23rd Parliament · 3rd Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Treasurer. When the recent Commonwealth census was taken, were Commonwealth public servants employed outside their ordinary working hours to perform certain classes of work in connexion therewith? Was an investigation made by the Treasurer to ascertain whether unemployed persons could have been given employment on some of the work relating to the collection of the census and the compilation of the information received?
– My understanding of this matter is that at least a good deal of the work in connexion with the taking of the census was done by people who were not otherwise employed at the time. I do not know the extent to which Commonwealth public servants were engaged on this work. I will discuss the question with my colleague, the Treasurer, and see whether I can obtain the information that the honorable senator seeks.
– Has the Minister for National Development considered the statement made by Mr. Calwell, Leader of the Opposition in another place, that if elected to office the Labour Party would increase to £4,000 the loan for a war service home? If the Minister has seen the statement and has had time to consider it, will he tell the Senate how much extra money would be required to put such a scheme into effect? From what source would the extra money come? If the maximum loan were increased to £4,000, would a greater or smaller number of homes be made available?
– As it happens I have some information on this matter. The information that I have with me in the Senate shows that with an allocation of £35,000,000 for the building of war service homes we can assist each year about 14,150 ex-servicemen to become home owners. The figure of 14,150 covers all classes of applications - that is, direct loans, transfers of existing loans and loans to build houses under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement. If the maximum loan were increased to £4,000, the present annual expenditure of £35,000,000 would be increased to a maximum of no less than £53,500,000, assuming that all persons entitled to do so took advantage of the increase in the maximum loan. That figure of £53,500,000 does not provide for additional applications that must result from such a substantial increase in the loan.
On the other side of the picture, if the maximum loan were increased to £4,000 but the allocation were retained at its existing level of £35,000,000, the number of ex-servicemen who could be assisted would fall from the present level of 14,150 to about 9,500 annually. So, on one side there would be an increase from £35,000,000 to £53,500,000 in the allocation, and I beg leave to state that no responsible exserviceman would hold that, in justice to other sections of the community, that amount of money should be provided for war service homes. On the other side, if the appropriation were maintained at its present very high level of £35,000,000, the number of ex-servicemen receiving this benefit would be reduced by no fewer than 4,650.
– My question, which is addressed to the Minister for the Navy, relates to a proposed visit to Western Australia by a Royal Navy task force. I believe that this visit was arranged but was subsequently cancelled. Can the Minister inform the Senate whether that was a firm cancellation or only a postponement? If it was only a postponement, can the Minister say when the visit may take place?
-No, I am not in a position to say when or whether such a visit will take place. It was to have been made by some Royal Navy ships after participating in exercises with ships of the Royal Australian Navy and other navies. In a sense, it was to be part of the commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Royal Australian Navy. At present I cannot say whether the cancellation is firm or whether, if it is not firm, a date for the visit can be stated. However, I will let the honorable senator know about this matter as soon as I can.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for National Development, as the Minister in charge of War Service Homes Division. Was he giving false and misleading information to the Senate when he said that 9,500 allocations for homes for ex-servicemen can be made annually from an appropriation of £35,000,000, because 9,500 loans would amount to £25,000,000? Will the Minister inform the Senate what happens to the £16,000,000 to £17,000,000 annually which is being repaid to the division by exservicemen? Does the Minister believe that £2,750 is sufficient to enable any man to build a home at present? Is it a fact that members of the Public Service in Canberra can borrow £6,000 on a deposit of £600? Why is there discrimination between exservicemen and members of the Public Service who genuinely want to build homes? Why does the Government so discriminate?
– I shall answer the last part of the question first. I do not think any one can do otherwise than admit that finance for the building of war service homes is provided on the most generous terms available in Australia. The maximum loan is £2,750, which is greater than the maximum loan available from savings banks and from most other sources. The interest rate of 33- per cent, is very much below the rate at which money is obtainable elsewhere. I make bold to claim that the provision of finance by the War Service Homes Division is one of the most important repatriation benefits that ex-servicemen receive. That, I think, is the answer to the honorable senator’s question. I do not believe that he really thinks I make false statements.
I am citing the actual figures when I say that we are now financing 14,150 war service homes each year. It has been computed that if the maximum advance were increased to £4,000, expenditure would rise to £53,500,000 a year. We have also to take into account that an increase in the maximum advance would result in an increase in building activity, with a consequent increase in building costs. There would then be added responsibilities for ex-servicemen, who would have to pay back greater loans for more expensive buildings. One of the very good things that has been happening in recent months is that the cost of war service homes has been falling.
– My question, which is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Trade, relates to the statement of the Minister for Trade that France has agreed to withhold for another year exports of subsidized flour to Australia’s traditional markets in South-East Asia. Can the Minister state the amount of Australian flour exported in the last trading year, particularly to those markets? To which countries has flour been exported? What are the possibilities of extending the trade in flour?
– Senator McCallum told me that he intended to ask a question on this subject. Because of the interest and importance of the matter I had a statement prepared in the Department of Trade. The value of Australian flour exported last year was £18,900,000. It was exported to Ceylon, Malaya, Singapore, the United Kingdom, Indonesia, the Persian Gulf, Aden, Mauritius, the Pacific Islands, Thailand, and to a number of smaller markets. Regarding the possibilities for expansion of trade, it is pointed out that the flour export industry has many problems. Some previously important markets have developed their own flour milling industries and others are planning to do so. In other markets our trade has been affected by balance-of-payments difficulties and by subsidized European competition.
Recent experience has shown that there is a need for great vigilance on the part of the Government and the Australian flourmilling industry to retain the markets that we have. For example, during the last few days the Minister for Trade has announced that an agreement with France has been re-negotiated. Under it, France has agreed to exercise restraint on her flour exports to our traditional markets in South-East Asia. A similar agreement was made with Germany last year. In addition, trade agreements with Malaya, Ceylon and Indonesia have enabled us to preserve those very important flour markets. The Australian flour millers have been very active in the pursuit of new business, and the Department of Trade and the Trade Commissioner Service have devoted a great deal of time to assisting them in their efforts. In fact, exports of flour in 1960-61 were higher than in the previous two years.
– Can the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service supply the Senate with official figures showing the number of unemployed on 30th June, 1960, and on 30th June, 1961? Can he also inform honorable senators how many migrants were in hostels or holding camps, whichever term is appropriate, on 30th June, 1960, and 30th June, 1961?
– That information is available to any honorable senator who cares to look at the figures published by the Commonwealth Statistician for 30th June, 1960, and 30th June, 1961. Those figures show the number of unemployed in each State. However, if Senator Aylett is unable to look up the published information 1 shall endeavour to make it available to him. I shall see whether I can obtain for him the number of migrants who were in camps on 30th June, 1960, and 30th June, 1961. If he is seeking in any way to tie up that information with receipt of the unemployment benefit, I point out that migrants in camps and hostels receive special allowances while they are waiting for employment.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Postmaster-General. Some months ago, I asked the Postmaster-General whether certain steps could be taken to simplify the ascertaining of extended local service area numbers in the telephone book. I received an answer which was almost impossible to understand and which was certainly a more complete puzzle than was the finding of the numbers themselves. If, however, the sum total of it all is that due to reasons which are incomprehensible to the average user simplification of those exchanges is not feasible, now that we are to have a good
South Australian with typical South Australian clarity of thought as the DirectorGeneral of Posts and Telegraphs, will the Postmaster-General take up with him the matter of eliminating at least a few of the average telephone users’ frustrations by listing in large clear type on the first page of the book in every State the most commonly used numbers such as those for trunk-line calls, telegrams, the. police and the fire brigade, and include in the book an information service so that at least city users, who constitute the majority of users, may ask for information as to how to dial extended local service area telephone numbers?
– I discussed this very important matter with the PostmasterGeneral quite recently, together with other suggestions that have been made for improvements to the directory. He said that some improvements had been effected, that others were pending and that some more were still under consideration. I think that perhaps the best service I could render to Senator Buttfield would be to take up this matter with the Postmaster-General and ask him to furnish her with a specific written reply.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Trade whether he can indicate in what industries to date action has been taken under the emergency tariff legislation which was passed last year to afford protection against overseas competition and consequently to protect employment in them.
– I am sure that 1 answered a similar question last week. I obtained from the Department of Trade a list of all the special applications that had been made, the number that had been approved, those that had been refused and those which were pending. I hesitate to rely on my memory, but I think approximately 24 applications had been made. Decisions on two of them were pending, about three had been refused, and the others had been approved and adopted by the Government. If the honorable senator places on the notice-paper the balance of the question, which has to do with the particular industries concerned, I shall have the information obtained for him and also will correct, if correction is needed, the figures I have given.
– Can the Minister for Customs and Excise tell me whether representatives of the tobacco industry, who conferred recently with Ministers of the Commonwealth Government, have received any advice about what is to be done to overcome the present difficulties of the industry, particularly in Western Australia, and, if so, what was the advice? If no advice was given, what further information is required by the Ministers before representatives of the industry can be made aware of what the Government proposes to do about the low prices received for tobacco recently, particularly in Western Australia?
– Representatives of the Australian Tobacco Council came to see us last week. A technical committee has been formed by the tobacco-growers’ associations to inquire into the difficulties faced by the tobacco industry throughout Australia. The Commonwealth and State Governments, I understand, will make available technical officers to assist the committee to arrive at its findings, so that the industry will be able to present a case to the Government, supported by facts and statistics, for the assistance that it thinks is necessary.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Trade. It arises from an answer given to me yesterday to the effect that the Commonwealth Statistician did not know the country of origin of the reindeer steaks at present on sale in some Australian cities. Will the Minister inform me whether it is the duty of the Commonwealth Statistician or of the officers of the Department of Trade to have some knowledge of the countries of origin of imports into Australia? If the country of origin of reindeer steaks and other luxury foods is not known, are we to assume that it is customary for imports to come in under a blanket permit, so that goods of any kind can be imported, irrespective of customs and tariff provisions, and with no regard for Australian food processing industries?
– I think my colleague, the Minister for Customs and Excise, could answer the question better than I can, but I will do- my best. I am positive that no goods come into this country without the country of origin being shown on the invoice. I am also positive that it would not be reasonable to expect the Department of Trade to take over the functions of the Commonwealth Statistician. All the figures that we use are based on the preliminary figures that come from the Commonwealth Statistician. We turn to the Statistician to get the information we want. He provides a good statistical service, but there are deficiencies in it. It is impossible to keep up to date all the information that is needed.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister representing the Treasurer, refers to the report of the expert committee on taxation under the chairmanship of Sir George Ligertwood. This report, I understand, recommended important changes in the taxation laws, some of which favoured the Government to the extent of £14,000,000, and others of which favoured the taxpayer. Is it correct, as was stated by the Adelaide “ News “ in an editorial on 21st August, that, according to an announcement by the Treasurer, certain of the proposals which favour the Government are to be made effective immediately, but those which favour the taxpayers will be given further consideration?
– I think the statement made by the Treasurer subsequent to the release of the report of the committee made it clear that one category of the recommendations dealt with tax avoidance. The Government, naturally, would have to give consideration to recommendations which were designed, not only to protect the revenues of the country, but also to ensure that the intention of the Parliament was implemented
– And to protect other taxpayers.
– And to protect other taxpayers as a result. It seems odd to me that action on tax avoidance - I use the term tax avoidance rather than tax evasion - should be construed as an attack upon the taxpayers. In point of fact, all that the recommendations seek to do is to see that the wish of the Parliament is fulfilled, and that is precisely what the Government intends to do.
– I preface a question to the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior and Minister for Works by reminding him that on 20th April last I asked him a question regarding the method of calling for tenders for work to be done for government departments. The Minister promised to ask his colleague in another place to supply me with the information I had sought. On 9th June, I wrote to Senator Wade on the same subject. I now ask the Minister whether he did refer my question of 20th April to his colleague and, if so, whether he has anything to report in relation to it. Secondly, does the Minister intend to reply to my letter to him of 9th June and, if he does, can he indicate the approximate date on which I can expect to receive his reply?
– I certainly did refer the question that was asked by Senator Willesee on 20th April to my colleague, the Minister for Works, and I am surprised to hear that the honorable senator has not been informed of the Minister’s comment on the matters that he raised. I have no knowledge of receiving a letter that the honorable senator says he sent to me on 9th June. I shall certainly institute a search for it. I assure the honorable senator that there has been no intention to slight him in this matter. I regret that he has not had a reply to the letter but, as I have said, I have no knowledge of having received it. I will certainly make a search for it and I will endeavour to let the honorable senator have forthwith the information he seeks.
– I direct a question to the Minister for National Development. Has he noticed a report in this week’s press to the effect that an investor in America proposes to spend £500,000 annually on the search for oil in Australia? In view of the facts that the Government is granting drilling and geological seismograph subsidies of up to 50 per cent., that it is allowing to be written off from profits for taxation pur poses the whole of the expenditure on exploration and development before taxation is incurred, and that it is allowing as a taxation deduction 100 per cent, of calls to people who subscribe capital to Australian oil search companies, will the Minister advise me whether his department or the Government has taken any active steps to advertise these concessions abroad with a view to attracting overseas capital to help in the vital search for oil in Australia?
– Senator Scott does well to enumerate all the incentives that are given in connexion with the search for oil in Australia. I doubt whether any other country is doing more than Australia is doing to make the search for oil attractive. I have not previously heard the suggestion that we should advertise these concessions overseas. I think that suggestion is worthy of a good deal of thought, and I shall give consideration to it. I inform the honorable senator, in answer to the third part of his question, concerning a person in America who proposes to invest £500,000 annually in the search for oil in Australia, that 1 have been trying to find that person ever since I read the newspaper report. My department informs me that it has not had any personal contact with him. If my memory serves me correctly, the newspaper report stated that two persons in America intended to spend £500,000 a year on the search for oil in Australia. My department holds the view that apparently there has been some negotiation in connexion with the matter with a private company; but so far we have not been able to obtain any information about it.
– I should like to ask the Minister for the Navy a question. Recently, there has been much publicity concerning military and naval development in Indonesia. Will the Minister inform the Senate how the Royal Australian Navy compares, in terms of strength and fighting power, with the Indonesian navy?
– I do not think that comparisons of the sort mentioned by the honorable senator can properly be made in the Senate. If he cares to talk this matter over with me, I shall give him some general views on it, but I do not propose to make comparisons in the Senate of the fighting strength of Australia and its nearest neighbour in the north.
Report of the Public Accounts Committee.
– On behalf of the Public Accounts Committee, I present the following report: -
Fifty-third report - The reports of the AuditorGeneral Financial Year 1959-60.
This fifty-third report is only the second report of the Public Accounts Committee to be based exclusively on the annual reports of the Auditor-General but this inquiry, and the previous one, have confirmed the necessity for a close scrutiny of the matters commented on by the Auditor-General.
There are two matters arising from our inquiries and to which the committee would like to make particular reference. One is the apparent lack of attention which has been shown by some departments to the comments made each year by the AuditorGeneral. Examples include the delay by service departments in completing legislation - a matter to which reference was made at some length in the committee’s fiftieth report. Our investigations have again disclosed instances of these delays and in one case, the comments had been made annually by successive AuditorsGeneral since 1943.
The second relates to the action taken by a statutory authority in connexion with pay and conditions for staff. The committee understands that it is usually the practice to require these authorities to seek the approval of the Public Service Board to the action proposed in these matters and this would appear to be both a reasonable and desirable requirement. The Public Accounts Committee is concerned that any departure from this practice might occur. The particular instance investigated is still under consideration by the Department of the Treasury who on becoming aware of the circumstances sought certain legal advice which was still awaited at the time of our inquiry.
The Senate will be familiar with the form of the Auditor-General’s reports which comprise a series of paragraphs each dealing with a particular matter. As these deal with a number of unrelated subjects the committee’s report necessarily is in the form, of separate chapters. Each chapter deals, with a particular topic and our comments appear in this report at the conclusion of each chapter.
Ordered to be printed.
Motion (by Senator Spooner) - by leave- - agreed to -
That leave of absence for two months be granted, to Senator Pearson on the ground of ill health.
Debate resumed from 17th August (videpage 107), on motion by Senator Spooner -
That the following paper -
Australia and the Common Market - Statement by the Prime Minister dated 16th- August, 1961 - be printed.
Upon which Senator McKenna had moved by way of amendment -
Leave out all words after “ That “, insert “ the Senate, while declaring that the United Kingdom’s move to join the Common Market requires the strongest action to protect Australia’s interests, expresses no confidence in this Government’s ability to provide it because of its lack of foresight and frankness in this matter, its dilatoriness now, and it continuing failure, as demonstrated by the Prime Minister’s speech, to appreciate the real issues which are involved “.
– When speaking on Thursday night on this matter, I made it clear that a good deal of what we anticipate from the action of Great Britain in negotiating to enter the European Common Market is conjectural. I have attempted to ascertain all the facts that are available. For example, I have gone through a list of the articles that we export to the European countries concerned, one by one, and have tried to get the best possible opinion on whether a market for a particular article would continue to be available. It appears certain that if the United Kingdom enters the European Economic Community unconditionally - I stress the word “ unconditionally “ - certain of our export industries will suffer heavy losses, notably the wheat, dairy produce and canned meat industries.
Fortunately, the wool industry will not suffer. As far as any information can be obtained about wool, the market will continue and may improve. But before any of these things happen, some years will elapse. As I pointed out on Thursday last the European Economic Community has not yet established its agricultural policy, and it has the large task of establishing a big free trading area with a common agricultural policy and with wages and social services tending towards equality - they are very unequal at the moment. Those things will have to happen in all of the six countries now included in the European Economic Community, and also in Great Britain and possibly - even probably - in Denmark, Switzerland, Sweden and the remainder of the countries that are known as The Seven.
I wish to make it plain that although on Thursday last I gave what 1 think was a very hopeful picture of the Common Market, not only as it concerns us, but also as it concerns the rest of the world, I am not happy to contemplate the creation of a vast national economic community - a big unit finding markets for all the products of each individual country within the borders of that community and shutting out, possibly by a high tariff, although I do not think that will happen, and by quotas and prohibitions all the goods from the rest of the world. [ do not believe that is the prospect that faces us. The Government and its supporters have faced that prospect as a bleak possibility for the industry of this country. We have never lost sight of that possibility. But the primary aim of the European Economic Community is the creation of a large area for free trade. That in itself is a good thing.
The community aims at free trade within its borders. It aims at free movement of investment and labour, which is in complete contrast to what is happening in eastern Europe and northern and central Asia. That contrast is brought home to us very well to-day when we find that in what is loudly and largely advertised as a heaven on earth, bayonets and tanks are being used to keep people in paradise. I once read Dante’s “ Inferno “ in which he described another place in which people were held against their will - and it was not paradise!
I make this point not only to the Senate but, I hope, to all of our friends in overseas countries: It will be to the benefit of this great community to maintain trading relations with overseas Europe, that is, with all the former colonies of European countries. That means Australia in particular, because we are the product of European colonization. So far we have not found it impossible to do business with countries that are members of the Common Market. An answer to a question asked in the Senate to-day indicated that Australia has recently ( signed trade agreements with two of the most important members of The Sue - France and Germany. I do not think it will be any harder to make such arrangements when Great Britain has joined the Common Market.
