietnamese border. They showed that they were not willing to come to the conference table or to participate in the cause of peace.
Let us take the argument a little further. Some time ago some of the neutral and free countries of the world decided to call a conference in Djakarta to try to achieve the 1954 protocol objectives, that is, the neutrality of Cambodia. Not only the free countries, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, the Philippines, South Korea, Indonesia and Australia but also the Communist countries, Communist China and North Vietnam, were invited. Did the latter come or did they stay at home and continue to wage warfare? They stayed at home and persisted in their ruthless and blatant aggression against Cambodia. They refused to attend and participate in the discussions.
The matter has been placed before the permanent members of the United Nations - before the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and other countries. But we have never been given one glimmer of hope that the Communists would come to the conference table. So why speak in terms of initiating negotiations now? Of course, we will continue, but no more concessions can be made on the part of the free countries of the world in our endeavours to achieve the right of peoples to live in freedom, free from fear, free from want and free to be able to carry on the government of their own countries free from interference by others.
As to the second part of the proposal - that is whether or not we can achieve rehabilitation or whether we should initiate proposals for rehabilitation - obviously the Australian Labor Party does not know what is being done now not only by ourselves but also by the South Vietnamese and the Government of the United States of America. Tonight the House will be debating the Budget Papers, but I take this opportunity to point out that this year we are allocating $3. 4m to the civil rehabilitation of South Vietnam.
– It is only a fraction of the total, you know.
– You are doing nothing. Honourable members opposite want to embrace Sihanouk; they want him to get all the credit. Honourable members opposite want this man who lives in the bosom of the Communist Chinese to dominate Cambodia. In a moment I will deal with where the sentiments of the Opposition lie and the kind of victory that the Australian Labor Party wants to see achieved.
In this Budget we are allocating Sim for civil rehabilitation in Laos. But other countries are making a massive effort in this direction. Last year the United States devoted $5l4m to the rehabilitation of South Vietnam. Only yesterday the VicePresident of the United States announced that S40m in aid would be given to Cambodia. If we look therefore at the efforts of Australia and its allies we see that we have not waited; in fact, we are already making a very big effort. Our programme of civil aid to overseas countries this year is far better than in any other year during the time that T have been a member of the government. It will be seen that we are playing our part.
What is happening on the Communist side? Has any member of the Opposition or any member of this House heard any Communist country say that it was prepared to make any contribution whatsoever to a civil aid programme for any part of Vietnam, North or South, or for any part of Cambodia or, for that matter, any part of Laos? On the contrary, the activities of Communist countries have been solely in terms of military measures designed to ensure a Communist victory in and Communist subversion of these 3 or 4 - however honourable members like to describe them - former countries of the Indo-Chinese peninsula.
What conclusion can we draw from the picture that I have just painted? I ask Government members as I ask any member of the Opposition, including those who have learnt the lesson because they have recently visited Cambodia, to note that this government is willing to defend these people and their cause of freedom, to give them the opportunity to express themselves, and to give them the opportunity to say what kind of government they want. Within our capacity we are willing to provide civil aid for these people. But what do we find when we look at the Opposition benches? Wittingly or unwittingly, stupidly or not, every time honourable members opposite raise this question in the House, it is in support of the avowed enemies of this country and those who not only are attacking allied troops but also are engaged actively in warfare against the people of this country.
– You know that that is untrue.
– It is true and the honourable member knows it. So what attitude can we adopt towards members of the Australian Labor Party? 1 ask every person who has and welcomes the right of choice this question: Does he want the GortonM’cEwen Government, a Liberal-Country Party Government, which will play its part in the cause of freedom, or does he want a government formed by the Australian Labor Party which is consciously, determinedly, and persistently assisting our enemies and which is giving aid and comfort to those who are out to destroy freedom and who want a Communist regime to dominate that part of South East Asia that is of importance to us and of vital importance to the security, the future and the continued independence not only of Thailand and Cambodia but also, 1 believe in time, of Malaysia, Laos and Singapore.
– Order! The discussion is now concluded.
– I move: Customs Tariff Proposal No. 14 (1970). Customs Tariff Proposal No. 15 (1970). Customs Tariff Proposal No. 16 (1970). Customs Tariff Proposal No. 17 (1970). Customs Tariff Proposal No. 18 (1970).
The Customs Tariff Proposals which I have just tabled relate to proposed amendments to the Customs Tariff 1966-1970. Customs Tariff Proposals Nos 14 to 18 (1970) formally place before Parliament the tariff changes made by Gazette notices and published in the Gazettes of 2nd and 6th July and 3rd and 4th August while the Parliament was in recess. The changes arise from Tariff Board reports on sorbitol and mannitol, alloy steel, high carbon steel and electrical steels, calcium carbide, vulcanised rubber sheets, electrical relays, cinematograph projectors, breathing appliances and artificial respiration apparatus and footwear with non-leather uppers, etc. Other changes extend the list of commodities in Schedule A of the New ZealandAustralia Free Trade Agreement.
Honourable members will recall (hey received copies of Press statements from my colleague, the Acting Minister for Trade and Industry at the time the tariff changes were gazetted. These statements set out the origin of the alterations. For this reason I do not propose to go over the same ground at this juncture but when the Tariff Bill to enact these proposals is introduced I will propose that that information be incorporated in Hansard for the convenience of honourable members in the ensuing debate. A detailed summary of the changes and rates of duty is now being distributed to honourable members. I commend the proposals.
Debate (on motion by Mr Crean) adjourned.
Reports on Items
– I present the following reports by the Tariff Board:
Alloy steel, high carbon steel and electrical steels.
Breathing appliances and artificial respiration apparatus. Calcium carbide.
Ceramic tableware (New Zealand-Australia Free Trade Agreement).
Footwear with non-leather uppers, etc.
Sorbitol and mannitol.
Vulcanised rubber sheets, etc., and Paper clips of base metal (Dumping and Subsidies Act).
The last report does not call for any legislative action.
Ordered that the reports be printed.
Consideration resumed from 21 August (vide page 418), on motion by Mr Chipp:
That the Bill be now read a second time. Question resolved in the affirmative. Bill read a second time.
Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Chipp) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 4 March (vide page 77), on motion by Mr Hulme:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– I am leading in this debate in the absence of the honourable member for Lang (Mr Stewart) who cannot be here this afternoon. The Bill is designed to cover up some of the mistakes made in the past by the Postmaster-General (Mr Hulme) and his adviser, the Broadcasting Control Board and to justify their actions in the future. Under the existing Act the onus is on the Postmaster-General to see that television and broadcasting licences in Australia are issued in accordance with the public interest, convenience, and necessity, in strict compliance with the terms of the Act. When it comes to the transfer of licences, or alteration of their conditions, the onus is entirely upon his shoulders. We understand, of course, that he is guided by the advice he receives from his experts on the Broadcasting Control
Board. This Bill deals with the qualifications of licensees of stations. I do not know whether the Minister has noted that the House of Representatives in the United States passed the Independent Media Preservation Bill which is designed to prevent a metropolitan newspaper holding a licence for a television or broadcasting station in the same area. The United States Federal Communications Commission applied the same principle recently when it cancelled the licence of WHDHTV, Boston, because it was held by the Boston ‘Traveller-Examiner’, and was held to create a monopoly in the news media in the area. The licence was then re-issued to a group of local interests. Similar action is proposed in connection with the licence of WPIX, New York, which is owned by the New York ‘Daily News’ and similar action is also foreshadowed against the broadcasting station owned by the New York ‘Times*.
The United States Justice Department is reported to be currently examining the joint ownership of newspapers, television and broadcasting stations to see whether the Anti-Monopoly Act is being violated, and where it finds such violations have occurred, it will undoubtedly call on the FCC to refuse to renew the licences and issue them to other applicants. In this House on 8th April this year I pointed out to the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) the desire of the US Federal Communications Commission to have legislation introduced to break up existing multi-media combinations in the United States over a maximum period of 5 years. I asked the Prime Minister on that occasion would he introduce similar legislation to break up existing multi-media combinations in Australia. His reply was rather flimsy wherein he stated he would be reluctant to accept the proposition that something that once operated legally should after the passage of certain legislation be said to be operating illegally. In other words, what he said was this: Because one government at some stage approved the existing multi-media setup in Australia other successive Governments cannot look to changing the situation even though the provisions of the relevant legislation may be operating to the detriment of the people. On the basis of that profound piece of logic no bad law can be repealed because it was once deemed to have operated legally and properly. With this sort of fuzzy thinking from the Prime Minister no wonder the Postmaster-General has no incentive to administer the Act strictly in the public interest contrary to the corporate interest vested in this area.
Television and broadcasting licences in this country are mainly in the hands of 5 great metropolitan newspaper groups, The Melbourne ‘Herald’ and ‘Age’, in Melbourne, John Fairfax and Sons Ltd, and the Consolidated Press Packer interests - in Sydney, and the Rupert Murdoch Adelaide ‘News’-Sydney ‘Daily Mirror’ group in Adelaide and Sydney. According to the Act no group is supposed to control more than 2 television stations or more than 8 broadcasting stations in Australia. I propose to show how the Postmaster-General has broken both the spirit and the letter of the Act in the issue of licences to these groups, and by giving his consent to the transfer of licences from interests who were only originally granted licences for specific purposes, but those same licences we now see transferred to the members of these giant newspaper groups.
Firstly, I will take the Melbourne Herald’ organisation. In television it has absolute control of HSV7 Melbourne and, through its subsidiaries of Queensland Press Ltd and the ‘Daily Telegraph’ in Brisbane, it controls BTQ7 Brisbane. Through its own holdings and those of Queensland Press Ltd it holds, for the purpose of this Act, a controlling interest in ADS7 Adelaide and through its majority holding of shares in Davies Bros, publishers of the Hobart ‘Examiner’, it holds a controlling interest in TVT6 Hobart. In other words, the total number of television stations it controls in Australia is 4 instead of the maximum of 2 which is stipulated under the Act. Again, the Melbourne Herald’ recently acquired a controlling interest in West Australian Newspapers Ltd, which controls TVW7 Perth, but I understand that the Postmaster-General has refused to consent to the transfer and has instructed the Melbourne ‘Herald’ to dispose of such shares.
Let us have a look at radio broadcasting. In Victoria the Melbourne ‘Herald’ holds the licences for 3DB Melbourne and 3LK Lubeck. In Queensland, through its subsidiaries, it controls 4BK Brisbane, 4AK Darling Downs and 4AM Atherton. In South Australia, according to a proper application of the Act, it may be said to have a controlling interest in 5AD Adelaide, 5M.U Murray Bridge, 5PI Crystal Brook and 5SE Mount Gambier, while in Tasmania, through Davies Bros, it holds a controlling interest in 7HO Hobart. In Western Australia, through its recent acquisition of West Australian Newspapers, it picked up an additional 4 broadcasting stations, namely, 61X Perth, 6MD Merredin, 6WB Katanning and 6BY Bridgetown. In other words, the Postmaster-General has been a consenting authority to the holding of 14 broadcasting licences by the Melbourne ‘Herald’ instead of the fixed maximum of 8 under the Act.
I shall now say a few kindly words about the empire of John Fairfax and Sons Ltd, publishers of the ‘Sydney Morning Herald’ and the Sydney ‘Sun’. Its story, like the one of the Melbourne ‘Herald’, is also one of commercial bigamy. In the field of television it holds the licence of ATN7 Sydney and BTQ7 Brisbane, while for the purposes of the Act it could be said to hold a controlling interest in CTC7 Canberra and, through its subsidiary the Newcastle Morning Herald’ and Miners Advocate, a controlling interest in NBN3 Newcastle as well as major holdings in W1N4 Wollongong, BTV6 Ballarat in Victoria and DDQ 10 Toowoomba on the Darling Downs in Queensland. The ramifications of the Fairfax empire in broadcasting are just as wide ranging as those of the Melbourne ‘Herald’. It owns all the shares in 2GB Sydney and 2 WL Wollongong and all the ordinary shares in 2CA Canberra. It also has majority holdings in 3AW Melbourne, 5DN Adelaide and 2LF Young in New South Wales. In addition, through its subsidiary the ‘Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners Advocate’, it holds a controlling interest in 2NX Bolwarra and 2NM Muswellbrook. In addition, under the terms of the Act it has a controlling interest in 4BH Brisbane. Chandlers (Australia) Ltd of Brisbane transferred its shares in 4BH to John Fairfax and Sons Ltd although the company must have fully realised that in doing so it was consenting to a violation of the strict terms of the Act. Although he was not the responsible Minister at the time the PostmasterGeneral should have personal knowledge of this transaction.
