27th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr SPEAKER (Hon. Sir William Aston) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– Mr Speaker. I wish to inform the House that on 10th March, consequent on the resignation of the Right Honourable J. G. Gorton as Prime Minister. His Excellency the Governor-General commissioned me, as the newly elected Leader of the Parliamentary Liberal Party to form a Ministry. On my recommendation, the Right Honourable J. G. Gorton was sworn as Minister for Defence on 10th March. Pending the formation of a new Ministry, I shall continue to act as Minister for Foreign Affairs.
Sir, on 12th March, the Prime Minister’s Department and the Department of the Cabinet Office were abolished and 2 new departments were created in their place. They are the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet and the Department of the Vice-President of the Executive Council.
The new Department of the VicePresident of the Executive Council will undertake a number of functions previously located in the Prime Minister’s Department and in the Treasury. It will be responsible for a wide range of matters. Functions for the Department which have already been approved are contained in a list which, with the concurrence of honourable members, I incorporate in Hansard:
Australian Government Publishing Service, including the Government Printing Office
Council of Aboriginal Affairs
Institute of Aboriginal Studies
Office of the Environment
Film and Television Training School
Commonwealth Literary Fund
Art Advisory Board
Historic Memorials Committee
Council of Performing Arts
Assistance to Performers Advisory Board
Grants to National Organisations
National Radiation Advisory Committee
The allocation to the Department of certain other functions is being examined.
The Vice-President of the Executive Council (Sir Alan Hulme) will answer questions in the House on matters for which this Department will be responsible. The Leader of the Government in the Senate, Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson, will answer such questions in the Senate.
– I wish to inform the House that I accept the notice of motion given on 9th March by the Leader of the Opposition as a want of confidence motion for the purposes of standing order 110. I take it that the notice of motion will now be called on.
– Mr Speaker-
– Order! I call on General Business.
– Mr Speaker. I rise on a point of order. Could I seek your guidance in asking whether the House would be entitled to an explanation from the Prime Minister as to how this remarkable state of events occurred?
– Order! There is no valid point of order.
– I move:
The aim of the motion is not just to let the people pass judgment on the extraordinary events of the last week but to give them a voice on who should govern them. The clean air of public opinion should be allowed to flow through Canberra’s musty corridors of power. (Honourable members interjecting) -
– Order! I would remind honourable members very early in this debate that this is one of the most serious motions that can be put before the House. I would remind honourable members on both sides of the House that interjections will be out of order. I ask for the cooperation of members of the House to ensure that this debate receives the high respect that it deserves.
– Last Wednesday 33 members of the Liberal Party voted against expressing confidence in their leader. They form barely one-sixth of the members of this Parliament. Only a handful of Liberals and a few Press proprietors have bad their say on the change of Government. The only proper course is for the people now to have theirs. I gather that there will be 2 initial objections to this motion. First, the new Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) will say that Australia has had too many elections. If as a result of this motion being carried there is an election for this House then there will not be another Federal election for 3 years. The next election for the House of Representatives will be synchronised with the next election for the Senate, and at the same time a referendum can be put to see that, thenceforth, there will always be the same date for elections for this House and the senior half of the Senate.
What disruption would an election now cause compared with the disruption already caused by the events of the last 2 weeks, or the disruption likely to be caused by the incompatibility and instability of this or any possible McMahon Ministry? The other objection, the Prime Minister will say, as he did on television last night, is that he cannot see how anyone could move a motion of no confidence in a government which had been in power only two or three days. If the Prime Minister says that, he should clarify his own thoughts on the matter, because at his first Press conference last Wednesday he said:
I was quite surprised when papers were brought to me, or to myself and Mr Gorton, to see how much has to be done, particularly as there is a new Government the whole of the ministry has to be sworn in, before it can meet the House.-
– That is untrue.
– I am quoting from the right honourable gentleman’s own official transcript of his first Press conference. We now find from his initial statement to the House that the Ministry has not been sworn in. His very words were: . . pending the formation of a new Ministry’. Either his statement last
Wednesday or his statement on the TV programme ‘Tonight’ is wrong.
When I gave notice last Tuesday there was a Gorton Government. Now there is a McMahon Government. That is all that has changed. The Liberal leader and deputy leader have changed places and the former Prime Minister supplants his destroyer as Minister for Defence. All the essential elements of Gorton government remain, with all their contradictions, tensions, dissensions, selfishness and rivalries exposed but utterly unresolved. They can be resolved only by an election. The new Prime Minister was given by the House 5 days to reconstitute his Ministry - a fair time. He indicated on Thursday that the new Ministry would be announced on the weekend, on Friday that it would be announced today, probably on Sunday night so as to be published in the Monday morning papers. The delay can mean one of two things, or it can mean both: The tensions and dissensions rim so deep in the Liberal Party that they cannot possibly be resolved in the time we have granted to the Prime Minister, or/and the Prime Minister has deliberately stalled to save himself embarrassment during this debate. He does not want the Parliament to know the composition of the new Ministry, to know whether the honourable member for Wannon (Mr Malcolm Fraser) has been rewarded, whether the Minister for Defence (Mr Gorton) will serve with the honourable member for Wannon, or what rewards and punishments are to be meted out to the chief participants in last week’s conspiracy. He does not want the honourable member for Wannon to bc answerable as a Minister for his extraordinary allegation of last Tuesday.
The very malaise that was at the heart of last week’s convulsion - the bypassing of Parliament and its proper procedures - continues unabated. The Bourbons have learned nothing. They never will learn. The sickness is too far advanced.
This House had no confidence in the Gorton Government. The former Prime Minister withdrew because a vote of no confidence in his Government would have been carried. How can we accept that just because the 2 principals have exchanged roles all is changed, all is serene? It is quite clear that the former Prime Minister will not be silenced on these matters, that his views have been exacerbated about his colleagues rather than assuaged. In answering the question why he stood for the deputy leadership of his Party be told Mr John Sorell as reported in last Thursday’s Melbourne ‘Herald’:
Well, Mr Fraser and Mr Fairbairn stood up. I had been attacked by both these men. I believed it would be a fair thing to find out what the Party thought of me in relation to those two.
Again he told Mr Allan Barnes, and I quote from the ‘Age’ of last Friday:
Fraser and Fairbairn jumped to their feet as soon as it was suggested who would be Deputy Leader. They had both made charges against me. J felt 1 would like the Party to express an opinion, an opinion as to me and those two individuals.
The significant thing is that the only ministers in a Liberal-Country Party coalition government who are not chosen by the leaders of those parties are the deputy leaders of those parties. The new Prime Minister has to have his Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party in his Ministry and he did not vote for him.
Was the so called unfitness of the former Prime Minister the only issue raised last week? Was he the only person responsible for the deficiencies of the Gorton Government? Gortonism is not just an aberration of Liberalism; it is an end product - the inevitable end of a party with no principles to guide it, a congeries of ill assorted, incompatible individuals. The personality cult has started again already. Sir Frank Packer, no less, says:
Why debate issues? What right has Parliament to examine these matters? What does it mailer that the lesser lights in the Ministry are unchanged? We have a new Prime Minister, we have Mr McMahos
Know ve that there is a new judge in Israel,’ saith the Lord.
Was the convulsion of last week just about the style and habits of the former Prime Minister? Is that what the Liberal Party has come to? Is that what these men born to rule were reduced to? There were important, crucial issues involved. There was the issue of Cabinet responsibility; responsibility by the Cabinet to the Parliament and by every member of the Cabinet to every other member of the Cabinet, the Gorton Cabinet, the McMahon Cabinet. This is the question of responsibility; collective responsibility. All the members in that Cabinet are responsible because none of them resigned except the honourable member for Wannon. Was there any suggestion that these other Ministers wanted to resign or that the new Prime Minister found matters so untenable that he would resign? The former Prime Minister led his Party to 2 elections. His followers in his Party supported him, they praised him, they clung to him, they cringed to him. Now he is the sole author of their misfortunes. Less than a month ago in the Party room only one of his colleagues, Senator Wood, was prepared to stand against bini.
Other issues were raised by last week’s crisis. These are the issues specifically raised by the honourable member for Wannon: The authority of the Government over the armed forces; the morale and effectiveness of those forces; the role of the Army in Vietnam and the security of the forces remaining in Vietnam. The new Prime Minister’s response to these allegations has been to put the former Prime Minister into the post vacated by his accuser; to substitute the man about whom the allegations are made for the man who made the allegations. This was done at the request of the former Prime Minister. He wanted to be vindicated by supplanting his destroyer and his accuser, ls this the way the serious allegations and issues made by the honourable member for Wannon are to be resolved? Are the Army and the whole question of authority over the Army to be made a question of personal and partisan one-upmanship? Are the armed forces to be made the plaything of Liberal brawls?
The former Prime Minister, the New Minister for Defence, is to go to Vietnam if this motion is not carried. Is he, in his present state of mind, in his present situation, the man to examine objectively the role of the Army in Vietnam? How can he do this when his fall, his humiliation, derived directly from the controversy about that role? The allegation of the honourable member for Wannon was that the former Prime Minister broke the chain of command - was insensitive, to put it at its lowest, to proper civilian authority. He alleged that the former Prime Minister backed the generals against the proper civilian authority. Yet while these most serious charges are unresolved the man against whom they art- made has been made Minister for Defence.
There is another aspect of the allegations by the honourable member for Wannon which reveals as much about the whole Cabinet, whether it is the Gorton or the McMahon Cabinet, as it does about the former Prime Minister himself. First, there was the allegation about the Pacific Islands Regiment. It may be true, as the honourable member for Wannon alleged, that the former Prime Minister was reluctant to submit to Cabinet the proposal concerning the call out of troops in New Guinea but it was ultimately submitted to Cabinet. All this means is that the whole Cabinet, including the new Prime Minister, shares the responsibility for this reckless, needless action. Last Tuesday the honourable member for Wannon said: . . the legal consideration for a call out had not been fulfilled. I made it plain that I would not sign such an order until the legal considerations had been fulfilled … the Prime Minister has refused to allow adequate Cabinet discussion to decide whether or not the original order should be revoked. Tt still stands, and possibly illegally.
In the face of allegations such as that by the man who had prime responsibility, how can it be borne that the new Minister for Defence should go to Vietnam?
It may be that there could be criticisms of the methods of the former Minister for Defence. He inspired allegations of the most serious kind against the Army and the General Staff- that it defied the Government, that it flouted Government policy, that it made its own policy and decisions and kept the Government of Australia in the dark. Yet the method the former Minister chose to combat this situation, which, if it were even half correct, involves the gravest charges of disloyalty and dishonour, was to plant a story in a weekly magazine. Where is the loyalty in this? Where is the sense of collective responsibility whose breach under the former Prime Minister the honourable member for Wannon so acrimoniously complains about? He was not the only Minister, nor was the former Prime Minister, the only member of that Cabinet - and they are all in the new Cabinet - to have resorted to the weapon of the Press to condition the public to down their rivals to keep the Parliament in the dark and silent. It is a pretty miserable technique to allow stories to go uncontradicted, or even to plant those stories, and then to deny the veracity of those stories. Ministers have been imposing on the ethics of the Press, relying on the fact that the Press will not break their code.
But there was another thing, still more serious I think, in the statement by the honourable member for Wannon last week. He was at pains to point out - he might have been too ingenuous, he might have protested too much - that it was not the Joint Intelligence Organisation which had been set to spy or which could spy on the operations of the Army in Vietnam. The fact is, as he knew, that there is another intelligence organisation which could have done the job. It reports to him and that organisation also can report to the Prime Minister or to the Minister for Foreign Affairs - the three men involved in this matter. Those other two Ministers who knew about it could not answer the allegations by the honourable member for Wannon without breaking their oaths. One relies on members of the Press sticking to their code. One relies on one’s rivals in the Ministry sticking to their oath.
The only charitable conclusion we can draw is that the honourable member for Wannon knew it was futile to take this momentous issue to Cabinet, that he believed Cabinet was so supine, so irresponsible, that he could achieve nothing there, and that the Cabinet would not act to safeguard civilian authority. Yet the same men now form the McMahon Cabinet. The personnel are the same except that there is a different Minister for Defence.
So much for the principle of civilian responsibility and Cabinet responsibility. This is the clearest example of why the events of last week are not remotely settled by the change in Liberal leadership. The incalculable harm done to Australia’s reputation abroad is one factor that we must all consider in voting on this motion. This harm is compounded by maintaining the present Ministry, particularly the Minister for Defence. What authority can he have or can the Australian Government have in Saigon or in Washington or in any places in our region?
Now, let us look at the situation at home. The Gorton Government did have a mandate from the people - a diminishing one but a valid one. The McMahon Government has no. such mandate. One now asks: What happens to the former Prime Minister’s policies and promises? To quote the new Prime Minister, again from the official transcript of his Press conference last Wednesday, be said:
Everything is open to review - tariff policies, economic policies. All policies are open to review. Exactly the same will apply to Vietnam as applies to the other policies.
The right honourable gentleman’s views on a range of matters are well known. He has held a number of portfolios. Outside his present portfolio of Foreign Affairs he has made many onslaughts in the last few weeks, in and outside the Parliament, on the standard of living of that 90 per cent of the Australian work force which relies on industrial awards and agreements. Honourable members will recollect his earlier comments on this. He said:
But, Sir, I must now touch briefly on his policies in his own portfolio of Foreign Affairs which he has held for the last year. He has npt, shown on China that resource and stature which Sir Garfield Barwick showed as Minister for External Affairs in making overdue changes in Australia’s untenable attitudes on West Irian. Again on southern Africa the right honourable gentleman reverted last year to the attitudes of the 1950’s which Sir Robert Menzies in his brief term as Minister for External Affairs in 1960-61 had abandoned. In last year’s General Assembly, for instance, votes were recorded on 12 resolutions from the Fourth Committee relating to trust and nonselfgoverning territories. On only 3 did Australia vote beside Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, the Philippines, Laos and Cambodia. Australia opposed 3 of those 12 in the company of South Africa and in the face of the wishes of all our neighbours and associates m this region.
Now I come to his attitudes as expressed last week. He said that he is very antiSocialistic. I take it that he will now revive his opposition to the Australian Industry Development Corporation - the McEwen bank. I take it that be will revive his opposition to the Australian Wool Commission because his backer, Packer, is clearly the principal antagonist of it. One would assume that he will further delay in this Parliament votes for men and women of 18. 19 and 20 years. There has been speculation as to what changes will be made in the Cabinet or the Ministry, lt is suggested that the Minister for Health (Dr Forbes) is in jeopardy. Does this mean that the new Prime Minister will abandon the fight against the doctors which the former Prime Minister belatedly undertook? I quote his own words. There is also speculation that the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) is in jeopardy. Does this mean that his efforts to end discrimination against Aboriginals in Queensland is to be abandoned? ls this why the new Prime Minister has announced a visit to Queensland? Again it is suggested that the AttorneyGeneral (Mr Hughes) is in jeopardy, ls this also a reason for the visit to Queensland - for the matters upon which there has been dispute between the Gorton Government and the Bjelke-Petersen Government, concerned Aboriginals and off-shore mining? Or is is because the present AttorneyGeneral has for the first time for many years tried to do something about restrictive trade practices? We must wait until the Ministry is re-formed, so we are told, during the winter recess.
Only last month the new Prime Minister was the chosen apologist for the economic measures of the Gorton Government. He had not one word to say in dispraise of them. He justified them all; a good party, man, he says; the chief rationaliser of those policies. He made, for instance, no mention then of pensions; no mention then of Commonwealth and State financial relations. I will quote some of his encomiums. He said:
In fact, I believe that the leadership was taken as it should rightly be taken by the Government and consequently 1 for one could not be considered as a critic of what has been done. Equally too If I were to deal with other measures taken I think it would be found that each one was a wise measure in the interests of the Australian community and T believe in the long run each of them will introduce an increased element of efficiency which will be passed on to succeeding generations. … I wonder whether anyone believes that we could possibly have solved our problems up to the moment unless interest rates, at the recommendation of the Treasury and the Reserve Bank, had been increased.
Finally he said:
In the private sector we find that there has been a large increase in the construction of office buildings and factories. . . . This is one area in which action must and should be taken.
In all these matters where will be the change in policy? Economically the present policies will continue. The new Prime Minister made one reference to Commonwealth and State financial relations. He said: ] refer to the decision on the receipts duty tax, which was a very wise decision taken by the Prime Minister, the Cabinet and the Government because it is an inefficient type of taxation. ( believe it caused more difficulty and that it had a more disturbing effect on businesses than was justified.
This is a very glib justification to come from him for the change because the former Premier of Queensland publicly stated and his Press Secretary issued an official statement that the new Prime Minister as Federal Treasurer had suggested that the States impose such a tax. As we now know, it was unconstitutional. Now there are suggestions that there will be a new deal in Commonwealth and State financial relations. The Premiers did not always think so. While the right honourable gentleman was Treasurer Sir Henry Bolte said of him:
The people are becoming aware of the confidence trick the Commonwealth has been perpetrating on the States . . . much less is known, however, and much less is understood on how Hie Commonwealth is progressively using its vast and unbridled financial dominance to turn itself into an old fashioned money lender.
Again when the right honourable gentleman was Treasurer Mr Askin said about him as a contestant for the Liberal Party leadership:
Who the Federal Liberal Parly elects as leader is its own business. But Federal-State financial relations are very much my business. I am bound to say that of the 4 Canberra leaders I have dealt wilh on this question - Sir Robert Menzies, Mr Harold Holt, Mr Gorton and Mr McMahon - Mr McMahon has been the least sympathetic to the States.
The good opinion was reciprocated by the new Prime Minister because when he was Treasurer he said that in the 18 years he had been attending Premiers Conferences they had not changed one scrap: They consisted of the same old arguments, the same old proposals, the same old thumping of the table.
This then is the true meaning of the Liberal Party decision. It is in essence an exercise in nostalgia, a hankering after the eternal verities of the 1950s and the high noon of. the Menzies era. This is not the 1950s and the people demand policies and attitudes relevant to the 1970s. The election of the former Prime Minister did represent a recognition by the Liberals that the old certitudes were not enough.
That is why they rejected the princes of the blood - the Fairhalls, the Fairbairns, the Frasers and the Haslucks - and why they chose the freebooting robber baron. But the former Prime Minister was not the man to drag the Liberal Party screaming into the last third of the 20th Century. He had, I believe, a vision of sorts, vague and incoherent as it was, but he could not think it through or follow anything through. So he has been dragged down by the very hands which raised htm up so high. To give him his due, he raised expectations among the public, and 1 acknowledge that it will be easier for us to tackle some of the overdue problems in Australia because he was one Liberal who acknowledged their existence. But he committed the unforgivable sin in the Liberal code. He made the Establishment uneasy, uncomfortable; therefore the order went out that he had to go. His severest critics, his most constant critics, in the Government were, in fact, clearly, visibly, audibly, members of the Establishment.
Once this decision had been made his doom was fixed. The operation was mounted. As he himself said - there was a command performance. The PacketPress - the ‘Sunday Telegraph’, the ‘Bulletin’, the ‘Daily Telegraph’ and the television Channels 9 - came into operation. In fact, Claudia Cardinale was ousted - an extraordinary metamorphosis - in favour of Mr Reid, Mr Samuel and Mi: Baudino. To quote the fallen leader:
The Packer Press had started a couple of days before: They put on a command performance - a television show - wilh Alan Reid as the hatchet man and Bob Baudino and Peter Samuel putting the boots in.
The ‘Daily Telegraph’, the paper you can trust! Perhaps it is timely to ponder how much the public or Liberal leaders can trust that paper.
On the day after the speech of the former Prime Minister opening the Senate campaign the ‘Daily Telegraph’ said:
Not often can a Prime Minister embark so confidently on an appraisal of his own election promises made only a year ago as Mr Gorton did last night.
On the day before the Senate election:
He comes out of it the invulnerable leader absolutely confident of the soundness of the platform on which he has both feet firmly planted.
To fill his place the Press proprietors and the Establishment have nominated a man whose ability and application no-one doubts but whose style, rhetoric and attitudes are part of the 50s. His title deeds are doubtful and by whomsoever they have been conferred, they have not been conferred by the people of Australia. The only unity he can offer temporarily is the unity of exhaustion. He offers, in the long term, unity around reaction. His masters are already calling upon him to take on the unions. We know what this means. We know for whose benefit this is to be done. It certainly is not to be done for 90 per cent of the Australian work force - the unions, public services and white collar organisations whose wages and conditions depend on the arbitration tribunals.
Parliamentary democracy has been discredited by the conduct of the Gorton Government and by the events of last week. One of the things most undermining faith in parliamentary democracy in this country is the growing feeling that the electoral processes cannot change anything - that the people’s aspirations cannot be met by those processes. Last week was a classic instance of Government changes. The people were impotent and irrelevant. Nothing can do more to restore faith in this Parliament than that it should have the courage to submit itself and the actions of a minority to the judgment of the people. If this Parliament fails to do this it will be not only the Prime Minister who is discredited, not only the Liberal Party, not only the Government, but the whole of this institution.
– Order! Is the motion seconded?
– I second the motion and reserve my right to speak.
Most people who will have listened to the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) must have been appalled by the fact that he has not said one thing, not uttered one word, that means anything to this nation or looks to a bright, prosperous and successful future. He is looking to the past andtrying to rake over the coals.
– He was looking at you.
– Order! The honourable member for Lang will cease interjecting.
– He was not looking at me. I would not look at him - for obvious reasons. (Honourable members interjecting) -
– Order! At the beginning of the speech of the Leader of the Opposition, I appealed for the co-operation of the House. The House did give this cooperation to the Leader of the Opposition. I expect the same co-operation to be given to the Prime Minister.
– Mr Speaker, 1 hope that I will not degenerate into making the same kind of criticisms of individuals and the occurrences of the past few weeks as the honourable gentleman has done. Rather do I hope to be able to explain the fallacies in the arguments that he has put to the House and then to deal with some of the current issues that are before the Australian people and the approach that will be taken by the Government to those problems.
The honourable gentleman made 2 comments as to why 1 had delayed appointing a ministry or why I had not agreed to an election. He said that I would say, first of ail, that there were too many elections and, secondly, that so far as a ministry was concerned, I had been the Prime Minister for only 5 days. Well, he will be disappointed as he usually is, because, while I feel that both of these matters are important in their context, nonetheless they are not important in this context.
As to the reasons there should or should not be an election, I believe that when we are speaking about this problem we should speak against the constitutional background with some knowledge of constitutional law and constitutional procedures and practice. Let me go back if I may. I want to quote from one of the greatest of the constitutional authorities known in our time.
