26th Parliament · 2nd Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Mon. Sir Alister McMullin took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Attorney-General. What is the Commonwealth doing to see that prisoners convicted of Federal offences are not subjected to the disgraceful conditions admitted by the authorities to exist in New South Wales prisons?
– 1 ask the honourable senator to put that question on the notice paper because up to date my attention has not been directed to that aspect of the administration of the Attorney-General’s Department.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior: Under what system are allocations made whereby architects other than those from Queensland are paid to submit plans and specifications for constructions in the Australian Capital Territory? Why are Queensland architects and engineers not included in this field?
– The National Capital Development Commission invites private architects and/ or its own architects to draw up plans for buildings, etc., under it’s control.
– What is the ‘etc.’?
– I refer generally to projects under the Commission’s control. In addition to this, the Commission keeps a panel of names of leading architects throughout the Commonwealth. There are some 5,000 architects in the Commonwealth. The names that are supplied to the Commission are perused from time to time and those with the highest qualifications are asked to draw up plans for various buildings.
It must bc remembered that the number of projects being committed to design by the Commission at any one stage is small. Therefore, we cannot expect to engage all the architects operating in Australia. Also, as the honourable senator probably knows, the National Capital Development Commission engages in many fields of endeavour, apart from architecture, and people throughout Australia are asked to put forward their ideas in these fields. Although no Queensland architects have been engaged by the Commission up to the present time, this does not mean that they will not be engaged in the future. There is a panel of names of Queensland architects.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for National Development aware that highly skilled technicians and staff are at present being dismissed by the Snowy Mountains Hydroelectric Authority? In view of the very serious drought throughout Australia, I ask the Minister whether he will intercede immediately on behalf of these men so that their special skills may be retained for the benefit of the nation by having them assist in projects that the Government must be considering to save Australia from the drought?
– I do not know whether many highly qualified men are being dismissed by the Snowy Mountains Authority. I do know that we are in the middle of a drought at present. The Commonwealth Government is conscious of that. Honourable senators must be aware also that the; provision of water is a responsibility of the States. The Commonwealth Government is carrying out projects of a value totalling between $600m and $700m. If the honourable senator places his question on the notice paper I shall obtain for him a direct answer from the Minister for National Development.
– My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate, as he is a member of the inner Cabinet. Can the honourable gentleman tell me whether the Government is taking any steps to find out who in Victoria is responsible for the circulation among selected students at Australian universities of letters suggesting a scheme to provide aid to our North Vietnamese enemies? Will this traitorous person or these traitorous persons be proceeded against under the Defence Force Protection Act? What powers, if any, does the Australian Post Office have to intercept Australian mail addressed to Dr Joan K. McMichael at a London address which has been given as the address to which to send Australian postal notes as donations for this cause?
– I shall need to get from the Postal Department further information about the matter which relates to the function of the Australian Post Office. As to the substance of the honourable senator’s question, I think all honourable senators recognise that a proposal to collect contributions for the purpose of assisting the North Vietnamese or the Vietcong would be an offence and would contravene the Defence Force Protection Act. The Government’s position remains as stated by the late Mr Holt who, as Prime Minister in August 1967, when speaking of the National Liberation Front in Vietnam, said: . . any Australian who would knowingly give material aid to this body and do so at the hazard of Australian lives, deserves the utter condemnation of this Parliament-
I am sure that we all stand firm on that statement. Mr Holt went on: and from this Government should expect appropriate action both to prevent material aid going forward and to deal appropriately wilh these activities wherever they are engaged in.
The position as then stated remains 100% the same today. The honourable senator has referred to the investigation of a particular incident. I shall refer his question to the appropriate authorities.
– To the AttorneyGeneral?
– I ask a question of the Minister representing the Treasurer. The Treasurer has announced that Australian gold producers must lodge gold with the Reserve Bank at a price equivalent to $US35 per ounce but they may draw an equivalent amount for sale on the open market. What conditions must be met in order to carry out such a transaction?
-I cannot give precise details of the conditions but my Understanding of what the Treasurer said is that before the present crisis arose it was essential for the Australian Gold Producers Association to make gold available to the Reserve Bank at a price of $US35 per ounce. If members of the Association so desired they could take back the gold at that same price and then sell it on the open market at a premium. The Treasurer has said that the gold producers may continue to do this until such time as clarification has been obtained of the proposals emanating from the recent conference in Washington. In other words, the situation that existed prior to the crisis will continue. This will be a holding arrangement until the position is clarified. The Treasurer will then make a further announcement.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation able to make a statement about the industrial dispute that exists between TransAustralia Airlines and the pilots’ organisation regarding the manning of DC9 aircraft? Does he know that due to the dispute TAA’s percentage of business on the main traffic routes has fallen from 52% to 38%?
– I am not able to make the statement requested. The High Court has heard an application from the Australian Federation of Air Pilots. Until the Court gives a decision in the matter it is sub judice.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for External Territories. I point out that recently there has ‘been a good deal of discussion about the development of the University of Papua and New Guinea and that certain powerful criticism has been made on the amount of funds allotted by the Commonwealth to the University for development. Will the Minister evaluate the present state of development and the projected development of the University? Does the honourable gentleman consider that a good deal of disputation could be avoided by getting the Australian Universities Commission to recommend to the Commonwealth the amount of funds required for adequate development of the University, as is done in respect of all Australian universities?
– The opinion is held that the University of Papua and New Guinea is making excellent progress. Student enrolment at present numbers some 300. The University has established faculties in science, arts and law. It has a staff of eleven professors and sixty lecturers. The amount of the budget devoted to education in the Territory last year represented some 17% of the total appropriation. So I think we can regard the present rate of progress as satisfactory. As to the suggestion that the activities of the Australian Universities Commission should be extended to the Territory of Papua and New Guinea, I offer the opinion, ad hoc, that that would be inappropriate. The Australian Universities Commission has a very special function with regard to expenditure by universities in the States of Australia. The development of the university in New Guinea is something special and external to that function. It would seem to me - again this is an ad hoc opinion - that if we need a similar functionary in New Guinea the appropriate thing to do would be to set up a similar sort of commission rather than extend the duties of the Australian Universities Commission to that area.
– I address a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Health. Has the Minister seen the report in the Press that a Western Australian doctor has alleged that sub-standard drugs are being used in Western Australian hospitals? Has the Commonwealth Department of Health investigated this allegation? Will the Minister ensure that the Department of Health ceases its propaganda efforts in insisting that doctors use generic names instead of brand names, and thus prevent the conditions described by the Western Australian doctor in his accusations?
– The Minister for Health has seen the Press report referred to by the honourable senator and has furnished me with details concerning this matter. The supply of drugs to public hospitals in Western Australia and the other States is a matter which comes within the jurisdiction of the appropriate State authority. The Commonwealth exercises control over the standards of drugs available as pharmaceutical benefits as well as over those purchased by various
Commonwealth authorities and over drug imports. The Commonwealth Department of Health has not taken any action so far in the case referred to as the matter is primarily one for the Western Australian authorities. Up to date, the Department has not received any official notification from the Western Australian authorities. The Department does not insist on doctors using generic names. The pharmaceutical benefits booklet lists proprietary or brand names for the convenience of doctors who prescribe by brand names. Doctors are free to prescribe either by brand name or generic name.
– I address a question to the Minister for Housing. Are any figures available showing the total amount of home finance underwritten by the Housing Loans Insurance Corporation, and is there any indication whether one of the main objectives the Government had in mind when establishing the Corporation - to obviate the necessity for would-be home owners entering into high interest bearing second mortgages - has been achieved? Are any statistics available showing the annual average total of second mortages for home finance prior to the setting up of the Corporation? If so, how do those figures compare with the present amount of second mortgage finance for homes in Australia?
– I think it is very well recognised that the Housing Loans Insurance Corporation, which was set up by this Government, is doing a very great service in assisting people to obtain their own homes. As honourable senators will know, it was established in 1965. Up to the end of February last, the Corporation had underwritten more than 11,200 loans totalling almost $95m. I am also informed that the Corporation is currently writing business at a rate exceeding $80ni a year. According to a release published by the Corporation last week, the number of loans underwritten in Queensland has doubled in the last six months. The honourable senator also asked whether any statistics were available showing the annual average total of second mortgages before the Housing Loans Insurance Corporation came into operation. I have no such statistics. I do not know whether I can get them. If I can, I shall certainly make them available to the honourable senator, but the annual amount of business being done by the Corporation does demonstrate the great amount of assistance that is being given through this channel.
– Can the Minister for Customs and Excise inform the Senate how many wharf passenger terminals are in operation at Melbourne and Sydney seaports, and what plans exist to extend them in order to overcome the difficulties of customs checks to which I referred in my questions yesterday?
– There are two passenger terminals in Melbourne capable of handling four ships. Unfortunately, small ships cannot be accommodated at these terminals, which are built for larger vessels. The Melbourne port authorities are examining the matter with the idea of making better arrangements for passengers travelling to and from Melbourne. It is claimed that adequate passenger facilities exist in Sydney at No. 1 berth, Circular Quay, No. 13 wharf, Pyrmont, and No. 7 Cowper wharf. Unfortunately these berths, also, will not accommodate smaller vessels, and in the peak tourist season, vessels have to tie up at other wharves to pass customs. This causes unavoidable delays. Representations have been made to the Maritime Services Board, which is at present examining ways and means of improving conditions at the port of Sydney. However, passengers using cargo wharves are encountering considerable delays, and the unfortunate incidents of the last 12 months are completely unacceptable to me.
– My question relates to drought assistance and is directed to the Minister representing the Treasurer. Is he in a position to give the Senate further information regarding the attitude of the Commonwealth towards the various representations that have been made by the States and by private industry for financial assistance in drought areas?
– During the past four sitting days the honourable senator has asked a series of questions on drought relief. 1 have no doubt that they have been prompted by the serious nature of the drought, particularly in the State from which he comes. Last week I gave him an answer in which I said that the Commonwealth Government makes any drought assistance provided by it available through the various sovereign State governments, which are better equipped to know the need and the problem and to ensure that all the money provided from Commonwealth sources is spent to the very best advantage. 1 understand that in another place this afternoon the Treasurer indicated that in the Budget $7. 75m was allocated by the Commonwealth to the States for drought relief measures, and that the Commonwealth’s provision has now risen to $ 19.235m. Recently, an additional $13m was set aside for emergency relief in drought areas in the eastern States. In summary, in addition to the provision made in the Budget, a total of some $30m has been provided explicitly for drought relief. That is the measure of the Commonwealth’s awareness of the serious problem in particular areas of the country. The Treasurer has indicated, also, that he will provide for the Parliament a detailed breakdown of this figure at a very early date, and at the same time will give some complementary and additional information. As soon as that becomes available I shall see that it is presented in this place for the information of honourable senators.
– My question to the Minister representing the Minister for Education and Science relates to the answer he gave a few minutes ago to Senator Laught. Will the Minister reconsider his statement to the Senate that excellent progress is being made in the Papua and New Guinea University? Is it not a fact that shortage of money has forced the university to turn away eligible Territory students and to abandon this year’s plans for external courses? Is it not a fact that without more funds there will be staff shortages? Is it not a fact that the Acting Vice-Chancellor said less than 4 weeks ago that the present modest research programme would have to be cut? Did he not say that the professorial board had decided to cancel plans for external courses this year because it could give prospective external students no assurance that they would be able to continue the course after 1968? Did he not say also that at a time when there are only four indigenous university graduates in the Territory the university has had to take fewer students than it was able to teach in 1968? In the light of those facts is it not clear that excellent progress is not being made in the Papua and New Guinea University?
– In the first place, the matter raised by the honourable senator is extremely arguable. In the second place, his question refers to more detailed factors than I could encompass* in a responsible reply. I mention those factors in a spirit of co-operation and from a desire to provide reasonable information that will be worthy of the Senate. I shall give the honourable senator specific answers to each of his allegations at the earliest opportunity. Suffice it to say at the moment that the University, being situated in a developing area such as Papua and New Guinea, will always be in need of increasing funds. When I inform the’ Senate that the budget for the University was $2.9m last year, for the Institute of Higher Technical Education $l.lm, while SI. 6m was allocated for a new secondary teachers training college at Goroka; also that in the Territory are the Papuan Medical College, the Vudal Agricultural College and the Bulolo Forestry School and Administrative College, it will be apparent that it would be wrong for us to devote the funds available for education to the University exclusively. I claim that excellent progress is being made in relation to the University without other aspects of education being neglected.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for the Navy. Has any decision been arrived at yet on the deployment of the twenty new naval patrol boats either built or under construction? Will any of the boats be available to police our new 12 mile fishing limit in the Barrier Reef, Torres Strait, Arnhem Land and Gulf of Carpentaria waters?
– In reply to a similar question a little while ago I think I mentioned the number of boats that had been built.
– The Minister said three.
– Thank you. I imagine more have been completed since then. I expect that policing the areas mentioned by the honourable senator will be one task allotted to the vessels. If the honourable senator particularly wants any further detailed information I will see whether I can get it for him.
– I ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate whether he can give an answer to the following simple and direct question which was posed by a Victorian lady in this morning’s ‘Australian’: When will the Federal Government express as much concern for the lack of democracy in South Australia as it does in Vietnam?
– 1 do not see the implication of the question at all. i presume that it is a reference to a State election that was held recently in South Australia. Why a simple democratic process should be linked with the tragedies and horrors of war, I will never know.
– I direct a question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Has the money provided to the State of Victoria for drought relief been provided on any terms and conditions as to its application? If if has, on what terms and conditions has it been provided?
– I am not competent to give an answer to the honourable senator’s question. I imagine that there would be variations in the terms and conditions of the assistance given. A considerable amount of the assistance would be given as total assistance in respect of which there would be no limitations or conditions. No doubt there would be other amounts of assistance that would be given on the basis of amortisation or repayment. I imagine that all these matters will be picked up in the statement that the Treasurer has promised to make very shortly on the whole subject of the assistance that has been given to the States for drought relief.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing (he Postmaster-General. As Thailand has now joined the long list of countries with colour television, will consideration be given to reexamining the position in Australia, where colour television is not expected to be introduced before 1970 at the earliest?
– 1 will be pleased to bring that question to the notice of my colleague, the Postmaster-General, for his consideration and reply.
– I ask whether the attention of the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport has been drawn to page .13 of the Annual Report of the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner for 1966-67, which he laid on the table of the Senate yesterday, where under the heading ‘Washaways’ the following appears:
The extensive washaways have again emphasised the urgent need for a reliable all-weather railway to serve Alice Springs, and consideration is now being given to various proposals in this regard’.
What are the various proposals? Has any decision yet been reached? If not, when is one likely to be arrived at?
– I did lay on the table of the Senate the Annual Report of the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner for 1966-67. I noticed that a certain section of it related to washaways on the Central Australian Railway to Alice Springs. I also noticed that because of severe washaways on the railway line the trains were held up for a total of approximately 39 days. I further noticed that the revenue gained from the railway was in excess of $5m and that it carried in excess of 2 million tons of goods in the last financial year. In regard to what should be done and what the Minister for Shipping and Transport has in mind to improve the railway so that delays caused by flooding can be reduced to a minimum, I ask the honourable senator to place that part of his question on the notice paper. If he does that I will obtain a reply from the Minister for him.
– I refer to the Leader of the Government in the Senate to a report which appeared in the Sydney ‘Sun’ of 18th January 1968 and which said in part:
Senator Gorton (referring to the forthcoming federal electoral boundary redistribution) said commissioners were to be appointed by the State governments. ‘The Slate governments know whom it is we would wish to be appointed as commissioners,’ he said.
I now ask the Minister to inform the Parliament whether that statement has been withdrawn by the Prime Minister. If it ha? noi been withdrawn, can the inference be drawn that the commissioners were approved by the Federal Government only when it COUld reasonably be assumed that they would be sympathetic to the policy of the Government in arranging divisional boundaries that would be favourable to Liberal Party and Country Party candidates?
– I did not see tha report to which the honourable senator refers but I am quite certain that any statement made by the Prime Minister would be consistent with the facts. As we know. Distribution Commissioners have been appointed in each State. We also know mat last Monday was the day on which any submissions to the Commissioners in New South Wales had to be lodged. We know that all of those submissions are made public and that any parliamentary party, group of people or person can in turn make representations about the submissions that have already been lodged. I want to make the point that ‘there has been no departure from the normal practice in relation to the appointment of Distribution Commissioners which, as I understand it - I. am subject to correction in minor details because I am speaking completely without reference to notes - is that the Commonwealth Electoral Officer in each State is the first person appointed for that State. The SurveyorGeneral of the State is another Commissioner and the third Commissioner is invariably a public servant drawn from any part of the Commonwealth Public Service who may have special qualifications that fit him to act as a commissioner. I can say that there has been no departure from that normal procedure and I am quite satisfied that, give or take a bit In personal affairs, when the redistribution is done and approved by the Parliament lt will be satisfactory and fair to all parties.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs: On what basis does Australia have diplomatic ties with the newly independent nation of Mauritius?
– I understand that no decision has yet been made as to what Australia’s representation in Mauritius will be. We are aware, of course, that our own Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin represented Australia at the independence ceremonies that were held last week. I am quite certain that she was a very worthy representative of Australia.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Housing. Has any action been taken, or is any contemplated, to alter the harsh and irksome policy in respect of the extra insurance coverage that the owner of a war service home may take with an outside insurer in order to have his home fully covered in case of total destruction? Will the War Service Homes Branch now agree that the requirement of home owners is to obtain what in their opinion and that of the outside insurer is a full coverage and not excess coverage, as the Branch has been wont to term it?
– First, I should like to make it quite clear to the honourable senator that a home insured under war service homes insurance arrangements is insured for its full insurable value. This matter is very carefully looked at. A home is revalued at regular intervals to ensure that adequate cover is provided. I feel that it is not correct to suggest that war service homes are not fully insured under this method of insurance. We should also remind ourselves that the insurance cover is provided at concessional rates and that premiums charged are about one quarter of those charged by private insurers. Under the war service homes legislation there is no objection to an applicant’s arranging insurance with a private company for cover in excess of the value of the property. This may be called, I think, replacement insurance or excess insurance. As long as certain conditions are fulfilled, this is quite in order. I am interested in Senator Marriott’s question. I am wondering whether he feels there is any particular case in which there is not proper insurance.
– This relates to War Service Homes generally.
– No, I would not agree; but if there is any individual case I will look into it.
– I ask the Minister representing the Postmaster-General whether he will make representations to the Postmaster-General for the use of that Department’s resources to have black and white television made available in all areas of Australia before embarking on any programme of colour television.
– I will be pleased to bring to the attention of the Postmaster-General the matter raised by Senator Lawrie.
– My question to the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation has reference to the question I asked the Minister earlier today relative to the dispute between the pilots and TransAustralia Airlines on the manning of DC9 aircraft. I understood his earlier answer to be that as the question is sub judice he could not answer it. Can the Minister now inform me of the nature of the plaint at present before the High Court? Is it one dealing with the dispute, or is it one dealing with the bans clause inserted in the pilots’ award?
– The dispute before the High Court is the one dealing with the bans clause.
– What has that to do with the question I asked earlier?
– The honourable senator mentioned the staffing of DC9 planes. Any other question can be answered, but not that one.
– My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. I refer to previous questions I have asked him particularly in relation to drought assistance and to instances of requests by the Victorian State Government for specified areas of assistance. I feel that the Minister in reply has given some generalities, indicating that great area of financial assistance which the Commonwealth has given to the States. I feel also that a Senator representing his State must obtain some definite answer on a particular mutter so that he may take back to his State a general answer which will assure the State-
– Order! The honourable senator is making a statement. Will he ask his question?
– I am prefacing my remarks, sir.
– lt is a long preface.
– 1 ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate whether this Government supports the financial assurances given to the various State Government by former Liberal and Country Party Federal Governments? Is the Minister aware of the statement made on 7th December 1965 - 2 years ago - by the former Prime Minister, Sir Robert Menzies, who, speaking of the New South Wales and Queensland Governments said:
– Order! The honourable senator must ask his question. He is giving a lot of information.
– 1 ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate whether he is aware of this statement by the former Prime Minister, Sir Robert Menzies:
I have previously advised both of the Premiers that they could take it that Commonwealth financial assistance would cover whatever deficit they ultimately might have in their budgets as a result of drought measures that might be taken. 1 ask whether the Minister believes - that this Government will adhere to that assurance?
– The honourable senator gave a preface which had very little relationship to the actual question which he asked, because the preface was linked to this matter of a request made by a Premier to the Commonwealth Government. I come back to what I said last week when this question was first put to me by the honourable senator. In these arrangements between the Commonwealth and the States where State Premiers put submissions to the Commonwealth, there is a clear pattern of conduct. This requires that when a statement is to be made by the States and the Commonwealth it is made simultaneously or at an agreed time, lt would be quite improper and inconsistent for the Leader of the
Government in the Senate, or anybody else, to make a statement to Senator Webster or to any other honourable senator regarding particular representations which had been put by a State Premier to the Commonwealth and which had been the subject of discussions and negotiations. When the stage is reached for a statement to be made, the Prime Minister or the Treasurer, and the State Premier will make it. I cannot add anything more to what I have already said.
I well recall the generality of the statement made by the former Prime Minister of Australia, Sir Robert Menzies some 2 years ago and I am quite satisfied that in general what is being done now is consistent with the commitment undertaken at that lime.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Treasurer. Has the Commonwealth Government charged any interest on grants made to Victoria for drought relief? If so, what are the interest rates? Is it a fact that the Victorian State Government is charging drought stricken farmers in that State interest on money made available by way of Commonwealth grant?
