21st Parliament · 1st Session
The Deputy PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. A. D. Reid) took the chair at 3 p.m. and read prayers.
– Is the Minister .for Shipping and Transport able to furnish to die Senate any information regarding various conferences that have been held between State and Commonwealth authorities on road traffic rules in Australia generally? Is the Minister able to indicate what progress has been made towards reducing the increasing number of accidents and fatalities on the roads ?
– I shall have the matter examined and supply the latest figures to the Senate.
– I want the report of the conferences that the Minister promised me two years ago.
– I shall also supply a report on the conferences.
– Will the Minister for Trade and Customs inform the Senate whether it is a fact that the Leader of the Opposition in the British House of Commons, the Right Honorable Clement Attlee, will shortly visit Australia as a guest of the Australian Government? Will an opportunity be given to members of this Parliament to meet Mr. Attlee when he is in Australia ? Can the Minister say what Australian States that will be visited by Mr. Attlee?
– I believe that the Australian Government has extended an. invitation to Mr. Clement Attlee to visit Australia and that he has accepted it, but I am not conversant with the details of his itinerary. I shall refer the honorable senator’s question to the Prime Minister, and shall furnish him a reply when I am in a position to do so.
– In view of the effective utilization of Scotch tape in Australia on bicycles and motor vehicles in minimizing traffic accidents will the Minister for Trade and Customs consider favorably the issue of import licences for the importation of that tape? Is it a fact that Scotch tape is not manufactured in Australia and has only recently been made in the United Kingdom, and that the British product will not be available in Australia for about two years? As the number of dollars required for the purchase of this material in the meantime would be exceedingly small, will the Minister approve the request for import licences ?
– I am sure that, the honorable senator will appreciate that applications for import licences are not granted until they are made. I am not aware of any such application having been made in the case of Scotch tape, but when such an application is made, it will be. given full and sympathetic consideration.
– An application has been made.
– Is the Minister for Repatriation in a position to inform the Senate of the progress that has been made with the building of a suitable ward at the Dawes Road Military Hospital in South Australia for the treatment of ex-servicemen suffering from war neurosis? I have asked repeatedly about this matter and I understood that the Minister intended to provide me with an answer before the end of our last sittings. In my opinion the need for this ward is most urgent.
– 1 am not in a position to reply immediately to the honorable senator’s question, but I shall see that there is no further unreasonable delay in making the information available to him.
– Because insufficient registered waterfront labour has been available at the port of Burnie in recent months, vessels have had to be diverted from that port, with the result that paper and other products of the Burnie district have had to be sent by road to other ports for shipment. Will the Minister for Shipping and Transport examine what has taken place over the last twelve months at Burnie and inform the Senate of the facts.
– The supply of waterfront labour is a matter for the Australian Stevedoring Industry Board which comes within the jurisdiction of the Minister for Labour and National Service. I shall direct the honorable senator’s question to that honorable gentleman and obtain a reply as soon as possible.
– Will the Government consider providing totally and permanently incapacitated ex-servicemen with free medicine and hospital benefits? As the total number of such ex-servicemen and their dependants in the Commonwealth is about 12,500, and the cost of free medicine and free hospital benefits for them would be only about £90,000 a year, will the Government authorize this expenditure in appreciation of the services rendered by these ex-servicemen in their contribution to the freedom we enjoy to-day?
– Any totally and permanently incapacitated ex-serviceman is entitled to free medicine and free treatment at repatriation hospitals.
– But not at home if he is being looked after by his wife.
– His local medical officer will attend him free at his home.
– Free medicine is not available to a totally and permanently incapacitated ex-serviceman who is being looked after by his wife.
– Yes, they do. They are entitled to call in local medical officers and receive medical attention in their homes. If they require hospital treatment, the local medical officers send them to hospital. They are entitled to free medical attention and hospital treatment.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior. Is he aware that settlers on the Tootra estate in Western Australia, have not yet received their leases? Will he take the matter up with the State Government with the object of having the leases issued without further delay?
– I shall convey the honorable senator’s request to the Minister for the Interior.
– In Tasmania there have been at least two instances of a prefabricated building being placed on a site and represented as a post office. It is humiliating for any member of Parliament to see these buildings take the place of proper public buildings and not be used as hen coops. Will the Minister representing the Postmaster-General inform the Senate how many of these buildings are to be erected in the Commonwealth, particularly in Tasmania? Is it possible for the Postmaster-General’s Department to abandon the idea of using buildings of this kind as post offices and to use them for other and inferior purposes for which they may be more suitable?
– I shall bring the question to the notice of the Postmaster-
General and ask him to give a considered reply as soon as possible.
– Does the Minister representing the Prime Minister know that some outstanding aerial colour photographs of the hitherto little-known south-western portion of Tasmania have been taken by a leading Tasmanian airman and aerial photographer, Mr. Lloyd Jones? Does he know that they were shown recently, by special request, to some artists in Sydney, one of whom described south-western Tasmania as a “ world of its own “, and that, as a result of the showing of the photographs, several leading artists intend to visit this part of Tasmania next summer? In order that the photographs may be seen by members of this Parliament and any other audiences which the National Library can arrange, will the Minister urge the Government to recommend that an invitation be issued to Mr. Jones to bring his photographs to Canberra during the current session of the Parliament?’
– I understand that such exhibitions are arranged by Mr. White, the Librarian of the National Library. I suggest that the honorable senator get in touch with Mr. White. If I can assist him in any way, I shall be pleased to do so.
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Alamein, Field Marshal Lord Montgomery will unveil a cloister on the northern side of the battlefield cemetery at El Alamein, and that this cloister will commemorate the names of the 12,000 allied officers and men who died in Middle East operations and have no known graves?
– I have been supplied with the following answer : - 1 and 2. It is true that, on the 24th October, 1954, the El Alamein memorial will be unveiled. It is not yet certain who will carry out the unveiling. This memorial consists of a cloister on the northern side of the battlefield cemetery at El Alamein. Within the cloister are inscribed the names of 11,945 officers and men of the land and air forces of the British Commonwealth who have no known graves. Included in these are the names of655 members of the Australian land and air forces. Within the cemetery entered from the memorial are buried 7,300 officers and men of all services who are commemorated by individual headstones on the graves. The Australian Government will give consideration at the appropriate time to the question of suitable representation at the unveiling.
Debate resumed from the 10th August (vide page 120), on motion by Senator Annabelle Rankin -
That the following Address-in-Reply to the Speech of His Excellency the GovernorGeneral be agreed to -
We, the Senate of the Commonwealth of Australia, in Parliament assembled, desire to express our loyalty to our Most Gracious Sovereign, and to thank your Excellency for the Speech which you have been pleased to address to Parliament.
SenatorROBERTSON (Western Australia) [3.17]. - Just prior to the adjournment of the Senate last evening I addressed myself to the subject of social services and commended the Government for its very generous provision of repatriation and tuberculosis benefits, increased child endowment, the increasingly successful health scheme, the provision of free milk for school children, and the various immunization schemes. However, like Oliver Twist, I am not satisfied. We should deal with the pensioners of this country more generously. I am not persuaded that we cannot raise the age and invalid pensions, and, asI said last night, I hope that the new Minister for Social Services (Mr. McMahon) will devise ways and means of increasing those pensions and introducing a contributory scheme, which would be most helpful to all members of the community. I also mentioned last night that certain charitable and church institutions should be commended for the work that they have done in looking after the aged and the sick. The generous offer by the Australian Government to provide £1 for £1 in respect of capital expenditure on buildings was most heartening. I also referred last night, to the problem of the “ human scrapheap “. I mention this matter again because of a press report in relation to the figures that I quoted. The more or less common rule throughout Australia for compulsory retirement at the age of 65 years has been completely outmoded. Towards the end of the last century medical authorities decided that the end of a person’s working usefulness was reached at that age. In those days, of course, the average expectancy of life was only 47 years for a male; to-day it is approximately 66 for males, and 70 for females, which appears to indicate that females are tougher than males. We must pay tribute to the original Australian Labour party for helping to bring great benefits to the workers of this country such as shorter hours of work, better working conditions and public health schemes. These blessings have all contributed to the longevity of the people.
The Beveridge report of 1942 dealt with the problem of an ageing population and an increasing pension bill in the United Kingdom. That country had a shortage of labour during the war when it instituted a scheme which, although small, helped the United Kingdom in the time of its need. Under this scheme a small extra payment of1s. a week for every six months worked after 65 years of age was granted. I believe that the United Kingdom intends to extend that scheme. Last night, in this debate, I referred to experiments in the United States of America, but two schemes that I mentioned were a little confused in the newspaper report this morning. The
American schemes, as far as I can find out, mostly concerned factories in which members of the staff, on reaching the age of 65 years, were permitted to take up lighter work in the factory and their services were not, therefore, dispensed with. I realize that a great number of people would rather rust out than wear out. They give up work as soon as they can. But a great number of the 120,000 male pensioners who are over 65 years of age in Australia are barred from taking a full-time job because of their age. There was a photo in the newspaper yesterday morning of the Postmaster-General (Mr. Anthony) taking leave of a postmaster of 65 years of age who seemed to me to be a virile, active individual who probably does not want to be retired. Before coming to Canberra for this session of Parliament an employee of the Postal Department in Western Australia said to me, “ The day before yesterday I was as good as gold, but to-day I am on the scrap heap. I am going to grow roses.” [ said that it was lovely that he would SupplY some beauty to the world instead of putting up telegraph posts. But the man was able, experienced and wise, and be told me that there was a tremendous shortage of skilled labour in his department and a tremendous need for experienced men such as he. Australia would do well to investigate schemes in other parts of the world so that the additional labour that has been made available by an increased life expectancy might be employed in our ever-expanding economy.
I should like to commend Senator Armstrong for ably dealing with many phases of the development of Australia. I admire the strong Australian sentiments that the honorable senator always expresses. Far too many Australians are prone to criticize everything Australian. But I think, in his enthusiasm, the honorable senator rather ran away with himself in .suggesting such heavily protective tariffs for the protection of our secondary industries. On this point I agree heartily with Senator Henty, who said that an unbalanced protective tariff for our secondary industries would be very detrimental to the rest of the community, especially to our primary producers. I am a great free trader. 1 do not believe in protective tariffs. If secondary industries are to succeed they must succeed in competition, for competition is the spice of economic life.
J do not think that they should be bolstered beyond their usefulness. Honorable senators will remember two instances of protective tariffs which led to war. The outstanding instance was the treatment of Germany after World War
I thought that Senator Sandford would also make a sound contribution to the debate, but his speech deteriorated into the old complaint about the Commonwealth starving the States of money. The honorable senator must have a very short memory. Otherwise, he would remember that at the recent meeting of the Australian Loan Council all but one of the State Premiers confessed that they had a little nest egg of loan money tucked away, although at election time they had gone round with their tongues in their cheeks telling the people that they had insufficient money to spend. The New South Wales Government has since announced a surplus of £2,000,000 at the end of the budget year. It seems to me that Senator Sandford will have to change his tune.
The northern part of Australia calls for immediate development. It has been called the “vulnerable north”, and it certainly is. I recently had the opportunity to travel approximately 6,000 miles by Anson aircraft, truck and motor car over practically the whole of the Kimberleys area. On previous occasions I had travelled overland from Darwin to Alice Springs and Oodnadatta. The outstanding thing that strikes the traveller is the great emptiness of that country, so that he is forced to ask himself, “ What are we going to do about developing it?” The present Australian Government will have to give serious thought to such development. The rich finds of uranium and other metals, together with the oil strikes, point the way to a great future. However, it is depressing to find that there are now fewer cattle in the Kimberleys district than there were ten years ago. Beef is a much sought-after commodity all over the world, and the fact that our beef production in the north is declining indicates a serious trend of affairs. I knew something of the beef airlift scheme and was particularly glad to be able to go to Glenroy station, where the scheme first commenced, and see the whole of the operations. At 8 o’clock one morning, I saw 11,000 lb. of chilled beef leaded into an aeroplane with the minimum of physical exertion. It left Glenroy at 8 o’clock, arrived in Perth at 5.30 the same afternoon and was sold over the counter in the butchers’ shops the next day. The cost of conveying that beef from the Kimberleys to Perth was 4$d. per lb. I was informed that the beef would have received considerable handling if it had been shipped. It would not have reached the markets for three weeks and the cost of shipment would have been 7d. per lb. Therefore, the argument that air transport is dearer than other forms of transport does not hold in that case. I am entirely opposed to railways being built in Australia over country of that nature. In reply to the suggestion that we should spend £50,000,000 on a railway from the Barkly Tableland to the Kimberleys, I say, “ Away with it “. Air transport is becoming the most popular form of transport, and it should receive the continued attention of this Government. I believe that it can be used to the greatest advantage in co-operation with road transport. ‘
Further interest has been aroused in the north-west of Western Australia by the great success of rice-growing along the Fitzroy River. We hope that soon we shall be able to snap our fingers at the rice-growers in the eastern States. Because of the state of the stevedoring industry in the eastern States and the scarcity of shipping, the people of Western Australia have been denied this popular commodity. We are also beginning to market sugar-cane which will compete with cane from Queensland. Such competition should be an impetus to commerce. That cane is being grown in the Ord River basin.
I urge that sympathetic consideration should be given to taxation concessions for’ persons who develop holdings in the far north. I believe that this matter has been revived by a deputation that waited on the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) and that he will consider again a taxation concession for persons living north of the 26th Parallel. During my visit to those distant areas, I was delighted to note the wonderful spirit of the people. They would not live anywhere else but in the north, and they are now reaping some of the benefits of the hard pioneering work that they performed in the early days. In many places I found evidence of the most gracious living conditions, and I was particularly pleased to note that the women and children benefited. In that connexion I remember in my mind and heart the work of the Reverend Dr. John Flynn, who first introduced the Flying Doctor scheme that has become the pattern for all similar services.
I believe that with inland abattoirs all over Australia and with air transport, the problems of the cattle industry in the northern part of Australia would practically be solved. Everywhere I went the men said that they were very glad to see me. They asked whether I could send them stockmen or drovers because they found the greatest difficulty in getting such skilled workers. They will not need them so much if they abandon the old system of droving cattle over that wild and sometimes hard country and use air and road transport. I hope that this Government will realize that the roads of Australia are necessary not only for commercial development, but also for defence purposes, and that the provision of roads in those outback areas should be the responsibility of the Australian Government.
I thank the Minister for Development (Senator Spooner) for his able and informative address on the coal industry. [ believe that his efforts to bring about peace on the coal-fields and the longrange view that he adopted have made a tremendous contribution to the prosperity that Australia is enjoying. The housewives in the eastern States thank him because they can now use gas when they wish. They remember the dim, dark days of the Chifley Administration when they suffered a series of blackouts from morning to night. In conclusion, I commend the Government for its wise administration and its generous approach to social services. I hope that further sympathetic consideration will be given to the pensioners. The Government deserves credit also for its part in the success of the Colombo Plan. I hope that Australia will have the benefit of the wise guidance of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) for many years. I have pleasure in supporting the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply.
– I must confess at the beginning that I did not derive the inspiration that Senator Robertson apparently drew from the speech of the Minister for Development (Senator Spooner). I believe it can be truly said also that there was little inspiration to be derived from the Speech that was made by the GovernorGeneral on behalf of the Government when he opened the twenty-first Parliament. I have searched in vain through the Speech for some specific propositions regarding matters that are exercising the minds of the Australian people. All I could find was a conglomeration of platitudes and little that was definite. Senator Cooke’s criticism of the Speech in that regard was entirely warranted.
However, I am fully in accord with the section of the Governor-General’s Speech in which His Excellency referred to the recent visit of Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth the Second, and His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh. I, with all other Australian people, appre ciated the pleasure and honor that were conferred on Australia by the Royal visit, and I hope that the time is not far distant when we shall have another visit. In that connexion I have several comments to make that might receive consideration. First, I believe that the tour was too arduous for the Royal couple. That was obvious to most Australian people before the visit was completed. Secondly, I hope that when the Royal couple visit Australia again, there will be some departure from the pomp and ceremony that was associated with the recent Royal tour, and that the Royal couple will see Australia as it really is.
I have noted that the GovernorGeneral, on behalf of the Government, indicated in his Speech that the Government would continue to abide by the principles of the United Nations Charter and that it would continue to support the United Nations. I hope that it will do so because I noted with some degree of disturbance a report in a leading newspaper that the Secretary-General of the United Nations deplored the fact that there had been some departure from, and by-passing of, the United Nations by the big powers. The big powers mentioned included not only Russia but also the United States of America and Great Britain. I agree with the Secretary-General of the United Nations that if we undermine the authority of that organization, we shall be helping to cloud many issues that are exercising the minds of people throughout the world. If there is to be any hope for peace in the future, it is essential that all those who believe in the preservation of freedom, should continue to support the United Nations.
In relation to defence, I shall make only a brief observation because this is a subject to which we shall have other opportunities to refer later in the present session. The Australian people should have a clear understanding of the issues involved in current events in South-East Asia. It is perfectly obvious to those of us who have examined the situation, that if the spread of communism towards Australia is to be arrested, we must follow one of two courses. First we can adopt the attitude that the spread of communism is inevitable, and that there is nothing we can do about it except to engage in total war against the Communists. Any one who accepts that proposition must also accept the dreadful consequences that will flow from such a war - a war which scientists tell us could easily destroy civilization. The only alternative to that course is to realize that we too have a philosophy to sell, and that we must busily engage ourselves in spreading that philosophy throughout those countries of South-East Asia which are exercising a rightful desire to achieve their nationalist aspirations. That, in my opinion, is the only method, other than by resorting to total war, by which we can hope to counter effectively Communist inroads upon the countries of SouthEast Asia. It may be argued that even intervention of this kind could conceivably result in war. If that is so, it is still the preferable course to follow, because we should at least have the satisfaction of knowing that some attempt was made to avoid war as a means of arresting the spread of communism. Members of this chamber and the general public at large should clearly understand that there are no possible alternatives to the two courses to which I have referred.
