22nd Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. John McLeay) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– I direct the following question to the Minister for External Affairs: In view of recent developments in relation to Cyprus, has the Australian Government any view or policy in connexion with the demand by the people of Cyprus for selfgovernment? If the Government has not any view, has the Minister any view and has he expressed it?
– I think the Leader of the Opposition will agree that a statement of government policy on a matter of this consequence should not be made in answer to a question without notice. The Government has expressed itself during the last two years on the Cyprus question, and has ranged itself unequivocally on the side of Great Britain. If the right honorable gentleman requires it, I shall take advantage of an early opportunity to re-state the Australian position, which, I might say in advance, is not noticeably different from that of the United Kingdom.
– My question is directed to the Postmaster-General. The Minister will recall that in a speech I made in the House I suggested that the PostmasterGeneral’s Department should be transferred from the control of the Public Service Board and placed under a commission to be established under the direction of the PostmasterGeneral. Has he any information on this matter that he can make available?
– I recall that the honorable member for Lyne referred to this matter in a speech which he made in the House some time ago; and he has discussed it with me personally since. Obviously, this is a matter involving important policy determination by the Government and, therefore, is not one to which I can refer at question time. So for the present, ? confine myself to the statement that it is a matter to which I and the Director-General of Posts and Telegraphs have been giving consideration for some time past; but until that consideration discloses a need for some reference to and decision by Cabinet I cannot further discuss it at question time.
– Can the
Minister for Labour and National Service say why particular care is now being taken by employment officers of his department to avoid enrolling for employment any male over 65 years of age or any female over 60 years of age who becomes unemployed? Is he aware of the fact that many people of this age desire to continue in useful employment and feel strongly about being refused enrolment and at the same time being told by the employment officers to apply for the age pension? Is this being done to keep down the departmentally recorded number of unemployed, and is it being done with the Minister’s consent?
– I certainly have not given any instruction having the substance of what has been put forward by the honorable member. I should be very surprised to learn that there is any departmental instruction or direction to that effect. If the honorable member has any particular case in mind, I ask him to give me an opportunity to examine it. The Commonwealth Employment Service, throughout my direction of it, has sought to give the best advice and help that it can to any person seeking employment, and to place such person as suitably as possible.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation. In view of the fact that the extension of airway services is essential to the development of Australia, will the Government consider meeting part of the costs of the provision of airstrips at places ‘ where reputable airlines are prepared to provide services?
– As the honorable member is probably aware, the Minister for Civil Aviation is a member of another place. I shall be pleased to convey the honorable member’s question to him, and will ask him to give a reply in due course.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Labour and National Service. As a recent decision of the Privy Council has made it clear that workers under both State and Federal awards will receive long service leave in Victoria, New South Wales, Queensland and Tasmania, will the right honorable gentleman confer with his colleagues in the Cabinet with the object of introducing a bill in this House to ensure uniformity throughout the Commonwealth, so that workers in South Australia and Western Australia also will receive long service leave?
– The matter raised by the honorable member quite obviously involves a question of policy, but ] take the opportunity of explaining that there seems to be some misunderstanding about the decision of the Privy Council in the Victorian long service leave case. The decision, as I understand it, merely confirms the earlier authorities on the question of conflict between Commonwealth awards and State laws. What the Privy Council has said, in effect, is that in the case of the Commonwealth Metal Trades Award the State act does not conflict with the award; if the circumstances surrounding other Commonwealth awards are similar to those of the case before the Privy Council, the decision will equally apply. But if a Commonwealth tribunal had before it a claim for long service leave, then the State legislation may very well not operate because of the rule about conflict. I would add that the Privy Council decision does not mean that all workers under Commonwealth awards are automatically entitled to long service leave under State acts, where those acts exist. Each award must be examined separately. Supplementing what I said earlier on the policy aspect, we have, as t think the honorable gentleman knows, clothed the Commonwealth tribunal with authority to deal with these matters. It has never been the practice of this Government to legislate on large industrial questions of the kind mentioned by the honorable member.
– In answer to a question about Cyprus a few moments ago, the Minister for External Affairs said that the views of the Australian Government were similar to those of the United Kingdom Government. I ask him now whether he means that they are similar to those of the Prime Minister of Great Britain or to those of Lord Salisbury.
– 1 do not quite understand the significance of this question, but I am sure that it is a very clever question indeed.
– It is - a very good one!