– This question is linked to an answer I gave earlier when I indicated that obviously open-ended grants and loans have been made. Where the honourable senator’s question fits into that situation will be revealed only when we receive a considered reply from the Treasurer.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration. I believe that the Minister was recently in Mauritius for the ceremony attendant upon the independence of that nation. Did the Minister detect in Mauritius any interest in Australia, especially in the field of migration?
– Yes, it is true that last week I was in Mauritius and had the privilege of representing the Australian Government at the independence celebrations there. The honourable senator asked me whether I detected an interest in Australia by the people of Mauritius. I did detect such an interest and it is a very real one. The people are interested in Australia because many of them have friends or relations already here. Last year 2,600 applications to come to live in Australia were received from people in Mauritius. This was a considerable increase on the number for the previous year which, 1 believe, was 600. Naturally this creates an interest among close friends of these people who have made applications to come to Australia.
– I ask a question of the Leader of the Government in the Senate. In the event of employees of the Commonwealth Public Service or of a Commonwealth instrumentality volunteering for Army service in Vietnam, is any guarantee given of their reinstatement in their jobs on their discharge from the Army, or is it true that no such guarantee is extended because the official view is that Australia is not at war?
– I hope 1 did not appear discourteous to the honourable senator because my answer to her question yesterday was abrupt. Clearly, the honourable senator’s question should be placed on the notice paper so that I can obtain a considered reply from the Public Service Board through the Prime Minister’s Department.
– I address my question to the Minister for Housing. I ask: Is it correct, as stated in a circular that I have received today from Mr Driscoll, Secretary of the Housing Industry Association, that some time ago the Commonwealth Savings Bank unsuccessfully requested action to lift the present limit of $7,000 on Commonwealth Savings Bank housing loans? Is it a fact that action is being held up because of the need for approval by the Federal Parliament?
– I do not think I have seen the document referred to by the honourable senator. However, I do know that Mr Driscoll has been seeking an increase in the housing loan limit. This is a matter for the Treasurer. It is of course always a matter for consideration. Honourable senators should appreciate that the amount of home building reflected in the record figures of the last 12 months emphasises that Australia’s home ownership record is a very good one. This situation is gratifying to all people who believe in the importance of home ownership to our people. 1 repeat that the limit on housing loans made by the Commonwealth Savings Bank is, I believe, a matter for the Treasurer.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Prime Minister. In view of the reply that he has just given to Senator Tangney, my question may seem unnecessary, but it is important to me in view of what may take place later in the day. Has the Minister an answer to the question asked yesterday by Senator Dorothy Tangney: ‘Is Australia at war?’?
– The answer i< no.
– Does the Minister mean that we are not at war?
– I do not have an answer to the question.
– I ask the Minister representing the Treasurer whether an agreement has been reached or whether assurances can be given as to the export of Australian gold in the future? Will all Australian gold producers have to sell their gold on the official market, or may all or any of Australia’s gold production he sold on the unofficial market?
– AH Australian gold must be sold in the first instance to the Reserve Bank; that is essential. It is bought at the rate of SUS35 an ounce, lt is then possible for the gold producers’ association to buy it back again on behalf of its members and it may then bc sold on the open market, at whatever price can be obtained, as premium gold. That was the arrangement before the recent crisis developed and was the situation from the 1950s onwards under the legislation and regulations relating to the Reserve Bank. Wilh tha advent of the crisis, certain points arose at the Washington conference. The Treasurer has said that pending clarification of tha implications of the new two-tier gold price situation, the previous arrangement should continue. Australia’s contribution to the world’s gold reserves is not very high.I think it is about 2% of the total. The former arrangement will continue to operate pending clarification by the Commonwealth Government of the procedure agreed on at the Washington conference.
(Question No. 31)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs, upon notice:
– The Minister for External Affairs has furnished the following reply:
The Security Council,
Noting with appreciation the desire of a large number of States to subscribe to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, and thereby to undertake not to receive the transfer from any transferor whatsoever of nuclear weapons, or other nuclear explosive devices or of control over such weapons or explosive devices directly or indirectly; not to manufacture or otherwise acquire nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices; and not to seek or receive any assistance in the manufacture of nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices,
Taking into consideration the concern of certain of these States that, in conjunction with their adherence to the Treaty on the Non-Prol iferation of Nuclear Weapons, appropriate measures be undertaken to safeguard their security.
Bearing in mind that any aggression accompanied by the use of nuclear weapons would endanger the peace and security of all States,
State party to the Treaty on the NonProliferation of Nuclear Weapons that is a victim of an act or an object of a threat of aggression in which nuclear weapons are used;
(Question No. 58)
Senator KEEFFE (through Senator
O’Byrne) asked the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice:
Has the Australian tobacco quota been fixed for the 1968-69 season?
If so, (a) What is the amount, (b) What is the Queensland share, and (c) Has the State Quota Committee been advised?
– The Minister for
Primary Industry has provided the following reply:
– On 13th March,
asked me the following question without notice:
Is it a fact that the additions to the Adelaide Airport will not have air conditioning? Will the building contain a public bar? Will the Minister obtain reports of average temperatures in Adelaide in order to ascertain the number of days on which occupancy of the additional building will be unbearable?
I am now in a position to furnish the honourable senator with the following information:
Firstly, the present terminal building is provided with an evaporative cooling and heating system. The additions proposed to the building will be treated similarly. This treatment was fully described to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works during the examination of the proposallast October. The Committee endorsed the proposal in its report of 31st October 1967.
Secondly, a cocktail lounge open to the public will be provided on the first floor.
Thirdly, it is considered that except in unusual conditions there will be no days during a year when occupancy of the additional building will be unbearable. Over a period of 16 years the average daily maximum temperatures are recorded as:
When the outside temperature is 100° F it is estimated that the inside temperature will be approximately 85° F.
It is a source of great satisfaction to me that the Department indicates that it has given deliberate consideration to each feature raised and is able to provide detailed information so promptly.
Debate resumed from 19 March (vide page 181), on motion by Senator McKellar:
That the Senate take note of the following paper:
ArmyInterrogation Incident in Vietnam - Ministerial Statement, 19 March 1968.
Upon which Senator Gair had moved by way of amendment:
At end of motion add: ‘and the Senate expresses its utmost confidence in the Australian troops in Vietnam and believes that they can be relied upon to conduct themselves at all times in a characteristic Australian manner.
And upon which Senator Willesee had moved by way of amendment to the proposed amendment:
At end of proposed amendment add: ‘; but the Senate is of the opinion that the Government should table the evidence given before, and the report made by, the major whom the Task Force commander appointed to investigate the allegations and should commission a judge to inquire into and report on the following matters:
– When the Senate was about to adjourn last night, Senator Branson claimed that he had been misrepresented by me and asked whether I would correct the impression which he said 1 had given the Senate. 1 should like now to outline the circumstances. In the course of my speech in the debate on the interrogation in Vietnam I said:
A lot of confusion has arisen in this debate. Some senators on the Government side were contradicting one another, accusing honourable senators on this side of having distorted the facts that are available. Some honourable senators on the Government side have condoned what has taken place. Others have justified it, and others still have excused it.
Senator Branson interjected:
Who condoned it? I am interested in that remark.
I interjected when the honourable senator was speaking and asked what was the difference between this woman agent and an airman who after dropping bombs and napalm on a city, town or village so that he might have destroyed men, women and children as well as their homes, was shot down by anti-aircraft fire, landing by parachute in the midst of the enraged people. Are they entitled to tear him to pieces, or should the Geneva Convention be observed?
Senator Branson interjected:
I said that I would not condoneit.
If I gave the impression that Senator Branson would condone it, I apologise to him and withdraw the suggestion.
– Thank you, senator.
– Last evening I drew attention to some of the implications that can flow from breaches of this most important agreement amongst civilised people. I refer to the Geneva Convention. Every other senator in this chamber who has been a prisoner of war and, for that matter, every person in the community, must realise the value of the protection given by the Geneva Convention. This cannot be assessed in any material way. It is the sole protection available to any prisoner of war or soldier or civilian in Vietnam or any other theatre of war. Because of this, it is the duty of the Parliament to ask questions and to probe into any charge that may be made that our nation or our armed forces have been involved to the extent suggested by the newspapers and Mr Sorell on this occasion. In my view, the Opposition has quite rightly asked that the documents relating to this allegation should be tabled. Our request takes the form of an amendment seeking all the details relating to the incident.
During the course of his statement on the matter the Minister for the Army (Mr Lynch) said that the allegations were substantially correct. The use of those words has been challenged by Government senators and Senator Gair. They have suggested that he should not have used them. They did not believe that what the Minister said was substantially correct and they challenged his evaluation of the report and his remarks about Mr Sorell.
This matter could have been cleared up very quickly to the satisfaction of everyone if the full facts of the case had been presented to the Senate in the same way as Senator Gorton produced the files relating to VIP aircraft last year. On that occasion all sorts of insinuations and aspersions were bandied about until the files were produced. Although there was some minor criticism of some flights, the main criticism then was that, somewhere along the line, the Department of Air had suppressed information that should have been readily available to the Minister, to the Parliament and, as I pointed out at the time, to the AuditorGeneral. A matter of very high principle was involved there; but it was cleared up immediately the files were produced and light turned on the subject. I believe that this matter of interrogation could have been cleared up in the same way.
Many people claim that the reports in the newspapers featuring the incident in question were blown up and exaggerated; nevertheless, they have drawn the attention of this Parliament and of the people of Australia to the vital importance of upholding the spirit and letter of the Geneva Convention. Many different views have been expressed as to what a man would do in similar circumstances. Last night’ I gave examples of reprisals that were taken after there had been a breach of the Geneva Convention by the Canadian forces at the Dieppe landing when those forces illadvisely handcuffed some German prisoners. After that incident, reprisals were taken against air force men who were not involved in the landing at all but were right back behind the lines. The tendency seems to be for one thing to lead to another. If one side fails to observe certain rules, harsh and severe reprisals are taken by the opposite side. Australia enjoys a very high reputation for its respect for human life. Today we are on the eve of the twentieth anniversary of the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which, like the Geneva Convention, is an historic milestone in man’s progress away from barbarity, war and violence towards what we hope is man’s true estate where he can live and let live - and perhaps even towards the higher ideal of the international brotherhood of man. We must not slip back. Of course, as Senator Branson reminded the Senate yesterday; in the heat of battle circumstances can alter cases. We all appreciate that a man is not completely in control of his own temper at all times. Nevertheless, I believe it is our duty to hold in as high regard as we can at all times this valuable charter which the nations have drawn up for themselves and put into legislative form. We intend to follow the spirit and the letter of the Geneva Convention.
In this debate, and in the debate on the same subject in the other House, the whole object has been to get the facts, to clear up the matter and to erase any slur that might have been cast on our. nation, and on our armed forces in particular. I hope that this debate, having served that purpose, will also act as a warning that we as a people and as a Parliament will not tolerate breaches of this most important international Convention. The further amendment that has been moved by Senator Willesee could tidy up the whole matter if it led to the placing before the Parliament of the evidence that has already been adduced, that honourable senators might so ascertain, following an examination of that evidence, whether the Geneva Conventions have been transgressed and why these matters were hushed up to the extent that they were. The Minister for the Army (Mr Lynch) was given misleading information. Having said at first that there was not a scintilla of evidence to support the allegations, he had to change his mind, and he was more or less rushed into stating that he would institute a full inquiry into the matter. But he had to alter that statement and say that there would not be an inquiry. This is an intolerable state of affairs for a Minister. Acceptance of Senator Willesee’s amendment in the spirit in which it has been proposed would clarify this matter.
Any Minister will realise that he only makes a rod for his own back by accepting the sort of information that has been accepted in this instance from the officers along the line who are responsible for advising him on such matters. Fortunately, our parliamentary system enables the people to find out these things. When they become known, the Minister is caused a great deal of embarrassment. All too frequently, Ministers have been given the wrong information to give to the Parliament. This is a bad practice. After all, the Parliament is the platform where the people, through their representatives, can ask the Cabinet for the facts and where they expect to be given the facts. 1 support the further amendment that has been moved by Senator Willesee.
– The debate in which we are engaged arose because of a statement which was made to the Senate on behalf of the Minister for the Army (Mr Lynch) and which detailed the circumstances in which ill treatment allegedly was inflicted on a woman who had been captured in Vietnam and who was alleged to have been reporting the movements of Australian troops there. The debate on the motion that the Senate take note of the ministerial statement was taken up immediately by the Australian Labor Party and at a later stage Senator Gair, the Leader of my party, the Australian Democratic Labor Party, moved an amendment proposing the addition to the motion of the following words:
And the Senate expresses its utmost confidence in the Australian troops in Vietnam and believes that they can be relied upon to conduct themselves at all times in a characteristic Australian manner.
Most of us have believed that our young men fighting for their country in Vietnam have always enjoyed the confidence and the gratitude of their fellow citizens, but in the course of this debate evidence to the contrary has appeared. Senator Wheeldon, of the Australian Labor Party, at the conclusion of his speech said:
The Government must make it clear to this Parliament, to the Australian people and to the whole world that, despite the implication which followed from certain statements that have been made, Australia has nol abandoned the Geneva Convention and that however horrible this war may be and whatever anybody else might do Australians at least will try to carry themselves like civilised human beings and not like animals.
The only conclusion to be drawn from those words is that Senator Wheeldon believes that in the world today there is a powerful feeling that Australian troops are conducting themselves like animals, and not like civilised human beings. I also noticed reported in the Press the following statement by Mr Uren, the member’ for Reid, in another place:
In retaliation 1 have seen my fellow Australians incinerate wounded Japanese by burning native huts in which they were sheltering.
It is shocking to me that an allegation is made that Australian troops deliberately burnt to death wounded prisoners. Even outside Parliament this attitude is being supported by statements made by members of the Australian Labor Party. T have had handed to me a Press cutting from the Launceston ‘Examiner’ of 9th March 1968, in which Senator O’Byrne is reported as having said at a meeting of the Vietnam Action Committee at the Launceston Trades Hall:
The Generals of the US and Australian forces in Vietnam may one day stand before the courts of the world - as war criminals.
The report continues:
Senator O’Byrne said that US and Australian atrocities were ‘little better than Hitler’s acts of barbarism towards the Jews’.
He said that the Australian public’s apathy towards the Vietnam war was largely because of a clouded understanding of war generally.
Australians really didn’t cop much during the last war, and they’re all too ready to push others to the front to do the fighting this time.’
With others I do not share Senator O’Byrne’s low opinion of Australian troops as expressed in that statement. Therefore we felt that many members of Parliament would like to put on record their disagreement with those attitudes.
– He has proved his loyalty, though.
– I am talking about his statements on this issue. In view of what I have said, the Democratic Labor Party has proposed an amendment to the motion - I hope every honourable senator will express himself on it - to this effect: the Senate expresses its utmost confidence in the Australian troops in Vietnam and believes that they can be relied upon to conduct themselves at all times in a characteristic Australian manner.
I returned to Parliament after the recess in a mood of mellow benevolence. I had even met honourable senators of the Australian Labor Party during the recess who had assured me that despite old disagreements they hoped that we would face a future in which we would be more cooperative and happier with one another. As is reported in Hansard, I was sitting here yesterday quietly behaving myself and with no intention of intervening in the debate because, firstly, the incident under notice was only one case of ill treatment; secondly, the thousands of Australian sol diers who have fought for their country and who have been a credit to it surely should not be called upon to defend themselves against one accusation of improper conduct when our own military authorities acted promptly, made it clear to all concerned that nothing of that kind would be tolerated and took action to see that the person concerned would no longer be permitted to operate in that way.
Therefore, as I have said, I did not intend to intervene in the debate because I felt that behind it was a desire to inflate this thing as part of the big propaganda campaign against our defence of freedom in South East Asia. All over the world, this kind of propaganda is being used to destroy the confidence of free peoples in their cause. T did not propose to lend myself to that kind of propaganda trickery and I intended to stay out of the debate.
Unfortunately, I am not always understood. I was provoked by an attack upon me by Senator Wheeldon. As I have said, I was sitting here on my best behaviour when Senator Wheeldon, out of a clear sky, made the statement: lt is my view - I believe that it is the view of the Australian Labor Party - that the most patriotic Australians are those who are prepared to risk the calumny that comes from a number of military heroes such as Senator McManus when anybody makes any statement of that nature.
Apparently, he resented the fact that I had said that people who made reference to failings of the armed forces as in this case were unpatriotic. When I questioned his action he went on to say:
Earlier in this debate Senator McManus raised a matter of this nature.
As I had not spoken in the debate it is a mystery to me how I could have raised the matter in the debate. I presume he took exception to a question I asked earlier in the day. He said that I had implied that the Australian Labor Party was unpatriotic because it questioned the failings of our troops in Vietnam. Let me read the question:
My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for the Army. Will he arrange for copies of questions asked in the Senate about Vietnam by honourable senators of the Australian Labor Party to be supplied to all our troops fighting in Vietnam so that they may see for themselves how the Australian Labor Party is carrying out its pledge to give support to our boys in the difficult times through which they are passing?
Let me analyse the question. 1 asked whether the Minister would send copies of the questions asked by honourable senators of the Australian Labor Party to the troops in Vietnam. What is wrong with that? My Party is always most anxious to have copies of questions circulated. Surely honourable senators of the Australian Labor Party are not ashamed of the questions they ask in regard to our troops in Vietnam. Surely they should feel that the questions they ask are in their own best interests. If they do feel that the questions they ask are in their own best interests why do they object to my helpful suggestion that copies of the questions should be sent to our troops?
– The honourable senator does not do that kind of thing normally.
– Perhaps this new spirit Of friendship and co-operation led me to take that action. Then I said that the reason I thought the copies of the questions should be sent to our troops was that they could see for themselves how the Australian Labor Party was carrying out its pledge to give support to our boys. The Australian Labor Party has made that pledge. Mr Whitlam has pledged that the Australian Labor Party will give every support to our troops. Some of us might believe that our troops, having seen the support, might say:
We would be a little better off without it.’ Still, the Australian Labor Party pledged its support. What is wrong with letting our troops know how honourable senators of the Australian Labor Party are carrying out that pledge?
I was a little hurt. It did something to me when Senator Wheeldon suggested that there was some ulterior motive, some wrongful implication in the proposal I made in a pure spirit of helpfulness. It would appear that somehow or other, and without knowing it, I touched a sensitive spot. The reaction certainly surprised me. I did not expect it from Senator Wheeldon who I thought would have been in a particularly happy frame of mind at the beginning of this sessional period. He is not long back from the United States. He took time off from his multifarious duties as a senator to visit the United States. One has only to read the articles written by Mr St John which have appeared in the Sydney Press over the last couple of weeks to realise the manner in which parliamentarians’ noses are kept to the grindstone. But Senator Wheeldon was able to tear himself away from his duties as a senator and from his legal practice in Perth to go to the United States and to explain to the American people that their Government was wrong in Vietnam, that their troops were wrong in Vietnam, that the Australian Government was wrong in Vietnam and that the Australian troops were wrong in Vietnam. The American people did not need Bobby Kennedy when they had Senator Wheeldon.
Having returned from the United States, Senator Wheeldon should have been in a happy frame of mind. In a delightful juxtaposition of cause and effect he said that after his visit to the United States opposition to the American Government’s action in Vietnam had risen there to 50%. I think he should have been very happy with the result of his efforts. I understand he covered a wide field and that he shed light even in die dark recesses of a Jesuit university and managed to get away unscathed. All I will say about Senator Wheeldon is that I am a little disappointed that in his capacity as tile new hatchet man for the Opposition he has not been able to do a better job. I hope, as time goes on, that he will realise that having received the assistance and promotion of Mr Joe Chamberlain whom we all know, he might do better, now that Chamberlain’s star is on the wane, if he adopts more reputable methods of putting his case.
Dealing with the matter under consideration, I emphasise that immense publicity has been given to one particular incident, lt has been blown up and a whole mountain of calumny has been heaped upon young men who are doing a wonderful job for their country. I know that some people have said: ‘We do not say anything against the troops; we only want this case dealt with’. But this case was dealt with 17 months ago. Everybody knows that it is being brought up now not as a result of any great desire to look after the Geneva Convention or the Declaration of Human Rights but because it suits a political purpose.
No other war has ever been reported or misreported as this one has been. About 450 war correspondents of all political views have been there watching for anything that they could allege. Yet in the whole period that our troops have been there we have heard of only one miserable case of this kind. And look at what is being done about it. Mr Sorell says that he was in Vietnam 17 months ago and that he saw this incident happen. If he is the man that he says he is, did he not have an obligation to break the news before in Australia and did he not have an obligation to do that himself rather than hand the story over to another correspondent to tell in a book? I question the motives of Mr Sorell. Had he raised the matter when the incident occurred I would have admired his motives. But when we hear about it at second hand, and 17 months after it happened, I cannot help wondering. I take particular note of the fact that other correspondents who were on the spot at the time do not support his statements. I agree with Senator Gair when he says that perhaps the Government went a little too far in saying that what Mr Sorell said was substantially correct, when other correspondents had denied his statements.
What are the facts about the woman concerned? We are told that she was a prisoner of war. I notice from yesterday’s Hansard that Senator Webster was very anxious to get Senator Murphy to define the term ‘prisoner of war’ under the terms of the Geneva Convention, but that Senator
Murphy either did not understand what he was being asked to do or was not very anxious to answer the question. I always understood that a prisoner of war was someone who was taken while in uniform. It has never occurred to me before that, for example, the spies who were landed in Britain in civilian clothes during World War I and World War II for espionage and sabotage purposes would be regarded as prisoners of war if they were captured. I always thought they were spies. I never dreamt that they were prisoners of war. I understood that a prisoner of war was entitled not to have his life taken from him. But spies have been put against walls and shot; and spies have been hanged. It is news to me that somebody taken in civilian clothing reporting the movement of troops is a prisoner of war.
