18th Parliament · 2nd Session
The President (Senator the Hon. Gordon Brown) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– Is the Postmaster-
General aware that employees are leaving his department daily because of the low rates of salaries paid to them compared with rates offered by private enterprise? How many claims on behalf of postal employees are at present bef ore the Commonwealth PublicService Arbitrator? Can anything be done to expedite the hearing of those claims; and when are they likely to be heard?
– I should like to emphasize that since the Government took office it has taken active and realistic steps to improve the working conditions of Commonwealth public servants and of workers generally. Special attention has ‘been given to the salaries of Commonwealth Public Service employees, and whilst salary increases have been granted to all sections of the Service, postal staffs have obtained particular benefit because of the large number ofemployees in the lower salary groups who were recently granted substantial rises. Apart from the higher rates announced recently by the Prime Minister, in which approximately 55,000postal employees participated, all post office staffs, in common with other service employees, received in 1947, increases of 25 per cent. of their margin above the basic wage.In addition, individual postal groups have been granted special increases by way of consent arbitration determinations which have followed upon discussions between the Public Service Board, the department, and the public service organizations concerned. As the result of wage increases since 1941,postal employees are now benefiting to the amount of approximately £3,500,000 a year.
A recent survey shows that, generally speaking, salaries payable to postalstaffs compare favorably with rates prescribed for comparative work by outside awards. It should be recognized, however, that whilst the Postal Department is bound to award rates, outside employers are able to pay higher rates in competing for employees ‘ during the current labour shortage. The Government has also-given special consideration to general working conditions, and liberal amenity standards have been adopted for general observance. The Post Office is implementing these standards as rapidly as possible, and during the past two years its welfare staff has-been augmented to ensure the expeditious handling of all matters affecting the well-being of employees. As an example of what is being done the department conducts 27 separate food service establishments at which reasonably priced and high-quality meals are provided. The effect of improvements in salaries and working conditions since this Government has been in office is also illustrated by the number of men and women seeking entry to the Post Office permanent staff. Results of examinations for appointment as postal officer, lineman and technician have recently been announced, and it is significant that in these days of labour shortage the successful candidates totalled 3,295, 1,958 and 854 respectively. I am aware that some members of the Post Office Staff are leaving the department for outside fields, but this condition applies mainlyto temporary employees. In many instances the training given by the department has fitted the employees for lucrative positions in other organizations, and this state of affairs will always exist. In regard to the second part of the honorable senator’s question, arrangements were made some time ago to provide an assistant to the Public Service Arbitrator for the purpose of facilitating the hearing of claims. The Arbitrator’s assistant hears some cases to finality and then reports to the Arbitrator, who issues his determination. As a result of this action by the Government, there are at present only two salaries claims affecting postal staffs awaiting hearing. One of these was amended by the union as late as the 18th February, 1949, in the light of recent salary increases, and the other was lodged on the 14th February, 1949. Honorable senators will appreciate from the information that I have given that the Government is doing everything possible to improve conditions in the Public Service and to ensure the expeditious hearing of claims submitted by staff organizations, and they may- be assured that this policy will be continued.
– Is the Minister for Shipping and Fuel aware that the Siam section of the Burma-Siam railway built by the Japanese with Allied war prisoner labour was sold to Siam for £1,250,000? In view of the fact that the labour of Australian prisoners of war contributed largely to its construction, did the Australian Government receive any part of the money paid for the railway? If not, can the Minister supply any information as to the progress of claims that have been made by Australian prisoners of war for part of the money to be paid to them as reparations and recompense for their sufferings at the hands of the Japanese ?
– A similar question that was asked in the House of Representatives recently was answered by the Prime Minister in the following terms : -
In 1940 the Governments of the United Kingdom, Malaya, Burma and the Netherlands East Indies, when faced with the problem of dismantling the Burma-Siam railway with a view to recovering from it railway equipment looted from their territories, reached the conclusion that, dismantled, the railway would be worthless. In these circumstances the governments agreed to sell that portion of the railway in Siam to the Government of Siam for the sum of £1,250,000. Of this sum the Government of Malaya received £(556,400, the Government of Burma £51,250, and the Government of the Netherlands East Indies £187,350, all in respect of looted railway equipment. The balance of £350,000 of the purchase price, it was agreed, should be paid into the general Japanese reparations pool. Australia has received no part of the price paid for the railway nor has any Allied Government taken the view that it should claim some portion of the proceeds in respect of the labour of its subjects employed as prisoners of war hy the Japanese in the construction of the railway. Any such claim can be taken into account when the question of disposing of the general Japanese reparations pool arises.
– Has the Minister for Shipping and Fuel read the report in to-day’s press that, according to the manager of a big oil company, there is no longer any need for petrol rationing, and that it is likely to end towards the end of the year ? Is there any foundation for that statement? Is there any possibility of an easing of petrol rationing?
– I have seen the statement to which the honorable senator has referred. I cannot give any assurance that petrol rationing will be abolished at an early date, and I do not think it right that any one, even though he may be in the trade, should make statements of that kind to the public of Australia when he should know that petrol rationing is being continued not because of a shortage of supplies, but to conserve dollars and thus assist Great Britain in its struggle towards economic recovery. The production of petrol in Borneo or any other “ soft “ currency area will not improve the position, because any demands made by Australia upon such sources will result in reduced supplies being available to Great Britain.
– Has the Minister for Trade and Customs seen the statement in this morning’s press that the revival of the Japanese export trade, and particularly the dumping of millions of yards of Japanese woven textiles on the American market, has seriously alarmed American business men? Is it a fact that a conference between the foreign trade division of General MacArthur’s Head-quarters and the signatories of the sterling area trade agreement which was completed last November will open in Tokyo on the 17th March? As Australia is a party to that agreement, what action does the Government propose to take to protect Australian industries against the dumping in this country of cheap Japanese goods manufactured by what has been termed “ coolie “ labour ?
– I saw bhp report in this morning’s press of the matter mentioned by the honorable senator.
Australia will be represented at the conference of sterling countries to be held in Tokyo next month. In reply to the last part of his question, concerning the dumping of goods in Australia by nations which produce goods by coolie labour, I point out that it has been the consistent policy of the present Government to protect Australian industry against the dumping of goods produced by cheap labour. The statements contained in the press report will be completely investigated, and L” shall communicate the result of the inquiries to the honorable senator at n later stage.
– I preface a question to the Minister for Trade and Customs by mentioning that I have previously written to the Minister on behalf of certain dairymen in Kadina, South Australia, complaining of the delay in the payment of the milk subsidy to which the dairymen claim they are entitled in respect of the period prior to the Commonwealth relinquishing control of prices. The Minister replied that arrangements were made for the Government of South Australia to continue the operation of h modified scheme of subsidy for the ensuing twelve months after December, 1947. Can the Minister inform me whether subsidies are still being paid by the Government of South Australia, and whether the Primary Producers’ Assistance Board of that State is administering the payment of subsidies in that State? As I understand that outstanding claims are still being held by the board pending the receipt of additional funds from the Commonwealth can the Minister say whether additional funds will be made available, and whether the Commonwealth or the State will provide them? Will payment be made to the dairy-farmers directly by the Commonwealth or by the Primary Producers’ Assistance Board? I point out that the Commonwealth has agreed that the subsidy should be paid from the time application was made to that board.