I wish now to look at the political structure, because fears have been expressed that the United Kingdom will lose sovereignty by entering the Common Market. The sovereignty of the United Kingdom has in the past been restrained by treaties. Wars have been entered into because treaties demanded it. I do not think that in the future the restraint on sovereignty will be any greater than that which may be imposed by treaties, because so far the entire foundation of the European Economic Community is a treaty. Sovereignty still resides in the parliaments of the member nations of the community.
The European Economic Community aims at peace - peace in lands that have been ravished by war since the time of Julius Caesar and even, I presume, before then. The only real menace of war comes from the East. It is not idle to say that we need to strengthen all the free nations of the world. We do not wish to be entirely dependent on the one great free nation - the United States of America - which in power, wealth and productive capacity corresponds to the eastern tyranny. The strength and wealth of the Common Market will enable member countries to preserve national independence. Even a small country like Luxembourg, which would otherwise be overrun by a tyranny, will retain all of its ancient customs. The little Channel Islands will continue to go their own peaceful way under the sovereignty of the Duchess of
Normandy, who happens to be Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth.
Fear has been expressed for the future of the Empire. It has been said that the United Kingdom, as a member of the Common Market, will no longer be the leader of the British Commonwealth of Nations that she has been in the past. Certainly, her position will be modified, but it will not be weaker. I think that the United Kingdom will be economically stronger. If she stayed out of the Common 0 Market there is a danger that she would become progressively weaker. We all know that to-day Britain’s influence on the Commonwealth of Nations is not what it was in our youth. That influence has changed from year to year and has gradually declined. Britain’s position of predominance is no longer what it was. But, I do not think that Britain’s position as head of the Commonwealth of Nations will be weakened by her entry into the Common Market.
If the community becomes in a few years a vast new area for free trade, with customs barriers and quotas, I hope that it will not mean death to the interests of Europeans who now live overseas. I speak particularly of Australia. I hope that Australia may be admitted to the community as an associate state. The entry of a country on that basis is provided for in the treaty. One state outside The Six - Greece - has already applied for admission as an associate state. If that cannot be done by Australia, I hope that we can still make satisfactory trading arrangements with countries of the community. There was a time when virtually everybody in Australia looked to the British Isles only. They were the home of our fathers. But to-day many of Australia’s citizens, and in future an increasing number, will look not to Great Britain, but to western Europe. We should tell the countries of Europe that Australia is the child of Europe. Let us hope that we shall not be treated as an unwanted child and left on somebody’s door step. It is all very well to say that Australia can trade with Asia and countries of the Pacific, but to do so is not easy and would not be as profitable as trading with Europe because many Asian and Pacific countries have a low purchasing power.
I think that a larger consideration of statesmanship will prevent the European
Economic Community from becoming a mere narrow trading community. The statesmen and people of Europe will realize that they cannot leave Australia - the only continent that is one nation - to drift into poverty. If the tide turned and our sons and grandsons had to emigrate back to Europe in order to live a decent life it would be a very poor return for centuries of European migration to this country.
I support the motion. I reject the amendment, which I think is quite irrelevant and which has been moved only because it is the Opposition’s duty to oppose the Government. The Government has foreseen and made provision for the possible entry of the United Kingdom into the Common Market. I can assure all the Australian people for whom we stand as trustees that our intention is to continue along that path and see that if sacrifices have to be made in respect of the European Common Market they will not fall exclusively on the particular section of the community which happens to be threatened but will be spread over the whole community. It is the responsibility of the Australian nation to see that if there is suffering all Australians participate in it, and ultimately when there is gain we will all share in that gain.
.- At present we are discussing the proposed entry of the United Kingdom into the European Common Market and also the effects that such entry will have upon the primary industries of Australia and upon the Australian economy generally. I was present in the Senate on Thursday last and heard the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Henty) deliver a speech on this very important subject. It is very important because the matters related to the main question are serious from the Australian stand-point. I do not think that honorable senators on the Government benches, apart from the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner), have realized fully the seriousness of the problem. Since Senator Spooner read the Prime Minister’s statement in the Senate recently he has not looked’ happy at all.
I can see that if the United Kingdom proceeds with its intention to join the Common Market the standard of living in Australia could very easily be considerably reduced and we could all share in the- reduction of income. This move will change the outlook of Australia completely unless in some manner we can make good the export income that we will certainly lose if the United Kingdom carries out her intention. When Senator Henty was speaking last Thursday his speech was being broadcast. He laid aside his boomerang and spears, ruffled his emu feathers, put his hands in the air and said -
There should not be any doubt in anybody’s mind that the Australian Government will not give away £1 of its export income.
Half of his audience outside the Parliament said, “ Oh yes? “ and the other six - because 1 feel sure that only a dozen people were listening to him - said, “ Pigs to that “. Senator Henty made that statement, but the Government has never given away very much money in any form to the State of Queensland. Senator Henty meant to say that no one would lose £1 of export income because of the actions the Government proposed to take. What action does the Government propose to take as a result of the entry of the United Kingdom into the Common Market? The Government is not clear about what action it will take. It may appoint additional trade commissioners and send them to other parts of the world. Over the years the United Kingdom has been a sure market for Australia’s excess agricultural produce. The payments have always been assured and we have never had any conflict. Certainly, we have always purchased from the United Kingdom more than we have sold to her. It has been advantageous to the United Kingdom for her to trade with Australia. As I proceed with my story I will unfold to honorable senators how that trade has been advantageous to the United Kingdom. I will also refer to some of the problems that will arise immediately prior to her joining the Common Market or immediately after she joins it.
Senator Henty made another statement which I cannot let pass without a reply. It is very rarely indeed that I refer to statements made by previous speakers, but on this occasion I am doing so. Senator Henty said -
In 19S6 this Government set up the Department of Trade as a separate ministry.
Why did the Government do that? Was it to enlarge Australia’s export trade throughout the world? No, it was not. It was because of the sorry mess that existed in respect of import licences in 1956. That was the first thing that compelled the Government to set up a separate Department of Trade. Senator Henty also said that in 1949 Australia had seventeen trade commissioners. Of course, he indicated quite clearly to me that when the Labour Government was in office it appointed only seventeen trade commissioners to attend to Australia’s overseas sales. He said that there are now 37 trade commissioners in 28 countries. I, and every other honorable senator, know that that information is correct. However, up till 1952 Australia’s excess agricultural produce was sold to the British Government. The trading was between the Australian Government and the British Government and therefore it was not necessary to appoint trade commissioners in all countries to sell our excess agricultural produce. The Minister also referred to Australia’s adverse trade balance with the United Kingdom over the last ten years. He said that that will be a bargaining power. I do not believe in coercion, not even in international trade. I believe it was quite, out of place for him to refer to that.
The matters related to this main question are very serious indeed. When you are dealing with the Common Market or a local market you have to make an investigation which will show the number of people to be fed, clothed, housed and so on; you have to ascertain their culture and their productive power. You also have to see what industries they have. That is most essential. Western Europe is a highly industrialized area because over the centuries it has been engaged in wars and it was compelled to have manufacturing industries. Likewise, it was compelled to develop its agricultural industries more than Australia has ever been so compelled. As a matter of fact, the development of Western Europe’s agricultural industries was a feature of her defence programme. AH the countries in the Common Market produce almost the whole of their agricultural requirements. The Netherlands is one of the countries which export agricultural products. If we have a quick glimpse at the agricultural production of the United Kingdom and the six countries in the Common Market we get an idea of the extent to which they are engaged in agricultural pursuits and the part that agricultural products play in the national income.
The United Kingdom has 5 per cent, of her total population engaged in agricultural pursuits. The value of her agricultural production amounts to 4 per cent, of the national income. Belgium employs 13 per cent, of her population in her agricultural industries, and the value of her agricultural production amounts to 7 per cent, of the national income. Western Germany has 23 per cent, of her population so engaged, while the value of agricultural production is 7 per cent, of the national income. In Switzerland, 16 per cent, of the population is engaged in agricultural production, which accounts for 8 per cent, of the national income. The Netherlands has 19 per cent., or almost one-fifth of her population, engaged in agriculture. The value of agricultural production in that country amounts to 12 per cent, of the national income. In France, agriculture is more important than in the other countries I have mentioned. Twenty-eight per cent, of the population is engaged in agriculture, and the value of agricultural production amounts to 14 per cent, of the national income. Italy is an agricultural country. Thirty-three of every 100 Italians are engaged in agriculture. The value of agricultural production in that country accounts for 20 per cent, of the national income.
I have mentioned those matters, Mr. Acting Deputy President, because what is being done in those countries at the present time is, in effect, to erect a barricade against the sale of Australian primary products in the future. It is essential, when you are dealing with a marketing problem, to find out how many mouths have to be fed and how many bodies have to be clothed. So far during this debate in the Senate I have not heard stated the real value of the European market to Australia. I have ascertained that the populations of the member countries of the European Common Market are as follows: - Western Germany, 53.000,000; France, 45,000,000; Italy, 51,000,000; The Netherlands, 11,000,000; Belgium, 9,000,000; and Luxembourg, 500,000; making a total of 169,500,000. That is by no means a small market. The population of those countries is almost as great as that of the
United States of America. For our purposes, we have to add to that figure the population of the United Kingdom, which is 51,000,000, so that we must calculate the number of mouths to be fed and bodies to be clothed as 220,500,000. I think you will agree with me, Sir, that a market of those proportions is not one to be scoffed at by any country.
An honorable senator, in discussing this very important subject last week, referred to the Indonesian Republic, which has a population of 80,000,000 people. He also referred to Japan, with which Australia has a trade treaty. As we know, Japan’s population is 93,000,000. If we add together the populations of Indonesia and Japan, we get a total of 173,000,000, which is still not nearly as great as the total population of the European countries to which I have referred.
Senator Henty mentioned the treaties that we have with some of the Asiatic countries, and the understandings that we have arrived at with other countries. But even if we had trading arrangements with those countries they would not provide markets of the value that the United Kingdom market has had for us. Many of the people of Asia do not eat the food that we produce here, nor do they clothe themselves in the way that we do. They are not housed in the same way. They have a different culture entirely. They are different people from those of the United Kingdom and the European Common Market countries. Naturally, the European market is a very attractive one from the Australian aspect.
What effect will Britain’s entry to the Common Market have on our industries, and which industries will be most affected? It was stated during the debate that Britain’s decision would not seriously affect the Australian wool industry. I believe that to be so, because some of the countries within the Common Market have purchased wool in the past and I feel sure they will continue to do so. But in regard to Australian dairy products the outlook is very grim. I stress the fact that Australia’s economy over the years has been built on one main factor - that of having a surplus of agricultural products to export overseas. If we cannot export our surplus agricultural products in the future as freely as we have in the past, -economic and social problems of serious magnitude are going to arise within Australia.
I point out that the United Kingdom has been taking 90 per cent, of Australian surplus dairy produce. There has been a ready market for that produce and payment has been assured. The value of the exports has amounted to £27,000,000 a year. In relation to it, we received £1 per cent, of preference over competitors. If that market is to go by the board it will have a serious effect on the finances of the Commonwealth.
– Leaving out the £13,250,000 subsidy-
– The subsidy is a bagatelle when we are considering the dairying industry throughout the Commonwealth. If we have to make good by way of subsidy what we lose in income as a result of the entry of the United Kingdom into the Common Market it will be a poor lookout for the people of Australia. The honorable senator must appreciate that Australian butter is sold on the United Kingdom market at a lower price than that for which it is sold locally. That is part and parcel of the dairy industry equalization scheme. If that scheme is to be scrapped because of the entry of the United Kingdom to the Common Market, that too will be a serious blow to the Australian dairy industry. If we are not in the future to have the opportunity to export our excess dairy products, we shall be living in an over-developed country. That will be one of the results of the proposal we are discussing.
If Australia wishes to export commodities to the Common Market countries, of which the United Kingdom will be one, it will have to pay a 24 per cent, tariff, because that rate has already been fixed in respect of the Common Market countries. To get our agricultural products into the Common Market area, Australia will have to meet a tariff at that rate, whereas previously it enjoyed a preferential tariff at the rate of £1 per cent, on agricultural products sold to the United Kingdom, the value of which amounted to as much as £27,000,000 a year. I mention these matters to point out to the Senate how serious the situation is and how it should be viewed.
A guaranteed price exists for wheat and h ia payable, I think, for a quantity of up to 100,000,000 bushels. The nations which comprise the Common Market do not require wheat; they do not import it. But the United Kingdom has always been an easy market for the sale of Australian wheat. In the past Britain has taken 23 per cent, of all the wheat we have exported. The value of wheat exported there is approximately £61,000,000 per annum. It is believed that, if Britain enters the Common Market, she will be able to obtain some of her wheat supplies from the countries that are within that organization. So if wheat is imported by Britain, it will have to be imported free of any charge. But it will be used preferably for stock food and not for milling purposes.
Now I come to the matter of meat, a commodity which affects Queensland seriously. In the past Australia has found in the United Kingdom a very good market for the meat she has had available for export. That market has been almost as good in the past as it is at the present time. Australia has benefited to the extent of £40,000,000 per annum from her exports of that commodity. The United Kingdom has taken almost half of the total quantity of meat we have exported. Perhaps some honorable senator who follows me in this debate will be able to tell me how we are going to make good that £40,000,000 on the export market. Not all countries are inhabited by meat-eating people. We are a meat-eating race, and the people who live in the countries which comprise the Common Market eat meat. Probably we will be able to improve upon our sales of meat within the Common Market area. I know that the inhabitants of some countries within that region eat horse flesh. We may be successful in converting them from the eating of potential Melbourne Cup winners to the eating of Australian bullocks. The United Kingdom has allowed meat to be imported free of tariff. However, if we export meat to the Common Market countries, the tariff will be as high as 20 per cent. The imposition of such a tariff may make all the difference to our capacity to produce and export meat to that area. So, having regard to all the factors that probably will operate if Britain joins the Common Market, it is doubtful whether we will have a very bright market for our product within that region.
Now I come to another matter that is dear to my heart - the sale of Queensland sugar. In the past the United Kingdom has been very generous. In 1959 she took 58 per cent, of our exports of sugar. That sale was worth £26,700,000 and was very helpful to the Australian sugar industry. That is not a small sum when we consider the total income we receive from the various commodities we export. The bulk of the remainder of our exports of sugar went to Commonwealth countries. Sugar exported to the United Kingdom carries a preference of from 10 per cent, to 15 per cent. If we lose the concessions that we have been receiving from the United Kingdom for a number of years, our sugar industry will suffer a serious blow, more particularly when we take into account the high freights we now have to pay between Australia and the United Kingdom. The United Kingdom has three scales of duty for sugar - the full scale, a preferential scale, and a special scale which is applicable to certain dependencies. All the duties are specific. Britain has a seven-year contract with Australia, under which she has undertaken to buy a certain quantity of sugar for seven years. The agreement is a rather peculiar one, because it can be extended for one year at the end of every year. The present agreement does not expire until 1968, and I shall certainly be watching it to see what will happen if the United Kingdom should decide finally to join the Common Market.
It is doubtful whether we will be able to sell any sugar at all to the United Kingdom should she join the Common Market. The six countries which at present comprise that organization produce their own sugar from beet. They have their own mills and are able to manufacture a sugar which satisfies their requirements. However, in terms of sweetness and quality generally, it cannot be compared with the Australian product. During periods of war Britain has been compelled to manufacture foodstuffs, and sugar is one of the commodities that she has been able to manufacture. The countries which comprise the Common Market at the present time may say they are quite capable of manufacturing sugar from beet and do not intend to import sugar. So I should like to know where we would find a market for the excess sugar we produce. I am concerned about this matter,
Mr. Acting Deputy President, because at least 500,000 people in Queensland obtain a livelihood from the sugar industry. We consume locally almost half of the sugar we produce; the other half is exported. Fortunately, we have been able to export it at a fairly high price. But if our sugar income is halved, it will have an effect on every soul within the borders of Queensland.
– You will be a bit sour.
– Yes. Now I come to the small man’s industry - fruit-growing. We export fruit. I am amazed that some honorable senators on the Government benches have not dealt with this matter. They have not outlined, as far as I know, what the situation will be if the United Kingdom should join the Common Market.
– We have not finished the debate yet.
– The honorable senator has had an opportunity to speak, and I should have thought that he, with his great knowledge of New South Wales and the Commonwealth generally, would have dealt with this important though comparatively small industry. It is important, because many people in Australia are obtaining a living from the growing of fruit. When I look at the picture of the United Kingdom market in respect of fresh fruit and fruit that is preserved by the use of cold air, this is what I see: The quantity of fruit exported annually is worth £9,300,000 to Australia, or to those engaged in the fruit industry in this country.
– Can you supply the figures?
– I will give details later. I thought that, being a Minister and due to follow me in this debate, you would be able to give the information to me.
– I am interested because I am a fruit-grower.
– Your product comes into it.’ Anything that you did not sell in the way of fresh fruit would be preserved by refrigeration and sent overseas. The total annual value of our exports of such fruit to the United Kingdom is £9,300,000. That quantity represents 56 per cent, of the fruit we produce in Australia. We send to the United Kingdom more than we consume here. Where are we to find a substitute for that market? You cannot send fresh fruit to Indonesia, Japan and other Asiatic countries.
The picture in regard to canned fruit is even worse. The United Kingdom took up to 90 per cent, of our canned fruit last year, the value of the imports amounting to £12,400,000. We may as well say that she took the lot. What other market could we find? Are the 38 trade commissioners about whom Senator Henty spoke last week trying to find other overseas markets for this canned fruit? We have a preferential tariff in the United Kingdom for the fruit I have just mentioned. If we were to find a market within the European Common Market, we would have to meet the high tariffs that would be imposed..
I come now to some fruits that interest many honorary senators. I refer to dried fruits, which include currants, raisins and sultanas. The value of those fruits sold overseas last year was £9,100,000, and exports to the United Kingdom accounted for 51 per cent, of that sum. More than one-half of our exports of dried fruits went to the United Kingdom. I pose this question: What will happen to our wine-manufacturing industry? Up to the present we have been able to sell Australian wines in the United Kingdom, but I say positively that if the United Kingdom joined the Common Market no Australian wines would be admitted to that market.
The United Kingdom in the past has taken two-thirds of our total exports of fresh fruits, preserved fruits and tinned fruits. Mr. Acting Deputy President, I understand that my time has expired. I have a good deal more information to supply to the Senate and I hope that I shall have another opportunity to speak on this subject.
Senator Sir WALTER COOPER (Queensland) [4.20]. - This afternoon we are discussing the entry of Great Britain into the European Common Market. The possible effect of that upon Australia, particularly upon Australian primary products, has been exercising the minds of many Australians and the Australian Government for a long time. The Opposition, led by Senator McKenna, has moved an amendment to the motion that the paper be printed. In that amendment, the Opposition accuses the Government of lack of foresight and frankness, and of dilatoriness in appreciating the real issues involved if the United Kingdom joins the European Common Market.
The members of the European Common Market organization are Belgium, France, West Germany, Italy, Luxembourg and the Netherlands. The objectives of the organization include the removal of trade barriers between those countries and the maintenance of a single tariff against imports from countries outside the Common Market. That means that the European countries which are members of the organization will form a bloc that will gradually do away with internal tariffs. They will not do away with those tariffs immediately, but it is their aim to do so within a few years.
