27th Parliament · 2nd Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Senator CANT presented from 193 citizens of the State of Western Australia a petition showing that the national economy until very recent times has relied principally on the rural industries for export income and these industries have responded and attained a high degree of efficiency and productivity. Attention is directed to the parlous conditions now confronting the rural and agricultural community.
The petitioners request that immediate action be taken within the Constitution to use national resources (a) for immediate relief of those in distress; (b) to stabilise these industries and preserve a security of tenure to the land holders; and (c) to ensure that these situations will not be allowed to occur again.
The petitioners pray that the Senate will give earnest consideration to this most vital matter.
Petition received and read.
Senator MCCLELLAND presented from 30 electors of the Divisions of Grayndler, Lowe and Wentworth a petition showing that in the national interest, it is essential that there be an effective and respected Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration system; that the decision given by the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission in the professional engineers’ case on 3rd December 1969. which has followed to the letter in both magnitude and date of operation the salary increases for engineers employed in the Commonwealth Public Service which were announced before the arbitration hearing had concluded, has given rise to utter dismay and has indicated a lack of independent assessment; that recent statements made at the Australian Workers Union Conference and by the President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions have indicated disillusionment with the federal arbitration system and have particularly referred to the professional engineers’ case; that an unacceptable arbitration system must inevitably lead to industrial unrest throughtout Australia.
The petitioners pray that the Australian Government take positive action as soon as possible to re-establish confidence in the Commonwealth arbitration system.
Petition received and read.
– 1 give notice that tomorrow I intend to move:
That in accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1969 the following proposed work be referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works for investigation and report:
The Construction of Mail Exchange Build ing, Adelaide, South Australia.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation. Is it correct that upon the introduction of a requirement in the New Zealand Repatriation Act, that the reasons for rejection of a claim for repatriation benefit be given to the claimant exserviceman or his beneficiary, the level of rejections dropped from 40% to 1%? Does this not raise the very strong probability that a high proportion of current claims now being rejected in Australia would be accepted if a similar provision were included in the Australian Repatriation Act? Will the Australian Government demonstrate its bona fides in matters of repatriation by introducing a similar provision in our Repatriation Act, thereby demonstrating a maximum desire to compensate ex-servicemen who are suffering from disabilities for which at the present time they can get neither help nor recognition?
– I would have to refer the matter raised by the honourable senator to the Minister for Repatriation. I shall do so, and I suggest that at the same time the honourable senator put the question on the notice paper.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport a question. What is the prospect of Walkers Ltd., Maryborough, Queensland, getting a contract for its shipyards to build another vessel when the current contract to build a dredge is completed?
– 1 do not think that 1 could be expected to know the answer to that question. I should imagine that Walkers Ltd, like every other shipbuilding firm, would be tendering for work as it came up. But I shall make inquiries about the state of the tender market for ships and see whether 1 can find out anything for the honourable senator.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Civil Aviation. Has Don McGregor’s Safaris, or any other company or organisation, conducted hunting safaris in the Northern Territory in which helicopters have been used from which animals have been hunted and shot? If so, will the Minister consider suspending or cancelling licences of operators who use -aircraft for this purpose?
– I think that this question arises out of an answer given by me yesterday to a question on notice by Senator Poyser. 1 think that 1 ought to make further inquiries to find out what I can about this matter, lt is evident that Senator Poyser is not entirely satisfied in his mind. I try to treat questions as a serious search for information. Accordingly, I would not want to answer this question without further reference and inquiry, which I shall undertake to make.
– Do you want me to put the question on the notice paper?
– My question is directed to the Minister for HousingYesterday I asked the Minister a question about the availability of war service homes loans in the Australian Capital TerritoryHas the Minister been successful in obtaining the information required?
– Yes, I have information in reply to the honorable senator’s question concerning war service homes loans in the Australian
Capital Territory. War service homes loans to build homes in the Australian Capital Territory are available without delay. The last loan made available in respect of an existing property was granted on 5th May and it is expected that several more such loans will be made available during the present month. However, it has been necessary to defer some existing properly applications because funds will not be available to deal with these applications during the present financial year. Finance in respect of these applications will be available early in July.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service. By way of preface I refer to the answer given to me by the Minister on 9th April in relation to moves to improve aspects of workers’ compensation legislation so far as overseas dependants of migrants in the States of Queensland, New South Wales and Western Australia are concerned. The Minister used the words ‘action is in train’, following a meeting of the Departments of Labour Advisory Committee. Since, on 22nd April, the Queensland Treasurer, Mr Chalk, in a letter to the President of the Queensland Trades and Labour Council, John Egerton, merely referred to this matter being considered when the Queensland Compensation Act was being reviewed, does the Minister really believe that in the light of this kind of response the States are really imbued with a sense of urgency in reforming the compensation laws referred to?
– The honourable senator will know, having referred to Mr Chalk’s letter of 22nd April, that the Queensland Government has decided that when the compensation legislation of that State is next reviewed an amendment will be included to give effect to what the honourable senator referred to. I say, without hesitation, that anybody having that advice from Mr Chalk would have the utmost confidence that the provision will be implemented according to the urgency of the matter. On the last occasion that the honourable senator inquired about the matter I told him that only that day officers of the Department of Labour and National Service had had consultations with officers of the relevant State departments and that this matter was being considered then. I shall give an indication of the weight that is being given to the matter in the States where this provision does not apply: Western Australia, being one of those States, has already introduced legislation including this provision.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Education and Science. Knowing the Minister’s willingness to encourage conciliation and arbitration in the settlement of differences of opinion between persons, I ask: Will the Minister whose knowledge and support of the state aid for education policy are well known, use his best efforts to settle the cleavage of pre-Victorian State election opinion said to exist between our Victorian senatorial colleagues, Senators Brown and Poyser, on the question of state aid?
– I am highly complimented in that my colleague attributes to me a tendency to invoke arbitration. In this case I am satisfied to invoke not the judgment of a tribunal but the judgment of the Victorian electors.
– I ask a question of the Minister for Works. Is the Weapons Research Establishment of the Department of Supply taking over most of the functions at present performed by the Department of Works at Woomera, South Australia, including minor new works, repairs and maintenance work? Is this transfer of work to take place in June of this year? Will this transfer of work result in dismissals or the offer of employment at lesser rates of pay and under less favourable conditions to present employees of the Department of Works at Woomera?
– Consideration has been given by the Department of Supply and the Department of Works to the matter to which the honourable senator referred. In the interests of economy, it is proposed that minor capital works, repairs and maintenance be undertaken by appropriate personnel of the Department of Supply. I have no doubt that the Department of Works is making proper provision for the adjustment of Works personnel whose duties will be taken over.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Works or the Minister for Civil Aviation, whoever is the appropriate Minister. Whilst complimenting both Ministers on the overall appearance of the new overseas terminal at Mascot, 1 ask whether it is true that the main transformer for the ventilation and air conditioning of the new airport terminal blew up in the past few weeks. Is it true that no transformer was available from any other government department and that a new transformer had to be borrowed from Imperial Chemical Industries of Australia and New Zealand Ltd? Is it not a grave indictment of the design of the system for such an important undertaking when one single unit only is installed instead of a dual system? Can the Minister explain how the system will be maintained when repairs and maintenance are being carried out in the future?
– lt is a fact that an emergency occurred in regard to one of the transformers installed in the new international terminal at Mascot. The terminal, I take leave to say, has attracted great praise from everybody who has given consideration to it. That the honourable senator should impute some culpability to the Department because an emergency developed like that is, I think, completely below the level of a proper estimation of public responsibility. I think that the Department is to be complimented because in that emergency it was able to arrange the temporary installation of another transformer that enabled the operation of the airport without delay to or dislocation of services, and to me it was a remarkable performance.
– I ask a further question of the Minister for Works. Do day labourers employed by the Department of Works at Woomera who are resident in single men’s quarters pay S6.50 per week for accommodation and messing? Do Department of Supply employees pay $9 for equivalent accommodation and messing? Do employees of the Department of Works who occupy single quarters receive an area allowance of $7.30 per week? Do
Department of Supply employees occupying single quarters receive an allowance of only $3.07 a week if single and $5.37 if married? Is the transfer of work to which I referred being made to reduce the area allowance and accommodation allowance awarded to these men?
– I shall be pleased to have a look at the detailed statistics to which whichthe honourable senator has referred and get him information as early as possible.
– Yesterday Senator Keeffe asked the Deputy President:
Is it a fact that staff members employed in and around Parliament House have been forbidden directly or indirectly to wear Vietnam Moratorium badges or to participate in Moratorium activities?
I have made inquiries and can now assure the honourable senator that the answer to his question is no.
– My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate.
– Senator Murphy has taken his badge off.
– Mr President, to answer that interjection may I assure the Leader of the Government in the Senate that my badge was given to the Minister for External Affairs. So the honourable senator should not make such foolish observations. That was just a little personal matter but the honourable senator, having been personal, has the appropriate answer. That is where my badge is. Will the Leader of the Government assure the Senate that no Australians are engaged with United States or South Vietnamese troops in the invasion of Cambodia?
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is to be found in the Prime Minister’s statement that was put down in the House of Representatives last night.
– Would you assure us?
– You need no more assurance than you get from the Prime Minister of Australia.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for National Development. If it is a fact that Esso-BHP has contracted to sell quantities of liquid petroleum gas overseas and that the price of that gas has not been revealed can the Minister say what method will be used to calculate the royalties to be paid on the gas produced?
– It will be necessary for me to direct that question to the Minister for National Development; but I think that in doing so I will suggest to him that in the Senate, and particularly in Senator Cant, there is a body of expert knowledge on this subject which might be of great help to him.
– Can the Minister inform the Parliament which Commonwealth department was responsible for catering arrangements for functions attended by the Royal Family during their visit to Canberra? Is it a fact that ail food, liquor and additional staff for the functions at Government House and Parliament House were airlifted from Sydney and Melbourne? Why were local catering firms and casual chefs overlooked when both functions were being arranged?
– I will seekthe information for which the honourable senator has asked.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Treasurer. Is it a fact that the average amount of deposits in the Commonwealth Savings Bank is approximately $500? Is it a fact that the interest rate payable on savings bank deposits of less than $4,000 is still 3.75%? Are the interest rates on loans for homes from savings bank deposits being increased to 6.25% and 6.75%? Will savings bank deposits that do not attract the increased savings bank deposit rate of interest be lent at the increased loan rate of interest?
– The whole of the honourable senator’s question is based on the first part of it in which he asks: Is it a fact that the average amount in savings bank accounts is of the order of $500? I do not know whether that is true or false. In saying that, 1 am not suggesting that Senator Cant would give information that he did not believe to be true. In view of the fact that the whole of the question is based on the request for that piece of information, 1 think the proper thing to do is to put it on the notice paper, and then we will send it to the Treasury and subsequently give a reply to it. Yesterday I gave Senator Cant a reply which gave some of the information that he is using by way of question today.
– My question is again directed to the Minister representing the Prime Minister. What was the total cost to the Commonwealth Government of the function in honour of the Royal Family which was held at Parliament House? What was the total cost of the function which was held at Government House?
– I do not have that information. I imagine that the figures the honourable senator is seeking arc not available yet because there would be a clear distinction between the parliamentary function on the one hand - I suppose that the cost of it would be met from the parliamentary grant - and the Government House function on the other hand. I think the best thing to do would be to put the question on the notice paper, and then we will obtain a considered reply for the honourable senator.
– Can the Minister rep resenting the Minister for Health inform the Senate whether a judgment was given recently in Germany against the manufacturers of the drug thalidomide? What is the total amount of the compensation? How much will the parents of thalidomide affected children in Australia receive? What procedure will they have to adopt to obtain their share of the compensation?
– The honourable senator has raised a very important question in which a tremendous number of people are interested. 1 will put it before my colleague the Minister for Health and obtain a detailed reply for the honourable senator. 1 am not able to give him the figures he requires. I will obtain a fully detailed answer to his entire question.
(Question No. 8)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior, upon notice:
– The Minister for the Interior has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
(Question No. 235)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation upon notice:
Has the Government allocated large sums of money to be spent at the Heidelberg Repatriation Hospital, for (a) building a new kitchen, (b) providing two new operating theatres, and (c) replacing large quantities of wooden duckboard paths with concrete paths; if so, is it intended to re-open ward’s that have been closed for a number of years, and to make available approximately 500 more beds for urgent treatment of ex-soldiers, nurses and other personnel from the Boer War, World Wars 1 and II, Korea, Malaya and Vietnam, and members of the regular forces.
– The Minister for Repatriation has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question.
The projects at Repatriation General Hospital Heidelberg, to which the honourable Senator referred, are part of a continuing works programme to improve and modernise the facilities at all repatriation hospitals and takes into account the immediate and foreseeable treatment needs of eligible repatriation patients.
Proposals for the widening of the present eligibility for in-patient treatment on the general lines implied in the honourable senator’s question, have been submitted by ex-service organisations along with other proposals, and will be considered by the Government.
(Question No. 273)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for External Territories, upon notice:
– The Minister for External Territories has provided the following answer to the honourable sena tors question:
(The decline in the number of tourists in 1968 was caused by a drop in the number from New Zealand because of the New Zealand Government restrictions on currency for tourist purposes. In 1969 the number of tourists from New Zealand continued to decline but many more visitors visited the Island from Australia.)
(Question No. S3)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice:
Are crew members of R.A.A.F. Hercules aircraft flying from Australia to Vietnam with supplies and equipment entitled to full repatriation benefits, War Service Homes Loans and rehabilitation facilities and War Service Land Settlement Loans if injured or wounded on these flights.
– The Minister for Repatriation has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Crew members of R.A.A.F. Hercules aircraft Hying on supply missions to Vietnamare not in the normal course, eligible for the benefits referred to by the honourable senator.
The position is that any member of the Defence Forces who is allotted for special duty in a prescribed special area, is eligible for repatriation benefits under the Repatriation (Special Overseas Service) Act and a War Service Homes Loan under the War Service Homes Act.
Allotment for special duty is the responsibility of the service departments concerned and my understanding is that under present arrangements, those crew members are not so allotted. 1 should explain, however, that the Repatriation (Special Overseas Service) Act does provide repatriation benefits for a member who, although not allotted for special duty, suffers incapacityor dies as a result of action by hostile forces while outside Australia.
The establishment arrangements under the Defence (Re-establishment) Act, which include vocational training and agricultural and business loans are provided for National Servicemen only and are not therefore available to R.A.A.F. personnel.
(Question No. 107)
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice:
When is the investigation into the location and strength of the proposed television stations in western Queensland likely to be completed.
– The Postmaster-General has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The television stations authorised for western Queensland areas are among 38 such stations which were authorised last year. Field survey work associated with the Queensland stations has been undertaken but technical planning work is still proceeding. As I have previously indicated, I intend to make a statement, as soon as a firm timetable for the completion of these stations can be arrived at; I have also previously indicated in answer to a question in the House on 19th March 1970, that all of the stations should be installed by 1974.
(Question No. 190)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Industry, upon notice:
– The Minister for Trade and Industry has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
(Question No. 248)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Customs nd Excise, upon notice:
– The Minister for Customs and Excise has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
(Question No. 258)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Customs and Excise, upon notice:
– The Ministerfor Customs and Excise has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
(Question No. 268)
Minister representing the Minister for Customs and Excise, upon notice:
How many notifications of appeals were received against the Class 2/3 provisional promotions effected by the Department of Customs and Excise in 1969, and how many officers were involved?
– The Minister for Customs and Excise has provided the following answer to the honourable senators question:
The Comptroller-General of Customs has advised me that the Class 2/3 range was introduced on 17th July 1969, and superseded the Class 2 and Class 3 ranges.
During 1969 there were 28 notifications of appeals by 23 officers against provisional promotions to the Class 2/3 range.
(Question No. 293)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice:
Is there a current claim by the Commonwealth Council of the Totally and Permanently Disabled Soldiers Association of Australia for substantially increased repatriation benefits for T.P.I. pensioners throughout the Commonwealth; if so, will the Minister give his urgent attention to the claim of the Association and recommend it to the Government for its most sympathetic consideration.
– The Minister for Repatriation has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Representations have been made to me this year by the Totally and Permanently Disabled Soldiers Association in respect of several matters, one request having been for an increase in the Special (T & P.I.) Rate of War Pension. It is customary for the Government to consider all such requests in connection with the annual Budget planning, and that course will be followed again this year. I can assure the honourable senator that I am keenly interested in ensuring the adequacy of War Pension rates and that the request of the Totally and Permanently Disabled Soldiers Association will be sympathetically considered at the appropriate time in the Budget context.
-I give notice that on the 4th June next I shall move:
That the amendments of the Naval Financial Regulations contained in Statutory Rules 1970, No. 35, and made under the Naval Defence Act 1910-1968, be disallowed.
– I have received from Senator Greenwood an intimation that he desires to move the adjournment of the Senate for the purpose of discussing a matter of urgency, namely:
That the objectives and tactics of the Vietnam Moratorium Campaign are to be deplored because they are deliberately calculated to-
Weaken the resolution of the Australian people to secure a just and lasting peace in Vietnam;
Give moral support to the North Vietnamese to persist in their aggression and subversion in South Vietnam;
Promote civil disorder and encourage the breaking of the law;
Cause unwarranted inconvenience to Australian citizens by the call to strike; and for these reasons that the participation in the Moratorium of Members of Parliament should be forthrightly condemned.
Is the motion supported? (More than the number of Senators required by the Standing Orders having risen in their places).
-I welcome the opportunity to invite the Senate to consider the present Vietnam Moratorium Campaign. I recall that on the last occasion that this matter was raised in the Senate a guilty Labor Party employed the device of withdrawing from this chamber rather than face a debate upon the issue.
– Order! Senator Greenwood, you are required to move your motion.
– I am delighted to do so, Mr President. 1 move:
That the Se’nate, at its rising, adjourn till tomorrow at 9.55 a.m.
If members of the Labor Party are prepared to justify, in the House of Parliament to which they have been elected, their support for the Moratorium, I think they will take the opportunity to do so on this occasion. The last time they dodged the issue. On earlier occasions the best they could produce was a tirade of personal abuse. They uttered not one word of justification of the extra-parliamentary tactics in which they are engaging. lt ought to be recognised that the Moratorium is a fraud on the Australian people because it is based on a lie. It has been developed and promoted by the tactics of the lie, the half truth and misrepresentation. 1 think it is incumbent upon supporters of the Government and those people who desire accuracy and truth in the conduct of public affairs and in the debate of public issues to see that statements which are incorrect bc shown to be incorrect. Time and again suggestions have been made by organisers of the Moratorium that if there is an immediate withdrawal of Australian troops from Vietnam the war in that country will stop. Nothing could be further from the truth, but it is the kingpin on which the Moratorium hinges. Not one word has been said by the organisers of the Moratorium or by members of the Australian Labor Party in criticism or condemnation of aggression from North Vietnam. So far as 1 have been able to read and to observe there has not been one word of condemnation from the Moratorium organisers or from the ALP of the recent extension of the invasion of Cambodia by North Vietnamese forces. That is the attitude of the Moratorium organisers and members of the Australian Labor Party, lt indicates that their bias and sympathy rest with those forces which are invading South Vietnam and Cambodia and are denying to the people there the right of selfdetermination.
The Moratorium is to be condemned not only because it is a fraud based upon a lie but also because it is an assault upon democracy. The essence of the statements of the Moratorium organisers is that decisions can be made outside Parliament which ought to have weight with the Parliament. lt is not claimed that the opinions of Australian electors should be influenced and promoted by the example of dissent and protest, and possibly by demonstrations. If that was the objective of the Moratorium it would be part of the development within our democratic society of the ordinary processes by which opinion is formed. But the Moratorium goes further than that, lt is designed to be an occasion when decisions can be made. If one is to accept the words of Dr Cairns, who is Chairman of the Victorian Moratorium Campaign, those decisions are to be regarded as equally important as, if not more important than, what is said in Parliament itself.
– When did he tell you that?
– lt is in
Hansard, if the honourable senator cares to read it. The Moratorium is further to be condemned because it is an unjustifiable denial by a few people of the rights of many people, lt is a claim of right made quite unjustifiably which, in its turn, unjustifiably denies the rights of many people. lt is an attempt by members of a minority to impose their will upon the balance of the community. In addition the Moratorium is to be condemned because it is a deliberate promotion of community and social dislocation for political purposes. The Moratorium is finally to be condemned because it is a deplorable exercise which appears to predicate that decisions made by mass demonstrators which take over the streets are equal or superior to decisions of the Parliament. That is a viewpoint which the Australian Labor Party seems to be actively promoting. I wait to hear, and I am sure that the people of Australia wait to hear, members of the Labor Party deny that proposition.
The ALP seems to have foregone Parliament as the place where the laws should be made and appears currently to be promoting the idea that the best decisions are those made by minority demonstrators outside Parliament. I will be interested to hear and will welcome a Labor Party denial of that proposition. There can be no mistake as to what is involved in this Moratorium Campaign. It is a campaign which is designed to stop business as usual. We have all received in the mail copies of Moratorium literature, and one such piece of literature that 1 received indicates quite clearly what is intended. The organisers state:
We call upon our Churches, Trade Unions, Universities, political parties, business houses, industries and press to support the Moratorium, and we commit ourselves to organise and promote this effort in our work places, on our campuses, and in our community.
As newspaper advertisements indicate, this is a call to stop business as usual.I do not know what is happening in other places outside Melbourne, but in Melbourne on Friday we will not have fire brigade services, and we will not have trams. People are invited to leave the city for fear that there will be trouble which they had best avoid. This is the tactic. It is the mass demonstration, the mass take-over of the streets to stop business as usual which is implicit in all that the organisers of this Moratorium are promoting. I hope that Australia will indicate emphatically that it repudiates this sort of tactic because it is the antithesis of all that a democratic ordered society stands for. Once we accept this type of tactic as part of the norm of decision making in this country we can give away the idea that we are a civilised and ordered society.
This activity is a strike for political purposes, as much to be condemned as if a militant trade union were to hold the community to ransom, as we have seen from time to time. It should be recognised for what it is, and it should be condemned for what it is. Why are we going to be subjected to all these pressures next Friday? What is it that the Moratorium is expected to achieve? It will achieve nothing, except inconvenience to thousands of citizens. It may possibly achieve, if there is noise, nuisance and violence, a widespread Press, television and radio publicity which will go around the world. It may therefore achieve, as one objective, the strengthening the intransigence and aggression of the North Vietnamese.
– The Melbourne commando.
