20th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. Archie Cameron) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– I have to inform the House that, yesterday, I arranged that certain interjections that were made in the course of debate on Wednesday night, should not be recorded in Hansard. Theinterjections were to the effect that a certain honorable member who was addressing the House was in a state of insobriety.. I am satisfied that they were without any foundation whatsoever. I propose, in future, if any such interjection is made,, to ask the House to judge between the accused and the accuser; and, further, I shall ask the. House to impose a penalty for such action that will fit the crime..
The practice is growing in this House,, that when honorable members approach, persons in the visitors’ gallery they engagein talking and laughing with them. I ask honorable gentlemen to refrain from doing so. visitors are here, or it should’ be the purpose of their visit, toliston to debates in this chamber. If an honorable member should have friendsin the gallery with whom he wishes to engage in conversation and heis guilty of such conduct, I shall, in future, no matter who the visitors may be, name the honorable gentleman. The House is not the place for such conduct.
– In view of thefact that the old theme Majestic Fanfare has supplanted Advance Australia Fairas the introductory music for the news fissions on national stations, I ask thePostmasterGeneral the name of the tune that is now played, on thosestations .as an introduction to the broadcasting of parliamentary debates? Will’ he use his influence with the Australian Broadcasting Commission to persuade it to use instead, at least during the life of the present Government, the following two lines of the old Chartist hymn, which is included in the Congregational Hymnary : -
When wilt Thou save the people!
O God of Mercy, when I
– I am not entirely familiar with the hymn that the honorable member has mentioned, but I suggest that he might quote from it a few other lines that apply to members of theOpposition.
– Can the .PostmasterGeneral confirm the reports that the Australian Broadcasting Commission intends. to increase the power of certain broadcasting stations? If so, are the commission’s stations at Darwin and Alice Springs included in this plan? If they are not included, will the Minister take steps to have them included? I have asked these questions because the two stations at present have an effective range of only ten or fifteen miles each and provide very little service for people outside the town areas who are most in need of a broadcasting service.
– The Australian Broadcasting Control Board has been engaged for some time in the preparation of comprehensive plans to increase the transmitting power of most Australian broadcasting stations, both national and commercial. It is intended to step up the power of a great many of the national and regional broadcasting stations in order to meet the circumstances to which the honorable member has referred. Offhand, I am unable to tell him of the plans in relation to the two broadcasting stations that he has mentioned, but I shall obtain the information and communicate it to him.
– Will the PostmasterGeneral inform me whether it is a fact that sufferers from tuberculosis who are in receipt of social services benefits are not entitled to obtain wireless licences at a reduced rate? If that is so, will the Minister consider granting them wireless licences at the reduced rate applicable to age and invalid pensioners?
– The matter of concessional rate wireless licences has been discussed from time to time by parliamentary committees that have been appointed by both Labour and nonLabour administrations. In substance, the concessions that are now granted in this connexion are based on recommendations that have been made by those committees. When the wireless licencefee was increased recently the Government decided to extend the concession to totally and permanently incapacitated exservicemen. For very many reasons, it is not possible to extend the concession any further.
– My question to the Postmaster-General is in connexion with the issue of a licence for a “ B “ class broadcasting station in the north-eastern part of Western Australia in the DowerinWyalkatckem area. If the application lias been received for the issue of such a licence, has the licence been granted and, if so, to whom, and has the site for this prospective station yet been selected? Have any inspections been made in connexion with it?
– Some time ago 1 asked a member of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board to visit Western Australia in order to investigate the requirements of various districts for new licences, and then to report to me. He has recommended that a license should be granted in the north-eastern area, at a place that has not yet been determined. That place must be determined according to the maximum number of people who can be served from_ the particular location. The licence will be granted, I think, to Nicholsons Limited, of Perth, who already hold two or three broadcasting stations, and this additional station will complete a hook-up that will be of benefit to everybody in the district.
– Is it to be built wholly with Australian capital?
– As far as I know. Licences are also to be granted in two other country districts in Western Australia. One of them is to be in the BridgetownMandurah area, and that is to be given to Western Australian Broadcasters Limited. The other is to be granted for the district of Albany. I have tried to induce the local people there to subscribe the necessary capital for the station, but so far I have not met with success. The determination of who is to get the licence has not yet been made.
– I also wish to ask the Postmaster-General a question on broadcasting. Is it true that the Australian Broadcasting Commission has applied to the Australian Broadcasting Control Board for technical facilities to broadcast a third national programme which will be used, in part, for the broadcasting of parliamentary proceedings? If so, will the honorable gentleman use all his influence with the board to see that the application is given the most sympathetic consideration? 1 ask the question in the interests of many members of the listening public who, when the Parliament is sitting, regret the loss of a programme to which they are accustomed to listen, and who are so- misguided as to claim that they find the proceedings of this Parliament neither instructive nor entertaining.
– Only limited funds are available for the provision of additional broadcasting facilities and the erection of new national stations. As far as I am concerned, priority will be given to the use of those funds for the erection of stations to provide broadcasting services for those who do not now enjoy them, rather than for the pro-vision of an additional service for listeners who are already well served by the commission.
– As it is necessary to exercise the utmost vigilance with a view to reduce unnecessary departments and the staffs of departments whose functions overlap, I ask the Prime Minister whether he can give any valid reason why the Commonwealth as well as the States maintain a department to deal with probate matters. Would it not be possible for the Commonwealth to vacate this field entirely and, in consequence, reduce the amount of reimbursements that are now paid to the States?
– I shall discuss with my colleague, the Treasurer, the matter that the honorable member has raised.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether it is a fact that the services of all temporary officers in the Public Service are to be dispensed with irrespective of the length of service of the officers concerned. Is it true that already some ex-servicemen with service ranging up to periods of fifteen years, and whose ages range up to 62 years, have been dismissed from the Department of Social Services? Is it not a fact that these men had been employed in certain positions in the Public Service because it was necessary for them to receive periodic treatment for war-caused injuries, which could be obtained in thecourse of their employment? Will the right honorable gentleman say whether it is true that the Government is replacing these men with girls who have just left school, and if so why? Does the Government intend to ensure that ex-servicemen who have been dismissed shall be suitably re-employed, or are these men to join the ranks of the unemployed?
– I know of no foundation for this rather astonishing suggestion, but if the honorable member can put any particular cases before me which will enable me to make an inquiry into what is happening, I shall certainly make the inquiry. However, if he puts his question in the broad, as he has done, I can only say that I know of no foundation for his suggestions.
– I understand that the Treasurer has returned to Australia, and I ask the Prime Minister to convey to him our best wishes for his health. Will the Prime Minister say whether it is intended that the Treasurer shall report to the House upon his mission to London, during which he dealt with financial matters, and that the House shall be given an opportunity to discuss the results of the mission?
– I point out to the right honorable gentleman that the first body to which the Treasurer will report is Cabinet. It will be necessary for Cabinet to discuss the material that the Treasurer places before it, some of which may not be suitable for public distribution now. I shall certainly take up with the Treasurer the question whether ultimately, in the light of those discussions, he will make a report to the House.
– Has the Prime Minister yet examined the points tha’t I raised in a letter that I sent to him a fortnight ago, in which I sought Commonwealth assistance for Fiji, where recently a hurricane caused the worst losses of houses and other buildings that had been suffered there for decades, and where famine threatens some districts? I pointed out in the letter that we have a spiritual and economic affinity with these famous little islands and that New Zealand has promised to assist by making a grant to the Government of Fiji of £20,000 and certain building materials. Representations have been made to me by a doctor who has been in Fiji for five years. “Will the Prime Minister say whether a decision has yet been made upon this matter ?
– I cannot say whether a decision has been reached upon the matter to which the honorable gentleman has referred. So far, it has been dealt with departmentally, and has not come before me. I shall ensure that the decision will be expedited.
– Will the Prime Minister inform the House whether the Government has imposed duty deposits to prevent the dumping of nylon stockings on the Australian market, a dumping which it has declared to be non-existent?