Probably many people desire to know why the United Kingdom did not join the Common Market in the first place. The market was formulated by the Treaty of Rome in 1957 and came into being the following year. The reason why the United Kingdom did not immediately join, as I understand the position, was that, on joining, it would have had to forgo the importation of goods from Commonwealth countries on the basis upon which those goods are imported at present. The bulk of our exports, not only to the United Kingdom but to other countries, is comprised of primary products. Those products have had a traditional market in the United Kingdom for many years past. The United Kingdom has allowed our primary products to enter duty free in some cases and, in other cases, on payment of a preferential tariff duty.
At the present time Australian trade relations with the United Kingdom are based on the United Kingdom-Australia Trade Agreement of 1956, which is really a re-negotiation of the Ottawa Agreement of 1932. For 30 years Australia and other Commonwealth countries have been able to send their primary products into the United Kingdom either free of duty or under preferential tariffs. Great Britain has become the traditional market for the Commonwealth countries, and many of those countries, including Australia, have geared their primary production to the types of goods that were wanted in the United Kingdom. Under the trade agreement that I mentioned a moment ago, primary products enter Great Britain duty free and, in addition, preference is granted to many Australian products, such as dairy products and fruit. However, this was not one-way traffic, but two-way traffic, because Australia and other Commonwealth countries extended preferences to goods that were exported by the United Kingdom. However, it is true to say that as a rule the Commonwealth countries depended far more on their goods being bought by the United Kingdom market than the United Kingdom depended on its goods being bought by the Commonwealth countries. Consequently, Australia and the other Commonwealth countries will feel the loss of their market in Great Britain more than Great Britain will feel the loss of some of its markets in the Commonwealth countries.
Butter, which is one of the most important primary products of Australia, has been and is at the present time allowed entry into the United Kingdom free of any duty at all. Some of the European countries that have been very large producers of butter, such as Denmark and France, have been at a disadvantage compared with Commonwealth countries for many years. At the present time, they have to pay duty on their goods that enter the United Kingdom, whereas goods from Australia and other Commonwealth countries enter duty free. As Senator Benn has mentioned, for many years past more than half of Australia’s production of dried fruit has been taken by the United Kingdom market, and consequently our dried fruit has not had to compete with the dried fruit of Italy and other countries that have been engaged in the production of dried fruits for generations. Australia has enjoyed a preference in this regard in that duty has not been charged on Australian dried fruit entering the United Kingdom, whereas dried fruits produced by Italy and other countries have been subject to such duty.
Under the terms of the European Common Market, this process will be reversed. If the United Kingdom is accepted into the European^ Common Market bloc, instead of our dried fruit being admitted duty free into the United Kingdom, as it has been for the past 31 years, the Australian growers will be charged duty, but dried fruit from Italy will be admitted into the United Kingdom free of any duty at all. Australia will not be able to compete with the countries of the Common Market because, in addition to our costs of production being higher than the costs of production in those countries, we will be confronted with a high tariff; we will not be able to sell our goods in the United Kingdom, our traditional market, except at a very low price - probably lower than the cost of production.
Of course, the European Common Market is not the only bloc in Europe. Another bloc, known as the European Free Trade Association, was established by the Stockholm Convention, on 21st November, 1959 It embraces Austria, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Portugal and Switzerland. Its objective is the gradual creation of free trade areas by 1970, by the elimination of all tariffs and quotas between the member countries in relation to industrial products. This is quite different from the European Common Market because, in this instance, the convention itself makes special provision for bilateral arrangements between the member countries in relation to agricultural trade. Herein lies the reason for Great Britain applying for membership of the European Economic Community, as a result of which she will not be able to continue trading with Commonwealth countries as she has done in the past. The agricultural imports have not been interfered with in any way. It is not very many years since the European Free Trade Association came into being, but I do not think it has been as successful as was expected when it was established. On the other hand, there is no doubt that the European Common Market has been very successful. The six countries that have comprised its membership since 1957-58 have enjoyed great prosperity. They have been able to compete in the markets of the world far more successfully than they were able to do before joining together as members of the Common Market. The United Kingdom, which has not enjoyed the benefits that those countries have enjoyed since 1957-58, has now applied for permission to join the European Economic Community. In seeking entry to the European Common Market, the United
Kingdom must apply not only to the European Economic Community as a whole, but also, I understand, to each individual member. If one single country opposed the application, it would be rejected. The terms of entry now, I should think, will be much more difficult than they would have been if the United Kingdom had joined the Common Market initially and made it an organization of seven countries, instead of six.
When we look back over the years, we find that the United Kingdom has always held the balance of power in Europe. At various times, she has been on different sides. Sometimes she has supported Germany and at other times she has been on the side of France; but she has always managed to hold the balance of power. If the United Kingdom is admitted to the European Common Market, I believe that she will again hold the balance of power in the activities of the Common Market. First, however, she must be accepted as a member on conditions imposed by those countries that now form the European Common Market, and that makes her task in coming to a decision very difficult. Eventually the United Kingdom must decide whether she will accept membership under the terms that apply to the participating countries at present or whether she will try to negotiate some new form of agreement with the member countries before joining them. If she joins the European Common Market, I have no doubt that other members of the European Free Trade Association will also seek membership. That would lead to the creation of a European bloc with a total population of about 300,000,000 - more than the population of the United States of America - and would increase the trading powers of the European Common Market considerably. The European Economic Community would have tremendous trading advantages and it would also be a strong union in the case of world hostilities.
The members of the European Common Market have not yet completed their arrangements for trade in primary products. There is no doubt that, since the Second World War, the European countries have increased their production of food tremendously. They have improved their pastures and there has been a marked in crease in the production of grains, meat and other primary products. As a result, they depend much more upon their own production than they did some years ago.
It has been said that the production of primary products in the area will be greatly enlarged when the countries of the European Common Market reach agreement on trade in those products. The countries concerned, including the United Kingdom, already produce annually 1,500,000 tons of butter and 42,000,000 tons of wheat. That is more than seven times the quantity of butter and wheat produced in Australia at present. There is no doubt that they could largely supply their own demands. They produce 7,500,000 tons of sugar a year, which is more than five times the Australian sugar output. Obviously, those countries could be self-sufficient in many of the primary products that we now export to the United Kingdom. If the countries of the European Common Market increased their output of primary products by only a small percentage, the quantity produced would be tremendous. It is difficult to forecast what the position will be regarding primary production until we have more information.
Let us examine the value of Australian trade with the European Free Trade Association in the year 1959-60. Our exports to that area were valued at £261,000,000 in Australian currency, or 33 per cent, of our total exports. The United Kingdom took our products to the value of £247,000,000, equal to 95 per cent, of our trade with those countries. During the same year, the value of our imports from countries of the European Free Trade Association amounted to £381,000,000, representing 41 per cent, of our total imports. Of that amount £330,000,000 worth, or 87 per cent., came from the United Kingdom.
During 1960, the United Kingdom imported from Commonwealth countries almost three times the value of goods that she imported from countries of the Common Market, and approximately four times the value of goods that she imported from countries of the European Free Trade Association. During that year, the United Kingdom’s exports to Commonwealth countries were almost three times as great as her exports to countries of the European
Economic Community, and approximately four times as great as her exports to countries of the European Free Trade Association. So it will be seen that the United Kingdom’s imports from Commonwealth countries compared with her imports from The Six and The Seven were on the same ratio as her exports to Commonwealth countries compared with her exports to The Six and The Seven. The volume of trade at stake between the United Kingdom and other Commonwealth countries is considerable. Hitherto, the traffic has been twoway traffic, but it seems that now it will become one-way traffic.
I feel sure that the Government has carefully considered all the ramifications of Britain’s entry into the Common Market. The decision is one for Britain to make. The problem is her’s alone. I trust that Australia will be able to state her case to the European Economic Community. She is in a far better position to state her case properly than is any third party. I hope that before negotiations between the United Kingdom and the Common Market are completed Australia will have an opportunity to state her case. 1 am sure that whatever decision Britain makes the Government will do all in its power to retain Australia’s traditional markets - markets that have been developed over many years.
.- To begin with I think I should state the issues involved in this debate. In reply to the motion for the printing of the paper, the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) has moved the following amendment: -
Leave out all words after “ That “, insert - “ the Senate, while declaring that the United Kingdom’s move to join the Common Market requires the strongest action to protect Australia’s interests, expresses no confidence in this Government’s ability to provide it because of its lack of foresight and frankness in this matter, its dilatoriness now, and its continuing failure, as demonstrated by the Prime Minister’s speech, to appreciate the real issues which are involved “.
That amendment places an obligation on the Opposition to drive home the argument that the Government has failed to grasp the issues involved and has failed to act to protect the best interests of Australia. I think all honorable senators recognize that, by becoming a participant in the Treaty of Rome, Great Britain will not only ultimately strengthen her position, but also will ultimately strengthen what we call the free world, or that section of Europe which is part of the free world. Because of that the argument that Britain must inevitably become a partner of The Six is irresistible. Having regard to the amendment that has been moved, we must determine to what extent, if any, the Government has protected Australia’s position in world trade. 1 listened with a good deal of attention to the speeches made by Senator McCallum and Senator Sir Walter Cooper. I obtained little or no information from Senator McCallum’s speech. It was notable for two things. The first was its brevity and the second was its complete failure to grapple with the real issues involved in this debate. Concerning Britain’s joining the Common Market and Australia’s position in the matter, all that Senator Marriott could do was express the devout hope that Great Britain would not let Australia down - in effect, that Great Britain, always the benevolent mother, would see that her sons would not be in any way prejudiced. I submit that Great Britain has very little choice in the matter. The Government should have recognized that fact long ago. Britain’s good will has no bearing on the problem. I think all of us agree that we hold the good will of Great Britain, and have always done so. But our position will be determined ultimately, not by good will, but by cold, hard mathematics. While we can accept unquestionably that the United Kingdom will do everything possible to cushion the impact on Australia of her entry into the Common Market, we have to face the cold facts of life which indicate quite clearly to us who at least try to find them that the things Britain can do to cushion the impact on Australia are very limited indeed.
I have explained my attitude on this matter. I believe that the United Kingdom’s entry into the European Common Market will ultimately have a very good effect as far as the safety of the free world is concerned. It is obvious that the Common Market is not concerned only with trade. Very great political issues are involved, too. It might be said that trade is most important and the paramount thing in the minds of Australians at the present time, but it may also be true that the political implications which could flow, from the integration of the European section, of the free world could be of far-reaching importance to the future of mankind.
Evidence is not lacking that the Government has failed to appreciate the issues involved in Britain’s entry into the Common Market and has failed to take even the most elementary steps to protect Australia’s interests. If we take our minds back to the formulation of the Schumann coal and steel plan in 1950, we will recall that ‘members of the Australian Labour Party in this and another place and in the respective State parliaments expressed fears as to future happenings in Australia as a result of the implementation and operation of that plan. It might be said with truth that at that time even the Labour Party misread the complete implications including the fact that the Schumann plan was the beginning of the integration of Europe on the basis of common thoughts on trade and possibly in the realm of politics, too. Most of us perhaps missed the significance of the fact that that plan was the beginning of the integration of the European section of the free world. It might be said truly that the great issues were not noticed at that time. But at least there was a stirring in the minds of Labour men throughout the Commonwealth who thought that in some way or other, as a result of the thought which was behind the formulation of the Schumann coal and steel plan in 1950, the future interests of Australia could well be prejudiced. The voice of Labour men at that time sounded a tocsin which unfortunately was not heeded or regarded as important.
The Government again should have been alerted when the United Kingdom was invited to sign the Treaty of Rome in 1957, but it failed to grasp the significance of what was happening. Of course, it is true that in 1957 Britain decided not to become a signatory to the Treaty of Rome, but it was obvious to some who were watching the position closely at that time that Britain would ultimately became a signatory to the Treaty of Rome. It is interesting to refer back to 1957 and look at what was said in the House of Commons and at a conference of Commonwealth Prime Ministers, which should have indicated quite clearly to this Government just where Britain stood in respect of what the future had to offer. In a speech in. the House of Commons on 26th November, 1956, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, said -
We would dearly have, liked to find some way by which the Commonwealth countries, with thenresources of food and raw materials and rapidly developing economies, and Europe, a large manufacturing area with a great market for Commonwealth produce, might, if they wished, join together in some still wider common market. That would have been the ideal; indeed, it has been the dream of many of us, but it was soon evident - we may as well face the fact - that the developing countries of the Commonwealth would not be prepared to remove their tariffs and quotas against European goods,, and that at the same time-
This is the important point -
That statement appeared in the weekly “ Hansard “, House of Commons- Parliamentary Debates, for 23rd to 29th November, 1956. It was a significant statement by a man who occupied an eminent place in the British Government, and its significance should not have been lost on those in government in this country who profess to have the qualities of leadership.
It is an interesting fact that a different note was struck by the Prime Minister pf the United Kingdom, Mr. Macmillan, when he addressed the Commonwealth Prime Ministers’ Conference in the summer of 1957. At that conference he said -
We have a special relationship with the countries of Europe, which we hope to strengthen and extend. But on one thing we are all agreed - if there should at any time be a conflict between the calls on us, there is no doubt where we stand; the Commonwealth comes first in our hearts and in our minds.
It is quite possible that the Prime Minister of Australia (Mr. Menzies) was misled by that statement by the Prime Minister of Great Britain. There is no doubt whatever that Mr. Duncan Sandys did not not come to Australia for the purpose of re-stating what his Prime Minister had said at that conference of Commonwealth Prime Ministers. He came to Australia to ease the way for the inevitable entry of the United Kingdom into the European Common Market and the inevitable and troublesome consequences which he knew Australia would have to suffer.
Thousands of words have been said on this matter. In my approach to this debate 1 have tried to strike a new note. That is not always easy to do at a late stage of a debate, as honorable senators on both sides of the chamber know. Tedious repetition neither helps to establish points nor enlivens the proceedings of the chamber in any way. For that reason, I am diffident about referring to what has been said previously in this debate. However, the Prime Minister made one statement which must not be ignored by either supporters of the Government or members of the Opposition. 1 think it was the only cogent statement in the report that the Prime Minister gave in another place. He said -
It is sufficient for me to say that the advantages or disadvantages to Australia, economically speaking, from the success of the Common Market will be largely determined by policies worked out in Europe.
That statement makes it patently clear that the Prime Minister believes that the effects Australia will have to suffer as a result of Great Britain’s participation in the European Common Market will be determined not by the Prime Minister of Australia or the Government that he leads but by whatever factors might emerge. Those factors are unknown at this stage, but they indicate a somewhat clouded horizon. The Prime Minister, speaking for the Government, I take it, is quite prepared to accept as inevitable whatever consequences result for this country from steps that are taken by countries overseas, and is content to leave the situation there. I say that we cannot leave it there. The amendment that has been moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) has already been justified by the words and the admission of the Prime Minister that I have read from what I consider to be the most important part of his speech.
– You are reading into that speech an implication that is not correct.
– I am reading into it the implication that I see in it, and I think I have advanced a reason for saying that I see it in that way. I concede the point that Senator Wright and other honorable senators opposite may find in the Prime Minister’s speech some thoughts which follow the trend of their thinking, but I say that it is fair for me to construe it in the way that I have stated, having regard to the state ment made by the Prime Minister and the context in which it was made. The onusis on honorable senators opposite to establish that I have taken the passage out of its context.
I think that the real issue in this matter is being overlooked. I have said that the Government ought to be condemned for its dilatoriness. We on this side of the chamber, at least, are agreed on that point. But that is not enough. We have to face the fact that Australia, as a result of what is happening overseas, has to reshape drastically and very quickly its thinking in terms of trade. The pity of it is that we did not start to reshape our thinking on trade when the Schumann plan showed the stirring towards the integration of Europe which has led to the trade situation to-day. A warning came again in 1957. The writing was clearly on the wall, but again we failed to do anything about the situation.
The Prime Minister rightly concerned himself in his speech with the dried fruits industry of Australia. I might say with justice that already there are other factors which are gravely affecting that industry. There is an unlimited volume of imports of dried fruits, as a result of which Australian producers, particularly the producers of dried figs, are being undersold. Those who engaged in an industry that they thought would be a profitable one in the export field have been swamped and, in some instances, practically ruined because of the uncontrolled influx into this country of dried figs from sources where low wages and poor conditions are the order of the day. Dried figs that are imported from those countries can be sold at prices that are immeasurably below the cost at which dried figs can be produced here. The growers in the Murray River area who have specialized in that form of export production have been very badly let down. We should concern ourselves about the future of the Australian dried fruits industry.
That brings me to a matter, Mr. President, that may well be considered at this stage. The future of Australian trade and our future prosperity are just as much the concern of my colleagues on this side of the chamber as they are that of the Government. It may be remembered that from time to time during the last eight or nine years honorable senators on this side of the Senate have been vocal on the question of the Australian steel industry. We have stated time and again that the great resources we have in this country are not being properly used either in the interests of Australia or for its benefit.
We have seen the growth of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited. I am not dealing with this matter on the basis of hatreds; I want to be purely objective. That company is in a unique position in the civilized world. In other parts of the world great monopolies, which approximate the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited in size, are the subject of legislation which limits their activities to such an extent that they cannot act against the interests of the government or the people. The Sherman Act and the Clayton Act in the United States of America confer very wide powers that can be utilized against monopolies that are acting in a manner which is detrimental to the national interest. In Australia, however, we have a remarkable situation. We have built up a monopoly - the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited. Instead of it being curtailed by governmental action, it has actually been built up by such action.
Steel is one of those things that we can export to accumulate credits overseas. We have great reserves of raw materials, comparable with those of most countries, on which to draw. It is not a question now of letting the Broken Hill Company limit output, although that is what is happening at the moment. I think the Government would capture the imagination of the country if it were to say that if that company cannot properly wring from the soil the great reserves that exist in Australia, the Government will step in and do so itself. I know, of course, that it will be argued that there are sections of the Australian Constitution to prevent the Government from doing that. I know, also, that the Government could call a conference of the State Premiers if it wished. I am positive that if it put the matter plainly before them, the States would agree that in the interests of Australia as a whole some such thing should be done. I am not suggesting nationalization of the steel industry. I recognize the limitations imposed by our Constitution. I believe that the Constitutional Review Committee, which presented such a good report to the Parliament in days gone by, could well be reconstituted and asked to have a look at matters such as that, which must be considered if we are to emerge successfully from this testing time which inevitably will be imposed on us by the entry of Great Britain into the European Common Market.
I believe that the Government has been dilatory. I also believe that it has failed to recognize signs that it ought to have recognized, but if we are bold and imaginative enough we can save something from the wreck and perhaps build Australia into a great nation. I am not gloomy about the prospect of Australia being forced to cut the painter which joins it to Great Britain. I do not mean that the ordinary ties that bind us will be severed. However, Australia has always been the junior partner in the association and it might be good for us if we had to stand on our own feet, find our own markets, and work out our own destiny. For too long we have been caught in the toils because we have accepted the view that whatever happened in other countries must inevitably happen in Australia, and that we had to follow behind somebody else’s coat tails.
In view of the change in relations which will inevitably flow from the entry of Great Britain into the European Common Market, it might be pertinent to ask: What of the future in regard to the appointment of Governors-General of this country? I say that without intending any disrespect of the present Governor-General. I am not trying to be provocative, but we could also consider how we might escape from the unnecessary toils of the Privy Council procedure. I know that, on the last occasion on which I mentioned that we might dispose of our connexion with the Privy Council and settle our own legal differences, the representatives of the legal profession in this chamber took me to task somewhat severely. Quite frankly, in view of what has happened and is happening, I cannot see the need to retain our association with it. However, that is only a thought by the way.
