30th Parliament · 2nd Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Condor Laucke) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– I inform the Senate that the Minister for Foreign Affairs, the Honourable Andrew Peacock, left Australia on 20 March to visit the United States for discussions with the Secretary of State and other senior officials in the new administration in Washington. He is expected to return to Australia on 30 March. During his absence the Minister for Primary Industry, the Right Honourable Ian Sinclair, will act as Minister for Foreign Affairs.
– I present two petitions similar in wording from 143 and 35 citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned concerned citizens respectfully showeth:
Australia’s extensive road system is a national asset wasting because of inadequate Federal and State funding.
Commonwealth Government funding of roads has fallen over the last six years from 2.9 per cent of all Commonwealth outlays to 2.3 per cent.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Senate in Parliament assembled, should ensure:
That the Commonwealth Government’s long-term policy should be to provide 50 per cent of all funding for Australia ‘s roads.
That at a minimum the Commonwealth Government adopts the recommendations by the Australian Council of Local Government Associations for the allocation of $5,903 million of Commonwealth, State and Local Government funds to roads over the five years ending 1980-81, of which the Commonwealth share would be 41 per cent as recommended by the Bureau of Roads.
Petition received and first petition read.
– Petitions have been lodged for presentation as follows:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned concerned citizens respectfully showeth:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Senate in Parliament assembled, should ensure:
That the Commonwealth Government’s long-term policy should be to provide 50 per cent of all funding for Australia ‘s roads.
That at a minimum the Commonwealth Government adopts the recommendations by the Australian Council of Local Government Associations for the allocation of$5,903 million of Commonwealth, State and Local Government funds to roads over the five years ending 1980-81. of which the Commonwealth share would be 41 per cent as recommended by the Bureau of Roads. by Senator Sim and Senator Lewis.
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the delays between announcements of each quarterly movement in the Consumer Price Index and their application as a percentage increase in age and invalid pensions is excessive, unnecessary, discriminatory and a cause of economic distress to pensioners.
That proposals to amend the Consumer Price Index by eliminating particular items from the Index could adversely affect the value of future increases in age and invalid pensions and thus be a cause of additional economic hardship to pensioners.
The foregoing facts impel your petitioners to ask the Australian Government as a matter of urgency to:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Senator Cotton.
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That Australian Government employees strenuously oppose the provisions of the Commonwealth Employees (Redeployment and Retirement) Bill first introduced in the House of Representatives on 8 December 1976. The basis for opposition includes the following reasons:
Your petitioners most humbly pray that the Senate, in Parliament assembled, should reject passage of any legislation to extend powers of compulsory retirement of Australian Government employees unless and until any variation has been agreed with staff representatives.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Senator Jessop.
– I give notice that on the next day of sitting I shall move:
That the Standing Orders be amended as follows:
Leave out standing orders 102 and 103, insert: 102. The Clerk shall place notices of questions on the notice paper in the order in which they are received by him. 103. The reply to a question on notice shall be given by delivering the same to the Clerk. A copy thereof shall be supplied to the senator who has asked the question and such question and reply shall be printed in Hansard. Provided that any senator who, pursuant to this standing order, has received a copy of a reply may, by leave, ask the question and have the reply read in the Senate.
– I give notice that on the next day of sitting I shall move:
That the order of the day standing on the notice paper for 25 February 1977 relating to the motion that the Senate is of the opinion that the Government should introduce legislation to provide for the statutory establishment and funding of the Australian Assistance Plan be restored to the notice paper and be an order of the day for the next day of sitting.
Senate Select Committee on Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders
-I give notice that on the next day of sitting I shall move:
That the order of the day standing on the notice paper for 25 February 1977 relating to the motion to take note of the report on the Senate Select Committee on Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders be restored to the notice paper and be an order of the day for the next day of sitting.
– My question is addressed to the Leader in this place of the National Country Party of Australia. Is the Minister aware of the remarks of the Queensland Premier on the AM program yesterday morning in which he described the Liberal Party in Queensland as scabs and stated: ‘They seem to have forgotten all about a word and standards called loyalty’? Is the Minister also aware that the Queensland Premier said that the Liberal Party would ‘cut your throat if they had half a chance ‘? I ask the Minister whether he will demonstrate his loyalty to a leader of the National Country Party by indicating his agreement with those statements. If he does not agree with them, will he make a public statement to that effect?
– The Minister for Science will reply, insofar as he can, within his ministerial responsibility.
-The answer to the 4 questions asked of me is no.
-Has the Minister for Industry and Commerce seen a report by Onkaparinga Textiles Ltd of South Australia expressing concern over the very high level of imported blankets from New Zealand last year? Is the Minister aware that Onkaparinga Textiles in South Australia is very concerned about the possible flood of imported New Zealand blankets again this year which could have serious financial repercussions on this long-established Australian industry? Has the Minister seen reports that Onkaparinga Textiles had a 53 per cent larger loss in the first half of 1976-77? Will the Minister make inquiries to see what steps can be taken so that such an old-established company as Onkaparinga Textiles will not be sent out of business as a result of a flood of imports from New Zealand under the New ZealandAustralia Free Trade Agreement?
-Some weeks ago I met the people from Onkaparinga Textiles Ltd in Sydney and had a long talk with them. About 3 companies are involved in woollen blanket production. There is a group in Tasmania and some in Victoria and there is Onkaparinga. I decided to send somebody from the Department to all the companies concerned in order to make a survey. This has been done. I have not yet had the final report. I may get it within a week. If that is the case I shall have more information then. I was concerned when I heard the report of Onkaparinga Textiles and, equally, of Kelsall & Kemp (Tasmania) Ltd and the others because I think that pan of the problem is the heavy importation of woollen blankets from New Zealand. The honourable senator will know that I am involved in discussions on the New
Zealand-Australia Free Trade Agreement. Part of the reason that I sent officers around the industry was that I wanted to raise this matter in discussions with New Zealand.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for the Northern Territory. I preface my question by reminding the Minister that it is coincidental- it would appear that this question is directed against the National Country Party- that I am asking this question because I did not confer with my Leader before he asked his question. Can the Minister inform the Parliament whether the facts are that the election for the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly will take place this year; that a redistribution of electorates will be carried out before the election; that only approximately 500 unused electoral enrolment cards are available in the Northern Territory; and that no more enrolment cards will be printed for many weeks? Will the Minister further inform the Parliament whether the lack of enrolment cards and the inability of the Department to have enrolment cards readily available is part of an overall strategy by certain people in the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly to prevent enrolments, in order to consolidate the position of certain sitting members when the election is eventually held?
– I regret that I was unable to take down all the questions that the honourable senator asked.
– Do you want me to repeat them?
– I think that may take too long. The first question the honourable senator asked was whether there would be a redistribution carried out in the Northern Territory. I made that announcement in this place last week and, if I remember correctly, I announced who the distribution commissioners would be. In relaton to the question dealing with enrolment cards, I am unable to answer correctly whether there are insufficient enrolment cards. The questions associated with the availability of enrolment cards will be looked at by me when I read the Hansard report and I will attempt then to get an answer for the honourable senator.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications and I refer to an article in the Australian yesterday concerning the transmission of radio and television broadcasts direct into the home via satellite. Can the Minister advise when the Parliament will receive full details of this proposal? Would such a system supplement the existing network by providing a service to those who at present lack such facilities or is it envisaged, as the article indicates, that there will be a completely new method of broadcasting, with resultant high costs? Would such a system, having a lead time of 10 years, mean that the Australian Telecommunications Commission might seek to curtail any expansion of existing services, for example, the provision of further translators, with the result that people in remote areas who have not a service now will not receive one until the satellite system becomes operational? Is it envisaged that such a satellite could be also used for telephonic communication, especially in providing a service to remote areas?
-I saw the article to which the honourable senator referred and sought information relating to it. I am advised that it is not accurate to suggest that the Government is studying a scheme for the introduction of a domestic broadcasting satellite. Australia was represented at a world conference in Geneva last month which discussed the plans for such satellites. As a result, studies will be made of the feasibility of providing such a service in Australia. It will be some years before a definite proposal is put to the Government. Reference to the possibility of a domestic satellite was made in the recent Green report and in the Telecom 2000 report which was published last year. The proposed system is both new and costly. It uses a band of frequencies not currently used- the 12 gigahertz band- which is above the ultra high frequency band which itself is above the very high frequency band now commonly used. Detailed studies will now proceed and a cost benefit analysis will be prepared for the Government in due course.
The honourable senator is, of course, concerned that those who do not currently receive a broadcasting service may be further disadvantaged in the interim period. Honourable senators will be aware that over 95 per cent of the Australian population now have radio and television reception and I can assure honourable senators that the Government is expecting to consider further development in the broadcasting and television fields as a result of the Green report. There is currently no suggestion that this activity should be curtailed because of the possibility of a domestic satellite. I am assured that it is possible to include on a domestic broadcasting satellite transponders in addition to those used for broadcasting. Such transponders could then be used for telephone communications in remote areas. Both the Green report and the Telecom 2000 report noted that the solution to rural communications problems may be possible by this means.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Administrative Services. Will he table in the Senate requests that Australia Post and Telecom Australia have made to his Department for the purchase of properties pursuant to their needs? Does the Minister feel that his Department has acted quickly enough to ensure that these properties were purchased at the prices originally offered by the commissions? Is it a fact that the Minister proposes to delegate to the commissions the right to purchase their own properties without reference to his Department, as recommended in the Vernon report? Finally, do similar statutory bodies such as the Commonwealth Banking Corporation and Qantas Airways Ltd have the right to make their own property purchases without reference to his Department?
-I shall work through the parts of the question in the reverse order to which they were asked. Yes, some statutory authorities are exempt from this requirement, but the honourable senator will find that generally they are statutory authorities which make no call whatsoever upon the Consolidated Revenue Fund. They include Qantas Airways Ltd and the Commonwealth Banking Corporation. However, I think the honourable senator will find that both the Australian Postal Commission and the Australian Telecommunications Commission do make such a call. In the second part of his question the honourable senator asked whether the Government intends to carry out the recommendations of the Vernon report. I have not come to a final decision on that. It is pretty difficult to answer the first pan of the question in broad general terms. If the honourable senator likes to give instances and details, I shall see whether information on the subject properties to which he has referred ought to be tabled. As I recall the position, sometimes I approve the obtainings by either purchase or rent, of 6 properties and up to a dozen properties in any one week. Over the year a great number of properties, both freehold and leasehold, are taken up by the 2 commissions. It would be very difficult to give a generalised answer in respect of a great number of particular instances.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations. A report in a Sydney daily newspaper asserts that there has been a dramatic drop in the number of skilled tradesmen in the work force in the period since 1971. The magnitude of the drop is estimated at 1 56 000 men. Can the Minister approach the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations in the other place and inquire as to whether there is any validity in this report? If so, has the Government considered the serious long term effects on business and the economy as a whole that a shortage of skilled workmen involves?
-The report to which Senator Lajovic refers is substantially true and appears to be based upon a survey carried out by a working party of the Australian Apprenticeship Advisory Committee in 1976. However, the Committee has advised that the assessment should be treated with some caution. Broadly speaking, the report reveals a serious deteriorating position in regard to skills in the work force. The Government certainly is fully conscious of the implication of these shortages. Earlier this year it provided greatly enhanced support of apprentice training through the introduction of the Commonwealth Rebate for Apprentice Fulltime Training scheme, which is known as CRAFT. The scheme provides for tax rebates for employers who release apprentices for technical training. It aims to stimulate not only the amount but also the quality of the training that is provided. Additionally, because the Government recognises the importance of an adequately skilled work force, it has provided significant additional financial support this year to the States to enable them to increase the facilities available for trade training. Of course, the expansion of the National Employment and Training scheme by this Government and particularly the greatly expanded opportunities for on-the-job training under the scheme are also directed at this problem. I refer also to the special youth training scheme introduced by the Government last year under which approximately 5300 young people between the ages of 15 years and 19 years are taking advantage of on-the-job training for skills.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Administrative Services. Did a Commonwealth policeman and also a former Commonwealth policeman plead guilty at Ringwood police court last week to charges laid under section 6 of the Wireless and Telegraphy Act of using an appliance to receive messages? Were both men placed on good behaviour bonds and were each ordered to pay costs of $40? Did the presiding magistrate tell them that their actions had been an embarrassment to the Victorian police force? Were the 2 persons concerned monitoring State police radios over a lengthy period? What was the purpose of the monitoring? Was it a direction given by the Commonwealth? If not, what directions are Commonwealth police given regarding their relationship with members of the State police forces?
– I have no information or knowledge as to the matters raised by the honourable senator, but I will ascertain what I can and provide him with an answer as early as possible.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Social Security. As the May school holiday season is rapidly approaching and as the stated policy of this Government is to assist those in greatest need, can the Minister inform the chamber what percentage of children of working parents who took advantage of the Christmas holiday children’s care program were children of one parent families or lower income families?
-I am unable to state the composition of the children who took advantage ofthe child holiday care program. I have no statistics which would show how many children were children of one parent families. I am able to say that the funds that were allocated to 177 projects for vacation care benefited a large number of Australian children. We hope that in the areas in which we gave financial support the organisers ofthe program will give some priority to the children who have the greatest need. I believe that the child care vacation program has been of great benefit.
– Has the Minister for Social Security read the speech by Mr Lynch to the Liberal Party State Council on Saturday last in which he predicted the severe curtailment of welfare expenditure and the ending of some welfare activities in the next Budget? Which programs will be ended? In which areas will welfare expenditure be severely curtailed? What warning of the proposed cuts will be given to those affected so that they may consider their position and make representations to the Government?
-The statements that have been made by the Treasurer with regard to preparations for the forthcoming Budget look at the responsibility of Government in terms of overall expenditure. Let me look at the Department of Social Security. I think a great deal of needless anxiety is caused by those who speculate on programs, as people did about this time last year with regard to child endowment which was replaced by the family allowances scheme and as people did a week or two ago with regard to the indexation of pensions. Those who cause this needless anxiety to those people who receive benefits from our Government overlook the fact that we increased social security expenditure by some 32 per cent in this year’s Budget. We expend about 25 per cent of the national Budget on social security. This figure approximates $6,000m. The honourable senator wishes me to give warnings to people with regard to some curtailment of expenditure but I ask the community at large to test us on our record of social security in the last 12 months.
– I ask a supplementary question of the Minister for Social Security. I share the Minister’s concern about the speculation in the community. I ask: Is it a fact that there was no speculation until the Treasurer made statements in his speech at the weekend? Will the Minister advise the Treasurer that statements like that cause speculation and anxiety among welfare recipients in the community?
-I am sure the Treasurer will read every word of the honourable senator’s questions and observations.
– Has the Minister for Science noted the claim by Professor Stuart Butler, the Deputy Chairman of the Academic Board of Sydney University, that there have been further startling advances towards a world breakthrough in the commercial use of solar energy? Can the Minister say whether there is any substance in the statement in today’s Australian that at a research and development cost to the Federal Government of less than $ 10m over the next 5 years scientists could perfect the technology to convert solar energy into electrical energy and then into liquefied hydrogen for export? Is the Minister able to provide the Senate with further information on this subject?
-Undoubtedly the advance of research in solar energy is a matter of particular importance to all in Australia, and indeed to all in the world. I did note the comments in the newspaper to which the honourable senator referred. Professor Stuart Butler made several points, but I am unable to verify his comments. He did say that the breakthrough could mean the end of nuclear power needs within 25 years. I am unable to verify that statement. He also said that Australia would be able to convert solar energy into electricity and then into liquefied hydrogen for export, and I do not know of that particular advance. Professor Butler also said that details of the initial work on the process by Sydney University’s Energy Research Institute were announced several weeks ago. On that point, I hope I would not be misinterpreting the article if I suggested that perhaps the full text of the Professor’s comments was not made clear in the article. Advances are being made on all fronts relating to solar energy, and undoubtedly in future years they will complement the input of energy requirements from other sources within Australia. Great advances are being made overseas, but I think that we in Australia can be considered to lead the world in solar energy research at the present time.
The honourable senator’s question raises the same factor that is brought up by everybody associated with research in any area of science in these days- a requirement for more funds. Senator Jessop, as Chairman of the particularly important Senate Standing Committee on Science and the Environment, has heard evidence of the requirements of many people for greater funds for energy research in many areas. I received a letter today from an academic in South Australia seeking the reason why the Federal Government could not give $ 1 0,000 towards solving a particular problem which had arisen at the University of Flinders. As I understand it, the University of Sydney, which Professor Stuart Butler represents, has been granted $750,000 for solar energy research over the past 3 years, and I think the comments he made generally related to an attempt to find some source of funds to continue that particular research. That would suggest that the University of Sydney, with whatever funds it has available, may be looking again to its priorities in this field. I should point out to Senator Jessop that it is not within my capacity to say whether the University of Sydney would benefit from the allocation of an extra $10m over the next few years. The priorities granted by that independent body may not allow it to follow research in this area. From the point of view of my portfolio, I recognise the great importance of solar energy research. I would argue that funds should be available for solar energy research in these times. Indeed, a vast number of people from the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, and from many universities and private institutions in Australia, could do with extra financial support at the present time.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Science and follows the question just asked. As all honourable senators know, the Minister has answered a whole series of questions, usually prepared questions, on solar energy. I do not ask in a political sense but I do ask seriously: Is this Government trying to organise properly research into solar energy in this country? My question arises from the comment the Minister just made that the University of Sydney apparently determines its own priorities in this area of research. Does the Minister not consider it to be a matter of fundamental importance that all activities in relation to solar energy research in Australia should be properly co-ordinated by this Government and that at least periodic reports on the progress of that research should be made available to the Parliament?
-The honourable senator has asked me a number of questions on this matter. He will realise that his questions were not prepared, nor were my answers. The honourable senator is attempting to interject. He stated that a number of questions relating to this matter, obviously prepared, had been asked of me. Indeed he and a number of his back bench senators have asked questions on this most important matter. The honourable senator asked: Should not the Australian Government be trying properly to organise energy research in this country? The Government is doing particularly well in its organisation of research, not only into solar energy production but also into other areas of energy production. I have given the Senate an indication of work carried out by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation in relation to coal liquefaction and other matters relating to the supply of energy from various sources.
The attitude of the Labor Government when in office was that it should have a central body which would direct everybody to a particular course of action. Suffice it to say that Senator Wriedt indicated that if he held the reins he would direct universities as to what research they should carry out in the national interest. It has not been the attitude of this Government that it should attempt to direct universities as to their progress and processes in energy research. I believe that the University of Sydney is free to pursue its own priorities in relation to its energy studies unit. It may please the honourable senator to know that I was at the University of Sydney on Friday last and Professor Watson-Munro showed me, with his students and others, the type of research on solar energy that is being carried out at the present time. I was not made aware of the great advances in this area that had been made by Professor Stuart Butler or by Professor Harry Messel. However, I think they did show me, as the Federal Minister for Science, all the work that they w.ere doing in that important area.
The honourable senator asked me finally: Cannot reports be made to the Parliament relating to this matter? I think I have done a great deal to bring reports on energy, particularly solar energy, before the Parliament. I cannot recall Labor, in the 3 years that it was in office, ever doing that, but I shall check to see whether that is correct. I shall take the honourable senator’s question on board and if it is appropriate that a report should be brought forward on what is taking place in solar energy research I shall consider it and I shall perhaps make a statement to the Senate so that the honourable senator may debate the matter.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the AttorneyGeneral. I refer to recent reports that there are serious delays in the hearing of defended cases before the Family Court in Victoria. I ask the Minister: Have these difficulties, which appear to be very serious indeed, been drawn to the attention of the Government? If so, what action, if any, is proposed to relieve the situation?
– The problem to which Senator Chaney refers certainly has been drawn to the attention of the Attorney-General, whom I represent in this chamber. A headline in the Age newspaper this morning referred to a judge hitting at divorce case delays. The Government does recognise that delays are occurring in Victoria, and that a problem does exist there, and from time to time it has endeavoured to alleviate the problem. Indeed, I have answered some questions on the matter previously. At the present moment 9 judges are attached to the Melbourne Registry. It may be necessary to provide some additional judges and that matter is being considered by the Attorney-General.
In addition to the judges, there is probably a need for an additional legal officer to carry out regulation 96 conferences, particularly on custody matters. Also, more court counsellors are needed to take part in early contested custody conferences to facilitate a higher rate of settlement or agreement between the parties. All these matters are being looked at at the moment by the Attorney-General. As to the newspaper headline relating to divorce case delays, specifically delays in the hearing of divorce cases, the delay in Melbourne is 5 months, which certainly is a long time. The Government is concerned about that. However, it is not as long as it was in the Supreme Court of Victoria under the Matrimonial Causes Act before the Family Law Act came into operation. Furthermore, the case to which the headlines refer was, in fact, a property dispute between the parties to a divorce case. The headlines refer to a delay not actually in the divorce itself but in the hearing of a property dispute. This case was transferred from the Supreme Court of Victoria to the Family Court. Presumably, the case could have been dealt with in the Supreme Court under the transitional provisions of the Family Law Act.
– I address a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations. I remind the Minister of the question that I asked him almost a month ago, on 23 February 1977, concerning the fact that the decision of the Australian Industrial Court on 23 December 1976 showed assurances given by the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations on 1 June 1 976 to have been absolutely worthless and contrary to fact. Does the Minister recall that question and the fact that as a result of those assurances and those given by the Minister’s predecessor, Mr Cameron, many unions representing over 1 million workers could find their rules open to challenge? Does he regard the misleading of Parliament in such important questions by the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations as a serious matter deserving an explanation? If so, when can I expect a reply? What action is being taken by the Parliament to remedy the situation resulting from the Court’s interpretation of section 133(1) (a) before its repeal and the ineffectiveness of the Government’s own legislation in November of last year?
– I certainly recall the question that Senator Harradine asked me as the Minister representing the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations. It referred to the legislation which was passed by the Parliament last year- it was debated in the Senate in the middle of November- concerning collegiate voting and changes made in legislation on that subject which had been passed under the Labor Government when Mr Cameron was the Minister for Labor and Immigration. Both Mr Cameron and the present Minister, Mr Street, were under the impression, presumably on advice that they had received, that a period of 3 years was available to unions to adjust to the Cameron legislation. I probably referred to that in the debate on the legislation last November and to the need to have the amending legislation, which alleviated that obligation to some considerable extent, passed by, I think, 13 November last year. Mr Justice Smithers of the Australian Industrial Court made a decision. He held that there is, in fact, an obligation to comply with the Cameron legislation within one year, not 3 years.
I reject the suggestion that there has been any misleading of the Parliament. If Mr Justice Smithers was correct, certainly the Ministers in both Governments made a mistake. I am not sure whether the decision of Mr Justice Smithers is being appealed against. I have passed the question asked by Senator Harradine to the Minister whom I represent. I understand that the matter is being considered by him. I acknowledge that it is now a month since the honourable senator asked the question and I shall endeavour to expedite a reply.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Transport. On 22 February I asked the Minister whether the freight rate increases announced by the Australian National Line would be followed by an immediate review of the subsidy levels in the Tasmanian freight equalisation scheme to ensure that the scheme continues to achieve its stated objective. The Minister undertook to obtain an answer from the Minister for Transport. Is he now in a position to provide an answer to that question?
– Happily, I am in a position to answer that question. I am advised by my colleague that it is not proposed to make interim adjustments to the Tasmanian Freight Equalisation Scheme subsidy levels with each change in land or sea freight rates. There have been recent increases in mainland freight rates but there was no reduction in TFES assistance on each occasion. It is not practicable administratively to review rates with each such change, each of which is different in amount and occurs at a different point in time. It is intended, however, that movements in sea freight rates from Tasmania to the mainland and equivalent mainland freight charges will be taken into account in a general review of the level of TFES assistance to be undertaken before the end of 1 977.
– My question is directed to Minister representing the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs. Is the Minister aware of evidence given before the Prices Justification Tribunal on spare parts which confirms the complaints made by farmer organisations that farmers are being ripped off by companies selling spare parts for farm machinery? I ask the Minister: What action does the Government propose to take to prevent excessive exploitation by such companies which has raised their profits by over $2m merely by raising the price of spare parts?
– I have not seen the evidence to which Senator Gietzelt refers. No doubt this is part of evidence before the Prices Justification Tribunal in regard to an inquiry that it is conducting as to the cost of spare parts. I imagine the Government is awaiting with interest the report of that inquiry. I will pass the question on to the Minister whom I represent.
– I address my question to the Minister representing the Prime Minister. Is the Minister aware of the recent completion of the work, ‘Environmental Sculpture’, of West German sculptor Herbert Hajek at the Festival Theatre in Adelaide and the widespread dismay amongst South Australian artists who claim that Australians should have been consulted before a South Australian Government commission was offered to a foreign artist? Can the Minister assure the Senate that the Australian artistic community will be consulted in the event of Federal Government artistic commissions?
-I think I should refer that question direct to the Prime Minister.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs. I refer the Minister to a cable sent by Mr Woolcott, the Australian Ambassador to Indonesia, in which he urges the Australian Government to play a positive role in supporting a high level of assistance to Indonesia at the April meeting of the Inter-Governmental Group on Indonesia? What is the Government’s position concerning Indonesia’s request for $US60Om in aid to be channelled through the members of IGGI. In view of the reported atrocities in East Timor, will Australia press for a lower level of aid to Indonesia through IGGI? Will Australia’s delegation to IGGI be instructed to raise the question of the alleged gross violations of human rights? Has the Government any knowledge of moves by the Netherlands Government to raise the question at the IGGI meeting?
-I ask the honourable senator to place his question on notice.
– My question is for the Minister for Social Security. I refer the Minister to Press reports today that the Government has established a special inquiry into alleged abuse of unemployment benefits. I ask the Minister: Is this an inquiry additional to those already under way and referred to last week by the Prime Minister? If this is to be an additional inquiry, will there be opportunity, for example, for community representations to be made to it? Finally, when does the Government expect to receive the findings of such an inquiry?