– I suggest that there are certain parts of what I am saying which do provoke some members of the Australian Labor Party because they recognise the force of what 1 am saying and they have no effective answer, except abusive interjections. I suggest they remember that after the American Moratorium demonstrations late last year the Hanoi delegation at the Paris peace talks wrote a public letter in which they acknowledged their appreciation of what the Moratorium had been able to achieve. Why should they acknowledge their appreciation? It was only because what those involved in the demonstrations were doing strengthened the North Vietnamese in the belief that if they persisted long enough they could weaken the will and the resolution of people in the democratic countries. But I say that the Moratorium will not achieve the objectives which for Australia those promoting the Moratorium Campaign hope to achieve.
– You are worried that the demonstration will be peaceful.
– I again say for the record, and because it is quite evident, that ever since 1 got up to speak there has been an expression by the people who claim to be the exponents of peace and debate, of a cloaked intention to deny to anyone who disagrees with them the right to have their view heard. The Vietnam Moratorium will not achieve these objectives and I think it is important that any persons who might wish to support the Moratorium, believing it will achieve something, should have it made clear to them that it will not achieve anything. The troops will not be withdrawn from Vietnam as a result of this demonstration; the National Service Act will not be repealed as a result of this demonstration; and no person could reasonably expect that they would be the consequences of what is planned. Possibly 2 views could be categorised as to why this Moratorium is being held. The first is the view which is broadly expressed by Dr J. F. Cairns that Government policy can be determined by action on the streets. What he is seeking to develop is the formation of a will outside the Parliament by meetings, demonstrations and civil disturbances. If this is the policy which the Labor Party enunciates it should clearly indicate to the people of Australia that this is its policy. No government which is worthy of the respect of the Australian people could submit to such tactics.
Before he succumbed to the pressures of the left wing elements within his own Party this was the view which Mr Whitlam expressed. Some honourable senators will remember the infamous call to mutiny in December last year by a meeting which was chaired by the President of the Victorian branch of the Australian Labor Party. Some honourable senators opposite will also recall that after about 1 week the leader of the Australian Labor Party, Mr Whitlam, decided inferentially to repudiate what was said in the form of a letter which he wrote to the Secretary of the Western Australian Branch of the Australian Labor Party, Mr Chamberlain. Mr Whitlam said:
As leader I have not thought it proper to sign statements or to appear with persons expressing a less complete view than our caucus or conference or representing a different emphasis. The traps into which one can fall were highlighted last Monday.
That was the day upon which the resolution culling upon the mutiny was passed. He continued:
-elect ofthe ACTU, (Mr Hawke), briefly attended and the Victorian President of the Australian Labor Party (Mr Crawford) chaired the meeting, which carried a Vietnam resolution which is not and never could be ACTU or ALP policy.
I ask honourable senators to note the stress which Mr Whitlam places on the next paragraph. He said:
Members of the Party should not give the false and damaging impression that under a Labor government foreign policy would be determined at mass meetings or by public petitions.
For this reason I concentrate my own actions in Party and parliamentary channels.
That was Mr Whitlam’s view in December of last year, but today he appeared outside Parliament House and addressed a meeting which is not under the leadership of the Australian Labor Party, which is part of the Moratorium Campaign and at which his attendance would appear to be in direct contradiction of what he said last December. As 1 said earlier, this is part of the evidence which indicates how Mr Whitlam is under the control of forces which some day - one would say never - he feels he will be in a position to control.
Another argument which may be advanced as a reason for the holding of this Moratorium is that it is a legitimate attempt to influence public opinion. The exercising of what is popularly called the right of protest or the right to dissent is something which is valued and which our society should be concerned to preserve. 1 think what is implicit in what is being organised for this Moratorium is the prospect of excessive action must produce as one of its consequences the demand for more order and restraint to prevent the excesses involved in the Moratorium. Once that tendency develops there is always the risk that the basic freedoms which everybody wants to enjoy may be lessened in some way. If they are lessened it will be because of the excesses which are engaged in by a few.
The Moratorium Campaign is not an expression of legitimate protest and dissent within the law: it is activity outside the law which is being propagated in association with a doctrine that citizens have the right - and in some cases it is expressed as a duty - to disobey not merely unjust laws but objectionable laws. When this doctrine is associated with a mass demonstration there is a group of people who believe that they are asserting a policy enunciated by a leading member of the Commonwealth Parliament who says: ‘I find any law which prevents me doing what 1 would like to do to be objectionable’. He accordingly has no respect for law. When a mass, without respect for law, without any law, acts in that way, it becomes a mob, and therein lies the potential for danger; therein lies the potential for violence.
– Do you respect Parliament?
– I think that I have more respect for Parliament than those persons who are propagating these doctrines associated with the Moratorium Campaign. When one considers the people who are associated with the Campaign, we find that there is a very mixed bag of supporters. As the terms of the motion of urgency indicate, there are members of Parliament who are associated with this Campaign. Members of Parliament are elected to the Parliament because, in the eyes of the people who elect them, they will discharge within the Parliament the duties which are incumbent upon them as part of their office. Above all else, members of Parliament should not follow a deliberate, conscious policy of inciting breach of the law or participating in breaching the law. That is not what they are elected to Parliament to do, nor is it what Australians expect of their members of Parliament.
But members of Parliament represent a significant group of those who are giving publicity in the promotion of this Moratorium Campaign. A second group consists of supporters of the Moratorium who are innocent but genuine enthusiasts for the cause of peace. If I should disagree with them, it is not to suggest that they do not hold their views sincerely. But I do suggest to people who are engaged in this Moratorium because, wanting peace, wanting an end of the war, they do not know how to achieve this, that they should consider carefully the implications involved in associating wilh an organisation which is controlled by political hustlers who are wanting to use them for their own purposes. The ending of the war, the ending of the National Service Act, cannot come from a Moratorium Campaign such as that planned for this coming weekend.
Then there are, as a third group, some who, for a variety of reasons, wish to denigrate Australia and who, apparently, want the Vietcong, the North Vietnamese and the Communists generally to have a success. They wish to see America defeated. One such group is undoubtedly composed of the members of the Communist Party of Australia who are associated with this Moratorium Campaign. They have indicated in their Communist Journal, the ‘Tribune’, that they desire to make a specific contribution of solidarity with the National Liberation Front. There are other groups - whether or not they be” Communist depends on how they describe themselves - whose attitude is also, as evidenced by their publicity, a plea for solidarity with the NLF, and these people are taking a leading part in the organisation of the Campaign. They have indicated that there should be no limitation on activity for the Moratorium Campaign. They are tired of peace marches. They want something more militant. This is what was published in the Communist Tribune’ of 4th February of this year, yet members of the Australian Labor Party are associating openly with a body which has Communist sponsorship, Communist activity and undoubtedly strong Communist influence.
I think it is of some relevance to members of the Labor Party to consider their position, because with regard to such activities there are rules in the Australian Labor Party rule book which are obviously being breached. But I suspect that not one member of the Australian Labor Party who is associated with the Vietnam Moratorium Campaign will be disciplined by the Australian Labor Party. It is all right to have Captain Benson, who associated with the Defend Australia Committee, which is opposed to Communism and which is concerned to have Australia look to its defences, expelled from the Australian Labor Party, but 1 do not believe that any member supporting the Moratorium Campaign will be expelled from the Labor Party. 1 think it is useful to look at the record. In 1948 there was passed by the Australian Labor Party a rule which has remained in its rule book ever since, and which is in the current rule book and policies of the Australian Labor Party. It says:
No Communist auxiliary or subsidiary can be associated with the Labor Party in any activity, and no Labor Party Branch or member can cooperate with the Communist Party.
In 1957 a further Conference decision reaffirmed the 1948 Conference decision and applied it in the case of how to vote tickets in union elections.
– The ALP did not really mean what it said.
– I am quite sure, as Senator Little said, that the ALP did not really mean what it said, but that is what is put in the ALP propaganda and rule books - undoubtedly to delude the Australian people who may think the ALP does believe it - because 1 have absolutely no doubt that some members of the ALP are collaborating with members of the Communist Party. No action has been taken against those members. Since 1955 has any ALP member been expelled for such association? I know that honourable senators opposite will suggest that I am engaging in the current activity called ‘kicking the Communist can’. I am doing no such thing. I am simply making public facts which ought to be made public because they are relevant to the tactics which are employed currently by the ALP. We have the statement, to which I have referred already, made at a union meeting on 13th December 1969. That meeting called upon the troops in Vietnam to mutiny. That meeting was presided over by the State President of the ALP, who has never repudiated what he said then. He simply said, in rebuttal, that the decision was not a political one but that the stand taken was a moral one - as if a person could divorce himself in that way from the normal consequences of his action.
The other point which I make is that the only Party in this country which has the policy of immediate withdrawal of troops from South Vietnam is the Communist Party of Australia. The Labor Party’s policy, as stated in its policy and booklet, is not for the immediate withdrawal of troops from Vietnam. Its policy expressly is this:
That on the Party becoming the Government it will take immediate action to notify the United States Government that all Australian Armed Forces will be withdrawn from Vietnam.
That policy statement was inserted last August because of two disputing viewpoints as to which policy should be adopted. The point 1 make is that the ALP has no policy for the immediate withdrawal of troops from South Vietnam. The only party which has that policy is the Communist Party. The Moratorium organisation supports that policy and the Labor Party supports that organisation. 1 think these facts ought to be made known because the Labor Party cares not to give them any publicity.
The third point with regard to the Labor Party’s activity is that the Labor Party has indicated, through its Federal Executive decision and through what Mr Whitlam has said, that it should take the lead in any activity against Vietnam. It has not taken the lead in the Moratorium organisation, ft has been dragged along - in some cases willingly and in other cases unwillingly by people connected with the organisation.
– Willingly in most cases and that is not kicking the Communist can.
– Senator Young would send the troops to Vietnam to be murdered.
– You ought to be ashamed to be marching behind the Vietcong flag.
– I raise a point of order. 1 have just been accused by this insignificant fellow - and I will make it clear whom 1 mean - Senator Little of the DLP group in Melbourne of marching behind a Vietcong flag. I have never marched behind a Vietcong flag, but I have marched behind a British flag as a soldier. I lost my son in the Second World War. I want Senator Little to withdraw his remark.
– If the honourable senator assures us that he did not march behind a Vietcong flag today-
– I did not. although I am in favour of the March.
– In spite of his interjection indicating that he is in favour of the march that took place in Canberra today, if Senator Hendrickson assures us that he did not march behind the Vietcong flags that were there. 1 accept his explanation and apologise unreservedly to the honourable senator for saying that he did.
– In conclusion may I say that it is quite clear that the Australian Government is following a policy that it will take all necessary steps to play its part in resisting aggression throughout the world. What Australian troops and United States troops originally went in to Vietnam to achieve was a support for the South Vietnamese Government against an insurgency which was backed and directed by North Vietnam. It was more than an insurgency; it was an actual aggression, and that actual aggression is taking place in Cambodia at the present time by the North Vietnamese, lt is taking place in Laos and it represents an overall threat to lndo-China from Communist forces based in Hanoi. In these circumstances what we do not wish to see is a repetition of the inaction of the 1930s which culminated in the Second World War. If the Western world had been resolute in the 1930s perhaps the Second World War would not have occurred. The whole pattern and tactic of Western defence against an expressed Communist ideology which is world-wide in its objectives has been to resist aggression and to resist any attempts at takeover; and so since Greece, since Korea and since Vietnam there has been forceful action taken and it has preserved a peace in the world which, without this action, may never have been achieved. What we are seeing at the present time in the tactics of those who are engaging in the Vietnam Moratorium is a device which is designed to weaken the resolution of the Americans and to weaken the resolution of the Australians in the determination which they originally set themselves, and my hope is that the action which is being taken will have precisely the opposite effect, that rather than weakening the resolution it will fortify the resolution of those who believe that the Australian action was originally right, has continued to be right and will always be right.
SenatorWILLESEE (Western Australia) [4.2] - For the fourth time now in the last 2 weeks of sitting we have heard Senator Greenwood talk about the Moratorium. He has added to this today a personal abuse of members of the Australian Labor Party which does little to add to his case. He talks about something that happened in Victoria and a letter that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) sent to Mr Chamberlain. I do not intend to follow him and speak about those matters. If I didI would go back into useless history which could be very embarrassing to his Party. We could talk about the debate which took place on the water torture in Vietnam. We could talk about Gunner O’Neill being chained in a pit in Vietnam. We could talk about the My Lai massacres which this Government has never done anything to condemn. We could talk about the bombing, the use of gas and the use of napalm. We could talk about all those things. But I will talk about other things becauseI find a tremendous divergence between two people in the Liberal Party on Liberal philosophy and Liberal actions in Vietnam, and those two people are Senator Greenwood and the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) himself.
I will demonstrate this asI go along. They seem to disagree because 1 have heard the Prime Minister several times saying that this is not a question of whether or not it is Communist aggression. He says that it is aggression and he justifies Australia being there on that ground. If it is Communist aggression, as Senator Greenwood says it is, why then does he not go to his Country Party colleagues and talk about the export of wheat to continental China? Of course it is continental China when it is referred to in trade areas and Red China when it is referred to on a political level. We asked Senator Greenwood - because he was, we believe, not using correctly the forms of the Senate - to do something about bringing this matter to a proper debate and he has done that today. Because the Moratorium Day was getting very close we decided that if he was not going to grasp the nettle we would do so. When honourable senators listen to the terms of what the Australian Labor Party decided to put forward they will see why I will debate the matter on a much larger issue than the Moratorium Committee. The only thing that Senator Greenwood is doing in trying to enhance his Government is to take the eyes of the Australian people and this Parliament away from what his Government is doing in the war in Indo-China, what it is doing in its whole foreign policy and the attitude it is taking to the dangers of the developing situation that we have in South East Asia.
The only thing that he has done because of his conduct in this matter has been to shift the eyes of the Australian people away from the overall problem and to talk about a very narrow section. Why is there a Moratorium Committee? Why are we having marches? The reason is that Australian troops are in Vietnam and there is conscription of a very small section of the Australian community.
Let me outline the matter of urgency the Australian Labor Party would have raised. We would have asked the Senate, as a matter of urgency, to debate the continued participation of Australia in the war in Indo-China. That is the basic thing from which all these other things arise. We would have asked the Senate further to debate the failure of the Government to inform the public of the alleged situation of danger in Cambodia for the past 5 years in the light of the Prime Minister’s statement; the recognition of the Government of Prince Sihanouk through that period of time when his Government is now alleged to have been pursuing policies endangering Australian forces; the sudden revelation that supplies to North Vietnamese forces pass through Sihanoukville instead of through Haiphong, as generally understood; and the failure of the Prime Minister to define a policy towards the murder by the Cambodian authorities of Vietnamese noncombatants in Cambodia whom the South Vietnamese Government alleges it is repatriating. A debate on that matter of urgency would have been a much more purposeful one.
If I can allot my time correctly, I hope to deal very quickly with the Vietnam Moratorium Campaign and the abuse that Senator Greenwood has been throwing at it. In fact he has been trying to cast his net more widely and urging that members of
Parliament have no right to have anything to do with the Moratorium. 1 would be with him all the way if he said that a member of Parliament should be a full time officer and should do nothing else. But I do not hear him saying anything about the activities of chairmen of mining companies in all the business arrangements that are going on in Australia today. There does not seem to be anything wrong with them from his point of view.
There is a relationship between what we wanted to raise as a matter of urgency and what Senator Greenwood at long last has brought into a proper forum.
– Has the honourable senator a copy of the matter of urgency he intended to raise?
– 1 was prevented from raising it, but 1 am quite willing to let Senator Wright have this copy if he would like it. Let me talk firstly about the Moratorium. What is the Moratorium? It is a name that the organisers have selected. It is a demonstration in an age of demonstrations. If Senator Greenwood had been talking about this matter 25 years ago 1 could have understood the horror with which he would have put forward his views, because in those days we were not used to demonstrations. But today we are used to demonstrations.
This movement has been accentuated by the Vietnamese war, but it is not confined to the Vietnamese war. Why, we even had in the conservative city of Melbourne a conservative group of people - farmers - staging a demonstration the other day. But I did not. hear Senator Greenwood say that was wrong; that they should wait and listen to the Government; and that they should be forced to stay on their farms and should not raise their voices against Government policy. 1 appreciate very much the assistance 1 am receiving by way of interjections. Honourable senators are trying to anticipate many things. Let me assure them that I will not be running away from one of them.
Evidently Senator Greenwood and some other people have a very great advantage over me in that, somehow or other, they can foretell the future. I have never been able to do that. They say that there will be violence. I did not see any violence today. How they know that there will be violence is completely beyond me. I have faith in the democratic processes of Australia. I take it that, if somebody had attacked me when 1 was in front of this building today or if somebody had attacked somebody else, he would have been arrested by a policeman who knew the type of people he could arrest and the type of charges he could make, and then the policeman would put his evidence before a court of law and that court of law would mete out the justice that this and other parliaments have laid down.
This attitude is an anticipation of law breaking. It takes my mind back. It seems to me that every generation of parliamentarians is like every generation. They have to learn the same lessons again. I look across the chamber and see Senator Wright, with whom I used to disagree when the matter to which I am about to refer was before us. A Bill was introduced and received a lot of prominence in Australia at the time. It was called the Communist Party Dissolution Bill. It had for its aim not only the banning of the Communist Party but also to deprive of their livelihood 2 sets of people in the community - the civil servants and the trade unionists- if they were Communists, if they agreed with the teachings of Marx and Engels or if the Attorney-General thought they would think about the teachings of Marx and Engels. We fought it in the atmosphere of McCarthism which had been washed across the Pacific Ocean during that sad period of American history. That legislation was finally rejected by the judges - to their eternal credit - of the High Court of Australia. It was also rejected, and again to their eternal credit, by the Australian people. Let me say in fairness that some of the Liberals to whom I have since spoken have stated that they regret that the law was ever introduced. They believed that it was wrong. They believed that it should never have been placed on the statute books and certainly should never have been written permanently into the Australian Constitution.
What Senator Greenwood is doing now is putting forward again the objectionable clause in the Communist Party Dissolution Bill on which the Australian people finally rallied and which they rejected. Senator Greenwood is anticipating that somebody is going to do something. This is what he has said. He knows somehow or other that there is to be violence and that the law is going to be broken. If the law is broken I repeat that the law enforcement officers of the States and the Commonwealth will take the appropriate action. But the moment we mention these things we find all sorts of people able to foretell the future. Even the Country Party is waking from its somnolence and. 1 regret to say, joining the Liberals on this question. The LiberalCountry Party coalition has been in office for a long time and it is becoming more noticeable that unless people approach the problems of Australia in the same way as the Liberals do they are looked upon as pariahs. The supporters of this Government do not believe there can be any approach other than the old ones that have been laid down by the very conservative Government which we have in Australia today. Why is it that Government supporters do not object to farmers marching? Why is it that they do not object to other people demonstrating while at the same time they object to people taking part in this Moratorium Campaign? It is because they are trying to bring forth again the old smear of a connection between the Communist Party and the Labor Parly.
During the demonstration today a young man handed me a pamphlet. He handed it to me in an orderly manner and I took it, I hope, in a similarly orderly manner. I thanked him for it and read it through. One passage of it I thought could probably have been written by Senator Greenwood. It was this:
Do you believe that the Vietnam war should be won by determined action, like sending antiCommunist forces into North Vietnam to give the Reds a dose of their own medicine, and not be allowed to drag on year after year while our young men are being killed and wounded?
I do not agree with the policy of the party that published this document, but it was handed to me in an orderly manner and I defend the right of a member of that party to distribute these pamphlets, just as I would defend the right of any other person to distribute pamphlets, provided it was done in an orderly manner and that the law was not broken. This pamphlet was published by the National Socialist Party of Australia. At least it has a circular emblem with the name of the party inscribed on it and a large swastika in the centre. It appears that my supposition was wrong and that Senator
Greenwood did not write this material, but it seems to me that this is the kind of argument that he has been putting up here for a very long period of time. 1 had no objection to the young man handing out these pamphlets although I must sayI do not agree with the party or the things that were in the pamphlet. Nevertheless I do not know why Senator Greenwood should object to some people making demonstrations while at the same time evidently not disagreeing with the Nazi Party putting out its pamphlets.
We are in an age of demonstrations. This is not the first demonstration against the Vietnam war. There has been no more divisive war in history. All over the world there have been these kinds of demonstrations. But of course in this country the Liberal Party always relates foreign policy to politics. It has a completely bad record in the handling of external affairs. This whole phase of Government administration has been one of disgrace to the Liberal Party. Yet Government supporters always bring out this Red bogey. They have brought it out this year because of the number of elections that are being held in various parts of Australia and for no other reason.
It strikes me that Senator Greenwood is very pro-conscription. He says he agrees with it. I say that the Australian Labor Party objects to it because the Liberal Parly has used it as an alternative to a proper defence policy. The Government claims that by taking a section of the 20-year-olds and conscripting them into the Army it has a defence policy and that everyT is crossed and every I is dotted. We say that that is not good enough. The history of Australia shows that if there is a war in which the Australian people are united behind its government, as they were in 2 world wars and in Korea, there has never been any shortage of volunteers. Yet these people say that it. is not conscription. That is one of the fundamental things on which the Australian Labor Party parts company with the Government.
The other night when Senator Greenwood was going on in that very fanatical way of bis, honourable senators opposite started to say that at one time the Australian Labor Party had introduced conscription. We did. What is more, we would do it again in similar circumstances. But I want it marked, and marked well, that when the Australian
Labor Party was conscripting people it conscripted every able bodied man and anyone who was not in uniform was paying taxation at the rate of 18s 6d in the £1. 1 stand here talking today while my young fellow countrymen are dying on the fields of Vietnam and I am not paying 2 bob extra in taxation. Neither is anyone else in the community. If there is to be conscription as there was during the Curtin regime, as far as the Australian Labor Party is concerned there will be conscription hook, line and sinker. We will not go along picking up a few young men. That is a cheap way of having a defence policy. It is cheap in money and it is cheap in votes because if every 20-year-old or every 22-year-old or every young able bodied man in the community were conscripted there would be a wave of reaction through the families which were affected.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Bull) - Order! The honourable senator’s time has expired.
– No, Sir. I must beg to differ. I have half an hour. I am the opening speaker for the Opposition. It has always been understood that the opening speaker for the Opposition has equal time with the mover of the motion.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Under Standing Order 64 (2.) the honourable senator’s time has expired.
– I put forcefully to you, Mr Deputy President, that there has been a long standing arrangement. I see that Senator Wright wishes to speak. 1 will let him take over.
– Mr Deputy President, would I be in order in moving for an extension of time for Senator Willesee to enable him to speak for 30 minutes?