I return to the activities of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited. I am not unmindful of the fact that in recent weeks the company has spoken of expansion. I refer to a financial review in the
Sydney press within the last week or so in which the following statement appeared: -
Attached to B.H.P.’s big export drive in the East is the biggest potential prize in the Government’s export incentives scheme - rebates of the company’s £1 -million-plus payroll-tax bill.
The review further states -
Steel ingot production in July rose to a record 349,000 tons . . .
That is a start, but it is only a drop in the ocean. It seems to me to be tragic that Australia, with these vast reserves of firstgrade iron ore, should be selling the crude product to other countries to be made into refined steel. Those countries will skim the cream off the benefits that are to be obtained from mining the reserves we have in our own soil. What is happening does not make sense to me, particularly in view of the fact that we in this country have proved that we can produce steel as cheaply as can any other country.
– Who has proved that?
– We have proved that.
– Which company did that?
– There is no argument about the fact that the only company in this country which produces steel is the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited.
– That is all I want to know.
– 1 do not know whether you think you are scoring a point there. I am not arguing about the quality of the product produced by the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, but I am saying that that company should not have the right to limit production in this country. If the honorable senator thinks he can justify this company’s having the right to limit the production of steel in Australia, I should be interested to see in what way he would go about doing so.
I regret that time has caught up with me, because this is one of the most important subjects that we have had to debate in the last ten years. What is happening simply means that this country must grow up. Unfortunately, we have not much time in which to reach our majority. It is obvious from what has been said in the House of Commons and what has been said following the visit of Mr. Duncan
Sandys that Australia would be seriously affected by Britain’s entry to the Common Market. That fact cannot be denied or refuted. That view has been accepted by the Chancellor of the Exchequer in Great Britain. We must take note of what ishappening around us. We must remember that in the Senate of the United States of America as recently as a month or so ago the idea of forming what might be regarded as a common market amongst the Latin countries of South America was canvassed. That idea received a certain amount of consideration and support.
– It was canvassed in the United Nations in 1959, too.
– That is true. If such ideas are being canvassed in other fields, we ought to be making some plans for ourselves rather than waiting to see the trends that will develop in Europe as a result of Britain’s entry to the Common Market. We ought to be taking advantage of the commodities that we can produce and export. We ought to be searching for markets. But we should not look for them in places where obviously the door will be closed. I refer particularly to Europe and the countries of Latin America, which will want to solve their own problems. We must look for markets in the only area in which we can reasonably expect to find them - that is, in what is to us the near East. We have not much time on our side.
In the very limited time at my disposal I have tried to prove that the Government has been culpable in regard to this matter. I can only hope that, as a result of some of the suggestions I have made, we will be able to reduce our losses and get down to the problem of establishing Australia’s place in the world as a nation.
.- At this time the Senate, as a House of the National Parliament, has an opportunity to debate a matter that is of extraordinary importance. I believe, as was said by Mr. Duncan Sandys during the debate in the House of Corr mons, that it is an occasion when a challenge is presented to us as a unit of the Commonwealth, and that to Europe in particular it has a great potential which ‘could prove to be a turning point in world affairs. I do not think we should discuss the matter in terms of searching for the figs that will not grow, even in this country, on thistles. We should keep before our minds the fact that the establishment of the European Common Market was a Churchillian idea that was first expressed in a letter addressed by Mr. Churchill, as he then was, to Anthony Eden in 1942. Mr. Churchill envisaged a Council of Europe. The idea was again expressed by him, although he had then been turned out of office, in a speech that he delivered at Zurich and which made a terrific impact on the world. On that occasion Churchill expressed the hope that there would be created what might be regarded as the United States of Europe.
In order to understand the matter, I have posed this problem in my mind in three facets. First, we should consider the nature of the Treaty of Rome and its contents. It is entirely a mistake, in my view, to consider it only as a customs trade treaty. It is much more significant than that. Secondly, I wish to refer to the attitude of the United Kingdom to this treaty up to date and, thirdly, to the importance of the treaty to Australia.
In regard to the treaty itself, let us remind ourselves that it sets out objectives which in their nature are not merely trade objectives. It is true to say that it refers to the European Economic Community and that it has nothing to do expressly with defence or foreign policy. However, every one in Europe so far who has spoken as a statesman has referred to the connexion between economic integration and political cohesion. The objective of this treaty is not merely the abolition of trade barriers such as customs duties, quantitative and currency restrictions, administrative impediments and frontier breaks in transport rates. The treaty has not as an objective merely the surrounding of the subject area with a common tariff.
It has also for its objectives the establishment within this area of common policies for agriculture and transport and the coordination of the national, economic and social policies of governments. It seeks, too, to promote free labour and capital, and to create a common labour and capital markets. Also, it aims at mutual assistance in financing social security and economic development in under-developed areas. Another objective is the association of dependent overseas countries and territories on special terms, and the provision of a fund for their development. Lastly, but, in my view, most importantly, it has as an objective the establishment of a supra-national parliamentary, administrative and legal framework to manage the application of the treaty.
The treaty gives the community a legal personality. It is a great mistake to think that the term “ community “ is synonymous with the term “ market “. The treaty created four institutions. First of all, there is a parliamentary assembly, constituted at the present time of representatives of the national parliaments of the member States, elected by those parliaments. But already directions have been given that the members of this assembly shall be elected on the people’s votes. We have been told that Italy, Germany and France have 36 members each, the Netherlands and Belgium fourteen members, and Luxembourg six. When other member States are added, this ratio will have to be adjusted.
Secondly, there is a council of nine ministers, representing the governments of the member countries. Thirdly, there is a commission - an executive body - the members of which, the treaty requires, shall be appointed on account of their general competence and - I like this phrase, Mr. President - their indisputable independence. They are enjoined, after their appointment to office, neither to seek nor accept instructions from the Ministers who appoint them. It is evident that this community is determined to raise itself above the pettiness of national boundaries and local politics.
The fourth institution is the Court of Justice. The members of this court are to be chosen from those who are entitled to be appointed to the highest judicial posts in their own countries. Members of the court are required to be men of indisputable independence; they are enjoined to have a European outlook and to forget their national outlooks. The court is empowered to hear complaints by the commission or by States about breaches of the treaty. It can adjudicate between member States as well as between individuals and companies. The judgments of the court as between individuals and companies are to be enforced by what the treaty calls forced execution in the municipal courts of the countries concerned. Article 171 of the treaty provides that if the Court of Justice finds that a member State has failed to fulfil any of its obligations under the treaty, such State shall take the measures required for the implementation of the judgment of the court. The six States have erected these institutions to develop the objectives of the treaty. They have acted so purposefully and have made such remarkable progress that, as Mr. Macmillan said recently, this concept of European unity has gripped men’s minds and Europe is finding its purpose.
When, due to its obligations, the United Kingdom was unable to join the European Economic Community, subscribed to in Rome in 1957, it formed an association of a much different character - not a confederation of States, as the European Economic Community is, but a loose trade group know as the European Free Trade Association. It comprised the fringe European countries which did not join the central community. The European Free Trade Association has had a substantial effect on European trade, but experience gained during the last three years has shown British statesmen that there are great purposes impelling their country to join the European Economic Community. With Europe on the march, they do not think that the European Free Trade Association provides an opportunity worthy of the United Kingdom’s destiny, either politically or economically.
What has been the attitude of the United Kingdom as all these events have unfolded? It is quite true that initially she engaged in the negotiations for the European Economic Community and presented arguments based upon a solicitude for the development of her own agriculture, which already provides her with two-thirds of her temperate zone foodstuffs and one-half of her total foodstuffs. British agriculture has been revised and revitalized after the British people had two experiences of being nearly starved on account of their country’s isolation during two world wars. Obviously the United Kingdom must defend those interests. There was another argument against her joining the community, and on that account she stood out in 1957. Her reciprocal trade arrangements with the British Commonwealth of Nations pre cluded her subscription to the terms that the Treaty of Rome laid down. Her decision then may have been unfortunate, as Senator Toohey suggested. It may have been a mistake, as Senator McKenna suggested last week. On the other hand, it may be a fortunate event that impetus has been imparted to this movement by the Europeans themselves, in the vanguard of the movement, thus relieving the whole thing of the idea that the United Kingdom was in it, as some would have said, for the purpose of dividing the movement, playing the role she has played for some centuries. It may be a very happy event that the United Kingdom did not join in 1957, because her three years’ abstention has allowed the people who have had control of the movement to organize themselves to a degree that has already produced a significant reduction of their internal tariffs.
The countries comprising the European Economic Community have issued directions to give the community and its parliament statutory form. That was done at Bonn on 18th July last year. The community is achieving significant results in reducing internal tariffs, and the British statesmen see that American capital is being attracted to the mainland of Europe, with a tendency to by-pass England. They realize that if Churchill’s vision of a United States of Europe becomes a fact, that United States of Europe, with its population of 160,000,000 people, will have a dominant voice in the councils of the world from the viewpoints of defence and foreign policy. It was not, therefore, out of keeping with British character when Mr. Macmillan said the other day - these were not his words but I think I am expressing his idea - that Britain’s true role was in the vanguard of this movement, so that it could lead from .within rather than wither in an imaginary isolation, thought to be brought about by the now insignificant barrier presented by the English Channel. He then confronts himself by saying “ What are the constitutional implications for Great Britain? “ On this matter, they felt hesitant in 1957. I pointed out, ] hope, that my view is that this is not a mere ordinary treaty. It erects a confederation of states and gives to a supra state all the jurisdiction of a new confederated state, interestingly enough, Mr. President, dictated by trade and defence just as was the Australian Federation dictated almost 70 years ago, but more remarkable, of course, because this confederation is expressing the hope that it will bring together the wandering and internecine minds of European men and instead of the hostility that we have seen ravage the world bring friendship, co-operation and mutual trade interests to these all-important civilizations of Europe. Mr. Macmillan had this to say -
And what if one of them becomes Communist and we are a member of a confederation including a Communist unit?
He went on -
What if we remain alone and one or more of them becomes Communist and accepts the challenge?
I mention it simply because I want to emphasize the position as I understand it for the purposes of debate and a mutual realization of what this challenge and this privilege means to us. Then Mr. Macmillan asked -
What of British industry, both secondary and agriculture?
There are words in his speech, when he speaks of British secondary industry which we want to take to heart. He says that it will be a great challenge to have the Germans and the French competing wilh our skilled workers and our management. Mr. Macmillan went on to say -
This competition will be severe. The test will be in the straight competition of brains, productive capacity and energy per man. Costs - that will be the test.
And if it is the test for British industry, it is imperative that in Australia we take that statement to heart, because how much more severe will the application of that test be to Australian secondary industry. However, with that challenge to British agriculture, the British Cabinet is now convinced that its right approach is not to agree to the Rome Treaty without modification but to make an approach, which it has already made and followed up.
From Mr. Duncan Sandys’s speech in the House of Commons it is quite obvious that members of the British Cabinet through their officials and diplomatic channels have been kept well informed as to the reactions of the members of this community. I read into speeches in the House of Commons expressed confidence that there is a deci sion in England and goodwill on the part of the European Economic Community whereby there is a mutual determination to achieve entry of the United Kingdom, if possible. England is prepared to take the risks as to her sovereignty, agriculture and industry. She asserts that she has taken into account the interests of the British Commonwealth and is not prepared to forfeit those interests, although she notes the changes that have taken place since the Ottawa agreement, as Senator Sir Walter Cooper mentioned in his speech, whereby these British communities are now no longer content to be the suppliers of raw materials and products of agriculture to the United Kingdom but themselves are developing their own secondary industries and aiming at the export of the products of those industries. Taking all those factors into consideration, the British Government feels that its traditional role as leader of Europe and, therefore, of a particularly strong section of the free world, demands that it would not fulfil its duty if it did not seek membership of the Common Market, not merely considering trade, although that is tremendously important, but considering the sovereignty of the British Commonwealth and the three concentric circles, as Churchill mentioned when he first evolved this idea - the unity of Europe, the unity of the British Commonwealth and the unity of the United Nations.
We have had those propositions put to us in Australia. What is the reaction of this responsible country? It is, of course, to note with great concern the impact that these, arrangements will have upon Australian trade. I, for my part, could not wish the position to be better put than it was put after the conversations with Mr. Sandys here in Canberra, when we said that we had no right to object to Britain’s approach to the European Economic Community, but that was not to be taken as implying approval, as a matter of Australian policy, of that course. We have had several statements as to the way in which our industries will be affected. In an article in the “ Quarterly Review of Agricultural Economics “, for April, 1961, the contributor stated -
AH Common Market countries are important agricultural producers. For example, the Community’s production of wheat and other grains is about five times that of Australia, its sugar production is almost as great as that of Cuba, and its production of apples is the world’s largest.
I interpolate a few words on my own account. The other night, Mr. McEwen said that the Common Market area produces 380,000,000 bushels of apples; that is 30 times the total Australian production. I come from a State where I have a special and a pleasurable responsibility to take an interest in the apple trade. Even without joining this community, of the apples exported from Tasmania last year we were able to export about 20 per cent., against customs duties, to Europe in the European off season and we got a slightly better return than from the United Kingdom market. The author went on to say -
The Community is one of the world’s most important producers of livestock products, the annual production of butter is nearly one million tons; beef production is about three million tons, and pork production still larger. In fact, in the five countries other than Italy the value of products of animal origin is almost double the value of crops. Moreover, agricultural production within the Community is expanding at a fairly rapid rate. Since 1950, production has risen by about 30 per cent.
Those figures seem tremendous and they are incomprehensible to me, but I remind honorable senators that at present the community as a unit is the world’s leading importer of agricultural products, with the United Kingdom as its only close rival. The European Economic Community is a unit of highly industrialized countries, in which agriculture represents a relatively small and declining proportion of the national product.
Sitting suspended from 5.45 to 8 p.m.
– Before the suspension of the sitting, I was referring to the vast production of agricultural products in countries of the European Common Market and also to the huge industrial production potential of those countries. I said that, notwithstanding the almost self-sufficiency of the area in agricultural production, Australia had found a favorable market in Common Market countries for the last five or six years, particularly for wool but also for some other products. I believe that the United Kingdom Government has been induced to decide to apply to join the Common Market because it is convinced that there is a receptivity on the part of the
Common Market countries to the United Kingdom’s proposals. I believe that those European countries understand that it is an integral part of the British proposition that the United Kingdom shall provide for continued reciprocal trade with the Commonwealth countries, including Australia. Mr. Macmillan made reference to that in his House of Commons speech, and Mr. Sandys quoted M. Spaak, the notable Belgian Minister, who said that no European could wish to see the dissolution of the British Commonwealth. In an article by Baron Snoy - who is described as “ a distinguished Belgian economic expert who was one of the principal negotiators of the Rome Treaty “ - which was written following the breakdown of the negotiations in 1957, I have come across this statement -
I feel no doubt that, on examination, the negotiators would have discovered great similarities between the system of the Rome Treaty and the system of the Commonwealth. The provisions of the Rome Treaty in fact envisage preferential import entirely free of duty for products coming from the associated territories, in the same way that the United Kingdom imports free of duty numerous products coming from the Commonwealth.
One finds that interpretation by a skilled negotiator of the treaty confirmed by a perusal of the preamble to the treaty, in which the parties take the trouble to affirm that their intention is - to confirm the solidarity which binds Europe and overseas countries, and desiring to ensure the development of their prosperity, in accordance with the principles of the Charter of the United Nations.
In Article 3 of the treaty, one objective of the community is stated to be -
In one part of the treaty which is specially devoted to a consideration of overseas countries, the member States affirm that they -
Then are enumerated the member countries, which list would be extended to include the United Kingdom. In Article 132 the members affirm that such association shall have as one of its objectives that member states shall, in their commercial exchanges with countries and territories, apply the same rules which they apply among themselves pursuant to the treaty. Following articles require that there should be an abolition, on a reciprocal basis, of internal trade customs duties. Article 133 provides that overseas countries and territories - . . may, however, levy customs duties which correspond to the needs of their development and to the requirements of their industrialization or which, being of a fiscal nature, have the object of contributing to their budgets.
I find in that some ground for confidence that the United Kingdom statesmen are assured that a way will be found for the entry of our trade interests into this treaty. 1 conclude by saying that I do not underestimate the gravity of the challenge that besets Australian trade by reason of these proposed negotiations. I feel confident that it is understood in the United Kingdom. I have tremendous confidence, having regard to the statements that have come from our own Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr. McEwen), that from the point of view both of high purpose and of the practical negotiation of commercial arrangements, no men in Australia are better able to understand the problems that provide this country at the same time with a challenge arid an historic opportunity.
Senator COOKE (Western Australia) 18.6]. - I have listened with interest to the very thoughtful contribution made to the debate by Senator Wright, of Tasmania. He is always very analytical. I compliment him on the information that he has gathered from diverse sources, including statements made in the United Kingdom Parliament, in relation to the European Common Market. He has placed before the Senate, conjecturally, the effects upon the United Kingdom and Australia of th? entry of the United Kingdom to the Common Market. Although, being a Government supporter, he did not state this precisely, I believe that he encouraged the Senate to think that the United Kingdom’s application to join the Common Market is of great importance and that we shall need all of our resourcefulness to meet the challenge that will be placed in front of us if the United Kingdom is accepted into the Common Market. It appears to the members of the Opposition, as it must appear to every other member of the Senate, that Australia had knowledge for over five years that this move was coming and that the Australian Government did nothing about it. It did not give the Parliament an opportunity to debate Australia’s position. When the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) made a statement in another place in relation to Australia and the Common Market, he said -
The decision … to negotiate for admission to the European Economic Community is one of enormous political, economic, and historic importance for Great Britain herself, for Europe, for the Commonwealth in general and Australia in particular, and for the world.
It seems from that statement that the problem had come suddenly upon Australia, but the Opposition had been expecting this move for five or six years, and had seen that trade developments prejudicial to Australia could occur. However, the Government has done nothing about it. Therefore, when the statement was made on 16th August in another place and at the same time in this chamber by the Leader of the Government (Senator Spooner), the Opposition felt quite justified in moving an amendment to the motion for the printing of the paper, in the following terms: -
Leave out all words after “That”, insert “the Senate while declaring that the United Kingdom’s move to join the Common Market requires the strongest action to protect Australia’s interests, expresses no confidence in this Government’s ability to provide it because of its lack of foresight and frankness in this matter, its dilatoriness, and its continuing failure, as demonstrated by the Prime Minister’s speech, to appreciate the real threats which are involved.”.
I think that the amendment has merit and should be carried. On 25th March, 1957, after considerable negotiation and a fairly wide survey of world conditions by the nations concerned1, France, Germany, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg formed, by common agreement under the Rome Treaty, the European Economic Community. The Opposition took profound interest in the formation of the community. Questions were asked of the Government about the formation of the community, but at no time was a frank statement made to the Senate or in another place. If her negotiations are moderately successful, Britain will undoubtedly join the European Economic Community. In doing so, it must be conceded that she will sacrifice a great deal of her independence.
I agree that Australia should not in any way attempt to influence Great Britain’s decision - a decision that she will take with due consideration for its effect on the Commonwealth of Nations and on civilization as a whole.