– Who is he?
– He is Sir Ernest Barker who was the head of the Institute of Science and the Institute of Politics at Cambridge University. Let me point out what Sir Ernest Barker has said when dealing with the party system of government. He has made these points: In the system of government of Australia, as in the system of government of any other liberal country, there are 4 elements. There is the constituency; then the party; then the parliament, and finally the executive and the executive council and the cabinet itself. I want to concentrate my efforts on the party because I believe that this is the very essence of the problem that we are now discussing and one that I believe should be explained immediately.
In the system of government known to us, we believe in party government. Would any member on the other side of the House be here today if he had not been chosen by a party? Would any member of this side of the House be here if he had not been chosen by either the Liberal Party or by the Country Party. There are no independents; in fact members are chosen by a party and they are chosen to represent it.
The second point that I want to make, is that of course we have a leader. But any team, any battalion, any group of forces, must have either a chairman of directors or a leader who can take a prominent interest in initiating and putting forward party policy. There must be some leader, some control.
So the point that I want to make - and it is one that follows from what Sir Ernest Barker has said - is this: What the honourable gentleman has said is wrong in the sense that we have party government. It is only when the party fails that one can ask for an election.
The point that I want to make is that under section 28 of the Commonwealth Constitution - and I would have thought that the honourable gentleman bad some knowledge of constitutional practice - members are elected to Parliament for 3 years. It is only when there are very special circumstances that the GovernorGeneral, on the advice of the Prime Minister, can call an election. So that explanation, Mr Speaker, answers the second point that arises. The third point is: Let us have a look at constitutional practice. When Sir Robert Menzies resigned and Mr Harold Holt took his place, did the Leader of the Opposition then suggest that we should have an election? When Mr Harold Holt died and his place was taken by Mr Gorton, did anyone suggest then that there should be an election? Or if the honour able gentleman wants to go back to 1922 and have a look at the circumstances in which a great Labor leader was then associated - that is the period in 1922 when Mr Hughes was elected Leader of the Nationalist Party - he will see that when Mr Hughes came to the House he found that he did not have the support of the Nationalist and Country Parties and, consequently, he had to seek an audience with the Governor-General and ask that a new leader be chosen.
That leader was Mr Bruce. Mr Scullin did not move a no confidence motion and he did not suggest that there should be an election.
So there we have the principle, the policy and the precedent set out. They were plain enough for the honourable gentleman to see.
The next point I would like to mention is the question of a mandate. Again I have to point out to the Leader of the Opposition that he does not really understand what a mandate is about. In fact, I am sure he has become confused between the meaning of mandate and policy. What a mandate means in political terms - imprecise though they might be - is: A mandate is merely the return of one or two parties to the Government benches. They come back to carry out the policy speech that has been delivered by the leader of the 2 parties which have won the election. So there is the great difference.
In our system of government we have never known the idea of a mandate. Now I should like to quote from Edmund Burke. He said:
The virtue, spirit, and essence of a House of Commons consist in its being the express image of the feelings of the nation.
Later on he said:
To deliver an opinion is the right of all men; that of constituents is a weighty and respectable opinion, which a representative ought always to rejoice to hear, . . . But authoritative instructions, mandates issued, which the member is bound blindly and implicitly to obey, to vote, and to argue for, though contrary to the clearest conviction of his judgment and conscience - these are things utterly unknown to the laws of this land, and which arise from a fundamental mistake of the whole order and tenor of our constitution.
So here is another mistake made by the Leader of the Opposition. He has forgotten the meaning of the distinction between policy and mandate.
I would ask leave, if he would agree, to be able to state something about what has been done by this Government. This Government, similar to the Gorton Government, is to be tested by its policy speech.
In that policy speech many, promises were made. Two-thirds of them have in fact been honoured and the balance of them will, without any reservations, be honoured during the lifetime of this Parliament. Let me, if I can, mention a few of them.
I mention the fact that when we came into office we said that we would strengthen the defence forces. That has been done. We mentioned, too, that we would reduce rates of income tax, and the whole of the reductions in those rates of income tax were made in the first year of the Government’s period of office. We more than redeemed the promise. Our health scheme has been improved. Only recently my colleague was able to announce changes insofar as they affected the less wealthy sections of the community.
So 1 believe that if we look at what we have done, at the problem of the mandate and of the policy speech, we will find that neither in terms of the mandate nor the policy speech is there any justification for the Leader of the Opposition or the Opposition itself to ask this Government to resign.
May 1 now go back to the disagreement which did occur within the Liberal Party? 1 have no intention of going over the history of the past because, as I have said, I want to look to the future and to the greatness of my own party and of the Australian Country Party. I want to point out to honourable members the way I look at this problem and how it should be treated. Firstly I mention that each Government party is made up of an external organisation and a Parliamentary party. Let me concentrate for a moment on my own party - the Liberal Party. Last week the Federal President of the Liberal Party gave me an unqualified assurance that the organisation is behind me. Also, I have the assurance of the Leader of the Australian Country Party - our coalition partner - that his Party will support the coalition. Without this assurance 1 could not have obtained a mandate. In the party room immediately after I was elected as Leader of the Party there was a unanimous vote from the Party expressing confidence in me and wishing me well as Prime Minister. So we had present all the ingredients necessary to give an assurance to a potential Prime Minister that he had the right to go to the Governor-General and to accept the Governor-General’s commission to form a new government. I believe I have answered most of the superficial points that have been raised by the Leader of the Opposition.
I would like to return to the question of the fragmentation of the Liberal Party and the arguments about it. It was due to the Party itself that a change in leadership took place. What I want to do now is to contrast the positions of my own Party and of the party that is led by the honourable gentleman who has just spoken.
In my Party, and I believe in the Australian Country Party, there is both an organisation and a parliamentary group. The organisation is the custodian of the principles and the long term objectives of the Party. But it has no right to tell the Parliamentary members what they should do; it has no right to tell them how they should vote. The organisation may make recommendations to us but it has no powers of decision whatsoever. The Parliamentary Party and the Ministry alone have the right to make decisions and, when those decisions are made, to explain them to the Party and to the House.
May I turn to the Opposition because I believe here we have a system that is the very negation of a system of democratic government. What do I mean by that? It is well known that in the organisation of the Australian Labor Party, the Conference and the Federal Executive of the Party decide its policy. In New South Wales there has been an election of a new Executive but under the supervision of one of the members of the Federal Executive.
At the Conference 60 per cent of the votes to elect the Executive come from members of the trade union movement, whether they be right wing, left wing or anything else. That Executive is controlled not by a democratic system, not by a system of universal franchise, not by a system of representative government; it is there because 60 per cent of the members are put up by the trade unions. No one knows what the political complexion of those trade unions might be. It is exactly the same in the case of Victoria.
Attempts can be made to paper over the cracks, but do you think, Mr Speaker that the people of Australia, when they get to know the facts and get to know them as well as the Government does, will believe that any substantia] change has taken place in the method of government of the Labor Party, in who chooses the representatives and who tells them how to vote? In Western Australia, where a Labor Government was recently elected, Mr Joe Chamberlain, the Svengali of the Labor Party, is still at loggerheads with the Premier of that State. If these 2 gentlemen can last together in harness for any length of time it will be a miracle. There, as I said, are the 2 entirely different systems of government. 1 now turn to another matter raised by the Leader of the Opposition, and that is the new Administration order that has recently been issued and why, I have not been able to complete the Cabinet and choose a new Ministry? I had hoped to be able to choose the Cabinet and have it announced by Monday. I make that concession to the statement of the Leader of the Opposition. I found that I was not able to do so, not for any abstruse reason, not because I felt worried about the personnel who were to be included, but simply-
– Well, . honourable members opposite . know my mind, otherwise they would not go on this way. Purely and simply, because I did not have the time to choose the Cabinet. I felt that this matter concerning the Government of a great country like Australia and those who represent it in the electorate deserved the most deep and mature reflection. I am glad now that I did not make the decision hurriedly. In a matter of such enormously great importance time is needed. I feel that it is my responsibility to choose the best Cabinet that is available on the Government: benches, whether Liberal Party or Country Party.
The second point I would like to mention relates to the Administration order and the change in 2 departments. For some time 1 have felt that the method of having a Cabinet Secretariat and also a Prime Minister’s Department was inefficient. 1 believe that, for 3 reasons, it was critically important that they should be combined again. First, I felt that it is critically important in a Cabinet system of government that we recognise ministerial responsibility. I want, to the maximum extent to which it is practicable, to give to the actual political heads of the departments the responsibility for making the decisions, but I also want them not only to be able to get the best advice that it is possible for them to obtain. In other words, I want the Cabinet Secretariat and the Prime Minister’s Department to operate as a clearing house and to be able to coordinate the staff work so that when it comes to Cabinet we can be assured we have cleared away all that is unnecessary and get down to work on what is critically important for a Cabinet discussion. This should be done at the earliest stages of policy formation.
That is why 1 decided that 1 had to wait, lt was also the reason why I felt that 1 wanted a new department combining the functions of the Cabinet Secretariat and the Prime Minister’s Department. I also felt that there were many reasons why some of the functions which were not political and lion policy making should be handed over to another department. I have already made arrangements for these functions that will be performed by a new department associated with the VicePresident of the Executive Council to be handed over. I have cleared with the Governor-General the 2 proposals and the 2 departments are now in existence. I say to you, Mr Speaker, that there was one difficulty and that was whether the Secretariat of the Executive Council should also be included under the Department of the Vice-President of the Executive Council. There will be no interference whatsoever with the actions of members of the Executive Council but there must be a Secretariat and it has to be housed somewhere. In deference to the wishes of the GovernorGeneral I excluded it from the Department of the Vice-President of the Executive Council. 1 have sought advice from my officers and I find that it will have to be placed somewhere. We will now have to make up our minds about the department in which it will be placed.
May I now turn to another question away from the politics of this issue I would like to say something to the House about the economic state of the nation because 1 believe that unless we are successful economically we cannot hope to be successful at the elections and we cannot hope to be able to do our best in the interests of the people.
I think it is true and consistent with fact to say that our rate of growth - our rate of production - at the moment is good. Last year we had an increase in our gross national product of something of the order of 5i per cent in real and constant terms. This year we will have something of the order of 5 per cent in real terms as well.
If we look at the various other areas that have to be looked at we see that our balance of payments is good, our overseas balances are strong at Si .600m, our trade balance is moving along well, housing is improving and the labour position is sound. We have a little more, but only a little more, than 1 per cent of the population unemployed. So we see in the ingredients I have just mentioned the substance of an economy that is basically sound.
Equally do we find that while it is basically sound there are several problems that cause great difficulties for us. The first is the problem of the rural industries. I will say more about them in a moment. 1 am not mentioning these problems in terms of priority but merely mentioning those that I want to speak about. Without any doubt the second problem is the unexpected increase of 6 per cent granted in the national wage case which added something like $950m to the wages bill of this country. I believe this has given the economy an inbuilt inflationary pressure well in excess of 5 per cent and probably in excess of 6 per cent. We cannot tell the figures just yet, nor can we tell when it is likely to happen. But the fact of the matter is that this second influence is of very grave concern to the Government.
The third point that has to be made clear to the House and, 1 hope, to all honourable members, revolves around the fact that in the construction industries or, if I can put it a little more accurately, in the non-housing building industries, the rate of construction has been increased by about 35 per cent as compared with last year. This prompted the Government to take action. We were compelled to take action along two lines.
First, we asked - here again I want- to show how the Leader of the Opposition has misunderstood the facts - private interests concerned with office building, non-housing construction and . factories whether they would agree voluntarily to cut back their activities. They came to Canberra and discussed the matter with us. We found that a cut-back would bc occurring automatically and it was not necessary for us to take action. But this sector must be watched with extreme care and caution, and we will continue to do so.
A real problem arises more in the area of Commonwealth and State public works. I want to point out for purposes of comparison that our gross national product in money terms is rising at the rate of about 9 per cent per annum. If we let one sector of the economy get out of step or substantially out of step with that 9 per cent, we will strike inflationary pressures and we can expect that prices in that sector of the economy will rise substantially, We will undoubtedly create imbalance in the economy. To amplify the point I am putting, in 1970-71 there was a total increase of Commonwealth and State expenditures of 12.8 per cent and the increase in capital expenditures included in that was about 15.5 per cent. In the recent economic and financial change we were laying the foundations so that at the time of the next Budget we would have prepared the way to take both monetary and fiscal action which would permit us to reduce the inflationary pressures and, over a period of months, to bring inflation under control.
I mentioned the dangers of inflationary pressures when I spoke in the House not so long ago. I now emphasise that inflation is a very great difficulty which we must come to grips with and solve if we are to achieve the kind of growth and the kind of community that we so much need.
I come back to one question that was raised by the Leader of the Opposition, and that is my attitude to CommonwealthState relations. I mention it quickly but, I hope, clearly, so that there can be no doubt about where T stand.
I believe in a satisfactory system of Commonwealth-State relations but I believe that overall economic financial control must be left to the Commonwealth. Notwithstanding that, I have already had conversations with the Treasurer (Mr
Bury) and Treasury officials to ensure that the degrading procedure of making the Treasurers and the Premiers of the various States come to Canberra cap in hand begging for money is reduced to the maximum of our capacity. I feel fairly certain that we can arrive at solutions which will stop this procedure from going on. To contradict the idea that 1 am not willing and anxious to look ;it this problem, J indicate to the House that I will be looking at it and that it will be one of the first priorities of this Government. (Extension of time granted). We will be looking at this problem with great concern, particularly to see whether there is a growth tax that could be handed over to the States and whether, as I have said, we can get out of this degrading procedure of making the States come to Canberra lime after time to ask for assistance.
There ave three other points 1 would like to mention. The first relates to defence. My colleague, the Minister for Defence (Mr Gorton), shortly will be visiting South Vietnam for these reasons: We know that in April the President will be making another announcement relating to American forces in that country. We do not know what the nature of that announcement will be hut we know that by now the Americans have reduced their forces to 284.000 troops. We know too that militarily Vietnamisation is being successful and that gradually the operational role of the Australian troops is being taken over by the regional forces of South Vietnam, lt was recently stated that the most potentially significant occurrence in the Australian Task Force has been the transfer from the Task Force to the regional forces of responsibility for certain areas of operation in Phuoc Tuy province. In other words, this proves what we have been saying. We have been saying that, given time, the problem of South Vietnam can be cured.
We believe that we have been right from the beginning in supporting South Vietnam and giving them the opportunity for freedom and liberty.
Not only the operations in Phuoc Tuy but also the operations that have been taking place succesefully iin Laos make us realise :*ut the South Vietnamese are becoming increasingly capable of looking after their own defence and ensuring that once the other forces have been reduced they will bc able to handle the North Vietnamese themselves. I want to make it clear also that as and when Australian forces ure reduced we hope we will be able to increase our civil aid programme and do what we can to assist the South Vietnamese though not to the same extent as defence expenditure. 1 want to mention only one other point. 1 come back to the Leader of the Opposition himself.
– Be easy on him.
– Everyone has to be easy on him, including you. I will not deal in personalities, but 1 feel that I have a duty to mention in this House some of the policy issues and programmes he has advocated here in recent weeks. First of all, the honourable member for Shortland (Mr Griffiths) raised the question whether, in dealing with one of the pension issues, the Leader of the Opposition had referred to the feather bedding of pensioners. In recent weeks several members of the Opposition have come to mc mid have said that the Leader of the Opposition made such ii statement, and I believe that the honourable member tor Shortland is telling the truth and not the Leader of the Opposition. Secondly, I mention the attitude of the Leader of the Opposition to national service training. As we know,, the Leader of the Opposition, a man who is supposed to uphold the law of this country and to support the decisions made in this House, advocated to young national servicemen that they should commit an act of military treachery. Sir, do you believe that a man who can make advocacy of this kind is suitable to become the leader of a government? That puts the matter in its proper perspective. The Opposition does not mind treachery provided it comes from the Opposition.
Another matter I want to deal with, because it raises the question of whether we believe in justice, is the desire of the Leader of the Opposition to have Mr Alan Ramsey called before the Bar of this House. Already he had been punished by you, Sir, as Mr Speaker. He had already apologised and his parliamentary pass had been taken away from him. Again I leave you, Sir, with this question: Does any person in this House believe that this man is one in whom the people of this country could repose their confidence? I leave this matter because time is passing.
I now come to the policy and philosophy of my Party. I refer to the platform and policy of the Liberal Party of Australia. If I may use the words of our policy, we are dedicated to political liberty and the freedom and dignity of man; safe from external aggression and playing our part in a world security order which maintains the necessary force to defend the peace; looking primarily to the encouragement of individual initiative and enterprise as the dynamic force of progress; to make just provision for the aged, the invalid, the widowed, the sick, the unemployed and the children. I mention this today because I believe that due to recent occurrences we ought to look at the more needy section of the community. The consumer price index rose by 1.9 per cent. There was an increase of 6 per cent in the national wage and average weekly earnings have now reached $84.80 per week. We now have a precedent on which we can act. We have increased the assistance under our national health scheme.
Normally when looking at pensions I would take the attitude that they have to be dealt with during the course of the Budget but it is apparent that as an interim measure we should now make some increase in pensions for those who are in receipt of the maximum rate of pension. Even now it is apparent that any increases given in the Budget would, in justice to pensioners, need to be quite substantial. We have therefore decided, in anticipation of the increases that will be made in the next Budget, to grant an immediate rise in the pensions of the most needy - that is, those who are at present receiving the maximum rate of pension. We therefore propose to introduce legislation to provide an increase of Si for married couples and 50c for single persons in the pensions paid to those age, invalid, widow and service pensioners who now receive the maximum rate of pension. Tuberculosis sufferers in receipt of allowances, long term sickness beneficiaries and handicapped persons in receipt of sheltered employment allowances will receive increases on the same basis. Pensioners receiving within 50c a week of the maximum rate will also receive an increase in pension to ensure that their total income is not less than that of maximum rate pensioners. In the repatriation area, a special rate TPI pensioner will receive an increase of $1 a week and the pension for war widows will rise by 50c. These increased pensions will be payable with effect from the first pension pay day after the end of March.
I should point out that with the increases I now propose the maximum rate of social service pension for both single and married pensioners will have increased at a much faster rate than the rate of increase in the consumer price index. This applies whether the basis of comparison is related to June 1969 or June 1970.
We will follow this immediate increase in pension rates with a fundamental review of social services and related pensions and also of methods of adjusting such benefits. This review, which has already been commenced, will be under consideration in the near future with the object of bringing emerging decisions into effect for the year 1971-72.
Sir, I leave the decision on this want of confidence motion to the House.
– I second the motion. The Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) invited the Australian Labor Party to consider the attitude of James Henry Scullin at the time of the fall of William Morris Hughes. At the time of the fall of William Morris Hughes the Leader of the Australian Labor Party was Mathew Charlton. He invited us to consider that after Mr Alan Ramsey had sent his apology into the House the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) moved that he be called before the Bar of the House. If the Prime Minister takes the trouble to look at the Hansard record he will see that the Leader of the Opposition had spoken and moved his motion before Mr Alan Ramsey’s apology came into the House.
I have 2 convictions about the situation of the nation. The first is that the wealth of Australia should be developed for the benefit of the nation and not looted in a stock exchange bonanza. The major purpose in national development is that Australia should contribute to creating a sane world, and that Australia should contribute much more significantly to this by assisting other nations more than it has up to the present time. Both the former Prime Minister and the former Minister for Defence were men who had a potential of compassion and a breadth of vision who could have played a part together in achieving this, but not if they were pulling apart. No doubt they could still contribute to it together. The issue between them is really very, very small.
The second conviction is that the main force playing upon the Government at the present time is that force of which the Press proprietors are the spearheads. This is the force which demands government of the people by administrators heavily emphasising the interests of business and the investor, for the advancement of business and the wealthy. Queensland’s minerals have become a focal point of this strategy. To Queensland next week the Prime Minister will go. There is no doubt about the character of the Queensland Government as a business agent, above all a foreign business agent, ft is handing 1,000 million tons of Australian coal to a foreign consortium at a miserable royalty of 5c a ton. The factor which made for the destruction of the former Prime Minister more than any other factor was that he was not a safe man from the point of view of the stock exchange, business, Press proprietor, power complex. He set up the Australian Industry Development Corporation. He instructed his Ministers to refuse the massive bribe of Comalco shares. He suggested there was a public interest in the development of the continental shelf and appeared to be against the greedy looting and destruction of its resources. He consented to set up a Senate committee to investigate the state of ethics and procedures of the stock exchanges, a state of ethics and procedures deplored around the world. He made sympathetic references to the curing of poverty as an objective of government.
The former Prime Minister refused to be a Packer Prime Minister of Australia. Ever since he attained power in the Liberal Party and Packer’s man Alan Reid wrote the book against his attainment of power he has been a Packer target. To Sir Frank Packer the Government of the Commonwealth is another one of his personally owned projects, like the yachts ‘Gretel’ or Dame Pattie’ in the fight for the Americas Cup. The former Prime Minister also stopped the foreign takeover of the Mutual Life and Citizens’ Assurance Co. Ltd. He stopped the takeover of Nabarlek uranium. He laid down guidelines for foreign investment in Australia. This was perhaps not the sum total of his crimes. The former Prime Minister was not destroyed for those respects in which his thinking was against the public interest but for those respects in which his thinking was for the public interest. According to Laurie Oakes, one of the most honourable and perceptive of journalists, his other major sin was that he came from the wrong side of the tracks. He was not a born to rule true blue Liberal. Whatever the new Prime Minister becomes is a matter of his own decisions but his Press backers have a motive. The new Prime Minister was installed to serve the interests represented by the stock exchange, the developers, business and the Press magnates. There are men in this House who have made $2m in an afternoon on the stock exchange ?nd who join in lecturing trade unionists on the need to have respect to productivity and to seek in wages only what they earn.
On Thursday last, competitive claims to own the Commonwealth Government were lodged by a breathtaking leading article in the ‘Sydney Morning Herald’ and by the Sydney ‘Daily Telegraph*. They must not quarrel. The forces behind both of them have a very good chance of owning the Government and they have a flying start in that the Liberal Party wilted under their pressure to eject one nian and install another. This event is of enormous significance because it means that having tasted power the forces which overthrew the former Prime Minister have been encouraged to go from strength to strength and from domination to domination. In the last week we have seen a Prime Minister destroyed in a Press campaign of unprecedented power, lt was unanimous in the direction of its hostility and co-ordinated between the major daily newspapers. It was brilliantly written. Obviously the best journalists were enlisted. It was ostensibly occasioned by the resignation of the then Minister for Defence and by the public statements of the then Minister for Defence that the then Prime Minister had been disloyal to him.