– When Senator Finlay mentioned this matter yesterday I said that I would endeavour to ascertain the facts insofar as the Government of South Australia was concerned. I have not been able to ascertain all the facts, but I have obtained the following information: In September, 1947, the Commonwealth asked the Government of South Australia in conjunction with the other State governments to resume control of whole milk prices and to lessen the impact of any increase in milk prices considered necessary by the State. The Commonwealth made available a subsidy of 4d. a gallon for six months in respect, of milk sold in the metropolitan area. That represented a curtailment of the previous subsidy payable by approximately one-third and to maintain a comparable position in rural areas a subsidy of two-thirds of the previous rate was made available to country districts. Tho South Australian Government resumed control of prices in the Adelaide area but it did not immediately have the legislative machinery to control maximum prices in the country. Accordingly th, Commonwealth, by means of prices regulation orders, has promulgated the various maximum prices desired by the State authorities. The subsidy was payable in respect of milk produced from the 1st October, 1947, to the 31st March. 1948. Claims were paid by the StateGovernment through the office of the Deputy Prices Commissioner, Adelaide. The State department fixed a closing date for the respective subsidy applications. That date has expired and it is understood that all eligible subsidy claims have now been settled.
I point out that the situation which developed in South Australia was different from that in other States. In other States, price-fixing authorities determined the price of milk outside the metropolitan area, and no subsidy was paid. I shall have inquiries made concerning Senator Finlay’s statement that a number of claims have not yet been settled. As far as I am aware all claims have been met. Although the amount made available by the Commonwealth for payment of subsidies was paid through State instrumentalities, I understand that in some instances the States paid more than the amounts given to them by tha Commonwealth. Consequently I understand that some claims are now being made, but there is no fund available from which to meet them. If that means that primary producers may have to Buffer, I am prepared to give sympathetic consideration to any question which may arise because of a mistake made by the State authorities, or anything of that nature.
– I have been reliably informed that “B” class ships possess advantages over “ D “ class ships for the handling of cargo. In future, will the Minister for Shipping and Fuel, before selling any further ships, consult with representatives of the seamen and waterside workers unions for the purpose of .obtaining opinions about those advantages ?
– The matter of the disposal of ships is one for decision by the Government. Inquiries have been made through the Australian Shipping Board and the Australian Shipbuilding Board to .ensure that any further ships built will incorporate improved accommodation for seaman and others who may have .to live on then?. Furthermore, consideration is given by the Australian Government to requests received fr.om those engaged in the shipping industry before ships are disposed of.
– -in view of the importance .of the toolmaking industry to this country, which was accentuated by requirements during the recent war, will the Minister for Trade and Customs consider giving every encouragement to the manufacturers of tools in this country by (a) where the demand is being adequately catered for locally, banning the importation of those articles, and (h) where a local manufacturer is working at a disadvantage, owing to a low tariff, raising the duties, in order to make his position safe?
– There is no doubt that to-day a number of small industries in this country such as those which are engaged in the making of tools are finding conditions, very difficult. Local industries that were established during the war, and since, are now meeting intensive competition as a result of other countries getting back into production.
The Government’s policy is to protect those industries by adequate tariffs. Indeed, that is the policy that has been agreed to by many nations. However, before the Government can impose a “tariff to provide greater pro1tection for any industry it is necessary that the matter be considered by the Tariff Board. When the Government receives a report from that board appropriate action can be taken. I do not desire to -be ruthless, but we must face the fact that, when an industry ls uneconomic and depends for its existence solely upon “ tariff protection, it is unfair to ask the Australian people to pay the greater prices involved in its maintenance. However, the policy of the Government is to give every help possible in the establishment and maintenance of economic industries because it realizes that if Australia is to be enabled to increase its population we must expand our industrial activities. I assure the honorable senator that the Government will give sympathetic .consideration to the matter he has raised. It is now being examined by the Tariff Board and the Government will watch the position closely.
-Recently I saw a photograph in the Tribune which purported to show a number of aborigines working in chains in Western Australia. The letterpress accompanying the photograph alleged that the aborigines had .been arrested on a serious charge and, without trial, had been working in chains for a period of eighteen months, when they were released, because the charge laid against them could not be proved. Will the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior inquire into those allegations? Should they be found to be correct, will he have brought to justice the persons responsible for treating those aborigines in that way, and ensure that such treatment of natives will not be allowed to recur ?
– I do not believe that any foundation exists for the allegations to which the honorable senator has referred. However, I shall bring the matter to the notice of the Minister for the Interior.
– Yesterday, Senator Aylett asked me whether a final decision had been made on the selection of the site for the aluminium industry in Tasmania. In my reply I inadvertently stated that the site had been selected at Beauty Point, whereas I meant to say Native Point. Naturally, my error has caused some misunderstanding which I now hasten to correct. The Government had a close look at a site at Native Point, but, because of the difficulties associated with building at that spot it decided to select the permanent site for the aluminium industry in the same area, on the same side of the TamarRiver, but a little closer to Launceston.
– As chairman,I present the report of the Public Works Committee on the following subject : -
Ordered to be printed.
asked the Minister for Shipping and Fuel, upon notice -
What quantity of iron and steel was shipped to Victoria between the 30th June, 1948, and the 31st December, 1948.
– The answers to the honorable senator’s question is as follows : -
The following steel was shipped to Victoria from the. 30th June, 1948, to the 31st December, 1948: - ex Newcastle, 52,642 tons; ex Port Kembla, 45,090 tons; total, 97,732 tons.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follows : - .
– On the 3rd March, Senator Large asked a question concerning the importation into Australia of American books. I now inform him that whilst adequate provision has been made for the importation from dollar areas of technical works and other books of the more essential types, dollar conservation is effected by the prohibition of the importation of such publications as works of fiction, home medical books, cookery books, English language dictionaries in the cheaper editions and children’s books. Cookerybooks to which the honorable senator drew special attention were not originally specifically prohibited, but when it was found that some importers were securing American cookery books against their dollar quota allocation for books, apparently on the assumption that they could be regarded as having a sufficient degree of essentiality, action was immediately taken to specify such books as being ineligible for importation from dollar countries. Some American cookery books have been imported against ‘the earlier quota allocations and no doubt these will temporarily appearon the Australian market. Cookery books are obtainable locally and from sterling countries. Books of any kind produced in and imported from sterling countries do not require a licence for their importation.
Motion (by Senator McKenna) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Pharmaceutical Benefits Act 1947.
Debate resumed from the 9th March (vide page 1098), on motion by Senator Ashley -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– The object of this measure is to increase benefits payable as compensation to seamen employed on vessels engaged on the Australian coast. The Opposition agrees that such benefits should be at least equal to those provided under the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act These men take many more risks than do ordinary workers who earn their living ashore. Generally their work is more arduous and their amenities are not so good as those of people who can return to their homes each night. The bill provides for higher rates of compensation all round. These rates correspond, in the main, with those that are now payable under the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act. Seamen will be entitled to compensation for any diseases which they may sustain as the result of the nature of their employment and for diseases that may be aggravated or renewed by their work. That will bring the Seamen’s Compensation Act more or less into line with the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act. I notice that the third schedule to the act provides for a compensation payment of £800 for the total and incurable loss of mental powers involving inability to work or the total and incurable paralysis of limbs or mental powers. That was on a parity with the compensation payable for the loss of both eyes, both hands, both feet or a hand and a foot. The bill now proposes to increase to £1,250 compensation for losses in the category of physical injuries, hut I have been unable to find in it any reference to the rate payable for mental disability. I have endeavoured to examine the bill as closely as possible, but the time at my disposal since it was introduced has been brief and I may have overlooked some special provision. I should like to know whether compensation for the loss of mental powers involving inability to work and for the paralysis of limbs or mental powers is dealt with in the first schedule, which provides for the payment of compensation on a weekly basis to any seaman who is suffering from a disability of a prolonged nature. I ask the Minister to clarify the position when he speaks in reply to the second-reading debate. One of the amendments proposed by the bill is to place the Crown in the Commonwealth and the States in the category of an employer. The Senate recently passed a bill providing for the establishment of a Commonwealth shipping line, which will result in the employment of numbers of seamen by the Commonwealth. Obviously it is essential that they should be brought within the scope of the Seamen’s Compensation Act. The bill also provides that radio officers who sustain disabilities shall be compensated’ under the provisions of the ships’ officers award. As the bill will bring the Seamen’s Compensation Act into line with the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act, the Opposition has no desire to delay its passage.
