20th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. Edward Mattner) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– Can the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service inform the Senate how many persons have lost their employment in the clothing, textile, and footwear industries due to the Government’s policy in restricting credit, and allowing a flood of overseas goods, including goods from Japan, to enter Australia?
– I am prepared to make inquiries from the Minister for Labour and National Service in order to ascertain the number of persons who have ceased to be employed in the industries mentioned. I take it that the honorable senator wants figures for the last month or so. I repudiate the comment contained in the question that whatever unemployment there may be is due to Government policy.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture in a position to release for inspection by interested organizations the new meat contract entered into with the Government of the United Kingdom ? If not, when does he expect to be able to do so? Has it yet been decided what prices are to be paid under the contract for pig meats, and if so, what are those p rices? Does the Minister realize that the lack of information on this point is seriously affecting the pig industry in Western Australia where processors cannot continue to buy pigs until they know what price they will get for the pig meats?
– I shall bring the honorable senator’s question to the notice of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, who will furnish a reply as soon as possible.
– In view of the generally disturbed credit conditions in many industries, and the increase of unemployment in States in which there are no defence works, will the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration endeavour to ascertain, independently of his own department, the true employment position in Australia, so that his immigration officers overseas may inform intending migrants to Australia that unemployment exists here, and is increasing daily? Will he explain that the number of reported vacant positions in industry are for juniors mainly, and for professional persons? Will the Minister a3k his colleague to inform his overseas officers, first, that there are 200 unemployed females in Brisbane in receipt of unemployment benefit, commonly known a3 the dole, and that his local officers are unable to obtain employment for them ; secondly, that 400 males and 70 females in Maryborough, Queensland, are faced with permanent unemployment; thirdly, that there are 500 unemployed persons in Bundaberg for whom no employment can be found by his officers; fourthly, that in Rockhampton there are 600 robust male workers and 100 female workers for whom no prospects of future employment exist; fifthly, that there are more than 1,000 unemployed workers in Mackay, Townsville, Innisfail-
– I rise to order. I direct attention to the fact that the honorable senator’s question contains much comment. He said, for example, that there are a number of unemployed people in a certain town for whom no employment can be found. I submit that it is distinctly disorderly to put a question in that form.
– I allow reasonable latitude to honorable senators who are asking questions, in order to avoid misunderstandings. Although the AttorneyGeneral has directed my attention to what is perhaps a departure from the Standing Orders, I shall allow Senator
Benn to proceed with, his question. I ask him to be as concise as possible and to keep to the point.
– Will the Minister ask his colleague to inform his officers overseas that 10 per cent, of the workers engaged in the Australian textile industry have been dismissed from their employment, and that others are employed only part-time?
– If the honorable senator will place his question upon the notice-paper, I shall refer it to the Minister for Immigration.
– I preface my question, which is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Supply, by pointing out that an acid plant is ir. course of construction by Broken Hill Associated Smelters at Port Pirie, South Australia. The plant is designed to recover sulphur from waste smelter gases, but it cannot operate in that way until 1954. Meanwhile, it could operate on imported brimstone, if that commodity could be obtained in sufficiently large quantities. The plant requires r>,000 tons of brimstone immediately, and a further 2,600 tons every six weeks afterwards. In view of the fact that there is a pressing necessity to utilize the plant immediately, and thus enable an additional 150,000 tons of superphosphate to be manufactured annually in this country, will the Minister request his colleague, as a matter of urgency, to explore um possibility of interesting the United States of America in the export of brimstone to South Australia?
– The Government has given a great deal of thought to the production of sulphuric acid, not only from brimstone but also from other sources. The Government fully realizes the very important part that sulphuric acid plays in the production of fertilizers, which are so essential to primary production. It has given a high degree of priority to the importation of brimstone and other raw materials used in the production of sulphuric acid. I shall be pleased to bring the question to the notice of the Minister for Supply and obtain a reply for the honorable senator as soon as possible.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Trade and Customs. Is it a fact that a film entitled The White Haired Girl, released in China in 1951, has been banned by the Australian Film Censor? Is the Minister aware that the picture was based on the work of an all-China association of writers and artists and was presented in the interests of friendship between China and other peoples of the world ? Is the Minister aware also that the film has a treasured place in Chinese life, as the key incident shown in the picture actually took place, and collective waiters and actors of the Lu Hsun Academy in Yen An gave the story artistic form as an opera, which has been played in many parts of the world? Is the Minister aware that the film is a great work of art and that the story is told in rare images of beauty and tenderness? Is the Minister aware that critics who have seen the picture on five different occasions stated that the long history of Chinese culture has reached a flowering stage in Chinese films and that the picture known as The White Haired Girl is the most delicate of them all and that the only people to whom it could be offensive would be the criminal type? Will the Minister have investigations made with a view to revoking the ban and allowing the picture to be presented in Australia? If he will not do this, will he arrange to have the film screened in the Senate club room in order to enable honorable members and senators to see it and judge for themselves whether the film should be banned? Is the Minister aware that the censor has banned other pictures of a high educational value such as the English film, No Boom, at the Inn, an American trade union film, Millions of Us, and many other such films, although he has allowed American gangster, and other degrading, demoralizing films to be exhibited which have a detrimental effect on our youth ?
– I have received no official intimation that The White Haired Girl has been banned, but I will take the honorable senator’s word that it has been. As far as reviewing any decision is concerned, I assure the honorable senator that if representations are made to the department by interested people appropriate action will be taken.
– I ask the Minister for National Development whether he will discuss with the Minister for Social Services the subject of the publication of a booklet similar to one which was published four or five years ago giving all details concerning social serivce benfits.
– I shall be glad to bring the honorable senator’s suggestion to the notice of the Minister for Social Services.
– I preface a question to the Minister for Trade and Customs by stating that much of the machinery which waa purchased from the last dollar loan has not yet been put into operation. Some farms, for example, have purchased two tractors from dollar sources but have used only one of them because there is not sufficient work for the other. I do not blame the Minister for that state of affairs. However, if another dollar loan is negotiated for the purpose of importing agricultural machinery, will the Minister take steps to ensure that the machinery purchased will be used for the purpose of increasing production and not for speculative purposes ?
– The honorable senator’s question appears to be based on very loose information and rumours. I assure honorable senators that the dollar loan has been expended most wisely and that only after the most careful scrutiny have import licences been issued in respect of materials to be paid for out of that loan. Naturally, all equipment for which orders have been placed have not yet arrived in Australia because of delays at the factory, but what has arrived has been directed to the most useful purposes.
– Is the Minister representing the Postmaster-General aware of the serious lack of telephone services in the Taperoo, Draper, and Woodville North settlements in the Port Adelaide district? Many hundreds of people who are living in temporary houses that have been erected there by the South Australian Housing Trust have to travel considerable distances in order to reach a telephone. This could be a serious matter if it were desired to obtain the services of a doctor urgently, or in other emergencies. Oan the Minister inform me for how long these people will have to endure the present state of affairs? Would it be possible for telephone services to be provided at those settlements in the near future?
– There is a shortage of telephones throughout Australia, but I cannot say that I am aware of the exact position at the housing settlements that the honorable senator has mentioned. However, I shall be very pleased to refer this matter to my colleague the PostmasterGeneral who, I am sure, will investigate it thoroughly and reply direct to the honorable senator as soon as possible.
– I preface a question to the Minister for National Development by pointing out that it was stated, in partial justification of the closing of the Glen Davis shale oil undertaking, that the cracking plant that had been in use there could be used to great advantage by the important aluminium project at Bell Bay in Tasmania. As public tenders have been invited for the purchase of the plant at Glen Davis, will the Minister assure me that the cracking plant will be transferred to Bell Bay for use in connexion with the production of aluminium ?
– I do not know that the proposal to transfer the cracking plant from Glen Davis to Bell Bay was advanced as a reason for the closing of the Glen Davis shale oil undertaking. It was necessary to close the Glen Davis undertaking for far more serious considerations. However, I do know that it has been the view of the Australian Aluminium Production Commission that that plant could serve a very useful purpose at Bell Bay. Indeed, it would be an integral part of the aluminium establishment there. I have no doubt that the cracking plant will eventually he purchased by the Australian Aluminium Production Commission, and that it will be re-erected at Bell Bay. The position at the moment is that the Commonwealth has a receiver in possession at Glen Davis, and, as the honorable senator knows, a receiver must offer all assets for sale publicly. It will be the responsibility of the commission to tender for the purchase of the plant, and I have no doubt that it will do so.
– Has the Minister for Shipping and Transport any knowledge of a 3,000 ton ship belonging to the Anchor Shipping Company of New Zealand which, it has been stated, has been taken off the “Wellington and Nelson run in New Zealand and is at present laid up? Will the Minister inquire, into the accuracy of the statement, having in mind the possibility of securing the ship to replace Taroona during the next overhaul of that vessel, thereby saving the people of Tasmania much inconvenience and general loss?
– The possibility that the ship to which the honorable senator has referred will be available has not been brought to my notice. I shall discuss the matter with the manager of the Australian Shipping Board and ascertain whether the ship is available, and if so, what prospects there are of obtaining it for use in the very important Tasmanian service.
– During the last
Sessional period I directed a question to the Minister for Trade and Customs regarding the dismissal of employees at the tractor works of Chamberlain Industries Limited, which are established at Welshpool, Western Australia. From the supplementary statement furnished to me by the Minister I was astonished to learn that a large quantity of tractors of various types had been permitted entry to Australia under import licence, from not only dollar but also sterling areas. As the development of the tractor manufacturing industry in Western Australia has involved the investment of very large sums of money, and because 360 nien have been displaced from the industry since importations have been allowed, will the Minister give the Senate an assurance that action will be taken to protect Australian industries which have been developed over the years, to some degree with the financial assistance of the Commonwealth?
– As I informed the honorable senator when he raised this matter during the last sessional period, the Government is very sympathetically disposed towards the establishment of industries of the kind to which he has referred. Chamberlain Industries Limited is a very fine organization which has done a magnificent job for Australia. The Government has shown its practical interest in it in a tangible way. The company has derived substantial benefits from the tractor bounty provided by this Government. The honorable senator will recall that after this Government came into office it increased the rates of bounty on Australian-made tractors in order to encourage such concerns as Chamberlain Industries Limited.
– Is the Minister for Trade and Customs aware that speculators are buying wool in Australia on a sterling basis with the apparent intention to ship it for consumption in Europe, but that they are ultimately disposing of it to buyers in the United States of America at a discount, to the detriment of the Australian dollar pool? Is it possible for the Government to prevent that practice? If so, will the Government take steps to ensure that every dollar earned from the sale of wool shall be conserved to Australia?
– I am not aware of the practice referred to by the honorable senator, but I can assure him that the Department of Trade and Customs, the Treasury, and the Exchange Control Committee exercise vigilant scrutiny over dollar earnings from the export of Australian commodities, and that there will be no dollar leakage that can possibly be avoided.
– I draw the attention of the Attorney-General to the following passage from a circular letter that is being issued by the Patent Office : -
I am directed to inform you that due to the conditions arising from the late war the examination work of this office is very much in arrears.
Will the Attorney-General investigate the position with a view to having the work brought up to date so that a better service to taxpayers may be provided ?
– I have not seen the circular letter to which the honorable senator has referred, but I am aware that delays occur in the work of the Patent Office, due largely to the great difficulty of obtaining staff. Although at times such delays may appear to be rather lengthy, I know that similar conditions are being experienced in patents work in other parts of the world. Recently, some action was taken which I hope will speed up the work of the department. The honorable senator may rest assured that everything will be done to ensure that the work of the department shall be carried out as expeditiously as possible. I shall bring the question to the notice of the Commissioner of Patents and if any further information is available I shall obtain it for the honorable senator.
– Has the attention of the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture been drawn to the press report that a substantial increase of the price of butter is expected by the end of next June as the result of the announcement by the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture to the Commonwealth Agricultural Council that Commonwealth control of the ex-factory price of butter would be a condition for the renewal of the Commonwealth butter subsidy - a condition that he claimed to be necessary for the regulation of the Commonwealth’s subsidy liability? Is it a fact that the proposal has two significant implications, the first being that, in effect the Commonwealth proposes to re-enter the prices control field which the Chifley Government abandoned four years ago, and the second that this is the first step in a rehabilitation programme, the cardinal feature of which will be dearer food for the consumer ? Will the Government consider giving taxation relief or complete tax exemption to primary producers to encourage greater production andcompetition in an endeavour to provide food for the Australian people at reasonable prices?
– I have seen the report to which the honorable senator has referred, but as the question is complicated I ask that it be placed on the notice paper so that I may give a considered reply to it. I can say, however, that the policy of this Government is to ensure that producers of butter shall receive a price that will enable them to enjoy a decent Australian standard of living.
– Can the Attor ney-General say whether the actions that have been instituted in the High Court to test the constitutional validity of capital issues control exercised both under the capital issues regulations and under regulations issued under the Defence Preparations Act have yet been argued, and if so, whether any decision has been given ?
– No case on the validity of the Capital Issues Regulations has yet been argued before the High Court, although some are pending. At the request of the Leader of the Opposition, who directed a question to me on this subject yesterday, I am having prepared a considered statement showing the progress made in those cases, and it will be made available as soon as possible.
– Several important road sealing projects in Tasmania have had to be curtailed, and the Agricultural Bank has drastically cut its housing scheme. Numerous industries, particularly the textile industry, which is most important to Tasmania, have had to go on short time or to close down. Will the Minister representing the Treasurer consult with his colleague with a view to having some of the unexpended portion of last year’s defence vote of £1S0,000,000 allocated to Tasmania so that the housing scheme and road projects may be continued?
– The Government’s financial policy was expressed in the budget. There is no doubt that that financial policy, in conjunction- with world-wide trends, is bringing about a condition of greater financial stability in Australia than has existed during the last year or two. The honorable senator is asking, in effect, whether the Government is prepared to reverse its financial policy. I think it can be fairly stated that the Government has dealt very generously indeed with the States by underwriting total loan moneys amounting to £225,000,000, which may involve the Commonwealth in a commitment of £100,000,000. I do not hold out any expectation that during the current financial year the Government will review or remodel or vary the financial arrangements made between the States and the Commonwealth.
– Can the Minister representing the Treasurer say whether it is true that, as a result of decisions reached by the Australian Loan Council, on which the States have a majority of members, all the States will receive more money this year than they ever received before? Is it not also true that the Premier of Tasmania expressed great satisfaction at the increased amount of money granted to his State?
– The answer to the first part of the honorable senator’s question is “ Yes “, and the answer to the second part is, “ I do not know “.
– Can the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior say whether it is now necessary to get a permit in order to use what has become known as the “ free speech area “ in front of Parliament House?
– If the honorable senator is anxious to address the “ pinks “ I have no objection. I do not think that the permit will be necessary.
– It has been brought to my notice that when a student wins a Commonwealth scholarship there is deducted from the amount due to him under the scholarship moneys to which he is entitled under any other scholarship he may have won. Can the Minister for Trade and Customs say whether this is so? If it is, will the Government reconsider the matter?
– This matter came under my notice some time ago. The facts are not quite as the honorable senator has suggested. The amount allowed under a Commonwealth scholarship is reduced by the amount received by the student from other sources, scholarships or otherwise. The matter is now ‘before the Prime Minister for consideration, and I trust that a satisfactory formula will be worked out.
Motions (by Senator McKenna) agreed to -
That Senator Finlay foe granted two months’ leave of absence on account of ill health.
That Senator Tangney be granted two months’ leave of absence on account of ill health.
Debate resumed from the 26th February (vide page 312), on motion by Senator Spicer -
That the Senate concurs in the resolutions transmitted to the Senate by the House of Representatives (vide page 310) for the appointment of a joint committee to consider such matters concerning foreign affairs as are referred to it by the Minister for External Affairs, subject to the following modifications: -
That after resolution No. 2 the following resolution be inserted: -
That the persons appointed for the time being to serve on the committee shall constitute the committee notwithstanding any failure by the Senate or the House of Representatives to appoint the full number of senators or members referred to in these resolutions.
(i) one-third of the number of members appointed to the committee for the time being constitute a quorum of the committee, save that where the number of members is not divisible by three without remainder the quorum shall be the number next higher than one third of the number of members for the time being;
– Yesterday, the Attorney-General (Senator Spicer) proposed a motion that relates to a message from the House of Representatives requesting the concurrence of the Senate in a proposal that there shall be established a joint parliamentary committee, consisting of representatives of both Houses of the Parliament and of all parties, to consider matters affecting foreign affairs. The Attorney-General has moved that, subject to certain modifications, the Senate should concur in the resolutions that have been transmitted to it by the House of Representatives. That is the matter that is now before the Senate. I think there was general agreement amongst honorable senators that it. would be a good thing to establish a committee of that nature, because it would serve the purposes of the Parliament and ultimately of the nation. I concur with that broad principle. The Opposition has no broad objection to the establishment of such a committee. I believe that for a considerable period the Senate considered whether it should establish a committee of that kind, modelled partially, if not entirely, upon the Foreign Affairs Committee of the American Senate.