It is impossible to see in the speech of the former Minister for Defence any substantial ground against the former Prime Minister. The former Minister for Defence, now the honourable member for Wannon (Mr Malcolm Fraser) in his speech leaves the House confused as to what parts of Mr Peter Samuel’s article in the Sydney Bulletin’ of 6th March actually came from the former Minister’s briefing and what parts did not. In the ‘Bulletin’ of 13th March, Peter Samuel accuses the former Minister for Defence of denying parts of the article which the Minister had given to him. There is also owing to the House a full explanation of the references of the honourable member for Wannon to the Pacific Islands Regiment. The House should be told all the facts about the ‘Bulletin’ articles. It is possible that the revelation of Cabinet proceedings concerning the Pacific Islands Regiment made in the speech of the honourable member for Wannon last week is a violation of his ministerial oath. There are also suggestions which have appeared in the Press that the account of the Cabinet proceedings by the former Minister is a partisan selection of the facts.
The Labor Party feels that there are 2 considerations more fundamental than whether the former Prime Minister observed the correct legal forms in relation to the Governor-General in calling out the Pacific Islands Regiment, though it does not dispute the significance of that. The Labor Party did not believe at the time of the crisis that troops should be used in the Gazelle Peninsula and in the final analysis they were not. The Pacific Islands Regiment is not trained to deal with riots, its soldiers are not trained to ignore provocation, as are police, and if they opened fire there could be a massacre. Even more essential is it that the land grievance in the Gazelle Peninsula should be ended. France, 3 years before quitting Madagascar, bought out expatriate landowners. The land of French settlers had ceased to be a native grievance at the time of independence. The same might well be done in the Gazelle Peninsula.
It is obvious that the destruction of John Grey Gorton was planned by Press proprietors, not by working journalists. There is a legitimate power of the Press. The legitimate power is not exercised by setting out to destroy one individual by a biased selection of facts, as was done to the former Prime Minister. Nor is that legitimate power exercised by setting out to build up an individual by glamourising him and romancing about him. The power of the Press would legitimately be exercised in maintaining standards of government. This the Press proprietors do not seem to contemplate. So long as the politician is broadly in sympathy with the same great stock exchange manoeuvres and mineral exploitation considerations as the Press proprietors themselves, the Press proprietors have nothing critical to say. Still less are they likely to mount a hostile compaign. At the time Comalco offered premium shares to people in public life, which the then State Premiers apparently grabbed with both hands, it was obvious that what was taking place was a most sinister effort to make politicians, Ministers, newspaper proprietors and civic leaders compliant to overseas interests and to general mining interests. An exposure of this appears in today’s Financial Review’. This debasement of public life was not criticised by most papers and the then State Premiers apparently took their premium shares and put themselves in moral debt to powerful foreign interests. The former Prime Minister instructed his Ministers not to touch the Comalco shares. He was odd man out. His stand rebuked everybody else and threw light on the emergence in Australia of the same form of greed, corruption and servility which has at times been a characteristic of State politics in the United States of America.
Nobody is asked to be a Minister of the Crown. If someone becomes a Minister he is wholly committed to the public interest. There is a need for the restoration of the healthy British convention that Ministers of the Crown sell their shares and resign their company directorships on assuming office. Insofar as the former Prime Minister refused his Comalco pacifier and the Press magnates grabbed theirs, he obviously became a target. He also sponsored a Senate committee to examine the apparently low standard of ethics and procedures of the Australian stock exchange. The former Prime Minister established the Australian Industries Development Corporation which potentially intruded a public interest into the vast bonanza of Australian minerals. He removed the present Prime Minister from the Treasury. All Australian businessmen agree that the present Prime Minister was a great Treasurer.
Recently in a 12 page supplement the London ‘Times’ assessed the Australia created by the Treasurer’s policy, it said that in Australia the rich were very rich and the poor were very poor; the distribution of wealth in Australia was amongst the most inequitable in the civilised world; nearly one million people lived close to the poverty line; there was no excuse for poverty in such a potentially rich country but it existed to an alarming degree. The London Times’ pointed out that in 1968- 69 social service payments represented only 5.5 per cent of the gross national product.
– Who wrote that?
– Perhaps it is a leak from a British Minister to the London Times’. Australia’s percentage of its gross national product applied to social services had dropped by 0.4 per cent in the past 10 years - Treasury work by the present Prime Minister. The London Times’ comments that the latest available table of world figures is a sorry indictment of Australia’s policy towards social services. We have heard the gesture of repentance which, most incongruously, has been announced in the middle of a censure debate by the Prime Minister. Expressed as percentages of the gross national product the expenditure of various nations on social services is as follows: The nations of the European Economic Community spend J 5.2 per cent of their gross national product on social services, Scandinavia 10.9 per cent, Canada 9.9 per cent, Britain 8.6 per cent, Switzerland 8.2 per cent. New Zealand 6.6 per cent, the United States 5.9 per cent and Australia 5.5 per cent. The Treasury policy under McMahonism was obviously very good for the rich with no irritating emphasis on social services in relation to the great wealth of the country expressed in terms of the gross national product.
The former Prime Minister began to make sympathetic noises about poverty and the case against him I have mentioned had begun to be made by the Press king makers. There were no Comalco bribes in his philosophy; he investigated the stock exchange. I need hardly reiterate all the points. The Prime Minister’s proposed mission to Queensland interests me. The Leader of the Opposition spoke about the Queensland Government’s policy on Abor iginals. The Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) made statements concerning Queensland’s policies to the effect that the Commonwealth would have to exercise its new constitutional, powers gained in May 1967 if nothing was done to rectify those policies. The former Prime Minister backed him and he dared to start talking about removing powers, such as those relating to Aboriginals from the businessservile government of Queensland where, according to the Medical Journal of Australia, hundreds of Aboriginal children on government settlements showed 3 years retarded growth when 6 years of age, shrunken brains and permanently damaged mental skills, while poorer mission stations in Queensland can totally eliminate these tragedies. Of the 2,000 odd children who were examined 50 per cent suffered from these things, and practically all of that 50 per cent were on government settlements and not on the missions which were much poorer but which had the intelligence to feed protein supplements to the Aboriginal children. To come to the rescue of State rights against Federal intrusion in this case would be a betrayal of the Aboriginal people of Queensland.
Powerful forces support Bjelke-Petersen and the mineral exploring rights he gives to his own companies. After all, he supports all the interests that the Press magnates support and his income tax affair of several years past has not been reported in the Queensland Press. The crowning treachery of the former Prime Minister to the Establishment was his support for the establishment of the Australian Industries Development Corporation.
Stanley Baldwin, one-time British Prime Minister, was the target of a co-ordinated attack by Beaverbrook, Rothermere and Northcliffe, Press magnates who were raised to the peerage as barons, hence the origins of the designation, now traditional in London, ‘the Press barons’. Baldwin summed up their aim by saying: ‘What these magnates want is power without responsibility, the prerogative of the harlot throughout the ages’. The former Prime Minister became Prime Minister by an electoral process in 1969. The present Prime Minister is Prime Minister as the result of a co-ordinated campaign mounted originally by Sir Frank Packer.
I turn now, in my last few minutes, to the ‘Bulletin’. We were informed by the honourable member for Wannon (Mr Malcolm Fraser), the former Minister for Defence, that he gave a briefing to the journalist Peter Samuel and that this briefing appeared in some form in the Packer weekly the ‘Bulletin’ on 6th March. In that issue we learn from Mr Peter Samuel that the Australian Army in Vietnam is in revolt. We learn from Mr Samuel that the task force in Vietnam has on a number of occasions gone its own way. He alleges that it failed to consult Ministers about major changes in policy. We learn that it pulled the wool over Mr Frasers eyes when he was Minister for the Army. Samuel alleges that the Army leadership resisted civic action though civic action was Cabinet policy. He asserts that major elements of the task force were out of the province they were assigned to defend and that the next year, as a consequence, many men were killed unnecessarily in the minefields. He summed up his article with two devastating sentences which must necessarily have forced the former Prime Minister to object, unless an indictment of the Government is to be accepted as a truthful statement. Samuel wrote:
Perhaps again the Army is nol completely to blame because Ministers have sometimes evinced little interest in what their soldiers were doing in Vietnam. If Ministers don’t take much interest, the soldiers cnn hardly bc blamed for making many of the decisions themselves.
How much of this is the result of the briefing? If this is genuinely the view of the former Minister for Defence, then the Minister for the Army (Mr Peacock) is declared to be criminally remiss, and the entire Cainet is responsible for putting armed forces into Vietnam and losing interest in them. It is hard to believe that the former Minister for Defence said this, but on 13th March Peter Samuel wrote another article in which he alleges that the former Minister for Defence asked if he would deny having received a briefing. He further asserts that the former Minister for Defence issued a statement which ‘denied the truth of statements that Mr Fraser had in fact given to Mr Samuel’. This set off the chain of events which destroyed the former Prime Minister. The interesting thing is that nowhere does Mr Samuel refer to Mr Gorton. He refers only to Mr
Fraser. The initial Press crisis is one in which the former Prime Minister, like the flowers that bloom in the spring, has nothing to do with the case. The tragedy is that the former Minister for Defence, whom 1 respect greatly, trapped himself. He gave a briefing to Peter Samuel and put himself at Peter Samuel’s mercy. According to Peter Samuel, Samuel was given a tour of the Russell Hill Defence complex, inevitably meaning that he was the favoured envoy of the Minister. I am sure that the former Minister for Defence must recognise that the former Prime Minister was put into an intolerable position by the ‘Bulletin’ article. If the Army leadership believed that the article was inspired by the Minister, their position was intolerable. As things stand, the Australian people have been suddenly given a Prime Minister who has never presented himself to them for election in that role. One whom they elected has been cut down. It is clearly their right to pronounce on these extraordinary events - this government of the country by Press campaigns; this control of political parties by the intimidation of powerful interests.
– Honourable members have been listening to the honourable member for Fremantle (Mr Beazley) who has spoken with much feeling and has expressed suspicion that all is wrong, is corrupt and is sinful in the Government. 1 am probably a little more generous than the honourable member for Fremantle in that I believe that most members come into this House with a sense of dedication and are prepared to give service to their country, lt is a poor show when one becomes so suspicious of everything around him that he will not trust anything. This is really the essence of the speech by the honourable member for Fremantle who has proved nothing conclusively.
I listened to the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) who revealed a few moments of brilliance when he was rattling off appropriate words to describe divisions, lack of loyalty, treachery, subversion within political parties and lack of collective responsibility. For a few moments I thought that he was speaking of his own Party. Certainly he spoke with all the feeling of a man who knows what he is saying, and I can understand him doing so, he being Leader of the Opposition. One of the most pertinent comments made during the events of the last week was made by the honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Daly). What he said is still pertinent. During last week’s events he is reported to have said:
If the Liberals want to know how to do this sort of thing, they should see us. We have been doing it for years.
This is the divided Labor Party that comes into the House today to attack the Government.
We have heard a lot about the new Prime Minister not having a mandate to govern. This is the flimsy pretext for this no confidence motion. This shows the shakiness of the Labor Party’s grounds for making this attack. The Leader of the Opposition apparently believes that he can fool the Australian people into thinking that this is a valid reason for an attack on the Government. The only reason the Opposition is going ahead with this motion today is-
– Mr Deputy Speaker, I rise on a point of order, ls it right for the Deputy Prime Minister to accuse a former Minister of being a lair?
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! There is no point of order.
– The only reason why the Opposition is going ahead with this motion is that it is so rattled by the way the election of a new Prime Minister has been received by the Press and by the Australian public that it feels that it must try to salvage something for itself. The facts are that the people put into office in 1969 not just a Prime Minister but a government pledged to carry out certain policies. In fact, I believe that there was an election for the Prime Ministership immediately after the general election. Is the Labor Party trying to say now that if a Prime Minister other than Mr Gorton had been elected then, a new general election would have been needed to give that new Prime Minister a mandate?
– What a ridiculous claim. This is what the Opposition wants honourable members and the people of Australia to believe. The desperateness of the attempt by the Leader of the Opposition to get some mileage out of this situa tion is clear if we look at the two basic arguments he put forward. The first argument is that because this Government is different in that there is a new Prime Minister, it does not have a mandate from the people. The emptiness of that argument has been shown already. His other argument is that this Government is, after all, the same as the one that was here last week. He says that it has the same problems.
– lt has, too.
– Order! I warn the honourable member for Sturt, who has interjected on several occasions, that if he interjects again I will name him.
– The Leader of the Opposition says that this Government has the same problems as the Government that was here last week, but there is no suggestion by the Leader of the Opposition that the Government that was here last week did not have a mandate to govern. On the one hand he says that this is a different government with a different Prime Minister, and on the other hand he says it is the same Government and attacks it on that basis. He will have to make up his mind. He cannot have it both ways. The only thing that stands out clearly in all this Opposition confusion is that the Leader of the Labor Party is casting about desperately for something on which to build his case. There is no need for the Government to destroy his argument. He has done it himself with complete success.
What we are discussing here is far more and goes far deeper than the question of unity in the Government or in the Opposition. What we are talking about and will be voting on is the kind of government that this country is to have. We are talking about the course that this nation will follow in the immediate years ahead. Every honourable member must understand that he is voting today for or against the kind of government that we on this side of the House have provided over the great majority of years this century. For more than 50 years out of the last 70 years, the people of Australia have elected to office governments espousing the kinds of policies and philosophies shared by the Liberal and the Country Parties. For all but less than 20 years in almost three-quarters of a century the people of Australia have rejected the policies and philosophies of the Labor
Party. They have entrusted to the people on this side of politics the enormous responsibility of governing this nation, and they have done it because they have understood over these years that the type of government that we could provide and have provided was the best type of government for this country.
No member on this side of the House can be confident that our alliance with the United States of America - an alliance of utmost significance - would be secure in the hands of the Labor Party. All of us know very well the attitude of the Labor Party to the very difficult situation in Vietnam and Indo-China and to the use of Australian troops in South East Asia. We all recall Labor’s resistance and opposition to the action of allowing Australian-United States communications facilities to be established in Australia. All of us know that a Labor government would quickly sell out our security and become embroiled in a tangle of domestic issues leading to extravagant inflationary expenditure.
No one can look at the Leader of the Opposition and see in him another Curtin or another Chifley. One can see a man who would be dominated by Mr Hawke and by the Australian Council of Trade Unions and the trades halls of Australia. The Leader of the Opposition did make one valiant effort to defend the right wing causes of his Parry against infiltration from the left and from the communist dominated unions in the Harradine case. He even went as far as resigning on the issue. He came back a humbled man, forced now to bow to left wing forces in the Labor movement. Could we really expect his government to exercise restraint against the wild demands of these militant unions? Is this the kind of alternative government that we are being offered today?
We can look back to last year when, in one of i he most shameful days in the history of this House, the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant) defying the Speaker’s ruling was joined by the whole of the Labor Party in an unprecedented assault on the laws and the dignity of this place. We can look back again last year to the statement of the honourable member for Lalor (Dr J. F. Cairns), that he sincerely hoped that authority had had its day. We can look back to the advice given by the Leader of the Opposition to our troops to disobey orders if they did not want to go where they were instructed to go. This is the kind of alternative government that the people of Australia are being offered.
If we turn to the area of primary industry, we can recall the mischievous and damaging statements made by the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) and the honourable member for Riverina (Mr Grassby) on the question of wheat sales to China. We can recall the statement by the honourable member for Dawson and the action of the Leader of the Opposition in inciting the trade unions to prevent the export of merino rams after the wool industry had asked that this be done. We can recall a whole series of attacks by the honourable member for Riverina on the policies of the wheal industry and, by direct inference, on industry leaders who devised those policies. This story is virtually an endless one. I believe that it would be a betrayal of the trust that the Australian people have placed in us if we were to change today the kind of government that they have so clearly demonstrated they want.
It would be a tragedy if a party like the Labor Party unable to gain office by acceptance of its policies and philosophies were to gain office not through merit but by way of the back door forced open by circumstances of the moment. Labor, a Party kept out of office by policies repugnant to the majority of Australians, now seeks to force back door entry to power. This is, I suppose, a legitimate tactic. But the Labor Party has been unable through the legitimate means of the ballot box to win the support of the people. The Australian people have made it clear over the years that they do not want the kind of government that the Labor Party would give them. They do not want Labor in office. What we on this side of the House must do is to grasp the responsibility that has been given to us by the Australian people.
One of the major problems which will be attacked by this Government is that of Commonwealth-State relations. This is a matter on which there is complete agreement between the Prime Minister and myself and between members of the coalition parties. Two weeks ago, I spoke of the need to take action to remove some of the abrasiveness from Commonwealth-State relations. I stated this to be a major objective of the Country Party under my leadership. I note with great interest and satisfaction that immediately upon taking office the Prime Minister named this issue as one requiring most urgent attention and that he has today announced positive intentions for tackling this problem immediately. Both of us are fully aware of the right of the Australian people to clearly understand where their government is going, what it is doing and why it is doing what it is doing. We share the belief that the Australian people want and are entitled to expect to have from their government a sense of purpose and direction and a sense of strength and decisiveness.
One of the main factors that has led to the undermining of this sort of strength and to the feeling of unease amongst people is the abrasiveness which exists between the Commonwealth Government and State governments. It will be a task of this Government to work towards the removal of this abrasiveness and to make the federal system work effectively in the interests of the whole nation.
Mr Deputy Speaker, by international comparison ; employment, economic growth, price stability and balance of payments ; the Government’s performance has set new levels of achievement for Australia. Employment opportunities have expanded, providing jobs and opportunities to support 2 million migrants and 2 million more Australians. In recent years, national output has increased by almost 5-1 per cent per annum. This is faster than the rate of increase in the United States of America, the United Kingdom or Germany and is despite the difficulties confronting the rural producer.
Of course, price and cost inflation is a problem, especially for the farmer, but it is a worldwide problem and our performance is amongst the best in the world. Over recent years, the increase annually has been 5.2 per cent in Japan, 4.3 per cent in the United Kingdom, 3.8 per cent in France, 3.7 per cent in Canada, 3.4 per cent in the United States and 3.1 per cent in Australia. Our balance of payments position has never been stronger or more soundly based. Over 10 years, exports have risen from Sl,875m to $4,139m. The surplus in the first half of 1970-71 was $165m. Capital inflow is strong, and our international reserves in January reached $l,619m, equivalent, to 5 months imports.
Australia did not enjoy this strong balance of payments position 20 years ago when the Government set out to broaden the export base and diversify the economy. As a result of this deliberate policy, exports of manufactures went from 4 per cent to 18 per cent of our exports, and mining products from 5 per cent to 24 per cent. Exports of farm products now exceed $2, 000m a year despite low prices and difficulties of access to markets. This growth has resulted from Government encouragement of investment into new products, in productivity improvements and in seeking out new markets. Twenty years ago 90 per cent of our exports were farm products, and the United Kingdom and Europe took 65 per cent of them. Today we have diversified and spread our trade. Japan takes 25 per cent, other Asian countries take 17 per cent, the United States of America takes 14 per cent, and the United Kingdom and Europe together take 23 per cent.
The Government negotiated access for this trade through meat and sugar agreements with the United States of America and through trade agreements with Japan, New Zealand and many other countries. We have commodity arrangements on wheat, sugar and tin. We have developed new markets through the Trade Commissioner Service, trade displays and missions, export incentive and the export payments insurance scheme. In short, in 20 years and because world agricultural prices and market difficulties made it necessary, we have transformed the industrial base of our economy. This transformation has happened because we had a policy of protecting our interests. We have protected them in recent times, principally through the tariff. I believe the fact that a lot of attention is being paid to tariff matters at present is a healthy sign - a sign of our coming of age as an industrial nation.
I believe it is right to ask and to keep on asking whether policies which have brought about dramatic successes in the past are still the best policies for today’s needs. No-one argues that we should not continue to give protection to economic and efficient industries, but some of our tariffs may be out of date. We have some very old tariff rates which have not been reviewed recently; some have never been reviewed. These tariffs apply to some important industries. I believe it is reasonable that these old rates should be reviewed by the Tariff Board and that the Board should advise the Government whether these rates are still needed. The Government has decided that this should bc done.
We have decided that there should be a progressive review of tariffs, as suggested by the Tariff Board. This review will begin with the old rates offering higher levels of protection. The principles to be followed by the Tar ill Board in carrying out this review have yet to be decided. The Board itself has made certain suggestions, and other views have been put forward. Since becoming Minister for Trade and Industry 1 have given this matter first priority, lt is my task to bring proposals before the Cabinet, but before making up my mind on these proposals I have been seeking the views of various groups with an interest in the matter. I have talked with industry leaders in the Manufacturing Industries Advisory Council and the Conference of Manufacturing Industry Associations. There have been departmental discussions with the Australian Farmers Federation, and 1 will be meeting the Federation shortly. I will be talking also with the Associated Chambers of Commerce of Australia. I have already had discussions with the Chairman of the Tariff Board, and I have been invited to meet the full Board, and 1 will.
So the position on tariffs is that the Government has decided that there will be a review of the tariff. The intention to hold such a review is generally accepted as being correct, lt is also accepted that the review should start with the old rates at the higher end of the scale of protection. There is some concern that the Government has not stated clearly its position on proposals put forward by the Tariff Board for the conduct of the review. I can assure the House that I intend to put firm proposals before the Government on these matters shortly and that I will announce the Government’s conclusions when they have been reached.
Let us look at a few of the things which the Government has done in the primary industry sector in the last 2 years. There are many, but I shall refer to only a few. We have set up the Australian Wool Commission which has given a sense of hope to that despairing industry - hope that prices might be stabilised at some reasonable level and hope that with new technological aids to marketing and more orderly arrangements, the industry can sustain itself as a viable, competitive and valuable one for the nation. I could run off a list consisting of two or three pages setting out the valuable assistance we have given to rural industries-
– Order! The Minister’s time has expired.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) has claimed that it is impossible to move a motion of no confidence in a Government which has been the Government for only two or thre days. If he had made the changes in the Ministry which he foreshadowed late last week, and then abandoned for some inexplicable reason, there might have been some point to this argument. Instead, the discredited Ministry of the former regime is virtually intact. We have a new Prime Minister and a new Minister for Defence (Mr Gorton); there is no Minister for Foreign Affairs. The only departure from the Ministry has been the honourable member for Wannon (Mr Malcolm Fraser). As the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) has pointed out, the learn is the same, lt is the team that has lost the confidence of the Parliament and of the electorate. This is why the Opposition has no compunction about pressing this no confidence motion - the most potent tactic available to it under the forms of the House.