I pass now to a matter on which I propose to speak at some length. It is a subject which I consider to be of great importance, and which the Government also apparently considers to be of great importance, because the only Minister who has spoken in this debate directed a substantial portion of his remarks to it. I refer to national development. I listened attentively to the speech of the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) and I reached the conclusion that he and his colleagues were very proud of the Snowy Mountains hydro-electric scheme. I also concluded that they had somehow managed to convince themselves that they were the authors of that scheme. I have conducted some research into this matter, and I have found that when the legislation to constitute the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority was before this Parliament, some most interesting statements were made by members of the then Opposition who now sit on the Government benches in this Parliament. For instance the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) said- 1 am prepared to take a wager now that before the next poll a Minister opposite will be photographed turning the first sod and that is as far as the work will go.
Obviously, Mr. Gullett has lost his wager, and I can only hope that he did not incur too big a loss. In the same debate, the then honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White), said that the scheme was unsound from the viewpoint of strategy. He did not elaborate upon that remark, but merely left the sentence in mid-air, and to this day the House of Representatives awaits an explanation of why the scheme if unsound. Such criticism, of course, was far from constructive. In the 1949 debate, the honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Beale), now Minister for Supply, said -
If it is the Government’s intention to proceed with the scheme, on this basis it is likely to fail altogether.
Mr. Beale, too, was obviously not a very great prophet nor was he very much in favour of the scheme. Hansard shows that the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), then Leader of the Opposition, took the opportunity to make a humorous speech. Some of his references may have evoked the laughter of his loyal colleagues, but they contributed little or nothing to the debate, and it was rather astonishing that the leader of a big and influential party should have adopted such an attitude to the greatest national project ever undertaken in Australia. Coming a little nearer home, we find that Senator O’sullivan, now Minister for Trade and Customs and leader of the Government in the Senate, referring to the authority that was to be set up to administer the Snowy Mountains hydro-electric scheme, said -
I see in this measure the pattern of socialism.
It is gratifying to learn that we now, apparently, have a willing convert to socialism in the person of the Minister for Trade and Customs.
– Did honorable senators opposite expect us to “ ditch “ the scheme after so much money had been spent on it?
– Senator Henty asks rather picturesquely whether we expected the present Government to “ ditch “ the scheme. Of course not. But at least we expected members of the Liberal party in 1949 to give some consideration to the potential value of the scheme. As the Minister for Trade and Customs now seeks to take all the credit for the scheme, and has spoken of it in such eulogistic terms, it is apparent that he has become a socialist. Other members and supporters of the Government, too, must have slight socialist leanings because I have not heard any of them argue that there should be any departure from the Snowy Mountains programme. Apparently, their political outlook has been softened by the passing of time. Although the inauguration ceremony of the Snowy Mountains hydro-electric scheme was boycotted by the members of the then Opposition, now they would have us believe that they are the authors of that scheme and that all credit for the vision that brought the scheme into existence rightly belongs to the present Government parties. Recently, in South Australia, I was privileged to see a 16-mm. film which depicted in an admirable fashion the various phases of the scheme. The film was made by the Department of Information during the term of the present Government. If any one were to take any notice of that film he could come to no other conclusion other than that the present Government not only dreamed up the scheme, but actually set in motion the legislative machinery which inaugurated it. In view of the events associated with the establishment of the authority that administers the scheme, such propaganda is rather farcical.
I want to deal briefly with the speech that was made by the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner). As I explained to Senator Robertson when I rose to my feet, I have derived no inspiration from the Minister’s remarks about coal or development. I have never heard a more defensive speech by a Minister or a more inconclusive account of happenings in the coal-fields of New South Wales. The Minister put men off and took them on again. He moved them like pieces on a chessboard. He transferred them and brought them back. He said there was unemployment, and then that there was no unemployment. When he had finished, the Senate did not know where it was. I believe the position is much more serious than was indicated by the Minister. My information is that many hundreds of men have been retrenched in the northern coal-fields of New South Wales. The men and their industrial organizations are very concerned about the position. It is easy for the Minister to say there are hundreds of vacancies here and there, and that retrenched men can be absorbed readily into other jobs. But what will happen when those men are required in the coal industry again? My knowledge of industry tells me that once a man has been forced to leave an industry because of uncertainty of employment, it is not easy to get him back again, especially if he has got a permanent job elsewhere. I believe the Minister is playing with fire when he permits, or does nothing to prevent, the Joint Coal Board from causing the position that is developing in the northern coal-fields of New South Wales.
We have heard from the Minister that coal is vital to the defence of Australia. If that is so, we should not retrench men in the coal-fields of New South Wales or, for that matter, in coal-fields elsewhere in Australia. We should be stockpiling coal for use in an emergency. We do not want to be caught again as we were caught during World War II., when we had insufficient coal at a time when coal was urgently required for the defence of the country. It is short-sighted in the extreme to retrench men engaged in an industry which the Minister agrees is vital to defence.
I come to the question of arbitration. I have never believed that I should restrain myself from criticizing the functions of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, although an honorable senator opposite once took me to task when I ventured to do so. I believe that if there are any imperfections in our arbitration system, this is the place in which those imperfections should be discussed. Since this Government came into office, there has been a slow but steady change in the processes of arbitration in Australia. That change has brought the economic structure of our country very close to disaster. Under the Chifley Government, the justices of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court and the conciliation commissioners dealt with cases that came before them on the merits of those cases. If a trade union presented a case that had merit and could not be disproved, the issue was decided in favour of the union. That is how justice should be dispense*!. While the Chifley Government was in office, Australia was recognized, as leading the world with its system for settling disputes between employers and employees. But since the advent of this Government there has been a change, and it has not been a change for the better. The Commonwealth Arbitration Court regards itself now as the paramount economic authority of the nation. We know that in recent months the court has said to great industrial organizations of this country, representing hundreds of thousands of men and women, “Regardless of the merits of the case you have put to us, and no matter how conclusively you have proved that you are entitled to what you have claimed, owing to the state of the national economy you cannot have it. That is all there is to it”. A government that permits such a thing is evading the obligation that reposes on it. I say it is the duty, not of the court, but of the government to determine economic questions. An arbitration court established to determine issues on the basis of justice should divorce itself from economic questions, which should be dealt with in the field to which they properly belong.
We have heard a lot about happier relations between employers and employees. We have heard a lot also about the necessity for the workers to increase production and, in order to do so, to take a higher view of their obligations to the managements. But while the workers are being urged to produce more, we are taking from them a system of arbitration that once gave them justice. I was interested in some of the remarks made by Senator Henty. Apparently, he is one of those men who understand, not only the problems of management, but also the deficiencies of trade unions. I do not know whether he has been an official of one of our industrial organizations. He spoke with enough confidence to lead some people to believe that he had, but not with enough authority to convince anybody who has had experience in that field. He spoke of the need for greater efficiency in industry. I agree with his remarks on that subject, because I know that increased production is wrapped up with greater efficiency. But the honorable senator went on to say that the reason we have not got greater efficiency is that the workers have refused to co-operate with the managements.
– He did not say that. The honorable senator is misrepresenting him.
– I am not misrepresenting him. Senator Henty said that ‘bad leadership in the unions had caused a situation which prevented the workers from co-operating with the managements.
– He said a lot more than that.
– Now that I have concluded my little clash with Senator Henty’s deputy, I shall continue to develop my argument. I hope I shall not be accused of misrepresenting Senator Henty when I say that he spoke eulogistically of the American system. He talked about American “know-bow”. He said that America led the world in production. He told us that America had given the benefit of its industrial efficiency and managerial experience to the Western countries. What he did not tell this chamber was that, despite the fact that American management has mastered the techniques of efficiency and production, it has not yet mastered the technique of keeping all of its technicians in permanent employment. The journal of the organization in America, which is the equivalent of the electrical trades union in this country, reports that the 5,000,000 mark in unemployment was passed in the United States of America a month or so ago. It should not, therefore, be encumbent on us to regard America as a pattern on which to mould our industrial relationships. What the workers of this country had hoped to hear from His Excellency was that the Government would intervene in the margins application before the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration to ensure that the value of marginal payments, which has decreased considerably since this Government came to office, would be restored. I refer not only to the pick-and-shovel men - the process workers - but to all workers who receive weekly wages on the basis of standard rates plus margins for skill. In order to restore the ratio of margins to the basic wage that existed in 1949, towards the end of the Chifley Government’s regime, it would bo necessary to double the present marginal rates. Action rather than words is required to dissipate the existing discontentment in industry to-day. In one of his periodical “Man to Man” broadcasts, the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) said -
In nil these Ulinga I ask you to remember that Parliament cannot lay down principles bi which the Court and Commissioners arc bound. We have power only to create the machinery. Whether the adjudicators increase or decrease wages or hours of work or margins for skill, or suspend quarterly adjustments, is a matter which they alone can decide. No Commonwealth Pa’rliament. has any power to tell them what to do. beyond settling the dispute.
I contend that that was only a halftruth. It is obvious to anybody who has a knowledge of the functions of the court that it is not possible for the Government, as such, to intervene and exercise authority. However, it is possible for the Government to instruct counsel to place before the court the Government’s views in matters of this kind, as was done in the wages and hours application during Labour’s term of office.
– The Government has not stated the extent to which it will intervene.
– That is so. If the information supplied by the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) is indicative of the kind of intervention contemplated by the Government, it is obvious that intervention will be only on a very limited basis.
– The Government now says it is going to do something which it previously said it could not do.
– Yes. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) said previously that the Government could not intervene ; now, apparently, it can do so. If the Government intervenes only in respect of workers who are in receipt of very high marginal payments for skill, an anomaly will be created, which will result in industrial unrest in this country for many years to come. In those circumstances, as I have said before, it would be futile to expect the workers to co-operate wholeheartedly with managements in an allout effort to increase production. I remind Senator Henty, who referred in glowing terms to the position in America, that whatever imperfections may exist in that country, at least the American workers receive a far greater share of profits than would the Australian workers under the system the honorable senator advocated. Those who have had experience of this matter down the years will not trust managements in this country to honour their promises unless they first give an earnest of their sincerity by definite overtures to the court in connexion with the margins application.
Senator Annabelle Rankin stated that this Government had done a great deal in the field of social services, and intended to do even more. The honorable senator specifically mentioned the assistance that the Government had provided to sufferers from tuberculosis, and for cancer research. Although I hoped that she would say what the Government intended to do in order to rectify an anomaly in the social services legislation in relation to sufferers from incurable diseases, such as tuberculosis and cancer, unfortunately she did not do so. Under the existing law, those unfortunate people cannot receive all of the benefits provided by the health scheme, because they are excluded by the friendly societies. I urge the Government to correct this anomaly.
As I said at the outset, the GovernorGeneral’s Speech contained no definite proposition; it was only a collection of platitudes. I was most disappointed that it did not provide the occasion for a firstclass debate in this chamber. “Within the limitations imposed on me by those who drafted the Speech, I have endeavoured to express my opinions of the matters to which His Excellency referred.
– I join with other honorable senators in congratulating both the mover and the seconder of the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply to the Governor-General’s Speech on the capable manner in which they did so. I take this opportunity, also, to congratulate the Government on its success at the recent general election. During the campaign which preceded the election, I was very apprehensive about the wild and irresponsible promises that were made to the electors by Labour’s leader, Dr. Evatt. However, convincing rebuttals by both the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden), who is the Leader of the Australian Country party, were sufficient, thank goodness, to convince the electors of the falsity of those promises. It is a pity that Senator Benn, who is apparently most apprehensive about the falling returns in the dried fruits, wheat, and pig industries, did not express his fears to Dr. Evatt before the election. Senator Benn wonders where the Government is going to get its revenue. I wonder whether he asked Dr. Evatt, before the election, where he intended to get sufficient revenue to honour his extravagant promises.
I congratulate the Leader of the Opposition in this chamber (Senator McKenna) on his re-election to that position. He has carried out his duties in a way that well merited the honour of re-election, and I hope that he will continue to occupy that position for many years to come.
I want to endorse the remarks that were made by Senator Vincent concerning the committee which it is proposed to set up in order to review certain aspects of the Constitution. I entirely agree that this is the most urgent matter facing the Commonwealth at present. But I am afraid that the suggested committee will not be competent to do the work, because the States are most vitally interested in the Constitution, and any revision of it should not be carried out unless the States are present to express their views on the matter. The election of the two Houses of this Parliament is a minor matter. I disagree with some of my colleagues in that I can see no necessity for the election of the House of Representatives and the election of the Senate to coincide. I think that the status of the Senate would be raised if it went to the country independently of the House of Representatives. In at least some of the States the Legislative Council elections are not held on the same day as the elections for the Legislative Assembly. If the election of the two Commonwealth houses could be kept separate I think that it would enhance the reputation of the Senate which would be called upon to give a full account of its activities instead of depending for its reputation on the other House. I think it is important that the section of the Constitution concerning Commonwealth and State financial relationships should be revised, but only after a conference at which the States and the Commonwealth have equal representation.
I want, to deal with the subject of agriculture in Australia. The other night the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) made a vital statement on the defence of Australia. Agricultural production constitutes a major aspect of our defence. I wish to make it clear that if I find fault with our agricultural production, I do not criticize the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen), whom I regard as one of the most competent, hard working, thorough and conscientious men in the Government. The settlement of the wheat dispute, as far as it has proceeded, has been brought about by the persistent work of the Minister, who is always careful to see that he does not give preference to any particular State. I am pleased that, in the execution of his duties, he now has as his assistant, the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator McLeay), who carried on in the Minister’s place while that gentleman was indisposed. The agricultural policy of the Commonwealth is laid down by the Australian Agricultural Council, which is composed of all the State Ministers for Agriculture and the Federal Minister for Agriculture. It has been laid down by the United Nations Organization that the duty of Australia in the event of another war will be to supply foodstuffs for the United Nations forces. Apart from that responsibility, we have to export agricultural products in order to maintain our economy. Consequently, it behoves us to inquire into the position of our agricultural industries in order to ascertain whether they are expanding sufficiently.
In 1952, the Australian Agricultural Council fixed the goals that it hoped to reach in the ensuing five years in the expansion of agricultural industry. In the latest report of the council that I. read it was stated that the goal for 1954 had been reached. The council hoped that it would also reach the goal that it had set for the end of the fiveyear period. But the question that we have to consider is whether our rate of production has been sufficiently high. In my opinion it has not, because I have been unable to see any progress when I have travelled through the country. If one travelled by aeroplane, one would be able to see signs of progress but I go by train and take note of any evidence of progress that I see in the country through which I happen to pass. In a recent report the Commonweath Statistician stated that production per head of population from the financial year 1947-48 to the financial year 1950- 51 averaged about 3 per cent, less than it did between 1936 and 1939. In 1951- 52, the average fell to 19 per cent, less than the 1936-39 average. A good season in 1952-53 assisted recovery but production was still 7 per cent, less than it was from 1936 to 1939. Exports of farm products from the financial year 1947-4S to 1950-51 averaged about 11 per cent, more than they did between 1936 and 1939. But in 1951-52, lower production and increased home consumption caused a fall of 31 per cent, below the 1936-39 average. Those figures do not indicate that we are increasing our production of foodstuffs fast enough. Comparisons of production are often made in terms of pounds, shillings and pence, but such figures have no meaning whatsoever. Production figures have to be given in quantities in order to have any significance. Another report of the Commonwealth Statistician shows that, taking 100 as an index figure for our agricultural production, the index figure for Australia is still 100. The Argentine, however, has increased its production from 100 to 104, Canada from 100 to 145, New Zealand from 100 to 107, South Africa from 100 to 144, United Kingdom from 100 to 124, and the United States of America from 100 to 132. Australia is the only one of those nations that has not increased its pre-war exports. I admit that we went above pre-war levels during some of the intervening years, but we have slipped back again. In 1901, 32.9 per cent, of Australian workers were engaged in agricultural production, but in 1947 that figure had fallen to 14 per cent. In 1901, 26.9 per cent, of our workers were engaged in secondary industries, but in 1947 that figure had fallen to 37.19 per cent. In addressing a meeting last week, the Director of Agriculture in Western Australia stated that if the population of Western Australia kept increasing at the present rate there would have to be a big increase in primary production. He said that the production of cheese would have to be increased by 500 per cent., bacon by 200 per cent., currants and raisins by 50 per cent., and beef by 25 per cent, whilst the production of whole milk, butter and vegetables would have to be doubled ; the number of sheep, even to meet only slaughtering requirements, would have to be increased by 6,000,000. At the present time, the sheep population in that State is more than 12,000,000. Those figures indicate that our efforts to increase primary production must be considerably augmented. In my opinion, the goal set by the Australian Agricultural Council is not sufficiently high.
In aiming at the objective to which I have referred, the Australian Agricultural Council was of the opinion that it could be achieved quicker and more efficiently by expanding production on existing farms rather than by opening up new farms. The accent was placed on improving productivity. Unfortunately, at the present time we appear to be opening up new farming land rather more rapidly than we are exploiting the productive capabilities of existing farms. That is obvious in Western Australia. I could take honorable senators round Canberra and show them land that has been cleared for many years, but which has been starved because of lack of superphosphate, tillage and aeration. If such land were properly treated it could carry two or three times the number of stock which it is carrying now.
– Does the honorable senator consider that such properties should be subdivided and given to people who would work them properly?
– Yes, if it could be proved that, by cutting them up, the productivity would be increased. I have not forgotten that after World War I. a large property in Western Australia, of which I have particular knowledge, was cut up and handed over to soldier settlers. However, the total production of the property for the first fifteen years after subdivision did not equal the production of only one year while the property was in the hands of the previous owner. Therefore, I say the solution of the problem is not merely a matter of cutting up big properties, although that may be a solution if the owners of the properties are not operating them efficiently. Between Albury and Adelaide it is possible to see paddocks which have been cleared for many years; yet no attempt has been made to bring them to full productive capacity.