I comment, without asperity, upon the rather casual approach that has been made to this matter by the Government. As long ago as November, 1949, just prior to the general election of December, 1949, the present Government parties announced in their joint policy speech that some such committee would be established. There was a reference to the matter in similar terms in the speech that the Governor-General delivered in this chamber in February, 1950, more than two years ago. In March, 1950, the then Minister for External Affairs, Mr. Spender, foreshadowed the early appointment of such a committee. The matter was not dealt with until October, 1951. This message from the House of Representatives has lain in this chamber from the 31st October until to-day. .
– We could not find out what the Opposition wanted to do about the matter.
– I suggest that one of the reasons for the delay was that the Minister for External Affairs was abroad and, in his absence, the Government did not know what to do about it. The Government made a very belated effort to honour its pledge, and the Opposition is not convinced that it really has its heart in the appointment of this committee.
Another indication of the casualness with which the Government has approached this matter is that the terms of the resolutions agreed to by the House of Representatives are not now before the Senate. Some of us have had to undertake some degree of research to ascertain the precise terms of those resolutions. I do not deny that the Attorney-General, in the course of his speech, referred to some of the main features of the proposal, but he did not read all of the resolutions and they are not now available for the convenience of honorable senators.
– The resolutions have been circulated.
– I should like the Attorney-General to tell me when they were circulated.
– They were on the notice-paper.
– I speak subject to correction, but I believe that the terms of the resolutions passed by the House of Representatives have not been formally before this chamber. I do not believe that they have appeared on the noticepaper or have been circulated to honorable senators. Certainly they were not circulated yesterday. If they were circulated four months ago, surely it would have been desirable for the AttorneyGeneral to refresh the minds of honorable senators after -that lapse of time.
– They were circulated in the Journals of the Senate.
– In October last year. I am indulging, without asperity, in certain criticisms of the casualness of the Government’s approach to this matter. I suggest that, in order to enable the Senate properly to consider a message from the House of Representatives, the terms of the resolutions agreed to by that chamber should have been circulated to honorable senators. No copies of the speech that the Attorney-General delivered yesterday upon this matter were circulated. The Minister made an extemporary speech upon a matter that I consider to be of prime importance to this nation. No matter how excellent the speech was - and I offer no criticism of it - it did not give us an opportunity to consider properly and calmly the full effect of the Attorney-General’s remarks. I should like him, when he replies, to explain to the Senate why a message that was received from the House of Representatives on the 31st. October of last year was not brought before this chamber for attention until the 26th February of this year, almost four months later.
Let me put the Attorney-General’s mind at rest upon one very important point. In the course of his speech yesterday, he said that the Opposition was not prepared to serve on the committee as proposed. He stigmatized that supposed attitude as “ most unfortunate “. I affirm again the general proposition that the Opposition in this Parliament has not declared itself to be opposed to the appointment of a. foreign affairs committee.
– Is the Opposition prepared to join the committee?
– I am about to deal with that matter. The Opposition considers that such a committee should be established on a reasonably broad basis. We concede at once that, owing to the nature of the matters that the committee would investigate, limitations upon its activities would be necessary. The Labour party decided as long ago as the 17th October, 1951, to propose certain amendments to the resolutions agreed to by the House of Representatives and, when the final attitude of the Government to those amendments became known, to consider whether or not it would be represented on the committee. I say without hesitation that the Labour party has made no decision whatever about whether it will or will not sit on this committee, constituted as provided by the terms of the resolutions of the House ; f Representatives or otherwise. That decision will not be made until this motion has been determined. I want the Attorney-General to understand that that matter is still open for both consideration and determination by the parliamentary Labour party.
I shall deal now with the amendments that we propose should be made. The first resolution to which the House of Representatives agreed reads as follows : -
That a joint committee be appointed to consider such matters concerning foreign affairs as are referred to it by the Minister for External Affairs.
No honorable senator will dispute that, according to that resolution, the ambit of this committee will rest entirely upon the discretion of one man, the Minister for External Affairs. No honorable senator will contest the view that the committee will not be able to function if the Minister exercises his right, under that resolution, to refer no matter to it. He may refer many, few or no matters to it. That is far too narrow a basis for this committee to function upon effectively. The committee should have power which it can exercise of its own volition. I recognize that no government could set up a committee to take charge of foreign policy. It is the duty as well as the responsibility of the Government to fashion and to determine policy.
I think that it has been made clear that the primary purpose of the appointment of this body is the establishment of a study group comprised of interested individuals from both Houses and all parties of this Parliament who will devote ranch study and time to a consideration of international affairs. If it is to be competent for the Minister for External Affairs to deny to that body the opportunity to study certain fields which may appeal to a majority of its members then the heart will be taken out of it. If the committee is merely to function at the whim of a Minister for External Affairs, no matter how excellent a gentleman he may be, it will have no authority and I venture to say that its members will have little interest in examining matters which the Minister alone has determined that they shall study.
Before the motion on this subject came before the House of Representatives a much broader approach to the establishment of this committee had been foreshadowed. In the published report of the Government’s joint policy speech which was delivered in November, 1949, the followingstatement appears at page 29 : -
We renew our proposal that there should be an all-party parliamentary standing committee on foreign affairs to act, not as the creator of policy (which is the privilege and responsibility of the Government of the day) but as a source of information to Parliament and therefore to public opinion.
– That is precisely what is proposed in this measure.
– It is not. I shall show that the proposed committee will not be in a position to supply information to the Parliament. That function which was foreshadowed in the policy speech is specifically denied to the committee in one of the clauses of the resolution. But I shall deal with that matter in its turn. At present, I am dealing with a broader approach to the establishment of this committee which the Government foreshadowed a long while ago. In the Speech which the Governor-General delivered on behalf of the Government in this chamber on the 22nd February, 1950, he said -
It is also proposed to establish a Parliamentary Standing Committee on foreign affairs to give opportunities for full study and to serve as a source of information to Parliament.
As I have already stated in reply to Senator Wright’s interjection, this committee is to be specifically refused the opportunity to report to Parliament. Its power to report to Parliament is expressly negatived, but, as I said before, I shall deal with that point later. The then Minister for External Affairs, Mr. Spender, in the course of a statement on international affairs which he made on the 9th March, 1950, said-
The Government therefore proposes to establish during this session a StandingCommittee on Foreign Affairs which can give constant attention to the broad issues of foreign policy. Similar committees have existed in other countries for many years, and Canada and New Zealand have adopted the idea since the war. I shall submit detailed proposals at a later date, but, briefly, the Government intends that -
the Committee should have a broad mandate to study External Affairs in the widest sense.
How can the intention expressed in that statement be reconciled with the provisions of this motion which provide that a joint committee shall be appointed to consider such matters concerning foreign affairs as are referred to it by the Minister for External Affairs? The present proposal has been placed on the narrowest basis, yet the then Minister for External Affairs proposed on the 9th March, 1950, that the committee should have a broad mandate to study external affairs in the widest sense. He continued -
The committee should be authorized also to inquire into all matters referred to it by the Minister.
He intended, most plainly, that the primary purpose of the committee should be to enter any field of external relations and study them. In addition, it could inquire into any matters referred to it by the Minister. That was to be an ancillary purpose of the committee. Now it is the whole proposal in the resolution before the chamber. The then Minister continued -
The committee should not be too large since much of its value will depend on the depth of the studies it undertakes. .
Then, on page 622 of Hansard of the 9th March, 1950, the Minister is reported to have made the following statement: -
The committee will be able, because of its special studies and information, to give a lend to the house in debates on foreign affairs but it will not itself “ make “ policy since that is and must remain, the responsibility of the Executive. Its great value will lie in its ability to give detailed study to thegreat problems of the day and to pass on to the Parliament the expert knowledge which it will in the course of time, acquire.
There has been a complete change in the outlook of the Government on this matter. Before the Government was elected it had a broad view of the charter that should be accorded to such a committee. Mr. Spender made it exceedingly plain that that was his intention. A foreign affairs committee with a very broad charter has been established in New Zealand. On page 47 of Vol. 278 of the Delates of the New Zealand Parliament, Mr. Eraser is reported to have moved -
That a select committee be appointed, consisting of nine members to consider such matters relating to external and Commonwealth affairs which may be referred to it by the House or the Government.
That motion left the committee free to -examine matters that the Parliament or :the Government referred to it.
– What is the vital difference between that proposal and the measure before the Senate?
– The difference is that in New Zealand, if the Parliament asked the committee to examine a particular matter, it would be free to examine that matter. Under the proposal before the Senate this committee may not examine any matter unless it has been referred to it by the Minister for External Affairs. On that point I again refer to the policy speech delivered on behalf of the Government parties in November, 1949. The present Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) then stated -
Australia’s foreign policy should have clearness and continuity. We therefore believe it to be unfortunate that the present Government should regard it as the preserve of one party; indeed of one minister.
The right honorable gentleman was referring, of course, to the then Labour Government. I do not admit the accuracy of that impeachment of the Labour party, or the then Labour Minister for External Affairs, Dr. Evatt, but I invite supporters of the Government to consider that if that criticism were true and justified, it has real application to the present proposals of the Government, because this is to be a matter that is at “the -discretion of one man, one Minister. That narrows the scope of the proposed committee to a stage where the heart will be ‘taken out of it and its proceedings will ‘.be ‘.completely futile. I believe that there is a much wider approach to the subject by a foreign affairs committee in Canada than is contained in the terms of the resolutions that we are considering. I ask honorable senators to consider for a moment that if the Minister likes to refer no subject at all to the proposed committee, it will be completely futile. Of course, we would have something to complain about if he did not refer anything to the committee. But the point is that the Government wants to establish the committee on the basis that he shall have that power. We object to that. Either House of the Parliament should be able to refer a matter to the committee. Should not the committee itself be able to determine a particular field in which it could expend some energy and study? Otherwise, we shall have a committee without power, without vision, and without imagination, established on no proper base whatever, and a mere adjunct of the Minister for External Affairs for the time being. Resolution 1 reads -
That a joint committee be appointed to consider such matters concerning foreign affairs as are referred to it by the Minister for External Affairs.
I shall move that there he added the following words : - or either House of the Parliament, or as ave decided by a majority of the committee.
In all reason, what honorable senator can oppose that? The Parliament is a responsible body; either House of it is a responsible body. That assumption must be accepted, as must also the assumption that every member of this Parliament will act responsibly. Any other assumption is quite improper. Unless the intention is to keep this committee completely under the thumb of one man, one Minister, why should not either House of this Parliament, or a majority of the committee, determine the field of study and the object of it? What reasonable objection can there be to that? Resolution 2 reads -
That twelve members of the House of Representatives be appointed to serve in such committee.
I shall move that the following words be added : - six to be Government supporters, and six Opposition supporters.
We have not heard from the AttorneyGeneral of the mind of the Government regarding the allocation of membership of this committee between the different parties, governmental and opposition. I do not recall the Attorney-General making any reference to that aspect of the matter yesterday.
– I thought that I had done so.
– We suggest, as far as the House of Representatives is concerned, that as the two parties in the electorate are almost equally divided, the allocation should be six from the Government parties and six from the Opposition. In addition there are to be seven elected from this chamber. The Government, of course, will take the majority of those, at least.
– It is proposed to have seven Government and five Opposition members of the House of Representatives, and four Government and three Opposti.on sena tors.
– I thank the Minister for that information. There is not: a great deal of difference between our proposals and the Government’s proposal under this particular head. The Government is claiming eleven representatives and giving the Opposition eight. We suggested that the Government should have ton representatives on the committee and the Opposition nine. That surely is not a matter upon which the establishment of this committee should fall down. That is, I suggest, a relatively minor matter. Whether the Government has a majority of one or three is not a matter of fundamental importance to us, or, I suppose, to the Government.
We propose no change with regard to Resolution 3. I invite honorable senators to note the terms of that resolution in particular. It reads -
That the Minister For External Affairs shall make available to the committee information within such categories or on such conditions as he may consider desirable.
We acknowledge realistically that very often information of a highly confidential nature is conveyed to the Government from other countries on the clear understanding that it shall not go beyond the members of the Government; sometimes on the clear understanding that it shall not go beyond particular members of the Government; or may be, that it does not go beyond a particular Minister. It is unthinkable that any such understanding should be broken either by compulsion of the Parliament or by the functioning of a committee of this kind.
We do not desire to interfere with that. We agree that it should be the Minister’s privilege to withhold information of a confidential nature, or information the disclosure of which would be dangerous to the security of the country. But the proposed committee should nave power to send for persons and papers, as do all normal committees of the Parliament. I shall be dealing with that matter under another heading. At this stage I point out merely that we do not seek to interfere with Resolution 3, under which the Minister shall determine what papers will be available, and in what categories, from his department or office. It enables him to lay down the basis upon which such p-apers shall be made available to the proposed committee.
Resolution 4 deals with a number of machinery matters. Although I do not intend to deal with paragraph (a) or paragraph (b), I shall propose an amendment to paragraph (c). It reads -
Tha tj notwithstanding anything contained in the Standing Orders -
I submit that it is not necessary for a foreign affairs committee to be condemned to sit in. secrecy all the time. In support of this contention, I point out that the Foreign Relations Committee of the American Senate conducts nearly all of its sittings in the open. There may be occasions when it would be highly desirable, even from the Government’s point of view, that there should be a public hearing in matters of vital interest to the security of this nation, bearing in mind its relations with other nations, and as to the policies that are to be pursued in foreign affairs. The proposed committee and the subcommittees should not be obliged to sit in camera all the time. I repeat that every one of the nineteen members elected by the Parliament to that committee must be assumed to be pre-eminently responsible men, because above all other considerations they will be concerned with the security- of their own country. If this is not to be the assumption of the basis upon which the committee shall be established, the sooner we cease to talk about establishing any committees at all the bettor.
I shall move that the f ollowing words be added at .the end of paragraph (c) - unless the committee or sub-committee otherwise orders.
I suggest it may quite safely be left to the members of the proposed committee or sub-committee to determine whether it should conduct its proceedings and deliberations in secret, or whether they should be held in public. Why debar them from sitting in public? Why cannot that matter be left for determination by the committee?
– If that were done the committee would override the Minister.
– I suggest that the committee should have at least some degree of autonomy and should be able to decide how it shall conduct its proceedings and what subjects it may examine.
– In that case the Minister would be subservient to the committee.
– Not at all. The Government’s proposal is that the nineteen members elected by all parties and by the vote of the Parliament shall be completely subservient to the Minister and that their acts shall be subject to his veto. The point at issue is merely whether the committee, when it is considering a particular matter, will sit in public or private. Under Labour’s proposal that matter would be determined by a majority of the committee. Does Senator Guy suggest that any of the nineteen men who are selected to sit on the committee will be irresponsible and untrustworthy? I am sure that he would not make such an unworthy insinuation.
– They might not be in such a good position to judge the matter as the Minister would be.
– If this committee is properly based there will be the closest possible consultation between its members and the Minister. I should not expect that, if a proposition were put to a member of this Parliament, irrespective of party, that the publication of a certain matter would be adverse to the best interest of Australia, he would persist in arguing that it should be disclosed. The question of security and secrecy is in perfectly safe hands if it rests in the hands of a majority of the members of the proposed committee or a majority of the members of one of it3 sub-committees.
I come now to the next amendment which I propose to move. It relates to paragraph (/) of Resolution No. 4, which reads -
The committee shall have no power to send for persons, papers, or records without the concurrence of the Minister for External Affairs and all evidence submitted to the committee shall be regarded as confidential to the committee.
I have already pointed out with some care that we do not propose to interfere with the provisions of Resolution No. 3, which enables the Minister to make available information only within such categories or on such conditions as he may determine. But we believe that if the committee is to have substance it must be free to send for persons and papers. Such papers as . would be sent for by the committee would not be papers of the Department of External Affairs or of the Minister. That matter will be left entirely under the Minister’s purview and such amendments as we propose do not infringe his rights. Why, apart from that, should the committee be prohibited from pursuing its studies in any particular field unless its members run cap in hand to the Minister and say, “ Please, may we do it? “ The Minister may exercise an absolute veto in respect of matters of that kind. Members of the Parliament who would function as a committee under those conditions would have little respect for themselves or for the committee to which they have been appointed. We propose that paragraph (/) be omitted and that the following paragraph be inserted in its stead : - (/) The committee shall have power to send for persons, papers or records.
Again, I refer to the Canadian practice which was laid down in 1925 and which I believe still prevails. The Journals of the House of Commons of Canada of the 18th February, 1925, record that, on the motion of Mr. Mackenzie King, it was resolved -
That the Select Standing Committees of this House shall severally be empowered to examine and inquire into all such matters and things as may be referred to them by the House and to report from time to time their observations and opinions thereon;-
The report is made to the Parliament - with power to send for persons, papers and records.
Why should the members of the Canadian Parliament and not the members of this Parliament be trusted to be discreet and act responsibly?
Resolution No. 4 (e) reads -
The committee shall, for considerations of national security, in all cases forward its reports to the Minister for External Affairs, but on every occasion when the committee forwards a report to the Minister, it shall inform the Parliament that ithas so reported.