– The Leader of the Opposition asked what was the policy of the Government, not the views of any particular individual on this side of the House. I think the words I used in reply were that the policy of the Government was not noticeably different from that of the United Kingdom. That refers to the policy side; I am not speaking of any particular event in point of time, but of the general policy and attitude of the United Kingdom Government. It can be taken, as I said, that the views of the Australian Government are not noticeably different from those of the United Kingdom Government.
– Can the Minister for Health say why the substance dextran which 1 understand is manufactured in the United Kingdom and the main basis for which is a sugar derivative, is not allowed to be manufactured in this country, as I understand that this substance is used as a blood volume expander in some cases, saving the use of blood plasma?
– I was not aware that there was any prohibition on the manufacture of dextran in Australia, but if there is I shall ascertain the facts and let the honorable member know.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Immigration been directed to the very frequent reports in the press of appearances before Australian courts of immigrants on account of assaults and other offences involving the use of a knife? Will the Minister consider taking action to deport from Australia immigrants, whether naturalized or not, who have been, or who are in the future, convicted of assault or threat of assault, in which the use of a knife or a firearm is involved?
– The Department of Immigration has, for some years now, kept a very close watch on this problem. Mr. Justice Dovey, of New South Wales, some time ago made two inquiries into crime involving immigrants. I shall not weary the House with a long dissertation; I think it is sufficient to say that the figures show that the incidence of crime amongst immigrants is very much lower than it is amongst the Australian population. This finding has been made by Mr. Justice Dovey. He has just completed a third inquiry into the same matter, and I hope to be able to publish his findings from that inquiry within the next few weeks.
– Will the Prime Minister distribute to honorable members copies of the statements on import licensing made on Monday last by himself and the Minister for Trade, because of the very great interest which has been evident since the announcements were made?
– Arrangements have been made for the distribution of those two papers to all members.
– I direct a question to the Prime Minister, in the absence of the Minister for Trade. The right honorable gentleman is aware that many small firms and individuals have been endeavouring, without success, over the last two or three years to obtain an import quota. The reason for refusal in many instances has been that no new licences were being issued. These refusals have resulted in the individual or small firm concerned being forced, in order to stay in business, to obtain imported supplies at a premium on existing licences. In view of the Prime Minister’s recent announcement on the relaxation of import restrictions amounting to £75,000,000, will he give a guarantee that applicants for the establishment of a quota will be granted licences and that the £75,000,000 will not be used to increase licences already in existence?
– The question, of course, should be put, if a detailed reply is required, to my colleague, the Minister for Trade, who will be here either to-morrow or the day after - I am not sure which - but I do direct attention to the fact that in the announcement on the relaxation of import restrictions, reference was made to a substantial allowance for an overall sum of money to deal with anomalies and hardships, and it may very well be that that covers the category of matters to which the honorable member refers.
– Will the Minister for External Affairs say why he has decided that Australia should not continue as a member .of the Commission on the Status of Women? As I understand that Australia has a record of constructive representation on this United Nations instrumentality, I ask the right honorable gentleman whether he has good reason for abandoning this activity. Further, is it too late to suggest that our continued membership of the commission might be reconsidered?
– I am glad that my honorable friend has thought fit to ventilate this question because, although I have informed, in some detail, all the women’s organizations concerned in this matter, I have reason to believe that there is still some misunderstanding of why Australia, after a long association with the Commission on the Status of Women, now proposes to resign from it. The simple facts are these: The commission has existed in its present form for eleven years. Of those eleven years, Australia has been a member for no less than eight years. We went off the commission for three years in the early 1950’s in favour of New Zealand, which was very keen to go on to it. Now, after eight years of membership of the commission - and I agree with the honorable gentleman that we have had a constructive record, and that we have been well represented by very representative women over the whole of that period - we believe that it is reasonable for us to go off, particularly because Canada, which has never been on the commission, is most keen to get on. There has become a convention that there shall never be more than one non-Asian Commonwealth member on the commission. So I believe that the decision is a proper one, and that we should give w»y to r>:?r sister Dominion of Canada which, as I have said, is very keen indeed to get on to the commission. There is considerable pressure, as I understand it, from widespread women’s organizations in Canada which want to know why they have never been represented on this commission.
– Is there any limitation of numbers?
– Could that not be amended so that Australia might be kept on?
– I suppose it could be done, but it is not a thing that could be done easily or readily, lt would have to be agreed to by a very large number of other countries. As I have said, I think we have had our fair share of membership of the commission. Australia is represented on no less than 22 instrumentalities of the United Nations and also on another 22 or 23 international organizations and associations that are not directly under the aegis of the United Nations. Representation on such a large number and variety of bodies of that sort produces a considerable strain on our resources of suitably trained personnel. I do not really believe, sir, that the situation permits of any reconsideration of our decision, having regard to the interests of our sister Dominion of Canada.