Sir Clunies Ross, the head of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, when speaking at a meeting some months ago, said that by the use of trace elements we could produce an additional 1,000,000 bales of wool a year. I agree with that statement, Indeed, I am prepared to go further and say that Western Australia alone could produce an additional 1,000,000 bales by the use of trace elements. Of course, that would also involve the use of superphosphates. I have seen the value of trace elements at many times. One of the most important features of their use is that the lighter land is brought into production. For instance, land which yielded between 7 and 9 bushels of oats to the acre before the use of trace elements will yield ill bushels or moTe to the acre after their use. The cost of production is thus reduced, because the greater the production for the same expenditure, the greater the reduction of costs without lowering -wages.
When delivering an oration in Melbourne a few weeks ago, Sir Clive Steele pointed out that there were 16,000,000 acres of developed land and 18,000,000 acres of undeveloped land in Victoria, whereas in New South Wales, there were 76,000,000 undeveloped acres, and in
Queensland, 190,000,000. Sir Clive also pointed out that an area five times the size of Victoria could be made productive by the use of trace elements. He did not refer to Western Australia or South Australia, in both of which there are large areas of undeveloped land.
The Australian Agricultural Council, in formulating its policies in 1952, made certain assumptions. For instance it assumed that supplies of farm machinery, materials, fertilizers and labour -would be adequate. Generally speaking, farm machinery and materials are now readily available, although galvanized iron and piping are still in short supply. The position with regard to fertilizers is another story. At an inquiry which the Tariff Board conducted towards the end of 1953, evidence given by the Bureau of Agricultural Economics indicated that in 1951-52 the demand for superphosphate was approximately 1,770,000 tons a year, whereas the total production was only 1,560,000 tons. In the following year the demand was 1,880,000 tons and production only 1,470,000 tons, so that production in those years was considerably below demand. In 1950, an examination of the position in Western Australia disclosed that, by 1955, 600,000 tons of superphosphate would be required annually. This is 1954, and the demand is now approximately 400,000 tons. In evidence given to the Tariff Board, four manufacturers pointed out that the demand for superphosphate had fallen off because of its high cost. From memory, the price five or six years ago was between £5 and £7 a ton, whereas last year it was £21 a ton delivered to Western Australian farms. The price of the superphosphate itself was approximately £18 a ton, cartage being mainly responsible for the additional £3 a ton.
I .am pleased to see that a further inquiry is being made by the Tariff Board into the cost of manufacturing superphosphate from pyrites. That is most important, because the cost of manufacturing sulphuric acid from pyrites is greater than is the cost of manufacturing it from brimstone. In addition, the manufacturer must install different machinery and increase the area of his factory by approximately 30 per cent, in order to produce the same amount of superphosphate. In Western Australia, the pyrites has to he brought from Norseman, which is 470 miles from Perth, and is mined solely for its sulphur content. In Tasmania and Queensland, zinc, copper and gold are also produced and the cost of production is reduced. In Western Australia it has to be mined solely for the sulphur content. When the Tariff Board’s report is issued, I hope that it will recommend a substantial bounty in the case of Western Australia. The whole nation should share some of the cost of manufacturing sulphuric acid from pyrites because it is a national work, and was undertaken as a national policy, to permit the production of sulphuric acid and superphosphate in wartime. An endeavour was made then to use a certain amount of local sulphur in the manufacture of sulphuric acid. In those circumstances, some of the cost should be borne by the nation instead of the users of superphosphate carrying the whole burden.
The conversion of the superphosphate works to the use of pyrites should be directed by an independent authority. I know that an inter-departmental committee is in charge of it at present, but in my opinion, it is not the correct body to do the work. I say nothing against the officers, who are men of high standing, and are highly qualified for their ordinary duties, but they have not the intimate knowledge of superphosphate that is necessary in this case. The controlling authority should be able to determine, without reference to anybody else, how much superphosphate is required in each State so that the manufacturers can produce the required quantity. The matter is important because, if superphosphate were not so expensive, more top-dressing would take place, particularly in Western Australia. Better pastures would result and more sheep and wool would be produced.
The Australian Agricultural Council also assumed that there was a sufficiency of labour, ls there a sufficiency? Despite the statements that have been made in this chamber by other speakers, I have no hesitation in saying that the supply of labour for farming in Western Australia is inadequate. In fact, labour is almost unprocurable, and in many cases the owners of properties are reduc- ing acreages or doing the work themselves rather than trying to obtain labour. Frequently when labour is obtained, it is inexperienced. This is having a serious effect upon production. Farmers are expected to employ new Australians and other totally inexperienced men and pay them the full basic wage. They will not do so if they can avoid it. They have on their properties expensive machinery, and inexperienced men cannot he trusted with those machines. A friend of mine allowed an inexperienced man to use a tractor and he did not oil it. The man was kicked off the property after ten or twelve days, but repairs to the tractor cost between £100 and £150. Secondary industries would not be asked to employ untrained men. Their workers have to serve apprenticeships. If the fanners have to employ such men, some authority, such . as the State, should share the cost of their wages until the men become efficient. Farmers should not be asked to bear the whole cost.
There is a general deficiency of amenities in country districts. How many towns in Western Australia have a swimming pool? In many places there is no telephone. If a telephone is installed, the work costs £200 to £300 in addition to calls and rentals. The only entertainment often is a picture show every two or three weeks. People will not go into the back country unless they have some amenities. Unless some action is taken to make life in country districts more attractive and to give the farmers competent labour, an increase in primary production cannot be expected.
Senator Armstrong suggested that we should use Australian manufactures. 1 agree up to a point, but the honorable senator cannot expect people to use Australian manufactures if the goods do not measure up to the required standard. My attention was drawn last year to the case of a man who had a tractor that was manufactured either in Great Britain or the United States of America. In due course some parts became worn. When he sent to the agents for new parts, they sent him parts that were made in Australia. They could not import parts and when he used the Australian products, he damaged his machine because the parts were not up to standard. I know of many eases in which Australian parts were put into imported machines When 1 referred the matter to the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator O’sullivan) he had no hesitation in allowing the importation of the required parte.
An endeavour is being made to encourage uneconomic industries in Australia. If we want to sell our agricultural products elsewhere, we must buy goods in return. Japan, one of our big woo] consumers, is complaining that we are not buying manufactures from it in return. When cotton waste was manufactured in Australia for the Western Australian railways, it could not be used because it was not the correct quality, [f we establish tin-pot industries in Australia we shall be in trouble. We should concentrate on industries that will grow and will not put too great a strain on the labour supply. I congratulate the Government upon its re-election, and expect that, after it has continued to introduce satisfactory legislation in the next three years, the result will be similar when it goes to the country again.
– I support the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply, and join with other honorable senators who have expressed their loyalty to the throne and their gratitude for the visit by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second and the Duke of Edinburgh earlier this year. Our great joy in the event was somewhat tinged by regret at the thought that the man from whom the original invitation came the right honorable J. B. Chifley, was no longer with us. I compliment Senator Armstrong, who was the Minister in charge of the original plans for the royal tour in 194S. The few modifications that were ultimately made to his plans, despite the changes in the itinerary, indicated the excellence of his work.
Reverting to the Address-in-Reply, I believe that the Speech that was delivered by the Governor-General on behalf of the Government was more notable for its omissions than its contents. I looked in vain for any reference to education, which is a national problem. I do not mean that the Australian Government should assume control of education throughout the States. That is a State function, but there is an onus upon the Australian Government to assist the States by providing money for capital projects, including the provision of schools and other educational facilities. In Western Australia, there is a serious shortage of school accommodation. The recent issue of the Teachers’ Journal reported an excess of trained teachers. Many married women who were called back into the service and did excellent work as supply teachers have been dismissed, not because there are not children for them to teach, but because there are not enough classrooms. For many years, the Teachers Union has been seeking a reduction of classes to at least 40 children. I have taught classes of 60 to 70 children, or rather I should say that I passed the time with them, because no teacher, no matter how well qualified, can deal adequately at one time with the individual problems that are presented by 60 to 70 pupils.
The Australian Government could assist the States with grants towards the capital costs of education. Some honorable senators may claim that such costs are covered by Commonwealth grants to the States. It may be suggested that the State Premiers should ask for increased amounts from the State Grants Commission, but I suggest that the Australian Government should make a specific grant to the States for the purposes of education. That is as vital a part of defence as many other aspects of national life. If democracy is to work well, it must be educated. One of the greatest evils and dangers that could assail any democracy is ignorance.
Another matter that calls for consideration by the Australian Government is the financing of a medical school at the University of Western Australia. I have mentioned this matter on many occasions. Medical students completed their first year science or medical course at the University of Western Australia, and it was accepted as a first-year course in the universities of Melbourne, Adelaide and Sydney, where there are full-time medical schools. Last year, an announcement was made that henceforth Western Australian students would not be admitted to the medical schools in the eastern States because of the number of students offering and the lack of facilities to cope with them. As a result, some students in their last year at various secondary schools are in a quandary. Their lives have been planned towards a medical course. They are now unable to continue their studies along those lines and are wondering what will happen to them. Apart from the effect upon the individuals there is the much greater problem of the impact upon Western Australia, which we believe to be on the eve of great industrial development and expansion. At present, there is great difficulty in obtaining sufficient doctors to serve all needs, particularly in the outback areas. The University of Western Australia is unable to bear the full financial cost of a medical school. In 1947, Mr. Chifley, who was then Prime Minister, promised to co-operate with the Western Australian Government in that regard and offered a. subsidy of £125,000 towards the cost of a medical school if a similar amount were found by the State. That offer has now been withdrawn by the present Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), who informed me by letter that any expenditure on a medical school would have to come from general government funds of the State. That Ls impossible in Western Australia because the Government of that State is already committed to heavy developmental expenditure in connexion with the Kwinana oil refinery and other industrial ventures. Therefore, I appeal once again to the Commonwealth Government to review its decision on this matter, which is of such vital interest to the people of Western Australia.
In my view, development and defence cannot be dissociated. Development i3 defence and defence is development. The far north of Western Australia has become a focal point of interest in Australia because of the recent oil discoveries. In this regard, I do not think that sufficient credit has been given to the Bureau of Mineral Resources and to the Department of National Development itself for the work done- by departmental officers in preparing the way for the oil find at Exmouth Gulf. Some people believe that we shall have another Texas in that part of the Commonwealth. That may be, but it is interesting to note what has happened in the far north in the last 50 years. Between 1901 and 1953, the population of the far north, an area of approximately one-seventh of the Commonwealth, increased by 1,511 persons, whereas in the same period the total population of the Commonwealth increased by 5,000,000. This means that the proportionate increase for the oneseventh of the Commonwealth was only 003 per cent. In other words, the population was virtually static. The number of cattle has also decreased. In 1910 there were, in round figures, 614,000 head of cattle in the north. In 1952, the number was only 496,000. There has been a similar trend in other industries including even mining. There is, however, one exception. Prior to the introduction of mining at Wittenoom Gorge, there were eight men employed on a station; now there is a thriving township of approximately SOO people. I do not believe that we can adequately develop the north-west of Western Australia by pastoral and agricultural pursuits alone. Certainly we shall never get a substantially increased population from those industries alone. Our hope lies in the development of our mineral resources, and for this purpose vast capital is required. Therefore, I wholeheartedly support, as do all political parties in Western Australia, the principle of fostering settlement in the north ‘by granting tax concessions to people who live above the 26th parallel. In my opinion, such a scheme could be carried even to the point of exempting those people entirely from the payment of income tax provided - and this is a big proviso because it is aimed at a practice which has helped to kill northern development over the years - that at least 60 per cent, of all profits made in the north are re-invested in the north if they are to be free of income tax. That may seem to be a big proposition, but the loss of revenue to the Commonwealth would not be so great as one might imagine. The population figure that I have given for the north of Western Australia includes aborigines and half-castes, and I believe that the revenue that the Government would forego by exempting that area completely would’ not involve any great sacrifice. Indeed, it would probably be more than offset by increased returns from indirect taxation resulting from increased development. I have mentioned the township of “Wittenoom Gorge, which was established on the site of a station which had given, employment to only eight men. Similar development could be fostered in other localities. The provision of hospitals, schools, and other amenities would encourage men to take their families to live in the remoter districts. That will only happen if the conditions mentioned by Senator Seward are operating. li has always been my contention that we must give the people of the outback ;i better deal, particularly the residents of areas which .suffer from climatic and other disabilities. I am very sorry for the mothers of families who live in area.5 which lack educational facilities. Children have to be sent to school in the south. When they have been educated they find that few positions arc open to them in the north, and usually they remain in the southern areas. This means that children leave home at about the age of twelve and are lost permanently, not only to the north, but also to their families. More attention should he paid by this Parliament to the problems of our northern regions.
I have spoken only of the north of Western Australia because that is the area with which I am most familiar; but what I have said is true also of the entire Australian continent above the 26th parallel. I am not expressing ti selfish point of view. The north of Australia is close to Asia. - much too close as was shown during the last war. Unfortunately, very few people realize the extent of the damage that was done during the war, particularly in the northwest of Western Australia. That area is only a few flying hours from the mainland of Asia. The focus of world affairs has shifted from Europe to South-East Asia, and many people now seem, to be making the discovery that there is danger not in the Ear East, but in our near north. One of the greatest dangers is, of course, from communism, which thrives on poverty and want. One way in which Australia could answer the challenge of communism in Asia is not to restrict the production of food as was recently recommended by the chairman of the Australian Wheat Board, but to produce more food to help feed the hungry people of Asia. Surely, to tell our farmers to restrict wheat acreage is a very shortsighted policy when we have many millions of hungry people hammering at our door. I should like to see an intensified drive for the production of food to help not only those people but also the under-privileged members of our own community.
We Western Australians have a new grouch : Wc regard it as inexplicable that the Boya! Australian Air Force Neptune bomber squadron, formerly stationed at Pearce, Western Australia, has been withdrawn. This move has drawn much adverse criticism from many people in Western Australia. We consider that we are in the direct line of attack in the event of war and I hope that in the revised defence plans of this Government more attention will be paid to the strategic importance of Western Australia.
Yesterday, I asked a question about loans for war sei” vice homes, but I received a non-committal reply from the Minister. I propose now to bring to the attention of the Senate two cases which came to my notice a fortnight ago. In each instance the ex-serviceman concerned had managed to save enough money to build a house with the aid of a war service homes loan. They had bought blocks of land, plans had been prepared, and builders “ teed up “. The plans had gone to the Western Australian Housing Commission which is the authority acting for the Commonwealth, and had been approved. However, the ex-servicemen were then told that even if the all-clear were given immediately, they would have to wait fifteen months for a loan. When I rang the appropriate department to ask why this was so, I was told by an official, “You should know better than we do. Ask Canberra “. I am now asking Canberra why there is a fifteen months’ delay in the granting of these loans. One of the ex-servicemen to whom I have referred is paying £6 6s. a “week for partly furnished accommodation. He does not even have a whole house. In twelve months he will have paid out more than £300 and by ihe end of fifteen months, the figure will be nearer £500. He will not have left enough money to build his house and may lose his opportunity to do so. If this is merely a small routine matter, it should not need very much statesmanship to fix it up once it has been brought to the attention of the appropriate authority.
Whilst speaking of ex-servicemen, I wish to speak also about another matter that I have mentioned in this chamber on several occasions. I refer to the erection of memorials on war graves in Western Australia and the condition of these graves. When I dealt with this matter previously, the Minister foi1 the Interior (Mr. Kent Hughes) was very kind about it and went to a great deal of trouble. He made available a file to show that although there were 50,000 war graves, my complaint about the condition of some of them was the only complaint. The authorities had told him, therefore, that there could not possibly be anything wrong. Last month, Brigadier Brown visited the west on war graves business, and he, too, said that I was the only complainant. He accepted an invitation to accompany me to a cemetery. When he saw some of the graves in that cemetery and the condition in which they had been left he said they were the worst he had ever seen and that he would not have thought it possible that such, memorials could be erected by a reputable firm. He gave orders immediately that the headstones were to be dismantled, which they were, and the metal taken off the graves, which it was. Within 24 hours he invited me to accompany him to the cemetery again to see what had been done. He said he was pleased that this matter had been brought under his notice because all other reports he had seen had referred in glowing terms to the new type of headstone that had been erected. In the course of our journeys to and from the cemetery, we met the secretary of the cemetery board, who, without any prompting from me, informed Brigadier Brown, that quite a number of widows, having once seen the monstrosities on the graves of exservicemen, had given orders that headstones of their own choice should be erected at their own expense.
– Whose fault was that?
– Apparently, the fault lay with the firm that was doing the job. The firm was being paid plenty for the work. In some photographs that I showed to the Senate on a previous occasion, the graves did not look too bad. One had to see them to see how badly the job was being done. I” thank the Minister and Brigadier Brown for their courtesy and promptitude in this matter.
Now J. come to a very important part of the Government’s policy, and one for which 1 can find very little praise. I refer to social services. .1. am rather astonished that no word has been said in this chamber about the plight of civilian widows. I was asked the other day whether I intended to speak in this debate. When I said that I should do so, my questioner said, “For heaven’s sake, keep off the widows “. I shall not keep off the widows. I shall keep on pleading for them until something is done for them that is in keeping with what they are doing for this country. Widows are being treated less favorably than other people who receive social services benefits. Widows with children are doing a twofold job. They are both father and mother to their children. But they are given very little to enable them to do their job. The majority of widows with children cannot earn anything if they are doing the job for which they are most fitted, that is, bringing up young Australians.