– How would the honourable senator relate that to what happened in Ireland in the 1920s?
– 1 am talking about the present. I am simply saying that if members of the Labor Party look at the circumstances of this incident they will find that things were not as they have been suggesting they were. I do not want to condemn this woman outright. I know as well as you know, Mr Deputy President, that the Vietcong blackmail women and children into carrying out espionage for them because they know that women and children without uniforms will be freely allowed to pass, particularly by troops such as our own who do not want to wage war on women and children.
I have spoken to an Australian soldier who told me that he was in Saigon when a bomb was thrown into a cafe. With others, he caught the 15-year old boy who threw it. When they asked the boy why he threw it he said that the Vietcong had his father and mother and had told him that they would kill his father and mother unless he threw the bomb. There are innumerable cases in which the Vietcong blackmail the civilian population of South Vietnam into doing what they demand be done. The other day there was a big Tet offensive which General Giap said was designed to coincide with an uprising of the South Vietnamese population. Has there been any uprising? Not one bit. There has not been one scrap of an uprising. These people, nearly a million of whom fled from North Vietnam because they did not want Communism, do not want Communism in South Vietnam.
Let mc return to the woman involved in this incident. Our troops knew that somebody was observing their movements and reporting them to the Vietcong. About seventeen or eighteen of our troops were ambushed and killed, and about twenty-one were wounded. Our troops searched and with a certain amount of luck discovered this woman, not in uniform but in civilian dress, hiding and with, a powerful transmitter. That was how she came into their custody. Nobody has answered this question: Was she a prisoner of war? I understood that in those circumstances she was a spy. Under the laws of all countries, the penalty for espionage or spying is death. Are we to deduce that members of the Australian Labor Party would have been quite happy if this spy in civilian dress had been court martialled and then shot or hanged, and that their objection is to the fact that she had water poured down her throat?
It is time we started to look at these matters in a commonsense way and took emotionalism and political prejudice out of them completely. I believe in the integrity of our troops.
– That is not in question.
– You cannot say that the integrity of our troops is not in question when Senator O’Byrne is reported as saying at the Launceston Trades Hall that the United States and Australian atrocities in Vietnam were little better than Hitler’s acts of barbarism towards the Jews.
– From what newspaper are you quoting?
– You cannot say that that does not question the integrity of our troops.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Drake-Brockman) Order! Senator McManus, you will address the Chair.
-That was reported in the Launceston ‘Examiner’ of 9th March 1968. I will be very glad if Senator O’Byrne comes into the chamber and denies that he said that.
– He was not fully reported.
– I do not know about his being fully reported; I would say that that report was enough. If there was much more of that kind of thing it must have been pretty good. There have been some very remarkable attempts to use this incident for propaganda purposes. One suggestion was that the woman concerned should be brought to Australia, apparently to be held up as a kind of national heroine. I cannot imagine that kind of thing being done in normal circumstances. I can only come to the conclusion that it is al! part of the propaganda war which is designed to cause us to lose our confidence in our own forces.
There has been much talk about having sympathy for this unfortunate woman. I sympathise with her. It is quite possible that she was forced to do what she did by pressure being put on her in relation to her relatives, as the Vietcong regularly do in South Vietnam. But if 1 am asked where the bulk of my sympathy lies, my answer is that it lies with the fathers and mothers of the seventeen soldiers who were killed as a result of the information that this woman reported and with the fathers and mothers of the boys in Vietnam today who, when they read the newspapers, find all kinds of allegations of atrocities being made against the young men who they believe deserve the support of their fellow countrymen.
I conclude by saying that when these kinds of arguments are being put forward we have reached the stage where every honourable senator should be prepared to stand up and be counted on this issue. Therefore I will look forward to seeing how honourable senators vote on the Democratic Labor Party amendment, which reads:
At end of motion add: ‘and the Senate expresses its utmost confidence in the Australian troops in Vietnam and believes that they can be relied upon to conduct themselves at all times in a characteristic Australian manner’.
– Mr Deputy President, I claim to have been misrepresented by Senator McManus and I would like the record to be put straight. Senator McManus quoted from the
Examiner’ of 9th March la statement that I had made in the Launceston Trades Hall which was not at all pertinent to this issue and the meaning of which was therefore distorted. I had been speaking on a different matter altogether - the bombing of civilians in Vietnam and the use of napalm against civilians - and I pointed out that there could be a war crimes trial after the Vietnam war, in the same way as Germans were brought to trial for the atrocities that they had committed on innocent civilians. This was entirely separate from the incident that we are debating at the present time, but Senator McManus thought fit to bring it in at this stage.
– It was mere coincidence that Mr Sorell’s statement was published on 8th March.
– No, it was not.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Order!
– 1 had not proposed to debate this issue: I thought that this would be a very short debate. In fact, I thought the Opposition would have realised that it is regarded with revulsion by the Australian public. However, I should like to speak now to the amendment rather than to the original motion. I do not propose to carry on about terminology related to spies, agents and prisoners of war. I do not think that this has anything to do with the subject. I shall not be in the Senate for a great deal longer and I say here and now that this debate has filled me with revulsion. I have discussed this subject with Australian soldiers returning from Vietnam. They have asked: What is the question? What is the trouble? Was there torture or was there not?’ As far as I can find, there was no torture. Senator Willesee’s amendment proposes that the Government table the evidence given before, and the report made by, the major whom the Task Force Commander appointed to investigate the allegations. How many military courts of inquiry have been held during recent wars and how many of the records and reports of such courts have been tabled in the Parliament? I know that the Opposition is trying to make an exception of this court of inquiry.
The Opposition says that there was a breach of the Geneva Convention. Have we not enough confidence in the capacity of. the people who are running the Army to conduct courts of inquiry without having these matters thrown back to parliamentary fields with a demand that we usurp the right of investigation? Do we need to have a judge to call members of the civilian population? We do not. A military court of inquiry may call civilians before it. Such courts have done so. In this instance a court of inquiry was appointed as soon as the officer in command found that something was amiss. He appointed the court in accordance with normal procedures under Australian Military Regulations and Orders, with an officer of field rank presiding, and all relevant evidence was called. The Opposition says that only half the available evidence was heard. Here the Opposition tries to reduce confidence in the Army and to criticise the way in which it conducts these inquiries. I personally have sat on fourteen courts of inquiry and I do not think there was one instance in which the finger could have been pointed at a court through a claim that we could have called further evidence or additional witnesses.
I would go so far as to say that in this instance when the field officer commanding, namely, Brigadier Jackson, was made aware of the situation, he would not have allowed the chairman of the court of inquiry to neglect any possible avenue of investigation or any available evidence. Here we have an imputation that the officers who conducted the court of inquiry are not competent and have not the confidence of the Australian people. God forbid that Australian soldiers in Vietnam, some having volunteered and some having been sent, should feel that they have not the confidence of Australians here to back them up. I submit that there is no need for the taking of further evidence. Senator Willesee’s amendment proposes that a judge should consider whether the prisoner was subjected to torture or inhuman treatment. Let me refer to the statement by the Minister for the Army (Mr Lynch) that a full inquiry had been made. At a time when he had been, I think, only 3 or 4 days in office, he responded in a way that would be characteristic of our reaction if the same thing were suggested to us that torture had been carried out by Australian soldiers. He said that there was not a scintilla of truth in this.
– As far as his information went.
– Exactly. His first reaction was that there was not a scintilla of truth in it. He went on to qualify this by saying that this was as far as the information that he had available went. Any normal Australian knows that we are not addicted to torture. We have been in three or four conflicts which, if not declared wars, were designated as wars, and on not one occasion have we been accused of torture. This would be the Minister’s natural reaction - that we would not contemplate torture. The Minister’s statement reads:
I denied these allegations and stated that there was no truth in them and no evidence to support them. This statement was based on my information at the time.
The Minister - who, as I have said, had held his portfolio for approximately 3 or 4 days - went on to say:
The Commander of the Australian Task Force subsequently became aware of circumstances relating to this interrogation which caused him to appoint an officer of the rank of major to conduct an investigation.
This was a normal procedure. The Minister continued:
The investigating officer completed his investigation on 3 1st October 1966. A report of the investigation was received in Canberra on Tuesday, 12th March 1968, after having been specially requested.
The investigation established thai the interrogator had attempted to intimidate the woman. The second finding was that they had threatened to use the water torture.
I do not propose to recapitulate everything that has already been discussed in detail. All honourable senators are aware of the implications of this affair. If I repeated the details I would merely be wasting time, as this whole debate has done. Members of the Opposition have tried to make political gains from this debate, and I am sure that the Australian people, particularly our returned servicemen, would not respect them for doing so. This is implicit in the speech of almost every member of the Opposition who has spoken in the debate. I shall quote from the speech made by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition in another place (Mr Barnard) simply because I have not the Hansard report of the speeches made in this place today and yesterday. Suffice it to say that the speeches by the Leader of the Opposition in the
Senate (Senator Murphy) and Senator Wheeldon confirm my contention that the Opposition is attempting to make political capital from the debate. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition in another place is reported on” page 165 of ‘Hansard’ as saying on 14th March 1968:
There will always be human beings with moral weaknesses and defects who find outlets in the humiliation and degradation of others. We believe that the Army should take every step to ensure that this kind of person is not found in units interrogating and handling prisoners of war. We must reject all reasons adduced for the support of torture as vehemently as we reject the taking of hostages, the execution of prisoners, the imposition of collective sanctions against whole populations and punishment without trial.
This line of reasoning has been confirmed by our own Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) and the Minister for the Army (Mr Lynch). It has been confirmed also in this House by every senator who has taken part in the debate. Clearly we in Australia do not condone torture or any act which contravenes the principles of the Geneva Convention. I do not think that any Australian will ever in the future contemplate a breach of this Convention. The Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator Murphy) also confirmed this line of thinking, implying that no government could be expected to control the actions of an individual in all circumstances. The Government has done everything that it could do in the matter. The Army convened a court of inquiry immediately this affair was brought under notice and the findings of the inquiry were put on record. They were there for all Army personnel to see from that time onwards. The offender was immediately removed from his position. Senator Wheeldon said that this was not a suitable matter for discussion and debate. I agree. Clearly the Government could not have acted more quickly or efficiently than it has done in this case.
It has been suggested that Sorell was asked by the Army not to report this incident, and that it had been classified as secret. This is not correct. It was classified. All documents in the Army are classified. I venture the opinion that Brigadier Jackson, having found that one soldier in the Australian Army had contravened or failed to obey the instructions given to him, decided to investigate the matter. I think that is as far as Brigadier Jackson would have gone. He would have said: ‘Let us hold up the release of this information’. As to Sorell’s statement that the information was classified, let me say that I doubt his word completely. Four other recognised war correspondents completely deny Sorell’s evidence. Mr Sorell is to my mind a man who has to think very late how to collect a quick dollar. I hope his conscience pricks him. I think all Australian servicemen will share those sentiments.
The Opposition has suggested by way of amendment to the motion before the Senate that a judge and other persons be appointed to inquire into this incident. Senator Cavanagh wanted to know who would punish this man. Are we as parliamentarians to punish him? Is it to fall to our lot here in Canberra, 17 or 18 months later, to investigate what happened in time of battle when, as the Opposition will admit, an individual soldier stepped over the line? Are we to mete out the punishment now? I ask honourable senators what the gauge of punishment is to be. This man was removed from his post; he is no longer permitted to interrogate prisoners. What more can the Army do? I ask whether we in the Senate, or judges and others sitting on the Bench, are to adjudicate upon the punishment to be awarded this man. I think the question has been fully covered already by a court of inquiry. We must have confidence in that court of inquiry. By doing so. we shall show our confidence in all the troops serving overseas. Mr Sorell said that water was poured down the woman’s throat, and so on. We have heard those allegations over and over again. Only part of the evidence was available to him, but all the evidence was available to the duly convened court of inquiry. Had that inquiry considered it necessary, it would have called more evidence. I am sure that the inquiry called all the evidence that was necessary. Senator Cavanagh said that a tribunal should be set up to determine who is telling the truth in this matter. Are we to gather from this submission that parliamentarians should be called upon to appoint someone to determine this issue, or are we ourselves to judge who is telling the truth? Surely honourable senators will have ample confidence in the court of inquiry that was duly appointed.
– The Government had to set up two royal commissions to get at the truth of the ‘Voyager’ disaster.
– The honourable senator and his colleagues, in seeking another inquiry, are in effect implying that the officers in charge in Vietnam are not competent to handle the situation. Are they implying also that they do not believe the reports that were submitted to the responsible Minister? If so, I say that the Opposition is the greatest morale breaker of our soldiers overseas that has ever been known. We must support the facts presented to the Minister by the independent court of inquiry. There is no acceptable alternative. The suggested alternative would result in breaking the morale of our troops who are fighting in Vietnam.
– The only thing I want to say to Senator Heatley is that the Government has not done anything about this matter. The only way in which the Parliament can do something about it is by the Senate’s supporting the amendments moved by Senator Willesee and Senator Gair. The Opposition accepts Senator Gair’s amendment. Everyone who is aware of the interrogation story knows that the present Minister for the Army (Mr Lynch) knew nothing about the incident. At first he stated that there was not a shred of evidence to support the allegation of torture. Then after he had received some advice on the matter he said: ‘My first statement was based on the information I then had’. We also know that the Minister for Defence (Mr Fairhall) and the former Minister for the Army (Mr Malcolm Fraser) knew nothing about this incident.
The Opposition says that some action ought to be taken to ensure that such a thing will not happen again. I am not referring to the alleged torture but to the situation where an army inquiry is held and some people who are witnesses to an incident and who are not members of the armed forces are not called to give evidence before the inquiry. I am also referring to the situation where the Government, the Minister for the Army and the Parliament knew nothing about the incident. This is a very important matter. I suggest that it is not just a question of building up something. Honourable senators opposite have said that they are afraid of the effect this debate may have on the morale of the Australian troops. They have also said that they believe that traditionally Australians have always behaved in the correct way in war. 1 would be the first to support that contention. As an Australian and as a former member of the Services I have every reason to believe that generally Australians act properly; but there are instances, such as the one we are now discussing, where this is not the case.
I ask the Senate and the Parliament: Why was this information not readily conveyed to the Minister? It was a very important question which affected this nation’s commitments under the Geneva Convention. It also affected the question of the protection of Australian servicemen themselves. I suggest to Senator McManus, who attacked Senator O’Byrne, that this was the kind of approach which Senator O’Byrne was adopting when he talked about the possibility of servicemen being charged in the world courts. We know that involved in this matter are not only the personnel of the armed Services but also civilians in Vietnam. Nobody will deny that people who are not actually engaged in the war are affected.
I can remember as far back as 1964 or 1965 quoting to the Senate what high ranking and important American officers had said about what was happening to the civilian population in Vietnam. That is the sort of thing which can be attacked. I cannot understand the cold-blooded attitude of Senator McManus when he asks us to have a look at our stand on the water torture incident. That is how I interpret his remarks. He said that we should look at the matter without emotion. I suggest that we should not be as cold-blooded as that.
This incident concerns the Geneva Convention to which we are a signatory. The Convention is designed to protect not only the enemy but also our own Australian soldiers. Senator O’Byrne brought this point out this afternoon when he referred to the protection which the Convention provides. It sets a standard towards which we have to work. The rest of the world has to know that the Australian Government and Parliament agree that the concept of the Convention has to be observed. By observing it, we are protecting our own soldiers.
We cannot allow this incident to pass without its being fully investigated. We say there should be a proper inquiry into it and that the Parliament should be told everything. I cannot understand the Government’s attitude to this debate. We have argued on other occasions about relatively minor matters such as the power of the executive and actions of heads of departments who have done certain things without advising their Ministers or the Parliament, yet on this important question the Government claims that everything is in order. The Minister for Defence said that the incident had been dealt with ‘immediately and adequately’. How can anyone in his right mind and knowing all the facts say that this particular incident was dealt with immediately and adequately? If it was dealt with immediately and adequately, why were the Ministers not told about it?
Senator McManus spent the first 15 minutes of his speech in attacking Senator Wheeldon. He had made some personal asides when Senator Wheeldon was speaking. Later, Senator McManus directed his attention to what Senator O’Byrne had said at a Vietnam protest meeting in Tasmania. I was not present in the chamber during the whole of Senator Wheeldon’s speech but I have the Hansard report of it. First, I want to refer to the passage to which Senator McManus has referred. I ask honourable senators to consider it properly. At page 154 of Hansard of J 9th March 1968 Senator Wheeldon is reported to have said:
We do say this: The Government must make it clear to this Parliament, to the Australian people and to the whole world that, despite the implication which followed from certain statements that have been made, Australia has not abandoned the Geneva Convention and that however horrible this war may be and whatever anybody else might do Australians at least will try to carry themselves like civilised human beings and not like animals.
But let me refer to what he said at page 150 concerning the Australian troops, and I would consider this to be a proper statement:
We arc not engaged in casting any reflections on the Australian Army. We would agree with Senator Anderson that, in fact, in this very closely reported war few if any episodes, other than this one, of brutality on the part of Australian soldiers have been reported.
He went as far as he could to make the point that he was not criticising the Australian troops. He was supporting the Opposition’s proposition. The only part of the last paragraph of Senator Wheeldon’s speech about which anybody could quibble is this reference:
. despite the implication which followed from certain statements. . . .
Let me refer now to what the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) said when dealing - too lightly, I suggest - with such an important matter. At page 160 of Hansard of 14th March 1968 he is reported as having said:
But it is nevertheless true no matter what brouhaha comes from the other side of the House that the Geneva Agreement itself in these circumstances is most unlikely to apply. But the agent was taken and the spirit of the Geneva Agreement, 1 am bound to say, was exceeded. To what extent? It was exceeded to the extent that the interrogating officer raised his voice and this is not allowed under the Geneva Agreement. Honourable members opposite should read it if they do not believe this. Prisoners may only be asked questions as to their name, their rank and their number. The interrogator is not even allowed to ask for that information in a loud voice. But this interrogating officer did. He raised his voice. He shouted. Do you know what he did, Mr Speaker? He even banged on the table …
The Prime Minister made that statement although he knew all about the incident and knew that the matter had been blown up in the Australian community through the Press. Despite what Senator Branson has said about one newspaper editorial, almost all the Australian daily newspapers supported the proposition for a general and public inquiry. Whatever might be said’ about psychological warfare there is no doubt that the general report has been conveyed to the international Press. Everybody would know about it. In that situation, what is the best action that the Parliament can take? Obviously, the Parliament should come out in the open and institute procedures to bring about the discovery of the truth. We should also make sure that in future the Ministers of the government of the day and the Parliament are informed about any incidents which might affect our relationships through international agreements or treaties, and that the greatest protection possible is afforded to our own troops.
As I have said, the only statement by Senator Wheeldon about which anyone could quibble was the passage in which he used the words: ‘despite the implication which followed from certain statements that have been made’. Only in respect of that passage could the attitude of Senator McManus possibly be sustained. At page 165 of Hansard Senator Wright is reported as having said:
Members of the Opposition just cannot restrain themselves when they see a feather floating in the breeze wilh a little silver tinsel of political atmosphere on lt, however it started off. They are just like the old woman on the broomstick. They say: ‘Let us go. We might land this time.’ They depreciate the value of the whole Army tradition and the whole reputation that the Australian Army has for honour in battle and in peace. They make this incident a political vehicle. . . .
Senator Wright’s remarks do not deal with the issue. I suggest that he, in his more reasoned moments, would not give support to such a statement. Members of the Opposition have been great admirers of his attitude in the past when he has tested this Parliament and the Government on important matters of principle similar to the principle involved in this incident. Senator McManus referred to the attitude of some members of the Australian Labor Party. He may have seen last Sunday a television programme - ‘Four Corners’ - in which Michael Charlton commented on films taken in Hue. 1 have been in Hue and have stood Inside the imperial palace there. Hue was the original capital of Vietnam. I was shocked to see that not only the Vietcong but also the American forces have almost completely destroyed that city. We say that we are engaged in a struggle for freedom and democracy, and for the right of others to self determination. Yet, apparently, the only way we can keep opposing forces out of the large cities of Vietnam is to destroy them. It is a great pity that this great and historic city, the old capital of Vietnam before it was artificially divided, has been largely destroyed. Hue undamaged might have been able to exert an influence in making Vietnam once again a single country. But that chance has been largely destroyed by the Vietcong and allied forces.
There must be another solution. Members of the Labor Party have stated our beliefs and we have every reason to believe that they are right. We think the people of Vietnam must be more deeply involved in the warfare before there will be a successful military conclusion. Each escalation of the war in Vietnam, including the bombing of North Vietnam, has resulted in the production by the enemy of stronger and more effective weapons and stronger and more positive opposition to the allies by Red China and the Soviet Union. The war situation has become more perilous, as has the position of our own and allied troops.
We of the Opposition derive satisfaction from the knowledge that Senator Robert Kennedy is now saying exactly what we have said. He is directly critical of President Johnson in his own country and of the talk of quick military solutions, which in fact do not appear to be possible. One of the matters which concerns the Labor Party is the failure to inform the Minister for the Army of the truth. The present Minister is new to the job and perhaps it could be expected that he would not immediately be aware of all that takes place in his Department. The present Minister for Education and Science (Mr Malcolm Fraser), who preceded the present Minister as Minister for the Army, knew nothing of the incident. I do not wish to talk about the journalist Sorell or to say whether he should have had more courage at the time of the incident when he was told that what he had seen was classified and that he should have reported it. The fact is that an Army court of inquiry composed of senior officers did not report the incident to the Government. Only 2 days before the debate on this matter took place in the House of Representatives the Government obtained a full report of the inquiry.