– The Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations has an inquiry being conducted at present into unemployment benefits and the Commonwealth Employment Service. This inquiry is being headed by Mr Norgard. I understand that the report from Mr Norgard ‘s inquiry is to be received within a short time. There are other matters with regard to the unemployment benefit and the administration of the unemployment benefit system that may be subject to investigation but I have no further information that I can give to the honourable senator at this stage.
-My question is addressed to the Acting Minister for the Northern Territory. He will be aware that the museum in Darwin was destroyed by Cyclone Tracy. Since that time the valuable natural history collection and other equally important items have been stored in temporary facilities and such exhibitions as could be mounted have been displayed in rented buildings. Is the Minister aware that a good deal of concern is being expressed in the Territory over possible damage to the collections, which are unique in Australia? Could the Minister give some indication of when permanent facilities for storage and exhibitions will be built to enable both locals and tourists to take advantage of these items which have been collected over the years?
– The honourable senator asks an important question relating to the affairs of the Northern Territory. I am unaware of the situation regarding the museum or its contents. I will make it my business to have an investigation made of the current situation and will advise the honourable senator of the result as soon as possible.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Industry and Commerce. Does the Government favour decentralisation of industry? If so, is the Government aware that one of the factors militating against industries being established in rural areas is the cost of subscriber trunk dialling telephone calls? Is the Government considering any relief from this burden?
– Yes, we do favour decentralisation and yes, we are aware of the problem of the costs of STD calls to country factories and country industries. The matter has been examined in the past. Any areas of concession are matters of Budget policy. I cannot go further than that except to observe that ‘decentralisation’ is a much used word. There are some industries that lend themselves to it and some that do not. I think we ought to be moving more in the direction of trying to add value to the raw materials and facilities of a district than towards carting materials in, trying to add value and then carting them back to the market.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Transport, relates to a committee set up to consider certain country railway lines in South Australia following the transfer of those lines to the Australian Government. Is the Minister aware that the committee has been set up and that it represents only departmental interests, namely, the Commonwealth Department of Transport, the Bureau of Transport Economics and the South Australian Department of Transport? Is the Minister aware that there is certain regional criticism of the inquiry and the representation of the committee and that in particular a large railway union has contended that the inquiry might be biased because of the composition of the committee? Will the Minister be good enough to transfer to the Minister Ibr Transport the criticism now appearing? Will he consider expanding the committee to include certain local authorities and /or trade union representation? - - -
-I understand that the committee was set up by agreement between the Commonwealth Minister for Transport, Mr Nixon, and the State Minister, Mr Virgo. It stems from an Australian National Railways report which recommends the closure of the two railways on economic grounds. As Senator Bishop indicated, the committee has 3 members. They are Mr K. Barclay, the regional director of the Commonwealth Department of Transport in South Australia; Mr P. Keall, the South Australian Government nominee; and Mr B. Wyers, from the Bureau of Transport Economics. I think the membership is as Senator Bishop indicated. I have seen Press comment in which some criticism was made by the South Australian Secretary of the Australian Railways Union. I do not know whether such criticism is valid but I think Senator Bishop’s comment is useful. I will transfer it to the Minister and draw the whole matter to his attention.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Administrative Services. I draw his attention to the fact that the publication Australian Government Directory, which is a guide to Commonwealth Government departments and authorities, was compiled up to January 1 976. Does the Minister agree that this publication is now out of date? Will he inform the Senate when a new up to date directory will be available?
– I think a new directory is in preparation at the moment. It should be out in newly printed form shortly.
– My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. By way of preface I mention that the subject matter of my question touches on the responsibilities of at least 3 Ministers, namely, the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, the Minister for Foreign Affairs and the Minister for Education. lt may well be that Senator Carrick, as Minister for Education, could be in a better position to answer the question. If that is so. I should appreciate it if the question could be redirected to Senator Carrick. Have there been any approaches to the Government from Ugandan students currently in Australia asking for permission to remain in this country after their studies conclude because of the current political situation in their home land? If so, what has been the Government’s decision? If not, but if any such approaches are made, will they be treated sympathetically by the Government?
-As Senator Colston rightly says this is like all Gaul; it is divided into 3 ministerial parts. I shall reply on behalf of the Department of Education. To my knowledge, no approaches for permission to remain in Australia have been made by Ugandan students. There may have been some approaches and they may have gone to my colleague the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs. I shall seek out information. As to the second part of the question, I shall draw the attention of all relevant Ministers in the Government to the need for a sympathetic approach to any such requests.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Education. The President of the Northern Territory Teachers Federation has issued a statement entitled Repair and Maintenance in Aboriginal Schools in the Northern Territory in which he makes the charge that a serious repair and maintenance problem exists in Northern Territory Aboriginal schools because of a Government decision to limit funds on minor new works. He mentions non-functioning air conditioners in demountable buildings designed for air conditioning and caravan classrooms which have not been connected to electricity, as well as describing the general physical state of buildings as deplorable. Is the Minister aware of the situation as described? If so, what is the present position and what action has been taken or is to be taken by the Government?
– It would be fair to say that over a considerable number of years the state of repair and function of Aboriginal schools generally in the Northern Territory has not been good. The honourable senator will recall that some weeks ago I mentioned what turned out to be a report of an inter-governmental committee ofthe previous Whitlam Government which surveyed schools. The committee made recommendations for a program in terms of a timetable which it recommended should be followed if the schools were to be brought up to date. As I understand it, the timetable and the years of the program were not in fact completed. I must in all honesty say that the condition of Aboriginal schools leaves much to be desired. A great deal of work is to be done. All I can do is undertake, with the best will in the world, to see whether we can overtake the difficulties. There are problems in relation to repairs and maintenance which are necessary at the moment. The honourable senator will recall the matter concerning Elcho Island which was raised recently. We have managed to get a new building program launched there, for I think, $ lm. In honesty, the situation is not a good or attractive one. It is one which worries me considerably.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Treasurer. I refer him to the national accounts figures prepared by the Australian Bureau of Statistics for the December quarter. Will the Minister at last agree that the fall in the gross domestic product by 1.7 per cent confirms the view that the Australian economy under the present economic policies is stagnating? Is he prepared to revise the Budget estimate of a 4 per cent real growth in the economy? I conclude by asking him: What has happened to the White Paper on manufacturing industry.
– As I recall the questions, the answer to the first two is no. There was a third question in general terms which I shall answer in a little while. The White Paper is still being prepared, as was mentioned in the Senate a short time ago. I think that if what was said at that time was re-read it would accurately inform the honourable senator. The national accounts are very interesting and the latest figures are preliminary. We have found in the department with which I have worked that one has to be very careful about preliminary national accounts figures, but I have had some information prepared which may be helpful. The preliminary estimate shows a fall in gross non-farm products of 1 .3 per cent in the December quarter and a fall in the gross domestic product of 1 .7 per cent following rises in aggregates in the previous quarter of 2.9 per cent and 2.5 per cent. The next information is, I think, more useful for interpretation purposes. The Commonwealth Statistician has included interpretative comments stressing that quarterly changes should not be viewed in isolation or without reference to changes over a longer period, which is a view which I have consistently held. The Statistician observes that the estimates may overstate the fall in the December quarter and may overstate the rise in the September quarter. Following the usual practice of discussing the figures in half years and not in quarters, the Statistician comments that the gross non farm product rose by 3 per cent and the gross domestic product rose by 2.3 per cent in the second half of 1976. The corresponding growth rates in the first half of 1976 were 2.9 per cent and 3. 1 per cent respectively. If one looks at that as an underlying trend in economic growth it can be seen that the Budget estimate of about a 4 per cent rise in non-farm product is extremely likely to be realised. Hence there is no need to change the Budget strategy.
– I ask the Minister for Education whether there are any firm plans for the use of a larger proportion of higher education funds on technical and further education in the next financial period. Will it be part of the Government’s policy to increase the number of student places in this area with a view to training more people in fields currently showing vacancies and likely to continue to do so?
– It is the stated policy of the Federal Government to place significantly greater emphasis on technical and further education. It has been recognised that over the years governments of all parties in the State and Federal spheres have tended to neglect technical education while favouring the higher education in colleges and universities. It is accepted that more emphasis must be placed on the technical field. It is clear that in Australia we have the strange paradox of significant youth unemployment and yet a massive scarcity of skilled apprentices and journeymen. So the answer is that it is intended to place greater emphasis on this area. Towards that end the Government is in the process of establishing a new co-ordinating committee in the post-secondary field. In doing so it has joined into that field universities and colleges of technical and further education in equal partnership. The problem is that whilst the Federal Government funds wholly the tertiary sphere comprising universities and colleges, it only tops up the funds in the technical sphere. The Prime Minister has written to the Premiers inviting them to enter at a Minister for Education level discussions on funding and shared responsibilities, and one of the significant areas for discussion obviously would be technical education, if and when that discussion takes place.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Education. For the purposes of clarification are we to understand that despite the Vh per cent increase in technical education funds, as was laid down by the Government in the financial guidelines for this year, funds will be further increased? If not, are we to understand that there are to be no additional funds provided for the technical education area over and above what is provided for in the guidelines?
– When the Budget is brought down the funds provided will be revealed. Even before then guidelines will be provided, probably within the next month or two, for technical and further education along with the other 3 commission areas. Happily, the 7!6 per cent relates to this year- the financial year 1976-77. It is a move forward by this Government and not a cutback as was the case with the previous Government.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs and refer to a report prepared by Mr Dunn bf the Legislative Research Service of the Parliament concerning Timorese refugees in Portugal. Mr Dunn says in his report:
About 95 per cent of the Timorese wish to come to Australia where more than a third of them are said to have relatives, most of whom came to Australia as refugees from Timor in August 1975.
Can the Minister indicate what action has been taken by Australian immigration authorities to contact Timorese refugees in Portugal who may wish to come to Australia? What action is being taken to assist these people? What further action will the Government take to assist them with their applications? In particular, will an immigration office be established in Lisbon to handle applications from Timorese refugees?
Senatore GUILFOYLE- In question No. 242 on the notice paper Senator Georges calls for statistics relating to the current position of applications for immigration from East Timorese in Portugal. This information is being extracted by the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs in reply to the question and will be provided as soon as possible. However, there are some answers which I can give at this stage in reply to the other matters raised by the honourable senator. I understand that Mr Dunn’s statements are not entirely accurate. There are some 1400 East Timorese evacuees in Portugal. They have Portuguese citizenship and a considerable proportion of them speak Portuguese. Fewer than 600 East Timorese refugees in Portugal have applied for migrant entry to Australia. Their applications are being considered sympathetically. The figure given by Mr Dunn concerning the proportion of refugees who are said to have relatives in Australia overstates the total as known to the Department of Immigration and
Ethnic Affairs. A closer estimate would be that between 5 per cent and 10 per cent have claimed relationships with Australian residents. Many of these are distant relationships- for example, cousins, nephews or nieces. Unfortunately, most of the evacuees do not have good prospects for employment in Australia. They do not have skills or experience in demand in this country and most do not speak English.
– You are not going to hold to those criteria, surely.
– I will conclude the answer. Senator Georges may wish to ask something after I have done so. In addition, as Mr Dunn has noted, a proportion of the evacuees is not seeking entry to Australia for permanent residence but rather for various purposes to travel to a country closer to East Timor. An Australian immigration officer has been stationed in Portugal to handle processing of applications, including those from East Timorese evacuees. An additional locally engaged staff member has been employed also for this purpose. Fortyseven East Timorese have been issued with visas to come to Australia and another twelve have been approved for visa issue. The remaining applicants are being processed as quickly as possible. It has been necessary to defer some East Timorese applications for medical reasons. One of the main difficulties is that a significant proportion of those examined have malaria. Since many of them wish to live in Darwin, there would be a danger of introducing malaria into the Northern Territory if they were granted permission to enter Australia under present circumstances. In answer to the matter to which Senator Georges was referring, I made the comment that most of the evacuees do not have good prospects for employment in Australia. We are not limiting the consideration of the applications only to that issue. But it is a point worth noting that for permanent residence many of them do not have good employment prospects as they have no skills and do not speak English. These are matters that are weighed at the time the applications are investigated.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs. By way of preface, I concede that Third World countries which depend upon an adequate price for their coffee deserve assistance from countries like Australia. But outside that context, I put this question to the Minister: In view of the astronomical increases in coffee prices imposed by Bushells Pty Ltd and other coffee wholesalers, will the Prices Justification Tribunal investigate how and why these companies have arrived at their continued rises in retail coffee prices?
– I will refer that question to the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs whom I represent in the Senate and endeavour to obtain an early answer from him.
– Will the Minister for Administrative Services inquire into the almost impossible conditions to be imposed at the Commonwealth Parliament Offices at the Australian Mutual Provident Society building in Adelaide on tenants and constituents visiting such offices outside normal office hours? Will it be necessary for a Federal member to carry an identity card bearing his photograph to gain admission to his own office? Will any replacement of cards be at the cost of members? As this is reminiscent of the old waterfront dog collar Act will the Minister intervene to ensure that members have free access to their offices at any time without obstruction?
– I will make inquiries as to the matter raised by the honourable senator. I did not know of these types of restrictions. All I know is that providing a member takes his five or six keys along to the Commonwealth Parliament Offices in Perth and uses them in the right order he can enter the offices day or night. Evidently there is some new system.
– You will have to have a tag in our place in the future.
-I do not know. I understand that some devices are used in lieu of the old-fashioned key. Some electronic methods are used to open doors, such as the use of a plastic card instead of a metal key.
– This is just a photograph. There is nothing electronic about my face.
– It is quite electrifying though, senator. It could be electrifying and shocking. I will have the matter looked at and will advise the honourable senator as soon as possible.
-Last week Senator Wheeldon asked me a question concerning ABBA and a small fierce man in the Commonwealth Police at Perth airport.
– I knew it was you.
– I am neither small nor fierce. I have had the matter -looked at. I am advised by the Commonwealth Police Commissioner as follows:
The ABBA group arrived at Penh airport on 9 March 1977 being met by a considerable crowd who were contained on the land-side (i.e. the public area) of the barriers and fences. TV cameramen and newspaper reporters who are (if unauthorised) not usually allowed by Air Navigation Regulations to meet celebrities on air-side (i.e. on tarmac area), were authorised to await them on a grassed area on the air-side of the airport.
On arrival the ABBA group went to the grassed area. One reporter pushed forward with a microphone and was physically restrained by a short unidentified person who had arrived on the aircraft with the group.
– Not necessarily fierce.
-No, this man is just short. The advice continues:
Prior to the arrival of the aircraft, ABBA’s Penh agent spoke to Ansett ‘s traffic officer who was responsible for the arrangement for their arrival, and told him that no interview would be allowed by reporters of the group when it first arrived. The traffic officer who was in Ansett uniform was seen to talk to the Press and TV group and is believed to have informed them of this arrangement.
It is not known if the question relative to ‘a small fierce man ‘ refers to the person who restrained the reporter on the grassed area, or to the Ansett traffic officer who spoke to the Press. Nevertheless, at no time did any person request Commonwealth Police ‘to remove from the area any person who asked ABBA a single question’ nor would Commonwealth Police accede to such a request unless their duty demanded it.
It is the duty of the Commonwealth Police at Perth airport to keep order, to help in the prevention of terrorism, and to carry out normal duties of police at airports, lt would have been their duty to remove from air-side any person who was not authorised to be there in accordance with the law. This situation did not arise at the time of the arrival of ABBA.
– As required by section 7 of the Representation Act, I present the certificate of the Chief Australian Electoral Officer setting forth the numbers of the people of the Commonwealth and of the several States in accordance with the latest statistics of the Commonwealth. I also present the notification made by the Chief Australian Electoral Officer under section 1 1 of the Representation Act setting forth the number of members of the House of Representatives to be chosen in the several States. I seek leave to make a brief statement.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave it granted.
-The Chief Australian Electoral Officer has now received the latest population statistics from the Australian Statistician. As a result the Chief Australian Electoral Officer’s certificate of the numbers of the people of the Commonwealth and of the States is as follows: New South Wales 4 932 900; Victoria 3 764 500; Queensland 2 121 700; South Australia 1 268 800; Western Australia 1 183 700; Tasmania 409 300; the Commonwealth 13 680 900.
As required under section 1 1 of the Representation Act, the Chief Australian Electoral Officer has also provided a notification setting out the number of members of the House of Representatives to be chosen in the several States as follows: New South Wales 43; Victoria 33; Queensland 19; South Australia 11; Western Australia 10; Tasmania 5.
The current State representation in the House of Representatives is: New South Wales 45; Victoria 34; Queensland 18; South Australia 12; Western Australia 10; Tasmania 5.
– by leave- The Opposition is pleased that at long last the Chief Australian Electoral Officer has made his determination of the States’ entitlements in the House of Representatives. The Opposition has been saying for some time that it is in the best interests of this nation and of the Australian Parliament to have an early redistribution of electorates. I hope that no further untoward delay occurs in the appointment of commissioners or in the ensuing work that will be involved in order to effect an early redistribution. Already the timetable proposed by the Minister for Administrative Services (Senator Withers), as set out in Hansard of 1 7 February last, is now nearly a month behind schedule. The legislation was passed on Thursday, 24 February, and the timetable submitted by the Minister on 1 7 February envisaged that the Chief Australian Electoral Officer’s determination would take place on Friday, 25 February. It is now Tuesday, 22 March, and it is apparent that the timetable submitted by the Minister on 17 February is already nearly a month behind schedule. The parenthetical note to item 4 of the timetable states it is assumed that all preliminary steps, for example, Prime Minister to Premiers, appointment of commissioners, etc., can be effected by Monday, 7 March. It also points out that this meant the Government must be able to take these preliminary steps as soon as possible because the timetable is very tight. There was also a suggestion that the commissioners would be appointed by 7 March. It is now 22 March and no commissioners have been appointed. Items 16 and 17 of the Minister’s timetable indicate that the proposed tabling of the report and approval or disapproval by Parliament is to be about 28 October and the proclamation, if approved by Parliament, and preparation and printing of new rolls is to be 2 months to 3 months after 28 October. If the Parliament is to get a redistribution finalised before the end of this year, the schedule is very tight. I hope that the Minister and the Government will move quickly for the appointment of the distribution commissioners.
– For the information of honourable senators I present some statistics indicating the increases in local government rates in each of the States in Australia during the period from 1970-71 to 1976-77. I seek leave to make a short statement relating to that document.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted?
-On 24 February (Hansard, page 362) the Leader of the Opposition in Senate, Senator Wriedt, asked me, as Minister Assisting the Prime Minister in Federal Affairs, to table figures showing the increases in local government rates in Australia for 1976. Honourable senators will recall my tabling on 2 1 October 1976 (Hansard, page 1363) figures on the percentage change in rates over a 5 year period up to 1974-75. These figures were taken from the report of the Steering Committee ofthe Joint Study into Local Government Finances in Australia and New Zealand. The report of the Steering Committee contained figures up to 1974-75 and more recent figures have been obtained from the Australian Bureau of Statistics. In order to compare increases in rates in 1976-77 with previous years, figures dating back to 1970-71 have been provided by the Bureau. The Commonwealth Grants Commission continues to collect certain statistics, but no longer keeps detailed information on local government.
Financial years for local government differ between States and generally figures for 1976-77 are not yet obtainable for all States. All 1976-77 figures shown are forecasts based on rates estimated at the beginning of the year. The figures for 1976-77 for Victoria and Tasmania are based on samples of the rates demanded by councils at the beginning of the year. In Victoria the sample covered some 50 per cent of all councils and in Tasmania 62 per cent of all councils.
The figures show that in general rates began to increase sharply in 1973-74. In that year increases totalled 15.2 per cent over the 1972-73 level of rates. In 1 974-75 rates increased a massive 26 per cent over 1973-74. Some stabilisation of the rate of increase in rates was seen in 1975-76 when the increase for that year was almost 26 per cent. The estimated 1976-77 figures do in fact lend support to my statement that the 75 per cent increase in untied local government funds which the Government gave during 1976-77 was helpful in abating rate increases.
- Mr President, I seek leave to make a brief statement in respect of that matter.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– I do not wish to pursue this matter now because considerable discussion about it has taken place over the past 12 months. I appreciate the fact that the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick) has been prepared to table figures. However I draw to the attention of the Senate the wording of the Minister’s statement. The increase of 26 per cent in 1974-75 is referred to as a ‘massive’ increase, yet almost the same level of increase in the current financial year is dismissed as a levelling of increases. This is indicative of the tone of the Minister in presenting many of the figures over the past few months, when he and I have entered into some considerable debate on the matter.
I have studied these figures, as the Minister was courteous enough to give me a copy of them before we came into the chamber. I think they show that the rate of increase in local government rates in Australia this year is almost as high as it was in the previous year. It is quite wrong and misleading to suggest, as has been recorded in Hansard in the past several months, that the increase in local government rates was abnormal and at some stages totalled 30 per cent and 40 per cent per annum. Such statements are simply incorrect. The figures, which I am pleased to see the Minister has now tabled, confirm what I have said in the past.
- Mr President, I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard the table to which I referred.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The document read as follows-
– by leave- Mr President, as many honourable senators will know, the Government has been exploring with State governments the financial arrangements that should be made in respect of the protection afforded to Commonwealth property by fire brigade services in the States. There have been various questions on this matter in both
Houses of the Parliament and many other requests for information on the matter have also been received. I therefore believe it would be useful to make a brief statement on the arrangements that have now been made.
In 1905 the Commonwealth government introduced telephone concessions to fire brigades by which the Commonwealth contributed to the cost of fire protection services to Commonwealth property. On 1 September 1975 the Australian Telecommunications Commission, in its capacity as a separate statutory authority, discontinued some of these concessions. New arrangements to replace these concessions have now been agreed to in principle by all State governments and payments under the new scheme are being made. Under these arrangements the payments being made to the States for 1975-76 will bring the total amount they receive from the Commonwealth for that year to the level they would have received had there been no change in the telephone concessions. On this basis the following payments in respect of 1975-76 have now been made or are about to be made: New South Wales $56,500, Victoria $171,000, Queensland $94,000, South Australia $45,000, Western Australia $53,000, Tasmania $ 1 8,000.
Payments for 1976-77 and later years will be based on a fixed percentage of each State’s operating expenditure on fire brigade services. This percentage will be based on the ratio of total Commonwealth payments and telephone concessions for 1975-76 to total fire brigade operating expenditure that year andwill be calculated separately for each State. The amounts paid will be adjusted at the end of each financial year when actual expenditure is known. The States will be responsible for allocating appropriate amounts to their fire brigades. A total sum of $ 1,687m has been provided in the 1976-77 Budget to cover payments to the States under this scheme for both 1975-76 and 1976-77, although some of this will be recovered by the Commonwealth from its statutory authorities. The Government believes that this scheme is an equitable one. It has, however, agreed to review the scheme after it has been operating for a reasonable period.
– by leave- However one views the statement of the Minister for Administrative Services (Senator Withers) concerning payments to fire brigades for the protection of Commonwealth property one must say that the Commonwealth is adopting a niggardly and, indeed, a mercenary attitude towards the funding of State fire brigades. This is not gift money to the fire brigades; it is not money for nothing for the States. For an annual expenditure in 1975-76 of $437,500 the Commonwealth is getting from State fire brigades fire protection for the properties it holds in the States worth hundreds of millions of dollars. The only reasonable aspect of the Minister’s statement is contained in the last paragraph, namely that the Commonwealth has agreed to review the scheme after it has been operating for a reasonable period. I believe that by this proposal the States are literally jumping from the frying pan into the fire. I am completely at a loss to understand the part of the Minister’s statement which reads:
Under these arrangements the payments being made to the States for 1975-76 -
That is, the last financial year- will bring the total amount they receive from the Commonwealth for that year to the level they would have received had there been no change in the telephone concessions.
On this basis, the following payments in respect of 1975-76 -
The last financial year- have now been made or are about to be made: New South Wales $56,500, Victoria $171,000. Queensland $94,000. South Australia $45,000, Western Australia $53,000. Tasmania $18,000.
That is a total of $437,500. If we look at the 1974- 75 financial year- the last year that a Budget was submitted to and accepted by the Parliament when a Labor Government remained in office- the amount was not $437,500 but $92 1 , 888. The amount for 1 975-76 now determined by the Fraser Government is well under half the amount that was set aside by the Labor Government in 1974-75 for concessional payments to the States.
The Labor Government’s total of $921,888 was made up as follows: New South Wales $209,511; Victoria $396,640; Queensland $123,309; South Australia $64,721; Western Australia $97,636; and Tasmania $30,071. In 1973-74 New South Wales received $153,353: Victoria was allocated $298,436; Queensland received $90,311; South Australia was paid $54,307; Western Australia received $18,892: and $24,806 went to Tasmania, making a total of $640,105. Taking into account that substantial increases occurred in telephone charges in 1975- 76 and the rate of inflation that occurred between 1973-74 and 1975-76, we can see that the States are very far behind the eight-ball when we compare what they receive under this new arrangement with what they obtained under the Labor Government.
It is clear from the Minister’s statement that the amount of $ 1.7m set aside in the Estimates for this financial year is actually for 2 financial years; that is, 1975-76, last financial year when no amount was paid, and this financial year. 1976- 77. Far from there being an increase in the amount of money made available by the Commonwealth to the States for concessional payments for State fire brigades providing services to the Commonwealth, there has been a very considerable decrease in the amount that has been made available.
With your leave, Mr President, this statement enables me to make one or two other observations about the attitude of the Commonwealth Government to fire hazards generally. For instance, the Minister told me on 4 April last that, following the formation of Telecom, Australia, the previous concession had been discontinued from 1 July 1975. We read in the Minister’s statement today that the Australian Telecommunications Commission discontinued some of the concessions on 1 September 1975. Something has gone wrong in that 3-month period somehow or other.
Let me make one or two observations about the Commonwealth Government’s attitude to fire hazards generally. I do not comment on the findings of the Nowra Board of Inquiry but I was rather astonished to find in an answer that I received that a search of the records of the Commonwealth Fire Board has not revealed any request from the Royal Australian Navy for advice relating to fire protection at the RAN base at Nowra. The Board has not carried out any inspections of the Nowra base but it advised the Department of Defence after the fire had occurred, after the horse had bolted, of its willingness to assist the Naval Board of Inquiry established to look into that recent fire.