– The schedules to the bill specify no age limits for compensation payments. Rates have been assessed only for specific disabilities, such as loss of a right hand or a left hand. I consider that rates of compensation should have some reference to the age of an injured person. A man of 21 years who loses a leg or an arm suffers a far greater disability than does a man nearing the end of his working days who sustains a similar injury. Yet the same amount of compensation will be payable under this bill in each case. I consider that special provision should be made for the payment of higher rates than are specified to young men who may be injured.
– I support the bill. It will bring the Seamen’s Compensation Act into line with other legislation of the same character which has been amended recently in order to conform to present economic conditions. It will effect increases similar to those recently introduced into the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act, which was amended in accordance with alterations that had been made to State laws. Recently the steamer Bombo sank off the coast of New South Wales and only two members of its crew survived. The bill will increase the amount of compensation payable to the principal dependant of a dead seaman from £800 to £1,000. The amounts payable for dependants other than the first will be increased from £25 to £50. Other rates of compensation will also be increased. That is in keeping with the trend of our economic conditions. I agree that the age of a person who suffers incapacity is most important. The loss of a limb is not nearly so serious to a man of say 60 years of age, as it is to a young man who has all his life ahead of him, and who perhaps, is just entering the period of his greatest efficiency as a human being. Partial incapacity may deprive a young man, not only of his ability to earn a full wage, but also of his opportunity to enjoy the benefits and privileges of a full life. On the other hand an elderly man is not so seriously affected if he is deprived of further full enjoyment of life’s pleasures. He is beyond participation in active sport, and is incapable of heavy physical work. I believe, therefore, that the adoption of ii sliding scale of compensation payments according to age is well worthy of consideration. I notice too that compensation payments for the loss of left members are less than those payable for the loss of right members. That would seem to prejudice the left-handed or ambidextrous employee. For instance, I can use my left hand in some ways as well as I can. use my right hand. The schedule specifies a compensation payment of £1,000 for the loss of a right arm, but only £900 for the loss of a left arm. I do not believe, that left-handed or ambidextrous persons should be penalized in this way. No such differentiation is made in regard to the loss of an ear.
By introducing this measure the Government is doing the right thing by the men who are engaged in seafaring and the maritime industry generally. Their compensation provisions are being brought up to the standard of those in other workers’ compensation legislation. I support the bill.
. - in reply - In answer to the point raised by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Cooper), I have to state that provision is made for the cases that he mentioned to be covered by weekly compensation payments.
– They are fully covered ?
– Yes. Senator Arnold advocated a graduated scale of compensation payments according to age. The uniform scale provided in this measure is in line with the provisions of other compensation legislation. The honorable senator’s suggestion no doubt has much to commend it, but I point out that the reverse argument could be used. It could be claimed that a young man who suffers the loss of a limb will find it much easier to adapt himself to his new circumstances, than will an elderly man incurring similar incapacity. I have known young mcn in industry to work with artificial limbs almost as well as they did prior to their injury; but the loss of a limb may have much more drastic effects on a man of middle age. He may not be able to accustom himself to his new circumstances as readily as can a younger person. I remind the honorable senator that these matters have been examined by experts both of the States and of the Commonwealth. The honorable senator’s argument in favour of increased payments for younger men could be applied with equal validity to other compensation legislation. This bill merely brings seamen’s compensation provisions into line with the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act.
I am informed that section 5b (2.) of the principal act covers the special claims of left-handed employees. However, that matter can be further examined in committee, and if there is any other information that the honorable senator desires.
Ishall be pleased to provide it when the bill reaches the committee stage.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to.
Clause 3 (Interpretation).
. -This clause provides that “ seaman “ means - an apprentice, a pilot or any other person employed or engaged in any capacity on board a ship in connexion with the navigation or working of the ship, but does not include a master, mate, engineer or radio officer of a ship;
– Yes. The only exceptions are radio officers who have asked to be excluded.
SenatorO’Sullivan. - A stewardess would receive the same compensation as a seaman?
.- “ Judge of a County Court “ is defined as including -
When the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act was before this chamber, attention was drawn to the fact that no provision was made for an independent arbitrator to determine compensation payments. As the Minister for Shipping and Fuel (Senator Ashley) has said, workers’ compensation is a matter for experts. I should like to know whether the definition to which I have referred means that any stipendiary or police magistrate may exercise the right to determine compensation payments under this legislation. That task. I submit, is one for a man possessing special qualifications. In most States, a certain number of judges are engaged solely on workers’ compensation cases. In New South Wales, for instance, there are at present three judges whose work is confined solely to such cases. I do not think that it is right that a stipendiary or police magistrate who may have no special knowledge whatever of compensation matters, should have the right to assess payments for incapacity caused by an accident or by an occupational disease. I think that a more careful selection should be made of those who are to dispense justice under the Seamen’s Compensation Act.
– The proposed amendments do not interfere with the basic provisions of the principal act. Sub-section 3 of section 5 of that act is as follows : -
If any question arises, in any proceedings under this Act, as to the liability to pay compensation under this Act (including any question as to whether the person injured isa seaman to whom this Act applies), or as to the amount or duration of compensation under this Act, the question, if not settled by agreement, shall, subject to the provisions of the First Schedule to this Act, be settled by arbitration, in accordance with the Second Schedule to this Act, or by proceedings ina County Court.
The present measure does not interfere with those provisions, but is intended merely to improve the awards provided for compensations.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 4 to 10 agreed to.
Clause 11 (Amendment of the First Schedule).
SenatorRANKIN (Queensland) [3.58]. - The Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act provides that an amount of £25 shall be paid towards the funeral expenses of a Commonwealth worker without dependants who is killed. No similar provision appears to have been included in the bill, and I should like some explanation from the Minister for Shipping and Fuel (Senator Ashley) of the reason for the apparent omission.
– Provision was made in the principal act to cover such cases, and that provision will not be interfered with by the present measure.
– Does the proposed provision for a seaman who is totally incapacitated cover those who become mentally deficient?
Clause agreed to.
Clause 12 agreed to.
Clause 13 (The Third Schedule).
– Senator Murray raised a very important point during his speech on the second-reading debate of the measure concerning the rights of a seaman who habitually uses his left hand and sustains injury to that member. The Minister for Shipping and Fuel (Senator Ashley) stated that he would deal with that matter in committee. Will he now elucidate the position?
– Sub-section 2 of section 5b of the principal act provides -
(2.) Where as seaman habitually uses his left hand and arm to perform work usually performed by seamen with the right hand and arm, the compensation payable to theseaman under this section shall be -
Clause agreed to.