– Has the Treasurer considered a published admission by a Sydney taxation agent that he had defrauded the Taxation Branch of some £80,000, involving more than 5,000 faked income tax returns? Is it a fact that this agent has been apprehended only in regard to a few of the offences which involve approximately £1,100? How is it possible for an agent to escape detection on so many tax evasion counts? Have steps been taken to overhaul tax evasion detection methods since this alarming disclosure was made some months ago?
– I have not seen the article to which the honorable member refers. I can assure him that with the present organization and the vigilance that is exercised, people who evade taxation do so only temporarily, because we get them when they die.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Immigration in connexion with the Government’s policy of encouraging the immigration of children under the Fairbridge Farms scheme. Is it a fact that widows or widowers with children may now emigrate to Australia under the assisted scheme? Will the children go to school in Australia in boarding house schools similar to those now in operation in Australia? If so, will the Minister consider using part of the Cowra migrant centre, which has excellent facilities and services that are no longer being used by the Commonwealth?
– The honorable member has always shown a close interest in the Fairbridge Farms scheme. It is true that we are attempting to expand and broaden the provisions of the Fairbridge scheme. Recently, two of the directors from England were here, and discussed the matter with me. We hope to bring out to Australia more British children under the Government’s plan to increase British immigration, but there will be adequate accommodation in the Fairbridge centres that already exist, and it will not be necessary to use the Cowra centre.
– Will the Treasurer inform the House whether it is a fact that, when financial grants are made to the States for housing, this Government imposes conditions that prevent any of this finance being used by the housing commissions for sewer or water reticulation? If this is so, will the Treasurer take action to have this anomaly corrected in order that these health requirements so essential to housing communities can be installed?
– If an anomaly exists in the direction which the honorable member has suggested, such anomaly is subject to adjustment by the recipients of the loan money that is allocated through the Australian Loan Council by the States by general agreement amongst themselves.
– I direct a question to the Minister for the Interior concerning his request last session to honorable members to make suggestions for improvements of the Commonwealth electoral machinery. Has the Minister had time yet to consider those suggestions? When will the Parliament be asked to discuss proposed legislation on this matter?
– It is true that last year I suggested to the general public, as well as to honorable members of this House, that they might make suggestions for a review of the electoral machinery. That subject is being studied departmentally and by a committee that has been set up to review it. A considerable amount of work has been done, but I am not yet able to say when we shall be able to produce a bill.
Mr. Bryant having asked a question,
– Order! As a supplementary question on the matter raised by the honorable member for Wills has already been asked, I rule that the honorable member’s question is out of order.
– Will the PostmasterGeneral inform the House when work is likely to start on the new building for the Australian Broadcasting Commission in Perth?
– I regret that I have not the information sought by the honorable member for Perth, largely because the Australian Broadcasting Commission, acting under its own statutory powers, determines this matter for itself within the approved programme of allocations made in the budget each year. However, I am in a position to obtain the information, and I will do so and send it to the honorable member.
– I desire to ask the Treasurer a question without notice. Is it a fact that a Sydney magistrate, in fining a grazier ?100 on 19th March last for having failed to lodge a taxation return, stated that it was disgraceful that a well-known grazier with a taxable income of more than ?8,000 a year had not paid income tax since 1951? Will the Treasurer explain why there was so much delay in prosecuting a man who had not paid any income tax for the last six years? Is it a fact that hundreds of socially prominent country people face exposure for evading more than ?50,000,000 in taxes, including wealthy graziers, stock and station agents and businessmen, some well known in their districts as local government leaders?
– Order! What is the question that the honorable member wants to ask?
– He is coming to it.
– I have asked two so far.
– One is in order.
– Is it a fact that tax officials are rounding off their inquiries into a vast racket which began in the boom wool years of 1950 and 195 i? Is it a fact-
– Order! The honorable member is giving information. He will ask his question or resume his seat.
– Is it a fact that investigations have uncovered hundreds of cases, of evasions in the sale of wool under fictitious names, deals in stock, wheat, maize and fodder-
– Order! I ask the honorable member to resume his seat. The question is out of order.
– In December of las* year, the Minister for External Affairs indicated that the Malayan Government had requested Australia’s assistance in the establishment of a rural bank. The Minister stated at that time that he was investigating the possibility of providing for the Malayan Government an experienced rural bank officer from Australia for a period of from twelve months to eighteen months. Will the Minister indicate what progress has been made in that connexion?