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Does the Senate grant Senator Willesee leave to continue? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– I thank Senator Wright and the Senate. Let me move to another aspect. These things are so completely unfair when we talk about conscription. It is completely unfair to try to relate this to the present position simply because some elections are to be held soon. Surely to goodness a young man like Senator Greenwood should lift his sights above what has become an abuse of a mere demonstration, however that demonstration might be conducted, and ignore the whole situation which is giving rise to demonstrations. The other night Senator Greenwood was in a very curious state of mind. I have heard him on legal questions in the Senate and I have thought that he was a man with a future in this place. I think I told him on one occasion how I admired the way in which he had summed up a legal question in the Senate. I do not withdraw from that. lt struck me as strange that this young man who seemed to have a capable mind should suddenly go off in this peculiar and maniacal way in which he has spoken, ft made me look very much closer at the whole situation. Then it made me look very much closer at the statement on Vietnam that the Prime Minister made the other night. I said earlier in the day - I want to be fair to Senator Greenwood and explain this - that he and the Prime Minister were two Liberals who did not agree with what the Liberals were doing today - promising to withdraw troops from Vietnam.
Looking at the Prime Minister’s statement I counted 16 paragraphs in which he defended the sending of troops to Vietnam. If honourable senators read the whole of the statement they will see that it is not a document for withdrawing troops from Vietnam; it is a document for increasing the number of troops in Vietnam. So we ask ourselves: Why does the Prime Minister finally agree to withdraw Australian troops? Unfortunately the reason is the Government’s belief that as long as we stick to the Americans they will stick to us, and that as long as we do not cut the umbilical cord joining us to the Americans everything will be all right. It becomes as plain as a pikestaff that Australian troops are in Vietnam - nes’er mind what, has been said in the past couple of days in the House of Representatives - because American troops are in Vietnam, and Australian troops will be withdrawn from Vietnam because American troops will be withdrawn from Vietnam. There is no other reason.
I am not preaching anti-Americanism. I am showing merely that in this area of the world from which the British are moving out and from which the Americans will move out in due course and in which we will have to stay forever, we should have an independent foreign policy. We should not be shutting out the voice of the people, however it is coming through to us. Instead we should be listening to it in a far better way than we are at present. I wish I had more time to go into this. In his statement the Prime Minister said:
For the Government believes that if small nations are to survive and prosper, then aggression from whatever source - whether it is inspired by Communism, Fascism or old-fashioned nationalism - must not be allowed to succeed.
How we will stop nationalism from succeeding, and whether we should stop nationalism from succeeding, is a matter at which 1 think all members of the Liberal Party should be looking very carefully. If wo. say that nationalism is not to be allowed to succeed-
– By violence.
– Did the honourable senator say ‘by violence’?
– By aggression.
– Very well, I accept that. Here we are sitting back on our little island of Australia saying that in the whole of South East Asia - the Prime Minister does not confine it to that but 1 am assuming that we have South East Asia in mind - the governments must remain there for all time unless we Australians with our arrogance towards these people say that it is OK for those countries to change their governments. This is a tremendous fantasy. The fantasy that the Government is building up, the fantasy that Senator Greenwood argues, is that wherever there is violence, wherever there is aggression, Australian troops will go galloping along to do something about it. That is a fantasy. The fact is that we have gone into these countries only when America has led the way.
We hear a lot of cries about the deaths that have occurred on both sides in the Vietnam war. I deplore those deaths, but I did not hear people talking about the Tibetans; I did not see anyone rushing along and saying: ‘This is an invasion’; I did not. see any troops galloping in at the time of the invasion of Czechoslovakia, Hungary or the rest of them. I know that there are military reasons for that but do not let us perpetuate this lie that Australians are standing with their swords unsheathed waiting for someone to attack across a border and then they will rush in and do something about it.
There is this over-simplification that we must always be attached to a major power. We must always realise that whatever the benefits of being attached to a great power there are also a lot of detriments. Because of our so-called attachment to the mother country for so long we marched away to 2 world wars. In the first World War we lost 60,000 people dead when we had a population of less than 5 million and in the Second World War we lost 30,000 dead when our population was about 8 million. I suggest that that is a pretty great contribution to make. I am not deploring the fact or saying whether it was right or wrong. I am merely saying that these are the things that the Government must face up to. We are in Vietnam today because of our attachment to another very great country.
– Do I understand the honourable senator to be saying that our commitment in the First World War or the Second World War was right or wrong?
– No. Senator Wright is trying to drag me right off the track. I am making the point thai if a small nation attaches itself to a big nation there is a greater chance of the big nation dragging it into a conflict than there is of the small nation dragging the bigger nation into a conflict. Surely this is self-evident when one stops to think about it. The basis of the whole argument advanced by supporters of the Liberal Party is that so long as we are attached to the United States, although we get into all the troubles in the world the Americans will get us out of them. That may be right, but let us be realistic. 1 am heartily sick of having foreign policy treated in this Parliament on a political level. Time and time again statements on foreign policy are made and are listed on the notice paper but are not debated. But on this occasion, because the Moratorium is to take place and 2 State elections and a Federal by-election are pending the whole question of foreign policy is thrown into the political arena.
Senator Greenwood followed a steady line and I wish to refer to 1 or 2 points that he made. Let us have a look at some of the things that are happening. The Americans have moved into Cambodia and the statement of the President of the United Slates explaining that move has been eulogised by our Prime Minister - every word and every line of it. Our Prime Minister accepted it without question. 1 have here an article written by Denis Warner. 1 hope that honourable senators opposite will not call him a Communist, because he was once a Liberal Party candidate for election. 1 think he has been for many years the most constructive Australian journalist writing on events in South East Asia. He is more consistently correct than any other journalist writing in that field. Senator Greenwood is grinning. Perhaps he could quote occasions when Denis Warner’s articles would not have suited my point of view. Although I am not a lawyer 1 have had experience in industrial courts. 1 believe that you should credit to one’s opponent the possession of ethics that you would wish him to concede to you. 1 do not agree with the viewpoint of Denis Warner on every occasion, but I believe that his reports are factual. In this article I have he writes of the disappearance of 600 Vietnamese in the Mekong River area. The article states:
Apparently boats shuttled up and down the river bringing new batches of men listed for execution, and . shootings continued every night for 5 nights. As men were killed their bodies were thrown into the river.
Have we had any explanation of this incident from the Government? Of course not. There are other things connected with the situation today that require explanation. I said earlier that I did not wish to be trapped into dealing only with the Vietnam Moratorium Campaign. The motion we are discussing is a political stunt introduced into the Senate by Senator Greenwood. All the points I have raised should be examined much more forcefully by this Parliament and the Australian people than they are being examined today. When did our Prime Minister learn that American troops were to enter Cambodia? Are we not entitled to know that? Are we not entitled to answers to similar questions? Is the regime of this Government of the type that is told nothing and explains nothing? Have we no intelligence forces at all in South Vietnam? Were 600 men murdered in the Mekong River area and thrown into the river or not? Does the Government not have any views on this incident?
The first proposition advanced by Senator Greenwood is that the objective of the Moratorium is to weaken the resolution of the Australian people to secure a just and lasting peace. I ask Senator Greenwood whether the people of Central Europe have achieved a just and lasting peace through war. The Prime Minister has said that there is peace in Korea. Goodness gracious me. Peace in Korea? A peace treaty still has not been signed there. The situation in Korea is a time bomb ticking on inexorably. If ever there is one part of the world where there is no peace it is Korea. There is a dreadful state of tension in Panmunjom. I am amazed that the Prime Minister should say that there is peace in Korea. I ask honourable senators and Senator Greenwood in particular to consider their attitudes. I hope that in future Senator Greenwood will channel his abilities at a much higher level than he has demonstrated today. He will learn when he has been here longer that elections come and go, but some of his words and those of other parliamentarians may affect the lives of people for many years to come. As Senator Greenwood has referred to a just and lasting peace I ask him this: Has any war, killing, bombing, maiming, or murdering of people ever achieved for anybody a just and lasting peace?
Senator GREENWOOD (Victoria)- I wish to make a personal explanation, Mr Deputy President.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Bull) - Does the honourable senator claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. Senator Willesee attributed to me the statement that there would be violence. Today I did not say that at all, and I do not believe that I have ever said it. I have said that there is a potential for violence and therein lies the danger. I think there is a difference between what I said and what was attributed to me.
– This afternoon we have listened to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator Willesee) speaking on the motion by Senator Greenwood. He referred to it as a political stunt. It was quite obvious that Senator Willesee laboured throughout his contribution because his brief was political distortion in supporting a cause that he actually despises. He concluded his speech by a reference to atrocities. I ask him whether it has ever come to his notice that the North Vietnamese forces and their Vietcong allies have committed atrocities. If so, I have not heard him either refer to them or condemn them. I believe that atrocities committed by either side should be condemned very severely, but the gravamen of the Vietnamese war is in the attack that has been made by Hanoi forces in support of insurrectionists in South Vietnam, causing armed conflict. It is armed conflict because there are in South Vietnam those forces which are prepared to defend the territory of that country against insurrectionists and invaders.
I think that Senator Greenwood’s speeches in debates upon the Vietnam Moratorium Campaign in this Parliament are noteworthy and very valuable contributions to political discussions in this country. I repudiate entirely aspersions cast by honourable senators opposite on Senator Greenwood as a young man, in the sense that he may be considered in the national service bracket. I would judge that Senator Greenwood is in his middle life. He has discharged his responsibilities with great credit and I hope that honourable senators opposite will not rely for their case upon personal abuse.
I believe that the motion put before the Senate by Senator Greenwood raises for clear consideration firstly the right of lawful assembly. This right has always been recognised as an elementary right of citizenship, but it has always been emphasised that to be a right it must be a right of lawful assembly. This is vastly to be contrasted with riotous behaviour, obstruction or anything pertaining to force or violence. Surely the political history of the Australian Labor Party, for which Senator Willesee has led in this debate, reveals that the assembly of crowds creates a great potential for violence. This potential has been increased in the Moratorium Campaign by cunning references by Dr Cairns, a member of another place, calculated to incite violence. He has gone on public record as stating that arising out of such assemblies as the Moratorium Campaign violence is very often a consequence. Of course, he insinuates that it is very likely on this occasion.
Dr Cairns has called for strike action by industrial workers, not for industrial purposes but for political reasons. He has suggested the obstruction of movement in the thickly crowded streets and public highways where all sorts of people have freedom to go about their lawful pursuits. He has even reached the stage of supporting the move by the Moratorium Campaign to penetrate our schools. School children are to march along in aid of this supposedly lawful assembly for the Moratorium Campaign. The next thing is that we still enjoy in this country the right of free speech, that is to say, the right to state our opinion and state the facts as we know them on any matter of public interest, so long as we observe the ultimate interests of national security.
The point about the Moratorium Campaign and the fact that the Australian Labor Party has now gradually developed for itself the campaign of subverting the national cause in Vietnam is that members of the Labor Party have become so enamoured of the strength that they generate within their own thinking that they are now actually adopting speeches, threats and invitations to action which, in the circumstances of the time, any person would consider treasonable or treachery. But because there has been no formal declaration of war identifying any other country as one of the Queen’s enemies, or because there has been no proclamation of that country to invoke the relevant sections of the Crimes Act, they simply rely, intransigeantly and presumptuously, upon our right of free speech to propagate a campaign that is, in substance and in fact, a subversion of the whole national effort that is being spearheaded by our armed forces in Vietnam. That, in another generation, would have been called ‘fifth column activity’. Unlike those who are here apparently to give support to the ailing Labor Party in this debate this afternoon, Senator Willesee is old enough to recall the vicious influence of fifth column propaganda. Tn the European war it was most dangerous in the early years and in Great Britain Joyce was executed for his propaganda of fifth column purpose because he was endeavouring to undermine the morale of the British public under which the infrastructure of the defences then depended.
– The Nazi Party was out to support your Party.
– Members of the Nazi Party were superb experts at it. The
Communists have now inveigled Senator Willesee and Senator Wheeldon - the 2 Ws from Western Australia - into an adoption of the Nazi type of propaganda. However, let it be said for members of the Nazi Party that they did speak in defence of the German forces. They did not speak in subversion of their own armies when those armies were in conflict with the enemy. That is the purpose of the Moratorium Campaign and that is the cause which the Communist Party has handed over to the Australian Labor Party. In regard to the Moratorium Campaign the Australian Labor Party is now the torch bearer for the Communist Party.
Those who support the Moratorium Campaign rejoice in the rights of democracy. As we have known democracy to date, it consists of an organised community under a constitution that has been accepted by the people. Part of it is the existence of parliamentary institutions elected by the people to give expression to matters of concern and to engage in debates that affect the national interest. But the Moratorium Campaign is an attempt to substitute the impact of the mob as one finds it obstructing people in the street, as one finds it opposing people’s passage with force and, on occasion, generating force, and by that means substituting the chance mass assembly of 1,000 or more people in a crowd for the organised expression of democratic people in Parliament. Contemplation upon those 3 principles ought to make anybody who advocates participation in this Moratorium Capaign thoroughly ashamed. It will be seen that those who support the Campaign have arranged the public galleries in this place in the belief that they can intimidate or subdue me. It will have been observed that, those who are in the gallery are not in support of my side of the argument.
This debate arises in connection with a particularly vital experience for Australia, that is, this conflict in Vietnam which is probably unprecedented, either in its purpose or in its quality, it should be apparent to those who discuss the Vietnamese conflict that there has been there simply a resolution on the part of the South Vietnamese forces, aided by the American, Australian and New Zealand forces, to guard 2 things - the territory of South Vietnam and the freedom of the South Vietnamese people so as to give them a right to express for themselves, if they so decide, their choice of government, lawfully constituted, instead of having one imposed upon them by the Vietcong or the Communist forces from Hanoi. Senator Willesee talked of the Communist forces in language that was almost pontificating. He said that the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) and Senator Greenwood held different views because the Prime Minister had said that Australia would be resolved to resist aggression, whether it was Communist or violent aggression of any other character.
– Yes, he said nationalist’, and Senator Greenwood characterised this aggression as Communist aggression. That sort of weak verbal difference is characterised by Senator Willesee as a conflict of opinion. That sort of thing scarcely calls for mention. But the thing that has to be noted in regard to this Vietnam conflict to which I have referred is that today we are discussing it in a period when, I should think, we are called upon to exercise the utmost responsibility in any judgment that we can form individually in the national interest. What do we see when we start upon a judgment? We see that the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics has expressed its intention to intensify its support for Hanoi by providing further armaments. We see that Communist China is also rumbling in the same direction. We know that the Hanoi Government is avowedly Communist and we know the history of the atrocities that it has inflicted upon not only the South Vietnamese but also its own people. Has it escaped the notice of the Opposition that these three countries - the first two of which have the potential to play a major role in world affairs - have one form of unity and that is Communism? Has it escaped the notice of the Opposition that the very theme of the Communist cause which distinguishes it from the democratic cause is the use of violence to achieve its purpose? Senator Willesee referred to atrocities on the part of the allies, but he did not say 1 word in relation to the atrocities on the part of the Communists. I leave him to his own lamentations on this aspect.
We are today discussing a very important stage of the war in Vietnam. The President of the United States of America was very much disparaged by Senator Willesee. In the last 3 or 4 years the President and his predecessor engaged themselves unremittingly in the search for peace. They have used every form of diplomatic probing which could be employed throughout the world.
– I did not hear the remark.
– Mr Deputy President, 1 ask that the Minister be protected from interruptions from the Gallery.
-I think it is of shame to the Senate if the hilarity which occurred whenI referred to the fact that the President of the United States and his predecessor had engaged themselves in every diplomatic activity they could employ in search of peace and a beginning of negotiations to establish the freedom of South Vietnam came from the floor of the Senate. Having the door closed firmly against him about 12 months ago the President then declared that a limited withdrawal of United States troops would be made which would enable the campaign to be sustained by South Vietnamese forces and United States forces to be brought home. The coincidence which remains a little inexplicable is that immediately following the President’s announcement a few weeks ago of the significant withdrawal of 150,000 troops the collapse of the Cambodian Government was procured and there were increased incursions of Vietcong into Cambodia, the building up of enemy forces in that country and the maintenance of significant pockets of resistance along the Cambodian border on both the Cambodian and Vietnamese sides. President Nixon then resolved that in order to preserve the opportunity to withdraw some of his troops - and our own troops - from Vietnam it would be necessary to remove from the flanks of his forces the increasing Communist forces in Cambodia. It is in these circumstances that the Australian Labor Party has declared that it will mobilise as many mass meetings as possible in relation to the Moratorium to induce the Australian Government to discontinue the defence of South Vietnam.
– They are getting out because of the Moratorium.
– The interjection no doubt refers to certain aspects of the Moratorium movement in the United States of America. The Moratorium Campaign in the United States has produced on campuses and in the streets the degree of violence about which Senator Greenwood and other honourable senators on this side of the chamber are trying to warn the Parliament and the public. We are endeavouring to make the public conscious of the real purpose of the campaign and the danger of it from the point of view of public order if any untoward conflict is allowed to arise. We are endeavouring to prevent the Australian Labor Party making a contribution to the subversion of support for our troops who are now actively engaging the enemy. It is all very well for Senator Hendrickson to interject and make out that a war on this front is to be deplored, butI put it to him that, just as with the war in which he took part-
– I shall repeat what I have just said having regard to the noise made by the Opposition Whip. There are people who, like Senator Willesee, say: ‘We fought in the Second World War and look at the doubtful peace which has followed it’. Is there anybody who is so blind as to be unable to see the awful predicament in which our democracies would have been placed if the United States had not been forthcoming with help during the Second World War? In much the same way we find today that the Australian Labor Party is saying: ‘Let South Vietnam collapse first, then Cambodia and then the other nations in South East Asia. Let the Communist cause spread throughout South East Asia’. If that happens we will be separated from Communism only by the waters to our north.
Some people disparage the fact that Australia is aligning itself with the United States. Australia stood under the protective shield of the United States during 2 world wars. The United States made a decisive contribution to our victory on those occasions. Since the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from South East Asia. Australia is more reliant upon its alliance with the
United States than ever before. Having regard to her purpose in South Vietnam and the cause to which she has committed herself there - the defence of a small nation against violent aggression - I would have thought that the gratitude for assistance in the past would earn respect for the present alliance and that, so far from disparaging the cause of the United States, no responsible person in the Commonwealth Parliament would denigrate her cause.
– Your side of the Parliament would not have the United States in 1942.
– 1 have no doubt that Senator Hendrickson’s memory of events in 1942 is a little blurred. Of course, there are many people listening to him who were not born at that time and whom he might mislead, but the fact is that the alliance of the United States was welcomed as the saviour of the British Isles, and the United States was welcomed as a decisive ally of Australia. It was with overwhelming relief that we found that after being attacked at Pearl Harbour the United States came to our aid. I have spoken in this debate because there are principles in our democracy that can be abused if they are misunderstood, and there is every possibility that by the mass movement involved in this Moratorium they will be abused. They will be abused except insofar as the constituted law enforcement authorities of the country c;m prevent such abuse.
I have spoken in this debate because I think that at this time the Parliament should show more responsibility towards developing opinion wilh regard to the critical events that are now occurring in Indo-China, and we should remember that the Australian Government has sent armed forces there and that those armed forces are now engaged with an enemy - the invaders and insurrectionists in South Vietnam. I say to every member of this Parliament: Your duty to the Australian forces and to Australian security demands that any judgment that is to be made upon this conflict be made here by the elected members of the Australian people and not by mass, mob movements that may be promoted in cities for the purpose of dislocating our ordinary national life.
Senator WHEELDON (Western Aus is opposed to the contemptible urgency motion which has been moved by Senator Greenwood. I stand here as a supporter of the Vietnam Moratorium Campaign. 1 am proud to be associated with the other people who are participating in this Campaign. I am proud of the great number of members of the Party to which 1 belong and of the trade union movement and of the Leader of my Party, because of their association with this Campaign. We are supporting the Vietnam Moratorium movement because-
– Which leader?
– All of the leaders of the Party; the Leader and Deputy Leader of the Party in the House of Representatives, and the Leader and Deputy Leader of the Party in the Senate. We are opposed to the continuation of the war in IndoChina. We support the Moratorium Campaign because we believe that what is happening in Vietnam and Cambodia is - whatever else it may be doing in those countries - poisoning the entire life of the American and Australian people. Our societies are being torn asunder. Our con.tries are being corrupted. Our people are being brutalised because of the continuation of the United States and Australian participation in this aggression in Vietnam and Cambodia. We call for the withdrawal of Australian troops from Vietnam because we believe that a continuation of Australian participation in this war is wrong, first of all because of the bloodshed which is taking place as a result of our intervention, secondly because of the hypocrisy with which every action of this Government in this struggle has been tainted, and thirdly because of the total stupidity of this Government and of the United States Administration in the policies which they have followed in Indo-China.
Little needs to be said about the bloodshed which has taken place in Indo-China, not only amongst the Vietnamese and now the Cambodian people, but also amongst the Americans and Australian conscripts. Plenty may be said about the hypocrisy. We were told that we went into this war in Vietnam in order to withstand the downward thrust of Chinese Communism: that behind the National Liberation Front in South Vietnam stood Hanoi, and behind Hanoi stood the Communist Government in
Peking. We were told this by a government which at the very same time boasted of the amount of trade which it had with China, the very country which it claimed to be defending the Australian people from. We have had hypocrisy shown in selective conscription, whereby only certain 20-year-olds are sent away to fight, while other young heroes of military age can use the sanctuary of the Senate and the public platforms in order to blackguard their less fortunate fellow Australians who have had the courage to withstand the penal provisions of the National Service Act, have acted according to their consciences and have not merely skulked in cowardice behind privilege in order to attack those people who have acted with the courage of their convictions - a courage which they themselves would show only if they were to go around to the recruiting office and put their money where their mouth is.
We are opposed to the hypocrisy of this war which is shown by the policy of ‘business as usual’, whereby there is no declaration of war and whereby, as Senator Willesee has said, there is no general demand being made on the Australian community to make any sacrifice for the Australian participation in the war. All of the burden of war is being unloaded on to a certain small group of young men who are being conscripted and on to their families. It is a hypocritical war because there has been no declaration of war. We still do not know what our war aims are in Vietnam or in Cambodia. We still do not know what sort of stage has to be reached before we can say that we can withdraw from it. I remember what Senator George Aiken, a very conservative Republican member of the United States Senate, said only a few years ago -
– What are the Communists doing?
– Private Gair has returned from active service. I understand that he is enjoying his rest and recreation leave in the Senate. What Senator Aiken said was this - and I think it is something that ought to be repeated: As nobody knows what the United States is trying to do inside Vietnam, the best course for the United States Administration to follow would be to declare that it had won the war and withdraw all the troops immediately. Nobody would be able to judge whether it had won the war or lost lt because nobody would know. A lot of lives would be saved, and so would America’s face.