– The question concerns the administration of the Department of Trade and Customs. I shall ascertain the position from the Minister for Trade and Customs, and I shall advise the honorable member accordingly.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Labour and National Service. Is the Minister of opinion that unemployment in the textile industry is being aggravated and the difficulties of the industry increased by the continued operation of prices control? If so, will he inform the House of the reasons for his opinion?
– The matter to which the honorable gentleman has referred does not fall within the competence of the Commonwealth and I have not made a detailed study of it as I should have done had we any direct responsibility in relation to it. However, I have had an opportunity to study the material prepared by the Chamber of Manufactures in Victoria, and naturally I have followed the matter through the columns of the press. My own view is that a great deal can be done to remove stocks that are now in the hands of importers and manufacturers if the present rigid prices control which operates in respect of those commodities can be either removed or greatly relaxed. After all, the purpose of prices control is to ensure that the public will not be exploited while goods are in short supply. When an abundance of goods is available for the public, the continuance of prices control seems merely to obstruct the free movement of those goods from the people who have them to the people who want them.
– Will the Minister tor Supply inform me whether the cracking plant at Glen Davis is to be transferred to Bell Bay, Tasmania, in accordance with the statement that he made in this House on the 18th October, 1951 ? I point out that tenders have been called for the disposal of the whole of the oilmaking plant at Glen Davis. Will the Minister also inform me of the extent to which the Government intends to assist the establishment of the cement industry at Glen Davis? Will he assure the House that no action will be taken to close down the oil industry until tenders have been called and the Parliament has been further consulted on the matter?
– Some of the honorable gentleman’s questions are concerned with matters of detail, and I am not able to supply such information except in reply to a question without notice. I shall give him a comprehensive answer later. Some time ago, the Government decided that, if it were practicable, the refinery at Glen Davis would be transferred to Bell Bay, in Tasmania, where it would be used in connexion with the aluminium industry. The advice which had been given to us was that the transference of the plant would obviate the need to import plant, save a considerable sum of money, and enable us to produce aluminium more cheaply. However, certain -procedures have to be followed in the winding up of the Glen Davis oil project. All the creditors have to be considered. The Commonwealth and the State of New South Wales are creditors, and also debenture holders. Therefore, the normal processes of law must be complied with, and that means that tenders must be called and other details observed. For that reason it is not possible for the Government automatically to transfer the plant from Glen Davis to Bell Bay. I offer the opinion, and it is only my opinion, and express the hope, that this plant will find its. way to Bell Bay, but that depends on the result of those normal legal procedures.
– In view of the urgent need for increased food production and in order to assist the primary producers in their continued and expensive fight against rabbits, will the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture discuss with the Minister for Trade and Customs the lifting of customs duty on all rabbit fumigants, particularly chloropicrine? I point out by way of explanation that rabbit fumigants were admitted free under by-law in 1949-50, but .the concession was withdrawn later because local production had commenced. The collection of £8,361 in duty on rabbit fumigants in 1950-51 indicates that the market cannot be supplied by local manufactures, and, accordingly, the lifting of the duty is justified.
– I shall be glad to discuss the matter with the Minister for Trade and Customs with a view to ascertaining whether the honorable mem-, ber’s request can be complied with, but I point out that chloropicrine, which is a most important fumigant, could not be obtained from overseas sources at a critical period, but adequate supplies were available in Australia. I should think that it would be against the interest to which the honorable member has referred if the lifting of the duty resulted in the termination of production in this country and overseas supplies could not be obtained.
– I ask the Prime Minister to inform the House whether newspaper editors, leader writers and special correspondents of newspapers receive a taxation deduction in respect of expenses necessarily incurred in carrying out their duties. If they do receive such a deduction will the Prime Minister inform the House whether they product; definite proof of all the expenses that they claim to have incurred?
– I cannot answer thai question because the details of the taxation returns of individuals are matters of secrecy. However, more than once in the last fortnight, I have thought that it might be interesting if some of these gentlemen would publish, of their own free will, details of the concessions, benefits and advantages of various kinds that are permitted to them by the Taxation Branch.
– In explanation of a question which I address to the Minister for Immigration I should like to state that a number of farmers have found that their employees do not remain with them and they believe that if they could provide homes for them they would be able to retain their services for longer periods. Will the Minister inform the House whether the Government has given any consideration to a scheme to assist farmers to erect cottages on their properties either by means of making loans available to them or otherwise? If the Government has not considered such a scheme will it do so with a view to making loans for the construction of such houses repayable over a number of years ? I should also like the Minister to consult the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture to ascertain whether similar facilities could be made available to enable those people who wish to do so to settle on the land.
– The Government has been considering this matter. It recognizes that if food and rural production generally are to be increased more accommodation will have to be ‘provided in rural areas by one means or another. The Government recognizes the difficulties of farmers in regard to this matter and I hope that during the sitting of Cabinet which will be held after the House rises we shall have an opportunity to consider the policy items that are related to the honorable member’s question.
– I direct the attention of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture to the fact that there is a shortage of steel in Australia generally, and owing to a lack of shipping, in Western Australia particularly. Steel products such as seeding machinery, harvesting machinery, corrugated iron, water piping and fencing wire are urgently needed in the drive for increased food production. Has the Government any plans for increasing the production of steel products and for giving priority to the agricultural industry in the allocation of those products?
– The matter that the honorable member has raised is recognized as being a serious one for all States, and especially for Western Australia, where, as he has pointed out; the difficulties are often aggravated by shipping problems. The Commonwealth assists any interests, particularly those concerned with rural industries, that are endeavouring to secure steel or steel products from overseas. An allocations committee has been appointed to deal with the distribution of steel products manufactured in Australia. It acts without any statutory authority, but it provides a basis for agreement between the States upon the distribution of locally produced materials such as water piping, galvanized iron and fencing wire. The States have complete authority to attach priorities in the distribution of those products within their own areas. ‘Some States exercise that authority, and others do not. At the last meeting of the Australian Agricultural Council, I asked the State governments to consider giving a degree of priority to materials required for rural industries and for the manufacture of farm implements.
– Will the Prime Minister furnish the House with a statement setting out how much of the 100,000,000 dollar loan has now been withdrawn from the fund? Will he also state the reason for the slow allocation of this loan which was originally negotiated in December, 1950?
– I shall be glad to have that information prepared. The honorable member will realize that after the loan had been negotiated the Government set up a committee for the purpose of allocating the funds available for the purpose of importing certain commodities and issuing import licences. The delays that have occurred are due, not to any government action, but to the difficulty of securing the goods required in the dollar area. This is an important matter and I shall be happy to provide the details for which the honorable member has asked.
– I preface a question to the Minister for the Interior by stating that in Queensland blocks of land are made available to ex-servicemen for settlement from time to time. Previously ex-servicemen have always been able to obtain the finance necessary to commence operations on these blocks. I have now received information from an agent who makes applications from time to time on behalf of ex-servicemen that they have been informed by the Commonwealth Bank that it will not continue to provide their financial requirements as it did previously. That means that the Commonwealth Bank will not provide financial assistance for ex-servicemen who wish to participate in land ballots. Will the Minister investigate this matter with a view to arranging for the resumption of the former practice? Will he also ascertain the source of the instruction that the practice be discontinued? The decision has caused a debacle amongst exservicemen who wish to apply for blocks of land in three districts which have been opened for settlement by the State government. Unless the Commonwealth Bank endorses the applications of many of these men, they will be unable to participate in the ballots. I know of one ex-serviceman who has tried unsuccessfully to obtain a block of land in every ballot for which he has been eligible sir-ce the end of the war.
– I am not quite sure of the nature of the problem that the honorable member has mentioned, but I shall be very pleased to have the matter investigated. In fact, the Commonwealth Bank has nothing to do with’ the land settlement of ex-servicemen, as any honorable member of the Opposition who has had anything to do with the scheme will inform the honorable member for “Wide Bay. The honorable member has suggested that ex-servicemen who wish to apply for blocks of land have been handicapped as a result of action that has been taken by the Commonwealth Bank. The settlement scheme that he has in mind must be of a private nature. It cannot have anything to do with the war service land settlement scheme under the agreement between the Australian and Queensland Governments, as far as I know.
– It is the land settlement scheme for ex-servicemen. The Commonwealth Bank formerly provided financial guarantees for applicants in order to enable them to be included in land ballots.
