27th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr SPEAKER (Hon. Sir William Aston) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– I present the following petition:
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully sheweth:
That the Australian Education Council’s report on the needs of State education services has established serious deficiencies in education.
That these can be summarised as lack of classroom accommodation desperate teacher shortage, oversized classes and inadequate teaching aids.
That the additional sum of one thousand million dollars is required over the next J years by the States for these needs.
That without massive Federal finance the State school system will disintegrate.
That the provisions of the Handicapped Children’s Assistance Act 1970 should be amended to include all the country’s physically and mentally handicapped children.
Your petitioners most humbly pray that the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled will take immediate steps to -
Ensure that emergency finance from the Commonwealth will be given to the States for their public education services which provide schooling for 78 per cent of Australia’s children. And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Labour and National Service concerning workers compensation for the victims of the West Gate Bridge disaster, the worst industrial accident in Australia for 50 years. The honourable gentleman will have noticed the high proportion of migrants among the dead and injured, and I trust he will recall that I have had 3 questions on the notice paper, one for more than 6 months - longer than all but 9 of the questions still on notice for him from the honourable member for Hindmarsh - about the rights of overseas dependants of workers killed or injured in industrial accidents. I ask the honourable gentleman: What are the rights of the overseas dependants of the victims in this case?
– At the outset I should say that I and all members of my Department share the sense of loss felt by the dependants and relatives of the men killed in this awful tragedy. I have spoken to officers in my Department and told them to see what can be done by us in any way to assist in the rapidity of the settlement of the claims. I am bound to tell the honourable -gentleman that there is not a lot that we can do formally. But let me come to the point that he raises, whether or not the compensation can be paid to dependants in another country. 1 was concerned about this when I was Minister for Immigration. This was a matter, which, of course, concerned other governments. I therefore suggested to all State governments that action should be taken so that in all cases dependants of workers killed here could be paid compensation in overseas countries. There was a general warmth of response by the Stats governments but many of them had legislation which was built on the basis of reciprocity. The test that some of the State governments had was: If an Australian worker were killed in a foreign country would his dependants in Australia receive compensation? I was at pains to point out that this was a circumstance where I fell reciprocity should not be the test and that in fact payments ought to be made to the dependant wherever that dependant was, regardless of reciprocity. Having done that we should pursue the matter to try to achieve reciprocity, but should not let reciprocity be the test. My recollection is - it is some time since I have looked at this matter - that all State governments have indicated a willingness to do this but that this will require amendments to their Acts. I say that on the basis of my recollection. I will test my recollection within the next 48 hours and let the honourable member know.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Primary Industry, I preface it by reminding the Minister of the Treasurer’s Budget Speech in which the Treasurer said:
The Government is examining the need for reconstruction in the wool industry, including as one aspect of reconstruction the question of growers’ indebtedness and the ways in which the Commonwealth can most effectively assist.
As the Minister has announced proposals for a marketing authority for the wool industry, to commence next year - I am sure that the Minister is well aware that the rural debt continues to rise - I ask: What progress has the Government made regarding the inquiry into rural indebtedness and when can we expect an announcement?
– Some time ago the Australian Wool Board set up a special committee to look into the problems of the. Australian wool industry. The Board prepared a report and submitted it to the Government. This report covered many aspects of the wool industry, including the establishment of a single statutory wool marketing authority. The Board also mentioned the need for an investigation into the general debt situation of wool growers. The Government examined the report and as a result it has now announced that it will introduce legislation to create an Australian Wool Commission. The Government also announced through the Treasurer’s Budget Speech, that the Bureau of Agricultural Economics would be charged with carrying out an examination of the general credit situation of rural industries. The Bureau has done a very intensive job in the short period since the announcement was made in the Budget, and it is now preparing a report to present to me. I hope that this will be done in the near future. Once the report is presented we will be able to see where the problems are, highlight the difficulties and make recommendations to the Government as to how these problems can best be coped with.
J was pleased to note over the weekend a statement by the Leader of the Opposition which also emphasised the need to do something in the area of rural indebtedness and the need for reconstruction of rural properties. I think it is delightful that he does catch up with the thinking of rural industries and the Government, although he might be three or four months late. The honourable gentleman generally trails behind the industry in his thinking. I think some of his remarks were quite unnecessary. The honourable gentleman accused the Australian Country Party of carrying out vendetta politics. He also said that the Country Party should be placing its attention on more constructive measures. I would think that more constructive measures designed to help primary industry have been taken in the last 2 years than ever before. The creation of a Wool Commission is evidence of the Government’s desire to do more in the direction of marketing. The fact that we are carrying out this intensive investigation into indebtedness is an example of our general desire to do more.
– Mr Speaker, is it in order for the State Ministers for Agriculture to guffaw quite so loudly when the Minister is giving an answer?
-Order! There is no point of order.
– I preface my question, which is addressed to the Prime Minister, by citing the case of a family in my electorate which has already had one son undergo his national service training and is now faced with the prospect of the next 2 sons - twins - having been called up for national service. The son who has undergone service, including a year in Vietnam, is under medical treatment for a nervous condition. I ask the Prime Minister whether he and the Government consider it to be just and equitable that one family should be compelled, under the lottery system of selecting national servicemen, to supply 3 sons for the Army while thousands of families are never expected to provide even one son. Is there any provision in the National Service Act or any other Commonwealth statute or regulation which could be used to relieve the burden on this family? If not, will the Prime Minister, in the Australian tradition of justice and equality, issue a directive that these 2 boys are to be declared ineligible for national service training?
– I cannot obviously give a general answer to a particular question of this kind, other than to say that I do not think it accurate to say that there are thousands of families who could never be expected to provide a son for service, because where families have sons of serviceable age, in all cases those sons have the same chance of being called up as anybody else, unless of course they are deferred as a result of their university studies or unless they decide to take the proper legal course, if they wish to avoid the chance of being called up, of joining the Citizen Military
Forces. However, if the honourable gentleman brings a particular case to the attention of the Government it will be examined, and normally that is the course that would be followed to bring it to our attention.
– I preface my question, which I direct to the Treasurer, by stating that the United States Ambassador, in giving an address to the Perth Chamber of Commerce on 23rd September last, stated, inter alia, that over the past 10 years the proportion of foreign ownership of Australian company assets has not increased. I ask the honourable gentleman whether he is aware that the figures as issued by the Commonwealth Statistician indicate an increase of foreign ownership of Austraiian industrial assets exceeding 10 per cent in the last 10 years. Will he inform the United States Ambassador that his statement is incorrect?
– The honourable member seems to have taken an inordinate time to bring this matter to my attention. If he will do so in detail I will certainly be interested to look at it I doubt very much whether the statement made by the American Ambassador and the facts as put out by the Commonwealth Statistician are irreconcilable. But if I have the statement in detail before me I will be able to give the honourable member an answer.
– Has the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation seen official suggestions in New South Wales that home owners in Sydney might be expected to try to soundproof their homes against aircraft noise at a cost of several thousand dollars a time? Has this proposition been a failure when tried elsewhere - to say nothing of the cost? Will the Minister seek an urgent review of the possibility of applying, apparently, the only practical answer - using a site far distant from Sydney and employing an ultra-high-speed monorail train, possibly above existing rail tracks, to reduce travelling time to little more than that taken for the current trek from the city to Mascot?
– As the honourable member is aware, a committee of this House was established to investigate airport noise problems. An interim report has already been submitted by that committee. A*i interim report had been submitted by a previous committee of this Parliament which had been set up in the previous Parliament. I understand that when the final report is received by the Minister for Civil Aviation it will receive full consideration not only by the Minister but by the Department. Any recommendation which the Minister makes will be considered by the Government at that time. The question of alternative sites for the airport at Sydney is one which has been under consideration for some time, in the sense not of an alternative site but of an additional site that may be required principally for international operations in the future.
An interdepartmental committee was set up nearly 2 years ago to investigate possible sites where an additional airport to service Sydney and surrounding districts could be provided in the future. I understand that the interdepartmental committee has concluded its investigations, and it is possible that a report will be submitted to the Minister in the near future. When the report is submitted to the Minister he undoubtedly will have it examined, and the matter will be brought before the Government at that time. The question in relation to an alternative to Sydney airport is one which had been considered when the committee was extablished. But it was explained at that time that the site at Mascot had been established for so long, so much had been spent there and it has become such an integral part of the transport system in the city, involving as it does the connection with other transport systems there, particularly shipping, road and rail, that it would not be possible to shift from that site and that it would continue to be used and it would reach its maximum, somewhere about the mid-1980s. An additional site would be required to supplement the facilities at that time.
Subsequent to that, whatever the report is of the Select Committee on Aircraft Noise of this House or the committee investigating the second site for an airport for Sydney, these points will be taken into consideration. Whether there is to be a mixture of international and domestic facilities at one or other of the airports, or whether there will be a concentration of international facilities at one or the other, are points which will be considered when these 2 reports of the committees are received.
– I ask the Minister for Defence: What is the economic justification for the establishment of a tri-Service academy? Do the 3 armed Services approve the establishment of such an academy? Can the honourable gentleman say when work will begin on the foundation of the academy? When does he expect the first students to be enrolled in the academy? Finally, will the Minister table the report of the committee of investigation into the triService academy so that honourable members can assess its merits?
– I see that the honourable member can read the newspapers. Cabinet has not finished the discussion of this matter. When Cabinet has finished its discussion 1 will see what can be said.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Primary Industry. 1 refer to the offer by the Commonwealth to provide $25m to assist in the urgent task of reconstruction of the Australian dairy industry. I ask: Has any further progress been made in negotiations with New South Wales for the early implementation of this longdelayed, increasingly urgent programme of reconstruction? I further ask why New South Wales stands out of this vital scheme, resulting in the financial benefits being denied the industry in that State whilst Western Australia, Queensland and Tasmania are now directly benefiting from this form of special financial assistance.
– As the honourable member for Cowper is well aware legislation has been passed by this Parliament to enable $25m to be provided to the States for the reconstruction of marginal dairy farms. Already, 2 States have signed agreements. Only last week I tabled in this House the agreement with Queensland. Negotiations arc proceeding with Tasmania. That State has agreed to the general proposals and a few minor matters need to be resolved. In South Australia, there is a willingness to agree to the plan and 1 hope that negotiations can be concluded in the very near future.
However, with New South Wales, a vacuum still exists. I have had no contact from New South Wales nor is there any evident willingness on its part to come forward and to negotiate with the Commonwealth. I find this a bit hard to understand particularly when we look at the sorts of terms and conditions which Queensland is making available now to its farmers. In the agreement tabled here last week, money is being provided to farmers who wish to leave the industry or who wish to amalgamate with neighbouring farmers. The term of that loan will be 25 years while the interest rate will be. I believe, 5 per cent, with 2 years non-repayment. I would think that these are pretty attractive terms to farmers around Australia and that many would like to have the advantage of them.
I am hoping that dairy farmers in New South Wales in the near future might be able to have this advantage because it is of concern to see so many dairy farmers leaving the industry in parts of the State when, f believe, these families could be kept in business - they could stay on the land, perhaps not in dairying but in other forms of activity - by getting access to suitable finance which they have great difficulty in getting at the moment.
– On Wednesday last, the Minister for External Affairs, referring to Malaysia’s intentions regarding China’s admission to the United Nations, told the House that Malaysia would abstain from a vote on the actual recognition of Communist China, ls it a fact that Tun Ismael, the Malaysian Minister, stated on the 5th of this month that: ‘Malaysia would if necessary co-sponsor any move to admit China by a simple majority’? Why did he give the House erroneous information? Is it because he feels that the position of the Government on Communist China is so untenable that he must mislead the House in order to make it appear credible-
-Order! The honourable member will not accuse the Minister of misleading the House. I suggest that he-
– I will put it this way: Is it a fact that he is not aware of the position of the Malaysian Government on this matter? If not, why did he give the House misleading and erroneous information?
– At the time when I gave the information, I was advising the House in explicit and accurate terms of the information that had been conveyed to me from Kuala Lampur. The advice then given was that the Malaysians would vote against the important question. In other words, they do not think that the important question should be invoked in this case. Secondly, from Government sources, we have been advised in fact that they would remain neutral’ on the Albanian resolution, which was the very word that I used in the House. So far as I am concerned, that remains the position although I have been informed in recent days that there is a possibility that their attitude may be changed.
– Has the Prime Minister seen the characteristically lucid review by Geoffrey Sawer in Saturday’s ‘Canberra Times’ of a book by Ken Buckley entitled Offensive and Obscene’? In view of the expressed interest of many members of this House in civil liberties, Australian case studies of which are the subject of the book, and in view of the-
-Order! I have had to remind the honourable member for Denison on occasions that he must ask his question. He has the habit of asking a long question and of giving a lot of information. I suggest that he now asks his question.
– 1 had prefaced the second half of my question by one line so far. I will attempt to ask the second part-
-Order! The honourable member will ask his question.
– Will the Prime Minister ensure that the work finds a place in the Parliamentary Library in the cause of knowledge and of balanced judgment in this field?
– I am afraid I have not read the article to which the honourable member refers, but if there is some question in his mind that a book may not be allowed into the Parliamentary Library I think the question of admission to such a library would fall within your purview, Mr Speaker, rather than mine. I will seek to discover what the situation is and if it is your responsibility I will suggest that the honourable member talk to you.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether one of his senior Ministers, a noted batsman, scored only 3 runs yesterday in batting for the Prime Minister’s team against the Press. Will he consider retiring him from wielding the willow before he further disgraces the Prime Minister’s XI?
– I understand that on the occasion to which the honourable member refers the Minister was engaged in a match with the Press, which it is notoriously difficult for a politician to win. I read in the papers, and for the accuracy of this I cannot vouch, that he did in fact score 3 runs on that occasion, but having regard to the great innings which he is playing on behalf of this Government and the political centuries he has scored I would not dream of retiring him.
– I ask the Minister for Shipping and Transport whether the British India Steam Navigation Company is proposing to increase freight rates on general cargo from Australia to Arabian Gulf ports. Have there been any discussions with the shipping company and Australian interests? If so, what are the rate variations proposed and what stage have negotiations reached? Is there any variation in the methods of negotiation in respect of these services and those of the Conference Lines to the United Kingdom and Europe?
– It is true that announcements have been made in the Press and to shippers of an increase for the movement of goods from Australia to Arabian Gulf ports. The increase, of course, relates, as in every other shipping trade, to the very considerable increase in expenses of handling cargoes, paying crews’ wages and providing a service. In these circumstances it has been aggravated by the political instability of the area surrounding the Middle East. The line responsible for this trade has had discussions in Australia with the shippers and the Government. The significant difference between the increase in this trade and increases applied elsewhere in trades out of Australia is that where there is a closed Conference and where discussions have been possible with a shipper body recognised under the Restrictive Trade Practices Act for the purpose of giving shippers an opportunity to participate within the trade, there have been far lower levels of increase than in this trade where there is no such recognised shipper body.
The important thing that people need to recognise is that in the area of Australian shipping services in the closed Conference there is today a mixture of conventional and container vessels. For conventional vessels there are very substantial increases in costs which are related to the industrial factors that I mentioned earlier and to the general circumstances of providing an adequate service with conventional means of handling cargo. Where there is an introduction of new forms of cargo handling, whether by pallets, flats or containers, there is a capacity to reduce substantially the impact of these increased costs, lt is for that reason alone that in the negotiations in the United Kingdom to. Europe Conference it has been possible to contain the level of increase so that the increase in charges in that trade is so much lower than it will be on trade to the Arabian Gulf, lower indeed than the increases imposed in other shipping services provided from similar countries to countries such as New Zealand where there is no Restrictive Trade Practices Act.
– I ask a question of the Minister for Defence. He will recall answering a question the other day on a comment by Brigadier Henderson that life for the Australian troops would be tougher. The Minister said that certain qualitative changes were” taking place in the work of the Australian Task Force. I ask him: Is it not a fact that the Brigadier was unaware of these qualitative changes when he made this statement? If he was not unaware of the changes why did he make the statement? Is it also a fact that the Brigadier and other officers believe that there may be an increase at any moment in the pressure faced by the Task Force and that there is risk involved in withdrawal of troops without replacement.
– I suppose one should expect the honourable member for Lalor to try to draw an officer of the Australian Regular Army into a political discussion and dispute in this Parliament. But [ am not going to assist him in that endeavour. We have taken our decisions in relation to the Task Force after the fullest possible advice from the Chiefs of Staff and the Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff who quite obviously have been fully informed at all times of the situation in Vietnam, of the danger and threat in Phuoc Tuy Province, and of the overall situation. We have taken our decisions on military advice. I say quite categorically and without any qualification of any kind that I do not believe any government, and certainly this Government, would take decisions that would place servicemen in a theatre of war, in the opinion of the military advisers, at undue risk. Quite obviously there is a risk and the technical term that has been used is ‘not at undue risk’. This was the basis of a specific question asked of our military advisers. While this does not answer the specific question with relation to the Brigadier, it does give a complete explanation of the general situation. It should also bc noted that the commander of our total forces in Vietnam is not Brigadier Henderson. He is merely in charge of the Task Force. General Fraser - no relation of mine - is in charge of all our forces in Vietnam.
– My question is directed to the Attorney-General. In view of the utterly reprehensible actions pursued by the separatist terrorist movement in Canada and the measures taken by the Canadian Prime Minister to deal with the situation I ask the Attorney-General: Do similar powers exist in Australia and in what circumstances could they be invoked.
– I preface my answer by agreeing entirely with the description that the honourable member has given of the activities of the separatist movement in Quebec Province. Australian constitutional arrangements are somewhat different from those of Canada. In Canada the national parliament has plenary power with respect to the criminal law-
– On a point of order. Is not the honourable member seeking a legal opinion? You, Sir, have often ruled such questions to be out of order.
– No, it is not a question asking for a legal opinion.
– In Canada the national Parliament has, as 1 understand the position, plenary power with respect to the criminal law and, I think I am right in saying, civil liberties generally. The legislation which has been invoked in a most timely fashion by the Prime Minister of Canada is very different from the sort of legislation that could be enacted in this country under the defence power. Broadly speaking I would say the powers invoked in Canada are powers, in the main, that in this country could be invoked only under State legislation.
– The Minister for Primary Industry will be aware that on a number of occasions in this House I have made representations to him about the parlous position of the Tasmanian apple and pear industry. I ask the Minister again: ls he in a position to tell me whether Cabinet has approved the suggested stabilisation scheme for Tasmania? If approval has been given, when will an announcement be made? If the scheme has not been approved can the growers look forward to receiving devaluation payments on the same basis as last season until an acceptable scheme for the industry has been approved?
– The Government cannot announce any apple and pear stabilisation programme until it has satisfactorily concluded negotiations with the industry. As the honourable member knows, officers of my Department have been in consultation with the Australian Apple and Pear Board for a considerable time trying to work out a practical stabilisation scheme. I am pleased to be able to say that a plan has been presented to me by officers of my Department which they believe will be the basis of a satisfactory scheme. I have arranged with members of the Australian Apple and Pear Board to be in Canberra this coming Thursday when I hope to commence negotiations on this scheme. Much will depend on the results of those negotiations and my report back to Cabin st. I have no other comment to make but I hope that very soon a plan will be presented to the industry under which it can operate for the next 5 years.
– 1 address a question to the Minister for External Affairs. Were Cambodian students recently in Australia as a group given help under the aegis of the Department of External Affairs? Is the President of the Cambodian Senate about to lead a similar delegation to Australia? Will the Minister do all possible to ensure that the plight of the Cambodian people as suggested by these 2 groups is given as much public mass media display as possible - I think rather in contradistinction to what happened when the first group was here?
– I am sure that not only myself but my Department gave all the assistance that was practicable to the group of young people who came out of Cambodia to try to explain the plight of the Cambodians and the fact that this was a blatant and naked assault by the North Vietnamese and the Vietcong against the Khmer people. The honourable gentleman who asked me a question earlier today was one of the first to admit that he did have the wool pulled from off his eyes, but apparently he did not have it pulled far enough so far as the implications were concerned when he referred to Communist China. As to the second part of the honourable gentleman’s question relating to the parliamentary group now visiting Australia, I hope that the media will recognise that this is a group of people who reflect the true views of the Cambodian people. As far as we can ascertain, the people in the towns - the intellectuals, university students and everyone whose opinion can be ascertained - all support the present Government of Cambodia. That being so we would like the voice of the people reflected in the Australian Press. I am sure that if these people are listened to and if proper publicity is given to their views other members of the community will come to realise that this is aggression in Cambodia and that we, in Australia, must do all we can not only to see that Cambodia remains free but that it is able to assert its right to neutrality.
– My question which is addressed to the Attorney-General concerns last week’s meeting of the Standing
Committee of Commonwealth and State Attorneys-General. Despite the honourable gentleman’s answers earlier this session on action under the Trade Practices Act against price agreements, and despite the evident uselessness of the Act in controlling overseas shipping companies, as admitted by the Minister for Trade and Industry, and overseas insurance companies, there seems to be one ray of hope in the announcement by the new Attorney-General of South Australia that the reinstated Dunstan Government intends again to introduce complementary legislation. I ask him therefore whether at last week’s meeting of the Attorneys-General he cast aside his well-known diffidence and suggested to the Liberal Attorneys-General in the mainland States that they might now give fresh consideration to such legislation and at last co-operate with him on it even if they would not with his 2 predecessors. Incidentally, can he confirm the speculation that it is the concrete pipes industry which replaced its vulnerable national price agreement with a series of price agreements, each operating within a particular State?
– I shall deal with the last part of the honourable gentleman’s question first. There has been speculation about the industry concerned in this matter to which the honourable gentleman referred. May I say that I do not propose even now for the time being to reveal the identity of the industry concerned. I can say that I have taken the opinion of counsel upon the problems which concern me in relation to the industry, which I do not name. As a result of taking counsel’s advice, I have caused - indeed, I gave instructions while 1 was in Perth - for further investigations to be made. I hope that those investigations will soon be completed. They are, I understand, taking place today or, if not today, will take place tomorrow, because I have asked that the matter be treated as a matter of some urgency, lt will not be until the investigations that I have directed to be made have been completed that I shall make up my mind whether a prosecution should take place. 1 think therefore it would not be appropriate for me to indicate on the floor of the House what the industry is, even though there has been some speculation which may or may not be correct.
Coming to the first part of the honourable gentleman’s question, which was on a rather different subject matter, 1 can say that the suggestion that the States refer power to the Commonwealth was not on the agenda for the meeting which I attended in Perth last week. The Attorney-General of South Australia and I had a warm conversation - warm in the sense that it was friendly - because I was very pleased by his announcement that the Government of South Australia proposed to legislate to refer power to the Commonwealth. I had an informal discussion with at least one other of my colleagues. Without wishing to sound any note of final doom, I think I should be realistic enough to appreciate that where the charm of my 2 predecessors in office failed to produce the result that might be desired 1 doubt whether perhaps I can do any better. But I do not give up hope, and I can assure the honourable gentleman that the problem has not been forgotten by me.
– My question is addressed to the Prime Minister. He may recall that on his first day as Prime Minister in this House I drew his attention to the ever-widening gap in our economy between primary industry and secondary industry. He may remember that 1 suggested that certain tariffs be reduced or that price support to the Australian price level be given to Australian primary products exported. Has he given any further consideration to these important suggestions?
– I find myself a little surprised at that question. I do not recall precisely what it was that the honourable member said to me on my first day in this House. I hope he will forgive me for that. But I find myself a little surprised by the question because I would think that it was well known, not only thought, that very many actions have been taken to try to prevent the widening gap between primary and secondary industry of which the honourable member has spoken, actions designed to assist those engaged in primary industry for which, I think, this Government can well take a lot of credit.
-I desire to address a ques tion to the Treasurer. Has there been a reduction in the rate of flow of income tax refunds in respect of current income tax returns in the 3 months to the end of September 1970 as against the same 3 months of 1969? If so, what are the reasons for the reduced rate of flow?
– What the honourable member has just said is in fact true. There has been a considerable delay in the making of refunds this year. A number of factors are at work, the overwhelming one being, of course, industrial trouble which has delayed work in the Department. There are some other factors which have played a smaller part. The first is that the returns have, on the whole, been lodged at rather a slower rate this financial year than they were in the previous financial year. There has also been less overtime worked because last year a special effort was made to do the work quickly, which involved very heavy overtime costs. It was decided this year to keep the costs down. However, since the industrial trouble has finished considerable efforts have been made to speed up the forwarding of refunds and within a few weeks we expect to be back to proportionately the same position as we were in at that time last year. It is estimated that by the end of November 90 per cent of the refunds will have gone out.
– Pursuant to section 33 of the Australian Capital Territory Electricity Supply Act 1962-1966, I present the Seventh Annual Report of the Australian Capital Territory Electricity Authority tor the year ended 30th June 1970, together with financial statements and the report of the Auditor-General on those statements.
– In accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1969, I present the report relating to the following proposed work:
Commonwealth Offices - Stage 1 at Hobart, Tasmania.
Ordered that the report be printed.
– I have received a letter from the honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron) proposing that a definite matter of public importance be submitted to the House for discussion, namely:
The repeated pronouncements by the Prime Minister, the Treasurer and the Minister for Labour and National Service which are calculated to embarrass, compromise and prejudice the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission in the discharge of its constitutional and statutory functions and its hearing of pending matters such as the oil industry and national wage cases initiated and conducted by the Australian Council of Trade Unions.
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)
– There should be no necessity for an ‘urgency’ debate on this matter. But the Opposition is not prepared to remain silent and idle in the face of the repeated pronouncements by the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) and other Ministers which are clearly calculated to embarrass, compromise and prejudice the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission in the discharge of its constitutional and statutory functions. The Government is attempting to use the Commission as an instrument for implementing its own discredited economic policies in the belief that it can thus transfer the public’s odium to a body that is unanswerable to the electorate. When the Prime Minister told the 1 970 convention of the New South Wales Division of the Liberal Party that the Commission would cause damage to the Government’s economic policies if it increased wages, he was merely confirming a view held by most observers that the Government has come to treat the Commission as a de facto part of its economic machinery, and therefore obliged to put government policy into effect. The fact that the Commission has appeared willing to accept this role is to be regretted by all who want the system to succeed.
The Prime Minister went even further in his now notorious after dinner speech to the Chamber of Manufactures in August of this year, for on that occasion he told a gathering which actually included the President of the Commission, Sir Richard Kirby, that it would be disastrous for Australia if a profitable company could be called on to pay more than industry generally. That statement was telling the Commission to reject the submissions of the Australian Council of Trade Unions in the then pending oil industry wage case. As a matter of fact, the Commission did reject the ACTU submissions and there will always remain the suspicion that it was influenced by the publicly reported text of the Prime Minister’s speech. I cannot prove that the Commission rejected the ACTU’s oil industry case on account of the Prime Minister’s warning. What I do say - I speak for the whole of my Party on this point - is that the Commission must always be seen to be independent of outside influence if it is to enjoy the full confidence of those who appear before it. There must be no reason to suspect that the Commission is the political creature of the Government. All parties appearing before the Commission must be satisfied that its decisions are based upon the submissions, arguments and evidence presented by the parties during the hearing and not merely upon the after dinner speeches of the Prime Minister. 1 am in good company when J express these sentiments because the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr Snedden) in a talk to the Committee for Economic Development of Australia on 8th of this month said:
The Commission, whether at the level of Presidential or lay members, is expected to reach decisions based on the submissions, arguments and evidence presented by the parties and interveners, and should not be influenced by backroom economists oi other expert advisers whose views are not subject to the normal processes of crossexamination and public scrutiny.
That was a fully justified rebuke to the Prime Minister for his unexaminable vapourings on what questions should be considered by the Commission. At the same time, it was a denunciation of the Treasurer (Mr Bury) and his predecessor, the Minister for External Affairs (Mr McMahon) as well as of the speaker himself, because like them, he too has offended all the common decencies of political behaviour in relation to the Com mission. In the very same speech to which I have just referred the Minister tried to outrank the Prime Minister in his efforts to coerce the Commission into an acceptance of the Government’s economic policies. He said:
There cannot be any substitute for the Commission accepting responsibility for the economic consequences of its decisions.
I dare say that will be his argument today. When I condemn the Minister for that statement I am, oddly enough, still in his own company, because without leaving his CEDA speech, I find him saying:
With that portion of the Minister’s speech the Opposition finds itself in complete accord. Yet, today he will no doubt argue that it is the responsibility of the Commission. However, for a prime example of double-talk, the Minister’s CEDA speech must surely take the prize. That speech contained at least 3 conflicting propositions. However, it took the Minister only 10 days to ignore that proposition in which he condemned people who sought lo influence the Commission with unexaminable public statements because in an afterluncheon speech in Sydney on 18th of this month the Minister again followed the Prime Minister’s poor example by publicly informing the Commission that when it deals with national wage cases it should consider only movements in productivity, lie went on to produce some rather dubious statistics to support his case. For example, he said that over the past 5 years average money earnings had increased by about 6.5 per cent a year, that prices had increased by only 3 per cent a year and that national productivity had increased by a mere 2.5 per cent a year. And then, in what cannot be regarded as anything but a veiled threat to the Commission, he warned that if this continued, it would be quite unacceptable to the Government. The Minister said:
The solution must be found in rational wage policies and I. believe the Commission cannot disregard the economic consequences of its decisions.