John Fairfax and Sons Ltd also hold 2,241,400 shares out of a total of 6 million in David Syme Ltd so that if we adhere strictly to the definition of control as expressed in the Act, John Fairfax and Sons Ltd may be said to have a controlling interest in David Syme Ltd, publishers of the Melbourne ‘Age’ and ‘Newsday’. Quite recently the Minister consented to the transfer of the licence of 3XY Melbourne to the Melbourne ‘Age’, which makes it another fief in the Fairfax empire, although the Act says that the same interests can only hold one metropolitan licence in the one city. The Fairfax organisation’s partner in the Melbourne ‘Age’ is the David Syme Trust. The David Syme Trust owns all the shares in the Victorian Broadcasting Network Ltd. It also holds all the shares in 3CV Maryborough, 3HA Hamilton, 3SH Swan Hill and 3TR Sale. The Postmaster-General has also given his consent to the acquisition of all the shares in 4MK Mackay in Queensland and 6PR Perth, 6TZ Bunbury and 6CI Collie in Western Australia.
The next corporate Press interest with which I would like to deal is the Consolidated Press-Packer interests in the Sydney Daily Telegraph’ and other publications. In television they hold majority interests in TCN9 Sydney and GTV9 Melbourne and, through subsidiaries, substantial interests in WIN4 Wollongong, NBV3 Newcastle, ECN8 Taree and BTQ7 Brisbane. Technically speaking their holdings are within the terms of the Act, but the position with regard to their holdings would not be tolerated if the American principles were applied to local television administration. In the broadcasting field the Packer interests own a majority of the shares in 3AK Melbourne.
The story of 3AK is an interesting one. The licence was originally granted to a small religious sect, under the strict terms that it was to be on the air from midnight to dawn only. After suffering heavy losses for many years, it was given permission by the Australian Broadcasting Control Board to vary its hours from dawn to sunset. When the Packer interests bought the licence application was made to convert it to a 24 hours a day station. This meant that it was in competition at night with existing Melbourne stations. As the purpose for which the licence was issued had changed completely it was for all intents and purposes an entirely new licence. Had the Control Board done its job properly it would have recommended to the PostmasterGeneral that new applications should be called for and a public inquiry held before he rushed in and gave his consent. The Postmaster-General also gave his consent to the transfer to the Packer interests of 4 stations in Western Australia belonging to the Whitford Network, namely 6PR Perth. 6AM Northam, 6KG Kalgoorlie, and 6GE Geraldton. These licences had been granted originally to Western Australian residents. If the Postmaster-General had observed his own declared policy, an opportunity would have been given to the local residents to acquire the stations before he consented to their transfer to interests which the people of Western Australia would regard as foreign.
Finally, I come to the interests of Rupert Murdoch and the Adelaide ‘News’ group. In television they own all the shares in NWS9 Adelaide and. through the ‘Daily Mirror’ in Sydney have a controlling interest in WTN4 Wollongong and, through another subsidiary, a 15% controlling interest in NBN3 Newcastle. In broadcasting, Murdoch has a controlling interest in 5DN Adelaide, all the shares in 2BH Broken Hill and, through a truly remarkable deal, he has acquired all the shares in 6KY Perth, the licence of which was originally issued to the ‘Worker’ newspaper and its satellite station 6NA Narrogin.
All the facts and figures I have quoted in this speech were obtained from the 21st annual report of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, though I must admit that it was only after some very close scrutiny. They prove how the PostmasterGeneral has driven a horse and carriage through the provisions of the Act and, by signing renewals of licences, has condoned gross violations of the provisions of the Act I believe that the proper course which should be taken with this Bill is to refer it to a standing committee of this House, which should conduct a full public inquiry into how our mass communications have been thrown into the hands of a few powerful newspaper proprietors. The committee should also make recommendations regarding the issue and renewal of licences and the conditions under which transfers of licences are granted. The Prime Minister has stated that he is in favour of setting up standing committees of the House to report on proposed legislation. Here is one subject which is simply crying out for such an inquiry. T challenge him to prove his bona fides to this House and to the members of his own Party who have requested the establishment of such committees by setting up such a committee.
– Whilst one could perhaps sympathise with the intentions of the honourable member for Blaxland (Mr Keating), nevertheless quite a number of the facts that he adduced were not strictly accurate. The honourable member claimed that a small minority of persons or companies controlled the communications network in Australia, particularly television. Among other things, he referred to the radio station 4BH. which he said was sold to John Fairfax and Sons Ltd, or a Fairfax-owned subsidiary or something of this kind. Actually, this station was sold not to John Fairfax and Sons Ltd but to a group of companies each of which holds a percentage interest in the total transaction which is completely in conformity with the Broadcasting and Television Act. The honourable member also said that the Melbourne ‘Herald’ controls 4 television stations. 1 think it will be found on examination that his statement is completely out of keeping with the facts. It appears that the honourable member feels that something has been done which is contrary to the provisions of the Act. This is a serious charge which ought to receive greater scrutiny than the scrutiny I can give it this afternoon because there are other things which also claim my attention. A Bill such as the Broadcasting and Television Bill carries overtones which reflect the importance of this tremendous field of modern mass communications - a field in which a revolution is only beginning to be felt in Australia. Looking back I can remember the days of my youth when the first wireless sets were introduced into my area. I remember the excitement in the street in which I lived when a neighbour obtained a set with its plethora of lighted valves. We listened to its horned speaker in wonder.
As we look ahead from those days to the days of the pocket size transistor and tomorrow to colour television in Australia, to pocket television, to very mobile telecommunications in the keeping of the individual, it is undoubtedly true that a tremendous revolution in this whole field is only beginning. As one looks at the field one must .be aware that this revolution means that a completely different base to society is beginning to develop - that there are new powers for the manipulation of society; that there is a sophistication in terms of the presentation of material over the media which has to be scrutinised and understood not only by governments, educators and those who seek to benefit financially or commercially from these things but primarily by the great mass of people who are so often the victims of mass communications.
