26th Parliament · 2nd Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMuIlin) took the chair at 1 1 a.m., and read prayers.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Industry the following question: What action is the Government taking to control that part of overseas investment which the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Trade and Industry has said is dangerous, particularly where it involves full ownership and control of Australian resources or industries?
– Quite clearly, the question asked by the Leader of the Opposition is a very wide one and does not lend itself to a reply at question time. For that reason I ask him to place it on the notice paper.
– Last week the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry gave some information on the circumstances surrounding the refusal of entry of a cargo of Australian meat into the United States of America. Has the Minister any further information on that incident?
– Inquiries made of the Department of Primary Industry yesterday elicited the information that the meat to which the honourable senator has referred is now to be sent to England. It is hoped that it will be sold in that country.
– Can the Minister representing the Minister for National Development state whether work has commenced on a plaque to commemorate the names of the Snowy Mountains Hydroelectric Authority workers who lost their lives on the Snowy Mountains project?
– I understand that the Minister for National Development has today written a letter to the honourable senator advising him that a lookout point is to be constructed at the Jindabyne surge tank and that plaques will be erected to commemorate, firstly, the early pioneers of the district; secondly, .the people who played an important part in the early stages of construction of the Snowy Mountains scheme; and thirdly, the people who lost their lives during construction of the scheme.
– Has the attention of the Minister representing the Minister for Education and Science been drawn to an article in today’s Melbourne ‘Age’ reporting an address given by Professor Eric Rudd of the Department of Economic Geology in the University of Adelaide to a conference of the Australian Petroleum Exploration Association? Did the Minister note that Professor Rudd called on the Federal Government to establish urgently a mineral exploration training centre of world standing and that the professor listed the great advantages to Australia of such an institution? Has the Department of Education and Science given any study to this question? If it has, what has been the result? Will the Minister draw his colleague’s attention to Professor Rudd’s plea?
– My attention has been drawn to the article to which the honourable senator has referred in his question. A suggestion coming from a person of the prestige of Professor Rudd is worthy of consideration. If it was a suggestion that there should be a university establishment, of course the proper approach would be for the appropriate university to submit it to the Australian Universities Commission. If the suggestion was that the institution should take the form of a college of advanced education the Government would welcome a submission to the advisory council of the Committee of Advanced Education. This is a matter which is most appropriate to the purpose of the Government to push ahead with development in the field of mineral research.
– My question without notice is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for National Development. Has he seen a report in the Melbourne Herald’ of last night to the effect that the Federal Cabinet is believed to have given the
Snowy Mountains Authority permission to dismiss staff members who become redundant as the works it is now doing are completed? If this report is accurate, does it mean that the Snowy Mountains Authority is to be completely disbanded? Has the Victorian Premier, Sir Henry Bolte, made any approaches for assistance from the Snowy Mountains Authority in the construction of urgently required reservoirs in that drought-stricken State?
– As the honourable senator knows, the Snowy Mountains Authority has always had the right to dismiss or to engage personnel. I saw the report in last night’s issue of the Melbourne ‘Herald’. [ should like the honourable senator to know that the Government at this moment is spending at the rate of $50m a year on the construction of the Snowy scheme and that it will take at least 5 years from now to complete it. It is a project - the largest in Australia, of course - which will take approximately 25 years to complete. Staff has been engaged as required, and expenditure is running at a record level. Two or three men have been put off recently. The Authority has the right to do this.
It is not going to keep people unless it wants them, and the Government is fully conscious of this. Everybody must realise that this scheme is going to come to an end. The Government, in conjunction with the State governments, will make any necessary provision regarding the further employment of these men. It would be easy to say that we will keep intact the Snowy Mountains Authority staff, which consists of 7,000 or 8,000 people, but that could not be done unless the States agreed to employ these people. As honourable senators know, at the moment the States have their own work forces engaged on projects similar to the Snowy scheme. I have answered the honourable senator’s question to the best of my ability. If he wants any further information I ask him to put his qustion on the notice paper.
– I take the liberty of addressing my question to you, Mr President. I ask it in an endeavour to have some action taken to save the embarrassment that is caused at times to some of the many hundreds of visitors who we in this
Senate are pleased to see visiting it. Though this did not happen this morning, on many occasions visitors remain seated when you, Mr President, enter the chamber and while you are offering prayers. They do not know until afterwards that they have inadvertently contravened the customs of this honourable House. Could a printed form be displayed in the galleries in order to save visitors this embarrassment?
– Yes, this does happen. I am sure that the visitors do not understand the position. Probably they feel they are not participants in the ceremony. Their attention will be drawn to the position and we will correct it.
– I ask a question of the Minister representing the Minister for the Army. As the 6.45 news service of the Australian Broadcasting Commission this morning gave prominence to a fresh book allegation against Australian troops made in the House of Representatives and a demonstration by an insignificant group at Victoria Barracks, Sydney, supporting the old book allegation, and as the news service entirely ignored yesterday’s Senate debate and the unanimous Senate vote of confidence in our troops, can the Minister suggest how the ABC news service can be induced to give both sides and not one side of this issue?
– I did not hear the announcement to which the honourable senator refers, but his is one complaint of hundreds I have received along the same lines from all sections of the community. This applies not only to the ABC radio news but also to ABC television news. I think it is regrettable indeed that happenings such as those mentioned by the honourable sentor are given prominence when no mention whatever is made of such a matter as last night’s unanimous Senate vote of confidence in our troops. Honourable senators will, of course, realise that the Government has no control over the ABC radio news service or ABC television news. I do not know whether this is a good or bad thing, but I think it is regrettable that there is not a better balance in the ABC news programmes, both on radio and on television. I think the public not only wants news but also wants it presented in a fair manner.
– I direct a question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. I understand that the Minister for Trade and Industry made a statement in another place on butter quotas for the United Kingdom market. Can the Minister provide any information to the Senate on this matter?
– It is my understanding that the Minister for Trade and Industry has issued a Press release which will come through to honourable senators’ in the normal way. It is a matter of great interest to Australia and particularly to Australian butter producers. The Minister said that Australian butter producers are assured of access to a British market for 73,500 tons of butter in the quota year beginning 1st April, with 72,200 tons as an initial allocation. Imports from Australia in the year just ended would be about 63,000 tons, and this was brought about largely by the effect of the drought conditions on production. The only other point I should like to bring out is that last year Australia sought introduction of controls on the import into Britain of near butters which were threatening to undermine the butter quota arrangement with adverse effect on prices. British imports of near butter and butter mixtures which have also been brought under control will be limited to 9,000 tons in the new quota year compared with imports of more than 20,000 tons in the preceding year.
– Has the attention of the Minister representing the Minister for National Development been drawn to recent statements by Professor Rudd, a prominent American geologist, urging Australia to train Australian specialists’ in mineral search and technical work in oil drilling because Australian industry largely depends on imported specialists? Will the Minister examine this position with a view to having the Government make special efforts to promote the training of Australians in these fields?
– I read the article with considerable interest. Because of the ever increasing tempo in the search for minerals in Australia and the need for exploiting our mineral fields, there is a growing need for specialist technicians to handle the situation. I will look very thoroughly at the matter and, in conjunction with the Minister for National Development, take the necessary steps to see that what the honourable senator suggests is put into force.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation whether consideration has been given by the Australian internal airlines and the Australian Tourist Commission to the possibility of giving overseas tourists reduced rates on internal flights if they make more than three such flights, with a view to encouraging overseas tourists to visit Australia? I understand that this scheme is to be introduced in Canada and other countries.
– I rise at the request of my colleague, the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation, because within the province of my duties as MinisterinCharge of Tourist Activities I am able to inform the honourable senator that this matter is directly under consideration by the Australian Tourist Commission at the present time. The position that the honourable senator mentions in relation to Canada stems from a report made by a joint task force, I think it was called, of the tourist industry to the President of the United States of America less than a month ago. That report is receiving the immediate and active consideration of the Australian Tourist Commission.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for the Army. Will the Minister for the Army conduct a full military inquiry into allegations which have been passed on to me by the wife of a Queensland resident who heard from her second cousin in Mexico that an American soldier passing through the local airport terminal had told an airport attendant that he had seen an Australian soldier in Vietnam flagrantly disregarding issued Army instructions by not having his tunic buttoned at both cuffs? If an inquiry is to be held I will be willing to appear anywhere, in Vietnam if necessary, should I be required to substantiate what I have said, but I will not be prepared to give the name of the American soldier who first made the allegations or the names of anyone else involved.
– The question obviously is a facetious one but perhaps it has as much validity as some other requests for inquiries in regard to Australian soldiers.
– I address a question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Has the Commonwealth Literary Fund been making grants to Australian authors since 1938 in order financially to assist them complete works of literary merit? Will the Minister agree that because of an increasing interest in the works of Australian writers the time has now arrived for an expansion of this Fund’s activities? Because most of those who received the grants last year are now well established authors, will the Minister ask the Government to give special consideration to assisting young Australian writers who are showing sufficient promise to warrant Commonwealth assistance? Will the Government also consider the Fund’s making travel grants available to Australian writers to enable them to spend some time in Asia so as to add to Australia’s better understanding of the cultures and histories of countries with which our future is so closely interwoven?
– The honourable senator has asked a series of questions relating to the Commonwealth Literary Fund grants which, as I understand the position, are made through the Prime Minister’s Department. I shall have his question directed to the Prime Minister. Many of the questions that he poses concern matters of detail. I found nothing incompatible in what the questions suggest. The initiation of this Fund has proved of great help and encouragement to Australian authors and has done much to promote better literature.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior. It relates to the architectural competition for the design of the National Art Gallery in Canberra. In view of the fact that Canberra is the Australian capital, why was the architectural design competition for this work of a national character confined to a small coterie of favoured architects? In view of the fact that such a small coterie of people was selected, I also ask why three States of the Commonwealth were not even asked to select architects to compete. Why was the competition so limited in its scope? Is it not a fact that many competitions are held on a worldwide basis and does this fact not indicate that there was no occasion to make this competition the exclusive right of a few favoured architects?
– An architectural competition must be conducted in accordance with the code set down by the Royal Australian Institute of Architects. That code sets out two or three different manners in which a competition may be held. On this occasion, the Government has taken the advice of the National Capital Development Commission, which submitted a recommendation after consultation with the Royal Institute of Architects and the National Capital Planning Committee. That recommendation was that a panel of twelve names should be submitted to the Government for its consideration as architects who might be requested to take part in the design competition for the National Art Gallery in the Australian Capital Territory. The names of the firms which were placed before the Government were selected because the design member of the firm in each case was recognised as an architect of imagination and a man with a touch of adventure in his architectural approach. When the Government considered the matter it found that it could not accept two nominations from each State because it wanted the best architects available in Australia. It therefore got a list of the best men available and they have entered the competition.
– I address a question to the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs. As this is the beginning of Human Rights Year and today is the second anniversary of the acceptance of the principle by the United Nations, will the Minister assure me that the Government will ratify the Convention on Equal Pay for Work of Equal Value and Equal Opportunities of Employment to Both Men and Women?
– It is true that today is the day set aside as Human Rights Day. It is also true that Australia is a signatory to the Convention on the elimination of all forms of racial discrimination which is the subject of Human Rights Day. It is also true that Australia will join in the celebration of Human Rights Year and will participate in the Human Rights Conference which is to be held at Teheran from 22nd April to 13th May. The honourable senator’s question relates to equal pay for work of equal value. She has asked me for certain assurances. Question time is not the time when one makes declarations on a matter such as this. It is a matter of policy. I ask that the question be put on the notice paper and I will have a considered reply prepared for her.
– My question to the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior is supplementary to that asked by Senator Wood. I point out that I asked this same question two or three days ago and received the same unsatisfactory answer as Senator Wood received. Why does the Government insist on accepting the recommendation of various bodies that a limited number of architects be chosen to submit designs? Does not the Government believe that there are younger architects with the same spirit of adventure and courage who could submit something new? Is it not possible for the Government to change its mind when it realises that the people of Australia think that it is wrong? Would it not be a rather good gesture by the Government for the Minister to take up this matter with Cabinet and for Cabinet to agree to a competition open to all Australians, if not a world-wide competition?
– I ask the honourable senator to put his question on the notice paper so that it can be considered adequately by the Minister for the Interior in another place and so that answers can be given to the specific points raised.
– Has the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation seen a report that as a result of the dispute between Trans-Australia Airlines and its pilots relating to DC9 aircraft, the percentage of passengers carried on major trunk services by Ansett-ANA, which is not involved in the dispute, now stands at 56% compared with 44% carried by TAA? In view of the Government’s policy of rationalisation of air services, will it take steps to ensure that TAA’s share of the passenger traffic is increased? I point out that the Government has usually favoured AnsettANA in that regard.
– I have seen the report and I do know that there, has been a drop in passenger traffic because of the dispute. I have said previously in the Senate that as far as I am concerned all matters relating to this subject are sub judice until the High Court has given its decision.
Motion (by Senator Murphy) - toy leave - agreed to:
That leave be given to introduce a Bill for an Act to abolish capital punishment under the laws of the Commonwealth.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
– I move:
That on all sitting days of the Senate during the present Session, unless otherwise ordered, Government Business shall take precedence of all other business on the Notice Paper, except Questions and Formal Motions, and except that General Business take precedence of Government Business on Thursdays, after eight p.m.; and that, unless otherwise ordered, General Orders of the Day take precedence of General Notices of Motion on alternate Thursdays.
This is a domestic matter in relation to the arrangement of Government Business and General Business and, of course, all parties are involved in it. The motion is consistent with arrangements we have had down through the years. I understand that the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Murphy) has a view that he wants to put in relation to it. I do not want to speak further at this point of time. I should like to hear what he has to say and also what the Leader of the Australian Democratic Labor Party (Senator Gair) has to say. As I have said, this is a domestic matter relating to the arrangements that we make; it is not a political question. After hearing the views of these honourable senators I shall reply at the end of the debate.
– What is the Government’s attitude?
– I have moved a motion. I want to make it perfectly clear that I am prepared, and the Government is prepared, to listen to the debate as it may stem from our consideration of the motion. It will be interesting to hear the views of both Senator Murphy and Senator Gair and indeed those of other Government and Opposition senators.