Clause 14 agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
In committee: Consideration resumed from the 9th March (vide page 1143).
Part V. (Legislation) -
– Inotethat clause 36 provides that the Legislative Council shall consist of 29 members. The territory comprises a large area of country, and, apart from Europeans, I understand that there are about 1,000,000 inhabitants. Will the Minister for Supply and Development (Senator Armstrong) inform the Senate whether the Government intends to make provision for representation of the territory in the House of Representatives on a basis similar to that of the representation now provided for the Northern Territory, and intended to be provided as from the next general elections for the Australian Capital Territory? I point out that the area of the Northern Territory is very much less than that of the territory now being considered. Furthermore, its population is less, and it is closer to the Seat of Government than is New Guinea,
– Although consideration has not so far been given to the matter of representation of New Guinea in the Parliament, I have no doubt that as time goes on the position in that connexion willbe examined. I am certain that, in due course, New Guinea will be represented at the Seat of Government.
– I note from clause 36 that of the 29 members who shall comprise the Legislative Council, sixteen will be officers’ of the territory, who shall be known as official members. I presume that those officers will be district officers from the various areas. I should like to know how the number sixteen was arrived at.I point out that apart from the Administrator and these sixteen officers, there will be only twelve other members of the Legislative Council. Can the Minister also say what type of officers those sixteen members will be?
– The number sixteen was decided upon following an examination of the constitution of the councils that were previously in operation in Papua and New Guinea. From memory, seven official members comprised the council in Papua and eight in New Guinea. As there is to be one Legislative Council for the territory, those numbers have been added, and, together with the Administrator, they make sixteen official members.
– Will the official members be district officers, or persons elected by people in the various areas?
– Invariably, they will be public servants, mostly district officers. I move -
That, in clause 36, after sub-clause (6.), the following sub-clause be added: - “ (7.) A member of the Legislative Council shall, before taking his scat, make and subscribe before the Administrator, or a person thereunto authorized by the Administrator, an’ oath or affirmation in the form in the Sixth Schedule to this Act.”.
Amendment agreed to.
Part V., as amended, agreed to.
Part VI. (The judicial system) -
– I shall refer to the provisions of clause 64. The purpose of this clause is to withhold in certain circumstances the right of appeal from the High Court: to the Privy Council that is enjoyed by Australians. These territories are territories of the Commonwealth of Australia and the people living in them should enjoy the same legal rights as are enjoyed by people who are resident in Australia. I do not suggest that this is a deliberate attempt to whittle down our association with Great Britain, but the Government knows how valuable is the right of appeal to the Privy Council from a decision of the High Court. There is no need for me to emphasize the recent and important occasion on which the Commonwealth availed itself of that right. If it is good enough for the Government to retain and enjoy that right, it should be preserved for all who are subject to Commonwealth law. I urge the Minister to accept an amendment that will preserve that right for the residents of the territory. Whilst I shall not formally move an amendment, I ask that the Minister shall cause an amendment to be drafted to provide for the addition of the following words to subclause 1 of clause 64 - “save and except as is now provided by law permitting appeals from the High Court to the Privy Council “. The addition of words of that import would ensure for the residents of New Guinea the right of appeal to the Privy Council that is enjoyed by the people in Australia.
– All that this provision does is to perpetuate the Papua Act of 1905. Whether that is a good thing or not, my lack of legal knowledge does not permit me to say. However, I shall direct the notice of the Minister acting for the Minister for External Territories to this aspect of the matter, and request that he give it consideration. Apparently people who drafted the existing legislation considered that there was good reason for drawing the provision in that form. I shall ask the Minister to examine whether that reason still holds good. I move -
That in clause 59, sub-clause (2.), the word “Sixth” be left out, with a. view to insert in lieu thereof the word “ Seventh “.
Amendment agreed to.
Part VI., as amended, agreed to.
Part VII. (Welfare and development) -
.- Clause 65 provides -
Without prejudice to the operation of any other provision of this Act, or of any law of the Territory -
the regulations may provide for the establishment of boards, committees’ or authorities for the purpose of promoting and controlling the pro duction of primary products of the Territory, and for the marketing thereof, and may define the powers and functions of any such board, committee or authority.
During the second-reading debate on this measure, several honorable senators who have visited New Guinea and are cognizant of the conditions there, said that increased returns had been obtained from various plantations there since the cessation of hostilities. It has also been claimed that at various places in New Guinea considerable quantities of copra and other New Guinea products are stacked ready for market, but that there are no facilities available for getting them to a market. Can the Minister give us some information with respect to the disposal of New Guinea products at present? Are the growers allowed to sell their products on the open market, or must all their products he marketed under government control? As many countries are short of the goods which are produced in abundance in New Guinea, particularly copra, every facility should be given to the growers themselves to market their products at the best prices offering; and, at the same time, the Government should give them every assistance in the shipment of their products.
– The comment to which the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Cooper) has referred was made, I believe, by Senator Murray, but I do not remember that honorable senator saying that there was any back-lag of production in New Guinea due to the fact that growers were unable to sell their products. That honorable senator rather emphasized the disparity between costs in New Guinea to-day compared with those ruling just prior to the recent war. The main product in New Guinea is copra, and negotiations are now in hand with the United Kingdom which desires to purchase the whole of the copra production of that territory under an agreement similar to that applying in respect of Australian primary products. Under such an agreement the United Kingdom will take certain products at a set price for a specified period. Under a national security regulation that is still in force in New Guinea, all production in that territory is controlled and marketed by a production control board. That body arranges for the shipment of the products.
– Must the growers sell theirproducts through that board ?
– They have no free market?
Part VII. agreed to.
Part VIII. (The Australian School of Pacific Administration) -
– I understand that the Australian School of Pacific Administration has already been established. I should like to know where are its head-quarters, and the number of students it has enrolled. I understand that a Sydney businessman, Mr. Hallstrom, has donated the sum of £10,000 to form a trust to be used for the benefit of the residents of the Territories of Papua and New Guinea. Is the Australian School of Pacific Administration benefiting in any way from that trust? Can the Minister give details of the conditions governing the expenditure of that money?
– The Australian School of Pacific Administration is situated at George’s Head, Sydney. It has an enrolment of approximately 40 students whoso ages range from 18 to 30 years. The primary object of the school is to provide a basic education for young men who desire to make a career in the administrative service in the territories. Such education will give them an excellent foundation upon which they can build when they take up their posts in those areas. In the past great difficulty has arisen in the development of an efficient administrative service in the territories due to the fact that, in most instances, the officers available, although possessing considerable administrative experience on the mainland, lacked the training which they required to handle problems arising in the territories. The establishment of the school is long overdue, and it promises to be a means of expediting the development of the territories.
Senator Murray referred to a gift of £10,000 by Mr. Hallstrom of Sydney, to establish a trust for the purpose of forming a library as an aid to Pacific islands administration. Last year that gentleman visited Papua and New Guinea and, because of his close association with the Sydney zoo, he was given permission to bring out birds of paradise and other valuable native exhibits for that zoo. Apparently, he made his gift as a recognition of the assistance which he had received from the residents of those territories. The trust is controlled by the Administrator of the territories. That money will be used to purchase books for the library which at present is housed at the Australian School of Pacific Administration. As the library grows and becomes more valuable the Minister in charge of the territories will decide upon its final destination. At present, itis usedextensively by students at the Australian School of Pacific Administration.