If the Minister wants to quote figures designed to have a bearing on this year’s national wage case, why does he not observe his own strictures against backroom economists by making his statements inside the Commission so that the President of the ACTU, Mr Bob Hawke, can crossexamine him? Mr Hawke would probably want the Minister to reconcile the 1968 statement of the then Treasurer, that the gross national product in 1967 had increased by 5.7 per cent, with his own estimates of only 2.5 per cent. Mr Hawke would be interested to hear the Minister disprove the 8 per cent increase in non-farm productivity which has been forecast for 1969-70 by the Institute of Applied Economics and Social Research. And, since the Minister confesses to the fact that his Government has not yet bothered to set up machinery for measuring and recording movements in productivity, Mr Hawke might also like the Minister to explain how the Commission could, in fact, establish an accurate wageproductivity relationship without the benefit of reliable productivity statistics.
Mr Hawke may, perhaps, be interested to test the Minister’s assertion that money earnings have increased by 6i per cent a year against Kenneth Davidson’s assessment that real wages in 1965 increased by only 1.6 per cent, by 2.3 per cent the following year, and by a mere 0.8 per cent in 1966-67. The Minister would, I believe, become a rather embarrassed witness trying to prove that prices have risen by only ?< per cent a year. Surely no-one will doubt that the Minister’s recital of those controversial figures was deliberately designed to prejudice the ACTU’s national wage case. How can anyone blame Mr Hawke for complaining that ‘this is yet another example of the contempt which the Government has for the Arbitration Commission’? Is it any wonder that the reputation of the Commission is falling with each case it handles.
There has never been a more blatant breach of the law than these attempts by the Prime Minister and his Ministers improperly to influence the outcome of a case that will affect the wellbeing of some 4 million wage and salary earners. The constitutional function and authority of the Commission flows directly from section 51 of the Constitution. Under that section the Commission is obliged to confine itself to conciliation and arbitration for the settlement of industrial disputes. That must always be the primary aim of the Commission. It is for the Government to take such political steps as are necessary to adjust its economic policies to harmonise with the wage policies deemed to be desirable for the wellbeing of the Australian people by the Commission. The Government has the right, if not the duty, to make considered submissions to the Commission during the hearing of national cases; but it should be done in a way that permits a public testing of the validity of its evidence, argument and submissions.
In the 1960 hearing, counsel appearing for the Commonwealth categorically argued that no wage increase should be granted; and many commentators believe that it was those submissions which led to the near defeat of the Government in the 1961 elections. Since then, the Government has refrained from making positive submissions about wage increases. In 1966, for example, Mr John Kerr, Q.C., as he then was, told the Commission that the Government favoured a ‘moderate increase’, argued against a ‘large increase’, but declined to say what was meant by a moderate wage increase’. Mr Justice Wright described the Commonwealth’s case as ‘meaningless’.
The Government now expects the Commission to take into account all aspects of current government economic policy and to fix wages in a way that will minimise the need for politically unacceptable adjustments to the Government’s irresponsible attitude to social and economic problems. I have already accused Ministers of the Crown of having acted in breach of the law, as well as in breach of political refinement. Let me now deal with the first of these charges. Although the Commission is not a court, it is nonetheless protected from those who seek improperly to influence its decisions. Section 182 of the Act provides for a penalty of $200, or imprisonment for 12 months, or both, for any person, who by writing or making a speech uses words calculated to influence improperly a member of the Commission or to bring the Commission into disrepute.
No one can deny that the Minister and his Prime Minister have used words calculated to influence improperly the members of the Commission, and no one can deny that these Ministers have brought the Commission into disrepute. On the occasion that certain building employees sent telegrams seeking to influence the deputy Public Service Arbitrator last
October, the Arbitrator warned that anybody who tried to influence him improperly could be fined $200, or imprisoned for 12 months, or both. The Arbitra or continued:
It is quite improper for a group of employees to approach the tribunal because it leaves open the suggestion that pressure is being exerted on me.
It is equally improper for a Minister to do so. is it any wonder, therefore, that the President of the ACTU should contrast the Prime Minister’s law and order campaign with his own breach of the law in attempting to influence the Commission by such improper conduct. Even the Melbourne Age’ has condemned the Prime Minister and his Ministers for their interference with the Commission. In its editorial of 22nd September 1970, the ‘Age’ had this to say:
The Commission’s standing in the eyes of combatants and the community is likely to suffer if Mr Gorton and his Ministers use outside forums to make speeches which might be interpreted as attempts to influence deliberations.
Referring to the Prime Minister’s afterdinner lecture to the President of the Commission on the oil industry case, the editorial in the ‘Australian’ of 7th August 1970 said this:
In the circumstances, it was an incredibly inappropriate piece of rhetoric which can only damage the arbitration system no matter what it decides next week. If the decision favours the status quo it will inevitably encourage a suspicion that the Commission bowed to political direction.
Well, the Commission did favour the status quo established in the 1966 General Motors case, that profitability of an industry was not a ground for higher wages. And it is inevitable that there will be widely held suspicions that the Commission was, in fact, influenced by what Ministers of the Crown had said outside the Commission. The same thing happened in the equal pay case. It happened again in the annual leave case, and most people now believe it will happen in tomorrow’s national wage case. The Government constantly talks about law and order and about public interest. Its Ministers treat the first with utter contempt when it suits them and they refuse to define, much less show any regard for, the second. Bob Hawke correctly summed up the Government’s scant regard for the public interest when he told the Industrial Relations Society that the Government was adopting a brothel-type approach* to the public interest on arbitration, lt embraces the public interest’, declared Mr Hawke, but has no lasting affection for it’.
In conclusion, I want to say this: Unless the Commission is permitted to fulfil the role given to it by the Constitution, with an apparent as well as actual, impartiality, 1 am afraid it is destined to just melt away, to be remembered by historians as a dream that might have become a reality but for a Prime Minister’s prostitution of his political power.
– The way in which the honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron) finished his speech is indicative of the attitude of the Opposition to the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, lt does not escape anybody’s notice that the oil industry decision was given last Friday and that the national wage case is to commence tomorrow. One might wonder about the timing of this discussion of a matter of public importance. What was it that led it to be brought on today rather than last week or 2, 3 or 4 weeks ago? The answer to that is to be found in a curious attitude which the Opposition has to the Arbitration Commission. But it is not its own attitude, born out of its own examination. It is an attitude which has been forced upon it by the trade union movement and particularly by the powerful trade union muscle men who want to see the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission destroyed.
All that can really be said for the terms of this proposal to discuss a matter of public importance is that the language is colourful. Coming from the source it has, one would expect colourful language calculated to embarrass, compromise and prejudice the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. What could be more calculated to do one of those 3 things than to elevate this matter into the political arena on the eve of the most important wage case of the year, the national wage case? Coming from the Australian Labor Party, it is quite laughable that it should pretend to be supporting the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission and the maintenance of that independent body acting judicially. The ALP has as its policy not the preservation of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. Quite the contrary. The policy of the ALP is to achieve wages and conditions by legislative or executive action.
One will find in its policy a claim that there should be a 35-hour week, then a 30 hour week. One will find members of the Australian Labor Party, in debates in this House, asking the Government to force the Public Service Arbitrator or the Public Service Board to award specific conditions or specific wage rates. The Opposition uses this forum of politics to insist upon it. Then it comes here with what it says is a matter of public importance, to argue for the protection of the independent statutory body that has the same character as is possessed by the Public Service Board and by the Public Service Arbitrator. The Australian Labor Party wants to adjust wages and conditions by legislative and executive action and not by the independent tribunal. The Opposition does not have as its policy to protect it or preserve that tribunal. The Australian Labor Party policy is destructive of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission and of the whole system. its policy is conducive to industrial anarchy, it is harmful to the majority of workers, and it is reckless of the inflationary effects of its policies on the community and the workers. It is conducive to industrial anarchy because it recognises the strength of union leaders in positions of power and authority in those areas where the withdrawal of goods and services from the community or industry would be extreme for those persons. That is what I mean by industrial power. What I mean by industrial muscle men are the union leadern possessed of that power. When they use it it creates industrial anarchy. The ALP policy is harmful to the majority of workers because 85 per cent of the workers in this country depend for the maintenance of their minimum wages and conditions on arbitrated awards. That is why it is harmful to the majority of workers. It is reckless of inflationary impact because it is inflationary of the wage drift that has been encouraged by the making of demands, accompanied by threats, rather than going to the Commission to attempt to better the position. It is inflationary, and inflation is destructive to the community and to the workers who do not have that industrial power. It is harmful to workers because the major vice of inflation is its redistribution of assets and real wages without the persons who formerly possessed assets or real wages being able to fight against the movement of the inflation which that brings.
The ALP is both opportunistic and submissive to the power of union officers of whatever Party. It is opportunistic because it wants to attract the support of people with voting power in the ALP organisation and in the unions. That is why it is opportunistic and that is the major reason why this matter of public importance was raised in this House today, opportunistically. The ALP is submissive because it allows itself to be dominated by trade unions on whom it relies for support.
The unpredictability of this matter of public importance can be judged by the actions and words of the man quoted so often by the honourable member for Hindmarsh in his speech, that is Mr Hawke, the President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions. The unpredictability of it all is shown by the fact that Mr Hawke has described the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission as a rubber stamp. Yet, it was he who took the oil industry to the Commission. It is he who is taking the national wage case to the Commission tomorrow. Yet, he calls it a rubber stamp; he describes it in these terms. After the decision in the last national wage case, Mr Hawke said:
This Executive -
That is the Interstate Executive of the ACTU: . . utterly condemns the inconsistent and dishonest reasoning of this decision.
This is the appellation that Mr Hawke gave to the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. What sort of crocodile tears are cried when on one occasion the Commission is described in that way and then the Labor Opposition says in this House today that the Commission must be protected? Let us not forget that: the honourable member for Hindmarsh has been just as unrestrained in his condemnation of the Commission.
The Opposition attacks the Commission, lt attacks it in those terras. But then it must pretend to support the Commission because it knows that 85 per cent of the workers depend for their minimum wages and conditions and the protection of them on the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. It knows full well that the wage drift goes to the powerful unions and that 85 per cent of the community - the clerks, the carpet layers, the architrave builders and these sorts of people - do not have industrial power. In our egalitarian society, where we judge that a man’s skill ought to be rewarded by the possession of skill, his willingness to work and the way in which he works, we believe that wages should be determined by relative wage justice and not by the possession of industrial power. Without the Commission the worker would not have that benefit. The major capacity in a money sense as distinct from a real sense would be distributed among the powerful unions. So we would have new strata - the strata of those with high wages and therefore higher living standards would be those working in the industrial power area. These would be the people responsible for the provision of electricity, transport or services on the waterfront. The other people - the remaining 85 per cent of the work force - would not enjoy the benefit of the living standard of those people working in the industrial power area. That is the importance of the Commission. Honourable gentlemen sitting on the Opposition side of the House know it well and would never dare say that the Commission should be struck down or that the system should be abandoned because they would not be able to face those on whom they rely to be returned here. But, periodically, we will find that the powerful trade union leader wants to strike the Commission down. People on the other side of the House, influenced by the power of trade union leaders, must support them. Periodically, Opposition members run for cover and put up for discussion a matter of public importance of this kind at this time with this timing.It does not impress anybody; least of all would it impress those people who know the poli’ical reasoning which lies behind this procedure.
The Opposition is bound by dominant union leaders. They have the industrial muscle. They want to rob the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission of its standing. They want increases outside the system by the means of a demand with a threat which, these days, is called direct negotiation. But do not look for the term direct negotiation’ in the dictionary and apply its meaning there to the industrial situation. The dominant union leaders want to go outside that. The method that they adopt is first to rob the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission of its probity. If it is robbed of its probity, it is reasonable for the union leaders to say: ‘We will go direct’. While the Commission has probity, people are able to say: ‘Do not pursue your wage claims by threat accompanying a demand. Go to the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission to have it arbitrated’.
An old saying is: Those whom the Gods want to destroy they first send mad’. What has been happening in this industrial field is that that which the powerful union leaders want to destroy - that is, the Commission - they first rob of its probity. That is why they use terms like ‘rubber stamp’, dishonesty’ and that is why they attack individual members of the Commission. In office, the Australian Labor Party would erode the Commission to the benefit of the musclemen and the powerful unions and to the disadvantage of 85 per cent of the workers. The inflation which this action would unleash would redistribute assets of people no longer working and whose assets depend on their past work. Tt would disadvantage the wage earner who does not possess the power. In a wage drift, there can be no real wage increase beyond the underlying growth in productivity capacity. That is what I believe and have constantly said and reiterate now, and that I believe is something that I have a responsibility and duty to the public to say continually for if this is accepted, we can have in this countrv the sort of development that we so ardently want and that it is the policy of this Government to achieve and that it is its duty to achieve.
The honourablegentleman quoted at length from an address that T gave to the Committee for Economic Development in Australia. He quoted quite a number of points but never in context. I therefore ask for leave, Mr Speaker, to incorporate the address in Hansard.
– Why do you want it incorporated?
– Is leave granted?
– No! Leave would not be granted because then people could read the context of what I said. The honourable gentleman does not want that to happen at all.
National wage cases have far reaching effects over a broad range of subjects - the economy, rural and export industries, inflationary pressures, costs and prices - and the public interest must be represented in these cases. All Ministers in their own responsibilities have a duty to tell the public their attitudes to these things. It is their responsibility to comment publicly and that is what they do. This sort of attack will not frighten any Minister. It will not frighten him into silence and it will not frighten him into denying his responsibility. He must talk. He must comment. It is unavoidable that a comment must bear some relationship to some case pending or in prospect. The alternative is silence. No Minister will accept that, especially when honourable gentlemen on the other side of the House, trade union leaders and employer’s representatives can say what they want to say from their own points of view. Government Ministers must present the public interest and must make their comments relevant to the public interest. They must do so.
The Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission is an independent body. Ministers confirm it explicitly. The Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) in the speech referred to by the honourable gentleman explicitly confirmed - that confirmation is unnecessary - the statutory independence of that body. Very frequently, whenever it is appropriate, I confirm it. Implicitly, we all confirm it by knowing that we can speak to the public as a comment without our comments influencing the Commission, for the Commission has frequently said that it will take notice of what the Government says only when the Government puts a submission while intervening in the public interest in open court for its examination. Then, it will have the same degree of influence that all other arguments tested and examined will have when presented to the Commission.
This matter of public importance is calculated to bring an independent body - a judicial acting independent body - into the political forum. I think that it is a miscalculated attempt on the part of the Opposition. That independence will be maintained. I am quite sure that the members of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission will assure it.
– There is an old saying that when one has a weak case one spends one’s time abusing one’s opponents. The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr Snedden) did just that. He did not answer the charges levelled at him by the honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron). It is a fact that, in recent months, we have witnessed Ministers of the Crown, headed by the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton), blatantly using their positions to influence the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission in the interests of the employers. The honourable member for Hindmarsh has already drawn attention to the Prime Minister’s statement as guest of honour at the annual dinner of the Chamber of Manufactures when he tried to influence the decision in the oil industry case which was delivered only yesterday or the day before. A report in the ‘Daily Telegraph’ of 6th August 1970 read:
A packed dining room clapped Mr Gortons statement that a profitable industry should not be called on to pay more in wages than industry generally.
It was a picked audience, packed with members of the Chamber of Manufactures. No wonder it clapped. This is not something new. Incidents of this nature have been happening for some years. The former Treasurer at the annual dinner of the Metal Trades Employers Federation used the occasion to dictate to the President of the Commission, who was also a guest, what the attitude of the Commission should be in regard to the applications of the unions for increased wages in the 1967 work value judgment. So blatant were these attempts to influence the Commission that the President stated:
Outside attempts to influence it are foolish, stupid and futile. They serve only to distract the Commission from the job in hand.
However, the Ministers ignore this soft rebuke. The present Treasurer (Mr Bury) is one of the worst offenders. His prejudice against the workers is clearly apparent. When he was Minister for Labour and National Service he was guilty of making the most vicious attack on members of the Commission when it awarded increased margins to the metal trades unions in December 1967. He supported the employers in their claim that over-award payments should be absorbed into the margins. His view is that the minimum rale should be the maximum. He fired another barb later when he said it was not the job of the Commission to dream up economic theories or seek to determine the Government’s economic policy. On 27th December 1967 Mr Justice Gallagher and Commissioner Winter in a joint statement from the Bench rebuked the present Treasurer for his attack upon the Commission’s decision in granting pay rises in the 1967 metal trades case. They said:
We will not be influenced or intimidated by any parly, including Ministers. All extraneous utterances, whatever their source or nature, will be ignored.
On 19th October 1970 the Minister for Labour and National Service warned against too high an increase in the national wage case. He said:
I believe that the Commission cannot disregard the economic consequences of its decision.
He referred to decisions of the Commission as having a significant impact on costs and prices. All these incidents, of course, show undue influence. They all show that Ministers of the Crown are exerting undue influence upon the Commission. The Commission has stepped into the economic field because the Government has failed miserably to live up to its responsibilities regarding the economy. The Government has failed to take action to control prices. It has allowed inflation to run riot, lt has ignored the report of the Committee of Economic Enquiry, commonly known as the Vernon committee. It has failed to act on the recommendations of the Joint Committee on Constitutional Review which advocated a widening of the economic powers of the Commonwealth. The Government in fact has sidestepped its responsibilities with regard to the economy and the Arbitration Commission, rightly or wrongly, has been trying to fill this gap.
How one-sided it all is. The Government believes the price of labour should be controlled and all the force of the legal machinery is used for that purpose. On the other hand employers and the Government refuse to exert any control over prices. The important point is that wage increases of themselves do not and cannot increase prices. Prices rise only when the employers and the commercial interests, including government undertakings, make firm decisions to increase prices without any restriction and without having to justify such increases. Decisions are arrived at without any evidence in the privacy of the board room. No question arises of the public interest being represented. Management does not have to justify in any way by argument or evidence before a public tribunal its decisions to increase the price of what it has to sell. Management: decisions are based on the fundamental rule that if costs increase, prices, which in the simplest terms determine employers’ income, must be allowed to rise by at least as much as is required to cover increases in costs. But this right is denied the unions. Until I9S3 automatic adjustments of the basic wage protected the worker against an increase in prices. This protection was abolished by the court at the request of the employers, supported by this Government. The unions have to prove their claim for an increase but when an increase is granted the employers and management use this as a means again to raise the price of the products and increase their profits. Colossal profits continue to be made and these profits all come from the same source - the national income.
While wage and salary earners have to prove their claims other persons take huge sums by way of profits and interest charges from the national income without having to justify their actions to anyone. In its 1964 judgment the Arbitration Commission emphasised that there was no control over incomes other than those covered by awards. The Commission said there was no authoritative control of prices while there was a tight control of wages. On page 66 of his reasons for judgment, Mr Justice Moore pointed out that the previous statement of the Commission that ‘increases in prices are determined by those who fix prices’ is a truth that cannot be emphasised enough.
By its failure to take action to control prices this Government has allowed inflation to run riot. It has failed miserably to live up to its responsibility to control the economy. Now it wants the workers to carry the whole burden. The Prime Minister said at the annual dinner of the Chamber of Manufactures that if Australia was to achieve the destiny within its reach there was a heavy responsibility on the Government, trade union leaders and the Arbitration Court. There was no mention of any responsibility on the employers - the manufacturers whom he was addressing. No wonder they clapped, being left free to go their own sweet way to increase prices and make huge profits. On page 3 of his talk entitled ‘Problems of Economic Theory and Industrial Administration’ the Treasurer stated:
The Government must be regarded as nol simply a law-making and administrative authority, but also as an employer in its own right.
He went on:
Employers in the private sector have to recognise the Government, as an employer, must recognise the interests of other employers, whether private or public.
The Treasurer did not have to spell out something that was so obvious. If the Government’s repeated submissions before the Commission were without prejudice no exception could be taken. If ever a government has shown its prejudice against the workers this Government has done so in its frequent intervention in wages hearings. Through its counsel it has repeatedly supported the submissions of the employers. The Australian Council of Trade Unions has registered its strong objection to the partisan submissions of this Government directed to denying workers justifiable increases in wages. Counsel for the Government asserts that he is appearing in the public interest whereas in fact he supports the claims of the employers. The Government has succeeded in shifting the responsibility for economic control and unpopular measures from itself to the Commission. Then it blames the Commission if it gives wage increases to catch up with increased prices.
I referred earlier to the Commission’s setting down minimum wages and to the fact that the Treasurer wanted the minimum to become the maximum. After the minimum has been established we come to what has been referred to by the President of the Commission as the ‘collective bargaining area’. He mentions this on page 18 and 19 of his Tenth Annual Report - I have not time to quote it at length - in which he said:
It has long been obvious that arbitration for minimum payments and bargaining for over-award payments must co-exist in this community.
He says more about this subject in another section. In many cases both sides accept the decision of the Commission as being a minimum payment and then proceed to bargain for some amount over and above that which the award provides. This has been accepted by the Commission as being quite legitimate. If this collective bargaining area did not exist it would sound the death knell of the arbitration system as we, know it. This does not suit .he Government; hence these attacks on the Commission and on over-award payments. Ona would think the workers were living in the lap of luxury. In order for a family to have a reasonable standard of living nowadays, the husband has to have either 2 jobs or work a considerable amount of overtime, in addition to which his wife has to work. This is the only way in which a family can get a reasonable income in these times. At one time it was regarded as wrong for a wife to work but these days she has to in order to maintain the home.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– The honourable member for Stirling (Mr Webb) made one or two remarks on which I must comment. He said that this Government had taken no action in relation to price control and the fixing of prices of goods. I would have thought that the honourable member had been in this House long enough to have read the Commonwealth Constitution which, of course, illustrates quite clearly that this Government has no power whatsoever - except under the Defence Act - to fix prices. It is therefore quite wrong to say that this Government has not taken any action relating to the control of prices; under our Constitution it has no power to do so. Another statement made by the honourable member was that wages have nothing at all to do with prices. This is a remarkable statement which is made on various occasions. What he said, in effect, is that increases in wages are not a cause of increases in prices and costs. I refer the honourable member, by way of illustration, to the Postmaster-General’s Department which has in its employ about 100,000 people. Would the honourable member suggest that if the wages and salaries of those people in that Department were increased this would have no effect whatsoever upon the costs of that Department? The cost obviously runs into millions every time there is an increase in wages. This to me is elementary but the honourable member for Stirling said that wage increases have no effect oh prices. I have given this illustration relating to costs and prices within the Postmaster-General’s Department, with which we in this Parliament deal and are concerned. I am not saying that there are no grounds for those increases. I am simply arguing that wages do have an effect on prices.
Reading the text of the matter proposed for discussion one would imagine that unions or leaders in industry do not at any time make reference to matters relating to wages and salaries or conditions of employment which would come within the orbit of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. Reference is made to these matters from time to time by all sorts of people throughout Australia both within responsible circles and. otherwise. This matter has been introduced into this Parliament by the Australian Labor Party. It has not been introduced by the Government, lt is a matter which is raised by many people. It is a subject which involves the various effects of wage increases, rising prices and decisions of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission from time to time. When the hearing of the national wage case was taking place in 1969 the unions demonstrated outside the court in support of the submissions of the Australian Council of Trade Unions. Mr Hawke addressed the demonstrators as to the terms of the Council’s submissions. This was at a time when the court was addressing itself to this issue.
This matter is raised in all parts of Australia on various occasions. At times Ministers make responsible statements in relation to this subject. As I have said previously in this House it is a very important matter. The attacks on the Commission which have from time to time been made by various bodies have been very ill advised. The Conciliation and Arbitration Commission system in this country has stood the test of time. The system may not be perfect, but what is perfect in this world? It is machinery which can handle situations involving not only the larger unions, as the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr Snedden) has said, but also the smaller unions and the individual bodies in this country which need some voice within the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. The honourable member for Sturt (Mr Foster) thinks that this is very funny. I think it is a pretty serious matter and it is important for these people to have a voice within our Arbitration system, which is independent and can make decisions on behalf of large unions and the small unions alike. If this machinery were ever destroyed in Australia - and God forbid that this should happen - a lot of the small unions in Australia would be very seriously affected. They would not have the power to go to the employers and fight for their causes. The latest figures which I have show that last year the Commission raised the average wages and salaries about 3 per cent in Australia. I think that the actual average is about 9 per cent. The Commonwealth Bank of Australia in its annual report which came out quite recently placed the actual average at about 94 per cent. The bargaining that is taking place in Australia is obviously having an extreme effect upon the whole of the Australian community.
I feel obliged to say that it is important to all concerned that the Commission should have available to it all the evidence before it comes to a decision. Not only is it important to have the evidence of the unions and the employees but it is also essential to have the evidence of the employers because the decision travels down the line and will affect many people. There is no need to mention how much it affects people on fixed incomes. In relation to the position in the export industries field, particularly the primary industries, my mind goes back nearly 20 years to a case which was before the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. One union applied to the court to have a prosperity loading put on the wool industry because wool was then £1 per lb. Is there any voice at the moment from the union for this to be reduced because wool is now 20c per lb? I would hope to hear it but I have not heard it as yet. This is the kind of matter upon which evidence must be given to the Commission. It is important for the Commission to take into account all the evidence which is placed before it by the various bodies involved. The Commission was set up so that all available evidence could be given in the court and a decision made on that evidence. There is a very great responsibility on all affected sections of the community to have placed before the Commission their various views on the various matters before the Commission. In the history of this country there has never been a time when, in relation to our major exporting industries, it has been more important to have this evidence brought before the Commission so that the full effects of the situation can be outlined before the Commission.
The matter which is now being debated is one that has been introduced on a number of occasions by the Labor Party since I have been in this House. It raises a subject which has throughout the years been discussed not only within the court where the evidence is given but also here in this House. It is raised in various places in this country. In this age of television how often do we see a union leader putting forward a case for his union in relation to this subject? This happens not just once in a while; it happens almost once a week. Is this right or wrong? I will not be the judge of that. It is probably the right of a union leader to express his opinion on these matters. Is it not also right that other unions should also be permitted to express their opinions and disclose information? Is it not only right for the Government to give submissions as it does on these points of view, which are, as I said, very important? I close on this note: All those who are responsible in the employee and employer section of the community and all the producers within Australia have a responsibility to come forward and give evidence or to ensure that evidence is given to the Commission.
– After having heard the honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron) I found myself thinking that some of what I would say would be repetitious, but after having heard the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr Snedden) I found myself thinking that repetition would not be a bad thing because either he did not hear what the honourable member for Hindmarsh had to say or he did not understand it. I found myself thinking, after having heard the honour able member for Stirling (Mr Webb), much the same thought until I heard the honourable member for Canning (Mr Hallett) and then I thought that perhaps none of the honourable members opposite had understood the purpose of the motion which has nothing to do with the way in which the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission works. It mounts an attack, a serious attack, on the pronouncements of the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton), the Treasurer (Mr Bury) and the Minister for Labour and National Service which are calculated to embarrass, compromise and prejudice the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. The only answer that honourable members opposite have given to our criticism has been to attack the workings of the Commission. They have not answered any of the charges made by the motion.
It is interesting to refer to the history and the beginning, as far as my researches go, of the Government’s attack on the Commission. It was in about 1967 that the first attack that I can trace was made. It drew forth the reply from Mr Justice Gallagher and Commissioner Winter and which has already been mentioned. They replied to the attack that had been made on them by the then Minister for Labour and National Service. The House has been told what that comment was and it bears repetition. They said that they would not be influenced or intimidated by any party, including Ministers. That was a clear indication of where the emphasis lay. They added:
All extraneous utterances, whatever their source or nature, will be ignored.
This goes to the whole intent of this motion. The Commission must be protected. It must not be made liable to attack from government at this level. Sir Richard Kirby had to say much the same thine to protect himself. This motion seeks to add to that protection. In response to another attack, Sir Richard Kirby is reported in the ‘Australian’ of 5th June 1968 to have said:
My colleagues and myself make our decisions on the material and the submissions made to us in the court room and not otherwise.
No-one from this side of the House suggests that they should be influenced. The ideal situation is that they should sit in their adjudications independently and with as much impartiality as they can muster but that is almost impossible when Ministers of the Crown subject them to pressure. No-one denies that the role of the Commission is very difficult. Its role has been made difficult. No-one can deny that it has been allowed and encouraged - one might say even forced - to depart from the original concept of Mr Justice Higgins who, years ago. expressed the hope that it should be a new province for law and order. There can be no doubt that in its present day role it makes rules that have extremely wide application and . consequences for Australia and which should be a matter for economic policy determined at the highest level. lt has gone a long way from its original idea of being a conciliator and adjudicator in debates between parties. When one says this one must not lose sight of the fact that it still is, as the honourable member for Hindmarsh pointed out, an adjudicator of disputes. Its power flows from section 51, placitum XXXV of the Constitution. We all know that the Government has no direct power to make laws controlling prices or wages or implementing price or wage policy. This is not to say that it should not have the power and should not work out such policy in a proper way. We all know that the Commission is not really equipped by its training and by the nature of its adversary process to determine and implement an economic policy that determines wages and prices, and yet this is what it has been allowed to do, encouraged to do and even forced to do by government. Of course, in purporting to do that, it has worked out principles, not in any sort of pragmatic way but principles as courts of law work them out when they make judge made law. This is the way the common law grew up. So the Commission has tried to follow a similar sort of evolutionary process of developing principle because government has abdicated the field and forced the Commission to extend its field of operations. Government has left a void that the Commission has had to try to fill.