From the very first moments of its existence this so-called new Government has fumbled as badly as did its undistinguished predecessor. It was not possible for the new-look Prime Minister to introduce new administrative arrangements without a public wrangle with the Governor-General. Some aspects of these arrangements warrant brief comment. In the previous Government there were 27 departments of state but only 26 Ministers. The Prime Minister had under his direct control the Prime Minister’s Department and the Department of the Cabinet Office. This flowed from the splitting up of the traditional Prime Minister’s Department, ostensibly because the former Prime Minister wanted to set up his own think tank under Sir Lenox Hewitt. This think tank was never greatly in evidence during the following 3 years, but Sir Lenox was - in fact, too much in evidence for the new Prime Minister.
In order to get rid of an embarrassment and an unwanted but very senior public servant, the Prime Minister has resorted to the same shoddy tactic as adopted by his predecessor, that is, to play around with the administrative arrangements of the Prime Minister’s Department. He has upgraded the status of the Cabinet Office which was floated off into the backwaters under Mr Gorton. In the process he has hived off all the ancillary functions of the Prime Minister’s Department into a new department presumably to be headed by Sir Lenox Hewitt. For some extraordinary reason this new department is to be known as the Department of the Vice-President of the Executive Council. At the moment the Vice-President of the Executive Council is the Postmaster-General (Sir Alan Hulme); the Secretary of the Executive Council is a senior member of the Prime Minister’s Department. The Executive Council takes up only a fraction of the working time of both these gentlemen; it is only a formality, a rubber stamp. Yet a full scale Department has been set up bearing the name of the Department of the Vice-President of the Executive Council.
Presumably the functions of the Executive Council will still be handled in the same way by the Governor-General, by the Postmaster-General and by Mr Grigg of the Prime Minister’s Department. A constitutional procedure which takes up only a minute part of the working day of each of these 3 gentlemen has been used to justify another department of state. This may be an ingenous political move, but it is incredibly bad and wasteful administration. To give even a semblance of logic to this absurd process, this Department should have been given to the Postmaster-General to administer as Vice-President of the Executive Council. Alternatively the Prime Minister should have appointed himself Vice-President of the Executive Council. It does not seem that either of these courses will be adopted. A look at the functions of the new Department shows no justification for its existence as a separate entity. There is not one of the 17 units which could not be allocated to an existing department. For example, the National Library, Archives, Commonwealth Literary Fund, the Art Advisory Board, National Gallery, the Council of Performing Arts and the National Radiation Advisory Committee could go to the Department of Education and Science. The Council of Aboriginal Affairs and the Institute of Aboriginal Studies could go to the Minister-in-Charge of Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Wentworth). There is not a function of the new Department which could not be allocated in this way. This collection of miscellaneous functions has grown in the Prime Minister’s Department by an accretion of ad hoc decisions by the last 3 Prime Ministers. Certainly the Prime Minister’s Department has become unwieldy, but it is not a solution to lump these ill assorted functions together under the guise of a new department justified by the need to service the Executive Council. There is already one rag-bag department in the Ministry, the Department of the Interior. The Minister for the Interior (Mr Hunt) is required to administer among other things Canberra, the Electoral Office, War Graves, the National Film Board, the Commonwealth Brickworks and the Northern Territory.
It is very poor government indeed that we should now have 2 departments which lump together the odds and ends which for historical reasons have not been assigned to appropriate departments. The re-allocation of the administrative arrangements into a logical and coherent formula is one of the first acts expected of a new government. Instead the new broom Prime Minister has augmented the waste and inefficiency inherent in the structure which has evolved under 20 years of coalition government. The crisis which has shattered the Government in the past 10 days stemmed in large measure from interpretation and implementation of defence policy. If a starting point had to be found for the Government’s present predicament it would have to be the controversy over the civil aid programme in Vietnam which broke out 3 weeks ago. This generated the series of Press stories which ended in the confrontation in this House between the former Prime Minister and the former Minister for Defence. It is not possible to assess accurately degrees of praise or blame in this dispute between the former Minister and the Army in Vietnam.
The honourable member for Wannon left no doubt he believes the Army tried to deceive him or confront him with an accomplished fact. If this is true, then quite obviously the Army acted very wrongly. But it is not clear from the confusing and contradictory information given to the House and circulating in the Press that this is the case. In the House last Tuesday both Mr Gorton and the former Minister for Defence included in their speeches statements of their philosophies on relations between the Executive and the Department of Defence. The statement by the former Minister for Defence was a conventional account of the existing structure of the defence departments; it was much the same as the descriptions appearing in annual defence reports and statements the Minister had made to the House.
Mr Gorton did not dispute this account but he gave it a rather different emphasis. He pointed up the difficulties faced by an armed Service involved in a war and subject to traditional discipline. Both Mr Gorton and Mr Malcolm Fraser stressed the supremacy of the Executive in all relations with the armed services. This is a principle so basic and so obvious that it should not need reiteration in this House. But the essence of the former Prime Minister’s statement was that the Army should not be made into a whipping boy over Vietnam; that it should not be assumed by definition that blame in any controversy resided with the Army. I believe the former Prime Minister put his finger on the nub of the dispute, that senior officers of the Army felt their Service was being painted in unfair and misleading terms by Mr Malcolm Fraser. It was felt the ex-Minister had used the technique of the background briefing to put his case in the knowledge that the Army could not reply to the subsequent ‘informed’ accounts of Government - Army relations which appeared. Mr Gorton did not say this in so many words but he implied it very strongly. In this way he drew attention to the difficul ties facing Australian units remaining in Vietnam. In particular the Task Force at Nui Dat has been put in an intolerable position.
The former Minister for Defence was due to go to Vietnam 8 days ago to plan the future of his Government’s commitment to Vietnam. According to the Press statement announcing his visit, Mr Malcolm Fraser was to have spent 6 days in Vietnam. Now his successor is to leave on Thursday for a visit of 4 days. This delay in getting to Vietnam is one of the tragic results of the melee of the past few days. It can mean only further delays in putting together some sort of timetable for getting Australian troops out of Vietnam. Further, it could have a most damaging effect on Australian soldi, s doing their duty in Vietnam but desperately anxious to get out. Future policies on the Vietnam commitment and withdrawal have been completely disrupted by the events of the past 10 days. Initially it was announced that Mr Malcolm Fraser would go to Vietnam from 8th March to 13th March. This would give him an effective stay in Vietnam of 4 days. From my experience it is not possible to get even a rough idea of what is happening in Vietnam in less than a week. A fair programme would include visits to all Australian units, to each of the 4 corps areas and a full programme of interviews with government and opposition leaders in Saigon. It would be possible on the basis of such a programme to make some assessment of the status of Australian units in Vietnam and the conduct of the war.
Mr Malcolm Frasers schedule would have permitted a barely adequate examination of the Australian commitment, allowing 2 days for travel. The new Minister’s schedule makes a complete mockery of the visit originally outlined for Mr Malcolm Fraser. According to the announcement he will leave on Thursday for a 4-day mission. I assume he will go to Vietnam by commercial airline; the new Prime Minister is not likely to forget how he got to the Singapore Prime Minister’s Conference. This means that the Minister for Defence is unlikely to get to Saigon before late Friday morning. If he wants to get back to Australia on Monday he will have to leave Saigon on Sunday afternoon. This gives him at the most 2 clear days in Vietnam.
One day will be occupied in visiting the Task Force at Nui Dat; the other will be absorbed in interviews and briefings in Saigon, lt is incomprehensible that an adequate assessment could be made of the process of Vietnamisation or of the morale and security of Australian units in such a short visit. The Minister will not visit the Air Force at Phan Ranh, the naval helicopter unit, the guided missile destroyer HMAS ‘Perth’ which is operating off the coast or the Army and Navy units at Da Nang. Nor will he be able to visit any of the 4 corps areas. This is of vital importance because the new Minister’s acquaintance with Vietnam is not extensive. He made a 3-day visit to Saigon and to the Task Force in 1968 as part of a 12-day Asian tour; it seems he has modelled his latest mission on this.
The briefness of the Minister’s visit to Vietnam indicates two possibilities. The first is that he knows in advance what the Government is going to do and his visit is only a bit of window dressing or a public relations exercise. If this is the case, the Government should announce immediately what units are expected to be withdrawn and when. It amounts to extreme mental torture of all Australian soldiers in Vietnam to deliberately withhold this information if definite guidelines for withdrawal have been prescribed. Anyone listening to the speech of the Prime Minister this afternoon would naturally gain the impression that this thought has already occurred to the Government and that decisions have been made. Therefore we say to the House that the Government has a responsibility to make its intentions known to the people of Australia.
The second possibility is that the Minister is afraid to be out of the country for any length of time, even on such an important mission. The House will be in recess for the whole of next week. There is no reason why the Minister for Defence should not stay in Vietnam until the House resumes. His anxiety to get back seems to indicate that in the present climate of flashing knives he cannot afford to stay out of Canberra. It is a matter for great regret that the Minister for Defence cannot make a proper assessment of his Government’s Vietnam commitment, particularly as he lacks first hand experience of the course of the war. One of the most significant devel opments in Vietnam in the past 2 years has been the remarkable malaise which has afflicted American units there. I do not suggest that the morale of Australian troops has declined to the extent apparent in the American Army. There has been no widespread recourse to drugs or the ghastly practice known as ‘fragging’, one of the legacies of the Vietnam War which has now given a word to the English language.
Obviously the strains and uncertainties of its present role in the war are being felt in the Australian Task Force, and being felt severely. This was reflected in a recent court martial in which a young soldier was charged with the murder of 2 sergeants. Another court martial is in progress at the moment involving allegations of assault by an officer against a soldier. According to authoritative Press reports from the Task Force further courts martial are pending involving serious breaches of discipline and growing friction between officers and soldiers. There are all the signs that the Army in Vietnam has lost faith in the job it was given by this Government and that it wants to get out. Why should Australian troops in Vietnam not feel frustrated and restive when the futures of other flag forces have been determined? The Thais have announced in the last few days that they will pull out their remaining units starting in June and ending in December. The units from the Philippines have been gone for some time.
The South Korean role is a mercenary one, but at least South Korea’s soldiers know exactly what their future is and precisely when they can expect to go home. The American units have a general idea of how the withdrawal schedule affects them. Only in the Australian units is all uncertainty and doubt, and yet they are expected to do their duty and take further casualties. The present indeterminate status of Australian units can only strengthen existing tensions and eat away morale. The Army cannot be blamed for concluding that it has been used quite blatantly for immediate political ends in the past 5 years. The longer it stays in Vietnam the greater the chances of serious damage to its long term effectiveness. In summary, the Government’s Vietnam policy is riddled with contradictions. The exposure of these contradictions sparked the row which culminated in the extraordinary events of last week. In a broader sense, the malaise afflicting the Vietnam commitment extends through the whole defence structure.
The new Minister is the third Minister for Defence in 3 years. In the same period there have been 3 Ministers for the Army, 3 Ministers for the Navy and 3 Ministers for Air. There is every chance that this sorry record of chopping and changing will be augmented when changes in the Ministry are announced later this week. What chance have the Services to thrive or settle into a stable relationship with the overriding Department of Defence in such an atmosphere of violent change? The advent of the new Minister even jeopardises the transformation of the Defence Department which Sir Allen Fairhall. Sir Henry Bland and the former Minister worked so laboriously to - achieve. Nothing has been said in this debate this afternoon by the Prime Minister or the Deputy Prime Minister that would expel the doubts that exist in the minds of the people of this nation. The predicament of the defence structure is the predicament of all levels of administration under this dishevelled Government which has lost the confidence of the Parliament and the confidence of the electorate. If the new Prime Minister is prepared to come forward with a policy as he and the Deputy Prime Minister have done this afternoon then at least he ought to seek justification for his actions and his policy before the people of this country.
– Order! The honourable gentleman’s time has expired.
– I have listened now to three of the leading speakers on behalf of the Opposition. My understanding of a censure debate where a government is to be censured is that one should hear something that the Government had done which was very wrong and not in the interests of the people. I have not heard any one of the 3 speakers make a substantial statement of any kind that would indicate that this Government had let the people down or that anything had been done by this Government that was inimical to the interests of the people as a whole. All that the motion has been used for has been a political process. 1 know that in many instances this is why censure motions are moved. I listened to the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) and I expected to hear great things from him because I read that he had spent the whole weekend in Canberra preparing his speech. If what he gave us was the result of a whole weekend’s contemplation and preparation it was a pretty poor show.
It seemed to me from the tenor of his speech that what he wanted was an election so that he could lead a government in this country. He criticised and castigated the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) because the new Ministry had not been announced. The Prime Minister answered that effectively. This Government is not in confusion. No-one on this side of the House - and this is the Government side - has lost confidence in this Government. The Opposition will find when the vote is taken on the no confidence motion thai the Government parties on this side of the House are completely cohesive and united. The whole tenor of the speech of the honourable member for Fremantle (Mr Beazley), which he read to us - he has never made a speech of any kind that was not written - was that we were a Government that was being dictated to by the wealthy newspapers and by the wealthy people of Australia and that we were forgetting the poor people of Australia. This is not the policy or the objective of this Government, as its history will show. This Government is one that represents all classes of the community. There is no doubt that the honourable member for Fremantle was raising the old bogy of class distinction. He was trying to make the public believe that this Government took its actions and policies from the dictates of people outside.
I am one of the founders of the Liberal Party in Australia. One of the tenets of our Party - the Labor Party might take a little notice of this - is that it will not accept money from any organisation that might seek to- exert a power of dictation in the activities of this Government. That is a vital principle of the Liberal Party of Australia and also of the Country Party. It will not accept money for political purposes from any organised group of people which might seek to dictate Government policy. The Labor Party cannot say that, ft is not free to say that because it is dictated to by the unions which supply the money that keeps it going. In other words, it is a sectional Party and not one that can represent itself as working in the interests of all classes of people in Australia. So in my opinion the honourable member for Fremantle was completely on the wrong track.
We have just heard from the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard). Of course, he rolled out his old work horse speech dealing solely with the question of Vietnam. One would imagine he was giving his policy speech again on Vietnam. We have had this over and over again. We do not need this kind of a discussion during a debate of Ais nature. Whilst it may have been interesting for him to parade his ideas, they had no relevance to the present debate. As I see it, the purpose of a censure motion should be to draw the attention of the public to the conduct and policies of the Government which are inimical to the interests of the people of the nation. That is what a censure motion should be and if it was couched in these terms a justifiable argument might be put forward. But as I have said, nothing of this character has been presented. So the censure motion must have been brought forward for the purpose of trying to create some dissension in the ranks of the Government.
– Whitlam’s scrap book.
– Yes, as the honourable member for Evans has said, Whitlam’s scrap book. The Opposition seeks to disturb the Government, but honourable members opposite will find that they cannot do it this way. We have our domestic differences as occur in every party, every organisation and every good home. There is no need to have a censure motion because we shift the furniture a little in our home. That has nothing to do with the problem. If the Opposition thinks that it can create dissension within the Government it just cannot be done this way because, as 1 have said, it is a unified Government. On the other hand the Opposition may think that a debate of this kind may gain it some political advantage. No doubt there are some thousands of people listening to the debate today and the Opposition may think that it will gain some political advantage from it. If that is so we too welcome the opportunity of telling the people some of the things (hat this Government has done to bring this country to the stage of development and prosperity that it has reached at present. This Government was elected by the people because of the policies and principles for which it stands. This is an important point. It is on these policies and objectives that this Government has carried this country forward over the last 21 years to the greatest degree of development and prosperity in its history.
What 1 want to point out - the Opposition seemed to miss this - is that although we have had some differences and we have a new Prime Minister, there is no change in the policies and principles of this Government. This is not a matter of personalities but of principles and policies. A government is an organiation that carries into effect certain policies and has certain objectives and principles. These are the things that count. A change of Prime Minister or some argument about the domestic affairs of the Party does not mean a change in the policies or principles for which the Government stands. Personalities may differ but the policies of the Government are under a unified head and we will proceed in that way. I challenge the Opposition to find any defection on thus side of the House. There is not a member of the Government parties who would agree with the Opposition in relation to this motion because both the Liberal Party and the Country Party are in complete conformity. This is a completely united Government. Where then is the room for talking about censure motions?
What would the position be if we had an alternative government in Australia of the character of the Labor Party? We know that there is a fundamental difference between the policies and directions of the Government and the Opposition although sometimes the public does not seem to understand this. We stand for the God given right of the individual. We do not believe in the kind of policies that Labor stands for. The Labor Party is a Socialist party which stands for the superiority of the Slate. That is the difference. We stand for the right of the individual, the preservation of the dignity of the individual and the right of an individual to get the benefit of his own initiative and to be encouraged to use this initiative. So as far as principles are concerned we and the Labor Party are poles apart. But within the ranks of the Labor Party are individual groups which are poles apart. There is the left wing and the right wing and for years Australians have been aware that the Labor Party has been completely disunited in the various States and in this Parliament. No matter what the Labor Party tries to do it cannot mend this difference because it stands for 2 sections. The first is the left which goes to the extreme left and encourages the playing of hands with the Communists and so forth. On the other side - the right wing - are some decent fellows, some of them good friends of mine, who are entirely different. But how does one make a party out of them? How does one make a stable government out of them? This, of course, is what we are up against. How do we bring stability to a country like Australia when we have to contend with the conduct of a man like Mr Hawke of the Australian Council of Trade Unions who is trying to bring about conditions in this country that will destroy our development and destroy the possibility of people in this country being encouraged to spend their money to assist our development.
Mr Hawke is obviously an aspirant for the Prime Ministership and I think the Leader of the Opposition would be serving his own interests a little belter if he tried to clip the wings of Mr Hawke instead of coming here and moving censure motions. After all, the people of Australia know that if Mr Hawke is allowed to go his merry way, as the Labor Party is encouraging him to do, this will bring about tragedy in the industrial affairs of this country. This man is encouraged and allowed to go free by the Labor Party. The truth is that the Labor Party cannot bring to this country the necessary stability or total public confidence that would enable it to claim the responsibility of government. Indeed, it would destroy the confidence of all overseas countries in Australia that has been brought about by this Government.
What are we doing in this country? We are trying to build a young nation into one of the great nations of the future. We have only 13 million people. We occupy the last continent on earth to be built in to a great nation. Today the importance of government is to lay the foundations for the building up of a great new nation that will be an example to all other democracies. By tradition we benefit from the past. We are living in geographical proximity to half the world’s population, who are trying to sort out their way of life. We are laying the foundations for a great nation, so we need to have policies which will enable this country to develop and which will encourage initiative. When we look back over the history of this Government wc find that it has encouraged people to invest millions of dollars of risk capital in Australia. What has been the result? The result has been the discovery of oil and natural gas. the implementation of water conservation programmes and development that was unheard of in the past. These things have ali been possible because they have been encouraged by the Government. Yet honourable members opposite criticise what we have done.
We have elected a new Prime Minister. I am not saying anything derogatory about any other man in this place, but 1 venture to suggest that the Prime Minister we have elected is a man of outstanding capacity who is capable of guiding the economic affairs of this country. He is a man who has learned politics in the nard field of politics and who has the experience to handle the Government of this time. He is imbued with a dedication to the development of Australia and a man who can be trusted to carry the affairs of this country to the final goal of developing a great nation. I am proud to serve under a man of this capacity, and I think that the people of Australia are equally proud. I think the people of Australia are glad to have the opportunity to follow the policies and objectives of the Liberal and Country Parties because only in this way can we establish the great nation to which we are entitled. Nations are not great because of their climates; people make great nations. If the freedom and right of the individual are preserved under our political system we will become a great nation. For that reason I am prepared to serve under this Prime Minister who has been criticised. I am proud to serve in the Liberal Party of Australia, which is the greatest political party ever established in this country for the benefit of a young nation of this kind.
– I must say something about the extraordinary speech to which’ we have just listened. The honourable member for Bennelong (Sir John Cramer) said that the Government represents all sections of the community. He said: ‘I am a founder of the Liberal Party. We will not accept money from any organisation that can have any right of dictation over our policy. The Australian Labor Party is dictated to by the unions.’ But will he deny that this Government in fact is being dictated to by the Press and by such wealthy backers as Ansett, the shipping companies, the hire purchase’ companies and company speculators?
– Would the honourable member like to know how much they gave to the Liberal Party?
– Yes. I would like to know how much the honourable member for Bennelong got out of company speculation. I have in my hand an official stock exchange record which shows that International Mining Corporation NL issued 100,000 shares to Sir John Cramer. I presume that is you?
– That is right.
– They were issued for $10,000. The 100,000 shares that the honourable gentleman had allocated to him and for which he paid 10c each reached a market value at one stage of $680,000. No wonder he says that Australia is a prosperous country. No wonder he says that we are passing through the most prosperous period in Australia’s history. No wonder he says - this ought to be noted - that there is no change in the policies and principles of the Liberal Party.
– I raise a point of order. Would it be possible to get the honourable member to tell the facts of this case? I have never sold one of the shares that he has mentioned.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Drury)Order! The honourable member is entitled to make a personal explanation at the end of this speech.
– No wonder the honourable member believes that we are passing through the most prosperous period that Australia has ever been through. But everybody in Australia has not passed through the prosperous period that the honourable gentleman has passed through. That is their trouble and that is why they are complaining. That is why they want a little more. They do not want $600,000, but they would like to get their fair share of the national cake and the increased productivity which they have been responsible for bringing about.
The honourable member for Bennelong said also - this is the most damaging statement he could have made - that there has been no change in the policies and principles of the Liberal Party simply because it has changed leaders. I say to him: You are telling me. Of course there has been no change. That is our point. That is why we have moved the no confidence motion. The Liberal Party has changed its leader - the honourable member is right - but there has been no change in the policies and principles upon which the Government stands, and it is for this reason that we have moved the no confidence motion in the Government. It is the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) whom the pensioners have to thank for the recently announced increase in pensions because it is this motion of no confidence that extracted from and squeezed out of the people who sit opposite the miserable pittance which at last they have given reluctantly to the pensioners. I will come back to the honourable and speculative member for Bennelong later. 1 congratulate the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) on having achieved at long last his ambition to become Prime Minister of Australia. His own brother Sam told me that the Prime Minister planned and commenced his run for the Prime Ministership on 1 1th December 1965, more than 5 years ago. He apparently felt rather sensitive about what happened. He once said: ‘I am inclined to be iconoclastic’. I think the former Prime Minister would agree with him. Of course he is iconoclastic. He tends to drag down idols and in this case, unlike most other iconoclasts, he has put himself in the place of the idol he destroyed. He says that he has the confidence of his Party. I know of 33 members of the Liberal Party who told his predecessor 5 minutes before the Prime Minister was elected that the predecessor had their confidence. I suspect that he still has their confidence because one of the most moving sights I have ever witnessed and one of the most touching things I have seen - I hope that such treachery will never produce a repetition - was the former Prime Minister, the great, strong, tough and courageous man that he is, a giant amongst pygmies if ever there was one, announcing to the Parliament in a way that only a John Grey Gorton could do that ‘my Party has stabbed me in the back and sacked me and it has appointed this political pygmy from Sydney to take my place.’