– I move:
Leave out - ‘and except that General Business take precedence of Government Business on Thursdays, after eight p.m.; and that, unless otherwise ordered, General Orders of the Day take precedence of General Notices of Motion on alternate Thursdays’, insert, ‘and except that General Business take precedence of Government Business and any motion for Adjournment to debate a matter of urgency under Standing Order 64 on Tuesdays, after eight p.m.; and that, unless otherwise ordered, General Orders of the Day take precedence of General Notices of Motion on alternate Tuesdays’.
The real effect of the proposed amendment would be to transfer the General Business night from Thursday to Tuesday and to ensure that General Business would commence at 8 p.m. Incidentally, it would not be interfered with by a motion to discuss a matter of urgency. That is necessary because on Tuesdays we start at 3 p.m. whereas on Thursdays we start earlier and such motions would have been handled by that time. I agree with the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Anderson) that this is simply a domestic matter. It is the view of myself and my colleagues here that it would be more satisfactory to conduct General Business on Tuesday night. So far as we can see, there is no real prejudice to the Government in the transfer from Thursday to Tuesday night. The advantage to the Opposition is that sometimes, and especially towards the end of a sessional period, the Government has a tendency to lag with its legislative programme. The legislation is not brought on as quickly as it might be. The Government allows the legislation to pile up. The result is that at the end of a week there is a tendency to cut out the General Business period, which is the privilege of the Opposition and all backbench senators. We think this right ought to be preserved and if our proposal is accepted its preservation will be facilitated.
On other occasions discussion of General Business has been dispensed with at the end of a week. It is true, as the Leader of the Government in the Senate has said, that it has been the practice to conduct General Business on Thursday night, but we all know that for a very long period during which that practice prevailed no General Business was in fact conducted on a Thursday night, and that almost invariably the Government would’ move on a Thursday morning a motion that Government Business take precedence of General Business on that Thursday evening at 8 o’clock. So, in fact, the practice was that Government Business took precedence all the time.
This is a simple domestic matter. There is also a tendency sometimes for the Senate to rise early on a Thursday evening. That is a matter for the Government. If it wants to do that, it will not be done at the expense of General Business. If the Government believes that time should be curtailed in any such respect in any week, let it act accordingly. We think that if the Government has a proper legislative programme, if such legislation is to be introduced not only for this sessional period but for the rest of the life of this Parliament, and if the Government goes about its business in an efficient manner there will be no problem. Thus the Government would be able to get the legislation through the Parliament and nothing would be done which would jeopardise General Business night. I repeat that it is a domestic matter. As a matter of convenience, there is no great contention about it but we would prefer to see General Business dealt with on a Tuesday night.
– I rise frankly to oppose the amendment. I do not want it to be thought that I am a traditionalist just for the sake of being a traditionalist and that I believe that if something has been done for a long time the practice should not be changed. However, so far as I can understand it, the procedures of the Senate have been practised since 1908 in respect of the conduct of General Business after 8 p.m. on a Thursday. I for one want to examine the reasons why that procedure has been favoured and see whether I agree with those reasons. Then 1 want to find out the reason why the alterations are being suggested in an amendment which has been moved to the normal procedural motion that T have experienced for 15 years in this Senate.
When we are debating Senate procedure, the right to deal with Government Business and the rights of private senators in respect of General Business wc have an opportunity for a quiet., calm, non-party debate, with the decision resting on what we as individual senators believe should be done for the betterment of the working of the Senate and not for our own personal convenience. I will deal with that matter a little later.
As I said, the moving of a motion similar to this one has been a tradition since 1908. My understanding of the position is that the Senate has two realms of responsibility. The first is that the government has to govern. We would not have a Senate if we did not have a government. We would not have a government if it did not govern. The second realm of responsibility is as clear cut and as necessary as the first, lt concerns the public of Australia and the democratic parliamentary rights of individual members and individual parties not in government. They are two separate realms of responsibility. The rights of both must forever be upheld and fairly judged.
Our traditional practice in this Senate, briefly, is thai the private senator gets the first go. We have questions without notice every day. Incorporated in our procedure is the right of any individual, with four or five supporters, to raise a matter of urgency which you, Mr President, rule is suitable under the Standing Orders to be so termed.
So every day a private senator, the Opposition party or any other party or independent has that right, as long as a senator is supported by four or five colleagues from either side of the chamber. Then, when you, Mr President, put the motion ‘That the Senate do now adjourn’ the private senator has the right to air his views on any subject on which you allow him to speak. The debate on that motion can continue until somebody gets tired of it and successfully proposes the motion ‘That the question be now put’. So, at the beginning of the day, at the end of the day and during the day the private senator has his rights.
The other side of the picture is the realm of government responsibility. Surely hon- ourable senators agree with my claim that a government must govern. We do not have matters of urgency raised on Tuesdays because the proceedings are not broadcast. So after quesion time we deal with Government Business throughout Tuesday. Legislation can be debated for a number of hours without undue interruption. On Wednesdays, if a matter of urgency is raised, the debate on that matter lasts for 2 hours, if I remember the Standing Orders correctly. We know that Government Business as set out on the notice paper will then be proceeded with. So those of us who have to do homework on the speeches that we wan’ to make know what to expect on Wednesday nights.
On Thursdays we know that we have question time and then 3 or 4 hours of debate on Government Business. The Government is governing, and we are fully aware of the programme of Government Business. As honourable senators know, under the present system which, I believe, has existed since 1908, General Business - private members’ business - is programmed on Thursday evening. Honourable senators can tell from the programme the order of the business, but they cannot know which items will be debated. This was proved to us many times during the last session. However, we know that the Senate, under its Standing Orders and by means of contingency motions, provides specific time for the private member. With such procedures, I claim that the Government is governing. Private senators have their rights and all senators, both Government and Opposition, know the programme of the Parliament.
Because of the change in the numbers of the Senate and because the Government does not have a majority of senators in this chamber, there could be a feeling of: ‘Let the Opposition take control’. I do not claim or imply that this is the first step in a move by the Opposition to take the business of the Government out of its hands, but I say that if this amendment is carried - and I do not suggest that the Government is as firmly against it as I am - there will be a movement from the other side of the Senate to alter procedures and to put private members’ time before Government Business, even more than at present. If the Opposition in another place takes the governing of the country out of the hands of the Government, that Government falls. If the
Opposition here is to take the business of the Government out of the hands of the Government side in the Senate, chaos and frustration to all concerned can be the only result. 1 do not argue that, if this motion is agreed to, that will happen, but I say that this is the first of the moves to this end. We see others in the long list of motions, moved by the Opposition, to set up committees. These are straws in the wind. I am a traditionalist, like many other honourable senators. I know Senator Murphy is another traditionalist and I presume that virtually all honourable senators would fill the role that I hope to fill, that is, the role of maintaining in this Senate a high standard of parliamentary procedures and attitudes towards the things that count. If the amendment is agreed to the Senate will meet as usual on Tuesday and there will first be question time and the presentation of papers and other normal matters that follow question time. It is safe to say that at about 4.30 p.m.-
– Or 5 o’clock.
– The former Leader of the Government in the Senate, of great experience, tells me that it would be 5 o’clock when honourable senators get on to Government Business. After 45 minutes, when perhaps only one speaker had made his contribution, or when another speaker was half way through his speech, the debate would be interrupted and its threads would not be taken up until some time after 5 o’clock on Wednesday afternoon. This would do honourable senators harm and cause us inconvenience. Therefore, it would be doing nothing to further the standards of this chamber. For this reason it would be a retrograde step.
The Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator Murphy) mentioned that towards the end of the session the Government puts to the Senate a motion - sometimes it is received quietly and sometimes it is hotly debated, particularly if the motion is moved on Wednesday afternoon - that Government Business take precedence over other business on Thursday. This is because the Government must govern, and with the end of the session in sight it is essential to get Government Business through. Still, the Senate has the right to refuse this request of the Government; it has the right to keep the House in session until the Government either says it has finished Government Business or that it will not go on with the rest of Government Business on the business paper. Therefore private senators are in no way denied their rights.
It is said that if we keep to the traditional Thursday night private members’ business, the House will adjourn at 6 o’clock. It has been said around the corridors that this is what happens - that private members’ business is being pushed aside by a Government that does not want it discussed. That position still remains in the hands of senators. If while the Senate is sitting we want to sit on every Thursday night to discuss private members’ business, this remains the right of the Senate on all occasions except during the Address-in-Reply debate.
I believe there are two reasons why a change of procedure is sought. The first, I believe, is that the Opposition wants to control the procedures of the Senate. The second is that it is quite keen for the Senate to rise at 5 o’clock on Thursdays. State rights come into this. This matter of State rights should be understood. When the Senate adjourns on Thursday at 5 o’clock it is easy for Victorians and New South Welshmen to get home and have a full day in the office on Friday. This is not possible for Tasmanians. I do not know about the Queenslanders. The Western Australians can, I understand, get home if they travel all night. I believe it is more for the convenience of Victorian and New South Wales senators that normally we adjourn at 5 o’clock. Why do we not go through till 6 o’clock or a quarter to 6, the normal time of sitting? I do not want to labour the point, but I am most sincere in saying that the Government must govern and the other realms of responsibility must be observed. I sincerely believe that the interruption of the work of this Senate on Tuesday evenings by the sudden incursion of General Business or private members’ business will be a retrograde step.
- Senator Marriott has been responsible for an extraordinary speech in connection with this proposed amendment. He opened up by saying that this was a non-party matter and should be treated as one, but from the tenor of his speech I would readily declare that it has ceased to be a non-party matter. Senator Marriott has distinctly made it a parly matter by his unfounded and improper allegations against the Opposition.
– The allegations are not improper.
– They are quite improper. To suggest that the amendment has as its only purpose to take away from the Government the power to govern is indeed improper, to my way of thinking. The question whether the Government should in fact govern is not in dispute at all; it does not arise. Anyone with any knowledge of parliamentary procedure in a democracy knows full well that the Government has the indisputable right to order the priority of business. If the Government has the numbers it certainly can do that. But a good and true Government, in a democratic parliament will exercise that indisputable right with some regard to the rights of the Opposition. When an alleged democratic Government ceases to recognise the rights of an Opposition, democracy will not live for long. That Government will bring about a form of government which is in direct conflict with democratic principles. 1 had quite an open mind on the suggested amendment. T was conscious of and appreciated the right of the Government to indicate ils business, but after having heard Senator Marriott I am satisfied that nothing which has existed in the. Parliament for 50 years or more will be altered; tradition has to obtain until the end of time. Tradition is the democracy of the dead. In other words we are to live in the shadow of the skeletons of our forefathers, without any regard for the demands of the present.
– Like the honourable senator did in the referendum campaign.
– The people stood by my party in the referendum. There is no doubt that the result was definitely in our favour. Many things in many parliaments have been continuing for a long time. In our own homes we do not go about our domestic affairs in a traditional way; we are not doing the things that our grandfathers and grandmothers were required to do, because advances have been made in the means of conducting the home. The same applies to the conduct of a parliament; we have to move in modern times and have regard to a lot of factors that did not exist previously. If that was not the case we should be coming here in hansom cabs instead of motor cars and we should be wearing straw hats instead of having the right not to wear hats at all if we are too mean to buy felt ones.
The argument put forward by Senator Marriott is a ridiculous one. No-one is questioning the right of the Government to govern or the right of the Government to alter the order of business. The amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator Murphy) is a simple one and relates to the transference of General Business from Thursday night to Tuesday night of each week. Senator Murphy’s first argument, that the Government is more likely to usurp the time of private members or the Opposition on Thursday night than it is on Tuesday night, did not impress me very much. If the lag in legislative business is so great, the Government is just as likely to do it on Tuesday night as on Thursday night. I was not over impressed by that argument. But I am impressed by his second argument which is that the Government could determine the adjournment of the Senate at an hour - at dinner time or sometime earlier - which would rob the Opposition of its right to raise matters of a general character. That concerns me because it is a denial of a right that an Opposition must enjoy in any democratic parliament.
– How can the Government do that?
– The honourable senator has just told us how. He has just suggested that there should be an adjournment at 5 o’clock or thereabouts to permit him to go to Tasmania. I have as far to travel as most honourable senators except the Western Australian senators for whom T have the greatest sympathy.
I have been here for a comparatively short period of time but I do not know that the Government has on many occasions usurped the rights of the Opposition by adjourning early on Thursday night. Invariably, we sit here on Thursday nights, as we should.
– Some sit here.
– Some sit here. I am grateful to Senator Cormack. If General Business is to be discussed on Tuesday night we are more likely to have a better attendance of senators than on Thursday nights because some senators, knowing that from 8 o’clock on Thursday the only business likely to be dealt with except for something extraordinary which might occur is General Business, will pack up and go off. If Government Business is the order for Thursday night senators will be required to remain.
– The honourable senator has put his finger on the point there. They cannot keep their numbers here on a Thursday night.
– The Opposition cannot keep its numbers here on a Thursday night and that might be the explanation for this proposal, but that difficulty applies to both sides of the chamber, from my observations. A complete examination of the pros and cons of the situation does not reveal what Senator Marriott has read into the amendment at all. We of the Democratic Labor Party represent a part of the Opposition. From 1st July of this year we will represent a bigger part of the Opposition and we will at all times respect the principle that the Government must govern. We will also respect the indisputable right of a government to order business provided there is reasonable and common sense provision for the rights of the Opposition. I have had a long period in Government and never at any time did I subscribe to the view that the Opposition had no rights. The members of the Opposition are elected by the people of this country in the same way as Government members are, the only difference being that they do not get as many votes, although in some cases they do get more and are still in Opposition.
– It was pretty good in Queensland for awhile, was it not?
– Not as good as it was in South Australia. I would not raise that if I were the honourable senator. We gave a fairer distribution than any other State in Australia and our population is not centred in the capital. The country people got fair representation. However, that is by the way. Having regard to all the factors, and especially because of the speech made by Senator Marriott, I want to indicate that I favour the amendment and the Democratic Labor Party will support Senator Murphy’s proposal for the change of General Business from Thursday to Tuesday. If the business of the Government is so important - and it should be - to members of this Parliament, then, irrespective of the party to which they belong, they will do what the members of the Democratic Labor Party have done and sit here until the adjournment of the Senate takes place. I support the amendment.
– I would like to say a word or two on the amendment to the motion moved by the Leader of the Government (Senator Anderson). It is a retrograde step.
– Is the honourable senator referring to my motion as a retrograde step?