It is extremely doubtful whether the Government has handled this matter in the best interest of Australia. The Government has certainly followed Britain’s movements with keen interest, but it has taken no steps to safeguard our markets. The system of preferences enjoyed by Britain under the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, British preferential tariffs, and trade agreements have been allowed by this Government to continue, despite the fact that it has had six years’ notice of what was likely to happen. That was ample time in which to pull up our socks and do something, but the Government has done nothing. The agreement between the signatories to the European Economic Community - The Six - is very tight. Article 118 of the Treaty of Rome provides -
So, this is not just a trading arrangement. The treaty further provides for the establishment of a European Investment Bank. The community will have a banking system independent of the International Bank. The European Investment Bank will greatly assist Britain and members of the Common Market to pull themselves together.
Despite the tremendous importance of the Common Market, the Government has said nothing about it here, and has made no preparations to meet any threat that may be posed to Australia’s trade.
The treaty provides for the community to have an assembly of 142 delegates and a council of six. There will also be a commission of nine members and a court of justice to deal with the interpretation and enforcement of the treaty. The treaty will be enforced by a judicial body, which will be governed by an assembly composed of representatives of the nations forming the community. The assembly and the council will act quite independently of the parliaments of the nations concerned. The treaty provides that any European nation may apply for full membership of the community. The treaty provides, also, that nations may become associate members of the community. Greece has become an associate member. The application of Greece for associate membership of the community, and the effect on Australia, were discussed in the Parliament years ago, but nothing was done by the Government. It is interesting to note that associate membership is not favoured in the case of a substantially developed manufacturing nation. Article 240 of the treaty provides -
This Treaty shall be concluded for an unlimited period.
Provision is made whereby a member nation may withdraw from the community only with the consent of all other members of the community. The articles to which 1 have referred show what a closely knit organization the community is and the measure of independence that is sacrificed by nations that become signatories to the treaty. The community has a tight hold over its members, judicially and administratively. Member nations must answer to the court if they step out of line. It will be useless for Australia to try to adjust her trading position after Britain has entered the Common Market.
It may be claimed that the Opposition is saying something now that should have been said a long time ago. In 1956 Italy, France and Luxembourg were making an economic survey. They sent their representatives to the countries with which they traded, seeking a better balance of trade with those countries. On 6th September, 1956, during the debate on the Estimates and Budget Papers, I pointed out that the primary producers, not the Parliament, had been approached on this matter. I said -
There have been complaints from the farmers’ organizations because, quite apart from money matters, they have been unable to obtain from the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) certain information in relation to overseas trade. This information is being kept secret. There has been no explanation of the Government’s refusal to permit bi-lateral trade with certain other countries, or the breaking of government-to-government and other contracts. The Government has been reluctant to issue a statement on these matters. Apart from wool, which has held its own because of the world demand, the prices of primary products have gone haywire. Even the return from wool is not so good as it used to be, because of the increased cost of production. Although, on the one hand, the wool-growers receive reasonable returns in terms of money, they do not get full value for their money.
At that time, questions were raised in the Senate about the formation of the Common Market. Mr. McEwen had been unable to sell our primary products in France and other countries, although a trade agreement was in operation between countries of the British Commonwealth. Mr. McEwen returned to Australia with propositions that proved to be failures. Those propositions were never examined nor was the Parliament given an opportunity to discuss them.
On 6th September, 1956, speaking in the same debate, I said -
Both Italy and France have very favorable trade balances with this country. Both are willing to export to us goods which we need. They have even gone so far as to say that they would allow their trade balances to stand in an adverse position if we would engage in reciprocal trade with them; but we have not accepted the offer. That is not right. We have the goods to sell and we should trade. The Liberal party, which professes not to believe in controls is, in effect, imposing very effective controls upon free trade. The whole position merits thorough investigation.
Of course, as is usual with a self-satisfied government, nothing at all was done. The Minister did not even deign to answer those statements when replying to the submissions made during that Budget debate. He did not consider that the position was serious.
Then, in October, 1957, I asked the following question in the Senate -
I preface a question, which I address to the Minister representing the Minister for Trade, or the appropriate Minister, by referring to statements that have have been made in connexion with the trade agreement between the United Kingdom and Australia. Previously, I asked the Minister to present to the Senate the White Paper on the common market agreement made by the United Kingdom with certain European countries. I now ask him whether it is a fact that Dr. Westerman, representing Australia at the recent General Agreements on Tariffs and Trade conference, stated our position by saying that Australia could not see how minimum price controls on agricultural products within the common market could work effectively without internal and external trade restrictions. He went on to say, speaking on behalf of Australia -
In effect the common market treaty holds out the real possibility of an aggregation and intensification of the restrictive and protective practices of the individual members.
I also ask the Minister whether he is prepared to place before the Senate the plan referred to by Dr.
Westerman in these terms when, apparently, he was speaking on behalf of the Australian Government. Dr. Westerman went on to say that Australia suggested that, in relation to agriculture, the six common market nations should form their plans in detail and provide safeguards to ensure that the fruits of economic progress within the market could be shared with other contracting parties. Will the Minister make available to the Senate and the Parliament plans envisaged by the Government, so that we shall not be obliged to discuss a fait accompli, as happened in the case of the United Kingdom Trade Agreement which, apparently, is now causing fear in the minds of the Government and its representatives.
That matter was put forcibly enough to you, Mr. Spooner.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Wood). - Order! The honorable senator must address the Leader of the Government as “ Senator Spooner “.
– I apologize, senator; but 1 do not think you would be greatly upset. This was Senator Spooner’s reply to my question, as reported in “ Hansard “ -
The honorable senator’s question is too complicated to be given a complete answer. In brief, the problem that arises as a result of the establishment of these European organisations is to reconcile the British desire to have access to increased continental markets with the desire to retain preference for the British dominions, particularly in respect of agricultural products. A lot of water will run under the bridges during negotiations at the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade conference and elsewhere. I do not think it is practical to ask for the Government’s plan which covers that aspect. Australian representatives, on both ministerial and departmental levels, will constantly seek to keep the door wide open for the sale of our primary products in Great Britain, in the terms of the existing agreement, which the Government of the United Kingdom has said it will’ not disturb.
White Papers were available, and challenging statements which engendered fear in our primary producers were made; but the Government would not permit a White Paper or a report on the matter to be issued. Dr. Westerman’s reports were never made available to the Senate.
I asked that question in 1957 following my statements during the Budget debate in 1956. Senator Hendrickson followed up this matter very consistently. I also followed it up with the Government, with just as little success. In November, 1959, 1 again asked the Government to consider the position and make some arrangements to safeguard Australia’s position because if the United Kingdom joined the Common Market she would be bound by the conditions of the Treaty of Rome which she would sign. Therefore, I suggest to honorable senators that the Opposition’s- amendment charging the Government with dilatoriness and saying that it is not making really effective moves now is quite justified and should be carried.
Let us look at Britain’s position in this matter. Britain cannot now afford to disregard the Common Market. It has been operating for four years. Two years before the Treaty of Rome was signed the countries in the Common Market - France, West Germany, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg - discussed these matters, and Britain took Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Austria, Portugal and Switzerland into her confidence. All those nations discussed these matters, lt was quite obvious that something had to be done. It was obvious that if the nations of Western Europe were to continue to exist they had to get a down-to-earth, common-sense method by which to trade and protect each other. While the Western nations were tearing each other to pieces and not engaging in reciprocal trade there was complete collaboration and co-operation on the other side of the iron curtain. Although it was not as successful, it built up until it became a real challenge.
Many honorable senators have referred to Britain’s attitude. I should like to quote a few statements that were made by Britain’s Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, the Earl of Home. He has said -
Within the Commonwealth countries are to be found all the foods and raw materials to supply and sustain expanding societies in this modern world. The Montreal Economic Conference laid down the economic objective at which the Commonwealth should aim - namely the maximum exchange of trade, assisted by preferences - the steady expansion of investment in basic services and industries - the stabilization of prices through arrangements covering the main commodities. This is working interdependence, and as it becomes more and more effective the Commonwealth can become a decisive influence in world affairs. It is a British interest that it should be so.
That statement was made on 23rd March, about the time when the Commonwealth Prime Ministers were meeting. It shows quite clearly that Lord Home feels that the strength of the ties of interdependence in Commonwealth trade is vital. Yet we must go further to show that Britain is in a cleft stick. She cannot back herself both ways, although she wants a bit each way. The Australian Government has done nothing to protect Australia’s position as a section of the Commonwealth. Lord Homo also said -
In the context of our conscious search for interdependence must be counted our efforts to come closer to Europe. Britain, in order to live, must go where the markets are best. But there is an additional reason. The political division of Europe has twice in this century brought Britain and the Commonwealth within sight of ruin. There is no greater British and Commonwealth interest than the economic, political and military cohesion of the Continent.
It would not make sense if we sought interdependence within Europe at the sacrifice of our Commonwealth structure, but from our study of the problems that ought not to be the choice. It should be possible to arrive at a political and economic arrangement with the European Economic Community which would greatly add to the wealth and strength of the whole. The greatest need of the Commonwealth is for capital, and this is the best guarantee of expansion for the Commonwealth in the years to come.
It is obvious that Britain must trade in the best market that is available to her. It is necessary that she should do so, just as it is necessary that Australia should do so. But we have not done that. The supporters of the Government claim that we have been enjoying a period of prosperity, but it has been a period of high prices, lt has been a period during which we have undertaken some development which has caused inflation, although lack of proper administrative methods has been the major cause of the inflation. We have allowed our household management to get quite out of hand. We have been singularly fortunate in that we have been able to sell on favorable markets and at good prices the commodities which we have had to offer. Therefore, we have not had to take stock of our means, as have the European countries.
This Government has muddled on and has done nothing to correct Australia’s worsening economic position. Earlier in my remarks I said that in 1956 I stated that we should try to conclude trade agreements with countries which had an adverse balance of trade with Australia, countries such as France, Italy and Luxembourg, with which we could have done a considerable volume of business. Had we done so we might now be in a better position economically. Australia has been selling commodities through intermediaries for years, Mr. Acting Deputy President. That has occurred not only during the regime of the present Government; it has always been a part of the pattern of Australian trade. It may be claimed that we have not traded openly with countries such as Russia and red China. While we have not traded directly with those countries, Australian goods have been bought by persons who have acted as intermediaries. They have bought our goods at the lowest possible prices and sold them to such nations as those at the highest prices that they could obtain. Trade of that kind has been brought to the notice of the Government on numerous occasions, but nothing has been done about it.
The proposal of the United Kingdom to enter the European Common Market is not only an economic matter. Her entry will result in a strengthening of the Western democracies. The countries of the Common Market have agreed that they will seek to provide full employment. They also have agreed that employees may move from one country to another. If Great Britain joins the Common Market, employment may be found in that country for citizens of France. Employment may be available in Italy for French citizens, and in Luxembourg for Italians, and so on. The Treaty of Rome provides for the raising of living standards, so that there will be better economic conditions, and there will be greater cohesion in the stress and strain of war, should that occur. We on this side of the chamber have been saying lor years that Australia should take steps 1o meet the situation that has now arisen, but nothing has been done
It is interesting to note the extent of the aid which Britain and other countries of the “Western world, including Commonwealth countries, provide for low-standard and under-developed countries. The Russians and their friends contribute in investment and aid to countries overseas a total of £stg. 100,000,000 a year. The Western contribution is £stg.2,100,000,000 a year. It will be seen, therefore, that the Western countries contribute more than twenty times as much as do the Communist countries to the aid of under-developed nations which suffer an economic disability because of their lack of advancement.
Those are important matters, Sir. They form the basis on which we have to consider this question. We should not be critical of Great Britain for electing to join an economic bloc because she thinks that it is necessary for her to do so; but surely the Australian Government should not have been entirely inactive during the seven years during which it saw the pattern of European economic integration developing. Our primary producers and manufacturers might be pardoned for thinking that the Government would protect their interests. Instead, it has done nothing of the kind. If Great Britain fails to prevail on the other members of the Common Market to give preference to Commonwealth countries, what will be the alternative? What then will the Australian Government say to the people about the economic muddle in which it had landed them? The Government has failed to take appropriate action to protect Australia’s interests, although it has had due notice of the trend of events. I suggest to honorable senators opposite that they should support the amendment moved on behalf of the Opposition and say, “ God bless Britain in her endeavours to do the best she can for humanity “.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT.-
I call Senator Spooner, who will be speaking to the amendment and not in reply to the debate on the motion he has moved. Consequently, in speaking now he will not close the debate.
.- On 17th August, I tabled a statement made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) in another place, outlining the Government’s policies and its views on the great problem presented by the proposed entry of Great Britain into the European Common Market. When I tabled the statement I moved the usual formal motion that it be printed, to enable the Senate to debate it. Senator McKenna, on behalf of the Opposition, moved an amendment criticising the Government. As you have said, Mr. Acting Deputy President, I am now speaking against the amendment. The concluding words of the amendment criticize the Government because of “ its continuing failure, as demonstrated by the Prime Minister’s speech, to appreciate the real issues which are involved “.
One of the main themes of my speech is to establish to the satisfaction of the Senate that it is not the Government which has failed to appreciate the real issues that are involved in this matter, but rather that Senator McKenna, in leading the debate on behalf of the Opposition, has done so and has also failed to appreciate correctly the situation in which we now find ourselves. As a result of a basically incorrect appreciation of the situation, he has made a series of unsound and inappropriate proposals regarding the Government policy in the present circumstances. Indeed, many of the proposals that he advanced are not related even remotely to the problem that we are now considering. To the extent that his proposals were sound, in the majority of cases they have already been carried through to successful implementation by the Government.
Senator McKenna proceeded on a basically incorrect assumption. He said -
I make bold to say. . . that Great Britain will go into the Common Market regardless of what the terms of admission may be. I think Britain must do that.
Later, he said -
I have taken the risk of stating that I believe Britain inevitably will join.
In another part of his speech he referred to a comment by Professor Hallstein, the chairman of the commission which, in effect, is the public service part of the Common Market organization, in which that gentleman pointed to the difficulties that any new entrant to the Common Market would encounter. That was done to create an atmosphere and in an effort to show that the day was lost, that Great Britain would enter the Common Market regardless of other people’s interests, and that no alternative was left to us but to lose our great export trade.
This is a situation in which we have to face the facts as they are, remembering all the time that the circumstances may well change from month to month and from year to year. We are not facing a situation in which Great Britain intends to enter the Common Market regardless of what may happen to anybody else. The position is that Great Britain has decided to negotiate. The resolution of the House of Commons is couched in these terms - . . negotiations to see if satisfactory arrangements can be made to meet the special interests of the United Kingdom, of the Commonwealth and of the European Free Trade Association; . . no agreement . . . will be entered into until it has been approved by this House after full consultation with other Commonwealth countries by whatever procedure they may generally agree.
So the position is quite the reverse of what Senator McKenna put to the Senate. I repeat that it is not a case of Great Britain entering the Common Market regardless of the interests of others. What she intends to do is to attempt to negotiate, having regard to our position.
Senator McKenna quoted various extracts from the speech of Mr. Macmillan, the Prime Minister of Great Britain, in support of his own view of the British approach. But one could quote as many other statements by Mr. Macmillan which establish quite the reverse. Let me quote one or two of them. Mr. Macmillan said -
We will consult the Commonwealth countries at every level and at all stages.
He also said -
Our aim is to make satisfactory arrangements to meet the special interests of the Commonwealth, particularly, of course, in the economic field.
I shall not go through them all. One could quote four or five, or even six or seven, statements by the British Prime Minister setting out Great Britain’s objectives in her negotiations.
What Senator McKenna did was to express his own personal opinion. Events conceivably could prove him to be correct; but that is not the problem that is before us at the present time. The position is that we now have an opportunity to mould the existing circumstances to Australia’s best advantage. To my mind, it is utterly wrong to approach these negotiations with any feeling of defeatism and without any thought of the fact that standing alongside us is our good, strong ally, the United Kingdom, which is bound to us by every tie and is obliged to assist us in the terms of the resolution passed by the House of Commons. What a state we would have got into if we had proceeded to debate the matter upon the basis that the view of the British Government was different from that expressed by the House of Commons in its resolution.
The approach of Senator McKenna and of the Labour Party generally to this matter is superficial. Honorable senators opposite have given no consideration to what the real issues are and what may happen. We have not reached a stage where we intend to ignore a resolution of the House of Commons. I have not heard one honorable senator opposite take into consideration any of the infinite variety of solutions that may be found to this problem. This is not a case of black being black and white being white. Britain’s approach to the Common Market will be the subject of great negotiations, and I am as certain as one can be in relation to a matter of such size and importance that compromise arrangements will be arrived at. We may be able to retain the whole of our market in the United Kingdom and on the Continent; we may be able to retain part of it; or we may be able to make special deals for certain of our products.
The Labour Party ignores altogether the possibility that existing trade treaties with the United Kingdom and continental countries will not be continued for the whole of the transitional period of twelve or fifteen years, that being the basis upon which other members of the Common Market have joined the organization. We may have a transitional period of that length in which to recast our arrangements. We may find that our existing arrangements with Great Britain will be completely protected. Of course, that is the Australian objective. We must not despair. Similar arrangements have been made by the existing members of the Common Market for their colonies; they have been able to bring the colonies in alongside themselves. Who will say that the sugar agreement will not continue until 1968, that we will not be able to retain the meat agreement until 1967, or that we may not be able to continue a pattern of trade approximating that which we enjoy at the present time?
The Common Market countries cannot, in the immediate future, produce sufficient primary products for all their requirements. They may make specific long-term contracts with countries outside that organization. It is quite wrong to approach this matter from the basis that we will lose all those markets in Great Britain in which we are vulnerable and in relation to which the value of our trade is of the order of £170,000,000 a year. Let us consider the matter from a commercial viewpoint. At the present time 26 per cent, of our exports are sold to Great Britain, and we are taking 7 per cent, of her exports. Not only Australia is involved in the result of these negotiations; other parts of the British Commonwealth of Nations are involved too. British Commonwealth countries take 40 per cent, of the exports of the United Kingdom. So it will be seen that Great Britain has a vital interest in maintaining the existing trade conditions. Surely on commercial grounds alone we can enter upon our negotiations confident that we will be fighting side by side with Great Britain. We as a government have said that this matter is of such vital concern to Australia that, so far as we are able to do so, we will not entrust our negotiations to anybody else. We have made the claim that we will sit around the table as a party principal if we can possibly do so and will argue as Australians for Australians our case in regard to our exports of wool, wheat, butter, canned fruits, dried fruits and all the other products we produce.
Great Britain may never join the Common Market. In the final analysis, she may join on terms that are quite satisfactory to Australia; but that will happen only if we have the vigorous, virile Australian Government fighting for Australia’s primary industries. 1 have not detected in the speeches of honorable senators opposite any sign of the vigour and virility that is needed, as some one else has said already, on this historic occasion. There has been a good deal of talk about our inactivity up to the present stage. Such statements are quite unsound. What action has been open to Australia up to this stage? It was only yesterday, so to speak, that the United Kingdom said she intended to negotiate for entry to the Common Market. What we have done up to this stage has been to protect to the hilt Australia’s trade with the United Kingdom and the Continent in the existing circumstances. Now that the circumstances have changed, I am confident that we will be able to do in the future what we have done in the past.