Notwithstanding that it is not a court, and notwithstanding that it has extended its functions far beyond the mere offering of conciliation to disputants, and an adjudicator of disputes, the Commission does have many of the features of a court that should be protected and respected by outside bodies. There must be parties to bring a dispute before it. There must be a dispute, and outsiders like the Commonwealth Government can appear only as third parties. It functions in the traditional adversary type system that is found in our courts, and for this reason many of the rules applicable to our courts apply to it and should apply to it. As the honourable member for Hindmarsh has pointed out, a rule, contained in section 182 of the Act, makes it a serious offence for a person to use words either in writing or in a speech that are calculated to influence improperly a member of the Commission or the Commission. The reasoning behind this section is very similar to the reasoning that lies behind the sub judice rule in courts of law - which is to ensure that justice appears to be done, and that the parties appearing appear to get a fair go, that the tribunal itself is protected and not subjected to pressures, because if it has to make a decision, and it has to make a decision sooner or later, it must appear, above all else, that when it does give that decision, it is made on the evidence before it and the submissions that are put to it and which can be answered before it; and not by what someone like the Prime Minister or any other Minister has said outside the tribunal and which cannot be answered before the tribunal. People with suspicious minds may think: ‘Well, the Commission may have been influenced’. This would be a departure from the high standards and high status that should be accorded to it. Sometimes, of course, in our courts we do cut corners a little. We do not give the same strict application of the principle to all courts, but it is an ideal that should be followed.
It seems to me that 3 things could really happen to the Commission with its problems and its future. Firstly, we could follow the present policy. We could take the Commission, with its principle of adjudicating on disputes, with its existing machinery, with its existing background of an adversary system with people trained essentially in the law and with experience of industrial conditions, and allow it to extend, by development of principles, into the industrial field as, indeed it has done, to make common rules for industry. If that is to be the test, then government has abdicated its principle, abdicated its role and abdicated the part it should play. If that is to be the situation then it is predictable that one should see a government of that sort seeking to come in and influence and pressurise the Commission, saying: Well, you must do this or you shall not do that otherwise it will be a disaster’. If that happens then the whole standard of the tribunal drops.
The alternative is to have a proper realisation of the workings of the Commission and a proper approach to the Commission in its present form, with proper submissions put to it by counsel for the Commonwealth, properly documented showing what the Government does say should be done and not in the generalities that have been referred to today as having been resorted to in recent years. Reference has been made already to the speech by counsel, Mr Justice Kerr as he is today, back in the 1966 national wage case when he said that they only wanted a moderate wage increase. When he was asked: ‘What do you mean? Please help us more’ - I think it was Mr Justice Wright who said it - there was no assistance from the Commonwealth at all. In other words the Commonwealth makes a general purposefully vague decision, hands it over to its counsel, puts up the generality to the tribunal, does not give the Commission adequate assistance and then criticises it later for its decision and blames it. The Government tries to have the best of both worlds. It abdicates it responsibility and then seeks to have a scapegoat it can blame when something goes wrong or something happens of which it does not approve.
The third alternative, of course, would require constitutional amendment or a more imaginative legislative scheme that would enable the Government to legislate in a policy arena in a policy way so as to fix wages and prices. It may not inevitably require constitutional amendment but we have had a number of recommendations on this matter from responsible bodies. The Government has done nothing about any of them and so the present system limps along. The real fact of the situation is that the Government, having done nothing constructive in the area for so long, allows the Commission to develop its principles with the best will in the world and with the utmost skill it can muster - as common law courts have developed principles and law over the years in developing systems of common law - but the Government does not accord the Commission the independence it is entitled to and which it gives to the Government. It seeks to say: If you go wrong or do something we do not approve of we will rap you over the knuckles and we will let you know well in advance so that you can give the decision that we want you to give’. That, it seems to me, is the real fault that should be sheeted home to this Government. It has nothing to do with the other difficulties of the Commission. The Commission has done a wonderful job and speakers on this side of the House recognise that. But what is wrong, and what is the purpose of this motion, is to criticise the Government’s attack on the Commission.
– I congratulate the honourable member for the Australian Capital Territory on his speech. It was the best speech he has made in this place. It was the shortest speech he has made in this place, fortunately. To bring the discussion back to the motion that is before the House I would remind honourable members that there is a specific reference in this matter of public importance to the fact that statements made by the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton), the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr Snedden) and the Treasurer (Mr Bury) were calculated to influence the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission in a particular and unfavourable way. The important thing is to see what is meant by this word ‘calculated’ because not only is it alleged that statements have been made which are ‘calculated to embarrass, compromise and prejudice’ the workings of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, but in the further flights of fancy in his speech the honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron) alleged also that there has been coercion and a veiled threat to the Arbitration Commission. So it is very important that we see what is meant by this word ‘calculated’. It is on the meaning of that word that the whole matter raised by the Opposition hinges.
It is my submission that there are two essential elements that must be proved to establish that the charge involving the word ‘calculated’ has been made out. The first element is that there has been an intent by the Prime Minister and the other Ministers specified to influence the Arbitration Commission in the way alleged, and the second element that must be established is that the Commission is susceptible to that sort of pressure, that the Commission is able to be influenced and could have been influenced by what has been said by the Prime Minister and the Minister for Labour and National Service. My submission essentially is that neither of these elements has been made out and that neither can be made out.
Let me take these elements in order. Mr Deputy Speaker, you will recall that firstly 1 submitted that it must be established that there was an intent on the part of the Minister for Labour and National Service and the Prime Minister to influence the Arbitration Commission. I have read the speech that the Minister for Labour and National Service delivered to the Committee for Economic Development of Australia, the speech which the honourable member for Hindmarsh quoted out of context. I say that there is nothing in that speech to indicate that there was any intention by the Minister to influence the Arbitration Commission in its workings. I shall refer briefly to some of the essential features of his speech, some of the specific things mentioned by the Minister in his speech, to show the argument that was being advanced on that occasion. In his speech, the Minister for Labour and National Service summed up his argument in this way: 1 believe that the Commission cannot disregard the economic consequences of its decisions. This raises the question of what we mean by ‘economic consequences’ or more precisely what we mean when we say that wage increases granted by the Commission should not exceed ‘economic capacity’.
In that extract is contained substantially the argument put forward by the Minister in the bulk of his speech. Again another short extract can perhaps illustrate the thesis for which the Minister was contending. On page 14 of the copy of the Minister’s speech that I have he said: l have argued that there is much to be gained^- socially and economically - from pursuing a rational wage policy. I have also said that the Commission has an important responsibility in this regard.
Again, towards the end of his speech, the Minister said:
What 1 am suggesting is that the Commission cannot ignore the economic consequences of its decisions.
They are only a few extracts from the Minister’s speech. It is a pity that when leave was sought by the Minister from the honourable member for Hindmarsh to have the address that he gave to that body tabled, leave was refused. I do not believe that it is fair to criticise the Minister for Labour and National Service by quoting extracts from his speech completely out of context. I think the opportunity should be given to the public to see in toto what the Minister said on that occasion. It is for that reason that I ask for leave to incorporate in Hansard the address made by the Minister to the CEDA group.
– Is leave granted?
– Leave has been refused.
– It is carious that the honourable member for Hindmarsh, on whose cherubic cheeks I see a slight blush appearing as it did on a previous occasion, should be prepared to take out of context some specific and minute aspects of the Minister’s speech, to build his whole case on such a dishonest method of argument, to refuse the Minister leave and then to refuse me leave to incorporate the Minister’s entire remarks in Hansard. It is an admission of guilt, as the honourable member for Angas (Mr Giles) has said - a comment with which I entirely agree. But the important thing that should be realised is that the Minister for Labour and National Service was not alone when he expressed the view that Arbitration Commissions decisions should take account of economic circumstances, because Sir Owen Dixon, the former Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia, expressed exactly that view. His Honour said in the case of The Queen v. Kelly and Others, ex-parte the Australian Railways Union, these words:
By ‘it’ he meant the Arbitration Commission -
So the Chief Justice of the High Court said that it would be absurd to suggest that the Arbitration Commission could ignore the economic consequences of a wage fixing decision. Indeed, if it is suggested by the Opposition, as I presume it is, that the Arbitration Commission is to be influenced by something that the Minister for Labour and National Service said, let me make it quite clear that the Arbitration Commission has already on a previous occasion said that it does take into account those very factors that the Minister said it should take into account. It said in the 1967 national wage case:
We agree that when settling interstate industrial disputes involving general economic reviews we must consider the economic state of Australia and have regard to the economic consequences of our decisions.
So the Arbitration Commission on that occasion was saying that it does and should take account of those factors that the Minister for Labour and National Service said it should take account of. I fail to see how it can be said that anything that the Minister said in exactly those words is an unfair, improper and unwarranted intrusion om the impartiality and proper workings of the Arbitration Commission.
One can go on and look again at the second factor that I said has to be made out to prove this charge involving the word ‘calculated’ mentioned in the matter that is before the House, because the word carries with it the necessary implication that the Commission was subject to pressure, that it could have been pressured, that it could have been coerced by anything that any Minister in this Government said. That, I say without any hesitation, is a most vile and completely unjustified allegation to make about members of the Arbitration Commission or any persons occupying a judicial or quasi-judicial position. Indeed, it suggests and almost expressly says that the members of the Arbitration Commission are acting quite contrary to their oath of office. When members of the Arbitration Commission are sworn in they say they will faithfully and impartially perform the duties of that office. The office to which they are being sworn is inserted in the oath. If in this matter of public importance what is being alleged by the honourable member for Hindmarsh, who shows his venom yet again against Mr Justice Dunphy - perhaps the whole thing is symbolic of this - is that the Arbitration Commission is capable of being influenced or coerced by things said by a Minister outside the Parliament, there is a clear implication that the members of the Arbitration Commission are ignoring their oaths of office, are breaking their oaths of office. That is a base accusation and one which every member in this House should reject and one which I believe that every decent Australian would reject.
– The discussion has now concluded.
Bill received from the Senate, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The Air Navigation (Charges) Act imposes charges on the operators of aircraft for the use of aerodromes, airway facilities, meteorological services and search and rescue services maintained, operated or provided by the Commonwealth. This Bill is designed to amend the Act in a number of respects, but principally in relation to the level of the Australian air navigation charges to general aviation aircraft.
There has been some comment regarding the level of the Australian air navigation charges and the proposal by the Government to increase them by 10 per cent as from 1st January 1971. It must be appreciated, however, that the annual operating costs of the Department of Civil Aviation continue to rise as new facilities and services are added and as wage and salary levels are increased. Although the expanding utilisation of civil aviation facilities results in corresponding growth in the revenues received from users, the gap between costs and revenues is still considerable, and the Government has a responsibility to sec what can be done to keep it within reasonable bounds. For this reason the Government reviews its charges each year, taking into account ail pertinent factors, including the economic situation of the users of facilities and the contribution which air services make to the national economy. In 1969-70 the total cost of operating and maintaining the departmental network of aerodromes and airway facilities, together with the meteorological services provided for civil aviation by the Department of the Interior, amounted to some S75m. On the other hand, the revenues of the department attributable to the use of these facilities were only $20m.
The working group which I appointed when I was Minister for Civil Aviation has been studying civil aviation costs and revenues, and the first part of its report has been submitted to the present Minister. Included in this report are recommendations by the airlines, both domestic and international, regarding costs and revenues properly attributable to commercial aviation. The group’s work is not yet completed but, in the meantime, it has been necessary to review the level of charges in the light of the existing policy on recovery of civil aviation costs. After careful consideration of all relevant aspects, it was concluded that a 10 per cent increase in charges was warranted and clause 4 of the Bill is included for that purpose.
Clause 6 of the Bill inserts a revised Second Schedule in the Act. This schedule deals with the charges payable by the operators of domestic general aviation aircraft, that is to say, private, aerial work and charter aircraft. The provisions of the new schedule define more precisely than before how charges are to be adjusted when changes in the registration or use of an aircraft occur, and in this respect they are more favourable for the operator than those in the existing schedule. Charges payable in respect of general aviation aircraft are calculated on an annual basis. If the registration of an aircraft is cancelled or there is a change in ownership during the year for which charges have been paid, it is considered reasonable that a proportionate refund should be made. Apart from the general authority for refunds or remissions to be made at the discretion of the
Minister, the Director-General or an authorised officer, there is no provision for such an adjustment of charges in the present schedule and, although the matter has been dealt with administratively in the past, the inclusion of specific provisions in the Act itself is considered to be desirable. Paragraphs 5 and 10(3) of the proposed new Second Schedule are relevant to this question.
As things now stand, if an owner has paid an annual charge at the private aircraft rate, and he decides during the year to engage in aerial work or charter operations, his annual charge is increased to the higher rate applicable to those operations for the whole year. The proposed new provisions in paragraphs 7, 8 and 9 of the schedule confine the increase to the period during which the aircraft engages in aerial work or charter operations, subject to a minimum period of four weeks. Similarly, the existing schedule does not authorise any refund if an owner, having paid an annual charge for this aircraft at the aerial work or charter rate decides during the year to confine the operation of the aircraft to a category for which a lower charge would be payable - for example, private operations. The Government proposes that an appropriate reduction in the charge be applicable in these cases, the conditions under which such a reduction would be granted being as set out in paragraph 11 of the schedule included in the Bill. The charges introduced by the new Second Schedule will probably result in a small loss of revenue, because they reduce the amount of the charge payable in certain circumstances. Undoubtedly, however, they are fairer to aircraft owners than the existing provisions in the Act, and the Government therefore considers they are justified.
Paragraph 6 of the new schedule revises the provisions for adjustment of charges when a general aviation aircraft is used on regular public transport operations. The effect of the change is to ensure that, in cases of this nature, any refund of charges paid under the Second Schedule does not exceed the charges payable under the First Schedule in respect of the operation of the aircraft on regular public transport services. The existing provisions sometimes result in the owner of a charter aircraft paying less than the normal charge applicable to the aircraft when it is used periodically on commuter services, and this is not the intention of the Act.
The Bill adds further routes to the Table of Flights on which charges payable by airline operators under the First Schedule to the Act are based, and it increases one of the factors in this Table. These amendments are necessary to cover new services or variations in route patterns, and to remove some anomalies. It is also proposed that a new sub-paragraph be added to the First Schedule to make it clear that a reference to a place in the Table of Flights refers to any airport in the vicinity of that place, this being desirable when there are two airports concerned - for example, Essendon and Tullamarine at Melbourne. 1 commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Beazley) adjourned.
Consideration resumed from 16 October (vide page 2362).
Total Proposed expenditure, $1,024,480,300.
Department of Defence
Proposed expendtiure, $23,724,000.
Department of the Navy
Proposed expenditure, $2)6,888,000.
Department of the Army
Proposed expenditure, $402,512,000.
Department of Air
Proposed expenditure, $272,998,500.
Department of Supply
Proposed expenditure, $104,600,500.
Proposed expenditure, $3,757,300.
– In a recent debate the honourable member for Farrer (Mr Fairbairn) demanded to know what the Opposition was going to do about the Soviet fleet in the Indian Ocean. He did not reveal what the Government intended to do. The last voice we heard from that quarter was that of the Honourable Gordon Freeth, who as Minister for External Affairs appeared to welcome the Soviet presence. It is not clear whether the honourable member for Farrer thought Soviet warships should be attacked on the high seas, or whether ports which allowed them to visit should be bombed, but it is clear that we are in the presence of another issue in which the Government’s main concern appears to be electioneering. For years the port of Fremantle has been graced by the presence of HMAS ‘Diamantina’ as the sole representative of the Royal Australian Navy on the west coast. HMAS ‘Diamantina’ is the sort of warship the British use for dealing with Icelandic fishermen when the main weapon used in anger by the Icelandic adversary is likely to be a boat hook. HMAS ‘Diamantina’ mounts a Bofors gun with a range of 3 miles al the outside, and, when really agitated, can probably raise 20 knots. It has always been considered that the Army commander of the water-borne Army forces in the west has a more powerful navy at his normal disposal than the Royal Austraiian Navy in that State.
The Soviet presence at the moment is ideological. Showing the flag to impress is the strategy of all naval powers. The question arises: to impress whom? Soviet policy is probably primarily designed to impress India, which since 1962 has been antiChinese. The Soviet diplomatic initiative of 1969, to which Freeth responded positively, was designed to organise some kind of an association in South East Asia against China. Clearly, the Soviet Union hopes to match whatever kudos the United States gels from Vietnam intervention if this intervention suggests United Stales protection of South East Asia with a Soviet suggested role as the protector of South East Asia herself. We are confronted with a defective naval policy in the face of new Soviet initiatives. Australia has not built a Navy with a Soviet naval presence in the South Pacific or the Indian Ocean in mind. Our submarines are conventional, slow, not nuclear engined, of defective cruising radius and coffins if confronted underseas with hunter killer submarines at least nine times as fast submerged. Oberon was a fairy king, and the Oberon class is about as real as Oberon’s ‘bright diadem, sceptre and mantle clasp’d with dewy gem’ which according to Keats frighted away the driads and the fawns’. Oberon submarines might frighten away the driads and the fawns, but not the Soviet anti-submarine submarines.
If Australia wants a naval presence anywhere that means anything it must have a Navy nuclear engined and missile equipped; it must have submarines that are effective because they are nuclear powered; and it must look at its lamentably slow and weak patrol boats and replace them with vessels of at least the speed and hitting power of the Royal Navy’s Gay Bombardier class. If naval confrontation is to be a battle of pressures and counter pressures short of war the Australian pieces on the chess board must be worthy of respect. If naval confrontation is to be conflict Australia’s seamen need something better than death traps like the Oberons confronted with the hunter killer submarine craft. The Royal Australian Navy needs to be backed by an industry which can make nuclear engines, which can make a profusion of fast anti-submarine craft, which can make missiles and which can make aircraft. Our capacity in these respects could easily exceed that of Sweden, but the Government will not think in terms of an independent capacity for defence construction. Australia’s tractor industry could make tanks. It should be given orders which give it the chance profitably to demonstrate its capacity to switch to do so. Australia could make defence aircraft. If there is additional expense it could scarcely lead to a more extravagent experience than the Fill aircraft.
Our defence thinking needs recasting. We need a coast guard with a professional nucleus and a Citizen Military Forces component. The United States has a citizen air force where citizen airmen fly jets and transport planes. They are respected servicemen. Our conception of the CMF is that of a poor relation, ill equipped, boring and not properly valued by the Army. The CMF should include the most expert activities of the Army and civilian experts, who in war time have high skills and soar to the top in enlarged armies. They should be offered positions in the CMF in which their skills are used. Civil defence needs rethinking and it needs a professional component. If a civil defence organisation is justified at all it is justified on the assump tion that there could be an attack on Australia. If that assumption is made the method of attack needs to be postulated and the counter to the attack needs to be organised. There should clearly be a CMF component for the defence of cities and industrial concentrations. One has the impression that men who are part-time soldiers are under valued because service with them is a lesser career for their officers. There should be an end of these attitudes.
Australia has an unerring instinct apparently for producing a divided army - the old equivalent of ‘cobbers’ and chocos’. Switzerland and Sweden have had generations of citizen soldiers without any of these jackasseries. An efficient unified concept of defence with a respected and fully professional place for the CMF ia the Air Force, the Navy, a coast guard service, the Army and civil defence is overdue. Australia’s defence east, west and south is oceanic. This presupposes a long range Air Force and a wide radius Navy. To the north there are archipelagoes. This presupposes efficient mine laying, fast and hard hitting patrol boats and efficient reconnaissance. Our defence policy is bedevilled by controversy over the Vietnam war but that will not always be so. We are looking for a rationally based defence policy, rationally explained and, if possible, bi-partisan. What ought not to be in controversy is the industrial capacity for defence construction and defence experience given to Australian firms in that construction.
– There is little with which I could disagree in what the honourable member for Fremantle (Mr Beazley) has said. We are now dealing with the Defence estimates for which the total proposed expenditure is $1,024,480,300. Honourable members are allowed 10 minutes each in which to discuss these estimates. I raised this matter when we were discussing the new hours of sitting and the reduction of time for speeches on the Estimates. We are concerned not only with the estimates for the 6 Defence Departments. As I said when I spoke last Friday on the Defence Minister’s statement the Parliament has yet to discuss what is claimed to be the most far reaching statement on defence. That statement was made in March, but this Parliament has not yet been given the opportunity to discuss it. Also, the Defence Report 1970 has been tabled. It covers considerable pages and contains much detail. But we have only 10 minutes in which to discuss these matters. The establishment of a joint Services college is being considered by the Government. 1 presume that Parliament will never discuss this matter until there is some agreement or decision. There are many matters concerned with defence but we have been given no time in which to discuss them. It is of great concern to me that this year this Parliament has hardly had a defence debate. What can one say in 10 minutes?
In my opinion this Parliament has little interest in defence. 1 believe that the Government has played its luck hard for a very long time. Its luck has paid off. But I agree with the honourable member for Fremantle that the time is coming for a review of our defence policy from the top to the bottom. Anyone who can say that the world around us is a better world and a less troubled world is dreaming. I think for us to say in this House that all we have to worry about is the Vietnam situation and certain other incidental happenings is to be completely out of touch with reality. It is hard to assess where a small situation, such as the one which flared up in Jordan, could have led. Who knows where the Israeli- Arab situation will end? Who knows what great powers will be involved or what side issues may flow should such a war eventuate? Look at what is happening in Canada. Who would have said a week or so ago that the emergency forces would be called out and that the country would be close to civil war.
As far as I can see, Australia’s planning at the moment is still in respect of Vietnam. We are still buying equipment which will be used for short hauls in a jungle environment. We are still equipping our defence Services for action in what has been called a brush fire situation - a situation where we had to get quickly to the point, hit and contain the offensive action. This was the most relevant factor in this type of operation. I think that we should look at the scene around us and look at what was stated by the honourable member for Fremantle, at the Soviet fleet in the Indian Ocean. I agree with him that for the time being the Soviet fleet is there for persuasive diplomatic tactics, and they will be most effective. -
If we look at the nations abutting onto the Indian Ocean we find that the main bases, including Mauritius, which formerly were held by the United Kingdom, are now seemingly becoming less well held. Indeed, negotiations are being undertaken by the Soviet Union so that it can come in and lake over the bases. I think that the Soviet Union is exerting influence on India at the present time, ft is also exerting influence on Singapore and Malaysia. Recently we have seen the statement of the Prime Minister of Malaysia, and 1 accept the explanation of the Minister for External Affairs (Mr McMahon) regarding that statement. But at the same time I could not blame Malaysia or Singapore should they decide that, in view of what they see happening in the Indian Ocean and when they compare that with what we perhaps are offering and the plan for co-operation which we have put forward, it might be as well to have a bob each way.
The point I am trying to make is that I think the time has arrived when we now have to plan for a balanced defence force for the defence of the mainland of Australia in addition to whatever outside commitments we may have. Time may be on our side; we may be lucky again. But I think also that in view of the current world situation, we now have to plan for the ultimate defence of (his country, lt is all very well to say that our defence advisers say this and that they recommend that. In debates in this place I have always said that we hear only a fraction of what our defence advisers advise, because the section which is used for Government policy is extracted and that is put in as the ultimate. Having had some discussions with our defence advisers over many years, I know that this is the way it works.
I agree with what the honourable member for Fremantle has said regarding our Navy. I think there is no doubt that we have to go much further and much quicker in our organisation of the Navy. The same comment applies to our Army. Instead of just concentrating on helicopters which will move small numbers of troops a short distance, I think we should be planning possibly for refurbishing for such units as the armoured division, so that we may have in
Australia an effective force which could be moved to areas under threat. So far as our Air Force is concerned, we should be planning not to move troops to Vietnam in the aircraft carrier HMAS ‘Sydney’, but to move large numbers of troops to such areas as New Guinea quickly or, if the worst comes to the worst, to the northern peripheries of Australia. I think there is much that we have to do.
I agree wholeheartedly with what the honourable member for Fremantle said about the Citizen Military Forces. I do not care what the experts tell me as to the present effectiveness of the CMF. I do not believe that what we have is the answer to the problems which might confront us. I agree with the honourable member for Fremantle that the CMF should be a reserve Army. As a reserve Army it should be equipped, it should have strength and it should be maintained in the industrial areas and in the capital cities. 1 understand that the Navy is to have an exercise in the Indian Ocean on 12th November, and that the exercise is to be called ‘Swan Lake’. When I read the composition of the ships which are to take part in the exercise, I wondered what would happen if such an exercise was genuine; what would happen if, whilst all those ships were in the Indian Ocean, we were confronted with a situation in Melbourne or Sydney. We can flatter ourselves that the present situation in Indonesia is good, but there is no guarantee that such a situation will continue. We were great friends with Indonesia before confrontation. I remember that one Chief of the General Staff went to Indonesia and came back and said how wonderful the relations were. I think that he was presented with a Field Marshal’s baton. I remember a Minister for Defence going there and wearing a uniform of Indonesia. I hope that Indonesia will succeed. I hope it will be enabled to succeed, but there are signs of pressure being applied there at the present time.
Ten minutes does not allow one time to develop his arguments. I wanted to speak on terms and conditions of service. There is a lot I would like to say on that matter. I genuinely believe that the time has come for us to concentrate not only on Vietnam, which I think is closing off, and on the battalion in Malaysia. It comes down to some hard practical reorganisation in order to achieve an effective balanced defence force for the ultimate protection of Australia. No-one is to tell me that we necessarily have 7 or 10 years in which to plan, which according to certain experts, is the basis of defence planning. It takes time to buy equipment and to train officers and non-commissioned officers. In view of the present world situation I do not know that we in Australia necessarily have that much time. If we wish to protect this country we have to be prepared to make sacrifices. I wish that we had a bipartisan policy, as mentioned by the honourable member for Fremantle.
– The break-up of the expenditure of over $ 1,000m on defence is presented in a somewhat different form in the ‘Defence Report 1970’ than that which appears in the Estimates. I draw the Committee’s attention to the tables which appear on pages 59 and 60 of the ‘Defence Report 1970’. Defence expenditure is divided into what are called major categories. The first category is described as ‘A. Maintenance’, the second category as ‘B. Capital’ and the third category, which is comparatively small, as ‘C. Other’. It will be seen that $1,1 36m is the estimated expenditure for 1970-71, of which some $865m, or well over two-thirds, is provided for the category ‘A. Maintenance’, $2 14m for the category ‘B. Capital’ and $56m for the category ‘C. Other*.
I ask honourable members to look at the difference in the estimated expenditure on the capital composition for this year as against, say expenditure in 1967-68 and 1968-69. They will see that in 1967-68 capital expenditure was $405m and in 1968-69 it was $343m. In 1966-67 it was $342m. Of course, the reason for the much greater capital expenditure in those 3 years, 1966-67, 1967-68 and 1968-69, was that the figures for those years included expenditure on the FI 1 1 aircraft.
– And on Navy ships.
– And on Navy ships, but mainly on the Fill. All I am submitting is that that shows what a dreadful hole was made in Australia’s defence balance by that ill-fated escapade with the Fill. At least it is gratifying to read on pages 9 and 10 of the ‘Defence Report’ what are called new proposals for evaluating future plans. It says:
The regular review process will provide for analysis in greater depth of the Services’ proposals. There will be up to 5 at more years warning of impending decisions on major equipment proposals and long-range studies will be able to be commenced well in advance of having to make the decisions.
In the next paragraph reference is made to it being ‘increasingly unlikely that reliance can be placed solely on unsupported judgment’. I submit, with all respect, that the episode of the Fill was an instance of the Government making an unsupported judgment, and it involved this community in a hiatus in its defence planning for a considerable number of years. I commend the Defence Department on the amount of information which is contained in this ‘Defence Report’ and on the manner in which it is presented. But there, in major equipment and infrastructure projects announced after the last 12 months, a capital expenditure of about $408m is involved, which is equal to nearly 2 years capital expenditure on the basis of the figures that are shown for this year. All that this points to is the great deal of rigidity that exists in our defence expenditure.
The other day the Minister for Defence (Mr Malcolm Fraser) spoke in this House about the plans for higher pay and allowances. 1 am not against higher pay, but there are 2 sorts of pay in the Army. There is the pay for what are called the service members and there are civilian salaries and wages. The civilian salaries and wages are about half of what is paid to Service members. I was interested to read the other day in 1 of these valuable documents that can be obtained from the Parliamentary Library service an article entitled ‘Military Manpower Procurement in Australia’ by Mr Roy Forward of the Department of Government at the University of Queensland. It was a paper that he delivered in August 1970. There he raised some matters that seem to me to be of fundamental concern, such as whether there are people in the Army who perhaps ought to be on the civilian side of defence activities, and vice versa.
I agree with my colleague the honourable member for La Trobe (Mr Jess) that these are the sorts of matters that we do not get a chance to talk about at all in this House. With all respect to those who speak - some of them with great knowledge - about the types of aeroplanes and naval vessels, the reality is that well over two-thirds of what is spent on defence is not spent on the things that frighten the enemy at all. It is spent on pay and day to day maintenance. 1 submit that there ought to be a lot more fundamental examination within that field. In the very few minutes that are left to me I want to say something about the aircraft industry in Australia, lt is my belief that what has been called the fourth arm of defence is just as important as the other three. The fourth arm is what is described as Australia’s industrial capacity. The aircraft industry, a large part of which happens to be centred in my electorate, has faced very serious problems in the last several years. The most serious of the problems is the failure to indicate years ahead what it is planned to do.
At least the whole emphasis of the Defence Report this year is on the need for forward planning. I submit that a lot more forward planning has to be done in the aircraft industry in the next several years. In the document, ‘Supply 1970’, reference is made to Project N. The report states:
Early in 1970 Cabinet approved expenditure of S3.2m on the design, development and prototype manufacture of a light utility transport aircraft, currently known as Project N. The approval covers the manufacture of two prototypes and a structural test airframe at GAF.