There is no objection to a report being sent to the Minister or to the committee being obliged to inform the Parliament that it has so reported; but we think it should be competent for either House of Parliament to say, “ We direct that the report of the committee be published or presented “, and accordingly we propose to add at the end of the resolution the following words: - “ and either House of the Parliament may decide that the report be published.”
If there is any objection to that it can only be based on the fear that either House of the Parliament will act irresponsibly. That, again, is a very improper assumption. As I must relate my amendments to the motion moved by the Attorney-General, I move -
At end of proposed resolution (1) add the following modifications: - “ (c) that resolution No. 1 which reads: -
That a joint committee be appointed to consider such matters concerning foreign affairs as are referred to it by the Minister for External Affairs;’ be amended by the addition of the following words: - or by either House of the Parliament or as are decided upon by a majority of the committee.’.
that resolution No. 2 which reads: -
That twelve members of the House of Representatives be appointed to serve on such committee;’ be amended by the addition of the following words: - six to be Government supporters and six Opposition supporters.’.
that paragraph (c) of resolution No. 4 which reads: -
The committee and its subcommittees will sit in camera and their proceedings shall be secret ; ‘, be amended by the addition to that paragraph of the following words: - unless the committee or subcommittee otherwise orders ‘.
that paragraph (c) of resolution No. 4 which reads: - the committee shall, for considerations of national security, in all cases forward its reports to the Minister for External Affairs, but on every occasion when the committee forwards a report to the Minister, it shall inform the Parliament that it has so reported;’. be amended by the addition of the following words: - and either House of Parliament may decide that the report be published ‘.
that paragraph (f) of resolution No. 4 which reads: - the committee shall have no power to send for persons, papers or records without the concurrence of the Minister for External Affairs and all evidence submitted to the committee shall be regarded as confidential to the committee; and ‘, be omitted and the following paragraph be inserted in lieu thereof: -
the committee shall have power to send for persons, papers or records ; and ‘.”.
I express the earnest hope that the Government and the Opposition will, by some degree of co-operation, be able to establish the proposed Foreign Affairs Committee. I urge the Government not to say in regard to this matter, “ That is our last word “. It should listen to what I regard as the reasoned arguments of the Opposition in favour of the amendments. If the Government cannot see its way clear to meet the Opposition in respect of all these amendments it might meet us at least in respect of some of them. In the national interest there must be some give and take between the Government and Opposition in regard to this matter. Both bodies, I believe, genuinely desire to see a joint committee on foreign affairs established on a firm and workable basis. The proposals that I have advanced are designed to ensure that the proposed committee shall be established on that basis. If they are rejected, the committee will bc a mere futility. I invite the Government to consider the request that I have proffered on behalf of the Opposition and not to reject precipitately the whole of our amendments. What objection can possibly be raised to our proposal that the committee should be allowed to pursue its own course of study? What objection can be raised to our proposal that this chamber should be empowered to refer a particular matter to the committee for inquiry and report? Why should that right be denied to the Senate in the terms of this resolution? No harm could be donn if the Government agreed to our proposals; on the contrary, if they are accepted our foreign affairs committee will be able to make a worthwhile contribution to the national life of this country. It is highly desirable that matters which concern a committee of this kind should br- beyond the playground of party politics. I agree with what has been said by the Government and the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) on this matter. Tt is desirable that we should have clarity and continuity in our foreign policy. I invite the Government to consider the arguments that I have presented and the further arguments that may be addressed to it by my colleagues in support of these amendments. I share the hope of honorable senators on this side of the chamber that we shall be able to reach a basis of agreement that will enable the Opposition to join a foreign affairs committee believing that it has a worthwhile job to do.
– I am very glad to learn that the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) is in a conciliatory mood, and that the door to co-operation has not been shut, bolted and barred. I hope that ultimately the Opposition will agree to appoint representatives to the committee. This is a new and to some degree hazardous experiment. There is one big difference between our form of Government and that of the United States of America. In the United States of America, the Cabinet is responsible to the President alone, and not to the Senate or the House of Representatives and, to give members of the two Houses sufficient influence on foreign policy, they are permitted to sit on committees that wield very great powers which are quite inconsistent with responsible government. I am satisfied that all serious Australian students of politics agree that responsible government is the one form of government that we understand and can make work. It may be that, in the process of evolution, our foreign affairs committee would be made more authoritative, but I have read all the debates that took place at the federal conventions in this country, and I know that all the experienced State Premiers were adamant that we should not have the American cabinet system, and that our Senate should not be permitted to exercise powers that might in any way hamper our system of responsible government.
I am afraid that the Leader of the Opposition used rather exaggerated language when he said that because certain powers were not to be given to the committee, it would be a futility. The committee will not be a futility even if it serves only to add to the knowledge of its members. Knowledge is something that we all need. The committee could be called a study group. A study group could be most valuable. Each member could be given his own particular sphere of inquiry and investigation. Information obtained from the Department of External Affairs would be of inestimable value. What information do we get at present? We have to depend upon foreign affairs reviews, speeches made in other parliaments and the writings of specialists on foreign politics. Very often such information is out of date. Only recently I was turning over in my mind the various countries about which I know something, and I said to myself, “ What do I know about China? I have many opinions about China. I know quite a number of things about China ; but there are experts
On China who, no doubt, would tell me exactly the opposite things.” Undoubtedly this committee will devote some attention to Asia, but the whole world is a unit. We cannot consider foreign policy in relation to any particular country without considering also the rest of the world. There are, for instance, people who think that we should forget about Europe and interest ourselves only in South-East Asia. That is not possible because the problems of Asia, America, and Europe are interwoven. The general principles of our foreign policy are supported by all but a few completely irresponsible people. We all agree that Australia must be protected; that the British Commonwealth of Nations must continue; and that we must have closer ties with the United States of America. In fact, the only serious division of opinion on foreign policy is in relation to communism. But before a policy can be adopted we must have knowledge, and I remind the Leader of the Opposition that in life many problems solve themselves. Very often solutions are not found by any effort of will but merely by ascertaining the facts. We may be uneasy or worried about something; we obtain the facts, and there in front of us is the solution. It is not a question of a committee or group forcing its will on anybody else. Here are some of the things that a foreign affairs committee could do on what the Leader of the Opposition terms its present narrow basis. It could interview the Minister for External Affairs. It could express opinions to the Minister and, in return, have made available to it the opinions of departmental experts. Members of the committee could get to know leading officials of the Department of External Affairs. That would be most important in shaping policy. Many of the things that the Minister would do would be what the committee desired.
The whole basis of the attack by the Leader of the Opposition was that because the Minister had power to do something foolish he would do it. Surely there can be no argument against a locomotive merely because the engine driver may go mad and disregard signals. 1 know the Minister and all the members of the Cabinet. In my dealings with the Cabinet or with the Minister I have never found any unwillingness to discuss matters. I have never sought an interview with the Minister without being granted one almost immediately. I have had many talks with him, and with the permanent head of the Department of External Affairs. I correspond with ambassadors, Ministers and others abroad. If the Opposition will agree to appoint representatives to the committee they will be received in a spirit of friendship and comradeship that is not possible when we sit on opposite sides of a chamber and hurl verbal missiles at one another. Meetings of the committee will provide an opportunity for fair, free, and frank non-party discussion. However, I believe that the Minister is quite justified in insisting that, in the experimental stages, we do not want a committee that might get out of hand. I trust the Minister, and I believe that, with the support of the Opposition, after the committee had met for say, a year, it is quite likely that its power would be extended. Let us look at the proposed functions of the committee. It will not be a policy making body except in the sense that it will collect information, exchange knowledge, and give frank expressions of opinion. I sincerely hope that the Opposition will reconsider its attitude and that regardless of the fate of its a iti end ments, it will appoint representatives to the committee who will he able to try from within the committee to extend its basis if they consider that to be necessary.
Senator ARNOLD (New South Wales) 1 4.29]. - Like other members of the Opposition, I was very keen to see a foreign affairs committee of this Parliament appointed. I felt that the establishment of such a committee would be of great benefit to the people of Australia. When the former Minister for External Affairs, Mr. Spender, announced two years ago that the Government would appoint a foreign affairs committee, I applauded his speech, and waited eagerly to see what form the committee would take. I was dismayed when I saw the terms of reference which it is proposed to hand to the committee. I had hoped that through a foreign affairs committee members on both sides of the Parliament would have access to information, that they would be able to inform their minds in such a way that they could visualize a continuous foreign policy, and would be able to make a worthwhile contribution towards the solution of problems bearing upon our foreign policy. The Opposition has not discarded the idea of serving on a foreign affairs committee, but we say that the committee, as proposed, would not be able to do a satisfactory job. We have put forward several amendments which we ask the Government to consider and, if possible, to accept so that the committee may function with the approval of members of all parties. When the Government puts forward a proposition, members of the Opposition have not only a right, but also a duty, to examine it and offer suggestions for its improvement. I was astonished when the Minister in presenting this proposal last night said, in effect : “ There is our proposition. If you do not like it, we do not want you to be represented on the committee. In any case, we have made up our minds that we are going to run the committee ourselves, but we have to get the proposal through the Parliament “. A committee appointed in such circumstances cannot be expected to do valuable work. The Leader of the Opposition has presented in conciliatory terms certain suggestions foi the consideration of the Government, and has said that if the suggestions are accepted the Opposition will consider appointing representatives to the committee.
It has always been my wish that a Jo reign affairs committee should be appointed. Over the years, I have seen the committee system function very well in this Parliament, and much good has flowed from the investigations and recommendations of committees. I was myself a member of the Social Security Committee for some years. On that committee the Government and the Opposition had equal representation. We presented eight reports on controversial subjects, and our recommendations, when implemented ‘by the government of the day, resulted in the distribution of millions of pounds in the form of benefits to the people of Australia. All our reports were unanimous. The committee considered various proposals, and afterwards was able to present acceptable recommendations to the government. There is no reason why a foreign affairs committee could not function in the same way. At present, the Minister for External Affairs receives from his experts advice on the foreign policy of Australia. Perhaps the Minister believes that the expert advice which he receives is sufficient to enable him to make wise decisions. We believe that the foreign policy of Australia should be continuous. There should be substantial agreement between the Opposition and the Government on foreign policy, so that there need be no change of policy even when there is a change of government. Therefore, instead of the Minister for External Affairs accepting advice only from his departmental experts, he should have at his disposal the advice and recommendations of a committee which is itself qualified, because of its composition, to speak on behalf of both Government and Opposition parties. Such a. committee would hear departmental experts, examine witnesses, and call for documents.
Senator McCallum said that the proposed committee would be different from the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee of the Congress of the United States of America. That is so, and there is no reason why we should adopt the American system. Surely we are capable of working out a system that would be suitable to meet the needs of Australia. It has been suggested that a foreign affairs committee, constituted as we suggest, might make blunders, and that it is necessary to take precautions. Well, Ministers make blunders, too.
– Yes, Dr. Evatt was one who did.
– I could tell the honorable senator about a Liberal Minister who also blundered. Honorable senators know that, some months ago, a distinguished Australian declared that our policy on China was at fault. I am not revealing any secret when I say that, because it is common knowledge that the policy of our present Minister for External Affairs has been criticized by this distinguished Australian. Any one may make a mistake, but there is less chance of making a serious blunder when policy :-s hammered out by a committee than if it is the responsibility of a single Minister. If the committee does not function satisfactorily, the Government can always vary the procedure.
The appointment of a foreign affairs committee has been discussed for a number of years, but the Government has nowput forward a proposal that when the committee is constituted the Government parties shall be in a strong majority. The Opposition does not believe that to be right. Perhaps the objection is not important, but it should at least be considered by the Government before being dismissed out of hand. The Government is trying to keep such close control over the committee that it will be unworkable. I fear that the Minister for External Affairs will adopt the attitude that certain matters are too secret to be entrusted to the committee for its consideration, and that only relatively unimportant matters will bp placed before it. He will say, in effect. “ This matter is so highly secret that J must deal with it myself “. If that practice is followed the committee will not he worth while. Members of all parties in this Parliament are responsible men, who can be trusted to do a job conscientiously if they are given responsibility. I feel so strongly that a foreign affairs committee should be established that I appeal to the Attorney-General and the Government to examine the arguments that have been advanced by the Leader of the Opposition, with a view to ascertaining whether a compromise agreement can be reached. If such an agreement could be made, the committee would become a valuable asset to Australia.
– I was pleased to hear the AttorneyGeneral (Senator Spicer) state the case for the establishment of a foreign affairs committee. It would be a great pity if the Opposition refrained from taking part in it. The object of the modifications of the resolutions of the House of Representatives that were moved yesterday by the AttorneyGeneral is to leave the door open for members of the Opposition to accept their responsibilities and serve on the committee as and when they feel that they can do so. I should like the Opposition to decide at the outset to participate in the work of the committee, because in all matters relating to foreign affairs Australia should speak with one voice. Nothing would contribute more greatly to the achievement of that objective than would the establishment of a joint parliamentary committee to study the tremendous problems that arise for determination by the British Commonwealth in association with the United States of America, and to review the whole of the international scene. The Minister for External Affairs has a big task. There are many trouble spots in the world today. As soon as one of them ceases to be dangerous, after much diplomatic activity and perhaps the intervention of the United Nations, another one appears.
The Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) laid much stress upon what I shall call the one-man aspect of the proposed committee. I point out that one man, the Minister for External Affairs, is applying himself to the problem of determining the attitude that Australia should adopt to many matters that are of grave importance to every Australian. The establishment of a foreign affairs committee, to which from time to time the Minister could refer urgent and vital problems that confronted him, could have no effect other than to make him feel satisfied that any decision that he made about international problems would be sound and would have the support, not only of the members of his own party but also of the members of the Opposition. At a conference table, men of different political opinions could, after healthy discussion, determine the attitude that we should adopt to external problems.
The committee must begin in a modest fashion. Senator McCallum made the point that the establishment of the committee will be an experiment and that we should, therefore, hasten slowly. I believe that the correct approach to the matter is that the Minister for External Affairs must be in command of the ship. He is responsible for advising the Government upon international affairs. Speaking in the committee, he would reflect the opinions of the Government. It is important that the committee, like an infant, should crawl before it walks. In the beginning, we should approach this matter with a sense of humility and find our feet by degrees. Although the Minister for External Affairs will be required to refer to the committee only such matters as he deems it advisable that the committee should consider, I am certain that once he believed that the committee was a responsible body which was knuckling down to its job enthusiastically, he would be inclined to listen to the committee’s representations if it desired that a special matter should be referred to it. I do not think there is any doubt that the Minister would do that, because in these matters we are governed by common sense and reason.
A lightly spoken or foolish word of a committeeman could prejudice our relations with other countries. When we are dealing with highly sensitive nations, it is important that we shall not do or say anything that will cause those nations to adopt a hostile attitude towards us. Reference has been made to the Foreign Affairs Committee of the American Senate. Some statements that have been made by members of that body, and some expressions of opinion by the committee itself, have astounded me. They can have had no effect other than to stir up hostility. To-day, the world is in a state of great tension and it is desirable to exercise the greatest care in discussing matters that might involve us in great trouble, or even in war. Therefore, I agree that the discussions and determinations of the proposed committee should be subject to a reasonable degree of secrecy. Sometimes it may be necessary for matters discussed in secret by the Committee to be discussed in public in the House of Representatives or the Senate, but I think that, in general, the work of the committee should be subject to secrecy. In the secrecy of the conference room, committeemen could speak freely, but the knowledge that the limelight of publicity was upon them would restrict the frank and open expression of their opinions.
When the Leader of the Opposition dealt with the number of members of the committee, I thought that he was only beating the air. I do not blame him for having done so, but he was quibbling. The Government is entitled to have a reasonable majority on the committee, and that is all that the amended resolutions will make provision for. I suggest to the members of the Opposition that the common-sense attitude to adopt would be to agree to participate in the work of the committee. The time for them to make a stand would be when, if at all, the forebodings to which the Leader of the Opposition gave expression to-day came to pass. The establishment of the committee will enable us to make a start. Let the Opposition agree to serve upon the committee, in the form proposed by the Government, and try to make it a success. If it be found in practice that the Minister will not call the committee together, it will be apparent that the establishment of the committee was a hoax and a futility, but I am certain that the Minister will not treat it as a dead letter. I think he will refer to it enough material to keep it busy. In the present condition of the world, it would be a good thing if the Leader of the Opposition were to nominate members of his party to serve on the committee and help to make a success of it.
– The Government’s proposal to establish a foreign affairs committee has given us all food for thought, but the more that I have considered the terms that the Government has offered in order to induce members of the Opposition to serve upon the committee, the more have [ realized its futility. The Government has no definite foreign policy. In every sphere of international affairs, it is going deeper into the wilderness. I believe that the Government’s proposal to establish this committee is an attempt to associate the Opposition with the responsibility for the Government’s foreign policy. The Australian Labour party, when it.wa3 in office, upheld the principles of the United Nations. During that time, the foreign policy of this country had the support of almost the whole of the Australian people. But the people have no confidence in the foreign policy of this Government. The proposal to establish this committee is a crude attempt to associate the Australian Labour party, and those who support and trust it, with the Government’s bungling in the international sphere.