If I were the Treasurer, I should be ashamed to have a budget surplus at » time when people in the country were hungry. When I said on a previous occasion that some people in Australia were hungry, I was taken to task and told that no one was hungry here. Senator Wedgwood spoke about the quality of the butter that wo are exporting to Japan. I agree that the quality of our exports must be kept at a high level, but I say that the civilian widows of this country and their children should be given an opportunity to taste butter of some kind sometimes. Three or four weeks ago, I was visiting a house. While I was there, one of the small girls of the family came home from school. She said to her mother, “ I had to tell a lie to the teacher to-day”. The mother asked, “What happened?” The little girl said that the teacher had asked the girls in her class what they had had for breakfast, that the other girls had told the teacher that they had bacon and eggs, and that she had said so too, because she did not like to say she had had only toast and margarine. That is a true story. I have not invented it to whip up sympathy among honorable senators.
The Minister for Social Services (Mr. McMahon) is new to his job. I ask him, in the first rush of his enthusiasm, to consider the plight of widows with children who have no income other than their pensions. The future welfare of those children depends on whether they have proper food, clothing and shelter in their formative years. I suggest that some kind of domestic allowance be given to civilian widows as well as to war widows. I do not suggest that we are giving the war widows too much. I do not think we give them enough, but they are a little better off than civilian widows. There is a class of women for which the Government is doing something but, in doing so, is enabling some people to evade their responsibilities. Deserted wives are recognized as widows for pension purposes. Last year, I asked the Minister for Social Services to tell me what the Government was doing to recover from defaulting husbands the money that was being paid to their wives by the Government. I was told that nothing was being done. This is a matter which the Government should consider.
– Do not State governments take proceedings against defaulting husbands?
– The payments to the wives are made by the Commonwealth. A widow’s pension is paid to a woman who has been deserted by her husband. The man can, so to speak, get away with it, because the State takes over his responsibilities. I do not say that these payments should not be made to deserted wives. If they were not made, some of these women would starve. But I do say that the Government should devise some means to recover from the husbands the payments it makes to the wives. I read recently that a widow in
Western Australia was prosecuted because she continued to draw her pension while she was working and earning money. If such women are prosecuted, action should be taken against men who are evading their responsibilities to their families and involving the taxpayers of the country in considerable expense. If that is beyond the capacity of the Government - I do not know why it should be - assistance should be given to deserted wives who wish to locate and prosecute their husbands. I have been told that when the Department of Social Services finds out where a defaulting husband is, it notifies his wife accordingly. She can proceed against him if she has the money to pay for court proceedings, but the department does not give her any legal assistance. It is not of much use for a woman to know that her husband is in Timbuctoo if she cannot get anything out of him. A woman must have money to go to law, and to take legal proceedings is a costly business, as the lawyers in this chamber will agree. The Minister, for Social Services has research workers in his department. I ask him to initiate some kind of research to find out how widows with children can be assisted in their very important task of rearing good Australian citizens.
I am pleased to know that assistance will be given by the Government to religious bodies and charitable organizations which endeavour to provide accommodation for aged people. Religious and charitable bodies have been doing this work for a long time. In many instances, the buildings they have erected are badly in need of repair. They must be modernized and provided with more amenities. I should like to know whether the Government, in making payments on a £1 for £1 basis for this work, will take into account the cost of modernizing and improving buildings owned by organizations that have been working for a long time to meet the needs of our elderly folk.
It is necessary to increase the payments of age and invalid pensioners. Invalid pensioners, owing to their disabilities, are prevented from earning anything to supplement their pensions. Their plight is very serious. The monetary value of the age and invalid pension has been increased, but it is useless to talk about an increase of the pension from £2 2s. 6d. to £3 10s. a week without considering its real value - what it will buy. The price of meat is prohibitive. Meat is almost beyond the financial capacity of ordinary families, let along pensioners, some of whom have only one meat meal a week. We must do something for pensioners that will be more in keeping with our national prosperity. It is of no use to talk only about an increase of the monetary value of pensions. The important thing is what they will buy. If we measure the value of the age and invalid Dension with the basic wage as a yardstick we find that its purchasing power has decreased. There has been an increase on paper only. I hope the Treasurer, in considering his budget, will keep the pensioners in mind. The Government should give them a pension that is in keeping with the job they have done in the past, especially those who have reared large families or worked in the back blocks and have not had a chance to save. Consideration should be given also to those who have saved and have money in the bank or own some property. The value of their property should be assessed, not on present inflated values, but on its real value.
I urge the Government to give special consideration to the development of Australia and, where possible, assist small farmers to produce more food, so that we shall be able to counter Communist propaganda in South-East Asia. I ask the Government to improve the lot of the less fortunate individuals who have to come to it for help. They do not do. so because they want to, but because they have to. The fruits of our prosperity should be distributed fairly throughout the community, and those who have borne the heat and burden of the day should receive, in their declining years, a better reward than they are receiving now.
– I associate myself with the remarks made by previous speakers about the recent visit to this country of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh. The enthusiasm of the Australian people during that visit was an indication of their appreciation of the value of the monarchy, which will continue to play a great part in holding the British Commonwealth together. It was an inspiring visit, and I hope it will be repeated soon. I congratulate the mover and seconder of the motion. Senator Annabelle Rankin dealt very effectively with some of the problems associated with social services. Senator Paltridge gave a fine exposition of the economic problems with which Australia is confronted. In that connexion, the Government has an enviable record. 1 agree with Senator Paltridge that the future development of this country is connected closely with development? overseas, particularly in Indo-China and South-East Asia. I think I can say with justice that the foreign policy outlined by the Government will give confidence to the Australian people.
In the limited time at my disposal, I shall be unable to touch on many subjects with which I should like to deal. Some of them have been referred to- by other honorable senators, and for that reason part of my speech may not be very illuminating to the Senate. There are one or two matters that give me great cause for concern. I feel that if I deal with them now, my remarks may be of benefit to the Senate, and perhaps the Government will take some notice of my small contribution to the debate. I understand that Senator Seward referred to the importance of agriculture to the community. I want to speak about the importance of the wheat industry to agriculture. Fortunately, general agreement was recently reached between the Commonwealth and States on the terms of a new wheat stabilization scheme, which will be submitted to the growers for their approval or otherwise. Although I firmly believe in stabilization, as a wheat-grower I point out that the last stabilization scheme was successful during its term of five years only at the expense of the wheat-growers. It operated at a time when we did not need such a scheme. However, the growers did not quibble, because they had voted for it by ballot. They stood loyally by the principle of stabilization from 1948 to 1953, the duration of the scheme, despite the fact that it cost them a large amount of money. In that period overseas prices were very high. Wheat was sold in Australia for home consumption at a price based on the cost of production, which conferred immense benefits on the consumers. Altogether, the wheat-growers subsidized the consumers, including stockfeeders, by about £150,000,000. A fund of about £20,000,000 was established by the imposition of an export tax on wheat. When the scheme expired towards the end of last year the money in the fund was distributed.
There is now operating an orderly marketing scheme, based on a homeconsumption price of 14s. a bushel. This scheme was introduced at the end of the stabilization scheme, and was designed to operate for three years. Under this scheme, the wheat-growers have to more or le3S balance out their income from wheat exported and home-consumption sales. The export price has declined steadily to a point which is causing the industry considerable concern. In Canada and the United States of America, as well as in other wheat-producing countries in both the eastern and western hemispheres, large stocks of wheat have accumulated, and the Australian Wheat Board is now experiencing difficulty in selling our wheat overseas at satisfactory prices. Furthermore, many of the consuming countries have not purchased the quotas of wheat that were allotted to them under the International Wheat Agreement. Therefore, the Australian wheat industry is not in a very favorable position at present, although it is generally recognized that it is vital to the Australian economy. Indeed, over the years, from an export income point of view, it has been second in importance only to the wool industry. It has greatly assisted the stability of our economy. For that reason the Government exerted continuous efforts from the beginning of last year to obtain agreement in relation to a new wheat stabilization scheme to be implemented after the expiration of the old scheme. The proposed new scheme, for an unfortunate and inexplicable reason, was resisted by some State governments, particularly the Victorian Government. I do not know whether, as has been suggested, there was connivance between Mr. Cain, the Premier of Victoria, and the Leader of the
Opposition in the House of Representatives (Dr. Evatt), but Mr. Cain opposed the proposed new stabilization scheme and insisted that during the two years following the expiration of the present interim scheme, the price of wheat for home consumption should be the cost of production.
Just before the recent election for the House of Representatives a most extraordinary proposal was outlined by the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard). Fortunately for the people of this country, the wheat-growers were not taken in by the proposed scheme, which was described by the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen) as a quite irresponsible and reckless proposal. It envisaged a ten-year plan.
– There is nothing irresponsible or reckless about a ten-year plan.
– It was an irresponsible proposal because, as any honorable senator who is connected with the wheat industry knows, conditions may fluctuate considerably during a period of ten years. I consider that the duration of Labour’s proposed scheme was altogether too long. It was based on the cost of production, to be ascertained by the Bureau of Agricultural Economics, which has done a good job in that field. A bounty of ls. 5d. a bushel was to be provided. The scheme that was propounded by the honorable member for Lalor was on all fours with a scheme that had been suggested by the Premier of Victoria, who obstinately opposed the introduction of any scheme based on a home-consumption price of 14s. a bushel, to which both the New South Wales and Western Australian Ministers for Agriculture had agreed. The Labour leader, Dr. Evatt, hoped to catch all of the votes of the wheat-growing electors by the proposal, but he was sadly disillusioned. There was to be no export limit under the scheme, and its protagonists apparently did not take into account that if the production of wool became less profitable the production of wheat would be stepped up. As we have large areas of country with adequate rainfall suitable for wheat-growing, it would be quite possible to double our wheat production. Labour’s scheme provided that the Australian Government would guarantee to the wheat-growers their cost of production for all wheat produced. That could have had disastrous consequences to the Treasury. Such an incentive could have induced the wheat-farmers to greatly increase their production.
– It was an irresponsible scheme.
– Yes. It did not have Treasury backing. On the other hand, the stabilization scheme that has now been agreed to by the Commonwealth and the States has been approved by the Treasury officials as a feasible scheme. Labour’s proposed scheme was only a sop to gain the votes of the wheat-growers at the last election for the House of Representatives. The Opposition failed miserably in that connexion. The scheme that this Government is backing will be submitted to a ballot of the wheat-growers. Fortunately, Mr. Cain, as a result, I suppose, of pressure that was brought to bear on him, finally came into line with the Premiers of the other States.
– After the election!
– Yes. Our scheme is sound inasmuch as it provides for the payment of 14s. a bushel for all home-consumption wheat used for flour, stockfeed ing and other purposes. “Wheat exported will be sold in accordance with the terms of the International Wheat Agreement. The Commonwealth will guarantee the cost of production for all wheat exported, up to a maximum of 100,000,000 bushels in any one year. This limitation will be imposed as a safeguard to the Treasury. So that the scheme will be truly a stabilization scheme, a tax will be levied on wheat exported in order to establish a fund to meet contingencies that could arise as a result of a decline of overseas prices. The Government’s record in relation to the wheat industry is a good one. I do not suggest that the previous stabilization scheme was not sound. Indeed, as a wheat-grower I voted for its introduction. But, as circumstances changed, the scheme was not advantageous to the wheat-growers. As I said before, we had a stabilization scheme in operation when it was not needed. However, circumstances could arise in the future in which a stabilization scheme would be of tremendous benefit to the growers.
The Governor-General also mentioned other matters, which have been dealt with fairly fully by speakers who have preceded me. I should like now to direct my remarks to the subject of constitutional reform. His Excellency stated that the Government proposes to appoint an allparty committee to review certain aspects of the working of the Constitution. I support the proposal, and I agree largely with the remarks that have been made in this connexion by Senator Vincent. Such a committee would not undertake a general overhaul of the Constitution. His Excellency’s remarks are capable of a very wide interpretation. As Senator Vincent suggested, this matter needs much wider consideration than it could be given by a committee appointed only from members of the Federal Parliament.
I believe that one of the aspects of the Constitution that the Government has in mind is the synchronization of the elections of the Senate and the House of Representatives. I do not think that there can bc any great divergence of opinion on this matter. I lune been in conversation with Opposition senators on this subject and I know that to a large degree they, in common with members of the two parties on this side of the chamber, would very much like to have the Senate and House of Representatives elections held at the same time. I should think that the problem would be relatively easy of solution. In the first place, one could extend the term of senators who were elected in 1951 to such time as the present House of Representatives is dissolved, between now and 1957. A 1956 Senate election would be obviated by that means. Secondly, one could extend the term of senators who were elected in 1953 until the dissolution of the House of Representatives after the next general election, that is, to a date between 1957 and 1960, assuming that the present House runs its normal course. Under such proposals, the long-term senators who- were elected in 1951 would sit for six years instead of five years and the senators elected in 1953, who were the short-term senators after the 3951 election, would sit for seven years instead of six. Thereafter, all senators would revert to the sixyear term in the normal course of events.
I do not think that there would he any difficulty in implementing that solution but there are many wider aspects of constitutional reform.
The Senate was designed as a States House and as a house of review. I do not suggest that those considerations are not taken into account now but I think that they play a relatively minor role. The Senate is not functioning as the originators of the Constitution intended it to function. The reason, in my opinion, is the rigid party system. That remark applies not so much to honorable senators on this side of the chamber as to honorable senators opposite. Of course, we have to play the same game, more or less, because of the tactics adopted by the Labour party. Consequently, the Senate has degenerated into a party House like the House of Representatives. No government can carry on for a minute without the full support of the members of its party in the Senate. I suggest that this is one matter that a. joint committee or a convention on constitutional matters should consider. I know that the subject has been thrashed out many times in this chamber, but we have not got very far in the process. I should like to have the subject considered in a wider way than has been suggested in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech, by the holding of a full-scale convention in which the States, as well as the Commonwealth, could play their parts.
Tn the course of his Speech, His Excellency the Governor-General referred to the subject of rail links in Queensland and the Northern Territory. South Australia is very vitally concerned in this matter. I have before me a map of the railway systems of Australia. It was printed in 1947, but it shows the railway system of Australia as it is now. 1 do not suggest that railways are out of date. I resist that contention. People underestimate the value of railways. When they talk of road transport as being the answer to the transport problems of this country they talk through their hats. Rail transport is the only answer to large-scale movement of beef. When South Australia ceded the Northern Territory to the Australian Government, that Government agreed that a north-south railway should be constructed. Not very much work has been done on that railway.
Dissimilar rail gauges have been a calamity to this country. One has only to travel from South Australia to New South Wales in order to realize that. When I changed trains at Albury recently the amount of trans-shipment of luggage that took place from the Victorian train to the New South Wales train was tremendous, even though it was only a passenger train. That is occurring throughout Australia. I am disappointed that more has not been done towards the standardization of rail gauges in Australia. Reverting once more to the Northern Territory and Queensland lines, the Commonwealth line runs from Port Augusta to Alice Springs. Formerly the line terminated at Oodnadatta, but in comparatively recent years it has been extended to Alice Springs and has conferred a great boon on pastoralists in that part of Australia. At Marree it veers in to the left and then goes north to Alice Springs. Marree is a receiving centre for a tremendous number of cattle which come from the Channel country in Queensland, one of the best fattening areas in Australia. But the flow of cattle is intermittent because of the changes that take place in the weather conditions in the Channel country. As Senator Scott said, 60,000 head of cattle are loaded at Alice Springs each year. We contend, in South Australia, that we are the logical outlet for the cattle country that extends right across the Northern Territory. Some people may oppose that contention. However, the Government should honour the obligation of the Commonwealth to link up Alice Springs with Birdum. I do not wish to oppose the contention that the Birdum-Dajarra line is of value. I think that that line will have some value, but tremendous benefit could accrue to Australia and the beef industry if the northsouth line was completed in order to comply with the legal obligation that the Commonwealth entered into when South Australia ceded the Northern Territory.
If we fully analyse the GovernorGeneral’s Speech, we shall realize, in spite of the earping criticism of the Opposition, that it is a very good account of our past achievements and our proposals for the future. One significant paragraph reads as follows: -
My advisers regard their responsibilities during the life of this Parliament to be the strengthening of Australia’s security, the maintenance of a healthy economy, the development of our national resources, and the social welfare of the Australian people.
Honorable senators on this side of the chamber, and, I think, some honorable senators on the other side of the chamber, in their hearts, subscribe to the belief that the Government has already achieved a great deal along those lines.
Sitting suspended from 5.45 to 8 p.m.
– I do not propose to join issue with Senator Hannaford in relation to the speech he made this afternoon except in connexion with his statement about the Pollard wheat plan. I now ask for leave to continue my remarks at a later stage.
Leave granted ; debate adjourned.
Message received from the House of Representatives intimating that the following members had been appointed members of the Parliamentary Proceedings Broadcasting Committee : - Mr. Speaker, Mr. Jeff Bate, Mr. Bryson, Mr. Davidson, Mr. Allan Fraser and Mr. Gullett.
Message received from the House of Representatives intimating that the following members had been appointed members of the Public Accounts Committee: - Mr. Anderson, Mr. Bland, Mr. Crean, Mr. Davis, Mr. Leslie and Mr. Thompson.
Message received from the House of Representatives intimating that the following members hadbeen appointed members of the Public Works Committee: - Mr. Bird, Mr. Bowden, Mr. Cramer, Mr. Lawrence, Mr. O’Connor and Mr. Watkins.
Debate resumed from the 5th August (vide page 64), on motion by Senator
That the following paper be printed : -
Foreign Affairs - Ministerial Statement, oth August, 1954.