Notwithstanding the remarks of the honourable member for Blaxland. I believe that in Australia we have been remarkably well served by the mass media. This does not mean that dangers are not emerging - dangers of the kind referred to by the honourable member. There is a danger that the control of the material which is broadcast will be centralised in too few hands. This comes about not necessarily because of the organic connection between these organisations but because of commercial connections, because of the financial considerations which limit the multiplicity of channels and the multiplicity of available material. As one travels in South East Asia and sees the vast mass housing facilities being created in many areas, each apartment, with its same little neon light outside, its same little television aerial above. its same television set inside and the same programme being televised to the same kind of people, one begins to experience something of the horror of the George Orwell nightmare. The whole concept of television and radio control of the mass, bringing about a mass response, fills one, particularly if he values freedom of initiative and variety, with a good deal of horror.
Nevertheless, there are other fields more precisely related to the Australian scene which anyone giving consideration to the amendment of an Act such as the Broadcasting and Television Act must have squarely before him if he is properly to discharge his duty. 1 refer to such things as the increasing influence of the mass media on the minds of young children and in their education. Anybody who has a young family, as I have, and who realises how much time his children spend with their eyes and minds glued to the television apparatus must be aware of the tremendous influence this thing exercises. This brings us to the kind of diet upon which their minds are being fed. 1 believe that in Australia we are approaching the stage when we must ask ourselves whether our children are being given sufficient content that is truly Australian - not only Australian in terms of its origin commercially but also in terms of the expressions, the philosophy, the culture if you like, the background of thinking and the attitudes which would be truly indicative of the response of the average Australian.
Being a relatively small country it is so easy for us to import from a larger country programmes in our language or which purport to be in our language but which convey a relatively foreign response to many things that are vital in the development of the Australian mind. We have heard recently of agitation by certain sections of the community for a greater Australian content in our television programmes. I sympathise with these people, many of whom, of course, seek to promote their own professional futures. Nevertheless 1 give them full marks for sincerity of purpose and altruism. I believe most Australians would sympathise with them. One must concede the costliness of producing de novo an Australian programme, with the actors, the sets and all that is involved in the editing and production of such a programme compared with simply buying an overseas produced programme after it has had its run overseas. Of course the cost of producing in Australia will be greater. One of the difficulties is that the audience for an Australian programme would be limited because only a few relatively wealthy stations would be able to pay the kind of money which at first sight would seem to be indicated as necessary to purchase a programme like Homicide’ and the other programmes that are being produced successfully in Australia.
I would make the positive suggestion that it is not necessary to accept the proposition that the smaller stations - the country stations - which want to air Australian programmes would be unable to find this kind of money and so must go without. In this area governments should scrutinise the possibility of legislating so that such stations might be charged for a programme according to the number of their viewers or, if you like, their capacity to pay because in my opinion a worthwhile Australian programme should be seen widely throughout Australia. A small station serving a small community and having a small return from advertising during the screening of such a programme should be able to obtain the programme at a figure within its budget. This may be an idealistic attitude but it is one to which we must increasingly turn our attention.
The other side of the coin is the unrealised potential for misuse of this new medium of television and for deception. I speak as one having some small experience in television in Australia. Having had to arrange and compere a weekly half hour programme on public affairs for almost 5 years I understand some of the possibilities that exist in the media. Robin Day of the British Broadcasting Corporation has written a fascinating and challenging article which everybody in Australia interested in this field should ponder. Robin Day is one of Britain’s leading public affairs programmers. He has been with BBC television for 10 years. Before that he was with a commercial network. He has a distinguished academic background. His article, which is published in the British publication Encounter’ is entitled Troubled Reflections of a Television Journalist*. Tn it he refers to some of the things he has experienced and to some of his thoughts in trying to come to grips with the problems posed by television.
Perhaps 1 could give one or two illustrations of the kind of thing to which he points. He suggests that with this new medium of television a new kind of communication has been set up which is severely limited in itself. It is limited because of things which are inherent to the medium itself. It is limited because it speaks in pictures, lt can get across only other than abstract thought, lt cannot get across chains of argument, of syllogisms in logic and the rest of it, but only the dramatic and the obviously pictorial things that lend themselves to the camera. He rather jokingly suggests that we are going right back to the most, primitive form of communication, the picture language of an earlier era. At the same time as there are these inherent disabilities in terms of communication by television there are also imposed disabilities. I refer to those imposed by people seeking to exercise political control over this medium, and the commercial control which means that only those who are able to afford the price and therefore who seek, having paid the piper, to call the tune.
In this way Robin Day points up the ways in which he believes television is potentially subject to limitations and difficulties.
The other aspect that he brings up is perhaps even more significant. In seeking for good television the producer so often is confronted with a dilemma as to how to bring about the result because of the necessity to carry around rather cumbersome equipment - cameras, microphones, lights and the rest of it - and the number of persons necessary in the team. This is so different from the days of the reporter who simply took around his notebook. Sometimes he did not have even that but relied on his memory of an eye-witness account. These days there are new kinds of reactions in the situation under scrutiny. These are inevitable because of the introduction into a situation of a television team. One knows that at political protest meetings and in statements made in front of a camera so often things are exaggerated. One might go so far as to say that new or even pseudo situations are created on occasions by the presence of the camera. These are not my sentiments; they are those of a non-politician, Robin Day.
Tn those early days of television I, too, realised something of the possibilities of distortion. For instance, Robin Day asks whether it is altogether reprehensible for a camera man to say to a celebrity: ‘Would you mind going back and coming through the door again. I want to get a shot of you coming out the door of No. 10 Downing Street. The shot I have is not quite what I wanted.’ This might be acceptable, but how far should we carry this re-enactment of a situation for the camera? If we do this should we go so far as some producers have done and provide persons and a place in which to photograph, for instance, the reactions of addicts in a drug party? Do you pay those persons? Do you bring them together in premises where it is known that they can obtain drugs and even perhaps go so far indirectly as to supply them with drugs in order to take photographs for a documentary series? This is the kind of serious question that Robin Day asks about the difficulties facing television.
I had an interesting experience some time ago when 1 tried to chair a discussion between the late Dr Evatt and the late Mr Townley over an immigration matter. Dr Evatt was seated on my right and I introduced the programme, as was my wont, by saying: ‘Doctor. I understand that at the recent citizenship conference you criticised the Australian Government for its immigration policy on 2 scores. I wonder if we might discuss these.’ Dr Evatt said: ‘If you do not mind, Doctor, I will summarise my own arguments.’ Then he went ahead for 13 minutes without let or hindrance. I plucked his sleeve, I coughed and I tried to intrude but nothing could stop him from continuing his 13-minute burst of oratory. The station management came to me afterwards and said: ‘That is the last time that that will happen. The next time someone tries to do that we will not have a common microphone. We will have individual microphones. We will turn the camera from the person speaking. We will tone down his voice and put the camera over to you. You can then address a question to the other participant and leave the first person speaking to nobody.’