The aircraft incorporates advanced short take-ofT and landing features. It will meet a series of roles for the Australian Forces, and with relatively minor design changes it could fill an otherwise vacant slot in the range of available light commercial aircraft. ft is expected that the prototype will fly in mid 1971. I think that, both in aircraft construction and ship construction, in many respects the same sort of techniques are needed in civilian construction as are needed for military construction. That is the fourth arm. To my mind, the industrial potential in Australia has been very sadly neglected over recent years. Perhaps the one very salutary lesson that can still be learned from the Fill episode is that the first estimate of cost that is given is not likely even to approximate the final cost. When it is sometimes said that on present day assessments Australian industry cannot compete I think we should occasionally recall the difference between the initial cost of the Fill - which we have not yet received - and what the final cost turned out to be. I submit that if people had known what the final cost was going to be when the contract was let there would have been a much more sympathetic consideration of the prospects and potentialities of Australian industry to produce some of the things which we put greater faith in procuring overseas.
– by leave - In response to questions by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard) on Friday, I said that I would make a statement on the operation of the container ship service between Australia and the United Kingdom and Europe. The Government in its support for, and participation in, the introduction of the container system between Australia and the United Kingdom and Europe believed that the new system seemed likely to reduce costs and enable either freight reduction or greater stability in freights than in the past, where there has been a history of constant freight increases. This belief was consistent with the commercial investment decisions made by the private shipping companies who had to face the hundreds of millions of dollars of investment required. It was not expected that the impact on costs, and hence the impact on freights, would come about on the first Tuesday that a container ship entered the trade.
The introduction of something as revolutionary as the door to door concept of freight handling obviously would take a considerable time for its operations to be perfected. But nothing has transpired since the commencement of the introduction of container ships to cast doubt on the superiority of this system over the conventional ships and methods. So far as the advantage to Australia of having a window into container costs by virtue of Australian National Line participation, I am equally confident that this will justify itself. As foreshadowed, the groupings of shipping companies have become larger and larger. With the introduction of European container ships all our container trade will be in the hands of one organised group of companies. More than ever Australia needs to know in sufficient intimate detail the costs and efficiencies of those who carry our cargoes. The new door to door system has extended the coverage of the shipping operation to the point where shore based facilities and shore operations at both ends of the trade have become every bit as important a part as the operations from wharf to wharf. But it is essential to keep in perspective the impact of the costs of the door to door system and the costs of the conventional system now being phased out.
The recent increase in freights to United Kingdom/ Europe was the first since 1966. In that period, I am told that the weighted average increase of freights over all cargoes from Australia to the United Kingdom and Europe has increased only by about 41 per cent or roughly at a rate of 1 per cent per annum. In this same period, costs of all kinds outside the control of the Australian Government or of shipping companies have risen markedly. For instance, I am informed that in the United Kingdom there have been very large increases in wages of stevedores and seamen, 40 per cent increase in the case of seamen’s wages. Again, for example, costs of bunkers have increased dramatically in the same period. And, of course, similar increases have occurred over the whole range of costs associated with operating a shipping service - for instance, in Australia, stevedoring costs, I am informed, have increased by over 30 per cent. Now, if we had still to rely only on conventional ships where something like 40 per cent of the freight rates used to comprise the cost merely of loading and unloading, the increase in freights justified could have turned out to be about 20 per cent instead of 4i per cent as has actually occurred.
I said that nothing had occurred to alter the belief that the container system would mean lower costs and bring greater stability to freight rates. When I said this I was, of course, aware of the great number and variety of complex problems that would be associated with introducing the revolutionary concept such as the door-to-door method of transport - problems of new technology; problems for management; problems for labour; problems for shippers; problems for land transport and the like. But already, apart from the fact that freight increases have been relatively small over the period, there is developing strong evidence that the original economies which it was felt the container system would offer are in fact achievable. The experience now behind the operators of terminals and the improved planning and management procedures being implemented, combined with a reasonable spell of industrial peace over the last couple of months, has led to a quite dramatic improvement in operations and in delivery. I am told by the largest operator that in the last month the average time from the arrival of the container ship to the cargo being available to the consignee at the depot was 6.4 days. For full containers moving door-to-door the average time has been even less, where the consignee was prepared to take delivery promptly. This can be compared with an average pf something over 12 days for a conventional ship. I am told that the actual performance of taking containers off and on the ships has also improved tremendously. Currently at one terminal, I am told that up to 3,000 containers are being handled in a week. This is equivalent to 60,000 tons of cargo. The norma! conventional wharf shed could handle only 3,000 tons per week. These improvements in cargo handling are in addition to the improvement in voyage time. I am told that the round voyage time between Australia and the United Kingdom is getting down towards 70 days for container ships compared wtih between 100 days and 120 days for conventional ships. Turnaround times for ships have improved tremendously. Ships are now going through Sydney and Melbourne in about 50 hours, averaging 1,500 to 1,600 container changes per ship compared with 800 to 1,000 in America and elsewhere.
I repeat that nothing has transpired, since the first plans to introduce container ships, to bring doubt upon the conclusion that this system of transport is far superior to the conventional ships. Indeed, since that time, shipowners in every major trade in the world are moving to container ship services and special ships for unitised cargoes. Shipping companies cannot, any more than other companies, be expected to absorb endlessly the quite dramatic cost increases that have come about in the last 2 or 3 years without some adjustment in the element in the cost of their services. For instance, a completely unexpected incident, such as that which occurred at Tilbury in London that added over the period of the strike more than £Stg3m to the cost to the shipping companies in this route, is not something that should be looked at as bringing into question the efficiency of the container system in comparison with the conventional system. There have been, and there will be, industrial troubles. These have been, and these will have to be, paid for as matters entirely aside from the normal costs of operating this system.
Far from being pessimistic about the nature of the problems that have been experienced, and the time it is taking to overcome these problems, I believe that the achievements, to date and the demonstrable scope for further improvement offer every prospect that by the use of this system we can stabilise our freights and hold back the constant freight creep which historically our exports have had to bear. I present the following paper:
Introduction of Container Ships to the Australia to UK and Europe Trade - Ministerial Statement, 19th October 1970.
Motion (by Mr Swartz) proposed:
That the House take note of the paper.
– Mr Deputy Speaker, the statement which has been presented by the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr McEwen) is a very sketchy document of the happenings in the containerisation industry over the last 12 months. I did expect that the Minister would have introduced something more detailed, given us some more facts and would have dealt in considerable detail with matters such as that to which he refers on the third page of his printed statement. The Minister states:
So far as the advantage to Australia of having a window into container costs by virtue of Australian National Line participation, I am equally confident that this will justify itself.
On the facts contained in this statement certainly no information is being given to this House by the right honourable gentleman which would indicate that the Australian National Line has obtained any information, has any knowledge or that the Government proposes to make available to us any details of what has happened in the container consortium that is operating between Australia and Europe at the prosen! time.
When the Government decided - the Opposition supported the proposal - that we should acquire a container ship and that we should move into this consortium, we were hopeful and confident that the Government would use its position to bring forward some positive information to this Parliament. We were hopeful that, by this time, the Government would be talcing even stronger steps to enlarge its participation in the overseas container industry. Whilst T have my own feelings on this matter, I think that there are considerable reasons to believe that it can assist the Australian export and import industry, particularly our exports. So, I feel that the Government should be doing something about this matter.
I am very disappointed to read that all we can get out of the Minister is this sketchy reference to what has brought about the increased freight charges. The thing that the Minister has gone to bat on is the increase in wages, including the increase in seamen’s wages, and the increase in stevedoring costs. I have a few figures here which indicate to me that there has not been this huge increase in operating costs as far as wages and the like are concerned. In the limited time that is available to me, I wish to make one reference to waterside workers. The general duty employee in a container terminal in December 1968 received $58.80 per week. That was his flat rate wage. In November 1969, it was increased to $60.60. On 5th May 1970, his wage increased to $63.60. These increases do not represent to me any major or substantial increase in wages for waterside workers. The increase over that period is $4.80 per week or approximately 8 per cent.
So, I would like the Minister to give as a little more information as to the real position concerning waterside workers. I say this particularly taking into consideration that in the Sydney terminal alone in the last 12 months approximately 1 million tons of cargo in containers were put through by 168 men. If this work had been handled by the conventional method of shipping, approximately 750 to 850 men would have been required. Whilst there may have been a very minute increase in their wages, there certainly has been a very substantial turnover in tonnage per employee on the waterfront when 168 men can handle 1 million tons by the containerisation method when, under the old method, 750 to 850 men were required to handle a similar amount. These are some of the facts that have to be taken into consideration.
The Minister referred to seamen’s wages. All I can say is that on 5th March the salary of an Australian seaman was $5,450 per annum and that included practically everything. On 7th July 1969 a maritime industry allowance of $6 a week v. as granted. This was a flat rate increase and not subject to overtime. On 23rd December 1969 as a result of the national wage case salaries were increased to $5,620 plus the $6 a week maritime industry allowance. On 11th August 1970 salaries were increased to $6,660. When one takes into consideration the fact that a ship of the type of the ‘Australian Endeavour’ carries about 13 seamen, it will be apparent that wage increases are not having the effect on freight costs which the Minister would have us believe. Once again it is the old story of wages disputes, and the activities of seamen and wharfies bringing about these increases. But when we examine the rates of pay and their effects, I think the Minister has to look somewhere else for his explanation. When we compare the Australian Endeavour’, a ship of some 25,000 gross tons and 13 men, with a small ship like the ‘Kabbarli’, a cargo ship of 2,983 gross tons and 13 to 14 seamen which operates on the west coast, it can be seen that there is quite a substantial difference in the matter of wages.
At one time the wages of seamen and wharfies did have an important bearing on the cost of handling cargo. But today with mechanisation and huge cranes handling the containers the Minister has to look somewhere else for his reason. I suggest there is somewhere else to look. In the Rockdale report tabled in England in May this year attention was drawn to the fact that shipping heads were to blame for massive losses and that management was holding back the shipping industry. The report alleged that there was bad management in the British shipping industry. The industry had to do something about improving its efficiency and the economies which were available for it to accept. At this point attention was drawn to the fact that the industry had not accepted these opportunities and that bad management was the real cause of loss of profitability in the industry in the United Kingdom. Bearing that in mind, 8 of the 9 ships in this consortium are owned by British interest. This is whe>e we have the overflow and it is acting against the Australian exporter. It is one reason why we find today that freight charges are being increased. The Minister referred to wages and the Tilbury dispute. My understanding of the Tilbury dispute is that a 10 per cent surcharge was added because of the dispute. So the cost of that dispute has been paid for and the dispute is not in existence at the moment. I assume that these increased freight charges are to cover expected increases in costs. The dispute is over; Tilbury is being used. 1 would ask the Minister to be a little consistent. We are aware that the Minister for Trade and Industry and the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr Sinclair) are at variance on this subject; there is no unanimity.
The Minister for Shipping and Transport has stated that no justification exists for increases in freights. He made this statement at a Country Party conference in Griffith in June this year. In July he made another very strong and positive statement that the provisions of the Restrictive Trade Practices Act would be invoked against the ship owners. The legislation has been found to be useless as far as the shipping freights are concerned. It is time the Government did something positive about freights and about the managerial policies necessary to bring this industry up to the desired level. As far as Sydney is concerned, my information is that the White Bay terminal is a complete shermozzle as far as the 5-container stack theory is concerned. It is not working and is not doing what was expected of it. Containers are lying there for days on end waiting to be shifted. Even the people associated with it are complaining, as will be seen from today’s ‘Australian’. Most of the Minister’s speech was written last Friday. It had to be rewritten this morning. That is why the statement was presented so late this after- noon. The report in today’s ‘Australian’ said:
The managing director of Seatainer Terminals Ltd, Mr A. C. Boehme, made a strong attack at the weekend on ‘ill-considered criticisms’ of containerisation which he said were both inaccurate and incorrect.
He went on to say that shippers were leaving their containers at the terminals too long and container terminals were being used as depots. He said that containers would have to be cleared at a much faster rate. My attention has been drawn to the fact that documentation is not keeping pace with containers. Containers are arriving long before the documentation and the result is that containers are lying at the terminals waiting to go through customs. All this is costing money. I do not think Australian exporters should be required to carry this cost. If the shipping industry is inefficient it should be forced to carry the cost of these inefficiences. The Minister as the brain child of the Australian Government’s participation in the overseas container consortium should accept some of the responsibility. The responsibility really lies at his door. 1 call on him to do something practical about the problem instead of trying, as is normally done on the Government side, to blame the seamen, the wharfies and high wages.
There are other things in this statement which need clarification by the Government. One matter that should be dealt with is the effect of containerisation on Australian ports. We have 3 terminal ports in Australia - Melbourne, Fremantle and Sydney. We have 3 feeder ports - Adelaide, Newcastle and Brisbane. Even in the feeder ports there is considerable trouble with regard to the maintaining of containers, and the removal of cargoes, both imports and exports. I know of the huge problem created in Newcastle because of the introduction of containers and the failure of this Government to do something practical and positive. I would like the Minister to give us the facts about what the Government is doing to overcome the problem in the feeder ports and outports of Australia. My colleague the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) will, I hope, have something to say about it as far as Queensland outports are concerned. Labor members from Tasmania have had plenty to say about the problems facing
Tasmania and its trade. Just because a container ship does not visit a particular port and the containers are transported by rail or feeder ship to the terminal port, that is not the end of the matter. It may be the beginning of the problems associated with that port. Previously conventional ships called at these outports to pick up, for example, wool, frozen meat and other goods, but they did not come only to pick up those cargoes. They came to pick up all the conventional cargo that went through that port. In the case of Newcastle they came to pick up wool as well as mineral sands and the general cargo that was necessary to be taken from Newcastle, the Hunter Valley and the north west areas, whether it be to Europe, Japan or the United States. At the moment the situation with regard to the United States is all right. That is something that has to be worked out by the Government between now and the introduction of containers on the Australian-United States run.
The same can be said of Tasmanian ports. As I said a moment ago, Tasmanian members have been most critical of the failure of the Government to do something positive about this. We have seen costs loaded on costs. Tasmania has to ship its commodities to Melbourne and pay freight on them, which is not the case with other ports such as the feeder ports I mentioned earlier. At least they pay the difference between what it costs now and what it cost previously to ship from the place of manufacture to the ports. This is placing a very substantia] burden on exporters of beef through Queensland ports. All we can get out of the Minister are a number of visits and statements about what will happen but no practical information as to the effect on freights as far as these ports are concerned. These are the things which are missing from his statement. They are the sorts of things which I had hoped would be included in the statement on containerisation. It is a statement which has obviously been dragged out of the Minister as a result of questions asked last Friday morning by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam), the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard) and myself. The Minister thought that he could get out of it. I hope that this window in this conference will be of some benefit to Australia and not a means of covering up as the
Minister has used it. I wish to move an amendment to the motion that the House take note of the paper. I move:
– ls the amendment seconded?
– I second the amendment. As the honourable member for Newcastle (Mr Charles Jones) said, there is considerable confusion in Australia regarding the effects of containerisation as they have been fell up to the present and as they will be felt in the future. What the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr McEwen) has said very clearly is that if the port authorities and the shipping lines had continued to use conventional ships there would have been an increase in freights of about 20 per cent as against the increase of about 4i per cent which has occurred in the containerised service. What the Minister for Trade and Industry said is:
I said that nothing had occurred lo alter the belief that the container system would mean lower costs and bring greater stability to freight rates.
I cannot quarrel with the facts or the logic of the Minister’s statement because only he can interpret what he has said. But what I can say is that Australian port authorities have been led up the garden path. They have been sold a pup. Their interpretation of what was put to them was that the introduction of containerisation would lead to reduced freight rates. What the Government has said, of course, is that costs have been reduced in the sense that if we had not had containerisation costs would have increased more. This is a kind of semantic sleight of hand. The port authorities are concerned because they know for a fact that costs have gone up.
As the honourable member for Newcastle has said, there is considerable confusion throughout Australia, particularly in the outports, as to what is going to happen with respect to containerisation. The Government is trying to wriggle out of the decision that it has made. In this paper presented by the Minister for Trade and Industry we find nothing to justify the decision of the Government with respect to containerisation. There are many statements such as ‘1 understand’ or ‘I have been given information’ but there is nothing of any detail about the main problem. The Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr Sinclair) was in north Queensland recently looking into the operation of meat ports. As he well knows, throughout Australia and particularly in the outports, there is considerable dissension among port authorities as to the introduction of containerisation, particularly as it will affect meat ports and centralisation. Members of the Australian Country Party often talk about centralisation but I think that if there is one party in this Parliament today that is talking more about centralisation it is the Country Party.
On 24th July representatives of Overseas Containers Australia Pty Ltd visited the north Queensland ports advising the authorities that they had hoped to take over the export of meat for the United Kingdom and the North American trade as from January 1971. They said they wanted to transport the meat for the UK and the North American trade to Brisbane by rail for shipment in cellular container ships. This is what they advised the north Queensland port authorities, that by earl 1971 they wanted to make arrangements for meat destined for the North American and UK markets to be shipped through Brisbane. They also told the authorities there that they had decided not to use a container shipping feeder service from north Queensland ports. They also said they would accept delivery in Sydney from the Australian National Line coastal feeder service at freight rates competitive with Brisbane delivery but they were of the opinion that this was not possible because the ANL does not have the ships to carry out this service. The Overseas Containers Australia Pty Ltd representatives also stated that they were of opinion that Associated Steamships, which also operates a coastal feeder shipping service, would be free to operate intrastate but did not have sufficient ships to service the north Queensland meat export trade in containers. The OCA representatives claimed that the advantages of their service to north Queensland .ports are a 5-daily service and a uniform freight rate throughout Australia. The cost of freight to the terminal port would be borne by the Overseas Containers Ltd.
The north Queensland port authorities have made the strongest possible protest to both the State and Federal governments regarding the behaviour of shipping companies and the future policy with respect to meat exports from the north. I speak with some experience in regard to Mackay which is one of the ports which will be affected in the future. I know that the Mackay Harbour Board has made in the strongest possible terms an appeal to the Minister for Shipping and Transport against the proposals which are apparently backed by the Government. The proposals are completely without justification. The Mackay Harbour Board, as have some other harbour boards, proceeded with the provision of costly facilities for the meat trade, containerisation and the coastal feeder shipping service. It is now to be deprived of the trade which was expected to flow through that port as a result of these facilities. In Mackay alone, since 1965, $100,000 has been invested in a cold store on the pier. This was instrumental in founding the Mackay meat export trade. it has been stated by a reputable firm, Thomas Borthwick and Sons (Australasia) Pty Ltd, that Mackay will be one of the most important meat export ports in Australia. Last year the Mackay Harbour Board completed the construction of a container terminal primarily for use by the ANL at a cost in excess of $700,000. That cost was shared with the Line and the facility is available for all container shipping. The Board’s $350,000 outlay for containerisation was more than existing trade warranted but the Board went ahead in good faith. It believed the Government’s statement that there would be feeder containerisation at that port. The authorities have now been told that this will not take place. At that time coastal feeder services were proposed in conjunction with terminal ports and it was in this context that the cost of carriage of containerised cargo from feeder ports to terminal ports was first envisaged as the responsibility of the overseas shipping companies.
I want to refer to a letter dated 30th April 1969 from the Minister for Shipping md Tran “ort to the Mackay Harbour Board. Pie Minister said: ix remains the r’e:, intention of the container consol ti-.t. as notified two years ago, to provide feeder services from north Queensland, but this can only be done when il is economically feasible.
He went on to say:
You may be assured that the Government-
That is, the Federal Government - will continue to watch the position very closely to ensure that no section of the Australian exporting community is disadvantaged.
That is seen to be a complete somersault when one considers what is taking place at the present time. The fact that a coastal feeder shipping service was considered up to this point in time substantiates its practicability but the Mackay Harbour Board hold the fear that its incorporation has been allowed to lapse without a fair trial. This is the salient point which I ask the Minister for Trade and Industry or the Minister for Shipping and Transport to consider: Is it true that the coastal feeder service will not operate? Has this service been allowed to lapse without even a fair trial? If the service is not to operate then I say that this is certainly double-crossing the north Queensland port authorities who promoted the meat export trade so strenuously, provided a cold store and container shipping facilities and have now been told that the coastal feeder service will not operate. Representatives of Overseas Containers Ltd have said that it is still not too late for the Australian National Line to service the overseas container meat export trade by procuring the ships and offering competitive delivery for transshipment in Sydney. But Coastal Container Service is less adequate. It just does not have the ships. In fact, a letter from the general manager of the line advises the north Queensland ports as follows:
The line is aware that the introductory service now catered for by ‘Sydney Trader’ is running close to capacity and consideration has to be paid to potential growth aside from feeder cargo and generating support from shippers currently using other modes of transport because of frequency.
This letter indicates clearly that Coastal Container Service will not be interested in feeder services from the north with respect to meat. This is the only assumption that can be made. The harbour boards of the meat ports in the north subscribe to the reasoned opinion that the only proper action in this plan for rationalisation of shipping is to utilise the coastal container shipping feeder service for the purpose for which it was provided, but on no account to abandon what has been provided without a fair trial. This is the crux of the problem. There is confusion in the north. Capital has been expended on improved port facilities, cold storage and for containerisation. Certainly at present United Kingdom trade represents only a small proportion of the meat trade but people in the north have been notified by representatives of OCL that the American trade could be affected in the future.
The Minister for Shipping and Transport was in my electorate at the weekend. It was his second visit there in a short time and it was related to the problem at the ports of Bowen and Mackay. 1 might say in passing, although it does not worry me, that he is the only Federal Minister who does not notify the Federal member when he is coming officially into an electorate.
– Do you not think senators have any right?
– You are not a senator, you are a Minister.
– A senator of Queensland, Senator Ellis Lawrie - does he not have any rights?
– The Minister for Shipping and Transport has come into my electorate twice officially but I have not received any official advice of the visit. He is the only Minister who acts in this way. The Minister has said that Mackay’s future is not as a beef port. What cheek is this! The Minister for Shipping and Transport is not an expert on this matter. He pays a flying visit to the area and tells Borthwicks and all others: ‘You have no future as far as Mackay being a major export port for beef is concerned’. Why does the Minister think that the Government is spending millions of dollars on brigalow development in the area? The beef roads leading into Mackay have been designed to cater for the export of beef and other meat from Mackay. Is it any wonder that this morning in Mackay there has been considerable comment on this matter?
It is high time that the Government had a good look at the whole problem and came clean with the facts. As the Minister well knows, there is confusion not only in the north Queensland ports but throughout Australia about what will happen with containerisation and what will happen to the outports. The Minister was reported in this morning’s Press as saying that Mackay harbour was losing the meat export trade to Britain but that most of the United States trade, which was much more important than the British trade, will still be centred on ports like Mackay. This is quite different from what the harbours boards have been notified by representatives of the container services, namely, that they are considering the possibility of the future North American trade also to be centralised from the southern ports. This is very serious because although a port like Mackay is diversified and can probably stand the loss of part of the beef trade, what about the ports of Bowen and Port Alma if anything happens to their meat exports?
– And other ports in the Commonwealth?
– Yes, ports throughout Australia. There can be no doubt that there are few subjects where the Government has been more guilty of bungling than in the field of containerisation. This statement by the Minister for Trade and Industry tells us nothing at all. It simply attempts to tell us that this is still the best service. No details are given to justify any of the figures and that is the reason why the honourable member for Newcastle has moved the amendment.
– The amendment that has been moved is not supported in any way by the information that has been propounded by either the honourable member for Newcastle (Mr Charles Jones) or the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson). In fact, what we are concerned about is the statement that was made by the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr McEwen) which has set down some of the comparable advantages arising from the introduction of a new form of shipment.
– lt is a complete and utter farce.
– I think it is important that there is a recognition of the very substantial advantages that have flowed to Australia, not only in terms of ships but in terms of every other form of transport, as a result of the introduction of unitised forms of cargo handling. As the honourable member who is persistently trying to make himself heard might be interested to know, containers have been used in rail transport since 1949. They were used in the movement of cargoes-
– They were used before then.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order!
– He is being provocative.
-Order! The honourable member for Sturt will cease interjecting.
– In the service across Bass Strait it was as a result of these new forms of cargo handling that the Australian National Line was able to contain the increases that those trades would have otherwise incurred in freight rates for a period which lasted from 1959 right through to 1970. So when the Department of Trade and Industry and the overseas consortia spoke generally about the prospects that there were of lower freight increases for the future, they were talking about the way in which it might be possible, in a door to door concept of freight handling, to introduce some efficiencies which, in the Australian coastal trade in particular, had been demonstrated in the trade between Tasmania and the mainland.
Honourable members will have read of the way in which 1,500 containers on the Melbourne express were handled in Sydney in a period of about 24 hours. As the statement of the Minister for Trade and Industry indicates, 1,500 containers is a substantially greater load than would have been hauled by any of the old conventional vessels. So the whole objective of the new form of cargo handling is to try to ensure that by the introduction of new forms of cargo handling there is less manpower per unit of cargo handled and an ability to contain costs. The basic purport of the statement was to demonstrate some of the areas in which costs have moved. It might be of interest to note that from March 1967 to June 1970 the following cost increases were incurred in the Australia to Europe trade: Loading costs from United Kingdom ports increased overall by 56 per cent; stevedoring costs on the Continent increased by 21 per cent and in Australia by 31 per cent; United Kingdom crew wages increased by 40 per cent; crew victualling by 21 per cent; European crew wages increased by an average of 40 per cent and United Kingdom port charges increased by an average of 10 per cent. So J could continue. Fuel charges increased, container costs increased and repair and maintenance costs increased by 23 to 26 per cent. Since March this year United Kingdom terminal charges have increased by 31 per cent and Australian depot charges have increased by 50 per cent.
The point of the whole costs story is that costs have increased, but what we need to recognise is how much worse our position would have been had we been dependent entirely upon a conventional shipping service, lt is because we have been able to blend the new forms of cargo handling with the old that we have been able to contain cost increases as much as we have. If we had been dependent entirely on a conventional shipping service we would not have been able to achieve the reduction in freight rates that we achieved in 1969. In that year there was no cost increase. In fact, for the first time in 20-odd years there was a reduction in wool and general freight rates of 4.5 per cent and in refrigerated cargo rates of about 2.5 per cent. So there was an actual reduction in the annual freight cost on the Australia to United Kingdom and Europe trade in 1968. As a result of rationalisation and a blend of conventional and container vessels we have been able to contain the increases that would otherwise have occurred.
It is utter nonsense for the Leader of the Opposition and others to suggest that because the Government has entered into container forms of cargo handling, cost increases have been passed on to the exporter to a greater extent than otherwise would have been the case. The whole objective of the Government in supporting the entry of the ANL into the overseas trade and in supporting in general form, although the decision was taken by the private investors, the introduction of new forms of cargo handling, has been to reduce the impact of cost increases. It is on that basis that we need to look at the whole question of transport services. If one looks at the level of increases in transport charges by freight forwarders in Australia and looks at the levels of increase in onward freight rates in the United Kingdom and Europe on shore, one can see how much greater would have been the cost increases were it not for the introduction of container and conventional vessels. lt is essential when talking about trade out of Australia to recognise however that a considerable percentage of cargo is still handled by conventional vessels today. The costs in respect of those conventional vessels have moved from 50 per cent to 75 per cent more than for those applying to specialised vessels. Because fewer specialised vessels are needed to handle the same volume of cargo there has therefore been a lower level of cost increase than there would have been if only conventional ships had been available.
So the first point I want to make in support of the statement which my colleague, the Minister for Trade and Industry, has propounded is that because there has been a move into new forms of cargo handling there has been a considerably greater reduction in the impact of cost movements than would otherwise have been the case. Of course there has also been a saving because fewer men are employed on the specialised vessels and fewer men are required to handle them in port. There has been a reduction in the number of manpower units per cargo unit. This is how one must assess the way in which efficiency in cargo handling can be translated into onward freight rate movements. That is the reason why we in Australia must support new forms of shipping and new forms of cargo handling. That is the reason why the ANL has moved into new forms of handling cargo.
The ANL has not only gone into cellular container ships but is at the moment interested in 3 types of ships, namely, cellular container ships, roll-on roll-Off ships - which were operating in the Japan trade - and the Pacific-Australia direct type vessel, which is a combination of the two. The whole objective of the participation of the ANL in each of these forms of cargo handling is both to have a window on cost movements and also to ensure that, as was achieved in the Tasmanian trade, the reasons for cost increases are identified. A stability of freight rates has been achieved by the ANL in the Tasmanian trade although the amount of freight handled and costs have considerably increased since 1959. We are hoping to be able to ensure that the same cost savings will be brought about in other trades by these new forms of shipping. But of course we cannot control the cost movements outside Australia. We cannot control all the factors I have just mentioned. Increases in freight charges are of concern to the Government. Of course they are of concern to primary producers too. It is because we want to ensure that they will be no greater in their impact than is unavoidable that we support the movement by the ANL into new forms of cargo handling.
A lot has been said about shipping services to Queensland and to the outports. The Government is trying to do several things. Firstly, we have an undertaking from the United Kingdom-Europe Conference that there will be no greater freight cost for goods moved from outports as a result of the introduction of containers than if they were sent by direct shipment. This means that instead of the ship owner having to send a big empty vessel all the way to north Queensland to pick up a cargo of so many tons - unfortunately the amount of cargo has not always turned out to be as much as was expected when it was decided to make the voyage - that cargo can now be moved by either ship, train or road transport, where a service can be provided in relation to the volume of cargo offering. Consequently there is no risk of the owner of the goods, the exporter, having to bear additional freight costs. Instead, the averaging of freights around Australia has meant that exporters from the northern ports and the outports will pay no more than exporters from Sydney. Melbourne and Fremantle.