The last inspection of Aboriginal stations in the Northern Territory carried out by the Fire Board was in 1974. The next inspection will be carried out in July 1977. There is to be no inspection of Commonwealth property, stations or Aboriginal settlements in the Northern Territory for some 3 years. Last June a very serious fire broke out at Elcho Island mission in the Northern Territory and damage was estimated by the Department of Construction to be of the order of $600,000. At page 25 of its annual report to the Parliament the Commonwealth Fire Board stated:
In the opinion of the fire brigade -
That is the Northern Territory Fire Brigade- the original grass fire had a great bearing on the outbreak of fire in the manual arts building -
This is at Elcho Island mission- and that the lack of fire-fighting equipment and the distance of the fire hydrant from the foreground hampered the efforts ofthe school staff.
The Board supports the recommendations ofthe Northern Territory Fire Brigade that the adequacy and location of the fire-fighting equipment be reviewed and, as there is no local fire brigade, lectures and demonstrations on fire prevention and fire safety be given to all key personnel of the college and the settlement. This recommendation generally follows those issued by the Board for all Aboriginal settlements following its inspections in the Northern Territory in 1 974.
I suggest that there is a serious lag in inspections by the Commonwealth Fire Board in outlying areas of Australia. I note also that inspections in Queensland this financial year have been curtailed. All in all I think the record of care by the Commonwealth so far as prevention of fire is concerned is a niggardly one. I think it is reflected in the figures now made available to the Parliament by the Minister.
– I seek leave to make a statement on behalf of the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Street) concerning additional Commonwealth Employment Service service for those with particular employment problems.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– I seek leave to incorporate the statement in Hansard as it has been made by the Minister in another place.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The statement read as follows-
The Government has decided to provide the opportunity for individuals and employers with particular employment problems to discuss them with senior CES staff.
Selected offices of the Commonwealth Employment Service in Sydney, Melbourne and Geelong will open on late shopping nights for a trial period until the end of April. The offices will be:
Their location and phone numbers are listed in an attachment which I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard.
The aim is to provide a convenient time for those with particular employment problems, be they unemployed persons, parents of young school leavers without jobs or employers who cannot fill vacant positions, to fully review with senior CES staff including vocational psychologists, what their difficulties are and how they might be further assisted.
Advertisements will be placed in local suburban newspapers in the districts in which the trial arrangements will operate. They will invite individuals and employers with particular problems to ring for an after hours appointment for the night on which the selected offices will be open. Persons who call at the office without prior appointments will be given appointments either for that night or for a later date.
Offices participating in the scheme have been selected for their proximity to busy shopping centres. They have also been selected so as to test the idea over a range of different districts.
The night of the week on which an office will open will be the main late shopping night for the district. The hours of opening will be 6.30 to 9.00 p.m.
The CES offices will not be conducting normal business at night. Persons who want to register for employment and employers who want to lodge vacancies should therefore continue to do this in normal office hours.
We will be monitoring these trial arrangements so that we may determine whether they should be continued and to what extent offices in other districts and cities could, with advantage, be included in the scheme. I shall keep Senators informed.
OFFICES OF THE COMMONWEALTH EMPLOYMENT SERVICE TO BE OPENED ON LATE SHOPPING NIGHTS
Frankston: 1st Floor, Balmoral Court, Keys Street, Frankston, Victoria 3 1 99. Tel: 783 7777.
Northcote: 21 1a High Street, Northcote, Victoria 3070. Tel: 489 62222.
Prahran: 1 st Floor, 2 1 7 Chapel Street, Prahran, Victoria 3181. Tel: 529 4311.
Ringwood: 1st Floor, 20 Melbourne Street. Ringwood, Victoria 3 134. Tel: 870 4266.
St Albans: 1st Floor, 47-49 Alfrieda Street, St Albans, Victoria 3021. Tel: 396 4222.
Corio: 1st Floor, Corio Village, Bacchus Marsh Road, Corio, Victoria 32 1 4. Tel: 752 90 1 .
Caringbah: 2-4 President Avenue, Caringbah, N.S.W. 2229. Tel: 524 0275.
Fairfield: 1st Floor, 2 Hamilton Road, Fairfield, N.S.W. 2165. Tel: 7270333.
Hurstville: 6 Ormonde Parade, Hurstville. N.S.W. 2220. Tel: 579 6599.
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Liverpool: 1st Floor, 224-238 George Street, Liverpool, N.S.W.2170.Tel:602 7222.
– by leaveThe Opposition does not oppose the establishment of this experiment to see whether conditions can be improved in the Commonwealth Employment Service to assist the unemployed and people with particular employment problems. However we would like to put on record our concern that other improvements should be made to the Commonwealth Employment Service, to the conditions of those who work in the Service and in the services that it supplies to people who need help. We all know that some 245 000 people in this country are receiving unemployment benefit, that some 360 000 are registered as unemployed and that there are only 28 000 or 29 000 registered job vacancies. We know that the staff of the Commonwealth Employment Service, like all other departments, has been affected by staff cuts and staff ceilings introduced by the present Government in its economy drive. We know also, however, that the staff level of the Commonwealth Employment Service was set at a time when unemployment was very much lower than it is now- in fact when unemployment was half or less than half the level now.
In New South Wales employees of the Commonwealth Employment Service have taken industrial action. In fact they were refusing to take out statistical information required by the Government because they felt that this work was interfering with their ability to look after those who need or need advice on employment. Therefore we express some concern that the introduction of this sort of innovation may mean that such officers may have to work overtime. Their work load may be increased at a time when the level of unemployment in this community is rising and when the unemployed need assistance. In fact, they will continue to need assistance. Already one inquiry into the Commonwealth Employment Service, the Norgard inquiry, is almost complete and we are now informed through the Press that an interdepartmental committee has been set up to inquire into people on unemployment benefit. Representatives of the staff of the unemployment bureau have put in claims for better conditions of work so that they are more able to perform the service required of them. Welcome as this present innovation is we would hope that it is accompanied by increases in staff ceilings and staff numbers in the Commonwealth Employment Service in order to help those who are unemployed and those who have employment difficulties.
Motion (by Senator Durack) agreed to:
1 ) All annual reports of Government departments and authorities, including statutory corporations, laid on the Table of the Senate, shall stand referred, without any question being put, for consideration and, if necessary, for report thereon, to the Legislative and General Purpose Standing Committees.
The President shall transmit a copy of each report so tabled to the Committee which he deems appropriate.
The Legislative and General Purpose Standing Committees may, at their discretion, pursue or not pursue inquiries into reports so received; but any action necessary, arising from a report of a Committee, shall be taken in the Senate on Motion after Notice.
Debate resumed from 1 5 March, on motion by Senator Withers:
That the Senate take note of the Statement.
– The Senate has an opportunity of considering a quite lengthy foreign statement by the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock) which was presented to this chamber on 15 March. It is such a lengthy document that it would be quite impossible for anyone to listen to an equally lengthy reply to it. I assume that the patience of many of us would have worn thin had that statement not been incorporated in Hansard. I do not intend to take the risk of boring the Senate with a reply approaching anything like the length of that statement. Nevertheless that statement gives us the opportunity of looking at the position at the current Government sees it at the present time. I suppose the most significant thing about the statement is the contrast between it and the equally major statement which was made by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) in June of last year. We saw then in that speech the hawkish, extreme right wing attitudes of this Government. The Senate will recall that it was on that occasion, just prior to his trip to China, that the Prime Minister made it quite clear that this Government was taking the very strange and dubious step of involving itself in the Sino-Soviet dispute. I think many of us on the Opposition side expressed great concern at that time about what may be termed his bath tub view of world affairs and, in particular, his preparedness to involve this country in a matter in which we should not be involved. By contrast, the statement by the Minister for Foreign Affairs indicates a much more measured and a much more careful and cautious balanced approach to the whole area.
It becomes equally apparent that there is a wide difference of opinion within the Government on the whole matter of our relations with other nations. Mr Peacock, as evidenced in his reply last week to the Timor issue and Mr Dunn’s visit to the United States of America, obviously showed that he is adopting a position which I believe is reasonable. He is prepared to take, on behalf of the Government, whatever steps are practicable to ensure the security of Mr Dunn. I believe he is to be commended for that. Nevertheless it is still evident that in the speech there are examples of where the thinking of the Government remains somewhat as it was years ago. I refer specifically to the statement which appears on page 146 of the Senate Hansard of 1 5 March in which the Minister for Administrative Services (Senator Withers) who in this chamber represents the Minister for Foreign Affairs had this comment to make:
As one aspect of our policy has been to strengthen relations with the major democracies, another has been to place our relations with the major communist countries on a more pragmatic, less ideological, basis. This is not because our opinions of the ideologies have changed, or because we find the repressive aspects of communism any more acceptable. Again it follows from changes in the international system. In a less static, polarised and ideological world, we can afford to give less weight to ideology and more to a discriminating evaluation of actual behaviour and capabilities, and their relevance to us.
It is a great pity that a statement like that could not have been read from a foreign affairs speech by a Minister in a Liberal government in the 1950s when the traditional attitude of successive Liberal governments was to place ideology above everything else. If one did not like the ideology of a particular country then one started off on the wrong foot from the beginning. In other words, they were the bad people simply because of their ideology and we were the good people. Unfortunately, many governments of other ideologies just as stupidly took the same line about us and about the United States simply because the U.S. was the ultimate expression of imperialism and therefore everything the United States did and said had to be wrong. It is a puerile mentality which works on that assumption, no matter in which country it belongs. Unfortunately, that was the basic approach of successive Liberal-National Country Party governments over the years, from the time of the Second World War until, apparently, the present time.
Of course, over those years the Australian Labor Party did not take that approach. We believe that most countries have things in common and that they do not desire to be in conflict with their neighbours whether or not they have the same ideological concept of things. We saw this evidenced and brought to its fruition in the tragedy of Vietnam where during the 1950s and the 1 960s, because of the mentality I mentioned earlier, a man like Ho Chi Minh, who was in fact a great national leader of the Vietnamese people, was persecuted by other governments not physically but in a political sense, because he was a communist. The attitude was that because he was a communist he had to be opposed. It did not matter whether he had the support of the Vietnamese people as obviously Ho Chi Minh had. Because he was a communist he had to be opposed. That oposition reached its most ferocious heights during the 1960s. I do not wish to dwell over the tragedy of Vietnam which has been debated so many times in this place. That is an example of where that mentality leads any country or any group of countries when they see fit to pre-judge other countries, other governments or other individuals simply because they have a different ideology.
It is interesting to look back at the Congo in 1960 and at its popular leader, Patrice Lumumba. We all recall that he was murdered by people who saw him as some dangerous person in Africa. But obviously he was a popular leader in his own country. So I make the point in relation to the quotation which I have taken from the Minister’s speech that I believe it is almost like seeing a light at the end of a dark tunnel to see that finally this Government has come to realise that there is a changing position in the world. Mr Peacock has referred to this when he stated that the world was less static and polarised. He stated: we can afford to give less weight to ideology and more to a discriminating evaluation of actual behaviour and capabilities, and their relevance to us.
I suggest that that is the basic approach which the Australian Labor Party has taken over many years. We have been prepared to accept that somebody who may not see eye to eye with us in relation to economics or politics may be genuine in his desire to live peacefully with other nations. lt is a tragedy that so many people in positions of influence over the years have not seen fit to adopt that course. I believe that in all this speech that is probably the most significant aspect.
While on that area the Minister went on to question the Government’s position in relation to the Soviet Union. I referred earlier to what I and many of my colleagues considered to be the very disturbing attitude taken by the Government last year. We see in this speech a watered-down approach-if one might use that term- and a more conciliatory approach. I believe that the
Minister is sincere in his efforts to ensure that the relationship between this country and the Soviet Union is not allowed to deteriorate simply because of the old cold war mentality of the 1950s. In the same speech, as recorded on page 145 of Hansard, there is a paragraph concerning the United States to part of which I take exception. The Minister said:
I turn now to our relations with the United States. The first thing to be said about them is that the uncertainty about the future course of Australian policy, the doubts, reservations and acrimony which were so much a feature of the previous Government’s dealings with the United States, have been removed.
That is not even a truthful statement and I regret that the Minister saw fit to permit it to be included in his speech. It is not true to say that there was any deterioration in the relationship between Australia and the United States in that time. I had the good futune to be in that country on 3 occasions during those 3 years and at no time was there any evidence of any concern, with one exception which I will mention, about the relationship between Australia and the United States. The exception concerned overseas investment after we had to introduce restrictions on the flow of American capital into this country in 1973. Apart from that, and I think that the Americans realised we had to take some steps in that regard, I at no time detected any antagonism towards Australia in that country.
It should be remembered also that the Australian Labor Party over the years has consistently supported the ANZUS Treaty believing it to be the proper, intelligent and fair treaty by which we should have our ties with the United States rather than through the South East Asian Treaty Organisation which virtually is meaningless these days and which we in the 1950s and 1960s predicted would become meaningless. So I do not know in what areas the Minister proposes to improve our relationship with the United States. I hope that in some respects he will be able to convince the United States to take more of our exports, particularly beef, as time goes by.
The Minister spent a great deal of time in his speech on our relationship with Japan and naturally we basically see eye to eye with him because there is no question of the need to maintain and pursue the growth of our relationship with that country. However, it ought to be remembered that during the 3 years of the last Labor Government no more could have been done in this regard. In that time we saw come into being the cultural agreement and the JapanAustralia Foundation which was formed during the period of the Labor Government, and the great bulk of the groundwork for NipponAustralia Relations Agreement was done during that time. Fortunately this Government has seen fit to finalise that agreement. However, we must all recognise that although we have a very strong economic tie with Japan we are not to be told by the Japanese whether, for example, we will export our uranium. It appears that this will be a subject of some interest over the next few days as, I understand, a group of Japanese will be coming here to assess our capacity to export our uranium to Japan. It is certainly not for Japan or any other country to tell us whether we will or will not export uranium. We will make that decision and I hope that the Government will not be pressured by the Japanese Government or by Japanese business interests on such a fundamentally important issue as the export of uranium.
Another major area with which the Minister dealt was the European Economic Community, a community which has given us tremendous difficulties and problems in recent years because of its trading policies. I do not envy the task of the Government in trying to get some sense into some aspects of EEC policy, especially its agricultural policy which, because of domestic politics in Europe, has shut out so much of the traditional market which we have had for so many years.
Another area which I touch on briefly concerns the Pacific region generally. We have seen the unfortunate and tragic events in Timor over the last few months and this is probably not the time to indulge in a long debate upon them because there will be ample opportunity for that, I am sure, as time goes by. Suffice it to say that the Indonesian Government ought not to be under any impression- and I believe that the Government and the Opposition should be united on this-that by its pressures, coercion or threats, if that word has to be used, Australia will go back on the principle which has been accepted by both the Government and the Opposition, that is, the right of self-determination for all nations. It is a matter of great concern to all of us that what appear to have been threats perhaps involving the Australian Embassy in Jakarta have been made and any government which permits, let alone encourages, any action against our Embassy staff in its country ought to be told in the clearest possible terms that we do not accept its attitude.
I do not intend to speak much longer because I do not consider that apart from the matters I have dealt with there is a great deal of new material in the Minister’s speech. It indicates, and I come back to the first point I made, that there has been a realisation by the Government that so many of its basic precepts over the years are now worn out. It also must realise, as the Labor Party has realised for many years, that it should not conduct foreign affairs on the basis that we hate some people and like others. That is the path to disaster. It always has been throughout history and always will be. Until all governments accept that there is a great deal of good will in all countries, whatever the ideology of their governments, the world will live in a constant atmosphere of danger with the consequences of the use of nuclear weapons hanging over our heads. On behalf of the Opposition I indicate that while there are certain aspects ofthe statement which we accept, there are certain aspects which we reject. We must always bear in mind that the issues we deal with in relation to other countries are of enormous concern to us and on all occasions we ought to try as best we can to ensure that the problems that do arise are overcome.
- Senator Wriedt debates sensitive matters such as foreign affairs in a very reasonable and moderate manner and that is the way I believe they should be debated. When our differences are stated moderately there is no attempt at smart aleck comments to secure political points against each other. Perhaps it is a sign of growing maturity in the Parliament, certainly in the Senate, that we can discuss important foreign policy in this manner. It is fair to say that over past years there have been very few foreign affairs debates in this Parliament. There have been very few comprehensive statements from governments setting out in detail their policies. Previously a number of statements have been made dealing with one or two aspects of foreign policy but I think it is correct to say that this is the first time for many years that such a comprehensive, detailed and positive statement has been made. I think that the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock) deserves our congratulations. The Parliament is entitled to be informed about the Government’s thinking on these matters.
As Senator Wriedt stated, the Minister clearly recognises in his statement that the world today is changing. He also recognises that Australia has an important part to play in the type of world in which we live and in the type of world which is likely to develop. This is the time for new approaches to these problems. The Minister made the point- I think we have been a long time in coming to it- that foreign policy cannot be conducted in a vacuum. It must take account of matters such as economic and trade policies.
Foreign policy cannot be formed apart from the economic and trade policies being followed by other governments or the reactions of countries with which we have close relations. I note that the Minister states this very clearly. For a long time I have argued in the Senate that the selfishness of Australia’s trade policies has not improved our image or our foreign relations with many countries. Until recently trade policies and economic policies were conducted in their own little areas and foreign policy was conducted in its own little area. I am glad to know that the Government, recognising the danger of this policy, has now realised that foreign policy must be conducted on a broad front. The Minister stated in his speech:
We will also have to give increasing attention to ensuring coherence and co-ordination in our policy. The days when foreign policy was something relatively self-contained are over. The distinctions between domestic and foreign, economic and political, are becoming increasingly blurred. We will have to devise more flexible and integrated methods of decision-making if traditional boundaries and conventional jurisdictions are not to lead to overlapping, inconsistencies and missed opportunities.
I think that that clearly expresses the view of the Minister and the Government. He also indicated the importance of economic and trade policies in the conduct of our relations with the less developed countries and particularly with ASEAN- the Association of South East Asian Nations- to which now we direct a priority in our foreign policy. I will direct some comments to the subject of economic and trade policies later. The Minister’s statement, in a very true sense, represented a global view. I regard this as being perhaps one of the most important parts of his speech. He also recognised what he referred to as the significance of the new agenda for Australia in a speech delivered to the National Press Club last November. I think it is important that we recall his comments then. He argued that our resources, our role as a food producer, our energy resources, our vast mineral resources and our position as a trading nation, were bound to enhance our importance. This in turn will mean that not only will our bargaining power be increased but also that certainly we will almost certainly be subjected to more demands and pressures from the Third World and from other countries which are concerned to find solutions to such questions.
On a global basis, we do not want to exaggerate our importance, but neither do we want to underplay it. Because of these factors about which the Minister spoke, Australia is not insignificant in the world context. Certainly, we have influences. Where we have influence we should try to direct answers to the problems in a way which suits our national interest; of course, that is for the growing stability and development of the less developed countries of the world. Australia is situated in the same region as, and is very close to, most of the less developed nations. As the Minister pointed out, the region in which Australia is situated is subjected to increasing overcrowding, is short of food and increasingly is concerned about how resources are to be distributed. The recognition by the Minister and the Government that this problem is not only with us but also will be increasing in the coming years is timely. I would like to address myself to this question briefly.
Recent statements by the Minister in Singaporethey were repeated in the speech we are debating today- that Australia would be placing increased importance on trade and economics in its relations with the less developed world and in particular with ASEAN received welcome recognition and were applauded. At least they gave hope in many of these countries that after many years of Australia’s paying lip service to this policy- that is generally as far as we went- the position would be changed. No country has been quicker than Australia to react to changes in trade patterns with the less developed countries which in any sense were regarded as creating any sort of economic dislocation in Australia, regardless of the economic dislocation that our policies caused to the economies of the less developed world. This has led and is leading today to discrimination against Australia by some countries which reacted fairly sharply to our trade policies. This could cause quite serious harm to many Australian industries.
Therefore, the Minister’s statement that as a matter of Government policy increased priority would be given to economics and trade is welcome. But I want to stress that time is not on our side in adopting policies in line with our stated intentions. The present domestic problems facing Australia are understood but they will not be understood if we disrupt the economies of the less developed countries in protecting Australian industry. While the problems are understood now, they are less likely to be understood in. say, 12 months’ time. The time will come when we will be expected to stop talking and to deliver the goods. I believe that this is one of the most important factors facing Australia. The economic and political stability, particularly of the ASEAN region, is vital to our security.
The ASEAN region is an area of growing trade for Australian exports. The region seeks investment to develop its industries so that
ASEAN countries can develop stronger and far more balanced economies and be less susceptible to changes in the prices of agricultural products. I repeat that I believe this is vital to the security of Australia. We want to be less selfish in our attitudes. As the Minister said, we are a well endowed country. I repeat: Time is not on our side. Before long we will be expected to give more than lip service and stated intentions. We will be expected to make some advances in recognising the economic problems of the countries to our north and indeed in other regions as well.
I refer to that part of the Minister’s statement concerning the importance that we are placing upon our relations with Western Europe. I noticed that Senator Wriedt made reference to this fact. It is welcomed. I take the point that the Minister made that relations with Western Europe over some years have not been as close as desirable. We have been inclined to ignore the importance of Western Europe and the growing development, one trusts, of political and economic unity in the European Economic Community. Of course, Western Europe is a region with which Australia has substantial trade relations. Senator Wriedt referred to the difficulties we have had with the agricultural policies of the EEC. I come back to the point that I have just made. Many countries have the same difficulty with the industrial and economic policies of Australia. This is a 2-way system. While we complain bitterly about policies of protectionism in the agricultural area being followed by Europe, other countries complain just as bitterly of the industrial protection being afforded Australian industry. The Minister recognised the importance, politically and strategically, of Europe. His indication that the Government intends developing a closer and broader relationship with Europe I think is certainly pleasing and is getting our priorities straight.
It also should be noted as a matter of interest and some importance that Western Europe is proceeding to move much closer to ASEAN. Only recently an EEC delegation visited the ASEAN countries. I think this indicates that Western Europe is probably today less inward looking and that it is starting once again to broaden its relationship. It would seem therefore very timely that Australia now seeks to broaden its relationship with Western Europe. I think one of the most encouraging signs in our region- this was mentioned in the Minister’s speech- is the indication that members of ASEAN are now developing far greater coherence and understanding between themselves on a very broad front- culturally, politically, economically and socially. The countries of ASEAN regard with a great degree of urgency the development of these relationships. Again, I do not believe that time is on their side. No member of ASEAN underestimates the problems of developing this relationship. The uneven economic development of the countries creates problems with regard to trade and tariffs, but there seems to be an encouraging sign: Having recognised these problems there is a determination to overcome them.
I think one of the great problems we face in the region at the moment is the uncertainty as to the policies of the new United States Administration towards ASEAN and the region in which we live. At the moment this is creating uncertainties in the region not only as regards ASEAN but also with regard to Korea. I am glad that Korea got a mention in the Minister’s statement. Strategically Korea is a country of tremendous importance particularly to Japan. Any change or the creation of any instability or uncertainty in Korea most certainly would have a very undesirable effect upon Japan. I think we should recognise more and more the importance of Korea in the AsianPacific region. With this uncertainty as to United States policies there appears to be a desire amongst ASEAN members to have much closer relationships with Japan and Australia. It is interesting that Japan itself, by way of recent statements from Japanese sources, recognises the importance of ASEAN and the desire of the Japanese not only to have closer economic relationships and understanding with ASEAN- this has not always been so- but also a stronger political relationship with ASEAN.
We must recognise that one ofthe great problems which face ASEAN countries is that if the United States takes little interest in them there will arise the problem ofthe Sino-Soviet conflict which at the moment is very real in competing for influence amongst the ASEAN countries. The ASEAN countries have a very natural and understandable fear that unless some other great power maintains interest in the region they could be crushed between the 2 communist giants competing for influence. Therefore there is a strong desire not only to maintain United States presencean investment presence as well as a political presence- in the region as a balancing factor but also to ensure that there is a growing Japanese interest in the region, again to balance the presence of the Soviet Union and the People’s Republic of China which in itself creates uncertainty and some degree of instability.
I believe that the Government recognises that Australia cannot isolate itself from any part of the world. Insecurity and instability in any part of the world inevitably will have an effect upon the stability and security of Australia. The Minister, in this very comprehensive speech, I think clearly recognises this fact. He also recognises that Australia, if its voice is to be heard, must ensure that our relations with the world are further developed so that Australian influence will, where it can, be used.
I make a brief reference to the comments on the Indian Ocean. I am pleased to see that the Minister states that the Russian presence poses no direct threat to Australia but that the presence nevertheless creates problems for Australia. I do not think that I need say much more about that as my views on the Indian Ocean I think are known and also the report of the Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence dealt at great length with the problems of the Indian Ocean. I am glad that there has been a recognition of the importance of the South Pacific. As we have said before, it is an area which we in Australia have neglected somewhat. Again, I do not want to deal with it now because, as honourable senators know, the subject of the South Pacific has been referred to the Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence, which will shortly commence hearing evidence.
I welcome the Minister’s speech. I think it is a positive and realistic assessment of the world situation and of the problems which increasingly are going to beset us. It indicates Australia’s recognition of those problems and, as the Minister said, of the new agenda and the part we must play in helping to overcome the problems. That will take understanding on Australia’s part. It will mean that we as a nation must be less selfish in our attitudes to the less developed world. Trade and economics are going to play a very vital part in our relations not only with ASEAN but with other parts of the less developed world. Our security and our stability depend upon a recognition of this and upon a willingness by Australia to play its full part in assisting the less developed world to develop so that those countries might be less unstable. I believe that is the great challenge which faces not only the Government but also the people of Australia.