This is an illustration of the way in which it could be possible - I only suggest it is possible - in unscrupulous hands to present a complete debate in a way which does not coincide with the truth. The asides, the interjections from one side, can bc magnified while those from the other side are disregarded. Persons can be made to appear inconclusive in their statements. The statements can be taken over by someone ready to do so on the opposing side. It is possible not for the camera to lie but for a producer to produce a result not in accordance with what an eye-witness would see in a studio. I do not want to go any further in elucidating these very many points. I have done only scant justice to the kind of things brought out by Robin Day in his most penetrating article and his conclusions. 1 want to move on to the Australian scene and the way in which I believe we must continually search and research the basis on which our mass communications, particularly radio and television, are being conducted. I believe the present attitude in Australia is fraught with danger. We are extremely timid of the possibility of political bias or of some other bias intruding into a programme. Rather than have a situation where this could occur, rather than face the criticism of bias, the media are inclined to shy away from it or introduce what I regard as outdated or crude methods of establishing guidelines for such programmes. I will give one illustration of this. Some time ago I was running a programme to which I invited a certain person who happened to be president or chairman of the Water Research Foundation of Australia. I wanted him to discuss a purely technical matter on which he was an expert. However, because he was a member of a legislative council or a legislative assembly - T forget which it was - in a State Parliament it was not possible for him to appear without a counterpart from the opposite political party, regardless of whether that person knew anything at all about the subject. This I regard as one of the really crude methods of trying to establish built-in safeguards against bias.
There would seem to me to emerge the need for a body that would be more widely representative of the whole community to view and review, particularly upon submission from a significant group of people, a certain period of programming. This panel would do so in the light of whether or sot some kind of change or some kind of compensating factor should be brought in to correct witting or unwitting unfairness or bias. Thus the initiative and spontaneity of the producers, directors and participants in programmes should not be unduly curtailed.
During a recent controversy over Australian Broadcasting Commission current affairs programmes I gave thought to a number of guidelines which I thought could be helpful. I give these points only as suggestions as to the kind of bases upon which I believe a reasonable and unbiased approach could be made to this very vexed question.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Jarman)Order! I think the honourable member for Evans is getting slightly wide of the contents of the Bill, interesting though the debate is.
– The Bill is to amend portions of the Broadcasting and Television Act relating to financial operations, certainly, but I suggest that as it will also affect the practical operations of the Australian Broadcasting Commission and the commercial stations so far as their ownership and control are concerned, there is also under scrutiny the question of control and thereby the presentation of programmes produced by stations. Nevertheless, in deference to you, Sir, I will summarise and simply say that I believe it is possible to bring up guidelines which would enable a programme to be produced without being subject to this continual cry of bias, or if it does to deal with it fairly without suggestion of political manipulation.
The Bill before the House contains provisions relating to the activities of individual stations. One of the grave difficulties that emerges as one reads between the lines of the Bill is the fact that finance is a dominating factor. Finance in the hands of those who are happy enough to possess it in considerable quantities can be a determining factor in the quality of the programme produced and therefore in its content. One of the things T think it is necessary for a government to do in scrutinising the Broadcasting and Television Act is to keep before it all the time the necessity to be dynamic in its approach to the freedom of the producer to produce the kind of programme which is in the best interests of his own creative ability, of his audience and of the programme. At the same time I believe that there must be an overall realisation that we are dealing with a new medium. This is evident in the second reading speech of the Postmaster-General (Mr Hulme) in which he said that one of the objectives was, having consulted the Treasury and the Auditor-General’s Office, to ‘reflect the modern approach to statutory authority financial regulations. I applaud this. I think it is excellent. But I go on to say that there is developing across the world today an understanding of other modern developments within the whole field of broadcasting and television. This development is not only in the financial field. It is not only in the commercial or governmental control field that there is a need for a greater scrutiny to take place. I believe that we are moving into an era where it is necessary for a government to take responsibility in a much wider and more far-reaching way than we have done yet in this field.
In this House we have continually heard the suggestion that there is something indecent or improper in a government’s intruding into the field of commenting on programming controls exercised through the Australian Broadcasting Control Board or into the running of the Australian Broadcasting Commission. I question that attitude. I believe that perhaps the days are approaching when we should have a ministry that is perhaps directed specifically to deal with the whole field of public information and that its activities and rules should be subject continually to scrutiny in this House. I believe that it is only in this area that elected representatives of the people are able to look at the kind of guidelines that are brought forward for our programmes. It is the only area where debate is possible in a free and unfettered way. Here, with all the freedoms that are afforded debate in this place, we can look for security against some of the difficulties and the dangers that I have mentioned. In my view this is a governmental matter; it is one calling for continual review and amendment of the Act. It is one which I believe should be open to debate.
I could summarise what I have to say in this sentence: Are we going to hand over responsibility to some other body, no matter how competent, how fair or how celebrated they may be in the public eye, just because we think that this is fairer and more democratic - and principally because they are not elected by the people of Australia? In my view it would be possible for us to have before this House a series of guidelines that would be acceptable to both sides of the House and that would enable us to approach amendments in the future in a way that would provide for the scrutiny that I have suggested. In this way I think we would be able to obviate some of the difficulties which occur from time to time because of the mammoth finances involved or because of the large political questions involved.
The other aspect of the Bill relates to extending broadcast listener’s and television viewer’s licences to several additional small groups of pensioners. I think this proposal speaks for itself. It is something which I am sure everyone on both sides of the House will applaud. It is certainly an amendment which is in keeping with the changes that are taking place in our community because these are days when pensioners and retired persons rely more and more on television and radio for their entertainment. I believe that anything that could be done to make this more possible for them financially is to be applauded. Therefore, I have pleasure in supporting the second reading of the Bill and commend the alterations and amendments to the House.