– I shall look into the matter but, as far as I know, the Commonwealth Bank cannot interfere with the war service land settlement scheme.
– The Minister does not understand the position.
– Then I shall be very pleased to discuss the matter with the honorable member in order to ascertain where the hitch has occurred. I confess that at present I cannot understand fully the circumstances to which he has referred.
– Will 1he Minister for Commerce and Agriculture inform the House whether arrangements have yet been completed for the payment of Joint Organization wool profits to graziers? If so, can he indicate when it is expected that ‘payments will be made? Will payment be made first to the people who have left the industry? Will full payment be made to people in that category?
– Arrangements have been made for the payment of a further dividend to persons who are entitled to participate in the profits of the Joint Organization. An amount of £25,000,000 will be distributed to them through the wool broking companies, about the 30th March, in the manner that the last dividend was paid. The actual date of payment will depend upon the ability of those companies to carry out the arangements The remainder of the profits of Joint Organization will be paid in three approximately equal annual payments. Those people who left the industry before the boom of prices commenced - the 1st September, 1949, has been chosen as the dividing line - will participate in the £25,000,000 to which I have referred, and they will be paid in full the balance due to them as soon as that balance can be calculated. It cannot be calculated finally in respect of any wool-grower until judgment has been given in a case now before the High Court of Australia, known as the Poulton case. Subject to appeal, it is expected that that case will be concluded during the next month or so. Legislation will be introduced during the next sessional period of the Parliament to enable the full distribution to be made to these people as soon as the Poulton case has been resolved.
– In view of the fact that the known profits that will be available for distribution to wool dealers if they are successful in the courts, and also to the growers, will amount to a sum of money between £60,000,000 and £65,000,000 - indeed, perhaps more - and in view of the fact that the amount at issue in the case before the courts does not exceed £2,000,000, I ask the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture on what ground the Government justifies its decision to distribute only £25,000,000 of the ascertainable profits? When does the Government propose to give justice not only to those who have left the industry, but also to many wool-growers who are small participants in Joint Organization profits, but are in a financial position quite as desperate as those that the Minister now throws a sop to because they have left the industry?
– The profit of the Joint Organization is not being paid out in full, because the wool-growers, through their organizations, have expressed the view that it should not be paid out in full.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether there is any basis for the rumour that the vacant post of Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia will not be filled until after the postponed Royal visit eventuates? Has the right honorable gentleman any personal reason for not making an early announcement of the name of the next person who will fill that important position ?
– I can relieve the anxiety of the honorable member for East Sydney at once by saying that the post of Chief Justice is not vacant. It will become vacant in April, and it will not remain vacant. The name of the person who will fill the vacancy will lie announced before that time.
– Does the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture know anything about a meeting that was held recently at Shepparton, in his electorate, with reference to the formation of a new political party? Can he give the House any information about the people responsible for calling the meeting-
– Order ! The formation of a new political party is not the responsibility of any Minister of this House.
– As Chairman, I present the third report of the Printing Committee.
Report read by the Clerk, and - by leave - adopted.
Motion (by Mr. Casey) - by leave - proposed -
That Mr. Bostock, Mr. Downer, Mr. Drummond, Mr. Osborne, Mr. Roberton, Mr. Ryan unci Mr. Wentworth be members of the joint committee appointed to consider such matters concerning foreign affairs as are referred to it by the Minister for External Affairs.
That the foregoing resolution be communicated to the Senate by message.
– I want to know the qualifications of the honorable members who have been named by the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey) for membership of such an important body as the Foreign Affairs Committee. I have no faith whatever in either the capacity or the impartiality of the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth). I do not trust his discretion. He might say things that might get to Moscow. One never knows what he will say. He never knows himself. Perhaps the Minister feels sympathetic towards him. because he is cast in the same mould. The honorable member for Evans (Mr. Osborne) is receiving a solatium for his non-inclusion in the ministry. He seemed to be a certainty until the honorable member for Lowe (Mr. McMahon) came out of the blue, so to speak. I thought the honorable member for Bennelong (Mr. Cramer) was going to be included in the Government so at least he might have been appointed to this proposed Foreign Affairs Committee.
– Put him on the gaslight committee.
– Order ! The honorable member for Bennelong’s name was not mentioned. If the honorable member for Melbourne wishes to continue in that vein he should confine himself to the names of the honorable members who have been mentioned.
– Perhaps I could include him by an amendment.
– The honorable member for Melbourne cannot do that.
– The names of several other honorable members were mentioned but I hear them so rarely in the Parliament that I should be grateful if the Minister would tell me who they are. The honorable member for Indi (Mr. Bostock) certainly is entitled to be on the committee because ho is a very knowledgable gentleman and would do a very good job. The honorable member for Angas (Mr. Downer) obviously has an independent mind and should make a very valuable member of this committee. He would not be afraid to express his real opinions when he believed that his conscience obliged him to do so. The honorable member for New England (Mr. Drummond) has had a long and valuable experience in the New South Wales Parliament. He has a mature judgment and much sound common sense and I think that he should be on the committee. The honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Roberton) is, to say the best, a little erratic. The attacks that he has made from time to time upon members of the Opposition indicate, that even if members of the Opposition joined the committee at some future time, incompatibility of temperament would force either his resignation or the withdrawal of such members of the Opposition. Then the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Ryan) has been nominated. I suppose he has been included because he is the brother-in-law of the Minister for External Affairs. I do not think that family relationships should have anything to do with it. Nepotism is always a crime, but the honorable member for Flinders would be quite acceptable to the Opposition if he did not have to bear the burden of being the brotherinlaw of the Minister. Seven members have been nominated. They will be able to say, “ We are seven “. I do not know why the Minister did not increase the size of the committee because there are many matters relating to foreign affairs that must receive attention. Australia is to have a new ambassador in IndoChina and the Minister will soon be welcoming a new ambassador from Japan. We shall also have an ambassador from Germany, and I believe that honorable members on the Government side should have more opportunities to study foreign affairs and all sorts of other affairs, because they do not get much chance to do anything in this Parliament. They just come here to vote. There would be some advantage in giving them an opportunity to be something more than mere division fodder. In the circumstances, we shall let the resolution pass, but we shall not join the committee until its terms of reference have been widened considerably. In the meantime, honorable members who will serve on the committee will not have the benefit of the wide experience, acumen, perspicacity, and perspicuity of members of the Opposition.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from the 28th February (vide page 617), on motion by Mr. Casey -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- I rise to support this bill which provides for a security treaty between Australia, New Zealand, and the United States of America. Opposition speakers on this measure last night included the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt), the honorable member for Parkes (Hr. Haylen), the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley), and the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward). I propose to deal with some of the matters that were discussed by those gentlemen. The Leader of the Opposition converted his speech into a defence of the policy of the Chifley Labour Government in relation to Manus Island. The right honorable gentleman’s colleagues also referred to this topic. Unfortunately, there was little evidence of co-ordination in the thoughts of Opposition speakers, and I propose to draw attention to some of the discrepancies in their remarks. The Leader of the Opposition made it quite clear that, when the fate of Manus Island was under consideration, he believed, as he still believes, in the policy of sharing bases. He implied that the United States of” America was not prepared to come to any mutual agreement with Australia. He painted the picture in a very clever fashion to make it appear that the United States Administration had refused to maintain the standard of co-operation that we enjoyed with it during World War II. He did not point out that, in fact, the Americans, in their original approach to Australia, had said, “ We are interested in discussing with you only the future of the naval base at Manus Island “. He did not point out that it was he who enunciated the policy of reciprocity in relation to all the American bases in the Pacific, from those in the vicinity of Japan right down to Hawaii. The right honorable gentleman mentioned Guam in particular. I found the right honorable gentleman’s speech interesting, because he went to great trouble to bring all his limited histrionic ability to bear on this matter. I watched him choking with emotion and observed the great feeling with which he attacked the problem. My heart went out to him when he said that a foul attack had been launched on him, and I thought that perhaps some sin had been committed. So I listened carefully to his remarks. I found after he had gone through all the points that he wished to make, he had made the United States of America appear in a most unfortunate light. I found the picture that he was endeavouring to paint was one of the Americans having said, “ Look, you little Australians are asking for far too much. You are starting to irritate us, and we want no more of it “. Then he, the champion of Australia’sposition in international affairs, said to the Americans, “ We are a great nation, and we demand reciprocal rights all over the Pacific before we shall allow you into Manus Island, which is ours “. I assume that the right honorable gentleman thought that thereby he would elevate Australia to a position of great pre-eminence in the world. It seems that the Americans said, in return, and the right honorable gentleman has clearly implied that they said, “ Either you give us full control or else we are not interested in playing with you “. I shall read to the House an illuminating extract from volume 20 of Current Notes, the bulletin issued by the Department of External Affairs, which at page 267 gives the reply that the right honorable member gave to an interjection made in this House by the then honorable member for New England, Mr. Abbott, during a debate on foreign affairs on the 9th February, 1949, when the right honorable gentleman was Minister for External Affairs. Mr. Abbott said -
The United States of America wants back Manus Island for its own use.