– The honorable gentleman is right. The original request made by the Federation of Malaya has been broadened to embrace a number of aspects of banking in the federation. The matter has been energetically pursued. Both the Prime Minister and I have been in touch with the Commonwealth Bank. Efforts are being made at this moment, and have been made for the last several weeks, to find an adequate individual, or, more probably, individuals, to help the Federation of Malaya in the general problem of setting up a modern system of banking there. I can assure the honorable gentleman that the matter has not been overlooked by any means. It is being energetically pursued, and we hope very much to be able to help the Federation of Malaya adequately in this matter.
– I direct a question to the Prime Minister. Has the attention of the
Government been drawn recently to the ever-increasing use in Australia of heavy diesel trucks and the consequent marked deterioration of our roads system? Will the Government give urgent consideration to the imposition of a tax on diesel fuel similar to that imposed on petrol in order to augment the funds made available to the States for roads purposes?
– I direct the attention of the honorable member to the fact that, whilst all questions relating to policy are out of order, a question relating to any fiscal proposal is doubly out of order.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Supply. In view of the increased demand for aluminium in Australia and the possibility of establishing export markets for Australian-produced aluminium, is it proposed to increase the production of aluminium at Bell Bay? Is the honorable gentleman satisfied with the present production there? Is it a fact that by spending approximately a half of the overall capital cost on extensions and plant, the output could be doubled?
– I am satisfied with the production of the plant at Bell Bay as originally designed and brought into operation. The plant is now producing at approximately its maximum capacity of 13,000 tons a year.
– A half of Australia’s requirements.
– We shall see. All of the experts who have spoken to me about it are agreed that the plant is efficient, economical and a credit to this country. But when we are considering the question of doubling the capacity of the plant, a number of factors have to be taken into account. First of all, who is going to find the money? Secondly, what are the economics of such a plan; and, thirdly, are we at present in a position in Australia to be able to raise the money if either the Government or private citizens are to find it? Although the 13,000 tons does not represent the whole of Australia’s normal production, actually at this moment we have at Bell Bay something more than the whole of our working capital tied up in aluminium which we have not succeeded in selling. The reason for that is that a year or two ago there was a marked shortage throughout the world and stocks were laid in by consumers. Now that there is a temporary over-supply available from other parts of the world, those, consumers, quite naturally, are using up their stocks, and the Australian Aluminium Production Commission is at present unable to get rid of its stocks. For an industrial concern, which ought to be operating as a business-like concern, to have the whole of its capital tied up in unsold stocks is a bad position. That has to be sorted out fin of all before we can give consideration to doubling the size of the plant; but I assure the honorable member that every aspect, including the question of the ultimate increase in the size of the plant, is under consideration, and that when the Government is in a position to make any statement abou! it, we shall do so.
– Has the Minister for Primary Industry been made aware of the fact that the war service land settlement authority in Tasmania has asked that civilians apply for war service farms owing to the fact that delay in providing farms has forced many ex-servicemen to withdraw their applications? If this is so, or even if it is not so, would the Minister be prepared to waive the federal law which excludes ex-servicemen from eligibility if they applied after 1950, in order to allow such newer applicants the right to be granted farms in lieu of civilians? Some of these men, whom I know, are expert farmers. They were farmers before the war.
– The honorable member for Wilmot was good enough to come to my office the other day and discuss this problem with me. I had not heard of it previously. As I informed him. responsibility for civilian settlement is a matter solely for the State Government. lt is outside the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth Government. As to the extension of the period, I have to advise the honorable member that this matter has already received the consideration of the Government, not during my time as Minister, but during the term of my predecessor, when it was decided not to extend the period during which eligibility could be established.
– ls the Minister for Defence Production yet in a position 10 make a considered statement on the progress being made with the production of the new service rifle, the F.N. 30, at the Commonwealth Small Arms Factory? I also ask him whether a definite date has yet been set when the new rifle will come into production. I remind him that it is now two and a half years since his predecessor made a definite promise to this Parliament. I should also like to know from the Minister whether plans have been made for the manufacture of the ammunition for this new rifle. If plans have not been made, will he consider having a factory established in close proximity to the factory manufacturing the new weapon?
– There are too many details in the honorable member’s question ,for me to give a complete answer to-day, but, dealing with the general drift of his question, I do not know about any statement made two and a half years ago by my predecessor, but I remember that my colleague, the Minister for Defence, stated last year that the Government intended to adopt the F.N. rifle as standard equipment for the Australian Army. After that, there were delays in the matter due to the fact that it was necessary to obtain, if possible, what are known as definitive sealed drawings of this weapon before it could go into production. That matter was in the hands of an international body called the International Steering Committee, upon which Australia is represented.