– Having to follow the honourable member for Evans (Dr Mackay) has left quite a deal of my speech in front of him which he has already delivered. I refer to that part of the honourable member’s speech which made reference to the writings of Robin Day. I had intended to use one or two excerpts from this publication. As the honourable member for Evans has already used this material I will not bore the House with tedious repetition. 1 must say that I think a constant revision of the Broadcasting and Television Act is very necessary in this day and age when one now sees how this industry has expanded in so short a time. I want to deal with one or two aspects of the amendments proposed in the Bill. Let me say straight away that I applaud the PostmasterGeneral (Mr Hulme) for that section of the Bill which enables the financial limit of $40,000 and the period limit of 5 years on transactions of the Australian Broadcasting Commission to be lifted to a sum of $100,000 and a period of 10 years respectively. I think this is a very necessary amendment because, as I said a moment ago, great changes have taken place in the last few years in this industry. I think the amendment also allows the Australian
Broadcasting Commission in this context lo be more readily aware of what is expected of it on a local scene. Of course, we have a national broadcasting system. But as such, if it does have failures - and indeed it does - I think some of them stem from the fact that rather too much authority and rather too much programme administration tends to eminate from Sydney or the capital city concerned. Certainly, as far as regional broadcasting and televising is concerned, in my own State of Tasmania I have felt for some time that perhaps a little more local involvement in what the people want locally might not be a bad thing, lt is the overriding sort of decision making that is made at head office - I think this is the affectionate term one uses - that is sometimes not in the best interest of a national broadcasting organisation.
I should now like to deal with the question of ownership. One could quote statistics and figures to prove almost any argument that one wanted to prove. But if I may take the time of the House, I shall refer to that section of the Bil) which deals specifically with the problem of ownership. I believe the honourable member for Evans made a very good point when he said that we are in great danger of centralisation. I think this is what has happened in the commercial field. For instance, consider ATN in Sydney. The total issued share list of this television company is in the region of $1,494,118. John Fairfax and Sons Ltd, the proprietors of the ‘Sydney Morning Herald’ own over 1,06.1,000 of this station’s shares. I could repeat that story right through all of the States of the Commonwealth, ft seems to me that ownership of a newspaper is not necessarily a qualification for controlling and running a television station. Indeed, the activities of both are widely different. Robin Day has made the criticism that a newspaper has its own editorial content and its own editorial column. I cannot remember any television station that is similarly placed. I think perhaps the time has come when we in this country might allow or might give consideration to a little more freedom and flexibility in the editorial scene or the editorial function of television stations. I think in my first speech in this chamber I made some comment on this point, and it is well worthy of consideration. ] should like to comment on one or two of the points made by the honourable member for Evans because I think they are relevant to the amendment before the House and indeed relevant to the whole industry. The first was on the question of bias. Bias is terribly difficult to determine, because what is bias to some may not be bias to others. The honourable member referred to guidlines for the Australian Broadcasting Commission. Presumably these guidelines would be established for the commercial networks as well. There is a great danger in establishing guidelines for any particular organisation, whether it be commercial or national. In the first instance who is to establish the guidelines? It may well be that a section of the Government parties objects to a particular presentation. Tt may well be that we on this side of the House will object to a particular presentation. 1 suggest that there will never be 100% agreement on the correct way in which that presentation ought to be made. It is almost impossible to arrive at a common area of agreement in this industry. I think it is very dangerous indeed to start talking about the establishment of guidelines to advise or to suggest to the ABC or any other organisation that it ought to present a programme in this particular way or in that particular way.
My views on this subject are very well known: I have slated them before. I feel that in a democracy there is no place at all for political interference or for the establishment of guidelines either for television stations or for any other sector of the mass media. To do this sort of thing is to establish a governmental overlay on what it is thought the people ought to be consuming. That is never successful in any democracy. 1 return to the cost of programmes A question was addressed to the PostmasterGeneral in this House this afternoon and he answered it at some length, lt was an answer that had to be given in some length because this is a very involved and difficult situation. Country stations have great problems which are caused by the expense involved in buying programmes. 1 support the honourable member for Evans when he says that there ought to be some government investigation into country stations being afforded some consideration in the buying of expensive programmes. I say this for one very good reason. The PostmasterGeneral knows better than I do just how important it is to embrace people in isolated and country areas with the wonderful mass media. These people are somewhat less fortunate than people in the capital cities because their choice of programme is somewhat restricted and subsequently inhibited by the cost factor.
I merely make the suggestion that some thought might well be given to pursuing or examining some proposition that would allow people in country areas to have access to such programmes at a reduced cost. How the mechanics of it would work I do not know at this stage. I think that some examination should be made, because these people live in an area of isolation where communication is very important. The problem confronting the television industry in this country at the moment is one of continuing difficulties for indigenous productions. I speak of the work of Australian producers, writers and actors. I know that the Postmaster-General is well aware of these difficulties. Indeed on Saturday night last he contributed a segment to the ‘Four Courners’ programme. There ought to be a very close examination of the industry as a whole, not a fragmented or segmented examination. The writers, the producers and the actors should come together with a proposition for the Government in relation to quotas. It is no good our accepting the fact that Australian local television productions today are too expensive to purchase. We have a duty to the people of this country, indeed to our own children, to provide them with a culture that is indigenous to this country.
I can quote statistics to show the amount of exposure we give to programmes of Australian origin. The percentages are not very startling, in fact, they are rather the reverse. The latest available figures I have show that in the field of drama or adventure Australian programmes shown on the major commercial stations account for 1.1% of the total. The proportion of all programmes of Australian content is 0.5%. On the national stations the position is better, but in my view and in the view of many people engaged in the industry, it does not improve sufficiently for us to be inspired by it. The figures reveal that on the national networks the respective percentages are 2.2% and 1.1%.
– That would be the lowest in the Western world.
– As my friend the honourable member for Riverina says, it would indeed be the lowest in the Western world, and the lowest in more ways than one. In the field of crime and suspense, Australian productions account for 1.3% of the total on the commercial stations and 0.4% on the national stations. I turn now to current affairs, the area in which this particular medium can be most powerfully persuasive. In all the western European countries, in the United States and in Canada a great deal more time is used by the national and political leaders in television discussion on current affairs programmes than we in this country have yet dreamed of. We seem to be afraid of exposing our policies and decision making to criticism. Today on the commercial stations current affairs programmes have an output of 2.5%, which is 1% of the total. On the ABC the proportion is at least 12%. In the field of the arts, on commercial stations the percentage of Australian productions is 0.3% and on the national stations it is 1.7%. That is the contribution we make to culture in this country on our own national and commercial television systems. It is no wonder that the artistic, creative people of this country - the writers, producers, directors and actors - are somewhat dismayed that in 1970 the outlook is deteriorating from what it was in the early 1960s.