We are opposed to the stupidity of this war. We were supposed to be sending troops into Vietnam in order to stop the dominoes from falling over, according to that famous domino theory. But now, as a result of 6 years of American troops and 5 years of Australian troops being in Vietnam, we find that the conflict is no longer confined to Vietnam, but has now spread to Cambodia.
– Because the Corns have gone in there, and have been there for 5 years.
– Cambodia was a neutral country until the overthrow of Prince Sihanouk.
– A self-confessed Communist.
– If Senator Gair says that Prince Sihanouk is a self-confessed Communist, I feel that Senator Gair needs to say no more to illustrate his knowledge of the subject. I think he can leave it at that.
– If you read the newspapers you will see that he has confessed he is a Communist. He gave the Communists plenty of help, too.
– Cambodia, which was a neutral country, is now a country which is as much convulsed with war as is Vietnam itself. It is convulsed with war as a result of the invasion which has taken place by the United States and South Vietnamese Government forces. This is an invasion because those forces have not entered Cambodia as a result of any invitation from the Cambodian Government. No invitation has been received from the Cambodian Government. I am sure that Senator Gair, who is continually interjecting, will have an opportunity to bore us later. I wish that he would not interrupt me at the present time. No invitation has been received from the Cambodian Government - even the reactionary Cambodian Government of Lon Nol which deposed the neutral Government of Prince Sihanouk which was in office for many years. President Nixon has now announced that he intends to withdraw
United States troops from Cambodia in 8 weeks time. What absurd situation have we reached now? We have gone into Cambodia. We have convulsed another country in war. We have defied the Government of that country.
– We have not.
– The United States has. Our ally has and our Government supports it. I am glad Senator Branson wishes to dissociate himself from this, and I will accept his apology. The situation in Cambodia is that even the Lon Nol Government, which is opposed completely to the policies followed by Prince Sihanouk, has not welcomed the United States or the South Vietnamese into that country. The war has been expanded. It is because of matters such as these that the Australian people intend to protest as part of the Moratorium movement.
Similar protests have been held throughout the United States of America. The standard of debate in the United States Senate is rather more sophisticated than the standard that one would expect from Senator Greenwood or Senator Gair. People like Senator Cranston from California, Senator McGovern and Senator Nelson have taken part in the Moratorium movement in the United States. They are not people of the ilk of Senator Greenwood, the military man, or Senator Gair who resort to the level of smearing those people in this country who intend to take part in the same activity. There has been considerable violence in the United States but it has been a product of the violence taking place in Vietnam and Cambodia. Never once has any allegation been made by any responsible American administration spokesman that Senator Cranston, Senator McGovern, Mayor Lindsay or Professor Galbraith, President Kennedy’s former Ambassador to the United Nations, are in some way subversive or are trying to undermine the American way of life,
We believe that this protest has to take place because it is only by the people going out into the streets and showing how they feel that changes can be brought about in the policies of this Government. There can be no doubt that the demonstrations which have taken place in the United States of America have played a substantial part in the defeat of President Johnson and in the limited changes in policy which have been undertaken by President Nixon. This afternoon Senator Wright airily talked about the lawful right to free assembly. The lawful right to free assembly would never have been achieved if it had not been for unlawful actions in the first place. The Magna Carta would never have been signed if certain barons had not acted unlawfully against King John. The Court of the Star chamber would still exist if people like Pym and Hampden had complied with the law and paid their ship money. But they did not do so. There would not be as many civil rights for black people in the United States, as there are at present, if it had not been for the campaigns of passive resistance by brave men such as Martin Luther King. There still would not be civil rights for a very vast section of the population of Northern Ireland if it were not for the civil rights movement which is taking place in Northern Ireland at present. Australian people will take the same kind of action to see that the Government and the rest of the people- know that they are just as opposed to what is a brutal and unjust war as are the people of the United Stales and the people of other countries who have made similar protests.
We do not doubt that there will be misrepresentation. We are interested to hear this talk about violence. Senator Wright had something to say about Nazis. But there has been no condemnation coming from Senator Greenwood or Senator Wright of statements by leading members of the socalled Australian Nazi Party that chey intend to disrupt the Moratorium proceedings when they are held. Nobody has condemned that kind of violence. In fact the misrepresentation is so great that Senator Greenwood today told us that Victoria will be without fire services on Friday when the Moratorium Campaign is taking place. 1 have received a message from Mr Webber, the State Secretary of the Victorian Firefighters’ Union, pointing out that he has stated repeatedly that normal services such as attending fires and answering telephone calls will be maintained during the Moratorium Campaign although those firemen who are available have been urged to take part in the Moratorium demonstrations. That statement was repeated in this morning’s ‘Age’ in answer to a statement which had been made by Senator Greenwood. Senator
Greenwood has repeated his statement here. Senator Greenwood is able to do this because of his parliamentary immunity. His statement is typical of the slanderous misrepresentation of people who are prepared totake a stand on the side of peace in Vietnam.
Before I close I refer to a statement made in South Africa recently. In the South African general election held two weeks ago, a number of supporters of apartheid, members of the Nationalist Party, were defeated. One of the new members, Mr Martin Stephens, is the youngest person ever to have been a member of the South African Parliament. He is a member of the United Party. He won a seat from the powerful Nationalist Party of Mr Vorster, the Prime Minister of South Africa. Martin Stephens is a conservative Afrikaner. He is a devoted member of one of the stricter branches of the Dutch Reformed Church. He was elected to the South African Parliament to represent a seat which had been held by the Nationalists until that election. He said: ‘People only resort to violence when they cannot get satisfaction from the ordinary processes of government. And the Government must have attained legitimacy in the minds of the people. It must be receptive to all sections of the community.’ This Government is not receptive to anything like all sections of the community. It has lost any claim it had to legitimacy because it supports unlawful actions in Cambodia and Vietnam. We find that in South Africa a white man elected to represent a wholly white electorate in that Parliament is prepared to take a more honest and honourable stand in support of Western democratic values than any of the representatives of this Government who sit before us today. In the struggle around the Vietnam Moratorium movement we are not alone. We have many friends.
– Order! The honourable senator’s time has expired.
– It gives me no pleasure to take part in a debate of this kind today. Firstly, I direct my remarks to the first part of the preamble of the motion before the Senate that the objectives and tactics of the Vietnam Moratorium Campaign are to be deplored’. In the short time that I have available to me I shall pay some attention to the tactics and objectives of the Moratorium Campaign. In this campaign we see a new kind of propaganda. It is not Australian. It has been copied slavishly, of course, from an American example. The account of the origin of it appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald’ of 5th March which reported that Professor Medlin of Flinders University, South Australia, announced after a meeting of peace groups in Canberra last November, that ‘the Moratorium would be held in Australia in April or May and would duplicate the Moratorium held in the United States last year’. This is the origin of this present campaign. Professor Medlin, if honourable senators will forgive the pun, is meddling in things the consequence of which he is apparently not aware. We should look at the structure of the modern day protest that tries to create an appearance of being spontaneous. Look back into the structure of it. It is carefully and deliberately organised for a purpose, and if we have a look at the people who for various reasons are persuaded to become part of it we see a motley group.
First of all we have the pacifists who perhaps are genuine. I respect their opinions. They are led into agreement with the movement because of their strongly held beliefs andI respect those beliefs. But the great body of people who are taking part are those who are seeking to take political advantage of the situation.I listened to the opening words of the speech delivered by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) this very day to the group of people assembled on the lawns in front of this Parliament House. He commenced by saying: ‘In 3 weeks time there is to be an election in Canberra’. This is the motivation of a great number of people who come in seeking to create the impression that they are ardent advocates of peace. They are there purely and simply to turn to political advantage the sincere belief of the great majority of Australians who want peace. But these people are not sincere in their beliefs. Then we have the group of hoppers on bandwagons and today in Australia we find them multiplying rapidly. Any bandwagon is good enough for a ride and this happens to be one. They are akin to the professional protesters, the people who seek publicity for its own sake and who want to be recorded in the newspapers and on television. They want to be seen to be great fellows and in their own smallness and insignificance they seek to direct attention to themselves like the woolly minded pseudo academic who matches and symbolises his woolliness with the length of his hair covering.
– You could never fit into that class. You arc jealous.
– I concede the point. This is the mixed up crowd which follows the Pied Piper who plays the tune. Prominent among them, of course, are the Communists and their fellow travellers who ever have sought to fish in troubled waters. Closely allied with them, of course, are the anarchists who believe that all laws are obnoxious - all laws except the rafferty rules that they believe in. I believe in dissent. 1 am by nature a dissenter but I do not believe in violence. Traditionally in this country we have seen dissent right from the earliest days. Our country was populated very largely by people who exhibited various forms of dissent, some legal and some illegal. But we have through the years built up a tradition of free speech and free assembly within the structure of the laws. We believe that this is the best system of seeing that all people have a fair go. But this is a new thing. This is organisation of the crowd irrespective of the rights of others and irrespective of who gets hurt so long as the objectives are achieved. We see in this present campaign firstly the breaching of lawful obligations, the obligation that the lecturer has to conduct lectures to his class and the obligation that a man has to attend his place of employment. These things are disregarded. They matter not. We note the intention to block the streets of Melbourne.
– -What about the farmers last month?
– The farmers did not block the traffic in the streets of Melbourne.
– Yes they did. I saw them.
– They conducted a lawful march and they did not do what is proposed to be done in this instance, to sit down at the cross streets so that there can be no flow of traffic. But I read to honourable senators the origin of this, the importation from the United States by Professor Medlin. Does he want to import into this country the history of violent protest that he is seeking to copy? Motivating this sort of protest is a new theory, or perhaps it is not altogether a new theory. But it is the theory that is propagated by Dr Cairns of the Labor Party, the theory that if one disagrees with any particular law it is legitimate to break the law.
– He did not say any particular law.
- Dr Cairns has been quoted in the ‘Herald’ of 14th April as saying - and he has not repudiated the quote - that he believed a citizen has a right to break an objectionable law. Let us follow this to its logica] conclusion. Who is to decide what is an objectionable law?
– Dr Cairns. Who better to decide?
– Yes, Dr Cairns will decide what is an objectionable law and Senator Cavanagh will decide what he considers to be an objectionable law and I. of course, will equally have the right to decide what is objectionable to me. If this is not chaos and if this is not anarchy, then what is it? This is the whole motivation behind the Moratorium protest movement, lt is a move towards anarchy. If honourable senators are honest in their thinking they can arrive at no other conclusion. The grave consequences that await us if we sail this perilous course are all too evident when we read today’s newspapers and see the effect and the end result of the anti-war demonstrations in America, the death of 4 university students. President Nixon said that when dissent turns to violence it invites tragedy. I add that the greatest tragedy of all would bc the death and destruction of our democratic way of life.
– J rise to oppose this motion. I note that the matter of urgency states that the objectives and tactics of the Vietnam Moratorium Campaign are to be deplored because they are deliberately calculated to do 4 things that are set out in the matter of urgency. It states that they are to be deplored for those reasons and not for what they seek to do in relation to the repeal of the National Service Act and the withdrawal of Australian troops from Vietnam. The matter of urgency makes no attempt to deplore them for those reasons. I believe that this is the crux of the whole problem.
Whether the Moratorium is welcomed by those on the other side of the chamber or by those on this side, it is an earnest attempt by people who believe that a demonstration of public opinion on this question can move governments. Governments have been moved before by public opinion. Because this Government will not act against unjust laws, the organisers of the Moratorium hope to arouse a sufficient body of public opinion to persuade it to repeal the undemocratic and undesirable National Service Act and to withdraw our troops from Vietnam - a conflict in respect of which there is no declaration of war and which has no bearing upon any Australian interest.
The whole tradition of the Australian community, from the time of its birth in those sections of the dissent movement about whom Senator Prowse spoke and from whom we are descended, has been to fight for freedom. The Australian community has never been prepared to accept conscription other than in respect of a small area in the Pacific at a time when we were engaged in a war in defence of what the whole population thought was a vital principle and when our country was being attacked. But during the 1914-18 War we had a division of opinion over conscription. Wc had more violence during that conscription campaign than we have seen on this occasion.
Other than during the Second World War, at the time of an invasion of Australia, we had not had to use conscription until it was introduced in order to recruit an army for a campaign in Vietnam that has not been sold to the Australian public. Whatever are the rights or wrongs of that campaign, the Australian public does not accept that Australia has any right to be in Vietnam. The public can call to its support the whole history of Vietnam in order to show that there is no justification for our being there.
When other methods have failed, an election campaign, unless it is fought on that issue, is not a basis for deciding whether the people have given a mandate on that 1 issue. Many other items are included in an election policy. The Government should not be encouraged by the knowledge that it owes its position to, and is in power today only by virtue of, the fact that in sufficient marginal seats to give it a majority at the last election it was fortunate in having candidates whose names appeared higher on the alphabetical list than did those of Labor Party candidates. On no account can the Government claim that there was a vote in support of Australia’s participation in Vietnam. In fact, in my own State the Party that came out and opposed Australia’s participation in Vietnam received 52% of the first preference votes. So we have a public opinion that says we should not be participating in Vietnam.
I do not suppose the reaction would be so great if it were not for the fact that men with conscientious objections to participating in this war are called up under an Act of this Parliament and are forced into gaol if they obey the dictates of their consciences and will not go to this war.
– That is completely untrue, and the honourable senator knows it. It has been shown to be untrue time and time again.
– It is not untrue. 1 have been in demonstrations outside gaols in which men have been incarcerated for 2 years under the National Service Act. The reason why they are in gaol is that they will not obey a call-up notice because their consciences are opposed to their participation in the war in Vietnam. I went to the Sale gaol in Victoria, in which Senator Greenwood should be interested and in which Brian Ross is incarcerated for 2 years.
This young son of a farmer said: ‘1 could not fight in Vietnam because my conscience will not permit me to’. The headmaster of the high school that Brian Ross attended spoke at the meeting at which he made that statement. The headmaster said: ‘One of the things that hurt me is that this lad is in gaol for the very principles that I have an obligation under the Education Act to teach him - the individuality of and obedience to his conscience. The very things that I placed into his mind are the reason why he is in gaol today, because my education of this lad was so thorough’. Another thing that the headmaster said grieved him was that this lad was in gaol as a result of a decision of the Federal Government and a Minister of that Government went to the same school and received the same education.
Here we see a situation in which men are forced, against their consciences, to fight in a war that they do not think has anything to do with them. When we have failed in the past to stop wars, then we have failed to stop Australian participation in conflicts and when we have not succeeded up to now in this campaign to stop our involvement in the Vietnam war, which in the opinion of the Australian public is no concern of Australia, some members of the community hold the honest opinion that we should demonstrate and continue to demonstrate until the mass of demonstrations is such that we can influence governments on this matter. It is no use saying that governments cannot be influenced. Politicians are subservient to public opinion at any time. This is the very motive behind the demonstrations.
Senator Greenwood said that the Moratorium Campaign cannot succeed. Perhaps it cannot. But it is an honest attempt by people who believe that they must do something to stop the waste of human life that is occurring at the present time. Is there any other suggestion for stopping this conflict? It is said that we who have a duty to civilisation, a duty to democracy and a duty to the young men of Australia should keep out of this Campaign because there are some Communists in it or Communists may be in the leadership of it. We have an obligation to our Party. The decision of the Federal Executive of our Party was that we members of the Party should be leading this Campaign. Dr Cairns has accepted the leadership of the Campaign in Victoria. Is he to be condemned for carrying out Labor Party policy and because his interest in the young manhood of Australia is great enough to prompt him to take a leading part in it?
As I have said in adjournment debates, there are big possibilities of violence. I think Senator Wright said that when there are mass assemblies there is always a potential for some violence to take place. Today we saw members of the Nazi group giving out signs and propaganda contrary to the aims of the Moratorium Campaign. When we came back into this building, after seeing a number of policemen in front of it, we observed the black maria at the back of the building, waiting for the call that was supposed to come. We saw men young enough to volunteer for service holding up We support Nixon’ campaign placards for the purpose of provoking a disturbance.
In the organisation of the Moratorium Campaign and the accompanying appeal for peace not a word of rejection of the rights of those individuals was uttered. Reference has been made to dissent expressed by one group at a meeting organised by another group. 1 do not believe that the dissenters acted correctly on that occasion. They had a perfect right to organise their own group, but to interfere with the activities of another group does not seem proper to me. But was violence manifested on that occasion, despite the fact that every preparation was made for it? Efforts are being made to stop the eruption of violence in Australia, but violence in this country takes a form different from that in America, to which Senator Prowse has referred. Nevertheless, night after night we get someone screeching in our ears in the debate on -the motion for the adjournment of the Senate, ‘there will be violence, there will be violence’, in the hope that violence will occur.
Senator Greenwood addressed a question to a Minister in which he stated that Mark Poser of Adelaide has said in an article that he knows where molotov cocktails are being produced for use in the Moratorium Campaign. Although the Attorney-General (Mr Hughes) has been asked what he can do about that, we cannot obtain a reply. This honourable senator, this alarmist who wants to create strife in the proposed demonstration should be made to unearth the information if he has it, or be shown up as being involved in manufacturing lies for the purpose of starting arguments in the Senate as an aid to the creation of violence. Let us consider a possible solution to the question of the supposed invasion of the North and South. Vietnam was divided at the time that the French left Indo-China solely for the purpose of disarmament. The only foreigners in Vietnam are the Americans and those Allies supporting the Americans. Where is the invasion? Who is in Vietnam who should not be in Vietnam at the present time? The slaughter has occurred in Vietnam only because the Americans have a vested interest there.
Australia must answer the call of the United States because, as Senator Wright said, we allied ourselves with that great and mighty power. If that great and mighty power finds that it is not in its national interests to come to our assistance if ever we call for it - and we are placing so much reliance on this association - I do not know what will happen. But do we support a nation, rightly or wrongly, because it has come to our assistance even though it was acting in its own interests in doing so? Do we not have the right to examine our situation? Recognition is growing in this country that we must examine our involvement. Public opinion has hardened to the view that the United States must get out of Vietnam, as we must also. But the United States view is that its forces must annihilate the enemy forces in Vietnam before its troops are withdrawn. The difficulty is that Communists cannot be distinguished by their features and they do not wear identifying armbands. It therefore becomes necessary to slaughter all Vietnamese in order to ensure that you have disposed of the enemy.
Bombing of North Vietnam has resumed because arms may be located there. It has been said that Cambodia has been invaded by United Slates troops solely for the purpose of destroying the headquarters of the enemy and eliminating sanctuaries from which the enemy can attack our troops in South Vietnam. Although the Americans entered Cambodia .some days ago they have not yet found the Communists there. But the policy is that if there is a possibility that Communists are in an area the destruction must go on to ensure that the enemy is annihilated before the troops are withdrawn. It is said that the Vietnamisation programme is succeeding and will allow us to withdraw troops from Vietnam, but it appears that we will get out of Vietnam only after the complete annihilation of the forces offering resistance to a puppet government that has been established in South Vietnam. The history of events in Spain, Greece and Nationalist China shows that this Government always supports the military juntas that take over control. We supported the previous Government in South Vietnam which took power by force of arms. The present Government of South Vietnam claims to have been elected, but in the elections that were conducted Communists and neutralists were not allowed to stand for election or to enter into debate.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Wood) - Order! The honourable senator’s time nas expired.
– What are we dealing with? We are dealing with a motion this afternoon which reads:
That the objectives and tactics of the Vietnam Moratorium Campaign are to be deplored because they are deliberately calculated to -
Weaken the resolution of the Australian people to secure a just and lasting peace in Vietnam.
Give moral support to the North Vietnamese to persist in their aggression and subversion in South Vietnam.
Promote civil disorder and encourage the breaking of the law.
Cause unwarranted inconvenience to Australian citizens by the call to strike, and for these reasons that the participation in the Moratorium of Members of Parliament should be forthrightly condemned.
Senator Willesee speaking for the Opposition seemed to me to be the only person on that side who became involved in the issue. We heard intemperate, emotional and hysterical remarks from various other honourable senators but 1 must say that at least Senator Willesee seemed to try to deal with the real issue - involvement in the Indo-China peninsula.
I will read from a book by Brian Crozier, written quite a long time ago, called ‘South East Asia in Turmoil’. 1 know all honourable senators have their own books on this subject and this is one of mine. This is what Brian Crozier said:
Violence has been the daily fare in various parts of South-East Asia ever since the Japanese armies moved south in 1941. Terrorists have tortured ‘traitors’ and murdered officials. Terrorists have risen in the name of Nationalism, Communism, or Anti-Communism, and in some places for the spoils of banditry. Old empires have been overthrown and new ones are on the make. There have been revolutions and counterrevolutions, the label depending, often as not, on which side of the iron or bamboo curtain the onlooker is.
And the price of violence has been the squandering or drying up at source of South East Asia’s prodigious wealth, while millions of new mouths have clamoured for food and low living standards have been further eroded.
Cambodia, another part of the former French empire in Indo-China, has been ruled with brilliant but erratic skill by Prince Sihanouk, the king turned politician, but towards the end of 1963, the prince seemed to have decided that in time China was going to rule over everybody anyway, and asked the United States to drop its aid programme. Instability was thus the rule, not the exception.
Much of the violence and insecurity that has reigned in South East Asia since the Second World War was probably inevitable; though demagoguery-
We have had our share of that this afternoon - and human folly have created unrest where there need have been none.
The most insidious, persistent and single-minded of the revolutionaries are Communists of one kind or another. Since nearly all South East Asia’s Communists are inspired and helped from outside the area, and since the United States and other Western powers have tried to counter their progress, South East Asia– as we all know - has become one of the world’s major theatres of the cold war - indeed the area, above all others, Where the cold war, in reality, has been ‘hot’. 1 have had the advantage of visiting Vietnam on 3 occasions. I have been in some of the more difficult places. 1 know some of the people and, like everybody else, 1 have always been disturbed about what has been going on and about the problems there. But my sympathy is with those who were being slaughtered and were likely to be slaughtered when we in this country came to their aid when they called for it.
– Who called for aid?
- Senator, the real issue now is as it has been since the end of the War - Communist aggression. This is my view and I am entitled to express it. I say to you also, despite some of the remarks you have made, that the domino theory has been proved correct. Of course it has. Look at the situation in Laos, in Vietnam, and the threats to northern and north-east Thailand. Look at the threat of insurrection facing the people living over the borders in the jungles of northern Malaya and just waiting for the day when it will break out. The day has come for the people who were in occupation as Communists of a lot of Cambodian territory.
Sitting suspended from 5.45 to 3 p.m.