It is true that I have been to Queensland on a number of occasions to look into the problems of Queensland ports. I have also made visits to Albany, to Portland and to Tasmania. It is also true to say that the big potential for the harbour boards in Queensland to handle larger tonnages must be in the bulk trades. Let us look, for example, at Mackay, to which the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) has referred. Of its imports and exports, 83 per cent are represented by sugar, 9 per cent by petroleum products, 4 per cent by fertiliser, 2 per cent by industrial alcohol and 1 per cent by general commodities. The whole volume of meat exports by liner services last year represented only 0.01 per cent of total overseas exports.
I did not for one minute say, nor do I believe, that there should not be a service for meat from these ports. But what I did say, and what I very strongly support, is that these ports should look more to the bulk trades in minerals and oil than to meat to get volume of cargo in their shipping services. They should be thinking in terms of the tonnage of the vessels that come into their ports. Obviously there must be greater prospect for increasing the volume of tonnage handled, and hense port dues collected, by looking at the tons of minerals that have to be moved than by looking at meat. What we need to be concerned about is how much the grazier, the meat producer, will have to pay for a service to move his meat and whether that service will be a more frequent service. If there is a container service running regularly to the United Kingdom and Europe surely he will get a more frequent service than the 3-weekly or monthly service, whatever the old conventional service used to be. We want a more frequent service for the grazier and a lower freight cost for him. In order to rationalise the service and provide a better service, whether goods are sent by rail, road or coastal ship, it is only a matter of negotiation with the operator.
Let us look at the coastal shipping operation. It needs to be recognised that it takes an additional 16 hours steaming for an ANL vessel to come into Brisbane and out again. Consequently the ANL quotes the same rate to ship goods from north Queensland to Sydney as it does to ship goods from north Queensland to Brisbane. Because the railways have to ship goods only as far as Brisbane they obviously can offer a more competitive freight rate. The Queensland ports are assured of a continued service to the United States through both conventional vessels and new types of side port loading and other palletised vessels that are coming into the trade. The United States trade accounts for by far the biggest percentage of their exports and they are assured of a future direct service to this market. There is an obligation upon the conference responsible for the United Kingdom-Europe service to absorb in overall freight costs the rate for the movement of goods from northern Queensland to the main ports. So the only trade in relation to which there is a problem and in relation to which, as I have mentioned to the harbour boards and to the exporters, negotiations are still going on is the Japan trade. 1 am hoping that the conference lines on this trade will similarly recognise that they will have to bear the cost of moving goods from outports to main ports if there is to be cargo centralisation.
The amendment that has been moved by the Opposition is really utter nonsense. It is as bad as some of the statements that have been made by the Leader of the Opposition who has, in the past, demonstrated utterly no interest in the introduction of modern improvements to our transport service. The Government favours lower freight rates and supports ways and means by which they can be introduced. Through the participation of the ANL in new forms of cargo handling we are trying to introduce the most economic form of cargo handling that is possible.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– Before the suspension of the sitting the House was considering a statement made by the Minister for Trade and Industry on container ships, and the Opposition had moved an amendment to the question that the House take note of the paper. We oppose the amendment which suggests that more information be made available. The whole purpose of the statement was to make this information available and, accordingly I suggest that the House should reject the amendment. The honourable member for Dawson suggested thatI had not given him notice of my visit to his electorate. 1 might say that on 8th September I notified his office of that visit. Accordingly, I also reject that submission.
Thatthe amendment (Mr Charles Jones’) be agreed to.
The House divided. (Mr Speaker - Hon. Sir William Aston)
Majority . . . . 5
Question so resolved in the negative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
- Mr Speaker,
I wish to make a personal explanation.
– Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. During the course of my remarks I stated that the Minister for Shipping and Transport had not notified me when he came into the electorate of Dawson to investigate certain matters with respect to shipping services at
Bowen. He has informed me that his office rang my office and informed my staff of his visit. Although I did not get that message I accept the assurance and I withdraw that criticism.
Consideration resumed (vide page 2398).
– lt was my original intention in the debate on the defence estimates to speak of the need for the highest level inquiry into all aspects of service in the defence forces. It is now my pleasure to congratulate the Minister for Defence (Mr Malcolm Fraser) on his statement in the House a few days ago. The Minister’s statement and the terms of reference that he specified for the high level inquiry fulfil all the requirements that could possibly be asked for on this subject. Defence expenditure on pay and allowances represents approximately S333m. lt is axiomatic even if it is sometimes forgotten that the tools are only as good as the workman who uses them. My point is that the performance of the Australian forces has earnt them a reputation second to none for the highest standards of professional competence. Their reputation has been and is being enhanced by the task force of all 3 Services at present operating in Vietnam. It is only just and reasonable therefore that the country should accept the responsibility of ensuring that these servicemen and women should bc paid at a level commensurate with their skills and the responsibilities they bear. What greater responsibility could anyone carry than the security and safety of his or her country? Not only should the pay reflect their responsibilities: the conditions of service in the widest sense deserve the same full and adequate recognition.
Over recent years there has been a massive re-equipment programme for all 3 Services to enable Australia to undertake the growing defence responsibilities both at home and overseas which changed circumstances are forcing on us. The Government h;is made clear time and time again that the Australian Labor Party’s negative defence attitude of limiting Australia’s defence contribution to Australia itself - a policy which in all honesty I must restate has been made and forced upon the parliamentary members of the Australian Labor Party by their non-elected masters - is a repudiation of the responsibilities that we must show we are ready to share if we are to play the role in our geographic region made possible by our economic, industrial and technical power. This role will increasingly be concerned with the area to our west - that is, the Indian Ocean region. At the moment almost half - in fact, I am informed, about 46 per cent - of our trade goes over the Indian Ocean and this proportion is likely to increase with the huge tonnages and value of exports from the Pilbara region in Western Australia.
The recent decision to start construction of a naval facility at Cockburn Sound and to upgrade Learmonth Royal Australian Air Force base is proof that this Government recognises the facts of life in the Indian Ocean area and is prepared to start to meet our needs and responsibilities. I note in the recent Defence report that the establishment of an Army facility in Western Australia is under consideration. This seems completely logical to me since both the other Services will be catered for under existing announced commitments. At this stage I would like to suggest that consideration be given either to establishing a base for a task force or at least reserving a training area in the north-west of Western Australia. I am fully aware of the problems of transport, amenities - particularly education - involved in establishing a major base a long way from a large centre of population. Nevertheless, I believe that the Army could take a lead here in encouraging decentralisation and development in the area. The establishment of an Army facility in the Exmouth area, for example, would certainly accelerate the establishment of a much needed secondary school in the district. In the Exmouth area there is a wide range of public amenities - far greater than most people realise. The amenities at Exmouth are a wonderful tribute to the personal drive and dedication of the Civil Commissioner, Colonel Murdoch, lt might surprise some honourable members to know that this area has sports fields, including, 1 am delighted to be able to say, a turf wicket. Other amenities include tennis courts, a golf course, a public library, a kindergarten and a first class hospital - in fact practically everything one would expect to find in a town of fair size.
Lastly, and in this context the most important of ail, there is a magnificient training area immediately adjacent to the town in the Cape Range. It would be difficult to find more suitable terrain for military training and this area has the additional advantage of being virtually alongside the Learmonth RAAF base. If it is decided, despite all the advantages that 1 have mentioned, that it is not feasible to establish a permanet task force base at Exmouth, I hope that an adequate area of land will be reserved for military training exercises which, because of the proximity of Learmonth, would be ideal for combined Army-RAAF operations. I commend this suggestion to the Government.
– This debate comes at a most fertile time in the evolution of Australia’s defence forces. There is a plenitude of themes topical at the moment - themes of future procurement programmes, the organisation of the armed services, the deployment of our armed forces, Service pay and conditions. Within the amended time scale of the Estimates debate it is not possible to develop any of these themes at length. I intend to concentrate on some general comments about the future character and composition of the armed forces. The Minister for Defence (Mr Malcolm Fraser) made some comments on these issues in answer to a question in the House last Thursday. These comments were widely reported in the Press: they were even lampooned by some columnists. While it is impossible to separate the ludicrous from what the Minister said, they should be regarded as a serious statement of principle from a senior Government spokesman. I do not know how far these comments should be taken as projecting official Government policy.
The Minister’s statement had a highly personal, even idiosyncratic flavour. What lie put to the House were obviously very deeply held personal views. Although I find them rather alarming I do not dispute that the Minister had thought these attitudes out for himself and was putting them in a completely sincere way. What he said referred to the move by the United States of America and President Nixon to an allvolunteer Army. This followed a campaign pledge by President Nixon in the 1968
Presidential election to move the United States armed forces towards an allvolunteer Army and abolish the draft. After his election he appointed the Gates Commission to investigate the feasibility of an allvolunteer Army. The Gates Commission reported favourably on the viability of an all-volunteer Army. The President has accepted these recommendations and has now announced that the draft machinery will be allowed to run down while the move is made to an all-volunteer Army. I agree with 1 point made by the Minister: There has been widespread misinterpretation of this move as abolishing the draft. The Minister correctly pointed out that the draft will be retained in a skeletal form while the United States Government attempts the transformation to an allvolunteer Army. 1 cannot agree with the rest of the Minister’s comments about the differences between the United States and Australia which prevent a move to an all-volunteer Army in this country. One argument used by the Minister was the relative incidence of unemployment between Australia and the United States with consequent effects on recruiting. This argument was expressed in very crude terms but as it goes beyond purely defence concepts, it is outside a debate on defence estimates. The Minister went further and claimed that American recruits received some hundreds of dollars more in absolute terms than recruits inducted into the Australian Army.
– Less, not more.
– I have not the comparative figures but in hard money terms I have no reason to disagree with the Minister. 1 thank the Minister for the correction. He has made the comment that in actual fact it is less. I accept his interjection. The point that should be made here is that Australian and American pay rates cannot be compared in these terms. On real terms there is little doubt that the American recruit and indeed every member of the United States armed forces is better off than his Australian counterpart. There is a very much greater range of amenities and privileges available to American soldiers.
The shopping privileges for United Stales soldiers and their families at post exchanges and commissariats are much more extensive than those provided by the canteen system in Australia. United States servicemen can shop much more cheaply within the military system than Australian military men. There is also a much broader range of amenities available from Service clubs in the United States than from comparable messes at Australian Army bases. These are factors which largely discount any pay differential between American and Australian soldiers. The whole range of facilities in both military systems should be taken into account when making a comparison of the sort put to the House by the Minister.
The Minister went on to criticise the Labor Party on the grounds that it sought to buy defence; that is, to provide defence by paying better salaries and providing better conditions so that Service ranks could be filled. This was his argument against an all-volunteer Army for Australia; that it would have to be bought, [n other words, it would be a mercenary Army. By any sort of reasoning the Ministers theoretical framework is a. rather peculiar one. lt is also completely contradictory; he says that an all-volunteer Army would put excessive reliance on the highly developed patriotism of a small part of the population.
In the same breath the Minister says that the only people who would flock to the colours if pay and conditions were improved would be the poorly educated and under-privileged, induced only by money. He cannot have it both ways; in fact, towards the end of his statement he seemed to recognise this and transferred as much of the emphasis as possible to this mercenary argument. In essence, what he said was the higher the pay rates and the better the conditions the lower the calibre of the recruit.
What the Minister was putting to the House was the cold cash argument that buying defence absolved the privilege, the better educated and the wealthy from defending the country. By default this burden was transferred to the under-privileged, the poorly-educated and the indigent who could not get a job in civilian life and had to snap up the relatively high pay rates in the Services. The logical end result of the Minister’s argument was that the calibre of the recruit diminished as pay rates in creased. This seems to me a remarkably shameful reflection on the motivation and dedication of the armed forces.
The Minister overlooks several basic facts. 1 do not know how he can reconcile his mercenary arguments with the fact that much of the officer cadres of the Australian forces come from traditional military families. These men come from fairly affluent families; they could not bc described as under-privileged or lacking in education. They train as officers for the Services because they adhere to service traditions; they are not activated by sordid money considerations.
The Minister also overlooks the fact that a majority of servicemen join up for one simple reason - they like the life. These arc the people who find a sense of vocation in Service life and enjoy its day to day existence. Certainly these people are not unaware of their pay and conditions relative to civilian jobs, nor should they be. But they are men, both officers and other ranks, capable of finding job satisfaction and fulfilment in the Services.
There is the other angle that young men often use the Services as a vehicle for job training. This is perfectly correct. Why should not a young man do a trade course in-one of the Services for a few years before returning to civilian life? As I have said before in this House, there will be a much greater interchange between Service and civilian roles in the next 10 years.
Again this sort of vocational training, invariably allied with worthy patriotic motives, is completely beyond the very narrow cash basis attributed by the Minister to Army life. He went on to say that the wealthy, the privileged and the better educated must pull their weight in the defence of Australia. How has the Government assured that these social groups do not avoid their defence duties? It has adopted a scheme of conscripting one in six or seven 20-year old Australians.
With such a system of random selection, the Minister seems to be saying: You must on the laws of chance pick up a wealthy man or a university graduate or a son of one of the privileged families. This is the Minister’s idea of equity; that the dice of the conscription ballot may occasionally fall against the privileged, the educated and the wealthy. According to the Minister, this is much better than substantially increasing Service pay and improving conditions because this would only attract the dregs of Australian society to the colours.
– Mr Deputy Chairman-
– In the light of this extraordinary statement, members of Australia’s armed services should be under no illusions about the Minister’s attitude in relation to these matters.
– The honourable member has gone about 60 seconds past the point when I got up to take a point of order. My point of order is that I object to his insistence on a sort of class war strategy based on the present method of selection for national service training.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Drury) - Order! There is no substance in the point of order.
– The implication is inescapable that his opinion of the Services and the value of Service life is a pretty low one. There has been much debate in the House during this session on service pay and conditions. I want to make some suggestions on what might be termed the industrial side of this debate. In the past few weeks there have been examples of industrial protest against grievances in the Navy and the Royal Australian Air Force. These have been tactfully handled by senior officers in these Services; the men involved also have heaved with restraint once their initial protest was made. The point is that there should be some machinery for conveying genuine grievances regarding pay and conditions to the senior ranks of the Services and to the Service departments.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Drury) - Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I will leave the Minister for Defence (Mr Malcolm Fraser) to handle the rubbish that has been spoken by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard). I should like to refer to the remarks of the honourable member for St George (Mr Morrison) earlier in the debate. He criticised the Army booklet which is handed to troops going to Vietnam. He placed great emphasis on the final words in the booklet, which contain advice to the troops. They are told to adopt an attitude of constant vigilance and eternal suspicion. I do not know whether the honourable member for St George has been a serviceman, but if he has, he has forgotten what he ever knew. If he has not been a serviceman, well he has not been one. But it is very sound advice to warn servicemen to be on the alert if they are going to live in an area in which every serviceman is vulnerable through propaganda, rumours, physical attacks, acts of terrorism, the throwing of grenades, attacks by snipers and the use of knives. The best way in which to help Vietnam, the country where these men are serving, is to stay alive. The only way to stay alive when you are with any force on active service at all - whether it is in the Navy, the Army or the Air Force which some of you people may know something about-
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN - I suggest to the honourable member that he should address his remarks to the Chair.
– Certainly, Sir. This advice is very relevant to any serviceman, as the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) would know. He has been a member of an air crew, and he would know that he had to watch and be vigilant. One has to be on the ball all the time, lt is completely puerile to rubbish that sort of advice, but I believe that the honourable member for St George did this for purely political purposes. I consider that he has grossly misrepresented these estimates by saying that the Government had resorted to the use of accountancy in order to mislead the Australian people. As to the cost of the commitment in Vietnam, Malaysia and Singapore, he said that transferring various items from Division 666, which deals with Army forces overseas, to Division 670 was just an accountancy swindle.
– Trick, he said. Let us turn to the Air Force. The same thing applies to Division 696 of the Air Force estimates in relation to expenses for forces overseas. Division 700 includes equipment and stores amounting to $54,143,000 expenditure. The item for liquid fuels and lubricants is the last one. That is not all being used overseas. It is not all being used in Malaysia and Vietnam. It is being used for the general running of the Air Force.
The honourable member made some play about the Navy. He said that the Navy made no admission of expenses at all. There is nothing under the heading of overseas expenses, but once again we find the same sort of entry in Division 636, general stores. The same thing is obvious throughout the Services estimates. These are their accounting divisions. These are the headings under which the stores - the shells or whatever they are - are bought. Under the heading of general stores, HMAS ships, are rations, electronic, electrical, armament stores, oil, fuel and so on, amounting to $44,405,000. The honourable member tried to make the case that the Government was misleading the people by putting these items under this sort of heading. That is complete bunkum. The honourable member has just taken a few figures out of the Appropriation Bill and used them to suit his own particular shabby political purposes. He has been misleading. .
Turning to the Defence Report I see that at page 10 there is a considerable list of hardware, lt has been announced in the last 12 months that we are to have 2 Oberon submarines. This has been criticised very severely by people who obviously know more about it than I do but who may not know as much about it as the Service chiefs do. Under this Division 1 would compliment the Minister concerned on buying another 10 Skyhawks. I think they are first class aeroplanes, and the more we have the better. While referring to this type of hardware I suggest to the Government that consideration be given to purchasing the Phantom aircraft, which we are now leasing, as a tactical strike aeroplane.
– What is wrong with the Fill?
– There is nothing the matter with the Fill at all.
– Only it will not fly.
– As a pilot, I consider it a very fine aeroplane. So does every other pilot and so does the Royal Australian Air Force. In considering this hardware list I would say that I hope the work on the light destroyer proceeds at speed. We need this sort of patrol craft around the north and west of Australia. In the remaining time I wish to discuss service personnel, for what is the use of having this sophisticated equipment if the men who man it are brassed off? Many of us have been very concerned for a long time about service pay and conditions. I welcome the Minister’s statement of this matter. In so doing I note that the chairman of the committee of inquiry happens to be a 2nd AIF man.
– What has it got to do with defence?
– This has all to do with defence. [ turn now to the statement by the Minister for Defence in which he said that a review is to take place of the group pay system whereby industrial award rates are taken into account, to examine the demands and exigencies of the Services. If anyone has ever been in the Services - and little gunner on the front bench would know this - they would know that the exigencies of the Services are applied to every possible manner of thing one can think of with regard to the Services. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition said that the Labor Party would look into the whole social environment of the Services - pay, moves and establishment, civil life assimilation, separation, disturbance and housing. This is covered by the term ‘exigencies of the Service’. As the honourable member ought to know, and as anyone who has ever been in the Services knows, this covers the lot.
The Minister also says:
The Defence (Conditions of Service) Committee is well placed to consider and bring forward prompt recommendations. lt is capable of doing this. In that statement the Minister also says that there will be no freeze on terms and conditions of employment while the inquiry is under way. In my mind, this completely knocks what the Deputy Leader of the Opposition had to say regarding the Senate special committee looking into the whole affair. Since I have little time left I. would like to refer in conclusion to national service. The situation in Australia is being whipped up by the Opposition. It is sick. I hear around the country - I am only repeating what I hear - that people say we cannot afford not to have national service and thereby eliminate the policy which is referred to by honourable members opposite as conscription.
– The Minister for Defence (Mr Malcolm Fraser) is exhibiting the same traits as when he was Minister for Education. He will not face facts; he does his best to conceal them. He is notably more dilatory in answering questions on notice than his predecessor, Sir Alan Fairhall. Yet questions in this Parliament are an essential method for ascertaining the critical position in our armed forces. From the scanty and guarded references in the Minister’s Defence Report 1970 who would have thought that discontent over service pay and conditions had reached the stage where the Flag Officer Commanding the Australian Fleet would have had to leave his office to persuade 200 sailors from 5 ships at Garden Island to return to their duties; where 50 ground staff at our main fighter base, Williamtown, would walk off the job; where a memorandum circulated within the Royal Australian Air Force and also apparently to the Press would declare:
When Qantas hostesses ate able to gain a similar increase by direct action in one week, these efforts by the Department must appear puny?’
Who would have thought from the Minister’s report that the situation would have been allowed to drift to a stage where the Returned Services League could publicly denounce ‘a critical manpower position in all the Services, especially at the junior officer-N.C.O. level”?
The answers to my colleagues and me who represent great service electorates like Oxley, Bendigo and Werriwa show how many members of the Armed Services are registering their discontent by the only means available to them. Five years ago the number of officers allowed to resign from the Navy, Army and Air Force respectively was 13. 10 and 47; last year it was 28, 98 and 115; in July and August last it had reached 9, 17 and 23. Not all applications to resign are approved. The number of officers who submitted resignations in the respective Services last year was 47, 105 and 157. The greatest proportion of resignations was by officers of captain’s or equivalent rank. Last year the number of them who resigned from the three Services was respectively 12, 43 and 52. Five years earlier it was 6, 4 and 26. Such general figures do not reveal particular crisis areas. Last May, the Minister for Air told the Senate that in 12 months the Royal Australian Air Force had lost 28 pilots, all from the ranks of squadron-leaders and senior flight-lieutenants. In the Army Intelligence Corps the Minister for the
Army (Mr Peacock) on 19th August confessed that 1 lieutenant-colonel, 5 majors and 5 captains had retired early, resigned or transferred to the Citizen Military Forces since January last year. When one considers that the linguist bounty for an officer who has equipped himself with Japanese, Chinese or even both is only $500, one can hardly be surprised. Wc have no calculation of the cost involved in this wastage of officers. Last year in answer to the late Senator Cohen the then Minister for the Army put a price of approximately $56,000 on graduating a Duntroon cadet. However it is not only a question of initial training. The former Secretary of the Department of Defence, Sir Henry Bland, in the Roy Milne Lecture delivered in Perth last month, pointed out that ‘no organisation gives more attention to, or devotes more resources to, or spends more money on training than the Armed Forces’. He told of one general who estimated that he had spent one-fifth of his service life in training.
The overall picture for the re-engagement of servicemen after their initial period of service provides further evidence of the wastage in our Armed Services. The Minister gave details on the 25th of last month which showed that only 1 in 4 of other ranks in the Navy were re-engaging, only 4 out of 10 in the Army and a little over half in the RAAF. The Navy and RAAF rates had been relatively static over the past 5 years. But the Army in the first 2 months of this year showed that only 41 per cent were re-engaging compared with 59 per cent 4 years earlier. The latest available figures on the number of applications to join the Regular Army are for 1968-69. It was the first year for 5 years in which there was a fall in the number of applications. Yet the Army’s expenditure on recruitment activity had been increased by 67 per cent. Again the general figures mask problems in special areas. The Army does not maintain detailed statistics in respect of re-engagement in trades or employment, surely a very grave deficiency in statistics for its own planning. In the Navy reengagement rates last May were as low as 7.7 per cent in electrical categories and 11.2 per cent in engineering. Little wonder that the Senate was told in April that there was a 16 per cent shortage of trained engineroom staff in the RAN. Finally, the overall strength of the CMF declined last year by nearly 3,000, twice the decline of the previous year.
What has been the response of the Minister for Defence to this deteriorating situation? Before Christmas he established the Defence (Conditions of Service) Committee. When I asked him in March whether it was empowered to inquire into defence forces retirement benefits, war service homes for serving and discharged members and scholarships for the children of members of the Forces who are posted from one school system to another, he superciliously replied that these matters were, of course, as 1 would realise, largely the responsibility of other Ministers. Six months later, on 14th September, the Minister announced that he would speak to Cabinet to request an independent inquiry into service conditions. This was one of the Minister’s Cabinet submissions which was not frustrated or delayed by his mutual hostility with the Prime Minister, Mr Gorton, and the Foreign Minister, Mr McMahon, for last Friday he was able to announce the appointment of a judge as chairman of a committee of inquiry into financial terms and conditions of service employment. He had to concede that a major review would be beyond his committee which had effectively functioned for less than 7 months.
The Minister and the Government Parties still refuse to trust members of the Services and of the Parliament as sufficiently responsible to engage in a Parliamentary inquiry. They have voted against my Deputy’s motions to have parliamentary committees inquire into the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Fund and into (i) pay and allowances for all personnel, (ii) provision for retraining of officers and men, (iii) housing and (iv) educational facilities for the children of servicemen. Realising the danger that the second vote represented to him, the honourable member for Herbert (Mr Bonnett) gave notice of a motion to appoint such a committee. When my Deputy put this proposal forward again last Friday, the honourable member for Herbert again voted against the motion of which he had by now given notice himself. Last month every member of the Liberal and Country Parties voted against my Deputy’s motion to appoint a committee to inquire into and make recommendations on all aspects of the provisions and operation of the Repatriation Act.
The Government’s failure to recruit and retain sufficient men for the profession of arms is due to its refusal to acknowledge that the Armed Forces are one of the nation’s essential occupations. It is the only essential occupation which is manned even in part by conscripts and which is followed for only a few years. The Defence Services must be recognised to be as necessary and their conditions must be made as attractive as any other pursuit in the community. The best way to attract and retain regular soldiers is to guarantee that they and their dependants will be and will remain on a par with civilians of the same age. Anybody who knows and represents the officers and men of our Armed Services knows that their complaints do not solely or mainly arise from their pay and allowances. Sir Henry Bland stated that it was largely the posting policies. 1 have time perhaps to touch on housing alone. The Minister for Housing (Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin) told me last Friday that the number of applications lodged with the Service Departments for dwellings, mostly housing commission dwellings, lodged with the service departments by serving members of the forces in the last financial year was 11,337 - 1,269 more than the previous year - and that the number of the applications outstanding at the end of June was 4,794 - 692 more than a year earlier. A serviceman whose overseas service has qualified him for a war service home can still not secure an advance for a second home or transfer the balance of the advance for his home to a second home, however frequent or distant his subsequent postings may be in the Services or whatever the place and nature of his employment after service. Yet the War Service Homes Division made a profit of $22.4m last year. For 9 weeks the Minister for Housing has been unable to tell me about the discussions with housing authorities in each State to ensure that on discharge a former serviceman is not at a disadvantage in comparison with civilians generally in seeking to purchase a housing authority dwelling.
Above all, if we want men and their families to be happy in the Service we must recognise their preoccupation with the circumstances in which they will find themselves when, at a mature age, they embark on a civilian life, usually in competition with younger breadwinners. They are entitled to a more enduring advantage from their years of service than they can get from the archaic and restrictive provisions of the Repatriation, Commonwealth Employees Compensation, Defence Forces Retirement Benefits and War Service Homes Acts. Yet the Minister for Defence claims it to bc a matter of democratic principle for our army to rely on a pool of conscripts. Accordingly the Gorton Government will continue to evade its responsibilities to provide conditions in our armed forces appropriate for an essential occupation and wilt cling to a system which is socially divisive, grossly unfair and economically wasteful.
– Mr Deputy Chairman, this evening, we have heard the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard) and the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) indicate, on one of the rare occasions on which they do indicate it, some concern for defence. If I may, I would like to say something first about the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. The odd thing about the Deputy Leader of the Opposition was that he rose to answer a question which I answered last week. His response was based on a complete fallacy which I corrected during the course of his remarks. The whole tenor of his argument was based on the fact that he believed that I had said last week that servicemen in the United States of America are paid more as recruits when they first enter the United States Army than are Australian servicemen when they are recruited first into the Australian Army.
The fact is that for many years, and still at the present time, the Australian Army has paid several hundreds of dollars a year more to recruits entering the Australian Army than has been the case in the United States. That factor compared with our standards and compared with the much higher levels of unemployment in the United States and with the much higher still regional unemployment in the United States does create a different circumstance for the recruitment policies of the United States Armed Forces. It gives some greater possibility of attracting the numbers by higher pay because the United States Armed Forces must establish a good deal higher pay to get to the attractions on a recruit basis in the United States Army than we have already with our Australian Army. Also, of course, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition sought to confuse what I had been putting in answer to that question. He tried to confuse the situation concerning other ranks, senior non-commissioned officers, warrant officers and officers and tried to suggest that the position of all members of the armed forces is precisely the same. Every armed Service depends upon those long-term skilled members in the Service who are dedicated to the Service for a career. To make sure not only that they are equitably and properly treated but that there is no room for doubt on this score, the Government has announced an inquiry into these matters.
When you come to conscription or national service you are not talking about long-term non-commissioned officers and warrant officers. You are not talking about the officers who must be in the Service for a long-term career. You are talking about filling out the numbers in the Army; this has been the practice in the United States and putting into the armed Services people for 2 years to do jobs they can do with 2 years training and still be appointed to a field force. There is a limit to the amount of training a person can be given in that time and still be posted to a field force to strengthen the front line fighting teeth of a Service. This is also what we have done. It has been the purpose of national service and nobody has pretended or suggested that it is anything else. If you are talking then of trying to replace the system we have with a purely voluntary system you are talking about trying to attract to these positions for example the riflemen in the battalions - volunteers. You have 2 ways of doing this. You can appeal to a person’s sense of patriotism lo try to attract those people into the armed forces so that all those with a less highly developed sense of patriotism can go with a clear conscience about their daily business with no obligation or concern for Australia’s defence. Firstly, I say it is unfair to appeal specifically to those with a particularly highly developed sense of patriotism and let others go untouched without any concern or obligation for the defence of this country.