– No. I am saying the amendment is a retrograde step. I have listened to the cases put so far, and I listened with great interest to the case put by Senator Gair because he really put his finger on one or two salient points to which I shall refer later. Let me refer, first, to the situation on Tuesdays. We come here at 3 o’clock and have a very , lively and long question time. This is all to the health of democracy. We have questions without notice, then questions on notice and then various forms of the House are observed and all this generally takes us till about 5 o’clock on a Tuesday afternoon. For the remaining 45 minutes on a Tuesday afternoon, Government Business will be entertained. It has now been proposed by the Opposition that at 8 o’clock, after the dinner hour, because the Opposition has the numbers, and not for any other reason, we are to have General Business all night on Tuesday. So that, in fact, we shall have only 45 minutes for Government Business on Tuesday.
– We could have urgency motions.
– That is correct. If there were any urgent business on Tuesdays, we would not even have the 45 minutes for Government Business. For some unknown reason, unless it is because we are on the air, we have motions relating to urgent business on Wednesday. That is another matter. We meet here at 3 o’clock on Wednesdays and have questions but not for so long a time as on Tuesdays for the simple reason that they are- not rebroadcast at night. Therefore, we might finish with questions by 4.30 or 4.45 on Wednesdays. We could then have urgency motions taking 2 hours. This would take us up to 9 o’clock leaving us wilh only 2 hours for Government Business on Wednesdays.
– That accounts for 2 days.
– r-In 2 days we could have only 2i hours for Government Business. Of what benefit to the private senator is this proposal? The period between 8 o’clock and the time of adjournment on Thursday nights has been traditionally reserved for General Business. Now it is proposed that we do not have General Business on Thursday night but have it on Tuesday night. Of what benefit is it to transfer the General Business to Tuesday night? Senator Gair has given us the reason why this is proposed. It is because the Opposition has been unable to keep its numbers here on Thursday nights. Government members have to be here.
– That is not true.
– It is true. There is no question about this. That is the reason why this proposal has been submitted. It gives no real advantage. It does not give one minute longer to the private member. We have only a certain number of hours, whether it be on Tuesday night or Thursday night. Therefore, having General Business on Tuesday night does not give the private member 1 minute longer.
Why change it? Senator Gair put his finger on the reason - the Opposition has not been able to keep its senators here. They want to go home on Thursdays at 5 o’clock. That is the deal between the Opposition and the Democratic Labor Party. They want to replace Government Business by General Business on Tuesday nights and then rise at 5 o’clock on Thursdays. 1 believe that to be the true position and I should like to hear any honourable senator tell me that it is not.
– Why not sit longer?
– The proposed amendment says nothing about sitting longer and I will not deal with extraneous matters. If the honourable senator moves a further amendment to that effect then I will deal with it but at present I am dealing with the motion before the Senate. The proposal to take Government Business out of the
Government’s hands on a Tuesday night and replace it by General Business will not give one additional minute to private members to raise matters they want to raise. Why alter the present arrangement? There must be some reason why the Opposition wants to make the alteration. Why does the Opposition want to rise on Tuesday night instead of Thursday night. Will that be of any benefit to the private member? Of course not. The Opposition and the DLP have joined forces on this matter because the Opposition cannot keep its members here on Thursday night, and on that basis we would be here for 42 years if we sought to discuss the vast number of Opposition motions at present on the notice paper.
If anyone could tell me honestly that there is some valid reason why the private member should be given additional opportunities to put his point of view in our present system of parliamentary democracy I would go along with him, but everyone knows that the Opposition wants to take the business of the Parliament out of the Government’s hands. Do not let us kid ourselves. The private member will have exactly the same number of hours, the same number of minutes and the same number of opportunities as he has now if General Business is transferred to Tuesday night. The people will know what is behind the Opposition’s proposal because we have a duty to. tell them.
Let us discuss the position mentioned by Senator Gair. He said that if the Government had the numbers it could say at 5 o’clock on a Thursday: ‘We will rise’ and therefore nothing would be lost on Thursday night. But if the Government had the numbers would not the same thing happen on a Tuesday night, and if the Opposition had the numbers would it not stop the Government?
– That is more likely to happen.
– That is right. The Opposition has the numbers at the present time so it can stop the Government. It is no use saying that the Government could say at 5 o’clock on a Thursday: ‘We will not sit tonight’. Together the Opposition and the DLP have the numbers and they could say: ‘Oh yes, we are sitting’. They could use their numbers as they did to recall the Senate in the middle of winter to discuss the proposal in relation to postal charges.
Do not tell us that there is a valid reason behind the present proposal because there is not. That is the basis on which the matter should be judged.
We on this side of the chamber will make it clear to the people of Australia that this is an attempt to take the business of the Parliament out of the Government’s hands. That is the situation the Opposition is trying to create. Not one minute longer will be devoted to General Business by transferring it to Tuesday night. The point behind the proposal is that the Opposition cannot keep its members here on Thursday nights. Everyone knows that there have been very few Opposition senators in the chamber during debates and that the Opposition motions on the notice paper have been put there merely for purposes of propaganda.
- Senator Marriott said that he would like this to be a quiet non-party debate. Perhaps in his devious way he was able to do the very thing he wanted to do, namely, to turn the debate into a party debate. Senator Henty has aggravated the offence. Let me refute Senator Henty’s proposition that over the years the arrangements for Thursday night have been not in the form of a compromise between the Government Leader and the Opposition Leader. An examination of the records would reveal that the number of applications for pairs on a Thursday was equal on both sides of the chamber so it is an imputation against the Opposition to say that we make more applications for pairs on Thursdays than do Government senators.
The Government has the responsibility of keeping house, and if Government senators want to leave the precincts of the Parliament for some reason or other it suits the Government’s convenience and is to its advantage if those senators can obtain pairs. But if the Opposition were to adopt the view that the Government objected to pairs on a Thursday and believed that there should be no movement of senators away from the Parliament on that day, I am sure the Opposition could quite easily meet the Government’s request and cut out all pairs on a Thursday. But that means we would be certain of having a full attendance in the chamber during the required times on Thursdays.
Senator Henty has been in high dudgeon about senators wanting to get away on a
Thursday night. In this sessional period we have had two Thursday, nights. Last Thursday we rose at 4 o’clock without the Opposition taking the business out of the Government’s hands. I did not hear the honourable senator raise any objection to our rising or to General Business being postponed because we were not sitting. There was not a peep out of Senator Henty or Senator Marriott. Today, without any proposal or resolution from the Opposition the Government intends that the Senate will rise at 5 o’clock. I have not heard Senator Henty or Senator Marriott object to the fact that they may be able to return to their home States tomorrow morning.
Senator Marriott set to work on the parish pump. He complained about Victorian and New South Wales members being able to return to their homes quicker than we can, thus being able to have the whole day in their electorate office, whereas we poor Tasmanians have a much longer distance to travel. One might think that Senator Marriott would be able to see some of the wisdom in his being able to reach his electorate office earlier if the Government saw fit to organise its business in that way. The honourable senator said there were two reasons why he believed the Opposition had advanced its proposal, firstly, that Opposition senators wanted to get home on a Thursday night and, secondly, that. Government senators were keen on having the General Business period. I remind the Senate that General Business is a very important part of democratic parliamentary procedure.
– That is why the Opposition is rising tonight.
– The Government is rising, not the Opposition. Another point is that we cannot deal with General Business while the Address-in-Reply debate is proceeding. Nevertheless the Government sees fit to rise to suit its own convenience.
– Only if it has the numbers.
– We are not taking the business out of the Government’s hands. If the honourable senator can cite one occasion upon which we have taken the business out of the Government’s hands on an adjournment motion, 1 should like him to do so. There are exceptions, but as a general rule the Government sets out its programme and there are consultations between the Leaders. The Senate has been running in that way for a number of years and the arrangement has worked out very well. Senator Marriott may think that it is oldfashioned, and perhaps other people think likewise. It has been pointed out that this is a domestic matter. If it suits the Senate to have General Business on Tuesday nights, we can decide whether it is an advantage or a disadvantage. The fact that a practice has existed for a long time does not mean that we should not alter it. 1 have recently been appointed to a select committee of the Senate which is to consider offshore petroleum and we have been giving serious consideration to sitting times. We hope that we can fit in sittings on Friday mornings, Mondays and even on Thursday nights. One sees from the notice paper that Senator Henty is to move for the appointment of select committees to consider air pollution and water pollution. Senator Murphy is to move for a committee to consider medical and hospital costs. He proposes also to move for committees to consider housing demand, natural disasters and the needs of aged persons. There will be a growing number of select committees. Honourable senators will be very busily engaged in carrying out their jobs on those committees. Only this week the new chairman of the Select Committee on Offshore Petroleum Resources, Senator Colton, suggested the possibility of sitting on Thursday nights. I do not know whether that fits in wilh the argument that we have put forward that it would be an advantage to have a debate on Genera) Business so that the Senate will not be deprived of its democratic right to debate business other than Government Business. 1 have heard Senator Henty in his time, Senator Wright and others, complain about the rush of Government Business towards the end of the session to the exclusion of General Business. There is also the question of transport. The transport officers are amongst the most loyal and conscientious officers around the Parliament. They have a tremendous joh to fit 180 - plus or minus - persons into aircraft flight schedules if both Houses rise at the same time. Many people subscribe to the principle of staggering hours instead of having both Houses meeting and adjourning at the same time. There could quite easily be a phasing of times to allow for transport arrangements.
I want to nail the accusation that the Opposition has more people wanting pairs than has the Government. That is not true. I absolutely deny it. Over the years while I have been Opposition Whip arrangements for pairs have been more than amicable. On only one occasion in the last twelve months was a senator absent without telling me he would be absent and without my being able to arrange with the Government Whip for a pair. That honourable senator told me that he had gone to sleep in his room and had not heard the bells. The charge that Opposition senators want to absent themselves from the Senate on Thursday night is a pure fabrication. It is entirely a domestic matter whether the Senate wants to have General Business on Tuesday nights or to miss having it on Thursday nights if the Government sees fit for the Senate to rise before dinner as it did last Thursday. As Senator Turnbull interjected earlier, we could quite easily sit on Fridays. There is no reason why we should not sit on Fridays and Mondays. Only yesterday it was suggested in another place that there be longer sittings of the Parliament.
– Is the honourable senator suggesting this?
– If the imputation is that we are trying to avoid sitting, let me assure the honourable senator that the Opposition is just as anxious to carry out its duties in the Senate as is any Government supporter. Last year we sat on three days more than the House of Representatives sat. No senator on this side has ever shirked his responsibilities.
– We never sit on more than fifty days in a year.
– I take that figure as being approximately accurate. That represents 17 or 18 sitting weeks in a year. If we were to sit more often we would not have this argument about General Business because we could deal with it at our. leisure. The fact is that it may suit the Government to order its business so that we rise early on Thursdays. The charge that we want to take the business out of the Government’s hands ls just ludicrous. We have no desire to do so. We are making a sensible suggestion.
– What would be the advantage?
– That we would be as certain as we could be of having General Business on Tuesdays when we are not certain of having it on Thursdays. It is quite certain that we have risen early many more times on Thursday nights than on Tuesday nights. The Senate is given an opportunity to decide. Because of the exigencies of the electorate many senators find that they have to return to their home States to attend functions and to attend to business in their offices. If possible, they make arrangements to go home. I do not know if it is desired to change that. There could be a rule that no arrangements for pairs be made on a Thursday. If the Government wishes that to be done, that would be its responsibility.
– The honourable senator would be agreeable to having no pairs on a Thursday night?
– If the Government requested it, I think we would be agreeable. This is a matter that we can resolve amongst ourselves. We are the guardians of our own business. We all prize our democratic right to discuss General Business. I do not think the Government wishes to oppose that right. It has control of business for the rest of our sittings, and the time for consideration of General Business is set aside to allow other than Government Business to be debated. There would be advantages in having Tuesday nights available for General Business and this would allow flexibility at the end of the week for the Government to arrange to sit’ late or not. Finally, the charge that this is an attempt to take the business out of the Government’s hands falls flat to the ground because the Government has the matter in its own hands. There is no attempt by the Opposition to take the business out of the Government’s hands.
– I believe the Senate is under an obligation to Senator O’Byrne for his comments. I believe he has put the true view of the Australian Labor Party in this matter. His comment that more senators are present on a Tuesday night than on a Thursday night is probably the core of this argument. He put forward another argument that there is an ability to get through Government Business more efficiently if the proposed change takes place and that a sitting on Tuesday night would do something towards a better discussion of General Business. He asked the Senate to believe that argument, but I think it is fairly hollow. The core of the matter is that we can rely on there being more senators here on a Tuesday night.
– Is it more important to discuss Government Business or General Business when more senators are present?
– That is a point. I think another point can be taken that since I came to the Senate there has not been a sitting day on which Government senators have not been required to be here. It. is clear that on a Thursday night honourable senators on this side of the chamber are present. Senator O’Byrne has made what I believe to be a valid point in this context.
I would endeavour to influence the senators of the Democratic Labor Party to my view that the amendment proposed by Senator Murphy is entirely unacceptable for two very important reasons. I ask the DLP senators to review their decision in the light of these considerations. Firstly, the proposal of the Opposition would have the effect of cutting down by one-sixth the time of the Senate available for discussion of General Business. Do honourable senators realise that to accept the amendment would be to deprive back bench senators of this important time? It is not merely a matter of losing half an hour which we would otherwise have available to us by sitting to 11 p.m., if we were to shorten that time to 10.30 p.m. Does the Opposition intend that that should be the position?
– lt is 10.30 p.m. on Tuesdays, and on Thursdays.
– That is not correct and I ask that honourable senators of the Democratic Labor Party take note of that point. The second very important matter to which I wish to refer, and it has not been referred to, is the wording of the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Murphy). He wishes to depart from the practice adhered to since I have been in the Senate. He wishes to take in a further area of control in this matter, and this is important. I would like Senator McManus to consider this point and perhaps to sway his partner. The proposed amendment states: . . and except that General Business take precedence of Government Business and any motion for Adjournment to debate a matter of urgency under Standing Order 64 . . .
The Leader of the Opposition is endeavouring to preclude floor members of the Senate from debating on a Tuesday night motions on matters of urgency. I refer to the ordinary back bench members of the Senate. If accepted the proposal would take away a right that senators have at present. I do not fully understand the reason why Senator Murphy has attempted to put this facet of his argument, that Standing Order 64 should also be overridden by General Business on a Tuesday night.
– His business only. Never mind anybody else’s business.