– Australia has a great deal to be proud of in the work that has been done in Cambodia by Australian people. Groups are still there today. People from the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority are working in the Prek-Thnot Dam area under conditions of difficulty and danger. They are ia areas where the Khmer Rouge can be found. Those Australian people are good enough and proud enough to go there and do a job for this country and we should not let them down by the kind of behaviour that we are seeing demonstrated in Australia and proposed to us here today. The Moratorium supporters claim the right to use irregular and, I believe, wrong methods to express their views. They talk about unjust laws. Laws are made in the Parliament, not by mobs.
I think I have made my position clear. I have always believed that we were ready to help our allies defend themselves against Communist aggression from North Vietnam. I still believe it. We have a proud record in Asia and we can be proud of the people who have gone there for us in the war and to carry out aid programmes. I hope they finish up being proud of us. The Moratorium supporters are really proposing to the Australian people what / would call a ‘popular front’ method of attracting attention to their cause. The proposition clear and simple really is this: The ends justify the means. But not in my book. We have seen in past years demonstrations of murder, pillage, slaughter, rape and takeover by North Vietnam against its neighbours. Where have been the demonstrators against that? Where has been the Moratorium against that? Where has been the popular outcry against that? Let me refer to the Australian badge wearers. One thing I realty am happy about is that not all Labor senators have been seen to be wearing badges. So let us leave it at that.
The Returned Services League has some right to speak in this country on behalf of at least some of the people. The League has said:
The proposed Vietnam Moratorium is a betrayal of our national interests and of our young men on the battlefield.
I agree completely and utterly. Our policy can be summed up fairly simply. The Australian Government desires a just peace in Vietnam based upon the ability of the South Vietnamese to determine for themselves, secure from aggression, the future development and government of their territory. That is what we have worked for in this country, what we have fought for and what I hope we will always stand for. That is the proper and sensible way of determining our interests and where our interests lie, not by means of a popular front, not by a proposition to legislate outside Parliament and not by a scheme whereby the ends are supposed to justify the means.
– Before I proceed with the main theme of what 1 propose to say in this debate I want to answer briefly some of the statements made by honourable senators on the Government side. It will be recalled that some days ago just prior to the last week’s recess Senator Greenwood, who has put forward this urgency motion today, led off here late one evening in the adjournment debate. He could find only one supporter on the Government benches to back him up. At 3 a.m. 1 think he was glad to call it a day. I am told, I think reliably, that his move on that occasion was not very popular with Government senators. The following night he was the sole speaker. He repeated word by word, comma by comma, what he had said the evening before.
– That is quite untrue and the honourable senator knows it.
– Maybe here and there Senator Greenwood put in an odd adjective.
– There you go again.
– I will have to deal with Senator Little again. On the third evening we were treated to the same kind of thing. The only reason that Senator Greenwood did not speak on the Thursday prior to the closing of the Parliament for the week’s recess was that it would have interfered with his social plans as he went to the airport to meet Her Majesty the Queen. Today we find Senator Greenwood on behalf of. the Government - one presumes so in view of the small measure of support he has had this afternoon and this evening - again kicking the tin around. I must say that I heard nothing different in what he said today from what he said on that first evening 10 days or so ago. lt was merely a reiteration of the points he made then.
We find a number of hawks on the Government side who desire to indulge in this exercise of picking up the political carrion. In view of his political eccentricities one can understand Senator Wright, the second speaker on the Government side. We know that for years he moved backwards and forwards between the Opposition side and the Government side, voting with the Opposition on unimportant issues and then voting with the Government on other issues. He has been silent these days because now he is a Minister of the Crown. Consequently he has joined the hawks. However, because of his normal political eccentricities 1 do not propose to say anything more about him. I was surprised when Senator Prowse came in because I have a respect for him.
– Get oh with the issues. Never mind the personalities.
– When a female voice comes screaming across the chamber it does not sound very dignified. I know the attitude of Senator Prowse to certain things and I was surprised when he became one of the hawks. The shocking thing that he said was that the Moratorium was responsible for the killing of the 4 unfortunate students in America a couple of days ago. That was the inference that he laid at our feet. Let me say that if there is any blame attachable to anyone it is to the troops belonging to President Nixon who fired into those kids. The lady senator shouting her head off again would be one of the first to encourage that kind of thing in Australia. So would Senator. Greenwood, so would Senator Prowse and so would Senator Cotton. That is the only kind of law that they know - the law of bullets and guns. They support the remark made by Mr Askin, their socalled beloved Premier of New South Wales, when he gaily drove the then President of the United States along the streets of Sydney and said: ‘Run over the so-and-so’s’.
– Order! Senator Keeffe, 1 will not permit you to discuss the Premier of New South Wales. 1 have grave doubts whether that statement is correct. You may proceed.
– I did not intend to be offensive. I was restating a factual statement made by a person in another place. Not only were 4 youngsters - 2 ‘innocent young girls and 2 innocent young lads - killed as a result of the invasion of Cambodia but almost another 20 were seriously wounded. The same kind of thing will happen throughout the American nation over the next month and President Nixon now has said: ‘We will pull our troops out by the end of lune’. He can see the civil war that is coming on his own doorstep. There are people on the Government side who are endeavouring to instigate violence, too, who want to see in this country a civil war over this issue. This Moratorium was conceived in peace. I was proud to be one of its original sponsors. I atn proud to be a member of the regional committee in my own home city and a member of the committee in my own home State. I shall participate in all of its activities as I did today.
On every occasion in the past when demonstrations of this nature have taken place against the policies of an evil government they have- had an effect to the extent that those policies have been changed. Nobody could convince me that had protests not been staged in the United States President Nixon would have withdrawn troops from Vietnam. It has happened because of the pressure of public opinion. If Government supporters had the intestinal fortitude to face the people of this country in an election tomorrow the Government would be defeated on this one issue alone because Australians are completely fed up with the Government’s attitude. Last night the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) spoke in support of the entry of United States troops into Cambodia. I want /> remind honourable senators of what happened in 1964 when national service was introduced. The Government said then that no conscrips would lose their lives in an overseas conflict. We said at the time that that was what was planned. To date over 400 Australian lads have died in the unwinnable war in Vietnam and thousands more have been wounded. Over 200 have received pensions for total and permanent incapacity. If those ex-servicemen are in their early 20s they can look forward to another 30 or 40 years of crippled life.
In the organisation of the Moratorium we have continually said that there will be no violence. The only people trying today to create scenes are the neo-Nazis, members of the Nazi Party, acting provocatively in the precincts of this House. Members of the National Civil Council - two groups of young hoodlums - tried to precipitate some sort of argument while acting in the name of the Government. That is what they claimed. On several occasions Senator Greenwood has acted in the same way as Hitler did in Germany in years gone by, following the policy that if you tell a lie often enough and in the greatest possible number of places some of the allegations will stick. If supporters of the Government are not worried about the Moratorium why have they given it all this free publicity?
Why has one of the Government supporters been ranting and raving in the Senate night after night and giving the publicity that we needed to the Moratorium? It was costing us a lot of money to get publicity until the Government decided to oppose the Moratorium. Why was it necessary to form a sub-committee, headed by Mr Fairbairn, a defeated candidate for the role of Prime Minister? Why did he have to make a statement that we are acting on behalf of foreign agents, and all that sort of stuff?
I point out to honourable senators opposite that serving on the committees organising the Moratorium are many members of the Liberal Party, a few members of the Australian Country Party and a couple whom we suspect are members of the Democratic Labor Party. All these people are organising on Moratorium committees. Government parties and of the Government. They are the real democrats in Australia who can see both sides of the issue. All that Government supporters want to see ‘s one side. There are two groups of people in Australia who want the war to continue in Vietnam, one of which is comprised of the people represented by honourable senators opposite. I refer to those people who see that there is a dollar to be made cut of the war. Do not tell me that Australian wheat is not finding its way to North Vietnam or that the sinews of war in o’.her forms are not going to that country. Do not tell me that some products of supporters of the Government are not being sold on the infamous black market around Saigon. Honourable senators opposite know that that is true.
– We heard this from the member for East Sydney about 3 years ago.
- Senator Sir Magnus Cormack would not know what happened 3 years ago because his memory does not go back that far. The second group to which 1 refer is composed of those in the community who turn over the chamber pot each night before using it, to make sure that it does not contain a Communist. They are the people who are worried about the socalled domino theory. Tonight Senator Cotton, one of our newest Ministers, entered the fray. I had thought that he was a man with a lot of principle but he has sunk to the same level as some of his colleagues who have adopted a similar stand. I hope that that is not the only way he can hold his portfolio, as does another Minister whom I mentioned a few minutes ago.
– Oh, shame.
– I was almost ashamed to hear the Minister. If he would criticise me for wearing a Moratorium badge, I wonder what he wears on his coat. I am entitled to wear other badges, too. I will wear the Moratorium badge just as proudly as I wear my Returned Services League badge, my Legion of Ex-servicemen badge and my Australian Labor Party badge. I wear it with the same pride and the same interest in what I am doing as 1 have in respect of the other badges. If the honourable gentleman is disturbed by it, I hope that when the times comes he will reassess his views.
I said earlier that the main interest of the Government is in prolonging the war. It has no intention of slopping the war under any circumstances, even if it is forced to leave only one battalion in the field. The Government will take the first opportunity to send our troops into Cambodia, Laos, Thailand or anywhere at all where bullets can be fired or bombs can be dropped. That is the attitude to life adopted by supporters of the Government. This country needs to develop a new morality and a whole new set of social values, lt needs a new form of social thinking. We believe that we in the Labor Party can give a lead. We believe that by participation in such peaceful bodies as the Vietnam Moratorium Campaign and other peaceful camaigns that have been planned we can give a lead to the Australian people. Government supporters do not have the political nous or intestinal fortitude to give a lead to the people. We believe that in the coming months only by protests of this nature will we assist in moulding public opinion to the point that the Government will not be game to send another battalion to Vietnam.
The Prime Minister said recently that there are conditions as to whether he will bring home an Australian battalion from Vietnam at the end of this year. Before that battalion returns to Australia a number of ils members will be dead. Troops were returned the other day from Vietnam to
Lavarack Barracks at Townsville. Once they were back in Australia the Government showed towards them the contempt it had previously shown. Although their families had shifted to live in Townsville those troops have been made to pay their fares back to their home bases.
– That is not right.
– It is right. I talked to 2 or 3 of them the other day. Senator Branson should realise that things have changed a bit in the Army from the days when the Labor Party . was running this country, in those days any man going on sick leave, recreation leave or compassionate leave did not have to pay his own way. While those troops were in Vietnam fighting in an undeclared war, a war that does not officially exist so far as the public of this country is concerned, they were called heroes, lt is OK for the Government, it seems, to waste millions of dollars and hundreds of lives and to leave hundreds of kids fatherless in this country. This is the sort of thing that it will continue to believe in until the public of this country forces it morally and otherwise to forsake the views it now holds.
– I believe that if the Senate had not provided an opportunity to discuss the controversial Vietnam Moratorium Campaign we would have failed in our duty to the people of Australia. For that reason 1 commend Senator Greenwood for moving the urgency motion from which this discussion has emanated. I also congratulate him on the excellent presentation of his case against the Moratorium. I have listened very attentively to the discussion which has taken place. I had thought that at least in the interests of the people of Australia honourable senators on my right - members of the Australian Labor Party, the official Opposition - would have been truthful enough and straight enough to tell the people the facts of the Vietnam war. All the speeches today have been coloured against the United States and Australian involvement and against the South Vietnamese. Surely the people are entitled to hear the truth of this.
It is pretty evident to me that many decent people have been attracted to this Campaign only because of their desire for peace throughout the world. They have been told that all the faults lie on the side of America which is in Vietnam to defend the helpless South Vietnamese against the Communist aggression from he North. Why did the Opposition not give us a brief history of the Geneva Conference in 1954 which provided for the division of Vietnam and also for the neutrality of Laos and Cambodia? One would think from what has been said here today and from what we read in some of the Press that America invaded Cambodia. No Opposition senator has told the truth in that respect. Opposition senators do not mention that Cambodia has been invaded for some considerable time by the North Vietnamese and the Vietcong. Why are the North Vietnamese and Vietcong in Cambodia? They are there to break the neutrality of that country, to make a springboard of that country for them to enter South Vietnam. I think we have reason to be disappointed with the Opposition because of its one-eyed attitude in this connection. As the ‘Courier Mail’ said on Thursday, 30th April, referring to the Moratorium:
The campaign organisers express outraged concern that Australia, America and some Asian nations arc in South Vietnam aiding the South Vietnamese. Yet the same organisers appear blithely unconcerned that North Vietnamese are invading Cambodia.
The article continued:
Perhaps an answer to the silence on Cambodia lies in the origins of the campaign. Last year, the Congress of Communist Youth in East Berlin called for an international move to obtain what it termed a ‘Vietnam Moratorium’. Dictionaries define a moratorium as the suspension, for a time, of payment of a debt. But now it seems to have acquired the meaning of ‘a suspension of fighting’. Reasonable enough, perhaps.
Then in the ‘Canberra Times’ this morning, in an excelient article, we read:
The sponsors of the moratorium can fairly be accused of using in their promotion a technique made famous by some manipulators of public opinion: coupling together for the approval of a not-too-discerning public a number of propositions of unequal plausibility in the hope that the less acceptable propositions will be carried along with those to which no one can reasonably object.
Vietnam is presented in much of the literature put out by the moratorium campaign as a simple issue in black and white. The Americans and their allies are the villains; the Communists apparently are the heroes. All the evil is on one side; no mention is made of the guilt of the other. The war is atrocious only when it is waged by the Western participants. The fact that North Vietnam invaded South Vietnam. Laos, and Cambodia is overlooked. The fact that the Americans would not have entered Cambodia if the North Vietnamese and the Vietcong had not already done so long before is forgotten. The alleged atrocities committed by the Western combatants are highlighted; the equally unforgiveable crimes committed by the other side, notably at Hue, are not mentioned. In the same vein, the only ones who can do anything about ending the war are the Americans and their allies: it does not matter if all the compromise is on one side only.
That is a very good statement and I have read it for the particular reason of informing the Australian people of just what the position is. As I have said, no doubt there are some people involved in the Vietnam Moratorium who are sincere people of goodwill. They have the interests of South East Asia and Australia at heart. But the truth is that the Moratorium Campaign is the most blatant piece of lawlessness, bordering on anarchy, that we have witnessed in Australia for a very long time, if ever before. The hard core who are associated with the Campaign are the same people who supported the waterside workers in their refusal to load the ‘Japarit’ which was to carry supplies and even Christmas cheer for our troops in Vietnam. These people who are organising this Moratorium are the same people who cheered on the waterside workers on that occasion. They are the same people who supported a resolution at a meeting of industrial unions in Melbourne only a few months ago inciting Australian troops to mutiny, to lay down their arms to Communist forces.
Since the Moratorium Campaign was conceived and organised in December there have been two developments which must invalidate it for all peace loving Australians. We call on the sincere people involved in the Moratorium Campaign to reconsider their position in the light of these events. It might have been possible until recently to believe sincerely that the North Vietnamese had no ambitions beyond gaining control of South Vietnam. Now, however, there are more than 100,000 North Vietnamese troops in Laos and Cambodia engaged in aggression against these countries. No honest person can any longer maintain that the Vietnam war is a civil war and is the concern of South Vietnam only. It is obviously of importance to the whole of South East Asia, and Australia, living on the fringe of South East Asia, cannot survive with aggressive militarists like North Vietnam on the loose.
– Mr President, I rise to order. I draw your attention to standing order 406 and ask whether the honourable senator is in order in reading his speech.
– The point of order is not upheld.
– As 1 was saying when I was rudely interrupted, as a matter of selfinterest, as well as to preserve the principle of maintaining the rights of small nations, Australia must do everything in its power to contain this aggression. Surely, now that the North Vietnamese have gone beyond South Vietnam, the people of goodwill who have become involved in the Moratorium Campaign must see the light.
The second development to which 1 have referred is the announcement of big withdrawals of troops by the American and Australian Governments. President Nixon’s statement that .150,000 American troops will be withdrawn is surely conclusive evidence of where responsibility for the continuation of the war lies. What have North Vietnam or the Vietcong done towards bringing about peace in that distressed country? They have done absolutely nothing. They have had the support of the pro-communists in America and in Australia, and the promise of a withdrawal of troops, American and Australian, has only encouraged them further in their aggression against innocent people and small nations. Regardless of whether we like it or not the Americans are preparing to leave the non-Communist people of South East Asia to look after themselves. The Americans will accelerate their withdrawal from South Vietnam if the North Vietnamese can be induced to show restraint.
If Dr J. F. Cairns, Senator Keeffe, Senator O’Byrne and the other people who are supporting the Moratorium Campaign are so desirous of peace in Vietnam and the rest of the world, they should go to Hanoi and appeal to their political blood brothers in Hanoi to lay down their arms. North Vietnam is the aggressor in this conflict. Instead of holding Moratorium Campaigns in Australia they should go to Hanoi and parade there. Somewhere in the vicinity of 1 million people have left North Vietnam and gone to South Vietnam to avoid the Communist governments in North Vietnam. Why have they done so? I visited the area recently and I know that if there is a precipitate in the withdrawal of troops, particularly in the light of recent events in Cambodia, there will be a great massacre of innocent people. I repeat that if there is an early withdrawal of troops, American or Australian, and the people of South Vietnam are left to the mercy of the Vietcong and the North Vietnamese Communists, there will be a greater massacre of people than was seen in recent times in Biafra. Who wants a repetition of that sort of thing? 1 have given the Opposition a good recipe for peace and it is up to the Opposition to follow it. Supporters of the Opposition should go to Hanoi and appeal for peace because they have a lot of friends over there. The Australian Labor Party is more involved in the organisation and sponsorship’ of the Moratorium Campaign than many of its supporters like to admit.
– Not all of them.
– Not all supporters of the Australian Labor Party, because a lot of the unionists have refused to be. associated with, the Moratorium Campaign. Whatever the outcome of the Moratorium Campaign those who take part in it will not be apologising for their actions. As Senator Cavanagh said the other day, they will not be apologising for their participation. They are proud to tell the people of Australia that they have no regard for the laws of this country, which is very important.
– Order! The honourable senator’s time has expired.
Senator DAVIDSON (South Australia) [8.33J - The Premier of South Australia used the most appropriate expression to describe the topical subject we are debating at present when he called it pollution. I know a bit about pollution as 1 have been concerned with the subject for quite awhile. I agree with the Premier that the Vietnam Campaign is pollution of the Parliament of South Australia, pollution of the community and, as he said himself, pollution of the environment. This is how he refers to the people who are running this lawless undertaking, which is what the Moratorium Campaign amounts to. This is how he refers to the paraphernalia which the people who are running the Moratorium Campaign plastered all over North Terrace in Adelaide the other day. The expression is a good one. It is very appropriate.
I have been interested in what the Opposition has said in relation to this matter of urgency. I again draw attention to the terms, lt is stated in the first instance that the Moratorium is designed to weaken the resolution of the Australian people; secondly, that it is designed to give moral support to North Vietnam; thirdly, that it is designed to promote disorder; and, fourthly, that it is designed to cause unwarranted inconvenience to Australian citizens. Has the Opposition said anything to offset those allegations? It has not said a word. Have we heard anything tonight about the details of the Moratorium? We have not had a great deal of information. We have had a peculiar exercise in escapism from the real issue before the Senate today. Senator Greenwood has done well in putting a case for the law abiding Australian community. I believe that he has done so at a singularly appropriate time because at present and for some time in the past there has been within the Australian community an area of contentment because of full employment and the various opportunities occasioned by the high standard of living. As a result a great number of our people are tending to become inward looking and, I regret to say, isolationists. We cannot afford to have any isolationist tendencies at such a time in world history. Senator Greenwood has done well to alert the Parliament to the obligations it has to carry out as a parliament which will in turn alert the people of Australia to the particular situation which now exists.
I put it on the line that the Opposition’s argument has failed and, what is more, it has failed lamentably. Every evil word which could be mustered up has been hurled at our allies - the United States of America and the United Kingdom - as well as ourselves. Not a word has been said in support of the civil aid programme which has been going on throughout South East Asia. Not a word has been said in regard to the medical teams and the other people who, in the name of Australia, have been going into this trouble torn area and rendering a tremendous amount of assistance in not only restoring the damage which has been occasioned by Communist invasions but also establishing a pattern for development in the future.
A great deal has been said about the Moratorium being a peaceful demonstration. Statements attributed to Senator Keeffe have appeared in the Press urging those people taking part in the Moratorium to be peaceful, not to incite violence and not to do anything which would disturb the order of the community. 1 draw your attention, Mr President, to the speech which Senator Keeffe delivered tonight. Do you think that there was anything peaceful about it? His speech tonight was one of the most violent and violence inciting utterances - full of hatred and bitterness - which I have ever heard. How does he expect the thousands of people he thinks will be his followers in the next few days to resist resort to violence when for 15 minutes tonight he advocated violence in one sentence after another.
At all points the Moratorium is designed to introduce a threatening, menacing situation. With every move of the Moratorium there will be elements which will be inconsiderate and deliberately antagonistic to the community at large. Past demonstrations in this country certainly give the community no comfort whatsoever in regard to what might happen during this one. In his Press statements Senator Keeffe even called upon the churches to come along and see if they can persuade the people involved not to engage in violence. I draw the attention of the Australian community to the violence which he has infused into his whole argument tonight. It is a violence which we will not forget.
I disagree with the proclamation of Dr J. F. Cairns that the people involved in the Moratorium have the right to use the streets for this sort of thing in just the same way as others use them for their social, commercial or educational pursuits. People engaged in the kind of activities which have been described in the Press as being involved in the Moratorium Campaign have no right to obstruct people going about their lawful occupations. They do not have the right to sit at cross roads and prevent traffic moving through and they do not have the right to sit in front of traffic and create havoc. There has been no denial that these things will take place. There has been no denial of the article in the ‘Herald’ of yesterday, I think it was, in which plans are set out for throwing banners across the windscreens of cars that dare to move into certain parts of Melbourne. There has been no denial of the arrangements that have been made for the use of whistles, noisy devices and all the other kinds of things to create confusion. There has been every indication from the members of the Opposition that they feel that professors, teachers, industrialists and other people should leave their universities, schools and places of work simply to engage in the wholesale disruption of the Australian community.