– I think the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock) is entitled to some commendation for having brought down this statement. Whatever reservations one may have about pans of it, it does at least set out to give an overall view of the Australian approach to questions of foreign policy. It is not a series of disjointed statements; there is within it at least the basis of some thesis, some broad stream of which the various individual aspects of foreign policy can be looked on as being part. From that point of view, the statement should be welcomed as giving to the Parliament an opportunity to debate what are the purposes of Australian foreign policy.
In the opening of his statement the Minister for Foreign Affairs has said quite correctly that there have been changes over past years in international relations. In particular, the major change has been that there is no longer the situation whereby we have the polarisation between 2 super powers, with nearly all of the rest of the world belonging to one camp or the other. The Minister is correct in pointing this out because there have been substantial changes. Preeminent amongst them, without any doubt, has been the growth of the People’s Republic of China in strength and in influence, and the dispute between the People’s Republic of China and the Soviet Union. Whereas 20 years ago one could talk with some sense, with some logic, about a communist bloc extending from Peking to Prague, one can no longer do that. In fact, the division between China and the Soviet Union would probably be the most serious division which exists in international affairs at the present time.
If there is a danger of a third world war, a major conflict, taking place I do not think that any longer can we look at the disputes between the United States and the Soviet Union, between the so-called capitalist world and the so-called socialist world, or between the democratic world and the authoritarian world; we have to look at something about which we as members of the Australian Parliament can do very little, and that is the problem of the dispute between Peking and Moscow. A serious problem it is, but one about which it is very difficult for us to do much. The best we can do is to hope to have some sort of consistent theme of policy in those areas about which we can do something. Apart from the growth of China, which has been one of the major changes leading to the dissolution of this polarisation of the world, there has also been the growth of the European Economic Community. Many people, including myself, had reservations at the time of the Treaty of Rome. Despite the economic difficulties in some of the Western European countries, there cannot be any question that the formation of the European Economic Community has greatly strengthened the economic and political power of Western Europe and has, at least in part, created another centre away from the previous bi-polar situation to which the Minister for Foreign Affairs refers.
Another change which has taken place only recently has been the change in the role of the Soviet Union itself, or at least in the successful pursuit of that role. For a long time we have been used to the fact that the Soviet Union has dominated in a quasi-colonial way a large number of countries in Eastern Europe. It has managed the affairs of Eastern European countries for them to such an extent that one Austrian socialist once put it to me that Czechoslovakia has the most neutral government in the world; it does not even interfere in its own internal affairs. That was the case, but the Soviet Union’s influence did not go very far beyond that field.
Whether for good or for ill, there cannot be any question that over the past few years we have seen a substantial increase in Soviet influence in the continent of Africa. Despite the ideological differences which are supposed to exist between the policies of Colonel Gaddafi, a man held in reverence in some quarters, and the Soviet Union, the fact remains that there are various very close relations between Colonel Gaddafi and the Soviet Union. There cannot be any question of the fact that, so far as southern Africa is concerned, the Soviet influence in Angola particularly, is very strong indeed. The relationship which the Soviet Union has been able to build up with various Arab countries has extended its influence into areas where only 10 years ago it had virtually no influence whatsoever. There has been a very great increase in Soviet influence, coupled at the same time with a very great diminution of American or other Western influence.
Another change which has taken place, and this is a significant change and in many respects a welcome one, is in the attitudes of the Australian Government itself. For years and years all we heard about was the communist menace, and when anybody on this side of the Senate wanted to talk about trying to rationalise our relations with Communist countries, whatever we thought about the regimes they represented, whatever we thought about the levels of civil liberties or other matters within those countries, we were told that we were communist spies and saboteurs, and little red hammers and sickles were put on Labor Party posters. I note that in the course of his statement the Ministers said that China’s foreign policy is concerned to maintain global and regional stability. That statement was made by a Liberal Party Minister for Foreign Affairs: China’s foreign policy is concerned to maintain global and regional stability. It seems like only yesterday that we were told that China’s objective was to take over Vietnam, take over Thailand, take over Malaysia, take over Indonesia, and ultimately achieve its heart’s desire and be down here in sampans on Lake Burley Griffin. But apparently that is no longer the view of the Government. In fact, everybody now appears to be so eulogistic of China that every politician in Australia seems to have entered into a gigantic dim sim eating competition. That is a change which the Government has recognised. It has recognised that China is there, in the same way as the Soviet Union is there, and that we have to deal with both of those countries as governments which have their own interests and set out to pursue their own interests. It is no use, whatever criticisms we may have of them, continuing in the old bogeyman way that we used to conduct our international relations, or or at least the domestic debate on our international relations. That is a welcome change, and a change which I submit would not have come about as soon as it did had it not been for the actions which were taken by the Federal Labor Government when it was in office between 1972 and 1975.
One of the most important changes, one ofthe most revolutionary changes, one of the most heartening changes that has taken place or appears to be going to take place- it is early at this stage to say whether it will really take placehave been the statements made and the actions taken by President Carter since he was elected to the presidency ofthe United States of America. I say this as one who had very great reservations about Mr Carter’s candidature. I say it as one who, if I had been an American citizen, would not have voted for Mr Carter; I would have voted for the Socialist Party candidate, who got about 5000 votes.
– That is an admission from you.
-Yes, it is an admission. The Socialist Party in the United States of America is very small. I did not think that that needed to be admitted. I thought that would have been well known by someone who has been elevated to this chamber. In spite of all the reservations one may well have had about many of the policies that President Carter may have embarked upon, one thing which he has done and which has transformed the whole debate in foreign affairs has been to give new emphasis to human rights. For too long foreign policy has been conducted as some sort of adjunct to trade policy. I do not want to denigrate the relationship between trade policy and foreign policy: of course they are related. But that is not what moves the hearts and minds of people. When people think about the great political issues which confront the world they do not think about improvements in the balance of trade. Admittedly, if they are starving they want to know where their food is coming from; if they do not have shelter they want to know where the shelter is coming from. Trade is essential for that. But the great motivating forces throughout the years, the great conflicts that have taken place and the great developments that have taken place in human history have been conducted and achieved because of other motives.
One can only hope that President Carter and his Administration will have the courage, the luck and the fortitude to carry through what they have said to be the objective of their Administration, that is, to pursue a policy in support of human rights wherever they may be throughout the world; that they will protest- and justifiably protest- about deprivation of civil liberties in the Soviet Union, in Czechoslovakia or Poland and will take action accordingly, provided it does not crash us into a third world war. I hope they will be concerned also about deprivation of civil liberty and human rights in Southern Africa, Argentina, Chile and Uruguay- the last 3 traditional parliamentary democracies, all of which have been destroyed, not by the Left but by the capitalist class- by the extreme Right.
What has been salutary about President Carter and what he has said so far is that human rights are indivisible. It is of no use talking on the one hand about human rights in Czechoslovakia and forgetting about human rights in Chile, as in the same way it is of no use talking about human rights in Chile and forgetting about human rights in Czechoslovakia. I think we can see a parallel at the present time- we are yet to know what the United States of America will do about this- in the very vexed situation which exists in what once was Portuguese East Timor, where we find that the rights of the Timorese people have been taken away by the Government of the Republic of Indonesia. I know that the argument will be used that East Timor was close to Indonesia, that Indonesia was worried about the threat that could come from the disruption of subversive bodies such as Fretilin taking over in Timor and that trouble could spread throughout the rest of Indonesia.
This is exactly the same argument as was put by the Soviet Union at the time of its intervention in Hungary in 1956 and in Czechoslovakia in 1968 and which, as far as I understand, was rejected by honourable senators opposite. All sorts of other arguments about the Central Intelligence Agency, the Catholic Church, the West Germans and those sorts of things used to be used for the more simple souls. But when one ultimately got through to the end of the argument- at least I found this to be the case when talking to my Russian acquaintances- the answer would always be: ‘Yes, but you have to understand the situation. Russia has been invaded twice in 25 years and we have to look out for what might happen on our borders. We cannot allow all sorts of things to be going on in Czechoslovakia which might lead to another terrible attack on the Soviet Union’. I rejected that claim then; the Australian Labor Party rejected it then and the Government parties rejected it then, but apparently many of the Government’s supporters do not reject it with regard to East Timor, where exactly the same arguments can be used. I am reminded of the following words of Milton:
So spake the Fiend, and with necessity, The tyrant ‘s plea, excus’d his devilish deeds.
Precisely the same thing could be said about what happened in Czechoslovakia in 1968 as can be said now about what has happened in Timor. I believe that as Timor is so close to Australia, it is an area in which we have particular influence and interest and in which we are able to do something positive. No doubt many people will say and many critics of Carter have said that he is damaging America’s interests by pursuing this human rights issue; that on the one hand he is damaging relations with the Soviet Union and, on the other hand, he is damaging relations with countries such as South Africa and even, in some more extreme cases, with Rhodesia- countries which apparently are essential to the American military defence. I think that anybody who says that should look at the recent statement by Joshua Nkomo, the leader of one of the several groups of Africans opposed to the present illegal Smith regime in Rhodesia.
Nkomo is a man with a long record of being a moderate- a man who tried to do everything that conceivably could be done within the legal framework in Rhodesia and what was previously Southern Rhodesia. He continued to try to do that despite years and years of detention and harsh treatment. Just recently Nkomo stated that the people who supported him- the people who were opposed to the Smith regime- were developing closer and closer relations with the Soviet Union. Why were they doing that? It was because the Soviet Union was supporting them and the western countries, which talk about democracy, were not supporting them. When they were fighting for their lives it was only understandable that they would build up relations with those countries which provided them with arms, rather than with those which provided their oppressors with arms.
I well remember some years ago, when I was living in England, meeting one of the leaders of the Portuguese Opposition- a Portuguese Socialist- who was working for a Soviet government agency. As democratic socialists, he and I agreed on a number of objections to the Soviet Union. I asked him why he continued to work for the Soviet Union. He said that whatever might be said about the Soviet Union or about how much better things were somewhere else, as far as their struggle with the fascist dictatorship in Lisbon was concerned, the fact was that the Soviet Union was supporting him, giving him a job and giving him assistance, whereas the Portuguese Government, a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation would have arrested him at least and possibly would have executed him if he had set foot in his own country. He pointed out that he had no alternative, if he were to take part in the struggle for Portuguese democracy, but to accept whatever assistance he could get and not say: ‘Wouldn’t it be lovely if the Americans or the British would help us? Unfortunately, they won’t, so we will not do anything about Salazar until we get some assistance from them ‘.
Therefore, I suggest that not only is it right and proper that the United States should object to the deprivation of civil liberties in South Africa and Rhodesia, but in the long run it is in the best interests of the United States to do so. A bloody confrontation will take place ultimately in Southern Africa. Day by day it is drawing closer and will continue to draw closer until that Armageddon arrives in Southern Africa unless something can be done to remove people like Vorster, that former member of the Nazi organisation who was interned during the Second World War for his pro-Nazi activities. Unless the Government of those people can be removed there will be a conflagration. The cause of the African people will be a just cause. If we find when that conflagration takes place that the Soviet Union has always been the friend of the Africans and that those people who talk about democracy have been the friends of the Nazis, that will damage us very severely where it hurts us most. I believe that if that happens we will deserve what we get.
It behoves Australia to align itself with, and if anything to strengthen the stand taken by, the United States of America Government on these issues because not only is that stand right and moral, but also it is in our own interests to take such a stand. Nothing could be more shortsighted than to think that Smith is going to last more than a year or two or that Vorster or his people are going to last more than 10 years. They are going to go the way Angola and Mozambique went, and so they should, at least insofar as the transfer of power to the people is concerned. I do not mean that this should happen by way of massacres taking place, but that is what will take place unless we and the other democratic countries take steps to prevent this from taking place.
– That is not a very controversial view, is it?
– I am glad to hear that it is not a controversial view. I have heard a number of people in Senator Missen ‘s Party expressing contrary views at various times. I well remember during the various South African sporting visits to Australia a number of statements from members of the Liberal Party. If the Liberal Party and the National Country Party now believe they will do everything to give assistance to the struggle for freedom in South Africa and Rhodesia and that they will make it clear that we are aligned with those people against the governments of South Africa and Rhodesia I am delighted to hear it. I had not heard it before. I thank Senator Missen for pointing it out to me. I trust that he will point it out to the Minister for Foreign Affairs so that he can include it in his next foreign policy statement. It was certainly not included in this one. All the Minister said in this foreign policy statement was that he deplores apartheid and let it go at that. Of course the Prime Minister said certain things to Mr Muldoon. It would have been difficult not to have done so. But that does not really deal with the issues involved. What I am talking about is not a few words said to Mr Muldoon but active and positive assistance. Why have the people of Angola and Mozambique turned to the Soviet Union and China? They have done so because those countries gave them real assistance. Why has Joshua Nkomo turned to the Soviet Union? He has done so because that country gives real assistance. Australia is not giving real assistance. This Government is not giving real assistance. So far the Government of the United States has not given real assistance either. None of these matters should be separate. We should look at them as part of one whole. If we believe the democracy is a system which ought to be defended -400 Australians were killed in Vietnam, allegedly in defence of democracy- we should say that it is not something which ought to be thought of only when a war is actually started, but is also a policy which ought to be actively pursued at all times. Again, it is in our interests to see that countries are democratic. The people of India over the last few days have given one of the greatest affirmations of the strength of democracy that has been given anywhere in the world. India is a country where people could well have been excused because of” their great poverty and difficulties for saying that they would prefer efficiency to civil rights and that they would prefer bread, houses and rice to law courts and habeas corpus. The people of India have said that they do not. I do not doubt that the new Indian government will have tremendous difficulties, with such a great assortment of people united only in opposition to the Congress Party’s administration and the emergency, in trying to form some sort of coalition government. Of course it will have great difficulties, but that is not the issue. What is significant is that the people of India have said that they want to preserve the democratic system and restore those elements of the democratic system which have been removed by the actions of aspiring autocrats and dictators. This is an example which ought to be heartening to democrats throughout the world.
It is rare that democracies become involved in wars with each other. Very seldom are 2 democracies involved in a struggle against each other. Generally, in any conflict, at least one of the parties is an autocracy or a dictatorship. I know that it is now fashionable to be very friendly towards the People’s Republic of China. I regard myself as being, in general terms, of a friendly disposition to that country. I was certainly in favour of establishing diplomatic relations a long time before any members of the Government were. One of the hazards we have to face now is the uncertainty in Chinese policy. It is not a democratic country. There is no open and free discussion within China on what is taking place within the country. People appear, disappear, re-appear, vanish, then find their names on wall posters. They are back again, out again, disappearing in planes on the border with the Soviet Union, returning from the grave, leading the cultural revolution and then becoming members of the Gang of Four. Mrs Han Suyin writes articles one day saying how Madam Chiang Ching is bringing about a new type of socialism and democracy because she is a guide of the cultural revolution and then a week later she writes in Scope that this is in fact not the case and that Madam Chiang Ching and 3 others were all members of the Gang of Four who were plotting to restore capitalism. Shifts and changes like these can take place only within a dictatorship.
The argument that dictatorships are more stable than democracies is false. Nothing could be more unstable than what has been happening in countries ruled by dictatorships. It happened throughout the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s in the Soviet Union. It has been happening over the last 10 years in China. Dictatorships are unstable because people out in the street are not able to formulate opinions about what is going on. They are not able to bring reasoned judgment. They are not able to exercise proper democratic pressure. For that reason it is very much to our advantage that we press for the same human rights which have been outlined by President Carter.
Of course, the first obligation of any government in pursuing its foreign policy is to look after the interests of its own citizens. The first obligation of the Minister for Foreign Affairs in Australia is to watch Australia’s interests. I put it to the Senate that the best way of watching Australia’s interests is by seeking to achieve human rights in Timor, Chile, the Soviet Union, China and in every place in the world where they have been denied.
One other matter which has been dealt with in the Minister’s statement concerns the Indian Ocean. I hope it will not be felt that I am in some way departing from what I have been saying earlier when I say that I believe that we are involved on a mistaken course in the Indian Ocean. Trying to press the United States to expand its naval and military presence in the Indian Ocean is not a way of dealing with the existing problems in the Indian Ocean. The presence of foreign navies, from wherever they come, must be of concern to the people who live around the Indian Ocean. It is natural that if one major power moves into an area, another major power will follow shortly after in order to protect its own interests. In the Indian Ocean which is relatively unimportant among the world’s great oceans and is not bordered by any of the super powers- I include China as a super power in this respect- we have an opportunity to achieve a demilitarised zone. The proposals that Mrs Ghandi put forward while she was Prime Minister of India for a completely demilitarised zone in the Indian Ocean are policies which we should be supporting. I do not believe that we should feel embarrassed when it appears that the President of the United States is putting forward a policy contrary to that which this Government has expressed. I do not believe that we should try to dissuade him from doing what seems to follow from his overall view of the situation within the
Indian Ocean. We should be working for peace within that area. I believe that is the most significant, immediate contribution that Australia can make within the field of foreign affairs.
– You say that we should be working for a zone of peace. That is the policy of the Government. Where do you see the difference in policies?
-We should not be advocating or supporting the building of an American base in Diego Garcia. I believe that there is already sufficient Western presence in the Indian Ocean with North West Cape and what we have in other parts of Australia, without adding to the risks of a conflagration by building up Diego Garcia. I am perfectly conscious of what has been happening in Berbera. I think I am perfectly conscious of the possible intentions of the Soviet Union within the Indian Ocean. I certainly think that one of the most positive steps we could take once relations have been cemented between the Australian Government and the new government in India is to pursue the approach of demilitarising the whole area. We will not be taking steps towards demilitarising the area if we encourage the United States to create a new base in Diego Garcia.
I wish to refer briefly to the situation within the Middle East. It has been claimed recently by a number of people that the recent conference of the Palestine National Council, the governing body of the Palestine Liberation Organisation, has been a victory for the moderates. I should like to express a contrary view. I believe that the decisions that were taken at the meeting of the Palestine National Council were very alarming. The decision it took- apparently it is alleged to be a compromise between the moderates and extremists, whoever they are; it is sometimes difficult to disentangle them- is to the effect that the Palestine Liberation Organisation would be prepared to accept an independent Palestinian state on the west bank of the Jordan as a transitory step towards the complete demolition of the state of Israel and the establishment of one Palestinian state. If this is a victory for the moderates, 1 would be very alarmed to run into one of the extremists. What they have shown by this decision is that, despite the hopes which had been expressed by some people that there was a movement in the Palestine Liberation Organisation towards the acceptance of Israel on reduced borders as a sovereign state, it has now apparently been re-affirmed by all of them that they are still just as determined to destroy Israel as they ever were and that the only purpose that the so-called independent Palestinian state on the
West Bank would serve would be as a launching pad for the destruction of Israel itself.
– A Trojan horse perhaps?
– It is not inside the walls. It is right alongside the walls. Certainly, whether it is a Trojan horse or not, if the policy of the PLO and the new Palestinian state is to be to destroy the state of Israel, clearly the existence of the new independent Palestinian state would really be a death blow to the state of Israel. I think that we should again as a people support the position which has been taken in general terms by the Israeli Government that it is not prepared to negotiate with the PLO while the PLO remains determined to destroy the state of Israel. Israel should only be prepared to negotiate with the PLO- and 1 believe that we should support it on this approach- when the PLO renounces its intention to destroy the state of Israel. If this is made clear, if the Arab patrons of the PLO make that clear, negotiations can take place about borders. One ought to be as flexible as one can be about borders. But for so long as the PLO says that it will use this proposed Palestinian state only in order to destroy Israel, I think we have a commitment as one of the countries which was responsible for the formation of Israel and as fellow democrats to see that the Israelis are not placed in the position where they will be blackmailed into accepting negotiations or a settlement of this kind which can lead in a few years time only to their destruction.
I am very proud that one of the people who played an important role in the establishment of Israel was Dr Evatt, who was Minister for External Affairs in a former Labor government. When he held that portfolio, he was subject to a certain amount of derision by various people in Australia because he advocated, as one of the cornerstones of the United Nations Charter and one of the objectives towards which Australia should work, the preservation of the rights of small states. That was one of the principles for which Evatt stood. It was something for which the Australian Labor Party stood. Unfortunately, in past years, our policy on some of these matters seem to have become a little blurred.
I call for a return to the principles of those policies which Dr Evatt pursued when he was Minister for External Affairs in a former government of this country. I refer to the preservation of the rights of the small states and the real working of the United Nations Charter so that no country, however big, can set about destroying any other country, however small. We should have friendly relations between people of different ideologies.
We should not allow people of one ideology to try to overthrow the government of a country with a different ideology. At the same time, we must make it clear to all that we have friendlier and better relations with those countries which believe in a democratic system and stand for human rights than those which do not. If we do this, I believe that Australia has a tremendous chance within the next 10 years to make a huge contribution to averting the terrifying dangers which face humanity at the present time.
– The Senate is debating a paper on foreign affairs. I believe that this is an opportunity for this Parliament and particularly this chamber today to become aware of the major problems that confront this nation in relation to the rest of the world. The discussion should, and must I believe, be a constructive one. I suppose in a discussion on foreign affairs, as in the discussion that occurred some time ago on defence, there has to be ultimately- and the sooner the better- a real measure of agreement between the major entities on the Australian political scene.
I must say that I was in no small measure delighted to listen not only to the rhetoric of Senator Wheeldon but also to his arguments which were in many cases, as indeed were those of Senator Wriedt, somewhat similar to the views, policies and attitudes that are being promoted in foreign affairs by today’s Government. If indeed we are observing, at least in that field, a closing of the gap within this country, our capacity to serve the type of role that we should and must serve in our immediate region and the world is becoming greater and greater.
I have said before- and I believe it still- that one of the enormous problems that confront the real development and the real contribution of Australia in the world is the sort of ideological gap which has developed among the major political entities. It is the responsibility of all Australians to do everything in their power to attempt to close that gap. If there is an area of the American political circumstance of which we should perhaps have a measure of envy, it is, I believe, that in the American scene there seems to be much lesser a difference between the basic and major parties in their political area. Because of this factor, there is a measure of stability, strength and permanence which we desperately need in this country and which, consequently, the rest of the world desperately needs, too.
Senator Wheeldon mentioned that he thought that he saw some changes in our attitudes to foreign affairs. Whilst I believe our policies basically are as they have been stated over some considerable period, certainly as time goes by there is a moderation, a changing or a moulding of attitudes. Indeed, history is really the record of changing attitudes by any number of countries throughout the world. So, I do not think there is any great cause for alarm if indeed in the circumstances which arise from month to month and year to year people are prepared and able to make a responsible change in attitude or in emphasis on any aspect.
There was considerable emphasis in Senator Wheeldon ‘s remarks on the question of human rights. In this area, I do not believe that he or any of us would find in this country and in many other countries much opposition to the suggestion that human rights must be promoted wherever they are threatened. If there is an area of difference it would seem to me, at least as an individual and perhaps I would assume also as a member of a Government party, it is a shame that human rights should have to be promoted by individual nations; this should be the province of the United Nations. To imagine that we can have the conception of the United Nations which is a most important one to institute and implement some form of real international law and yet have within that body no power to implement the law is perhaps the greatest tragedy of this century. If human rights are to be adopted around the world I believe it is the responsibility of appropriate bodies within the United Nations to safeguard those human rights rather than the responsibility of any number of individual nations acting, in many cases, for themselves. I just make that comment in passing.
The Senate has a very deep involvement in foreign affairs. It is pertinent to note that in very recent times the Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence has investigated and reported on the Vietnamese refugee situation, is investigating and about to report on the Middle East, and has investigated and reported on the Indian Ocean. It may well look to the South Pacific, another region extremely close to this continent and of great importance to us, for another investigation and report on developments there.
The foreign policy of Australia, as I see it, has to be referable in some measure to the social and economic development of this country and its capacity and determination to defend itself. Only if we have a continuing and developing economic and social policy and only if we have a realistic and responsible view regarding our own defence can we be of real value in the context of the immediate region in which we live and the world in general. Foreign policy, as we look at it today, in some real measure is controlled by what I believe can be described as a shrinking world. Never in the history of mankind has our capacity to communicate with various other people been as rapid and as complete as it is today. On the surface that may well mean, and indeed could mean, that we are in a dangerous position. There may be a tendency for nations or individuals to act on the spur of the moment because of the sheer speed of communications. The sheer speed of revelation may well bring reckless immediate reaction. Yet if we look beyond that circumstance it is my belief that the communications which have brought about this shrinking world have in themselves a capacity to enable nations to take their time. Communication being what it is, any problem that arises does not call for an impromptu or off the top of the head solution. Today as never before the capacity of nations to talk to each other, not over a period of 3 months, 6 months or even annually but from day to day and hour to hour, is so great that the capacity of nations to understand each other, to live in peace and to promote peace should be- mark you, should be- greater than at any time in this century.
I turn aside for a moment to comment on the fact that there has been a shift in the emphasis on the conflict between the super powers. For many years that conflict has been fairly direct. The super powers basically have been concerned one with the other. I believe that in very recent times that emphasis has been changing. Again, on the surface, it may be considered that that is a good thing yet there are considerable dangers inherent in that situation. I have in mind the sort of circumstance that is developing, one that is relevant in no small measure to the African situation and to the so-called liberation of peoples around the world. If liberation is to be the result of infiltration, if liberation is going to be the result of the promotion of a particular super power in an under-developed area, that in itself has within it the essence of a new and perhaps more dangerous imperialism. Could we be moving from the economic imperialism of the 19th century and probably the first half of the 20th century? Could we be in danger of moving from that sort of economic imperialism to a political imperialism? I hope not. As the emphasis of the super powers, one to the other, tends to change I hope that they do not become involved in circumstances in which a super power promotes a set of circumstances in some other part of the world through the use of a third or fourth party. This could bring about a chain reaction which would be a disaster on a large scale. In fact it could bring about a circumstance whereby one form of suppression was supplanted by another. It could bring about a situation in which blacks will suppress blacks, whites will suppress whites, and so on around the world. Surely it should be our objective to steer away from such a situation. There is a real measure of possibility of this happening by means of this relatively new trend in which there is. the promotion of a particular developing nation or particular ideology, on the grounds of liberation, through third and fourth parties.