Order! The term used by the honourable member is unparliamentary and I ask him to withdraw it.
– All right, if you recognise the likeness, I will.
-Order! The honourable member will unconditionally withdraw the term that he used.
– Yes, 1 do so unconditionally. It took the Prime Minister 91 minutes to tender his apology for what he did and he had to rely upon Edmund Burke, long since departed, to bolster his case. He says the Liberal Party is right behind him. If they are, then they are in trouble because in selecting the New Prime Minister to lead the Liberal Party it has in effect issued a declaration of war on the 51 million men and women who constitute the Australian work force. No man is more closely tied to the forces of privilege than is the present Prime Minister. No man is less likely to curb excess profits than the present Prime Minister. No man is less likely to prevent restrictive trade practices than the present Prime Minister. No man is less likely to deal with high interest charges than the present Prime Minister. No man is less likely to relieve the near tragic poverty of the pensioners in this country than the present Prime Minister. The miserable pittance that the Leader of the Opposition has been able to force out of the Prime Minister’s swollen coffers for the pensioners is no answer to their problems. They need a lot more than is being reluctantly given by the Prime Minister to try to appease the Opposition in its no confidence motion.
The Prime Minister has openly and irrevocably pronounced his bias towards big business and his passion for the profiteer. He cannot and will not change his course. His is a total commitment to big business and to foreign investors. He is dedicated to the destruction of organised labour in all its forms except where it is willing to become his obsequious partner in a drive for bigger profits, causing lower real wages and an exacerbation of labour relations. Industrial unrest must follow such a policy. The Australian Council of Trade Unions and the employers of Australia now seem destined to a life and death struggle simply to satisfy the Prime Minister’s almost pathological disdain for organised labour He sees nothing wrong with organised doctors, organised money lenders, organised shipping companies, organised merchants, organised retailers, organised mining speculators or the widespread restriction on trade in all fields of industry and commerce. But when wage and salary earners are forced to organise to protect themselves from the undue exploitation created by other organised groups they become guilty of a foul Communist plot, according to the Prime Minister, and they must be stamped out with the full rigour of whatever repressive laws become necessary fo- their destruction.
He is, in a sentence, saturated with the prejudices of the very wealthy whom he has always represented inside and outside the Parliament. The Prime Minister made this perfectly clear when he gave the all powerful National Employers Policy Committee a firm promise to place a bridle on the wage fixing powers of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission and to collect the $38,000 outstanding in fines imposed under a repressive law that became so discredited that even the Gorton Government felt impelled to move for its repeal. A law is not a good law unless it has a reasonable chance of being observed. If that test is applied to the penal provisions of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act it must stand condemned to failure. To press for the payment of fines imposed under a law which no longer exists is to deliberately provoke a costly and perhaps catastrophic confrontation between employers and organised labour. To say, for example, that wage increases must be tied to increases in productivity is to assume that labour is now getting its fair share of the gross national product. Labour is not getting its fair share. Even if one takes, the average weekly earnings, including, as they do, the highly paid executives, the judges, the professional employees and senior public servants, one sees that the total value of the percentage increase in productivity is infinitely higher than the total value of the percentage increase in the average weekly earnings. I will return to this question later.
All that increased productivity does is to increase the amount of goods available for distribution. It does not follow that those who produce the goods will receive a fair share of the extra goods produced or even any share of the extra goods produced. Even if the case for productivity-wage relativity is to be accepted as the proper basis for wage fixation, the Government has done nothing whatever to produce a comprehensive and reliable index for measuring productivity in Australia. I asked in this place for this to be done in 1954 but nothing has been done about it.
I turn now to the question of whether wage and salary earners are in fact receiving a fair share of the gross national product. I submit that they are not. I further submit that this is the real cause of industrial unrest m Australia and that until we get to the cause of the industrial unrest we cannot prescribe a cure. During the last 5 years the gross national product, measured in money terms, rose by $9,376m. During the same period the total amount paid in wages, salaries and supplements went up by only $4,965m. That was in spite of the fact that the number of employees in the Australian work force during that time increased by 619,000. For the year 1968- 69 the increase in the gross national product was $2,980m over the previous year, compared with an increase of only $ 1.362m in wages. The wage and salary earners received less than half of the increase in the gross national product for the year 1968-69. It is obvious from figures such as these that owners of capital are getting by far the biggest share of the ever expanding national cake. The overall distribution of our gross national product shows that out of a gross national product of S30,153m in 1969-70 the owners of capital received almost as much as the 4,422.000 wage and salary earners put together.
The average weekly wage for the December quarter has just been announced as having risen to $84.80 per week. How ever, 2 things need to be said about this figure. Firstly, December is always the highest quarter in terms of the average weekly wage because it includes payments made prospectively for accrued annual leave. Secondly, the system of collating the average weekly earnings gives a distorted picture of the position of the average wage of the ordinary wage or salary earner, 69 per cent of whom get less than the average weekly wage. I repeat that 69 per cent of the ordinary wage and salary earners get less than the announced average weekly wage. The average weekly wage statistics are reached only after including highly paid company executives, members of Parliament, company managers, top public servants, judges and even the Prime Minister and the State Premiers. A public servant on $450 a week, a judge on $540 a week or a Prime Minister on $850 a week and salaries of as much as S 1,000 a week for managing directors of big companies make a mockery of the average weekly wage statistics as a true index or a true measure of the economic position in which the average wage or salary earner now finds himself.
This country has never seen such an enormous growth of wealth in the hands of so few as has occurred during the past 15 years. The change of Prime Ministers has not changed that. The trend will continue but at an even greater rate as far as the ordinary wage and salary earner is concerned. Whilst the Prime Minister defends the right of private enterprise, under the influence of what we are pleased to call healthy competition, to prise from the community every cent that the market will yield, he trenchantly condemns the seeking or granting of over award payments which represent nothing more than the competitive market value of particular classifications of labour. In a full employment economy, and with uncontrolled profits and prices, wage stability is impossible to achieve. The Government must either control profits and prices so that wage stability is made possible or achieve wage stability by the use of credit restricttions to increase the level of unemployment. But since credit restrictions and rising unemployment cause loss of electoral support, as witnessed in the 1961 general elections, a Government which is tied to big business, as this Government is, cannot escape its dilemma by prices control and must either let inflation run riot, as is now the case, or face certain defeat at the hands of an apprehensive work force and the business community whose prosperity rests upon a fully employed work force.
Trade unionists will always accept a decision if it is fair because a fair decision is always acceptable to fair people and the trade union movement represents the fairest section of the community. It must be easily satisfied or it would not allow those with capital to take such a disproportionate share of the national cake as it has allowed them to take over the last 15 years. The Prime Minister’s public attack on the Commission’s last national wage decision will make it impossible for the Commission to give a smaller amount in the next case without being accused of giving way to Government pressure. This kind of behaviour on the part of the Prime Minister is doing more than any militant union official has ever done to discredit the Arbitration Commission. The Prime Minister’s suggestion that the Act should be altered in such a way as to force the Commission to make its decisions according to Government dictated criteria sounds rather odd when one looks at the ‘Bulletin’ of 10th August 1963 and reads this statement which is credited to the Prime Minister:
The Government as a government should not be loo intrusive: politics ought to be kept out. If possible problems ought to be settled by the unions and the employers and the Arbitration Commission.
But the Arbitration Commission’s authority and very existence rests upon the constitutional requirement that it must conciliate and arbitrate to prevent and to settle industrial disputes. Where increased prices sap the value of money wages, or where the law of supply and demand increases the market value of labour, an arbitration system which refused wage increases would be courting the very result which the Constitution requires it to prevent. Wage increases are not the cause of inflation. They are merely the symptom of an inflationary spiral that is caused by excess profits, high interest charges, excessive tariff protection in some industries well able to function with much less protection than they are now getting, and consumer spending caused by migration and the affluence of those who have profited from the Government’s taxation policy and the Government’s policy of giving its wealthy friends an open go. The defeat of John Grey Gorton has proved beyond all doubt that there can never be any room in the Liberal Party for a Prime Minister who will dare to defy the establishment or who will place his country ahead of the vested interests of rich profiteers and foreign speculators.
Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
Motion (by Mr Duthie) proposed:
That the honourable member for Hindmarsh be granted an extension of time.
-Order! The question is that the honourable member for Hindmarsh be granted an extension of time. All those in favour say ‘aye’.
Opposition members - Aye.
– Those to the contrary say ‘no’.
Government members - No.
– I did not agree lo the extension of time because I had seen the honourable member for Hindmarsh indicate he did nol want it. I felt, therefore, that the motion would not be proceeded with. If the honourable member does not want an extension of time it would only waste the time of the House to divide.
– Do;* the honourable member for Hindmarsh wish to add anything.
– I had something to quote from a statement by Sir Henry Bolte about the treachery of the Country Party. That is all.
-Does the honourable member wish an extension of time?
– I thought for a while that the honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron) must have felt he was appearing before the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission and not debating a censure motion in this House. One thing I wish he would bring to the notice of those he has been endeavouring to support during the last few minutes is the extent to which the size of the national cake has been dissipated through the number of manhours lost as a result of strikes generated for political or other reasons. It is because of this that the size of the cake granted by way of award frequently means that the worker is a lot worse off than he otherwise would be. We are here this afternoon to discuss a matter which is quite critical in the life of any government. We are discussing whether the Government has the confidence of this House, lt is interesting that it is a motion which was moved when the Government was another government. It is a motion that is not required to be changed in any way since the present Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) took over from his predecessor, who Ls now the Minister for Defence (Mr Gorton). This is so in many ways because the Government itself is a continuing coalition, lt is the coalition of 2 parties which have worked amicably together for more than 50 of the last 70 years. In other words, it is a coalition which has had the broad support of the electors of Australia for more than 50 years.
One of the significant aspects of the motion is that it revolves around the issue of whether an individual within the Government parties has the right to change his capacity. There is now a new Prime Minister who has been here for many years - an individual who has demonstrated his capacity in a succession of portfolios. It is around the personality of that individual and the one who is now the Minister for Defence that so much of this debate is generated, lt is hard for those on the other side of the House to appreciate the extent to which individuals on this side of the House are different from members of the Opposition. We basically support the right of the individual. Those on the other side of the House support the collective responsibility of individuals, thus denying the right of a particular individual. In fact, even today they still adhere to a pledge which denies them as individuals the right to vote against the majority decision of Caucus, except on certain issues. It is important for the rights of the individual to be seen and preserved. That essentially is the answer to the question that has been put forward by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) of whether the Government has a mandate from the people. Of course, every time there is an election each individual is elected as the representative of his constituency. He is given .the right to speak on behalf of all his electors for the duration of that Parliament.
On this side of the House there is no subordination of the individual to changes in the Party leadership. This is an issue which is decided immediately after the election. Immediately after the election the 2 parties on this side of the House elect a leader and there is no obligation on them to see that that leadership is not changed. Liberal members, in this instance, exercising their prerogative to review, determined to reverse the roles of the Leader and the Deputy Leader, and the Country Party, in its customary and stable way, supported and maintained this coalition Government. Individually elected Liberal Party members in choosing the present Prime Minister as their Leader were exercising the rights and privileges accorded to them by their electors, and it is utter poppycock to deny them these rights when so much is said of the necessity for parliamentarians to assert their rights within this place. Individual members of the Liberal Party and of the Country Party retain their right to elect their officers and it is because they are elected as representatives by their constituencies that they have that right throughout the duration of the Parliament. I believe it utter nonsense for the Leader of the Opposition to suggest that there is no mandate for a Liberal Party and Country Party coalition government in the circumstances where the Liberal Party members have exercised their prerogative to change their Leader.
Of course there are far more positive things that can be said about the Government than the question of whether or not, n this instance, through a misinterpretation of facts by the Leader of the Opposition, there is a capacity to govern. The Leader of the Opposition suffers from a grave disability. He is in a position where he is not really too sure whether he occupies that position with the certainty that he would like. His rhetorical questions, his innuendoes, his mass of irrelevancy and his allegations about individuals in the Government are prompted because he is not too sure where he stands in relation to his own position. In fact one can recall what happened during the debate on a procedural motion in this House the other day and what was said by the right honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Calwell) who, in an earlier Parliament, as Leader of the Opposition had the present Leader of the Opposition as his Deputy Leader. We saw disagreement between the two. On other occasions we have seen other members of the Opposition divided and disloyal one with each other. It must be hard for the Leader of the Opposition not to suspect that similar disloyalties exist elsewhere. In the last few weeks we have had demonstrations in New South Wales and Victoria of the extent to which the organisation of the Labor Party itself is unstable. The distinguished member for Grayndler (Mr Daly) is uncertain as to whether or not he is any longer able to represent the concensus in the Australian Labor Party on its attitude to immigration. All of these things, of course, make for the uncertainties which generate the impulses which bring the Leader of the Opposition before this Parliament to speak on an issue without the strength of conviction that is necessary for a motion to be sustained.
But on this side of the House what exactly is it which gives supporters of the Government the confidence to say that they have the continuing mandate of the people? When the people are looking for a government they look for a number of essential qualities. These can be summarised. First, they look for stability. There is no doubt that over the duration of the period from 1949 to 1971 successive Liberal and Country Party coalition governments have maintained a stability which has generated goodwill abroad and which, internally, has enabled the very considerable measure of prosperity that exists within Australia today. In that time there have been 4 Liberal Party Leaders and 3 Country Party Leaders. There have been 5 Prime Ministers and 3 Deputy Prime Ministers, all different personalities, all with different policy emphases, but all maintaining the same party relationship and preserving stability and continuity of government which have given to Australia the tremendous growth that is quite apparent to all. Secondly, there is maintenance of experience which, if one makes an assessment man for man of the Opposition front bench and man for man of the Government front bench, obviously gives the Government members far greater collective administrative, managerial and professional experience both inside and outside government than members of the Opposition. Similarly I think the same can be said about the ability of individuals. Undoubtedly in terms of responsibility to the electorate this side of the House has a quite distinct advantage. Members of the Opposition, as 1 explained a few moments ago, are answerable first of all to Caucus and secondly, increasingly, as far as one can understand the machinations within the organisation of the Australian Labor Party, to the trade union movement. Members on this side of the House are conscious frequently of the extent to which Opposition spokesmen find themselves echoes of a voice that has set forth within the trade union movement the policy programme of a particular union. Members of the Oppo:sition speak not from the point of view of responsibility to an electorate alone, but through a chain of command which normally ensures that the trade union movement, or an organisation, has their prime allegiance and their electorate comes very much down the line. 1 think the same can be said of the policy and programme of the Government compared with that of the Opposition as can be said of the general qualifications of individual members.
If one compares the foreign affairs programmes of the Opposition and the Government one can see that in the Opposition there is a tendency to move into isolationism and to develop proposals which would leave Australia weak and unprotected. They would leave Australia in South East Asia no longer regarded as a friend and helpmate and no longer regarded as a country prepared to contribute wealth and manpower to ensure stability in the region. In terms of economic affairs the very remarkable prosperity that has been achieved in Australia in the last 21 years is testimony to the efficacy of the Government. The containment of inflationary pressures is one of the prime elements of the Government’s policy which .is designed to offset some of the unfortunate disabilities with which some sections of the community are now confronted. Of course the Government’s policy extends beyond the sympathetic analysis of the marketing and cost problems of rural industries into providing direct and positive measures for their alleviation. It extends also into an analysis of the reasons why charges are moving at an excessive rate in relation to productivity. The Government’s policy provides for a progressive review of production and possible effects. One needs to analyse this forward and constructive policy with the policy of the alternative government which in its policy and platform still moves towards the socialisation of industry, production, distribution and exchange. This is the policy which, within the ambit of the memories of most members of this House, led, in the immediate post-war years, to the denial of the rights of the individual and the removal of the opportunity for progress which the change of government in 1949 brought to this country.
Tn the field of Commonwealth and State relationships my own Leader (Mr Anthony) this afternoon asserted his support for the establishment of a proper measure of federalism and the Prime Minister asaserted his own belief that there is a need for the giving of an equal opportunity for executive capacity to the States and the Commonwealth Government. There is a marked difference in the policy of the Labor Party. The Opposition has within its platform the implementation of a recommendation that there should be an amendment of the Commonwealth Constitution to clothe the Commonwealth Parliament with unlimited powers and with the duty and authority to create States possessing delegated constitutional powers. On our side of the Parliament we are seeking to preserve the executive function of the States and at the same time to share with them something of the responsibilities for fiscal and economic management.
Undoubtedly the taxation reimbursement formula and the Loan Council arrangements which were adopted last year represent a major step forward in improving the fiscal basis on which the more populous States, particularly New South Wales and Victoria, operate. The more than 14 per cent increase granted in January to State employees wages over the past 12 months has meant, more than any other factor, that the advantages of the new formula have, to some extent, been eroded, but the Government has not said that it will turn its back completely on the States. What it has said is that the States must share with the Commonwealth Government in the fiscal and economic management of the country. If on each successive occasion when funds are granted it means that the States do not have to worry about increased wages granted in awards and do not have to worry about their expenditure, what prospect is there for re-establishing stability within the economy and containing the adverse pressures of inflation? This is the sound constructive basis on which the Government, continues to operate.
But the one sector to which I wish to refer in particular is that which affects me most ministerially. That is the field of rural industry. We are ail conscious that, over the past 2 years, there has been a very marked deterioration in the general economic plight of those who work on the land. But it is not only those who work on the land, and who predominantly are suffering, lt is also those who live in the towns, the villages and the cities in our country communities. Partly it has originated in Queensland and ‘ in some parts of Western Australia because of adverse seasonal conditions. Significantly, policies have been negotiated by this Government which have arrested many of these pressures. For example, the International Sugar Agreement has meant that today there is a greater measure of prosperity in the sugar industry than has ever been- known before. While there are very considerable pressures around the continuity of the Commonwealth Sugar Agreement and while concern is felt about marketing arrangements after 1974, there is still a measure of cooperation and co-ordination in trying to ensure that negotiations towards possible British entry into the European Economic Community take account of the necessity for Australian sugar to be. accommodated in the future in what has been its principal market place.
The International Grains Arrangement, discussions on which concluded only a fortnight ago in Geneva, demonstrates another field in which the .Government is endeavouring to maintain a .constructive forward policy - a policy which completely denies the validity of the proposition submitted by the Leader of the Opposition this afternoon. Indeed, one would think that there were on the Opposition side of the House people who have no understanding or knowledge of the industry because they fail to recognise the very marked improvement in wheat sales largely achieved through co-ordination and cooperation between officers of the Department of Trade and Industry, particularly the Trade Commissioners, and the members of the Australian Wheat Board with other purchasing countries overseas. The fact that Australia sold this season to 6th March 1971 upwards of 10 million bushels more than at the corresponding period last year of itself signifies the tremendous effort that has been undertaken by the Wheat Board and by the members of the Department of Trade and Industry to ensure that there should be adequate selling opportunities for this significant primary product. Of course, officers of the Department of Primary Industry and other Government officers have been associated with this effort also. Yet, we hear Opposition spokesmen who condemn the policies of industry organisations, who condemn industry leaders and who suggest that the policies of the Government on primary products are non-realistic.
In meat, we similarly have a constructive programme. We have a programme which has meant that only yesterday my colleague, Ihe Minister for Trade and Industry, was able to announce a very significant share of the United States meat import quota for Australia. It is a share which will mean that for beef, veal and mutton next year some 33.1 million lb more than the initial 1970 allocation and more than 11.5 million lb over the final figure for 1970 will be sold to the United States. At current prices, Australia’s allocation would be worth some $240m in export income. So, here in another industry - the meat industry - we see the constructive forward policy of the Government in action.
The one. industry that is of tremendous concern is wool. While all of us are conscious that the $30m emergency relief grant was for just that purpose to try to offset some of the immediate defects that wool growers suffered from their very considerable fall in income in the previous 12 months, we are conscious that the Australian Wool Commission has come in and been constituted in recognition of the market variations since that date. With the technological advances in assessing wool, in the prospects of improvement in wool handling, in sheep handling, in core testing and in sale by sample, there are very real prospects that the very marked circumstances of market depression which exist at the moment might well be changed. Indeed, if one looks at the circumstances in the dried milk powder industry one can see that although the stock position may not be as bright as some of us would like there is still the chance that, given a change in economic conditions within the United States, given the prospects of some greater demand within Japan, a reasonable prospect will exist for some improvement in prices in the 1971-72 year. All of us can recall, as far as milk powder is concerned, how last year in the European Economic Community some 360,000 tons of dried milk powder were in stock and how all of us wondered how on earth we would get stability back into the dried milk powder industry. Today, that figure of 360,000 tons has fallen to 195,000 tons and prices have risen from $180 a ton a year to $2 0 a ton a year.
There are many other areas in rural industries in which the Government is pursuing a constructive programme. I mention the dairy farm amalgamation plan for which $25m has been allocated over a 4- year period. I mention also the general rural reconstruction scheme. All of these are positive proposals adopted by the Government to try to ensure that the rural industries will be protected at a time when they are suffering to an adverse extent.
The Liberal Party-Country Party coalition without doubt is pursuing a policy and a programme that ensures that the confidence of the Australian people in it will be maintained. The Australian people have confidence in its stability, its experience, its ability, its sincerity and its unity of purpose. In this respect, the Government is quite unlike the Opposition which is divided and disloyal behind ils leader, lacking even the demonstrative capacity required of an alternative government. Without doubt the House this day will reject the Opposition’s motion.
– This evening I wish to examine in some detail the performance over the years of the former holder of the External Affairs portfolio - the present holder of the Foreign Affairs portfolio - and the man who through the intrigues of powerful outside interests and the devisiveness of the Liberal Party has finally scrambled to the position of Prime Minister of our nation. Australia deserves better. The Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) has supported at every step along the way the flounderings of the Liberal Party’s foreign policy. The Press in the last few days has lauded his consistency. I agree. He has been consistent - consistently wrong.