Senator Heatley has said that the Government has dealt with the matter. It has not. The Minister for the Army has made no contribution other than to say that action is to be taken. At page J 54 of Hansard of 14th March 1968 he is reported to have said:
Tn saying that I considered that there was no foundation for the allegations. I also indicated that the matters raised would be investigated in detail. The specific incident of the Nui Dat interrogation, to which the book made a hearsay reference, was not known to me at the time. Why this was so when some information was in the hands of my advisers is an internal matter which I shall resolve with the officers concerned.
Who can feel satisfied on the strength of that statement that everything has been fixed up, that the Government has done something? Is it just an internal matter? Members of this Parliament want to know why senior Army officers in Canberra when the incident was first ventilated in the Press remained silent and did not inform the new Minister for the Army, and for that matter why they had not informed the previous Minister for the Army. We believe that the only way to correct the procedures and to ensure that there will not be a repetition in the future is to institute the inquiry that we ask for.
Senator McManus, Senator Anderson and other honourable senators opposite have said that the actions of the Opposition Will serve only to support the great psychological drive against the allied forces in Vietnam. I suggest that that is a lot of hogwash. Government supporters are saying to us, in effect: ‘You are not allowed to raise in the Parliament any vital questions about Vietnam’. That is nonsense, because every day the great and important television networks of the United States are raising these questions. Important people of great standing, including His Holiness the Pope-
– He has said: ‘In the name of God stop it’.
– Yes. He and other important people are questioning the purpose of the war in Vietnam. We of the Opposition do not question the giving of support for Australian troops in Vietnam. I have not heard one Labor senator question the need to support our troops. When the Labor Party decided upon our policy, Arthur Calwell made it very clear that, while our troops are in Vietnam, committed by the Government, we are obliged to do all we can to support them. What the Opposition is now doing cannot be construed as having any adverse effect on the morale of our troops. We say that the only way to ensure that they will be properly treated and that the spirit of the Geneva Convention will be observed is for us as an important country to assert that we will make every effort to honour the Convention.
I return to the question that 1 asked earlier: What is the best thing for the Government to do? It has presented a statement to the Parliament. It has not even told us that the particular branches of the Army which deal with liaison between the Department and the Minister are to be required to report incidents to the Minister immediately. In another place the Minister for Defence said that he was satisfied, although he knew nothing about the occurrence.
The Minister had contacted some important officers in Vietnam only a couple of days earlier. He was satisfied that the matter had been dealt with immediately and adequately. The Minister knows the importance of properly treating prisoners of war. He has frequently been in the area in question. He has probably been to Vietnam two or three times a year, talking to senior officers. Yet he told the Parliament that the situation was satisfactory. Government supporters accuse Opposition members of adding weight to the great psychological drive against allied forces in Vietnam. Surely there is something wrong with the Vietnam commitment if the allies are unable to instil into the South Vietnamese forces and people the dedication which the other side has and if they cannot satisfy the Australian population that we are fighting for these great ideals of freedom and democracy. Surely hand in hand with those great ideals must go the traditional civilised practices adopted since the very early wars. If we do not agree with these concepts let us say that we will fight this war in totalitarian fashion, discarding the civilised methods that we have hitherto adopted.
Each Minister who took part in the debate in another place admitted that the Geneva Agreement had been broken, but they all defended the breaking of the Agreement. They knew that there had been a failure to announce details of this incident and to recognise the importance of it. Nevertheless, they defended what took place by saying that this was purely an internal matter, lt is not an internal matter. It has become a matter of public controversy. It is idle for any Minister to contend that this matter has never been highlighted, for it has. Senator Wheeldon has asked a number of questions about our obligations under the Geneva Agreement. Many people have claimed that the North Vietnamese do not abide by the Agreement in their treatment of prisoners of war. We have heard of the intervention of the Red Cross in Vietnam. These are matters of public property. For many years there have been public discussions about Vietnam. The Government knows that Vietnam is an important topic, yet no Minister has thought fit to make inquiries down the line to see what goes on there. This is wrong.
We say that the Government has no alternative but to do as the Opposition has suggested. Perhaps the Opposition’s amendment will not be carried in the Senate, but we are not shamefaced. We know that what we propose will not reduce the esteem in which we hold the Australian forces. Nobody can criticise the Labor Party for its attitude towards the welfare of the boys in the Services. Whether it be pay, the provision of war service homes or the provision of repatriation benefits, we believe that members of our armed forces are entitled only to the ‘best. We have always advocated the giving of every assistance to our servicemen. We have always supported any move to improve their conditions. We have often attempted in this Parliament to improve the standards under which they serve. Our boys are in Vietnam by direction of this Government. We have criticised the conduct of the war in Vietnam. We say that the best security our boys can have is for us to uphold the great principles of the Geneva Agreement. When the Agreement has not been fully honoured we say that the fullest inquiry should be -held. Such an inquiry should not be left to the Army, as happened in this case; it should be an open inquiry. We are not satisfied with the inquiry that was held on this occasion. We think the Government has made a great mistake in allowing this situation to develop. The incident occurred in October .1966 but did not come to the light of day until 2 days before the debate took place in the House of Representatives.
– This has been quite a long debate. The issue before us today concerns an episode that took place in South Vietnam in October 1966 when a female agent was captured close to the Australian base and interrogated. I am trying to present the facts in logical sequence. I am trying to keep emotion out of the debate. I wish to deal only with the facts because it seems to me that in this debate there has been a substantial departure from the issues. Firstly, we are dealing with a female agent. Was she a prisoner of war or was she a spy? Senator McManus raised this point and it has been in my mind since the beginning of this argument. Are we dealing with a female prisoner of war or with a spy?
– Read the report and And out.
– The evidence and what 1 have heard during the course of this debate lead me to believe that we are dealing with a spy. Let us get that fact clear first. Some honourable senators have been to South Vietnam. Senator Bishop has been to Hue, the old city on the Perfumed River and the great capital of the original group of countries that now comprise South Vietnam and North Vietnam. I, too, have been to South Vietnam. Those who have been to Nui Dat will know that for the Australian troops stationed there it is not a funny business - far from it. They are doing an important job. They are there on our behalf. The Australian people have endorsed their presence there. So let us be in no doubt as to why they are there. On the last occasion that this matter was put to the people of Australia they supported wholeheartedly the presence in South Vietnam of Australian forces. We should be proud of those forces. I am proud of them. I am proud of their performance in battle and of their civil actions. I suggest that the first thing to which they are entitled is our support because they are protecting all of us.
The Labour Party’s idea of what constitutes support is strangely at variance with mine. I accept this situation. I am giving my view of the position. I believe that the incident which is the subject of this debate has been magnified beyond its real significance. As I said earlier, I have been in the province and in the particular area where Australian forces are operating. Indeed, I have been in quite a large part of South Vietnam. Those honourable senators who have been in the area will know what it is like in Nui Dat where the Australian troops are based. The troops are in a very heavy jungle. Their base was formerly a rubber plantation. Not much sunlight comes through. There is a lot of rain, a lot of discomfort and a lot of danger. The base is wired in. Not far away are some large wooded hills. As far as I can construe without having the benefit of maps, somewhere in the area overlooking the base or close by was an enemy listening post, dug in. In this listening post was a female agent or, as I choose to call her, a female spy. She was dug in outside the Australian fortified perimeter. What was she doing there? She was receiving messages from other agents. She was reporting those messages, sending out signals and calling down fire on the Australian men from her observation post. After a severe action in which some of our men were killed and others badly knocked about, she was captured. She was interrogated. If Opposition senators were there, charged with the responsibility of protecting the lives of our troops, as we are charged with a certain responsibility in this Parliament, would they not feel that had to try to do something in order to save the lives of Australian soldiers? lt has become clear to me that to say that she was tortured is an exaggeration. After the interrogation which has been referred to in such dramatic terms by so many people on the other side, she walked away and was photographed, and the photograph depicts her as having considerable composure. We have heard a lot about water being used but so far as I can judge from the evidence that is available, she finally swallowed one cup of water. And she was shouted at and a table was banged. We have had tables banged here at times. So what do we now have? We have one cup of water, a torrid hour of time and a composed woman at the end. And what price did we pay for this? The price was eighteen Australian soldiers dead and twenty-one Australians wounded. How many more died or were wounded before this time because of this listening post, this agent, this spy? So when she was handed over to the American forces the Vietcong were not paying a very high price for what they achieved through this spy?
All that this debate has achieved so far is an amendment which has been flushed out of the Labor Party fairly late in the day. It is identical to the amendment that was moved in another place. But it was moved in that other place much earlier in the debate and it was defeated there, as this amendment will be defeated here. Why is all this procedure necessary when an inquiry was held in the area one week after the incident took place? The facts were established then. The interrogating officer was thought to have been perhaps a bit too strict, although I have some reservations about whether this was so. But he was thought to be severe, and in accordance with the Australian Army’s determination to be as fair as possible at all times, this man was barred from any such dealings in the future.
Then a court of inquiry was held and it found that the newspaper report was accurate. I think, however, that what we heard yesterday and what we have heard from both sides of the chamber today must lead us to believe that the report has some rather heavy exaggeration in it and is not well corroborated. Nevertheless that is the situation with which we are dealing. We now have before us an amendment which asks for the setting up of another court of inquiry, and the main basis upon which we are asked to accept this proposition is Senator Willesee’s instinct or intuition. I. do not think we should commit the Australian taxpayers to the cost of a judge, a court and all the time and money involved in such an inquiry merely on the instinct of a member of the Labor Party in the Senate. So, speaking briefly and for myself, I say that the evidence we have before us after two days of debate, plus what we have read, does not seem to warrant our supporting the Labor Party’s viewpoint. There has been no substantial case made for the setting up of any futher inquiry. The matter should be disposed of here and now and remain closed. I submit that what we have heard justifies our supporting the Ministerial statement and certainly supporting the very good amendment proposed by Senator Gair.
– This debate is deplorable. 1 do not for one moment believe that, the matter should ever have reached this stage. The incident really affects the whole of the Australian nation. It involves not only our own consciences but also the regard in which we are held by other countries, and to find a subject matter such as this brought down to the level of party politics is, as I said before, deplorable.
On the one hand we have the Opposition trying to gain points from the Government. One would think that having got an admission from the Government that the allegations were true, the Opposition would have been content to leave the matter there because any further probing of the subject can only do harm to any Australian who may be captured by the Vietcong in the future. On the other hand, we have apologies from the members of the Government and a certain amount of whitewashing. We also have denigration of the man Sorell for bringing the matter to notice. To me, all this is completely wrong, lt is party politics again. Members on the Government side say: ‘Hear, hear’ every time one of their side makes a point and members on the Opposition make similar ‘Hear, hear’ noises in support of their own speakers. They all seem to forget that so long as we keep on insisting that there should be a bigger and better probe we are endangering Australian soldiers. lt is. to me, but mere mockery to hear the new Minister for Works (Senator Wright) get up in this place, and, in his pontifical manner - I must not say ‘sober manner’ - address us on the enforcement of the Geneva Convention. This Minister, a man totally different from what he was a month or so ago before he became a Minister, said that the Government insists on the enforcement of the Geneva Convention. He said that the Army demanded it. And yet he condones this incident. On the one hand he acknowledges there is a Geneva Convention and on the other hand he condones an action which breaches that Convention.
It is of no use honourable senators on the Government side getting up and stating that Sorell’s story of the incident is not corroborated. The Minister for the Army himself has said that basically it is correct. Does anyone deny it? What are we arguing about? Here we have the Minister in charge of the Army, who knows more about the matter than we do even though he is a junior Minister, admitting that basically the story is correct. Even though he did make himself appear ridiculous when he first made a statement concerning the episode, he did make this admission. He has seen the report of the inquiry, the file which none of us has seen. I do not know whether any other member of the Government or even any member of the Cabinet has seen it, but I presume that the Minister tor the Army has seen it and he admitted quite openly that basically Sorell’s story is true. So let us stop all this rubbishing of Sorell and do some justice to this man. I do not even know Sorell.
– What about giving justice to the Australian soldiers?
– Sorell did not denigrate them; it was an American journalist who denigrated the Australian soldiers.
– Sorell denigrated them.
– Sorell did not. All he mentioned was this incident, and the honourable senator’s own Minister agrees with the story. But Senator McKellar does not agree with it. Apparently he knows more about the matter. 1 do not know enough about it to argue, but I do accept that the Minister for the Army knows something about it and he may have information which indicates that there is some truth in Sorell’s story. Otherwise, he would never have made the admission in his statement in the other place. It does not matter how much the honourable senator tries to apologise or how much he tries to denigrate Sorell, the fact remains that what Sorell reported was basically true, or substantially true, according to the Minister for the Army.
Everyone knows that in a time of war people do terrible things. If what happened at the interrogation was done in the heat of the moment, I could even apologise for this warrant, officer, but it was not done in the heat of the moment; it was done the next day. Even so, perhaps one could still apologise for it to a certain extent. No-one can tell me that worse things than that are not done in a time of war, and for the Government and other honourable senators and even the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) to say that it was only a cup of water that the woman swallowed is ridiculous. Even if it were only a cup of water, does not it all come back to the basic principle of the thing? It does not matter whether it was a gallon of water or a cup of water. But the way Senator Cotton spoke a minute ago, one would think that the girl was thirsty and asked for a cup of water. That is what the Government is trying to make out. Why not accept the position and stop all this debate? But the Government keeps on apologising, and that infuriates everyone. It certainly infuriates me to hear the Government apologising and it certainly infuriates me to hear an apology from the Prime Minister, especially when I know the growing disenchantment now developing in the minds of the people who, when he was first appointed, had high hopes for him. The people believed that here was a new man and a new Government. But the public is now becoming increasingly disenchanted with him. He will be known in future as the Prime Minister who says things and then withdraws. His cynicism when he spoke in the House of Representatives infuriated me. We should not expect that attitude from a Prime Minister on a national matter. If it was the political matter which honourable senators on both sides are seeking t’o make it, one could understand the Prime Minister’s being cynical. In a national matter affecting the reputation of Australia the Prime Minister’s assertion that the quantity of water swallowed by the woman was the equivalent of only a cupful infuriated many Australians and, as I said before, disenchanted them.
I think it is the autocratic effect of long years in office which gives to Ministers and the Government this idea that they can get away with anything. We have had the Ipec case, the VIP aircraft controversy and the Voyager’ disaster. Departmental inefficiency does not matter, say Government supporters; the Government is always right. So confirmed is this attitude that the Minister for the Army (Mr Lynch), as soon as he learnt about the allegations, said that there was not a scintilla of evidence to support them.
– That was his view of the evidence at that stage.
– He should not have made a statement to that effect until he had been advised by his Department. He knew nothing about his Department then.
– if the honourable senator is about to criticise the Minister’s statement, he should quote it accurately.
– I do not know what it was.
– Exactly; the honourable senator does not know what it was.
– I do not care what words the Minister puts into his mouth. The point is that he rushed into print using certain words - if that phrase suits the honourable senator, who doubtless will give what he regards as the correct version - without knowing the facts. He should have found out from his Department thai an inquiry had been held. Even Senator Gair supported the Government in the contention that three journalists who had been present said that Sorell’s story was not true. Noone on the Government side has yet been able to answer one question that arises in my mind. I understand that Senator
McKellar will follow me in this debate. I put it to him: Will he please tell the Senate why everyone on the Government side believes the three journalists who oppose Sorell, while the Minister for the Army and the Prime Minister agree that, basically and substantially, Sorell’s story is true? Can we just have that made clear to the people? The Government’s story is confusing, and I think that something should be done about it.
I do not know what has happened to the warrant officer. According to one speaker in this debate, the warrant officer must be a sadist, so severe was his punishment. The honourable senator said, in effect, that the officer was punished by not being allowed to interrogate any more prisoners of war. That was his punishment. That is what members of the Government say is sufficient punishment. How stupid can one be? Because honourable senators on the Opposition side say that some punishment should have been meted out to this officer, we are accused of engaging in a witch hunt and told that the man has already been punished; no longer is he allowed to interrogate prisoners of war. He must have been a sadist if that was his pleasure and if his punishment is that he no longer may have that pleasure.
– Surely the honourable senator would never suggest that it is proper to retry matters that have reached finality.
– I have not asked for that to be done. 1 have not said that at all, and if the Minister will wait a moment he will hear my views on the matter. I am asking not about what the Minister suggests, but about what punishment was meted out to this officer. That poses a second question that Senator McKellar might answer. Do not tell me that he was punished by being taken away from his intelligence work and not allowed to get near prisoners of war. The Australian public want to know whether the Government regards this matter seriously enough to mete out some punishment.
I come to Senator Willesee’s further amendment. I am afraid that I cannot agree with it. I do not belive in reopening the whole thing. As I said at the beginning of my remarks, the sooner we shut up about the whole business, the better it will be. Indeed, I should not have spoken in this debate but for the fact that I heard members of the Government apologising for this incident and trying to blame everyone but themselves. Why not be decent about it, admit that a mistake has been made and then keep quiet about the whole thing? Why does the Government not say that it has had an inquiry, that it knows this incident happended and that it will ensure that such a thing never happens again? That is what honourable senators and the Australian people want to be told, and they want the message to cany over to the enemy forces so that they will not ill treat our boys on capturing them.
Sitting suspended from 5.45 to 8 p.m.
– Prior to the suspension of the sitting I had said that I deplored the whole conduct and tone of this debate. Especially do I deplore the fact that we are endangering the future of any Australian soldier who is liable to be captured in Vietnam. I also deplored the fact that a matter of national importance to Australia and one that affects our reputation as a whole should be brought down to the party level. I deplore also the fact that the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) should treat this matter as cynically as he treats so many things when he feels there is opposition to him and his party. I have the greatest admiration for the Prime Minister and I held the highest hopes that he would be a real leader for Australia, regardless of his membership of the Liberal Party, but, as I said before the suspension, it now appears from the comments he makes from time to time that he is coming to be known as a ‘say and withdraw’ man.
I also deplored the fact that he had cynically attacked us who had levelled criticism in this matter and said that the agent had drunk only one cup of water. That infuriates me because it does not matter whether one cup of water or a gallon of water was drunk; the principle is the same.
The Minister for Repatriation (Senator McKellar) who represents the Minister for the Army in this place shortly will participate in the debate. I should like him to tell me why the Minister for the Army (Mr Lynch) believes what Sorell said. I remind the Senate that the Minister for the Army, who has access to the court of inquiry files, stated in his speech that there was a basis for this complaint. Yet all Government supporters say that we should not believe the story because it is untrue and that three journalists have attacked Sorell’s statement.
I have also deplored the attempts made by Government Senators to denigrate Sorell. That always happens whenever we attack the Government. The first thing the Government does is to denigrate the person who originated the attack and try to make out that he has no virtue and no right to say what he did. Despite the Government’s attempts to make us accept the position, none of us on this side of the Chamber believes a word of what the American author said. This debate has nothing to do with the American; it has to do with what Sorell reported, and although three other reporters said they did not see this incident, the Minister for the Army who is the only one who has access to the files, says that there is a basis for the complaint.
I hope the Minister will reply to that first question and the subsequent questions that I shall ask. I do not care whether anyone scores off me politically, lt does not interest me two hoots what the Liberal Party, the Australian Labor Party or the Australian Country Party think about this matter. My second question to the Minister is this: What punishment was meted out to the interrogating officer? Before the sitting was suspended we were told that he had been punished because no longer will he have the satisfaction of interrogating prisoners of war. That is the punishment meted out to him by this Government. It would have us believe that this man - this sadist - has been punished because from now on he will not have the opportunity to again interrogate prisoners of war. The Government says: He has been punished. Let us forget him.
It is deplorable to find Government senators trying to apologise for this man’s actions. It is extremely hard - in fact it is impossible - to defend the indefensible. Every Government supporter knows that the action taken by the interrogating officer is indefensible, irrespective of whether it was a matter of one cup of water - I presume she was thirsty - or a gallon’ of water. The fact that he tried to force it down her throat is indefensible. It is infuriating and deplorable to hear Government senators trying to score a point off the Opposition. 1 do not care what they say. This is a matter of national importance and it should be treated as such. I am beginning to hope that this is sinking in.
My third question to the Minister is this: What has happened to the agent? We were told that she was handed over to the Americans. If she was handed over to the South Vietnamese this Government has murder on its hands because everyone knows that if she was handed over to them that was the end of her. Where is the agent? ls she still alive? Will the Minister answer those questions without any shillyshallying impugning motives or anything like that? In whose custody was this agent placed? ls she still alive?
I do not agree with the Labor .Party’s proposition that there should be an inquiry. That would tend to put Australia in the worst possible light because in the heat of war anything can happen and 1 am sure that worse things have, happened. However, 1 should like an assurance from the Government that never again will such an incident occur. Not once have I heard any assurance along those lines. One would think that the Government would be big enough - instead of being arrogant - to admit that there is some justification for the complaint’ and, having made that admission, to say: ‘We are terribly sorry and will ensure that such a thing does nol happen in the future.’
For heaven’s sake, let us put an end to this debate that is doing no one any good. As 1 said at the outset, I entered the debate only because I was so infuriated by the Government’s weak apologies in respect of every charge the Opposition made. I do not exonerate the Opposition and that is why I cannot support, its amendment’.
– We are debating a statement read by the Minister for Repatriation (Senator McKellar) on behalf of the Minister for the Army (Mr Lynch) in another place relating to an incident which is alleged to have taken place during the interrogation of a woman spy in October 1966. Before going any further, let me refer to some of Senator Turnbull’s remarks to the effect that both Government and Opposition senators were playing politics on this question. I believe the honourable senator is the one who is playing politics. He is playing tha politics of an independent senator and having two bob each way. I believe it is the right of the Opposition to come into this place and to pro.be and criticise the policies and actions of the Government. On the other hand, I believe it is the right of Government senators to consider the matter and if, in their belief, the Government has taken the right action, then to defend that action.