– That is quite so. 1 think in both these areas the Opposition is not only endeavouring to deny a right to its own members but also is endeavouring to curb the Democratic Labor Party. Perhaps the Democratic Labor Party would play an important part in these two areas. Most important of all, I have a great query in my mind about the following sentence in the proposed amendment:
The purpose of that sentence, it seems to me, is to ensure that a discussion on a matter of urgency raised by the Opposition would be terminated at 6 p.m. Under the proposal it could not be proceeded with beyond that time. No matter of urgency could be debated on a Tuesday night. I would be very surprised if the Democratic Labor Party senators would support the proposed amendment after reviewing it in detail. I oppose the amendment.
– A number of matters arise for discussion. It is quite clear that two viewpoints are held in the Senate on quite strong grounds of procedure, fact and adherence to principle. I am a little disturbed to find that this matter is being debated perhaps at greater length than would seem to be necessary. I wish firstly to refer to the comment made by Senator O’Byrne about the sug gestion that I had made in a committee meeting that Thursday night is a useful night to sit. I do not really think that that is a proper subject for debate in connection with this matter. It was a matter outside the operations of the Senate. They are separate matters. The honourable senator is a friend of mine and I know that he regards himself as my friend. I regard him as my friend and I regret that the point was raised. My view of the situation is that if nights are available for work, we work. The arrangement of priorities is the affair of this chamber above all other things and we seek to preserve that principle and give adherence to it.
– That is the only reason why I mentioned the honourable senator’s statement.
– I appreciate that. I thought I could properly raise the point because my name was mentioned and in fairness to me, my viewpoint ought to be established.
This is substantially a domestic matter for honourable senators. It has been said by senators on both sides of the chamber that we are all concerned to maintain the prestige of the Senate, to which we are all proud to belong. We wish to maintain the authority of the Senate, I am sure, and we want to make it an effective instrument for the work we all seek to do here. The two viewpoints expressed are diametrically opposed. They are strongly held by the protagonists. It is not my purpose to impute false motives to anybody who wishes to have General Business conducted on a Tuesday night rather than Thursday night, or conversely, Government Business conducted on a Tuesday night and General Business conducted on a Thursday night. I do not hold really strong views either way. I regard the function of the Senate as being to work when the work is here to be done. If Thursday night is suitable, then that is when we work. If it is Friday morning, Friday afternoon, or Friday night, then we work at those times. That is the point with which we must concern ourselves - the volume of work that comes before us and our ability to handle that volume of work in proper sequence so that fair consideration is given to all viewpoints.
However, on listening to the views expressed by Senator Gair in relation to the responsibilities of his Party, I was rather impressed when he spoke of the responsibility to maintain the views of the Opposition. I think I can say in fairness to the honourable senator that, he encompasses at times also the views of independence. I was very grateful to hear him give an assurance that as a great constitutionalist and a democrat - I say that without any wish to flatter him for that is not my purpose - he takes the view that the Government has a function to govern and that his Party does not want to impede the process of government. In seeking to establish the viewpoint of his Party, he and his colleagues oppose where it’ is necessary to oppose and take an independent view where it is necessary to be independent. But the function of the Government is to govern and not to exercise a wish to control all Government Business in the hands of the Government.
– And in a democracy the rights of the Opposition must be observed.
– I concede that. I agree that the Opposition must be heard. I imagine that we senators are here fundamentally and above all to fight for the democracy, in the broad sense, that we have had the privilege of enjoying. Another comment that impressed me came from the Opposition Whip, Senator O’Byrne. He said that the Opposition would be quite happy to make a rule that if we had a problem we would not have pairs on Thursday nights: This would be a matter for subsequent discussion. But we would like to regard that as the official view of the Opposition, if we possibly can, because it is an important matter for us to consider. 1 return to my original thesis on this matter. I make my apology to all honourable senators for not having as much understanding of the traditions and procedures of the Senate as I would like to have. I have listened to this debate as it has proceeded. It has been very helpful to me. In many ways it has been an education for me. I have heard expressed the traditional feelings of people who have the institution and its standing and prestige very much in their minds. They want to preserve what they believe to be its proper method of functioning. It is interesting to see that people who nave the same- underlying motive have different ways of interpreting it. People can hold very strongly the view that their pro: position to have General Business on Tuesday nights is in the interests of democracy and the safeguarding of the traditions and liberties of this chamber. Other people can hold the opposing view firmly and with great probity. I rather wonder whether we are involved in a great political debate. I do not think we are. What we are involved in is a discussion of the proper pattern of performance for a senior House of Parliament in a country that we all hold very dear.
I wish to say one or two things that I hope are not out of order. This is not a bad time to say them because in the position that I now hold it may be a long time before I have another chance to say them. I take the view that the Australian people are moving into a new phase of their existence. All the events of the last 12 or 15 years are becoming clearer every day. This country is now in a situation of greater independence, greater responsibility and greater danger. Last week 1 listened to Senator Cormack speaking on the question of the withdrawal of the British influence from east of Suez. He said that the Roman legions were going home and that we should not assume a posture that we cannot support.
This country will be one of worth, quality and independence if we in the senior chamber of its Parliament - and also the people in the House of Representatives - have a due regard for what we are trying to do. Fundamentally, my view of the situation is that we are here to serve this country as well as we can. Whilst we as politicians hold our political views, many of which are diametrically opposed to one another, and hold them firmly and sometimes with vigour and even rancour, yet when all that has been disposed of many of us are friends across the chamber. We are serving a cause that is greater than ourselves and greater than the political parties we represent. That is why I believe that the procedure of this senior chamber is extremely important. It will be one of the great places that will safeguard the liberty of the Australian people during the years ahead which will be much more dangerous and much more difficult and will require much more independence. It is from chambers such as this one that the real lead for progress, unity and, one might well say, behaviour by the Australian people will come. So it is proper for us to have regard to the viewpoints of honourable senators who have spoken in this debate.
What are we trying to do? I believe that we are trying to run this Senate - the senior House of this Parliament - with its great tradition and great authority, in the interests of itself. We are trying to answer these questions: How does it perform effectively? How does it do its best work? How does the consensus become established? How do we get the best out of all our people? What we are trying to do is to give a lead to the Australian people through legislation and decision making, to take account of all the viewpoints that exist in the community and, as far as possible, to bring them together or to agree to differ on the basis that at a given point of time one group has a superior right, because of public support, to say: ‘Our view should prevail.’
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
– Mr President when I moved the motion in relation to the precedence of General Business I expressed my view that it was a minor matter relating to the management of the Senate. I was interested, as properly I should be, to have the advantage of an expression of the views of the leaders of the other parties. In the event, the debate proceeded more vigorously than perhaps I had expected or hoped that it would. Nevertheless, I think I ought to clear up a number of points that have been made. The first was whether the Senate had sat on Thursday nights so far this session. It should be made perfectly clear that standing order 14 provides that while the Address-in-Reply debate is current there should be no business other than formal business, except where suspension of the Standing Orders is agreed to. A motion for suspension needs 31 votes to be carried, and in the nature of things, this could only be achieved, in view of the way of which the numbers are divided, wilh a degree of co-operation from both sides of the Senate. That occurred on Tuesday when, by agreement with the Leader of the Opposition, there was a suspension of the Standing Orders to enable debate to proceed on a matter forthwith. I hope that everybody understands, as they should, that once the Address-in-Reply debate is concluded, in accordance with the provisions that have already been agreed to concerning the times of sittings, the Senate will be sitting on Thursday nights.
I want to make the point briefly, because I am about to put this matter to the vote, that if anybody has the idea that because of any rearrangement that might result following the successful passage of the amendment, there will be fewer sittings on Thursday nights, that misconception should be dissipated immediately. To my mind, it is in the nature of things that once the Senate disposes of the AddressinReply debate, honourable senators will be sitting on Thursday nights. Reference has been made to the Government governing. AH I can say is that it is the intention of the Government to govern. It is not to be suggested that, in the parliamentary processes which will operate here, there will be any take-over bid or anything of that nature. A good deal has been said on this subject. I did not hope or expect that the debate would proceed as it did. In all the circumstances, the sooner that my motion and the amendment are put to the decision of the Senate, so enabling us to get on with the ordinary business of the Senate, the better it will be. For that reason I now leave the matter in the hands of the Senate to determine.
That the words proposed to be left out (Senator Murphy’s amendment) be left out.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator Sir Alister McMullin)
Majority . . . . 1
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question, ‘That the words proposed to be inserted, be inserted’, resolved in the affirmative.
Original question, as amended, resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 20 March (vide page 238), 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 loyally to our Most Gracious Sovereign, and to thank Your Excellency for the Speech which you have been pleased to address to Parliament.
– When the Senate adjourned last night 1 had commenced my remarks in the Address-in- Reply debate and was stating that a great promotion campaign had been indulged in by the Government over the 2 months preceding the opening of Parliament to build up a public image for the new Gorton Ministry. However, when one listened to the Speech of His Excellency the Governor-General and gave it some detailed study one could see that this Government was merely undertaking to continue the old conservative and reactionary policies of the Government that had been in office for the preceding 12 months. Indeed, the remarks contained in His Excellency’s Speech are in many respects a great contradiction of the build-up of the public relations campaign in which the Government has indulged. For instance, the Australian people were given the impression before the opening of Parliament that this new Gorton Ministry was a Government that really meant business and would deal vigorously with the problems of the nation. Here was a new Prime Minister, a man who at long last, after some 1 8 years of conservative government would - it was said - really get things off the ground and moving. He would put his foot down firmly and he would resist any pressure that might be exerted on him to send more Australian troops to Vietnam. It was to be according to the announcement, a policy of ‘so far but no further’, from which the strong inference could be drawn that this Government was opposed to any escalation of the war that might take place. But a week or two later there seemed to be an ‘if or ‘but’ or ‘perhaps’ about the policy that had been announced. Now the Governor-General’s Speech confirms that this Government will continue the support accorded to the United States of America and the Government of South Vietnam in the Vietnam war.
According to the Governor-General’s Speech, the Australian Government will support every effort for negotiation of a peace in Vietnam, as it claims to have done in the past. 1 remind the Senate that the Governor-General said in his Speech in this chamber in 1967, a year ago, that his Government would support every effort to secure a just and enduring peace. One would expect the Government to support all efforts to negotiate successfully for the conclusion of hostilities in South Vietnam, but it has not said it will do anything to initiate negotiations to bring about a peaceful settlement. Support and initiate are different words with different meanings. We learn that a different 8,000 young Australians will be asked to submit themselves to the harsh, trying and rigorous conditions of Vietnam. The Government has shown no signs that it is prepared to take the initiative, to go into the councils of the world, and to try to begin negotiations, not only on behalf of the Australian nation but also in the interests of all mankind. Certainly it would be a laudable achievement to initiate action which resulted in the cessation of this horrible carnage, but we cannot expect it from this Government.
I do not wish to speak at any great length today on the subject of Vietnam because most of what can be said on it has already been said in the course of the past 7 or 8 days. Undoubtedly there will be other opportunities later in the session to air the subject. Suffice it to say at this stage that the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) has so far missed the bus. He has not taken advantage of the opportunity to make a great name for himself and to become a leading figure in the eyes of the world by attempting a peaceful settlement of the war in Vietnam. He and his Government would have made a wonderful impression if, upon assuming office, he had said that he would set about initiating moves to bring about peace in our region of the world. This was not to be. The Government’s public relations campaign was built up, not around ideals, but around personalities.
Then the opening of Parliament took place. Ministers, old and new, came into the Senate from another place and frankly, the Parliament at that time rather reminded me of the picture conjured up by that old tune ‘McNamara’s Band*. The drums were banging, the cymbals clanging and the horns blazing away, but although McNamara’s band might have been a credit to old Ireland, obviously his Excellency the Governor-General’s Speech did not bring any real credit to the Gorton Ministry. It showed that the new administration was entirely devoid of the initiative, capacity and ability that are needed to tackle the real problems now confronting the Australian nation. Certainly if this was not evident when the Governor-General made his Speech, it is now patently clear following the proceedings in this Parliament last week and this week. Let me refer to one or two instances.
Before Parliament reassembled, allegations were made that a woman in Vietnam had suffered torture at the hands of an Australian serviceman and there was a great controversy on whether or not some inquiry should be held into the allegations. On Tuesday, 12th March, the very day on which Parliament reassembled, the ‘Daily Telegraph’, reputed to be the paper you can trust, reported the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) as saying, among other things:
I believe that Governments ought never to seek to suppress news or information whether those Governments feel it is, for the moment, to their advantage to do it or not to their advantage to do it. This is not only a proper way but a payable way for a Government to behave.
In spite of this, an announcement was made within 2 days of the convening of Cabinet that no inquiry would be held, that a statement would merely be made to Parliament. It became clear that there would be a short debate in Parliament and everyone was then expected to forget the matter.
The Government indulged in a great public relations campaign in connection with the newly appointed Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth). The new Minister would, according to this campaign, give a fair go to the pensioners of this country and other people living on Government sustenance and assistance, though they had been sadly neglected by former conservative governments. I saw the Minister for Social Services on Sydney television addressing a meeting of the Civilian Widows Association. He stated that he was really concerned about their economic circumstances and asked members of the Association to tell him at first hand exactly what they wanted him to do to ameliorate some of the conditions about which they had been complaining for a long time. My mind goes back to the period just before the lust general election in November 1966 when the Minister for Social Services, who was then merely the honourable member for Mackellar, and his colleague from another place, the honourable member for Evans (Dr Mackay) were writing articles in a Sydney newspaper strongly advocating the abolition of the means test and an increase in the rates payable to age pensioners.
On the Wednesday, the day after Parliament resumed, the Minister was asked by one of my colleagues, the honourable member for West Sydney (Mr Minogue), whether his first action as Minister would be the introduction of legislation to grant increases to all pensioners. One might have thought that the newly appointed Minister would have said that he would do all that he possibly could to bring this about but the Minister replied to the honourable member for West Sydney in the following terms:
I can say only that this will be a matter of policy for the Government, not myself, to decide.
So much for that Minister. In this chamber two new Ministers were appointed. First there was the Minister for Works (Senator Wright), who had been characterised over the years as the recalcitrant and rebel member of the Government and the man who stood for independent thought within the Liberal Party. Then there was Senator Scott, the newly appointed Minister for Customs and Excise. As recently as last Friday, after three sitting days of the Parliament, we found that the Federal Government had banned four more books including the original version of Harold Robbins The Adventurers’. Those are just a few examples - there are a great many more that one could readily call to mind - which show that the Government, despite its great promotion campaign, is merely a continuation of the old conservative and reactionary regimes that have been in office in this country since 1949. I believe that the Government has shown itself as being unable to enthuse, to inspire, to prepare the nation to face realities; unable to make the people aware of the many problems confronting this country of ours.