In one of his typical interventions on the Vietnam issue, the Prime Minister had this to say:
The only other point that I want to mention is the argument of the Leader of the Opposition that the war in Vietnam is unwinnable. That may have been the case a year ago when it looked as though it could have been a long drawn out struggle obviously leading to a stalemate and possible compulsion al the conference table. That is’ not the case today.
– When did he say that?
– The date of that speech was 22nd March 1966, almost 5 years ago to the day. With monotonous regularity, he has predicted every year as the’ year of victory in Vietnam. Equally monotonously, he has been wrong. This afternoon, he spoke of the success of Vietnamisation. Vietnamisation is a semantic hoax. It is a public relations tranquilliser. Where would the South Vietnamise regime’s army in Cambodia and Laos have been if it had not been for the massive United States aerial bombardments and the death dealing helicopter gun ships? The President of South Vietnam has not been able to attract . the loyalty of his own people and despite foreign forces half a million strong he was not able to secure his own country. It is nonsense to talk of the success of Vietnamisation.
The new Prime Minister, like all his colleagues, has been a supporter - a great supporter - of the diplomatic dodo, SEATO. He has strongly supported the view that the South East Asia Treaty Organisation is the corner stone of the foreign policy of the Liberal Party. For once he is right, but this only serves to show how shaky the foundations are of the foreign policy of the Liberal Party. SEATO was put together in a hurry by the then Secretary of the United States State Department John Foster Dulles. It failed from the very start because the important countries of South East Asia refused to join. How can any organisation which pur ported to promote ‘security’ in Asia operate without such countries as Indonesia, India, Malaysia, Singapore and Burma? It was and it still is a farce. But the new Prime Minister has striven to show that we are in Vietnam because of SEATO. This is a lie. There was no SEATO Council decision requiring . members to send forces to Vietnam.
-Order! The honourable member must not accuse the Prime Minister by saying: This is a lie”.
– Then I shall say, Mr Speaker, that the statement certainly was not in accordance with fact. The only reason why two of the three Asian members of SEATO, Thailand- and the Philippines, made token commitments to Vietnam, which they, no longer maintain, was that the United States Government bribed them to go there, The Prime Minister, as he has told us on many occasions, is a self-confessed disciple of the domino theory. But if Vietnam was the domino to set all the others toppling, surely the countries which he has described as being dominoes - Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Burma, as well as Thailand and the Philippines - would in their - own interests have weighed into Vietnam voluntarily. The plain fact is that these countries have viewed the conflagration in Indo-China as a power play between big powers who could not care less about the peoples of South East Asia. They do not see the threats, as this’ Government purports to see them, and they are right. Even President Nixon has blown up the Red menace with which this Government has sought to con the Australian people for over a decade. I refer now to a statement by President Nixon on 18th February 1970, in which he said:
Once a unified bloc, its solidarity has been broken by the powerful forces of nationalism. The Marxist dream of international Communist unity has disintegrated.
On the domino theory President Nixon wiped out the whole lie when he said of the smaller countries:
Once, many feared that they would become simply o battleground of cold war rivalry and a fertile ground for Communist penetration. But this fear misjudged their pride in their national identities and their determination to preserve their newly won sovereignty.
By his adherence to the myths, deceptions and lies the new Prime Minister has been one of Mao Tse-tung’s best public relations agents. He has been ever ready to credit the Communist Chinese with masterminding everything from minor riots to major coups, and he has built for the Communist Chinese a reputation which their own ineptitude in diplomatic affairs and their non-existent conventional strike capacity could never hope to achieve. In short, this Government has succeeded in achieving what an Australian foreign policy should have been designed to avoid. This Government has an appalling record of grave miscalculations and monumental mistakes. If there was ever a man who was out of his depth in foreign affairs it is this man who by default leads this Government and regrettably this country of ours.
It is little wonder that in his speech this afternoon the Prime Minister did not even allude to foreign policy - a portfolio which he continues to hold. In Asia he is regarded as a second rater. When the Indonesian Foreign Minister, Mr Malik, was putting together a conference on Cambodia last year he did so without any consultation with Australia. Yet Mr McMahon and Mr Malik . were in Bangkok at a United Nations meeting together when Mr Malik was taking the initiative. On 20tb April last year, at a Press conference in Singapore immediately after the Bangkok meeting, Mr McMahon was asked what Australia’s attitude was to the discussions on Cambodia that Mr Malik had held in Bangkok, and Mr McMahon’s response was:
I can only speak from my personal memory and personal knowledge. I know nothing of it.
Yet the very next day the Minister sought to save his own face by saying, very belatedly, that he welcomed the initiative. This episode illustrates how far this Government has fallen in the estimation of our Asian neighbours. This Government just does not count in South East Asia. Australia, through this Government’s ineptitude, has. become isolated from our neighbours and from the people with whom our children will have to learn to live. I hope that they will learn to live with them much better than this Government has done.
The new Prime Minister’s pathetically poor comprehension of Australia’s national interests is well illustrated in our relations with the United States. At all times he has out-hawked the most extreme United States Hawks, but his single minded and slavish devotion has been neither to Australia’s advantage nor to the advantage of the United States. Speaking in this place in 1967 the present Prime Minister criticised the Labor Party’s assessment that the Government was in fact ‘creating a policy that would mean isolationism in the United States’ and consequently the United States withdrawal from this area, with all that it has meant to Australia and to South East Asia, leaving us to fight ovir battles on our own. He challenged the Labor Party to prove that this was not what the Labor Party was saying. The Labor Party has stood firm on this position, and only last week its viewpoint was endorsed by no less a member than the former Minister for Defence, the honourable member for Wannon (Mr Malcolm Fraser), who said, as headlined in the ‘Australian’: ‘Australia must walk alone’. He pointed out that the United States clearly is reviewing the manner in which it will fulfil its alliances and treaties.
Successive Liberal Party governments have sought to get the United States bogged down in Asia. The trouble is that they have succeeded beyond their wildest expectations. But the result has been the very contrary of what they sought to achieve. The United States has become disenchanted; it has become sick and tired of the great loss of United States lives and the great outflow from the United States Treasury. President Nixon has formally declared that the United Slates will not get so involved again, and the withdrawal from Asia, which the Labor Party predicted many years ago, is now on. President Nixon has said that the United States will continue to observe existing commitments, but it is a very sobering thought that nowhere in the President’s major foreign policy statement last year is either ANZUS or SEATO mentioned. The new Prime Minister, in a speech in the House on 19th March 1970, quite wrongly and misleadingly quoted President Nixon as saying:
The United States will keep all its treaty commitments; and that, of course, includes ANZUS;
President Nixon never said any such thing. This Government has been so wrong so often that it cannot face up to the realities of foreign policy. It simply does not understand what is going on - it never has and it never will. I again quote President Nixon who said:
Our interests must shape our commitments, rather than the other way around.
Further on he said:
We will help where it makes a real difference and is considered in our interest.
Like the old grey mare, ANZUS ain’t what it used to be. I refer to a recent statement by a former head of the Department of External Affairs, Sir Alan Watt. He said: lt would be unrealistic, however, not to note the possible gap between what Australian expectations and American responses under ANZUS or otherwise are as interpreted in the light of the Nixon doctrine.
It is about time that we woke up and stopped behaving like babes in the international wood; it is about time that we stopped our mindless attachment to the decisions of the United States Administration. The United States is a global power. lt has to consider all sections of this globe, and Asia is only a part of its thoughts.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– Before the suspension of the sitting we were considering in detail the pathetic performance over the years in the field of foreign policy of the man who through the intrigue of powerful outside interests and the chronic divisions within the Liberal Party has finally scrambled to the position of Prime Minister of this nation. His lamentable performance today gives us no hope that we have a confident hand at the helm of this nation of ours. Admittedly he has been consistent, as his main supporter, the “Daily Telegraph’, has pointed out, but he has been consistently wrong. Five years ago he forecast the victorious end of the Vietnam war. He continues each year on the year to make that same sort of forecast. He has consistently praised SEATO which, because the main countries of South East Asia - Indonesia, India, Malaysia, Singapore and Burma - have refused to have anything to do with it, has failed. The fact that SEATO is regarded by this Government as a cornerstone of Australia’s foreign policy shows just how shaky is the foreign policy of this Government.
We have quoted President Nixon to disprove once and for all the domino theory, to which the new Prime Minister is attached, and the myth of international Communist unity. President Nixon in talking about Communist unity said:
Once a unified bloc, its solidarity has been broken by the powerful forces of nationalism . . . The Marxist dream of international Communist unity has disintegrated.
Talking about the dominoes- the very dominoes that it was thought were sufficiently threatened to warrant going to Vietnam - President Nixon said:
Once, many feared that they would become simply a battleground of cold-war rivalry and fertile ground for Communist penetration. But this fear misjudged their pride in their national identities and their determination to preserve their newly won sovereignty.
The greatest disservice this Government has done to Australia has been to pursue policies which have led to the disenchantment of the United States with any form of involvement and any form of commitment for the peace and security of South East Asia. The ANZUS Treaty on the evidence of the Government itself is almost a dead letter. The Government policies have left us isolated in Asia and we have lost our liaison with the United Slates.
The Prime Minister in his capacity as Minister for Foreign Affairs and the new Minister for Defence in his former capacity as Prime Minister have lightheartedly sold Australia down the river. They quite readily confess that Australia was not consulted about the invasion”1 of Cambodia. They also confess that Australia was not consulted about the invasion of Laos. But - this is more serious - they do not seem to think that they should have been consulted. If an alliance is to mean anything it bestows both rights and responsibilities. The Liberal Party has eagerly accepted responsibilities from Korea to South Vietnam to United States bases on Australian soil. We have also given the United States a blank cheque to exploit our industrial resources. But we also have rights and these are particularly important when the United States is indulging in brinkmanship in Indo-China which could lead to Chinese intervention or he possibility of the use of nuclear weapons.
As an independant and sovereign country we should accept only the consequences of actions on which we have been consulted and on which we agree. Neither the former Prime Minister nor the present
Prime Minister have subscribed to this basic proposition. They are forfeiting Australia’s rights. What has happened under this Government is that our political interests in Asia and our economic interests at home have been electioneered on the one hand and auctioneered on the other. That is why we have moved this motion of want of confidence in the Government, lt is our belief, and I think it is the belief of the Australian people, that we deserve a better government.
– I oppose this motion for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that [ consider the time taken in debating it is a colossal waste of valuable time ‘ which could be better employed in getting on with the business of government which is the purpose for which all members of this Parliament have been elected. This; is what I believe the public wants; it is what 1 believe the public expects. 1 listened in vain for the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) to state clearly the reasons for moving this motion. After all, this is the first day in the Parliament for a new Prime Minister. However, instead the Leader of the Opposition set up his own Aunt Sallies which he then proceeded to knock down. He set out the reasons which he believed the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) would give for not holding an election immediately. Then he proceeded to demolish these reasons. The Leader of the Opposition was unfortunate in that the Prime Minister did not give the reasons which he anticipated would be given. The Leader of the Opposition set himself up as a seer. He not only endeavoured to anticipate the Government’s arguments but he also named some of the Ministers whose positions he thought would be endangered by the change in the leadership of the Government.
The Leader of the Opposition used a number of objectionable adjectives to describe the Government. I cannot remember all of them but I know he referred to selfishness, to rivalries, to tensions and to dissensions in the Government. But I believe that he could equally and probably with greater truth have applied them to his own Party. After all, his own position as Leader of the Opposition is not all that secure. Instead of worrying about Ministers whose positions he believes are in jeopardy he ought to be looking over his own shoulder. He referred to what some of the members of the Liberal Party are reported to have said about the previous Prime Minister. 1 suggest that he would have been better rewarded if he had been paying the same attention to what some members of his own Party are reported to have said about him. It is not that we on the Government side of the House do not wish him well because we regard him as our greatest political asset. The last thing we want to see is a change in the leadership of the Opposition. However, I do not want to get into a verbal battle of offensive remarks. The public is not interested in this.
– Are you trying to fox?
– I will catch up with the honourable member in a minute. The public cares not for recrimination or for character assassination. What is past is past, however much some people might regret what took place last week. But this is now water under the bridge. It is past history; it goes into history. Today we have a new Prime Minister; so let us get on with the job. Let us give him a chance to get on with the job. The Leader of the Opposition said that the people of Australia should be given a voice in who shall govern Australia. He said it was only proper that the people of Australia should have their say. The people of Australia had an opportunity of voting on the respective policies of the Government and the Opposition only 18 months ago. At that time they showed in no uncertain terms that they preferred our policies to those of the Opposition. They showed clearly that they had no confidence in the Leader of the Opposition. They showed clearly that they had no confidence in the Opposition.
The Prime Minister said earlier today that most of the promises which were included in the Government’s last policy speech’ have already been implemented. Since then only the leadership has changed. The policies which were endorsed by the people 18 months ago remain exactly the same. The Leader of the Opposition has said that the present . Prime Minister has no mandate from the people, but 18 months ago the people voted for the parties which they wished to govern, and the members of the Government chose their leader. Does the Leader of the Opposition imply that every time the leader is changed there ought to be an election? If he does, then the Labor Party ought to have gone to the people twice after the death of John Curtin. If the argument presented by the Leader of the Opposition is valid, neither Mr Forde nor Mr Chifley had a mandate from the people. I know of no precedent in any major Parliament in the world for having an election in circumstances similar to those which have taken place here.
The Prime Minister referred earlier today to a number of cases where the leadership of the Government has been changed without the Government going to the people - without the necessity for an election. I believe that the policies of the Government are infinitely superior in every way to those of the Opposition.
– You will be in the Cabinet.
– The honourable member will not be and I doubt whether he ever will be. There is nothing wrong with the Government’s policies. The only” thing is that we do not always get sufficient credit for those policies, because we do not take the trouble to explain them sufficiently to the people. Too frequently we are defending ourselves when we ought to be attacking. Heaven knows, we have enough to attack. We ought to be proclaiming our policies from the housetops, because they are good policies. Instead of that, the public relations of Liberal-Country Party governments have, for as long as I can remember, been poor. We are criticised when we ought to be praised. Let me give honourable members an example in respect of a subject in which 1 have taken a particular interest. I could choose many subjects.
This Government has come in for a great deal of unfair criticism because of its welfare policies. During the past 3 years the Government has increased age pensions by $2.50 a week. That figure does not include the 50c increase announced today by the Prime Minister, which will bring the increase up to $3. This represents an increase of more than 23 per cent on the single rate of pension which was paid only 3 years ago. Tn the same period the consumer price index has increased by a little less than 17 per cent. I have quoted figures relating to single pensioners. The percentage increase for married couples would be slightly less. When the Liberal-Country Party Government came to power in 1949 only 39.15 per cent of the people of pensionable age were in receipt of pensions. But because of the continuous liberalisation of the means test which has been brought about by successive LiberalCountry Party governments, at 30th June last year 60 per cent of the people of pensionable age were in receipt of pensions. The tapered means test which was introduced only about 18 months ago increased the figure from 55.4 per cent of people at 30th June 1969 to 60 per cent one year later. The present rate of age pension represents a substantially higher percentage of the minimum wage than that paid by the Labor Government when it was last in office.
– The honourable member can check the figures for himself. Furthermore, the increases which have been made by this Government have very substantially increased the purchasing power of pensions. These figures are there to be checked, too. The amount paid by this Government for welfare - that is, for social services, repatriation and health - represents a much higher percentage of the total Budget than that paid by Labor in its last year of office. I believe that actions speak louder than words. Performances count for more than promises. I have not been referring to individual amounts of pensions or the total sums paid because, naturally, these increase as years go by. As the value of money changes and as the population increases one expects rates of pension to be higher and the total amounts to be higher. 1 am speaking of percentages which are not affected either by inflation or by increased population.
Of all the criticisms which (he Labor Party could have offered against the Liberal-Country Party Government those relating to social welfare are by far the weakest. They are on by far the weakest grounds. The Government cannot be criticised for what it has done for the less privileged section of the community. I do not want to go back into the distant past. I want to draw the attention of honourable members to just some of the very great improvements in social welfare which have been introduced by this Government during the past 2 to 3 years. 1 am told that today’s increase of an additional 50c a week will benefit more than 830,000 pensioners. In addition to the base rates of age pensions being increased by S3 in less than 3 years, all persons in receipt of long term sickness benefit, sheltered employment allowance and tuberculosis allowance will receive a benefit by the increase announced today. As well as the general increase in pension rates, hearing aids have been provided at a cost of $10 each for those pensioners who are in need of them. Elderly persons in nursing homes who require intensive care now receive from this Government $35 a week in addition to their normal rate of age pension. Local government authorities providing meals on wheels receive a subsidy of 10c for each meal provided. This has assisted them very substantially to do more for the underprivileged section of the community.
This Government extended hospital benefits to provide 52 weeks coverage in every year instead of only 13 weeks a year as previously. The concept of a common fee in relation to medical services, which was introduced by this Government, means that even the most serious operation will cost the patient only $5 where the most common fee is charged. Health insurance is provided free for low income families. Migrants are granted free insurance for a period of 2 months after their arrival. These are only some of the new benefits which have been introduced by this Liberal-Country Party Government during the past 2 to 3 years. In addition to this, persons of pensionable age who, because of their savings, have not been in receipt of a pension pay no income tax on what would normally have been a net taxable income of $1,326. Married couples pay no income tax where their net joint incomes do not exceed $2,314. On incomes above those figures they pay tax at reduced rates. This is because of the operation of the age allowance which was introduced by a previous Liberal-Country Party Government. 1 chose to speak on welfare because the Government has been unfairly criticised by uninformed people and by the Opposition for its welfare policies. But I believe that the policies of the Liberal Patty and the Country Party are in every case superior to those of the Australian Labor Party and have been formulated in the overal interests of a majority of the people of Australia. Only a couple of weeks ago the Opposition launched a motion of no confidence against the Government and this was defeated, as will this present motion be defeated. Whereas a couple of weeks ago the Leader of the Opposition may have received some political mileage out of this action, and I rate it no higher than that, I believe that today the public is heartily sick of the amount of time which is wasted which ought to be devoted to passing worthwhile legislation such as the Bill forecast by the Prime Minister today to provide increases for the pensioners for whom the Opposition says it is speaking. The Opposition says it represents the underprivileged section of the community. The Prime Minister today forecast the introduction of a Bill which will mean a rise of 50c a week for more than 750,000 people but instead of trying to have this legislation brought. down the Opposition is wasting time on a no confidence motion which each of them knows has no chance of being carried. Today the Government is united and is anxious to get on with the business of governing. I believe that the introduction of a Bill to increase pensions is of much more interest to the people than the fantasies of the Leader of the Opposition. If he is so anxious to have an election let him have one on Wednesday when Caucus next meets. Let him put his own position as leader on the line and see what measure of support he has in his own Party because the public will have an opportunity of saying what it thinks of Labor’s policies when it votes in the byelection for the electorate of Murray on Saturday next. The Liberal Parly has had its problems and I am not trying to gloss them over, but I do believe that the public prefers Liberal-Country Party government to any which might be led by the honourable member for Werriwa (Mr Whitlam). I believe that we provide the policies that the people want. I believe that we provide the type of government that the people want and 1 believe that the Prime Minister will provide the leadership that they want. So let us get on with the job.
– lt is particularly interesting to note that the only 2 Ministers who have spoken in this debate in support of the new Leader of the
Liberal Party are the new Leader of the Country Party and the new Deputy Leader of the Country Party. Not one Liberal Minister has spoken. Not one member of the mushroom club who was upgraded to become a Minister when Mr Gorton became Leader of the Liberal Party has yet spoken. The only 2 Ministers who have spoken have been from the Country Party. Members of the Country Party are now falling over themselves to get .on side with the new Leader of the Liberal Party because, after all, it was the previous Leader of the Country Party, Sir John McEwen, who put the millstone around the neck of the new Leader of the Liberal Party after the death of Mr Harold Holt. lt was Sir John McEwen who said: ‘Under no circumstances will 1 serve under Mr McMahon as Prime Minister of the country.’ Today the only 2 Ministers who have come into this place to support the new Leader of the Liberal Party are the Leader and the Deputy Leader of the Country Party.
We have just listened to an amazing speech by the honourable member for Henty (Mr Fox) who spent a considerable portion of his time talking about the activities of the Gorton Government in the field of social service legislation. Today the new Leader of the Liberal Party started his career as Prime Minister of Australia by offering a blatant bribe to the pensioners of Australia without the knowledge of his Cabinet and without the knowledge of his Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth). This new Leader of the Liberal Party is the man who, in the last 3 or 4 days, has been appearing in the mass media and saying that he will introduce Cabinet government in Australia, which had been destroyed by the deposed Prime Minister.
The announcement by the new Prime Minister was made after consideration was given in August last or even earlier and after pressures had been applied on the deposed Prime Minister to have something done for pensioners. It was the first announcement he made, but in the same speech he claimed that this motion that has been moved by the Opposition - a want of confidence motion in the Government - is not moved against his Government but against the Gorton Government and then he took the opportunity to offer this blatant bribe to pensioners throughout Australia. He ranked third in the Gorton Government. He had every right and opportunity to express his point of view in the Cabinet discussions, if they were held, and we doubt after the coverage by the mass media and after the things that have been said by Ministers who have resigned whether the Gorton Government did hold Cabinet discussions. But if the new Prime Minister tried in Cabinet to get some benefits for the pensioners he failed, and in the face of the deposed Prime Minister and now Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party he comes into the House today and makes the announcement about increases for pensioners.
I proclaim that the first action of the Prime Minister as the Leader of the McMahon Government shows his lack of courage and his lack of principles. The happenings of the last 14 days have been truly amazing. We have had the spectacle of a major disagreement between the Prime Minister of Australia, a senior Cabinet Minister and the Chief of the General Staff, fought not in the Cabinet room or in the Parliament but in the newspapers of Australia. The culmination of this dispute was the resignation of the senior Cabinet Minister and the deposing of the Prime Minister. Both those things happened outside this Parliament. The ex-Prime Minister was deposed after a revolt or a coup - call it what you like- in the secret confines of the Liberal Party and after being deposed he came into this House and made a short announcement. But before he was deposed we had an unprecedented scene in this Parliament - the scene of a pressman interjecting from the Press Gallery. There was an interjection of ‘You liar’ addressed to Mr Gorton, the Leader of the Liberal Party and the then Prime Minister of Australia and it was uttered with venom and emphasis. It was an interjection that was truly meant. But when pressure was put on the pressman he went to ‘water.