Senator Turnbull also raised the question of whether the warrant officer concerned - the interrogating officer - had been punished enough. This officer had been trained as an intelligence office to interrogate prisoners of war. Because of what occurred during the interrogation of this woman spy, he was stood down from further interrogation of prisoners of war. Surely that in itself is punishment enough. In other words, he was dealt with by the Army in accordance with appropriate Army discipline. In the years to come this officer could have the finger pointed at him in Army messes throughout Australia and overseas as the man who was stood down from interrogating prisoners of war because of this incident. Surely that is sufficient punishment.
The Senate is considering what I believe was basically an incident. We are trying to establish whether justice has been done.
When this ministerial statement was made in another place last Thursday night the Opposition moved an amendment asking that a judicial inquiry be held. Since then, no doubt after studying the report of the debate in another place and after gaining further information as a result of inquiries, the Opposition has changed its approach and has decided to ask for the tabling of the papers relating to the investigation carried out by the Army authorities.
Although I do not support the request for the tabling of the papers, I am very pleased that the Opposition has now decided not to ask for a judicial inquiry. If such an inquiry were held in this country, which would mean that everyone connected with this incident would be brought here and publicity would be given to it, it would do no good for the Australian people, the Australian Army or even the woman spy herself. This afternoon Senator McManus made the point that she could have been acting under duress; that she could have carried out the job that she did under the threat of some intimidation of her family or something along that line. If she were brought to this country further threats of intimidation could be made against her family.
I cannot support the amendment moved by Senator Willesee. I do not think it is practical. The Government has admitted that during the interrogation of this woman an offence which constituted a breach of the Geneva Conventions was committed. The Army has issued instructions that such breaches are not to occur again. The officer concerned has been punished. What more could be gained from the holding of an inquiry?
This debate relates to a filthy war, a war that none of us likes, but a war that we hope will preserve the freedom of Australians living today and their children. It is a strange war by comparison with World War I and World War II which many of us in this chamber know something about. This war is different from any other war in which Australians have fought. Because of the kind of war it is, we have to be very careful about the safety of our troops in South Vietnam, Those troops consist of national servicemen, volunteers and regular soldiers. They are Australian citizens and the sons of Australian men and women. When someone representing the enemy gives information that results in the death of eighteen Australians and the wounding of a further twenty-one Australians, then the position becomes the concern of every one of us.
Let me make a point that Senator Cotton made this afternoon. Here was a woman in a complex of tunnels in a high position overlooking the Australian troop movements receiving information and giving information about movements of the Australian troops. No doubt she was the cause of the casualties that were inflicted upon the Australians. But for the fact that the two battalions of Vietcong were slow in taking up their positions in the ambush the whole of this Australian patrol could have been wiped out. That is an important fact.
A great deal has been said about the treatment that this woman received. But I put this view to the Senate: No doubt she had been in this tunnel complex for some time. No doubt she had been short of water and food. When she was captured, no doubt she was under great stress because she realised the effect that her actions had had on the Australian forces. I can well imagine how any of us would have felt had we been taken to that position in the hills that night, kept there, put in a helicopter perhaps without eating the breakfast that we were given and taken on our first helicopter flight which lasted for half an hour. We would have been sick when we were taken out of that helicopter. We would have asked for a drink of water.
All these matters have been blown up and magnified. They have been related by a correspondent who was in the position at the time. I do not propose to deride the story that he published, despite the fact that it has been refuted by three other correspondents. Some members of the Opposition have laid great stress on the story related by Sorell, despite the action taken by Brigadier Jackson - a man who has given perhaps 20 years of service to this country in the Army, a man of the highest integrity and a man who on hearing about this incident appointed a major to carry out an investigation. Having the rank of major, that man would have had at least. 10 years of service in the Army and would be a man of the highest integrity. Yet, the Opposition wants people to believe the story related by this correspondent.
– It has been accepted by the Government as being factual.
– The basic facts have been accepted, but not the whole story. Yesterday we heard one member of the Opposition say that if this incident had occurred others must have occurred. But in another place last Thursday night the Minister for Defence (Mr Fairhall) said that he had specially asked high officers in Vietnam whether there had been other similar incidents and the reply that he had received was that there had never been any other incident like this one. Surely if we have any faith in human nature we must accept the word of those men who hold responsible positions in the Army in Australia and in Vietnam. Had there been any other such incidents, they would have told us about them.
A great deal has been said in this debate. Perhaps I could agree with Senator Turnbull when he says that it has gone on for far too long. But the Opposition has seen fit to put up speakers and we have seen fit to match them.
– No, it was the opposite way.
– It might have been the opposite way from the honourable senator’s point of view, but I am putting my point of view. The Government has admitted that there was an incident and a breach of the Geneva Conventions. Instructions have gone to the Army and disciplinary action has been taken against the interrogating officer. Surely that is sufficient. I believe that it is sufficient for the Australian public. That is why I support the motion ‘That the Senate take note of the paper’ and wholeheartedly support Senator Gair’s amendment, but oppose Senator Willesee’s amendment.
– I support the attitude that has been expressed by Senator Willesee on behalf of the Australian Labor Party. Before I come to the subject matter of the debate, I wish to take Senator Drake-Brockman to task. He said that members of the Opposition were building their story on the story told by the journalist, Sorell. If that is so, it is perfectly obvious that the Minister for the Army (Mr Lynch) and the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) have been telling fibs because they told precisely the same story and said that in fact Mr Sorell’s story was true in every way.
– Substantially true.
– To use the correct phrase, they said that it was substantially true. Senator Drake-Brockman said there was nothing wrong - that she was merely being given a drink of water. That is a complete misinterpretation of the statement of facts. According to the honourable senator, this debate should have finished a long time ago. So far as the Opposition is concerned, it would have finished a long time ago, but the Government has prolonged the debate by consistently making excuses. It has brought speaker after speaker to add to its excuses, and for this reason I am now participating in the debate.
What brought about the debate in the first place? It was initiated by the Government. The Government brought it down on its own head. There are two conflicting stories. First, the Minister for the Army (Mr Lynch) said that a court of inquiry would be established. He was supported by the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton), who also said that a court of inquiry would be set up, adding that he hoped it would be an open inquiry. Then there were Press announcements that the whole matter had been considered by Cabinet. It is important to examine in retrospect the factors leading up to the initiation of this debate. The next thing we heard was that the Government had run for cover and there was to be no inquiry. The Army had looked into the matter. Everything was all right, and nothing would happen at all. The Government has consistently attempted to discredit the journalist, Mr Sorell. Government supporters have also done their utmost to discredit the American writer, Martin Russ, of whom nobody had previously heard. Why all the secrecy? This is the part that amazes me. If there was nothing to hide, why did the Government not proceed with the inquiry as initially promised? Having taken the stand that there would be an inquiry, why did the Government run for cover when it looked as if the inquiry might have to be proceeded with?
I was interested to hear Senator McKellar’s sharp interjection while Senator Turnbull was speaking. Does he know something? Is there something that the Government will not tell us and will not tell Australia? Is there something the Government is hiding - something that it does not want exposed to the light of day? There are plenty of instances of the Government’s doing this previously. What happened to the soldier who practised the water torture on this unforunate girl? Was he reprimanded in any way? We are not told about this. All we know is that he was taken away from his job, and as far as we know, he is now back in the comfort and safety of Australia. In Adelaide only a week or two ago, because a kid in uniform handed out some howtovote cards, a disreputable politician from another place-
– Order! That word disreputable’ must be withdrawn.
– Mr President, in deference to you I will withdraw it.
– Not in deference to me.
– I will withdraw it and say, instead, that a politician of inexperience in another place, deciding that the yoting man in uniform should not be handing out how-to-vote cards, told tales to the military police, as a result of which the kid was fined $15. Let me now return to the offender in Vietnam. There is no suggestion that this warrant officer has been punished in any way. He has merely been told that he should not have done it. Was he, in fact, told this? I can refer to other such instances. We were told a long time ago in this House that the Fill bombers would cost a certain amount, which would not go beyond the ceiling price. Since then - and because of this the former Minister for Air lost his portfolio - the Government has had to climb down and admit that it does not know the ultimate price to Australia of these new planes.
Untruths have been told about the “Voyager’ disaster. Apparently the evidence in the first royal commission was so unsatisfactory as to warrant a second royal commission at a cost of about $600,000 to the Australian taxpayer. This, of course, is nothing compared with the sad fact that eighty good young Australians lost their lives. The Government told us untruths at the time of the first inquiry, and only strong representations from some rebel backbenchers in the Liberal Party forced the Government into establishing a second commission. The blame has been transferred from one area to another in that matter. This is dishonesty in government. In this chamber and in the House of Representatives we heard the famous story of the VIP flight: Two Government senators contradicted each other in the one question period, telling different stories about the VIP flight. This, too, reflects on the credibility of the Government. The stories the Government has told in all these incidents have tarnished its credibility. There are many more such incidents, but the ones I have outlined are the important ones that have received the most publicity. It is clear that the Government is trying to pull the wool over the eyes of the Australian people. It has deliberately broken the Geneva Conventions and it does not care whether it has done so or not.
– I rise to order. I submit the honourable senator is not in order in stating that we, the Government, have deliberately broken the Geneva Conven- tions. An assertion of deliberate breach of an agreement of that sort is, I submit, highly reprehensible and should be withdrawn.
– Order! The honourable senator will withdraw the imputation of the deliberate breaking of the Geneva Conventions.
– I will do that and put it another way. The Government is condoning the breaking of the Geneva Conventions by a member of the Australian forces. That is the truth. Why has the Government put up such a smoke screen in this affair? Is it trying to protect an incompetent Minister? Is it trying to protect an inexperienced Prime Minister? Has this Government been told by the Government of South Vietnam and the man who visited this country recently that it must not make an issue of this incident, as it would be embarrassing to the Government of South Vietnam? Have the emissaries of the President of the United States of America told the Australian Government not to go any further in this matter? I and other Australians have grave grounds for suspecting these things. If these grounds for suspicion were not valid, the Government would have come out into the open. It would have no need to run for cover. Let us examine what the Minister for the Army (Mr Lynch) said in this matter:
I denied these allegations and stated that there was no truth in them and no evidence to support them. This statement was based- on my information at the time.
In saying that I considered that there was no foundation for the allegations I also indicated that the matters raised would be investigated in detail. The specific incident of the Nui Dat interrogation to which the book made a hearsay reference was not known to me at the time. Why this was so when some information was in the hands of my advisers is an internal matter which I shall resolve with the officers concerned. However, I accept of course that responsibility is mine and I do not attempt to avoid that in any way.
He then referred to the statement by ‘the Melbourne journalist, Mr Sorell: There wasthe hidden threat that he would fix somebody in the Department of the Army. We all know what that means. The Minister also said:
The investigation established that at the interrogation, the interrogator had raised his voice to the woman, shouted at her, banged ‘ on the table, used threats and attempted to intimidate the woman, to try to obtain truthful answers to questions, the answers to which, let it be remembered, could well have affected the life or death of Australian soldiers.
In addition to these actions the interrogator also threatened to use the water torture, stood behind the agent, held her nose, and when she opened her mouth attempted to pour water into it using some four or five tin cups of water at intervals. Apparently much of this was spilled, it being judged that the woman was made to swallow about one cup of water. ff anybody forced four or five cups of water down the throat of a person whose hands were tied behind her back and whose nose was being held, undoubtedly more than one cupful would have gone down. That is a dishonest statement, too. Yet a short time ago our friend, Senator DrakeBrockman, said that the girl was thirsty and they gave her a drink of water.
There has been a succession of speakers from the Government side. Let us have a look at the attitude they have adopted. First of all, we heard the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Anderson) who, generally speaking, read from a statement, and I do not blame him for being very cagey about how he put the proposition. Senator Anderson was a little Sir Echo for the Prime Minister. He did not want to stick his neck out on the political chopping block, so his contribution to the debate was largely reiteration of the statement by the Minister for the Army (My Lynch). Then Senator Branson went on with a long rambling statement. I admit that he was seriously upset by interjections and he probably did not get his story over. Then Senator Wright, our new Minister, entered the debate and adopted a very conservative approach. This was not the kind of approach that Senator Wright used to adopt in this chamber. Up to a few weeks ago he was inclined to rebel when injustices of this nature were perpetrated. On this occasion he adopted a nice, respectable and conservative approach. Senator Gair was the next speaker in the debate. I admit that he was a bit on our side and a bit on the Government side. He wanted to have two bob each way. Then Senator Sim entered the debate as the rabble rouser. He had all sorts of things saved up for the Opposition. But he finished up with nothing to rouse about. His contribution took about 7 minutes.
Senator McManus then came into the debate to support the Government’s attitude in this matter. There is a firm in Queensland known as Hunter Brothers and quite frankly, Senator McManus might be the next recruit for that firm. Anyhow, I shall have more to say about his statements later because 1 think they were quite offensive. Senator Heatley was the next speaker from the Government side. His contribution was quite short but we can understand this because it may have been his swan song in this chamber as he retires on 30th June next. Senator Cotton was next to enter the debate. He made a profound statement in support of something he had discovered. He had found a spy, and apparently in his view spies are not protected by the Geneva Convention.
Vietnam is at total war. Men, women and children from both sides are engaged in the war. lt is normal military activity to find out what the enemy is doing. But this woman was entitled to the protection of the Geneva Convention and to the respect of the Australian soldiers. Senator Turnbull, who was the next speaker, deplored the long debate that had taken place. He spoke for a quarter of an hour before the suspension of the sitting for dinner, and when he came back after dinner he gave us the same speech for the next quarter of an hour in case somebody had forgotten what he said earlier. He prolonged the debate even though he deplored the fact that other speakers were prolonging it. I think I have dealt quite adequately with what Senator DrakeBrockman said.
To my mind and to the minds of all free-thinking people there was a clear breaking of the Geneva Convention. I repeat that it was condoned and is still being condoned by this Government. Many legal people in this country are not sure that Australia is not breaking other sections of the Convention. I have a similar doubt. As a force engaged in any theatre of war Australian soldiers are obliged to feed and look after prisoners of war whom they capture. What has been done? As an honourable senator pointed out a short time ago, the fact that this girl was handed over to the South Vietnamese means that she is dead today - she is a corpse somewhere in South Vietnam. Senator Turnbull made this statement and lt is perfectly true. This Government is responsible not only for the ill treatment of prisoners of war but also for murder carried out in the circumstances to which I have referred. It is well known that we hand our prisoners over to the local people and that there is no end to their brutality. They have what is known as the helicopter treatment; They take prisoners in a helicopter up to a height of 30 feet. They ask the prisoners: Will you talk now?’ If the prisoners are not inclined to talk, they are taken up to 600 or 700 feet and dropped out one by one. If I were the last prisoner in the helicopter I would talk because 600 or 700 feet is a hell of a long way to drop.
– They would probably push you out even if you talked.
– They probably would get the information and drop the prisoner out, anyway. This Government has broken the Geneva Convention and it ought to have a serious look to see whether it is breaking the Convention in other respects. I know that the Government has received legal advice indicating that Australia ought to set up its own prisoner of war compound in order to ensure that prisoners are properly treated. I suggest that if the Government has any moral responsibility at all or any humane ideas about how prisoners of war ought to be treated, it will have another look at the position, otherwise we might be back in this chamber in the not too distant future debating further acts of brutality carried out against prisoners of war.
It is well known that this is not the only brutal treatment that is handed out in Vietnam. Some days ago Senator O’Byrne asked the Leader of the Government in the Senate a question concerning a photograph. He asked the Minister whether or not he had seen this photograph which depicted a South Vietnamese general holding a revolver to the head of a Vietcong, or an alleged Vietcong. This, in itself, is a clear indication of what can happen. The Minister decided to evade the question. It is quite common for people to commit acts against the military Government of South Vietnam. After all the Vietnamese have been involved in wars for 25 years. First they had a war with the French, then a civil war and now a war involving Americans, Australians and other allies.
In July last year U Thant said that the war was totally unnecessary. We are supposed to be fighting for democracy, but do honourable senators know that when elections were held in Vietnam, at which the will of the people was supposed to be expressed in a democratic manner, if a candidate was not approved by the military junta, and no doubt by the Australians and Americans afterwards, he was not allowed to nominate? Goodness gracious ms! What would happen if we said to Senator Wright that we did not consider him to be a proper person to be endorsed by the Liberal Party? At times the Liberal Party has thought along these lines, but he has always been able to bulldoze his endorsement through. In support of my contribution to the debate I refer to an article that was published in the editorial of the Melbourne ‘Age’ of Friday, 15th March 1968. It stated:
The Minister for the Army (Mr Lynch), on behalf of the Government, last night made several admissions to Parliament. He said that an Australian warrant officer in 1966 attempted, and partly carried out, the torture of a Vietcong prisoner. This soldier maltreated (be prisoner in defiance of the Geneva Convention, and his only punishment for this conduct was to be debarred from further interrogation. Furthermore, Mr Lynch admitted that it was not until the other day that the Government learned the details of this interrogation. The whole tone of Mr Lynch’s explanation, and the elaboration by the Prime Minister and his senior colleagues, suggested that the Government believes the tactics used at the interrogation were deplorable, but excusable.
I think that about sums up the thinking of many Australian people.
I shall revert to some of the statements made by Senator McManus when he was speaking in support of the Government - that is virtually what his speech amounted to. He was very critical of the Australian Labor Party and was most anxious that the questions asked by Labor senators about the war in Vietnam should be circulated amongst the soldiers in South Vietnam. I want to say quite clearly that the Labor Party does not blame the Australian soldiers or any other servicemen for any of these incidents. When we fix blame on anybody we fix it on the Government. We believe that the Australian soldier today is as good as he was in the First World War, the Second World War and the Korean War. Australian servicemen generally have a tremendous reputation for fair play. If they do not play fair, usually the people in authority to see that the game is changed. In this case the Army took certain steps to ensure that the soldier concerned in the interrogation did not commit a similar breach again. Not every soldier should be condemned because of the actions of one.
Government supporters say: ‘It is all right. We do not really mind. It should not have been done but, in effect, we are condoning it.’ Senator McManus wants to make this a political issue. He is not interested in bringing out the facts for the benefit of the Australian public. In his speech he tried only, in his own terms, to cut the Labor Party down to size, but he failed miserably. I refer him to a. statement made by a man with whom he closely associates. The statement was made in .1939 and at that time the man who made it was a dove. No doubt Senator McManus was also a dove then, but today he is a hawk of the largest proportions. He has said that there is no real objection to the possession of nuclear deterrents. In fact, he says, this country ought to have the nuclear deterrent. During a previous debate in the Senate on Vietnam the honourable senator was not worried about the use of napalm. He said that stories of its use had been overrated. They have not been overrated; there is plenty of independent evidence to prove how much napalm is used. I am about to quote a statement by Mr B. A. Santamaria.
– Is he a television commentator?
– Yes. He is fairly well known. He speaks on television every Sunday. In 1939 he was a dove and was looked up to by a lot of people. In 1968 of course he is a hawk, but is still looked up to by many people. In 1939 he belonged to or was an active supporter of a group known as the Catholic Peace Committee. I have no objection to peace committees but I think they should be consistent. In May 1939 that body organised a peace demonstration and the dove of that year, who is the hawk of today, spoke then to a resolution calling for peace among the nations. I do not have time to quote the whole of the speech, but I shall quote the interesting points of it to highlight what I am saying. Mr Santamaria said:
If a European war breaks out … to estimate the casualty lists . . . brings a shudder to the heart of any civilised man. The greatest enemy to the cause of peace is the distrust and suspicion which exists between nations . . . millions of Englishmen and millions of Frenchmen are honestly convinced that Germany threatens aggression.
We common people who desire peace . . . when the only alternative is universal massacre, a civilisation in flames, cities a prey to gas and incendiary bombs, the ruin of families, the catastrophe of nations, we put forward our claim to peace.
– Who said that?
– Mr B. A. Santamaria said that in 1939. Since then he has said that we ought to be using nuclear weapons and sending more troops to Vietnam. Because of the escalation of the war in Vietnam we are killing more children, more women and more uncommitted civilians than ever before. It seems that Senator McManus believes implicity in such a course. He thinks that the Labor Party is objecting only because we are trying to make political capital out of the incident. That is not so. We want to see justice for the least of the people of this world as much as for the greatest. I hope that out of this debate, here and in the other place, ultimately some sort of justice and decency will prevail.
Senator McKellar will be speaking later in this debate. I have excluded him from the remarks that I have made about previous speakers in this debate. No doubt the Minister will tell us about the marvellous Christmas dinner he had with the troops in Vietnam. 1 hope that when he greets on their return to Australia some of those youngsters with whom he dined, out of the goodness of his heart as Minister for Repatriation he will see that they are looked after as well as he was. I hope that he will help to convince his colleagues in the coalition Government that the injustice of the incident that we are debating should not be repeated in this or any other theatre of war in which Australian troops are unfortunate enough to be engaged.
– I rise from a sense of compulsion. I want at the outset to take the opportunity to assure honourable senators that I do not propose to speak at great length. It is extraordinary, when an issue such as this comes before the Senate, that nearly everyone has to be in on it. The Government drags a trail of jingoism and patriotism. In the other place a night was devoted to debating this incident. In all 2 days and 2 nights have been spent on the issue in this Parliament. I sometimes wonder whether it has been worth it. I know that the reputation of Australian soldiers is important and so is the reputation of Australia in world affairs; but there is a turbulence in the world today and has been for some time, and the future does not bode well. I thought that perhaps we might have been much better advised spending our time on a discussion of what might have been the future of Australia than just on an issue such as we are now debating.