The right honorable gentleman’s answer to that is an example of the rather mystical way in which he clouds every issue in a torrent of words, so that one finds oneself wallowing in an absolute morass, laced with confusing side tracks. The right honorable gentleman replied -
The honorable member for New England hag been very consistent on that point.
That was an interesting opening, which would tend to reduce one’s feeling of the necessity to be on guard. He continued -
I think that he has been very wrong about it.
By the use of the words “ I think “ he endeavoured to introduce an element of doubt in the kindest possible way, instead of saying, “ The man’s an absolute fool and I say he is utterly wrong “. He continued -
He knows very well that there are two viewpoints with regard to Manus -
He did not say anything about who held those viewpoints, or define them. He continued - . . one, that the base should be completely handed over to the United States of America . . .
From what source did that suggestion emanate? This is the only reference I can find to it, and it comes from the right honorable gentleman and nobody else. He then said -
I think that that is a completely preposterous proposition.
Then he went on - and I ask honorable members to bear this in mind as a qualification of everything he said last night -
No suggestion of that kind was ever put to us by the United States of America at any time.
The position becomes more and more confusing when we examine it. We are familiar, on the world stage of the United Nations, with this policy of contradiction and confusion, of saying one thing at one moment, acting in another way and meaning something else, so that it is impossible to know what the person concerned is going to do next. He continued -
How could we give up part of a territory which, under our trusteeship responsibilities is an integral part of a territory which Australia is bound to defend?
That is an interesting statement. Australia is bound to defend this area.
– We were never asked to give up the territory. We were asked to share it, and to permit joint action for its defence.
– That is so. The Americans wanted to share in the defence of the island, but those who spoke for Australia at the time said, in effect : “ No, wc will not share it; we want it all for ourselves “. To that one can imagine the Americans replying: “These petulant people are being far too big for their boots. Manus Island is not so important in the world picture. Let ils forget it.”
The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), referring to this measure, said that it had been introduced as a sop to the Australian people in order to allay any misgivings there might be in relation to the negotiations with Japan, or in connexion with a possible resurgence of Japanese power. It is obvious that the Leader of the Opposition, when he was Minister for External Affairs, also tried to bring about a Pacific pact, and he tried to use Manus Island to win American co-operation in the Pacific. That fact gives the lie to the honorable member for East Sydney who said that the pact was a sop to the Australian people, and that it had no value as a security measure. The honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) followed the same line. He spoke at great length, and suggested that there was a common bond between Americans and Australians in regard to Pacific defence. He claimed that this measure was introduced because it was part of the Government’s policy, but that it was not, in fact, necessary. The honorable member for Fremantle, and other members of the Opposition, have followed the example of the Leader of the Opposition in that their arguments are characterized by great verbosity and confusion of thought, so that no one knows what they really mean. The Leader of the Opposition, when he was Minister for External Affairs, refused to table the documents in relation to Manus Island on the ground that they related to top level governmental negotiations. At any rate, he advanced some reason in order to prevent the Parliament from making a clear examination of the matter. The honorable member for Fremantle said that in view of the statements that supporters of . the Government had made about missing documents and subsequent statements by the Leader of the Opposition a royal commission should be appointed to inquire into the subject. I can only say that considerable confusion still exists in respect of Manus Island. Whilst I believe that the. facts could be clarified, I fail to see how a royal commission could unearth documents that are missing. If the relevant documents are missing, very probably they were removed from the file in order to protect the right honorable member for Barton. He might counter such a suggestion by repeating his statement that an article that was published in the Sunday Herald since, this Government assumed office had been based upon information that had been obtained from secret files. Whilst he rightly deplored that fact, he completely ruined his case because he did not say, or imply, that the information was false or that it was not factual. That being so, the right honorable gentleman, in respect of Manus Island, must have indulged in egotistical convulsions at a time when Australia could ill afford to pay the penalty for such conduct on the part of its Minister for External Affairs. To-day, Australia looks at the future with less satisfaction than it would if it could now have the support of an enormous base at Manus Island, equipped and maintained as it was in 1945.
The honorable member for East Sydney, like many of his colleagues, displayed what may be described as an anti-American, if not a pro-Soviet, attitude. In the Pacific to-day, there exists on the left hand, a degree of instability and insecurity which no one can accurately assess, and on the right stands American power supported by a line of bases stretching from Japan to the Australian north coast. Let us not forget that in 1941 General Yamashita advanced from Japan to our northern coast in an incredibly short period. Certainly, at that time, Japan was a great naval power; and any other power which would seek to repeat that feat would need to be equally strong. But, at the moment our naval forces in our northern waters are as weak as they were in 1942. I mention that fact in order to substantiate the. contention of Government supporters that if the French forces in Indo-China should suffer an irreparable defeat and the Vietnam forces be left to their own resources, the events of 1942 could easily be repeated. That constitutes a sufficient threat to Australia to impel us to attend to our defences and to realize our responsibilities in that respect in order that we should be able to put up as good a fight as possible until assistance became available.
The honorable member for Fremantle said that back-benchers on the Government side were invariably servile in their approach to defence. No doubt our Scots friend, the honorable member for EdenMonaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) will advance a similar argument. Such a charge obliges us to show some spirit. Any one who would describe the honorable member f”t Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) as being servile must indulge in most extraordinary thinking. I cannot understand how any one could say that honorable members like the honorable member for Evans (Mr. Osborne), the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett), the honorable member for Indi (Mr. Bostock), the honorable member for Farrer (Mr. Fairbairn) and other honorable members on this side are servile. However, such charges are typical of the attitude of members of the Opposition and of the woolly thinking of their leader, who, in the course of his speech on this measure last night, gave a demonstration of which Sir Lawrence Olivier would have been proud. But, in my view, it was a disgusting performance on the part of a party leader in this House.
The honorable member for Parkes illustrated the rather odd isolationist point of view of the Opposition in defence matters. He said, in effect, that we may become involved in forays in the Pacific in a conflict that was not exactly our fight. Any aggression that may occur in any part of the world will be our fight. Any one who has had even the remotest experience of war, must realize how short-sighted is the Opposition’s view. We must do all in our power to keep any conflict in the future as far as possible from our homeland. It would be suicidal to accept the view that we should sit at home and wait until the conflict reaches our shores, and that our forces must not go beyond the Equator, because, as we would be thousands of miles from the centre of any possible conflict, we should fully utilize our geographical advantage. That is not only a tragic but also an immoral attitude. Our voluntary system of military service is immoral because it means that one group in the community carries the banner for the community as a whole. Whilst no Australian is compelled to take up arms in order to enable Australia to honour its obligation as a member of the United Nations, at the same time, men from Chicago, Edinburgh and London are under obligation to come to the defence of this country. That fact is not to Australia’s credit. The honorable member for Fremantle dealt with the importance of the Pacific theatre compared with the European theatre. He said that no war could occur in the Pacific unless war first occurred in Europe. In view of the position that now exists in the Pacific, that contention does not hold true to-day. We must take cognizance of that fact that Communist China is becoming stronger and stronger. I do not think that, in the foreseeable future, Japan will become a great naval power. Even if Japan came into our camp and developed along the best lines, the great potential threat to us would still be that an enemy would come down through Malaya and Indo-China, along the path followed by the Imperial Japanese Army in 1942. The enemy would come by land. [Quorum formed.]