I think it is a good thing to look at the nature of the problem. I should think that all honorable senators on the Government side are familiar already with the nature of the problem, but I shall explain it to honorable senators opposite, who have shown so little appreciation of it up to this stage. If I may say so, Mr. President, I shall relate the whole of my remarks to trade considerations, although there are many other considerations. The great problem we face is that the Common Market is a combination of continental powers, not only attempting to increase its industrial potential, but also aiming to increase and improve its primary production. That is the problem as it affects Europe and as it affects Australia. By and large, primary production on the European continent is not efficient. I am told that approximately two-thirds of the farms on the continent are under 25 acres in size. There is great competition for markets, which brings about poor prices. Europe is unable to produce certain of the products that it needs. There is a great competition, not only between products but between individual European countries.
The aim of the Common Market countries m their common agricultural policy, in brief, is to increase the prices paid for their own primary products and to restrict imports of primary products from overseas by the imposition of quotas and import restrictions or, as seems more likely, by imposing levies on goods and using the funds so obtained to reconstruct their primary industries and finance price stabilization schemes. The treaty, of course, gives the European Economic Community the power to do all these things, and sets a deadline for these objectives to be carried out. The commission has made a series of proposals that it thinks should be adopted, and those proposals have been considered also by the parliament that has been established. They are being considered, too, by the Ministers df State. Nevertheless, in truth, the problem is such a vexed one that they have not yet been able to reach agreement upon it. It is said that that is one of the considerations that has impelled the United Kingdom to commence negotiations at this stage. She wishes to negotiate before a common agricultural policy is adopted, in the hope that she will be able to influence the negotiations for the benefit of herself primarily, but also for the benefit of other Commonwealth nations.
There is a conflict between various products and various countries in Europe. There is a further conflict, in that some members of the Common Market with overseas territories have already arranged to obtain free entry for the tropical products of those territories. There is yet another conflict between primary products produced in tropical areas and primary products produced in temperate areas.
– What has this to do with the amendment?
– I am proving that the amendment is unsoundly based. The Opposition has said in its amendment that the Government does not appreciate the real issues. I am saying that the Opposition does not appreciate the real issues and that the whole of the criticism by the Opposition rests upon a completely unsound foundation. I go further. It has been suggested during the debate that the Government has been negligent in its approach to this matter. Senator McKenna, when speaking to his amendment, had included in “ Hansard “ a table showing the trade that Australia does at present with the Common Market countries. The table shows that our trade with Common Market countries amounts to £501,000,000. When Senator McKenna produced the table, Senator Vincent interjected, and in reply to the interjection Senator McKenna said that he would be very happy if some one would tell him the action that had been taken by the Government. That was in relation to sales amounting to £501,000,000. Senator McKenna did not state - perhaps he did not know it - that 85 per cent, of that £501,000,000 was the result of sales of wool and sheep skins. Either he did not know, or he did not bother to say, that the trade in wool and sheep skins has already been protected by this Government. The Opposition has criticized the Government, but the fact is that the Government has made an arrangement with the Common Market, and bound it under the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, whereunder wool and sheep skins are protected and have duty-free entry into the Common
Market. The Government has already protected 85 per cent, of our sales to the Common Market.
Let me deal with the proposals that have come from the Opposition through Senator McKenna. His first proposal was that we should not export wool. I do not know whether we should take that seriously or not. His proposal was that we should manufacture woollen goods in Australia and export the manufactured articles. The Government has covered that position already. Wool is not challenged by the Common Market arrangements. There is no proposal for a discriminating tariff against wool. The second proposal was that we should aim at national selfsufficiency. He said that if private enterprise would not develop industries of a certain type, the Government should give the lead. He said that we should say to overseas concerns, “ You can bring in your capital, but you cannot take away from local firms the right to export “. I should like some one to tell me what that means. It sounds fine as you read it out.
He also said that we should find new products as well as new markets; that we should not allow foreign corporations to take charge of our raw materials, such as bauxite; that we should carry out a more vigorous search for oil; that we should have a government-owned overseas shipping line and that we should restrict the activities of overseas insurance companies. All I say in reply to that is: What bearing have those proposals on the problem that now faces Australia? The whole problem now before Australia is to protect the sale overseas of our primary products, and I suggest that it is going to be cold comfort for the man on the land in Australia to find that the Labour Party’s idea of protecting him is to build up secondary industries, to have an overseas shipping line, to have Australian insurance companies and, in the process of doing that, completely to ignore the man who has got meat and wheat and other primary products to sell.
The great task in these negotiations is to protect the position of the primary producer on overseas markets in the United Kingdom and on the Continent. That is the great task that we have. There is only one way in which to go about that task, and that is to do as we are doing at the present time.
We have already protected the position of wool, and we are already in negotiation with continental countries stressing the position of Australia and Australia’s ability to provide these goods at the low price at which Australia produces them. We have to argue out the case for wheat, dried fruits and sugar - to do what we have been doing for years past - that is, sowing the seed in anticipation of these developments occurring. We have done the ground work.
Some of the proposals that Senator McKenna has advanced on behalf of the Labour Party are laudable; some of them are quite good. Who is going to argue about our continuing to advance in terms of national self-sufficiency? Who is going to argue against the case that we should develop our secondary industries in Australia? All I say in that connexion are two things: The first is that that is already being done by the Government far more efficiently than it would be done under a socialistic system. The development of secondary industries in Australia has been the most dramatic event in post-war Australia- All that is being given this advocacy by the Labour Party is being done, and it is being done far more efficiently than it would be done if Labour were in power. But that is not nearly so important as the point I am about to stress, and I hope that the Opposition will understand it: The proposals that Labour is now advancing will do nothing whatever to solve the problem with which we are now confronted, because that problem is not at the moment to develop our secondary industries, or to find oil, and it is not to have our overseas shipping company; the problem at the moment in the changing world in which we live is to continue to develop and to hold and maintain the markets for our primary products overseas that may well be threatened by these Common Market arrangements.
.- I feel deeply for the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Spooner) because I know what a pleasant and plausible person he usually is. He had a difficult case to make. He said that it was wrong for us to go into the matter at this stage as though we were going to lose everything. I agree with him; but if the present Government is returned to office at the next election Australia may lose everything.
– It would?
– I said, “If the present Government is returned to office “. The Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Henty) agrees with me. The return of this Government would bring about coolie conditions in Australia. Senator Henty displayed real brilliance by his interjection. Senator Spooner asserted that Senator McKenna had said that we should not export wool. What he did really say - and the implication was quite clear - was that with wool, as with other raw materials, we should fabricate it to the greatest extent possible in this country in order to provide employment and enable our primary products to be consumed by the people that we employ in secondary industry. Senator McKenna did say something about secondary industry and what was going to happen to our primary products. Well, what actually happens in the United Kingdom? It is not a great primary-producing country, but it seems to be able to preserve a reasonable standard of living for its people through secondary industry, and to preserve a reasonable standard of living for those who are engaged in primary industry. If we in this country had not had a succession of governments of similar ilk to that which at present occupies the treasury-benches we would probably have a greater pride in this country to-day as we would not still be a continent producing raw materials for other people to fabricate, thus enabling them through profits to provide a good standard of living for themselves, to the detriment of the people who produce the raw materials.
– You want to have your cake and eat it, too.
– Not necessarily; if I made a cake, I am so charitable I would give it away. It is not characteristic of Senator Spooner to generalize as he did in his speech to-night. Probably the limitation of time - this is further evidence of my charity - precluded him from providing us with the proof of his statements, if he were in possession of it, which every one doubts; he knows that he does not possess such proof.
I think I have covered the points that Senator Spooner made in his speech. I should like now to take the opportunity, briefly, to protest about a certain happening. I was astounded that the Leader of the Government in the Senate, who has been so anxious to preserve the prestige and the dignity of this august chamber, was so obsequious as to permit without protest the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) to take broadcasting time that belonged to the Senate. I am not quarrelling with the rights of the Prime Minister in relation to the important statement he wanted to make, but when one realizes that it has taken him years to awaken to the importance of the European Economic Community - the Common Market, as it is termed - he could quite easily have broadcast his statement at an hour when the proceedings of the House of Representatives normally are broadcast. But no, because of an arrogance so characteristic of him he had to make his statement at an hour of his choosing, and there was no protest when he appropriated for that purpose the broadcasting time that is normally available to the Senate.
– That was in accordance with a decision of a committee of both Houses.
– On which the Government has a majority.
– Now tell us what Mr. Calwell wanted to do on the following day?
– He did not tell me. As I am not the leader of a party in this chamber, as Senator Spooner is, why would Mr. Calwell, who is the Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives, consult me? However, on such a matter I would expect the Prime Minister at least to consult the Leader of the Government in this chamber.
– He did.
– And you bowed to his wishes?
– I agreed.
– I have not a great length of time at my disposal, and for that reason I am grateful to Senator Wright for his learned and analytical address concerning the constitution of the European Economic Community. I had intended to deal in some measure with that subject, but his effort, which was so much more brilliant than mine could possibly be, has made it unnecessary for me to do so. I look forward to reading the report of his speech in “ Hansard “.
As honorable senators know, I am not m the habit of repeating myself, but I say to-night, as I said last night in the debate on the Foot and Mouth Disease Bill, “ Here is an example of procrastination “. Interested as I was, I saw and heard the Prime Minister deliver his speech. For his age his physique is still good. His mind is grand. No one can take that from him. But he is still a procrastinator. At 65, he is the old procrastinator, just as at 45 he was the young procrastinator, when the people of Australia saw fit to displace him at a time when we were in dire peril. As I listened to him, I thought that, with his not unparalled but probably unexcelled command of words, no one could describe an accident better, and this could quite easily be a national calamity. But apparently he has no facility or capacity for seeing the red light or the warning signal in matters of national importance. I do not propose to waste much time with the Prime Minister.
– You are not doing badly up to now.
– I dealt with him, I thought, particularly fairly. I might have dealt with him much more efficiently, caustically and justifiably if I had more time. Then we have “ Fighting Mac “, the Deputy Prime Minister. As one newspaper report put it, “ McEwen lets fly on market “. lt refers to him as “ Fighting Mac “. I was reminded of the man known as “ Fighting Mac “ whom I heard about during the First World War, who was known for his courage and his unparalleled Christian charity. He happened to be a brigadier in the Salvation Army. According to the press, the Deputy Prime Minister overshadowed the Prime Minister. He hit at the United States of America and -
Accused Amenca of preaching free trade but not practicing it.
Said Australia’s fight was a fight of “the very right to live and grow in a prosperous free world “.
Predicted “ nothing but havoc “ for many industries in Australia and New Zealand unless their trading rights were protected.
Demanded for Australia the rights laid down by the late President Roosevelt and Sir Winston Churchill at the time of the Atlantic Charter.
Foresaw vast surpluses of food which, he pleaded, should be used to feed the hungry people of the world.
He railed at the United Kingdom in some measure, but as recently as the year ended 30th June, 1961, the deficit of this country with the United States of America was no less than £144,000,000 and the deficit with the United Kingdom was £109,000,000. Yet “ Fighting Mac “, who is now attacking the United States of America, is the very man who recommended that we import what we like, from where we like, when we like.
It is true that the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom had never signified that the United Kingdom would apply to join the European Economic Community, but the evidence has been there since 1949. It was rather interesting to read of the pressure from the United States of America upon the United Kingdom to join, with no measure of assurance of protection for Commonwealth countries. Let us not forget that the world is locked in a conflict in which the only really mighty powers are the Soviet Union and the United States of America. They determine the actions of other countries. The United States of America sought the rehabilitation of Western Europe, first with the Marshall Plan, and then with the Organization for European Economic Co-operation in 1948. Then Monnet, the French political economist, who modernized the machinery of France, laid down what is now known as the Schumann Plan for the coal and steel industries of Western Europe. That became a living entity in 1952. In. February, 1958, we saw the establishment by treaty of what is now known as the European Economic Community.
I should like to deal with the council, the commission, the court, the assembly, and the economic and social committees, which I think Senator Wright omitted to mention. These are things that are living and functioning and have proved efficient. The community aims at the lowering of tariffs and at free trade amongst the countries that comprise it. It aims also at improved social conditions, the coordination of transport and the development of goodwill. There has been a suggestion of federalism, or more possibly, in the light of the history of the countries that compose the community, of a confederacy or confederation. Sir Winston Churchill was not, as was suggested, the first man to visualize a confederacy or confederation of the States of Europe. That was suggested at various periods. Senator McCallum being such a learned scholar in history, would know much more than I about that.
The answer of the United Kingdom to the European Economic Community was to establish with six small, relatively unimportant countries a free trade association, which had no hope of surviving. Let us be fair and say that perhaps the United Kingdom hoped that by establishing this organization it might in some measure preserve goodwill towards the various Commonwealth countries, and preserve also a market independent of the European Common Market, but there is now no possibility of survival for the United Kingdom outside the Common Market. Speakers who have done much more research than I have done have cited the investment drift from the United Kingdom to the continent of Europe over recent years, and more particularly from the United States. That is justifiable, because if we live in a capitalistic world we might as well get the biggest return possible, and Europe is where the investors think that they will get it.
As Senator Spooner realizes, mostly he and I agree. In this matter we do agree. All is not lost. It can be lost only by the procrastination, the dilatory attitude and the laziness of the Prime Minister in relation to his national and international responsibilities. Let us not forget what the United Kingdom has meant to Australia. If this is merely to be an area to provide raw materials, let us think in terms of money. Last year, overseas sales of butter amounted to £22,000,000. Sugar, 94 per cent, of which came from Queensland, brought £16,000,000. Wheat brought £14,000,000, and beef and veal brought £24,000,000. I am quoting only round figures because I have not very much time in which to drop my pearls of wisdom before the people who are listening with rapt attention. We also exported £10,000.000 worth of canned meat. £5,000,000 worth of apples and pears, £11,000,000 worth of canned fruits and juices and £4,000,000 worth of dried fruits. Everybody is aware that I have a national outlook, but I have also a sense of responsibility towards Queensland - the State that sent me to this Parliament.
Queensland exports 65 per cent, of her butter production. Sugar exports earn £15,000,000 a year for Queensland; and meat exports have earned between £6,000,000 and £12,000,000 annually. In the last three years, Queensland’s exports overseas brought in £190,000,000, £156,000,000 and £169,000,000 respectively. For the same three years the sale of Queensland’s products on the home market amounted to £101,000,000, £96,000,000 and £103,000,000 respectively.
I think Senator Benn pointed out during his speech that when the Chifley Government was in power immediately after the war, we did not have to seek markets for our goods. We had no trouble selling our products. The Government talks of finding new markets, but where will it sell our butter and our sugar? Somebody suggested that we might sell our products to the Common Market countries, but high tariff barriers will make that course impossible. The Six have not yet decided what rate of tariff will be applied to birds’ eggs, so there may be a chance for us there. Our sales to Common Market countries are now as high as they can be expected to go. It cannot be expected that the Common Market will vary the terms under which our goods are sold to member nations. The Common Market aims at achieving a particular purpose, namely, the establishment of the prestige of the particular area as a bulwark against communism. The Prime Minister had a brilliant mind when he was fifteen years of age. He still had a brilliant mind when he was 25 years of age and when he was 35 years of age. I think he could still use his great talents in the interests of Australia. If by his actions the Prime Minister could safeguard Australia’s trading position now that Britain has sought entry into the European Economic Community, possibly the Labour Party would not nominate a candidate to stand against him in Kooyong at the next elections, although we would want our proportion of Senate votes.
Economic progress in Western Europe has been tremendous. There has been a great increase in productivity in West Germany, France and particularly Italy. The speech delivered by Mr. Macmillan to the House of Commons completely overshadowed the speech delivered on this subject in this Parliament by our Prime Minister. Yet our Prime Minister has been blessed with a flair for words. He has a mind that can develop ideas; it is a pity that he does not use it. The fight against communism will not be decided in Western Europe. Communism is not seeking a nation. It is not seeking an empire. It is seeking the world of the minds of men. Our Prime Minister should go to Europe and state Australia’s case to the Common Market countries. He should endeavour to persuade those countries that the future of the world lies not in the hands of Europe, which for centuries has utilized its raw materials, particularly its metals, and not in the hands of the United States, which has been rapidly utilizing its metals and other raw materials, but in those continents that have been relatively unexploited - Asia, Africa, South America and, to a lesser extent, Australia. Do you not think that is where communism will expand? I do not deny that there is justification for a strong western Europe. I would not be so stupid to do so, despite what honorable senators opposite may think of me. They have grown arrogant and contemptuous because, through good fortune and misrepresentation, they command the numbers in this place.
I have submitted a few suggestions that should be considered by the Government. The Prime Minister has said that he was not aware of Britain’s intention. For twelve years the trend in Europe has been apparent. Monet made known his plans, and Schumann implemented them. The European Economic Community has proved its efficiency, so much so that surely those in control of the treasury-bench in this country must have realized that the United Kingdom would be forced to join it. Suddenly, in 1961, this matter becomes an important issue. But the Government cannot delude the people, no matter how hard it may try. The Prime Minister of the United Kingdom has told us that this matter was discussed at last year’s Prime Ministers’ Conference. It was discussed also at a meeting of Commonwealth Finance Ministers. But what did the Government tell the Australian people?
– Senator Spooner said that this happened only yesterday.
– I think probably Mr. Macmillan would be a little interested in this debate. I do not suggest that Senator Spooner would dare or desire to misrepresent the position, but he probably did not know the facts. Mr. Macmillan has said that this matter was discussed at the Prime Ministers’ Conference in 1960. But now we find that the Government has been thrown into a panic; the Prime Minister saw fit to dislocate the workings of the Senate in order to broadcast a statement on the Common Market. It is tragic that Australia did not realize years ago the situation with which she would be faced if Britain entered the European Economic Community. The Government has not seen fit to acquaint the people with the true position. It has been assisted in this regard by its associates in the United Kingdom and elsewhere, who are happy to regard Australia as a reservoir of raw materials to be fabricated in other countries which draw off the profits and become the lords.
Until the last war we were told that the Australian climate was not suitable for the fabrication of woollen goods, but in a time of dire peril it was found that the climate was suitable. Had we utilized this country’s raw materials - minerals, wool and so on - over the years, Australia might have been a real nation to-day. I am not saying that the Australian people are not people with a proud heritage and a national pride, but they have been denied the material wealth to which they were entitled and Australia has been denied its place in the sun. Now is the time for us to face up to the challenge. Now is the time for our Prime Minister to go overseas - it would not be unusual for him to travel - not when the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom discusses the matter with the Common Market countries. This is a particularly important occasion. The Minister for Trade - “ Fighting Mac “ - and the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) should go with our Prime Minister. I do not think there would be any doubt that pairs would be granted to them. They should go and iron out this Common Market question. The Common Market is a bulwark against communism and a means of preserving the Christian way of life.
However, that does not excuse us from examining the Australian cost structure. Senator Wright mentioned that. I regret that time prevented him from dealing with the implications of United Kingdom membership of the Common Market. He dealt with the basis of its establishment, and he dealt with it as brilliantly as only he can. I am certain that given the time he could have pointed out the evil significance to Australia of Britain’s joining on the terms envisaged. Senator Wright mentioned that we would have to examine our cost structure. Let us hope and pray that when the time comes to do that, and when we have to face real competition in a world of economic peril, we do not deny the poor and permit the rich. If there has to be denial, let those who are rich - I almost said “ those of us “, but of course I am not in that class - deny ourselves for the sake of humanity. Human beings are greater than material assets.