If you put that argument aside you are trying to attract people to the armed forces by higher pay. I am not saying, and do not let anybody twist my words to say that they should not be properly paid. Of course they should. The whole tenor of the announcement of the inquiry and the terms of reference of that inquiry indicates that the Government is determined that all servicemen will be properly paid in our armed forces. So do not let that argument be twisted as so many arguments are twisted by the Opposition. When you are talking about trying to fill out the number of riflemen in a battalion specifically and solely by higher pay you will still not appeal to the wealthy or privileged, to those who have a much better education than most - people who have been to universities and colleges of advanced education. They will not be attracted. Nothing can deny the fact that that approach to defence, as Senator Kennedy indicated in the United States Senate a short while ago, will make the privileged immune from the obligations which arise as a result of defence policy and place the full burden of defence on the under-privileged in the community - people who are working with their hands, people who have been less fortunate in relation to their education and people who are less well off. These are the people, therefore, you are appealing to by higher pay to fill out the positions such as that of riflemen who are the fighting teeth or guts, if you like, of any Army.
If it is thought to be a just and honourable course to make other people in the community - the better-off, the privileged, the wealthy, the better-educated - immune from the obligations of defence in that area, that is not a philosophy which I can embrace. This is not in any sense a new view of mine because precisely the same views were expressed when I first became Minister for the Army. The Leader of the Opposition did not really say a great deal when the sarcasm and wit that he thinks is so clever are put aside. He gave a series of statistics concerning officers and resignations in the forces. Clearly the Government is concerned about these things. Why else have an inquiry? Why else have special inquiries within the Departments concerned to examine the number, location and standards of service housing throughout Australia? Why else have a parliamentary inquiry into the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Fund? Of course, what the Leader of the Opposition did not say and what he quite deliberately suppressed, it being information he would never seek, concerns the growth and the strength of our armed forces and the growth in the officer corps of our armed forces over the last several years. The number of officers in the Navy has grown since 196S from 1,372 to 1,827 - a very substantia] increase in the officer strength of the Royal Australian Navy. The number of officers in the Army has grown from 3,078 to 4,054 - a growth of almost 1,000 in the officer strength of the Army since 1965. In the Air Force the officer strength has grown in the same period from 2,416 to 3,631 - a growth of about 1,200 in the officer strength of the Royal Australian Air Force.
Certainly we are concerned about resignation rates of people who have been trained. Certainly we are concerned whether they be officers or skilled and trained personnel in the other ranks area, and we are acting upon that concern. This does not mean to say there has not been a steady and continuous growth in the strength of the Australian armed forces over the last 5 years because that growth and accretion of strength has been there and this Government is determined to maintain it. When he speaks on these matters the Leader of the Opposition occasionally likes to mention the great military area which he represents. Representing a great military area, one would have thought that perhaps there would have been a little more consistency in his advocacy on matters that concern the Australian armed forces. One of the things this Leader of the Opposition has done has been to make statements concerning Australia’s armed forces which will be with him while he remains in public life. They will be cursed by members of the Returned Services League and those who have come back from fighting for Australia while he remains in public life. He knows very well that no matter what smokescreen he may raise in defence, no matter what devious ways he may use to. change the direction of thought and to try to block attention from what he has done, this charge will remain over him. He is the only allegedly responsible political leader in the history of
Australia who has suggested that servicemen should mutiny. When he ended his first Press statement on this matter, he said:
Never have I said that a man should not obey orders in Vietnam.
A few days later the issue of that Press statement on 23rd September - less than a week according to Press reports of the time - he extended his injunction to servicemen in Vietnam, making a falsehood of his initial Press statement. That is a charge which will remain over the Leader of the Opposition while he remains in this Parliament and-
– While he draws breath.
Air MALCOLM FRASER- And while he draws breath. If Australia ever has the misfortune to have him on this side of the House it might be interesting for him to know what servicemen think of him when he has to negotiate with them concerning defence policies and the activities and dispositions of Australia’s armed forces, in Australia or overseas if the necessity were to arise. They would know he had suggested mutiny to members of our armed forces in and out of Vietnam.
There is another matter which reveals very clearly the attitude of the Opposition on. defence. The honourable member for St George (Mr Morrison) as we all know is a chosen protege of the Leader of the Opposition. He had some odd things to say about defence when he spoke on these estimates last week. In the first instance he tried to suggest that we hide the true cost of maintaining our forces overseas. That, of course, is quite a ridiculous charge because on a number of occasions questions have been asked - and I will look up the record if the honourable member wants the information - as to the cost of maintaining our forces overseas as against the cost of maintaining those same forces in Australia. The extra cost, for the 3 Services, is about 54.9m in 1 year. Questions have been asked on notice ‘What were these costs in past periods?’ Those questions have been answered. The figure mentioned by the honourable member for St George was $10Om. That figure of $100m could perhaps be right if he were suggesting that those forces should not exist anywhere, not overseas or in Australia. If he were planning to disband them and reduce and diminish Australia’s armed strength, then of course the saving would be very much greater than the S54m that I mentioned. But if he was suggesting that he did not say so and it may not be what he meant.
There are two other aspects of the honourable member’s speech 1 would like to mention. Ever since he came into this House he has sought to discredit the defence arrangements that this Government has sought to make with Malaysia and Singapore. His statements have attracted unfavourable comment and criticism in both those countries, in spite of the long time he was in that area and the friendships and acquaintances that he made at the time. The charge has been made that he has dragged these defence arrangements into the internal politics of this country and of course this is precisely what he has done. As much as one might prefer to have a bi-partisan defence policy, while the Opposition persists in the attitude that it has adopted that is quite a remote possibility on the Australian scene. But the honourable member for St George has sought to discredit these arrangements. He has sought to suggest that we have hidden the costs, which we have not; I. have given them. He suggested also that the money we spend on defence in those areas should be spent on other matters not related to defence. I would like honourable members to recall the remarks he made earlier in this debate when in speaking about the defence efforts in Malaysia, Singapore and Vietnam he said:
We on this side of the House regard this expenditure as a waste.
Of course they do because they regard any expenditure on defence as a waste because its members are completely and utterly isolationist in their approach to defence. The honourable member said:
It distorts not only our defence expenditure but also the whole Budget expenditure. We would prefer to channel this money to meet more urgent needs in the defence vote and in the general Budget. For instance, with these funds we could -
This was the only instance of alternative spending that he gave - without raising taxation, increase the standard and married rales of pension by 82 a week instead of the piffling 50c that has been made available by this Government in this Budget.
That was the only example of increased expenditure that he gave. The only implication that can be drawn is that he would like to reduce the defence vote by$l00m and divert those funds to social services. This, of course, has been the traditional attitude of the Opposition and the Australian Labor Party since the end of the last world war in 1945. During the 1950s and now in these times we have the Opposition coming out in true colours and suggesting that the defence vote should be cut and that defence moneys be spent on other internal domestic matters. There is not a person on this side of the House-
-I wish to make a personal explanation.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Drury) - The honourable member may make his personal explanation when the Minister has finished speaking.
– There is not a person on this side of the House who would not prefer, if we lived in the kind of a world in which it would be practicable, to spend all our resources on national development, welfare, health and education which are matters of great concern to all honourable members in this Parliament. But if honourable members think that we live in the sort of world in which we can dramatically reduce the Australian defence vote and at the same time maintain the sort of posture that we need, maintain the self-respect that we must have, and maintain an ability for our own defence which is essential for survival, then that is a nonsense proposition which I am sure will attract no support. I would like to know whether the Leader of the Opposition will have the honesty in the next campaign or the one after that to get up and say: ‘It is our purpose to reduce the defence vote’ because if that were clearly stated in an election campaign - and it has been very clearly stated by the honourable member for St George - I suggest that it would very quickly lead to further defeat of the Labor Party at the polls.
– 1 wish to make a personal explanation.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Drury) - Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– I do claim to have been misrepresented.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- I remind the honourable member that he has not yet spoken in this debate.
– I have spoken in this debate. The Minister for Defence (Mr Malcolm Fraser) has tried to make the point that I had sought to reduce the defence vote. This did not enter into ths speech thatI made. The point that 1 did make - and I refer to Hansard of Friday, 16th October. 1970 - was that we would prefer to channel the money that is being wasted to meet more urgent needs in the defence vote and in the general Budget. I want to make that point very clear.
Mr MALCOLM FRASER (WannonMinister for Defence) I also wish to make a personal explanation. I must make it quite clear thatI was quoting the very remarks of the honourable member for St George.I did not misrepresent what he said because the only example of alternative spending which he gave when he was talking about reducing the defence vote was to spend the money on social services.
Mr WHITLAM (Werriwa- Leader of the Opposition - I wish to make a personal explanation.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– The Minister for Defence (Mr Malcolm Fraser) has seriously misrepresented me - as he knows. He said that I had counselled mutiny. [ did nothing of the sort. What 1 have said in this Parliament and outside it is on record. By no possible construction does it amount to incitement to mutiny. The advice I have given has in fact been accepted by the Army as having involved no breach of any law or practice of the armed forces.
(9.8) - I cannot let what the leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) said go unchallenged because it is so plainly and quite obviously false,I only need to say it is false. . . .
– On a point of order. If tha Minister is seeking to make a personal explanation that is all right if he has been misrepresented. But if he has not been misrepresented he has to seek leave io make a statement.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- There is no substance in the point of order. The Minister can speak at any time during the Committee stage.
– On a point of order. If you, Sir, rule that there is no substance in that point of order, how long is the Minister able to get up in this House after people who claim to have been misrepresented and continue his falsehoods against them?
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN - Order! The position is that under the Standing Orders the Minister is entitled in the Committee stage to speak at any time and for any length of time.
– I agree with that. But what I maintain is that he should not be permitted to stand up all the time and continue m i misrepresenting,
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- There is no substance in the point of order. The honourable member is taking frivolous points of order. I warn him not to do so-
– I was about to read what the Leader of the Opposition said in a Press statement issued by him on 23rd September. 1 will not read all of it. He said:
T told the Caucus that if I were asked by a man who objected to the Vietnam war as to the course he should take I would give this advice: He should register and at the time of doing so give written advice that if he was inducted and ordered to go to Vietnam he would not obey that order. If he was balloted in then he should present himself for bis medical examination and if found fit and should he be inducted, then he should give written advice that if he was ordered to go to Vietnam be would not obey the order.
This is advice not to obey the order. While it might be given in every particular instance to 1 person alone, and perhaps confidentially, if it is acted upon together by a number of soldiers accepting the Leader of the Opposition’s advice it is plainly mutiny. So his advice could lead to a mutinous situation. At the very end of that Press statement - and I read again from it - the Leader of the Opposition said:
Never have 1 said that a man should not obey orders in Vietnam.
On 29th September appeared a report by a journalist from the Press gallery, Laurie Oakes, under the heading: ‘Whitlam
National Service Call Applies to Men in Vietnam’. The report stated:
The Federal Opposition Leader, Mr Whitlam, said last night that a young man on service in Vietnam who decided it was a bad war should notify his commanding officer that he could not conscientiously continue.
That is an extension of the same advice to somebody in Vietnam, giving the direct contradiction to the statement at the end of Mr Whitlam’s Press statement, which I again repeat:
Never have I said that a man should not obey orders in Viertnam.
Most offensive of all-
– I rise on a point of order, Mr Deputy Chairman. The Minister for Defence is going beyond a personal explanation and is now debating the subject. I suggest that he is out of order.
– 1 am debating it. I am not making a personal explanation. What was most offensive of all was when the Leader of the Opposition got to his 2 feet to speak tonight and said that the Army had accepted his advice. When he first made this charge I checked with the Chief of the General Staff to see what the position was. The Chief of the General Staff said that it was Army policy to post people by their ability, by their training and by their suitability for a job, not by their particular political views. This is a direct contradiction of the false, derogatory statement that the Leader of the Opposition has made concerning the national servicemen and the Army in relation to Vietnam. There is no end to the subterfuge that the Leader of the Opposition will use to try to deceive this Parliament and to deceive the people of Australia about the meaning of that Press statement made at a Press conference that, for some odd reason, he called at 1 1 o’clock on 23 rd September. Later, in debating it in the Parliament, he said he was one of the few people in the Parliament who could call a Press conference at that hour - with most offensive implications. I suggest that the Leader of the Opposition very much wishes he had gone to sleep on that particular Press statement and read it again after breakfast the next day.
– Mr Deputy Chairman-
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Drury) - Order! Does the Leader of the Opposition claim to be misrepresented?
– You have allowed the Minister for Defence to use unparliamentary terms like ‘false’ on several occasions.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN - Order! is the Leader of the Opposition making a personal explanation?
Mr WHITLAM (Werriwa- Leader of the Opposition) - Yes, indeed.
– You are not complaining about that after what you have said in this House?
- Mr Deputy Chairman, 1 hope you will control this crapulous individual.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- Order! Interjections from both sides of the House will cease. The Leader of the Opposition is making a personal explanation.
– Mr Deputy Chairman, the Minister for Defence (Mr Malcolm Fraser) quoted from a newspaper article by Mr Laurie Oakes. If he were to refer to the transcript of the television interview upon which the article was based he would see that I said that no man should disobey an order in Vietnam. The honourable gentleman has now said what the Chief of the General staff has told him. I have said on earlier occasions here and 1 have said ii outside, and I will repeat it: If any serviceman makes it plain that he will not go to Vietnam the Army does not send him there. This has never been denied up until now, because it cannot be denied. 1 will repeat the fact that I have represented more men of conscript age than anyone in this Parliament.
– What about giving us instances?
– 1 am not going to quote names, but the honourable gentleman knows that half the troops that have gone to Vietnam have served in my electorate. He knows that half the commanding officers of those battalions are known to me.
– Mr Deputy Chairman, I rise on a point of order. This personal explanation that has been proceeding for some time arose because the Minister for Defence made a statement that the Leader of the Opposition had suggested that various servicemen, in certain circumstances, should engage in mutiny. The Minister read out the transcript of the speech. Can the Leader of the Opposition say that if one or more-
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Drury) - Order! There is no substance in the point of order.
– There was no substance in tha personal explanation.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- I call the honourable member for Wills.
– One can only hope that the strategy of the Minister for Defence (Mr Malcolm Fraser) is better than his logic, but I am afraid that all the evidence of the past 5 or 6 years shows that is is not and that he is weak in both logic and strategy. We have listened for 20 minutes to half an hour to the honourable gentleman’s cliches, apologia and attempt to denigrate the Opposition. He missed completely the point of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) on the question of national service and conscientious objection, ft is the moral issue, the conscience issue, that is dividing Australia and nobody can escape that fact. It is not surprising that honourable members opposite are unable to see it. There is nothing that the Minister can do to discredit the Leader of the Opposition in this matter.
During the course of his speech the Minister for Defence mentioned one or two other things. He talked about the fact that we are unable to recruit servicemen by this method or that method and he said that the voluntary system will not work any more. He mentioned the Kennedys, for instance. A few weeks ago Senator Kennedy, in the American Congress, said:
Mr President, I will support the volunteer Army in Vietnam.
Why did the Minister not quote all that Senator Kennedy had to say? Why does the Minister avoid the example of Britain? Why is it that Britain is able to get the appropriate numbers into its Services by a volunteer system? Why is it that Canada is able to do so? Why is it that Canada can maintain the volunteer system when it has no unemployment and it has a wealthy and affluent society where wages generally are much higher than in Australia? Of course, there are many reasons.
Let us examine some of the issues that the Minister raised. ‘Can these people’, ha said, ‘be replaced by the volunteer?’ To whom did he particularly refer? He referred to the rifleman. How will we replace the rifleman by the volunteer? We will not replace the rifleman, as a volunteer, by paying him no matter what we will unless the cause is just and something worth fighting for. The Minister says that we will have to rely on a highly developed sense of patriotism. In that, he exposes the whole basis of both the defence and foreign policies of this country. The Government has raised the issue of defence and foreign policy until there is no question of patriotism involved. That is why people do not join the Services. No-one is going to join the Army to become a rifleman in a cause which most people in Australia reject. What an immoral approach the Minister took here. He said that in our voluntary system the wealthy, the privileged and the educated will not end up as riflemen. How many wealthy, privileged and educated end up as riflemen now? What happens to the man who is at the university and who is in the proper age group? He continues at the university until he graduates. Does he end up as a rifleman in Vietnam? Of course he does not. When will the Minister table facts and figures on this? What should we pay a man who walks continuously on the brink of danger? There is no answer to that question at all. The only answer is that he must be fighting for a cause in which he believes. For the last 5 or 6 years Australia has been dragged continuously into causes in which nobody believes.
Another cliche which the Minister and his friends opposite have used constantly relates to the question of the Labor Party and defence. We have not time tonight, in the 10 minutes to which we have been reduced on the Estimates debates, to debate this, but I refer honourable members to the defence programme which appears on page 6 of the ‘Defence Report 1970’. It is very much like the defence programme of the Australian Labor Party which can be found in our Federal platform almost with the same phraseology.
I want to deal with one or two matters that I regard as fairly important. First, it is not the procurement of material which is the great issue in the Australian defence system, but the procurement of men. This gets us to the point of what the Australian nation’s objectives are. This is why people will not join the Services. We have not had this explained to us tonight, yet the Minister for Defence has unlimited time. He can rise at any moment and he can talk until some time after midnight, but he will not explain it to us. We must start by asking what are the objectives of our defence forces. I believe that we should be setting up a defence system under which we are able to watch the seas around Australia, control the skies above Australia and respond on land with the forces that are necessary to combat anybody who is likely to arrive here. Of course, the errors of our defence system are that we have never applied ourselves to these tasks.
In the last few years, in fact for the last 20 years, we have had no overall defence plan. We have been the satellite of other people’s defence and foreign policies. We have gone shopping for our defence equipment and we have ignored the civilian component of the Austraiian defence forces and have come forward with other things. What would you call them? They are hardly cliches. We hear of forward defence. What does that mean? We have argued it before. We have heard also of Fortress Australia. Does that mean that we bring all our soldiers home? People talk of Fortress Australia to try to denigrate the idea that our first objective is to defend Australia and its boundaries. We do not talk of Fortress Japan, Fortress Italy, Fortress Germany or fortress any other nation in the world. It would pay Australians to look at the statistics of countries which have soldiers beyond their boundaries. They are surprisingly few in number. What about our neighbours? The Minister for Defence mentioned nothing about our neighbourhood.
Tonight I want to refer in particular to the Citizen Military Forces. What have we done to the CMF? It has become the Cinderella of the Services? Why is that? Service in the Citizen Military Forces is not a question of money. Nobody will join CMF just to make an extra dollar or two. The facts are that some 35,000 people are serving voluntarily at the moment, some involuntarily of course, in the Citizen Military Forces. Four housand are serving in the Navy, 31,000 in the Army and 668 in the Royal Australian Air Force. They are prepared to serve in the citizen forces, but in 1938 there were 80,000 prepared to serve.
What has the Government done to the citizen forces? What it has done is largely enshrined in the registration form for national service. Section 7 on the back of that form deals with service in the Citizen Military Forces as an alternative to national service. The moment we introduced that system we killed the spirit of the Citizen Military Forces. The moment we reduced the Citizen Military Forces to a funk hole for argument in this Parliament we killed the spirit that makes the Citizen Military Forces what they ought to be. We cannot have a satisfactory citizen force while it is an alternative to the kind of service that people want to avoid in Vietnam. The Government has done all sorts of things to the armed Services. It has made service in the armed services of this country, obnoxious, not because the uniform is not an honourable one to wear and not because the traditions do not mean something to every Australian, but the very fact that the objectives for which people serve on occasions such as this cannot be supported by morality, logic or any form of national spirit. So service of any sort in the armed forces has become obnoxious. That is why young men do not join the Citizen Military Forces.
T was one or those who spent a long while in the citizen forces. I think I have a good idea of why people join and the kind of service that is needed. We do not have time to discuss the matter fully in the few minutes available in the debate on the estimates, ft is not really a debate but a charade of some sort. I am envious of the system that the Senate has developed for dealing with the Estimates. One has only to turn to the remarks of people of some moment in these matters. Major-General Paul Cullen, President df the Citizen Military Forces Association, has stated:
However, there remain some alarming aspects and trends; the principal one being the strength of the CMF. recently down from 36.000 to 29,000.
That was over last year. They were the remarks of a citizen soldier. But what does one of the highest ranking service soldiers have to say? General Brogan, General Officer Commanding Eastern Command, has estimated that his own command is 1,000 mcn below strength, and his command is probably better off than others in Australia. He said that there was an urgent need to bolster the citizen forces. Of course, far from bolstering them we have started to destroy them. We have started to make service in the citizen forces as an alternative to national service obnoxious to the community. People say that young Australians do not do that sort of thing. On the other hand, one has to ask whether it is a logical and legal alternative. I do not know. It is not easy to find out. What happens to the young man who turns up at the local citizen forces unit and says: ‘I want to join up’? The only inquiries I have made lead me to believe that as soon as the recruiting officer wakes up to the fact that the young man is seeking an alternative service to national service he sets up a pattern of inhibitions.
Why is it that all units are down on strength? This Government is culpable in all regards, lt is guilty of destroying national spirit when it comes to service in the armed Services. It has found no solution to the problem of recruitment. It has failed to produce a rational, logical national defence policy, and I believe that to that extent it has destroyed a great deal of the national unity and national spirit that has always made service in the Australian Services something worth while and something of which people could be proud. I believe that the very tone of this debate is a disgrace to this Parliament. Honourable members opposite know full welt that nobody on this side of the chamber is any less mindful of the defence of this country than they are, yet they are continuously dragging into this House remarks such as those 1 am about to mention.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Drury) - Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– 1 think that the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant; should be corrected on one or two important inaccuracies. He said that the Minister for Defence (Mr Malcolm Fraser) had referred to Senator Kennedy. I would like the honourable member for Wills :o know that the Minister for Defence was talking about John’ Kennedy, the former President of the United States. There is a slight difference. The honourable member for Wills referred also to the Canadian forces. He ought to know that the Canadian forces have run down by almost 20,000 Service personnel to 82,000. He talked also about Britain. The British Army has been reduced from 300,000 to 150,000 personnel since national service was abolished. Just to prove the point I quote Mr Denis Healey. He said:
By the end of 1972 we shall have cut our defence expenditure by one-third. We shall have cut our commitments by one-half and our defence manpower by one-fifth. We have 7 fewer battalions in Britain today.
This is as a result of the abolition of national service. The Royal Navy is down severely. I believe the figure is somewhere in excess of 20,000 personnel. I finish on this point of rebuttal by pointing to the fact that the ordinary Australian soldier is the highest paid soldier in the world.
The only point on which 1 agree with the honourable member for Wills is that we do not get enough time to discuss the defence estimates when we have only 10 minutes in which to speak. In the short time left to me I want to say something to honourable members and the Australian public about 2 documents which were produced by the American Security Council, one in 1967 arid one last month, entitled The Changing Strategic Military Balance USA v. USSR’. These studies were prepared for the United Slates House Armed Services Committee to assess the military strength, especially in terms of nuclear capacity, between the 2 great powers. The reports are based on unclassified material and are available to members in the Parliamentary Library and, I would hope, to the general public. They make very grim reading. Every Australian should know what most Americans now realise, that the United States nuclear superiority over the Soviet Union in 1961 has now been reversed. The United States Secretary of Defence noted in a speech to the Associated Press annual luncheon in April last in America:
In the space of 3 years - from 1965 to 1970- the Soviet Union has virtually quadrupled the total megatonnage in its strategic defensive force. … in the same period the US reduced its megatonnage by more than 40 per cent.
I think there has been a tendency for Australians, and probably Americans, to regard Communist China as world public enemy No. 1. This stems from the lack of proper understanding of the ideologies of the 2 Communist world powers. In my view, the Soviet’s ideology is much more dangerous to genuine world peace than the Chinese ideology, certainly in the short term. Red China is completely committed to Maoism, which in simple terms is the practice and advocacy for other nations of old-fashioned reactionary Communism but not direct military involvement in other nations affairs. The present regime in China possesses a fanatical conviction in some sort of dream world Communist Utopia where all nations achieve the purity of Maoist thoughts by internal revolution. I do not believe that the present Communist Chinese hierarchy is interested in overt means of securing this Utopia. It believes in the concept of ultimate Communist world domination through local wars of national liberation achieved through a condition of world revolution and the acts of violence committed at Moratorium demonstrations, university sit-ins, etc, to which I have been personally subjected and which arc the local manifestation of Maoism in action.
– What division of the estimates is this under?
– What 1 am saying is of importance in understanding ideologies and what activates people, lt is a shame that the honourable member does not spend more time in studying them. A study of Soviet Communist ideology is much more disturbing for Australia, especially having regard to obvious Soviet intentions. Like the Chinese, the Soviets believe in the doctrine of permanent world revolution, but unlike the Chinese, the Soviets are committed to a traditional policy of Russian colonialism which makes the former great colonial powers look positively benign.
While covertly observing the doctrine of permanent world revolution, the Soviet also overtly pursues one of ‘peaceful coexistence’ so that we see her piously coexisting with the United States and other western powers and. at the same time, engaging in deliberate underhand breaches of this ‘peace’ epitomised at this very moment by the undenied Soviet penetration of Egypt and her undoubted control of the Suez canal.
Several of my colleagues and I have drawn attention to the Soviet activity in the Indian Ocean - such matters as the Russian interest in Mauritius. Socotra, East Africa, India, Ceylon, Singapore, as well as the undeniable proximity to our north of such strategically placed ports as Vladivostok and the submarine port of Petro Pavlovsk. The British have now fewer than 20 combat vessels east of Suez, the French only a couple of destroyers and, apart from an unknown number of submarines, the United States naval activity is confined to the Persian Gulf area. Members of the Opposition take great comfort from the apparent disengagement of the United States in South East Asia and they think they can make capital from the announced United States abolition of national service within the next three years. I find nothing to comfort Australia in any of the changing United States attitudes. The Americans are not in the hot seat, we are. 1 am pleased to note the continuing modernisation of our three Services under this Government and, in particular, the decision to expedite the building of a naval base at Cockburn Sound, together with the upgrading of the RAAF complex at Exmouth. 1 remind honourable members that North West Cape is closer to Saigon than it is to Sydney, closer to Djakarta than Djakarta is to Darwin, and I make the serious proposition that this area could well be established as a major defence complex, including Army training facilities. J remind the House that, even in 1967, the American Security Council reported that the available evidence indicated that the Soviet Union had a goal of strategic superiority designed to win a nuclear war rather than merely deter one. Once in a war-winning posture, the USSR would be ideally situated to practice nuclear blackmail and would not even have to fight a nuclear war.
The United Stales has exchanged ils goal of a war winning strategic superiority for a strategy of mutual deterrence. 1 take the view that the Soviets had already won the arms race and can clinch their policy of world domination any time they please. They will not bother to unleash their nuclear weapons because they need human labor to sustain them and to build their expanding empire. This is the same technique used in eastern Europe except that the slave labor of the captive nations was used and still is used to create and maintain Soviet industry. Soviet Russia is in the position where she can blackmail into sub mission any nation she chooses. How prophetic were the words of Kruschev in 1963 when he said:
Today the imperialists pretend to be brave - but only in words; in reality they tremble before the socialist world which is growing and gaining in strength. And let them tremble! So much the better for us! A fight is in progress between these two systems, a life and death combat. But we Communists want to win this struggle with the least losses, and there is no doubt whatsoever that we shall win. This is why we are striving for victory, for the triumph of Communism, without unleasing a world thermonuclear war.
I believe that we are living in the most dangerous period of human history.
– At least we are living.
– The Australian public is unaware of the danger. The Press is reluctant to tell them - presumably because that kind of information does not sell newspapers - and the Socialist Labor Party in the other side - as someone just interjected and said: ‘We are still living’ - supports, perhaps unconsciously, what can well be described as a conspiracy of silence and subservience to Soviet-directed international Communism. I commend the proposed expenditure to the Committee and I commend the Minister for his zeal.
– I do not intend to deal with any of the matters raised by the honourable member for Boothby (Mr McLeay), including that of a Russian presence in the Indian Ocean except to make the point that this Government and this country can do little about it because our defence forces are vastly inadequate. I would like to have the opportunity to debate the general aspects of Australia’s defence, but as we are limited to a 10 minute speech I can make only a few specific points on the defence set-up as it currently exists. We might have had the opportunity to discuss Australia’s defence if we had had a chance to discuss the statement made by the Minister for Defence (Mr Malcolm Fraser) in March, but the debate has been postponed, lt is about No. 6 on the notice paper - never to be returned to this House - so this is the first opportunity since that we have had to discuss the whole question. The Government’s estimate for the expenditure necessary to ‘ meet Australia’s defence needs for the year 1970-71 is just on $1,1 37m. This amount represents an increase of $33m on last year’s defence expenditure. It is an increase of exactly 3.1 per cent - not very much of an increase when one considers that a large proportion of this 3 per cent increase will be swallowed by service wage and salary increases.
The defence appropriation for the coming year will decrease by 1.1 per cent as a proportion of total annual Commonwealth spending. This is evidence of a situation that is a far cry from the attitudes expressed by the Minister for Defence who has repeatedly stated that the Government would continue to spend more and more money each year on defence as a measure of long term security. Not only is the defence appropriation itself receding but one has to doubt if the people are getting value for the money spent anyway. An analysis of Australia’s defence organisation and preparedness leads one to the plain realisation that the Liberals should no longer be entrusted with Australia’s defence. Statements made recently by Sir Henry Bland, the former permanent head of the Department of Defence, quite clearly indicate that the present defence structure leaves a lot to be desired. In a speech to the Western Australian Branch of the Australian Institute of International Affairs Sir Henry advocated a restructuring of the defence group of departments bringing the existing 5 departments - Defence, Navy. Army, Air and Supply - into “a 3 department complex. In his plan the Department of Defence would continue to exercise its present functions but would include some of the functions now discharged by the 3 Service departments. The second department he envisaged would concern itself with the raising, training and administering of the 3 services and the third department would basically carry out the supply function of equipment, research, development and procurement as well as the supply of material and logistics.