I do not intend to continue my remarks very much longer. I think that my points have been made. I commend the various amendments outlined by the PostmasterGeneral. I would like to think that one or two of the suggestions I have made to him, particularly with regard to country stations and the improvement of the local content or the quota, as it is commonly referred to, will receive some sympathetic consideration from the Government. Without any doubt at all, in the technical field we have reached a degree of excellence in television and in radio which is reached in few other countries. Unfortunately in the creative area we are lagging sadly behind. The time has well come when we should have an amalgamation of that technical excellence and our creative productivity - our inherent genius in creative productivity. If these 2 forces can be brought together then the television industry in Australia and the whole mass media of television will be something in which we can participate and of which we, as Australian people, can be proud.
Mr IRWIN (Mitchell) L5. 42]- Before I refer to the various provisions of the Bill 1 want to say how pleased I am that 1 am not receiving a mass of letters, such as I was receiving up until 6 months ago, about the presentation of programmes of a political nature bearing in one direction. At that time whenever I attended a public function 1 was asked: ‘What are you going to do about the Australian Broadcasting Commission?’ I am pleased that the position has altered because evidently the programmes now being exhibited meet with the approval of the general populace. As the honourable member for Franklin (Mr Sherry) said, it is difficult to define bias, because such an interpretation differs according to thinking and standards. I am sorry that the copybook was blotted recently after the Returned Services League Congress at which, unfortunately, a proposal was put about the listing of Communists. We know that this would not be desirable or possible for various obvious reasons. However f took exception to a programme that followed this Congress. It must always be remembered that in Australia, perhaps more than in most countries, our fighting men and ex-servicemen have always been held in the highest esteem. It hurt me to see the serviceman being depicted as a lair with 2 cans of beer in his hands with a chap at a piano, hat on and pipe in his mouth, playing a parody from one of Gilbert and Sullivan’s musical operettas. This was unfortunate because when a person insults an Australian serviceman he insults himself. I am sorry that this programme was presented because during the past 6 months seldom have T received any letters of complaint about programmes.
The delegation that is proposed in the Bill conforms to general business practice. The proposal is most desirable. It seems that such an amendment should have been moved before now. Regarding the disposal of or purchase of property, I agree that the present limit of $40,000 is not realistic.
In 10 years even the $100,000 proposed may not be sufficient. I feel that many people do not know the extent of concessions applying to licence fees. The Act is to be amended so that concessions will apply to the person who is in receipt of a Service pension, or a pension in respect of total and permanent incapacity, under the Repatriation Act 1920-1969, the Interim Forces Benefits Act 1947-1966, the Repatriation (Far East Strategic Reserve) Act 1956-1966, the Repatriation (Special Overseas Service) Act 1962-1968 or regulations in force under the Native Members of the Forces Benefits Act 1957-1968; or a pension under the Seamen’s War Pensions and Allowances Act 1940-1969 corresponding with a pension in respect of total and permanent incapacity under the Repatriation Act 1920-1969. f trust that those people who are entitled to concessions and who have heard me speaking will ensure that they gain those concessions when they pay their licence fees.
I do not say this critically, but it is unfortunate in some ways that instrumentalities like the Australian Broadcasting Commission which receive their revenue from the Government should not be more careful in expending that money, ft seems to me that there is an easy come easy go attitude in the ABC. It does not have to earn its income as do the commercial stations. lt gels its revenue from the Government and naturally with money received from this source it is the same old story - sufficient consideration is not given to expenditure, f point out that a team of photographers and others went to Tahiti at great expense to make a programme, lt was reported to me that the programme occupied a minute of viewing time. No commercial station would be able to do that and it is essential that the cost ratio be taken into consideration. Of course there are occasions when it is necessary for television teams to go to South East Asia to make programmes. A Minister may be visiting the area or some other matter of concern to Australia may arise which makes it important for a film to be produced there. In such circumstances costs should not determine whether such a film should be made. However before there is huge expenditure of money the cost and the value to Australian viewers should be considered.
I am sure we all would like to see greater Australian content in our programmes. It must be remembered that we are a very young nation and that we are making our traditions and our history now. The greater the local content, having regard to our cultural background which, incidentally, is improving all the time, the better. I say without hesitation that our appreciation of culture has improved since we have had such a huge inflow of migrants from overseas. We are now taking a deeper interest in cultural affairs and have a better appreciation of the classics than we had before. As a result of the support that is being given to the arts and to culture we are able to see aspects of them displayed and featured more frequently than has been the case in the past.
I turn now to television. Within the past week the manager of a country television station has stated that the most his station could attract in advertising was $2,000 an hour. He needed that amount to break even. Any programme which would attract only $2,000 an hour would be very minor and insignificant. There is a big difficulty to overcome but difficulties are there only to be overcome. Australian stations are Australian owned and it should be everyone’s desire to produce Australian programmes comparable to those which can be purchased overseas. Such programmes would benefit Australia by building up interest in this country and by creating an Australian nationalism of which we all could be proud. I think the tendency is in that direction.
Debate (on motion by Mr Armitage) adjourned.
Sitting suspended from 5.54 to 8 p.m.
Debate resumed from 18 August (vide page 93), on motion by Mr Bury: That the Bill be now read a second time.
– I move:
That all words after ‘That’ be omitted with a view to inserting the following words in place thereof: ‘this House condemns this deceptive and negative Budget because it fails to meet the real needs of the Australian people, especially with respect to (a) standards of social service and war pensioners, (b) assistance to schools, hospital and urban authorities and (c) restructuring of stricken primary industries and because it introduces and increases taxes and charges of a regressive and inequitable nature’.
Let me make it clear at the outset that our opposition to this Budget is no mere formality. We intend to press our opposition by all available means on all related measures in both Houses. If the motion is defeated, we will vote against the Bills here and in the Senate. Our purpose is to destroy this Budget and to destroy the Government which has sponsored it. We reject the Budget but even more we reject the philosophy behind the Budget. It is based on a philosophy which would perpetuate all the injustices and inequalities of years of Liberal rule, and would perpetuate new injustices and new inequalities. We deplore the direction this Budget would take Australia. It contains a marked shift towards privilege, towards inequality. In its social implications it is the most reactionary Budget since the 1930s. Yet, as the respected and perceptive Financial Editor of the ‘Sydney Morning Herald’ has pointed out, it is also revolutionary - revolutionary in this respect, that, more than any of its recent predecessors, it builds into the financing of this nation’s affairs an unprecedented reliance on indirect, usually unjust, taxation. We oppose and deplore the social implications of this Budget as much as its actual contents; and we have no choice but to oppose it by all the means at our disposal. We believe that every best instinct and every ideal of the Australian people is against this Budget. The conscience of the nation itself is affronted by it.