It has been suggested that Indonesia may occupy Dutch New Guinea. If that were to occur, it would .be well to remember that the Indonesians were assisted immeasurably by the waterside workers of this country, who, to some degree. controlled the foreign policy of the last Labour Administration. I recollect the steady hatred of the Netherlands Government that was clearly shown by that Administration. Then, everything possible was done to assist the Indonesians to overthrow the Dutch authorities in Indonesia. If the Indonesians try to occupy Dutch New Guinea, we shall have to take some positive action. It may be reasonable to assume that the Indonesians will try to occupy that territory. If they do, I am certain that many people in this country with red blood in their veins will not be prepared to stand idly by and watch any portion of New Guinea being absorbed. at this stage by a foreign power.
– Why only at this stage?
– This is the stage with which we are concerned. We are trying to convince even the most woollyminded members of the Opposition that they must look beyond the Equator. The world is becoming smaller in direct ratio to the increased range and speed of big bomber aircraft. The isolationist defence policy of the Labour party is so far out of date that one could be pardoned for assuming that it was designed by those who planned operations for William, Duke of Normandy.
I believe that this measure has the general approval of -the people of Australia. Members of the Opposition, by supporting it, may be able to derive some advantage in their electorates. I believe that that is their main interest in the matter, because during the last two years they have done nothing to assist the defence of this country. They have neither supported the recruiting campaign nor done the many things that they should have done if they possessed any semblance of national responsibility. Now, they will be able to say to the people that in the Parliament, they supported a measure, the effect of which was to tie us up with the Americans. This treaty is not an indication of servility on our part. It will awaken the Australian people to the necessity for them, to make preparations for their own defence. I hope that the members of the Opposition will do nothing to prevent other people from participating in those preparations, even though they are not prepared to do so themselves.
. - Contrary to the expectation of the honorable member for St. George (Mr. Graham), I shall not charge him with being servile. Nothing in his record would justify a charge of that kind being made against him. Nor will I make that charge against those who, like him sit so uncomfortably and unhappily on the back benches on the Government side of the chamber. I appreciate the position in which honorable gentlemen opposite find themselves. At present, they are exhibiting patience with the inept leaders who are placing them politically in so serious a position. But I am confident that, far from being servile, they will, as their predecessors did in 1941, rise in due time and, in the interests of the people in this country, throw this Government from office. Ear from being servile, they will show the political courage and independence that was demonstrated the other day by the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Downer).
This debate has shown the complete falsity of the charge that the Chifley Government refused to allow the United States of America to use Manus Island as a base. No honorable gentleman opposite will repeat that charge now.
– I shall repeat it. I shall make a precise charge.
– Even the honorable member for St. George did not repeat the charge this morning. Last night, the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) gave the facts of the matter, chapter and verse. This morning, the Government put up as its representative the honorable member for St. George, who, as every one will agree, is a highly capable man and well qualified to deal with this matter. But, although he was assisted and coached from the table by the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey), he was unable to shake the accuracy of any of the statements that were made last night by the Leader of the Opposition.
– I did not discuss the matter with the honorable member for St. George.
– The Minister interrupted the honorable gentleman’s speech once or twice.
– Only to tell him something that he already knew.
– I suggest that the honorable member for St. George would have made even a better speech than he did make if he had not been assisted by the Minister, who, due to his absence from Australia for very long periods in recent years, finds it very difficult to adopt an Australian viewpoint in matters relating to our relations with other countries. Not one honorable gentleman opposite has been able to refute any of the statements that were made last night by the Leader of the Opposition. Therefore, this debate has had a most valuable effect because for years false statements have been made and slanders have been unfairly cast upon -the Leader of the Opposition. It has clearly established that the Chifley Government did not refuse to grant the United States of America the use of Manus Island base, and also that the Australian Government was prepared to allow the United States of America the joint use of that base. Lest any doubt should still exist on the subject, I shall refer to some of the facts which have been established in the speech of the Leader of the Opposition and have not been contraverted by any Government supporter. The first fact is that the United States of America, through its agents, asked British Commonwealth countries to hand over practically every British base in the Pacific.
– That statement happens to be completely untrue.
– Order ! I ask the Minister to remain silent. He will have his opportunity to express his views when he replies to the debate.
-The Minister’s opportunity will be restricted-
– No, it will not.
– I am sure that it will not be restricted. The statements that he will make-
– And the proof.
– Yes, and the proof will be restricted by his own admission that the files relating to this matter are complete, and that no documents are missing from them.
Mr. Casey interjecting,
– Order ! I ask the Minister and the honorable member for Eden-Monaro to refrain from carrying on this dialogue.
– The Minister will produce such evidence as suits his own purpose, because that is exactly what was done when, in a breach of trust and of either ministerial or departmental oath, such evidence as suited the purpose of those who wished to. slander the Leader of the Opposition was made available to a representative of the Sydney Sunday Herald. However, the fact which has been established is that the representatives of the United States of America Government asked the countries of the British Commonwealth to hand over to the United States of America practically every base in the Pacific. The Minister for External Affairs does not agree with that statement. He will probably have to deny, then, that such a request was considerd by a conference of Prime Ministers of the British Commonwealth countries. Will the Minister deny that such a conference was held, and that it considered, and made a decision on the request of the United States of America?
– Mr. Speaker has asked me not to interject, but I point out that the honorable member is talking nonsense.
– Order ! The honorable member for Eden-Monaro is inviting interjections. I ask him to address the Chair.
– I have received great provocation.
– I say to you, Mr. Speaker, that the Minister, having denied that the United States of America made the request, will have to deny in his reply, if he is to be consistent, that a conference of Prime Ministers of British Commonwealth countries considered such a request and made a decision upon it. When his opportunity comes to speak, he will have to deny that. ‘If …he denies that the request .was- made, he will also have to deny that a conference of British Commonwealth Prime Ministers was held, that such a request was considered by it, and that a decision was reached on the matter. He will have to deny that the United States of America asked for Canton Island, which is half-British, and also for bases in. Fiji, New Zealand, the Solomons, the New Hebrides and Western Samoa. The fact is that such a request was made.
That it was made probably without the approval of the President of the United States of America does not affect the fact that it was made, and that it was common knowledge to the Prime Ministers of the countries of the British Commonwealth. After having considered the request, they decided that British territory could not be handed over unconditionally to any other country, even though it was our friend and ally, the United States of America.
– What opinion did the Australian Prime Minister express at that conference on the request?
– No one should endeavour to divert attention from the real issues in this debate. The Prime Ministers of the British Commonwealth assembled in conference and made their decision on the request of the United States of America.
– I rise to order and ask you, Mr. Speaker, for guidance in a matter concerning the protection of the truth. Have you authority to intervene when an honorable member makes completely untrue statements with such an air of reality that they may be accepted as facts by the Australian people? I realize, sir, as you have reminded me, that I shall have an opportunity to reply to the second-reading debate, and I shall certainly deal with these misstatements. I do not desire to contravene your authority by continuing to interject, but my tolerance is being strained to the very limit. The honorable gentleman is making a series of statements which are untrue-
– Order ! The Minister has made his attitude clear, and 1 shall point out the position to him. I am not clothed with any authority which permits me to judge the truth or otherwise of any statement made in the House. The only time I can intervene is when a statement is made which I consider offensive to an honorable member in a personal sense. But if a statement is offensive in a political sense, the matter “is outside the scope of my authority. Whatever the rights or wrongs may be in regard to the matter now under discussion, the honorable member for EdenMonaro is so far in order. If conditions permit, the Minister will have an oppor tunity to reply to anything or everything that has been said in this debate, out he may not intervene at this stage with a refutation. I cannot permit a cross-fire of interjections across the table about the rights and wrongs of this matter.
– I thoroughly agree with your ruling, Mr. Speaker. If the truth hurts the Minister, he can salve his feelings with the thought that he will have an opportunity to reply to every statement that has been made in this debate. I suggest that he knew perfectly well that his point of order was without substance and that he merely engaged in a little innocent acting.