– I should like to know whether the Australian School of Pacific Administration is operating in co-operation with the Department of External Affairs in its scheme for the training of diplomatic cadets.
– The school has no connexion with the Department of External Affairs.
Part VIII. agreed to.
Part IX. agreed to.
First, Second, Third, Fourth and Fifth Schedules agreed to.
Amendment (by Senator Armstrong) agreed to -
That” Sixth Schedule” be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof “ Seventh Schedule “.
Sixth Schedule, as amended to Seventh Schedule, agreed to.
New Schedule -
– I move -
That, after the Fifth Schedule, the following new schedule be inserted: -
I, A.B., do swear that I will render true and faithful service as a member of the Legislative Council of the Territory of Papua and New Guinea. So help me God!
I, A.B., do solemnly and sincerely promise and declare that I will render true and faithtul service as a member of the. Legislative Council of the Territory of Papua and New Guinea.”.
The new schedule is being inserted in compliance with a request by the Opposition in the House of Representatives that members of the Legislative Council shall be required to take the oath of allegiance.
New schedule agreed to.
Preamble and Title agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Bill presented by Senator McKenna, and read a first time.
Motion (by Senator McKenna)putThatso much of the Standing and Sessional Orders be suspended as would prevent the bill being passed through its remaining stages without delay.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Nicholls). - There being an absolute majority of the whole number of senators present, and no dissentient voice, I declare the question resolved in the affirmative.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The bill will amend the Pharmaceutical Benefits Act 1947. The amendments which the Government proposes have been made necessary by the happenings of the past nine months, during which the Pharmaceutical Benefits Act has been in force. In a speech in this chamber initiating the second-reading debate on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Bill in June, 1947, I said-
Under this bill there will be no compulsion on medical practitioners or pharmaceutical chemists to take part in the scheme.
I added -
By reason of the fact that the scheme is designed to lessen the economic barrier between the patient and efficient treatment for bis illness or incapacity, the Government believes that the members of both professions will co-operate fully in giving effect to its intentions.
In a speech in this chamber in June last year dealing with the pharmaceutical benefits scheme, I stressed that there was to be no regimentation of doctors, that, co-operating in the scheme the doctor would have complete freedom of action. I said -
In many announcements since then, and in communications and conferences with the Federal Council of the British Medical Association, . I have repeated the assurance that the Government did hot seek, under this measure or under any other, to regiment the membersof the* medical profession.. Just as frequently I have asked for co-operation’ from the Federal Council and lie body, of the: profession, and have sought, I meeting’ many of their, objections, and accepting some of. their suggestions, to secure a measure- of co-operation essential to. the full, working of the pharmaceutical benefits scheme.. Although the Government has contended for the right of the doctor to freedom of judgment and of action, he has been denied that very freedom by the dictates- of the Federal Council of his association - the British Medical Association in Australia. The Federal Council of the British Medical Association advised doctors to stay outside the scheme, and in a circular to all its members it advised them to refuse to accept delivery of the printed formularies and prescription forms sent to them by the Government at the initiation of ‘ the scheme. Some 3,200 doctors, slightly more than half the membership of the; British Medical Association in Australia, corn-plied with that request, or. in other words, obeyed that instruction. Thus it will be seen that a majority of the members of the association have no knowledge of the contents of the formulary, on the merits or demerits of which the Federal Council claims they have recorded a rank and file decision. The doctors of Australia, and particularly those 3,200 to whom I have referred, have, I suggest, not exercised their individual judgment but have acted on the judgment of the Federal Council of the association. The result has been that only 117 doctors in the whole of Australia have come into the scheme. Nearly six thousand remain outside the scheme, and of that number more than half do not know what the Government formulary provides and can have no independent opinion on the merits of the scheme that they reject at the behest, of the Federal Council.
Subsequently, the Federal Council submitted two totally different proposals regarding the formulary. The. first was that the Government should pay for anything at all that a doctor might prescribe, on his own prescription form. The second was that a limited list of “lifesaving and disease-preventing “ drugs should comprise the formulary. In July, 1947, I wrote to the Federal Council inviting that body to nominate three members to confer with three officers, of the Department of Health as a committee of experts to elaborate and examine all of the proposals. Three months later, I received from the Federal . Council a rejection of that invitation. The act of 1947 repealed the acts of 1944 and .1945 and included some new provisions. It provided that the formulary committee should be predominantly medical, as the British Medical Association had requested. This committee was reconstituted so that there would be only two pharmacists on a committee of seven. The British Medical Association had been invited to submit a panel of names of doctors from which appointments of medical men to that committee would be made. The act of 1947 also eliminated the provisions of section 22 to which the British Medical Association had objected.
In May, 1948, an announcement was made that the pharmaceutical benefits scheme would come into operation on the 1st June. As I have already said, the Federal Council of the British Medical Association advised doctors to refuse acceptance of the forms and formularies sent through the post, with the result that I! have already outlined.
In a. further effort to secure the cooperation of the British Medical Association, I wrote to the Federal Council on the 26th May, 1948, offering to discuss any aspects of the scheme, or any regulations to which exception was taken. That offer was not accepted, but, after an exchange of letters, I agreed to confer with the Federal Council on matters limited by them to three questions: the limitation of prescribing to a formulary; the use of prescription forms; and all penal clauses applicable to doctors. This conference was held at Melbourne on the Srd July, 1948, and there was exhaustive discussion of these points. The Government offered then to approve substantial extensions of the formulary, to provide greater elasticity in the use of flavourings in compounds, and to allow two drugs, if necessary, to be added to a mixture instead of one drug, from the list of allowable additions. Subsequently, the Federal Council was informed that the Government was prepared to adopt a larger and plainer prescription form which could be overprinted by individual doctors to record names, addresses, telephone numbers, surgery hours and other relevant particulars. The Government also agreed to permit two prescriptions instead of one to be written on one form, in order to meet another objection raised by the Federal Council, and to permit interchange of prescription forms between doctors.
At the Melbourne conference there was considerable discussion regarding the effect of regulations as they applied to doctors participating in the scheme. In the light of explanations made at the conference, the Federal Council did not press objections to penalties fixed by the act. As regards penalties - and they are monetary penalties only - fixed by the regulations, the Government agreed to amend certain regulations insofar as they applied to doctors. These amendments eliminating some penalties and obligations on doctors, and modifying others, are being made and will be promulgated at a later date. Honorable senators will agree that in the history of negotiations there is ample evidence that the Government has been at all times ready to meet representatives of the medical profession and discuss with them matters pertinent to the operation of “the scheme. The Government has shown that it is ready and willing to meet the reasonable requests of the British Medical Association. The Government has, in fact, ceded many points in its efforts to achieve the co-operation of the association. On the other hand, the history reveals that there has been complete, rigidity on the part of the Federal Council of the British Medical Association. This body has not ceded one point in its opposition to the Government’s efforts to put the plan into effect. It has consistently refused to meet and confer, except on grounds that it has put forward. It has refused the opportunity offered to it to say what shall be in the formulary and what shall be omitted. It has denied to its members the right to form their own judgments and opinions on the merits of the Government’s proposals.
In his most recent letter to me, Sir Henry Newland, who has recently resigned from the presidency of the Federal Council of the British Medical Association, said - . . the alterations you are willing to make have failed to induce the members of the British Medical Association to offer cooperation in the working of the Pharmaceutical Benefits Act 1947.
– Did he conduct a secret ballot?