I ask: What about the unforeseen things that are likely to happen? What about the unplanned things that are likely to happen? When you get a crowd of people, such as that which I understand the planners of this Moratorium envisage in Bourke Street and other streets in metropolitan cities, when you get these sorts of people going into places where they hope to go, what about the hysterical things that will arise? I have seen a little hysteria around here this afternoon. 1 expect that one would see a bit more hysteria in busy streets. I draw the Senate’s attention to the fact that this Moratorium is designed to disrupt the Australian community, so it is typical of the Communist philosophy that has been followed in China and through Europe and elsewhere during the years. When the Communist world cannot win on the battle fields and when it cannot win in orderly ways, then it embarks on propaganda to seep its way nefariously into the community. If one looks at the advertisement for the Moratorium in the ‘Australian’ one sees that the organisers are asking everybody to gather at some place in Sydney on Friday morning, and what is the first thing they are going to do? I quote from the advertisement, which states: ‘Folk singing and other activity’. Is this not typical? Is this not part of the line? On the following morning activities are going to commence in the shopping centres. The whole thing is designed to disrupt and interfere with the regular Australian way of life. lt is very significant that when men like Dr Cairns cannot persuade the Australian electorate, they find a minority, a rowdy minority, and they encourage them to break laws and to promote anarchy. Today we have a condition of affluence, and it is unfortunately true that sometimes affluence leads to apathy and apathy invariably leads to anarchy. The last thing we want to see arise in this country is the unfortunate situation that has developed in the United States of America recently, but I fear that if this sort of movement gains credence and popularity, we run the grave risk of anarchy of this kind developing in Australia. Of course, in Australia, in America and in most countries the average person has a deep desire for peace. He has a deep desire to lead his life in an unhindered way and in perfect freedom. But I am looking now at a statement made in Perth by the Minister for Defence (Mr Malcolm Fraser) who said that we sometimes believe that the peace that we desire is the peace that is shared in the same way by all nations. He said that this is one of the great weaknesses of democracy and it led to a complete failure to recognise significant events in Germany in the 1930s. We run the risk of not recognising the important dangers of today.
I should like to see the Senate have an opportunity to vote and perhaps divide on this very important question. I do not wish to see it just talked out. Therefore. I move:
That the question be now put.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator Sir Alister McMullin)
Majority . . . . 1
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question put:
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn till 9.55 a.m. tomorrow.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator Sir Alister McMullin)
Majority , . 2
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
– Notices of motion Nos 1 and 2 are that the amendments of the Public Health (Medical and Dental Inspection of School Children) Regulations - be disallowed and that the Dentists Registration Ordinance 1970 - be disallowed. I move:
I ask leave to speak shortly as to the reasons for the postponement.
– There being no objection, leave is granted.
– Both motions concern the utilisation of dental therapists in the Australian Capital Territory. The motions for disallowance are aimed at providing certain conditions in relation to that use. The matter was before the Senate previously and I moved to postpone it for the purpose of considering representations which were being made that day in writing to members of Parliament Last night I saw the Chairman and two other members of the ACT Advisory Council, two officers of the Australian Dental Association, an officer of a parents and citizens association and Dr Wells of the Department of Health here. We had a lengthy discussion. This evening I had a few moments with Senator Turnbull. It is apparent to me that some further discussion of this matter may prove to be of value to the Senate before the motions are embarked on. I believe that the postponement of the motions would assist in a proper evaluation of the matter.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I. move:
Tuesdays; - 2.30 p.m. until 6 p.m. 8 p.m. until 1 1 p.m.
Wednesdays - 2.30 p.m. until 6 p.m. 8 p.m. until 1 1 p.m.
Thursdays - 10 a.m. until 1 p.m. 2 p.m. until 6 p.m. 8 p.m. until 11 p.m.
The motion before the Senate adverts to proposed days and times of sittings for the Senate for the remainder of this sessional period. Honourable senators will have the relevant times on the business paper in front of them. The purpose of the motion is to gear ourselves to the anticipated legislative programme for the remainder of the sittings. lt has been suggested that the sittings of the Senate may run until 12th June.It has been suggested that in that period till 1 2th June we sit for 3 weeks, rise for1 week and then sit for 2 weeks. In the motion I have tried to keep in mind at all times what has come to be accepted on both sides of the Senate and that is a very real reluctance to carry out the business of the Senate in the early hours of the morning. I have shaped the times on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays so that the question relating to the adjournment is put at 11 p.m.
I want to be completely frank with the Senate.It may well be that, when additional work comes to the Senate from another place, we may need to give consideration to sittings on Fridays. As honourable senators know, the other place is sitting on Fridays, commencing this week. This motion does not envisage sitting on Fridays because at this point of time the volume of work that has come from the other place does not justify my making a plea for Friday sittings. I feel bound to say that whilst I would like the Senate to agree to these suggested times it may well be, having regard to the proposed work programme of the Government for the remainder of the sittings until 12th June, that I will need to put to the Senate for consideration the idea of Friday sittings, starting at about 10 a.m. and finishing at possibly 3.30 p.m. so everybody could at least get home for the weekends. I have not done that yet. This motion provides for an earlier start, a shorter lunch break and the extension of the sitting until 1 1 p.m. I feel also bound to say to the Senate, in the spirit in which we always discuss these questions of times which are not political issues, that I judge that it may well be that 12th June will prove not to be a realistic date of rising for the winter recess in relation to the completion of the Senate’s responsibilities for the autumn programme. This is because we can deal with Bills only when they come from the other place which is the House of initiation. That is my judgment at the present time. I hope we will succeed in completing our programme by that date and I know that I always have the co-operation of all honourable senators in trying to complete our programme.
-It snowed today.
– Yes, it snowed today.I know that the winter recess is a very important one because we have many committee jobs to do and many delegations to go to certain places at home and abroad. Nevertheless I think I should mention that I have a mental reservation as to whether we will be able to conclude our work by 12th June. I hope that we can. Against that background - and I have tried to be completely frank with the Senate - I would like honourable senators to put their minds to approving the proposed new sitting hours. These hours are: Tuesdays, 2.30 p.m. until 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. until11 p.m.; Wednesdays, 2.30 p.m. until 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. until11 p.m.; and Thursdays, 10 a.m. until 1 p.m., 2 p.m. until 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. until 11 p.m. Of course, tomorrow morning we will sit from 9.55 a.m. until1 p.m. pursuant to the resolution which has just been carried. I commend the motion to the Senate.
– We thank the Leader of the Government (Senator Anderson) for the way in which he is approaching this matter. The question of time is really a question of how we can arrange our business efficiently. We all want to carry out the business of the Senate efficiently. That efficiency should have regard to the efficiency of honourable senators and their health as well as the efficient despatch of the business of this chamber. It should be remembered that honourable senators are engaged in parliamentary business here in Canberra at times apart from when the Senate itself is sitting. In this chamber especially there is a great deal of committee work. The select committees sit at times outside those which have just been mentioned by the Leader of the Government and the parties also have to meet in order to come to decisions on proposed legislation or proposed motions. Cabinet meets on Tuesday morning and on Wednesday, as well as other occasions during the course of the week, sometimes when the chambers are actually sitting. The Opposition parties also have a parliamentary executive meeting on Tuesday morning and again early on Wednesday morning, and for the rest of Wednesday morning there is a Party meeting. These are regular events quite apart from meeting at irregular times. In practical terms this really means that most of us are here at a very early hour on Tuesday morning. Those who fly have to leave home at, say, 7 o’clock or sometimes before then even if they live in the convenient States of New South Wales and Victoria. Of course, if honourable senators live elsewhere it means that they have to start even earlier. So on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, whether the Senate is sitting or not, we start quite early in the morning. With the proposed new sitting hours the question relating to the adjournment of the Senate would be put at 1 1 p.m. As we all know, owing to the efforts of some of our members the debate on the motion for the adjournment of the Senate sometimes goes on until the early hours of the morning.
– Senator Mulvihill knows till what time it goes.
– Yes. Apart from those 3 days, of course, other work has to be done. It is my opinion, and I have expressed it before, that these hours are inefficient. 1 do not think this is a sensible way to go about our business. It is not one which is conducive to the efficient dispatch of business and it is not one which is conducive to good health. We ought to be setting about trying to find a better system. 1 would suggest now to the Leader of the Government that perhaps we should try in the weeks ahead, starting from next week, sitting on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. We could then come back the next week; - some honourable senators might stay here over the weekend - and sit on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. We would have a break of 8 or 9 days and then repeat the process, that is, with a 4-day week of Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.
– This is the proposal that has been circulated, is it not?
– think one was, yes. If we try this programme we should endeavour to cut out some of the night sittings because at the very least we will be working from 9 a.m. until 11 or 12 o’clock at night and when this is repeated day after day it is unreasonable. This is not a reasonable way to expect people to do their work and it would be better for us to sit on more days and cut out these nights. We could move the adjournment of the Senate forward to 6 p.m. Perhaps on the times that the Leader of the Government has suggested we should start even a little earlier on Tuesday, say at 2 o’clock and go till 6 o’clock. Perhaps because we are on the air on Wednesday and it is hard to make changes all at once it might be sensible to sit on Wednesday night. It has been figured out by many that with such a system we could work more hours here. If we had 2 weeks on and I off we would, in a 12- week period, sit for only 8 weeks and have 4 weeks off to attend to the affairs of the electorate.
– We do not have weeks off; we are working in our electorates.
– I meant off from Parliament. I accept what Senator Little is saying but honourable senators understand that 1 meant the weeks away from here in the electorate. This would mean that we would work more days here in Parliament and have more time in our electorates also.
– We would be able to do more work at home.
– That is right. We would be able to do that. Where we would be cutting down would be in travelling time. It is not helping anyone when people are moving backwards and forwards all the time-
– May I interrupt you to make a suggestion?.
– Yes, certainly.
– If you agree, we can stand this over until tomorrow. If we could have a meeting to discuss this tomorrow morning 1 will bring the motion on again tomorrow.
– I was going to put a few other suggestions to the Leader of the Government. Could we-r-this has been proposed by an honourable senator on this side of the Senate as. an alternative - have these times brought forward further so that we could do more work during the day and less at night? I have suggested that we should start before 2.30 p.m. The time could be brought forward further still so we would have less work being clone at night.
– What would we do with our nights in Canberra?
– I’ do not know what the honourable senator does but I assure him that I would find no difficulty in spending my time at night. Whatever may be the differences between the habits of honourable senators from Queensland and those from New South Wales I am quite sure that most of us would not find any difficulty in utilising that time. It is said that there might be committee meetings. There are many other things that can usefully be done but it certainly does not seem to be sensible to work these extraordinarily long hours day after day when we could do the work by being here on more days and having a more sensible spread of hours. Perhaps we have arrived at the stage where some consideration might be given to a more orderly dispatch of the business and where we should start to say that so much time will be allotted to various matters of business in order that we may dispatch the business more expeditiously. I believe that we should consider not only the times we sit but also the way in which we do our business in order to get through it more quickly. But I accept what was put by the Leader of the Government-
– Perhaps I could reply and we could achieve some agreement. I want to make one point in particular.
– Certainly. I have made a suggestion. Perhaps we could hear the reply from the Leader of the Government. I do not know whether anyone else wants to speak at this stage. In order to allow the matter to be considered, I will sit down now and, if necessary, I will ask for leave to speak again.
– What has been suggested tonight has been the intention for quite a number of years; but unfortunately we do not seem to be getting any better as we are getting older. I am concerned about one aspect. In this chamber we have 5 Ministers. I would like to know from the Leader of the Government (Senator Anderson) whether any of them have Bills concerning their own departments to be submitted. It would be surprising if some of the 5 Ministers did not have such Bills to be submitted. What is wrong with the administration if they have not? Honourable senators opposite know as well as I do that year after year we have a flush of Bills from another place. That is understandable because we have 26 Ministers of State in the Parliament - 5 of them in this chamber and the other 21 in the other. So naturally more Bills originate there than here.
But it amazes me that this matter comes up each year. I know that the work has to be done. I do not like being in this place after 9 o’clock at night. I admit that. I have reasons for having that attitude. If I have to stay here, I do; but if I do not have to stay here I obtain a pair. It is no good coming in here and threatening us with possible Friday sittings later on.
– I do not think I threatened. That is not my nature.
– If the Minister wants mc to be kinder, as he is as a rule and for which we are all grateful, perhaps I should say that he implied that we might have Friday sittings later on. But there will be no ‘might’ about it. He knows as well as I do that we will be meeting on Fridays. Possibly worse things than that could happen. If the 5 Ministers in this chamber cannot submit Bills and give sufficient time for those on this side of the chamber to really go to town on them, it shows a lack of good administration and a lack of concern for those who are in this building for very long hours. Some people have the idea that we are in this building only from 2.30 p.m. until 10.30 or 11 p.m. But as a rule every Senator is here from about 9 a.m. right through until the Senate adjourns. This becomes a burden.
At this stage I have no comment to make on the matters about which my leader has spoken. Possibly there will be a time and place to speak about them later. I am concerned only with the motion before us. I regret that the Government wants a decision on it at this moment. I would hope that the Leader of the Government could give us a little time in which to give this matter some thought, lt will not affect us at all this week if we leave the hours as they are. Today is Wednesday. We will be meeting at 9.55 a.m. tomorrow. The proceedings will not be broadcast tomorrow. The only thing we will gain-
– Is a quarter of an hour at lunchtime and half an hour at the end of the day.
– That is right. Otherwise tomorrow will not be affected because the Senate has already decided to meet at 9.55 a.m. In view of what has been said about meeting 3, 4 or 5 days a week and having certain weeks off, I ask the Leader of the Government to consider adjourning the debate on this matter until possibly Tuesday of next week.
Senator ANDERSON (New South Wales - Minister for Supply) - Mr President, I ask for leave to make a statement. I gather that Senator Byrne wants to speak. I do not want to prevent him or other senators from speaking. I want to clear the air a little.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Buil) - Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is> granted.
– I merely want to say that naturally I will take back to the Government parties any proposals for alterations, and no doubt the Opposition and the Australian Democratic Labor Party will want to discuss them, too. 1 accept what Senator Kennelly says, namely, that we cannot vary the hours for tomorrow very much anyway because we are already starting at a very early hour in the morning. So there is no critical situation in regard to tomorrow.
If, as Senator Murphy has indicated to me across the table, it is understood that after we have had an opportunity for discussion I will not have to wait a day but will be given leave to introduce a motion in order to achieve some finality on this matter, I am prepared to stand it over, to look at the proposition put forward by Senator Murphy and to put it to members of the Government parlies. I understand that he is suggesting a Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday. Friday, Monday, Tuesday. Wednesday and Thursday sitting arrangement for the next 2 weeks, that we then have a week off, and that we then come buck for another 2 weeks for which he suggests much the same arrangement.
– Could you look at: that proposal irrespective of anything that I said about not sitting at night?
– Senator Murphy is suggesting that for the moment we forget the 6 o’clock business and continue the night sittings. I recognise that the various parties will want to discuss the matter in their conclaves. All 1 say is that I am prepared to stand it over on the understanding that when we want to bring it on again we will be able to do so by leave and that I will not need to give a day’s notice before doing so.
– The Australian Democratic Labor Party will be quite content for this matter to be stood over in the circumstances that have emerged and particularly those adverted to by Senator Anderson. But for quite some time now there has been concern on all sides of the Senate that the sitting hours are not totally satisfactory. As far as members of the Democratic Labor Party are concerned, there are 2 aspects. There are some duties that we share in common with all other senators. First of all, senators are legislators.
Perhaps that is their prime responsibility. But they are also representatives of the people. They have to see the people frequently. That applies to every senator of every party. Then there is the horrible element of politics. As realists, we have to observe that. So senators also have duties that are perhaps extra to their responsibilities in this chamber. We share those duties with all other senators.
But members of this Party are in a peculiar .situation. Because of the mathematical distribution of strength in this chamber and the position of this Party, we have to see very many people who wish to put propositions associated with legislation on which they will see the official Opposition and the Government. They also come to us. Particularly during the legislative session of the Parliament - the autumn .session - this imposes a very heavy burden on the members of this Party. In addition there is the new look that the Senate is developing; that is, the emergence of the committee system. The sitting hours of the Senate were oriented to quite a different Senate from the present one. We have the proliferation of committees and the circumscription which the Senate imposes upon the operations of those committees. The standing orders do not permit the committees to sit during hours when the Senate itself is sitting. They impose a deadline for the presentation of reports. In addition one faces quite heavy hours of sitting and it is becoming increasingly burdensome for members of the committees to attend their committees, to comply with the directions of the Senate as to the presentation of their reports and to attend to their duties in this chamber. This affects the members of the Australian Democratic Labor Party in 2 ways. Firstly, because of the proliferation of legislation - I understand this is one of the heaviest, legislative programmes that the Parliament has ever seen - every one of those Bills has to be studied by one or another member of the Democratic Labor Party. I think I hold 6 or 7 shadow portfolios, as does Senator Gair and the other members of the Party. That might be lightly said but it is a very real responsibility, because propositions in the Bills have to be studied and propositions coming from the Opposition have to be examined. We ourselves may want to introduce propositions and there may be representations from various groups which we may elect to try to implement by amendments. Those are extremely heavy burdens.
The Democratic Labor Party is trying to play its part in the development of the committee system and the operation of the committees when they are formed. We have to spread our numbers with members serving on 2 or more committees. This burden is becoming extremely heavy and therefore a more sane approach to the sitting hours of the Senate would be very welcome in this corner. We have heard these proposals. They have been put up in a rather offhand way and in a rather inchoate fashion. But now that the matter has come to this pass and as Senator Anderson has suggested this debate be stood over I firmly suggest that the parties agree in the intervening period that this be brought formally before the Parliament with a specific proposition from one Party which may be exchanged with proposals from the other Parties. Between the 4 Parties according to the burdens of different characters which rest upon the various Parties we should be able to get at least ‘ some consensus on suitable sitting hours.
I think Senator Anderson’s suggestion has a great deal of merit to commend it. We would be happy to see this debate stood aside but 1 do not think it should be for an unduly long period. I would support the suggestion which Senator Anderson has made.
– I desire to say a few words on this motion. If it is to be adjourned for later consideration, perhaps a more appropriate time to speak on the question would be when it comes on again for consideration, but in view of the fact that Senator Anderson is considering the various suggestions put forward I think it would be just as well to put my particular views tonight. I do not disagree with what Senator Murphy said. I think he has expressed the majority opinion of members of the Opposition on this question. The point is whether we all agree with Senator Murphy’s proposals. Firstly, I do not have the same difficulty as members of the Australian Democratic Labor Party. I am not a shadow Minister. Nor do I have the difficulty which the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Murphy) has. He has many deputations to receive in Canberra. My interest is in South Australia, the State which I represent. In Canberra I do not have as many methods of entertainment as our leader has when he is in Canberra. Being a wallflower, like Senator Wood, 1 think we could be better employed on legislation during the evening instead of trying to seek entertainment which may get me into more trouble than my politics does.
If honourable senators could be fully employed in Canberra it might be more beneficial both for Senator Wood and myself. Therefore, while we are here I desire to sit when necessary. I accept the responsibility to sit when the legislative programme makes it necessary. The previous proposals put before the Senate were to meet on a Friday and on the following Monday. I think that gave a false interpretation insofar as the programme was worked out over a 12 weeks period. Normally the Senate sits for the same hours as the House of Representatives except for odd hours during the adjournment debate. The proposal was put forward that in 2 weeks we could do the same work, sitting those extra days, that by the present method we are getting through in 3 weeks. The hours of sitting were discussed. If instead of taking a 12 weeks period we took a 4 week period - that is the 3 weeks that the House of Representatives sits and the week when they are in recess - we could do 3 weeks normal work in 2 weeks and then have 2 weeks recess. For the purpose of having the additional week up we would be prepared to sit on the Friday and the following Monday. That would give us more hours in each 2 weeks period out of each 4 weeks. We would have 2 weeks at home and 2 weeks in Canberra, spending the same time in the Parliament. We have been protesting about the late delivery of Bills. We have had to rush everything through during the last weeks of the session. On this occasion in the other place Bills have been introduced during the commencement of the session. I think that is commendable. But the Bills have not come across to the Senate. We are not getting the legislation in this chamber.
– There have been a few urgency motions over there, you know.
– I do not control that House. I do not control any House. I am not trying to condemn anything that happens there, but we must face up to the position that we are not getting the legislation here. With the greater number of Bills before the other House it looks as if it will be necessary to sit longer than the regular hours we have been sitting previously. The Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Anderson) has proposed that we sit more hours each day. I am not opposed to that. I do not think honourable senators on this side of the chamber are opposed to it. If it is necessary to sit Friday in order to consider legislation I think we should agree to sit on Friday. Honourable senators have nol been as co-operative about the regulation of the hours of business as the Leader of the Government in the Senate suggested in his utterances tonight. I have always opposed undue late sittings of the Senate. Last session I took action to try to stop the late sittings as best I could. 1 think the Government will not find any opposite view from the Opposition if it is necessary to extend the period of sitting. I hold the opinion that it is possibly unfortunate that the Senate commences and finishes its sittings at the same time as the House of Representatives. I think it may be advisable that the Senate start at a later date and finish at a later date.
– In the old days we used to do that.
– We possibly did. That seems logical to me. Under the present set-up we wait for legislation to come from the other House for the purpose of finalising it. I have been here on occasions when the Senate has adjourned in the afternoon until the ringing of the bells waiting for a Bill from the other House so that we may finalise it.
As I see it now, in the long range term the proper sittings of this Senate should be regulated on the basis that if we can do 3 weeks work in 2 weeks we should do it and have the other 2 weeks in the 4 weeks at home. In the present period of excessive legislation we must sit longer hours and the Leader of the Government has suggested a conference with the Leader of the Opposition and the Democratic Labor Party. During this conference the times may be regulated. If it is possible to have a longer period at home and cut out some of the travelling by sitting Friday and Monday, this proposal would be preferable to coming here as frequently as we do.
Debate (on motion by Senator O’Byrne) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 5 May (vide page 1122), on motion by Senator Dante Annabelle Rankin:
That the Rill be now read a second time.
Senator BUTTFIELD (South Australia) [9.30J - ‘ rise to continue the remarks that I was making last night when the debate was interrupted. I support the proposed amendment to the Homes Savings Grant Act and commend the Minister for Housing (Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin) and the Government for the way in which they are bringing more people within the ambit of the benefits which can be gained through the homes savings grant scheme. Not only is the Government liberalising the benefits of the scheme; it is also extending the scheme to enable areas of the community, which previously were not within the ambit of the scheme, now to qualify. Certainly this was an election promise. 1 commend the Minister also for the way in which the Bill has come through so quickly. Very soon it will be of benefit to many people in the community. lt is now 5 years, I think, since the homes savings grant legislation was first passed. Since then 168,000 young married couples have benefited by receiving the $500 grant which is made to them when they have saved $1,500 over a period of 3 years. In that 5 years some $73m has been paid to the 168,000 young married couples I mentioned previously. The amount paid on the homes that they have acquired is $l,750m. That is certainly a most significant amount, lt indicates how many people have been helped to acquire a home. It is interesting, too, to note that the average age of husbands who have received grants was 26 years, an age at which they were still in the limited earning period of their lives. In responding to the requirements for this grant they have done themselves a great service.