The conference of Prime Ministers of British Commonwealth countries resolved that no British territory should be handed over unconditionally to any other nation. Does any honorable member in the chamber disagree with that decision? Does any honorable member believe, that British territory should be handed over unconditionally to any other nation.? I emphasize that the decision which was made by the Australian Government at that time was reinforced by the decision of the Prime Ministers of the British Commonwealth at that time. In addition, the decision of the Australian Government at that time was reinforced by the unanimous recommendation of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the. Australian Forces. Perhaps the Minister will deal with those decisions when he replies to the debate. Let us suppose that the Manus Island base had been handed over unconditionally to the United States of America, as was requested. Then Australia would not have been able to use its own territory - Manus Island - in the defence of this continent in a Pacific war in which the United States of America was not a participant. Perhaps the Minister will also deny the truth of that statement. The United States of America did not enter World War I. until after the sinking of Lusitania in 1917. Perhaps the Minister for External Affairs will agree with that statement. He will also agree that in World War II. the United States of America did not enter the war until after Pearl Harbour had been bombed, and that therefore there is a precedent for the possibility that Australia could again be attacked in the Pacific while the United States of America remained neutral. In that event, Australia’s position would be far worse and its peril far greater than if the United States of America were fighting on our side. It is in those exact circumstances that Australia would have been prohibited from using its own territory - this valuable base at Manus Island - in the defence of the beseiged and beleagured Commonwealth. I doubt whether any member on the ministerial side of the House would contend that the Australian Government should have agreed to give away its own territory and the right to use its own bases in a time of war when this country had been attacked.
The true position, which has been clearly established in this debate and which contravenes the falsehoods that have been repeated outside this House for a long time, is that the Australian Government did not reject, out of hand, the request of the United States of America Government with respect to Manus Island. Certainly, it refused to surrender Australian territory unconditionally. In taking that action, I believe that it would hove had the support of every true Australian who had been aware of the circumstances because no more than the honorable member for St. George (Mr. Graham) are the people of Australia of a servile type, who would willingly hand over Australian territory to any foreign country. The Australian Government rejected the unconditional demand. It did not, at any stage of the negotiations, refuse to the United States of America the use of the Manus Island base. On the contrary, it proposed that such arrangements should be made on the basis of a regional Pacific pact giving mutual use of facilities. I suggest that that proposition could be rejected only by some one who was not a. self-respecting Australian, who did not regard this country as a sovereign nation, and who considered that we should put ourselves in a servile and inferior position to the United States of America. But any selfrespecting Australian, with pride in this nation, would surely agree that when another nation requested the use of a base on our territory, the Government would not have done anything less than our self-respect required had it proposed that the arrangement should provide for mutual benefits on the basis of a regional pact which would give to both nations the common use of common facilities in the common defence of their common interests in the Pacific. That was exactly what the Australian Government suggested. It is only because of the distortion and misinterpretation of what the Australian Government did at that time that public opinion has been aroused in any way against the then Minister for External Affairs in connexion with the matter. Once the truth is known by the people of Australia their support for the attitude that the Australian Government adopted will be overwhelming.
It has been stated that tremendous defensive equipment existed at Manus Island. That statement was made very freely in the early stages of this controversy. It has since been established to the satisfaction of every fair-minded man that the statement was not true. Manus Island is not a base on which tremendous defensive equipment existed. It was merely a staging base. Therefore, on the plain recital of facts, the Australian Government’s attitude at that time was one that any self-respecting government would have had to adopt, regardless of its political colour. It was an attitude which any government that had a true regard for the safety of Australian soil would have adopted and it is only by the distortion and misinterpretation of what the Australian Government did that any false public impression has been created.
That brings us to the only remaining serious aspect of this matter. How was it possible to distort and falsify the decision of the Australian Government at that time and to implement a false impression in the public mind ? There is no doubt that that impression was engendered primarily by means of an article that was published in the Sydney Sunday Herald. I hope that the Minister for External Affairs will not deny that such an article was published in that newspaper. I imagine that he will not deny that the article was based on documents which belonged to the official files of the Department of External Affairs. The article itself shows that it was based on official files which were the property of the Department of External Affairs, as the very fair-minded honorable member for St. George stated in the course of his speech. He used that argument in order to justify the charges that were made in the article. The fact that such an article was published and that it was based on secret government files constitutes a very serious indictment either of the Minister who was in charge of the Department of External Affairs at that time or of the trusted and sworn officers of his department. Either the officers of that department acted in complete breach of their trust and as traitors to their country or the Minister acted in breach of his trust and in treachery to his ministerial obligations. If, as is clear, the article was based on official government files-
– Does the Minister suggest for a moment that it was not?
– Order ! The honorable member will address me and will leave the Minister alone.
– I am asking whether the Minister will deny that the evidence of the article is conclusive proof that the author of it had access to secret government documents.
– There is no proof of that.
– Since the Minister continues to interject and says that there is no proof of the correctness of my contention, will he submit the matter to a royal commission in order to allow honorable members to get to the bottom of. this filthy business ? Now, the Minister is silent. He does not interject now because he is afraid.
– I rise to order, Mr. Speaker. Am I to be continually provoked by questions directed straight at me from across the table to which, in obedience to your instructions, I cannot reply?
– The right honorable gentleman has no right of reply at this time. He must sit and take it. His opportunity to reply will come later.
– I repeat the charge that was made by the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) earlier in this debate that the obligation rests upon the Government, in order to vindicate its own honour, or at least in order to protect the reputation of senior officers of the department, to submit this matter for examination by a royal commission at which the author of the article may be examined and at which the official file, from which the Minister has said important documents are missing, may be perused. I suggest that the Minister, who pretends to be so upset over this matter, is really upset over the possibility of its being investigated by a royal commission. Evidence exists to prove that the article was compiled as a result of conferences, at which official documents were made available, on the seventh floor of the Commonwealth Bank building in Sydney. There is strong evidence that the facts relating to the way in which the information was obtained bythe Sunday Herald are known to various members of the Australian Journalists Association engaged in newspaper work in Sydney. On previous occasions, as you well remember, Mr. Speaker, selfrespecting governments took the most serious notice of unauthorized disclosures of secret information contained in government documents, and very severe penalties were imposed upon journalists and others who had been adjudged by independent tribunals to have been guilty of the mis-use of such documents. We have here the strongest evidence of mis-use of official documents and of breaches of trust by persons who were in possession of those documents. An obligation rests upon the Government, in defence of its own honour, or at least in protection of the reputation of senior public servants, to have the matter investigated.
A settlement of this matter would settle the whole controversy with respectto Manus Island. The fact that the newspaper article was based on official documents does not guarantee the truth of the general contentions that were advanced in that article. There is no surer way to give an air of verisimilitude to an article than to stamp it with the authority of some official document, from which excerpts have been carefully chosen.
Unless all the facts are carefully summarized and published so that the whole story may be made known, such an article can be utterly misleading, as was that article in the Sunday Herald.
.- The honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) said very little about the bill before the House. Like the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) and other members of the Opposition who have spoken in this debate, he introduced a red herring by discussing the Manus Island controversy in order to dodge the real issues that are involved in the Pacific pact. I wonder whether members of the Opposition have really begun to understand during the last few days what their support of this bill implies and are now attempting either to salve their own consciences or to deceive the people by introducing a side issue. The honorable member for Eden-Monaro said that no member on the Government side of the House had refuted the charges that had been made by the Leader of the Opposition in connexion with the Manus Island affair. Either he was not in the chamber when various supporters of the Government spoke last night and this morning, or he has tried unsuccessfully to emulate the eminent British seaman who was reported to have changed the course of history by putting his telescope to his sightless eye.
It is possible that the Government of the United States of America did ask for permission to use Australian bases in the Pacific area as the honorable member for Eden-Monaro suggested. In fact, such a request would be natural at a time when a Labour government was in power in Australia. What has any Labour government ever done in the interests of Australia’s security that would win the confidence of any other nation? The records show that the Australian Labour party not only has failed .to support adequate defence measures but also has actually frustrated endeavours that have been made to protect this country. Naturally the Government of the United States of America, with that knowledge in mind, would seek to guard its interests in the Pacific, especially as the Australian Labour Government had squealed to it for help.