I now wish to raise specifically a matter which should be concerning the Government, especially the members of the Australian Country Party, and which certainly should be the concern of all responsible members of the Australian community. 1 refer to the very seriously depressed state of the banana industry, especially on the north coast of New South Wales. When we realise that it is costing growers at least $2.50 to produce a case of bananas and put it on the market, and when we compare that S2.50 with the return of a mere 50c or 60c a case - and in many circumstances and on many occasions the return is less than that - we can see that there is something seriously wrong with this very important and basic primary industry. In retail stores in the large metropolises of this country bananas are selling at more than 20c per lb but the growers, the men who rely on this fruit for their income are receiving a mere 2c per lb. At present some 27,000 acres of bananas are under cultivation in Australia, 21,000 acres being on the north coast of New South Wales. Incidentally, on the north coast of New South Wales 5 years ago the total area of banana plantations was some 30,000 acres. In the period of 5 years from 1963 to the present time the area under cultivation has dropped by some 9,000 acres, but there is much greater production. When we go to these areas and talk to some of the people who are engaged in the industry, we realise that it is the Government’s responsibility to take a vital interest in the problems that are confronting these people. As a result of over production and lack of planning on the part of the Government, they are suffering a very great drop in their living standards, which are continuing to fall.
A baker in a small town on the north coast of New South Wales told me that one grower owed him $320 for bread alone. This grower, who had been living in the area and relying on bananas for his living for so long, now owed $320 for the purchase of bread for himself, his wife and his family. Other growers have told me that they are seeking jobs, and some of them have obtained jobs, with local municipal and shire councils. Others are working in the rutile mining industry on the north coast of New South Wales, because they can no longer afford to labour on their banana properties and pay $2.50 for the right to produce and market their products and receive a mere 50c or 60c in return. A local grower told me that in an endeavour to obtain some return for his labour he had sold ten cases of bananas to a large local retail establishment, at a return to him of $2 a case. The cost of production, on the average, was $2.50 a case. Rather than let the bananas rot on the ground, the grower was prepared to let them go to the local retail establishment for $2 a case, or a return to him of some 2c per lb. As soon as the bananas were purchased by the large local retail establishment they went on the local retail market at a price of 25c per lb.
I have here some invoices that have been produced to me by certain growers. One grower sent twenty-one cartons of bananas on a banana train to Sydney and received a net return of $5.24. He estimated that the total cost of production of those bananas was $45. Another grower sent eleven cartons of first class bananas. He estimated that his cost of production was in the vicinity of $65, yet he received a net return of $4.40. How can we expect men to engage in primary industry when this is the situation? If the Government does not act now to protect the interests of these men, to help them and to subsidise the industry, in 10 years time, or probably less, the Government will be faced with the same problems that confront it in relation to the dairying industry today. We find from the Governor-General’s Speech that, because the Government has failed to heed the report of the McCarthy inquiry of 1960, the Government has to devote $25m in the next 4 years to diverting dairy farmers into some other form of agriculture. 1 suggest that the Government should pay heed to the petition that I presented in this Chamber yesterday week, wherein the petitioners drew attention to the very seriously depressed condition of the industry and requested the Federal Government to take immediate action to alleviate the plight of the banana growers and subsidise the cost of production of bananas.
The honourable member for Cowper spoke on this subject during the debate on the motion for the adoption of the AddressinReply in the House of Representatives last night. He stated that the major problem confronting the industry stems directly from over-production and until this question of over-production is solved very little if anything could be done about the matter. He was obviously inferring, of course, that about the only thing that can be done is for the banana growers to stop growing bananas. I suggest that this attitude is just not good enough.
– lt is rank defeatism.
– Exactly. As my colleague, Senator Mulvihill says, it is rank defeatism, especially to one who has been to the areas concerned and who appreciates the great economic problems confronting the people of the district. What a shocking state of affairs it is to see the fruit officer of the New South Wales Department of Agriculture urging banana growers, because of low prices, to feed over-mature, uncut bunches of bananas to their cattle. He said that the fruit held on plantations in anticipation of an early price rise could lead to a glut problem in connection with bananas which in turn could continue to depress present prices for fruit. This typifies the attitude of the New South Wales Government and the Federal Government. It is not good enough.
Something much more constructive, something much more effective has to be done to alleviate the problems of these people. It is not as if the matter had just Cropped up over night. This has been a problem in the banana industry for at least 5 years and not one thing has been done about it by the Government. In 1963, the
Federal Bureau of Agricultural Economics was asked to undertake a survey of the Australian banana industry. This was carried out by way of field inquiries during May and June of 1963. The findings at that time obviously must have been made known to those in Government. It is rather interesting to note that on page 75 of the Bureau’s report, it is stated:
It is of interest to note the income that farmers are prepared 10 accept as a return for their labour and management. This has been measured by deducting interest from farm income, and the results for the 3-year average for the whole farm and the banana enterprise, together with the charge on operator’s labour for purposes of comparison are shown for each area.
For the purposes of the report six areas of banana production are considered. They are far north Queensland, the central coast of Queensland, the southern coast of Queensland, the north coast of New South Wales, and the mid-north coast of New South Wales and Western Australia. It is very interesting to note that the report concludes, among other things, that 74% of the farmers in area 5 - the mid-north coast of New South Wales - received net farm incomes amounting to less than £1,000 a year. As to area 4 - the far north coast of New South Wales - the number of people in the industry having a net return of less than £1,000 per year constituted 88% of producers. The final position of farmers covered by the survey over the period 1959-60 to 1961-62 was stated in the findings to be generally unsatisfactory. That was 5 years ago and the position has become worse since then.
Therefore, this matter having been inquired into at great length and in great detail by the Bureau of Agricultural Economics, the Government should have been aware of the problem confronting this industry as long ago as 1963 and 1964. One would have thought, therefore, that the members of the Australian Country Party would have been raising Cain in this Parliament about the matter, demanding that something be done on behalf of their constituents. But I have been through the Senate Hansard index and I have not been able to find one reference to any remark made by any member of the Australian Country Party on the subject of bananas since 1963. Indeed, the only persons who have raised the problem have been members of the Australian Labor Party, one being my colleague from South Australia,
asked questions concerning the importation of bar.anas into Australia from Fiji, and the other, myself, in November of 1967, after I had made a tour of the north coast of New South Wales. But, as far as the back bench members of the Country Party are concerned, as far as I can ascertain from my research covering the last 5 years, noi one of them has asked a question on the industry or delivered an address in any debate on this subject within these walls.
Therefore I bring the matter before the attention of the Parliament in the hope that I shall be able to do something to bring the problem to the notice of the Government in order that it might do something to achieve some sort of stability in the industry. It has been said or inferred by members of the Country Party that very little if anything can be done except to plead with the banana growers to stop growing bananas. They say that the whole problem confronting them at the present time is one of over-production and market gluts. 1. for one, do not accept this to be the standard. I believe that much more has to be done now and in the future than has been done in the past.
Recently the then acting Minister for Trade and Industry, Mr Sinclair, wrote to me. I had taken this matter up with him by way of correspondence pleading with him to do something to obtain export markets for this great national primary industry. The Minister wrote back to me and said that Canada makes substantial imports of bananas but special attention has to be given to packaging. He said that a trial shipment to Canada in 1963 failed because the Australian packaging in wooden crates proved unattractive to Canadian buyers and the fruit deteriorated on the voyage to Canada. A trial shipment of bananas packed in wooden crates was sent from Australia to Canada. The bananas were packed in wooden crates as they would be if they were being sent from Coffs Harbour to Sydney. Because the fruit was packed in that way and because of the length of the voyage it deteriorated. Yet the Government claims that nothing can be done about it. This is negative thinking. Surely the Government should be assisting the people concerned to inquire into suitable packaging arrangements and shipping conditions for a product of this nature. In any event, it is of no use inferring that the only way in which bananas can be exported is by exporting the fruit.
Recently while I was in Coffs Harbor I had a long discussion with a number of growers about their problems. I spoke in particular with a Mr Toscan, a man who has devoted his life to the industry, a man who is very highly respected as a citizen and highly regarded as a banana grower. I have in my hand a copy of the Coffs Harbour ‘Advocate’ of Monday, 1 1th March on the front page of which is a photograph of Mr Toscan showing what he, in his own small way, has been able to do with the humble banana. In front of him can be seen banana liqueurs, banana flavourings, banana jams, banana preserves, banana corn flakes, banana honey and banana cattle feed that he has made, yet the Government says that nothing can be done with the banana other than to export it as a fruit. Honourable senators can see some of the samples in my room.
This is the time when men like Mr Toscan should be sought out and approached by the Government to see whether it is economically feasible to establish canning and manufacturing industries in the banana areas of the north coast of New South Wales, not only to give the banana grower an opportunity to produce byproducts but also to provide employment for the young boys and girls who are now leaving those towns to come to Sydney because they are unable to get work. If honourable senators think there is not a market for by-products both in Australia and overseas, let us have a look at what little Uganda is doing. According to the Sydney Morning Herald’ of 20th August 1965 the traditional drink of Uganda - warag - which is distilled from bananas has been launched on the world market and about fifty-four million bottles of the drink are being consumed throughout the world. In Australia we have men with the knowhow and the capacity to produce byproducts from this fruit but they have been frustrated by the Government in their attempts to get these schemes off the ground. The Government obviously does not want secondary industry in. country areas. It is time the Australian people as a national community were apprised of the facts so that they will realise the frustration to which banana growers are being subjected because of the Government’s inertia.
I could go on for some considerable time on this subject because 1 have an urgent desire to see something done. Obviously the Government has been content to allow the industry to lag in the doldrums and to drift along while it has continued with its lasser faire policy. As a result of its neglect the areas concerned have suffered economically to a considerable degree. Already we have a problem in relation to the dairying industry, a problem that should never have been allowed to reach the stage it has reached. The Government, because of its vacillation, now finds that it has to devote $25m over the next 4 years to assist dairy farmers to diversify their forms of agriculture, if the Government does not act now it will be faced with a similar problem in relation to banana growers within the next 4, 5 or 6 years.
Therefore I urge the Government to take particular heed of my remarks. T demand action on behalf of this section of primary producers. I know the banana growers appreciate the interest that has been taken in their problems by members of the Australian Labor Party, particularly over the last few years. We will continue to pursue our efforts until a satisfactory solution is obtained to the great problems they are encountering.
Now I wish to refer to problems confronting the television industry generally. The television industry and the banana industry may seem to be a considerable distance apart, but they are both important to Australia. As I have constantly reiterated, the television industry has been sadly, indeed wilfully, neglected by the Government. I shall particularly refer to problems confronting the Australian Broadcasting Commission as a result of a policy put into effect by this Government in May 1966 after the Postmaster-General (Mr Hulme) in another place had presented to the Parliament a copy of a report of the Advisory Committee on Educational Television Services, a report which has become commonly known as the Weeden Committee report.
After that Committee had deliberated, investigated and inquired into the problems associated with educational television services in Australia it presented a recommendation along these lines:
Initially educational television should be instituted by using the facilities of existing national and com mercial television stations but there should ultimately be a separate network of educational television stations.
I emphasise the words national and commercial television. After the Government had considered the recommendation the Postmaster-General made a statement to the House of Representatives on 1 1th May 1966 in which he said:
The Government has, therefore, decided that the Australian Broadcasting Commission should continue to present instructional type programmes in association with the State authorities and using the normal, consultative machinery. The use which is at present being made of the Commission^ technical and programme facilities for educational television already represents a substantial Commonwealth investment in this field, and th: Government’s decision will open the way for further development.
This Government has relied completely on the Australian Broadcasting Commission to implement educational programmes and allowed the commercial stations to go their own way. If the Government intends to pursue this policy it certainly must make more funds available to the Commission to enable it effectively to present educational programmes to the Australian younger generation and at the same time enable it to play its part in the production of dramatic and light entertainment programmes which will give employment to Australian artists, actors and writers. Just recently I went through Sydney television programmes for the week 2nd to 8th March 1968. Having dissected the Australian content of the programmes I was surprised to find that the total Australian content, including sporting programmes, on ABC transmissions in that week amounted to 41 hours 53 minutes, of which 20 hours were devoted to school programmes. In other words, because the Government is making the ABC spend on educational programmes the appropriation allocated to it the Commission is unable to play its real part in producing programmes employing Australian artists, writers and actors.
Let us compare its performance with that of the commercial stations. Channel 7 programmes had a total Australian content of 33 hours 36 minutes. Channel 9 - the Packer station - programmes had 45 hours 37 minutes of Australian content. Even Channel .10, which has been suffering severe economic difficulties, had 32 hours of Australian content in its programmes. The ABC, obviously because of insufficient funds being allocated to it by this Government, is nol able to play an effective part in the production and presentation of Australian dramatic and light entertainment programmes. When we look at the light entertainment programmes in Sydney that week we see that the ABC is lagging behind very badly. It had only one - an imported programme - the Dean Martin Show. Channel 7, the ‘Sydney Morning Herald’ station, had two light entertainment programmes, one of which was imported. Channel 9, the Packer station, had six light entertainment programmes, only one of which was imported.
– The Australian Broadcasting Commission used to have a national military band but that was disbanded.
– This is obviously because the Government has failed to provide sufficient funds to enable the ABC to engage in the production of local dramatic and light entertainment programmes. The Government has to do something about it. Locally produced dramatic programmes also are suffering.
In 1967 the ABC had two recognised successes. One was ‘This Day Tonight’ which, I think - with great respect - was a pinch from the British Broadcasting Corporation show ‘Tonight’ and took some 2 years to materialise. Secondly, the ABC had Contrabandits’. I understand that this show owes its success to Mr Eric Taylor, an English producer who managed to isolate his unit during the course of production. The potential of the series having been established, it was taken off because of lack of funds. I understand that it will not be resuming until next May. In 1967 the ABC, in addition to educational programmes for schools produced ‘Australian Playhouse’, ‘Contrabandits’ and ‘Bellbird’. This was its total production in the light entertainment and dramatic field because it was unable to compete with commercial stations as a result of insufficient finance. Money was being diverted to educational pursuits. In view of the great part that the ABC plays in the mass media of this nation the Government should face up to its responsibility. 1 have spoken for much longer than I had intended. I appreciate the attention that the Senate has given my remarks, and I trust the Government will do something about the two industries to which I have referred.