– Apparently the honorable senator does not want a foreign affairs committee.
– If the proposal were to establish a genuine foreign affairs committee, I should regard it in a different light. The present proposal is that the committee shall consider only matters that have been carefully selected for its consideration by the Minister for External Affairs. The committee will be given only enough work to keep its members quiet. I believe that the intention of the Government in suggesting the establishment of the committee is to pull wool over the eyes, not only of the people of this country, but also of the people of other countries who previously have expected us to have a. constructive foreign policy.
Some of the matters that could have been referred to a committee on foreign affairs are the recognition of China by Australia, in line with its recognition by Great Britain and the United Nations, and our own self interest in the Pacific where we have 1,000,000,000 Asians to deal with and live alongside. If a committee had been proposed for the purpose of examining matters of such far-reaching importance to the future of Australia as the recognition of the Chinese Government I should have been able to support a proposal for its establishment and would have given credit to the Government for the proposal. The previous Minister for External Affairs in this Government led the nation up the garden path in the course of negotiations on the Japanese peace treaty and then ensconced himself in Washington and left the tag-ends of the problem to be handled by the present Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey). . A matter of such great importance to Australia as the Japanese peace treaty could not be examined by the committee under the Government’s proposals, nor could other important matters such as those concerning Indonesia and Dutch New Guinea. Only if the Minister liked to refer a matter to the committee would it be able to examine it. But the Parliament itself should be able to refer practically all matters of foreign policy to such a committee. In that way only could democratic principles bc observed and the confidence of the people retained. Other matters which such a committee should be able to consider are problems concerning South-East Asia such as the crisis which is at present arising in the Malayan Peninsula. Unfortunately, this country has been irrevocably committed by the foreign policy of the Government. That is why the Government considers that there is no need for the committee to study matters of such great importance to the future of Australia as those which I have mentioned. Although the Government has been in office since 1949 it now wishes toset up a committee to take the responsibility and share the blame for its actions. The Opposition is quite justified in seeking alterations in the constitution of this committee with which the Government desires us to associate ourselves.
In order that such a. committee should he able to carry out its functions properly the Parliament should be able to refer subjects to it for investigation, but while the Minister insists on retaining the right to choose the subjects to be referred to it he is only playing with the problem. It has been well said that the people should be informed which way the country is going.. The statement that was made in this chamber last night on foreign affairs by the AttorneyGeneral (Senator Spicer) was merely a mass of verbiage. It gave to airy nothing a local habitation and a name. There was absolutely nothing in the statement to give any one any idea of the direction in which this country is heading except that it indicated that we are going further into the mire.
The formation of parliamentary committees is a very important part of the democratic form of government. I believe that it is the right way to obtain the views of the people through their representatives. The variety of angles from which problems are viewed and the clashes of ideas that take place in committees are fundamental to a democratic parliament. But in order to function successfully a committee should not be restricted in its field of investigation. It should be competent to call upon witnesses from whom it considers that it could obtain valuable information. Members of Parliament who are appointed to this type of committee realize the very secret nature of their investigations and respect the need for secrecy. A committee constituted as the Government has proposed would give its members glory without power. Their wings would have been clipped in order to prevent them from fully investigating the subjects referred to them.
I believe that the amendments that have been put forward by the Opposition are warranted, and desirable, and unless the Government agrees to widen the scope of the committee’s investigations the proposal will receive no support from this side of the chamber. The Government is out of touch with public opinion and is daily becoming more discredited. Its so-called policy is being increasingly recognized as a negative approach. Although it promised to develop this country and help it to prosper it has brought about a lack of confidence in itself.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Tate).- I draw the honorable senator’s attention to the fact that that subject is not referred to in the motion.
– It can be connected with it.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT. - The Senate is dealing with item No. 1 - “ The Formation of a Committee “ - not the policy of the Government on any other question.
– The Government’s proposals for the constitution of this committee have been carefully considered by the Opposition and we are of the opinion that unless the amendments which have been proposed to widen the scope of the committee are accepted, the committee can be of no use whatever. As the consideration of items of foreign policy by a committee not fully representative of the chamber would have no value, I hope that the Government will give further consideration to the whole matter with the object of widening the powers of the committee. I support the amendments and oppose the motion.
Senator CORMACK (Victoria) [5.11 J. - I had hoped that there would be no further speakers on behalf of the Opposition after Senator Arnold concluded his speech because, in his usual capable manner, he maintained the debate on the high level on which it was commenced by the Attorney-General (Senator Spicer) and. the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) ; but a malignant fate has overtaken me and I find myself speaking after Senator O’Byrne. Although my term in the Senate has been short and the length of time for which I shall remain here will depend on the decision of the people next year, up to this date I have never heard a more puerile statement than that which was made by Senator O’Byrne. It was full of drivelling puerilites and if an intelligence quotient could be struck on the honorable senator’s knowledge of foreign affairs it would be about 90. If the honorable senator wants to know what that would indicate he can consult any psychologist and he may or may not be surprised, but the information that he would be given would not surprise any other senator in this chamber. He did not discuss in any degree the problem which was outlined by the Attorney-General and discussed by the Leader of the Opposition and Senator Arnold. Honorable senators have listened to a tissue of propaganda in which they have been taken for a ride around the coast of China, the mountains of Cathay, the Sea of Japan and down to Indonesia. Malignant references were made to the Australian Minister in Washington, who has done a magnificent job. It should interest Senator O’Byrne to know that Mr. Spender succeeded in giving effect to clause 2 of the external affairs policy of the Australian Labour party, which calls for the negotiation of foreign agreements by democratic pro.cedures. Such action was taken at the conference which was held at San Francisco. Having said that, I shall leave the boy alone.
The Leader of the Opposition rebuffed the motion on the grounds that the terms of reference were too narrow and that they would deprive the committee of the right of reporting to Parliament. Any one who complains that the terms of reference are too narrow must be afraid that members of the committee, after hearing expert evidence, may be compelled to reject cherished views upon realizing that they are wrong. I do not think that the argument that the committee would be deprived of the right of reporting to Parliament is valid. Surely a committee functions according to the character and capacity of its constituents. A committee would be entirely useless if it were composed of people whose intelligence quotient was about 90; but it could be effective and highly efficient if it were composed of persons possessed of a reasonably high intelligence quotient. People who have pre-conceived opinions, based on circumstances and experiences that they have not examined analytically, usually have a fear end a horror that those opinions may be destroyed by the application of knowledge. There are people who live in caverns and hate the light.
– I thank Senator Vincent for supplying the correct term. The opinions of such people on Australia’s external relationships and policies are born in the dismal ignorance of darkness. They do not want their preconceived opinions to be exposed to the light in any way. Therefore, I regret to say, we must commence with the assumption that there are people” who do not want the proposed committee to come into being in any form. I exclude specifically, the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) from that observation. I believe that he earnestly and honestly desires that an allparty committee of this Parliament should be established to consider our foreign policy. I concede, also, to Senator Arnold, an acknowledgment of the necessity for the establishment of such a committee, all-party in scope and nature. However, I believe, as Senator O’Byrne has been kind enough to disclose to us, that there are modifying forces within the Labour party that consider that this is a trap. They apparently have no intention of abdicating their position of complete irresponsibility. For so long as they refrain from assisting the Government to determine its policy on external affairs, there is open to them an immense scope for fluid thinking. They can, with impunity, make the most outrageous suggestions.
The proposed committee could examine the fundamental principles underlying the troubles in Burma, Malaya, and Hong Kong, as well as the economic situation in Japan, in relation to Australia’s foreign policy. I exclude problems in the countries of which Senator Cameron has written in the Labour party’s newspaper, the Herald. Surely, after responsible members of the Parliament have considered in its various aspects, reliable information that comes to hand about the countries that I have mentioned, they should be able to say to the wild men of the party that they support “Such and such is not true “. I use the term “ wild men “ advisedly, because there are usually some men in that category in political parties of all hues. I do not for a moment believe that any responsible member of the Parliament would reject the suggestion that our foreign policy should be determined in the light of the true implications of circumstances that exist in foreign countries. I do not consider it germane that the proposed committee should report direct to the Parliament, because it cannot be denied that the forms and procedures that are observed by committees of the Parliament have been of slow growth. For instance, the Public Works
Committee and the Joint House Committee did not suddenly spring into flower overnight. Those committees have grown in stature and strength as a result of the experience of men of goodwill that have composed them in the past. The validity of their functions has been questioned from time to time, as a result of which the Parliament has altered the conditions that govern them. I think all honorable senators will concede that, since 1939, it has come to be recognized that there is a real necessity for the policy governing our external relationships to be formulated in a. non-partisan spirit, because of the increasing difficulty of making such decisions.
Senator Arnold has approached the consideration of this subject in a very practical and enlightened manner. I believe that the Leader of the Opposition, in his heart, also believes that, if the subject were approached in that way, the resultant committee would be an effective instrument for the well-being of the Australian people. I am reminded of the position of a man who is willing to accept and embrace Christianity but who, on being led to the brink of a stream to be baptized, complains that the water is too deep, or that its temperature is not to his liking. He forgets the active faith that he must evince when he embraces an idea. He should not quarrel with the means by which he must embrace that faith. Likewise, we should grasp the opportunity that has been presented to us.
Senator CRITCHLEY (South Australia) f 5.23]] . - I should have imagined that the opportunity for members of both Houses of the Parliament to establish an all-party committee to hold discussions on Australia’s foreign policy would have been eagerly grasped by all members of the Parliament. I nm sure that if Government senators were to strip their minds of political bias, they would agree readily that we have before us an opportunity to establish a most valuable committee. The Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) has approached this subject in a common-sense manner, and with a realization that we have a duty to perform. As he has pointed out, we believe that the members of the proposed committee should have ready access to documents that they would require, except in very special .cases of major importance. For the Government to reject the amendments that have been moved by the Leader of the Opposition, would be, I consider, a negative approach to the subject. I exhort the Government to consider fully the overtures that have been made by Senator Arnold. I feel sure that every member of this chamber is seised of the very great importance of the matter that is before us, not only in the interests of Australia, but ako in the interests of ‘ all English-speaking peoples of the world. The proposed committee would be of educational and informative value to the Parliament, and would represent a departure from the established policies of former Australian governments. It should be given political birth in a manner that will remove all thoughts of political rancour. I again a “ileal to the Government to consider sympathetically the sane and sound amendments that have been moved by the Leader of the Opposition.
– I believe that it is of prime importance that the proposed committee should be established, and that it should commence its duties without delay. Its precise powers and authority are matters of secondary importance. We have been talking for a long time about the .advisability of establishing such a committee and I look forward to the committee becoming an accomplished fact. I hope that the proposal to establish it will not be abandoned because of Labour’s insistence on a requirement that is unacceptable to the Government. In its experimental and formative stages the committee could be watched and any improvements deemed desirable could be effected from time to time. I have no doubt that once its effectiveness becomes evident, its scope will be broadened. Doubtless, recommendations in that connexion would flow from the committee itself. All political parties in the Parliament have a bounden duty in this connexion. No party can claim that the matter of foreign affairs is its own prerogative, because our foreign policy has a direct influence on every member of the community. The ultimate objective of our foreign policy must be to provide for the progress, safety, and defence of all people in this country, irrespective of political persuasion. The difference between a foreign policy and a domestic policy is that a foreign policy determines how and by what means the nation shall continue to exist, whereas domestic policy is concerned primarily with the affairs of the individual. I regard that as a sufficient reason why the committee, irrespective of its charter, should be an all-party committee. A foreign affairs committee could be the medium by which national policy could be formulated and expressed to the Minister for External Affairs, not, I repeat, as an expression of party political belief, but as a national sentiment and a national aspiration. Such a committee should also have the very desirable effect of introducing to our foreign policy the characteristic of continuity. I trust that in the long run, as the result of the deliberations of the committee, we shall evolve a foreign policy which will become known not only to our own people but also to the people of other nations as an Australian approach to international affairs. A foreign affairs policy, moulded to some degree by the deliberations of an all-party committee, could become just as much a national policy as is the White Australia policy. When the committee has been established our foreign affairs policy will not be changed with every change of Government or, possibly, with every change of Ministers. Undoubtedly, changing conditions in world affairs and changing circumstances at home will result in variations of our foreign policy, but if a foreign affairs committee is established those variations will merely reflect changes in our national outlook and will not be influenced by the point pf view of one political party or another or of one individual or another. Another advantage to be gained from the establishment of a committee of this kind would be the removal of consideration of international affairs from the atmosphere of party disputation to the more friendly atmosphere of the committee room. I am pleased that the door is still open for the Opposition to co-operate with the Government on this matter. I trust that honorable senators opposite will realize the advantages that will flow from the establishment of a foreign affairs committee and that they will co-operate with the Government in making the proposed committee a representative body which will play an important role in the formulation of our foreign policy.
– in reply - First, I desire to intimate to the Senate that I am not able to accept the amendments proposed by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna). I, and all honorable senators on this side of the chamber, hope that the Opposition will agree to co-operate with the Government in the establishment of the proposed committee and make it the effective instrument that we want it to be. On an occasion like this it is possible to over-emphasize the effect of the limitations, if honorable senators care so to describe them, that have been placed on the proposed committee by the Government. The effectiveness of such a committee will depend most of all upon the persons that are appointed to it. The degree to which the members of such a committee are keen to do a useful national job is of far more importance than are the actual terms of its charter.
In stating his arguments in support of his amendments the Leader of the Opposition almost proved too much. Bie said that under the terms of the motion now before us it is conceivable that the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey) may not refer any matter to the committee for investigation and report. That is a most unreal approach to the problem. Surely the honorable senator does not suggest that we should seriously go through the business of seeking parliamentary approval for a proposal of this kind unless we intended to put it into effect. The statement of the Leader of the Opposition that the proposed committee will be able to deal only with such matters as are referred to it by the Minister is technically true, but we have seen how committees of this kind established in other British communities have developed into very useful instruments. Is it unreal to suggest that when our foreign affairs committee is functioning and its members meet together around their chairman, and say to one another, “ We should like to discuss such and such a subject “, the chairman will not go to the Minister and say, “ The committee would like to discuss this particular subject; what about it?”. Unless the Minister had some objection to such a discussion, for which he has very good foundation, he would undoubtedly say, “ Of course you can discuss it “. That is the way in which an instrument of this kind works in a British community. I ask the Opposition to give this proposal a trial. Only by trial can we test its efficiency. The Minister for External Affairs earnestly desires to establish the committee and to make it function successfully. He told me only this afternoon that if the committee were constituted to-night there would be no reason why it should not meet to-morrow, for he would submit to it at once a number of subjects which he is most willing for it to discuss.
There is only one other matter to which I desire to refer. The Leader of the Opposition criticized the proposal that the proceedings of the committee be conducted in secret. I believe that a foreign affairs committee, having regard to the subjects which it will be asked to discuss, will be much more effective from the point of view of its members if it sits in camera than would otherwise be the case. The honorable senator was almost forced into the position of agreeing that, if the committee were given power to sit in public, and the Minister raised strong objections to its discussion of a certain subject in public, even though a majority of the members of the committee had decided that it should sit in public he would expect the committee to give great weight to the views expressed by the Minister. Instead of worrying about all these details in relation to the charter of the. committee, let us get down to the real business of establishing it. If those appointed to such a committee approached their task with goodwill they could make a worthwhile contribution to the solution of problems associated with external affairs. I leave the subject now by repeating my sincere hope that the Opposition will take part in the deliberations of the committee.
Question put -
That the words proposed to be inserted (Senator McKenna’s amendment) be inserted.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator the Hon. Edward Mattner.)
Majority . . . . 7
Question so resolved in the negative.
Question put -
That the motion (vide page 382) be agreed to.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator the Hon. Edward Mattner.)
Majority . . . . 7
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Sitting suspended from 5.55 to 8 p.m.
Debate resumed from the 26th February(vide page 313), on motion by Senator Spicer -
That the following paper be printed: -
– Honorable senators are glad to have this opportunity to discuss the statement delivered by the AttorneyGeneral (Senator Spicer) on international affairs. We do not get the opportunity as often as we would like to consider the various problems associated with Australia’s international relations. Even in this debate we are restricted, because many aspects of the subject are covered by items which appear elsewhere on the notice-paper. For instance, in a day or two, we shall be discussing the Japanese peace treaty and the Pacific pact, so that it will be better to refrain from discussing those matters for the time being. I have been particularly impressed by the lack of personal knowledge among members of the Parliament regarding world problems. With very few exceptions, private members and Ministers alike know nothing of the men who, in other countries, profoundly influence world events. That shortcoming can, and should be, overcome. Even among members of the Cabinet, very few men have sufficient knowledge of the international affairs upon which they may be required at any time to form a judgment. In his statement the other day, the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey) discussed the attitude of Mr. Vyshinsky at the United Nations. The Minister said that it was an education to him to see the representative of the Soviet in action. Other Ministers have bad no opportunity to gain such ex perience, and therefore have not been able to form a proper appreciation of the problems with which we are confronted. This is what the Minister for External Affairs said -
I do not believe that it is possible, other than by attending a session of the Assembly, to realize the degree to which it reflects the antagonisms between the democratic and the Communist worlds. One has only to hear one speech of Mr. Vyshinsky, laced with abuse and vituperation, unashamed statements that black is white or white is black, and vicious propaganda, in order to become fully and grimly aware of the realities of the cold war.