I want to refer in passing to the energy crisis that has confronted the world, particularly in the last five or six years. It might be thought that it is strange to talk of an energy crisis when we are talking about foreign affairs. However, I am of the opinion that the energy crisis that came to a peak in 1 973 after the affluence of the 1 950s and 1 960s, through the extreme increase in the price of oil by the relatively few producers who control that product, caused a massive downturn in overall economic standards around the world. It is my view that the energy crisis that occurred in those years, and which continues today in no small measure, is going to react unfavourably towards the nations of the Third World and the developing world unless we ourselves react. We could be confronted with a situation in which scarce energy resources require more and more involvement on the part of the developed or Western type world, call it what you will. Therefore it is my view that in the longer term, certainly in the next 20 years or 25 years, it may be necessary to promote, under proper supervision, the development of nuclear energy- something which has been going on already for over 20 years- as an alternative to the traditional energy derived from oil and coal. Under proper supervision nuclear energy may enable a certain conservation of oil, coal and other traditional sources of energy. If this were to happen, together with the fairly clearly indicated relative cheapness of nuclear energy, it would involve an increase in the opportunities available to the developing third world. It would raise the possibility that their economies, in sad straits as a result of the energy crisis of the 1973 period, could well start to rise out of that morass.
I believe that foreign policy has to be seen- the paper we are discussing today emphasises this point- in relation to a continuing and extended period of time. We have to grow beyond the circumstances where we are continually finding what we believe may be instant solutions to problems. I believe the emphasis of this paper clearly indicates the necessity for this Government and for the Australian people to look at foreign policy over an extended period. Perhaps there has been too much concern with immediate problems and with immediate solutions. It is my belief that from this time on at least we will transfer our attitudes to continuing attitudes, and to the development of circumstances which have to be viewed in the context of perhaps 20 years, 50 years or even longer. The relationship of this country with Japan, with the United States of America and with the European Economic Community is of extreme importance. The whole of our foreign policy is devoted, as a base, towards the continuing development of that relationship. Realistically, unless there is a proper measure of understanding and co-operation among those great Western type economies and societies, the total capacity around the world to develop becomes diminished by an enormous degree.
In recent times we have made many efforts to understand and to trade with Japan to the best of our capacity and in such a measure that we will see a proper reciprocal nature in that trade. We have developed the Australia-Japan Foundation. We have made a number of agreements. We have recently arrived at the decision between our 2 countries that Japan will maintain the importation of coal and iron in the coming year at the same level as in 1976. We have found that Japan has been a continuing market for Australian wool and wheat. We have had enormous problems in the meat field. Rather ironically, I suppose, the problems there were in no small way related to the energy crisis to which I referred a short while ago. The indications are that an understanding between the 2 countries in trade and commodities in general is growing. The outlook is considerably better today than it has been in the past few years during which time Japan’s economy has been in an extremely hazardous situation.
The United States of America, of course, is basic in some real measure to the security of Australia. I believe that its strength and its leadership have a very real part to play in the general strength and stability of a developing world. We will retain with the United States of America the sort of co-operation and communication which it has always been our intention to have. The European Economic Community has developed to quite a massive degree. Part of the most important international negotiations, from the point of view of this country, in the immediate future must surely relate to our ability to come to a proper understanding in relation to trade with the European Economic Community. I believe that already we are importing more from the EEC than from anywhere else. The European Economic Community’s greatest problem, as it concerns us, is the result or corollary of its own agricultural policy. In this area continuing effort must be and certainly will be made to arrive at a circumstance where there is something of a real flow in both directions.
In respect to China we have reached a point where we clearly have a considerable trading relationship. I believe we have also reached a point of maturity where Australia’s view of China’s attitudes to nuclear testing and explosions is clearly understood. We do have different attitudes and values. I believe the Chinese people are understanding of our attitudes and of the differences which occur. This is the sort of mature circumstance which will ultimately see the survival of this world rather than its ultimate destruction. We can, of course, contribute greatly to China with our technological capacity, particularly in the field of agriculture and in arid and semi-arid agriculture. There is always a great deal of talk, and sometimes a great deal of emotion, when we speak of our relations with the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. I should have said at an earlier point that I believe that one of the significant things which may well be happening is that international relations will be more and more controlled- I hope that internal relations may likewise be more and more controlled- by reason and not by emotion because with the passage of time the sort of indentation which has been made on relationships with emotion being the leading force has been quite tragic indeed.
In relation to the Soviet Union, while clearly we have some basic philosophical differences- as far as I can see we are likely to retain those philosophical differences- at least we can and must talk and we must recognise our points of view. We must show a measure of real responsibility. I come to a point where, in some measure, I disagree with Senator Wheeldon. In the context of the Soviet Union I come to a brief thought and commentary on the Australian circumstance in the Indian Ocean. When President Carter expressed his desire that the Indian Ocean should become a demilitarised zone, there was an immediate reaction. It was suggested that in some measure this was a denigration ofthe policies which we had followed and which were based on establishing within that zone a matching presence at the lowest possible level. I think that probably in the next few weeks and months it will become quite obvious that President Carter has really not departed very far from the circumstances which we have promoted after long and considered investigation. Surely if we are to have in the Indian Ocean a demilitarised zone, a zone of peace- call it what you will- a prelude to that must be our capacity to have a matching presence but at a low and continually lowering level. That is the objective of this Government. The objective behind Diego Garcia was merely that it be the rough equivalent of the quite substantial Russian facility at Berbera.
From time to time we have been condemned for the establishment and development of the naval base at Cockburn Sound, but surely that cannot be viewed in the context of confrontation in the Indian Ocean. Surely, as a nation we have every right and the responsibility to establish the sort of naval facilities on our west coast, north coast, east coast or wherever which will enable us as a responsible democratic society to look after our own mainland, to guard the Australian continent. That is the first objective of an Australian defence plan and the developments at Cockburn Sound and other places around our coastline must be viewed not as elements of confrontation or of massive militarisation of the Indian Ocean but in the context of Australian continental defence and our right and responsibility to defend our trade lines and to see that incursions into this country are made so difficult that they will not be attempted. That is the significance of Australian involvement in and development of facilities at Cockburn Sound and hopefully such facilities will be established at many points around the Australian coastline.
I believe it is important that I remark on the Australian involvement with the countries in the Association of South East Asian Nations. Those countries- Indonesia, Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia and the Philippines- in the south east Asian region represent at present a real measure of stability, a measure of stability infinitely greater than has been observable in the region for many years. It is important that Australia seek to involve itself in continuing and increasing social and economic co-operation and planning with those south east Asian countries which, hopefully, v/ill be added to.
There are many things that one could say about foreign policy and as we move across from South Africa, through the Indian Ocean and the south east Asian region, we come to the area on the east of Australia, the South Pacific. It is an area where, apart from tourism and fishing, the nations are in a large sense not viable. It is an area in which we are involved and it is our duty to make sure that the proper measure of aid is given to enable those nations, in many instances small nations, not only to survive but also ultimately to become either individually or regionally viable. That is the interest which Australia has in the South Pacific, an interest that is instanced by the recent determination of the Government to provide under a 3-year rolling scheme some $60m in aid to South Pacific countries, an increase of some 400 per cent on Australian involvement in the area previously.
I close my remarks, having made a few references to matters which I believe are important to foreign affairs and foreign policies. If it is true, and I in some measure think it may be, that there is something of a consolidation of Australian views on foreign policy, then we are moving in the right direction. We are moving in a direction which will develop for Australia the capacity to serve as it should serve, as an affluent nation, a nation of vast resources, in our immediate region and around the world. I support the paper. I believe it is important that it be widely discussed and understood.
Sitting suspended from 5.55 to 8 p.m.
-The Senate this evening, as was the case this afternoon, is debating the policy statement of the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock). Quite frankly, I wonder how much of it is really the Foreign Minister’s policy statement and how much of it may be the policy statement of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser). I believe that since this Government came to office it has been the Prime Minister who has been running the foreign affairs of this country rather than the Minister for Foreign Affairs. The Senate has before it a 24-page document that in my opinion is long on generalities but miserably short on goals and objectivity. As an example, I quote the following from what the Minister stated:
An Indian Ocean Zone of Peace is an objective with which Australia has sympathy and we recognise that those who sponsor it are concerned with the same end as we are, namely, a stable peace in the Indian Ocean. The degree of complementarity -
That is a good word- between the 2 approaches was evident in the communique that was issued at the end of the Indonesian visit last October, when it said, ‘Pending the achievement of a Zone of Peace, the President and the Prime Minister recognised that a balance in the Indian Ocean at as low a level as possible should make it possible to avoid a competitive escalation of forces ‘. We believe this gets it right.
Quite frankly, after reading a statement such as that, I am left to wonder why this LiberalNational Country Party Government leaves this matter to someone else to resolve. Surely to goodness in a statement such as this, this Government, this Prime Minister, this Minister for Foreign Affairs- someone- should have come down with a statement of some intent. Instead of saying that the Government intends to stand aside from those who sponsor an ideal of a zone of peace in the Indian Ocean we should be joining in with other littoral states in working for a zone of peace in the Indian Ocean.
I suppose that when we look back with the advantage of hindsight we see it is somewhat over and above the expectations of the ordinary mortal to expect that a man who was a hawk on the Vietnam issue for years would take such an attitude. I suppose that those years were for me my formative years in Australian politics. This was when I opposed the Prime Minister in the electorate of Wannon in 1963 and 1966. I remember the attitude of the man to Vietnam, the slogan ‘all the way with LBJ and the phrases about the downward thrust of Chinese communism and those big red arrows pointing towards Australia. I remember his sponsorship of conscription for Australian youth while he worked his damndest to help the sons of his friends get out of the draft. He made no bones about the fact that he was quite active in that area while allowing someone else’s sons to carry the load of our wrong commitment to Vietnam. It is a little difficult to expect that a man of that calibre would now in any way whatsoever have his Government work with other littoral states towards a zone of peace in the Indian Ocean.
This is a man and a government which, since they came to power in 1975, have granted increased military aid to Indonesia whilst that country has been conducting a war of genocide. It was the third military escapade or commitment in recent times by Indonesia in areas adjacent to its territory. Perhaps this is all a little too much to expect. If action such as this is to be taken as an example of the Fraser Government’s intent, one supposes that one will wait in vain for it to act in a manner conducive to peace in the Indian Ocean or in any other area of the world.
I believe that this Government will continue to try to influence the American Government to expand and upgrade the base at Diego Garcia. Mr Fraser has made no bones about that line of argument since he came to power. It is being done to try to outpace the Soviet naval presence in the Indian Ocean. It will be rather interesting to see the contest of personalities and policies between Mr Fraser and the new President in America, President Carter. It would appear now that President Carter has set his goals, his. guidelines, his sail or his flag towards achieving a decrease in military activity around the world and a rapport with the previous enemies of the United States, in particular the Soviet Union. I believe that the hearings and report of the Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence which looked at this question of the Indian Ocean have created an increasing awareness on the part of some Government supporters who previously were so much anti-Soviet it did not matter. This was so particularly when we discussed this question of the relative strength of navies and the super powers in the Indian Ocean. But now at least some of these people are coming round to the realisation that there is something better for the world and for Australia in particular than this question of balance.
How do we measure this question of balance? Those of us who sat on the Committee were presented with a great deal of evidence. It was patently obvious to me that, depending on the criteria used, on could conjure up figures to support one’s argument. A whole multiplicity of criteria which included ship-days and tonnages could be used. The answer that one obtained depended upon where one started. It came through fairly loud and clear to the Committee when the evidence was finally considered that the U.S. had an overwhelming superiority in the Indian Ocean. While the Soviet Union may have had more ships there over a longer period, it was clearly obvious that when the U.S. moved into the Indian Ocean with its massive forces, it could outgun, out-manoeuvre and out-everything the Soviet Union could put up. But still this Government at that time was clamouring, through the Prime Minister and the Minister for Defence ( Mr Killen), for an upgrading of the American presence in the Indian Ocean.
If that sort of thinking still prevails at the top eschelons of this nation it will be a long time before anyone is able to resolve this question and get down to the question of the Indian Ocean being a zone of peace.
One of the problems that confronts the littoral states of the Indian Ocean is that of poverty and deprivation. There is hardly a state or country that impinges on the Indian Ocean that does not have dire problems of poverty, deprivation, a lack of gross national product and a lack of reasonable facilities for its citizens. It is obvious to me that whilst the thinking of this and previous Liberal-National Country Party governments prevails, it will be a long time before the citizens of those littoral states are able to set goals for a better lifestyle for themselves. While those countries are forced by circumstances brought about by conditions outside their territory to spend large amounts of money on armaments, there is no bread and butter for their citizens. Perhaps whilst we are talking of the Indian Ocean as a zone of peace and trying to achieve some goals to that end. it might now be pertinent that those progressive thinkers in Australia, visavis foreign policy, should be starting to open up the question of the same sorts of ideals for the Pacific Ocean.
I note that recently the Government of Papua New Guinea has expressed some interest in a zone of peace in the Pacific Ocean. This evening, along with the President and a number of others, I was delighted to sit down at dinner with the Prime Minister of Western Samoa. I have paid at least one visit to the South Pacific and it would seem to me from my conservation with leaders and ordinary people in that area that they also have a great desire for that part of the world- the Pacific Ocean- to be encompassed in the ideal of a zone of peace. Perhaps that is the next goal on which people who are interested in peace and disarmament around this world should set their sights.
Any opportunity to overcome the deprivation, the poverty, the disease and the squalor around this world that I mentioned a moment ago is beset by the great arms race which a large number of countries have joined post 1945. To me one of the greatest crimes being committed against the common people of the world is evident in a country such as Iran. Iran is an immensely wealthy country with a tremendous potential. It sells daily to the developed world, and I suppose to some extent the underdeveloped world, great quantities of black gold. I have had the opportunity, thanks to a parliamentary delegation, to visit the main export centre of Iran where black gold is poured into tankers. As far as one’s eye can see large tankers are carrying this tremendously important commodity to countries around the world. As a consequence one knows millions of dollars are pouring back into the coffers of that country. What do we see? We see large orders for guns, tanks, Fills, rockets, and all the wherewithal of war. The people of that country are deprived, have little education and very little shelter while the country, with gay abandon, spends the money it is making on the instruments of war. I just take that as one example. I do not want to single out that country as being the only example or the worst example. There are dozens of other examples around the world.
– Does that country not have an active community development scheme as well?
– From my experience there I do not think it works. I believe that if Australia through its foreign policy could set goals towards the establishment of zones of peace around the world it must in the end have an effect on the amount of a country’s budget which is spent on weapons of war. Following on from that must surely be a rise in the living standards of millions of people currently deprived.
One other matter I mention is aid. Aid has become, I suppose, one of the foremost weapons of foreign policy used by the developed world towards the underdeveloped world. I am not quite sure whether our motives are correct in many instances but there is little doubt that it does our hearts good sometimes to say that we are spending so much in foreign aid in the underdeveloped world. The situation unfortunately arises where we pour aid into countries without a great deal of thought. One realises that any nation which gives aid to another should not have the right to dictate how that aid shall be spent. I believe that too often we just give aid without any consideration whatsoever. My friend Senator Scott while speaking before dinner made some mention about agricultural aid. He related it to China and believed that our agricultural techniques could be of some assistance to that country. It may well be that in the very down to earth aspects we may have some technique which may help the Chinese. But I think that if we look at the broader issue of aid we will find that Australia, like so many other developed countries, is pouring aid into agriculture in those countries without any thought whatsoever of the end result. I believe that in many respects the aid upsets the whole economics of farming in those countries.
One of the great publicised activities of aid and development in agriculture in underdeveloped countries in recent years has been the socalled green revolution. Any person who studies what has happened in those countries as a result of the implementation of the green revolution will realise that the lifestyle and the agricultural economy of those countries have been upset. I do not say that this happens every time but I believe it happens in the overwhelming majority of cases. We pour aid in and the beneficiaries all too often are the landlords, the wealthy, the filthy rich. It is of no benefit whatsoever to the common peasant farmer who is in the situation of not being able to avail himself of the aid, due to the prices of increased inputs, of fertilisers and new types of seeds and within a year or two the ordinary peasant farmer goes to the wall. The landlord, the big man, buys him out, takes him over and goes on to make a very comfortable living. The peasant farmer finishes up as the urban unemployed poor who are currently pouring into the provincial towns and cities of the underdeveloped world. That pattern is world wide whether one looks at Asia, Africa or Latin America.
– Or Australia.
– Or Australia. The honourable senator is perfectly right. Fortunately there is some hope for those Australians who drift to the cities. I believe that the honourable senator would agree with me, if he has made any study, that the agricultural poor, the drifters from agriculture in the underdeveloped world, have to squat in hovels adjacent to the major towns and cities and become the unemployed poor of those nations. They have no hope whatsoever. They do not even have the opportunity to provide food for their own sustenance.
In many underdeveloped countries multinational companies will benefit because of the activities of the Western world in pouring in agricultural aid. It will turn agriculture in a section of the country into a one-crop economy producing tomatoes, coffee or something else that will be exported to the well-fed developed world at a premium price which is very nice for those exporting it while, as I said before, thousands of people put off their farms have not even got the wherewithal to provide food for their own sustenance. The situation could arise where those countries pour out food to the developed world while thousands of their citizens die of hunger. That is a matter at which I think the Australian Government should have a cold hard look and which it should go into a little further than it has been prepared to do up to the present time.
– Can you suggest what sort of aid? I would like to hear your comments on that.
– I am not knocking aid, but I believe that the question has not been thought through. In relation to Senator Scott’s remarks about China, whilst I said that we may have some techniques which would be of assistance to China and a number of other countries, it is noticeable that in China and in Vietnam, which is a more current example, instead of putting people off the land the governments have put them on the land. They may have a very primitive type of agriculture by our standards, but at least those people are providing food for themselves and their families and are contributing towards national goals. The type of aid we have tended to give, because of the way it has been given and the way it has been accepted by many governments, only puts people off the land and sends them into already overcrowded cities. That may be good for progress at one level; it may be good for multinational companies; it may be good for the ruling elite in those countries; but it is not the answer for the underprivileged poor in the countries concerned. As I said before, I think we should look at this matter and, in conjunction with the governments of those countries, try to evolve a pattern of agriculture through aid whereby farmers are not deprived of their land nor of at least the opportunity to provide their own food.
One other aspect of Australian aid, as I read it, is that we are in a situation at the moment where a large amount of capital is fleeing this country. I can recall during the years of the Labor Government from 1972 to 1975 trying to impress upon Ministers, and one Minister in particular, the need for development in regional areas of this country. Let us be frank. From 1972 to 1975 the Labor Government did make some bold endeavours in that area. But when I talked to the responsible Minister about the possibility of establishing secondary industries in places in my State which have been clamouring for it for years, the answer from the Minister and his advisers, and I think perfectly correctly, was that by and large secondary industry capital was fleeing this country. Late last year a report appeared in the Melbourne Herald to the effect that some 40 Australian companies had set up in Malaysia in conjunction with partners. There has been a great amount of capital outflow to establish secondary industries in the north. I suppose that if one had no humanitarian instincts, if one was out purely to make a fast buck and had a million dollars to expend, one would go to those countries where, because of the lack of trade unions, because of the lack of some sort of organisation to protect workers, one can hire and fire for $3, $4, $5, $6 or $7 a week. There is a great deal of money to be made by any entrepreneur who likes to invest his money in, say, South East Asia. I fear that a great amount of the aid money currently being expended by Australia, and it is no small amount in relation to our gross yearly budget, is to a very large extent helping Australian capital and the multinational organisations in areas such as South East Asia and that the great beneficiaries of it are the shareholders of those companies back in Australia. I hold the opinion that unless we look very closely and much more intimately at the question of foreign aid we could go on pouring aid into those countries until kingdom come, until Armageddon, but it will not lift the living standard of the great mass of the people. In effect, it is a subsidy to Australian and other capital invested in those areas.
The other matter with which I wish to deal is that of foreign bases in Australia. In post-war years we have seen the spawning of a great number of foreign bases, military and otherwise, in this country. As far as I can recall, all of them have originated in the Pentagon in America. We have the North West Cape, Nurrungar, Pine Gap, and a great deal more, perhaps some we do not even know about, such is the secrecy of the militarists in the world. The common people are the last to know what goes on. But this Government, this Liberal-National Country Party Government, since it came to power has pledged itself to go ahead with the building of another foreign base in this country. I suppose that there are people opposite, and regretfully there may even be some in my own party, who think that Omega is not a foreign base, that it is not a military establishment but is for civilian purposes only. No one will ever convince me of that. I sat through the inquiry which was held and I still hold firmly to the convictions I held before the inquiry began.
The Government’s proposal was announced in Sydney last week by the Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon), I suppose not strangely at a function of the Australian-American Society. We seem to have Ministers who fall over backwards to present themselves in a very favourable light whenever that organisation meets. We seem to have a great hang-up about a requirement to fawn on the Pentagon in the United States, and over the years we have fawned on the U.S.A. I will never know why, but that is the way things have been. It would seem that we are now going to have an Omega base established in East Gippsland. The Minister seems to have fallen in love with the idea. I do not know whether he has read the evidence given to the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence, lt is quite likely that in his position as a Minister, and we all know and appreciate the work load with which Ministers are confronted, he read the majority report which the Committee brought down two or three years ago but has never bothered to look at the minority report. One of the interesting aspects of the evidence given to the Committee was when early in the piece the Australian Department of Transport presented its submission. At page 12 of the transcript of evidence the Department had this to say:
Omega is the first worldwide standardised radio navaid.
What the submission went on to say from that point was rather interesting:
The only foreseeable alternative is u satellite system, and many years of technical development and international negotiations will be required before such a system becomes standardised, commercially viable, and competitive with Omega. 1 think that indicates the lack of observation and the lack of inquiry at that time by the Department of Transport. Even then the American Department of Defense was contemplating a defence navigation satellite system. Some of those satellites are already in operation and it is anticipated that they will all be in operation in the early 1980s. The shallowness of the thinking of the Department of Transport, the main government department to put forward a case for Omega, is proved by the fact that at the very time that Department was putting forward its case the American Department of Defence was preparing to launch satellites for a defence navigation satellite system around the world. Some of those satellites are in operation already. To prove the paucity of research by the Department of Transport and to indicate that it did not know what it was talking about, we recently received information about a satellite system for shipping by way of a Press article on 1 8 August last year. I shall quote one short paragraph from this article, which relates to a system that some 40 nations, including Australia, have decided to instal around the globe for the benefit of maritime shipping. It states:
The satellites would provide fast and secure communications between ships and shore establishments, especially concerning distress signals and safety procedures.
It is rather a strange paragraph because it relates to facilities which the Department of Transport said it wanted Omega to provide. Even with Omega’s failings, the Department of Transport knew very well at the time the Committee was investigating the matter that Omega was not the be-all and end-all as a navigational aid. The adviser to the Committee, Mr Crouchley, from the University of Queensland, who had done a lot of work in relation to Omega signals from the base at Hawaii admitted in his evidence- it is all there for anyone to read- that the Omega signal faded and was unreliable. He gave all the reasons for its not being a very good signal. Those people who, like myself, opposed Omega claimed that Omega had only one basic use and that was for its waves to penetrate sea water to the advantage of submarines, particularly
American hunter-killer submarines. The advocates for Omega, in their defence, argued that Omega was not sufficiently accurate for that purpose. They said that we were wrong and that it would never serve that purpose.
We now have Australia joining with about 40 other nations in a proposed satellite system. We have gone even further than that. At a recent meeting in London of the 40-odd nations involved it was agreed that this satellite system for maritime civilian purposes should go ahead. It is to be known as INMARSAT. The whole purport of Press releases, in my opinion, is to the effect that this system will supersede Omega and will make Omega so obsolete that it will not be worth a crumpet, that we might as well be out on the yard arm with a lantern. After reading the Press release of 18 August 1976 I asked 3 questions in this place of the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick), the Minister representing the Minister for Transport, concerning the INMARSAT system. It is rather interesting to note the Minister’s response. The third question I asked was as follows:
Will the proposed system in any way intrude on the role of the Omega base the Government proposes to establish in Australia?
The answer which came back was:
The proposed system will not intrude into the role of the Omega navigation transmitter that is planned for Australia.
To follow that up, it is very interesting to note that on a very recent date Mr Crouchley. the adviser to the Committee, advised the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence that some of his earlier evidence was astray and that he now believed that the Omega system was quite capable of relaying a signal to a submarine at a depth of 1000 feet.
This had been hotly denied during the inquiry by Mr Crouchley, the people from the Department of Transport, the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Department of Defence and every other advocate of Omega. They said that at the utmost the very low frequency signals from Omega would penetrate to only 30 feet. I have come to the conclusion that the only worthwhile role left for an Omega station in Australia would be for it to send out a signal which would be capable of being picked up by hunter killer submarines, ballistic missile submarines, of the American Navy. For that reason I believe it to be a military aid. I believe its whole purpose will be a military one. But, as I said before, it is to be superseded by a much better satellite navigation system.
Finally, I say this: While Australia conducts itself in this manner and while it is prepared to establish such bases all around this country it will be extremely difficult for any government in this country to get the type of support that I believe is required in our region of the world to establish peace and goodwill. It is all very well for the Minister for Transport to say, as he did at a dinner on Friday, that we can switch off such a system. It is perfectly true that it could be switched off, but the important message that we have to get through to the people of this country is that a signal can have gone through the system before we know we want to head it off and before the system can be switched off. The submarines which would receive such a message are on a red alert at all times as they move around the ocean beds of this world. The very signal they need to trigger off a holocaust could well go through Omega and we could do what we liked- we could throw the switch after the message had been transmitted- but it would not prevent a holocaust.
We must ask ourselves what other governments of the littoral states around the Indian Ocean will think of Australia if we advocate a zone of peace. Surely they must ask whether we really are serious when we have a North West Cape, an Omega, a Nurrungar and a Pine Gap on our continent. They must ask us how we can expect them to believe that we are fair dinkum when we talk about zones of peace and disarmament and the like. I believe that until we discard these instruments of war and the potentials for war we are perhaps shouting into the wind. I hope that governments in this country will set about disrobing those bases as soon as possible.