It is quite apparent that the Government has bungled this affair, as it usually does. Over the years it has persisted in appointing a Minister for each of the armed Services and a Minister for Defence. One would think that this would promote efficiency, but apparently it has not. In each of the armed Services there has been an atmosphere of unreliability, to put it kindly. A previous Minister for the Navy was misled and two royal commissions were conducted. After reading the report of the second of them I am not certain that we have yet got at the truth. People with legal training may reach a similar conclusion on reading the report. I think they will see that we have not yet got the whole truth. The previous Minister for Air was misled, or he misled this Parliament. Now the Minister for the Army (Mr Lynch) is in a similar position. He is a junior Minister and everyone appreciates that in time of war a Minister for the Army is in a rather difficult position. The Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) saw fit to appoint one of the most junior members of this Parliament as Minister for the Army. Now that Minister has been misled and has been honest enough to admit it.
It is amazing how confusing can be a study of this breach of the Geneva Convention. I am confused. I do not know whether the captured woman was a prisoner, a spy, an enemy agent, a member of the opposing army, or what she was. Evidently she was a prisoner of war and was thus entitled to a measure of protection. A number of actors have played .parts. I refer to Martin Russ, an American author, and Sorell, a correspondent for the Melbourne ‘Herald’. Sorell has been berated by Government supporters. In their attacks they have suggested that he should have been franker and should have come out earlier with the story of an incident that occurred 18 months ago. He was then told by Major Ross Smith that the information was classified. It is easy to imagine that if he had been told the story and his editor had wanted later to send him back to Vietnam as a war correspondent,, the Army would have been very loath to accredit him.
I would say that he would have Buckley’s chance of getting back to the war zone. lt is of no use to blame Sorell.
The Prime Minister said: ‘We shall have an inquiry’. Later he said: ‘We shall have an open inquiry*. Then the Minister for the Army said: ‘We shall have no inquiry at all’. The whole incident has been associated with unnecessary bungling and all, including the people, have been misled. A main actor in the affair was the captured woman. We do not know her name and her fate is unknown. She was handed over not to the South Vietnamese, as was suggested by some of my associates, but to the American forces. Another actor was an unnamed warrant officer who, it is said by someone, has -been taken off the task of interrogation and is now in Australia. That has been the extent of his punishment. Yet another actor was a major whose name is unknown and who conducted an inquiry in Vietnam, ls there any proper reason why all this concealment should cloud an issue like this - an issue of which the Government has made so much? The Opposition has certainly made a lot of it, and so too have the newspapers. Having regard to the unfortunate happenings associated with the Navy and the Air Force, the Government had . responsibility to be more frank with the nation on this occasion and not fall into the same pitfalls as in past years. It is evident that this state of affairs will continue. This seems to be the Government’s practice. I cannot understand the new Prime Minister allowing this to happen. We know that he was elected by the Liberal Party and was not the choice of the Deputy Prime Minister, whose only task was to see who would not be Prime Minister. I gave the Prime Minister credit for more nous. When he said that an open inquiry would be held 1 thought that we would have an open inquiry and that the matter would finish there. I cannot understand why the names of the actors in this drama have been concealed. The Government could have easily tabled the report prepared by the major, notwithstanding that it might have been torn to pieces. But the Government was not honest enough to do this. Has it something to hide? T suggest that the Government have another look at this matter and at least release to the people of Australia and members of this Parliament the information to which they are entitled.
– We have been debating this matter since early yesterday afternoon. I think most of us in this place abhor the publicity given to this episode. I am sure that for the vast majority of Australians this issue was as dead as a dodo after it had been discussed in another place last week.
One of. the difficulties associated with the conflict in South Vietnam is that, unlike most wars, there is no Press censorship or censorship of any kind on communications from the area. We have been chided from time to time for not imposing censorship on correspondents in South Vietnam. Censorship in the present circumstances is not practical because the American forces do not impose censorship. We know that there are many correspondents covering the conflict in South Vietnam and it would avail us little if we were to impose censorship on Australian correspondents. Only last week a well known pressman, speaking to pressmen, envisaged the possibility of a voluntary arrangement with regard to Press releases from South Vietnam. 1 think such an arrangement could be a welcome solution. It could be only voluntary but I am sure that Australian newspapers are fully conversant with the effects of propaganda and would not knowingly do anything to hinder the prosecution of the conflict nor to harm Australian soldiers taking part. I hope - it may be a pious hope - that something ( -tn come out of this suggestion.
It is all very well to talk about freedom to do this or that. I am afraid that in some cases freedom develops into licence, and that is not good for anybody. It is not good for the people indulging in the practice and it is not good for the people who are on the receiving end. The war in Vietnam is unlike any other war in many respects. Firstly, there is the terrain of the country and, secondly, there are the conditions under which the war is being fought. Many of the people taking part are not in uniform, such as the woman we are discussing tonight, and it is hard to distinguish friend from foe. Also, the South Vietnamese are very different from the Americans and Australians. Criticism has been levelled at the South Vietnamese people on many scores. One cannot change in the space of a few weeks habits developed over 100 or 200 years. We must realise this and although we may not like the situation, we must accept it.
Getting back to the incident that ha., led te the debate in both Houses, I am afraid that I may repeat some things that have already been said. This is unavoidable but I hope that 1 will not do it to any great extent. We freely confess that the warrant officer conducting the interrogation transgressed the rules. The question has been asked: What punishment was meted out to him? Frankly I do not know, except :hat we have been told that he was removed from his job as an interrogator. Senator Drake-Brockman mentioned some of the things that could flow from his removal from his former duties. I have sufficient confidence in the Australian Task Force commanders and others in authority to feel that this man received punishment commensurate with his offence. A few minutes ago Senator Dittmer referred to the conduct of the inquiry by a major. This is usual procedure. An inquiry is usually in the hands of a field officer - a major. When I was in the Army I conducted inquiries.
– I did not quarrel with that.
– 1 am not suggesting that the honourable senator did quarrel with it. He made his speech without interruption from me and I would like to make mine without interruption. Charges of torture have been made. I think we have had a mountain made out of a molehill. The word ‘atrocity’ has been used. Australian troops have been likened to animals. In fairness I think that expression was a slip of the tongue.
– I rise to order. I do not think any Opposition senator used the word ‘animals’.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Wood) - Order! I understand that the word was used.
– It must have been used by a Government supporter.
– :Let me refresh Senator Keeffe’s memory. Senator Wheeldon said that he hoped Australian troops would act in the manner in which they had been used to act, and not like animals. It is important to remember that as soon as the transgression which is the subject of this debate was brought to the notice of senior officers in the area, action was taken. This is the answer to those people who ask why this kind of thing was allowed to continue. It was not allowed to continue. We are asked to give an assurance that such an incident will not happen again. If I transgress the rules of this chamber I can be punished.
– You have the numbers.
– That is true. But, if I am punished, it is no guarantee that I will not again transgress. This is the position in which the Army finds itself. The man concerned in this incident was punished but nobody can say that a similar incident will not occur. The Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator Murphy) recognises this. But his leader in another place did not. Mr Whitlam wanted an assurance that such an incident would not happen again. Nobody can give that guarantee. We hope that there will not be a repetition of this incident but no guarantee can be given.
Let us consider the circumstances surrounding this incident. It has been said that it occurred in the heat of war. For alt I know, and for that matter for all any of us knows, some of the eighteen killed and twenty-one wounded could have been comrades of the interrogating officer. That is not beyond the bounds of possibility, and if that were the case, then it is only natural that this man would feel quite upset and determined to carry out the task that he was entrusted to do, which was to get information from this spy.
– That is no excuse.
– I am not suggesting it as an excuse. The honourable senator had an opportunity to make his speech; I am making mine. This man’s job was to try to get information with a view to preventing further casualties. He may have transgressed the rules in his zeal or enthusiasm - call it what you will - but what he did cannot be called sadism. This socalled torture was not the water torture that is commonly known to us. Those who gave experienced the real water torture or have seen it practised know that the victim does not get up and walk away as this girl did.
It has also been said that this girl was thin. Most of these people are thin. They are not big in stature; they are nearly all small and that is probably one of the reasons why she looked thin. Let me remind those who criticise the treatment being meted out to these people that I have seen Vietcong being cared for by Australian doctors in Australian hospitals. Indeed, one practice that is followed has given rise to quite some disagreement. The doctor in charge told me that it was his practice to treat the worst cases first. In his opinion a Vietcong soldier who had been captured and whom I saw being treated was the most severely wounded and he was being treated first. This was one of the so-railed sadists of the Australian Army that the Opposition has been talking about.
The Minister for Defence (Mr Fairhall) has already told the Parliament - I know this has been said before - that immediately upon being advised of this incident he made inquiries and found that no similar incidents had ever been reported. I think we can accept that. On Friday last in Adelaide a young lad who had just returned from Vietnam wounded said referring to this matter: This is not going to help our fellows over in Vietnam.* On each of my two visits to Vietnam, the Australian soldiers over there spoke about Australian newspaper reports. They said: ‘What are the people doing at home? Don’t they want us to fight this war? Aren’t they supporting us?’ Yesterday morning at Mascot, while waiting for a plane, I spoke to three boys who had just returned from Vietnam. They made the same complaint to me. All three said that these reports have a bad effect on the chaps who are fighting our war. They are not fighting this war just for the Government; they are fighting for the Opposition and for every other Australian and I only wish that the members of the Opposition would see fit to give a little more encouragement and support to these fellows instead of acting as they do. There are unlimited opportunities for anti-Vietnam and anti-Government propaganda but only those who are our enemies can benefit from it. For the life of me, I cannot understand why the Opposition does not realise this. There is no point whatever in asking for the open inquiry that has been suggested. The facts have been brought to light. What more could an inquiry do? It is sheer nonsense to suggest that there should be a further inquiry into this matter. The story has already spread all over the world. I am not arguing that the correspondent Sorell should or should not have done what he did. All I say is that if he has any patriotism in him at all he will feel very ashamed indeed for what has happened as a result of information that he passed on to a foreign correspondent.
We know that this psychological offensive is going on throughout the world, and it is to be deplored. We all realise that it is no picnic for our fellows over in Vietnam. One has only to visit the area to appreciate the hardships that they are putting up with and the continual strain under which they are fighting. I say to those members of the Opposition who have been to war and know just what it means: ‘For goodness sake get behind these fellows and try to strengthen their morale instead of lowering it as you are in this instance.’
I should like now to quote something that the Minister for Defence quoted in another place. It is an extract from a letter that was written to the ‘Sydney Morning Herald’ by a chap who signed himself Serving Soldier’. Amongst other things, he said:
We’re fighting a war! We’re fighting it as fair as we can, and the Vietcong fight dirty, but We get all the knocks. Nobody kicks if the VC torture anybody.
For goodness sake let us get behind this man and support him in the view he takes. I wonder whether any newspaper in Hanoi or anywhere else in the Communist world has published one iota of information about any instance of torture by the Vietcong. The answer, of course, is a big ‘No’. And why is this so? It is because any newspaper which had the temerity to publish anything of such a nature would be put out of circulation overnight and I certainly would not like to guess at what would happen to its editor.
– He would be promoted.
– That is a dirty filthy remark. A similar thing was implied by, I think, Senator Cavanagh. The inference to be taken from his speech was that this interrogating officer could have been promoted.
– He did not say that.
– He did say it. The honourable senator should look up Hansard. It was a snide reference. The honourable senator may not have meant what he said but the inference that one could draw from his remark was thai because of the manner of dealing with this girl the warrant officer concerned might have been promoted. This was unworthy of the honourable senator and the interjection made by Senator Cant was unworthy of him.
The Government has acknowledged that in this isolated incident in Vietnam the Geneva Convention was contravened, but not to any great extent. Even the Opposition will admit that the contravention was not great. Where else in the world would one find such an admission being made? Would we find it in Hanoi? That any member of the Opposition should refer to the incident as thuggery, as one member of the Opposition in another place did last week, just simply sickens me. Thuggery by the Vietcong, yes; thuggery by the Australians, no.
I remind the Senate that the duty of the officers who are entrusted with the task of commanding men in Vietnam is not just to send regular communiques to satisfy the pacifists at home. Their job is to try to win the fight in which they are engaged. I do not know who is to blame for not giving to the new Minister for the Army the information that he should have been given, but after all, this incident occurred in 1966 and I for one think it is quite within the realms of possibility that the fact that the incident should have been notified to the incoming Minister for the Army was overlooked. I am not suggesting that this is in fact what happened, but I repeat that the men who are entrusted with the task of winning this war cannot be expected to act as correspondents to let the Parliament of Australia know what is happening from day to day. Their job, on behalf of Australia, is to win the conflict in which they are engaged, and they want our support. They should not be subjected to the type of criticism they are getting from the Opposition on this occasion. I mention, of course, that this ls not their particular job. It is their job, of course, to let the Minister for the Army and, through him the Minister for Defence know the facts of the conduct of the war and what is happening in regard to it. But it is not their job to let the anti-Vietnamese people and the stooges of the Communists here at home write words to pacify them.
– Does the Minister put himself in that class?
– No, I do not. I have never been a Communist. I do not know whether the honourable senator who interjected could say the same.
– I am not a Communist and I ask for a withdrawal of that remark, Mr President.
– There has been no accusation that the honourable senator is a Communist.
– I am no more a Communist than is Senator McKellar.
– Order! If Senator Cant wants to make a personal explanation, he may make it later.
– There has been a suggestion made several times that this prisoner was handed over to the South Vietnamese. It is clearly declared in the statement that I made here yesterday that after interrogation she was handed over to the United States forces.
– Where is she now?
– I do not know, and the honourable senator does not know either. Another thing that amazes me is that though, apparently, every word stated by Mr Sorell has been accepted by the Opposition here - I am not suggesting that those statements are not true - the decision of the military court of inquiry has been questioned. After all, witnesses would have appeared before the court of inquiry before its decision was made. I believe that a sense of fair play would lead us all to accept the proposition that if it is fair enough to accept Sorell’s words, one must also accept the report of the court of inquiry. I believe that any of us who have seen the young Australian soldiers of today can form only one opinion about them. As I have said on a couple of occasions, they are not only as good as’ the soldiers of World War I and World
War II. In my opinion, they are better because of the opportunities that they have had for better training and education. I was glad to see that this opinion was confirmed by the major-general who has recently returned from Vietnam. He said the same thing - that they are fine men.
– They have better officers this time.
– I do not know about their having better officers. They are risking their lives in the same manner as did the men of World War I and World War II. I do not know whether or not the honourable senator considers that that makes them better off. The courage and initiative are there, not only in the Army but also in the other armed Services. I saw members of the Navy and at Singapore I saw members of our Air Force. We are fortunate indeed to have officers, non-commissioned officers and men of such calibre in the Australian services.
The Government was chided for allegedly having made conflicting statements. As I followed the debate in this chamber I noticed that on one occasion an Opposition senator said that these events occurred while the Minister for Defence was in Vietnam, and he asked why the Minister had not done something about the matter. Another honourable senator on the Opposition side said that the inquiry had not taken place until a fortnight after the incident, though the Minister for Defence was there a week after it happened. So here is a conflict of views among Opposition senators.
I was pleased to see Senator DrakeBrockman come to the defence of the previous Task Force Commander, Brigadier Jackson, against whom criticism was levelled concerning what he should have done. I simply want to say that I saw him in Vietnam the Christmas before last. He was a man who obviously had been under great strain and was tired out. He is deserving of the thanks, not the criticism, of every Australian.
– We agree with that.
– I am glad to hear the honourable senator say so. It is a pity that many more Opposition members do not feel the same way, or that, if they do, they do not say so. In spite of the character reference that I have given to the Australian soldiers-
– Did the Minister give one to himself?
– There is no doubt about it. I do not know what value the honourable senator puts on the interjections that he is making. They are not interfering with my speech. I could say what 1 think he is making of himself, but 1 shall not do so. Our soldiers are not saints any more than we in this Senate are saints; let us keep that fact in mind. They are human beings fighting for Australia and for the people of Australia. What I regard as slurs were cast on the part that the South Vietnamese are playing in the war. There are two reasons why we do not hear of the part that they are playing. First, the American correspondents naturally send back home news concerning their own troops. This is only to be expected. Secondly, the Australian correspondents do likewise. There is, therefore, no-one to tell us of the job that the South Vietnamese are doing. However, from information given to me while I was in Vietnam and from information given at briefings that took place in my presence, I am sure that the South Vietnamese are doing a good job.
We were told about the tactics of the Vietcong and informed that, when they go into a village, they do not take every able bodied man. If there are two sons in the one family, they take only one and leave the other, knowing that he will be called up to fight for the South Vietnamese. In this way the family is divided, with some members in the Vietcong and others in the South Vietnamese forces. The Vietcong regard this as good tactics, but it is really horrible, and inhuman for the familities so divided. In this debate some remarks were made about the futility of bombing supply routes in North Vietnam. The fact is that this action is really doing something, not to prolong the war, but to shorten it.
– It is killing women and children.
– It is doing something to shorten the war. Let honourable senators cast their minds back to the bombing of cities and towns in enemy countries during World War II. It was not until the end of the war that we really learnt of the extent of the damage caused by the bombing raids. This is what is happening now in relation to North Vietnam. This afternoon, Senator McManus mentioned a statement said to have been made by Senator O’Byrne, who subsequently made a personal explanation denying it. I have here the cutting from the newspaper.
– I denied it.
– The honourable senator denied it, but I want to place it again before the Senate. The heading ‘Diggers likened to the Nazis’ appeared in the Launceston ‘Examiner’ of ‘9th March 1968.
– This was a newspaper report.
– This statement was made at a meeting of the Vietnam Action Committee. What is this Committee? In the various States committees by this name are the major pro-Communist peace forums. They are descended primarily from the early peace councils and peace congresses, all of which were exposed as Communist fronts. In 1964 the then AttorneyGeneral, Mr Snedden, named these councils as Communist fronts. The Launceston Examiner’ of 9th March 1968 staled:
The Generals of the US and Australian forces in Vietnam may one day stand before the courts of the world - as war criminals.
Sen. O’Byrne said this at a meeting of the Vietnam Action Committee at the Launceston Trades Hall.
Sen. O’Byrne said thai US and Australian atrocities were ‘little better than Hitler’s acts of barbarism towards the Jews.’
What thought is being given to the thousands of Vietnamese civilians who are being maimed, and killed by American bombing?’ he asked.
He said that the Australian public’s apathy towards the Vietnam war was largely because of a clouded understanding of war generally.
Australians really didn’t cop much during the last war, and they’re all too ready to push others to the front to do the fighting this time.’
He wished the Committee luck in its campaign.
You’ll need lots of it,’ he said. “This war has only just begun.’
How are our troops in Vietnam affected when they read reports of debates such as the one that has been in progress in this chamber for the past two days and when they read the criticism levelled by Australian newspapers at the conduct of the war? I am very glad that the debate is drawing to a close, mainly because our troops in Vietnam need support and something to boost their morale, not to lower it. I am very glad that Senator Gair moved his amendment. The Government will accept it but will oppose strongly the further amendment proposed by Senator Willesee.
That the amendment (SenatorWillesee’s) to the proposed amendment be agreed to.
The Senate divided. (The President - Sir Alister McMullin)
Question so resolved in the negative.
Question, ‘That Senator Gair’s amendment be agreed to’, resolved in the affirmative.
Original question, as amended, resolved in the affirmative.
– I inform the Senate that I have received a letter from Senator Wright requesting that he be discharged from the Standing Committee on Regulations and Ordinances.
Motion (by Senator Anderson) - by leave - agreed to:
That Senator Wright be discharged from attendance on the Standing Committee on Regulations and Ordinances.
– I inform the Senate thatI have received a letter from the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Anderson) nominating Senator Greenwood to be a member of the Standing Committee on Regulations and Ordinances.
Motion (by Senator Anderson) - by leave - agreed to:
That Senator Greenwood, having been duly nominated in accordance with Standing Order 36a, be appointed to the Standing Committee on Regulations and Ordinances.
Debate resumed from 14 March (vide page 127), on motion by Senator Laucke:
That the following Address-in-Reply to the Speech of His Excellency the Governor-General be agreed to:
May it please Your Excellency:
We, the Senate of the Commonwealth of Australia in Parliament assembled, desire to express our loyalty to our Most Gracious Sovereign, and to thank Your Excellency for the Speech which you have been pleased to address to Parliament.
– So much time has elapsed since I commenced my remarks that I had to peruse Hansard to see what I had said. I was speaking about the correspondence that had passed between the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr McEwen) and the Chairman of the Tariff Board concerning the meaning of references from the Department of Trade and Industry to the Tariff Board, and the question of whether the references, in the case of the textile industry, were a direction or whether the Board should only take note of factors that the Government believed were important.I said that in my view the Government, in its reference, should not direct the Tariff Board. I was then going on to say that there may well be occasions when it is right and proper for the Government to issue a direction to the Board on non-economic matters such as defence or for some social reason. I accept that fact as indeed does the Board itself. On purely economic matters, the question should be left to the judgment of the Board to make a recommendation to the Government which then has the responsibility for the final decision.
One admires the tenacity of Mr Rattigan in pressing his point, and one respects the Minister for bis decision that in future when the meaning of references is in doubt they will be referred to the Chairman for bis opinion. There the matter remains at the moment. There yet may be a further need for clarification on this issue but as things stand it appears that the matter may be resolved.