Obviously, the experience made a deep impression upon the Minister, but he is the only member of the Government who has had such an experience.
– He did not learn much from it.
– Well, he had the opportunity to learn. The Government should send Ministers to international conferences and meetings from time to time. The days are gone when a Minister for External Affairs took a leisurely trip every few years, and said “ Hello “ to kings and ambassadors in foreign countries. To-day, we are living on the edge of an abyss. Our statesmen should be armed with a full knowledge of current events, and of the personalities who mould those events. The ignorance of most members of the Parliament regarding matters that come before the United Nations is a grave defect. There is no longer any point in condemning Ministers and members of Parliament for taking “ jaunts “ to theother side of the world. Trips of that kind are part and parcel of the education of members and Ministers who wish to do their job properly. In his statement, the Minister for External Affairs added -
Frequent contact between leading representatives of Commonwealth countries, both on the ministerial and on the official levels, is essential if we are to understand one another’s problems and to solve our difficulties. Telegrams and despatches, however valuable, must, I emphasize, be supplemented by frequent personal discussion face to face.
I wonder whether the Minister really believes that, and whether he will do anything about it. He should not be afraid of possible public reaction. Let us for a moment consider the position to our near north. Who is there among us who is really competent to discuss problems associated with the countries there, and to advise upon them ? A whole new world has arisen in the north during the last fifteen years or less. I compliment the Minister for External Affairs upon his decision to strengthen Australia’s diplomatic representation to the countries to the north of Australia. The Government should, in addition, arrange that members of the Parliament should visit those countries, and become acquainted with the aspirations of the people there. In Indonesia nothing is static at the present time. Only eighteen months ago, it seemed that the Government of Indonesia had suppressed the Communist threat in those territories, but the latest reports indicate that the Communist underground movement has developed in an alarming fashion.
It is almost impossible to get any real idea of what is happening in Malaya. So much rubbish has been published in the newspapers that the situation seems to be most confused. I travelled through Malaya in 194S, and at that time some people were worried and others were not. I was told by some that it was only a matter of months until the 3,000 or so rebels were killed off. Even at that time, I was assured, they were being starved to death because whole communities upon which they had relied for supplies and information were being moved away from the jungle’s edge. A very little while after, however, we were shocked to learn that the British High Commissioner in Malaya was shot from ambush and killed, and it then became evident that the general position, instead of having improved, was going from bad to worse. Who in this Parliament has a first-hand knowledge of the situation in Malaya? No one, perhaps, but there should be some amongst us possessing such knowledge.
What has happened in India is little less than a miracle. No one would have believed a few years ago that it was possible to divide the Hindu and Moslem populations of India, and settle them in separate territories. At the heginning there was, admittedly, some loss of life, but the two communities have now settled down alongside each other, and both India and Pakistan continue as members of the British Commonwealth of Nations. Whether the credit for this should be given to Lord Louis Mountbatten, the Viceroy of India at that time, or to Sir Stafford Cripps, who spent much time in India and Pakistan, I do not know, but it is beyond doubt that a wonderful job was done.
Throughout the whole of South-East Asia the situation is such that it is very difficult for any one to get a clear idea of what is happening. Before Marshal de Lattre de Tassigny, the French commander in Indo-China, died, we were told that he had the situation in that country under control, that the rebels were practically defeated, and that it was hopeless for them to continue their campaign. Now, apparently, the situation has been reversed. We do not know just what is the position, but it is evident that the French forces have received a severe setback. Apparently, the only Asian country in which there is peace at the present time is China. There, the civil war is over, and the Chinese leaders seem to be putting into effect the Moscow tactic of fighting their battles in other people’s countries. Certainly, the Chinese are the backbone of the Malayan insurgent movement, and the same applies to IndoChina and to Indonesia. If there were no Chinese in Korea, there would be no war there. Apparently, the Chinese have taken a leaf out of Moscow’s book, and are sending out their tentacles into other countries, and wherever the tentacles touch the poison is spread.
The Government should make it easy for Ministers and members of all parties represented in the Parliament to visit other countries so that they may become familiar with leading personalities there. To-day, we are living in a new world which is largely under the control of now people. Most of the men who control the countries to our north and in SouthEast Asia were either in gaol or were hunted men fifteen years ago, because they were fighting for the idea of nationalism. That is certainly true of the leaders of India, Pakistan and Indonesia. We in Australia are the only white race in Asia, and Australia is undoubtedly in Asia. What the future holds for us it is difficult to foresee. We must be more active propagandists, and one of the most important propaganda weapons is food. Unfortunately, we are not producing food in sufficient quantities to enable us to use it as a propaganda weapon. We were told that because of the religion of most of the inhabitants of India, it was impossible for the Communists to infiltrate that country, hut at the last general election there. Communist candidates received such a large vote that members of the Congress party were shocked. There were reasons for that. Once again, the democracies were beaten in the propaganda battle. On the 5th March of last year, the American Congress discussed a bill under which 50,000 tons of grain were to be sent to India. The shipment of the grain was delayed for month after month. Russia, taking advantage of the delay, offered to send 50,000 tons of grain to India in return for something that it wanted. Then, realizing that it could not get what it wanted, it offered to send 500,000 tons of grain to India. The offer was mere propaganda, because India did not get the grain. If the American grain had been delivered as promised, and had not been withheld because of political dissension, the results of the Indian electionsmight have been completely different. One of the reasons for the Communists’ success in those elections was that their propaganda was so good. The Russians took advantage of an opportunity for propaganda that was made available to them only by the bad judgment of the democratic nations.
T.n my view, for a long time food will be the dominant factor in Asia. My knowledge of the East is infinitesimal, but when I visited some Eastern countries I observed the low standards of living of their peoples, the way in which they were crowded together and their lack of food. Statistics show that the life of the average citizen of an Asian country is very short. While present conditions obtain, food will continue to be the only thing in which the people of Asia are interested. Housing presents no problem to the millions of them who have no houses and who sleep on the roads, in the gutters and in the doorways, with their belongings by their sides. They are concerned only with securing sufficient food to keep them alive. The country that can supply the Eastern nations with the extra food that they require will be the country that will dominate their policies and win their friendship.
The importance of producing more food in this country cannot be overstressed, because it is only by increased food production that Ave shall be able to play our part in Asia. The Australian Government must do everything possible to secure an increased production of wheat, rice and other grains. If we can increase our. production of those commodities, our influence in Asia will be increased a hundredfold, but if primary production in this country continues at the present rate, we shall, ourselves, be facing famine in 1960. We must do something in a big way to increase food production, for the benefit, not only of ourselves, but also of our Asian neighbours.
One of the most interesting problems with which we are now faced is that presented by Spain. For the last fifteen years, Spain has been a problem country. Now, because the countries that are parties to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization are trying to form some kind of united front against a potential enemy, Spain has come into the news again very much. Many people now realize that if Spain were brought into the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and developed in the same way as other member countries have been developed, it could play an important part if the cold war were to become a hot war. In the past, Spain has played a very important part in European wars. On occasions, it has been a jumping-off place when tyrants have been deposed. That could happen again. The present standard of living of the Spanish people is not high, but I suppose that it is much higher than is that of the people of some of the countries that nestle behind the Iron Curtain. Because Spain has a dictatorship of the right, many people hold up their hands in holy horror when it is suggested that the Spaniards should be permitted to join the United Nations or become a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.
When Tito, the dictator of Yugoslavia, broke with Stalin, Great Britain and
America could not rush in quickly enough to support him. I cannot see any difference between a dictatorship of the left and a dictatorship of the right. I see nothing good in either of them. The same evils are inherent in both, hut, to my mind, they are greater in the Yugoslavian dictatorship than in the Spanish one. During the last ten or fifteen years, Spain has moved from the position of being the close preserve of a dictator, and is now encouraging tourists to spend their money there. Spain is not behind an iron curtain. I have been told that £1 sterling buys more in Spain than in almost any other European country. Tourists are being encouraged to travel through Spain. Whatever conditions may be in that country, the Spaniards are not afraid to let the world see them. Tito is as strong a Communist to-day as- he was when he was in cahoots with Stalin. He has not changed his political philosophy. He was a Communist then, and he is a Communist now. The eagerness of the United States of America and Great Britain to help him, in the hope of driving a wedge between the Iron Curtain countries, is interesting, but I do not believe that Yugoslavia would be of much help to us if the cold war became a hot war. I do not think that that will happen. I believe the cold war will continue for many years, and that there is a possibility that finally the situation will resolve itself. But if the cold war were to end and a hot war begin, we should realize that it would have been better to expend American dollars upon the building of railways and strategic highways in Spain rather than in Yugoslavia. I think that any one who has studied the geography of Europe will agree with me on that matter.
The development of Spain through the years makes an interesting study. I remember that when I spoke in a debate upon foreign affairs in this chamber towards the end of the last war, I said that we had to consider for how long Spain could be kept out of any organization in Europe in which European countries banded together to protect each other. Because Franco established a dictatorship of the right, nobody wants to touch him even with a 40-ft. pole, but I think that finally expediency willi force the parties to the North AtlanticTreaty to pour into Spain some of triemillions of dollars that they are nowpouring into other countries, because they will realize that that will be necessary to enable Spain to take part in theideological war against communism. If’ a war against communism were to occur;, we should know where Spain stood, but I am not certain that we should knowwhere Yugoslavia stood. That countryis riddled with communism. All that happened in Yugoslavia was that a dispute arose with Stalin because he wanted’ to place the Yugoslavs completely under the control of Moscow and to make theircountry just a cipher behind the Iron Curtain. The strong nationalist feelingsof the Yugoslavs did not fit into that picture, and they broke away fromRussia. It will be interesting to observe what happens there during the next few years.
I believe that the possibility of war is receding as time passes. I shall never forget Viscount Montgomery’s talks with members of the Chifley Cabinet, in which he gave us a survey of world affairs as he saw them. He said then- that he could not foresee the development of Russia occurring sufficiently rapidly to enable that country successfully tothreaten world peace for very many years. But we are lagging behind the needs of” the moment, as events in Korea haverevealed. The losses of allied’ aircraft in that campaign, which were closelyhidden for many months, have now beenmade public. They are staggering and disturbing. It is said that Australia will get a few Centurion tanks. One of tielessons we should have learned from- the last war is that we should keep our armed forces, not abreast but in front of those of the countries that are likely to beour enemies.
It has been announced that Britainis going to bring its atomic bomb to Australia and explode it here. I do not object to that being done. This countryneeds all the sources of strength that are available to it. To my mind, the onlyreason that Great Britain has decided to explode its atomic bomb in Australia is that the United States of America will not “ play “ in relation to atomic- energy and atomic weapons. That is a tragedy. The men who were as responsible as any one for developing, making and dropping the first atomic bomb were British. The British scientists knew more about atomic energy fifteen years ago than did American scientists. During the last war, British scientists went to America and, working in conjunction with the Americans, finally developed the atomic bomb. One of the men who is coming to Australia with the British team of scientists is Dr. Penny. He was a passenger in the aircraft that dropped an atomic bomb upon Nagasaki. He took pictures of the bomb falling and exploding and of its effects. It is said that he has attended more atomic explosions than has any other man in the world. When the Americans had established an atomic plant, at a cost of approximately 4,000,000,000 dollars, the American Congress passed legislation that put a curtain of secrecy round it. The Americans refused to raise that curtain even for the British scientists who had helped to make the first bomb. Therefore, the British were forced to establish an atomic plant in their own country, and the success of their endeavours is now apparent.
The situation that has developed is an extraordinary one. When two nations such as the United States of America and Great Britain cannot reach agreement upon matters relating to atomic energy, is there any wonder that other nations fail to reach agreement at conferences round the table of the United Nations? The action of the Americans in refusing to co-operate with the British in the field of atomic energy has had an adverse effect upon them. The loss to America as a result of that action is greater than is the loss to Britain, because the brain power of Britain in the sphere of atomic development is greater than that which is possessed by America.
– It is unfortunate that Senator Armstrong has put that turn of events on it. He is doing more harm, than good to the cause.
– I have no idea what Senator Wright is talking about. I shall have to ask some one to translate his remarks to me. I am not trying to gain cheap kudos and I am not chasing cheers when I say that I have hari something to do with atomic development. However, I shall not discuss thai matter. I have tried to play my part in the defence of this country. I have not indulged only in talking. I believe that the British people have gone further in the development of atomic energy for industrial purposes than have the people of America or of any other country. There is a tremendous future in atomic energy. If we can develop this power in order to strengthen our nation a lot of apparently insuperable barriers will be swept away. I wish British scientists the very best in their efforts to develop this energy both for war purposes and for industry because if atomic weapons are not available to us we shall not stand for long against those forces that are opposed to us.
Opposition senators are glad of the opportunity to say a few words concerning this statement by the Minister for External Affairs. Even though we may cover a lot of territory in a sketchy way the motion presents an opportunity to say a few words about many of the problems that confront us. Our hope for a secure future lies in closer co-operation with the United States of America. There does not seem to be any alternative to that course. Our own strength is not great enough. Great Britain and Europe are becoming more remote from us. If we could be assured of completely allying ourselves with the United States of America on a defence level I think that most of our problems would disappear. At the same time we must develop friendship with our northern neighbours, the Asian countries, so that we may build up goodwill there and help those countries to take their proper place among the nations of the world.
. - -I have listened to .Senator Armstrong with a great deal of interest and pleasure because the manner in which he dealt with the foreign situation demonstrated clearly and concisely the shift in opinion that is taking place among the Australian people. We have sheltered under the wing of the northern European power for a long time but the hegemony established by Great Britain which maintained the pax Brittanica throughout the world has now disappeared. A power vacuum has been created which has brought problems of security to Australia which only ten years ago we could not have conceived and certainly could not have expressed in this Senate because the Australian people would have wondered what we were talking about. In the preceding hundred years they had come to recognize that the responsibility for defending this country depended on Great Britain. We arc the custodians of the future of the Australian people and what we decide will shape events for our children and our grandchildren. We have a grave responsibility which requires of us the utmost diligence and energy of thought. It is good that we should accept the responsibility which accrues to us here on this day. I welcome the broad and tolerant approach to the subject of external affairs that was displayed by Senator Armstrong.
I should like to place before the Senate, perhaps in a pictorial way, the problems that confront us. As young people or students we have regarded the problems of the world in terms of Merca tor’s projection which depicted a round world as if it were flat. The equator ran across the centre of the paper and above and below that line were north and south respectively. There were the tropical, equatorial and other zones. At the very bottom of the paper was a continental mass known as Australia. I think that this conception created a wrong impression of the position occupied by Australia in the affairs of the world. I should like honorable senators to consider what the airman sees when he flies over the globe. If honorable senators were to take the airman’s view and compare it with a flat map they would discover a most extraordinary situation. They would discover that, in geo-political terms, Australia was not a distant land mass to the south of the equator but an island in the middle of a global lake surrounded by a land mass. We Australian people live on an island which is in the centre of that global lake, the shores of which are formed by the continents of North and South America, Asia and Africa. In geo-political terms we occupy the centre of the great land mass of the world which has its periphery on the shores of this lake and which is occupied, as Senator Armstrong remarked, by people who have developed national characteristics and aspiration?. There is no escape for the Australian people. For good or for better, for evil or for worse, we are caught up in the movement of events. Wc are centred in the middle of these nations and our future will depend on whether we live in accord or in discord with them.
Let us consider these people who inhabit the continents of North and South America, Asia and Africa. Whether we like it or not, our future must depend on our ability to establish relationships with them. We must examine with cold logic the course that our present and future external relationships should take. I hate to say, as a gentle rebuke, that the Labour party is inclined to regard this question as having only one phase while I consider that it has three phases. First, it is necessary for us to consider our emotional reaction to the people who live around us. That fact cannot be disregarded. We have to consider whether we have an emotional complex concerning the people who live in Indonesia, or on the tablelands of Central New Guinea, or in Hawaii. Secondly, we must consider whether we have a cultural affinity with these people. We must ask whether they observe the same laws and social habits as we do. Lastly - il am afraid that some honorable senators opposite may put this first - we must ask whether they have a material nexus which unites them with us. I think it is just and proper that we should examine our external policy in relation to those three factors - our emotional, cultural and material needs.
– What about economic relationships?
– I have been interested enough in this subject to go to the Parliamentary Library to-day and discover an article written by Senator Cameron in which he has denied the principles set out in his party’s platform, which, pledges unswerving support for the United Nations organization. I found that in this article Senator Cameron described Australian soldiers in Korea as fools, dying for American imperialism.
– That is perfectly true.
– Soldiers in Korea have been fighting for the very principle which the honorable senator’s party has incorporated in its platform - the support of the United Nations organization. He has said, by interjection, that every problem can be explained in terms of the material and economic needs of the people. He has forgotten that, as Senator Armstrong mentioned, it is spiritual quality also that decides these matters.