– This debate on foreign affairs this afternoon and tonight is the first debate on foreign affairs that has taken place in this chamber for a long while. I must say that I have been delighted by the types of speeches that have been made on both sides of the chamber. The debate has brought in far more logic than emotion and far more variation in the specific points and sometimes criticisms of the current Government’s policy than has been the case in many other debates. To some extent I accept the attitudes of and points made by some members of the Opposition. There are many points that I do not accept. I have been in this place for a number of years but, frankly, this is the first time that I have heard a full-scale debate on foreign affairs. I appreciate this debate. It was excellent to hear the attitudes expressed and the contributions made by honourable senators on both sides of the chamber. This resulted from the fact that the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock) put down an excellent ministerial statement on foreign affairs, the first full statement on this subject that we have had in this place for many years. I think the Minister is to be commended for that statement. Not only is it a sound, realistic and practical statement but it also relates to the total global aspect of foreign affairs rather than just a regional aspect. This is very important.
There has been a need in this place for a long time not just for a debate but also for a full ministerial statement on Australia’s attitude and its stance generally towards foreign affairs to show clearly where Australia stands in the world today in its attitudes. I shall pass one critical comment on the previous speaker, Senator Primmer, who, unfortunately, in the initial stages of his speech made a couple of rather cynical and critical remarks. They may not have been meant that way but they appeared that way. I refer to his derogatory remarks about the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Peacock. He more or less implied that the Minister is the little fellow running behind the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser). I refute that statement. I feel that the Minister for Foreign Affairs has been accepted not just by his Party but also by the people of this country for his initiatives and realistic approach to the sensitive area of foreign affairs. With due respect I remind Senator Primmer that the previous Prime Minister of this country- I am not being critical in saying this- took a keen and leading interest in foreign affairs. Prime Ministers also have a part to play but I do not accept the comment passed tonight with regard to Mr Peacock. I think that he has brought some refreshing ideas and vigour into this important, sensitive area of foreign affairs.
There is a need for this at present. There is a need for Australia to make clear its stance. With so many problems throughout the world, each year, each day, we hope that we will see a change in attitudes. But wherever we look today we see tragedy and conflicts. One has only to look to Africa to see the problems, the tragedies and the inhumanities of man towards man which are taking place there. They are not conflicts of black against white or white against black. In many cases they are conflicts of black against black. Some of the tragedies are taking place because of the dictatorial attitude- power without glory if I can put it this way- of man against his fellow man. There is the problem of the insurgency in Thailand. These problems occur in many other places but particularly in the area of South East Asia. There are the tragedies of the refugees and the genocide which has taken place and which is still taking place in Cambodia. There are the tragedies in Laos. Perhaps these are hangovers from the Vietnam War but, nevertheless, they are tragedies of man against man and the disrespect for humanity in the world. I am taking up the point that Senator Wheeldon made extremely well in his contribution to the debate this afternoon. One can go further. There are the tragedies in the Middle East with regard to the refugee problem in Lebanon. People have been put out of their own country. They are not game to live in their own country. They have moved out for refuge and they are living in a state of isolation and destitution at present looking for security in some country where they can lead their normal lives in peace and hope for future prosperity.
An arms race is going on throughout the world. The competition within this arms race is feared. One wonders where it will finish. This is still happening between the major powers. There are tensions between Russia and China, 2 major powers. No doubt many honourable senators in this chamber have heard the comment that perhaps the world is lucky that Russia and China today do not see eye to eye; that it could be the saving grace ofthe world. That may be so in one respect. But when we look at the competition which has taken place, the power seeking of these 2 major powers, the events in South East Asia and in so many of the African states, we question how much validity there is in that argument. What would be the situation if Russia and China were united as a joint force? How much danger would there be in the world from what would then be the major super powers? Perhaps they could dominate the world. Whichever way one looks at the situation, there is tension throughout the world.
The Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries introduced a new system of diplomacy. I refer to resources diplomacy. Problems were created with the energy crisis not so long ago when the Arab countries raised the prices of oil and virtually caused a shortage of supply around the world. This was where resources diplomacy really crept in. The effect of the tensions within the Middle East which we have seen over many years is still continuing. One wonders where that will finish. Wherever one looks one finds that there are tensions, problems and tragedies hitting the individual person in various societies. One would hope that as time goes on there may be more sanity within our globe and that man will show more respect to man. Perhaps there will not be the need for countries to arm themselves continually against each other in fear that if they do not arm themselves they will be taken over by some other country which in the interim period has gained far more power than they have done. There have also been changes in the United States of America, one of the superpowers of the world. We saw President Carter come to power. I shall quote from the policy statement of the Minister for Foreign Affairs. It reads:
I turn now to our relations with the United States. The first thing to be said about them is that the uncertainty about the future course of Australian policy, the doubts, reservations and acrimony which were so much a feature of the previous Government’s dealings with the United States, have been removed. We pursue Australia ‘s interests, express our disagreement with American policy where it exists, but the fundamental importance attached to the alliance and the general relationship are no longer in question.
I mention this because Senator Wriedt in his speech in the Senate this afternoon took up this point in Mr Peacock’s statement. He expressed concern that Mr Peacock should make such a reference. He said that relationships between the United States and Australia had never really changed and that they have not changed now. Many honourable senators opposite may think that but, unfortunately, certain senior members of the Labor Party saw the need to pass derogatory remarks about certain senior people and leaders within the United States of America. From talking to Americans who visited Australia, I found that there was concern not only by the Americans themselves but also by many Australians that there could be changes in attitudes between America and Australia. America has been both praised and criticised for many things. We recognise that the U.S.A. is one of the major powers of the world. It also has been one of the most generous nations and has made vast contributions to many countries, not only developing countries but war torn countries in the early post-war years. The United States has done so much in so many ways and, as is often the case, there is very little recognition of it and very little appreciation. Granted, America is rich in resources but we as a nation, small though we be in terms of population, are particularly fortunate to have the great amount of resources that we have.
As time goes on there is no doubt that there will be an ever increasing demand for Australia to play a more important role in this resource hungry world. By working with the United States of America perhaps we can play an ever increasing role in this very important area. I refer again to the statement by the Minister where he referred to the resources that Australia has. He referred to Australia’s role as a food producer and said that our energy resources, our vast mineral resources and our position as a trading nation are bound to enhance our importance. He continued and said:
This in turn will mean not only that our bargaining power will increase, but that we will almost certainly be subjected to more demands and pressures . . .
That is perfectly so. One would expect that we, as a nation with those advantages, will continue to play our part as we have in the past, or perhaps play a bigger role than in the past, as we develop far more capabilities and work for the long term future.
Referring to earlier times, prior to 1935 Australia looked predominantly towards the United Kingdom and virtually regarded herself as a child of the mother country. It was during the crisis of the 1939-1945 war that we turned to America for assistance and since that time there has been a close alliance between Australia and the U.S.A. Some people have been critical of the fact that within that alliance we tended again to trot along like the little dog behind the giant United States. I do not accept that this has been so for quite some time. It may have appeared to be so in an earlier period. We know, and the Minister made it perfectly clear in his statement to the Parliament, that Australia will have independent attitudes in respect of international relationships. Nevertheless we as a country will have a far greater security by having an American alliance. I hope we continue to have that alliance with the United States. I do not say that in a purely selfish or parochial way; I say it because such a thing will have a great bearing on the region in which Australia exists because Australia’s security will also have a big influence on its near neighbours. I refer particularly to the countries which make up the Association of South East Asian Nations, to Indonesia, Malaysia and up through the Philippines. Perhaps we can also include New Zealand. Our security will have a big bearing upon the security of this region and those countries.
I wish to turn now to the Indian Ocean which has been mentioned quite a lot in this discussion. Senator Primmer was very critical of this Government’s approach to the Indian Ocean and in particular to the American base at Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean. I support any moves we can make to lessen tension not only in the Indian Ocean but anywhere in the world. I support the moves, as does the Minister and the Government, to lessen tension in this area and eventually finish up with a zone of peace but 1 would not support any move to ask the United
States to abandon its base in Diego Garcia while Russia is still building up its strength in Berbera. I hope that as time goes on we can see a reduction in this arms race. I sincerely hope that that will be the case. But I would not support any move to have the Americans abandon Diego Garcia whilst the Russians still have their base in that area. In theory it is an excellent idea to support the initiatives to lower the arms race in this area but in reality such a move could be accepted as appeasement and appeasement has never operated successfully because the end result is that there is one dominant power. Having one dominant power is the one thing we must avoid at all costs in the Indian Ocean. I support any moves we can make, as the Prime Minister stated, to reduce the competition of the arms build up and the power race in the Indian Ocean. The Prime Minister and Mr Peacock have made it perfectly clear that they hope to continue to see a balance in the Indian Ocean but to reduce the balance to a very low level.
I want to refer again to the Association of South East Asian Nations which takes in 5 countries in South East Asia- Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines. Those countries got together not so many years ago to see what could be done to develop a better understanding and to develop regional and economic security. It has been amazing to see the development, the respect and the understanding that has taken place in this group of countries. They have seen what has happened with the European Economic Community in the European sector and look to that type of thing as their ideal. These are all developing countries which are fearful of outside influences. They are fearful that there could be some dominant great power rivalry within their region. They have worked together and are working together in many ways to develop their areas, to develop the security of their areas for the betterment of their people. They also look to Australia for support.
I was pleased to see the Minister give not only verbal support in his statement to the nations within the ASEAN group. He also mentioned practical things such as the development of the economies of those countries and the development of trade between them and Australia. This is good to see even though the Minister said that there will be limitations because of the economic situation within Australia at present. However the ideals are there and the practical approach is apparent. This is what the countries have been looking for. They are hungry for money for investment in order to help develop their countries. If we can help them develop economically and socially, in so many ways, such as an exchange of cultural activities between our countries as well as in trade, it will augur well for the security of the area. I commend the Minister and the Government for the realistic approach in this area.
The Minister made great reference to Japan, a country which has developed to become one of the major trading countries, not just on a regional basis but on a world basis. Today Japan has a big economic influence on a global basis. I am glad that this Government has followed up the work done by the previous Government with regard to negotiations, trade and understanding with Japan. It has placed far more emphasis upon the area than did the previous Government. This is illustrated by the fact that 4 Ministers went to Japan earlier this year to have broad discussions in so many areas. The discussions covered not only cultural but also economic aspects and trade developments between our countries. All these moves are excellent. I think that the amount of progress we have made this year is extremely good. One hopes that it will continue.
As I said earlier, Japan is a very important country. Today it is a very influential country. Geographically, Japan sits at the top end of our area while Australia sits at the bottom. There can be beneficial effects in a flow-on in this important region of the world which, not long ago, was overlooked because of the dominance of Europe and of so many areas. Today it is accepted that this area is one of great potential even though there has been and will continue to be economic instability because so many of these countries are still developing. It will be up to countries like Australia, Japan and the United States of America to do all they can to assist in the further development of nations in this very important region.
I turn to China, another important country, and one to which, for years, we as a nation gave no recognition. I commend the Whitlam Government as the government which initiated the moves to recognise China. I go further and say that I was very pleased to see that both the Prime Minister and Mr Peacock, early in government, made a point of going to China and having discussions with its leaders. So what was initiated by a previous government was continued, perhaps at a faster rate. While the ideologies between the 2 countries may be different in so many ways, one thing has been proven throughout the history of the world and that is that nothing has ever been achieved by turning one’s back on people. It is far better to talk with people and to trade with them. From that one gains respect and a better understanding. If we continue to have a better understanding between peoples we have a greater chance of having peace in the world. The Minister, with regard to the various aspects of China’s situation and Australia’s attitude towards some of the ideologies of China, has made the matter perfectly clear. In relation to the developments with China he stated:
There are . . . points it is necessary to make about our relations with China. The first is that our concern with improving relations has in no way inhibited us from taking up matters on which we disagree. In the Peking talks it was apparent that these include such important questions as nuclear proliferation and testing, our respective positions on the Middle East conflict, and the question of support for insurgency, particularly in South East Asia. These are anything but trivial matters and there has been no attempt to minimise the significance of the differences over them. On the question of support for insurgency, in their talks with the Prime Minister the Chinese leaders used a formula which in the view of Dr Stephen FitzGerald, our then Ambassador in Peking, was significantly different from ones they had previously used. But what is important ultimately- and it is very importantis what happens on the ground. We shall be watching with close interest for evidence of changes in levels of activity and degrees of support.
So while we show respect to China and while we continue to do so, the Minister has made it clear that we do not agree with all that China does. No doubt China does not agree with all that Australia does but the main thing is that we continue to talk, to respect each other and to trade together. I hope, as Senator Scott said this afternoon, that we will continue to give more aid with the development of agriculture in China. This is the sort of assistance and understanding which can only bring great benefit to both countries, and ultimately, as this assistance spreads further, it will benefit so many other countries. One hopes that as time goes on more and more peoples and nations will see fit to talk to each other and to try to help each other rather than having the tragedies which we have seen because, for too long, there has been an attempt to dominate and, in the process of domination, to hurt each other.
I briefly mention Papua New Guinea which is now a very close neighbour. For so long Papua New Guinea was dependent upon Australia and today is an independent nation. It is a nation full of potential. As a nation I think it has done a remarkable job when one considers that it is not very many years since its people were still in the primitive state. Many of them are still in a very primitive state. But today many of its people have moved out. They are sophisticated and articulate. As I have said, New Guinea is a country with great potential. It has wonderful people who, if given the chance, will certainly make a success of their country. Since being in Parliament I have spent quite a bit of time visiting Papua New Guinea. I think the people are some of the nicest, friendliest, most energetic and intelligent one could ever wish to meet. One hopes that we as a nation will continue to give support to Papua New Guinea because, as an emerging nation, it will have many troubles and traumas. It will look to us for assistance. I hope that we will continue to give assistance to Papua New Guinea because, as far as I am concerned, such assistance is well worth giving and it will show rewards in times to come when Papua New Guinea will emerge with its potential and with the kinds of people it has, into a good and great little nation.
Before my time expires I wish to make some reference to the law of the sea about which discussions have gone on for many years in the United Nations. The discussions have been highly contentious and no doubt they will continue to be for a long time. There are many problems with regard to resolving the situation of the law of the sea because some countries have already claimed jurisdiction over the 200-mile limit from their coast. This gives them 200 miles of economic zone. But in this area we have other problems with the international regional seabed beyond the limits of these areas of national jurisdiction. With the Third World and many other countries there is still a lack of any understanding. One wonders how much longer it will take in discussion at the United Nations before the situation is resolved. Australia is one of the major coastal states in the world and has played a very important part in discussions on the law of the sea at the United Nations. We have been fortunate to have had some excellent representatives who have been recognised as having played a leading role in those discussions. I am aware of the comments by the Minister that we, as a country, have played such an important part. As a coastal state, this matter affects us. But we will not do anything which could upset reaching some final agreement and understanding on the aspect of the law of the sea.
Quite frankly, I feel it is necessary for us soon to make a clear decision as to where we are going in relation to the law of the sea and whether we will lay claim to our 200 miles of the economic zone. I think it is necessary that we do this and 1 hope that we will do it. I hope that we will lay claim to the 200 miles because we have great potential in many of our off-shore areas. 1 hope we will do what so many other countries, including the United States of America and Russia, have already done, and that is to lay claim to the 200 miles. But that brings with it responsibilities and problems. Firstly, we have to look to the development of our resources in that area. We cannot let them sit there in a static situation. We have to look at the aspect of resource sharing. We have to look at where the lines of demarcation will finish with our bordering nations. We have to look at the surveillance in the area to which we have laid claim. So many responsibilities go along with the claim. I repeat that I hope that Australia will soon make up its mind as to where we go in what I consider is a very important area. With advances in technology, off-shore areas can play a very important part in assisting the development of this great nation.
Finally, 1 hope that all nations as time goes by will play in international affairs perhaps not a bigger role than they are playing today but a more responsible role than they have played in the past and will not overlook the fact that, while power politics might be very important, the most important overall factor is man himself. I hope that more prominence will be given to the inhumanities that have taken place in preceding years and generations and that more respect will be paid irrespective of race, colour or creed by man for his fellow man. I have much pleasure in supporting the Minister’s statement.
– We are debating a ministerial statement on foreign policy that was made by the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock) in another place on 15 March. On reading the Minister’s statement, it becomes apparent that the Government is aiming to be deliberately vague on foreign policy. This is evident in Australia’s foreign policy position on a global basis, on a regional basis and even in our bilateral relations with certain countries. Before I deal with the policy statement, I wish to make a few comments about some of the remarks that have been made by honourable senators in this debate this afternoon and this evening. Senator Wheeldon spoke for some time on the recent elections in India and what the result means. I certainly agree with him that it was a victory for democracy. It was my privilege to be with Senator Wheeldon and other honourable senators in India early last year. When we came back from that visit I think all of us had the impression that democracy in India was on the decline. We did not think that free elections would be held in the near future. We took up the case of the Chairman of the Socialist Party, George Fernandes, who was gaoled in India -
– He was an official of the railways unions, was he not?
– As Senator Mulvihill prompts me, he was President of the All Indian railways union. I know that Senator Mulvihill would have great interest in that aspect. We certainly came back from India with the opinion that Fernandes had taken the right stand in deciding that he would not take part in the election campaign that was about to be held because he thought that he could not campaign from detention in gaol and that the elections would be rigged. However, wiser heads prevailed and the Socialist Party of India decided that it would take part in the election campaign as part ofthe coalition which stood against the Congress Party. People have said that if someone campaigns from gaol in India that is a mark of respect and history bears this out. It is now history that Fernandes won his seat from gaol by over 300 000 votes and that the coalition parties were successful. Regardless of whether one supports Fernandes or the Congress Party the election result is certainly a great turnaround from the position we saw in India and a great victory for democracy not only in that part of Asia but throughout the world.
I also wish to comment on some of the remarks that Senator Young just made. Senator Wriedt also mentioned the same matter earlier in the debate. I refer to that section of the foreign policy statement that dealt with the United States. I too wish to quote it in part because I think Senator Young put the wrong interpretation on it and Senator Wriedt put the best interpretation on it. That section reads:
I turn now to our relations with the United States. The first thing to be said about them is that the uncertainty about the future course of Australian policy, he doubts, reservations and acrimony which were so much a feature ofthe previous Government’s dealings with the United States, have been removed.
Senator Young quoted further but I will stop there. I believe that that part of the Minister’s statement is nonsense. I looked for a quotation this afternoon, but could not find it, from a former U.S. Ambassador to Australia, Mr Marshall Green, who said that after an initial period of some difficulty with the new Labor Government he felt that relations between the 2 countries, the United States of America and Australia under that government, perhaps had never been better and had never been more frank. That ought to be said now and put on the record because that part of the Minister’s speech was certainly quoted out of context by Senator Young tonight. Fifteen months after coming to office the Minister introduced this foreign policy statement with which, because of its vague and general nature, we on this side of the chamber do not find much to disagree. I think that our Foreign Minister has been obliged to be deliberately vague in this statement. This has enabled him to gloss over some of what I consider to be Government mistakes in foreign policy over the last year or so. The most obvious failures have been with respect to our attitude on the Indian Ocean, our policy on the Sino-Soviet dispute and our relationship with Japan and with the countries of the Association of South East Asian Nations. The Minister in his statement said:
I would not disagree with that point. Unfortunately, despite the Minister’s statement, the Government shows no signs of having learnt the truth of these words because it continues to be wrong-footed on foreign policy and overtaken on international developments. The best example is in respect of the Indian Ocean. We have had recent statements by President Carter and the Prime Minister of Great Britain, Mr Callaghan, demonstrating the thinking of the major Western countries on the Indian Ocean. Both statements are at great variance with the thinking of the Australian Government. That is because President Garter and Mr Callaghan have adopted a more realistic approach to and enlightened position on the need for the Indian Ocean to be a zone of peace, free from military presence, different from the Indian Ocean with which the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and the Minister for Defence (Mr Killen) seem to be so obsessed. Just as previous LiberalNational Country Party governments were continually wrong-footed on issues such as Suez, the recognition of China, Vietnam and the aftermath of Vietnam, this Government is showing that it is equally unable to discern friends in the international arena.
I wish now to deal very briefly with SinoSoviet relations because in the first few months of this Government’s Administration- or maadminstration- a continual outpouring of statements from the Prime Minister and the Minister for Defence warned us of the danger of the Soviet military threat. 1 remember one night listening to the honourable member for Phillip (Mr Birney) in another place mention the danger of Soviet submarines off the coast of New Zealand. When this was investigated the ‘submarines’ turned out to be whales, and not secret submarines that were rendezvousing at night with Russian vessels. At the time the Minister for
Defence went so far as to state in most categorical terms that the Soviet Union posed a direct military threat to Australia. This claim again is brought to the fore in the Foreign Minister’s statement when he emphasises the growth of Soviet military power. However, the Minister has not taken into consideration statements continually made by political leaders in the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and leaders of past and present United States Administrations that the present Western military strength is at least equal to and in many respects far superior to that of the Soviet Union and its allies. Dr Kissinger on 25 March last year in London said:
United States strategic forces are superior in accuracy, diversity, reliability, survivability and numbers of separately targetable nuclear warheads. We have a commanding lead in strategic bombers … the economic and technological base which underlies western military strength remains overwhelmingly superior in size and capacity for innovation.
Dr Kissinger also said; and the Prime Minister would do well to bear this in mind:
Complacency may produce weakness; but exaggeration of danger can lead to a loss of will.
Certainly, those remarks apply to the Indian Ocean.
– Who said that?
- Dr Kissinger said that in London on 25 June last year. The Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence rejected the notion of the Prime Minister that a Soviet naval presence in the Indian Ocean constituted a threat to Australia. The Committee in its report stated:
No direct threat to Australia exists at present from the Soviet Union’s naval presence in the Indian Ocean, nor is there a threat of Soviet interdiction to the multi-national merchant fleets that ply their trade throughout the region.
Of course, as Senator Knight knows, because he was a member of that Committee along with me. some of the arguments that were being put up by the Prime Minister were found to be untrue. One of the main arguments was based on ship days. If a Soviet whaling vessel, fishing vessel or oiling vessel went into the Indian Ocean and was there for 10 days, this was counted as 10 ship days to be added to a total to prove the Soviet naval presence in the Indian Ocean. But if the USS Enterprise entered the Indian Ocean for 10 days, this was also counted as just 10 ship days. Of course the USS Enterprise has the capability to wipe out whole countries, let alone naval vessels in the Indian Ocean. The United States of America, as the Committee found, has a low commitment in the Indian Ocean. That country wants to project a perception of power in the littoral States in the Indian Ocean. One of the main things we found was that it was not only the super powers that were trying to project this perception of power in the Indian Ocean. In fact. France has the largest fleet in the Indian Ocean at the present time.
I turn to deal with relations with the People ‘s Republic of China. I believe that the Prime Minister’s visit to China in June 1976 resulted in Australia being made somewhat of a laughing stock in the eyes of the international diplomatic community. The Prime Minister when in China put forward the notion “of a 4-power anti-Soviet military alliance between the U.S.A., Japan, China and Australia. What happened with this? It was rejected by all concerned and regarded for what it was- something of a pipe dream. The Prime Minister at the time demonstrated his complete ignorance of Sino-Japanese relations and his insensitivity to the realities of politics of north-east Asia.
Let me deal with what the foreign affairs policy statement has to say in regard to Japan. Australia’s relations with Japan under the present Government exemplify the traditional Liberal-National Country Party tendency to reduce foreign policy to an adjunct of trade policy, as Senator Wheeldon stated this afternoon. I think that we ought to look at examples of this tendency. There are quite a few of them. The Japan-Australia ministerial talks were used as a device for attacking the Australian trade union movement. It was continually attacked. One only has to look at some of the speeches made during the Western Australian State election to realise how the talks were used for this purpose. We had the threat of the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) of a commodities war with the Japanese. We had the ludicrous stand of the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Anthony) on the export of minerals and other natural resources. What he implied was that we should export or the Japanese military would descend and take them from us. Finally in relation to Japan there was the threat to withhold fishing rights from Japanese vessels. This threat contains the seeds of a potentially disastrous split between Australia and Japan. Naturally, the Japanese fear dislocations to their economic activity in any sphere, but particularly in this sphere. I believe that Mr Sinclair did Australia a great disservice on this issue as he has done on so many other issues.
I now turn to deal with regional issues. Once again, we have had the Prime Minister, Mr Fraser, using his delicate approach to ASEANthe Association of South East Asian Nations.
What he did there was to make a request for observer status for Australia at the ASEAN summit meeting early in 1976. I believe that this seriously embarrassed the Association members. Of course, the request was denied by all the ASEAN countries. The Government then indicated that it wished to see closer relations between Australia and ASEAN. Unfortunately, neither the Prime Minister nor the Foreign Minister were willing or able to explain exactly what they had in mind at that point of time. Finally, in July 1976 ASEAN rejected this Government’s proposal for an ASEAN-Australian trade committee. The reason given was this Government’s unwillingness to negotiate with the ASEAN bloc on the crucial issue of Australian trade barriers. Now, the sum total of these unfortunate developments in Australian relations with the ASEAN group is that Australia’s standing in the region has gone backwards.
In the policy statement, the Foreign Minister has also dealt with southern Africa. I do not think that any honourable senator from either side of the Senate would not say that southern Africa has become a flashpoint. It has become a focal point for international attention because the ending of Portuguese colonial rule has resulted in new, apparently revolutionary, states emerging in both Angola and Mozambique. A similar situation is apparently developing in Namibia and Zimbabwe. This Government appears once again merely to be following the developments that have taken place rather than attempting to take constructive initiatives. In fact, what we have done regarding Mozambique is to cut back our assistance program or to eliminate it completely. I also believe that this is a regressive move. Senator Wheeldon asked this afternoon when he dealt with this issue on a broader basis: Where will Mozambique turn now? To which country will it look for aid? Will it have to go to the Soviet Union? Perhaps it will. I remember the response given to a question I asked of Senator Withers during the hearings of, I think, Senate Estimates Committee A. I questioned him on why Australia was cutting out all aid to Mozambique. He said to me, in effect: Senator, we do not give aid to people who kill one another’. I said at the time that I wished that policy had been made retrospective in respect to Vietnam.