The Tariff Board in its last report - I regard it as an epoch making report - took the initiative in laying down the principles of tariff making for the future. That was the result of the widely ranging debate on tariff policy that took place not only inside the Parliament but outside it as well. The Board has clearly laid down the principle that tariff making should be slanted towards the development of low cost industries and those industries with natural advantages, and should not cause the development of industries merely for development’s sake. I find myself in complete support of the Board’s view that this type of policy will make the soundest contribution towards economic growth in Australia.
The Vernon Committee in its report which dealt fairly fully with tariff policy put forward that point of view. In paragraph 14.25, which I believe contains a very sound expression of opinion, the Vernon Committee had this to say:
The greater the cost disability of an industry relative to its overseas competitiors and to other Australian industries, the higher will be the tariff that it needs. Where a high level of protection is required, the Board ought to indicate either that the industry is not economic or that there are special reasons, such as prospects of future cost reductions, which make protection worth while. Under conditions of full employment, capital will, as a rule, have ample scope for alternative investment and need not be encouraged to enter production which requires a relatively high level of protection. Moreover, there is no need to add unnecessarily to the costs of export industries.
The Committee developed this point in paragraph 17.36 in this way:
We would also stress that, if policies of protection are such as to divert skilled labour away from industries with sound opportunities for expansion to less economic uses, they will damage national productivity. The Tariff must not be regarded as an instrument for creating employment of this kind. As we have said, the problem will be a scarcity, not an over-supply, of skilled labour.
In paragraph 17.84 the Committee went on:
We consider it vital to ensure the rapid growth of those manufacturing industries in which Australia has natural advantages.
I believe there are sound and compelling reasons why this Parliament should support that approach. Indeed the Tariff Board in its annual report for the year 1966-67 has indicated clearly that its thinking is along those lines. It has announced its intention of reviewing the long established protection of some industries by classifying them into high, moderate and low levels of protection. I think it worthwhile to quote in brief some of the Board’s comments in support of its view. In paragraph 62 of the report the Board indicated that its intention was to publish, in its next annual report, a classification of protected industries into high, moderate and low protection levels. It went on to say in paragraph 63:
The basic reason for the changes now being suggested by the Board is to relate the operation of the Tariff more fully and consistently- to the Government’s national economic objectives. The main means of doing this would be by encouraging the development of, and the flow of new investment into, the more - rather than the less - economic activities within the protected sector. To this end, the Board’s recommendations will reflect the restraints which the Board considers should normally apply to new and existing high cost industries. Conversely, protection would be recommended more readily, and generally on a ‘basis offering prospects of greater profitability, to producers in the low cost area.
Paragraph 64 goes on:
The Board believes that industries which are in the highly protected area and which have not been reviewed recently should be first in the sequence of public inquiries. The review references should be ‘open ended’ so that, where there is an important relationship between a raw or intermediate material and the final product, the Board would be able to review the protection on the material at the same time.
– Has the honourable senator, in his study of this, noted any comment as to the Board’s thinking on what will be the effect on an industry’s capital structure by listing that industry as a highly protected industry?
– I will leave that for a moment and return to it if I have time to do so. I might say that the Vernon Committee commented upon that matter. It is relevant to the Board’s comments to remark that in Australia the belief has grown up that once an industry has been protected it must always be protected. That point of view was put before the Vernon Committee and the Committee commented upon it. In paragraph 14.29 of its report it made what I believe to be a very clear statement of its views. Incidentally, I might add that the same view is not held by the Chamber of Manufactures and I will return to it if I have time to do so. Obviously, very strong evidence had been presented to the Committee on this point and in paragraph 14.29 the Committee had this to say:
A strong, although in our view unwarranted, presumption is gaining ground, that an industry, once in existence, should be protected and that, once protected, should continue to receive the protection it needs, even if its cost disabilities rise to high levels. The problem is not, as was sometimes suggested to us, confined to labour-intensive industries and does npt arise only from competition from less-developed, low-wage economies. It may arise in capital-intensive industries either unable, because of lack of volume of output, to achieve necessary economies of scale, or unable to match cost-reducing technological advances by more powerful competitors abroad. Requests for higher duties sometimes come from high-cost firms in Australia which cannot compete cither with imports or with lower-cost Australian competitors.
In paragraph 14-31 the Committee said:
The Committee does not propose to adopt a doctrinaire attitude to this problem. It recognises that circumstances which at first justify protection for an industry may vary when conditions overseas change. However, the general principle is clear - permanent special protection for an industry which has ceased to be economic and efficient should not be regarded as a matter of right. The Tariff Board cannot be expected to shelter industries indefinitely from changes in technology and the market.
The Tariff Board, perhaps taking the lead from (hat statement, made the following comment in paragraph 51 of its annual report:
There has never been an examination by the Board of the Tariff as a whole. . . .Industry initiative in areas where protection was considered inadequate has caused duties to be raised, but there has been little initiative leading to review of areas in which protection may be too high. As a result, large sections of the Tariff which may involve substantial over-production have not been examined for many years. Among other things this means that there is no tariff pressure on producers in the unreviewed areas to improve their efficiency. It also means that the Board has had inadequate opportunity to compare the tariff rates and merits of different industries or to take account of the cost effects on others of protecting a particular industry.
I am inclined to say ‘Hear, hear!’ to the comment made by the Vernon Committee. Honourable senators may remember that I spoke very strongly in opposition to the very high level pf protection granted to the chemicals industry. As I remember, I said that it would have a serious effect on the cost structure of Australian industries, particularly the primary industries about which I was mainly concerned at the time. How true that forecast was has been demonstrated by the fact that the Board has been given references dealing with the plastics industry in Australia and either is currently conducting a review of that industry or will do so very shortly.
An article that appeared in the ‘Australian Financial Review’ of 4th October 1967 is worth quoting because it bears put the fears that were expressed in this and another place at the time of the consideration of the chemicals industry inquiry. Referring to the plastics industry inquiry, the article stated:
In many of its aspects the inquiry will protect some of the more controversial consequences of the chemical industry inquiry.
A significant proportion of the plastics industry’s case for- protection before the Board will rest on the heavy disadvantages it suffers on raw material costs.
A major factor forcing the industry to pay these high material prices is the high tariff protection established on its major raw materials as a result of the chemical industry inquiry.
The article then referred to another report made by the Tariff Board last year. It involved a company named Vinlon Pty Ltd. Speaking from memory, that is a Queensland company. The Board found that the company had such a large disability against overseas competition that it doubted the economic worth of protecting the company. Indeed, the Board said in its report that it doubted the economic viability of this industry. However, when it examined the greatly increased cost of the basic raw materials protection was recommended. The increased cost of the basic raw materials, of course, was the result of the decision in the chemicals industry inquiry. The Board said that it had to have regard to ‘the high level of protection on locally produced PVC resin and the size of Vinlon’s raw material disability’. The article also stated:
It was disclosed that Vinlon had to pay 19.33c per lb for its PVC while domestic consumers in Japan paid only 9.83c.
One imagines that that effect will be repeated time and time again. It shows that a decision in one case can have a vital effect on the general cost structure of vital Australian industries. I would think that in the plastics industry inquiry that will be brought out more and more.
The Board has shown that it intends to follow this new approach. In its report on the textile industry, which no doubt we will have an opportunity to debate at some stage, it clearly indicates that it will take account of the economic efficiency of an industry. It will grant protection only where protection is required. It will grant protection at a level which in some cases will force reorganisation of the industry. The Board has made it clear that protection also means that industries have certain responsibilities and that it will see that those responsibilities are accepted.
I - and, I believe, most other members of this Parliament - welcome this approach. It is a new approach in tariff making in Australia. The Board’s determination to lay stress on the development of low cost industries at against high cost industries is doubly welcome. In a country such as Australia only scant resources are available for investment. It seems to me that the most economic and most efficient means of investment is in low cost industries that will make the greatest contribution to our economic growth. Such a policy provides a sound basis for economic growth in Australia and for the most efficient use of our available resources.
The Tariff Board stresses that point of view very strongly in its annual report, which I hope will be considered by the Parliament at some time in the future. Unfortunately, a debate on the annual report was on the notice paper for the last session. It is because such a debate is not listed on the notice paper for this new session that I am taking this opportunity to discuss the annual report at some length. I make no apology for making one final quotation from it. Paragraph 79 states:
As mentioned earlier, the basic reason for the changes proposed by the Board is to relate the operation of the Tariff more fully and consistently to the Government’s national economic objectives. These proposals would largely preclude tariff assistance for new investment likely to require continuing protection of a high order and tariff pressures on existing high cost industries should induce a more economic and efficient use of production resources currently employed in these areas.
I point out to Senator Webster that the Board obviously envisages a shift of resources from the high cost sector to the low cost sector. That may mean that sonic industries will go by the board, as the Vernon Committee admitted. Perhaps it will mean some hardship in the industries concerned, but it will be to the overall advantage of Australia. This type of change will be necessary. Paragraph 79 continues:
Overall the Board believes that increased stimulus to industrial development, including development in the protected sector, would result from the proposed changes.
Quite obviously, the Board envisages a diversion of resources from the high cost sector to the low cost sector. In paragraph 81 the Board makes this very important statement:
Furthermore, more low cost production, by improving the competitive status of the economy as a whole - as the benefits circulate through industry-
In other words, the Board is not considering the disabilities that may be suffered by particular industries; it is considering the economy as a whole -
Paragraph 82 states:
Finally, the establishment of more objective tariff making principles should assist those making investment decisions. They will know with greater certainty the nature and extent of the tariff assistance they may reasonably expect.
This is a clearcut pronouncement by the Board of its future intentions and there is little doubt that it is causing concern in some areas. The Australian Chamber of Manufactures was not slow to condemn this approach. Indeed, it condemned it in strong language and almost called upon the Government to disown Tariff Board policy as outlined in this report.
I find it hard to believe that an organisation such as the Chamber of Manufactures is more concerned to protect high cost industries which provide little assistance for the economic growth of Australian industry than to protect low cost industries which will, after all, provide the greater stimulus to growth, It seems to me to be a shortsighted policy to insist that merely because an industry has at some time received protection, it is entitled to protection for the remainder of its existence whether or not it has proved viable, economic and efficient, or whether or not it affects the cost structure of Australia as a whole. For my part, I find the attitude of the Chamber of Manufactures, a responsible body, very difficult to understand. Indeed, I find it somewhat inconsistent. If our primary industries are to compete on the unprotected world markets at prices that the world is prepared to pay and other nations are expected to buy on a high cost Australian market, the future of our exports is indeed bleak.
As I mentioned last week, the greatest problem facing Australian industry, particularly our primary industries, is the cost price squeeze. Also, if our secondary industries are to play a greater part in earning export income, as we expect them to do, it is obvious that only the low cost industries can hope to compete against the products of advanced technological countries such as Japan on the markets that are slowly opening up in Asia and other parts of the world. High cost industries cannot compete on these markets. After all, well over 70% of our imports consist of raw materials for our manufacturing industries. If we are to maintain our manufacturing industries, it is necessary to increase our export income. We can no longer wholly rely on our primary industries and our mineral industries, to provide this income. Therefore, I must say that I find the attitude of the Australian Chamber of Manufactures difficult to understand. As somebody said, it was an attempt to call the dogs off. The dogs, apparently, were the Tariff Board. The Government was asked to make a clear statement. If I may interpret the comment of the Chamber of Manufactures, it is aimed against the policy as outlined by the Tariff Board. For my part, I am not concerned with protecting any industry that cannot prove its efficiency or fails to stand up to reasonable competition. As I said before, my main concern is to see the resources of Australia diverted to those industries that will make the greatest contribution to our economic growth. Maintenance of a stable cost structure in Australia will enable Australian industries, particularly our primary industries, to remain in existence.
I am particularly concerned about trade with Japan. The bad old days when Japan was a low cost producer because of low cost labour have gone. Japan today, a highly industralised country, can compete on world markets not because of a low wage structure but because of its great technological advantages.
– And to some extent its high protection of industry.
– This does not alter the argument I am putting. Even if Japan maintains a high level of protection on some of its industries, the reason why it can keep bringing prices down is its great technological progress. This is clearly illustrated in the motor vehicle industry. The plain fact is that the price of Japanese cars is falling, not because of lower profits but because of the great technological advances made by Japan in the manufacture of motor cars. Japan is able to manufacture and sell motor vehicles at lower prices on world markets not because of sweated labour but because of technological advances. It is a matter of quid pro quo. I find it difficult to understand how people can argue that other countries buying from us should lower ‘their protection against Australian goods while we demand the right to protect high cost Australian industries which make little contribution to growth, and handicap the development of Australia. If we are to expect co-operation from the Japanese, whom I believe have played the game in this respect, we must be prepared to reconsider the whole basis of our industrial development in Australia, and not merely, as the Vernon Committee commented critically, protect industries because we do not produce something here. If some other country can produce something more efficiently and economically, and is prepared to buy the basic raw materials from us, I believe it is good business to deal with that country.
I am dealing with these matters quickly as my time has nearly expired. I congratulate the Tariff Board on its courage and farsighted thinking as indicated in the report. The Board has taken the initiative in this matter but in my view the Government has not given a sufficient lead. I believe the Government must now clear the air. It has a responsibility even to the Chamber of Manufactures which has a right to know the Government’s attitude to the Board’s report. I hope the Government’s reaction to the report will be made clear. Australian industry will then be able to proceed with development along the lines indicated by the Board.
May I make a final comment? It is often claimed that it is necessary to establish greater and greater manufacturing industries in Australia to provide employment. The Vernon Committee dealt very severely with this point of view. Indeed, Sir Leslie Melville and the Tariff Board in its report commented on this, pointing out, as did the Vernon Committee, that manufacturing industries are providing less and less outlets for employment. Experience in all the developing countries has proved that the great tertiary industries are now the main outlet for employment. Therefore, I believe the argument that is often put forward by manufacturers in the belief that they should be granted this high protection is completely invalid. I say unashamedly that I believe in moderate and low tariff protection in Australia, and I welcome the Board’s views on this matter. I trust the Government will accept them.
– It was not my intention to take part in the Address-in-Reply debate until certain things relating to our situation in Vietnam happened in the last couple of days. Yesterday I was astounded when the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Anderson), in reply to a question posed by Senator Tangney in which she asked whether Australia was at war, asked her to put the question on the notice paper. I followed up that question today with another question in an endeavour to ascertain whether the Minister had an answer to the first question. He half rose in his place and said: ‘Yes’, and then he said: ‘No’. When I heard his reply I was as confused as any other honourable senator in this chamber. Senator Tangney then asked the Minister what he meant. He said that he had no answer to her first question. But in reply to an earlier question by Senator Tangney the Minister said that he would consult with the heads of some Public Service departments to ascertain the answer to the question.
What sort of a situation are we in in Vietnam? The Minister for Repatriation (Senator McKellar) has said that this war in Vietnam is different from earlier wars. That was a tacit admission that we are at war.
– There have been forty wars since then.
– I heard the honourable senator in silence,, and I crave the same indulgence from him. Lest I should be charged with being unpatriotic-
– I do not suggest that.
– Perhaps the honourable senator will do so later because I intend to refer to some incidents which have occurred in this chamber in the last 2 years. Approximately 18 months ago I asked Senator Gorton, as he then was, in his capacity as Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs, when and by whom were we committed to the war in Vietnam. I am not quoting from Hansard. I am making a few observations that I feel constrained to make because of the situation in which we find ourselves today. Senator Gorton, in his reply, said that there was no war. He continued for about 5 minutes and finished up by saying in effect: ‘Our boys are shooting and are being shot at, but there is no war.’
– The honourable senator had better quote accurately if he intends to refer to these matters.
– It is all right for my purposes. If Senator Sim wants me to prove anything I shall get the Hansards. This will not be very pleasant listening for Senator Sim because he is a fanatic on that side of the chamber. He can see no good purpose being served by any honourable senator on this side of the chamber. During the time I have been in this chamber I have tried to get information on this question as to whether or not we are at war in Vietnam so that I can go out and answer in a sane and sensible manner questions by the people whom I represent. Senator Henty, when asked why we are participating in the Vietnam war, said that we had been asked t do so by the South Vietnamese Government. I can remember Senator O’Byrne interjecting and saying: ‘Which of the sixteen South Vietnamese Governments over the last decade asked for assistance in South Vietnam?* I can remember Mr Hasluck sayingand this is recorded in Hansard - that we are not in Vietnam at the behest of any nation or set of nations; we are there because we think we should be there to stem the downward thrust of Communism. He spoke about the domino theory. So we hear conflicting statements by members of the Government.
I do not say this in any derogatory way about Senator Heatley, but when he was making a contribution to a debate in this chamber I got a bit annoyed and I interjected. I asked him what he knew about the start of the war in Vietnam and our participation in it. He said: ‘I must confess that I know very little about it.’ I then asked: Do you think that we should be informed fully sp that we can inform our constituents when they ask questions?’ Senator Heatley said: ‘Perhaps some of us should be fully informed; not all of us.’ So we can see the confusion that reigns on the Government side of the chamber.
I am glad to see that Senator Anderson has come into the chamber because 1 want to refer to his reply to questions which were asked yesterday and today when he said that he was unable to tell us whether or not we are at war in Vietnam. In my wildest imagination I never believed that I would have to inform him that we are at war in Vietnam. There is no doubt that we are at war in Vietnam, otherwise what would our forces be doing there, armed with the latest equipment and fully trained to conduct a war.
Why are we at war? In my view we are serving a very useless purpose in Vietnam. If, as has been stated, we are fighting Communism, it is a rare old way in which to do it. Is Russia not arming the North Vietnamese Army, the Vietcong and anybody else who will fight in the thrust to the south? I remind honourable senators that part of the commission was to liberate South Vietnam from oppressive rulers. I shall have something to say about that matter later on. Today Russia is providing the machines for the war that is being conducted by North Vietnam. In an indirect way, Russia is fighting America. It is providing machines to North Vietnam with which to kill our boys, the Americans and> our other allies there. How stupid can we be? We say we are fighting the Communists. But we are friendly with Russia and we are friendly with Communist China. We trade with Communist China, and rightly so, because we have to find whatever markets we can. How stupid it is to say that we are fighting the Communists when in fact they are providing sinews of war for somebody else to shoot our people down and conserving their own powers for possible future conquests.
The statement is often made, particularly by honourable senators from the Australian Democratic Labor Party, that in years to come Communist China will pose the greatest threat. The Communists are poised today. They are building up their nuclear weapons. They are waiting for the devastation of the manhood of America and of any other ally in Vietnam which might pose a resistance threat in the future. The Communists are not dissipating their manhood. They are not even dissipating their materials. They are building up their forces and materials for some time in the future when America and perhaps Australia will have expended more than they can afford to expend in Vietnam in order to stem the tide of Communism in Vietnam.
It seems to me to be stupid that we should be fighting under these conditions and permitting these people, particularly the Russians, to come down into the Mediterranean and do all the mischief they can in order to prepare for future conflicts. I prefer to think that in these days we should be on friendly relations with these powers. We have to live with them whether we like it or not. God forbid that I should ever give any comfort to the cause of Communism. I have fought it all my life both in the industrial and political fields. I am not prepared to stand idly by and watch the trend of events, and to listen without protest to the answers given by Ministers to our questions on Vietnam and on other subjects. I cannot sit silently while we are accused of being pro-Communist, of being disloyal and of trying to damage the reputations of our own boys in Vietnam. Many of them are there under duress, having been conscripted to fight in Vietnam for a cause that in my view is not worth fighting for. If it can be proved to me, to a lot of my colleagues and perhaps to a lot of other Australians that a good purpose is to be served by our presence in Vietnam, I shall agree that a greater effort should be made. Great nations within the Commonwealth of Nations are not participating directly in the war in Vietnam. They are not contributing anything in that war. Canada and the United Kingdom may be able to supply some of the material necessary to keep our forces in the field, but I do not think that there is very much trade in that direction.
I was in the United States of America in October 1966 at the time when the captured Vietcong girl was treated as a spy. I was there for a fortnight on my own and I talked to a cross section of the American people. I met as many of them as I could and I found that their earnest prayer was for peace. I met very few Americans who were prepared to back the Johnson Administration in its promotion of the conflict in Vietnam.
– Did the honourable senator meet more doves than hawks?
– Indeed I did. The hawks were few and far between. Admittedly, I did not visit the places where the hawks might be found, such as the White House. I much preferred to stay at ground level and meet the common man and woman on the street, in hotels, and wherever else I might meet them. I shall tell honourable senators of two typical examples of American sentiment. I went into a huge stationery shop in San Francisco to buy supplies for correspondence and there met a lady of middle age who was in charge of the shop. A sailor was selecting some cards to send to his people. He was off the aircraft carrier ‘Ranger’, which had berthed that morning in San Francisco Bay. I said to the lady: ‘What do you think of the situation in Vietnam?’ She said: ‘Pray God it will all be over within a few months and that our boys will be back home here helping us to produce more goods and to build up America, and helping to clear the slums and to do all the other things that are very necessary internally’. I think that she spoke for a lot of Americans when she spoke in that strain.
I met also an old negro, a retired public servant, who was enjoying the twilight of his life. He seemed to me to be a knowledgeable and kindly old man. We were watching the wrecking of a fourteen-storey building by equipment the like of which I have never seen anywhere else in my life. The building was to be replaced by a much larger one. I touched on the subject of the participation of America in the war in Vietnam. The old man almost echoed the sentiments of the lady whom I had met in the stationery shop. He said: There is no need for this kind of action by America. I can see no useful purpose being served.’ His views coincided with mine. I believe that in the conflict in Vietnam we are fighting for a lost cause. In my estimation it is not a worthwhile cause. Many people say that we are there fighting Communism to protect the future of Australia and other nations.