– The motion before the Senate gives to this chamber an opportunity to consider the circumstances and consequences that flow from the cease-fire in Indo-China.I agree with the views expressed by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) in his statement that the cease-fire represents both a military and a psychological victory for the Communists in the IndoChina area. I also concede that that is exceedingly unfortunate. Viet Nam, one of the main States involved in the conflict, is now divided at the 17th parallel. There are some 12,000,000 people north of the line and 9,000,000 south of it. They are a strongly nationalist people from whom the French received little or no support. I am afraid that the point of view expressed by the Prime Minister, that Viet Nam presently will be wholly Communist, is correct. That, in turn, constitutes a threat to the neighbouring States of Laos and Cambodia, and also to those adjoining them, such as Siam. Having regard to the pattern of Communist infiltration and penetration throughout the world, there is justification for a real fear that that will be the next move on the part of the Communists. The adherents of communism have a vast advantage over the people in the democracies in that they are without conscience. In the shortterm, materialistic view, the absence of a conscience, scruples or honour constitutes a great advantage over people who are possessed of those attributes and who cherish principles. In recent years, since the Communist philosophy has assumed such a dominating role in international affairs, we have seen the abdication of honour, and we have also seen public lying and deceit. We have witnessed the diabolical patience which has been adopted for the purpose of frustrating the other side and provoking it into a false move. I am afraid that that kind of patience calls for really heavenly patience on the part of those who wish to match it.
Under the terms of the cease fire, Laos will represent a buffer State between Viet Nam, which is likely to be Communist controlled, on the one side, and Siam on the other. I do not for a moment believe that the Communists will rest long or happily in a situation that keeps them out of Laos, despite the fact that, under the terms of the cease fire, they are obliged to withdraw their Viet Minh troops. It is a great pity that the end of this matter in Indo-China was not foreseen by those who have had the control of operations. I think that everybody who studied Asia after the war ended was aware that the ousting of Europeans meant that outside domination from any source had come to an end. The Asians plainly had made up their minds that they wanted self-government. They had learnt European techniques and had come thoroughly to understand the European mind. They wanted Asia for Asians. In addition, they wanted better social conditions and land reform. Above all, there was the development of a feeling for self-determination and self-government, a feeling generally expressed by the word “ nationalism “. Everybody who saw the upsurge of that feeling knew that the great imperialist powers could no longer lay down the law in Asia. Some of the great powers, in their wisdom, looking into the not-distant future, appreciated those facts. For instance, Great Britain conceded independence to India, Pakistan, Ceylon and Burma. The result is that, to-day, communism has made no inroads in those countries. The nationalist movement was backed by the United Kingdom.
It is unfortunate that France, having seen that pattern, did not follow the same line. In consequence, what was plain to almost every other observer was riot plain to France, which has since suffered military defeat. There were 92,000 French troops killed in the area, whilst 114.000 were wounded and 28,000 taken prisoner-. It was tragic that the matter was allowed to reach a point at which such a military and psychological victory had to be conceded to the Communist cause. Added to that was the vast financial cost in which France must have been, involved. It is true that France laboured under great economic difficulties which flowed, in part, from the fact that there was no political stability in the country. Continual changes of government led to unsettled conditions and, no doubt, that was one of the factors which in turn led to the pursuit of a wrong policy in Indo-China. As far back as 1948, newspapers such as the Manchester Guardian and the Christian Science Monitor were pointing out very plainly that the end was inevitable, the very end which, in fact, has since been reached. France, too busily occupied with changes of government at home, and with its own economic difficulties, did not concentrate adequately on the consequences of its failure to recognize the urgency and irresistibility of the nationalist movement in Indo-China. That movement began almost completely free of Communist domination and was a purely nationalist movement. It is true that it was headed by a Communist, one who had studied m France and been trained in Moscow. Nevertheless, he followed the nationalist line. Although Communist influence did not obtain in those early years, it has made so much progress in recent years that it has captured the whole movement and carried it to a point where the French are now obliged to vacate Indo-China, with the exception of a couple of minor military posts in Laos.
That situation unquestionably brings the Communist threat to Australia so much closer. The pattern of European expansion followed by Russia. which is the head-quarters of communism, has been never to act directly but always through satellites, and to wage a cold war of diabolical ingenuity all round the world. When one considers that pattern one must feel that the Communists have not come to the end of their activities. Itmust he confessed that this success in Indo-China, instead of satisfying them, will merely whet their appetite for further expansion.
I am disapointed that, in dealing with this matter, the Prime Minister did not advert to another threat to this country. Imperialist communism is not the only threat we have to meet. I am an Australian who believes that we must be ever-watchful of Japan, because it seems to me that at the first opportunity Japan will move southwards again. That is a threat to South-East Asia. Australians should not forget the days when the Japanese came island hopping early in 1942. At that time, hut for the intervention of very good friends, the Japanese unquestionably would have entered this country and taken control of it in a very short time. The statement of the Prime Minister records the fact that Australia took no passive role in the negotiations that led up to the cease-fire terms in Indo-China, but the right honorable gentleman’s statement gives no indication of the views that were put on Australia’s behalf. It is true that a later statement, made by the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey), is before this chamber under a different heading. I express disappointment that the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator O’sullivan), to whom I made a request in this matter, did not see fit to allow the two statements to be debated together, although they are intimately linked. A considerable period may elapse before there is an opportunity to discuss the views that were then put forward on Australia’s behalf. I venture to say that, until now, not even those honorable senators on the other side of the chamber were aware of what those views were. Certainly, the Opposition did not know, nor did the people of Australia. It is unfortunate that the Senate has been precluded from debating this matter whilst it is discussing the proposals of the Government for the future of SouthEast Asia.
– I shall not take a point of order on the honorable senator if he proceeds on those lines. He may go his hardest, for my part.
– I suggest then, that the Minister might have had the grace to concede the possibility of debating the two together when I spoke to him earlier.
– There are separate motions before the Senate.
– I acknowledge that they are separate motions, but they deal with the same subject matter. They are supplementary and complementary. In my opinion, it is foolish to keep them in watertight compartments. The one thing every one was waiting to know was whether Australia had backed the proposition that there should be armed intervention by Australia on the side of France in Indo-China. I express relief and pleasure that such was not the case. I also add that I hope I shall never see Australia mounting forces and troops in Asia under conditions of that nature. I trust that we shall stay out of Asia and that we shall recognize the rights of the Asian nations to selfdetermination. They cherish and seek that right just as avidly and keenly as we enjoy it.
At this point, I wish to emphasize that it would be as well for Australia if the government of the day of whatever colour took the Opposition into its confidence at least in matters of this nature. Quite apart from the numerical representation in the Parliament of the party for which I am speaking to-night, there is a wealth of thought and information among the members of the Opposition that could be of service. It is desirable that a common policy on foreign affairs should emanate from this Parliament. Even if the Opposition were merely consulted or introduced to relevant conferences as observers or advisers, such an arrangement would be good for the nation, particularly from the viewpoint that the alternative government would be fully advised. I am sure that I express the views of the people of Australia when I state that the Opposition and the people have had great difficulty in understanding what was happening in Indo-China.
– The Opposition could join the Foreign Affairs Committee.
– The Foreign Affairs Committee is a study circle on a level that does not necessarily deal with a matter of this nature. It is quite apart. Certainly it is not advisory to the Government upon matters such as Indo-China. Even if the Labour party joined the study circle of the Foreign Affairs Committee under the very limited terms in which it has been set up by this Government, there still should be the fullest consultation with the Opposition. Again, whether we join the committee or a body of that nature or not, I can assure the Government that the Labour party would be very ready to give of its best in the interests of Australia in such matters. The Government might find profit in adopting such a course.
All that has happened in Indo-China means inevitably either a tightening up or a maintenance of defence measures in Australia. When I see our magnificent troops on parade, including men and women and mostly young people, although I have feelings of great pride in their spirit and physique and the job that they are doing for their country, my predominating feeling is one of sadness. I am sad that all that youth and spirit has to be diverted, because of the threat of war, away from peaceful tasks of developing our country, improving our social conditions and living standards and contributing to an improvement of the standards of less privileged people elsewhere. It is a tragedy that under present conditions, we should have to maintain defence forces, and I record my disappointment that the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), in his reference to unilateral disarmament and peace, did not press what should be the Government viewpoint for universal disarmament as one of the great approaches to peace. Such an objective would relieve the economic and financial burden of defence. 1 invite the Government to advert to that aspect, despite the difficulties that itwould encounter through the right of veto, the refusal of some nations to permit inspection and all the obstacles that are raised to universal disarmament. I insist that it is the duty of the Australian Government to try unceasingly to achieve that result, because I believe that nothing else will free the world of war and the threat of war.
– Does the honorable senator remember the disarmament proposals of the late Ramsay MacDonald?
– I do. But I remind Senator Maher that I referred to universal disarmament and not to unilateral disarmament. I have been speaking of disarmament involving all nations. It would be policed or enforced by all nations. The Government proposes to join what is termed Seato. The letters represent the name of the new body that is to be set up - the South-East Asian Treaty Organization. As the Prime Minister has explained, it is intended to be a body that is not concerned with aggression. It represents a pact for mutual defence against armed aggression.
– Does the honorable senator approve of the policy involved?
– I do approve of the policy, and I remind Senator Vincent that regional protection of that type has always been in conformity with the policy of” the Australian Labour party. We supported the North Atlantic Treaty, which is similar and could be a vehicle for peace as well as a deterrent to aggressors. We recognize that strength is essential, but I suggest that in the formulation of this agreement, the Opposition again might be consulted. I do not want the country and the Parliament to be presented with an accomplished fact that must be either accepted or rejected. This is an opportunity for the Government to seek the views of the Opposition. We have our thoughts. This agreement could be so framed as to emphasize, not merely the need for defence, but also the great humanitarian objectives of the United Nations. Everything that has to be done should be put in its proper perspective in the first place.
In the second place, everything should be done to re-assure the great new free Asian countries - India, Pakistan, Burma, Ceylon and Indonesia - that this is not a military pact for aggression. That means that it will have to be approached differently from the North Atlantic Treaty. There should be a more ample preamble and an explanation of the purpose of the regional arrangements. I hope that the Government will make a special effort to induce the countries that I have named to join this organization, and I am sure that the Government will do so. I have noted that the Prime Minister of India, Mr. Nehru, has already indicated that three countries - India, Burma and Indonesia - are willing to enter the agreement, but I hope that the Government will direct its best efforts, with our other allies and prospective members of Seato, towards inducing the great nations that have recently obtained their right of self-determination to join the organization also. They must be convinced that the pact and the organization are not vehicles for further domination of Asia or for aggression.
I concede that there is a threat to Australia. The next question that arises, therefore, is whether we can meet that threat alone. My answer to that question is “ No “. It is difficult to foresee the future in these days of nuclear weapons, guided missiles and atomic energy. It is conceivable that a numerically small nation such as ours, with a large and difficult terrain and elongated coastline, may, with scientific developments, be able adequately to defend itself. However, as we cannot see the possibility of such an achievement in the immediate future, we must have friends, and we need them in the South-East Pacific. The danger will come from there. When I look for our friends, I look to the United Kingdom and the United States of America. I mean no disrespect or disfavour to the United Kingdom when I say that I look first directly to the United States of America. I believe that our future in this area is completely wrapped up with that nation. Industrial potential is the factor that wins wars once they are started in modern times. In my opinion, industrial potential is far more important than man-power. I remind the Senate of the wonderful contribution that the United States of America made through the Lease-Lend Agreement in World War II., although, perhaps, its assistance was a little belated. I believe it is true to say that, but for the institution of the lendlease arrangement at the time it was brought into operation, Great Britain would have fallen within three months. I believe that to be a fact. That is one of the highlights of the valuable contribution that was made by the United States of America to the democracies and the cause of democracy.
No Australian should ever forget, either, the marvellous contribution that the United States of America made in turning the Japanese back, in helping to win the Battle of the Coral Sea and thus preventing an invasion of Australia. In the future, I believe that we must look to that great democracy to help us in any difficulties we may encounter in this part of the world. I am grateful to Great Britain for all it has done. The Prime Minister pointed out in his statement on this matter that Great Britain is overstrained. It has troops all over the world. In present circumstances, that alone constitutes too great a strain on the United Kingdom. That is apparent when one surveys world affairs and notes that the United Kingdom is withdrawing troops from Greece and is moving out of the Suez Canal zone. It withdrew its troops from Korea, with the consent of its friends, but at a time when fighting was proceeding. I say frankly that with all the goodwill in the world, Great Britain could not give us the aid that we would need to repel invasion. It has obligations in many parts of the world and we cannot expect the United Kingdom to give us first call and first priority in its scheme of defence and protection. That makes me face the fact that we must have friends apart from the United Kingdom.
I do not want anybody on the Government side of the chamber to say that I am not mindful of all that Great Britain has done. I direct attention to the fact that the Labour Government of Australia contributed help to Great Britain in substantial fashion in hard cash and other material ways. Now, as the Opposisition, we have a proper appreciation of the part that was played by Great Britain in stemming fascism and communism and preserving the cause of democracy. I also face this fact. If we want help from other countries in the event of armed aggression against us, we must be prepared for two-way traffic. We cannot ask others to help us when we are in trouble unless we are prepared to lend a hand when they need it. Anything else is unthinkable. But it is important now that the Prime Minister should inform us what specific demands will be made. The Government should tell the country also at the earliest moment, the nature of the specific demands that Australia will be prepared to make. The Prime Ministedid not foreshadow that at all in his statement. He may not be able to do so at the moment. He indicated that it would first be necessary to confer with the other proposed signatories to Seato. I agree with that, but I ask that, at the earliest possible moment, the right honorable gentleman will tell the nation what commitments are in mind.
– He promised in bis statement to do that.
– I am relieved to hear it. This continent wants to know as soon as possible its commitments in terms of ships, aircraft and crews, food, armaments or anything else. When the agreement is being drawn up, clear provision must be made to determine who is to decide whether armed aggression has taken place. When anything of that kind does happen, there is always a welter of confusion. One nation alleges that the other is the aggressor, and the other throws the allegation back. Therefore, I invite the Government, in considering the terms of the agreement, to ensure that machinery is incorporated for deciding who shall determine whether aggression has taken place so that the assistance of the signatory nations, with all their predetermined commitments, may be invoked. That is a matter about which great care should be taken.
I repeat that we believe in the right of people to self-determination. The Atlantic Charter itself gave great impetus to that movement in Asia. It provides that the nations shall respect the right of all peoples to choose the form of government under which they will live, and that they wish to see the sovereign rights of self-government restored to those who have been forcibly deprived of them. That principle, enunciated away back in 1941, gave the greatest possible impetus to the demand for self-government and self-determination in Asia, and it was written, in express terms, into the Charter of the United Nations and into other documents signed after the conclusion of World War II. The regional arrangements now in contemplation are, in my view, clearly within the contemplation of the United Nations Charter. Article 52 of the Charter states in paragraph 1 -
Nothing in the present Charter precludes the existence of regional arrangements or agencies for dealing with such matters relating to the maintenance of international peace and security-
I emphasize the word “ security “ - as are appropriate for regional action, provided that such arrangements or agencies and their activities are consistent with the Pur poses and Principles of the United Nations.
The next clause states -
The Members of the United Nations entering into such arrangements or constituting such agencies shall make every effort to achieve pacific settlement of local disputes through such regional arrangements or by such regional agencies before referring them to th* Security Council.
So, I think the proposal now before the Senate is fairly one that falls within the contemplation of the charter. We approve the proposal to set up this organization. We ask for consultation and we ask for great care in the drawing up of the document. On behalf of the Australian Labour party, I give to the Government an assurance that, if we are consulted, we shall give of our best in the interests of this country.
.- The speech to which we have just listened reveals as did the debate in the House of Representatives a great deal of common ground between the Australians who sil on. the Opposition side of this chamber and those who sit on this side. There will always be some questions on which individuals - not necessarily an opposition as a whole or a government as a whole - will take separate views, but if we can, through debates of this kind, delineate the ground that is common to us, remove it from the field of partisan debate, and confine the questions which exacerbate our minds to matters that are outside that ground, we shall have made a great advance for the good of this country, and shall have approximated to that situation which has obtained for so many years in the British Parliament where debates of this kind seek to limit the area of contention between government and opposition. For that reason alone debate? such as this serve the country well. When we consider the statement made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), and the subsequent statement under the same heading delivered by the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey), we must try _ to_ assess the position of Australia in the world to-day in an endeavour to foresee what may happen that will affect this country. We must then try to decide what we can do, or try to do, if we are so affected.
It appears to me that we find ourselves in a situation different from that which obtained from the time of the first settlements in this country up to 1939, and even later. I do not mean just a little bit different here and a little bit different there; I mean a situation which is radically and completely different from that in which we grew up and in which our children began to grow up. Let me try to illustrate my meaning by directing attention first to the world as it was and to our position as it was before 1939. India was still a member of the British Commonwealth of Nations. When Westminster declared war, India went to war and some of the finest troops of the Empire were available automatically to assist this country should the need arise. Thu nations of South-East Asia to our north were all more or less subject peoples, unorganized, unmilitarized, without any ideological urge, and without any desire for expansion. China was a fragmented and prostrate nation, powerless, subject to dictation from the West and from Russia, torn internally by war lords, and of no real significance in the world. Japan was a threat at that stage, but its energies were directed to an imperial quarrel that had been going on for decades with Russia over the apparently dead body of northern China. Against any threat to us from any other quarter of the world stood the sure shield and buckler of the British fleet and the forces of what was then the British Empire. That was the world in which we grew up. We grew up secure in our isolation, and perhaps a little irresponsible. We spent on defence only 12s. for every £30 spent by Great Britain. However, as the Leader of the Opposition has said, when the call came we were able to repay the security that had been afforded to us by the Mother Country.