– Mr. Speaker, I direct your attention to the state of the House.
– I point out to the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) that at no stage during the speech of the honorable member for EdenMonaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) was there a quorum in the House.
– What has that to do with it?
-It has everything to do with it. I inform the House that, if frequent calls for the formation of a quorum continue to be made, I shall take action to ensure that a quorum shall be present at all times. There are nineteen honorable members on my right and thirteen on my left. The bells will be rung. [Quorum formed.]
– The attitude of the Labour party towards the Government of the United States of America and its people throughout this debate and an earlier debate on the subject of the Japanese peace treaty does it no credit, especially when we recall the appeal for help that a Labour government was forced to make to the United States of America in Australia’s hour of need, because of its own neglect.
Honorable members opposite have said that the mutual defence pact between Australia, New Zealand and the United States of America has been designed to guard against Japanese aggression. I do not deny that it will serve that purpose, but Japan to-day is an unarmed nation and is not in the picture as an aggressor, whereas a mighty potential aggressor is doing everything possible to force its way across Asia and eventually into Australia. I have no doubt that the Opposition has carefully ignored that fact for a purpose. I can quite imagine the barrage that the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) would have to face in his electorate if it became known that he had agreed to a defence pact against the supporters of Russia.
– Good Heavens!
– That observation applies, also, to the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear). Of course, I realize that the reply of those honorable members would be that it was a defence pact against Japan and any other aggressor nation. But to-day we have only one potential aggressor in mind. We must not deceive ourselves about this matter.
– Does the honorable member remember the yellow peril?
– I do, and I also recall that the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Curtin) was very yellow at that time. There is a vast difference between the proposed security treaty between Australia, New Zealand and the United States of America, and the treaty of peace with Japan that this House has already decided to ratify. That treaty placed no obligation on this nation, but; it did place certain obligations on Japan. In view of the manner in which treaties have been regarded in the past by nations other than English-speaking nations, I do not attach a skerrick of importance to a treaty of that kind. In what way could we hold Japan to the treaty? In the past we have not been able to hold far more powerful nations than Japan to treaties. The only way in which we might be able to hold Japan to the treaty is by means of the Pacific pact that we are now debating, which places obligations on the Australian people. I have confidence in it because it is the result of agreement between Englishspeaking peoples. I should like- to see the pact extended to include other nations who are possessed of the spirit of the English-speaking peoples. A pact between such peoples is never broken. It is characteristic of the English-speaking peoples of the world that they always make an honest attempt to do what they promise to do, although I have no doubt that the people whom the honorable member for East Sydney represents would regard that as a weakness in our character. I regard it as a sign of strength that English-speaking peoples can be relied upon to honour their word. Let us consider our part in the agreement. Article 11 of the Schedule to the bill provides -
In order more effectively to achieve the objective of this Treaty the Parties separately and jointly by means of continuous and effective self-help and mutual aid will maintain and develop their individual and collective capacity to resist armed attack.
Presumably, by their support of the proposed pact, honorable members opposite will repudiate their previous attitude towards the building up of the armed forces of this country. If that be so, they should rise in their places and say so. The advisers of the Government consider, as I do, that it is necessary to extend national service training to another group. Are we to assume that Labour is withdrawing its opposition to the national service training scheme? Are members of the Opposition prepared to go on to public recruiting platforms with me in an endeavour to build up the Citizen Military Forces?
– Must we go with the honorable member?
– The honorable member kids himself. We have to draw the line somewhere.
Mi-. LESLIE. - It is a very unfortunate circumstance for me that I live on the same continent as do those honorable members who have just interjected. May we assume that Labour has reversed its attitude on this matter and that, henceforth, it will co-operate with the Government to develop the defences of this country to the extent considered necessary by our Service advisers? Because they were not prepared to answer those questions honestly, both the Leader of the Opposition and the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) have dodged them and have drawn red herrings across the path. I make it clear to the Opposition that, by agreeing to the proposed pact, it agrees also to the implication of the pact, that is, that it will assist the Government to expand and maintain the defences of this country.
– What are the honorable member’s thoughts about the rearming of Japan ?
– We have the “ Japs “ with us now.
– I am not at all worried about the interjections of honorable members opposite. I always judge the merit of interjections- according to their source. During his fiery outburst last night, the Leader of the Opposition stated that we shall have to implement the proposed pact, and that it must not be merely a paper agreement. I wonder whether the right honorable gentleman was sincere in making those statements ? If he was sincere - and he stated that he was speaking on behalf of the Labour party - honorable members opposite should rise in their places and support him. They should show that they possess a national spirit by taking a part in the activities of this Government. I refer not to political activities, but to our efforts to strengthen the defences of this country. If we are not again to find ourselves in the ignominious position that we were in during World War II. of having to run to somebody else to help us, and to accept surveillance by another nation, it will be necessary for us to extend our national service training scheme.
– Of what is the honorable member complaining now?
– I am not complaining. I am only wondering for how long the Leader of the Opposition will stick to the promises that he has given, or how soon honorable members opposite will try to get out of them. I remind the House that there is an age group in this country that is untrained, from the standpoint of defence, and for whose training no provision has been made, except on a purely voluntary basis. I have been far from encouraged by the results to date of the voluntary system of recruiting. I am convinced that something more is necessary, and I believe that the Government, in order to fulfil its obligations under this pact will examine ways and means whereby the deficiencies of the present voluntary system can be overcome. The group of men from the age of 25 years onwards is the group that has to be trained if we are to live up to the obligations that this pact will impose upon us. Those men cannot be left out of the defence scheme, and there is no doubt that they will be of the greatest service to this country in the event of war if they are adequately trained. If the attitude of honorable members opposite to thi3 legislation is an indication of a change of front on their part, we might try again a continuance of the voluntary system, but frankly, even with their assistance, which would be of considerable advantage,
I do not believe that the system will ever be as effective as we desire. The voluntary system is unsatisfactory because it allows one who wants to dodge his obligations to do so, and throws the whole burden on to those who have a real sense of responsibility to the nation, to those near and dear to them and to themselves. We shall have to alter our methods of recruiting if we are to carry out our obligations under this pact. I echo the words of the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) that this pact must not be a paper agreement.
We shall also have to examine carefully the defence of Australia, and re-organize our strategic system. There is a tendency at the present time to think that the danger of aggression is greater to the eastern coast of Australia than to other parts of it. Although this is a Pacific pact, let us not get the idea that danger lies merely in the Pacific. The forces of aggression will come from the Pacific, but the western coast of Australia is to-day the most vulnerable part of the continent. During World War II. it became apparent that our enemies knew more about the potentialities of our western coast as a landing point than did our own defence services. At least that is how it appears to me, judging by what took place when the danger to Australia was the greatest. The western coast of Australia must be adequately protected. I cannot say where and how bases should be established because that is a matter for experts. Let them not hold the belief that because Western Australia cannot sustain large armed forces because of the lack of food and water, it is not vulnerable. To-day our western coast offers a splendid site for bases from which fighting and trans- , port planes may attack our eastern cities. No vast hostile forces need be landed there in these days of fast and efficient air transport. Many people in Western Australia believe that the western coast is the most vulnerable part of Australia to-day. The fact that it is not lapped by the waters of the Pacific should not delude people into thinking that danger cannot threaten it. The defence of that area must form a part of the overall obligation that will be cast upon us by this legislation, and I presume that we can expect support of that contention from the Opposition.
At the present time, because of our obligations to the United Nations, Australian forces are engaged in a warlike action, even though it is not legally a war. By this legislation we agree to maintain our obligations and responsibilities, under the United Nations, for the maintenance of international peace and security. We are at present doing that by our contribution in the Korean theatre of war and we shall continue to do it. The time is opportune now to say a little more about the wonderful work that our forces are doing under the United Nations banner in Korea. It is an unfortunate fact that they are almost out of the minds of the Australian people, and that the wonderful reputation that they have earned for Australia is completely ignored by Australians. It is regrettable that I should have to say that. I attribute it to the fact that the events now taking place are far away from us, and that, because of the United Nations efforts, there is little likelihood of that particular action extending to our coasts. There are other likely theatres that are far more dangerous.