– I am happy to join with other honourable senators who have contributed to this Address-in-Reply debate by expressing my loyalty to our most gracious Sovereign and my thanks to His Excellency the Governor-General for the Speech delivered with a degree of clarity and resonance of voice which I often wish more of our senators could attain. I concur with honourable senators from both sides of the chamber who have congratulated Senator Laucke upon moving the adoption of the Address-in-Reply. In doing so he made his maiden speech in this place, though it was by no means a maiden speech, politically speaking. If I may be forgiven the pun, it was no mean speech. I intend to refer later to at least some of his remarks. I also extend my congratulations to the former Leader of the Government in the Senate, now transferred to another place and to a higher office, and to wish him well in his great responsibilities. To Senator Anderson who has, I believe, the affection and goodwill of senators on both sides of the chamber, I extend my congratulations and assurance of co-operation in what I believe will be his constant endeavour to conduct the leadership of the Senate with proper skill, dignity and decorum. There seem to be a great number of new faces and new positions. I must also extend my congratulations to Senator Scott and Senator Wright in their new responsibilities. To our new Whip I say that I hope his lash does not fall too heavily upon us. I would not like to get into the habit of punning but I hope he has a bit of cottonwool on the end of it.
His Excellency’s Speech paid tribute to our late Prime Minister, Mr Harold Holt. Members of this Parliament shared with the Australian people a great sense of loss, even of shock. I pay my tribute to a great Australian who faithfully performed the tasks that were laid upon him. A great deal of time has been taken up in the Parliament in discussing the possibilities and probabilities of our engagement in Vietnam. Quite rightly, this terrible war occupies the thoughts of the great majority of our people. As many opportunities have been given and will be given to discuss that subject I believe that I should not devote a great deal of lime to it now. lt is a tragic situation. I wish only to express the hope that in the not too distant future we can find a solution which will provide a basis for a settlement that will enable South East Asia generally, and not only Vietnam, to turn its undivided attention to the establishment of peace and economic progress in the region. It should be a settlement that will fully recognise the national aspirations of the ethnic groups involved, and freedom from outside domination. After all, that is what the fighting is about. We must be prepared to pay the price the struggle entails if we are to accord to others the freedoms that we enjoy.
I wish now to turn to the decision outlined in the Governor-General’s Speech to remove the administrative responsibility of the Northern Territory from the Department of Territories and pass it to the Department of the Interior. During my recent visit to the Northern Territory I was accompanied by Senator Lawrie and other members of an Australian Country Party committee. We found that the Territorians everywhere with whom we spoke were strongly in favour of such a move to separate the administration of the Northern Territory from that of the external territories. 1 am pleased that the Government has seen fit to carry out this alteration of responsibility. I shave heard a suggestion, following the decision of the Government to accord to the honourable member for the Northern Territory (Mr Calder) full voting rights, that representation in the Senate should be given to the Northern Territory. I was about to claim that I should have been granted the honorary status of senator for the Northern Territory because over the past 6 years F have spent a great deal of time there in pursuit of my work as a member of the Public Works Committee and in other ways. I have regularly visited the Northern Territory for the last 5 or 6 years, f want to refer to what is happening there. 1 believe that at long last it is on the way to develop its undoubted resources to a stage where full statehood can be achieved. The Northern Territory has been sleeping too long for the good of Australia. Now one senses a new enthusiasm and confidence everywhere there. There seems to me to be a new energy, drive and determination to get things done. The mining industry under the impulse of more efficient and modern prospecting equipment is uncovering great new resources of mineral wealth.
Capital is being found to expand mining operations so that great new resources of iron ore, bauxite, manganese, gold, lead, silver, copper, zinc, bismuth selenium, uranium and other minerals are being produced more efficiently. This is adding up to a great contribution to the future security and prosperity of the Territory and is at the same time gaining wealth for the Australian people. As an agriculturist I have been tremendously impressed by the transformation in the pastoral and farming industry brought about by the successful integration of Townsville lucerne and grain sorghum into the farming system. It parallels in a remarkable way the story of subterranean clover in southern regions, ft is indeed a remarkable parallel and as close an analogy as it is possible to find, except that I can see no disadvantageous effect with Townsville lucerne as there is with subterranean clover. I can see no reason now why the safe pattern of agriculture of the traditional mixed farming practices, so well developed in the south, cannot be applied to the heavy rainfall areas of the north.
I would like to give the Senate some concrete evidence on which my optimism is based. Dr M. J. T. Norman of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, Division of Land Research, in a paper published on 15th November 1967 revealed facts that I am about to cite. I will necessarily abbreviate the report to save time. The first is that 1,300 acres at Katherine carried 600 cattle during the dry season. The Townsville lucerne seed industry is rapidly expanding. Last year 200 tons of it was sufficient to plant 90,000 acres. Present research shows that Townsville lucerne could transform about 60 million acres of grazing land, with the present strains. Agrostologists are confident that variants of Townsville lucerne will be thrown up which will expand the area where it may be grown profitably. On the known area on which the present strains can be grown, twelve million cattle could be carried; that is four-fifths of the present cattle population of Australia. Townsville lucerne has increased beef production twenty-fold at the Katherine experimental station and on other properties in the area.
Land that formerly carried one beast to 1 10 acres is now carrying one beast to 5 acres. It is believed that with an integrated policy of grazing on Townsville lucerne - some rough grazing and some grain sorghum production - a very sound system of agriculture can now be proceeded with.
Of course, possible development is not confined to Townsville lucerne. Many other legumes give definite responses in different environments. As practical experience of commercial farming is gained much more will be learned in the practical application of the experimental results. The decision of the Commonwealth Government to make superphosphate available in the Northern Territory at the Townsville price is enabling development to proceed. The use of superphosphate is doubling each year. 1 believe that it would be desirable for the Government at this stage to consider assisting in the setting up of a superphosphate works in the Northern Territory, rather than to continue the policy of subsidising the use of superphosphate, because in view of the rate at which its use is increasing, it would not be long before such a works was able to produce an output of superphosphate sufficient for its economical production. Thus the need for subsidies would be eliminated. I suggest that in the meantime consideration be given to extending the concession in respect of superphosphate to the northern Kimberleys area where there are agriculturists who would welcome the opportunity to develop their pastoral areas in the same way as people in the Northern Territory are now able to do. I hope that the Commonwealth Government will give favourable consideration to an approach from the Western Australian Government to enable that to be done.
I have mentioned the grain sorghum prospects. We visited the area on Tipperary Station where about 12,000 acres has been planted, lt looked exceedingly well when we saw it. Excellent crops of grain sorghum were to be seen not only on these large scale production areas but also on smaller areas. I hope that in looking at the production of sorghum and other commodities on a large scale the Government will not overlook the opportunity to develop family units on a proper economic basis. The way that the Territory can best be developed is by establishing a population firmly grounded in agriculture. lt is very evident to anyone who visits the north regularly that the work of the Government in various fields is contributing to development. The north is being developed, not by some grandiose, synthetic scheme carried out with great publicity and propaganda, but by a drawing together of known facts concerning thorough and conscientious scientific work in probing and exploring the possibilities and coming up with tested results that will produce a soundly based agricultural situation in the north. I believe that that is the way to develop a country soundly, safely and carefully. We are dealing, not only with a capital investment, but also with people who have hopes and aspirations. They should not be led into any wild development schemes that somebody has dreamed up. I congratulate the Government on the work which has been done over a long period and which has contributed to what I believe is the brightest prospect that the Territory has yet faced.
However the picture has some disturbing elements. While we were there it was recorded that it took 49 days to unload a cargo of cement from a vessel at the Darwin wharf. There were various reasons for that. The weather was bad. But the main reason was that there was an industrial dispute and go slow tactics were employed so that the rate of unloading was 5.5 tons an hour instead of the normal 10.6 tons an hour for a gang of eight men. The resultant loss to the people who brought in the cement was about $50,000. That is not the way to develop the north. It is stupidity of the highest order. It means that building costs in the Territory are increased and people who want houses have to pay more for them. This is a deterrent to development.
There is a great need for improved wharf facilities. If ships are to come to the Northern Territory to take away minerals and grain the harbour facilities will have to be improved and there will have to be a change in the outlook of people employed on the wharf at Darwin. We need to do something quickly about the rail access to Alice Springs. The events of this season have highlighted the need for a change in the location of the line so that it will not be out of action every time it rains. I also believe that administratively there needs to be a gearing up of the means whereby land can be settled. Applicants for farming areas should not have to wait indefinitely for allotments of land. This requires an administrative procedure geared to the progress that is evident. The Territory also has prospects of establishing a wood chip industry which could give employment to a large number of the native population along the coast of Arnhem Land.
These developments are responsible for the growth that we see in the city of Darwin. The rate of growth there is very rapid indeed. In fact, Darwin is one of the fastest growing cities in Australia. Of course, it is not growing as fast as Canberra is. The wharf situation that 1 mentioned is highlighted by the decision to transport copper concentrates from Tennant Creek to Alice Springs by road and then to Port Augusta by rail, instead of through Darwin and over the wharf there, which is the way one would normally expect the products of the Territory to be transported, particularly as the market for (he concentrates is Japan. Instead of going all the way round through Port Augusta, they should be shipped from Darwin.
Perhaps it will be regarded as somewhat strange that I have spent so much time talking about the Northern Territory when my own State of Western Australia is making such a vast contribution to the national welfare by the production of nickel and iron as well as by the greatly increased production of wheat and wool. The recent announcement by Hamersley Iron Pty Ltd that it intends to proceed with a process of producing metalised agglomerates in Western Australia could have a dramatic effect on the economics of the industry. Not only will more local employment be given and not only will it be possible to use steaming coal for the production of iron, but by producing an iron compound consisting of 95% iron the company will put the whole question of shipping freights and the availability of markets throughout the world in a new light. This could be one of the great advances towards the ultimate production of steel in Western Australia and the widening of Australia’s markets throughput the world.
These great developments are evident in Western Australia; so much so that the rate of population growth in the State over the last few years has been virtually double that of any other State. The Western Australian figure is 3.5 per 1,000 compared with 1.69 per 1,000 for the State with the next highest rate of growth. But Western Australia is not achieving these results without strains on its economy. A State with a population of about 800,000 does not achieve this rate of development without great pressures being exerted on its economy. The immediate results and benefits of this development are felt by the federal revenues. Increased exports bring an immediate gain to the Federal Treasurer but no similar advantageous effect is produced on the finances of the State of Western Australia. It is to be hoped that the Commonwealth Grants Commission, when examining the position in this respect, will take into account this lag in benefits while we are paying the cost and bearing the strain of development.
One matter that I should like to mention in connection with this expansion and development in the outer parts of the Commonwealth is the fact that, in both primary and secondary industry, increasingly we see that the cost of housing is expected to be borne by the industries themselves. This is a development that should bc watched closely. If we are sincere in our approach to decentralisation and if we want to give equality to an industry that, perforce, has to develop in the outback, we should not expect that industry to bear the capital cost of housing its employees. The present attitude is one of the factors that have forced development into the city centres, foi an industry that sets up in the outskirts of Melbourne, Sydney or Adelaide, is never expected to bear directly the capital cost of housing its employees. By contrast, in mining ventures and other enterprises outback, a heavy capital load is being placed upon those industries, disadvantaging them by comparison with industries centred on the cities.
At this stage I intend to refer to a matter that was touched upon by Senator Laucke and, I believe, by Senator Sim. This is the proposal to enable graziers and others to buy drought bonds in order to provide a financial reserve in years of good returns against the seeming inevitability of drought. At the moment, of course, our attention is directed to the critical situation in parts of New South Wales and in Victoria and South Australia, and the immediate solution of the problem and prompt alleviation of the drought are of great importance.
Time and time again we run into a drought and we are greatly concerned with relieving the conditions, but we never do anything constructive to enable those directly involved, as well as the economy in general, te cope wilh a drought. The long term project is forgotten in the necessary alleviation of the immediate effects of a drought.
I hope that honourable senators will pardon me for referrring to the fact that in my speech on the Budget on 2nd September 1965, T proposed this drought bond method of making provision against droughts. The idea arose when I was asked to serve on a Country Party committee to examine the effects of the drought at that lime. On 5th July 1965, I circularised a great number of Western Australian pastoralists and among the replies received was one from a portion of which I quoted in my speech here in September 1965. That letter, together with a suggestion made by Mr Ron Thompson of Boyup Brook, formed the basis of my submission. Let me repeat what 1 said:
Surely if the Prime Minister says the Commissioner of Taxation will allow a grazier to buy a reserve of oats to put by, and that that expense will be deductible, it would not put the Commissioner of Taxation in any worse position if instead of buying oats in a period of good income, the grazier put by a similar amount as a financial reserve. I think we need to look at methods such as 1 have outlined to encourage producers to set up a financial reserve that can be used ir. the future.
Subsequently, on 24th March 1966, that distinguished and veteran agriculturalist, Sir Samuel Wadham, published an article in the Age’ strongly supporting the general idea of a financial reserve, which he called a drought reserve account, and elaborating in some detail how the scheme would operate. I have with me a copy of an article by Mr M. Ward and Dr F. H. W. Morley of the Division of Plant Industry in the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, in which they support such a scheme. Let me quote part of the submission that they prepared after careful study of the economics of drought and the method of handling the position. Dealing with finance, their statement reads:
Payment for wheat from the fodder reserve could be worked on a drought bond basis. These bonds could be purchased from the Commonwealth Government at any time, and would bear interest at current short-term rate; they could be assessable for tax in the year of encashment rather than the year of purchase. Bonds would be available for the purchase of both feed and livestock - a feature of value in areas where it is uneconomical to drought feed, and selling and re-buying of stock is a preferable drought strategy. In these areas drought bonds would enable graziers to sell their stock earlier, safe in the knowledge that, in doing so, they would not have to pay most of their forced profit away in taxation.
The capital collected for drought bonds could bc placed into long term investments, and the extra returns above interest paid to graziers could be used to finance the organisation of the scheme; any capital deficit in running costs would have to be made up by the Commonwealth Government. lt is unthinkable that the decision to advance money for drought feeding should be left in the hands of local bank managers, as has happened this year. A clear procedure for rapid availability of short-term finance is required.