– Spiritual quality has its origin in economic relationships.
– We must now consider our future in Australia in view of our existence in the middle of th: global lake to which I have referred. By what means Senator Cameron would solve our problems I do not know. Perhaps he would solve them by allowing the Chinese Communists in Malaya to develop the tin deposits and rubber trees. What would happen then? Perhaps Senator Morrow would be able to answer that question.
Opposition senators interjecting,
– Evidently I have drawn the fire of the Opposition. In common with his predecessor in office, who now worthily represents Australia in Washington, the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey) believes that our first duty is to establish cultural, emotional, and material connexions, on a satisfactory basis, with our neighbours. Therein lies the basis of our external relationship policy. It was evident from the statement on international affairs that was read to the Senate last night by the Attorney-General (Senator Spicer) that the Australian Government is fully seised of the importance of maintaining this basic principle in its foreign policy.
– Is it intended that the proposed committee shall deal with the factor of material needs?
– The greatest benefit that could flow to the people of Victoria, whom Senator Sheehan represents in this chamber, would be that he should be appointed to the proposed committee so that he would be able to learn something about the problems that confront the people of this country. Our first step must be to maintain the hegemony of the British Commonwealth on the basis of the three factors that I have mentioned. Under the benign aegis of the Dutch, the peoples of what is now known as the United States of Indonesia enjoyed good living conditions and received many of the benefits of modern education. At the time that the Dutch began their control, the population of Indonesia was about 20,000,000. I doubt whether uptodate statistics are now available, but I believe that the figure would be now about 60,000,000. Their standard of living and standard of health are good. The people of Indonesia have become a national entity. That is true also of the peoples of Pakistan, India, Burma, and Siam. In the first place, all of those people have a cultural affinity with the Australian people. They have attained, in terms of law and order, the things that the British people have struggled for hundreds of years to achieve. However, at the risk of being regarded as cynical, I believe that those peoples do not yet completely understand the means by which a modern state sustains itself.
I think that it will be generally agreed that the Minister for External Affairs is eminently qualified to carry out his onerous duties. Honorable senators may have noticed in King’s Hall last evening a number of representatives of the countries that I have mentioned, who are interested to learn about our parliamentary system. They evinced great interest even in such relatively minor matters as the efficient running of the Parliamentary Library. The maintenance of trade between Australia and the countries that I have mentioned, and the development of our cultural affinity with those peoples is imperative. Australia’s present foreign policy takes this factor into consideration. We must develop our capacity to exist in harmony with the peoples of other countries washed by that great global lake, made up of the Pacific and other oceans. Speaking generally, the peoples of Canada and the United States of America observe laws similar to those that exist in Australia. As we learned in 1942, they are ready to como to our assistance in an emergency. I cannot emphasize too strongly the necessity for us to develop our emotional, cultural, and trade relations with the peoples of the newly awakened nations, such as Pakistan, India, Burma, Malaya, Siam, French Indo-China, and Indonesia, if we are to face the future confidently and free of fear. In the main, the peoples of those countries think along similar lines to the people of this country at the moment. The position in Russia, however, is vastly different. The Russians too have an emotional complex. Communism is regarded in that country almost as a new religion. They consider also that communism has a cultural appeal. I might even agree with Senator Cameron that the first priority should be the material needs of the new religion of communism; that is the Communists’ first priority. However, we cannot be unmindful of the fact that the Russians are marching towards the shores of the great global lake that I have mentioned. Communists have made their presence felt in French IndoChina, and they are now menacing the security of Burma and .Siam. Indeed, 160,000 troops are needed in Malaya to check Communist infiltration. We must, to the best of our ability, succour the peoples who are now menaced by Russia. We must ally ourselves with countries that are ready and willing to resist the menace of Russian communism.
Senator Armstrong has already pointed out that Spain is resisting that menace in Europe. As honorable senators know, squadrons of the Royal Australian Air Force are engaged in Malaya, and Australian troops are actively engaged in Korea supporting the policy of the United Nations. They are not, as Senator Cameron, has claimed, supporting American imperialism. In Australia, members of the Pakistani army, air force and navy are receiving training. The whole of the capacity of the Australian people is rightly and justly directed to aiding those people to resist the greatest menace that confronts the world to-day, which is Russian communism. That menace threatens 1,000,000,000 people who occupy half of the periphery of the Pacific and Indian Oceans. The matter is in our hands. We must endeavour to shape Australia’s foreign policy so that this menace will be successfully combated. Unless we are willing to acknowledge that there is basic truth in the Minister’s statement, there is no hope for the continuance of this nation in a continent that is situated in such close proximity to the Asiatic masses which are trying to establish the authority of the modern state.
.- We must consider the subject of international affairs from, a realistic point of view. World conditions are such that Australia can no longer adopt an isolationist policy. I have perused carefully the statement that was read to us by the Attorney-General (Senator Spicer). There is much good reading in it. The warning that it contains is summed up in the first two paragraphs of page 10 of the typewritten statement wherein the Minister emphasized the seriousness of the situation that is developing in Asia. He had every reason to emphasize the situation that is developing there. War is in progress in North Korea. Some have said that the North Koreans were the aggressors; others have claimed that the South Koreans began the war by invading North Korea. On that matter I am prepared to accept the decision of the United Nations, in the establishment of .which the Australian Labour Government played a notable part. The Labour party believes the North Koreans to be the aggressors in the Korean dispute. To the east of Korea lies Japan, which, under the terms of the treaty recently signed by the Allied nations, is to be fully armed. I do not propose to discuss the rearmament of Japan at this stage because I shall have an opportunity to do so when the bill to ratify the Japanese peace treaty comes before us. I merely say that a rearmed Japan will constitute yet another powerful nation to our north which could launch an attack in almost any direction. Farther south, in IndoChina war is also in progress. The insurgents in that country, like the North Koreans, are being backed by Communist forces and Communist armaments. Still farther south, in Malaya, Communist bandits are virtually waging war against the administration, and in Burma civil war is raging. In all of these conflicts the free nations of the world are pitted against the armed might of the forces of communism. If we rearm Japan where will the forces of that country be engaged in a few years’ hence? Will they go north and pit their strength against the countless millions of well-armed and wellequipped Communist troops, or will they come south, where there is plenty of fertile land and but little opposition? We must look at this matter from a realistic point of view with the full knowledge that wherever we look to the north of Australia we see the threat of armed might. We should do our utmost to promote the friendliest relations with our neighbours in the north. They are fighting for survival. We occupy a land of plenty and we can produce sufficient food to meet their needs, but we do little to help them. Just as passengers on a sinking ship grasp the raft nearest to their hands, so the people of Asia see this country as a land of plenty which is capable of meeting all their food requirements. The peoples of some Asiatic countries were receptive to Communist propaganda and they are seeking new territories to satisfy their needs. Where they fail to achieve their purpose by peaceful penetration they seek to do so by armed force.
I pose this question to the people of Australia: If Communist forces penetrated New Guinea, over which we hold a mandate, and in which we have spent large sums of money for the improvement of the welfare of the natives, and annihilated the administration, mercilessly murdered the natives and plundered the country, would Australia be justified in sending an armed force against them? I say quite definitely that Australia would be fully justified in so doing. Likewise, the United Nations and the nations of the British Commonwealth would be fully justified in sending armed forces to meet an aggressor wherever he operated. In these days we often hear the cry “ Lei us disarm ! “ Nobody would be more happy than would be the members of the Labour party if Australia could afford to adopt a policy of disarmament. But in the disturbed condition of world affairs to-day it would be most dangerous for any country to disarm unless all other major countries agreed to do so. The Communists disseminate a great deal of propaganda about the virtues of peace. They engineer peace talks and organize youth movements in which they attack the so-called warmongers of the West. Propaganda of that kind will not fool thinking people. If the major nations of the world would agree to disarm, the peoples of the world would be much happier than they are to-day. It is all very well for the Communists to talk about peace and disarmament when the whole of the activities of Communist countries are hidden behind a barrier. We do not know what goes on in Russia and its satellite countries If, as the Communists claim, they sincerely desire to bring about world peace, why do they prevent the representatives of other nations from examining conditions in countries behind the Iron Curtain? We are asked to accept the word of the negotiators behind the iron barrier as to their armaments and war potential. We should run a very grave risk if we did so. If conditions in Russia, and other so-called democratic countries, are so wonderful and if those countries really want peace, why are they afraid to welcome the representatives of the free nations and permit them to see for themselves those wonderful conditions? Until they agree to a free and frank interchange of information on armaments there is little hope for world disarmament.
– What about sending some of the honorable senator’s Tasmanian colleagues on such a mission?
– I shall leave that to the honorable senator. We must be careful not to be deceived by the propaganda that is disseminated by our enemies in youth clubs and similar organizations which are led by Communists and financed by Communist money. We have youth clubs of our own which are excellent institutions. There are no Communists behind the youth movement in the Australian Labour party, but its members have been inundated with Communist propaganda in an endeavour to hoodwink young workers about the conditions that exist in Russia and its satellite countries. Until the nations of the world open their gates and agree to the free interchange of information on armaments there is little hope of world disarmament. As long as other nations continue to build up their armaments we must continue to arm ourselves to the teeth.
I have no apology to offer for the defence plan that was laid down by tho Chifley Government, and for that portion of it that has been put into operation by the present Government. We should commit an act of the greatest folly if we agreed to disarm at a time when danger confronts us on all sides. Perhaps the best possible assistance that could be given to the attainment of the ideal of world peace could be given by the free nations of the world if they used their resources to uplift the economic standards of less fortunate countries which remain outside the domination of Russia. It is the duty of Australia and of Great Britain and the United State-; of America, to do everything possible to raise the standards of the people of the Asiatic nations. Only by that means can the onward march of communism in Asia be stemmed. “We must convince the peoples of Asia that under Communist control they would be worse than they are to-day. We must r >t overlook the fact that Communist propaganda is cunningly worded to appeal to those who seek to better their conditions. We can counter it in a practical way by helping to raise the standard of living of the people of Asian countries.
Another matter to which I wish to refer briefly is the position in relation to our overseas credits. I realize that it is essential for us to import certain goods and materials for defence purposes and for the development of agriculture, but it is regrettable that our overseas assets should be dwindling at such an alarming rate. If we continue to dissipate our overseas resources at the present’ rate we shall soon revert to the position that existed in 1928-29, when the government of the day was forced to borrow money overseas with which to pay the interest on borrowed money. To say that the goods that are being purchased from the United States of America with the borrowed dollars cannot be made by manufacturers, engineers and artisans in Australia, or at least within the British Commonwealth, is an insult. This Government is pursuing a policy of flooding this country with imports while Australian workers are being displaced. In Tasmania, many employees have been dismissed while others are working a threeday or four-day week. That position will become worse as the Government’s importing programme proceeds.
– That is silly.
– It is the truth. If the honorable senator had read the ministerial statements that have been made in this Parliament recently he would not make such stupid interjections. The Government is allowing the position to get completely out of hand. Labour administrations were able successfully to prosecute the war, and to guide Australia through the difficult post-war years without resorting to American financial aid.
– Has the honorable senator ever heard of lend-lease?
– Lend-lease ended in the immediate post-war years. The honorable senator knows that quite well. Until this Government took office Australia had not borrowed one dollar overseas, but one of the first acts of the Menzies” Administration was to obtain a loan of 100,000,000 dollars from the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development. That, as I have said, was an insult to British manufacturers. It is quite true that heavy agricultural machinery and other plant required for developmental and food-producing work is not mass-produced in Australia, but surely it could be obtained from Great Britain.
– I rise to order. I should like to know, Mr. President, what the honorable senator’s remarks have to do with foreign affairs.
– Order! I have been listening very carefully to Senator Aylett and I shall call him to order if necessary.
– Britain may not be producing the heavy tractors that can be obtained readily from America, but surely the British machines that are available could do the work that we require of them? The use of British plant and equipment would have rendered a dollar loan unnecessary. The same may be said of other materials and goods that have been purchased with the 100,000,000 dollars loan. In the long run that loan will be detrimental to Australia, and yet, apparently, an attempt is being made to borrow more dollars. There is an even worse side of the picture. We are confronted by the spectacle of the Treasurer of a grown-up nation, which this year has budgeted for an expenditure of more than £1,000,000,000, travelling from country to country, begging for dollars, or other currency that is convertible to dollars !
– No one will trust him.
– One country has apparently trusted him with £5,000,000, but that is all he has been able to get. Has Australia ever before been so belittled in the eyes of the world? I never thought that I should see the day when an Australian Treasurer would be travelling around the world like a beggar. He reminds me of a half drunken man who has run out of cash and is going to his friends saying, “ Please can you lend me 2s.”. As I said at the beginning of my speech, the twelve-page statement that we are now debating can be summed up in the following two sentences that appear on page 10 of the circulated copy: -
The world picture is sombre and forbidding. lt is up to us to face the facts and to avoid wishful thinking. At the same time we should not under-estimate our basic strength and the “rounds for some reasonable optimism of the ultimate outcome.
That is a well-worded passage which covers everything that is in the document. Do not let us continue to under-estimate our capacity for production, particularly the production of foodstuffs, as we are doing at present. Do not let us under estimate our capacity to defend this country; and do not let us underestimate our capacity to negotiate a lasting peace for the world at large.
– This debate has revealed considerable agreement. I find myself in accord with much that has been said by Senator Armstrong and Senator Aylett. However, I do not agree with Senator Aylett’s remarks about the Government’s policy of borrowing dollars. If the borrowed money is to be expended on capital equipment that will enable us to strengthen our secondary and primary industries, then borrowing dollars is sound. The ministerial statement that we are now debating presents a clear and comprehensive picture of the main features of present-day international affairs, and the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey) is to be congratulated upon it. He touched on quite a number of matters to which I shall refer and, in each instance, I shall try to link up his picture of what is happening in the world with some principle on which we can base our policy. It is not possible to base a policy on an illusion or on a false theory of life. Honorable senators who have spoken in this debate have not clone that, but unfortunately some honorable senators who have interjected have done it. I say emphatically that we cannot base our foreign policy or external policy on Marxian or any other form of materialism.
Some of the things that have been said from this side of the House require a little re-examination. I fully agree with Senator Cormack that we must be concerned now mainly with our neighbours. We must live on equal terms with the Indonesians and the other peoples of the Pacific; but we shall be making a profound mistake if we regard them as the peoples with whom we can have the most intimate associations, or with whom we can live in the fullest amity. Some day, I hope, we shall be able to live amicably with all the peoples of the world, but fundamentally we are part of the Western European civilization, and that means a particular kind of civilization. There are certain dominant ideals that we shall not relinquish. One of those is the Christian ethic. While we can, and shall, agree with the Mohammedans, the Hindus, and the people of other religions, it is with people who have grown up in the great European tradition that we have the closest ties. 1 Speak particularly, of course, of the people of the British Commonwealth of Nations and of the United States of America. Unless we bear that clearly in mind in our approach to international problems, we are likely to go astray.
We cannot solve our problems simply by thinking of our own security. Defence of this land is fundamental, but we must know who are our friends and upon whom we can rely to refrain from any breach of contract. That is true of the countries of the British Commonwealth, and particularly of course, of the entirely British part of the Commonwealth. It is true to a lesser degree, but nevertheless profoundly true, of Western Europe. Senator Armstrong expressed the belief that the Western European alliance should be stronger. I shall not pronounce an opinion on that matter to-night because it is a subject that could well be examined by the proposed foreign affairs committee of this Parliament. An alliance with a dictatorship whether on the right or the left can only be an alliance of expediency. We can have no complete union of hearts with the people of Yugoslavia, and I am afraid- that at the moment it may not be possible for us to have a complete union of hearts with the people of Spain. However, Spain is of the Western European civilization, and some day it may be possible for Spain - under a different government, I trust - to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.
The Minister referred to Korea and on that subject his most significant statement was that the Communist peace negotiations in Korea are not negotiations in the ordinary sense of the word. They are not designed to achieve a peace settlement. They are being deliberatly protracted. They are purely propaganda. One of our great difficulties in dealing with Russia or any of its satellites is that the statements of their representatives cannot be taken at their face value. It used to be said that a diplomat was a man who was sent abroad to lie for the good of his country.
That is not true of our Minister for External Affairs, the United Kingdom Minister for Foreign Affairs, or of any diplomat who is the product of centuries of British tradition. Plain honest dealing is, I think, in the European tradition of diplomacy. Speeches of the type that we hear when Mr. Vishinsky takes the floor at conference are completely opposed to the old European tradition. How much that is due to the Russian mentality, and how much it is due to communism, I cannot be quite sure, but the basic principle in this evil materialist tradition is that nothing matters except economic conditions. One honorable senator has made an interjection to that effect. Earlier to-day some of us witnessed one of the most moving spectacles that I have ever seen - the films of the funeral of our late King. To any one who accepts Marxian materialism everything that we saw was a mere sham. The marching troops, the tears of the people, and all the other moving scenes, were a sham designed to keep the people in subjection. That is an evil lie, and I know that most honorable senators opposite will lend no support to that base conception of humanity. But we must be very careful that that sort of thing does not enter into our policy in any way. We can have a sound policy only if we base it on the great human tradition.