Now let us see how that world has changed. India is no longer in the British Empire. Its leader speaks sometimes as a member of the British Commonwealth of Nations, sometimes as a member of the Colombo powers, and sometimes, if he disagrees with both of those organizations, as an aspiring leader of Asian opinion, but, unfortunately, the help that once we would have got from India can no longer be expected. Now, the countries of South-East Asia are notsubject powers but emergent nations, facing problems of great difficulty which must have great effect on the course they finally decide to take. China is no longer a fragmented power but a united nation - united perhaps by force, but nevertheless united - and so long as China is supported by Russia’s industrial power, China will be a mighty military nation. We no longer have the shield of the British fleet and the military forces of the Empire. I know that the Mother Country would give, with a willing spirit, all that it could, but the cold hard fact is that the forces and powers which were there then are not there now to help us in a world which has changed and, so far a3 our security is concerned, changed for the worse. As the Leader of the Opposition himself said, add to this the fact that Japan, unless other countries will trade with it, will be almost forced into some sort of military adventure, and you see the dangerous situation, the different situation, in which we now stand compared to any that we have ever known. Certainly American power can help to restore the balance. Possibly the intervention of the hydrogen bomb and the atom bomb can change the picture, but would we ever be the first to use a hydrogen bomb? I doubt it. Therefore, we would still have to face the massed manpower and massed industry of nations which may sometime seek to force their will upon us. That situation requires a completely different approach by Australia. We can no longer look as once we did to the British Foreign Office to make up our minds for us. We must, as Australians, because we do live here, decide what we think is best for us in this part of the world, and, no matter with whom we are in agreement or disagreement, put our views, not brashly or noisily, but firmly to the great powers under whose protection we live, the United States of America and Great Britain. If we do that, as I think we shall, there will be no question of falling under the domination of the United States of America, as some critics outside the Parliament say. There will be no question of following any one. We shall decide what we think best, try to persuade others to agree with us, and ourselves agree with those who put forward projects that we think reasonable. If the countries of South-East Asia, with which we are concerned, remain independent, there will be no real threat to this country. I cannot conceive of conditions in which we could become embroiled with India, Burma, Indo-China, or with some or any of these countries as long as they remain independent. But if they come under Communist domination, I see a very real and a very close threat to this country.
We have seen state after state throughout the world fall under Communist domination. Does not this happen every time? That state becomes militarized; that state becomes sealed from the truth or from any free discussion that seeks to find out the truth; that state - this is what concerns us - always becomes a base for further expansion, or a base for exerting pressure on neighbouring countries if the risk of further expansion seems too great. On that empirical experience, if these nations did become Communist nations, we should be in a position analogous to that in which we would have been in the last war if all these countries had been allied to, friendly with, and co-operating with, Japan, if Japan had not been embroiled with China but had been helped by a great new China, if behind that aggregation of resources had stood Russia, and if removed from our shield against that had been the help that Great Britain then was able to give us. That would have been a shocking and an untenable position for Australia, yet that is what would face us if these countries of South-East Asia did not retain their independence.
So we must try to prevent the loss of their independence. We must try to prevent it by economic means, by the Colombo plan, by opening markets for those who seek to trade and, over and above that, by some sort of market support for the staple products on which these countries rely. They have mainly a single-crop economy. But there are reservations to be kept in mind. It might well be that the creation of a stable market at stable prices would result only in a further increase of an already increasing birth-rate. That was the experience of the British in India. It might well be that the creation of a stable market at stable prices for some product would tend to lead the country concerned to rely more on that product, rather than to diversify its economy, which is the end we have in view. It might be that it would lead to a continuation of some sort of uneconomic process of production. That does not mean that the economic aid should not be given, and given in that way, but it means that caution should be used in assessing the results of it. The other reservation is that it would be silly to assume that if, through this method, we created stable economies in SouthEast Asian countries, conditions conducive to parliamentary democracy and conditions under which economic planning and rising standards of living were possible, we should thereby have raised an effective barrier to communism. We have seen countries fall to communism that had all those conditions. Communism spread to them. It has never spread anywhere except by the use of force. So allied with, though separate from, the economic help must be the sort of South-East Asia Treaty Organizaton with teeth in it that was foreshadowed in the speeches of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey).
The force with which we contend - for we contend, not with an idea, but with a force - could be used in two ways. There might be an invasion of one of these countries by adjoining Communist countries, or there might be an internal rebellion. We have seen a small and organized minority use an adjoining country as a base, directed by the adjoining country, with the forces of that country massed on the frontier to overawe opposition. Force could be used in one or the other of those ways. If it were successful, it would lead to a string of Communist-dominated States around Australia. Therefore, it is essential that we have in being a security organization, with plans and forces prepared, ready to go at once to the assistance of any Asian country that finds itself attacked by force from without or from within, and the government of which asks for .assistance. The making of commitments for that purpose was the burden of the Prime Minister’s speech. The reasons for the decision were given by the Minister for External Affairs. It may be that forces such as those will not be needed. It may be that communism,, whether backed by China or not, will not seek further expansion by force in South-East Asia. But that is only a conjecture. It is exactly the kind of conjecture we were asked to make about Hitler’s Germany. It is buttressed by precisely the same reasons as were given then to try to lead us to believe that Hitler had peaceful intentions. Then, because we wanted to do so, we accepted that conjecture as fact. Because we accepted it as fact, there were tens of thousands of unnecessary deaths among the young men of the democracies, who had to fight unprepared and unplanned campaigns against forces which showed that our conjecture was wrong. Because we accepted that conjecture as fact, we ensured that the last war would take place. We must tint make that mislake again.
This much is certain : if we do create such an organization, if we do allot to it resources and forces from this country - and we must do so in order to play our part with those who will be in it with us - and it is not needed, the most we can lose is a subtraction of those resources and forces from our national wealth. But if we do not create such an organization, and if the time comes when it is required and we have not got it, we shall be able to measure our loss only in terms of physical and spiritual degradation and death, the invasion of this country and tho loss of all those things that go to make lip the standard of living of the Australian people. So I support entirely the proposition - which is not yet detailed and, therefore, cannot be examined in detail - that t,ve should play out part in such an organization for such a purpose. Some objections have been raised to the proposition. One is that if we take this step, we shall run the risk of a third world war. I believe the answer to that objection is : of course, we shall. The only way to avoid altogether the risk of a third world war is to surrender completely to communism, for resistance of any kind, particularly resistance likely to be effective, to the will of communism must involve the risk of a third world war if the Communists think it is desirable. But if we decide not to surrender completely to communism, we cannot make our resistance sporadic or ineffective merely because we feaT that if we make it effective the Communists will launch .a world war.. I see no force in that objection. I believe that if “we do have forces that can resist Communist expansion, there will be no war, even locally. Another objection raised is that all that these countries want is their national independence. Every country of which we are speaking and which we hope to help has complete national independence now, with the exception of Malaya, which is supposed to get its independence in 1957. So the question of national aspirations does not arise here, as it did in Indo-China.
I finish by suggesting to the Senate some specific things that I think ~we ought to do, and can do, at once. There are millions of people in South-East Asia who desire to combat communism but fear that if they do they will be left in the lurch. Therefore, they do not feel inclined to make themselves conspicuous in their resistance. It is necessary to convince them that they will not be abandoned by their friends. It would be well if we were to offer to France all the shipping we can afford to evacuate from northern to southern Indo-China civilians who seek to leave Communist domination, and to help them to take with them some of their household chattels and goods with which to start a new life. I think we should’ send food now to southern IndoChina. I think we should send food now to southern Korea. I think we should find that Burma, which has had some trouble with surplus rice, would be helped if we took some of that rice to help people who, after all, have been fighting the fight that we ourselves are in. “We intend to attack no one. We intend to attack no idea. But it should be made clear that if an idea, the idea of communism, abdicates argument and resorts to force, we are prepared to counter that force with force in order to protect our security and the security of the countries and populations threatened by it.
, - We are considering two statements on South-East Asia made by the .Prime Minister (Mr. M’enzies) and the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey), respectively. Apparently, the first statement did not give us sufficient details. So we were presented with another statement which, although it gave us more details, contradicted the first statement in some respects. To-night we are debating the first statement, which was contradicted by the second statement. The first statement, as Senator Gorton has pointed out, presupposes the establishment of the South-East Asia Treaty Organization. It did not deal with any of the matters necessary to make this country secure or to gain us friends in South-East Asia. The statement exhorted Australia to join the proposed organization with its friends. When we look around we find that our only friend speaking the same language - that is, military intervention - is the United States of America. Neither Pakistan, India, nor the Republic of Indonesia subscribes to that line of thought. France, which is particularly involved in Indo-Ohina, does not favour that action. Therefore, the only friendly nation with which we can inaugurate a military pact is the United States of America. Senator Gorton would repudiate altogether the United Nations Charter, which strictly forbids interference within a country on ideological grounds.
– No. ^ Senator O’FLAHERTY.- Oh yes ! The United Nations Charter prohibits interference in the. internal arrangements of a country. Senator Gorton says that it is necessary to have an armed force to go in against the Communists. Crisis has followed crisis in the political world. Many writers in recent times have pointed out that Viet Nam and other countries in South-East Asia have sought self-government for many years. Even in Viet Nam, a kind of self-government existed under French rule before World War II.
Senator Gorton stated that Japan was engaged in an imperial war against Russia in 1939. It was more extensive than that. Japan sought to control, also, Manchuria, Korea, and a part of China. When the Japanese came south the French moved out of Indo-China. Japan then subdued the people of Indo-China and established its own government. Subsequently, the Japanese in Indo-China were defeated by the allied powers, and Great Britain promised the peoples of Indo-China self-government. In time, the British withdrew and the French returned. There has been a nationalist movement in Indo-China ever since, but still the peoples there have not been granted self-government. Now we are told that this is due to communism. This was also the order of events in other countries in South-East Asia. Douglas Wilkie, in an article on foreign affairs that was published recently by the Australian press, wrote -
French colonialism is a special blend of enlightenment and avarice. It respects the human dignity of native peoples, gives them French citizenship, teaches them to admire Racine and Renoir, and robs them ruthlessly.
Can any honorable senator deny that, assertion? That state of affairs continued in Indo-China under French rule. It existed, also, in Tunisia. Of British colonialism, the article stated -
British colonialism is - or was - based on the belief that “ natives “ can never quite get over their birth stain, but nevertheless have a right to be trained in self-government in return for British dividends.
That is correct. It applies, also, in Australia, though Ave are not controlled to the same degree.
– Conditions in India were improved under British rule.
– Britain finally granted the peoples of India selfgovernment.
– Has the honorable senator made up his mind on this matter on one man’s opinion?
– British investors still derive dividends on their capital investments in Australia. As I have mentioned, the French were in IndoChina before World War II., and they returned after the wai-. There is a constant movement in Indo-China, based on armed force. History shows that nations have risen by military force, but have subsequently been defeated by it. Expansion based only on military strength is not permanent. Honorable senators :w(; well aware of the history of Great Britain, Italy, and Spain in this connexion. In the final analysis, all that the pitting of arming force against armed force results in, is the destruction of millions of people. Great Britain maintained an armed force in India for many years, but finally had to withdraw it; India is now a republic. It is a member of the British Commonwealth of Nations, and it is more prosperous to-day than it was under British armed rule. Despite the granting of self-government to India. British investors still draw dividends from that country. Great Britain withdrew its armed forces from India when it realized that colonization on that basis was unsatisfactory. Indo-China and many other countries in South-East Asia are still seeking self-government. We can protect the security of Australia only by maintaining friendly relationships with those countries, and by helping them to help themselves. Political statements such as the one we are now debating succeed only in keeping the people nf this country constantly on tenterhooks. Despite successive political crises, the exploitation of the great masses id’ the people, not only in Australia but also in the. countries of Southeast Asia, continues. Senator Gorton referred to the history of World War II. The Allies supplied millions of pounds to Germany to induce that country to turn against Russia. Great Britain guaranteed to respect the integrity of Czechoslovakia, but subsequently repudiated the guarantee. The Allies also supplied millions of pounds to Italy to enable that country to engage in military operations in the south of Europe. Furthermore, millions of pounds were supplied to Japan for similar purposes in the Pacific.
The anti-Labour Government that was in office in Australia prior to World War II. ignored those who sounded a note of warning that Japan was our potential enemy. Let us recall subsequent events. Germany did not engage in activities against Russia until the latter half of the war in Europe. Both Italy and Japan came into the war against the Allies, and used the money that had been given to them to continue the struggle. Only the wealth and might of the United States of America enabled us to defeat the aggressors. Up to the time that Germany turned against Russia, that country had been helping Germany. Russia then became an ally of Great Britain, and assisted us to defeat Germany. I remind Government senators that Australia was a party to the agreement that provided that Russia should occupy East Germany. That agreement was signed by Sir Winston Churchill, of Great Britain, Mr. Stalin, of Russia, and President Truman, of the United States of America. It. is well known that the British and American armies were halted on the western side of Germany while the Russian troops entered from the east. Yet supporters of the Government now assert that the Communists must be halted. This Government seems to be endeavouring to persuade us that, other people will protect us, but when the time comes for action, those people will protect themselves. We should set about trading with people in countries to the north of Australia, on a peace-time basis. I do not mean that we should supply arms to those countries; we could carry on a mutual trade in commodities of which they and we have more than are required in our respective countries. That would be preferable to paying millions of pounds to them for the purpose of developing their armed forces, supposedly for the purpose of protecting Australia. We have no business to interfere in an internal fight for the control of the economy of another country.
– What if one is invited in by the Government of the other country?
– One has still no right to take part in an internal fight for the control of that country’s economy. Other nations were invited to interfere in Korea but they achieved nothing by their interference. The main danger to Australia now is the arming of Japan, which is looking for what the Germans call Lebensraum. The Government has arranged a peace agreement with Japan although tie United States of America is arming that country again, ostensibly to fight China and protect Formosa from the Communists. Racial and economic conditions in Japan will prevent the Japanese from assisting this country, and will force them to join issue with the Chinese people and fight against us.
Recently, some strikes took place in Japan and the men who participated in them were accused of being communists. I was called a Communist 50 years ago because I took part in a strike for better conditions. The Government applies the description “ Communist “ to everybody who disagrees with it. The Government is trying to persuade people that this country can be protected only by a large armed force, equipped for operations overseas, instead of attending to the internal security of Australia. The Government is pursuing a policy similar to that which was adopted prior to the last war. The United States of America is lending millions of dollars and supplying arms to certain ex-enemy nations, including Japan. Apparently, it is intended to allow Germany to arm again. In supporting that policy the Australian Government imagines that the west Germans will fight the so-called Communists of East Germany, but they will not do that. The people of West Germany and the people of East Germany will be forced by economic conditions to join forces. A strike is going on in West Germany because working people who are under the control of the British, French and American governments want better conditions and wages. Those people are being called Communists. I am disgusted by the smear campaign that has been conducted in this country and in some other countries against men who stand up for their rights. I am not alone in my opinions. I am not alone in saying that the United States of America is using the Australian Government for its own ends. Douglas Wilkie, an Australian journalist, said in a recent article -
In his historic address to the Australian Parliament last night Mr. Menzies implied some of the difficulties of solving this equation.
He was referring to the advance of Communism in South-East Asia. He continued -
But a. Prime Minister, when he defines national policy beforea world audience, must tread delicately if he is to avoid giving comfort to our enemies, affront to our friends, and a headache to his own party whips. He cannot afford too much stark realism. Newspaper columnists can speak more freely because nobody listens to them officially, until they have been proved right many months later, by which time, of course, their views have become respectable and dull.
Douglas Wilkie commented that there was much argument about American foreign policy. It is a strange fact that whatever the United States of America says in connexion with foreign affairs is repeated by the spokesman for the Australian Government. The proposal for an armed group in connexion with a South-East Asian treaty emanated in the first place from the United States of America. But it is not possible to accomplish anything by armed force alone. An American journalist, Walter Lippman, has emphasized that any alliance with Asian people will have to be on terms, and for objectives, that command popular support among newly emancipated Asian nations. He added -
That kind of support cannot be bought. It cannot be compelled. It cannot be had by brandishing atom bombs. It cannot be had by emphasizing military measures to the exclusion of all others.
Another part of Douglas Wilkie’s article reads as follows: -
Joseph and Stewart Alsop wrote this week that American reliance on atomic weapons to hold the balance of power against the Soviets, once a sound idea, has become a fraudulent, misleading idea. They argued that the policy of deterring Russia or China from sponsoring Communist manuvres abroad by a threat of western atomic retaliation was being neutralized by a threat of Soviet counterretaliation. Thus, as long as Chinese aggression in South-East Asia is not direct, overt, territorial aggression, the west cannot save other countries from communism by purely military means except at the cost of a world war it will not start. Thus it seems certain that the United States of America will be compelled more and more to concentrate on a political and economic counter offensive against communism.
In essence, this article indicates that America is being forced to recognize that atomic power is not the controlling and dominating factor that it was thought to be. Senator Gorton asked whether honorable senators thought that our allies would use the atomic bomb first. They did use the atomic bomb first. The United States of America used it on Japan and there is no power that I know of thatwill stop the United States of America from using atomic bombs first again if it is possessed by the military madness of which it shows signs at present. For years I have been advocating the policy that the Alsops have advocated of cultivating the friendship of the people of South-East Asia and winning their support. We must help them to understand their economic circumstances and rule themselves in their own way. I advocate wider regional security treaties based on a sort of Colombo plan which has been applied to some of the more newly established governments. That plan could be applied to all of Indo-China for the purpose of making friends of the people of SouthEast Asia and helping them to form their own governments without interference.
– I wish to pay a compliment to the skill and patience and boldness that has been displayed by the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey) in relation to the matter that we are discussing. I also compliment the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) on his grasp of reality and the measure of support that he has given the Government proposals. I compliment my friend, Senator John Gorton, Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Government parties, for his fine exposition of the whole matter which has left me with too little to say. However, there are some things that will bear elaboration and, possibly, even repetition. As Senator Gorton has said, concern with foreign affairs is a new thing in this country, because we have been brought up under the shelter of Great Britain. Our citizens have yet to be educated to an understanding of the subject. I think that that is one of the functions of all of us, on both sides of the Senate. Walter Lippmann has said that the main business of the foreign policy of a country is to look after the vital interests of the country. He does not interpret the phrase “ vital interests “ in the narrow sense of meaning only trade, property and life; he means also the protection of the heritage of the country. I hope that it is not necessary to remind honorable senators that our inheritance is that of the British Isles and, beyond that, of the Christian civilization of Europe.