I trust that in the present situation the Commonwealth Government will, in the forthcoming Budget, agree to the procedure as outlined. As I have already said, I cannot see any difference in effect upon Commonwealth finances between allowing a credit for purchase of oats and the setting up of an equivalent reserve. Exactly the same object is intended. The setting up of a physical reserve involves a tying up of much capital that will return nothing until it is used - and that could be 8 to 10 years hence. This always necessitates either a continual turnover with cost of freight and inevitable losses, or, alternatively, it involves deterioration of the grain, hay or whatever is stored. It is not flexible like a financial reserve, which allows the grazier to select his pattern or strategy to meet the drought. In the circumstances it may not be sound for him to attempt to feed through a drought. It might be better to dispose of the bulk of his stock and feed his breeding nucleus. I cannot understand why there is any reluctance on the part of the Government to accept this proposal in its entirety.
A great deal of work has been done on this proposal and I see no administrative problem that would block its acceptance. It would give producers generally, whether in the agricultural or pastoral areas, greater hope that through constructive thinking there would be a financial reserve to meet the exigencies of drought. We must accept as a fact that droughts are inevitable. This, however, is not the whole picture. We shall have to implement many strategies before success can be claimed in managing the drought problem. I feel this proposal is one constructive approach to solving the problems of drought. Many more subjects have been raised in the Governor-General’s Speech and honourable senators will no doubt have an opportunity to discuss them when the appropriate legislation is before the Senate.
– I too, wish to join other honourable senators who have congratulated the mover and seconder of the motion before the Senate. 1 add my congratulations to honourable senators who have been elevated to the Ministry of this country, and to Senator Anderson, who has been appointed Leader of the Government in the Senate. T might express the hope that in the near future Senator Anderson will have the honour of becoming Leader of the Opposition in this Senate chamber. Members of Parliament, for the second rime in a little over 12 months, have the opportunity to participate in an Address-in-Reply debate. It is unusual for two of the debates to be held within such a short period. The reason is, of course, that Australia has a new Government under a new leader,
Having had some little time to review this Government’s service in its short period of office, I shall make some observations on its record. First, the so-called new look in government is similar to, in fact almost identical with, the look of the previous Government. The new Government is making the same mistakes as those made by its predecessor. The new Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) is aiding and assisting in a repetition of the kind of errors that were made by the former Government in the spring and autumn sessions of last year, my first year in this Parliament. It is obvious that the radical changes expected from this tall, rugged Australian have not eventuated in this Parliament for the benefit of the Australian people. Many examples can be given to show clearly that the Prime Minister is a man who will say something one day and repudiate it on the following day or a few days later. This has happened not only once but on several occasions during his short term as Prime Minister of Australia.
We had thought that the Prime Minister would do something for the aged and the needy. In one of his first Press releases he emphasised at a Press conference that the aged and needy people in the community were in need of urgent attention. In spite of this there is no reference whatever in the Governor-General’s Speech to immediate assistance for the needy people in our community. Poverty and want are rampant among the aged, the sick, and the widowed. We of the Opposition had looked hopefully to the prospect of a supplementary budget, or at least some Government decision early this year, for the purpose of alleviating this obvious need in the community. People interested in the welfare of needy persons have put very strong reasons to the Government for an immediate increase in all pension rates. Very strong reasons have also been submitted to the Government for an immediate increase in repatriation benefits. There are strong and cogent reasons also for an immediate review by the Government of unemployment benefits for people who are unfortunate enough to be out of work. This low benefit of $8.25 a week would not pay the rent of any home in which an applicant lives.
The Prime Minister’s election proved one thing, and in my view one thing only: That he was the only member of the Liberal Party with the capacity to become Prime Minister of Australia. I believe this is an indictment of Liberal Party members in the House of Representatives. So that the Liberal Party could provide the Prime Minister of this country, tradition had to be broken by choosing a member of the Senate.
– It was a great honour for the Senate.
– But it was unprecedented in the history of the nation. It is an indictment of the Liberal Party that it was unable to find a Leader in the House of Representatives after the unfortunate death of the former Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt). In spite of the new Prime Minister’s election, we find that the same old system of backing and filling is going on continually. The Prime Minister, having been blooded in the battle in the House of Representatives last week, has emerged from his first skirmish rather wounded, not only in the eyes of his colleagues and members of the Opposition but also in the opinion of the majority of newspapers in Australia. Let me quote from one newspaper, ‘The Sydney Morning Herald’, which carried these- headlines in relation to the Prime Minister’s speech on the torture incident in Vietnam: ‘Mr Gorton’s ordeal by
Water. The PM: Noisy, histrionic, ironic, in torture debate.’ The article reads:
Mr Gorton’s first real performance in the House of Representatives was noisy, histrionic and heavy with irony. Like the celebrated interrogator in Nui Dat, he raised his voice, he banged the table and he shouted. It looked for a while as if the entire Government ranks were trying to intimidate the Opposition with threats of violence.
That is not a very good reaction to the first major speech made by our Prime Minister after his election to office. In fact it is very disappointing, and I feel it must be very disillusioning to the people who launched that magnificent and costly public relations campaign to create for the new Prime Minister an image of strength and determination, and above all, of a man who would keep his word. There were many obviously inspired leaks to the Press that he would be the new strong man in the Government who would see that much of the dead wood was cut out of the Ministry. The leaks to the Australian Press suggested that at least six changes would be made to the Ministry but the final decision was to remove only two Ministers. There were only two new faces in the Cabinet.
The Prime Minister found out very quickly that he would not have as much say as he thought in appointing the new Cabinet. Obviously the Leader of the Country Party, Mr McEwen, told him clearly, early in the piece, that he would brook no interference whatever with Country Party members already in the Ministry. We find that we are still saddled with Ministers who many members of Parliament believe are incompetent in their portfolios. The rift between the Liberal Party and the Country Party is far more serious than many people may be led to believe. We have had a recent indication of the rift between members of the Cabinet. I would like to quote an extract from the Melbourne ‘Sun’. Its Canberra bureau recently reported that the clash between the Prime Minister and Mr McEwen is off. This hypothetical heavyweight political championship was to have taken place at Warrnambool in the western districts of Victoria. I understand, from the Press clipping, that it was to have been held on Monday night when both leaders were to speak in the campaign now being waged for the Western Province seat in that State. The article states:
The Prime Minister, Mr Gorton, has suddenly found it might be ‘inconvenient’ to attend the opening of the Libera] campaign for the Western Province by-election in Warrnambool on Monday night.
The Deputy Prime Minister and Country Party Leader, Mr McEwen, is also finding difficulty in fitting the by-election into this timetable.
This forestalls a predicted test of strength between the two Federal leaders for the Western Province seat.
So the championship bout will be deferred until another time. Since the new Ministry was appointed there have been many conflicts within it. It is quite obvious that there was a conflict in relation to the matter debated in this chamber yesterday, because three different decisions were taken within a week, lt seems to me that this type of conflict will exist for many months to come. The Cabinet and the Ministry, we thought, would give strength to this country. The great revision that we believed the Prime Minister wished to initate will have to wait for another day. Pressure from sources within and without the Government Parties and from within and without the Cabinet is too strong. The great revolution will have to wait for many days to come. The Deputy Prime Minister had made it clear that he v/ould be the man to select the Cabinet Ministers. He was told very quickly that this would not be permitted because th« old State jealousies entered the picture. He was told that men would be selected not on their ability but on the basis that the State representation would have to continue.
The early disappointment that we suffered on the election of Mr Gorton as Prime Minister was completely vindicated by the Governor-General’s Speech.- We had been promised immediate attention to many things. We believed that the Minister for External Territories (Mr Barnes) would no longer hold such a portfolio because it is well known in Australia and in the Territories that there is great dissatisfaction with the manner in which he has handled his portfolio. He has been mildly rebuked by having part of his portfolio taken from him. We hope that he will improve now that he has less work to do and we hope that in time he will be able to concentrate on creating in Papua and New Guinea a situation in which self government can be smoothly initiated if and when that country becomes self governing.
In this House in the last few weeks of the spring session a very important matter was debated. It was raised by Senator Dorothy Tangney and was in relation to equal pay. We find that there has been a complete repudiation of everything that was said by honourable senators on the Government side of the chamber in that debate. If I remember correctly, the debate occupied most of the afternoon. We on this side stressed that the Government should legislate for equal pay within the Public Service. Many honourable senators opposite said that that was not the right way to introduce legislation of this kind. They also said that it was the policy of the Liberal Party that equal pay be introduced. I produced a document showing the Liberal Party’s policy and stating clearly and unequivocally that equal pay is Liberal Party policy. The thing that concerns me most about this question is that each and every speaker on the opposite side of the chamber stated that the way to obtain equal pay was through the wages tribunals of the country and that this was the only method with which the Government would agree. Indeed Senator Gorton, as he was then, suggested on a number of occasions in his speech that this should be done and that it was the way to obtain equal pay. I presume that the people in the trade union movement who represent the employees in Commonwealth hostels throughout the nation, after reading the speeches and ascertaining the attitude of the Government, said: ‘We will do just this; we will make an application for equal pay for the employees in this industry.’ That application was made and on approximately 18th January this year an award was made giving equal pay for the sexes within this industry. The award, made by a conciliation commissioner, provided for equal pay to be phased over a period of approximately 18 months, in accordance with the declared policy of Government speakers. Approximately a fortnight after that award was made, the Commonwealth Government appealed against the decision and had the award set aside. The statements made in this chamber - and I want to read some of them, particularly two statements made by Senator Gorton - have been repudiated by the Government, lt was on the basis of the statements made in October that the union applied and the award was made, but the reasons for making the award were incorrect and the award that had been won before the tribunal has been set aside. In the debate on 18th October last Senator Gorton said:
Thai brings us to the situation of using the usual wage fixing processes in operation in a country to endeavour to attain the principle which the Commonwealth Government voted for and endorsed.
At this stage the honourable senator was referring to the International Labour Organisation. He continued:
What is the usual way in which wage fixing processes in this country occur? The usual way in which these things occur is by an application to a conciliation or arbitration commissioner.
That method was adopted by the trade union representatives of the employees in Commonwealth hostels. The honourable senator went on to say:
I believe that the Treasurer (Mr McMahon), when he was Minister for Labour and National Service, stated on behalf of the Government that if a case such as this were brought before the Arbitration Commission by the Australian Council of Trade Unions or some other responsible body the Commonwealth Government would not oppose it in principle. So what is there to prevent the proper utilisation of the wage fixing machinery by the people who are so interested - and properly interested - in this matter?
That occasion was the first breakthrough in this very important matter in which we on this side of the chamber believe and in which honourable senators opposite also believe. That belief has been prevented from implementation by virtue of the fact that the Commonwealth Government intervened and appealed against the decision. The award has been set aside. This is another example of backing and filling and repudiation of matters that come before the Senate. Many honourable senators - I have a list of them - on the opposite side spoke piously in praise of the idea of equal pay. They said we must go to the tribunals and have this fixed. Yet, on the very first occasion when a tribunal gives such a decision we find the benefit taken completely away from the people. I believe that we could well find ourselves completely isolated in Vietnam because another decision on which to back and fill and to repudiate will be needed after the next presidential elections in the United States of America.
Whether President Johnson wins or loses the democratic nomination, it is my firm belief that he is going to be defeated in the ultimate ballot. What is our position going to be then? Are we still going to be determined to leave our 8,000 or 9,000 troops in Vietnam? Or are we going to repudiate what the people on the other side of the Senate have been saying for so long in relation to this conflict? If this attitude continues with relation to Vietnam, we could well find ourselves in the position of being the only foreign troops left in that country. It appears to me from all reports that are emanating from the United States of America that the American people have now had their fill of this particular conflict. But President Johnson in his state of the union address did not seem to think so because one of the things he said was that the enemy had been defeated in battle after battle and that the number of South Vietnamese living in areas under government protection had grown by more than 1 million since January of last year. Yet, immediately after his saying that the battle was being won and that these great victories had been achieved in Vietnam, we find General Westmoreland asking for an additional 250,000 troops - an additional 250,000 troops m a country where we are winning the battle.
Then we have still later evidence from a very respected reporter who goes to South East Asia very frequently, a man whom no one could ever accuse of being on our side of the fence in these matters. I refer to Mr Denis Warner who wrote an article in the issue of the Melbourne ‘Herald’ published on Monday night of this week. In that article he said this about the battles which are being won in Vietnam at the present time:
Although allied forces, in terms of casualties suffered and inflicted, have won every battle since the Vietcong launched the Tet offensive, they have everywhere been forced back into defence postures. Roads I used to drive along only a few years ago are not only unsafe - some have disappeared. The country’ has become a series of American and allied islands dotted on a Vietcong and North Vietnamese sea. Even most provincial capitals cannot be regarded as secure. Pacification in the sense of providing security for villages and hamlets is dead. A figure of 5% of the total area under control both by day and night is at best only a guess but it may help to give some idea of the effect of the Tet offensive.
In other words, only 5% of South Vietnam is under the control of the allies in this war which President Johnson has been saying so quickly and so clearly that we are going to win.
I do not want to delay the Senate much longer on these matters. I feel that we as a nation have to have some independent thought in relation to our foreign policy and we have to have some independent thought in relation to what we ourselves would do if we could get to the peace table in Vietnam. It is quite obvious to me that if the American people decide as I think they will we should have some policy to implement immediately the war is over in Vietnam. We should have a policy which will be satisfactory to this nation, and a policy which will bring our soldiers home and not leave them in a country at the mercy of a vengeful people who have had war on their hands for 100 years.
We have a great task before us in this Parliament in the next 12 months not only in looking after the people who live in this country, the people who are needy, the people who are sick and the people who are widowed, but also in seeing that the decisions we make as a Parliament are in the interests of Australia generally in the areas close to us. I do not want to see the day - although I believe we have gone a long way towards it - when we will have the enmity of most of the Asian nations of the world, and enmity that we will have created by virtue of our intervention in the Vietnam war at this time. This is an enmity that will live through the ages if we do not take some positive action in our own right to end this war and get these people to the peace table. If we can do these things in this Parliament we will create for this nation a great future and a great friendliness with our near neighbours, a friendliness that will lead to markets with those countries for the things that we produce and it will be a job well done.