– I have no knowledge of that. In the meantime, doctors all over Australia are prescribing many specifics - including insulin, the sulpha drugs and penicillin - which are in the formulary and in the British Medical Association’s own list. Their patients are being required to pay chemists for these prescriptions, which could be supplied without charge but for the attitude of the Federal Council of the British Medical Association in Australia. The Government, having regard to the continuing attitude of the Federal Council of the British Medical Association, to the fact that the many concessions that it has been prepared to make and has made have not been met by any willingness on the part of this body to co-operate, and to the fact that some 117 doctors throughout Australia using the formulary have found it in practice adequate to provide for the major portion of their patients’ needs, is determined that the present unsatisfactory position shall be resolved.
The Government proposes in this measure to ensure that the benefits that it has sought to provide, and which the people themselves have approved, will be available to the people. I come now to the provisions of the amending bill, of which two clauses may be regarded as substantive. Clause 5 provides for the insertion in the principal act. of a new section 7a, which states -
Except as prescribed, a medical practitioner shall not write a prescription for the supply to a person entitled to receive pharmaceutical benefits -
of an uncompounded medicine the name of which, or a medicinal compound the formula of which, is contained, or is deemed to be included, in the Commonwealth Pharmaceutical Formulary; or
of a material or appliance the name of which is contained in the prescribed addendum to the Commonwealth Pharmaceutical Formulary. otherwise than on a prescription form supplied by the Commonwealth for the purposes of this Act.
Penalty: Fifty pounds.
That provision imposes no restriction upon the freedom of a doctor to prescribe as he thinks fit in the interests of his patient. It simply provides that if the doctor thinks fit to prescribe a specific, a compound, a material or an appliance which is listed in the Commonwealth Pharmaceutical Formulary, he shall write the prescription on a prescription form supplied by the Commonwealth, enabling his patient to obtain the medicine, compound, or appliance which the doctor has seen fit to prescribe, without charge from his chemist. This amendment neither proposes nor initiates any interference with the practice of medicine. It will involve the doctor only in a piece of paper - that on which he writes his direction to the chemist for the supply of the medicine, compound or appliance in the classes named in the clause. The doctor will still diagnose and assess his patient’s needs in the light of his medical knowledge and experience and in accordance with his own unfettered judgment. The amendment will take effect only after the doctor has formed his opinion or judgment. If, in his opinion, his patient needs one of the specifics, compounds or appliances named in the Commonwealth Pharmaceutical Formulary, then the prescription which conveys his instructions to the chemist must be written on the form provided by the Commonwealth.
The new and larger prescription forms designed to incorporate the improvements proposed to the Federal Council of the British Medical Association, and to which I made reference earlier, are now in course of being printed. The amending section, as provided in sub-clause 2 of clause 5, is to come into operation on a date to be fixed by proclamation. This date will be far enough ahead to ensure that all doctors will be supplied with the new prescription forms, and that all doctors shall have ample time to make themselves familiar with the provisions of the formulary. The other clause to which I have referred as substantive has reference to approved pharmaceutical chemists or to approved medical practitioners acting as chemists in remote areas. This is clause 9 of the bill, which amends section . 13 of the principal act to provide that should approval of a pharmaceutical chemist, or medical practitioner, or hospital authority, be revoked, an appeal may be made to the Supreme Court of a State or territory. The amendment provides also that in this matter the Supreme Courts of the States shall be invested with federal jurisdiction. This provision widens the avenue of appeal, which, under the act of 1947, was limited to appeal to the Minister. As honorable senators will realize, other clauses of the bill are of a minor or consequential nature, to conform with the substantive amendments:
Recently, the Director-General of Health again invited the Federal Council of the British Medical Association to submit names of members for appointment to the Formulary Committee. So far, no reply has been received from the Federal Council. When that committee is established - and the Government hopes that it will be established without delay - revision of the formulary along the lines suggested, and to incorporate new and tested drugs, will be undertaken. I commend this measure to the Senate as one that ensures that the will of the people, as expressed at the referendum in 1946, at the elections in that year, and through the Parliament, shall not be frustrated, but shall be translated into action, providing an even distribution throughout this countryof a very real Benefit, which, in effect, subsidizes the family budget.
Debate (on motion by Senator Cooper) adjourned.
Debate resumed from the 2nd March (vide page 831), on motion by Senator McKenna- -
That the following papers be printed: -
Foreign Affairs -Ministerial Statement, l0th February,1949.
Annual Session, Paris, SeptemberDecember, 1948-
Resolution on Berlin presented to the Security Council by Argentina, Belgium, Canada, China, Colombia and Syria- 22nd October, 1948.
– In my earlier remarks, I endeavoured to show that there was not a scintilla of truth in the assertion that the Australian Government was not giving wholehearted support to the British Commonwealth of Nations. I intend now to deal with the statement made by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Cooper) that experience had shown that the United Nations could function only within certain limits. The honorable senator also said that it was unfortunate that, so far, no international military force had been provided to enforce the decisions of the United Nations. Apparently, the honorable senator believes that, in the absence of such a force, the United Nations is not as efficient as it would otherwise be. Reference has been made, in the course of this debate, to the old international organization, the League of Nations, and the opinion has been expressed, possibly with some justification, that the league could not function effectively because it had no military force to back its decisions. The inference is, obviously, that until the United Nations has an international military force at its disposal, it will be as weak as the League of Nations was. But, in view of the unhappy state of the world to-day, it may be fortunate for Australia that no international force has been established, because the existence of such a force might have induced certain members of the United Nations to adopt an entirely different attitude towards recent international events. They might have taken a much shorter view of the difficulties now confronting the world. Australia, as a signatory to the United Nations Charter would have had to fulfil certain obligations in respect of the provisions of an international force. Let us have a glance at the functions of the United Nations. It may be appropriate at this stage if I quote from the February, 1948, issue of a publication entitled the United Nations World, which is described as “ The International Magazine “. A visit has just been paid to this country by Mr. Anthony Eden, a former United Kingdom Foreign Minister. Mr. Eden identified himself with the formation of the United Nations at San Francisco. In an article which appeared in the United Nations World under the heading “Anthony Eden reports on where the world stands, and the stand it must take if its people are to survive”, he states -
The Charter, imperfect though it may be, could be made to work, provided that the will to do so is there. No machinery can compel nations to agree. In my experience it is the human factorrather than the mechanical shortcomings that causes failure. More damage can be done to the United ‘ Nations by sidetracking it than by overworking it. Only by using the machinery can the organization gain the authority which it so sorely needs and for which peace-loving peoples so fervently pray. We shall founder in world chaos unless the United Nations can enforce and express the interdependence between nations that exists to-day. There is no hope of the United Nations achieving this unless the nations accept a standard of good faith in their relations with one another and conduct their affairs in. this spirit.