There has been a steady flow and a steady growth in the number of applicants.
The scheme assists young people in the 18 to 36 years age group when their housing needs are urgent but their finance is limited. We can commend the Government also on having introduced another scheme which has helped home owners. I refer to the Housing Loans Insurance Corporation. There is a similar private enterprise organisation known as the Mortgage Guarantee Insurance Corporation of Australia Ltd. Both organisations are insuring loans for homes up to 90% of the value of the homes. This means that most young people now can get a high ratio loan and, therefore, move into their own home very soon after their marriage.
From the inception of the scheme the Government has had regard to the needs of the people for whom the scheme was intended. It has adopted a flexible attitude in sponsoring changes that seem desirable in the light of experience and emerging needs while keeping clearly in mind the purpose of the scheme. Prior to 31st December 1964 savings in a wide variety of forms were acceptable. A further transitional period was provided from 3.1st December 1967 io which savings held prior
Homes Savings Grant Bill
On this aspect let me say that I am pleased that the Government now is including credit unions in the group of approved institutions. This will encourage young people to save if credit unions are where they want to save their money. Until now most credit unions have not come within the class of institution which makes high ratio and long term loans. Therefore, although there has been criticism from the Opposition and it has put forward an amendment which seeks to wipe out all the conditions which the Government in this Bill has imposed on credit unions before they qualify, 1 believe that it would not be wise to have it completely unconditional. I think that many credit unions would be able to make high ratio and long term loans. It certainly will be to their credit if they can and they will.
I think it is wise to insist that $50,000 worth of their lending should be in the homes sector of the economy before they qualify. I do not think it will be too difficult for them to say that they will lend a minimum of $7,000 for a home. Nor do I think it will be too difficult for them to say that the loan will be for 12 years. After all, most young people would be pleased to say that they have 12 years in which to pay off a loan of $7,000. It would be very difficult for them to pay off that loan any earlier. However, as more credit unions qualify they will become a very significant addition to the lending authorities for this purpose.
It is important to remember that the Government is anxious to encourage young people to save. It has encouraged banks and particularly building societies - perhaps the most significant of all lending authorities. Practically all of their business is in the field of loans far housing. The Government certainly has encouraged young people to
start saving the minute that they start earning because they know that not only will they have the right to apply for a loan for a home as soon as they are ready for it, but also that they can withdraw their contributions to the societies at very short notice. In fact some building societies do not require any notice. Young people know that if they need their money or a loan for any purpose they can get it. This encourages them to save.
The purchase of a home is certainly the biggest purchase of their lifetime. I am delighted that the Government is helping and encouraging young people by giving them a gift of $500 towards the cost crf acquiring their first home. For some time widows have been eligible for the home savings grant. It is pleasing to note tha; now divorcees will be allowed into the scheme. This will be a great help to those women who have to rear a family on their own. They will be eligible to receive the gift of $500 towards the cost of purchasing a home. I want to pay a tribute to the permanent building societies. In recent years they have become the most significant lenders in Australia for the purchase of homes. The work they have done in making loans available is quite fantastic. The total amount lent by these bodies is enormous. It is important to remember that these loans are not expensive. Last night I mentioned to Senator Poke that contrary to what he thought, building societies do not lend at a flat rate of interest. They charge between 6i% and 7i% interest on building loans. As the loan is reduced by repayments, the interest charges are reduced on the amount that remains owing. The loans are for long periods. I think building societies are to be commended. In most cases banks are not able to lend at a comparably low rate of interest and as a rule they are not able to lend as much to purchase a home as a building society can lend.
A few factors have come into existence which are not helpful in the acquiring of homes. One factor I have in mind is the variety of building Acts in different States. Each State has a different Act. This is one factor that has contributed to the high cost of housing. A building firm which builds houses in many States is not able to proceed on a mass production basis because of the requirements of differing State Acts. I appreciate that Senator Poke spoke on this subject but I have reservations about his suggestion. He would want a completely national building Act. This would cause difficulties because of differing soil and climatic conditions in the various States. I would not like to see one building Act or one building code but I would like some of the provisions in the State building Acts to be applied throughout Australia. This would facilitate building and would reduce costs. I would certainly encourage some of the big building companies to engage in more research into ways of reducing costs and of bringing in new construction methods, designs and building materials which would be acceptable right throughout Australia. 1 wish now to refer to the rates imposed by State government departments and local councils. I believe that the imposition of high rates has made it very difficult for some large investors in home building to enter the industry in Australia. Some international investors would have been willing to build homes in Australia, but because the rates set by State government departments and local councils have been so fantastically high many of them have been put off the venture. I do not see the necessity for different methods of rating. Some councils employ unimproved values for rating purposes, others use as a method the annual return of the value. It is the annual return method which seems to cause a great deal of trouble.
Whilst I commend the Government on its fine work in encouraging home building and helping so many young people to gain homes I believe it is tragic that the Treasurer (Mr Bury) has now seen fit to increase interest rates. This move hits both the building industry and people who are anxious to own their own homes. It is unfortunate that a blanket increase in interest rates such as has just occurred should affect some areas of Australia which are not as prosperous as o’thers. Honourable senators appreciate that in most States the building industry has been booming for some years, but in my home State of South Australia there has been a very serious recession in the building industry for the last 4 or 5 years. The industry was just beginning to pick up there - although nobody could truthfully have said that it was by any means prosperous - when this unfortunate rise in interest rates was introduced. The result is that building societies are not able to attract mc-Dey as they did before because the bond rate has now surpassed the rate that building societies are able to pay to attract finance. It means that not as much money is available to finance home purchases. I hope that the Treasurer will see fit to reduce interest rates very shortly, so that the building industry can again go ahead. 1 have here some graphs which may be of interest to honourable senators. They illustrate the progress of the building industry in Australia in the last 2 or 3 years. The building industry has been most prosperous in New South Wales. I think all States are now paying for the booming conditions that existed in the building industry in New South Wales. But even in New South Wales since last September there has been a down turn in both approvals and commencements. The graph I hold is plotted only until March. I feel quite sure that the rise in interest rates will cause a very drastic down turn in the building industry in New South Wales. Victoria has maintained a fairly even pace in the building industry since 1967. Although the number of approvals fell in March this year, commencements were still running fairly evenly. As I have indicated, the industry has had a very bad time in South Australia. I do hope that the Treasurer will see whether there is some way to ensure that an industry in one State is not hit because there is prosperity in that industry in the other States. Action has been taken for farmers; they are not to be hit by the increase in the bank interest rate. Quite rightly they are receiving special assistance in that respect. I maintain that the building industry in South Australia, particularly the home building industry, is in a similarly difficult position. 1 ask the Treasurer to see whether the industry can be assisted to maintain its upward trend in South Australia.
I wish now to refer to advances under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement which have been tremendously helpful to finance home ownership. 1 think I am right in saying that about $265m is paid annually to the States by the Commonwealth for this purpose. I believe that much of the finance granted by the Commonwealth to State Housing Commissions ought to be earmarked for the building of low rental homes, perhaps for itinerant workers and people who do not wish to stay in one area for very long and cannot afford a home. 1 would like to see advances under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement reserved for the construction of rental homes. Private enterprise has done quite a good job in building homes for purchase by the people. I am quite sure it can do so as cheaply as by governmental authorities and probably more quickly and efficiently. I hope that when the Agreement comes up for renewal limitations will be placed upon moneys advanced to State governments so that they are employed only for the construction of rental homes.
I am very pleased to support the Bill which will enable more. people to become entitled to home savings grants. I am pleased that the level of eligibility is to be raised from $15,000 to $17,500. This move has become necessary because of the increased costs of home construction. I hope that costs can be kept down and that there will be no need in the near future to raise again the eligibility level. It is to be hoped that many unfortunate widows and divorcees will be helped to acquire homes by the new provisions of the scheme. They could thus be relieved of many of the worries they have because they are alone in the world.
– I wish to address some comments to this quite important Bill now before the Senate, not for the purpose of holding up its passage through this chamber, because in principle and in general terms the Opposition supports it, but because 1 believe it is proper at a time like this, when a measure of the importance of this Bill comes before the chamber, that one who has observations to make on it of a constructive nature or which could perhaps highlight any inadequacies, inequities or inefficiencies in the legislation, should rise and direct his comments to those things.
I was interested to hear ‘the comments of Senator Buttfield who has just resumed her seat in respect of a number of propositions which could assist the housing industry in Australia and assist in this tremendously important business of housing the young people of the Australian community. The honourable senator mentioned, for instance, the need for a standardisation of approach in many directions, particularly in building procedures and in the regulations, stipulations, restrictions, covenants and things of that nature which can . be applied by municipal councils and other authorities to home building throughout Australia, i believe that there would be very great advantage in standardisation, except in respect of those reservations referred to by the honourable senator, that is, climate, stability of soil, geographic location and one or two things of this kind. But by and large I believe that a standardisation in this direction could lead to quite substantial reductions in the cost of homes. After all, is that not what we are attempting to achieve? Was that not the original purpose in making available a grant of this kind? That is one of the things to which we need to give some attention. 1 know from my own experience in this field that standard procedures have been talked of for quite a number of years. I believe that operators in the building industry have discussed this question from time to time, but I have not seen this idea translated into any sort of action which would lead to the desirable result which we originally set out to achieve. I believe that we are all very conscious of the need to house the people of Australia and that we are all very conscious of the tremendous problems and difficulties confronting young people who are trying to obtain a home. For instance, I understand that in the beautiful city of Perth in Western Australia - please correct me if my information is not right - it is very difficult to acquire a block of land upon which to build a home at a figure below $8,000. This is a fantastic sum of money which is required to be found by young people setting out to build a home. I do not know just how stout hearted people have to be in this age, but I understand that the price of a building block in that city ranges from $5,000 to $11,000. I am not referring to blocks in an extraordinary area or particularly well located blocks but standard blocks upon which homes are to be built.
I do not know how we can overcome this problem and 1 do not know how young people can manage when faced with this tremendous task of first acquiring a block, meeting the annual commitments on it, the interest, servicing charges and repayment of the loan, and then building a home costing goodness knows how much, especially when they are faced with inflated costs. In that situation they have then to set out on the path of raising a family. I suggest that the load on the shoulders of young people undertaking this task is so great that very often it contributes to a break up of the home and the home environment. That is one of the most undesirable things that could happen in any community.
This is a problem of which we must be tremendously conscious. What we are to do about it I do not know. Perhaps it could be accepted as a responsibility of government to acquire substantial tracts of land through a government instrumentality so that the land could be made available to prospective home builders at a reasonable price which young people could afford to pay and which does not place upon their young shoulders such a burden that it remains with them for the rest of their lives and very seriously impedes their ability to get on and to make a worthwhile contribution in so many other forms of social activity in this country. This is a tremendously important thing.
I doubt that there is a more important question facing this country at present than the housing not only of young people - although principally and primarily young people so far as this Bill is concerned. Despite all the claims by the Government in respect of its performance in this field over the years, I feel that not enough has been done. I make no apology for observing that the idea of a homes savings grant was taken from an undertaking made by the Australian Labor Party at the time of an election to assist young people to purchase land and erect homes. The proposal was based on the concept that if anyone was thrifty enough to save £750 over a period the Government-
– Does the honourable senator say that the idea was taken from the Labor Party?
– Yes. I shall point out why the Government has failed where the Labor Party would not have failed in implementing this scheme. Perhaps I should proceed to this point straight away. The Liberal Party bases its outlook on social and economic matters on the concept that it is correct to put a restriction on wages but on no other factor which affects the community. As I have mentioned before, since wages constitute about 54% of the gross national product it follows that other factors which make up the gross national product contribute about 46%. These factors are not subject to any sort of control. The sum total of this is that although the Government, with all the commendable objectives in the world, may make a grant, it takes about 12 months only before the whole amount of the grant is absorbed by the increased cost of land, the increased cost of building and increases in the cost of every other commodity.
– The whole lot will now go in increased interest charges.
– The Government is supposed to have such a wonderful regard for the problems of the people about whom 1 am speaking. I was surprised to hear the Leader of the Government (Senator Anderson) say that the increased interest charge of 1% would apply to the whole community, but whom does it affect most? ft affects the young folk of Australia, the people who are entitled to some consideration from we older members of the community, the members of Parliament who are responsible for the allocation of the nation’s financial resources to enable people to develop this country and to share in its profitability. But what have we at present? We have a succession of holes in the ground where people are exploiting the mineral wealth and resources of the nation. Very little is coming back to the people who created the prosperity which so many of us enjoy and which, at the same dme, such a large number do not share. Senator Buttfield referred to a recession in South Australia - a down turn in the number of home commencements in that Stale. On other occasions the Minister for Housing (Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin) has supplied the Senate with figures showing the increasing number of homes commenced throughout Australia and she has claimed for the Government some credit for this performance. But, goodness gracious me, in a country with a growing population we must surely expect this as quite a natural thing. What we want to see is some move for an acceleration in the rate of home building and in the rate of commencements throughout Australia.
– Irrespective of pressure on cost?
– I am talking about housing problems of young people who are trying to establish themselves in their own country, a country which they are required to defend, to develop, to expand, and to pass on to posterity in some better shape than they found it when they began to make their endeavours in the interests of this nation. I have in front of me a note 10 comment on interest rates. They are a crippling and unjustifiable burden on ihe young people who are trying to establish themselves in their own homes. I wonder whether the claims which are being made in some quarters that the Treasury is broke have anything to do with the present situation in regard to interest rates. These claims are being made - and I regard them quite seriously - in the light of comments of the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) on the one hand and the Treasurer (Mr Bury) as well as the views of authorities in the fields of finance and economics.
Let us ponder on these claims for a moment. Let us give some thought to the fact that the young people of Australia are required to carry an unfair burden of responsibility for the muddling and messing of the Government over so many years. As 1 said earlier, no attempt has been made by the present conservative or Liberal - and that word is spelt with a capital ‘L’ - Government in Australia to minimise the cost burden on the people in the categories I am talking about at present. Initially the Government offered a grant of £250 - now $500 - but in a very short space of time this sum was swallowed up by increased costs. I believe it was offered as serious comment at the time that this legislation was initiated or shortly after it came into operation that rising land costs alone had more than absorbed the amount of the grant which was made available by the Government. What has the grant achieved? In view of these circumstances it has not helped the people who have saved over a period of time because they are no better off in terms of the purchasing power of the money they have saved. However, the grant has succeeded in placing at a further disadvantage people who are not in a position to save. Those people who. because of the many circumstances of which we are aware, are not able to save are placed at a further disadvantage instead of being assisted because increased land costs place a heavier burden on them now than previously.
The Bill will certainly confer some additional benefits. As Senator Buttfield said, it will confer benefits on widows and divorced persons. It also makes some provision for dependent children. The legislation broadens the terms of eligibility in certain respects, too. 1 refer to clause 12 of the Bill, which will amend section 20 of the Principal Act to provide that if the prescribed date in relation to an eligible person is a date which is later than 27th November 1966 but not later than 26th October 1969 the upper limit of the value of the house will be §15,000 and in any other case it is to be 517,500. One of the great shortcomings of the original Homes Savings Grant Act which has been highlighted on so many occasions in this chamber and elsewhere is the fact that initially no discretionary authority was given to the appropriate Minister.
On a number of occasions I have made representations to the Minister for Housing in respect of things which I believe to be in the spirit of the Act and the Minister has claimed - quite properly - that she has no discretionary authority. Where it appeared as if the letter of the Act was not being complied with, the spirit of the Act was not being complied with in many respects because no discretionary authority was available to the Minister. As a result, the persons for whom I made representations were not able to participate in the benefits conferred by the Act at that time.
Therefore I was very pleased to note that in the Budget session of 1968, I think, the Government at long last gave the Minister discretionary authority in the direction in which 1 have referred. But I am very sorry to have to comment at this stage that on no occasion since then when I have raised matters with the Minister has it been apparent to me that the sort of discretionary authority which I believed the Minister had was being exercised by her.
The measure before the Senate tends to take up the deficiencies in this respect. At least it spells out the additional benefits which the legislation will confer once it is passed. These benefits should have been available in the past. I refer, for instance, to the people who were not aware that they had to have a christening ceremony in relation to their bank account; in other words, they had to nominate it as a homes savings grant account. The Bill will widen the scope of the Act to cover this particular contingency. I know of people who have worked very hard over the years to save for a home. It was perfectly obvious that they were saving to buy a home. They committed themselves to a number of things which indicated to everybody their intention to proceed to build a home, but those people were not eligible simply because their accounts did not carry the nomenclature ‘homes savings grant’ on the top. This was the only thing missing. There was no breach of the spirit of the Act; there was merely noncompliance with the absolute letter of the law. One would have thought that some discretionary authority would have been available to the Minister to meet a contingency of this sort.
I had another occasion to refer to the Minister a case where the cost of the home exceeded by $500 the permissible limit. The reason was that the gentleman concerned had entered into a contract at a time when he could have had his home built for $14,000; but by the time he was able to complete the technicalities and the details involved in the building of the home - it ran into a period of 12 months or perhaps a little more - he found that, as a consequence of rising costs due to an increase in the level of wages and things of this kind, the value of the house, which was originally $14,000 and which would have met the letter of the law, had gone beyond that figure. He was ineligible to participate in the benefits which one would normally expect to have been conferred upon him by the legislation.
One of the most important aspects of political responsibility is the provision of homes to meet the needs of the growing population of Australia. Housing is an important area in the field of human endeavour. There have been some glaring deficiencies and inadequacies in the field of housing. On Monday of last week I was astounded by the position when I had occasion to endeavour to solve the housing problem of some people who were living in a caravan in a caravan park. On another occasion I was confronted with the problems of a young family which was in considerable difficulty in a number of directions. The family was living in a completely substandard home. The father had made application for a home in Tasmania 13 or 14 months ago. There was no sign of a home being allocated to him. There was one baby and another one was expected. The family had quite a number of economic problems. I could offer the parents no hope because the Minister for Housing had over many months consistently indicated to me when I asked whether there was any hope of giving these people some relief and of putting them in some decent accommodation that it was just not available.
– I presume the honourable senator is referring to the State Minister?
– I am talking about Mr Clark, the Minister for Housing in Tasmania. He has direct responsibility for housing in that State. Of course, he is subject to certain limits in regard to the availability of finance. The problem is that he has not got the money. I do not know from where he gets the money. However, let us have some sort of a responsible attitude to housing which will give some hope to the people of Tasmania who are crying out for decent accommodation. A week earlier some people came into my office and told me that they were living in a home without windows. The landlord had offered to put in the windows and make the house somewhat weatherproof. I said that I could certainly take some action to have the windows replaced or do something at a health level to force the owner to replace them. However, I said that as a consequence of such action these peole would be more likely to be kicked out than the windows put in the premises. I said: The best thing you can do so far as I can see, and the alternatives are terribly wide, is to put up with the present conditions and try to do something to keep the weather out or you will be out in the cold’. A similar situation applies throughout Australia. Many people are prepared to commit themselves to paying $2,000 and $3,000 for blocks of land in growing industrial areas. These prices are placed on blocks of land in these areas.
– The honourable senator is talking about Tasmania, I presume?
– I am talking about my own area.
– One has to pay a lot more than that in some of the other States.
– That is correct. I bought a house at a cost of something like $12,000. I will be paying it off for years. I am making every endeavour possible to pay it off because I am paying interest at an exorbitant level. If I find these difficulties myself, how does the ordinary working person, the ordinary young person of 22 years or 23 years who has nol really made his mark in his particular industry or occupation and who has not reached a high level of income earning, possibly meet this situation of trying to provide for his young wife and the family that he hopes to raise in this country? I think that our performance is not good enough. While we might get up and say that the number of housing commencements have been increasing over the years, 1 believe the present housing position is just not good enough. I believe that as we can raise loans of substantial amounts of money in time of war for the sort of things that people claim are to be used in the defence of this country - and I am not arguing about that matter at this stage - surely we can strain a little nerve and muscle here and there in order to provide a sufficient amount of money at least to meet the urgent housing needs in the Australian community.
As 1 have said, the Bill confers quite a number of benefits in certain directions, and for that reason the Labor Party does not oppose it, but honourable senators will have noted that the Opposition has moved an amendment to the Bill, copies of which have been circulated to honourable senators. I believe that paragraph (2) is the most important one in the amendment. It states: the restored benefit provided by the Bill in respect of those persons who were previously ineligible because their savings were not In a designated Home Savings Account should be dated to commence from 31st December 19.67:
Paragraph (3) states: applicants should, where necessary, have the right to have the value of land and dwelling-house valued on appeal by a Government Valuer of the Commonwealth Taxation Office.
Paragraph (3) refers’ to the assessment of the value of the property. I have referred to the discretionary authority which ought to have been available to the Minister. I am quite certain that problems have arisen - one confronted nui - concerning the assessment of the value of the property on which a house is built. My problem arose because a property in the country comprised an area which was larger than that which one would normally have expected. Bui being a country property, it was subject to the laws of the municipal authority which specified that the minimum area of land for sub-division outside the town boundaries had to be 5 acres. A tremendous problem arose as to how to keep the value of the completed structure and land within the limits provided by the law.
Now I want to turu my attention to something which is in the area of housing. I refer to war service homes. Lately we have heard quite a deal about this matter. There have been some exchanges across the chamber concerning the question of the nonavailability, until sometime in the next financial year, of funds for war service homes. I do not want to go into this question in depth at this stage, but it astonishes me that sums of money, are coming back each year into the Federal Treasury from war service homes which have been built through the War Service Homes Division, yet we find a shortage of money for building war service homes. Quite frankly, I think that the ex-servicemen of this country have been let down. If our performances are. to be measured by what one would expect them to be, surely at least in this area of housing there should be no restriction on the provision of homes for Australian ex-servicemen who have the right to expect the best possible performance from the Government of the country which they have in their turn served. This is a serious deficiency, and it is one which I would expect to have been rectified long before now.
I am quite certain that Australian exservicemen who are now in homes and are paying off the costs of those homes to the Commonwealth would be delighted to see the returns from their repayments set aside in a fund and made available for the provision of housing for people who need housing in Australia. I do not think that funds for housing ought to be confined to any particular age group. I think that they ought to be available right across the board for every Australian family which needs a home. As I have said, the problem with a Bill of this kind is that probably the Government sets out with the best intention in the world to provide a sum of money to assist people in building homes, but unless it controls the price of land and the costs of materials for homes and all the other commodities that go into a home, then the benefits are very largely illusory. They do not flow to the people whom the Government may have intended to help in the first place, that is, those people who are experiencing some difficulty in obtaining housing.