The economic strategy behind the Budget is by no means clear. The political strategy behind it is all too clear. The Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) and the Treasurer (Mr Bury) worked on two very crude assumptions - that the majority of the Australian people are inordinately greedy and inordinately stupid. The Gorton Government thought that greed would be allayed by the spectacular gesture of tax cuts; it thought that the wage earners receiving these tax cuts would be so selfish that they would ignore that they were receiving them at the price of rank injustice to all the underprivileged sections of the community. It was assumed that they would pocket the cash and their conscience together. Yet at the same time it was apparently believed they would be so foolish as not to see that any concessions by way of direct taxation would be, for the great majority of them, more than outweighed by new indirect impositions and even further by the price rises which result from those impositions. 1 believe that the events of the last few days have shown that the Australian people are neither as selfish nor as foolish as the Gorton Government assumed; but let us put it to the real test; let us take this Budget and the Government which produced it to the people themselves. The Parliament has already voted supply to the end of November. By that time, there can be an election for both Houses. An election therefore would cause no disruption. The only thing that will cause disruption is the continuance of this Government.
The Prime Minister asserts that his Government already has a mandate from the people for this Budget. The Treasurer claims that the proposal to reduce personal taxation performs the Prime Minister’s promise of last October. Indeed he boasts that the proposal more than fulfils the promise, lt does nothing of the sort. In the first place, the promise was never understood by the people merely in terms of a simple tax cut. The people wanted reform as well as relief, and enduring reform more than temporary relief. Everyone knew that, because the Liberals bad left the tax schedules unchanged since 1954, low and middle income earners had been forced by inflation into inordinately high tax brackets. The average wage earner in 1954 took 5 weeks work to pay his tax; in 1969 he took 9i weeks. The Budget leaves the unfair incidence of taxation unchanged, lt contains a proposal to reduce tax on all incomes up to $32,000. Happy the country where $32,000 is a middle income! But all incomes below $10,000 are treated in exactly the same way - a flat rate cut of 10%. This has nothing to do with the question of a fairer incidence of taxation - a fairer distribution of whatever fax must be collected.
Inflation and consequential wage rises will immediately begin to operate in the same way that they have done for the past 16 years - against the low and middle income earners. The immediate cash advantage begins to be eroded immediately, because the system remains essentially the same. Despite the Prime Minister’s promise, despite the emergence of a new Treasurer, despite a year of work by the Treasury, we are no nearer a real revision of the tax schedules, no nearer justice and equity in personal taxation, no nearer that fairer redistribution of wealth and fairer distribution of burdens which should be one of the prime objects of taxation in an enlightened community. The former Treasurer, the present Minister for External Affairs (Mr McMahon), conceded last year that Australia’s tax schedules were the most disproportionate in the world’. That is his phrase. If so, they stay so. This Budget changes nothing proportionately or fundamentally. Thus we are continuing with a system whereby the top 10% of income earners paid 58% of ail personal taxation in 1954 but only 44% in 1968-69, where the top 1% paid 30% in 1954 but only 151% in 1968-69.
The grossly unequal distribution of the burden remains; the grossly unequal distribution of the benefit, such as it is, intensifies the injustice. The average wage earner with a taxable income of $3,000 is to receive a reduction of $46 - less than $1 a week. The man on §10,000 receives $348 - nearly $7 a week. The man on $16,000 - the income which to the Prime Minister, according to his election promise, represented a middle income - receives $500, or $10 a week. These are the figures for single men. The benefit for family men on comparable incomes is lower. The average family man with a wife and 2 children with a taxable income of $3,000 receives a benefit of $32. The man similarly situated but earning $16,000 receives $492. In all this there is not the slightest pretence of equity, not the slightest attempt to distribute benefits according to need, nol the slightest effort to protect the family man and the genuine middle income earner against the raids which the rest of the Budget makes on his standard of living. The Treasurer’s proper task was to minimise future erosion of the value of wage increases through unfair tax, and to achieve this by fairer graduation of the tax scales. It was far more important to produce justice than to reduce the total tax. At great loss to revenue, the Treasurer has managed to produce only great injustice. The public were entitled to expect a meaningful tax reform, not just partial and partisan tax relief. They have not got it. So much for Liberal promises! So much for the Liberal mandate! A Liberal Budget indeed: SIO if you are among the top 1%, Si if you are in the middle, and 50c if you are a pensioner utterly dependent on the community for your income. A Liberal Budget indeed - divisive, disruptive, sectional, the true child of the most divisive government this nation has had since the 1920s.
New Indirect Charges
There was certainly no mandate for the imposition of the new and regressive forms of taxation contained in this Budget. There was certainly no mandate for a massive change in the balance between direct and indirect taxation. For the average and below average wage earner, especially those with families, the new imposts will more than cancel out any temporary cash gain through income tax reduction. Seventy per cent of taxpayers will be worse off. The lower income group will be drastically worse off. The new charges specifically mentioned in the Budget by no means complete the sum of the new burdens it Imposes. As a consequence of these proposals, particularly the increase in petrol tax and postal charges, consumer prices, transport fares, housing payments and council rates will all rise. The price passon process is already operating.
Effect on Families
I have had a table prepared comparing the benefits and charges contained in this Budget as it affects families. It is based on the Macquarie University survey of consumer expenditure. Naturally, the table involves a number of assumptions, even guesses, about probable family spending on the items taxed in the Budget. One of the reasons why, in these matters, one has to rely on non-official surveys is that the Government itself will not or cannot obtain the proper information. But I suggest that the table is irrefutable as regards the general trend it shows. Families will be able to see how closely it tallies with their own experience. I would be grateful if the Treasury would be willing to provide such a table itself with such corrections in detail as it may feel necessary. But the conclusion is clear and it is this: Seventy per cent of Australian families are worse off because of the direct and immediate consequences of this Budget, and the poorer a family is, the worse it is affected. With the concurrence of honourable members 1 incorporate in Hansard a table on a survey of consumer expenditure.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 25 August 1970, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1970/19700825_reps_27_hor69/>.