Australia is a nation that has something. It is only relatively great because relatively few people live here. As every one knows, under present scientific conditions, it is not great among the continents of the world in natural resources. It has a great way of life, and Australians are grand people. They deserve better than the government they have at the present time. I hope that when the election comes - whether it is in November or December - they will show a measure of political wisdom and change the government and return a Labour government which will have a sense of responsibility and be just as bitterly opposed to communism as this Government claims it is, but without utilizing communism as a political weapon to defeat its enemies.
Summing up, Mr. Deputy President, this is a momentous occasion. From the way Mr. Macmillan phrased his speech to the House of Commons and the headings he employed, there appears to be only one difficulty, and I think it will be ironed out in the light of the urgent necessity for Britain to join the Common Market. I refer to the interest of the people who pursue agricultural callings in England. All the countries of the European Economic Community are somewhat worried about that matter, but they will iron it out with due regard to the major difficulties and the major objectives.
At this time there should be urgent consultation at the highest level. In the interests of Australia, the Prime Minister should devote to this matter all the talents and energy that characterized his youth, in association with the maturity that must be his now in his sixties. I do not deny the need to seek new markets, and we must face the problem of our cost structure. I also say that the poor should not be denied, and the rich should be prepared to deny themselves in order to preserve the heritage that is theirs and ours.
– We have just listened to Senator Dittmer’s speech, which must have amazed and dismayed the people who were listening to him. He devoted about twenty of the thirty minutes allowed to him to a personal attack on the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen). He devoted the remaining ten minutes to a distortion of the facts.
– Be truthful. I was truthful. You know how nice I am to you. I do not like those words, “ distortion of the facts “.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. A. D. Reid). - Order!
– I congratulate the Prime Minister on his statement on Australia and the European Economic Community. I agree unreservedly with his opinion and that of the Minister for Trade that Great Britain’s decision on whether she is to enter the community is of great importance to Australia, the Commonwealth, and indeed to the free world. Let me say at the outset that I consider it improper to argue as to whether Britain should or should not join the Common Market. That is a decision for Britain alone. Neither is there any merit in arguing whether she should have joined before now. As all honorable senators know, she decided to remain out of the Common Market in 1957 because she was concerned about the future of British agriculture and the impact of her joining on the Commonwealth countries. For those reasons and others, she established and became the corner-stone of the European Free Trade Association. She has worked with that group of nations towards the gradual elimination of tariffs and quotas between the member nations on industrial products, with no common internal tariff and with agricultural and fishery products excluded. However, as Senator Wright pointed out this afternoon, events in Europe have been moving rapidly during the past four years, and Britain is now facing one of the most momentous decisions she has ever been called upon to make.
The concept of European unity is not new. As has been explained in the Senate, since 1945 negotiations have been proceeding in Europe for greater economic integration. The early negotiations were aimed primarily at the setting up of a vast market with external tariffs against the rest of the world, but with no internal barriers. The first union for the purposes of trade to emerge in Europe was the European Coal and Steel Community. Later discussions amongst the various nations were directed towards an ultimate European economic community and in 1957 the Treaty of Rome established the European Economic Community or Common Market.
Attempts were made to bring about an association between the European Free Trade Association and the Common Market but these were not successful. However, the success of the Common Market and the growing threat to Western Europe and the free world from aggressive communism accentuated the desirability of further European unity. This view was expressed by the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom Mr. Macmillan, in his statement to the House of Commons on Monday, 31st July last, when he said -
In this modern world the tendency towards larger groups of nations acting together in the common interest leads to greater unity, and this adds to our strength in the struggle for freedom. I believe it is both our duty and our interest to contribute towards that strength by securing the closest possible unity with Europe.
Mr. Macmillan went on to announce that Britain had decided to make formal application to initiate negotiations with a view to joining the European Economic Community. Three days later, on Thursday, 3rd August, the House of Commons approved of a mo ion supporting this decision and giving certain undertakings.
Senator Spooner referred to that motion a few minutes ago. I emphasize, Sir, that the motion and its approval by the British Parliament do not commit the United Kingdom to entry into the Common Market, but they do indicate, first, that the emergence of the Common Market is forcing the United Kingdom to consider her position in the world, economically and politically. Secondly, they indicate that the United Kingdom is aware of the problems in relation to her own and Commonwealth interests, and will negotiate to see whether those special interests can be met. Thirdly - and I think this is of tremendous importance - they indicate that the United Kingdom has undertaken not to enter into any agreement affecting those special interests, or involving British sovereignty, without the approval of the Parliament. Fourthly, and equally important, they indicate that the United Kingdom Government has undertaken that Commonwealth countries will be consulted before any agreement is entered into. All of this, Sir, surely must be interpreted to mean that the United Kingdom will endeavour to reconcile her own vital interests in trade and in national security with what she has always regarded as her obligations to other members of the Commonwealth. Before the suspension of the sitting for dinner, Senator Wright explained the aims of the Treaty of Rome. They include the removal of all barriers and restrictions on trade between member countries, the setting up of a common agricultural policy, the establishment of a single tariff for the whole group against imports from the outside world, and a common policy in respect of transport, social services and commercial and economic matters. Senator Wright also adverted to the provision for supranational institutions in the form of an assembly, a council, an executive commission and a court of justice to deal with the interpretation and enforcement of the treaty.
I somehow felt, Sir, that my very learned colleague, Senator Wright, expressed a different opinion from that stated by Senator McCallum.. I gathered that his interpretation of the powers of the supra-national institutions established under the Treaty of Rome was very different from that of Senator McCallum who had informed the Senate that in his opinion power had not been transferred to this new body as a sovereign body. As I understand the treaty - and I believe Senator Wright’s comments have confirmed my understanding - there is an expressed derogation of sovereign power from the member nations of the European Economic Community to its supra-national institutions. I should be interested to know whether 1 am right or wrong in that view. I imagine that Senator Wright concurs in my understanding, since he is nodding his head.
The Prime Minister, in his statement, directed attention to the differences between the Treaty of Rome and other such agreements in that, under the Treaty of Rome, there must be unanimous agreement for the joining and the leaving, whereas parties to other agreements may leave as they think fit. It is true that, at the present stage of the negotiations, the whole question of the Common Market is largely one of conjecture and point of view, but there are signs of substantial differences of opinion in areas of great importance and significance. The first concerns the effect that the entry of the United Kingdom into the Common Market would have on Commonwealth relations. The Prime Minister of the United Kingdom has stated that it would be wrong, in his view, to regard Britain’s Commonwealth and European interests as conflicting. At the same time, our own Prime Minister has very rightly directed attention to the political and economic significance of the Treaty of Rome
The Prime Minister’s statement sets out the value to the world of a great European power set against the forces of communism, and the problems associated with the welding together of nations into one intimate economic union. The Prime Minister expressed his own view and that of the Australian Government when he said -
We understand, and we freely acknowledge, that if true European unity can, in spite of the history of the past 100 years, be brought about, the prospects of world peace will grow brighter. But, as a senior Commonwealth country, we have felt bound to say we do not think that the Commonwealth as a political organism would be strengthened. Great Britain, as the centre of the Commonwealth, has in the past spoken for herself at Commonwealth conferences. After entering the new Europe, with its common policies and institutions and rules, she could no longer speak with detachment. The Treaty of Rome cannot be approbated and reprobated at the same time. Nor could a growing interest, and, more than interest, involvement in Europe, be calculated to leave completely untouched the present British position in and around Asia and Africa.
From those words, Sir, we see very clearly that, in the opinion of the Australian Government, if Britain decided to join the Common Market the very force of that commitment must have an effect on the close and individual political relations which have characterized the Commonwealth hitherto.
I now wish to turn to the economic provisions in the Treaty of Rome. Participating governments are required to pursue a common agricultural and commercial policy. Senator Spooner has explained that to date no common agricultural policy has been settled. He went on to say that if Britain entered into negotiations she might be able to influence the effect of that policy in regard to her own agriculture and that of other Commonwealth nations. At the present time, British farming is very heavily subsidized. The British farmer is protected by guaranteed prices. To date the British farmers have insisted that their favoured position be protected, but so far there has been no sign that the European nations have supported that point of view. I believe that in any negotiations that are conducted Britain may have to overcome substantial difficulties in relation to her own agricultural industry. Therefore, it may well be that the negotiations will be extremely protracted
Australia’s trade is based on a structure that has been in existence since the Ottawa Agreement was signed in 1932. Practically all of Australia’s exports to the United Kingdom are guaranteed free entry. That confers a great benefit on Australia, because almost all foreign goods attract duty. Moreover, duty preferences are guaranteed on many imported Australian commodities. Some preferences are not scheduled in the trade agreement and are not guaranteed; but many processed foods and almost all of Australian manufactured goods enjoy duty preference. Therefore, Australia’s immediate concern is the extent to which her trade interests could be affected if Britain decided to join the Common Market.
Commodities that are exported to the United Kingdom, and which could be endangered, have already been mentioned. They include wheat, meat, dairy products, base metals, sugar, dried fruits, fresh fruits and processed fruits. Butter, for example, enters the United Kingdom duty free and’ with a tariff against continental suppliers. Wheat is guaranteed free entry, and theUnited Kingdom has undertaken to buy a minimum of 750,000 tons of wheat, including flour, each year. The United’ Kingdom guarantees Australian producers- a market for 300,000 tons of sugar at an annually negotiated price, which is above world parity. She also guarantees an outlet for an additional 300,000 tons of sugar at the world parity price, plus a preference. The meat agreement gives Australia the right of unrestricted entry to the United Kingdom market for all beef, mutton and lamb at guaranteed minimum prices that are mutually agreed upon. It is evident, therefore, that with the existence of a common agricultural policy Australian exports could lose free entry to the United Kingdom and attract import duties or levies.
Another very important problem - possibly it is the most intricate and most involved of all - is what would happen to the flow of United Kingdom capital to Australia if Britain were to join the European Common Market. Moreover, what would be the future of sterling as an international currency? Last night, in another place, the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) pointed out that in the thirteen years from 1947-48 to 1959-60 the sum of £695,000,000, or 61 per cent, of the cumulative total of private investment, including direct and portfolio investment in companies in Australia, came from the United Kingdom. In addition, under present arrangements, Australia enjoys preference over all non-sterling countries in obtaining capital from the United Kingdom. When we remember that, and also that Australia’s high credit rating has enabled her to raise on the London market 58 per cent, of total Commonwealth borrowings, we see that these are matters of very great importance in relation to which no hasty judgment or pronouncement can be made.
I now turn to the amendment moved by the Opposition. I think the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Spooner) dealt very effectively with every argument that was put forward by Senator McKenna. It is quite untrue to suggest that the decision of the United Kingdom to enter into negotiations to join the Common Market was the reason why this Government suddenly awakened to the need for new export outlets. Actually, the position is quite in the reverse. Britain’s announcement of her decision to initiate negotiations to join the Common Market has emphasized the urgency of increasing and diversifying
Australia’s trading opportunities, and has justified the attention given by the Government to this matter in recent years. This is a problem for which there is no easy or quick solution. The Prime Minister outlined the increase in trade commissioner services during the years from 1949 . to the present time. He pointed out that there were seventeen trade commissioner posts in twelve countries in 1949, but that there were 37 posts in 28 countries in 1960-61. He also said that £1,000,000 would be spent this year on trade promotion.
The results of the Government’s activity are clearly shown by new trading patterns that are emerging, particularly in SouthEast Asia and Japan. Whilst the terms of trade have been going against primary producing countries like Australia, export activities which have been stimulated by government action have resulted in an increased volume of trade, and in improving the unit value return of our exports.
The fact that the Opposition has reduced this debate to a party political level is to be regretted. Over the years, the Government has done everything possible to find additional outlets for Australian products. It has announced that representatives of industry and commerce will meet to discuss the problems associated with Britain’s entry to the Common Market. It has announced also that a special committee of the Cabinet will sit frequently, and work in conjunction with senior officials and expert advisers. Moreover, the Prime Minister and the Minister for Trade propose to take part in discussions in London and to place Australia’s views before the United Kingdom in the light of circumstances existing at the time. It may be that we are about to enter upon a different relationship. It may be that we shall encounter difficulties that have not existed hitherto. But I am convinced that if we bend our energies to meeting the change and to accepting the challenge as a united nation, not only shall we assist ourselves, the British Commonwealth and the world as a whole as it exists to-day, but we shall also pave the way for the generations that will follow. Therefore, I support the motion and reject the amendment.
– I rise to support the amendment moved by the Opposition. I support it mainly on the ground that the subject of the European Common Market has suddenly been thrust before the notice of the Australian public, who have little background knowledge to enable them to understand the real position. We in this chamber know that negotiations for a European Common Market have been going on really since the end of the last war. In 1948 a committee was set up to consider the formation of some kind of a common market within Europe, yet we in Australia have gone on our way blithely, regardless of the implications of such a move to this country. Now we have suddenly received a blast of publicity on this matter which has had the effect, I think, of frightening a number of people in the community. They are wondering what the results will be for Australia if Britain’s application to join the European Common Market is successful.
We know that, no matter what we do in this Parliament, Great Britain, which is still a sovereign State, will decide her own policy in this matter. Of necessity, she will have to take whatever steps she thinks are best in her interests. I do not mean that she will disregard completely the welfare of the countries which comprise the Commonwealth, but in this matter she has to take a definite stand and to consider her own survival, both economically and politically. It is amazing to me that Great Britain has been able to stand outside the Common Market for so long. I am also amazed that a conception such as the European Common Market has come to fruition so soon after the completion of the Second World War.
Those of us who were privileged to visit Europe shortly after World War II. could have hardly foreseen that in a few short years the bitter enmities and hatreds, not only of World War II., but going back for nearly a century, particularly between France and Germany, would be resolved to the extent that these countries could join in an economic union. To me it speaks volumes for the importance of the European Common Market that the hate and bitterness of the last century have been resolved in this way. We know that one of the main reasons why these countries have come together is to prevent the dreadful horrors of war from being unleashed foi a third time upon Europe. By joining together in this economic union they are presenting a great bulwark to forces which could easily be unleashed again upon Europe - and nobody knows what the result of another conflict would be.
Great Britain is in a very peculiar position. For a long time she was able to stand alone against the might of aggression during World War II. We know that, one after another, her allies were forced to lay down their arms and that she alone stood as a bulwark against the aggression of a foreign foe in the field of war. Now she is again standing almost alone, in an economic war. Within a few miles of her shores she is faced with an economic army of about 300,000,000 people. The European Common Market area contains about 300,000,000 people, compared with 160,000,000 in the United States bloc and about 200,000,000 in the Soviet bloc. The European Common Market has a tremendous potential for trade. If Great Britain does not join, she will stand in dreadful economic isolation.
The Opposition differs from the Government in its views on this matter. The Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) moved his amendment because we do not think that the Government has taken sufficient steps to acquaint the Australian people of the problems which will arise when Great Britain joins the Common Market, nor has it sought to find some solution to those problems, which must necessarily confront us. The markets of the western European countries are expanding much faster than those, not only of the Commonwealth, but also of the rest of the world. Those countries have made terrific progress over the last few years. The figures show that the production of the Common Market countries was 19 per cent, higher in 1960 than in 1958, and 71 per cent, higher in 1960 than in 1953. British production rose by only 13 per cent, between 1958 and 1960 and by only 28 per cent, during the seven years before 1960. The production of the European Common Market countries is outstripping the production of Great Britain, which is finding herself in a very difficult situation, not only with her primary products but also with her secondary products. For instance, the duty on a Morris Minor car imported into Belgium is £86, whereas the duty on a Volkswagen car from Germany is only £60.
The result is that Great Britain’s market for cars on the Continent is rapidly diminishing. If her industries are to keep going, and her workers are to be kept employed, she must enter the Common Market. We can have no quarrel about that, because it is the duty of any country to fight for its own survival. Our problem is: What will happen to the preferences which we have enjoyed in Great Britain for a long period? The Opposition feels that the Government has not paid enough attention to this aspect of the matter. It suggests that members of the Government should have had more consultation on it with Great Britain.
Of all the Commonwealth countries that would be affected by the entry of Great Britain into the European Common Market, the three most seriously affected would be Canada, New Zealand and Australia. Those three countries have the greatest trade with Great Britain. Australia has a better balance of trade with countries within the Common Market bloc and has a certain responsibility to supply Great Britain with foodstuffs and raw materials. We are striving to develop markets elsewhere in order to dispose of our surplus products and, as the Government has said, we have found some new markets in recent months. There is a very grave danger that our sister Dominion of New Zealand will suffer more extensively than we will because virtually all her dairy products are marketed in Great Britain. It is interesting to note that there are 44,000,000 people engaged in agricultural and fishing industries in the Common Market countries. In Great Britain, there are 2,500,000 people so engaged. We say that, as there are 44,000,000 people earning their livelihood in the agricultural and fishing industries within the Common Market countries, if their goods are going to be sold in Great Britain at Common Market prices there is going to be a decline in the demand for our agricultural and food products. The Government should have taken some steps in this matter. We know that new markets are necessarily limited by the demand for our goods and by the fact that we might have to teach some of these new countries to change completely their way of living. We shall have to teach them to enjoy some of our foods - to know what those foods are, and so on. They will also have to pay an appropriate price if our farmers are to receive a just reward for their goods.
A conference should have been called between our ministers and the ministers of Great Britain and those who are in authority as far as the European Common Market countries are concerned, so that some kind of a compromise could have been reached whereby Australian goods particularly foodstuffs, could be admitted to the Common Market countries by means of longterm contracts such as we already have with Great Britain for our beef and other products. We know that some of these products will cost more when they get to Great Britain. Here again, we have to reckon with the British housewife. Is she going to pay an extra 20 per cent, for her food supplies just because they have come from one of the Commonwealth countries? Would that be any consolation for the British housewife who has to stretch her budget to the fullest extent? It would not be much consolation for her to know that she had to pay 20 per cent, more for her household goods in order to keep the Australian market buoyant.
We have to use common sense in this matter in order to ensure that the Australian exporters and the Australian primary producers will not lose unduly. A conference should have been called to discuss and perhaps negotiate long-term agreements not only with Great Britain but also with Common Market countries. We do not want to set back the clock. This g-eat conception of a European Common Market is perhaps one of the greatest bulwarks we have had against the march of communism and also a deterrent to war. We do not want to thwart such a conception and see trade wars brought about which could end only in the destruction of civilization. There is a great deal of good in this idea. Many countries, including those within the European Common Market, have a surplus of foodstuffs, yet no less than one-half of the world’s population is underfed and many people are on the verge of starvation. We do not want to dump our primary products in those under-developed countries. We have to guard against dumping but at the same time try to raise the standard of living in under-developed countries and in that way create a demand for our food products. New markets will be created in that way. One of the greatest humanitarian results of this concept of the European Common Market will be the raising of the standard of living of people in the underdeveloped countries.