Implicit in Sir Henry’s statement is that the existing defence set-up is inefficient and inadequate. The Labor Party believes this to be the true position and “has constantly advocated a restructuring of the defence machine. I think it is fair to assume that Sir Henry’s statement is a direct slap in the face for the Minister for Defence and the Cabinet in general. In his lecture Sir Henry referred to the fourth arm of defence concept as outlined by the Minister for Defence in a speech to this Parliament last
March. On that occasion the Minister took time to advise the House that he was involving industry in Australia’s defence administration. All this fourth arm talk by the Government involving industry sounds very good, but unfortunately in reality it has meant very little. The major industries that are always heavily dependent upon defence orders are being starved almost to the point of extinction. The aircraft industry would be the best example. The naval shipbuilding industry would be another. In this year’s Budget the expenditure on naval ship construction is estimated to decrease by $18,977,000 on last year’s figure. The Budget gives no intimation that procurement from Australian industry is being given any additional encouragement.
The Government, realising the lack of encouragement and support it has given to Australia’s defence industries, has made a great noise about what is termed off-set and co-production. These terms refer to what would be the Australian manufactured component of items of defence equipment procured from overseas for our armed forces. Through the use of these much overworked terms the Government has hoped to placate Australian industry with promises of an indirect but bigger slice of the procurement cake. The fact of the matter is that since 1966 and until March this year the approximate value of sub-contract or off-set work, as it is termed, has been a little under $5m. This is an infinitesimal amount when one considers that Australia has spent approximately $900m overseas on military equipment during that period. I will admit that things have improved a little this year with the Australian content in the acquisition of the light observation helicopter, the Boeing Chinook medium lift helicopter and bits and pieces from United States commercial projects, but this is not enough. The Government hails these meagre achievements as marvellous pieces of salesmanship when in fact most foreign governments buying overseas military equipment make certain that the home industries are considered by writing an off-set requirement clause into the original invitation to tender documents. This is not done in Australia, but it should be. Any overseas company answering Australian military tender invitations should be quite certain that if it wants our order it is mandatory that off-set work roust be provided to assist Australian defence industries. To the present time most of the off-set work has been what could be called nut and bolt work. Most of the items concerned have been fairly simple requiring very little specific skill. No doubt this production has been useful to establish confidence in Australian manufacturers and to establish that an acceptable degree of quality control exists. But what are now required are off-set items that are of a more complex nature, that not only supply a workload to industry but demand a broadening of our skills and technology.
The Government recently announced its decision to have a Rolls-Royce gas turbine propulsion system as the basis for the preliminary design of a light destroyer for the Royal Australian Navy. This is a golden opportunity for the Government to see that the Australian aircraft industry receives substantial sophisticated off-set work from the British. The use of the gas turbine as a means of marine and road transportation will, T believe, increase dramatically in the near future, ft is imperative that Australian skill and technology in this field is assured so that in the defence sense we will not be dependent upon another country for spares of replacement units. On the subject of spares, the Government should see that as near as practicable Australian industry manufactures all the high usage rate spares for our militaryequipment. This has not been a specific policy in the past and the Government cannot escape criticism in this area. The leasing arrangements recently concluded for the McDonnell-Douglas F4E Phantom aircraft bear out my contention. Under this agreement no provision as been made for local servicing of the Phantoms. Therefor spares and a much needed workload for Australian industry will be given out overseas. At a time when the Australian aircraft industry is battling to survive the Government denies it this work - work it could have sent its way with the stroke of a pen. Also, what should not be forgotten is that the Phantom replaces the Canberra bomber which has given a constant workload in spares production including maintenance and overhaul. Tt is not just a matter of what the local aircraft industry does not gain from the Phantoms; it is what it loses from the Canberras. A further implication of the Phantom deal is that it pre cludes the local industry gaining any off-set orders from the United States should the Fill contract eventually be cancelled, leaving the Phantom lease as virtually a hire purchase agreement.
Another area where the Government comes under fire is the matter of the credit terms that Australian manufacturers are able to offer other countries. I could highlight this by referring to the sale of Macchi aircraft to New Zealand. Honourable members will be familiar with the fact that the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation has manufactured the Macchi for the Australian Armed services and is at the moment trying to sell this aircraft to the New Zealand Government. We arc offering credit terms at the normal overdraft rates of 7i per cent whereas the competitive aircraft from Britain is being offered at about 51 per cent or 6 per cent. These credit terms are being backed by the British Export Guarantee Corporation.
On 20th August this year I asked the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr McEwen) a question. The last part of my question was:
Will the Government set up an export credit facility to provide finance at better than commercial terms to assist the export sales of Australian manufactured military equipment and other high value commercial exports?
In his reply the Minister said: lt is quite clear that certain governments from time to time seek to give their exporters a competitive advantage by providing funds at lower interest rates. 1 have never felt that this Government could engage in an interest rate war in these circumstances.
Let us analyse what the Minister said. To give their countries a competitive advantage most major manufacturing countries have set up export credit banks. In this way these countries give all of their high value transactions the backing of low interest rates. But Australia cannot even assist in the sale of Macchi aircraft which is helping to keep the Australian aircraft industry alive. The Government does not think it is worth while to reduce interest rates to a reasonable level of about 5i per cent to 6 per cent. Therefore, when honourable members opposite talk about encouraging or assisting Australian industry they talk a lot of hog wash because they do not care at all. It is the same old classic, Liberal approach. When you want equipment you put your hand into tits
Treasury till for a big cheque and hope like hell you can get it. That is all right in times of peace but when you have a contingent military situation you cannot always get the equipment.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Drury) - Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– When we consider the defence of Australia we cannot do this in isolation from world affairs. We cannot do it without taking into account what is occurring to our north in Asia and to our west in the Indian Ocean and Africa. Recently there have been 2 significant announcements - announcements which I believe we must take into account when we are assessing the future defence needs of this country. One has been the recognition by Canada of the Peking Government and the presumption that Canada will support the admission of Communist China to the United Nations. One may well ask why Australia should not recognise mainland China. Here we have a nation of 700 million people which is almost one-fifth of the world’s population. After all, Australia gives de facto recognition to mainland China when we trade with her. One may well ask why should we not trade with China? After all, we trade with Russia and we recognise that country. Yet Russia has been just as guilty, probably more so, of offending against the peace and security of other nations than even Peking. We recognise and trade with countries such as Hungary and Czechoslovakia which have had unrepresentative and undemocratic governments forced on them by Russian military might. So why then should we not recognise Communist China? We trade with that country for the same reason that it trades with us - because trade helps our balance of payments and hence the standard of living of our people.
The reason why we cannot recognise mainland China or support its admission to the United Nations is not the fault of Australia or the Western democracies. It is the price that mainland China demands for condescending to join the United Nations - a price that I would think no principled nation should be prepared to pay. Mainland China’s price of recognition is twofold. Firstly, mainland China requires that Taiwan, a nation of 14 million people - a population bigger than that of Australia - should be kicked out, holus bolus, from the United Nations. Secondly, Communist China requires the acceptance of the sovereignty of mainland China over the 14 million free Chinese in Taiwan. By its conditions, Communist China precludes its own admission to the United Nations. The recognition by Canada may be a great victory for the Chinese Communists, but the fact that Canada has seen fit to take note - I think this was th? wording - of Communist China’s claim to sovereignty over Taiwan despite the wishes of the people of that country and simultaneously to break off diplomatic relations with the free Chinese Government of Taiwan shows, I believe, the Canadian Governlent of Mr Pierre Trudeau to be one of expediency rather than one of principle.
But as we have seen with the North Vietnamese in Paris, Asian Communists are patient people; they have only to wait until their friends within the Western democracies so manipulate public opinion that the democracies’ resistance crumbles from within. So Communist China probably feels that time is on her side. She has only to wait until the resistance of the Western democracies to her entry to the United Nations collapses from within and then she wilt stroll into the world body on her own terms. Hanoi has the same approach. It has only to remain stubborn at the Paris Peace talks and allow its friends in Australia and America to go ahead with their moratoriums to undermine the resistance of the Western democracies to its aggression in Indo-China. In the end, they believe, they will achieve what they want.
The other significant announcement affecting Australia’s defence policy was that of President Nixon who stated that a further 40,000 American troops will be withdrawn from Vietnam. This will leave 284,000 American troops in South Vietnam, which is 276,000 more than Australia has in that country at this time. But even Australia with only 8,000 troops in Vietnam will be withdrawing 1 battalion in the next few weeks. If these withdrawals were a military decision I have no doubt that no-one would question them. But only last week on the front page of the ‘Australian’ newspaper there appeared an attack on the pull-out of Australian troops. I would like to quote from this newspaper report which is headed ‘Australian Officers Attack Troops Pull-out’. The article states:
The commander of the 5,300-strong Australian task force in Vietnam said today the life of his men would be much tougher after the withdrawal soon of a third of his infantry.
Withdrawal will merely mean that we will have to work very much harder than al the moment, which is already pretty hard’, Brigadier William Henderson said at his headquarters at Nui Dat, 45 miles south east of Saigon.
His appraisal coincided with careful implications at Nui Dat that withdrawal had been dictated more by internal Austraiian political considerations than by military feasibility.
The brigadier said the pullout would also mean operational changes. ‘Tactical dispositions will have to be changed,’ he said, and he hinted the Task Force might not be as effective as before. lt would be up to Vietnamese headquarters,’ he said, ‘to decide whether 1 have enough troops to maintain pressure.
Officers here said that if all the Task Force were withdrawn now, the province would revert to the Vietcong, because local militia forces were not yet ready io take over.
Yet it is the complete withdrawal of the Task Force that the Opposition is demanding. The 1.966 Federal elections were fought on the issue of Australian participation in Vietnam. The Australian people returned this Government with the biggest majority in the history of this Parliament. In 1969 Australia’s participation was not the only issue, but it was a major issue, and again the Government was returned with a good majority. It was then that we found the Australian left hijacking the Government out of the Parliament and into the streets. We had the May Moratorium in Melbourne, which was variously reported to have been attended by between 30.000 and 70,000 unionists, students and others, and the September Moratorium, which had dwindled to an estimated 20,000, a relatively small number when one considers that Melbourne has a population of over 2 million people. I instance these matters because I believe they show the attempts which are being made to take the decisions regarding the defence of this country out of the hands of the duly elected Government.
Last week in this very chamber the British Commonwealth Parliamentary Conference was held. The areas to our north and west came in for discussion, and varying shades of political opinion were present. Several delegates, including a Communist delegate from Ceylon, attacked what Australia and America are doing to protect the South Vietnamese from Communist aggression. We were told: ‘You must not interfere in the internal affairs of another nation.’
– Hear, hear.
– 1 am glad to hear an honourable member opposite say ‘Hear, hear’, because it was interesting the next day to hear the same delegates about face and call for armed intervention in the internal affairs of Rhodesia. It was suggested that Britain should send in troops to overthrow the Rhodesian Government by force. They demanded that sanctions against the Rhodesian people should be increased. I pointed out - logically, I thought - that if it is wrong to interfere in the internal affairs of Vietnam, then it must ipso facto be wrong to interfere in the internal affairs of Rhodesia. I also pointed out that if it is right to recognise Russia and China on the basis that you cannot deny that they exist, then by the same premise you must also recognise Rhodesia because you cannot deny that it exists. If you place sanctions on Rhodesia because you do not like its policies, surely then to be consistent you should place sanctions on Russia or mainland China when you dislike their policies, or else you do it to none of them.
The lesson I learned from attending the British Commonwealth Parliamentary Conference was this - and I say it with deep regret: There ate some nations that will see only what they want to see in international affairs. They can argue one way one day when it suits their purpose, and then in another situation do a complete somersault and argue the exact opposite. This has also become apparent at the United Nations which, after a tarnished 25 years, has sadly deteriorated into nothing more than a forum for nations to peddle their own propaganda.
The only arguments that some nations will accept are those which are made from a position of strength. This Government believes that Australia should have a strong defence policy, and we make no apology for it. We believe that matters affecting the defence of this country should be made by the duly elected Government with the guidance of its defence experts, and not by mobs of wharfies and students demonstrating in the streets. As long as we remain the Government of Australia the defence of this country will not be allowed to fall into such hands.
– We have just heard a sequence of anguished cries from perplexed tories - the honourable member for Boothby (Mr McLeay) and the honourable member for Deakin (Mr Jarman). Threaded through their speeches was a failure and inability to recognise the present world situation. We have heard all sorts of calls to arms: Churchilliantype phrases about what the Russians atc doing in the world: reference to the terrible situation that is facing the poor little Government of Rhodesia; cries of violence in the street and political power being taken out of the hands of the duly elected representatives of Australia and reference to our refusal to recognise Communist China and a refusal to recognise that Australia should disengage from the war in Vietnam.
From the honourable member for Boothby once again we heard the cry of treachery - this was implied in his speech - by the Press for failing to identify itself with the particularly biased views of this Government. Of course, that is one of the essential ingredients of toryism of the Liberal style. The Liberals say: ‘If the newspapers do not happen to agree with us, there is a conspiracy of silence’. They say that if we do not happen to agree with them, there is also a conspiracy of silence. What sort of a world is it in which they live where everybody is working to overthrow the duly elected Government of Australia?
The point is that the Liberals’ foreign policies and their defence policies are hairbrained, consisting mainly of humbug and appeals to all sorts of old-fashioned and outdated emotion and patriotism. The Australian people are getting sick of it, and the newspapers are also getting sick of it. When the newspapers and the people turn around and express their disgust, the Liberals say that it is a conspiracy of silence or an outbreak of turbulence inspired from abroad and activated in the streets by dangerous and diabolical people. We have had enough of this humbug.
Let us have a look at a few of the points raised by the honourable member for Deakin. He asked: “Why not recognise Communist China? After all, we trade with her and she is probably no worse than Russia.’ Incidentally, the honourable member for Boothby deplored the fact that people were failing to recognise that after all Russia was the main menace to the world. He might care to look through some of the writings of a former Minister for External Affairs, Sir Paul Hasluck. Under Sir Paul Hasluck it was the Chinese who had been raised to the front rank as the devils in the Asian area, lt was under Sir Paul Hasluck that the Russians were downgraded: they were good and the Chinese were bad.
The same opinion was expressed last year. The then Minister for External Affairs, Mr Gordon Freeth - a Liberal Minister - actually welcomed the overtures of the Russians to come into this area. Gordon Freeth was very enthusiastic about accepting some sort of security pact with the Russians - the very people against whom the honourable member for Boothby was fatuously fulminating. Let us have a look at the criticism of China, which was levelled by the honourable member for Deakin. He said: ‘Why should not we recognise China?’ Then he proceeded to sort of put up a series of non-arguments against that proposition. First of all, he said that China demands the expulsion of Taiwan from the United Nations and, secondly, that China demands sovereignty over Taiwan.
– Is not that true?
– That is quite right. The Taiwan Government, which at present occupies a seat in the Security Council at the expense of a country which has a population of 840 million, makes exactly the same pretentious demands upon all other governments. The honourable member for Deakin also ignored one very significant fact about Canada’s recognition of China, and it was that Canada was enabled to recognise Communist China without recognising the 2 arguments that he mentioned which were put forward by China. If the honourable member cares to do a bit of solid study he will see that the Chinese Government merely accepted from Canada a statement that the Canadian Government took note of the situation. He might also care to look at the situation that has evolved in Malaysia, which will occupy the main part of my speech.
The Liberals simply cannot accept the fact that the world in which they have lived for 20 years is changing. The Americans are going home. The Liberals say: ‘Good God! We are all alone. We are lost. We do not know where to go.’ The honourable member for Boothby says that it is a disastrous situation. The Americans are going home. The Russians are in the area, the Japanese are in the area and the Chinese are also in the area. The British are going home, too. Now the Malaysian Government - which, incidentally, is a Government similar in idealogy to this Government; it is a Conservative tory Government - has now conducted a revolution in foreign policy. It has simply changed its foreign policy. It is obvious that the 5-power arrangement between Malaysia, Singapore, the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand is simply not satisfactory to the Malaysian Government, so it has recognised the situation. After all, the Australian Government has no enthusiasm whatsoever for Malaysia. In fact, last year this Government drew the incredible distinction between Malaya and Malaysia. The Gorton Government said it would defend Malaya but not Malaysia. That is like saying: ‘We will defend Austrasia but not Australia’, or ‘We will defend New Zea, but not New Zealand’. That is the sort of argument that was used last year by the Prime Minister, and it was just that sort of argument that lost years of accumulated friendship with the Government of Malaysia. The Malaysian Government realises just how lukewarm and politically motivated is the Australian Government’s attitude towards Malaysia, lt is looking around and finding a new policy. It is prepared to accept that from now on Malaysia will no longer be aligned with the West against Communism and that the area in which Malaysia exists will no longer be aligned with the Western bloc.
The Malaysian Government is calling for non-alignment. But this Government cannot recognise that the situation has changed. On 23rd September I asked the Prime Minister how he reconciled Australia’s forward defence policy with the new policy statements that have been made by Tun Abdul Razak? The answer was: Don’t twist up your face.’ I asked him a question about Malaysia and he replied about Cambodia. Had I asked him a question about Cambodia he probably would have replied about Malaysia. I said:
I want an answer to my question.
The Prime Minister said: lt is no use twisting your face up like that. Cambodia is a country in South East Asia which was invaded by the Vietnamese-
There was no comma there - and we did take the diplomatic initiative . . .
The point about his answer was that it was irrelevant. He simply could not face up to the changed situation. So we put a question to the Minister for External Affairs (Mr McMahon) asking how he reconciled the traditional justification of forward defence with the change in the Government’s policy. The burden of his answer was: Really, the Malaysians just did not know what they are doing, because it is all very well to want to have neutrality, but to want neutrality is something different from having it. So really it was the Malaysians who did not know what they were doing. In any case, nothing had changed.
The honourable member for La Trobe (Mr Jess) served up a Dorothy Dixer and asked the Minister would he care to comment on the situation. The Minister for External Affairs came back with the reply that nothing had changed. Nothing had changed! A Tory government that had ruled Malaysia since independence, which had exactly the same outlook in foreign affairs as this Government, turned round and said: ‘We will from now on be nonaligned. We want to live in an area in which there are no more great power rivalries, and we want furthermore our neutrality to be backed by two Communist powers.’ And the Minister for External Affairs says that nothing has changed. Equally important is the view that the Malaysian Government is taking towards the recognition of China. The honourable member for Deakin (Mr Jarman) conveniently omitted this fact. It is not just the Canadians who want to recognise China; it is the Malaysians also. But not even Australia’s Minister for External Affairs can recognise that this is what the Malaysian Government is doing.
I would like to quote from ti statement made by Tun Abdul Razak this month.
His point of view was that China was a threat to the region and for that reason it must be top priority to bring her into the United Nations. That is the complete reverse to this Government’s policy, which is that China is a threat to this region and for this reason she must be further and further isolated, alienated and contained. I merely make this simple statement, that the Malaysian Government puts it down as the main priority, that China should be brought into the international community. It is its first priority, says Tun Abdul Razak. The same sort of statement was made by Tun Ismail. The Minister for External Affairs, in answer to a question last week, ignored this completely.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Corbett) - Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I do nol intend to follow the previous speaker, the honourable member for Bendigo (Mr Kennedy), into the realms of international relations, strategy and tactics. I prefer to listen to those who devote their lives to the expert study of these problems. As we debate the estimates for the Department of Defence we know that Australian men and women at this time are serving in a very commendable manner in areas not only within Australia but also outside Australia. Their contribution in terms of manpower is beyond question. They have drawn praise not only from our allies but from people all over the world. There can be no question as to the contribution that they are making to the allied cause. When it comes to Australia’s financial contribution, we are now debating the estimates which show that there has been an increase in defence expenditure of $34m in the last year, or a 3.1 per cent increase over the previous year, bringing it to a total of $1,1 37m for this financial year. That is about $2,500,000 for every day of the year in a country of 12i million people. This represents 14.4 per cent of the total expenditure for the year. This, notwithstanding the statement in the Budget that it will be next financial year before we feel the full impact of expenditure on the major capital equipment projects for the Services which were announced not only in the Budget last year but in the speech of the Minister for Defence (Mr Malcolm Fraser) in March.
In the little time 1 have I would like to say something about the question of manpower. Several points stand out, and I hope I can see them in perspective. It is true that the planned strengths for the various Services were not achieved. The Navy implemented its new system - the taste and try scheme, as they call it. Out of a batch of 531 enlistments, at the end of a specified period of 64 days after which they could make an election to slay. 47 elected not to do so. This is a figure of very nearly 9 per cent. Surely this must point to the fact that it is not only money that is at the bottom of these problems, because 64 days previously they must have had a fairly good idea of what the financial side was.
I refer now to the Army and the National Servicemen. The Defence Report states:
The National Serviceman continues to be a valuable source of manpower without which it would be impossible to meet our commitments.
There, coming from those who are responsible for the correct functioning of the Services, is a statement which I think has a great bearing on our situation today, lt is impossible to meet our commitments without the national servicemen. They are essential. In the Royal Australian Air Force there was a very small decrease of 70 down to 22,642. Looking at this in its true perspective, I think it is not the end of the world. I think it is a matter which has been over-emphasised by the Opposition. Truly this Government is not underestimating the position. It is treating it as serious, and action is being taken. I have just read a paragraph from the Defence Report which throws a very good light on this problem. The level of recruitment, the rate of engagement, the extent of officer wastage have all caused concern. But it must be recognised that the Services are competing for manpower at a time of full employment in a community where civilian opportunities both for potential recruits and experienced serving personnel are considerable. These are the kinds of problems which the new committee announced last week is to look into. The committee will be under the chairmanship of Mr Justice Kerr, and it will undoubtedly be referred to as the Kerr Committee. This is the type of problem that it will need to consider. I have mentioned the background against which the committee will have to operate.
There has been a growth in the strength of the Australian forces and there has been a growth in efficiency. May I refer specifically to the citizen forces. I have some comments and suggestions to make. If a member of the citizen forces picked up the Defence Report, which is a public document, and read it he would have to be pardoned for feeling that he is not being made out to be a very important cog in the machine. There is very little space allotted in the Defence Report to the citizen forces. I doubt whether out of the whole 63 pages of the report the references would fill up one column. I feel that this is unfortunate.
In the Citizen Naval Forces there are 1,245 officers and 3,074 sailors. In the Defence Report we read that members of the Naval Reserve Forces, the main training component of the CNF, have continued to make good use of the support” craft attached to their training establishments. Reference Ls made also to periods of training carried out with the Fleet. No further mention is made of this important arm of the Navy of which the officers total 1,245. No indication is given of its establishment or of any recruiting target. Apparently no undue problems have occurred in this area.
In the Citizen Military Forces, we find that the actual strength at 30th June 1970 was 31,397 compared with a target level of 36,000. That figure is again being set as the target for this financial year. I point out that this ‘actual strength’ figure is the lowest figure for 5 years. In the Civilian Air Force we find fewer personnel than in any other arm of the Services. The strength decreased by 66 during the last financial year to 841. I cannot pick up any reference in the Defence Report to requirements concerning organisation, role or establishment. The problems in relation to the citizen forces in our Services must be dealt with. The forces must be upgraded in the next financial year.
In the short time left to me, I wish to make a suggestion relating both to our permanent military forces and our citizen military forces. I make this suggestion having considered several factors. First, General Brogan, the General Officer commanding Eastern Command, drew attention in the Sydney ‘Daily Telegraph’ of 9th September to the pressures from the public and from politicians - we have heard remarks of this type in this Committee and I think that they are quite justified - for the moving of military establishments from housing development sites, etc. I believe that these remarks refer to such places as Middle Head, South Head and Holsworthy in Sydney and similar establishments in other capital cities. The suggestion put is that training areas remote enough from the community so as not to offend the public should be provided. These areas should not be isolated completely because soldiers and their families should not be denied certain necessary facilities. This proviso is readily understandable. One thinks automatically of educational facilities, medical facilities and access to some of the better things of life, including drama and the arts, and contact with different people away from barrack areas and so on. I suggest that this type of movement should be considered deeply at this time and that action could proceed very quickly. I think that there are many provincial cities and large towns, where isolation is not complete, in which service personnel would be thoroughly welcome.
I make a. second suggestion. As training grounds and accommodation are moved to the less thickly populated areas, a corresponding move in Citizen Military Forces headquarters should occur. Ideally, movements into country areas should be to the level of regiment or battalion. One of the main reasons I advance in support of my argument is that the recruiting rate for the CMF is better in the country than it is in city areas. I think that this fact is proven. The special battalions to cater for CMF trainees, which have been set up under this Government, for trainees of national service age, because of the circumstances of seasonal employment predominantly are made up of recruits from the country. That is my second reason on that point.
In conclusion, I make 3 points. I look to the finding” of the Kerr Committee to show the way to the solution of some of the manpower difficulties in our Services. Secondly, I hope that the interest displayed by the Minister for Defence in his March ministerial statement dealing with the CMF is translated into action and that we see the result of this action in the next Defence Report. Finally, I urge that action be taken to transfer some headquarters, some establishments, some training areas and some personnel inland away from congested areas to points close to a number of people, who, I know from experience, will welcome service personnel as they have in the past and in previous periods of war.
- Mr Deputy Chairman, in discussing the estimates of the Department of the Army 1 wish to raise a matter of principle in regard to the conduct of Army officers who criticise members of the Parliament in relation to their statements in this place. I am prompted to do so by reason of a recent statement made by Senator Wheeldon. I make no comment on the question, of what was said in that statement or the pros and cons of the situation. I just raise the question of whether or not serving Army officers are to be allowed to write to the Press and express opinions in a manner contrary to Army regulations in relation to the conduct of people who may criticise them in this Parliament. Later, I will show that the Government does not worry about criticism from the Army when it applies to members of the Opposition but that, when the criticism applies to Government members, the officers concerned are humiliated, rebuked and called to book. That is why. I raise the matter tonight.
On Tuesday, 13th October 1970, in reply to a question in this Parliament, the Minister for the Army (Mr Peacock) referred to a statement made by Senator Wheeldon. Answering the question from one of the Government members, the Minister said that this statement had been drawn to his attention. The officer concerned was Lieutenant-Colonel Forward. Lieutenant-Colonel Forward, a serving officer, wrote to a newspaper calling a member of this Parliament a liar.
– Fair enough.
– I hope that the honourable member for La Trobe remembers that statement. This is what the Minister said:
Whilst accepting that serving officers and soldiers should not become actively involved in politics, I would have to say that the senator’s statement must have been provocative to any soldier and particularly to a commanding officer.
He stated further:
I believe that Lieutenant-Colonel Forward’s letter was correcting an inaccurate and misleading Statement. In the circumstances, I am not pre pared to direct that action be taken against. LieutenantColonel Forward for any alleged breaches of military regulations. -Does not that statement to the Press in itself express a vote of complete no confidence on the part of LieutenantColonel Forward in the Minister at the table? What is the Minister for the Army paid for? Is not he the spokesman in this place for his officers? Is it not his responsibility, if a member of this Parliament speaks out for any purpose, to protect the Service or the officer concerned? Where will we end if every officer can say what he thinks about statements made by any member of this Parliament or any official in the Parliament? We might even have some members of the Army quite rightly expressing their opinions of the present Service Ministers. If they did, their opinions would be libellous because we all know of the incompetence of those Ministers. What would be the situation if the Minister for the Army was called a liar by one of the soldiers serving in Vietnam? You know, Mr Deputy Chairman, that he would be court martialled tomorrow morn- ing, called out of the ranks and, for that matter, probably shot. But, no! We find that the principle is not involved in this case.
Why should not the Minister answer for his Service staff? I believe that the Minister for the Army was treated by LieutenantColonel Forward as an office boy on a man’s errand. He could not trust the Minister to defend the Service, if this was what he wanted him to do, so LieutenantColonel Forward stepped in and assumed the right to be what some Army men try to be, that is, politicians and political personalities at the same time as being serving members in our Forces. The Minister for the Army apologised abjectly because he said that in this case it was the right of Lieutenant-Colonel Forward to do what he did because he had been incensed by what had been said.
– Where was the abject apology?
– 1 ask the Minister for the Army, who is at the table and who is trying to interject, whether he is not being paid to defend the Services from attacks made on them in this Parliament? If he is not doing so, he is drawing his money under false pretences. What he should have done was to point out to that soldier that, in accordance with Service regulations, he had no right to speak other than through the Minister.
Now I will, take the Committee back to what happened a few years ago. The present case shows. the attitude of the Government when an. Opposition member is involved. Let us see what happened when a Government Minister was involved in a similar happening a few years ago. We all remember the. calamitous days in this Parliament when the honourable member for Wakefield (Mr Kelly) was Minister for the Navy. When the . United States ‘Evans’ was sunk by the HMAS ‘Melbourne’ the great ministerial comment of the honourable member for Wakefield when asked what he thought about it was: ‘Just bloody bad luck’. That, was the comment of the Minister at the time. Let us look at what happened.
We find that the Flag Officer commanding the Australian. Fleet at that time was Rear-Admiral G. T. B. Crabb. What did he say? During the course of certain remarks, he reflected on certain aspects regarding Navy. Forces. He made a public statement on the subject and said that they were ineffective. What he said in effect was, according . to the report of a Press conference, that Australia’s 3 guided missile destroyers did not make a viable or effective naval force. This was said on 12th August 1968.. He then passed further comments in regard to this and other matters.