– On this occasion when we are discussing the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply we, the Commonwealth Senate, reaffirm our loyalty to Her Majesty the Queen, and in the process of doing so we remind ourselves of our long tradition as we remind ourselves of our allegiance. At the outset, 1 should like to congratulate my colleague Senator Laucke on his maiden speech and to thank him for it. It was a very impressive and illuminating effort. We are very glad to have him wilh us. His wealth of business experience will be invaluable to us as the years pass.
I have pleasure in congratulating our new senator, Senator Greenwood, from Victoria. We listened last night to a most lucid exposition from him of the constitutional position with relation to appeals to the Privy Council, an exposition which I think made the question come alive for all of us. I say to him that it is not always that a legal gentleman is able to make legal history and legal facts come alive to a layman. I thank him for that and again congratulate him.
As I have said, this is the time when we express our loyalty to the Queen. Above all, this is the time when we are reminded of our overall allegiance and pur common heritage and that we are members of a great Commonwealth of nations around the world, lt is fairly easy today to deride this Commonwealth of nations and say that it is falling apart, that it no longer means anything and that we ought to forget, all about it. This is the current view held by some people. I do not hold this view. I think the Commonwealth is going through a period of change. As a Commonwealth, it has been through a period of change on many occasions in past history. We should all remember what that Commonwealth and what Britain herself have given to the world in leadership, in tradition, in good behaviour, in a good public service and in a sense of fair legal cover for the peoples of all countries.
If honourable senators are fair about this, they will remind themselves of the words Senator Cormack used when he reminded us of the cost of all this to Great Britain and to her people. It is fashionable for us to say at times that they have done quite well out of the Commonwealth. Have they, really? Are those who say that quite sure that Great Britain and her people have done quite well out of it? Are they quite sure that that country has not given more to the world than it has ever taken from it? My own feeling is that the Commonwealth has yet to live its greatest days. I hope 1 am correct and 1 shall work towards that end.
When Senator Cormack spoke, he reminded us, with his great sense of erudition and his great powers of expression that we were looking at a repetition of history, a change of empire, an alteration of time, as happened in the old days when the Roman legions went home to Rome. We all remember the chaos that took place after that orderly group of people went back to Rome. The same thing is happening now. The legions are going back. They have to go back, and we should not forget what we owe to them and what they have done for us. My understanding of what Senator Cormack put to us was that we had now to develop a new sense of both lime and place. I said this morning, and I do not mind how often I repeat it, that this country is facing a greater independence, a greater responsibility, certainly greater dangers, than before but we are also faeing greater opportunities. This is the time for greatness; this is the time for us to be a better people, a stronger people, a more responsible people. This is the time for us to take up part of the burden that others before us have carried. I am reminded of: the words of General McArthur: There is no security, there is only opportunity’. That is what we in Australia should realise. Our security rests in us, as a people, making the very most of our opportunities. If we do not do so we are not really entitled to lay claim on other people to look after us.
Let us think about the place we occupy. First of all, we are a Western country by tradition, by culture and by race. That is an inescapable fact of our history. We need to have due regard to our size. We arc not a large group of people and we live in a part of the world where there are tremendous numbers of people. The rate of population growth in Australia is such that the present level of disparity is likely to remain. We will not have a population which will allow us, by sheer size, to rise in status with other countries.. We are living in a part of the world where two-thirds of the world’s people exist, and our .relative size will remain much the same.
Although a Western people,, we arc not part of Asia. Geographically we are an island continent but we are placed in the area of Asia, in the area of the Pacific Ocean and, as we now have cause to remind ourselves, in the area of the Indian Ocean. The Indian Ocean recently has become fairly vacant territory strategically and this imposes huge obligations on us as Australians to think out our position. There has been a substantial withdrawal of British presence in the Indian Ocean area, lt was the British presence that very largely guaranteed our security on the western edge of its strategic perimeter. That situation has changed. As Senator Cormack said, the legions are going back to Rome. The vacuum exists.
We are not so placed in size to pick up that burden but we must be conscious of the fact that the problems of the area will concern us greatly. Our strategic balance will change because of it. Who will pick up the burden of strategic influence in the Indian Ocean? Will it be the United States of America? One gets no impression from one’s reading, which is the only source of information available, that that will be the case. Will the countries of the region surrounding the Indian Ocean form some common arrangement to take care of their common security and threats? That has not yet been shown to be the case. Ft may happen; we do not know. We should be looking at that kind of thing. If it does happen no doubt we will take our place in the discussion because, above all things, bear in mind that we are a people well regarded and welcomed amongst those who want to form associations of countries. We are a welcome partner. Our reputation is good for a variety of reasons, not the least being that we are known as people who keep their word on obligations undertaken.
There is the contemplative possibility that India and Russia may form some association to exercise a greater degree of authority and control in the Indian Ocean. This must be in the mind of all Australians interested in the survival, growth and future of their country. What will this lead to? Will it happen? I do not know. On a recent visit that I took last year by courtesy of this chamber some of these general matters were under discussion in India and Moscow and one could see the beginning of a line of association between India and Russia that may lead in this direction. We cannot say any more. We must not forget that Russian influence has been growing in India and Pakistan, particularly because they regard Russia as the country which by means of the Tashkent Conference brought about a cessation of fighting between them over Kashmir. Russian influence in Indian and Pakistani affairs certainly appears to be growing and that will have an effect on the Indian Ocean position.
On the other hand, we will have our friends and associates as we have now, particularly throughout South East Asia, and the number will grow because they regard us as good friends. We have our friends in India. That country has a very high opinion of Australia. What we have done for India without any strings attached is very much appreciated. The Indians regard themselves as being part of early Australian history. They are prepared to show us the records of association between India and Australia in the first stage of settlement. There is a strong bond between India and its Parliament and the Australian people and their Parliament. As time goes on we are building new links in the African continent, a vast continent which is subject to great change and flux but which contains a large body of people who one day, we hope, will be able to enjoy a better set of conditions and become part of the world in which we live. They will be a dominating influential force on Indian Ocean politics and strategic problems in the future.
That seems to me to be our place, a place of change, of strengthening existing associations, of being a good partner and a good friend, of recognising one’s size and of being prepared to form new associations where they are shown to be useful to us; where we are shown to be wanted, where we are shown to be able to make a contribution of something that will fit our philosophy and way of life and the kind of things we believe in and for which we work.
It has been said in the last six months or so that Australia could have a most decisive effect on areas in the Indo-China peninsula where she could use her influence on the United States. That is an interesting proposition but I rather wonder about its real validity. Australian forces in South Vietnam would represent not much more than about 1 % of the people involved in defending the freedom of that country having regard to the American, South Korean, Thai and Filippino forces, together with the forces of the Republic of South Vietnam, which are fighting in that country.
Having been there, Jet me say a word about the people of South Vietnam who are doing a very large share of their own fighting. They have the greatest number of men under arms but no-one seems to take into account that they are fighting for their own country. They have done so for a long time and will continue to do so. They do not propose to give up. Of course Australia and the United States are doing their bit but make no mistake, the people of South Vietnam are fighting to save their country and their way of life as much as is anyone else, perhaps more so.
I wonder what real influence Australia, good and all as we might think we are, could have on the politics and strategic considerations of the United States of America. As Senator Cormack said, we should remind ourselves of our size and what we really can do. What influence could a country have which is providing about 1 % of the forces operating in the war? I point out that our contribution is greatly valued. We should think of our influence in real terms. We are in no position to suggest, dictate or indicate great changes of policy that will affect people far more than they will affect us. We have great interest but the present situation also protects us. What are we really able to do to protect the United States against trouble?
By convention, the Address-in-Reply debate covers a wide field. The nature of the Governor-General’s Speech gives us an opportunity to range widely in our discussion, a chance that is not given very often in a parliamentary sitting or in the life of a member of Parliament. Let us look at our own situation. Australia has taken up a rather new position which confers great responsibility on it. It really has to consider several questions. What are its needs? What does it want to do? What is its ability to do those things? What are its means? The great argument that should be going on all the time in Australia is the argument of needs and means. What do we want to do and what will we use to do it? When we look at our situation of needs we talk about a number of things. All of us have different views about order of importance and priority. Many of us will be most concerned with the need for development. This will seem to some of us to be the need that has the greatest call upon our overall resources. There are those who will say that increased living standards should be obtained at the highest possible rate. In effect, they want to have the best possible life and they want it now. This is not always possible. We cannot avoid the obligations that defence places upon us. This effort must be sustained and financed and it makes demands upon our resources. Through all of this we remember the old problem of how to sustain growth and maintain full employment at the same time as restraining inflation which can, if running unchecked, destroy our broad aims. We must walch all the time how things develop and consider how much we can do, how effectively we can do it, how we can get living standards to the highest possible level and keep them there, and how we can defend our country.
How do we do this without putting on our economy such a strain as to inflate the currency, destroy the real worth of work and saving and defeat our own ends. We want a balance in our judgment of priorities and in our consideration of the things that the country should do. This is a judgment properly made by parliamentarians. One of the important jobs we have is to consider these needs in relation to development, living standards, social security and defence, and make a balanced judgment amongst them. Then we can sensibly proceed as a country, bearing in mind all the time that inflation is something that tends to run as a sort of partner with growth and full employment. What I argue for is a sense of balance, a sense of judgment of priorities, and a realisation that we need some time to bring our great developmental projects into productivity. There have been large investments in mineral resources and there is a possibility of self-sufficiency in oil and perhaps in other things. There are big capital investments which are yet to pay off. They will pay off one day and when they do pay off they will be substantially important to the Australian economy and community. They will add to growth, development and living standards - because they will generate their own secondary development - and they will add to defence. We are undertaking a great programme of infra-structure development which will, probably 5 years from now, lead to Australia having a new surge of growth. We are building a new takeoff point. We passed a takeoff point in the economy some years ago and we are now building a new one, which will generate some years hence a substantial advance in this country, which will become one of the fortunate countries of the world. That is why we must do something to make sure that wc keep it.
The Governor-General’s Speech states that it is proposed that the dairy industry be subject to some form of rationalisation, financial assistance and transfer opportunity; that is the best phrase that I can discover to describe it. Nobody wants to make people do anything, lt is realised that in the present growth of the dairy industry there are problems of size, there are certain levels of farms which will take only certain levels of cows, and the people on these farms can never have any more than poverty and subsistence. The Government has said it will make funds available for these people to be bought out, to take a new occupation or to join in a bigger operation. This is designed to give the dairy industry and the people hope for the future. We hear talk about poverty and distress. This upsets any of us. There are people in the dairy industry who understand the meaning of poverty in its real sense and it would be a good thing if they were to be encouraged. I think that there will be great national merit in an ultimate shrinking of employment in the dairy industry, quite voluntarily, in a way that offers people in the industry a chance to have a better life. In the end this will be better for Australia because a lot of the land concerned will revert to forestry. It will be capable of sustaining a better volume of production and a better national development. Perhaps it could even lead to an expansion of industry where this does not now take place.
We have another consideration when we are talking about needs and the means by which to achieve these ends. What are our resources? We have recently seen very substantial pressure on currencies, first on United Kingdom sterling currency and lately on American dollars, lt is important to bear two things in mind. For many years both of these countries ran balance of payments deficits. They are the reserve currencies of the world, which permits t’hem in effect to run deficit balance of payments accounts. They have used those deficits to take up substantial activities in other parts of the world which find their industries being gradually bought out. These countries object to their own money being used to buy themselves out, if 1 may over-simplify the position. This is one of the main reasons why there has been resistance to a continuation of balance of payments deficits in the United Kingdom and United States of America. This is why there has been pressure and people have been insisting that these things be brought into balance. This is not a case of people having a shot at other people. It is not really international fratricidal warfare. It is just monetary reality, in which some people live well beyond their means and others do not.
Honourable senators will remember the Keynesian view expressed in the Bretton Woods monetary agreement about the need to try to get an international monetary currency in real terms after the First World War. It was pointed out that we had to come to the stage of having an international currency which the world supported as far as possible. This is closely related to reserve assets in the International Monetary Fund. It is important from our point of view for the nation to be in good standing, as we are with the International Monetary Fund, because as the United Kingdom and United States of America bring balance of payments accounts back into balance the International Monetary Fund will become stronger and we will in the end find international finance which will tend to be in the form of International Monetary Fund reserve asset currency rather than the currency of the United Kingdom and the United States of America. We are moving to a stage where we may have international currency, not the reserve currency of a country singularly well placed at a point of time for exercising monetary power. This will in the end be good for the whole world and for ourselves, and it will not be without problems. The thing I am concerned about is to make sure that the standing of Australia is high in the International Monetary Fund, and I can tell honourable senators that it is high. They may not know that our Treasurer (Mr McMahon), because of the reputation of this country, was chosen at the last International Monetary Fund meeting, in Rio de Janeiro last year, to give the leading address on world monetary problems. This is a singular tribute to a country as small as ours.
This is an important matter to us. The United Kingdom Budget which was recently brought down clearly demonstrates the pressure throughout the world on the United Kingdom to bring its accounts into a balanced form. We will find a similar situation in the United States of America, because there is now international insistence that these two reserve currency countries which have been running big deficits on their accounts should bring them into balance, and bringing them into balance must call for internal disciplines. We have seen the first of this in the United Kingdom Budget. How does this affect us? It must affect us, as we see when we examine the situation critically. A country that has been running a deficit has to stop and get itself into balance. It has to export more and import less. We know our relations with the United Kingdom and this must affect us in some degree. The United States is better placed because its own internal economy is so tremendous that the percentage of its production passing into world trade is so slight that it can make this adjustment relatively simply. The United Kingdom Government does not find it easy to do so.
So we are affected in the sense that a contraction in order to bring about a balance in the United Kingdom will have an effect on our trade with the United King dom; it must. A contraction in the United States will have a much lesser effect because of that country’s great internal strength and because the percentage of its production passing into world trade is so small. We will be living in a new world strategically as well as in a new monetary world. In the situation of a new economic world we will be looking for changes in our trade patterns. We will be looking for new economic friends and new supplies of money for investment in this country. As I still have quite a lot of territory to cover 1 would seek leave to continue my remarks at a later stage.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Voting in Division
– I wish to inform the Senate that earlier in the sitting, the Senate divided on an amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Murphy) to a motion relating to precedence of Government and General Business. I declared the result 24 Ayes and 23 Noes. It was subsequently reported to me that an error had been made concerning honourable senators voting in the division. I have, therefore, corrected the division lists. The final result remains as declared, namely, 24 Ayes and 23 Noes.
Senate adjourned at 4.37 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 21 March 1968, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1968/19680321_senate_26_s37/>.