This pact is intended to guard against Communist imperialism, which is a real danger. I shall not dispute the statement of the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) that there may be another danger in the East, but for the moment I think I am right in saying that the danger is really Communist imperialism. Those who understand the theory and the practice of communism appreciate its inhuman and dehumanizing despotism, something that does not respect the human personality, which exists by the power of the group controlling the community and those who accept what is called, in a horrible modern term, the “ ideology “. I am not a fanatical anti-Communist. I well remember the fall of Czarism, which I applauded. I felt then in the same mood as did Wordsworth when speaking of the French revolution. He said -
Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive,
But to be young was very Heaven !
I watched the Russian revolution and what followed it, and I have hoped for 37 years that a milder kind of government, such as that which followed in France within two or three years of the French revolution, would also be adopted in Russia. Instead, the despotism has become worse, the terror has grown. Instead of a temporary despotism giving place to government of the people, it has brought about a new upper class, one which hold itself in power with a technique different from that of the old upper class, more arrogant and more secure. We must try to instil into the minds of our citizens, in the light of our knowledge and experience, the fact that there is no hope that that despotism will give place to a better form of government at any time that we can foresee. It is with that thought in our minds that we must approach this problem.
There are people who warn us that we must avoid giving offence to Asians, particularly to the new Asian powers, and I agree with them. Such people think that the peoples of Asia have suffered under foreign domination. They believe that at last the Asians are free and in control of their own destinies. They are sus picious of anything that might look like an attempt to re-assert the old domination. There is nothing in this pact, which I am supporting, to lend colour to the belief that we are trying to re-assert the old domination. That has gone forever. Yet, I am afraid there are many people in this country who do not appreciate that that is so. In 1947, I was in New Delhi as an observer at the Asian Relations conference. One afternoon, during a group discussion, some of the younger and less responsible members started to attack the old imperialists. French, Dutch and British imperialism came under fire. I was an observer, so I sat there and said nothing. After the debate, an older and wiser man, much respected in the newer Asian country which he represented, said to me, “ Why do these people waste their time talking about the old imperialisms that are gone? There is only one imperialism that counts to-day, and that is Soviet imperialism “. I shrugged my shoulders and said, “I agree “. If I may use a simple analogy, the attitude of those people reminded me of a little boy who had been scratched by a kitten and was Availing about it, while a man-eating tiger was waiting to grab him. The old imperialism has gone. We not only accept, but also approve, the new independence of these Asian countries. We wanted it to come about, and it accords with all our ideas. As far as the British Commonwealth was concerned, it was contemplated from the beginning.
– A hundred years ago.
– Yes. Macaulay, who laid the foundations of education in India, did so deliberately with the idea that the Indians might be educated in the British pattern and grow up as democrats. It is a fact that he made English, instead of one of the Indian languages, the standard language for India.
I wish to say a word, too, for another of these departed imperialisms which are being insulted continually. This particular imperialism was certainly insulted by Senator O’Flaherty to-night. The honorable senator challenged those on this side of the chamber to deny the truth of what he said, and I intend to deny at least one part of his statement. I refer to French imperialism. It is true that the various French governments have not handled this Indo-China situation very well, but it must be remembered that the French are entitled to their own line of thought and ways of action. Because they did not immediately concede independence, such as Great Britain did, that does not mean, necessarily, that they intended nothing but oppression. They set up the French Union which, on paper at least, was a most generous and magnanimous concession. It provided for self-government within the Union. Although that led to years of bloodshed, it was the French and their colonials who suffered most. I do not believe that it led to a worsening of the position with regard to communism. The Communists would have been there in any event, and probably would have been there sooner than they actually were, had the French done otherwise. 1 feel strong indignation when I hear some one attack such a great and noble people because they stood to their guns.
I have heard clergymen, who profess to instruct us in Christian principles, and also a very distinguished American visitor to this country, say that French colonial policy is pure oppression and gives the people nothing. Let me give the Senate some of the facts concerning French activities in Indo-China. During the French administration, 100,000 acres of barren land have been irrigated, whilst thousands of acres of swampy land have been drained. Thousands of farmers have been settled on the land, whilst hospitals and research institutions for the study of tropical diseases have been established. It is not true, as Senator O’Flaherty stated, that the French simply robbed the people. I agree that their system impoverished certain people, but that was not because of deliberate exploitation by the Government. It was one of the consequences that had not been foreseen. The French followed the old policy of laisser-faire. As everybody knows, in the past that policy has impoverished many people. We have abandoned it, and the French also have abandoned it. It should not be forgotten that the French brought to Indo-China the Pasteur Institutes for research in tropical diseases. I suggest that there is not a person listening to me who is not a direct beneficiary of those institutions. It will not be necessary for me to remind honorable senators that Louis Pasteur himself was one of the greatest, noblest and most humble men who ever lived.
There is another factor, apart altogether from the sordid materialistic factors, which may have influenced the French. There are at least 2,000,000 Christians in that area. Perhaps the French Government regarded itself as the custodian of those people. I have ascertained that a great number of institutions went out to the Far Ea3t for the purpose of spreading Christianity. The list of those belonging to the Roman Catholic Church who engaged in such activity is so long that I could not possibly refer to all of them. I merely say that the Society of Jesus, which we all know, was one of the greatest. The small French Protestant Church, one of the noblest churches in the world, constituted a special society to carry out missionary work. It has done magnificent work throughout the whole of the French Colonies. Only last year, a pastor of that church visited this country on his way back from a tour of the various places at which his church had establishments. Those are things which the French tried to do. I suggest that if they did certain things wrongly, it was because of errors of judgment, nothing more. Whether they are imperialists or not, they have been fighting our battles during the last few years.
There is one other imperialism about which I wish to say something, because it is often pictured as the villain of the piece. I refer to American imperialism. In 1S98, the United States of America obtained possession of the Philippine Islands almost without a struggle. It was a mere incident in the war with Spain. The Americans had no right to the territory, except the right of the sword. They put down a nationalist rising, and they had no other right to do that either, except the right of the sword. That is the beginning of the story. The Americans decided on a deliberate policy of getting rid of the Philippines as soon as they could. They sent out able administrators, one of whom, William
Howard Taft, afterwards became President of the United States of America. They also sent out doctors, nurses and teachers. They educated the people, step by step, towards self-government. Ultimately, they set the Philippines free. At the time of independence, many Filipinos were not too happy to have their independence, but the Americans said : “ You have worked up to this. You said you wanted it, and you must take it “. As honorable senators are aware, the Philippines were over-run by the Japanese during World War II. The great General Douglas MacArthur, to whom we all owe a debt - whatever his faults he is one of the great men of history - fought boldly on their behalf and ultimately drove the Japanese out. Honorable senators do not need to take my word for that. I have never met a person from the Philippines, and T know the Ambassador for that nation in Australia and have met a number of his countrymen at Asian conferences, who has not expressed the utmost gratitude for all that the United States of America has done. Do not let us soil the name of the Americans. Do not let us believe that everything that they did was bad. We should not accept the falsehood that they did nothing to the countries they were in except exploit them. They did a great deal more. They gave them all the material advantages I have mentioned and the rule of law. They gave more than some kinds of European materialism did.
However, we must agree with our Asian neighbours that that is history. Now we must do everything we possibly can in agreement with them. There is no conflict between what we are doing under this pact and the Colombo plan or any other material help that we can give. The two work together. We must continue with the Colombo plan. We must continue to give capital goods, trained technicians and every kind of assistance that we can, but that does not prevent us from making preparations for our own and their defence. We cannot give the details of that plan. It has to be worked out, but the plan is necessary and I am confident that we can achieve one.
It is a great pity that all the important Asian nations will not join the pact. I have no word of criticism for those who will not do so. That is their business, but I regret that the Prime Minister of India, Mr. Nehru, is not with us in this matter. I have a great admiration for him and a feeling of personal friendship. I had the great privilege of meeting and talking to him and was given his point of view. Whether it is right or wrong, I believe it is the one that he conceives to be the best for the future of India. Some nations have survived through neutrality, but very few. Switzerland and Sweden are two of them. Is there any other?
– That is true. A country that survives through neutrality survives because it is not worth taking or it does not fit into the programme of the aggressor. I do not believe that any Asian nation will ultimately survive through neutrality. As for Australia, I believe that such a course would mean suicide. We can only survive if we have our own fully armed strength and the help of our allies. Those allies are our friends of the British Commonwealth of Nations and the United States of America.
Those are the main issues. I wish to refer to one other that was mentioned by the Leader of the Opposition. I am not going to contradict him. I shall not claim that the method we have suggested for co-operation between the parties in this Parliament is the only one or necessarily the best, but it is a good one. We have set up a Foreign Affairs Committee. We should like the Opposition to join it. If the Opposition does join us in this committee it would find that the committee is not a mere study group. Even if it were, that would be all to the good, because every member who joins the committee obtains greater knowledge of the matters that are under discussion and some degree of influence. Actions by this Parliament are not decided simply by these debates or by the laws and resolutions that we adopt. They are decided by personal contacts. They are even decided at times by the views of one man, and if the Leader of the Opposition would advise his party to join the Foreign Affairs Committee, I believe that the efforts of his supporters would be greatly augmented. If there are other ways by which the two parties could co-operate, let us look for them.
In support of my assertion that a uniform policy above the ebb and flow of party politics is necessary, let me quote the history of British foreign policy. Since 16S9 at least, with few waverings, British foreign policy has followed a single course. That course was dictated by two or three simple principles. First, Great Britain, being a group of islands with overseas possessions, had to rely on naval and not on military power. The second principle was that Great Britain should never concern itself in the affairs of the Continent unless it mattered greatly. The third principle was that Britain should never allow any single power to dominate the Continent. I do not intend to lay down an Australian foreign policy. I am not a Disraeli or one of the great men of that mould. I am merely one of those who in conference with honorable senators on this side of the chamber, and, I hope, with those on the Opposition side, will try to help to shape such a policy, but those simple principles will give us some idea of what we have to do. We have to maintain the integrity of this continent. We have to maintain certain air routes and sea routes, anil we must ensure that certain islands contiguous to us in the near north do not fall under the power of an aggressor, whether such aggressor be the Communist imperialism that threatens us to-day, or the other power that the Leader of the Opposition has mentioned and that might become a danger in the future. Those are essentials at least, and we need the support and help of the Opposition.
I spoke of British foreign policy as being consistent. There was one small break from consistency between 1874 and 1SS0 when two great leaders, Gladstone the Liberal and Disraeli the Conservative, had opposite policies. I shall not go into the details of those policies because they do not concern us at this moment. I do not intend to state which of them I consider was right or wrong, hut the mere fact that there was some divergence and public debate about it, and the fact that the country was divided on the matter, meant a decline in the prestige and power of the British Empire. The successors of those two great men and the men who were foreign secretaries under them - Rosebery and Gladstone - determined that such divergence should never occur again. They made up their minds that there would be a common foreign policy. Salisbury became Prime Minister and held that office four times. He had been Foreign Minister under Disraeli. Rosebery was Foreign Minister under Gladstone and. later Prime Minister, and Rosebery stated in the last public address that he gave as Prime Minister -
Whatever our domestic differences may be at home, we should preserve a united front abroad. Foreign statesmen and foreign courts should feel that they are not dealing with a Ministry, possibly fleeting, hut with a great and powerful nation.
I am one who believes that Australia is more powerful or potentially powerful than many people realize. It is a question of organizing our strength. Although I am not suggesting a foreign policy out of tune with that of Great Britain, but one in tune with it, we have to determine certain things for ourselves, and I believe that the time will come when Australia will be one of the great nations of the world. That time will come sooner than we expect. So I hope that honorable senators opposite will unite with us in bringing about that unity and continuity in foreign policy that is necessary for the development of this “ dear, dear land “.
– The foreign affairs survey that has been given by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) has been widely discussed and comprehensively reviewed by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna). I do not intend to discuss the Prime Minister’s speech paragraph by paragraph, but I shall review it and the principles that have been expressed in it at length, and try to bring them back to the simplest possible level. The fundamental approach of Australians to foreign policy is dictated first by love of country and secondly by a natural desire to preserve Australia. Events have moved rapidly in the past twenty years. The situation that our fathers and mothers faced twenty to 30 years ago had been completely altered. The face of the world has changed. Scientific developments have brought the nations closer together and great national movements throughout the world have changed Australia’s situation phenomenally. I propose to approach the subject of our foreign policy in the light of the circumstances that we face to-day and not those that applied in the past.
Only a few years ago, Australia was, to all intents and purposes, completely secure. When Australians spoke of an invasion, they referred to it as a remote possibility that might occur in the next century. Why were we so secure? We were ringed about, not necessarily with great European armies, but with European armies of great comparative strength. There were British troops in India, Ceylon, Burma and Malaya, and the Royal Navy was not far away. French forces occupied Indo-China. There were Americans in the Philippines and Dutch in’ the East Indies. All those great European and American powers closely flanked us in the Pacific. Now all of them have gone with the exception of the British troops and a section of the Royal Australian Air Force in Malaya. So the iron ring that was always there if we needed it has gone.
Thirty years ago there were no heavy industries in Asia that could serve to mount a modern war. Only after Japan went into Manchuria was there tremendous development of heavy industry in East Asia. To-day heavy industries are in the hands of Communist China, backed by Russian industrial knowledge and’ help, and China has the industrial background and potential to mount a modern war. Twenty years ago, the nationalist movements in Asia were weak and divided, and the European overlords kept them divided by playing one against the other. If, with the vanishing of the European imperial power from Asia, a vacuum had been left and the Nationalist forces had continued to fight between themselves until final victory by one or the other, we should have been given a very considerable breathing space. But into that vacuum there has moved, spearheaded by Communist China, strongly disciplined and united forces which already are spreading their influence and tentacles into Korea, Indo-China, Malaya, Indonesia and Thailand. In each of those Asian countries there is a substantial Chinese population which unfortunately is open to great pressure from the Chinese homeland. So, our three apparent safeguards - the fact that we were ringed by European arms, the fact that Asia was incapable industrially of mounting a modern war, and the absence of a cohesive political force in Asia to give leadership - have all gone, and we have learned to our great surprise that Asia could be a definite threat to us if it were so inclined. In 25 years, Japan was able to build a navy, with the resources of Manchuria, there is no reason why China should not be able to do the same. The one bright spot is the fact that Indonesia has remained. non-Communist. If a Communist government were to take charge of Indonesia, our days of preparedness would be cut very short indeed. But Indonesia to-day is concerned only with developing the sovereignty of the lands which since 1950 have fallen under its own control. That is a full-time job which absorbs all the energy, drive and ingenuity of the Indonesian leaders. But if, overnight, a Communist government were to take complete control of Indonesia, we should find a very different approach to their problems and danger would come much closer to us. Australia is now a very attractive target. That is something that we should not underestimate. We have .i wonderful land of tremendous dimensions. Our great empty spaces must indeed invite envious looks in this direction. Australia’s wool production would fill a gap at present existing in the industrial development of the great Asian countries. Our great industrial potential too would be a prize well worth winning.
Some honorable senators may think that I can talk only about development. I sometimes think that myself when I am speaking of the necessity to protect and expand our industries. But the fact remains that our external strength can only be based on our internal strength, and even if development means some inflation or other disabilities internally, we must take those risks so that Australia fir.- [fi! will be made capable of carrying a population of 20,000,000 or 30,000,000 as soon as is humanly possible. It is not difficult for us to determine who are our friends in the world to-day. Apparently India, Ceylon, Burma and perhaps Indonesia will not join in a Pacific treaty. I hope that I am wrong. Our friends are too few.. Fundamentally, we must look, as John Curtin looked, to America. To reduce the matter to absolute simplicity, that is where our future and our safety lies. When I say that I am not unmindful of the fact that probably 40 per cent, of the people of this country are no more than one generation removed from the people of the United Kingdom. Until our immigration programme was undertaken at the end of World War II., it was said that we were 9S per cent. British. Undoubtedly the traditions that made Britain great are playing their part in making Australia great. But we have only to glance at the world picture to realize that, if there is a war, it will be a world war, and that Great Britain, as in 1939, will be busy with its own defence. It has been stated many times that Great Britain’s first defence problem is the protection of the home islands; its second responsibility is the protection of its overseas trade routes, and its third, is the protection of its colonies and dominions. There is no doubt that Great Britain must approach this matter primarily, whether it wishes to do so or not. from the European stand-point. To-day, there is some divergence of opinion between the United Kingdom and the United States of America in regard to Asian problems. Indeed there is a divergence of opinion between Australia and the United Kingdom on those problems. In this connexion I can do no better than quote Sir Winston Churchill himself. On his recent visit to the United States of America, he was asked whether Asia was less valuable than Europe, and he replied, “ Certainly “. When he was asked why Europe was more important than Asia, he said, “ Because I live in Europe “. That is fundamental and I am not critical of Sir Winston for that remark. Indeed, it is the whole truth of the matter. Because he lives in Europe, Europe is more important to him than this part of the world. But because we live in Australia, it is just as logical that we should place this part of the world first.
I invite the Government to search its conscience and to say frankly whether during its term of office the armed force.? of this country have been strengthened to the degree to which they could have been strengthened. Once again I shall refer to our great industrial potential. Perhaps honorable senators opposite are not fully aware of what has happened in the aircraft construction industry. No one will deny that this industry is tremendously valuable to us. In the event of an attack upon us, aircraft would, of course, be our first line of defence. But let us look at what is happening in the aircraft construction industry. The great De Haviland organization, based at Bankstown, outside Sydney, made a public appeal a few weeks ago. The Government was told that the factory was slowly closing down because it could not get any more government orders for aircraft. Our own government factory at Fishermen’s Bend, the Division of Aircraft Production, as it was called, has had its orders for the Canberra bomber reduced or cancelled, and so far as I can gather, no orders are coming in. Like the shipbuilding industry, the aircraft building industry, to be efficient and economic, must plan well ahead. It must know eighteen months or two years ahead what ib required of it. Only the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation which, despite its name is not a Commonwealth-owned factory at all, seems to be producing to full capacity and appears to have a fair back-log of orders that will keep it going for some time to come. If we are to accept commitments as a signatory to regional pacts against aggression, we should ask ourselves, “ “What can we do? “ In the field of aircraft production, unfortunately, we are not doing very much.