We face the situation of people requiring homes. They come to us and say: ‘We have saved $500.’ We shop around and try to find a financial institution which will give finance on a deposit of $500 which they have saved. I am quoting a specific case now. If we cannot find any institution in Australia that can provide that family with a home on a deposit of $500, 1 think there is something wrong with the system. These people to whom I am referring have scrimped and scraped. They are not young people; they are middle aged people. They have raised their family. Some members of the family have commenced work, but some are still at school. By scrimping and scraping and by all sorts of economy saving in their home - by going without things that sometimes they should have had - they saved $500, but it was not sufficient to provide a deposit for the purchase of a home which they so badly wanted. They have to continue to live under their present housing conditions, and maybe some day they will fluke a house - I would not know. I should have thought that $500 would have been sufficient for a deposit on a home. In fact, instances of this kind which come to our notice ought to indicate quite clearly to us that something is wrong with the system in Australia. Houses are very difficult to obtain.
I hope that the Minister, in justification of this legislation and in a general appraisal of the present housing position in Australia, will give us, not some statistics regarding the number of increases in home building, but some hope that the large back lag in housing applications which exists in, so far as I am aware, every State of the Commonwealth, and at least in the State of Tasmania in great numbers, will be overhauled by some means or other. If we have not the power under the existing legislation in Australia to meet this very urgent need, then I seriously suggest that it is the Government’s responsibility to make sure that funds are made available. Heaven knows, we spend much money and we waste much money on much useless equipment, much useless hardware - and I am referring now to the Fill aircraft which, I think, is a national scandal. ]f we could have used the money spent on that aircraft for the provision of housing for the needy people of Australia, for those people upon whom we rely for the development and defence of this country, we would have been doing a very much better job for Australia than we are doing at the present time.
I leave the Bill with those comments. T commend, so far as it is necessary to do so, the Government’s step in providing these additional benefits under the Homes Savings Grant Act, but I suggest that they do not by any means meet the case, lt seems to me that the Bill will not confer any great measure of benefit on those people who are in such need in the Australian community, and 1 should hope to hear from the Minister that something is in contemplation at the present time to meet the very urgent need of those people in the community for whom 1 and, I believe, the bulk of the Australian people have great concern.
– I wish to indicate the attitude of the Australian Democratic Labor Party towards this Bill which sets out to do several things to widen the scope of the homes savings grant legislation. Before I deal with the actual legislation, as Senator Devitt has roamed far and wide over the whole gamut of housing, I think it is incumbent on me at least to suggest to the Senate that we were probably the first Party that advocated assistance in home ownership for young people getting married. We believed that many of the social problems of today, particularly those of juvenile delinquency and health, had their roots in the lack of housing and in bad housing as far as young people were concerned. We thought that in a developing nation such as Australia, with such a crying need for people, encouragement should be given particularly to young people so that they would have some hope of home ownership for a family of their own. We thought we were going a very expensive way about getting the people that we needed to populate the country by migration when a much cheaper and a much better way was closer to home - by assisting young people to have some prospect of having reasonable housing when they were to be married. Although our proposition was 6 years in advance of any thinking by any of the other Parties on this point, lt was not quite identical with the terms of the homes savings grants that the Government proposes. Our proposition was for young people, on marriage, to be given a grant of $500 which would depreciate after the birth-
– What date was that?
– I could not give the honourable senator the actual date, but it was at least 6 years before the Liberal Party thought of giving some help because both the Liberal Party and the Australian Labor Party condemned our idea and said that it was too costly and unless we could show how much it would cost the nation it was completely impracticable. That is why it is so clearly fixed in my mind. It is fixed in my mind because of the opposition from the other Parties. We were the first in this field. That in itself is not really important when we discuss this legislation today. I think that our ideas were more soundly based than the proposition which the young people have had handed to them by the Government and which the Government proposes to broaden by this legislation.
A house is very important to young married people, but it is far more important to a family. It is true today that it could be argued that a young married couple who gain the advantage of a homes savings grant may never have a family. If those are the ultimate circumstances and if they are both working, it would very well be that they could have purchased their home quite easily without the assistance of any government grant. We think that a more basically sound idea from a national point of view is a marriage loan which depreciates with the birth of each child and the repayments of which are wiped out completely with the birth of the third or fourth child. On this basis the nation could afford to give a far larger grant than that which is given now, which under today’s conditions is revealing itself to be a rather paltry grant to young people. The grant does not assist young people very much. Indeed, it has not kept pace with the result of the lack of the Government’s capabilities to manage the economy,
The Government tells us that it should manage the economy and that that is why it has certain controls over banking institutions, why it has the right to tax federally and why it has the right to restrict the activities of the States in their spendings of money. The Government tells us that it is necessary for it to manage the economy. Any sensible person with the slightest knowledge of economics would tend to agree with that proposition. Seven States could not manage the Australian economy. If the Government says that it is necessary that it manage the economy, the Government is responsible for every increase that takes place in the interest rates that have to be paid for the use of money obtained on credit. The Government is not managing the economy in such a way as to keep the interest rates stable. The Government has very excellent reasons for allowing the interest rates to rise. It says it has to dampen the inflationary tendency. Every time the Government has increased the interest rates - from when they were 4i% to now when they are 8% - it has given the same reason and every time it has failed to balance the economy or to dampen the inflation in a long range plan.
How do we relate that increase in interest rates to this legislation? What does it mean to the young people who get $500 as a homes savings. grant? The latest increase in interest rates of 1% means that if a couple has a loan of only $8,000 it takes less, than 7 years before the $500 has gone in increased interest payments. The lovers of statistics say that this is nothing and that the couples need not pay any more each week; they only have to pay it over a longer period. If the interest rates are not levelled off somewhere along the line - if that reflects the philosophy of the Government - young couples will never own the home even if they do get a $500 grant to enable them to begin the purchase of it. Many phases of housing have to be taken into consideration. Senator Devitt made a point about the housing needs and requirements of young people. I remind him and other members of the Labor Party that I once belonged to that Party. In those days we believed in State housing projects to meet the emergency of the conditions after the Second World War. We poured countless millions into State housing projects, but we were not as wise as we thought we were. We attempted to avoid all the evils of the old time landlordism. We gave lifetime tenancies. Today the greatest proportion of State Housing projects are occupied by people who are not in emergency situations and who have no great need, while the very pitiful cases do not receive help. Senator Devitt is approached by a lot of people in need of housing. All honourable senators are approached but not as often as State members.
It is virtually impossible in a period of less than 4 or 5 years to find State housing accommodiation for a young family that finds itself in difficult circumstances. By that time the marriage is on the rocks and the children may be separated from the parents and well on the way to becoming an expensive burden on this country, instead of an asset to it, becuase they are well on the way to juvenile delinquency and everything else associated with a broken home. We in the Labor Party, with the best of intentions in those days, did not see the requirements that I see very clearly now that, in the main, State housing projects should be for the emergency cases that occur mostly among young people. I refer to rushed marriages. The couples are not ready to build homes. I refer to families with young children of 2 and 3 which are forced to live in rooms or with in-laws.
I think all of us in politics and those who give leadership in the community, should think a little more deeply and a little less politically about housing and about the emergency cases that confront us all the time. We should begin to realise that we cannot go back over past ground and correct an anomaly by limiting the terms of tenancies that, we offer people in State housing projects. We should start now with new tenancies and ensure that the people are encouraged to get to work and as the years go by, and as their prosperity improves, to buy a home for themselves so that the State housing project is available for the emergency cases. If we begin to think along those lines we begin to think more constructively about the housing problems in this country than if we begin to criticise one another politically and appeal to one another to do more than may be possible in the circumstances in which we have become accustomed to operating.
I applaud the spirit of the legislation as a whole. I believe that it fulfils a promise that was made by the Government. I would like to see it go further, but it does bring within the ambit of the legislation some people who were previously excluded. It will admit to the advantages of this legislation some people who previously excluded themselves because the rules as they stood were a little difficult for them to understand and appreciate. Some of them did not quickly enough take the necessary action to make themselves eligible. Many of these people will now find it possible to benefit from the legislation. But the part of the legislation in which I feel the Government has failed to do what it set out to do is in relation to the eligibility of credit unions for people who wish to save the amount of money prescribed to be necessary to qualify them for a home savings grant.
I believe that the Government has set out to do something very worthwhile. The credit unions are entitled to this because they have operated in this field and in the more minor fields of housing which are as necessary as the building of the house itself, that is, the equipping and the furnishing of the house. Heavens above, nobody would expect anybody to live in just a house. The equipment that is inside the house is surely just as necessary to make a home as is the building itself. The credit unions have lent quite considerable amounts of money - accepting that they are smaller lending institutions than the usually accepted housing loan institutions - for the purpose of purchasing land, and various subsidiary garages, fencing, sewerage and subsidiary components like that around a home. Young people, of course, were being enticed away -from saving money with credit unions. They would even save with credit unions for a period and then, as they approached the age of marriage, shift their savings to a recognised channel in which they could become eligible for the homes savings grant. This, I feel, was patently unfair to the credit unions and the Government now seeks to repair it in this legislation.
I compliment the Government because it has set out to do this. I do not join in the attacks that Senator Poke made upon the Government for endeavouring to do this. My criticism is that the legislation does not do what it set out to do, that is, to make credit unions attractive for young people to continue saving with for the purpose of getting a homes savings grant because it is obvious that only one - perhaps none - of the credit unions can meet the requirements of the legislation. Unless they can meet the requirements and guarantee to those who save money with them that they can meet them it is obvious to anybody that they will not attract back to their ranks those people who have been enticed away by having to put their money elsewhere for the purpose of getting a home savings grant. They will not attract people unless they can give a surety that their organisation will be an eligible body under the legislation as it stands today. I can see that the Government has had reasons for placing limitations. I approve of the idea that the Government should place some limitations so that credit unions that are far too small to meet the responsibility of entering this field are not at this stage made part of this scheme. But why admit any at all if the conditions are so stringent that none or next to none are eligible and say to them: ‘Well, there will be a day in the rosy future, if you set your mind to it, when you can make yourself eligible’. That will not attract any of the young people to save their money with credit unions.
The deterioration in the numbers of their members will continue because they cannot offer a guarantee to young people immediately that they will be eligible if they save their money with credit unions. I can understand, too, how the Government has fallen into the trap of making the conditions too stringent to be met by the great majority of credit unions. The Government’s philosophy on this question has apparently always been two pronged. It has wanted to encourage young people to save - that is a very worthy idea - and at the same time it has wanted lending institutions to make available to people for housing a larger proportion of their funds. I do not think anyone could quarrel with that proposition either. The Government has not found it necessary, though, to place restrictions on the other institutions which are eligible to accept the savings of young people who wish to qualify for the homes savings grant.
What it has apparently done is to take the general ratio of lending of some of the larger banking institutions in relation to housing and the specific amount of individual loans as being the general criteria on which credit unions must seek to work if they wish to be recognised institutions for the purposes of the young people saving money to become eligible for a grant, lt has reduced these amounts by a small percentage. But would it not have been a more solid basis to examine the practices and the general capabilities of the credit unions and, if necessary, increase the amounts a little above what is usual to make them reach for something if the Government desires to get them to lend more money in the larger housing field rather than in the small housing field in which they are at present engaged? Perhaps I should make it clear what I mean when I say the smaller housing field. 1 mean those things that are just as necessary to create a home as the building of the house itself - the land on which the house is built and the equipment that, has to go into it, even the most modest equipment without which any house is not a home. Would it. not have been more logical - if we genuinely want to make some of the credit unions eligible in this field - to take what was their usual standard, not the usual standard of the big banking institutions, and increase it by a certain amount so that at least they would have something to strive and reach for?
These are the provisions which I feel destroy the very worthy idea that the Government had in its mind when it first designed and introduced this legislation. The legislation makes it mandatory for credit unions to make a housing loan of an amount not less than $7,000 repayable over a period of not less than 12 years. This, of course, is probably the most difficult of all of the provisions for the credit unions to meet. They have not been in the habit of lending amounts of this size. They deal in a lower field of lending which is particularly not for housing, because they have not been eligible as institutions through which people can save for the homes savings grant. People have not been placing their money with credit unions for the purpose of borrowing for home building. It could be argued that ultimately the credit unions could become eligible. But operating against them all the time is the fact that while they are trying to become eligible they are still not eligible and cannot give the necessary guarantee to attract to them the money that normally would be saved with them for the purposes of a homes savings grant.
I believe that, whilst the legislation as it stands would make eligible possibly one of the hundreds of credit unions that operate in this country - they say that in actual administration none at all will be eligible - if the amount of $7,000 could be reduced to some degree, although the door still would not be wide open it would be possible for 1, 2, 3 or 4 or perhaps even 5% of the total number to get through. That would be a beginning and would build up in people confidence that credit unions could make the grade. But how will they be able to build up that confidence in people whom they want to save money with them under the legislation as it stands? The credit unions are very close to young people when they make their first savings. Usually it is a club in idea in the factory or other place in which they work. They get together and put their money into this institution so that at some stage they can borrow from it if they so desire. But unless the figure of §7,000 can be reduced to some extent the credit unions are debarred by the very legislation that, is said to admit-them.
What has been the purpose of the legislation its far as the credit unions are concerned? Their immediate action when they thought they were in was to rush to Canberra and talk to everybody ‘ and then to start looking at the legislation. Suddenly these people who had been encouraged and led up the garden path began to realise that there were no possibilities for’ them in the legislation. They have turned Very sour on the provisions which are part of this very worthy Bill and which were said to be in their interests. There must be something wrong when a piece of legislation is said to assist the credit unions and they themselves say: ‘Baloney, lt does not assist us at all and it will not make a scrap of difference’.
The Labor Party has moved a very sweeping amendment. It is an amendment with which we cannot agree at this stage because we believe that it opens the door completely in admitting credit unions, contains no restraints whatsoever and therefore could easily lead to very considerable abuses not necessarily by the credit unions that exist today but by people seeing opportu.nities to form very small credit unions with no other purpose than to make a particular person eligible for a homes savings grant.That would bc most undesirable. 1 am sure that it is not the wish of the Labor Party.
Perhaps it has moved its amendment without giving it the consideration and thought that it should have been given before the Labor Party decided to place it before the Senate.
We also believe that the section of the legislation that makes it mandatory for credit unions to provide by way of housing loans $50,000 in any one financial year and in every subsequent financial year is an impossible condition to place upon credit unions at this time. They could not give the necessary guarantee. The secretary has to give an undertaking in writing that his society will do this; yet he does not know who will want to borrow money and whether his society will reach this figure. But until he can give that written guarantee his organisation is not eligible to be considered one with which people can save money for the purpose of receiving a homes savings grant. While a credit union is not eligible its potential to meet the requirement is retarded all the time. I believe that, at least for a start, these very stringent conditions on the credit unions, which would be easy conditions for the major banking institutions of this country to meet, should be reduced to levels that are more possible for the larger credit unions to meet.
At this second reading stage of this Bill, we commend these ideas to the Government for its deep consideration. We believe that this is a piece of very worthy Government legislation which needs very little done to it to improve it, to make it perfect and to make it most acceptable to us. At this stage we go no further than to indicate to the Government the criticisms that we have of this portion of the legislation. We hope that by the time we reach the Committee stage of the Bill we will be able to agree on something that will open the door just a little wider and allow a reasonable number of credit unions to participate in the legislation - something that I for one am prepared to say was the intention of the Government when it formulated the idea of this legislation.
Senator PROWSE (Western Australia) (10.46]- It gives me a great deal of pleasure to join in this debate on the amendments to the Homes Savings Grant Act that are being presented to the Senate. I was very interested to listen to the 2 previous speakers - Senator Little and Senator
Devitt. As Senator Little acknowledged, they departed somewhat from the general ambit of the Bill and discussed housing in general. I confess that it is a temptation, in debating this Bill, to range rather wide of the subject. I was also very interested to hear representatives of both the Australian Labor Party and the Australian Democratic Labor Party claim that if those parties were not the authors of the legislation at least it was their idea. This is something about which we are not very concerned because the facts are very plain.
The original legislation was introduced in 1964. We know that Mr Bury was the first Commonwealth Minister for Housing and that since then housing - particularly the Homes Savings Grant Act - has been the responsibility of Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin. I for one congratulate the Minister for Housing on what has been done during the time she has been the Minister in carrying out her responsibility under this Act. We have seen a quite new venture in legislation. The evolution of homes savings grants, as Senator Little said, had 2 primary objectives. One was to encourage young people to save so that they could come into the housing field by buying their own homes with a substantial deposit. The second objective was to bring into the housing finance field an additional source of money which otherwise would have been frittered away on some temporary objectives but which under this legislation is directed with a great deal of incentive towards the young couple having a respectable deposit for their first home.
When I spoke on the original Bill I was critical because it did not, to my mind, reach the people who needed the greatest encouragement to save and who needed low cost housing. I refer to the people who would normally look to State housing commission homes and a cheaper type of home. I believe that one effect of the legislation has been to direct the thinking of young people to houses of a standard and cost above their means. I listened with interest to a debate by a group of young people on the need for lifting the limit of the home savings grant. The Bill is recognising the need for lifting the limit which grants eligibility under the Bill. Some of these young people were talking in terms of houses costing $30,000. The purpose of the legislation is completely misunderstood if young people who contemplate venturing into this sort of home and this sort of expenditure expect the taxpayers to supplement their savings. This was not the purpose of the legislation.
The Minister for Housing (Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin) has told the Senate of the large sums of money which have been paid out in homes savings grants. This is proof enough that the legislation is performing a useful function and that the grant is being availed of by young people. Honourable senators have listened to complaints, particularly from Senator Devitt, about the cost of housing. The inference was that the whole benefit of the homes savings grant had been lost because housing costs had risen. This is not very sound thinking because the reply is: ‘Very well. In this case we take the grant away. You say it is of no effect.’ If it is of no effect positively it would be of no effect negatively. I cannot accept the argument that the grant is of no value because the general cost of housing has risen. The level of wages has risen on a level with the increased cost of housing. It is like the chicken and the egg argument. 1 do not know which causes which. Certainly the increase in wages is a factor in the increase in housing costs. The other factor, of course, is the pressure of resources. It is very easy to talk about the injection of large amounts of money into the housing field as though that alone will solve the problem of housing. The injection of money into housing beyond the resources of the industry to cope would simply mean an increase in the cost of housing. It would not in any way make more houses available.
This position is true also of what the Government is doing at the moment with regard to interest rates. Surely increasing interest rates adds to the servicing of the debt. Unless something is done in the present situation to ease the pressure on building resources the prime cost - that is the cost of housing - will go up far more than the increased cost of meeting the interest obligations. We have these two choices of accepting the lesser or the greater evil in the present situation. I do not think the speakers who have complained about the rising costs in housing have fully understood this situation. In Western Australia we have had perhaps the most serious problem in accommodating people at a time when we have had the greatest increase in population of any State in Australia.
Speaking from memory of some figures I saw recently concerning building commencements over the last 5 or 6 years in Perth, we had double the number of houses being constructed. This is partly the reason for the increases in costs that we have experienced.
The other day, in connection with my work as a member of the Public Works Committee, I had reason to examine the cost of houses being built for the State Housing Commission of Western Australia at Pearce. I found that at Pearce 3-bed- room houses with garages and various amenities were being built to the standard required of the Service at a cost of $9,600. The manager of the State Housing Commission supplied me with figures relating to comparable houses built in Balga and other suburbs in the metropolitan area of Perth. These 3-bedroom houses were currently being built for $6,650. Of course, in addition to this there would be the cost of the land, whatever blocks df land were costing in that area. What I wish to point out in this connection is that the cost of houses being built some 20 miles or so from the metropolitan area increased by approximately 50%. This cost increase was partly due to the fact that there were extra amenities provided in that area. Distance, pressure of building costs and very much higher rates of pay paid to people going into that area explains this very great increase in costs.
– Who was building these houses for $6,650?
– The State Housing Commission of Western Australia. At this stageI would ask leave to continue my remarks.
Senator POKE (Tasmania) [I0.59- I seek leave of the Senate to amend slightly the amendment which I put forward last night.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Davidson) - Is leave granted? There being no objection leave is granted.
– I move:
Debate (on motion by Senator Prowse) adjourned.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Davidson) - Order! In conformity wilh the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I formally put the question:
That the Senate do now adjourn.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 11.1 p.m.
– On 17th March 1970 Senator Laucke asked me the following question without notice:
Is the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Industry aware of a steep increase in insurance premiums covering Australia’s exports to the Arabian Gulf and Red Sea ports, Aden and North African Mediterranean ports? Is he also aware that in the case of flour exports the normal all-risk cover, exclusive of war risk, has risen by 500% in the last 6 months from 50c a ton to $2.50 a ton? Will the Minister have the immensely excessive charges investigated as they constitute a serious handicap to export capability?
I undertook to obtain further information from the Minister for Trade and Industry for the honourable senator. The Minister has provided me with the following reply:
Wilh respect to non-commercial risks which may be insured against with the Statutory Commonwealth Export Payments Insurance Corporation, I am informed that little, if any, part of any overall increase in insurance charges can be attributable to the cost of policies of Export Payments Insurance.
In fact, the cost of E.P.I.C. policies was recently reduced following a genera) review by the Corporation and any variations in respect of individual policies would have been marginal only.
With respect to premiums quoted by commercial insurance companies, I am informed that these premiums have increased over the last 15 months in respect of cargoes consigned to ports in the Arabian Gulf. Red Sea and the North African Coast, the last substantial increase being made about the middle of 1969.
Insurance rates quoted normally cover movement of goods from warehouse consignor to warehouse consignee, and the rates vary between companies.
In regard to flour, the rate for a shipment to Jeddah in the Red Sea was reported to be approximately H% about 15 months ago, but the current rate is understood to be about 61% for a complete cover.
The principal reason given by Insurance Companies for the increase is said to be the steep increase in claims for compensation arising from pilferage, loss and damage to cargo following a deterioration in port congestion and handling conditions.
Pending the building of modern ports and facilities in these areas it is difficult for shipping lines to adopt the modern cargo methods which can reduce pilferage and damage to cargo. However, the lines are endeavouring to unitise to the maximum extent possible.
It is understood that shippers to these areas are endeavouring to negotiate lower rates in respect of some ports which have a better record in the matter of loss and damage to cargo, but the ultimate solution must lie in the adoption of more modern methods.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 6 May 1970, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1970/19700506_senate_27_s43/>.