Southern Africa is an area of foreign policy where the issues of human rights are very much in the foreground. 1 believe that Australia should be taking the lead in this respect. It should be using its influence in the international arena. We should be bringing greater pressure to bear on regimes such as that of Idi Amin in Uganda. Again, on the issue of human rights, we ought to make some mention of the need for Australia to develop a coherent and realistic policy to the question of refugees. I served on the Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence that dealt with the reference of Australia and the refugee problem. One of the decisions to which we came stated:
The formulation of a comprehensive set of policy guidelines and the establishment of appropriate machinery should assume a higher priority for government and must be tackled with some degree of urgency -
– Quite right.
– As Senator Knight says, that is quite right. The report on Australia and the refugee problem also stated:
It is essential that there exist an approved and comprehensive set of policy guidelines together with the necessary administrative machinery to be applied to refugee situations.
What did we find? Dr Jean Martin of the Australian National University was conducting a unique study- unique by world standards- into the problems of Vietnamese refugees. This study applied not only to Vietnamese refugees in Australia but also to refugees right throughout the world. Every member of the Committee recommended that this study should be completed and that more funds should be given so that we could find out the problems of these people who had been brought to Australia because of the dislocation that they had suffered in the countries from which they came. What happened? Of course, this Government terminated Dr Jean Martin’s study because of lack of funds. I believe that this is one of the biggest mistakes that has been made in refugee policy for a long time.
There are a number of other issues with which I want to deal briefly and which the Minister mentioned in his foreign policy statement. The first of those issues is the Australian-Indonesian relationship. What we have at the moment is a backing and filling on this matter. The Government is showing signs that it will cave in, that it is being subjected to pressure by the Suharto administration. We have seen already the seizure of the Fretilin radio transmitter in the Northern Territory. We have seen the Government hedging over Jim Dunn’s visit to the U.S. I believe that all these things provide evidence of the unprincipled stand that is being taken on the East Timorese question. It seems strange to me that we have a U.S. Congressional Committee thousands of miles away looking at the problem of
East Timor, yet at the moment here in the Australian Parliament we cannot get a select committee or even a committee of the Senate to look at the situation that has occurred in East Timor.
I was in the United States during the Presidential campaign. I had the privilege of meeting Congressman Don Fraser who is now the chairman of the committee which is looking into the East Timor situation. He has no particular bias towards the Indonesians, the Timorese or the Australian Government. He is a person who is very concerned with human rights. He is a member of Amnesty International. He is extremely concerned about the thousands of people who have been slaughtered in East Timor. He has an inquiry going. I believe that there was a statement in one of the newspapers today that in fact the Indonesian Government has* said to Congressman Fraser’s committee that it will be prepared to take the committee to Indonesia and to East Timor. Yet this Parliament at the moment cannot see its way clear to make any sort of committee available to look at the problem there.
The South Pacific was also mentioned in the policy statement. A reference on this matter has been given to the Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence. This is a good move and I congratulate the Government on it even though it seems it has only just realised that the South Pacific area exists as an area of political significance and one in which we have responsibilities, and we do have responsibilities. I think it is worthy of mention that between 1972 and 1975 Australian aid to the area under a Labor Government increased by 400 per cent. I certainly hope that the investigations of the Committee into the area will result in a greater awareness of Australia ‘s commitment in the region.
I want briefly to turn now to a couple of other matters that were brought up in the Minister’s statement. I think everybody in the Senate would agree that the Middle East is one of the flash points in foreign affairs throughout the world. If we had to look at an area where there was a likelihood of a major conflict breaking out, perhaps another world war breaking out, we would certainly have to look at the Middle East. A number of members of the Senate have been sitting on a committee which has been dealing with the Middle East situation as far as it concerns Lebanon. The situation is tragic. It concerns refugees who have been coming into Australia. It concerns the killing of thousands of people in Lebanon. What did we have? Mr Chamoun, one of the leaders of the Christian Lebanese community, one of the main spokesmen, one ofthe main participants in the struggle in Lebanon, had a visa refused -
– A former President.
– A former President, as Senator Wheeldon reminds me. He was refused a visa to come into this country. It does not matter whether he is a Christian or a Moslem. The sub-committee of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence would certainly have been able to get a lot of comment from Mr Chamoun. But, of course, he was not allowed to come into the country. I found that to be a very strange action by a government that says it has an even-handed policy in the Middle East.
While we are talking about even-handedness in the Middle East, I want to reiterate the point about the Palestine Liberation Organisation that was made by Senator Wheeldon here this afternoon. We have had reports, as was stated, that the moderates in the PLO have made significant gains at the meeting that was recently held and that in fact they are now moderating their policy towards Israel. If one reads between the lines and reads the statements one sees that the PLO is still not prepared to recognise the existence of the state of Israel. While the PLO does not recognise the existence of the state of Israel how can any government deal with the PLO? How can anybody see the establishment of a Palestinian state? Surely it does not matter what our own attitudes are towards this problem, we must firstly stick by resolution 242 of the United Nations which guarantees the right of Israel to exist behind safe and recognisable borders.
One hears a lot of criticism, from both sides of the chamber, of the role that Idi Amin is playing in Uganda. I certainly go along with people who condemn him for all the things that he does and all the things for which his regime stands. We do not hear a great deal about the leader of Libya, Colonel Gaddafi. We should look into the record of Colonel Gaddafi, not only at what he is doing in the Middle East but what he is doing throughout the world. One of the committees which I am on heard evidence which has been made public about his involvement in the narcotics trade which is now operating on the east coast of America. What we should all agree upon is that Colonel Gaddafi is one of the most sinister men in world politics today.
I said at the start of my speech that I believed the policy statement was deliberately vague. It takes us nowhere. I think the policy is remarkable only to the extent that it is tentative, uncertain and lacking in overall direction and sense of purpose. As happened in the 1960s foreign policy is not being made; it is being allowed to happen in response to developments that take place outside Australia’s shores. From reading this statement one sees that Australia’s foreign policy has no fundamental moral basis; neither is it committed to any long-term political objectives. On any criteria this statement of foreign policy falls well short of what is satisfactory for Australia. I believe that only a Labor government, with a strong sense of principle and a firm commitment to ideals as well as realistic goals, can provide Australia with the perspective on our foreign relations which is suited to the nation’s moral conscience and to the nation’s essential needs.
– The debate so far has been very wide ranging. I want to refer to a few specific areas only. It is significant that the statement by the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock) has been welcomed by many honourable senators opposite. Of course, it has been unanimously welcomed by honourable senators on this side of the chamber. That is rightly so despite Senator Sibraa ‘s charges of vagueness. 1 am not one who believes that bipartisanship in foreign policy is necessarily desirable with respect to every aspect of foreign policy though it is perhaps in important areas. Debate itself is important and debate on significant issues of foreign policy should be conducted in a sensible and reasonable way. I think that is the way this debate has been conducted. Nevertheless the statement, and the debate which has followed it, has shown a welcome degree of bipartisanship in foreign policy.
The Foreign Minister’s statement deserves to be welcomed as one of the most significant to have been put to the Parliament in several years. It is a realistic and independent approach to foreign policy. It is all the more commendable for the fact that it does not need to assert that in any strident tone. The Minister in his statement made reference to what he has called elsewhere the changing agenda of international relationships. That, of course, refers to the basic shift of emphasis from political matters and military power to economic and particularly resources issues in foreign policy. The point has been made and I think quite properly that this is likely to result in more demands being made on Australia and in some respects more pressure being brought to bear on us in international affairs.
The Foreign Minister’s statement to the Parliament recognises implicitly but clearly that we are no longer living in what has often been called a ‘post- Vietnam’ situation which is far too simplistic a way of looking at the international situation now. There have been many other changes of great significance. Recently a new government was elected in Japan. There is a new administration in China. Vietnam has established itself as a major force in Indo-China. Laos and Cambodia are facing a less certain, less clear future. Thailand has political problems, lt has insurgency in the south and in the north and more than 75 000 refugees from the Indo-China conflict. This is a matter to which I will return later.
The Association of South East Asian Nations has emerged in the last few years as a coherent and, I think, significant regional force. It has developed special dialogues with countries such as Australia, Japan, Canada and also the European Communities. The Foreign Minister quite rightly has made reference to the importance of the European communities to Australia. Reference has also been made to the very significant and very recent changes in the Indian sub-continent. I endorse what Senator Sibraa has said about the victory of democracy which we have seen in the last few days in the Indian subcontinent. It is a very significant change that the Indian Congress Party has been displaced from power after 30 years. The Congress Party has ruled India since independence and for the first time a new party, Janata, will take over. I think that to the leaders of Janata all of us would extend our congratulations and good wishes in the enormous tasks confronting them. Men who have led India at different times over the years, men such as Jayaprakash Narayan and Jagjivan Ram and Morarji Desai, would now seem to be at the helm of India, and we must wish them well.
All of these events have produced a situation in Asia and in the region around Australia which requires new policies and responses from us. Those new responses are evident in the statement made by the Foreign Minister. He has made it clear, and rightly so, that we are not living in the bi-polar super power world of a few years ago. We are living in a world where there are new forces, one of the most important being the countries of the Third World which are taking a much stronger and more assertive role in international affairs, a role of which we must be cognisant. These responses and policies, as I believe the Minister’s statement indicates quite clearly, are now being formulated on the basis of a clear perception of the new agenda in international relations. One of the major factors which may require a new response from Australia is the new administration in the United
States. It could require some reassessment in particular by Australia of the new international agenda.
The Carter Administration has already indicated that it will give priority in its international relationships to Europe and Japan, and VicePresident Mondale ‘s recent overseas visits have made that clear enough. The international trouble spots which have attracted the attention of the new administration are the Middle East and Africa. It seems that South East Asia and the related South Pacific area will be of relatively low priority in the foreign policy of the new administration. Despite statements concerning consultations with traditional allies, I think we have to recognise that Australia may be even more on the periphery of United States policy than it has been in the past. That will require a reassessment of our relationship and our alliance with the United States. It will also require a reassessment of Australia’s regional role, and 1 believe it will mean that a greater effort has to be made by us- and by Japan, I should add- in this region. In fact, our relationship with the United States may need to be supplemented by a more integrated relationship with Japan and the countries of ASEAN. Because of these developments. I believe that our relationship with the United States will be more diverse and complex and possibly a much more substantial relationship in the future.
The Minister’s statement draws attention to proposals for what is referred to as a ‘new international economic order’. These proposals will be of particular significance in the region in which we live. In fact, the proposals will be fundamental to Australia’s future relations with ASEAN and the South Pacific countries. Australia introduced preferences for lesser developed countries in 1966, which was an early recognition of the importance of trade as well as aid and of one of the factors which is emerging as fundamental to the idea of a new international economic order. In December last year the Government announced the introduction of new trade concessions for developing countries under the multilateral trade negotiations. The sorts of new concepts which are now emerging in international affairs relate to issues such as the exchange of technology, tariffs, transnational corporations and their operations, the transfer of resources, energy, and the general question of resources. The Minister put this very clearly in his statement to the Parliament, and I think it is worth recalling that he said:
For at least the next decade, we will still bc a sparselypopulated and richly-endowed country in a world which is going to be increasingly overcrowded, short of food, energy and other essentials, and seized of the importance of how the world’s resources are distributed and utilised. This is not an empty cliche. It points to the heart of Australia’s foreign policy problem over the coming years. We had better address ourselves to it because it will certainly address itself to us. Those who think that it is a realistic approach to stand pat, to wait and see, to conduct business as usual, are seriously under-estimating the dynamics of the situation. In many areas the time for decision is rapidly approaching.
I might say that I do not think that makes foreign policy an ‘adjunct of trade policy’, as it was called by Senator Sibraa. I suggest that in fact it is a realistic statement of the complex elements which now go to make foreign policy and which are unavoidably part of foreign policy. These new aspects, these new concepts, particularly with respect to international economic relations, are inextricably linked with the range of traditional foreign policy issues, and the Minister’s statement has quite properly recognised that link and has stressed the point in very clear terms.
With respect to Australia’s development assistance, it has always been based on the principle of direct grants, and I believe that that principle must be maintained. Our development assistance should contribute directly to development but also to greater self-reliance for the countries concerned, and I suggest two particular areas where I think greater emphasis might be given. The first is the provision of what has come to be known as ‘intermediate technology’ so that equipment or training is directly relevant to the needs and capacities of the recipient. The second is what is referred to as ‘grass roots’ projects, which include small village level projects in Asian or Pacific countries, providing direct assistance, whether it is finance, equipment, training or personnel, for development at the local level. I simply make the point that I for one reject the facile dedication to targets in aid. While I believe our aid should be expanded significantly and rapidly, I do not think that the setting of targets is the most relevant criterion, lt is the nature, the quality and the relevance of our aid to the recipient that counts.
Another area where assistance is important is that of refugees. We should be doing everything we can to assist Indo-Chinese refugees in particular. In fact this is a very important foreign policy issue. While obviously many aspects of the issue are dealt with by the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (Mr MacKellar), it nevertheless remains a foreign policy issue, an issue which will have an impact upon our relations with countries around the world. In February I visited Thailand, where more than 75 000 refugees are now living in camps in various parts of the country. I visited one such camp 10 kilometres inside the Laotian border where there were 1 2 000 people. People such as these are not welcomed by Thailand, though the Thais have done much, in fact an enormous amount, to help. The refugees cannot go back to their homelands, and I am sure that it is obvious to anyone visiting the camps, and presumably to others who have not had that opportunity, that these people are in a desperate plight living in refugee camps. I believe that countries such as Australia should do more.
Reference has already been made to the report on the refugee problem made by the Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence. Last November the Committee recommended that guidelines and administrative arrangements to assist refugees should be established. I believe that that has to be done as a matter of urgency. In paragraph 7.1 of the report reference is made to the need for a comprehensive set of policy guidelines, together with the necessary administrative machinery to be applied to refugee situations. Paragraph 7.4 states:
I insert the word ‘only’- on their integration into the community of the receiving country:
Paragraph 7.14 calls for the establishment of an Australian refugee policy council. Paragraph 7.18 proposes a standing interdepartmental committee on refugees. It is significant that in each of those last 2 cases it is recommended that the Department of Foreign Affairs be represented. That is a proper recognition, I think, of the extent to which this matter is a foreign policy issue. I add that I think the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (Mr MacKellar) has shown an enlightened approach to the plight of IndoChinese refugees. I know also that he was in Thailand in February. I think we have to continue to extend our efforts for these people as well as for other refugees from such areas as East Timor and the Lebanon.
I refer also to the Indian Ocean, a subject on which a number of speakers have made comments. Suggestions have been made from time to time that the Indian Ocean should become a zone of peace. The assumption seems to be that if the super-powers, and presumably all other powers, remove all their forces and facilities it will then be a zone of peace. It is then apparently assumed that this will always remain the case. However, there is the question of what future attitude regional powers might adopt. If there is to be a zone of peace it seems to me that there are at least 3 primary requirements before such a proposal ceases to be a very fine aspiration, as it is, and becomes in any sense a real possibility. The first is that the United States should agree to the proposal; secondly, that the Soviet Union should agree to the proposal; and, thirdly, that both super-powers then should completely remove all their forces, bases and any other facilities from the Indian Ocean. Of those 3 primary criteria it seems that part of the first criterion has been fulfilled but no other.
President Carter has referred to ‘demilitarisation’ of the Indian Ocean, but he has since clarified this by referring to- and I quote from Press reports I have seen- mutual military restraint. This is clearly in accord with the position set down by the Foreign Minister, Mr Peacock. He stated:
I think that accords with the statement which has now been made by President Carter, that is, that there should be mutual military restraint in the Indian Ocean. This is something with which I think we would all agree.
With respect to the Middle East, the Foreign Minister’s statement makes clear the Government’s unequivocal support for Israel’s right to exist and for its security and its borders to be assured. But this cannot happen while the Palestine Liberation Organisation rejects Israel’s right to exist. There has been some slight but most indeterminate movement recently, but I think it needs to be made clear that there is no indication at all that the PLO will recognise Israel’s right to exist. Until the PLO is prepared unequivocally to reverse its stand I believe we must reject the PLO’s attitude to Israel. That does not mean that we do not have concern for the Palestinian people, all of whom are not necessarily represented, by any means, by the PLO. There should be a homeland for refugees who have suffered in the strife of the Middle East for the past 30 years. I make the point that the Arab states have to accept their responsibilities also, particularly the States of Syria and Jordan, for example.
It is recognised that foreign policy is traditionally the preserve of the executive government. But implicit in much of what the Foreign Minister has said has been the need for greater community participation. He made this much more explicit in an earlier statement. I quote from a speech by the Foreign Minister on 18 November 1976 in which he said, referring to foreign policy:
These things cannot, and should not, be done by Government alone. What I have spoken of is a national agenda, not a government agenda, and unless we can find answers which have widespread support in the community, they will not be viable answers … If Australia- a country rich in food, minerals, energy, space; a country far removed geographically from other developed countries; a sparsely populated country; a country with a black minority- is to move successfully through a quarter century in which issues of resources, economic inequality, food, race, population are going to assume an unprecedented importance, then it is essential that the Australian people as a whole become involved in and informed about the process of shaping our foreign policy.
I believe that is a most significant statement; it is important that the community should become more involved in the foreign policy process. I have said already that this process normally is very much the preserve of executive government. There are reasons for this. These include the lack of legislation on international affairs, the need for confidentiality in many international dealings and the general preoccupation of the Parliament with domestic issues.
There is a need, I think, to try to involve the community more. Perhaps this has never been more important than it is at the present time of change, uncertainty and greater complexities in the international arena. It is obviously the responsibility of governments to. assess the views of the community more thoroughly, particularly before going ahead with some of the essential adjustments to our foreign policy in changing circumstances to which I have referred and to which, of course, the Foreign Minister referred. There is a great need for closer communication between the Government and the people on foreign policy issues so that the Government is better aware of the feelings of-the community on such issues and so that the people better understand changes occurring in the world and the action the Government is taking in respect of them. It is all too rarely that we have a debate such as this in the Parliament. In the late 1960s Canada conducted an experiment in obtaining public views on foreign policy. I think there may be a lesson in that. There could be value in holding a series of meetings and seminars around Australia under the auspices of the Government. These could be held in conjunction with interested groups, such as the Australian Institute of International Affairs and the Australian Council for Overseas Aid and other appropriate groups and organisations. Such meetings could be addressed by Ministers, other Government representatives and senior Public Service officials. They could involve a wide range of Commonwealth departments’ such as the Department of Overseas Trade, the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, the Department of Defence, the Department of the Treasury, the Department of Primary Industry, the Department of Industry and Commerce, the Department of Science, the Australian Broadcasting Commission and Radio Australia and the Atomic Energy Commission. Almost every department and instrumentality of the Commonwealth is relevant to Australia’s international policies.
This process could be conducted over a period of several months with a report going to the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and the Foreign Minister, perhaps suggesting the lines of development for Australia ‘s foreign policy in the years immediately ahead. I believe this could ensure a greater degree of public comment on and perhaps contribution to an area of policy on which the general community usually has far too little opportunity to comment or to participate with the decision makers. This process could deal also with the development and structure of Australia ‘s overseas service. Australia obviously relies very heavily on its international links, particularly in terms of our security and trade. It is important that the morale of our overseas service be maintained and that it has a backup to operate efficiently and effectively in Australia’s interests.
The great challenges to Australia’s foreign policy in the late 1970s are the new factors and the greater complexities which are now emerging in international relationships. This will require new responses. I think the Foreign Minister’s statement recognises these factors and outlines new responses. The statement that the Minister has made sets an appropriate course for Australia’s foreign policy into the 1980s.
– I think the outstanding feature of the foreign policy statement of the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock) is that it is an admission that 5 years ago or even less its terminology would have been deemed to come from some way-out left wing source. When I see on the first page of the statement the term ‘the Third World countries’ I can well recall the late 1950s when a former officer of the Department of Foreign Affairs, Dr John Burton, went as an observer to Bandung and wrote many articles on the long-range consequences of events in the non-aligned countries in that region. Of course, history has proved him to be right.
Another milestone occurred about 7 years ago in a foreign affairs debate that took place in this chamber. I can remember that some of us advanced a theory on the European question and the strategic roles of Yugoslavia and Rumania. I can remember a number of back bench senators of the Liberal-Country Party coalition- I define them as backwoodsmen- questioning John Gorton in relation to a dialogue that had occurred. I asked him whether he thought that there was a strategic role to be played by countries such as Yugoslavia which were not part of the Warsaw Pact and which were not part of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation. He agreed with me. I think that what we predicted in the views we expressed has certainly come to pass.
I notice that Senator Knight, my colleague Senator Sibraa, and one or two other honourable senators made the question of Australian responsibility to political refugees quite a feature of their speeches. I say with all due respect and free from any racism that I think we can over-react to the recent war in Asia. I do not say for one moment that, because I was not a supporter of the Government that was a party to taking the original decision to send an expeditionary force to that region, this fact should dominate our entire thinking in relation to our intake of political refugees. It was in that vein that I wrote to our Foreign Minister in order to take up the cudgels on behalf of some of the rapidly growing Latin American associations that abound in Sydney and Melbourne. In fairness to the Minister, I must point out that he did give me a comprehensive answer. I seek leave of the Senate to have incorporated in Hansard the response from the Minister on the question of a balanced political refugee intake.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Maunsell)- Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. 77ie document read as follows-
Minister for Foreign Affairs
You wrote to me on 3 February about the position of Latin American refugees and asked in particular about Mr Rafael Copelo, a Uruguayan who is at present in Australia.
I note that you have submitted Mr Copelo ‘s case to my colleague the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs and since I received your letter, I have had my Department discuss Mr Copelo ‘s case with the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs. I understand that arrangements have now been made to interview Mr Copelo in relation to his desire to remain in Australia. As you know, decisions on entry and stay in Australia are the responsibility of my colleague, but my Depanment will naturally be making available to the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs information which it holds on the situation in Uruguay, to assist in determining Mr Copelo ‘s case.
I have noted your comments on the relative claims for refuge in Australia of people from South America and those from other areas such as Indo-China. While I would not pretend to make generalised judgements on the claims of people in widely differing refugee situations, I should point out that the Government seeks to assess refugee claims in terms of internationally accepted criteria, and to take guidance wherever possible from the offices of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Apart from the case of Mr Copelo, who is a Uruguayan, you made general mention of the situation in Chile. In respect to that country, you should know that during the two years 1975-76 Australia admitted about 650 Chilean residents who were either suffering political duress within Chile or had travelled to nearby countries and been given mandated status. Australia has accepted more than 1000 Chilean refugees to date. I would not accept that, in proportion to their numbers, refugees from Chile have received less favourable treatment than those from South East Asia.
On a more general plane, the Government has made clear the importance which it attaches to the promotion of universal respect for human rights. In the case of Chile, you will be aware of the support that the Australian Government has given to United Nations’ action to protect human rights. At the last session of the General Assembly, Australia helped to draft and supported a resolution calling for the Chilean Government to restore and safeguard basic human rights, to put an end to the practice of arbitrary arrest, torture and other forms of cruel, degrading and inhuman treatment of prisoners and to guarantee the rights of habeas corpus.
Senator J. A. Mulvihill,
Australian Parliament Offices,
Australian Government Centre,
Sydney, N.S.W. 2000
– I thank the Senate. Actually the Minister claims in respect of Latin America, particularly Chile, that 650 Chilean residents came to Australia in 1975-77. We find ourselves victims of a syndrome which causes us to believe that because an upheaval occurs in Beirut it is fair enough to put all our energies into that area. Of course this is followed by agitation from the Asian mainland, particularly from Vietnam. We are inclined to forget other areas where such sores still fester. I mention Chile because even when the Government of my own political persuasion was in power I was never satisfied that our Embassy in Santiago was as alert as it might have been to such problems. I know that the junta in that country tried to foist a child mutilator and a few other odd people on us as political refugees, but they were detected. Difficulty arises in relation to active trade unionists who received 5-year sentences at the demise of the Allende Government. Some of those people are being released from prison now. They cannot get jobs in their own country. They are genuine political refugees. I question whether they have behind them the propaganda forces that can be found in South Vietnam.
Without putting it on a sort of class basis, the fact of the matter is that any rationalisation or distribution of wealth in Asia will result in the merchant class suffering. Without reopening old sores, it is my honest opinion that the people with the wealth did not have the heart to fight. The peasant who had nothing to lose but his slavery was the backbone of the Viet Cong army. Now that there is to be a redistribution of wealth many people are attempting to leave as pseudorefugees. I emphasise again my belief that, as the United States had a bigger military force in that country than we did, it has a bigger obligation than we do. Of course, there was a natural link between Vietnam and France, because many of the aristocrats in Vietnam had a French education. They were more identified with France. Because of this France has an obligation to do something as well.
After all, Australia and Canada have done more than their share with migrants from other countries. I agree on the general principle but 1 believe that one day- this is mentioned in the report to which Senator Knight and Senator Sibraa referred- we have to introduce a broad quota system. At present there exists an International Labour Office report which states the Uraguay suffers just as much as do other countries from the denial of human rights, including the imprisonment of liberals with a small ‘ 1 ‘ and of active trade unionists. That is going on in Montevideo at the moment, and it will continue to go on. I do not think that Australia is doing very much about the suffering of those people. So I differ with the view expressed by Senator Knight in that I think our approach has to be openhanded. We could have a quota, as part of our 70 000 intake, of 10 000 political refugees. Let us spread our selection of refugees right across the board.