I said earlier that we should be on better terms with the people of Vietnam. In my humble opinion, after the French were driven out of Vietnam the people who regard that country as their homeland had some settling up to do. Invasion came to the South from North Vietnam. Probably the South Vietnamese were not sufficiently well equipped to meet the onslaught and to protect themselves. That is fair enough. It was known that Communist China and Communist Russia were assisting the North Vietnamese. It was recognised that they would be a ruthless enemy, and that has proved to be so. Would it not have been preferable to keep the conflict at its lowest level toy supplying South Vietnam from the United States, Australia, the United Kingdom, Canada and any other country that may ‘have been able to provide supplies to combat the onslaught anticipated from the North? Had that been done, loss of life and destruction of property could have been minimised as much as possible.
I am prepared to concede that the United States went into Vietnam with all the good intentions in the world. The Americans were prepared to help to rehabilitate Vietnam generally, but more particularly South Vietnam, which seemed to have suffered more than North Vietnam had. The Americans were prepared to provide technical advisers and equipment to re-establish farms, towns and industry generally. They were doing a mighty good job. Australia made a contribution in the same direction, as did New Zealand. I am not sure that South Korea made such a contribution in that sense, but it has certainly contributed to the armed forces in Vietnam since. The time came when the United States found itself in a very awkward situation. The Americans had to supply arms and later troops to protect the interests of South Vietnam.
Premier Ky of earlier days was very vocal in bis plea to the United States, and to anybody else who would listen, to help to stem the tide that was expected from the North. When he took over after a military coup, he said in effect: ‘I have taken over. I am boss of the situation here. Whoever steps out of line and does not do my bidding or the bidding of my Government will be shot down like a dog.’ I suppose that was a pretty fair start. I could never find myself able to trust Premier Ky. He visited Australia and was well protected here. At a Press conference, he was asked on the eve of his departure for Vietnam what would happen if on his return he met a situation in which a coup was being planned or had been planned to take over South Vietnam. He said: That is not likely. We have things under control there. But if we meet such a situation we shall know how to deal with it.’ It is now history that Premier Ky did not last very long. When the elections came, he said at first that he would not contest the presidency. Then he announced that he would. Eventually he was deposed and the best he could do was to contest the vice-presidency.
President Thieu promised to sue for peace with Hanoi. I do not know that he has done such a remarkable job in that direction. I think he was dissuaded by people with vested interests and so did not try too hard. He went very quietly. Now we have a full scale war in Vietnam. We are participating to an extent far beyond our resources. We cannot afford to expend our manpower and material in Vietnam in this way.
There are people suing for peace. I do not know that I can agree with the view expressed from the Government side of the chamber that this Government is doing all in its power to obtain peace. I have noticed some weaknesses in the Government’s approach. I have noticed the hard line being employed. The Government is still following the line of ‘all the way with LBJ’. Perhaps the tragic circumstances of last December should have prevented me from saying that, but I do so only to relate the Government’s actions to later events. On assuming office the present Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) said that he was not prepared to increase Australia’s force in Vietnam beyond 8,000 men but he was smartly brought into line. Within a few days he contradicted his earlier statement and today we do not know where we stand. General Westmoreland has asked for an additional 360,000 troops for Vietnam to try to regain the initiative from the North Vietnamese. It would appear that the most he will get will be 35,000. There seems to have been a demand made for quite an increase in’ Australia’s commitment. I suppose similar demands will be made of South Korea, New Zealand, Thailand and other participants in South Vietnam. We must bear in mind that the Communist countries have said that in addition to providing more equipment for North Vietnam they are prepared to call for volunteers to assist the North Vietnamese. I do not know that the North Vietnamese have asked for more assistance in the form of manpower, but we may rest assured that, if they do, that assistance will be forthcoming if not in the form of volunteers then on a compulsory basis. I cannot conceive of the Communist countries wanting this war to end too soon. They want to see the dissipation of our resources so that they will be in a better position to dictate terms later. Nobody seems to be lending much of an ear to the pleas for peace being made by U Thant or the Pope. There may be signs that these pleas are being heeded by people in high places in America who now propose to contest the presidency against President Johnson. These people are fellow members of President Johnson’s party.
There has been a demand for the use in Vietnam of the latest weapons of war. I recall watching a television programme featuring Mr Santamaria, public urger No. 1 in Australia for devastation in Vietnam and Communist China, front man for the Democratic Labor Party and supposedly a Christian. I do not want to be unchristian towards him, but hew a Christian man can call for devastation, death and slaughter is beyond me, particularly when he asks that the latest devilish devices be employed to kill, maim and destroy. This is beyond my comprehension. 1 will not be a party to this, nor will the Australian Labor Party.
A lot has been said in the last few days about what can happen to the morale of our boys in Vietnam. It has been oft repeated on this side of the chamber that we will do nothing to reduce support for them now that they are there. We object to their being there. I object strenuously to their being there, particularly having regard to the conditions associated with their being in Vietnam. I deplore this situation greatly but I deplore even more the possibility of total war arising from our action and that of our allies in Vietnam. I can see nothing short of this happening in the next 12 months. There is a ray of hope in the sense that the terrifying aspects of total war will be just too much for some of the people who are prepared to be hawks in Vietnam. There will be a clamour for a total evacuation, although some holding forces may have to be left behind. There has been reference to loss of face. President Johnson has hinted that loss of face is more than he could bear if it resulted from ending this conflict.
None of us in Australia with any patriotism in his breast wants a victory for the forces of evil. In this category I place Communist China, Communist Russia and other Communist countries. But when it comes to the big test I am afraid that the breach between Communist China and Communist Russia will be healed, that they will join forces and will represent a mighty formidable foe. Nothing short of the latest devices, such as nuclear devices, will stop them. If we employ such devices, they will retaliate. Who will press the button to cause this holocaust is anybody’s guess. I hope only that we can find a solution to the predicament in which we find ourselves because of this war in Vietnam.
I repeat that we have a war on our hands. We have declared war. We all recall that at a Prime Ministers Conference in London the then Prime Minister, Sir Robert Menzies, referring to the situation in Vietnam, said: We are at war. Make no mistake, we are at war.’ That was some kind of declaration. No papers were signed to say that we were at war but we sent our forces to Vietnam.
We talk about the role of the aggressor. Can any honourable senator opposite show me where we have been threatened by the people of North Vietnam, either directly or implicitly? I have never heard of such a threat. It seems to me that the Vietnamese are on dangerous ground in all of their territory. The French, for some reason best known to themselves, overran Vietnam and subjected the natives to all manner of indignities - so much so that at the first opportunity and with Communist persuasion the Vietnamese accepted Communist assistance. It was a little better than what the French were presenting. Then the Vietnamese were able to offer some resistance to the French and eventually the French left.
We, quite foolishly in my opinion, went in. As I said earlier, America went in with all the good intentions in the world. It was to be a short, sharp trial of strength, a quick victory - an instant victory as it has been called. But things did not pan out that way. Then we quite foolishly subjected our manpower to the rigours of war. We are at war. We have declared war. Actions speak louder than words. We went in - I speak now of America and her allies - and created a situation in which war was permitted. So we have declared war by our actions, and perhaps we can see some declaration in the statement made by Sir Robert Menzies at the Prime Ministers Conference in London. Now we are expected to take all that is being handed to us from the Government bench in evasiveness, half truths and sometimes even untruths. That is a very serious charge to level at anybody, but at times I have sensed that half truths and even untruths have been uttered in an endeavour to get the Government off the hook, to use a common expression.
The Government is culpable in many respects in the prosecution of the campaign in Vietnam. There should have been a closer examination earlier of aspects that could develop and there should have been an appreciation of what could ultimately happen as a result of this conflict. I repeat that we are living in very dangerous times and that the sooner we find a solution to the situation in which we are now placed in Vietnam, the sooner will we be able to guard against total war by the most devilish devices ever known to man.
– I rise to support the motion before the Senate which is that the Senate agree to the adoption of the Address-in-Reply. I note that the Address-in-Reply is couched in language whereby we desire to express our loyalty to our Most Gracious Sovereign, and to thank His Excellency for the Speech which he has’ been pleased to address to Parliament. I feel privileged to be able to support that motion and to associate myself with the sentiments that have been expressed by other honourable senators in support of it.
I am also conscious that I am here tonight as the choice of the Victorian Houses of Parliament to fill ‘the vacancy which was caused by the resignation of the Prime
Minister, the Right Honourable J. G. Gorton. I sense the honour which is mine, and I sense also the feeling of this Senate at the fact that the former Leader of the Government in the Senate is now the Prime Minister of the nation. The Prime Minister, of course, had been a Victorian senator since the year 1950. He, with Dame Ivy Wedgwood, also representing Victoria, were the first senators from Victoria appointed to the Senate in the name of the Liberal Party. In the years after 1950 Mr Gorton served successively in various ministerial portfolios and, before his appointment to his present office, he was Leader of the Government in the Senate. I am sure that it was in that latter capacity that he showed those talents, those abilities and that flair for leadership and command which attracted his colleagues in the Party to appoint him their leader and their nominee for the Prime Ministership. I feel that the quality of the example which he has shown is worthy of every emulation, and I assure the Senate that that I shall strive to achieve.
His Excellency’s Speech to the Senate is a statement of something more than merely a government programme. It is a statement of notable excellence, not only because of what it states in the way of a programme to be fulfilled, but because of the guide lines it contains for the continuing objectives which this Government has. It is a forward-looking document. It could have been a backward-turning document which took pride and satisfaction in achievements already realised - and there are many achievements to the credit of this Government over a number of years. It could have been a stay-put document, but it is not. It is a document which sets out guide lines for the future in a variety of fields.
The dairying industry and other aspects of rural industry are all matters in respect of which there are problems to be solved. Objectives by way of solutions to those problems are set out. When one looks at what is proposed in the field of health and medical benefits, in the field of regional co-operation and understanding in countries to the north of Australia, and in the proposals which are set out for the Territory of Papua and New Guinea, one finds every evidence of what is intended. These proposals are the earmarks of a government which is forward looking and which is not content merely to rest upon achievements realised.
I desire to refer to that part of His Excellency’s Speech which deals with matters of legal significance. It reads:
My Government will introduce legislation to limit appeals to the Privy Council from decisions of the High Court and will prepare legislation for the creation of a Commonwealth Superior Court to relieve the pressure on the High Court.
Other legislation will include amendments to the law relating to copyright, new procedures for the examination and granting of patents, measures relating to cheques, and the ratification of the Tokyo Convention on Crimes on Aircraft.
I suggest that statement reflects government attention to those matters which are constant demands on any administration. They are not spectacular measures which excite great public interest, but it is a necessity of every administration to ensure that laws of long standing and general application are at all times responsive to changing circumstances, to modern demands and to new concepts and ideas. Over a long period of time, the Government has been alert to the necessity to reform these laws of long standing and general application. Recently the Bankruptcy Act was completely remodelled. The programme which is envisaged indicates other measures of a similar character. It is my belief that other matters which I could mention are also of concern to the Government.
At this point I think it is wise to make some reference to a body which has not yet received a tremendous amount of publicity in the Australian scene. It is one of the bodies which will play a considerable part in the history of our federation yet to be written. I refer to the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General. I believe it is largely due to the impetus which was given by the Honourable Arthur Rylah in Victoria over the long period in which he was Attorney-General in that State that this Committee has been consistent in its working, regular in its meeting, and productive in its output. It has, over a number of years, given consideration to measures which depend for their efficacy upon co-operation between the Commonwealth Government and the State governments, and there has been produced, probably as its most notable achievement, the uniform Companies Act. It has also given consideration to matters in the fields of hire purchase and wills. Its proposals on these and other subjects, including evidence and consumer credit, have not yet seen final legislative form, but they are all evidences of my earlier statement that continuing attention is being given by the Government to matters of everyday legal concern.
I desire to refer particularly to that aspect of His Excellency’s Speech which deals with the limitation of Privy Council appeals. The Privy Council appeal has long been an issue of debate not only amongst lawyers but, from time to time, as the mood appears to dictate, amongst those in the political forum. It is not often recalled that the abolition of the Privy Council appeal appeared in the last draft of the convention debates immediately before the setting up of this Commonwealth. The Bill which was taken to London provided for a very limited right of appeal. An appeal was to be allowed only in those circumstances where there was a public interest affecting either the Commonwealth or the States or other British Dominions.
Of course, in those circumstances, special leave was required. It is part of our history that that provision was not acceptable to the imperial Parliament, and in the compromise that emerged our Constitution guaranteed”, with two provisos, a right of appeal to litigants who wished to appeal from divisions of the High Court of Australia. One. proviso was that in matters affecting the constitutional powers of the Commonwealth and the States, or the powers of two States, a- certificate of the High Court was. required. The other limitation was that a power was given to this Parliament to limit, at” any time that it saw fit, the matters in respect of which’ an appeal could be taken to the’ Privy Council.
It is under that system of somewhat restricted powers in respect of appeal to the Privy Council that the Commonwealth has developed over the past 67 years. Over the years various arguments as- to why the appeal should be either abolished or limited have been adduced. I suspect that the discussion has usually been- to the effect that the appeal should be abolished, whereas technically, without an amendment- of- the Commonwealth Constitution, the only power that this Parliament possesses is the power to limit. I should think that this power would not include a power wholly to abolish. The various arguments - I shall not go into them in any detail - are that the Privy Council appeal is an offence to Australian independence and nationhood and that it affords only to the wealthy a means to take their litigation to the ultimate court. It is suggested that the existence of a Privy Council appeal is a reflection on the capacity of our own High Court judges, and that in certain constitutional matters the Privy Council has performed poorly, exhibiting a certain lack of familiarity with the complexities of our evolved Federal system.
It was against that background, I suspect, that in 1967 the Attorney-General (Mr Bowen) stated that the Government had decided to limit appeals to the Privy Council from the High Court of Australia. He said:
Power to limit the matters in which special leave may be granted by the Privy Council ii conferred on the Commonwealth Parliament by section 74 of the Constitution.
The Government is of the opinion that this power should be exercised so as to make the High Court the final arbiter in all matters of Federal jurisdiction, that is to say, constitutional questions, matters arising under Commonwealth laws and the various other matters which the Constitution has, in section 75 and section 76, specifically recognised as being appropriate matters to be brought in the High Court.
In justification of that view it was stated that a growing body of opinion was favourable to the view that the High Court should be the final court of appeal for Australia, that there was a feeling that now was the appropriate time to take steps towards this end, and finally, that it was consistent with the growth of Australia as an independent nation that the High Court should be the final court of appeal. I suppose that some evidence of the strength of those views that were given as justification may be- seen in the widespread newspaper editorial comments in favour- of the view expressed and in a unanimous agreement - striking in the circumstances - among academic lawyers, that this would be a good step to take. Moreover, this view was consistent with gallup polls which had shown remarkable majorities in favour of the abolition of the right of appeal to the Privy Council.
That is the setting for the proposal in the Governor-General’s Speech that the Government will introduce the necessary legislation. It is relevant to have regard to several points though probably none of them is new in a consideration of what is involved in the limitation of the appeal and what might be some of the consequences within the legal framework in Australia. In the first place, stressing what I have already mentioned, the power that rests in the Parliament is a power only to limit appeals. Only by an amendment of the Constitution can the appeal be abolished. Section 74 of the Constitution is the relevant section. In part, it reads as follows:
Except as provided in this section, this Constitution shall not impair any right which the Queen may be pleased to exercise by virtue of Her Royal prerogative to grant special leave of appeal from the High Court to Her Majesty in Council. The Parliament may make laws limiting the matters in which such leave may be asked, but proposed laws containing any such limitation shall be reserved by the Governor-General for Her Majesty’s pleasure.
In a very broad sense, two types of appeal may be taken from the High Court. The first concerns those matters which, compendiously expressed, are appeals in the Federal jurisdiction - that is, constitutional matters and matters which arise under laws made by the Parliament of the Commonwealth. The other type of appeal covers ordinary matters in the non-Federal field of jurisdiction which, by and large, is concerned with cases that might occur between citizens or between citizens and State instrumentalities. It follows that if the Government’s intention, as expressed in the Attorney-General’s statement last year, is to be carried out, there will still remain a body of appeals to the Privy Council. Right of appeal will not be retained in regard to matters arising under the Federal jurisdiction, but it will be retained and available in all other matters. I suppose that one reason for limiting the right in this way is that the power to limit does not include a power to abolish entirely. The situation that will exist is that the High Court will be the final arbiter in constitutional matters but that the Privy Council will be the final arbiter in other matters, always supposing, of course, that the litigant who applies to to the Privy Council obtains its leave to bring the appeal, which is the usual case.
It is suggested that appeal to the Privy Council in constitutional cases should not be available, as the High Court is a capable court, well able to deal with those matters in a manner satisfactory to the Australian community. It is suggested, also, that a court composed basically of English judges who are confined in their practice and legal development to the relative simplicity of a unitary system is not sufficiently attuned to the complexities of our Federal system. If that be so, it seems strange that the Privy Council appeal should nevertheless be permitted for the other matters which are outside the Federal jurisdiction. It might be supposed that the High Court is equally capable of dealing with those cases and being the final arbiter in them. Indeed, I should think that any limitation of the right of appeal to the Privy Council should apply to the non-constitutional cases rather than to the constitutional cases.
There is point in remembering the impact that the Privy Council has had on the legislative development of the Parliaments of both the States and the Commonwealth since federation. The pattern of our State and Federal marketing legislation shows entirely the influence of a Privy Council decision. The pattern of road transport legislation in the States is wholly the result of a Privy Council decision indicating what may be done and what may not be done. Of course, as far as section 92 of the Constitution and the extent of that power with regard to measures such as banking’ nationalisation are concerned, that also is a field in which the determination of the Privy Council is a final determination which sets a legislative pattern. In these circumstances, I think, the people of Australia have cause to be satisfied with the service which the Privy Council has provided for the Australian community. It is not to be supposed that with changes in conditions that sort of service in the way in which it has been rendered in the past is liable or desirable to be continued in the future. But I do say that it is a valuable stopgap and a valuable avenue to have available if circumstances do require it. We do not know what may be the circumstances in the future, but if the right of appeal to the Privy Council is there, limited to particular cases and not of the character which it has now, I think the Australian people would be served and would be given something which would be above the High Court of Australia in particular cases.
Since 1908 the Australian Labor Party has had the policy that it would abolish appeals to the Privy Council. I mention this only ‘because I believe an example in one case is instructive to illustrate the point 1 make. That policy was reaffirmed at several Federal Conferences intermittently over the SO or 60 years since it was first laid down. Nevertheless in 1948, the Commonwealth Government being at that stage a Labor Party Government, was prepared to take to the Privy Council the question whether the banking legislation was invalid. It is in particular circumstances that a need arises and the need may be fulfilled if right of appeal to the Privy Council is retained. 1 think that that purpose is well served by the necessities of the Constitution. As I said earlier, the power of this Parliament is a power to limit appeals to the Privy Council. I believe it would be an appropriate limitation if all appeals from the High Court to the Privy Council, be they under Federal jurisdiction or not, were placed on the one basis. Why should a litigant be able to go to the Privy Council simply because he is not challenging federal law whereas a litigant who is challenging federal law is not able to go? A desirable arrangement would be to permit such appeals to go to the Privy Council if the criterion of limitation was either a certificate of the High Court or a certificate of the Attorney-General. In short, we should revert to what was proposed by the founders of the Constitution in 1898 who suggested that the only appeal which could lie to the Privy Council was an appeal in matters of the public interest of the States or the public interest of the Commonwealth. I appreciate that the decision to limit the appeal to the Privy Council is a decision taken, and widely accepted, but I wonder whether it has been so widely accepted that what is involved is not abolition of the appeal but simply a limitation of it.
One field where any decision of the Parliament does not reach is the field of appeals from the State Supreme Courts. The State of South Australia and the State of Victoria have said that they do not propose to restrict in any way the existing right of appeal. The matter is still pending in the other States. That is one field in which the appeal will remain until such time as the States ask the Imperial Parliament to remove it. As far as the powers which the Commonwealth may exercise are concerned, as it is only a power of limitation, a prudent step - and one that I suggest for what it is worth - is that the appeal should be limited only to those circumstances where the public interest requires it and that the public interest, if it can be shown to the satisfaction of the High Court or of the Privy Council, would be a sufficient cause for that appeal. I compliment Senator Laucke on the motion that he has moved and I am very happy to indicate my support of it.
– I use the formalities of the Address-in-Reply debate to congratulate Senator Laucke on his very capable maiden speech. I listened to him with a great deal of interest when he spoke last week, until such time as I was called out of the chamber to receive a telephone call. Since then I have read the remainder of his speech and taken note of its contents. I am sure that the honourable senator will contribute much to the debates that ensue in the chamber from time to time. Tonight Senator Greenwood addressed the Senate for the first time. As a member of the Opposition I was very much impressed by the manner in which Senator Greenwood showed his undoubted capacity and his great knowledge of legal subjects. I am sure that his contributions to the debates that take place in the chamber will be of enormous benefit to the Parliament and the people of Australia. Probably rarely, if ever, will I or any of my colleagues agree with the views that either Senator Laucke or Senator Greenwood may express from time to time in the future. But as man to man we can respect and try to understand one another’s point of view and, having done that, then agree to disagree.
I want to say something about the Governor-General’s Speech delivered in this chamber on Tuesday, 12th March. Bearing, in mind the great public relations campaign and great publicity buildup that have been indulged in by the Government, and that were indulged in by the Government parties in the 2 months preceding the opening of the Parliament, I closely followed the Governor-General’s Speech in order to hear, listen for and await the national stirring that it was supposed to create in the hearts and minds of Australian citizens. Having heard, listened, read and re-read the Speech, I find my efforts have been in vain, because basically all that the Speech provides is a continuation of the policies of the Government in office last year.
– 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, 20 March 1968, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1968/19680320_senate_26_s37/>.