We must find new markets for our goods. We have developed new markets in Japan for our wool and in Communist China for our wheat. Many other avenues can be explored, such as the countries of South America, which have a vast trade potential. I do not say for a moment that the Government has not already sponsored trade missions to those regions. I know that it has done so, and I give it credit for what has been done in that regard. Where we do join issue with the Government is in respect of the momentum that has been allowed to develop so that there are now difficulties ahead for Australian primary industries. Even in to-day’s press there is a report, published under a big headline, about a meeting of graziers which decided to ask the Government to explore new potential markets for their products. People are getting scared of the European Common Market. They think it is a bogy, it is not a bogy at all. I feel that it is something that should be welcomed, ultimately, not only on account of economic considerations but also on account of the political considerations that go with it, because it shows that after generations men can still sit round a conference table and thrash out economic difficulties. It does not take very long from that stage for other political difficulties to be resolved, and once there is established understanding between nations in the realm of trade, understanding can follow much more closely in other spheres. So, we are not opposed to the European Common Market as such.
We do not oppose Great Britain’s right to negotiate for entry to the Common Market, but we feel that the Parliament as a whole should have been given much more information upon this subject. Various speakers on this side of the chamber have from time to time over the last five years raised the matter here, and it has nearly always been laughed off by Ministers. It has not been regarded as a subject of much consequence, whereas it should have been debated more fully long before now so that we could have brought to our con sideration of it much more informed minds on the subject. The Government has erred in not bringing the matter before the Parliament and the people. That is the reason why the Opposition has proposed its amendment which expresses concern at the way in which we have been kept in ignorance of the real position as far as the European Common Market affects not only our primary and secondary industries but also the welfare of Australia and other Commonwealth countries.
A great deal” has been said about Australia’s dependence upon an inflow of British and foreign capital. During the last couple of years there has been an amazing increase in the amount of British and American capital that has been diverted to countries of the European Common Market. A great deal more capital from Great Britain has gone into those countries than has gone into British industries. American capital, also, has been diverted to those countries because the Americans realize the potentialities of a market of 300,000,000 people, many of whom, of course, have not as high a standard of living as we or the people of Great Britain have. There is room in those countries for a great deal of industrial expansion and improvement of living standards. There are differing standards of social services in the countries that comprise the European Common Market. For example, the retiring age for males in some instances is 60 years and in others 65 years; in some countries there are higher retiring pensions than in others. I feel that ultimately the highest standards of living will prevail in the countries of all the member nations of the European Common Market and that this improvement will in time be extended to many of the new countries of the Commonwealth where living standards are deplorably low. As I said earlier, when we look to under-developed countries, including some Commonwealth countries, to take our primary products, it is not a question of dumping these products upon them or of trying to gain from their poverty. It behoves each and every one of us to work for the improvement of their living standards so that they can afford to buy our primary products and those of other Commonwealth countries. In the long run, by building up the demand for our goods, the
European Common Market will have done a service to the people of the underdeveloped nations, as well as to the primary producers of Australia.
– I rise to support the motion for the printing of the paper and to oppose the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna). I was very interested to hear the speeches of Senator Wedgwood and Senator Tangney. I believe that they gave the Senate quite an accurate account of the steps leading up to this debate. In other words, they explained the historical facts that promote the possibility of the United Kingdom joining the European Common Market, so I do not think that there is any need to go over the same facts again. I do join issue with Senator Tangney on the subject-matter of the amendment moved by her leader. I refer to that part which reads - . . the Senate . . . expresses no confidence in this Government’s ability . . . because of its lack of foresight and frankness in this matter, its dilatoriness, and its continuing failure, as demonstrated by the Prime Minister’s speech, to appreciate the real issues which are involved.
It is on that issue that I wish to address the Senate.
Last month, Mr. Duncan Sandys, of the United Kingdom, was in Australia to discuss the whole question with Cabinet. After that discussion, it was seen that this was a subject for urgent discussion by the Parliament, and the Prime Minister lost no opportunity in bringing the matter before the Parliament. Now we are nearing the end of the debate, in only the second week of the first meeting of Parliament after the visit of Mr. Sandys. Although the matter is being discussed in Parliament now, the subject of the United Kingdom’s entry into the European Common Market has been for some considerable time before the Cabinet and before the Department of Trade, as I shall proceed to illustrate.
For many years, virtually since this Government assumed office in 1949, a wide search has been going on for opportunities to expand Australia’s trade. It was seen then, as it is more clearly seen now, that as the century progressed we in this part of the world would need to seek markets other than our traditional markets. Therefore, how incongruous is it for the Opposition to move an amendment taking the Government to task! Let us recall the first thing that the Opposition did in opposing Australia’s trade expansion, about six or seven years ago when the Japanese Trade Treaty came up for ratification in the Senate. Every member of the Opposition voted against ratification of that treaty. That was the treaty that last year enabled Australia to export to Japan £160,000,000 worth of goods. Japan is now Australia’s largest customer for wool, and is also a big customer for wheat and other grain. The Government, in its foresight, introduced this treaty for ratification by the Parliament Since then, Japan has taken prime place as a buyer of Australian wool.
I also invite the attention of the Senate to the fact that in 1949 there were only seven Australian trade posts in twelve countries. This year there will be 37 posts in 28 countries. Since 1949, posts have been opened in such important parts of the world as Karachi, Rome, Bonn, New Delhi, Chicago, Ottawa and Nairobi, and in the process of being opened are posts at Lima in Peru, Caracas in Venezuela and Teheran in Persia. The Government is servicing these posts to the extent of £1,000,000 this years, whereas when the Government took office only £1,600,000 was being spent by the previous Labour Government in servicing all its posts throughout the world. In 1956, this Government established the Export Payments Insurance Corporation. That was a clear indication that such an organization was needed for the purpose of serving trade extensions to countries other than normal trading countries such as the United Kingdom, the United States of America, France and Italy. The Export Payments Insurance Corporation was established for that very purpose. In 1961, current policies valued at £26,000,000 covered transactions spread over 120 centres, mainly in Asia and the Middle East.
Since 1954, thirteen major trade or survey missions have gone from this country and have co-operated with industry associations in the organization and despatch of trade ships. I was very interested to read recently of the return of the trade ship “ Straat Banka “, which successfully completed the mission to South-East Asian countries and brought to the doorstep of businessmen in Singapore, Malaya, Ceylon, India and Pakistan, five important countries, all the wealth of Australian primary and secondary products. I understand that direct business amounting to over £3,000,000 was written in the short tour of this trade ship.
I could go on illustrating what went on with that trade mission, but I want to refer to some very practical legislation that was passed by this Parliament at its last sitting. The Government has seen fit to make imaginative taxation reductions for people who are developing export markets. These incentives work in this way: For every increase in exports amounting to 1 per cent, of a firm’s gross receipts, the exporter is entitled to a refund of 12i per cent, of the amount paid in payroll tax. When an exporter’s increased exports equal 8 per cent, of his gross receipts, he earns a complete rebate of payroll tax in respect of his entire business. That is a great export incentive. I know that several firms are endeavouring to expand their trade with other parts of the world now that the Government has provided such attractive incentives. For every £1 that is spent in an effort to increase export sales the exporter is allowed an income tax deduction of £2. During the last six or seven years the Government has not been content to talk about this matter, as the Opposition suggested it should have done; the Government has taken practical steps to increase our export earnings. It has developed a trade advisory service in the most important parts of the world. It has established 37 trade commissioner posts in 28 countries.
The Government has not been asleep. It does not deserve the censure that is implied in the Opposition’s amendment. I agree that there will be havoc for our primary industries over the long term if sufficient modifications are not secured in negotiations with the United Kingdom and the other nations of the European Common Market with regard to the entry of our primary products and if we in any way go slow in seeking new markets for those products. I was pleased to see in this afternoon’s Sydney “ Sun “ a report that talks on exports will be held in Canberra next month. I understand that the Australian Chambers of Commerce Export Coun cil will hold a conference in Canberra on 4th and 5th September, when the major topic for discussion will be the effect on Australia’s export trade of Britain’s possible entry into the Common Market. The Chambers of Commerce are seised with the importance of this matter. I am glad to know that a conference is to be held in Canberra on this subject. I understand that it will deal with matters relating to freight rates on various commodities, particularly exports to Asian markets, the operation of export incentives, Government assistance in overseas freight rate negotiations and more regular shipping services to South America. So, it will be seen that the Government drive is being matched by private enterprise through the aegis of the Chambers of Commerce of Australia. I know that the Australian Chamber of Manufactures, which is at present meeting in Canberra, is focusing its attention on the export drive. The future for Australia is very bright because every endeavour is being made to obtain new markets in the developing countries of the world.
I have given a good deal of thought to some hitherto untouched markets for Australia’s goods. Three years ago I was fortunate to be sent to South America as a delegate to the Inter-parliamentary Union conference which was held in Brazil. While in South America I took the opportunity to visit three other countries there. I am gratified to know that the Department of Trade has recently sent an important survey mission to South America. I have studied a number of summaries that have been circulated by that mission. I propose briefly to point out to the Senate that some amazing markets appear to be available in South America - an area that is almost Australia’s next door neighbour.
Australia soon will open a trade post in Peru. I understand that our representative, Mr. Roberts, is to set out for Peru next month. Peru has a population of 10,500,000; it is situated on the west coast of South America, and has an annual imports bill of £132,000,000 but does not import anything from Australia. Peru appears to present solid and stable economic conditions. There do not appear to be any particular adverse foreign exchange controls on basic commodities, although there are controls against the importation of luxuries. I understand that Peru presents a market for Australian skimmed milk powder, butter, gelatine, tallow, apples, steel grinding balls, steel wire, agricultural equipment, lard, wines and some consumer goods. When I was in Peru I was amazed at the development taking place in irrigation, and I think there may be some avenues for the export from Australia of irrigation equipment.
Chile is a small country with a population of 7,500,000. Much of the country is similar to Australia. It has a large sheep population. Opportunities exist for Australia to export to Chile wool tops, pasture seeds and coal, although there may be some difficulties with regard to import restrictions. The largest country of South America, Brazil, has been practically untapped by Australia. The country’s population is 65,000,000. At present Australia exports practically nothing to Brazil, although I understand that we have exported to it totalisator machines and that one of the ready-mixed concrete companies has a small unit there. In my opinion Brazil offers opportunities for a market for Australian zinc, lead, copper, ferro alloys, industrial chemicals, steel, highway construction equipment, stud sheep, pasture seeds and possibly agricultural machinery.
I have referred to three countries only in South America. I could refer also to Argentina, which has a population of 20,000,000 people but to which we export only £1,500,000 worth of goods a year. I am told that a definite market exists in Argentina for our coal. In the last two or three years a number of coal shipments has been sent from Australia to that country. I understand that our agricultural equipment is particularly suitable for Argentina. Then we come to the question of credit terms.
I have given that illustration of a vast continent of 160,000,000 people, which is virtually our next door neighbour, and where Australia has done practically no trade in the past. I saw the great development that was taking place in South America. There are vast cities, such as Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo, each with a population of more than 3,000,000, and Buenos Aires which is larger still. They are three cities with a culture very similar to our own. It is a European type of culture. So,
I believe that there are opportunities there and the report of the trade investigation mission that went there rather indicated that there were, too. Of course, shipping is very important. I believe that two ships have been arranged for the balance of this year. I also believe that there are considerable prospects for the sale of sheep from Australia, particularly the Corriedale breed of sheep. Our stud masters are working on that market.
I was interested to see that in Montevideo last week there was a large gathering of South American people and people from the United States. It appears that the United States is implementing a plan of development of vast dimensions which could have the ultimate result of raising living standards in South America. If those living standards are raised further opportunities for trade will develop. I am very glad that the Government has seen fit to open an office in Lima and another one in Caracas, in Venezuela. The officers that we send to those cities will be able to make constant surveys of the developments in that remarkable part of the world.
From what I have said of the position in South America and from what I have read from the report of the recent mission, the Senate should see that the Government has not been slow in going into this question, and that if over the next few years out trade with the traditional markets in Europe and the United Kingdom should decline because of her entry into the European Economic Community our trade may gradually pick up in those other parts of the world. Of course, nearer home there are the Asian markets. I do not propose to discuss them. I have already referred to the trade ship “ Straat Banka “ and the great response that that ship received when it went to Asia.
I wish to mention one matter in regard to the entry of the United Kingdom into the Common Market. It is not a cause for panic. Things are not all going to happen next Monday. For instance, at present we have a trade agreement with the United Kingdom which expires on 9th November of this year. Then there will be a period of approximately a year’s notice before the agreement finally expires. I understand that when any country enters the European Common Market there is a traditional period of from eight to ten years before it becomes bound by all the rules and regulations of the Common Market. I point out to the Senate that if that happens there will be a considerable breathing space before the full effects of the adverse consequences of the United Kingdom’s entry into the market are felt. During that transitional period, which could well be up to ten years, there will be opportunities for Australia to develop other markets.
I believe that the charge against the Government, that it has failed to appreciate the implications of the proposed entry of the United Kingdom into the European Economic Community, has not been sustained. As I have pointed out, the Government has been most active in its worldwide spread of trade posts and active trade officials, and the world-wide spread of Australian businessmen going abroad to seek new markets. Consequently, although I support the motion that the paper be printed, I believe that the amendment moved by the Opposition should not be carried.
– Senator Laught has really put his finger on the objections of the Australian Labour Party to the procrastination of the Government on this issue. He says that the Government has known about it and has not been slow to take measures to protect Australia in the event of Great Britain joining the European Economic Community. The Labour Party puts it to the Parliament and the people of Australia that the Government has procrastinated until this event is now right on our doorstep and, as far as we know, no preparation has been made to meet the emergency that is now so close to us.
Any wise government must have known for a considerable time that this event was possible and highly probable. About ten years ago, moves were made in Europe to bring about a common market of some kind. The first move was in the steel industry, where there was a movement to join together France and Germany. Since that time there has been continual agitation in Western Europe, first to build up a barrier against the advance of communism, and secondly to sweep away all trade barriers to enable that part of the world, not only to recover from the ravages of war, but also to make progress in the years ahead.
About four years ago a treaty was agreed upon, and Great Britain was invited to participate in it, but for her own economic reasons she did not do so. I put it to the Senate that there was no question of Britain making that decision in the interests of Australia or the rest of the Commonwealth. Britain made that decision purely in her own interests. At that time, Britain decided not to participate in the Common Market. As time has gone on it has become more and more obvious that Britain would not be able to stand out of the Common Market. This is what amazes the Labour Party: Suddenly this Government has seen an emergency because Australia is threatened with the loss of its markets for primary produce. The Opposition believes that plans should have been made years ago to solve this now quickly emerging problem. We should have found new markets.
– It is only four years since Britain refused to enter the Common Market, is it not?
– That is quite right, but if an emergency is going to arise and the Government takes four years to make up its mind to make preparations for that emergency, what sort of a government is it? The Australian Labour Party has seen this problem coming and has made pronouncements about it. We hoped that the Government of Australia, knowing that the economy was seriously threatened and that within a relatively short period we should have to face an emergency, would do something to meet the position. Nothing has been done, however, and that is why we feel that we are right in condemning the Government for its dilatory approach to this matter and for its lack of statesmanship.
– Is that why you opposed the Japanese Trade Treaty?
– The Japanese Trade Treaty is an entirely different matter. Perhaps we should be quite happy now because we are trading with Communist China. We have sold a lot of wheat to that country. In the past, the supporters of the Government said that it would be a terrible thing if we had anything to do with Asian countries, particularly China, but now that we are in this jam they are all very happy to be able to say, “ Isn’t it a good thing that China wants some wheat”.
– To feed hungry people who are human beings, the same as we are.
– Of course, it is wanted to feed hungry people. Unfortunately, we have contributed to making them hungry. We say to them, “ Because you are not of a political calibre that we approve, we will not do anything to help you in an emergency. We do not care if you are hungry. But if you have a lot of money and are able to pay us, we do not mind selling you our wheat.” You people do not care whether people are hungry or not. You are not interested in helping Asia. You are interested only in what money you can get out of it.
The Opposition contends that since our primary industries were threatened by the developments occurring in Europe, the Government should have devised a plan during the last four years to meet the emergency that could arise. Since nothing has been done in that direction, we feel that we have a perfect right to criticize the dilatoriness of the Government. For many years we have traded with Great Britain. We have had to subsidize our primary products in order that the people of Great Britain might be able to obtain them cheaply. Now, Britain proposes to join a group of nations whose only interest is in European economics. The preamble to the Treaty of Rome states that the nations of the European Economic Community are determined to establish an ever-closer unity amongst European people. I wonder where Australia and the rest of the Commonwealth countries stand now in relation to the country to which we have always given such loyalty, the country whose first consideration might have been expected to be the welfare of its empire. I wonder just where we are going in the present circumstances.
It is true, Sir, that since World War II. great changes have occurred throughout the world. There is no question that the devastation which occurred during the war has induced people to change many of their old ideas. Britain has been caught up in this changing world and now appears to be about to join the Common Market. It is disturbing that we in Australia, who for so long have depended on Britain and certain of the European countries to assist our primary industries, do not know just what will be the lot of those industries next year. It may be that the Common Market countries will determine to raise tariffs against the primary products of Australia. At present we are sending our primary products not only to Great Britain but also to Western Europe, where we have substantial markets, but our markets in those countries may be attacked and we may be shut out from them.
Senator Laught stated that the Government had appointed trade commissioners throughout the world.
– Hear, hear!
– My friend says “ Hear, hear! “ The proof of the pudding is in the eating. 1 have before me figures which show that in 1950-51 the value of Australia’s overseas trade was £975,000,000. Since that time we have sent trade commissioners to many parts of the world. It is reasonable to assume that the volume of trade, accordingly, would have increased considerably, but the latest figures I have - those for 1959-60 - show that the volume has in fact diminished. The value of our overseas trade in that year was only £926,000,000.
– But the value of the money is different, do not forget.
– There is always some trick in these things. Some one always tries to twist the figures to make them appear incorrect. Whether there has been inflation or deflation, or whether our currency is not as good as it was before, the fact remains that, despite the appointment of so many trade commissioners, the volume of our overseas trade is down by £50,000,000 or £60,000,000.
– Not in volume. If you take the volume you will find that it is up considerably.
– We receive money for the goods we sell, and with that money we hope to pay our debts overseas. This Government, in its wisdom, has appointed trade commissioners and taken other measures, but our trade is still down by about £50,000,000. Does the Government propose to continue as it has in the past? Will it set up more trade posts, perhaps in places such as Patagonia, and will the net result of its efforts be a still greater diminution in our trade?
– We should go wherever we can sell our goods.
– That is right. You have suddenly come to the conclusion that it is all right to sell your goods wherever you can, provided that the people concerned have the money to buy them. You are prepared to send your goods to Communist China, although only a little while ago you said, “We will not have anything to do with China “. As 1 have said in this Parliament on previous occasions, we have to live in the Asian area. We are not so wealthy that we can afford to disregard 700,000,000 people and say to them, “ We will not trade with you “. Now, we are suddenly brought up with a jerk because we are faced with the threat that a market which has taken the bulk of our primary products may be lost. Again, I ask: What does the Government propose to do about this problem?
I suggest to Senator Laught that the setting up of a few more trade posts is not the answer. If that is the only solution that the Government has found during the last three or four years, while this emergency has been looming so obviously, I say that it is a very poor outlook for the people of Australia. Their only hope, of course, rests in the fact that in a few months’ time they will have an opportunity to place a Labour government in control of the affairs of Australia. If they do that they will certainly see some statesmanship displayed, and I have no doubt that they will also help to get Australia out of the difficulty that it is in at the moment.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin). - Order! In conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I formally put the question -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 11 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 23 August 1961, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1961/19610823_senate_23_s20/>.