The then Minister for the Navy, the honourable member for Wakefield, was away at the time. But what happened when the matter was brought to his attention? First, he was -asked a question in this Parliament on it. He’ said:
I have seen (he- reports to which the Deputy Leader of the Opposition has referred. It is true that Admiral Crabb, is reported to have made certain statements. I point out that by so doing he contravened Naval Regulation No. 5914-
That he could not speak publicly on those matters -
I would also point out that Admiral Crabb is not a member of the Naval Board, which has the responsibility of advising the Government.
As regards Admiral Crabb’s opinion on the three guided missile destroyers not being a viable force, I want to make it quite clear that this is not the opinion’ of the Naval Board, which has the responsibility to advise the Minister in the matter.
A report in The Sydney Morning Herald of 12th August stales:
Mr Kelly issued his rebuttal after conferring with Rear Admiral Crabb, the Chief of the Naval Staff. . . . Rear Admiral Crabb was at Sydney Airport to meet Mr Kelly when he returned from Singapore yesterday and the two went into conference immediately. Mr Kelly later conferred by telephone with Vice Admiral Smith.
Of course, he repeated what the Rear Admiral said at that time. Mr Kelly said:
This, as the Admiral now realises, was clearly a most unfortunate expression and is just not correct. The Admiral himself made it perfectly clear that the Navy was delighted with the destroyers and furthest from his mind was any questioning of the fighting capability and great value of these ships to the fleet.
In other words the Admiral was made to recant. He had attacked the worst Minister for the Navy in the history of this country. He had to apologise to him abjectly. He had to be humiliated because the man he attacked was a Liberal Minister. You cannot attack the Liberals. They are next to the Almighty. They are infallible - even the worst of them. The admiral spoke the truth and he was called to order in this Parliament. The headlines everywhere read: ‘Storm Brewing on Navy Needs’ and ‘Rebuke for admiral by Minister’. What a difference when an incompetent Liberal is attacked. It is a monstrous thing to do. This man, one of the leading Navy men of the time, contravened the regulations and he was pulled into line. With due respect to the Minister for the Army, who is not the brightest - he is a long way ahead of the Minister for the Navy - he has crawled to LieutenantColonel Forward in- this Parliament because he could not bring himself to. rebuke a member of the forces for criticising a member of the Australian Labor Party. Where will all this end? 1 point this out tonight to show there is one law for the Labor Party and another law for the Government. I wonder what distant posting Lieutenant-Colonel Forward would be in tonight if he had attacked the Minister as he attacked the Labor senator. This is th”. situation we have to face. Where is it all to end? I say to the Minister: Army officers have no right to butt into the politics of this country. If they want to be in politics let them stand for Parliament. Let them take their choice: They are either in the Army, Navy or Air Force or they are in the Parliament. Whilst we. put up with
Ministers who will sit here and apologise for soldiers they are not prepared to rebuke when they have contravened the regulations, we can understand why the country is going bad.
– Where was the apology?
– The Minister asked when did he apologise. Was it not pathetic to hear him the. other day say that Lieutenant Colonel Forward was entitled to do it. He almost bent low as he said it in the Parliament. Let him say tonight why a Minister rebuked the Admiral and he would not rebuke the Colonel. I put it on record that the reason why he would not rebuke him was because a Labor man was involved. If this is to be the conduct of the Army officers I hope they will give us a run down on the Minister for the Army, Navy and Air Force and what it really thinks of them because that will make the best political propaganda for the Labor Party that we can put before the people in any election. I repeat that there is one law for the Labor Party and one law for the Liberal Party. The Army officers run the Government and Ministers like the Minister for the Army are not prepared to accept their responsibilities and answer in this Parliament for the people for whom they are responsible when they are attacked, be it right or wrong. It is a scandalous state of affairs. I notice the Minister for the Navy is silent. With all bis failings I do not think he would have tolerated this kind of conduct, and that is stretching it a lot.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Corbett) - Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– It is not that I have succumbed to the charms of the honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Daly) but 1 am emboldened to break my silence. His Walter Mitty performance this evening has prevailed upon me to say a word or two- He has complained with, I thought, a mock sense of anger about one law for Labor, one law for Liberal. He reversed it on one or two occasions and it was one law for Liberal and another for Labour. I just want to bring the honourable gentleman back to his muttons about this matter. Firs: of all he has attacked my colleague, the Minister for the Army (Mr Peacock), about Lieutenant-Colonel Forward and my colleague’s defence of him. I want to say to the honourable gentleman that it is a pretty old defence as far as our existence is concerned that one can fall back on provocation. If ever there was a glaring example of provocation given by anyone to any person ever serving in any armed Service it was offered by a Labor senator to a man serving in the field, facing angry men and being shot at.
– What is the Minister for?
– I will come to that. You have dished it out; see if you can contrive to take it.
– It is bad enough having to listen to you.
– There is the honourable member for Lalor (Dr J. F. Cairns) with his brown shirt and brown tie. If he wants to have an argument he should realise one thing: There are 2 people . who will join the argument. The honourable member for Lalor could not make a fuss in a fowl house at night. Here is the case of a colonel in the field. It has been said of his colleagues that their sense of competence is such that they shelled Australian troops. I have one regret about the honourable member for Grayndler and that is that he never passed through the gentle hands of some gentle minded warrant officer disciplinarian because if he had some of his instincts today would have been greatly improved. That was the provocation offered to a serving colonel in the field. I would like the honourable member for Grayndler to know that I support completely what my colleague the Minister for the Army said when speaking on behalf of the colonel. He said:
Admittedly there was a breach or Army regulations but it was a breach made under the influence of provocation.
Now I want to come to the honourable member for Grayndler’s argument this evening, to dignify it somewhat. He referred to Admiral Crabb. If the honourable member were to move around the Services a bit he would find out a few things. 1 have never met an admiral in my life who has not asked for more ships. I have never met a serving commander in the field who has not said he would like more troops. I do not know of any person who has commanded a group in the Air Force who has not said he would welcome more aircraft:
It is very easy for the honourable gentleman to call in this sort of undergraduate argument and try to impeach the credibility of the Government and to fall back on the argument with which he attacked my predecessor, the honourable member for Wakefield (Mr Kelly), heaping upon him such contumely. I do not think that adds anything to the gaiety of affairs at all. If the honourable gentleman takes the view that by assailing a person he will impeach his argument, 1 think he has spent 23 or 30 years in this place in vain.
In the few minutes that I wish to occupy the time of the Committee I want to refer to one or two other matters. I want to refer to the speech, adverted to by one or two honourable members, which was made by the former head of the Department of Defence, Sir Henry Bland. This is a speech which has been greeted as being the second deliverance of a set of tablets. I think, with great respect to Sir Henry Bland, that the role of critic is a very easy role and a very tempting role to fulfil, but when you have the responsibility of discharging office and when you have’ the responsibility of answering to a parliament and in the ultimate to the electorate it is an entirely different proposition. What I would like honourable members opposite to face up to this evening is this simple question: Do they support the proposition that there should be integration of the Australian armed Services? That is the question I want to put to them because I would suggest that it is implicit in the speech delivered by Sir Henry Bland- not merely that there should be a truncation of Service activity but also that there should be in the foreseeable future integration of the Australian armed Services.
– Come off it.
– I think this is a matter not to be discussed gaily but to be treated seriously because it involves some quite fundamental propositions. I think that if honourable members opposite are going to say that the observations which Sir Henry Bland offered are right in every particular they should say: ‘Well, for my part I believe in integration*. But the Government stand is opposed to that. The Government believes in putting the emphasis upon joint operation and there is a welcome field of activity for joint operation. But to suggest that in this nation today in its present condition - I am talking now about its political condition, about its social attitudes, about the whole of its environmental attitude towards the armed Services - integration is in front of us is, in my view, and I believe in the view of the Government simply not on.
I would ask honourable member opposite to heed what I am sure has been our experience in our own political organisations. That is, to appoint a committee is not to solve a problem, and I believe that most of us would take the view that one of the swiftest ways of dispensing, albeit temporarily, of a problem is to appoint a committee to solve it. One of the very real difficulties that my colleague the Minister for Defence (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and my other colleagues in the armed Services face to day is facing up to what I would describe as being one of the difficulties of decision in the past. These decisions are being made today and some people as a consequence are being hurt today, but the decisions are being made. I would like this Committee to know and I would like the country to know that the Minister for Defence is quite determined, and all of the Service Ministers are determined, to see that if a decision has to be made it will be made and it will be made with a measure of promptness. It will be to no point at all for any person to say this is something which is going to upset somebody here or upset somebody elsewhere.
– What is your opinion?
– Do not be cynical.
– This is typical. It is an incredible thing. Here we have the honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren), the honourable member for Lalor and the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden), who have the most synthetic interest in defence of any trio that I can imagine on the other side. As far as the honourable member for Oxley is concerned I would be the closest to an angry man he has ever seen in his life. The honourable members opposite who are seeking to interject served only in the education service. They would know a tot about it, I am sure
I want to come to what has been a fundamental assumption of the Labor Party in the matter of defence. This was referred to by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard) this evening and by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam). The one simple dominating assumption of me Labor Party in defence matters is simply this: Let the rest of the world go by.
If one wants to have that pointed up-
– That is not true.
– It is true, I say to the honourable member with great respect. 1 commend to him as compulsory reading the Fabian lecture given by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition on Australian defence last year, when he said, among other things - this is the keynote; this is the basis upon which the whole of the honourable gentleman’s argument rests:
The basic contention of the Labor Party is thai Australia’s strategic frontiers are its natural boundaries.
– Hear, hear!
– Where is the measure of agreement?
– John Gorton has his hand up.
– Here is the honourable member for Oxley trying to persuade me to desist from finding out who agrees with that. But, if any honourable gentleman opposite is minded to reject it, I hope that he will find the sense of spirit to stand up and say so. We find this manifested in all arguments-
– I do not disagree with that and 1 will say so.
– Look here, Screaming Lord Sutch-
– Make seme-thing else your front line and see where you get off in this day and age, mate.
– Why don’t you go and play a mouth organ?
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Corbett) - Order! There are too many interjections. The honourable member for Sturt will cease interjecting.
– The molecule from Moreton; the classic example.
– I do not know what that adenoidal outburst was all about; but 1 will come back on to the argument that I was putting. I was saying that this is the base upon which the Labor Party operates today - that Australia’s natural boundaries are its strategic frontiers. I suppose that this accounts for the fact that there is not one illustration of support ever having been offered by the Australian Labor Party for joint operations with any of our allies in this continent.
– Certainly not with Russia.
– Here it comes. Let us take a look at the joint operations. There is the ANZUS agreement. If one cares to grab hold of that powerful, forward looking document known as the ‘Platform, Constitution and Rules’ of the Australian Labor Party-
– What does that mean?
– Frankly, I think it is couched in abominable English; but then, I. doubt whether the honourable member would be one who could arbitrate on that matter. The Australian Labor Party says: The nation’s defence must be no arranged-
– Tell me what the constitutional processes of the United States Senate mean.
– 1 think you are a victim of hypnopaedia. You have a gramophone underneath your bed. The Australian Labor Party says:
The nation’s defence must be so arranged-
– Listen to this. This is very important.
– Really and truly! I know that the honourable member for Reid has not the brain to understand what I am saying, but I would have hoped that at least he would have found the stomach to listen to it.
– Tell me what-
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Corbett) - Order! There are far too many interjections from my left. Some honourable members seem to think that they can take charge of the Committee. The Minister has the right. to be heard and honourable members have the right to hear him. I suggest that the Committee come to order.
– I was quoting from this document, which I am bound to inform the Committee has an autograph inside it. It is addressed to me and it is signed by the Leader of the Australian Labor Party - a simple manifestation of Bonapartism. some may say; but still, there it is. I want to read this out. So, do not interrupt me. because it upsets me no end. It says:
The nation’s defence must be so arranged that the intention of Australia to defend herself to the limits of her ability is clear beyond all doubt to her own people, to her allies and to any potential aggressor.
How has the tabor Party faced up to that? It has roundly trounced the agreement made pursuant to the ANZUS treaty to establish a joint base at Woomera. It has criticised American presence at Pine Gap, again a joint base. It has criticised on every imaginable occasion any AustralianAmerican operation to secure the integrity of any country outside of Australia.
– That is a complete distortion.
– It is all very fine for the honourable gentleman to try to resist this argument. I want now to demonstrate exactly how unreal the attitude of the Australian Labor Party is in this field. Let me turn to that high authority - that impeccable authority the honourable member for Reid, who said that the Government should reduce its expenditure on armament and use the money it is now wasting On expenditure for war to work for peace; it could devote the money 10 peaceful uses such as the Colombo Plan; it should disarm and contribute to the work of the United Nations. I want to ask honourable gentlemen opposite how do’ : they square the two? Do they take the View that this country can enter into ‘ bilateral or multilateral agreements and then resile from them simply by saying: ‘We ‘will contribute to something that may be going on organised by the United Nations’? A further point . that 1 would make about this is the reference of the Australian Labor Party to periodically reviewing defence treaties and alliances.
-What about, the date of that comment? What have you done since?
– Really and truly, Mr Deputy Chairman; I think that the honourable member is the best trained cockatoo I have ever seen , in this chamber. The Labor Party says: ‘Australia must periodically review its defence treaties and alliances to meet new circumstances as they arise’. What does that mean?
– What is wrong witta that?
– The honourable gentleman interjects, but I ask him: Does this mean to say that we can turn around and say to the other members of the ANZUS agreement that we will review our obligations? If there is one sure and certain fact about international life today it is that one cannot get specific performance of an international agreement. One can only fall back on the goodwill that one has built up and if we are going to repudiate agreements which we have made-
– We are not repudiating.
– The honourable member for St George says that no repudiation is involved. I say this to the honourable gentleman: If the review of an agreement, of a treaty, which has been laid out and solemnly signed, takes you to the point where you say it is embarrassing to us and therefore we repudiate it, that is an example of review taken to the ultimate. I think this is one of the essential points which is deserving of emphasis both in this Parliament and in the country.
I want now to say something about the criticism that has been made by one or two honourable gentlemen concerning the Royal Australian Navy, and I would refer to the charge that was made this afternoon by the honourable member for Fremantle (Mr Beazley) concerning the quality of the Oberon submarines. The Oberon submarine is the best conventional submarine of its kind in the world. I have made that allegation. That is not my view as a layman; it is a view based upon those technically qualified to make such an assessment. If any honourable gentleman opposite takes the stand that he is entitled to say this is nonsense, he carries some measure of obligation to produce the proof and put it before us to show the basis upon which he makes that assertion. One of the very real difficulties today so far as the Navy is concerned, not merely of planning but also all defence planning, is the complexity of it.
– You were in the Air Force.
– Yes, I was in the Air Force, and I am not ashamed of it either. The very real difficulties about defence planning today are the complexity and the cost. Those 2 difficulties are greatly exacerbated by the fact that there are enormous lead times from the time when a decision is made until there is delivery of the equipment. It is one thing today for the Royal Australian Navy to put its hand to the decision and to say it is going to commit itself to a programme of light destroyers, but it is another thing to await their actual production. I do not care into which country in the world one goes, one finds that this is a common experience. It is the experience of the 2 great naval shipbuilding countries in the Western world, the United Kingdom and the United States. I should like the Committee and the country to know that the Department of the Navy is seeking on every possible occasion to see where and how any of the timetables can be reasonably cut to ensure that the best possible equipment is provided for those who serve in the Navy and, furthermore, to ensure that the Royal Australian Navy, as it faces the very difficult years ahead, will make the maximum contribution to the welfare and security of this country.
– I should like to congratulate the Minister for the Navy (Mr Killen) tonight. He has established a record which is unassailable. Surely noone can use so many words in as much time as he does to say as little as he says. He passed some reference to one honourable member on this side of the chamber having served in the Education Corps. I must be fair about this and concede quite willingly that the Minister is a man of some literary merit himself. Indeed, he would have completed his second book had he not run out of crayons last week. The remarkable thing about him, though, is the way in which he dissembles with phoney concern and mock furiousness. He misses his vocation. He plays Shakespearean drama like Gilbert and Sullivan.
This is an appropriate time to quote the refrain from the welcoming tune which was played to him when he marched upon HMAS ‘Melbourne’ recently. Rear Admiral Crabbe was kind enough to give me the words to the refrain. As honourable members know, the honourable member is the Minister for the Navy, and the Navy thought it was appropriate to use these words which reflected his adequate qualifications:
In serving writs I made such a name
That an articled clerk 1 soon became; ‘
I wore clean collars and a brand-new suit
For the pass examination at the Institute.
And that pass examination did so well for me, That now I am the Ruler of the Queen’s Naveel
Of legal knowledge I acquired such a grip
That they took me into the partnership.
And that junior partnership, I ween,
Was the only ship that I had ever seen.
But that kind of ship so suited me, That now [ am the Ruler of the Queen’s Navee!
In any event, I must congratulate him. He is a man for all seasons, as variable as any wind current could possibly be. Now we have him in the Parliament at the present time holding forth in support of the Government’s decision to withdraw a battalion of troops from Vietnam, leaving 2 battalions there upholding this completely as posing no threat to the defence of Australia. I met the Minister in a television debate not so many months ago in Brisbane. On that occasion he attacked the Australian Labor Party for suggesting that there should be a withdrawal from Vietnam. He said that what the Labor Party stood for was a phased out withdrawal, and this was shocking, that it was disgraceful, that this was subversive. I cannot think of all the high powered words that he likes to use in these moments of dissembling himself publicly, but in any event he used all these colourful adjectives to describe the sort of effect that the Australian Labor Party’s policy would have.
Even his Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) last year was saying that our force in Vietnam was a self contained force and that, unless it was all withdrawn, to withdraw parts of it would be militarily quite ridiculous. So they have proved in fact that theirs is a very ridiculous Party. This was the performance of the Minister for the Navy. I shall say one thing further for him before I pass on to some other points: He is a great democrat. He has said on more than one occasion in reply to honourable members who have suggested that he is somewhat intolerant where racial matters are concerned that this is not true. He quotes, of course, the. example of when he was a buckaroo in Western Queensland.
– That is right. A buckaroo rides rather inconsistently. When he was a jackeroo he used to swim bare arsed in the Condamine with the Aboriginals.
What he does not tell people is that he was perfectly safein this respect. The Condamine has water in it only once a year and then for only a very brief period, so it does not make great demands on one’s democratic values. But, of course, swimming bare arsed in the Condamine just proves something we have known for a long time. He has always been too big for his breeches.
Let me move on to important things, things of substance. The Government for a long time has beat the drum of patriotism frequently and resoundingly and with complete lack of sincerity where matters of defence are concerned. It has been par excellence the defender of the serviceman’s rights, the protector of his aspirations and the promoter of. his best interests. It is rather remarkable to find that the defence forces today are easily in the most demoralised and the most run down state that they have ever been in in the postwar history of this country. What will the Minister for the Navy have to say about this? He had a lot. to say when he was in the backbenches. He wanted to mine the Gulf of Tonkin. He wanted to lead an expeditionary force against the North Vietnamese himself. I. think he was always thankful that there were no volunteers to support him. If there had been he might have had to fulfil the proposition.
In any event, since this Government has been in power there has been this deterioration in the defence forces, and it has manifested itself in a most acute form in the past 5 or 6 years. In the 6 years to 1970-71, 100 officers from the Navy between the ranks of midshipman II and captain IV have been scourged from the Service before reaching retirement age. What does the Minister propose to do about this? Doeshe propose some sort of fiddling secret inquiry where the critical findings will be suppressed and the real issues kept from the public gaze? This is the role the Minister proposes to play. Over the same period 231 officers between the ranks of second lieutenant and colonel have been forced out of the Army, and 425 Royal Australian Air Force officers between the ranks of pilot officer and wing commander have been squeezed from the Service.
It costs $56,000 to train an officer for 4 years in Duntroon Royal Military College.
It costs somewhere around the same figure, I dare say, to train them in the other Services. But the loss is even greater than this, because these men are highly skilled and highly competent. They are men who develop specialised expertise in a field which cannot be gained anywhere else in the community, and through the way in which their welfare is being indifferently regarded by the Government they are being pressured out of the Service. So we are losing more than $56,000 worth of training in these men because for every year, every week, every minute they are training they are improving their skills and their efficiency as officers in the defence of this country. So we are losing a tremendous amount of capital assets, if we want to look at it in this way, and the Government for a long time has stood by rather indifferently. In the year that has just gone by alone the recruitment target was 2.000 down on the target level the Government had set.
What has happened to the defence Services under this conservative Government in Canberra? Why has this quite apparent and extensive erosion taken place? It is clearly inconsistent with the role of patriots in the defence of the defence services and the fighting men of this country. Just how patriotic is the Government in representing the interests of our defence personnel? The Minister for Defence has said:
In blunt terms one of the implications of the United States objective to bring its draft down to what is called a zero draft call could be that ultimately a greater defence effort might be required of this country.
He then went on further to say, in opposition to any suggestion that there ought to be an increase in pay for defence service people, in spite of the fact that we will clearly require a greater defence effort in the view of this Government:
If we were a country that sought to buy defence, which is what the Labor Party would do if it wanted any defence, we would haveto pay higher salary and wage rates in an attempt to attract people into the armed forces to get the numbers we needed. This is a view that the Government rejects.
It is opposed to pay increases. He went on to say of pay increases: lt. is likely to appeal to the underprivileged and to the worker who is in a less fortunate situation.
The Minister specified in another area that is likely to appeal to the better educated people in the community. What are the implications of that view? Increases in pay concern the Government because the underprivileged and the lesser educated will come in. Apparently the Government wants to gear the intellectual level of members of the defence Services to that of junior Ministers of the Services. It wants to avoid embarrassment for the Ministers. This is gravely offensive. If in fact the Government- argues that increased pay and improved conditions will attract this sort of person, what sort of person is presently being attracted to the defence Services? The Government must suspect that the people in the Services at the present time are of an inferior standard, to that of which the Minister speaks. It is quite clear that increases., in pay are required. The Returned Services League’s submission on conditions in the armed services stated: The League suggests’ … I will omit a few words that refer to the Commonwealth Public Service - that the Services should be considered as a highly specialised industry within which conditions of service not only reflect the complex nature of responsibilities . the members must accept but which also offer .sufficient inducements to attract above average1 young men to the service as a career.
In a recent submission in the United States of America to the President’s Commission on an All-Volunteer Armed Force, this was stated: “” ’
We unanimously, believe that the nation’s interests will be better’ served by an all-volunteer force, supported by an effective standby draft; than by a mixed force .of. volunteers and conscripts; that steps should be. taken promptly to move in this direction. . . .
The Government is clearly out of :line with informed thinking both inside and outside this country,, and certainly out of line with the thinking of our greatest ally. But what could one expect with such representatives of the defence Services as the Minister for the Queen’s Navee?
– I feel, that the last few speeches in this debate have been a little frivolous. I think it would be in the interests of the Committee if I were to say to my old friend, the ; . honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Daly) who spoke quite seriously and with a quite intense approach to this subject, : that the 3 references he made were most unfortunate,1 particularly in the way in which he made them. I believe that the Committee should take notice of the fact that his criticism of a senator who is a member of his Party is significant to the Government and to the people of Australia, largely because of the fact that the criticism by the senator related to a New Zealand artillery unit. The honourable member for Grayndler was a member of this House when the late Right Honourable John Curtin was Prime Minister of Australia. Had that statement been made at that time, it is my humble opinion that the then Prime Minister would have had an apology in writing to General Freyberg from that senator.
I saw an honourable gentleman opposite rise to speak during an adjournment debate here, and make an apology to the former member for Hume for some incredible comments, recorded in Hansard, related to the Victoria Cross. Although the honourable member for Grayndler used those words in excitement, they are reprehensible in the context in which they were used. He said ‘when the “Melbourne” sank the “Evans” ‘. His comments were most unfortunate. They carried with them an implication of responsibility that was reprehensible in the extreme. In my judgment it was quite unfortunate that they should be uttered in that matter.
The honourable member also referred to Admiral Crabb. I was present when the interview to which the honourable member referred took place. I know full well that the Admiral was misrepresented by the pressmen who were present. The truth of the matter is that after a day at sea, members of this Parliament and of the Press took part in an interview with the fleet commander. He was asked about the guided missile destroyers and a reference was made to a viable force. It is quite clear to most intelligent people that in most circumstances . 6 warships are likely to be a more viable force than 3 warships, and this was the comment that the Admiral was making. It was sensationalised by the Press into a very unfortunate set of circumstances. I thought therefore that my friend from Grayndler, would have been fairer to this House had he been more consistent with the facts.
The recent improvements in pay, allowances and conditions of service within the
Australian armed forces are a clear indication of the objectives of the Minister for Defence (Mr Malcolm Fraser), the Minister for the Navy, (Mr Killen), the Minister for the Army (Mr Peacock) and the Minister for Air (Senator Drake-Brockman). The new inquiry should be a thorough reappraisal of the relevant circumstances in a total sense and should lead to a modern concept of the armed forces establishing a public image of profound significance to the future of Australia. The prosperity and wealth within the Australian economy have had an effect in 1970 upon the Australian armed forces, an effect never before seen in our national history. This is because we are. more prosperous and wealthy as a nation than ever before in our national history. This means that today, on a scale never known before, our highly trained technical servicemen and administrators at all levels and ranks are more likely to be attracted out of the armed forces into our rapidly expanding national economy.
Against that background I wish to look at the statements made by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam when he talked about his support for the equality of service life set against a background of general civilian standards. He said that this was supremely important. He made his statements as a gesture of condescention to the House and to the armed forces and indicated that as far as the Opposition was concerned this was a vital part of their policy.
– Mr Deputy Chairman, I draw your attention to the fact that some time ago the House made a decision in regard to the 11 o’clock rule.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Drury) - The arrangement does not apply on Monday nights; it applies on the other sitting nights. There is no substance in the honourable member’s point of order.
– The Leader of the Opposition said this:
Service life must be equal in every sense to the general standards in civilian occupations.
I wish to tell honourable members that in my judgment he is wrong. It must be superior and more attractive economically to enable the armed forces to have the very first choice of the best of Australians. The cost of the investment in defence equipment for all Australians is higher than ever before in our history.. We must seek to convince those people responsible for government, in this Parliament and outside it, that Australia’s very survival as a nation will be substantially affected by the international reputation of Australia’s armed forces. The very powerful senior officers in the great public service departments must be convinced in their own interests that dissatisfaction and discontent in the Australian armed forces reflects in truth upon them because they are the advisers of the parliamentarians who constitute the Cabinet. What is the environment in this world of 1970 which leads me to state that outarmed forces must be the very best of our people?
There are four factors that I would like to mention. Firstly, the world has become a much smaller place because we now measure distances not in terms of statute or nautical miles but in time. This concept is of profound significance, for those people responsible for Australia’s defence policy and future survival. Secondly, the population explosion is also of enormous significance to Australia because the present world population of 3,200 million people will double to 6,400 million by 2000 AD. The most significant truth, as demonstrated this evening by my colleague the honourable member for Boothby (Mr McLeay), of the international situation in 1970, is the generally accepted validity of the international cognizance of Communist aims and objectives of world domination. It is true that speeches and documents presented by Communist leaders for SO years have announced that the destruction of all forms of government other than Communism is their ultimate objective.
How then is 1970 different from previous years and how does 1970 demonstrate this Communist growth of international influence and power more clearly than in any previous year in the 20th century? The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics now is the most significant power in the Mediterranean and has control of the Suez Canal. The USSR has a navy of 551 effective warships around a core of 350 submarines. The armies of die Warsaw Pact countries are the most powerful in Europe in 1970. The forces of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation were the most powerful in 1960. The diplomacy of the USSR has been responsible for remarkable successes in South America, Africa and Asia since 1967.
All of these factors are reasons why we must get the very best of our people into our armed forces. We will get them and keep them there only if the standards of Service conditions and allowances are superior generally to the standards that exist outside the armed forces. It is my firm belief that history will prove in this place that there will be an awareness over these next 2 or 3 years and I believe that ultimately it will be reflected in the beads of perspiration that will characterise the faces of our gallant colleagues who sit on the Opposition side of the House.
Motion (by Mr Swartz) proposed:
That progress be reported.
The Committee divided. (The Deputy Chairman - Mr E. N. Drury)
Majority . . 4
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
The following Bills were returned from the Senate without amendment:
Excise Tariff Bill 1970.
Diesel Fuel Tax Bill (No. 1) 1970.
Diesel Fuel Tax Bill (No. 2) 1970.
Customs Tariff Bill (No. 2) 1970.
States Grants (Mental Health Institutions) Bill 1970.
Wireless Telegraphy Regulations Bill 1970.
Sheltered Employment (Assistance) Bill 1970.
House adjourned at 11.14 p.m.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
ns asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for the Army, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Australian Capital Territory:
asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Fancy Cheeses (Question No. 1801)
asked the Minister for Primary
Industry, upon notice:
-The answer to the Honourable member’s question is as folows -
News and. Information Bureau (Question No. 1943)
asked the Minister for the
Interior, upon notice:
Of which open air meetings in Canberra, other than those sponsored by the Government, has the News and, information bureau taken photographs since he became Minister. . ,
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Since I became Minister for the Interior the Australian News and. Information Bureau has taken photographs of the following open air meetings, other than those sponsored by the Government:
asked the Treasurer, upon notice:
How many borrowers from the (a) Commonwealth Savings Bank and (b) private savings banks have had the terms of their housing loans varied in the last financial year.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The information requested is not available.
Senators: Appointment by Governors (Question No. 1741)
asked the Minister for the
Interior, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 19 October 1970, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1970/19701019_reps_27_hor70/>.