I have quoted Mr. Eden’s words because I believe them to be most important. They indicate that if peace is to be maintained in the world, there is a need for a common understanding among nations. I believe that if that common understanding could be achieved, resort to the arbitrament of war would be avoided. It appears to me that an endeavour has been made to set one of the “ Big Three “ nations at the throat of another. Clearly too, some people would like to see a nation which was vanquished in World War II., armed for use against one of the allied nations in that conflict. As one honorable senator said earlier in this debate the situation in the world to-day may be described as democracy versus totalitarianism. I trust that Australia will stand solidly by the covenant to which it has subscribed in- its adherence to the principles and objectives of the United Nations Charter. I have quoted the opinion of Mr. Anthony Eden. I propose now to quote from the same journal, portion of an article written by Senator Vandenberg who outlines the American aim - a world of free men. That is a significant headline. Not a world of men directed to do this or to do that at the behest of some stronger fellow, but a world of free men, bound in the brotherhood of man, and imbued with a desire to improve living standards and to emancipate all the peoples of the earth. Referring to the United Nations, Senator Vandenberg says -
The United Nations was born with the prayers, the blessings and the hopes of a warweary world, including the overwhelming benediction of the people of the United States. We all recognize its limitations. No one thought it perfect, least of all those of us who .struggled at San Francisco to make it as sound as possible in the light of previous commitments and in the presence of unfolding Soviet intransigence. It was not intended to make but to keep a peace that never has been made. But no sooner was it launched - and long before its essential implements were provided - it became the seething core of the cold and calculated controversy through which the Soviets deliberately have made peace impossible.
It was - asked to run before it had even learned to walk. The wonder is not that it has stumbled. The wonder is that it has kept its feet at all. The wonder is that it continues to be the central reliance of those peace-loving nations of the earth who prefer to talk things out rather than shoot them out. It continues to be “ the town meeting of the world” where the conscience of mankind can speak those moral verdicts, which some day will have a powerful impact on events. Despite its handicaps, its limitations and its failures, I hesitate to think what would have happened in the last two years if its forum and ils restraints, however feeble, had been unavailable.
And that goes for this present critically dangerous hour, come what may. The greater the world’s rifts the greater the world’s need for an empire.
That quotation expresses the considered opinion of a very important citizen of the United States of America, who has had long association with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. By reason of his long experience and special knowledge of international affairs he is able to place his finger on the causes of many of the disturbances and much of the unrest in the world to-day. His point that the United Nations is the “town meeting of the world “ is most important, and that expression is particularly apt, because it means something. The United Nations forum is truly the meeting place of the nations of the world for the discussion of their problems. The United Nations appoints committees of inquiry to investigate special matters, and recommendations are made by experts and representatives of various nations on the political, financial and economic aspects of international relationships. By that means recourse to the brutal alternative of war is avoided. I believe that the increasing enlightenment of the peoples of the world, and their painful experience and sufferings -have done a great deal to further the cause of peace. Because of the recent revelations of the extraordinary developments in long-range flying and the employment of self-propelled projectiles, it is now generally realized that atomic bombs can destroy any particular part of the earth’s surface, and that fact has compelled the nations of the world to devote the most careful attention to devising means for their own protection.
Because of its humanitarian aims, and its achievements in the role of mediator, the United Nations, instead of being discounted, should arouse the enthusiasm of all peoples as being the only real hope for mankind.
It has been asserted that the present Government is more inclined towards maintaining friendly relations with the United States of America than with the United Kingdom, but that allegation, which is absolutely without foundation, can be easily disproved by any one who takes the trouble to refer to the record of recent international events. I have previously emphasized, and I repeat now, that if the United Nations should fail the world, Australia cannot afford to be on any but the friendliest terms with the United States of America. However, that is not to say that we should not continue to maintain intimate relations with the United Kingdom. The policy of the present Government of maintaining friendly relations with the United States of America is realistic and cannot bc challenged by any one who is acquainted with recent world history. In any eventthat policy has not proved disadvantageous to Australia.
In any discussion of foreign policy we must bear in mind that the security of this country is the paramount consideration. The fall of Singapore must not be forgotten. We had always been told that the defence of this country could safely be left to the United Kingdom, and great emphasis was placed upon the naval might of Great Britain. All the greater, therefore, was our surprise on a certain morning in February, 1942, when the Australian forces on Singapore Island had to surrender to the Japanese. From my schooldays I had been taught to believe that if there was one impregnable fortress in the world it was Singapore. The truth is that the principal defences of the island, the heavy guns, could fire only out to sea and in no other direction. I shall not trouble to inquire as to the reason for that-
– Blame it on the anti-Labour parties!
– I do not blame honorable senators for that; I blame them only for their lack of knowledge of many other things. The events which have occurred in the last few years indicate that Great Britain will probably be less able to defend Australia, should another war occur, than it was during World War II. It is apparent, therefore, that we must give our whole-hearted support to the United Nations and maintain the closest friendship with the United States of America, whose interests in the Pacific are almost identical with ours. A great deal of criticism has been levelled at the present Government because of its policy towards South-East Asia, but I point out that that policy has been consistently to co-operate to the maximum with the United States of America. What is wrong with that? I remember very vividly thu time when Australians revered the name of General MacArthur. We know that when the American bluejackets first appeared in this country Australians, for the first time since the Pacific war began, experienced any sense of safety. Our confidence had been very seriously shaken by the loss of Singapore and the frequent frustration of the desperate efforts made by the Royal Navy to maintain communications with Malta. We were also disturbed by the loss of two British capita1, ships, which were intended to be the bulwark of the defence of this country. We had been told that the eyesight of the Japanese airmen was not too good. However, the loss of the two battleships somewhat contradicted that assurance. We realized then for the first time that we had to re-orient our attitude towards certain nations outside the British Empire. Whilst the present Government has followed the sensible and constructive policy of affording 100 per cent, assistance to, and co-operation with, Great Britain, it has, at the same time, maintained close and cordial relations with the United States of America. It has been asserted that Manus Island should not have been denied to the Americans, who are said to have required it for the defence of the South Pacific. But what are the facts? The United States of America never wanted Manus Island for defence purposes
– What absolute rot!
– It is all very well for Senator O’sullivan to exclaim “ rot “ ; but what proof is there of his assertion?
Only yesterday we were told that vast quantities of war materiel and equipment of all kinds were left on Manus Island by the Americans, where it has been allowed to fall into disrepair. Aus.tralia’s duty is to develop Manus Island ns the forward area of our defences, and that is what the present Government U doing.
– Under the terms of the trusteeship granted to Australia over New Guinea, we are not permitted ro do so.
– As usual, Senator O’Sullivan is speaking without knowledge. I have noticed that the honorable senator very frequently speaks on matters without troubling to inform himself of the facts. Under the policy of the present Government, Manus Island is to become a forward defence base of Australia.
– In that event; we shall commit a breach of the measure to which we assented yesterday.
– That measure dealt: with another portion of the world.
– It specifically mentioned Manus Island, as the honorable senator will realize if he examines it.