The basis of this treaty, and the basis of any effort that the Government will have to make to meet its obligations in i elation to it, could be the splendid work of our forces in Korea. I suggest to the Leader of the Opposition and his colleagues that as evidence of the sincerity of their agreement that Australia should fulfil the conditions of this treaty, because of the necessity for the adequate defence of this country and of their regard for the work being done in the defence of Australia at the present time, they should, in association with the Government or of their own volition, send a message of goodwill and good cheer to the battalion of Australian soldiers that is to leave on Monday for Korea. Such a message would be a splendid gesture to the lads who have volunteered to go to Korea to carry their burden and ours, and would help them to live up to the obligations which they and all honorable members of this House accept under this treaty. These men would be glad to be assured that the Parliament and the nation stand united behind them. A message of that kind would stimulate the people of Australia to give to them the moral support that they need. It would also give to the people of this country, who wish to do something constructive to help the cause of the United Nations, and who are concerned about the dangers that surround us, an incentive to continue their efforts. I give my wholehearted support to the measure.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Daly) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Eric J. Harrison) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– I desire to bring particularly to the notice of the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) some remarks that have been made publicly by a member of his political party. These remarks were made on the 15th February last, and were published in the Herald, which is described as the official organ of the Australian Labour party. It is somewhat ironical that the last speeches made in a recent debate should have referred to the men in Korea. The member of the Parliamentary Labour party to whom T. have referred had this to say -
The soldiers fighting in Korea under the flag of the United Nations should be told that they ave not fighting for the purpose of keeping South Korea free. They are embroiled in an extension and strengthening- of American imperialism in Asia.
Those are the principal words to which I take exception. I should say that they are indicative of subversion. They are as offensive as any words could be, but are by no means the worst that have come from the same source. I wish to refer now to statements that are far worse than those that I have quoted. They were made by the same member of the same political party, and were published in the same newspaper, which bears the imprimatur of the Australian Labour party.
– Where is the newspaper printed?
– It is printed in Adelaide. The remarks to which I refer were published in its issue of the 30th November, 1951. These are the words to which I take particular exception -
Workers should not allow themselves to be unduly impressed or misled by so-called peace talks which took place recently in Paris by representatives of member nations of the United Nations General Assembly. Most of such talks, under existing conditions, merely amount to so much political theatricism or exhibitionism on the highest international level.
He then went on to try to break down the idea of collective defence. He said that people who went to war - . . have been supported and glamorized as such by waning capitalists, mainly for international trading purposes at the point of the bayonet and the enforcement of military conscription.
The policy in the direction indicated has not elianged.
Even that statement is far from being the worst. He went on to suggest that in the event of war being waged by the United Nations against aggression the workers should “ sprag “ it by refusing to take part in it.
– Is the person to whom the honorable member has referred a member of the State Parliamentary Labour party?
– He is a member of the Parliamentary Labour party. He also said -
Whether there will be another world war or not or whether there will be a lasting world peace or not, will depend much more upon what the masses of the workers will bc prepared to do, either one way or the other, than it will upon what the United Nations Organization can or is prepared to do.
– Order ! The time is now 12.45 p.m., at which hour it is customary to suspend the sitting. I understand that other honorable members wish to address the House; five have notified me to that effect. I think that there should be some understanding between the Government and the Opposition about the procedure to be followed.
– We should go on with our work.
– Is it the pleasure of the House that the sitting shall continue, or shall be suspended to a fixed hour later in the afternoon?
– I suggest that we should continue to sit until the motion for the adjournment of the House has been disposed of.
– It is obvious that if we do so something will happen that will suit the convenience of the VicePresident of the Executive Council (Mr. Eric J. Harrison). I observe that he is in conversation with the Government Whip.
– Is there anything wrong with that?
– It is possible that, as soon as the honorable member foi Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) has completed his speech, the Vice-President of the Executive Council will move “ That the question be now put”.
– The honorable member has a suspicious mind. He is entirely wrong.
– The purpose of this attack by the honorable member for Mackellar is obvious. It is designed solely for the purpose of besmirching the character of a member of another chamber. I submit that the proper place for such an attack to be made is the other chamber.
– Whenever an attack is made on a member of the Parliament it is my invariable practice to give to him an opportunity to reply to it.
– In this case, Mr. Speaker, the person attacked cannot reply, because he is not a member of this House.
– No person has yet been named. Therefore, I am not in a position to know the identity of the person attacked. In the circumstances it would be appropriate for the sitting to be suspended to, say, 1.30 p.m.
– That would not be bad, but it could be better.
– The sitting should be resumed at 2.30 p.m.
– There is a POSsibility that if honorable members agree to the course I have suggested an honorable member may call attention to the state of the House, and there may not be present a sufficient number of members to maintain a quorum. Honorable members must be prepared to take that risk.
Motion (by Mr. Eric J. Harrison) put -
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Archie Cameron.)
Majority . . . . 26
Mr.Ward. - On a point of order, Mr. Speaker, I ask you whether it was in order for you to accept the motion, “ That the question be now put “, after you had announced your intention to suspend the sitting and vacate the chair.
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
The following paper was presented : -
Defence ForcesRetirement Benefits Act - ThirdReport of the Defence ForcesRetirement Benefits Board, for year 1950-51.
House adjourned at 12.54 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
d asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Section 98 of the Broadcasting Act provides for the grant of reduced fee licences to certain class of pensioners who (a) live alone, (b) live with another pensioner or (c) live with another person or persons if the income and pension - at present £4 10s. weekly - allowed under Part III. or Part IV. of the Social Services Consolidation Act 1947-1951 or section 87 of the Repatriation Act 1920-1951. Because of these provisions it is administratively necessary for all applicants for pensioners reduced fee licences to furnish an application which includes a declaration indicating the type of pension received and also that they do not live with any person in receipt of a weekly income in excess of £4 10s. The declaration may be witnessed by any person.
a asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
Mr.Anthony. - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
d asked the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1 and 2. Thenames and official status of the Australian officials who assisted me as Australian Minister at the meeting of Commonwealth Ministers on Supply were: -
J.G. Crawford - Secretary, Department of Commerce and Agriculture. Leader of the official delegation.
S. Brown - Secretary, Prime Minister’s Department.
A. O’Connor - Assistant Secretary, Department of Supply.
Rattigan - Then Acting Assistant ControllerGeneral (Trade), Department of Trade and Customs.
N. McCay - Assistant Director, Division, of Industrial Development.
Joyce - Secretory to Mr. Crawford, Leader of the Delegation.
I was accompanied on the flight to the United Kingdom by my wife, my private secretary, F. O’Connor, and confidential stenographer, D. Carruthers. In addition to his work as leader of the official delegation to the Supply Conference, Mr. Crawford assisted me in my negotiations with the United Kingdom Minister’s on food contracts and related questions.
For purposes related to official mission. Yes.
Final figures of. costs are not yet available.
r asked the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
m. - On the 26th February, the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Roberton) asked a question regarding an acute shortage of oxygen for industrial purposes.
I now understand that there are some periodical shortages of oxygen in some districts. These shortages are not caused by any difficulty in. producing the oxygen but the slow turn round of the steel cylinders in which it is supplied, particularly by small users who retain the cylinders for unduly lengthy periods. As the Government is not controlling distribution of materials, there is nothing I can do officially to rectify these temporary shortages, but I am assured by the company -which produces this gas that it is doing everything possible. It has recently established depots in many country towns to which customers can deliver empty cylinders and obtain their filled replacement cylinders without waiting for them to be returned to the capital cities for refilling. The company then arranges for the depot stocks to be replenished by fast motor transport to and from the capital cities. Two of these depots are situated at Albury and Deniliquin. In addition, the company is purchasing more cylinders as they become available, but, -like many other steel products, supplies are difficult to obtain. It appears that the solution lies in the hands of the users to assist by speeding up the return of the empty cylinders to the manufacturer.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 29 February 1952, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1952/19520229_reps_20_216/>.