One of the worst features of the new arrangement in Asia is the position of Burma, and I want to hang a moral on that. I believe that people should govern themselves if they can. We should encourage the idea of self-government, as the British Commonwealth has always done, but one does not improve the lot of a people by sweeping away the existing government that has been keeping law and order, and leaving only chaos in its place. That is what is happening in Burma. That country would have been better off as a British protectorate or a dominion. I have been to Burma, and I know that the Burmese are charming people. The educated Burmese are very fine gentlemen, but the country as a whole is not fit for self-government. During the war, the Japanese ravaged Burma, and after the war’ a few politicallyminded men believed that the people were ready to govern themselves. They were not, and instead of independence the Burmese have only chaos. Now, the great danger is that the country will fall under the control of the Communists.
Let us now consider Malaya. I have heard men discuss the Malayan problem, and solve it in a few minutes. One gentleman who talks a good deal over the air has done this. J am not in favour of trying to dictate to experts, but I differ profoundly from Professor Macmahon Ball who, I believe, is doing a grave disservice in pretending to solve the Malayan problem by the exercise of a little tabloid wit: In Malaya, a foreign power has governed the country well and strengthened its civilization. The British have tried to prepare the Malayans for self-government. I discussed this problem with a very able Malayan planter, a man who was educated in England and who was, I believe, a Christian, though he had been born a Buddhist. He said that to give self government to Malaya would be to hand it over to the Chinese. The Chinese and the Malayans are about equal in numbers, and they must learn to live peaceably together. When they have learned to do so, it will be time enough to give them self-government. Australia was not given self-government immediately. Indeed, conditions being what they were at the beginning, it would have been absurd to do so. Honorable senators opposite will appreciate that had the colony of New South Wales been given self-government from the beginning there would have been an enormous land grab. Something of that kind took place as it was, but on the whole the British Government held the scales of justice firmly and fairly. Australia received self-government bit by bit, until we ‘are to-day a completely selfgoverning nation. It is fortunate that in India and Pakistan stable governments have emerged, but all the problems in those countries are not yet solved. In both countries there are able men, and we wish them success. We offer them the right hand of brotherhood. However, in Malaya and Burma conditions are not suitable for the grant of self-government, as the experience of Burma has proved.
I come now to the situation in the Middle East. I have previously referred, to the position in Egypt, so I shall touch upon it only briefly in this speech. I am happy to say that there now seems to bemore chance of a settlement in Egypt than there was before. For one thing, the new Egyptian Government, headed by Maher Pasha, is much more reasonable than was its predecessor, and is prepared to discuss the two separate problems of the Sudan and the Suez Canal. The canal is of international interest, and somehow or other all international interests must be safeguarded. The present British Government, and the previous government, were both prepared to agree to a regional pact to which Egypt and the other interested powers would be parties. Nothing could be more reasonable than that. I cannot see that the Egyptians have the right to push all other powers out of the Suez Canal area just because the canal happens to be adjacent to Egyptian territory. The Egyptians did not build the canal. The work of construction was a great European enterprise, and both France and Britain have more interest in it than has Egypt. We have also to consider the position of other countries such as Israel, an important State which is becoming increasingly powerful in that part of the world. We must respect it, and maintain good relations with it. Something is due, also, to the Arab powers. Egypt has no right to try to dictate to other countries on this matter, and no nation has the right to abrogate treaties. International relations depend on the sanctity of treaties. If the time comes to revise a treaty, as it does from time to time, the revision must be done by an international body such as the. United Nations or the Court of International Justice, or by bilateral agreement between the parties concerned. The uni-lateral abrogation of treaties can lead only to international chaos. The German Chancellor, Bethwann-Holwegg, will be remembered, if he is remembered at all, for the infamous phrase “ a scrap of paper “ which he used to describe an international treaty. I remember Lloyd George making a speech in the course of which he held up a dirty bank note and said, “What is this but a scrap of paper, but behind it is the goodwill and the, promise of the Government of Great Britain”. Goodwill and integrity are the qualities that count most in international relationships. The nations that matter are those which have proved that their word is their bond. In spite of the sneers at what has been described as British imperialism, it lias been true of Britain throughout its long history that its word is its bond. I hope that it will be true of Australia, also.
The problem of the Sudan is different from that of the Suez Canal, and I believe that a settlement will be reached. The Egyptians claim the Sudan because they conquered that territory some years ago, and they claim it also on the ground that the Nile, valley is a unit. In my opinion, their claim is a very weak one. No country would be entitled to claim the whole of the Danube valley on the ground that the valley is a single geographical unit. Most of the rivers of Europe, pass through several countries. The Sudan is larger than Egypt, and has a population of about 7,000,000 people. Those in the north are Moslems, and those in the south, who are mostly of negroid extraction, are pagans. Britain has given them the best government they ever had, and has promised them complete selfgovernment next year, with two houses of parliament, responsible ministers, and government of the Sudanese by the Sudanese. If the Egyptian Government believes that it has a legitimate claim to the Sudan that claim can be examined, but we cannot admit the right of the Egyptian king to insist upon regarding the Sudanese as his subjects.
I conclude by emphasizing that we cannot frame an effective foreign policy unless we base it on a principle, and the principle is this : Not only must we keep Australia intact and be prepared to defend our own way of life, but we must also support those other countries which are in the great tradition of European civilization. Communism, this thing which has come out of Asia, is not just an economic dream; it is in the nature of a new religion, and a false one. The spread of international communism can result only in the death of all that we most value in our civilization. I do not know just what is going on in China. I hope that the optimists who say that we can detach China from Russia are right. I do not know, but I shall study the problem deeply. ‘ I know, however, that it will, be a deplorable thing if over the whole of Asia and a large part of Europe there is no worship but the worship of materialism, which one or two members of this Parliament - I am glad there are not more - are disposed to proclaim.
I agree with Senator Armstrong that contact with the persons who influence opinion in other countries is important. Such contacts must help members and Ministers, but that alone is not enough. How much a man gains from visiting foreign countries depends on how much he takes with him when he goes there. 1 have known men who, while visiting foreign countries, apparently saw nothing and heard nothing, and brought back with them only a few insignificant facts. It is necessary to know something of the basic culture, the manners and customs of the people whom one visits. Study is essential to the acquisition of a proper understanding of foreign affairs. Senator Armstrong conveyed the impression that much of the information available about foreign affairs was false, but there are sources of information which one can trust. The important thing is to know which journals and magazines and books one can accept as honest, being written by people who know their business. A p re-requisite to the understanding of foreign affairs is hard work and study. I hope that honorable members on both sides of the chamber will have an opportunity to work hard and study hard when the foreign affairs committee is set up.
Senator BYRNE (Queensland) [9.3SJ. - A debate on international affairs presents honorable senators with an opportunity to direct their attention to major issues as distinct from the minor matters that come before us for consideration. The history of Australia indicates the progress of this country towards independent government within the framework of the British Commonwealth of Nations. Both before and since federation pressure from Australia has resulted in the passing of a succession of imperial statutes dealing with the Government of Australia. There has not been evinced, however, a similar tendency to achieve independence in the direction of our international relationship. For a long time, Australia’s international policies were not necessarily the expression of our own national sentiments. It is a matter of great credit to the Labour party that the greatest impetus to the achievement of our independence in international affairs was given during the years when the Chifley Government and the Curtin Government were in office. Then we assumed, really for the first time, a position of independence in the international sphere, again within the framework of the British Commonwealth.
As a result of the delay that occurred, we now find ourselves almost as newcomers in the sphere of international affairs, being required to formulate an international policy in relation to our near neighbours and to all the countries of the globe. We face the task with some trepidation, and with a certain degree of inexperience. It is particularly unfortunate that Ave are required to go through this process of birth and growth at a stage of the world’s history when the spotlight is being directed upon this part of the globe. Normally, the development of a nation’s foreign policy would take place in an atmosphere of comparative peace, of making friends gradually, and of reaching agreement with distant neighbours. But that is not so in the case of Australia. To-day, Ave are required to frame and enunciate our foreign policy in difficult circumstances. First, we have to consider our relations with new nations which have come into being only during the last few years, and which are comparatively, if not entirely, without experience of operating as independent national units in the international sphere; and, secondly, we have to frame our international policy at a time when the countries of the world are forming themselves into very definite patterns of alliances and allegiances. We are required to take our place upon one side or the other. Undoubtedly, there has been, during the last two or three years, a crystallization of opinion upon one side or the other. Where opinion is still fluid, it is gradually crystallizing.
It is in those circumstances that Australia has to learn the very difficult subjects of international negotiation and the formulation of international policies. That is not an easy thing for any country to do. It is especially difficult for Australia, because we have been faced immediately with particular and intimate problems on our very doorstep. It is common talk that the history of the world for the next few hundred years will be the history of the Pacific, just as, in the past, it was the history of the Mediterranean or of the North Atlantic. In that very difficult atmosphere, Australia, as an independent nation, is required to frame an international policy. Therefore, if the statement of the Minister for External Affairs is somewhat nebulous and indefinite, the reason is that the pattern of the world, although it is gradually crystallizing, is still somewhat fluid. The statement does not enunciate a definite policy in relation to many of the events and problems that are canvassed in it, but it does recite those events and point to the fact that at the present time the world is in a state of extreme suspense and that everybody is waiting with bated breath to find out what Will happen. That is the unfortunate atmosphere in which our foreign policy has been born and is growing.
We shall have to learn some hard lessons in this very difficult field. Senator McCallum referred to a very important matter. He said that we must remain conscious of the fact that although, geographically, we are a projection of Asia, and although, in terms of distance, Ave are remote from Europe, we are a part of Western civilization. That fact must be kept in th’e forefront of the national mind. From it, certain conclusions and inferences must be drawn. If Ave are a part of Western civilization, we are not only an appendage of it but also are necessary to it. The continuance of our national integrity is important, not only to us but also to Western civilization. The attitude we should adopt in the councils of the world and in international tribunals should not be that of a mendicant. In no circumstances should we adopt the attitude that
Ave Avant the world to save us. We must state clearly that, because we are a part of Western civilization, our preservation is essential to, the continuance of that civilization. I feel that we shall enjoy a much stronger position in international affairs and secure the help of the world to a greater degree if we can convince other countries that, culturally and historically, we are a part of Western civilization.
I have not attended any international conferences on international affairs, hut I believe that some countries smaller, in population and in area than Australia carry more weight in them than we do. The reason is that, according to the science of geo-politics, those small countries are highly important from the viewpoint of military strategy. We must be firm in our resolve to place that aspect of Australia’s position before the world. From the viewpoint of military strategy, the preservation of the integrity of Australia is essential to the Western civilization. If we can convince the world that that is so, we shall be much more secure than we are at present. Our negotiators must keep that fact prominently in their minds when they attend international conferences. If they convince themselves that that is so, they will be able to convince also the rest of the world.
Our present position is not a very happy one. The proper way in which to develop an international policy for Australia would be, over a period of years, to try to establish a comity of nations in the Pacific, based on the highest motives, and the best principles. But, unfortunately, we are confronted with a situation in which we must consider the balance of power in Asia. Therefore, our first approach to the young and new Pacific nations is to ask them to be our f riends because of grim and serious military considerations. That is by no means the happiest way in which to approach the new, and even the old, Pacific countries, but we have been compelled by force of circumstances to make that approach. There is no doubt that small nations and young nations must rely upon friendships, allegiances and alliances in the days of their youth and weakness before they become strong enough to stand on their own feet. It is unfortunate that we must approach our neighbours in that spirit and primarily for that reason.
But there is no reason why we should not make it clear to them that that is not our only motive and that, given an opportunity to do so, our relations with them would be based upon a completely different foundation and would have a completely different end in view. Senator McCallum said that some one had described the Colombo Plan as a “ tabloid of wheat “. That was not a fair description of it. The plan represents an attempt to project into the mundane and necessary motives to which I have referred something else that we have at the back of our minds and to which, given the opportunity, we shall try to give a degree of prominence. Only in that way can lasting peace be achieved anywhere. The system of balance of power and of alliances for military purposes operated in Europe for centuries, but as the alliances were of a temporary nature they inevitably disintegrated, leaving the nations concerned in a condition worse than that in which they were before the alliances were formed. Are we to adopt, without any higher motives, a practice that, over the centuries, has proved to be a ghastly failure? This is our opportunity, and also that of the young, new and enthusiastic nations with which we shall deal, to establish a lasting peace. The outbreaks of trouble that are occurring constantly in the world are symptoms of a major ailment. Somewhere there is a conflagration thai will have to be either contained or extinguished. In that emergency, we are prepared to play our part and we have committed ourselves to do so, but we must take our foreign policy into a broader field, with happier prospects.
Every nation has an obligation and a natural basic and fundamental right to preserve its national integrity, unless there are other circumstances that disentitle it to remain in a condition of nationhood. In the peculiar case of Australia; with its relationship to Asia, we have not only a right, but also a very grave and serious duty to preserve our national integrity. We are, and have been throughout our history, a Christian country. It is true that at times we have not, either individually or as a nation, upheld every tenet of Christianity, but substantially our national philosophy is a Christian philosophy. That being so, we have a responsibility to bring Christianity to nations that now do no: enjoy it. Therefore, we must preserve the integrity of this country in order that we may be the agent that will proselytize the pagan countries that lie to the north. In making that statement, I do not intend to say anything derogatory of the pagan nations and their ancient cultures. There is an obligation upon every Christian and every Christian nation to carry the Christian message into pagan lands. We can do that only if we preserve our national integrity. Therefore, apart altogether from the fundamental national right to which T have referred previously, we have a duty to preserve Australia in its present condition.
Again we are not in a very happy position, because we are asking these peoples immediately to come into the realm of power politics and military alliances. The commencement is not a happy one, but the conclusion can be happy if we approach the problem in the right spirit. We must show the pagan countries that whatever our immediate motives, our ultimate objective is a worthy one. There is no possibility of peace anywhere in the world, particularly in the Pacific, unless we approach international relationships in that spirit. Every nation has a grave responsibility to make its contribution to the cause of peace. Australia cannot hope to preserve its national identity and its way of life unless it is prepared to demonstrate to the rest of the world that it will populate its continent and preserve its standards, and at the same time display benevolence and charity. We must endeavour to raise the economic standards of the repressed peoples of Asia and at the same time try to bring them the message of Christianity. We must show these people that we are making every effort to develop Australia to the best of our ability. We have already shown that we are prepared to make a firm, honest and energetic attempt to develop our resources. We have given evidence of national sincerity in our approach to our own problems and we must be equally sincere in our approach to the problem of Burma, Siam, Malaya and other nations. Perhaps instead of speaking of duties and responsibilities we should speak of opportunities. This is a great opportunity. We are witnessing the birth of a new world as old nations witnessed such a birth centuries ago. We can play a great and glorious part in determining the history of the Pacific. Is this to be an arena of bloodshed and conflict for centuries to come and generations unborn? Is this to be an arena of exploitation and misery? Or is Australia to be a bright jewel in theworld crown, sparkling with loveand charity and Christianity? Remembering the mundane interests of the present situation, we should keep it in the forefront of our minds that our intentions are good and that if we are given the opportunity, they will be realized.
. I speak with a sense of the responsibility that it is my privilege to carry, merely as one member of the Senate, but I acknowledge the pride that I feel in being able to avail myself of the opportunity to express my sentiments concerning our national outlook. I say this as a mere man, with no aspirations or claims to saintliness, and I ask the Senate to approach these problems as realists and not in flights of spiritual fancy. I ask the Senate to approach the problem of Australia’s external security with the outlook of Montgomery and not with the outlook of the theoretical preacher. It is my great privilege to rejoice in the fact that the supreme direction of British Commonwealth policy has been returned to the greatest Englishman that we, in this time, have known - Winston Churchill. I recall that the preservation of the peace - the rather dim peace - that we now enjoy commenced with the architecture in statesmanship and strategy that he erected in Cairo a few months preceding El Alamein. From that time, under his genius and direction, we engaged in the most ruthless war that the world has known, and we won through to peace.
– The honorable senator has been reading Mr. Churchill’s books.
– I have been reading his books and I relish no reading more. At that time a member of the British War Cabinet stationed in Cairo was the present Minister for External Affairs in Australia (Mr. Casey). That Minister was considered by Winston Churchill as fit to be called to the councils at Whitehall in the perilous days of 1942. Therefore, when Ave consider a statement that he has put before this Parliament, we consider the statement of a man who was a worthy colleague of “Winston Churchill. These are matters of very great importance to the realist “because it is of no use our debating foreign affairs unless we consider the mistakes of the past ; and the mistakes of the past five or six years have been grievous in their impact upon the security of Australia.