The only. official knowledge that this Parliament has of the whole sordid affair are the statements of Mr Malcolm Fraser and Mr Gorton on- Tuesday, 9th March and a short statement of 83 words made by the deposed Prime Minister on Wednesday, 1 0th March in - which he announced his resignation as Prime Minister of Australia. The ex-Prime Minister did not give this Parliament any information about the identity of his successor or about the advice he intended to give His Excellency the GovernorGeneral. This Parliament was left in ignorance. Its members had to rely on the mass media, sections of which have been badly discredited in this affair, for the reports on the name of the new leader of the Parliamentary Liberal Party and the name of his deputy. A more pitiful selection of leader and deputy leader of a political party could not be found. The new leader of the Liberal Party was deputy to his present deputy, and all know of the lack of respect, trust and friendship that existed under the previous arrangement.
– Like you and Gough.
– But for some untold reason, now that they have changed positions, Liberal members - the one who interjected is a prime example - and supporters and sections of the mass media expect a miracle to be wrought and years of dislike, mistrust and enmity between Mr McMahon and Mr Gorton disappear. Only the names have been changed. The characters remain the same, and they are supported by the same unprincipled, weak Ministers and back bench members. This is not good enough for Australia. This is not good enough for my country.
The policies of the Liberal Party have failed under the leadership of the previous Prime Minister and will continue to fail under the new Prime Minister. I challenge the right of the Liberal Party to have made this change in the Prime Ministership of Australia- The Liberal Party has the right to change its leader - I do not take that away from it - but, as a party of 46 in a House of 125 members and as a part of a coalition government of 66 members, the Liberals do not have the right to transfer a mandate gained by one leader to any other leader after a revolt within the ranks of their party - a revolt carried on the casting vote of the person being overthrown and then only after the supreme cowardice of all members of the Liberal Party had been shown in a secret ballot. The members of the Liberal Party, who make up part of the coalition Government, did not have the courage to stand up in their own Party room and vote out the man they wanted to vote- out. A secret ballot was necessary to do that. Is it any wonder that big business, combines and pressure groups can force these members into supporting policies that are not in the interest of Australia? There was a revolt by 33 members, including several senators - those senators have no electoral responsibility - and members like the honourable member for Macarthur (Mr Jeff Bate). The ex-Prime Minister doubts whether the honourable member possesses a mind. The ex-Prime Minister is reported in Saturday’s ‘Sydney Morning Herald’ as having said: 1 can’t be expected to know what goes on in the mind of Mr Bate - if he has one..
I cannot allow the change in the Prime Ministership of Australia under such circumstances to go unchallenged. The new leader of the Liberal Party does not possess the confidence of this House, of the Liberal Party or of the people of Australia. Sixteen months ago it was shown in the Liberal Party itself, when he could not beat the deposed Prime Minister in a vote for the leadership of that party. He challenged the Gorton leadership within Party ranks and was defeated. The new leader of the Liberal Party is not acceptable to the Australian people until he has had the courage to face the people in his own right. The Liberal-Country Party Government obtained fewer votes in the 1969 House of Representatives elections and the 1970 Senate elections than did the Australian Labor Party. On a strict party basts it can be said that the Gorton Government did not have the majority support of the Australian people, and the same applies to the McMahon Government. Trie figures for the 1969 House of Representatives elections were as follows: The ALP under the leadership of Mr Gough Whitlam gained 2,870,792 votes or 46.95 per cent of the formal votes cast, and for that the Labor Party got 59 seats. The Liberal Party under the leadership of Mr Gorton and the deputy leadership of Mr McMahon gained 2,126,987 votes or 34.79 per cent of the formal votes, and for that .it got 46 seats. The Country Party under the leadership of Sir John McEwen got 523,342 votes, 8.56 per cent of the formal votes, cast, and for that it got 20 seats. The total LiberalCountry Party vote was 2.650,329 votes or 43.35 per cent of the formal votes cast. Therefore on a strict party basis the Labor Party was 220,463 votes in front and received a vote of 3.6 per cent better than the combined vote of the Liberal-Country Party, yet we have 7 fewer seats. Similar figures can be given for the Senate elections in 1970, when again the leader of the Liberal Party was Mr Gorton and the deputy leader was Mr McMahon. On a strict party basis the Gorton Government did not possess a mandate, and neither does the new McMahon Government. The first McMahon Government is in office by subterfuge.
Neither the new Prime Minister nor the new Deputy Prime Minister has led his party to an election. How can it be maintained that this Prime Minister has a mandate from the people of Australia? The Liberal Party relies on the support of 2 barnacle parties in order to govern - on the one hand, the bovine, bucolic Country Party and, on the other hand, the erratic, inconsistent and blackmailing Australian Democratic Labor Party. Any person with the slightest belief in democracy and the rights of the people of Australia to elect their government would not wish to assume the Prime Ministership in the present situation. The challenge of an early election has been issued by my leader on behalf of the Labor Party, and I support that challenge. If Sam, the brother of the new leader of the Liberal Party, can beat him at everything except poker, 1 guarantee that my leader and his supporters can beat him at an election. The Government and its members have disregarded the Parliament during the whole of this sordid affair, but they have no right to disregard the people of Australia. An election must take place or our democratic system will be further weakened.
When the previous Prime Minister was in office I often had cause to regret that he was the leader of my country. But at least I always felt that the behaviour of the two previous Prime Ministers, the late Harold Holt and Sir Robert Menzies at international conferences and in the Parliament itself was above reproach. They practised loyalty to their Party and to their ministerial colleagues. They believed in the solidarity and secrecy of Cabinet. But in 1968 when the ex-Prime Minister assumed that office he immediately set out to destroy the Cabinet and ministerial solidarity and secrecy. He set out to destroy his opponents in the Liberal Party, the independence of the Commonwealth Public Service and even the Westminster system of Parliament. On top of all that he destroyed the credibility of himself, his Ministers and the back bench members of this Parliament. He was not the type of man to be the Prime Minister of Australia.
But while he was the Prime Minister of Australia his deputy and his very senior colleague was his conqueror, the new Prime Minister. The new Prime Minister cannot disclaim the blame for the errors in policy, the breaking of Cabinet solidarity, the decline in Cabinet government and the many other sins of omission and commission of the Gorton Government. The only changes that can be seen in the personnel of this Government which is in charge of Australia today is the rise of the new Prime Minister and I suppose the rise of the new Minister for Defence. No member of the Liberal Party has been absolved of his responsibility to vote for the motion by the mere change in the leadership of a parliamentary party. Had the practices of the House which had been followed during the reign of the Gorton Government not been broken on this occasion this debate would have taken place last Thursday. It did not take place last Thursday because those practices were broken. If I had the time 1 could give 2 instances under the Gorton Prime Ministership when the suspension of Standing Orders was moved immediately.
Let me turn to the person the Liberal Party has elected as the Prime Minister of Australia. I emphasise the fact that the Liberal Party has elected the new Prime Minister. The Country Party has been absolutely silent. Its previous leader shouted long and loud when the new Prime Minister looked like winning in 1968 but its members have said nothing in the last few days. Already today the Leader of the Labor Party has spoken about the new Prime Minister’s belief that the basic wage was sufficient to keep a man, his wife and 2 or more children. There is also another example that shows the lack of sympathy and compassion o: the new Leader of the Liberal Party. In 1966 he said:
I then had the pleasure and responsibility of introducing into this House on behalf of the Government, the Bill which inaugurated national service training.
He does not care whether our children die by malnutrition or by a bullet. 1 support the motion that has been moved by the Opposition.
– Mr Speaker, I would like to make 2 comments on the speech 1 have just heard by the honourable member for Lang (Mr Stewart) before 1 proceed to what 1 wish to say to the House. The first comment I wish to make is to refute as quite untrue the statement made by the honourable member that the new Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) did not consult his Cabinet or his Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) on the announcement he made in the House this afternoon. The second comment I wish to make is that 1 believe it is a pity that a debate of this kind, which ought to be concerned with whether a government should be censured for sins of omission or sins of commission, should have been dragged down to such a matter of personalities as it has been by the honourable member for Lang.
Having said that let me address myself to the motion before us. The motion suggests that the present Governmentshould be censured. There can surely be no honourable member of this House, on either side, who really believes that the Government which has been in office for 5 days could possibly be the proper object of such censure. Nor have any reasons been advanced as to why in the national interest it should be the object of such censure. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) suggested that because there is a new Prime Minister there should be a new election. But any man who can command a majority in the House of Representatives, as the Prime Minister can, is constitutionally and morally entitled to lead the country and would be wrong if he shed that responsibility which he gets as a result of his majority. Suggestions to the contrary are far fetched, and indeed they were advanced by the Leader of the
Opposition with such a lack of real conviction that they scarcely merited the detailed and effective rebuttal which they received, but effectively rebutted they were.
What then were the grounds advanced in support of the motion? In brief they seemed to be that this Government should be censured because of what the previous Government had done or not done. But there was no argued case against what the previous Government had done or not done. The honourable , member for Fremantle (Mr Beazley) was kind enough to list a number of matters which he said I had done and which he implied, with the support of the Opposition, merited praiseThose matters were the establishment of the Australian Industry Development Corporation; the setting up of guidelines for borrowings by. overseas companies in Australia; the various attempts to preserve as much Australian equity in Australian development as possible. All these were implied to be good and I believe they were. But I have never governed without full and proper Cabinet consultation. It was not me who did these things; it was the Government which did these things. It was the Government which passed this legislation through this House. Yet it is suggested that these matters, which have been praised so highly by the Opposition, should now be grounds for a censure.
I do not wish to spend too much time on the achievements of the previous Government nor would I mention them at all if it were not that they seem to be the real basis of this motion. There are too many achievements on the record to mention them all. But we did inject, amongst many other things, new vigour and new hope into the performing arts in Australia. We did take steps towards establishing our own film and television industry in Australia. We did bring in a tapered means test to the great benefit of many pensioners. We did introduce a health scheme which has removed the fear of expensive operations for Australians. We did at least ensure that the danger of pollution through drilling on the Great Barrier Reef were publicly and properly examined. We did take sensible and progressive steps towards the orderly handing over of responsibility in New
Guinea. We did make financial arrangements with the States which gave them record amounts of revenue. We did increase greatly the expenditure on defence. We did reduce income tax as we promised.
The record stands. It is not one which deserves censure, arid indeed little attempt in this debate has been made to show that it does deserve censure. But perhaps the censure is based on other grounds. Perhaps it is based on criticisms made of me in this House last week. The Leader of the Opposition in his speech hinted at this. Of that criticism I say only this: I was charged by innuendo with supporting the Chief of the General Staff personally against the former Minister for Defence. No government and no man merits censure for assuring the Chief of an armed Service that if false charges against that Service appear in print they will be denied. That is not to be confused with supporting a Service Chief against a Minister for Defence on matters of policy. It is not to be confused with suppressing true accusations. That is quite different. That would be wrong. This 1 have never done nor indeed have 1 been accused of doing it. 1 have been charged with acting irregularly in the matter of an Order in Council permitting the Pacific Islands Regiment to be called out to reinforce the police in New Guinea if required. There was no irregularity in the signing of that Order in Council to permit the calling out of the PIR if it was heeded. I believe that in the light of the great concern of the Administrator of Papua and New Guinea and the Minister for External Territories (Mr Barnes) I did discuss and take a different point of view to that taken by the former Minister for Defence on the urgency of that matter. But I did have 2 Ministers who were greatly concerned with what was happening in that country. I did not relish the thought of possibly having to stand up in this House and say: ‘There has been a riot out of control in Rabaul and many people have been killed. We did know about it but we delayed while we went through machinery’. In spite of that we did finally go through the course which was discussed and was decided. I think impulsively. I gather, refusing to allow Cabinet to discuss whether, that Order in Council be revoked. I cannot go as deeply into this as I would like because of the inhibitions placed on me but I can say that the matter was brought to Cabinet, was discussed and was decided. I think I should add that following that Cabinet consideration interdepartmental discussions between the departments concerned went on, as they had before, concerning the matter of whether the Order should be revoked. Indeed the former Minister for Defence wrote to the Minister for External Territories in November 1970 on the subject, as a result of this machinery discussion, saying that he saw no current need to bring the question before the Cabinet but thought it should be looked at again early this year. Had there been a submission it would have gone to Cabinet. So if the censure is directed at me on those grounds I refute it. lt matters little in the sweep of history what individual stands at this Dispatch Box as Prime Minister but in my view it matters greatly for Australia’s future that he who does stand here should be one who represents the policies and courses of action which this coalition Government has followed for the benefit of our country. I believe the Liberal-Country Party coalition is the one best fitted to look to Australia’s security, the one most likely to create the conditions for Australia’s growth, the one most likely to tackle the causes of poverty at their roots, the one most likely to leave to the individual the maximum chance of using his talents to advance himself and his country. I believe it is now as in the past the best Government for my country and to my mind this transcends all else.
I have still a part to play in this and I shall play it, as I am sure all members of the Liberal Party will, by giving full backing to the new Prime Minister, full backing to a party which is not, as the Leader of the Opposition has suggested, a party ridden by nostalgia for the days of Sir Robert Menzies, but rather a party which sees and advances towards new horizons as it has done and as it will. Tn the party room there may, quite properly, be divisions in numbers on occasions when expressions of opinions are called for but once that has been resolved we must all come into this House without division and back our leader, as I know we will. No cause has been shown why the Government I headed should be censured.
No cause can be shown why Mr McMahon’s Government, which has been in office 5 days, can possibly be censured. I. believe that in the time ahead no cause will be able to be shown why it should ever be censured. I reject the motion.
– 1 support the motion moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) and would like to reply to some of the points made by the former Prime Minister. Before 1 do so J want to observe for the record that had the former Prime Minister contributed the degree and quality of preparation and discipline in presentation to his speeches in the past which he displayed in his speech tonight I strongly suspect that he would not be in the position in which he now finds himself. But to reply to some of the points he raised, he said that the Government of 5 days could not be a proper object for a censure motion. Why not? It is the same old team we have had in the past but we have a new front man. That is the only difference. There are a few ins now outs or about to be out and outs soon to be in, perhaps. Essentially it is the same rough crew of political buccaneers we had a fortnight ago and for weeks and weeks before that. By a double shuffle the old Deputy Liberal Leader who hated his Prime Minister - a feeling warmly reciprocated - is the new Prime Minister. The new Prime Minister has a Deputy Party Leader who detests him. Again that is a mutually exchanged regard. The new Deputy Leader is the old Prime Minister. Further, we have this situation today where a neat half of the Liberal Party supports each of the 2 dissident leaders - the old Prime Minister and the new Prime Minister.
The proposition that the Minister for Defence (Mr Gorton) puts forward that the Government is morally entitled to lead the country is obviously on this basis discredited because this Government is composed of the same sort of people with the same sort of outlook as was the previous Government. He suggests that there is no argument against the previous Government. The honourable member for Wannon (Mr Malcolm Fraser) I thought dispelled that argument. Indeed the former Prime Minister also added that as the leader of the previous government he did not try to govern alone; he governed with advice. This was the crucial point. It was stressed with great passion in the peroration of the honourable member for Wannon as he announced his resignation as Minister for Defence. He said of the former Prime Minister:
The Prime Minister, because of his unreasoned drive to get his own way, his obstinacy, impetuous and emotional reactions has imposed strains upon the Liberal Party, the Government and the Public Service. I do not believe he is fit to hold the great office of Prime Minister, and i cannot serve in his Government.
That was a quotation from the statement of the honourable member for Wannon on his resignation - a voluntary resignation - as Minister for Defence, lt was not made by honourable members of this side of the House but by a senior colleague of the former Prime Minister who bad worked with him for some time in the Cabinet. Rather ironically the honourable member for Wannon is one man to whom he probably owed more than any other man for his initial elevation to the position of Prime Minister.
Let me refer to several other points he made in relation to the record of the Gorton Government. He suggested that its effort in arts was creditable. 1 rather thought Sir Daryl Lindsay dispelled any misapprehension in that respect. The former Prime Minister said that the record of the Government in pensions was a creditable one. lt may have seemed so until the announcement of the Government today that it could afford an increase in pensions.. This rather conflicts with the statement of the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) in this House something like a fortnight ago. lt comes forward in a rather confusing light because on the one hand we have the former Prime Minister making these statements and denying the assention of the honourable member for Lang (Mr Stewart) that the decision was probably made without the knowledge of Cabinet while on the other hand Senator Murphy asked . Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson in the Senate today whether the Government would increase pensions and Sir Kenneth Anderson said he knew nothing about the proposed increase. Perhaps this is another point of disunity, a lack of communication, a breakdown in the chain of command on communication, of which the honourable member for Wannon spoke. One could refer to other subjects - for example, the. disunity which is developing in New Guinea because of the. complete lack of perception and sensitivity towards the rights and aspirations of this newly emerging country. Because of the blunt manner in which the Government regards the aspirations of that country, we could well be projected into a situation where we could be in conflict with its people This is a very real possibility with the sort of insensitive uninspired policies for which the Government is responsible in this area. But let us be under no illusion. The tensions, the divisions and the fragmentations which developed in the previous government - the Gorton Government - are still there. The incubus which caused them is still fertile.
The unhappy nature of this Liberal Party discord has been exposed by the discreditable attempted manipulation of the Press by the former Prime Minister and the former Minister for Defence, in each case, by one to embarrass the other; and this, more than anything else, is the substantial issue upon which the attack of the Opposition rests, because it symbolises the grave defect or the serious failure of the previous Government to carry out the constitutional requirements developed through tradition and handed down to us from Great Britain and upheld by the system of government in this country of collective responsibility of the Cabinet. These requirements have been completely jettisoned and have been violated by the behaviour of many Ministers, more especially because of the dramatic publicity which has been attracted by the behaviour of the former Minister for Defence and the former Prime Minister. I should like to speak about this particular subject. Initially, I approached the subject of this debate with strong criticisms of the former Prime Minister and with some support for the concern for public administration and the manner in which it was proceeding as expressed by the honourable member for Wannon at the time he addressed this House and announced his resignation from the Ministry. However, I must confess that as the result of the work that I have carried out into the various statements, and by relating them to other published information which is available, I am satisfied that no-one on the Government side comes out of this with honour. If anything, the former Prime Minister is less guilty than the former Minister for Defence of the thoroughly discreditable and contemptible behaviour of trying to use the Press, one against the other, to embarrass, to expose and to discredit one and the other.
Let us go through these steps relating to the situation which led to the announced resignation of the Minister for Defence. The former Prime Minister did not initiate the moves. A journalist with the ‘Daily Telegraph’ - a Mr Baudino - approached the Prime Minister in the first instance with a story which was remarkably similar in essential content to a story written by Mr Samuel of the ‘Bulletin’ and published on 6th March. The ‘Bulletin’ and the ‘Daily Telegraph’ are both produced by Consolidated Press Ltd. The article written by Mr Samuel related to the activities of the Joint Intelligence Organisation. The substance of Samuel’s article was based largely on briefing from the Minister for Defence. So it seems more than a happy coincidence that the report by Mr Baudino should bear such close similarity in essential details to the report by Mr Samuel which appeared on the 6th instant. This is the first point, and although one cannot be- certain that the Minister for Defence provided the information for both stories he certainly provided it for Mr Samuel’s article, and one strongly suspects that it was from somewhere near the same source that the information for Mr Baudino’s article came.
In response to advice from Mr Baudino to the Prime Minister that this article would be printed Mr Gorton, as Prime Minister, contacted General Daly of the Army. He claims to have telephoned the then Minister for Defence to advise him of his intention. It is asserted by the former Prime Minister that subsequently Mr Fraser acknowledged that the contact had been made at his home, but that he was absent at the time. The member for Wannon regarded this meeting with General Daly as a crucial issue. It was, in his terms, violating the chain of authority and, according to him, is the cause for his announcing his resignation in utter contempt of and as an expression of objection against the practices of the Prime Minister.
The Samuel article appeared on the 6th instant, the same day, again by another coincidence, as an article by Mr Alan Ramsey - an inspired leak one might call it - appeared in the ‘Australian’. Just by chance the article by Ramsey seems to counterbalance the leak which was covered in the article by Samuel. It is reported that Prime Minister Gorton refused to discuss General Daly’s allegations against the then Minister for Defence; and these were serious allegations. General Daly accused the Minister for Defence, Mr Fraser, of leaking to the Press, of disloyalty to the Minister for the Army (Mr Peacock) and of shelving blame on to the Army and, by implication, on to the Minister for the Army. The Prime Minister has blithely suggested that he has no responsibility to answer these serious allegations. As I pointed out in the House the other day, there is a well-established principle in criminal and civil law which has developed over the centuries. I quote from Cross’s publication ‘On Evidence’ 1968, at page 98, which states:
The possibility of inferring an admission from silence or an insufficiently strenuous denial lies at the root of the law governing the admissibility of statements made in the presence of the parties in general.
Phipson in his publication ‘On Evidence’, the 9th edition, states:
A party’s silence will render statements made in his presence or hearing only, evidence against him of their truth, provided he is reasonably called on to reply thereto.
So the former Prime Minister took no opportunity to reply to the allegations, which were of a very serious nature, directed against a senior colleague of his, and it is quite clear that he was a party in this game. He was setting about to discredit his senior Minister just as. subsequently, his senior Minister was out to undermine his position.
Before I move on to the case of the then Minister for Defence one must pose a question as to just how genuine was the moral outrage of the Minister for Defence at the behaviour of the former Prime Minister - the outrage which caused him to resign, when, in fact, as late as Sunday evening he was able to arrive at the Prime Minister’s Lodge, as claimed by the then Prime Minister - which can be easily verified by checking the police visitors book at the
Lodge - and, according to the Prime Minister, conduct a reasonably amicable conversation or discussion about the situation of conflict between him and the Prime Minister as reported by the Press and as it had developed to that point. One feels suspicious about what transpired after he left the Prime Minister’s Lodge if this amicable relationship did exist - and we have no evidence to deny that it did exist. What telephone calls were made by the honourable member for Wannon and whoever else may have had telephone conversations from the time he left the Prime Minister’s Lodge and the next day when he decided to resign, because right up to this point there is no evidence that although these things had occurred which had allegedly upset him, he was so upset that he intended to take this extreme action or, indeed, that he had more than mildly objected to the Prime Minister? There was every evidence, according to the Prime Minister, that the relationship between him and the Minister for Defence would continue as a working thing and as a partnership in the Cabinet.