We have to face up to the other situation which we meet. I have met people who have come here from Laos. They know other people who have, say, a French passport. With some intermarriage they even have British passports. Those people could go to Britain; they could go to France. One chap said: ‘Well, I want to join the rest of the family who came here’. Our selection officers had taken 13 people from the one family. There may have been good reasons for doing that. With this kinship element, this chap is the fourteenth member of the family to apply to come here. I said: ‘You have open sesame to go to Britain’. He said: ‘It is too cold’. Whether or not Britain is cold- I notice our learned colleague from the other place laughing about it- the fact of the matter is that we can take only so many migrants from particular continents. It is in that regard that we must bite on the bullet.
I say with all the eloquence that I can command that I do not believe that we are doing enough for some of our brothers in oppression in Latin America. I have mentioned Uraguay and Chile. The use of the terms ‘left’ and ‘right’ in Latin America obscures the situation. Peru, for example, is regarded as being left of centre, and a schism is developing in its military junta. It is quite likely that in the next three or four months the members of a Peruvian club in metropolitan Sydney will come along and say to Senator Douglas McClelland and I: ‘Justice for the people from Lima’. What are we going to do? We have no apparatus to do anything. The point I am making is that we should have evenhandedness in regard to political refugees. Even when the Labor Government was in power- I am not being disrespectful to a former Minister in Senator Wheeldon- and person wanted to get into Australia quickly -
Sentor Douglas McClelland- A great Minister too.
-Undoubtedly. If a person wants to get into this country quickly he should not line up at an Embassy; he should be one of the artful dodgers. If he is an army officer he might go into another diplomatic post that we have established. Aneurin Bevan tried everywhere from a local council to the House of Commons to find out where the power was, and then he did not find it. I have been trying for 5 years to find out how a certain Hungarian army officer who was a member of a United Nations group in Vietnam looking at cease-fire violations absconded. He went to our Embassy in Vietnam. He was here in a fortnight. A Spanish refugee seaman or a refugee seaman from one of the other countries I could mention would find it very difficult to get into this country, even if he cited the Refugee Seamen’s Convention.
What I am saying is that the method by which we select refugees is not consistent. Senator Wheeldon would know that his colleague Senator Willesee and I had a very strong argument about this matter. They shut me up by allowing me to bring in three or four people from other areas. But the fact is that 2 other people entered Australia by the wrong means. That sort of thing happened under previous Liberal-National Country Party governments too. I suppose I have to be thankful for small mercies. I hope that Mr MacKellar and Mr Andrew Peacock read this speech. The Building Workers Industrial Union of Australia has the case of a couple of Uraguayan building workers. I hope that the Government in justification of its claims of consistency in such matters will give me affirmative answers to my representations.
I wish to deal with the idea that if there is international brotherhood everything will be all right. I wonder about that. Senator Knight referred to free discussion. I have asked the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Senator Withers, about the man who left Canberra on an Australian passport. He lost his passport in Spain. We gave him a travel document to return to Australia. Instead he went to Paraguay. He happened to be with a couple of other men who made a terrible mistake. They shot the Ambassador from another Latin American country because they thought he was the Yugoslav Ambassador: they both had grey hair. I asked Senator Withers what happened. He said that this fellow is in a gaol in Paraguay at the moment and that the Government is waiting to see what will happen. Those are the sorts of people who create a lot of animosity. I am deliberately picking out Yugoslavia because of what could happen, if things go wrong, the moment that Tito dies. Senator Wheeldon referred to Prague. I do not wish to see another Prague in Belgrade. I refer to what was said by Senator Wright, an eminent honourable senator who was a spokesman on foreign affairs for a couple.of weeks. At a time when Senator Wheeldon and I were members of a committee dealing with the Croat problem, Senator Wright came into the Senate and admitted that it was the view ofthe Liberal and National Country Party Government as well as of the Labor Party that any fragmentation of Yugoslavia could upset the balance of power between the North AtlanticTreaty Organisation and Warsaw forces.
The situation is always delicately poised. We should not sneer so much at these non-aligned countries. The role that Marshall Tito has played in the post-war period has been of enormous dimensions. There is no question about that. He was able to gain the confidence of countries which were a little wary of the super powers, whether it was the United States, the Soviet Union or China. This is something that has to be watched. If there were a transition of power in Yugoslavia people who might have quaint ideas in their minds about what they might do with the state of Croatia would have to be suppressed if it was going to upset world peace. There is no argument about that. I think senior Ministers of the present Government agree with that. 1 do not know whether the back bench supporters of the Government do.
I have always had a lot of admiration for the Algerians. Sometimes wc arc a little scornful about how foreign aid funds are spent. People like Mr Renouf have proven in lectures that
Algeria has been very effective in combating payola and other practices. It has been a hard role for that country. It has achieved independence through its own sweat and blood. I remind honourable senators of that famous film Algiers. Young patriots were tortured but that did not extinguish the fear of freedom. They won their freedom. Although a country can win the war it cannot always win economic independance Unfortunately, Algeria’s fledgling wine industry was just developing when the Common Market was formed. The French Government was exceedingly churlish about its quota of Algerian wines. We have to work much more effectively with countries in the Middle East. I was pleased to note that we now seem to be posting top grade diplomatic officers to these areas. This is overdue. I realise that the term ‘even handedness’ can be prostituted from time to time.
Senator Young, to a degree, dealt with the law of the sea. For a long while, until the Whitlam Government came to power, we were always asking what the United States thought. Between the wars it used to be Britain; at that time it was the United States. With regard to fishing rights we went the other way and asked what the Soviet Union thought. It always amazes me that little countries like Peru and Iceland snub their noses at the big powers and get away with it. We know that if a military conflict arose those countries would lose, but every country is interested in its public relations and its image. Mr Sinclair gave a gutless response in the other place about shipping rights. He sheared away from the proposed 200-mile limit. If Peru and Iceland can get away with enforcing a 200-mile limit we should at least attempt to do so. This concerns employment and industrial opportunity. Our own canning industry could be expanded tremendously if the Department of Foreign Affairs were geared to economic advancement. My colleagues in this place, particularly Senator Wheeldon, used to taunt the previous Liberal-Country Party Government about the flexibility of the Canadian Governmentit was not a socialist government- which cornered wheat deals with China. It was only when the then Leader of the Opposition, Mr Whitlam, went to China that the barriers were removed and the National Country Party shared in the bountiful wheat markets which were opened up. The Canadian Foreign Affairs officials have always been more flexible than the Australian officials in what they have been able to achieve.
In the debate on the Address-in-Reply to the Queen’s Speech I said that what keeps the yeast in the bread or what used to keep the British
Commonwealth together is flexibility. The British Government, whether it was a Conservative or Labour Government, never became involved in Vietnam. The Canadians were involved as United Nations observers but they did not send any troops to Vietnam. It always amazes me when I hear a litany from Government supporters on what they think were the sins and omissions of the Labor Government that they have never been able to admit that they made a gross mistake in taking part in a war in mainland Asia. A great United States General, Matthew Ridgway, the man who had to take over after General MacArthur and get the United States out of Korea, suggested that one of the lessons to be learnt was that the United States should never again send its infantry to mainland Asia. Unfortunately, nobody took any notice. I suppose that when I am paying tribute to people who tried to steer the United States of America away from becoming involved in war I should refer to Senator Eugene McCarthy. He did not gain a place in the White House but he was one of the first of the few people who questioned whether the United States foreign policy was correct. I believe that we now have a more healthy atmosphere.
Senator Sibraa referred to what Marshall Green said. If a government is supposed to be friends with another government- some people use the term ‘powerful allies’- it should talk frankly with that government. That was very important in the United States. There are pressures on embassies inviting people for talks. I can well remember one occasion when a Labor Party group was invited to an American function. A man in that group who was well known to John Wheeldon was the then Secretary of the Labor Party, William Colbourne. Bill Colbourne did not take a great interest in foreign affairs, but because of his inner-gut feeling he said to the American Ambassador: ‘I cannot see where it will get you. If these people will not fight their own war, how do you expect to win?’ When some Vietnamese were buying themselves out of conscription it was obvious that the present Government had backed a loser but we could never get Government supporters to say that that was the case. If they consider all the millions they pumped into that war it did not modernise their own military equipment. They still have to adopt a procurement program.
Let us get away from the idea that every time we have a Liberal Minister for Foreign Affairs he is the Messiah and he has all the answers. He has not got all the answers. I suppose we could be charitable and say that we now have greater unanimity. There is now a broad detente between countries with various political concepts. I have before me the issue of the New York Times dated Sunday, 13 March. It contains a good article- it is only a short one- headed ‘Water, the Mistreated, Now Limited Resource’. I seek leave to have this article incorporated in Hansard.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The article read as follows-
Until well into the 20th century, the world’s water supply was largely taken for granted as a limitless resource. But the rapid spread of industry and the accompanying water pollution it caused, the great growth ofthe world’s population and its concentration in sprawling cities, and reliance on often wasteful methods of using water have proved that belief false.
So now, as the United Nations Water Conference opens in Mar del Plata, Argentina, the delegates this week will be discussing a situation globally where water too often tends to be in the wrong place, at the wrong time or, if it is available, too polluted by industry or disease to be readily used.
The Mar del Plata conference is one in a series on questions of global significance. Previous meetings have dealt with the environment in general, population, food, the role of women and human settlements. All to some extent were influenced by a desire to avoid Malthusian apocalypse but the water conference will be even more strongly influenced.
Scarcely any pan of the world is free from the troubles brought on by either too little or too much water. Bangladesh’s struggling economy prospers or perishes at the mercy ofthe Ganges floods. The Western United States has the technology to harness water to grow much more food but Gov. Edmund G. Brown Jr. warned last week that unless the present drought ends, California and other states could experience ‘a disaster’. Oil has made Kuwait rich but it must rely on water desalinated after being taken from the sea.
As they discuss these situations, the delegates to Mar del Plata will be confronted with a large array of statistics on rainfall, evaporation rate, sedimentation and so on. None will be more important than the fact that of the world’s water supply, less than I percent is available for human use in rivers, lakes and from wells. The rest, despite such exotic schemes as towing Antarctic icebergs to Arabia to make the Saudi desert bloom, lies uselessly in glaciers and the polar icecaps.
Against this backdrop, the conference will try to focus the attention of policymakers on the world ‘s water needs, and the difficulties involved in trying to surmount them by the year 2000.
The articles on this page discuss some of those difficulties and some of the possible solutions.
– With the lack of aggression permeating the world we should aim for joint operations on various river systems. This article deals with Latin American rivers. Further articles in that newspaper deal with Father Rhine and the titanic efforts of the Israeli Government. We know that water means more to the world than oil does. I am simply pointing out what could be achieved for a better world if through this climate, through the United
Nations, the technical knowledge of the Soviet Union and the Western world were united. These are the things we can all welcome. Probably, referring now to what Senator Knight said, we are going in that direction.
I again want to emphasise that we have to watch some of these brush fire wars very closely. Some of them can get out of hand; there is no question about it. Australia may have to meet added obligations and I know I probably am on thin ice in this regard. We are rightly concerned about the independence of Timor but I would like to believe that whenever Australian troops go overseas, even with the best intentions, they will be under the United Nations flag and not acting according to the whim of any Prime Minister. That is the important thing.
There is another matter I want to raise while dealing with foreign policy reports. We have very influential people of Greek origin in this community. Well over 6 months ago I took a delegation to see the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Andrew Peacock, and he assured me and the members of that delegation that we would get regular reports on how Australia fronted up when debates were held at the United Nations. I have asked questions of Senator Withers, the Leader of the Government in the Senate, on a number of occasions, as my colleague Senator George Georges has done, and we have been given pretty skimpy details of how Australia voted or of what we are doing about certain things.
We also have obligations to people here of Yugoslav origin. We should know how their minorities are treated in Austria. There is a blind spot in the Austrian mentality. A certain group of people there underwent 5 years of Nazi occupation and if you ask them where they were at that time they look across the wharf and change the subject. I have been with Yugoslavs, Greeks and other people and when I have raised this subject the discussion is just not on. I have had a question on the notice paper about how the United Nations deals with the maltreatment of Croatian and Slovene minorities across the border in Austria and I think it is time 1 had an answer. There are a lot of Australian taxpayers today who are proud of their Greek, Italian and Yugoslav ancestry and they would like to believe that the Australian delegation at the United Nations at least sends back dispatches every fortnight so that we can get these answers.
It is welcome to get a report like this on foreign affairs. I hope that Senator Withers gets weekly briefings so that he can give me prompt answers when I stand up here and speak on behalf of the Sydney Yugoslav community or if somebody else such as Senator Georges stands up and seeks information upon our attitude to the solving of the Cypriot problem.
– In the few minutes that are left to us tonight I would like to move fairly quickly into one or two areas of foreign affairs. We have had a very good day debating the statement on foreign affairs made by the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock). We do not very often get the opportunity to have a full scale foreign affairs debate. The pressure of government business, the pressure of legislation, does not allow it. I was very pleased with the Minister’s statement. It was wide-ranging, comprehensive, detailed, clear and understandable. It made no apologies for the lines taken and it recognised in its vast coverage that there would be people and groups of people who might disagree with its detail.
I am impressed with the measure of public response that greeted this comprehensive statement. Various writers referred to it as being a level headed assessment of the realities of Australia’s place in the world. Those realities include the fact that Australia cannot always keep pace with the world around it and we have to come to terms with the special problems of a nation like ours, a nation rich in resources but sparse in population. Some of these problems deal with our relations with our immediate neighbours because lying close to us in our northern areas is an enormous area poor in resources, over-crowded in population and, regrettably, heavily steeped in poverty.
It is not surprising, therefore, that in the statement there is considerable emphasis on the economic content of foreign policy. This suggests that there should be, and indeed that there will be, a program of resources diplomacy. This surely will test Australia in the foreign relations field. Recent events and recent trends, including trade expectations, refugee situations, geographical location and our resources, all may increase our bargaining power internationally. Yet bargaining power surely is not the final note. The final note and the continuing one is the capacity of a country like Australia to meet the various demands and pressures placed upon it. It is in this area of meeting demands and pressures that Australian foreign policy will surely meet its test and will indicate whether it has a capacity of worthiness to negotiate with the nations of the world with whom it is associated. After all, we tend to see the world as we would like to see it and we tend to avoid seeing it as it really is. I think the Minister gave us a great deal of encouragement in the comprehensive statement that was tabled for him by the Minister who represents him in this place. He has given us the encouragement and assurance that Australia, in view of its place geographically and in view of its resources, will have an opportunity to influence the trend of events. What is more the statement will enable the people of this nation to understand their potential influence on the events of the world, particularly those in our part of the world.
One of the areas referred to in the Minister’s wide-ranging speech was the South Pacific. This is an area of some risk and importance to Australia because so much of our trade and communications pass through it. The countries of the South Pacific occupy a position of particular importance so far as Australia’s external relations are concerned. Surely Australia must now regard itself as an integral part of the South Pacfic region with closely shared interests. I think it would be true to say that Australia also has closely shared aspirations with the region. Australia must regard itself as a good neighbour of the South Pacific. Indeed, there have been many indications that we are anxious to do what we can to intensify our links with our South Pacific friends, not only in order to develop a spirit of regional co-operation but also to help the governments of the region to advance the economic welfare of their people and, just as importantly, to advance the social and educational welfare of their people.
It is well known to the Senate that one of the most important means we have by which to help to develop economic and social co-operation is the program of development assistance. The Minister indicated to the Parliament that for some time the Australian Government has been concerned that various relationships have not been fully living up to our own or their own expectations and hopes and so in recent times there has been a detailed review of our relationships with the nations of the South Pacific and of the development assistance and developmental cooperation with those nations. The Minister repeated in his statement something which he referred to earlier. He said that there has been a 3-year aid program to the nations of the South Pacific involving $60m. This represents a considerable increase in Australia’s development assistance to the nations of the South Pacific when compared with that for the previous 3 years, lt is true that to a certain extent the South Pacific, as far as Australia and a number of other nations are concerned, was discovered recently. The
Minister indicated in his speech not only Australia’s renewed and intensified interest but also made it perfectly clear that Australia has the capacity to be involved with the nations of the South Pacific.
Mr President, I speak on this subject with considerable interest because as you know I returned recently from a visit to the South Pacific area in my capacity as regional councillor for the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association. It was my very great privilege to visit some 9 Pacific Island nations during January. I conferred at considerable length with all manner of South Pacific leaders. They ranged from heads of state to Prime Ministers and groups of Ministers. We will be very pleased tomorrow to welcome in our midst the Prime Minister of Western Samoa. Although I conducted an official mission in the South Pacific I do not pretend for one moment that as an ordinary senator my conversations with Ministers took on the degree of importance associated with conversations between Ministers.
– Order! It being 10.30 p.m., in accordance with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I formally put the question:
That the Senate do now adjourn.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 10.30 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations, upon notice, on 8 March 1 977:
– The Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
On 25 November 1976 I announced the names of appointees to all these Committees, including the Queensland Committee, for the second triennium concluding on 30 June 1979.
The reconstituted Queensland Committee held its inaugural meeting on 16 December 1976.
It will be appreciated that, in these circumstances, the charter of the Queensland Committee did not expire on 30 June 1 976 and there was, accordingly, no question of it being renewed.
Mr R. Edwards, Executive Officer, Class 6 ($12,780 to $13,659);
Mrs K. Buckley, Clerical Assistant, Grade 3 ($7,491.58,005).
My Department also provides the necessary typing, telephone, postage and other ancillary services.
The Committee’s staff currently occupy premises on a rental basis atacostof$137.50 per month.
The cost of the other ancillary services provided by my Department cannot be segregated.
Lizard Island: Supply of Distillate by RAAF (Question No. 31)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice, on 9 March 1977:
Did a Royal Australian Air Force aircraft ferry a small quantity of distillate to Lizard Island in north Queensland last year. If so,
when did the trip in question take place,
what was the flight route,
what type of aircraft was involved.
what was the cost of the trip,
to whom was the fuel consigned, and where was it obtained, and
what other cargo was carried by the aircraft on the trip in question.
– The Minister for Defence has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
1 ) (a) to (c) A RAAF Caribou transport aircraft, on a positioning flight to pick up Australian Army troops at Lizard Island at the completion of a training exercise, carried four drums of distillate from Cairns to Lizard Island on 22 November 1976. The distillate was required urgently to replenish stocks for the generator supplying power to the island’s civil community. Bad weather had delayed the barge which carries supplies to the Island, and the Bush Pilots’ Association, the sole franchise operator for aerial supply, was unable to carry the drums of distillate and stores on its own aircraft.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice, on 9 March 1977:
Is the Government currently examining a proposal to set up a national institute for the treatment of mental retardation. If so, what are the details.
– The Minister for Health has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The Australian Association for the Mentally Retarded has prepared a proposal to establish an Australian Institute on Mental Retardation which is being examined by the Department of Social Security in conjunction with my Department and the Department of Education and Finance. The proposal outlines the need for an Institute, its possible functions, structure and sources of finance. The main objectives of the Institute would be to foster the development of the maximum potential of mentally retarded persons, their inclusion into the mainstream of community life and the development of services for the retarded as part of comprehensive general community health and welfare services.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs, upon notice, on 9 March 1977:
What quantity of marijuana has been seized by Federal narcotics agents, either acting alone or in conjuction with State police, in each State of Australia for each month since February 1974.
– The following information is provided in answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Details of cannabis seizures (all forms) made by departmental officers for the past 3 years are contained in the following tables:
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice, on 8 March 1977:
Will all reports ofthe Bailey Task Force be tabled in Federal Parliament. If so, when.
– The Prime Minister has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
As the honourable senator will be aware, the first report of the Task Force on Co-ordination in Welfare and Health was tabled on 17 February 1977 (Hansard, 17 February, pp. 170-172).
The Task Force is working towards presenting me with its second report about the middle of the year. No decision has yet been made on whether the second report will be tabled.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs, upon notice, on 9 March 1977:
What are the details of each drug seizure in Queensland since 1 January 1976 to include (a) where the seizure was made, (b) the quantity of drugs seized, (c) the estimated commercial value ofthe drugs seized, (d) details of any convictions recorded as a result of the seizure and (e) the number of Federal and State officials involved in each operation.
– The following information is provided in answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The Department of Business and Consumer Affairs recorded 155 drug seizures in Queensland for the 1976 calendar year. Total weight of the drugs seized in the various categories are as follows:
Where possible the Department avoids placing a commercial value on individual drug seizures particularly as this could encourage persons to become involved in drug smuggling and trafficking. However the black market value ofthe total quantity of seized drugs listed above would be well in excess of $400,000.
In view of the number of seizures the extraction of the further information requested would involve officers of my department in a very considerable work load and which under present circumstances does not appear to be warranted.
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice, on 8 March 1977:
– The Prime Minister has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister for Social Security, upon notice, on 9 March 1977:
What funding has the Australian Government provided to the Queensland Council of Social Service in each year since 1970.
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
The Commonwealth Government does not provide any direct funds to the Queensland or any other State Council of Social Service, lt provides financial assistance to the Australian Council of Social Service, and has done so since 1966. Funds arc allocated to State Councils according to its own priorities.
A special grant of $50,000 to the Australian Council of Social Service in 1973-74 was given in recognition of the involvement of State Councils of Social Service in the early development ofthe Australian Assistance Plan.
Australian Foundation on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (Question No. 88)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice, on 9 March 1977:
What funding does the Australian Foundation on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence receive from the Commonwealth Government.
– The Minister for Health has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Under the Mental Health and Related Services Assistance Act 1973, Commonwealth financial assistance was provided to AFADD on the basis of 100 per cent funding of costs associated with the establishment and maintenance of a national secretariat, primarily to co-ordinate the activities of the Foundation ‘s various State branches. Funds provided to the Foundation under that Act were:
Since 1 July 1975, the funding of the Foundation’s national secretariat has been met under the broader-based Community Health Program, also at 100 per cent rate. $154,350 was provided in 1975-76, including provision for the appointment of a Director of Industrial Programs to coordinate, at the national level, activities in the States relating to the Foundation ‘s Alcoholism in Industry Program.
The approved allocation to the Foundation’s national secretariat under the Community Health Program in 1976-77 is $271,800, including a recently announced additional grant of $100,000 for the Alcoholism in Industry Program.
In addition to this financial assistance to the national secretariat, a grant of $35,881, at a 100 percent rate, was provided through the Mental Health Authority of Victoria to the Victorian Branch of the Foundation in 1974-75, also under the Mental Health and Related Services Assistance Act.
Further grants of $46,350 in 1975-76 and $58,976 in 1976-77 have been provided, again through the Mental Health Authority of Victoria, to the Victorian Branch under the Community Health Program, to meet 90 per cent of the costs of conducting regional and special purpose conferences, and educational and professional training programs.
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice, on 8 March 1977:
– The Prime Minister has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister for Social Security, upon notice, on 9 March 1 977:
Has the Queensland Council of Social Service been forced to dismiss three of its four staff members because the Queensland Government has refused to provide the necessary funding assistance to allow the organisation to continue its activities. If so, can the Federal Government provide any additional assistance to enable the Council to carry out its normal functions.
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
It would not be appropriate for me to comment on matters which are between the Queensland Government and the Queensland Council of Social Service. As regards the matter of funding Councils of Social Service, I direct the honourable Senator’s attention to the answer I have provided to his question No. 73.
asked the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister in Federal Affairs, upon notice, on 8 March 1977:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
The criteria adopted by individual Grants Commissions within these broad guidelines vary between the States according to local conditions and historical factors. This variation is a matter for the State Government and the Local Government Grants Commission to determine.
asked the Minister for Social Security, upon notice, on 10 March 1977:
How many farmers have availed themselves of unemployment benefits since the work test criteria for farmers was relaxed by the Government.
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
The conditions of eligibility for unemployment benefit for farmers were varied from 10 May 1976. The number of unemployment benefits granted to farmers since that date to 18 February 1977 was 5 102.
Atomic Tests at Maralinga: Contamination of Vehicles (Question No. 231)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice, on 15 March 1977:
– The Minister for Defence has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The records of the time, taken from departmental vaults and available to all Australian administrations since the 1950s, show that 2 apparently abandoned British vehicles, which cannot with certainty be said not to have been exposed to radiation in the early 1950s, were refurbished during 1956, some years after the possible exposure. This was done privately by two Service members of the Australian health physics team stationed at Maralinga to monitor possible health hazards. The records leave no room for reasonable doubt that the men knew what they were about, and that they had access to, and used, relevant health physics monitoring equipment to check safety aspects.
Both vehicles were subsequently checked officially by the Commonwealth X-ray and Radium Laboratories (as they were called 20 years ago) and found to be free of radioactivity. The dates of these checks were 13 December 1956 and 3 January 1957 and they were carried out in Melbourne about five weeks in each case after the vehicle concerned was driven out of the Maralinga area.
The records show that one member applied to purchase his vehicle before he left Maralinga and was permitted to retain it upon payment. In the other case applicaton was not made before the member left Maralinga and this vehicle was resumed by the authorities, checked officially as to safety and eventually sold in South Australia some time in, or shortly after, May 1957.
Having regard to the knowledge and expertise possessed by these health physics personnel, the equipment to which they had access and the central fact that both vehicles can be shown from records still extant to have been checked officially and found free of radioactivity, some reasonable conclusions may be drawn as to their safety even as of 20 years ago.
Compensation to Dependants of Injured Fire-Fighters
-On 24 February 1977 (Hansard, pages 355-6) Senator Missen asked me, as Minister representing the Prime Minister, a question without notice concerning compensation to dependants of those fire-fighters injured as a result of the extensive fires in Victoria’s Western District on Saturday, 12 February 1977. The Prime Minister has supplied the following information for answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Compensation for injured fire-fighters is a matter for the Victorian Government. I understand that Country Fire Authority members and voluntary fighters, registered or casual, who took part in fighting the fires, are covered by the provisions of the Victorian State Workers’ Compensation Act.
In regard to assistance for the restoration of damage caused by the fires, the honourable senator will be aware that the Commonwealth has agreed to support a wide range of relief and restoration measures which are administered by the Victorian Government. These measures are available to those persons suffering loss as a result of this disaster, many of whom were actually involved in fighting the fires.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 22 March 1977, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1977/19770322_senate_30_s72/>.