This debate reminds me of a gathering that I was privileged to attend in New Zealand in November, 1950, when parliamentary representatives of members of the British Commonwealth of Nations assembled in Wellington and discussed foreign affairs. It will be remembered that United Nations forces had then been engaged in Korea for only four or five months. How weary and prolonged that engagement has become. With what effort, and with what work and money, has the Opposition advanced the campaign which has been sponsored and initiated by the United Nations? Honorable senators opposite should be ashamed of that contribution. What has it meant in terms of loss of life? At the conference in Wellington at which the British delegation included Socialist, Conservatist, and Liberal representatives, it was my great privilege to hear the British outlook presented with complete unanimity because they knew that the security of Britain as a nation was threatened. In the opinion of Lord Wilmot. and Lord Alexander, the representatives of the United Kingdom Government, and in the opinion of Lord Llewellyn and Mr. W. S. Morrison, Q.C., the .Speaker of the House of Commons, there, was only one British outlook. They reminded us that at that time Britain, with its food rationing and public debt obligations, was recruiting the flower of its youth for two years, compulsory service, not at home, but in every quarter of the world where British security demanded it. It has been reported that the defence of the United Kingdom will cost every four-unit family in that country an average of £2 a week and that a son in almost every family is serving for two years in the active defence of what the British nation stands for.
In the Australian Parliament we have a sorry record of negation of every effort that the Government has made in the last two years to preserve the security of this nation. Just as in engineering, so too in national strength, the arches of statesmanship must carry the load. Winston Churchill said three, or four years ago that there were three great arches the strength of which must not be undermined. The first was European unity. The Potsdam conference was the first major conference from which Mr. Churchill was absent. What harm was done to that arch there! Any one who knows what is happening in Germany to-day realizes the tremendous barrier that is being presented to the rebuilding of European unity and strength by the division of that country. The challenge to rebuild the world has been accepted by Washington. Many millions of pounds have been provided by the United States of America to effect the resuscitation of Western Europe, yet, in this chamber, there has been considerable disparagement of America’s efforts. I take this opportunity to dissociate myself from those disparaging statements, and to voice my admiration of what America has done to endeavour to maintain international peace. In addition to imposing heavy taxation on its citizens, the Government of the United States of America has called upon the men of its armed forces to risk shedding their blood in the cause of peace. Yet, as honorable senators will remember, Senator Morrow made a shameful speech in this chamber last October, when he eulogized Russian socialism and denounced American imperialism.
As a result of the development of modern methods of communication Australia has become one unit in one world. My colleague, Senator Cormack, pictured Australia as a country in the centre of an international lake. It is our bounden duty to support to the utmost the efforts that are being directed towards strengthening Western Europe so that it will present an obstacle to Russian advance. We must follow the lead that has been given to us in this connexion by the statesmen of the United States of America and Great Britain. I disagree, unequivocally, with the assertion that has been made in this chamber by an honorable senator opposite that the Russian aggression that we are now witnessing is merely a transient phase of world affairs. In view of the revelations oi’ appalling horrors that have occurred under Russian dictatorship, and the equally appalling potentiality of that dictatorship, we must continue to support to the full the efforts of the United States of America, and Great Britain to strengthen the defences of Western Europe.
The second arch of international strength is the Atlantic union, which was conceived by Mr. Winston Churchill, the Prime Minister of Great Britain. However, the maintenance of national security involves large expenditures of men and money. Indeed, Great Britain has become bankrupt in defending the remainder of the world against Russian dictatorship. We must reorient our ideas. Communist troops have invaded Ti.ido-China, and it would not surprise me very greatly if, during the next twelve months, they were to invade Singapore. If that occurs, it will be of no use for us to go screaming to Whitehall that the abandonment of Singapore would be an “ inexcusable betrayal “, as did a former socialist Prime Minister of this country when Singapore was invaded by the Japanese during World War II. Rather will Australian statesmen have to answer for what they have done, or neglected to do, to strengthen the defences of Singapore. We should support, in every way possible, the fortification of the Atlantic union. In this connexion, the great sacrifices that have been made by the people of the United States of America should be an inspiration to the people of this, a lesser and much weaker continent.
The third great arch that it is our duty to support is that of the British
Commonwealth of Nations, which, in itself, is- the most harmonious and potentially the strongest agency for the preservation of world peace that exists to-day. Although the young men of Great Britain have been conscripted for two years’ compulsory military training, the Labour opposition in this Parliament strongly opposed the re-introduction of such training in this country by this Government. Yet, only this evening, Senator Aylett stated that it would be the height of stupidity for us to scrap all armaments, in view of the dangers with which we are confronted. Honorable senators will recollect that, leas than fifteen months ago, Senator Aylett was one of the discredited twelve men in the Labour party from whom the Labour Opposition in this chamber accepted a direction to reverse its policy on military training.
In 1945, Australia had a unique opportunity to co-operate with the United States of America to maintain the fortifications that existed on Manus Island, that strategic bastion in the South-West Pacific, which had involved the United States of America in an expenditure of £50,000,000. At that time about 800 warships were lying at anchor in the harbour there, a harbour capable of accommodating the largest warships afloat. The then Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt), however, displayed an egoism and false ideology, characteristic of some of the people of the South American States. He was reported to have stated, “ It is United Nations territory. We will not yield to the American demand to occupy any part of it unless we are conceded reciprocal rights in every American base “. As a result, that tremendously strong bastion of Australian defence is now overgrown by jungle, and the wharfs hare slithered into the mud. When a newspaper reporter visited Manus Island last year there was only one small vessel of about 400 tons in the harbour.
The study of foreign affairs must be made on a broad, rather than a parochial basis. It calls for considerable activity by members of the Parliament. Realizing that a much increased expenditure on defence was inevitable when compulsory military training was re-introduced, the Government increased taxes and budgeted for an expenditure of £180,000,000 on defence during this financial year. Furthermore, it has supported actively the efforts of Great Britain and the United States of America to endeavour to maintain international peace.
.- The speech that has just been delivered by Senator “Wright was one of the most vituperative speeches to which I have ever listened. Some of the statements that were made by the honorable senator were inaccurate, as also were some of his analogies. He indulged in considerable hero-worship of Mr. “Winston Churchill, who, he claimed, had directed the whole of the allied operations during “World “War II., and brought us to peace. Every member of this chamber knows the sort of peace that we have. Many countries of the world are rearming as rapidly as possible, in order to preserve the peace that Mr. “Winston Churchill obtained. Indeed, armed conflict is even now in progress in several countries. The honorable senator, in a snarling manner, appealed to us to be realistic, and to remember the mistakes of the past. He vigorously attacked the policy of the Curtin Labour Government, and the attitude of the Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives (Dr. Evatt) in connexion with Manus Island. It is not so long ago, indeed during the lifetime of the honorable senator, that materialists supplied arms to Italy. Subsequently Italy turned against .the countries that had supplied the arms, by invading Abyssinia in North Africa.
Honorable senators will recall that, after the conclusion of “World War I., Germany was forbidden to rearm, but that some of the gentlemen whom Senator Wright has eulogized to-day, and upon whose head he now seeks to place a halo, were behind a movement to rearm Germany to enable it to fight the Russians after the Russian revolution. What happened? Did the Germans fight the Russians? Yes, but not until after they had declared war on Great Britain, invaded Poland and occupied France, Austria and other countries, and then only because they thought that by doing so they would be able to conclude a better peace’ treaty with the countries that had rearmed them. That was a mistake of the past. Senator Wright has said that we must be realistic and profit by the mistakes of the past. Some people will never learn. What is happening in Germany to-day? Western Germany, which is occupied by the forces of France, Great Britain and the United States of America, is to be handed back to the Germans who are to be allowed to rearm, ostensibly to contain Russia, but undoubtedly also to have a “ go “ at Eastern Germany, which is dominated by Russia. What is happening in West Germany todav under the direction of the American is similar to what happened in Germany after World War I. Yet Senator Wright says that we should profit by the mistakes of the past. He, and those who share his views, willingly allow the United States of America to dictate what should be done. Japan, too, is coining under the influence of the dollar area. What part did Australia play in affairs in Japan following upon the cessation of hostilities? It played no part whatever. Were the Asian countries, other than Japan, consulted by the Americans in relation to the occupation of Japan? Not at all. The statement presented to us by the Minister shows clearly that we are meekly following the lead of the materialists of the United States of America. This Government raises no objection to their actions. The sole objective of the Government is to get the United States of America to save us from ourselves.
– That was what was done in 1942.
– The United States of America used Australia as a base during World War II. not for the purpose of defending Australia but to help it to secure control of its former eastern possessions and the Philippines and extend its materialistic control over Asia. It is of no use for us to shut our eyes to that fact. If we are to be realists, let us be realists in the true sense of the word. To-night we have heard a great deal about security and armaments. Honorable senators opposite are always talking about armaments and war. They never consider the plight of the working people of Asian countries and their need of our assistance. They emphasize the word “ security “ in all their remarks, because they want to continue to dominate the people of Asia and exploit them more fully than they have done in the past. Every one of us knows that the people of Asian countries have slumbered for hundreds of years. They have never interfered to any great degree with the people of other parts of the world, but others have used their power to exploit them. To-day, Asia is rising from its slumbers. We can hear the tramp of the inarching feet of the Asian armies. Honorable senators opposite call them Communists. They are not Communists, but merely people who are trying to overcome the difficulties in which they found themselves as the result of their exploitation by Western countries. They are now throwing off the yoke of their Western masters, for they have begun to realize the need for a better form of government than they have had in the past. All over the Asian continent there have been uprisings which honorable senators opposite, following the lead of the American propagandists, attribute to the Communists. They have tried to frighten people into the belief that we must arm in order to defend ourselves against these so-called Communists. In some of the countries that have been mentioned in this statement the people have formed national movements with the object of throwing off the foreign yoke. They want not only to govern themselves but also to enjoy better living conditions than they have had under the exploiters who controlled them. That has been the case in Pakistan and India. I agree with those who say that the living conditions of some of the people of those countries are appalling. In Bombay, it is a common sight to see men and women sleeping in the streets alongside domestic animals or in baskets in the markets. Many die for the want of food, clothing, and shelter. Those people are working out their own destiny in their own way; and they want nothing to do with the dollar plan which the Americans are endeavouring to foist upon them. Senator Wright has appealed for realism. It is realistic to point out to him what is happening in the world to-day. This statement contains nothing of a realistic nature concerning our foreign policy. Notwithstanding the fact that the statement was prepared by such a grand man as the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey) whom Senator Wright admires because when he was out of a job he was picked out by Mr. Churchill in Cairo, or in some other place, and offered the post of Governor of Bengal, it consists merely of a rehash of certain events. I cannot understand why Senator Wright should want to eulogize a Minister for having presented a statement which contains nothing but abuse of the peoples of Asian countries.
Senator McCallum made great play upon the words “ materialist “ and “ materialism “. He said that some honorable senators on this side of the Senate have their heads in the clouds because they based their arguments upon economics which itself is based upon materialism. Have not economic facts and materialism brought us to our present position? This statement does not mention the sterling area crisis in any way. After World War I. Britain became a debtor to the United States of America which used its vast productive resources not for the benefit of its own people and the world in general, but solely for the benefit of American materialists. The United States of America tied up one nation after another until it made the dollar supreme in the world. Do honorable senators opposite think that in doing so it was impelled by human motives? Did it do so for material gain, or with the idea of bringing about peace in the world? It was done for material gain by the controllers of dollar finance. As I have said, the dollar financiers have used their control of the currencies of the world to exploit other countries. After the 1914-18 war, the European countries, including Great Britain, were unable to match the production pace set by the United States of America, with the result that they lost many of their markets to that country. That action by the Americans was taken not for humane purposes, but for material gain. Exactly the same thing occurred after World War II. The dollar area has been extended to Japan, and tremendous pressure is now being put on France and Great Britain in the hope that they, too, will submit to dollar domination. There is no mention in the statement that we are now debating of how Great Britain is to be helped. Of course, the United States of America will not allow Groat Britain to become bankrupt, because the Americans want to use that country as a base from which to contain Russia. Not one constructive suggestion showing how the United Kingdom can be aided has been offered by a Government ‘ supporter in the course of this debate. That magnificent hero, Mr. Winston Churchill, is pursuing a policy under which the United Kingdom must increase exports and impose further restrictions on imports so that its commitments may be met. Thus, British toilers will have to accept a lower standard of living so that the United States of America may be aided in its efforts to contain Russia.
The statement now under discussion indicates clearly that Australia will continue meekly to follow American foreign policy. Any critic of that policy is immediately attacked. This is the kind of leadership which, when shown by nonLabour governments in years gone by, led us into the depths of a depression. Like Mr. Micawber, the Government is hoping that something will turn up. Tt is emulating the Churchill Government by conducting a drive for exports, whilst curtailing imports so that armaments may be built up to help the United States of America to contain Russia. Millions of people in China, India, Pakistan and other countries extending right to Eastern Europe have had no say in determining whether or not they should support American policy. What part has this Government played in international negotiations? It has not insisted on playing any part at all. The Minister for External Affairs attended a meeting of the General Assembly of the United Nations and returned to this country to tell us what the Russian delegates had said. The Minister himself did not take part in any negotiations. The Government is blindly following the lead of the dollar manipulators of the United States of America. I am not referring to the people of that country, and I should noi like to be misunderstood on that point- In the United States of America to-day nearly 8,000,000 people are either unemployed or only partly employed. That apparently is the situation that this Government hopes to bring about in Australia. Because I want something .better than that for Australia, I have been attempting to show that some consideration must be given to economic factors.
– There arc 15,000,000 people in Russian concentration camps.
– We are just finding out that large numbers of people are being held in United Nations concentration camps in Korea. I do not know how many people there are in Russian concentration camps, and I am sure that Senator Cormack does not know. His only information is propaganda. In spite of Allied propaganda about the Korean war, we are just finding out that the United States of America is laying itself open to the accusation that it is prolonging that conflict. All sorts of statements have been made about Communist atrocities in Korea, but we arc finding out now that atrocities have been committed also by the Southern Koreans, who are supposed to be our allies. Little heed can be paid, therefore, to the propaganda, statements that appear from time to time about millions of people being held in Russian concentration camps. We do not know what is happening in Russia. Honorable senators opposite are always complaining that information cannot be obtained from behind the Iron Curtain. If that is so, how can they pretend to know anything about what is going on inside Russia? The Government tells us what terrible people the Russians are, yet it permits direct trade between Australia and Russia. Surely that shows a lack of sincerity on the part of honorable senators opposite. I trust that in future the Government will be more humane and realistic in formulating its foreign policy, and will forsake the materialistic considerations that have influenced it in the past.
– I welcome this opportunity to discuss foreign affairs, but it was not without great displeasure that I listened for half an hour to the poisonous and dangerous speech delivered by Senator O’Flaherty. An attack on the United States of America by a. member of the National Parliament of this country is to be deprecated. The honorable senator questioned the motives of the United States of America in playing its great part in world affairs to-day. I remind the Senate that the Australian Parliament unanimously supported Australian participation in the Korean war on the side of the United Nations, and that probably 95 per cent of the blood that has been shed by the Allies in Korea is the blood of young Americans. The United States of America is bearing the brunt of the work of the United’ Nations, which all parties in this Parliament are pledged to support. Honorable senators will be interested in a quotation that I propose to make from Australia in World Affairs, by theRight Honorable H. V. Evatt, M.P., the Leader of the Labour party in the National Parliament. In the course of an address given to the Herald Tribune Forumin New York on the 29th October, 1945, the right honorable gentleman said -
Here I desire, on behalf of Australia, to pay a special tribute to the great and decisive wartime leadership of the United States in the Pacific war. The plain fact is that, after the great advantages seized initially by the enemy as a result of his preparedness, the handling by the United States of the Pacific war was something of an epic in its brilliance of conception and its ruthless efficiency of execution. MacArthur’s exploits, especially in the New Guinea campaigns - perhaps the most difficult land campaigns in military history - were paralleled by those of the United States Navy under the leadership of men like King, Nimitz and Halsey, and equally great military and air leaders like Marshall and Kenney. To them all and to the gallant servicemen of this country, I pay homage.
Apparently Senator O’Flaherty pays no such homage to America, but is prepared instead to deliver a poisonous and dangerous attack on that great country. I deprecate his speech with all the power at my command. It is appropriate, I believe, for me to compliment some of the earlier Opposition speakers in this debate. I refer particularly to Senator Armstrong, who made a very worthwhile contribution to the discussion. It was pleasing to find that the honorable senator was not opposed to everything that the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey) had said. Senator Byrne, too, rose to interesting heights, and I readily concede that I learned something from his speech. We must realize that we can. no longer rely on the British Navy to defend this continent as it did during Australia’s first 150 years. There is, however, running through our foreign policy, the great inspiration that we have gained from the Mother of Parliaments at “Westminster, and from that great leader in world affairs, Mr. Churchill.
– Order! In conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I formally put the question -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were pre sented : -
Public Service Act - Twenty-seventh Report on the Commonwealth Public Service by the Public Service Board, for year 1950-51.
Ordered to be printed.
Shipping - Turn-round of Ships in Australian Ports -Report by Henry Basten, C.M.G.
Public Service Act - Appointment- Department of Defence - K. E. F. Millar.
Senate adjourned at 11 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 27 February 1952, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1952/19520227_senate_20_216/>.