– I do not think so. To return to discussion of the United Nations, I propose to deal with the criticism that has been made of that body’s alleged ineffectiveness because of the use of the veto. The use of the veto is the prerogative of every permanent member of the Security Council. If we analyze the association of Australia with the United Nations since its inception we cannot but conclude that Australia, through either the Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt) or some other person acting on behalf of this country, has always insisted upon democratic methods and procedures being adopted at international conferences. Is there anything wrong with the prosecution of democratic methods and procedures? Let us consider what is meant by that. We mean that wherever possible every determination should be made by a majority decision of the members associated in any particular conference. In the General Assembly it is the prerogative, of every delegate, irrespective of the country that he represents, to speak, to vote, and to make decisions. Under the constitution of the United Nations the General Assembly is, like this Parliament, an institution where anything can be discussed and recommendations made. The other organization, the Security Council, was created by the United Nations, and has very definite powers. In the execution of those powers, the prerogative of the veto is vested in the five great powers. The only way that the member nations of the United Nations could secure the establishment of such an organization was by agreement that the five great powers should have the right to use the veto if they thought it necessary. Although the actions of the delegates of the Soviet Union have been referred to frequently, the history of the United Nations shows that Soviet Russia is using the veto much less now than it did eighteen months or two years ago. That is shown conclusively in the dossier that was submitted to the Parliament by the Minister for External Affairs, who pointed out that during the last eighteen months the delegates of Soviet Russia have frequently abstained from voting on international problems, particularly on occasions when they could have used the veto to make the reaching of a decision practically impossible. Whichever way we look at this subject, the indications are that the effectiveness and value of the United Nations is being exemplified every day. No major conflict has been attempted by any nation since the establishment of that organization, which, as I have mentioned before, has been referred to by Senator Vandenburg of the United States of America as “ the town meeting of the world “. As I have observed before in this chamber, I consider that one of the best ways to obviate international conflagrations in the future is to keep the member nations talking and discussing their problems. If that is done war may not take place. If, however, one or two of them should break away and say, “We are no longer going to take part in these discussions; we are finished with this organization “ - with which, I believe, the Opposition would agree - I am of the opinion that the relations between the nations of the world would rapidly deteriorate and that, at a not far distant date, we should find ourselves again resorting to the arbitrament of war.. This country is- proceeding on correct lines in what it is doing to- support of the principles and the Charter of the United Nations: and by its determination to maintain the utmost co-operation with the other members of the British Commonwealth of Nations, and a continuance of friendship with the great United States of America.
Reference has been made during’ this debate to the Republic of Indonesia. The Leader of the Opposition said that Australia’s policy with relation to the actions, of the- Dutch, in Indonesia was not conceived in a friendly spirit. In a blustering way Senator O’sullivan said that the trouble with Indonesia resulted from the interference of the- Minister for External Affairs. But what are the facts? I shall not deal with the niceties of the problems that have arisen as a result of the actions of certain people in this and other countries with relation to the transportation of goods- to Indonesia. After the cessation of hostilities a republican movement developed in Indonesia. In 1947 the Netherlands Government entered into the Linggadjati Agreement with the Republic of Indonesia, under which the Netherlands Government recognized’ the Republican Government of Indonesia as the de facto government responsible for a certain portion of the Netherlands East Indies. Although that is quite clear, unfortunately police action - or in other words, military force - was used by the Dutch against the Republic of Indonesia in July, 1947. [Extension of time granted.] It was at that stage, and because of the availability of the resources of the United Nations, that the Security Council intervened in the dispute. Australia accepted the responsibility for intervening to substitute conciliation and arbitration for fighting in a country so close to our own. Although we have been criticised, that is all Australia has done in relation to Indonesia. What is wrong with stopping fighting if it can be stopped ? Is not conciliation and arbitration preferable to fighting ? We are trying to throw away the sword. That a country which lives by the sword shall perish by the sword.is amply borne out by history. The Security Council appointed a- Committee of Good Offices to endeavour to bring about a reconciliation, and it. made, a determined effort to settle the: dispute1 between the Indonesian Republic and tha Netherlands East Indies. Australia took part in the work of that committee and helped to negotiate a new agreement, the Renville Agreement, which was additional to the Linggadjati Agreement. The committee has worked hard ever since to effect a just settlement between, the Dutch and the Indonesians. No effort has been spared in the effort to save life in Indonesia by the substitution of the rule of law for the rule of force. However, the situation was disturbed’ by a new movement in Indonesia,, when Communist sections revolted against, the Indonesian Republic. Doubtless honorable senators- will recollect, that only ii few months ago praise was forthcoming from the United Kingdom and the United States of America, and other parts of the world, for- the suppression of that revolt by the Republic of Indonesia. Then when a final settlement appeared hopeful, another dispute occurred on the 19 th December. In effect the Dutch repudiated not only the Linggadjati Agreement but also the Renville truce, agreement. Yet it is said that the Australian Government is more concerned about the interests of the black people in Indonesia than those of the nation which assisted us during the war. I know that all Australians gratefully remember the valiant assistance that was rendered to us by the allied nations during the war, but surely to goodness we should not allow what to oil place then to influence our minds about what is best to be done now in a certain set of circumstances. The problem that confronted the Security Council with relation to Indonesia, was that a state of war had been brought about as a result of disputation between the Republic and the Netherlands East Indies. All that Australia did was to endeavour to bring , about a settlement of that dispute by peaceful means, by the use of conciliation and arbitration, always with the desire to save life and to implement the principles and achieve the objective of the United Nations. But for the intervention of. the United Nations and the action which Australia took in association with other countries through the Security Council countless -thousands of Indonesians would hare lost their lives.
– I desire to refer to one aspect of. the defence of Australia to which -no reference has been made in the course of this debate. That is the control and development of the Solomon Islands, which, I submit, cannot be ignored in any plans for- the future security of this continent. It was from the Solomon Islands that General MacArthur commenced the campaign which eventually resulted in the defeat of the Japanese. . We still have vivid memories of the battles fought at Guadalcanal, Tulagi and Bougainville.Nevertheless,. I wonder whether most of us realized how close the Solomon Islands are to Australia. The protection of Australia and neighbouring Pacific countries calls unquestionably for the development of perimeter defences, of which the Solomon Islands naturally form n -segment. No doubt the Minister for Health (Senator McKenna), who inaugurated this debate, will assure me that- those islands are under the control of the British Government. However, years ago the Territory of New Guinea stood in much the same relationship to Australia as do the Solomon Islands to-day; and, presumably, New Guinea was transferred to Australian control because of its proximity to this country and its importance to us from the point of view of defence. Geographically, the Solomon Islands are really an extension of New Guinea.’ I can see no reason why representations should not be made to the British Government’ to transfer the control of’ those islands to Australia.
The Senate has just passed the Papua and New Guinea Bill which deals with the government and development of those territories. Our relationship with the Solomon Islands will have an important bearing upon the attainment of the Government’s objectives under that measure. For instance, while we are striving for the advancement of the natives in New Guinea, are we te pay no attention at all to the. welfare, of the natives on. the adjoining islands in the’ Solomons? The airfields and installations constructed by the allied forces on those islands’ during war are now being allowed to revert to the jungle. However, the strategic importance of the Solomon Islands is obvious. They form one of the first barriers to any forces that might desire to attack Australia. Although they are under British control, Australia apparently - has no direct connexion with them. I should like the Minister to explain our position in that respect. Have representations been made ‘ to the British Government. Has any understanding been reached with that Government, having regard - to the important part that those islands’ must play, in any plan for the defence of Australia? Is it not desirable that they should be incorporated in our territories and brought directly under the- control of the Australian Government? Every mother in Australia is most anxious that her family should know only the ways of peace. Nevertheless all of us realize that the pursuit of peace does not relieve the Government of the responsibility for adequately planning for the defence of this country. I should like to know whether the Government can allay the fears which I have expressed regarding the control and defence of the Solomon Islands.
Debate (on motion by Senator Morrow) adjourned.
Motion (by Senator ASHLEY) agreed to -
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn to Tuesday next, at 3 p.m..
The following papers were- presented . -
Audit Act - Finance- -Treasurer’s Statement of Receipts and Expenditure-for year 1947-48, accompanied by the Report of the Auditor-General.
Commonwealth Public Service Act - Appointments - Department of Defence - M. C. McLaren, H. W. Rushen.
Lands Acquisition Act- Land acquired for Defence purposes- - Hoxton Park, New South Wales.
Senate adjourned at 5.3<f p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 10 March 1949, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1949/19490310_senate_18_201/>.