I ask honorable senators opposite whether our navy is any stronger now than it was four and a half years ago. J question the wisdom of scrapping H.M.A.S. Australia, when, apparently, no other ship is available to take its place. Australia may have been antiquated compared with modern American and British ships, but in this part of the world it was probably a very modern ship capable of doing a valuable job until the arrival of a replacement. Because of compulsory military training the Army has undoubtedly improved. We now have a greater reservoir of men with a background of military training. However, the Permanent Army seems to be lagging. We cannot get recruits for it, but I do not know why. I mention these matters to emphasize the need for the Government to examine the ability of this country to stand up to any obligations that it may undertake under the proposed pact. To make a fair statement of Labour’s approach to defence problems in this part of the world I call upon the past and upon the dead. John Curtin made the position clear when he was Prime Minister during the war, and what he said in those days is still the policy of the Australian Labour party. He said -
The Australian Government therefore regards the Pacific struggle as primarily one in which the United States and Australia must have the fullest say in the direction of the Democracies1 righting plan.
Without any inhibitions of a any kind, I make it quite clear that Australia looks to America, free of any pangs as to our traditional links with the United Kingdom.
We know the problems that the United Kingdom faces. We know the constant threat nf invasion. We know the dangers of dispersal of strength. But we know too that Australia can go, and Britain can still held on. We are therefore determined that Australia shall not go, and we shall exert all our energies towards the shaping of a plan, with the United States as its keystone, which will give to our country soma confidence of being able to hold out until the tide of battle swings against the enemy.
That is as true to-day as it was then. Sir Winston Churchill’s instant reaction to that appeal, as recorded in his book The Second World War, at page 8, was to cable Mr. Attlee from Washington stating, “ I hope there shall be no pandering to this . . .” Undeniably, our hope of remaining in occupation of this country, and of seeing our families and our families’ families growing up to make this country great, is to strengthen the bonds of friendship with the one power in the world that could save us if the worst came to the worst. Like John Curtin, I look to America. This talk of American imperialism leaves me cold. The history of the American people is the history of a far-sighted democracy. They have a standard of living that is the envy of other countries. Our future safety lies in friendship with that great country. It will be not only a pleasure but also a duty for me to do anything I can to strengthen the bonds of friendship between Australia and America.
– I welcome this debate for several reasons. We have paid scant attention to foreign affairs in the past, although it is a subject that affects our very existence. The situation in IndoChina has brought home to us the great danger that threatens us. The Russian policy of bringing other countries under its control piecemeal has been extended from Europe to South-East Asia and has made the danger to this country even greater. It is necessary to awaken the Australian people to that danger. I welcome the attitude that the Opposition has adopted to this matter and I congratulate Senator McKenna and Senator Armstrong on their speeches, with which I heartily agree.
I intend to approach the subject from a different angle. I have been a professional soldier for over 30 years of my life, and I have been trained to look at these matters from the defence view-point. I am afraid that what I shall say will not receive the applause of Senator O’Flaherty. The Indo-China problem is not a new one. We have been faced with a similar problem for the last eight years. It has existed certainly since the end of World War II., and probably it existed before then, if we can believe what Sir Winston Churchill has written, especially in his last book. It is a part of a worldwide problem, and we must consider from a world-wide viewpoint. We have to decide whether the Communist policy of world domination still holds good. The problems in South-East Asia are being caused by Russia, and by Russia alone. If Russia had not fomented trouble in that part of the world, there would be no problem there and no danger to Australia from that area. I think the majority of deep-thinking people will agree that the Russian policy of world domination still holds good. As a soldier, I want to refer to Russia’s undoubted superiority in armed strength. What is it for? A few weeks ago, at a press conference in Paris, Field Marshal Lord Montgomery gave certain figures of Russian armed strength that were startling. He said the Russians had 175 divisions ready for instant action. That is a very large force. Australia has not one division ready for action. About 100 of the Russian divisions are in occupied territories, countries in which Russia has really no right to be and which it is holding down. In a matter of weeks, Russia can expand its army to 400 divisions. In addition, it has about 20,000 aircraft, 300 submarines and a goodly supply of atomic weapons. Why does Russia maintain such a tremendous force ? There is only one reason ; that is world domination. Those figures are very enlightening.
In addition, Russia is increasing its strength yearly by gaining control of other nations, making them its satellites, equipping them and turning them into modern fighting machines. It has done that with China, a nation in our part of the world. Through China, it has done it to the Viet Minh movement, which has received considerable help from China in the form of Russian weapons. I may be asked why Russia, if it has such tremendous superiority, is holding hack. Why does not Russia carry on openly a war of aggression and achieve world domination? The answer is that the Russians fear that aggressive war and victory may not be synonymous. In other words, they have a slight doubt. They doubt, for instance, whether they have superiority in atomic weapons. They doubt whether they have sufficient economic and industrial strength to achieve victory. What is Russia doing to make sure of victory? It is stockpiling atomic weapons and building up its strength. It is expanding into Asia. Having been stopped in Europe, it is going where the going is easier. It has been doing that for some years. Russia achieved considerable success in Korea, where it weakened the democracies by forcing them to make a large military effort in that country, and by building up the strength of China. In Europe, although Russian expansion has been stopped, the Russians have not given up. They are striving to prevent the rearmament of Germany, which would be a great accession of strength to the democracies. They are trying to win over France and get it away from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.
What courses are open to Russia in South-East Asia? Let us look first at Indo-China. There the Russians undoubtedly will try by propaganda and military methods, through so-called volunteers, to secure control of Viet Nam. When Viet Nam goes, the obvious target will be Thailand. Burma has a long common frontier with China. There is a large communistic element in Burma, and it should not be difficult for the Communists to obtain control of that country. They could go through Burma to Pakistan, and from there to India itself. The policy of taking countries piecemeal is succeeding too easily in Asia. Russia could come quite close to Australia - much closer than it is now - because if the other Asian countries were under Communist control, how could Indonesia alone resist communism? It is idle to believe that it could. The geography of South-East Asia is such as to make Russia’s task easy. In addition, these Asian countries are weak militarily and have low standards of living. Those, factors also make Russia’s task easy.
That brings me to the big question that we have to decide. If we believe that Russia will continue to grab Asian countries in order to achieve world domination, we have to decide whether we shall allow that to go on, or whether we shall say, “ Thus far and no farther “. That is a very important question for the people of Australia to decide, because a decision could lead quite easily to a third world war. It is a question that cannot be decided without great thought, but it is a question that we have to decide now. The Australian Government and, I believe, the Opposition, have come to the conclusion that this is the time for us to make a decision. For our own safety, we must join an organization such as Seato. If we are not prepared to join with other nations and be ready to fight for our very existence, there is nothing for us to do but to disarm and say to Russia, “ Carry on with your plan for world domination ; we will join your world “. As I view the matter, Seato is not designed only to save the Asian nations from being taken over. We want to save them, but we want to save ourselves also. We have got to do it or give in. We have come to the parting of the ways, and we must go either one way or the other. The situation in South-East Asia is similar to the state of affairs that existed in Europe in 193S. I for one, do not want to see another Munich. I do not want to see communism going on, with the Communists grabbing country after country, building up their strength, until finally they could gain complete control.
Let us consider what we must do in order to take our place in Seato. It is apparent that that organization must be as strong as possible, and include as many nations as possible. Therefore, we must do everything in our power, not only from a military point of view, but also from the points of view of commerce, economy, charity, and friendship, to get the Asiatic countries on our side. We must not use force at all in the matter. I do not visualize our opposing their will in their own countries, but, if they should be threatened by Communist aggression in the near future, I believe that they would send out to us a cry to help them, and they would expect us to do so. For our own protection, we must be prepared to help them. There is a great probability of all of the SouthEast Asian countries joining us; Thailand is a certainty at the moment, and so is the Philippines. Pakistan is almost a certainty; India is very doubtful; and Ceylon not so doubtful. A lot depends on their proximity to danger. As the danger gets greater, so will the probability of their joining us become greater. Let us consider what may constitute the strength of Seato. The big democracies of the United Kingdom, the United States of America, France, Australia, New Zealand and perhaps Canada, will have to stand the brunt of compelling acknowledgment of our warning to the Communists : “ Thus far, and no farther “. So let us face the situation and get our house in order. Let us examine on broad lines what this might mean to us in Australia. Are we really doing all that we should be doing? Let us compare the Australian effort with that of Great Britain. From a population point of view we are. almost, a quarter as. strong as Great Britain, as our population is 9,000,000 compared with 40,000,000 in that country. Let us: say that we are only one-fifth as strong as Great Britain. On that basis, we should be making defence preparations equivalent to onefifth of the preparations, that are being made by Great Britain. Despite the fact that we are expending about £200,000,000 a year on defence, our effort in. that direction is less than one-fifth of Great Britain’s effort. 1 come now to the point at which I expect that the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) will not agree with my views. Great Britain maintains a large proportion of its armed strength overseas. . In the future, we shall have to do the same. Great Britain’s policy lias been to station troops close to the scene of a. problem,, and where fighting iii likely to take place. There1 is only one place that Australians will fight, if we join Seato to oppose Russian aggression, and that is to the north of Australia; when we fight in Australia we shall have lost. We must follow the British tradition and not be afraid to go where the danger is. I have heard a lot of people say, “ We must keep our troops in Australia. The north of Australia is the line that we must develop. There must be our strength.” I do not agree with those views. Australia’s first line of defence is 2,000 miles to the north of this country. I am. not saying that, we should not have bases in the north of Australia. That, is quite right. But, by the time that we would be actually fighting in the north, of Australia, and require the roads and railways that many people advocate constructing, we would have. lost. Let us. consider Australia’s danger, should another world war materialize. I. should think that Australia would be one of the safest countries in the world. Compared with the dangers that would beset Great Britain, our danger would be infinitesimal. Our potential enemy is Russia. The Russians are not fools; they would not ignore the recognized principle of warfare by diverting a lot of their armed strength to Australia, but would adhere to the principle of concentration of effort at the vital point. In their estimation, tha dropping of an atomic bomb on Sydney, and. another on Melbourne, might be warranted. If they had atomic bombs to spare, they might consider it worth their while to drop one on each of our other capita] cities. But they would not waste time and troops; Australia would fall like a ripe plum. Despite the danger- to. which Great Britain is exposed, ten of that country’s eleven permanently armed divisions are maintained overseas. Surely, therefore,, we must be prepared to send our troops overseas. We require a strong striking force in Australia, but the decision on where that force should be stationed must be left to the military experts. No member of this chamber is sufficiently knowledgable to determine such matters. It is our job to decide that Australia shall be strong and able to take its place in Seato with its allies. The first essential in this country, as well as in the other democracies, is to have deterrent military strength. I am glad that Senator O’Flaherty has returned to the chamber in time to hear the conclusion of my speech. Our constant aim must, be the preservation of peace; We must have sympathy with our neighbours in SouthEast Asia, and the will to help them financially, economically and militarily. We must have a’ nation educated to understand these things, backed up by a Government determined to carry them out.
– This evening we have listened to a variety of speeches, some dealing with the problems of the whole world. I understood that we were debating a statement that had been made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), in which he set out. the terms of the cease-fire arrangements in Indo-China. The right honorable gentleman apparently did not want to use harsh, words, so he referred to the- French as our friends. Subsequently, he stated that one of the clauses of the agreement was unreal. I understand that one of the main purposes, of the ministerial statement was to inform the people of Australia that the Australian Government intended to associate itself with the proposed South-East Asian Treaty Organization. The. Prime Minister stated that, in view of the onward maron of communism in Asia, Australia was in grave danger, and that, in his opinion, the best method by which we could at least save ourselves, would be to enter Seato. We would thereby be able to help in the defence of any South-East Asian country which was invaded or called for help. That is contrary to a clause in the United Nations Charter.
At this juncture it is well that we should endeavour to ascertain what brought the present position about so rapidly. It is true, as Senator Gorton said, that world conditions have changed. I do not suppose that greater changes have taken place anywhere in the world than in Asia where the people have desired in recent years to get rid of the yoke of colonialism. No doubt, at the beginning of the last world war when the Allies were anxious to obtain whatever assistance they could from the Asian countries, certain promises were made as to the future of individual countries. That would have been the only way in which we could have obtained the help that we desired. I do not think that the western world is entitled to much from Asia. The western world did not give Asia much. The United Kingdom, the United States of America, Germany and France went into China for what they could get out of that country. We did not try to help China. We were not overkind to China when Japan ravaged it four years prior to the commencement of World War II. The western world, including Australia, stood on one side. I have no desire to support the onward march of communism in any shape or form. But will the treaty that has been proposed commit this country to send troops into Asia? If what Senator Wordsworth said about the proposed treaty is correct, I will not support it. I want to know what the Government intends to do. Is it intended that British troops should be replaced by Australian troops in Malaya for the policing of that, country? No doubt if Australian troops were sent to Malaya they would stop the onward march of communism there, but the Government would want to retain the status quo in Malaya. Would that policy help the western cause? Of course not. For years the people of Asia have wanted better conditions. The only way to stop the onward march of communism is, not to rattle the sabre as the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) did, but to act more in accordance with the propositions put forward by the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey).
If the proposed organization comes into being what nations will be members of it? Will India and Pakistan? Up to date those countries have only said that they would attend the first conference. Will Ceylon become a member of the organization? Has the Government any guarantee that even New Zealand will be a member? It has no certainty that Great Britain will join the organization. At the moment only Thailand, Australia, and the United States have indicated their willingness to participate in the scheme. I am extremely grateful to the United States of America for what it did for this country in the last world war. It would be the basest ingratitude for any Australian not to appreciate what the United States of America did, but we do not have to agree to the foreign policy of the United States of America, in toto. Yet, if one does not agree in toto with the foreign policy of the United States of America one is accused of sympathizing with communism. I do not deny honorable senators opposite the right tr> express their beliefs, but a great awakening is taking place in the minds of people who are attempting to understand something that is new to them and to us. A few years ago we did not worry about foreign policy. Our safety was secure. But because of a change in world affairs we now find ourselves compelled to concern ourselves with foreign policy. We have to ask ourselves what is the best course for this country to take. I will not vote to send our troops into Asia, because I do not believe that such action would help this country. Before any commitments are made on behalf of this country honorable senators should be informed what those commitments are. Only if India, Pakistan, Ceylon, Burma, and other Asian countries, as well as the United States of America and the United Kingdom are included in the proposed organization will it have any chance of success. I do not think any honorable senator can be proud of the measures that have been taken for the defence of this country. I do not think that any honorable senator is opposed to the welfare of this nation although some of us may differ over methods of promoting that welfare. lt appeared to me from the speech of the Prime Minister that the treaty that he proposed was for the purpose of sending our troops into Asia. I do not believe in doing that.
– Why not? They are in Korea at the moment.
– 1 am not discussing Korea, and the less we say about the United Nations troops in Korea .the better. I do not think that such a reference helps the cause of the United Nations organization. T had very strong hopes when the United Nations organization was first inaugurated that the combined forces of the world would at least help in preserving peace. Each would send its quota to any part of the world where it was necessary for it to be sent in the interests of peace. I now ask for leave to continue my remarks at a later stage.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. A. D. Reid). - 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.
– Since I have beon a member of this Senate I have regarded it as part of my duty to see that Commonwealth public servants in Hobart work under proper conditions. Ever since 1947, the Commonwealth has been in possession of a building which it was proposed to reconstruct for occupation by a number of Commonwealth instrumentalities. Unfortunately, no progress is being made with the project. The situation at the moment is that the Taxation Branch is . housed in four different buildings in the city.
The main office is in a building owned by the State Government, which is eager to obtain, possession of it for its own purposes. The facilities provided for the public servants who work in the building are most unsuitable. I inspected the building recently and found that there is insufficient space to enable each clerk to have a desk at which to work. In some instances, the clerks have to queue up and wait until a desk is available before they can proceed with their work In addition, there are no rooms in which they may hang their hats and coats, which adorn the walla of the rooms in which they work. There is not sufficient room between the floor and the ceiling for all the filing cabinets that are necessary. 1 suggest that, unless action is taken within the next six months, the Taxation Branch officials will not be able to accept any additional returns because there will be no space in which to file them. When I was there, I saw a man crawling about in a small space of about three feet between the top of the files and the ceiling. When I asked the Deputy Commissioner of Taxation what he was doing there, the reply was that files which had come in recently had been placed there and that, in order to get at them, it was necessary for the man to crawl on top of the pile. I suggest that it is wrong for public servants to be obliged to work in such conditions. Although the number of taxpayers has increased from 70,000 to 140,000 since 1945, the office space available to officials has increased by only 10 per cent.
I should not have raised this matter so publicly had I not been aware that there is a building available in Hobart for purchase by the Commonwealth. 1 understand that it has been on offer for nine months. In my opinion, that building would be suitable for use by the Taxation Branch. It is of no use to private enterprise, because it is too hig. It has been admitted by those in authority that the building would be admirable for the purpose which I have suggested. The conditions to which I have referred have resulted in inefficiency, lack of health precautions, and an increasing lowering of the morale of the staff.
– I shall take the first opportunity to bring to the notice of my colleague, iiic Minister for the Interior (Mr. Kent Hughes), the matter raised by the honorable senator. I think it is one of great importance.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 11.7 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 11 August 1954, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1954/19540811_senate_21_s4/>.