Then we come to the role of the then Minister for Defence. Frankly, he comes out of the whole procedure in a very discredited light. If one relates his statements with the article by the editor in the Bulletin’ of 13th March at pages 22 and 23, which is a reply to his statement, one finds that there are many inconsistencies between what he said in the House and what apparently did transpire between him and Mr Samuel, the journalist for the Bulletin’ who wrote an article which was published on 6th March in the ‘Bulletin’ under the title ‘The Australian Army’s “Revolt” in Vietnam’. This article caustically assailed the Army and accused it in plain terms of subverting civilian policy as denned and directed by the Government. If one examines the statement made last week by the honourable member for Wannon when he announced his resignation, one detects the first inconsistency or first unconvincing statement by him. He said:
In the article-
That is, the article in the ‘Daily Telegraph’ -
If one reads this article by Mr Baudino, one sees that there is no such implication at all. 1 repeat what I said earlier; it bears a remarkable resemblance in content and approach to the article by Mr Samuel in the ‘Bulletin’ of the 6th instant. At page 3 of the statement, the honourable member for Wannon said in relation to the article which appeared in the ‘Bulletin’:
I had. in Iiic week before, given a background briefing to Mr Peter Samuel. . . .
Let us see what the background briefing is described as in the ‘Bulletin’. Of this story,
Ihe editor of the ‘Bulletin’ states:
On Monday, February 22. Mr Malcolm Fraser’* Press secretary rang The Bulletin’s Canberra correspondent Peter Samuel lo say that the Minister wanted lo see him. Fie had a good story.
This is a totally different thing from a briefing or a background explanation of developments in the Department of Defence, in a particular defence service or in Vietnam. This, in the crude jargon in this environment in which we operate, was a leak and this is what the then Minister for Defence had set about.
Again on page .1 of his statement, the honourable member for Wannon said:
Whatever the fault, the result was a story wilh an interpretation thai I regarded ns inaccurate. 1 refer again to the article in the ‘Bulletin’ on 13th March. The article, speaking of the former Minister, states:
He asked Mr Samuel it’ he would deny having received such a briefing.
Earlier in the article, the editor states:
Apart from these 2 points he had no complaints about the story.
What were these 2 points? The 2 points were criticism of ihe use of the word ‘misleading’ because the honourable member for Wannon said that what he meant was that the reports had been ‘inadequate’. The article states in regard lo Ihe second point:
Mc also said that he did not necessarily think that the Army’s decision to take the Task Force out of the province after the Tet offensive was wrung, as he had implied in his briefing.
This is completely different from the suggestion that was put to us in this House by the honourable member for Wannon. He said:
Whatever the fault, the result was a story with an interpretation that I regarded as inaccurate.
At no stage has the honourable member for Wannon set about indicating specifically where these inaccuracies are. Frankly, I think that the integrity and credibility of the honourable member for Wannon, who has high hopes of reappointment to a senior position in the Ministry, are placed in a serious light.
On the same page of the distributed statement, speaking of Mr Samuel’s story, the honourable member for Wannon said:
When it is read fully it will be seen (Hat some of my comments on the article are related to perspective and interpretation rather than a denial.
Again, this is a quibble about words. I refer again to the article in the ‘Bulletin’ on 13th March. The ‘Bulletin’ reports:
When Mr Samuel showed him a carbon copy. Mr Fraser criticised the use of Ihe word ‘misleading’ to describe Army reports from Vietnam. What he had meant, he said, was that the reports had been ‘inadequate’.
When the security of a defence unit is involved, I suggest that there is not much difference between ‘misleading’ and inadequate’. If the reports are wilfully inadequate, they are gravely misleading and the Army is culpable for irresponsibility in this respect. 1 turn to page 4 of the statement distributed by the honourable member for Wannon. Here he speaks of the Army’s activities in Phuoc Tuy province. He states: lt was not that ihe Army was out of Phuoc Tuy that was of concern but the fact that the price paid in some loss of security in Phuoc Tuy in 1968 during and after the Tei offensive was not brought adequately (o attention under the reporting system then used.
In fact, according to the article from which I have quoted in the ‘Bulletin’, the former Minister for Defence did imply directly that the Army was wrong to move out of this area. When he makes this sort of statement, the honourable member for Wannon is quibbling on a matter of semantics.
On page 5 of his circulated statement, the honourable member for Wannon states:
I started to criticise the report but was told that the printing press would be rolling already.
He was told this on 2nd March when he called Mr Samuel to his home to discuss the report with him. In actual fact, he did not criticise the report but he “indicated very clearly that as a result of rather sensational and rather damaging developments which had occurred since he had made this statement initially he had changed the way in which he wanted to express himself. What had really happened was that the former Prime Minister and the former Minister for Defence had been caught out in a thoroughly discreditable performance of one using the Press against the other, a practice which has been resorted to by many Ministers in the Government. It is a complete dereliction of the collective responsibility of Cabinet and the Government deserves a vole of no confidence from the people.
– Mr Speaker-
– I take a point of order. Mr Speaker, will you find out what those 2 Government members over there are doing?
– Order! No point of order arises.
– Mr Speaker, I ask for leave to make a personal explanation.
– If the Minister claims to have been misrepresented, leave is not required.
– Well, I wish to make a personal explanation.
– Does the Minister claim to have been misrepresented?
– Mr Speaker, yes, I have been misrepresented. Several Opposition speakers in this debate have stated thatI did not know about the increase in social service benefits until it was announced in this House by the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon). That, Sir, is completely and utterly untrue. While one is used to the kind of sanctimonious piffle that one gets from the honourable member for Lang–
– Order! The Minister will not continue in that vein.
– Thank you.
– Mr Speaker!
– I call the honourable member for Riverina.
– In the debate tonight, Mr Speaker- - -
– Does the honourable member wish to speak in the debate or on a point of order?
– I am sorry, Mr Speaker. I was just making my address to the House.
– Order! The honourable member for Riverina will resume his seat. I call the Minister for Labour and National Service.
– Mr Speaker, this is the sixth motion of no confidence moved in this House in the last 16 months-
– Mr Speaker. I am sorry to interrupt, but I now ask: As I believe that the personal explanation has been disposed of, is the Minister now speaking to that?
– The Minister is participating in the debate.
– But 1 thought you called me.
– I did call the honourable member, but I thought he was seeking to speak on a point of order.
– I see. I will resume my seat.
– I again call the Minister for Labour and National Service.
- Mr Speaker, this is the sixth motion of no confidence moved in this Parliament in 16 months. This motion of no confidence is a mere tactic for the parliamentary polemics which poured out from the Opposition today. Typical of them is the repeated assertion that has been made in this House that my colleague, the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson) did not know of the decision to increase pensions before it was announced. It arose this way: It is a long standing practice that when an important announcement is made in this House the same statement will be made in the Senate by the Minister who represents there the Minister who made the statement in this House. The nature of the question asked by Senator Murphy was:
Are we now to have these important national announcements made in circumstances where even the Leader of the Government in the Senate is not told of them beforehand or is not given an opportunity to inform the Senate?
That was an assertion. It has been continuously repeated without warrant or justification by the Opposition, and in many ways it typifies the attitude of the Opposition in this debate. It is prepared to make allegations unsupported by fact. The
Leader of the Government in the Senate immediately responded and said: 1 cannot be expected to give a responsible answer to the Leader of the Opposition about something which he has presumably heard.
Presumably, the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate was sitting in this chamber and heard what was said while the Leader of the Government was silling where he should have been - in the Senate chamber, if any statements are to be made in this place, they are made nl the proper time in accordance with the procedures of this House. With great respect to Senator Murphy. 1 think that what he has done today is singularly inappropriate and I hope that, upon reflection, he will think so. Apparently he does not think so because no doubt the information that has led to the perpetration of the continued assertion that Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson did not know of that decision when quite clearly he did, came from him.
The events of last week have been greatly publicised, and 1 will not traverse them in any detail. They were resolved in the Liberal Party room. They are past and the Party’s future will be built on the 2 essential points that remain. Firstly, a new Leader of the Liberal Party has been elected, and he is now the Prime Minister. Secondly, there will be continuity of a policy of free enterprise for the individual member of society, and an equitable social system is preserved for this Parliament. As to the new Leader who has been elected by the Liberal Parly, he has had more than 20 years experience in more portfolios than the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) today cared to take the time to recite. He did not care to enumerate them. The record of the Leader of the Liberal Party stands. The Opposition professed to admire him at earlier times, but now for political purposes it jettisons its claim to objectivity.
The Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) does not serve alone. He has with him Ministers, from senior Ministers with long experience to the newer ones, and they all have pledged their support. Tonight in this chamber we heard the Minister for Defence (Mr Gorton) so pledge himself. We can add to this the unanimous support of all other members of the Parliamentary Liberal Party. Their support is not a mere willingness to go along; it is a conviction that in the policies of the Liberal Party, in coalition with the Australian Country Party, Australia’s interests are best served. They have equally the conviction that this country’s progress will be impeded by a Socialist Labor government. The Country Party Leader (Mr Anthony) has committed his Party - I am sure unanimously - to maintain the Government in office here and at the polls. We are rightly confident that we will identify and correctly handle the problems that lie between us today and the polls in 1972. Whether wc are to have that opportunity depends on the vote shortly to be taken. Given the attitudes 1 have described, I am confident we will.
The second essential point I make concerns continuity of policy. The Leader of the Opposition has succeeded in injecting the usual semantics into his arguments. He puts emphasis on the statement by the Prime Minister that ‘all policies arc open to review’.- Of course they are - in our Party, in our way, in the Party’ room and in the Cabinet room. He does not understand this concept, living in his environment of a disciplined policy regime dictated by a nonelected body, lt would have more neatly fitted into a dusty cranny of the ALP if the Prime Minister had said: ‘No policies are subject to review’. lt is a quite extraordinary contradiction that the Australian Labor Party should be so reactionary in its attitudes and yet have picked up the banner of radicalism to humour some of its members. ‘Put out more flags’, wrote Evelyn Waugh. ‘Pui out more banners’, echo the intellectuals. ‘Put out more Socialism’, respond the sages of power in the ALP. But the Leader of the Opposition says: ‘How is that statement, that policy is subject to review, consistent with the other claims to continuity?’ The Government will maintain the broad sweep of policies we began in this Parliament after the 1969 elections. We will maintain the security of this country by developing selfsufficient and versatile armed forces. Wc will continue to act as responsible and reliable neighbours in this area of the world. In particular, we will advance Papua and New Guinea further towards selfgovernment.
Our attitude to economic affairs has always been one of support for a policy of full employment and the development of our natural resources. We have taken action on some of the long term problems of rural industries. Further study on the needs of the rural sector is proceeding and will continue to produce steps to deal with the problems. Recognising the importance of transport in the cost structure of the economy, we are establishing the Bureau of Transport Economics to provide us with better information to use as a basis for policy formulation. We have achieved a new and more comprehensive health scheme. We will continue to seek better CommonwealthState relations. That is just to name some of our programmes. AH of these programmes and the others that have been introduced or announced will be maintained and strengthened by the McMahon Government. The Government’s philosophy is still the same. The’ policy initiatives are still valid.
We have a Government majority of seven. In this vote you, Mr Speaker, will be in the Chair. The seat for the electorate of Murray is temporarily vacant. The honourable member for Herbert (Mr Bonnett) is hospitalised and unpaired. Temporarily his health would be endangered to to come here. The Leader of the Opposition has refused him a pair. Our majority will hold and will continue to hold in support of the Prime Minister, the parties and the Government. The Constitution provides that a parliament is elected for a 3-year term. That is the basis on which the parties conduct their politics. That is the basis that people understand. That is the way the Governor-General considers the matter. He grants a dissolution in less than 3 years when he is satisfied that no persons commands a majority on the floor of the House of Representatives. This is historic. This is the institution of government and of Parliament, and it will not be bent to the ambitions of the ALP or of its Leader.
We will soon know whether a majority supports the Prime Minister. But it is worth asking the rhetorical question: ‘Why does the Leader of the Opposition want an election?’ He believes, apparently, that he has an advantage if we poll now. Perhaps he has, but he has no great record as a political tipster. Cruising around his mind is the aphorism ‘Governments get defeated - Oppositions don’t get elected’. He could testify to the accuracy of the second part after all these years, and I think there is a spine tingling excitement in him that perhaps the first part sometimes is true. It would solve, so many of his problems if he could avoid developing positive policies. That is when the Labor Party really has problems.
The problem for the Opposition is that it is viable only as an Opposition. It has a critical faculty perfected by practice. But when it enters the sphere of positives - of creating positive and consistent policy - it finds the rainbow rather difficult to run down. Whenever a leader in the Labor Party makes a policy statement on an issue it causes dismay and dissention in some quarter. There are, and always have been, factions in the Party. Examples are well known to those who follow public affairs. What sore of compatibility exists on the fundamental issue of tariff policy between the Leader of the Opposition and the shadow Minister for Trade and Industry, the honourable member for Lalor (Dr J. F. Cairns)? One of them says: ‘There was a day when tariffs were necessary to give industrial employment in Australia. Our tariff structure is one of the principal causes of inflation and rising prices.’ The other has been - and in spite of his recent re-assessment still remains - an archprotectionist. I leave it to the House to decide which is which.
What of the howl of dismay that went up during the last Senate election campaign when Mr Whitlam dipped into his Pandora’s box of tricks and pulled out Indonesia as the forward line of defence? Who in the Labor Party does and does not wish to leave troops in Singapore? The Party cannot speak with accord on conscription unless it ignores the defence issues, and it finds this the preferable course. What of industrial policy, as far as there is one? Does the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden) speak for the Labor Party on arbitration matters, or is it to be the shadow Minister for Labour and National Service, the honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron), who just a week or so ago openly and categorically disagreed with the honourable member for Oxley? As far as rural policies are concerned, the electors’ view of the ALP policy depends on whether they listen to the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson), who is supposed to be the Opposition spokesman on rural affairs, or the honourable member for Riverina (Mr Grassby), who seems to do most of the talking, as he is trying to do now. On immigration policy there is a definite conflict within the Australian Labor Party. The honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Daly) has in the past supported a bi-partisan immigration policy. He has always done this and has always been most consistent. The honourable member has described the Labor Party’s policy as being similar to that of the Government. Mr Dunstan, the Labor Premier of South Australia, clearly disagrees. But then an honourable member on his white charger came in to resolve the issue. In an attmpt to avoid conflict the honourable member for Prospect (Dr Klugman) is reported to have said that Labor’s policy was meant to be ambiguous and there was room in the Party for varying interpretations.
Have we witnessed loyal support and deep accord between the Leader of the Opposition in this chamber, the honourable member for Werriwa, and the Leader of the Opposition in the other place, Senator Murphy? Rather we have been seeing a long standing conflict between the 2 on a number of matters, none so obvious as the issue of organisational philosophy and practice within their Party. Time does not permit more than a mere mention of the schisms of right and left in the Australian Labor Party. Periodically it is denied there are 2 wings - but the machine cannot fly on one and currently great effort is going into getting them to flap together. Then, of course, during an election campaign it is London to a brick that somebody will make a most damaging statement. The Leader of the Opposition is a practised giver and receiver of the shock announcement during an election campaign. The conduct of industrial relations by a Labor government would be quite impossible. If it attempted responsibility it would tear off massive pieces of the flesh of its support - the trade union movement. When did the Opposition last condemn a strike? It gives support, more especially when strikes are politically based, for which there can be no settlement. When did the Opposition argue positively for increased productivity which is the real base on which our national economy rests? When did the Opposition argue positively for the training of men and women to realise their skill potential so that they can find work satisfaction and contribute more to the community, or for management skill which is an integral part of an efficiency drive?
When did the Opposition ask for anything except fewer working hours and more wages? When will it understand that prices will rise if costs rise and that when wages go up costs will rise without productivity improvement? When will the Opposition understand this? Members of the Opposition cannot contribute to an economic debate - they are cliche bound. In opposition the Australian Labor Party is a pity; in government it would be disasterous. We stand collectively as 2 parties and as individual members who make up each of the parties. We stand committed to the development of this nation in every way and to the welfare of the people whom we were elected to serve. We all will continue that commitment in the knowledge that this is what the Australian people want. We, the Liberal Party with our Australian Country Party colleagues, were elected to do this and, together, do it we will.
– The Parliament debates tonight against the background of the-
Motion (by Mr Giles) proposed:
That the question be now put.
– I rise on a point of order. Mr Speaker, as the custodian of the rights and the privileges of the Parliament, is it proper procedure when a Government is facing a motion of censure for debate to be gagged in this’ way?
– Order! There is no point of order. In fact, the procedure is correct.
– It is nevertheless a disgrace.
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr Speaker - Hon. Sir William Aston)
Majority . . . . 4
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Mr GRASSBY (Riverina)- Mr Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
That the motion (Mr Whitlam’s) be agreed to.
The House divided. (Mr Speaker - Hon. Sir William Aston)
Majority . . . . 4 .
Question so resolved in the negative.
Motion (by Mr Snedden) proposed:
That the House do now adjourn.
- Mr Speaker-
Motion (by Mr Snedden) put:
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr Speaker - Honourable Sir William Aston)
Majority . . . . 4
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 9.57 p.m.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
Australian Capital Territory: Teachers Salaries (Question No. 2209)
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The information in the form requested is not available within my Department. The New South Wales Department of Education has indicated also that it is not in a position to provide an answer in the form requested. However, the aggregate amount paid to New South Wales for teachers’ salaries for these years is set out in item 2 of the table in the answer to Question No. 2219.
asked the Minister for Education and Science, upon notice:
What progress has been made in each of the four principal sectors of the’ survey (Project SCORE) which his Department is conducting into research and development expenditure and activities in Australia.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Fifty-one Commonwealth departments and instrumentalities have furnished details of their research and development expenditure and activities for the financial year 1968-69. This information is now being collated and analysed.
Details of the proposed survey of research and development in this area have been discussed with representatives of departments and instrumentalities in 5 States. A total of 7 departments in 3 States have collaborated in pilot studies to test the feasibility of proposed procedures for conducting the survey. Procedures are now being finalised and the full-scale survey of this area will commence shortly.
My Department and the Department of Trade and Industry have launched a joint survey of research and development in the manufacturing and mining industries. A questionnaire was sent late in January 1971 to some 13,000 firms in these industries seeking details of their research and development expenditure for the financial year 1968-69.
The survey of relevant activities of business organisations outside of the manufacturing and mining industries has not yet been commenced, but planning is proceeding.
HIGHER EDUCATION SECTOR
Selected departments in 3 universities have collaborated in pilot studies to test the feasibility of proposed procedures for conducting the survey. Procedures are now being finalised and the fullscale survey will commence shortly of research and development expenditure and activities of the universities during 1969.
Planning of the survey of relevant activities of the Colleges of Advanced Education has not been finalised.
PRIVATE NON-PROFIT ORGANISATIONS
Planning of the survey of relevant expenditure and activities in this sector has not been finalised.
asked the Minister for Shipping and Transport, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The Australian Transport Advisory Council has not specifically examined this proposal. However, the Advisory Committee on Safety in Vehicle Design, a Committee of the ATAC, is kept informed of the future programme of the United States Safety Bureau and will examine this proposal along with a number of other safety standards prepared by the United States.
asked the Minister for Edu cation and Science, upon notice:
How many persons who were students at (a) the Geelong High School, Bell Park High School, Mathew Flinders Girls’ High School and North Geelong High School, (b) St Joseph’s College (Geelong) and Sacred Heart College (Geelong) and (c) The Hermitage (Geelong), Geelong Grammar School and Geelong College in 1970 were granted Commonwealth secondary school scholarships.
– The following numbers of students, who in 1970 were attending each of the schools listed here, successfully competed for the Commonwealth Secondary scholarships available at the beginning of 1971:
asked the Minister for Educa tion and Science, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Butter (Question No, 2271)
asked the Minister for
Primary Industry, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice:
Is he able to say which public water supplies in Australia are (a) fluoridated and (b) not fluoridated.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
New South Wales-
Sydney, Wollongong, Tamworlh, Orange, Goulburn, Grafton, Queanbeyan, Richmond - Windsor, Nowra - Bomaderry, Griffith, Cooma, The Entrance, Parkes, Forbes, Cowra, Toukley - Gorokan - Budgewoi, Leeton, Wellington, Glen Innes, Yass, Bega, Condobolin, Camden, Moss Vale, Hay, Nyngun, Gilgandra, Cobar, Helensburg, Maclean, Macksville, Mullumbimby, Nambucca Heads, Wyong, Manilla. Warragamba, Uralla, Walcha, Piclon, Bowraville, Berry, Cambewarra, Huskisson, Green well Point, Culburra, Shoalhavcn Heads, Urbenville, Woodenbong, Urana, Oaklands, Berridale, Jindabyne, Bundanoon, Exeter, Sutton Forrest, Berrima, Tuggerah, Ourimbah, Chittaway Point, Tacoma, Brushgrove, Chatsworth, Harwood, Lawrence, Yamba, Coldstream, Cowper, Swan Creek, Tucabia, Ulmurra, Junction Hill, Mungindi.
Tongala, Bacchus Marsh.
Townsville, Dalby, Biloela, Gold Coast, Killarney, Mareeba, Proserpine, Wandoan, Allora.
South Australia -
Western Australia -
Metropolitan. Goldfields, Manjimup, Geraldton, Albany.
Australian Capital Territory -
Canberra Water Supply.
Hobart, Launceston, Beaconsfield.
Health Programme (Question No. 2280)
asked the Minister for
Health, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Details of the legislation under my control are as follows:
States Grants (Paramedical Services) Act
States Grants (Nursing Homes) Act
Australian Capital Territory: Hospital’s (Question No. 2169)
asked the Minister for
Health, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Patients for surgical treatment whose form is marked ‘urgent’ are. admitted within 10 days. This period of time would depend to a large degree on the frequency of operating sessions of the particular surgeon, as well as bed availability. There would be approximately 6-8 surgical patients per week who are admitted under this ‘urgent’ category.
The admission of a patient may be delayed for a period exceeding 2 weeks in cases of elective or minor surgery. As at 22nd February 1971, the number of these patients awaiting admission to the Hospital was 1 ,469.
As regards the last part of your question, no patient is deferred if he requires emergency admission for urgent medical reasons. A bed would always be available for any patient requiring immediate admission in such circumstances.
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The following grants have been awarded by the Council since 1968:
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice:
What payments were made to the hospital benefits organisations by their members in 1969-70.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Payments made to the hospital benefits organisations by their members in 1969-70, including Special Account, amounted to $124,266,469. (This is a preliminary figure and is subject to confirmation.)
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 15 March 1971, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1971/19710315_reps_27_hor71/>.