– How long has Australia been represented?
– I think Australia has been represented from the outset; at least, from the time when we decided to adopt that arm for the Australian services. Finally, the Government, like the British Government, decided that, rather than wait for the sealed drawings, which might well take a year or two to come to hand, it should make a limited number of a Mark I. of the rifle in this country. I have received approval of that course from the Government and from my colleague, the Minister for the Army, so the position now is that we are immediately proceeding to take the steps necessary to go into production of a Mark I. of this rifle.
– The Minister for Primary Industry will recall that last year I addressed a question to him regarding the setting up in Australia of a national disaster insurance scheme, and that he then said that he would make investigations into the matter. Does the Minister know that such a scheme has operated successfully in New Zealand for the past twelve years?
– I rise to order, Mr. Speaker. The honorable member for Mallee is giving information in the form of a question. I ask you to take the same action in this case as you did in mine.
– Order! No point of order is involved.
– I now ask the Minister whether his investigations have revealed the need for a practical application of a scheme of this nature in Australia.
– 1 regret to say that I have no recollection of a question to me b the honorable gentleman, but if the honorable member for Mallee says that he did ask one I am certain that he did. I can only assume that in the rush of recent events a follow-up was overlooked. These problems have been examined frequently by various governments, and generally the conclusion reached has been that it is nol possible to devise, on an actuarial basis, a scheme of disaster insurance that could cover most of the primary industries without payment of very high premiums. So far as the specific content of the honorable gentleman’s question is concerned, particularly as it relates to New Zealand, I must say that I did not know that the New Zealand Government had prepared such a scheme, but I will make certain that the Department of Primary Industry investigates that matter and I shall convey any further information about it to the honorable gentleman.
– I desire to ask the Postmaster-General whether a decision ha: been made by the Postmaster-General’.1 Department not to install at all, or not h continue further installations of, the mechanical device known as “ Tress
– The reply to the question asked by the honorable member for Fremantle is that the Government has decided to proceed with the installation of the mechanical device known as “ Tress “. For the honorable member’s information, it will be some time before installations commence, and they will commence in Perth and Adelaide.
– In view of frequent statements made about the difficult financial position of hospitals throughout Australia, will the Minister for Health indicate what assistance is. afforded to the States, both directly and indirectly, by the Commonwealth Government?
– Under the hospital agreement with the States the Commonwealth last year provided about £8,000,000 for maintenance of hospitals in the States. There are also other arrangements for dealing with special types of hospitals. Under the tuberculosis agreement the Commonwealth provided for the States, for capital costs last year, about £1,750,000, and for maintenance, including not only hospital maintenance but also’ the cost of surveys, another £4,000,000. Under an act which governs the provision of funds for mental hospitals the Commonwealth provided £750,000 in the last financial year to the States. It is not possible to be very precise about indirect assistance, but the mere fact that the Government subsidizes the hospital insurance scheme means that more finance is made available to hospitals than would otherwise be the case. Last year, the benefit organizations paid out for hospital insurance somewhere about £6,000,000, of which the Commonwealth contribution would be about £1,500,000. The great bulk of that sum must find its way into hospital finances because it represents payments to contributors who, in turn, have received hospital accounts.
There is another form of indirect assistance which cannot be assessed in precise terms. I refer to the pensioner medical scheme. Under it, the Commonwealth provides for pensioners extra pharmaceutical benefits, over and above the ordinary benefits, and last year the cost of this, and of the scheme itself, was about another £4,000,000. If the scheme were not in existence a great deal of the expense would have to be borne by the hospitals, because many of these people would be out-patients or, for that matter, in-patients at public hospitals.
Finally, the Commonwealth meets the cost of general pharmaceutical benefits supplied by public hospitals throughout Australia to their patients, and last year this amounted to £1,300,000. Thus, very considerable sums are paid out by this Government to assist hospitals throughout Australia to meet their expenses.
– Has the Prime Minister received a second request from the Premier of Western Australia for an easing of bank credit and the commencement of largescale public works in order to check unemployment in that State? If so, what is the Prime Minister’s intention in this matter?
– I have received communications from the Premier of Western Australia. Apart from saying that, 1 am not prepared to make a statement on policy at question time.
– Is the Minister for External Affairs in a position to inform the House whether there is any foundation in the announcement that Egypt has reaffirmed its previous policy of preventing the passage of Israeli ships through the Suez Canal?
– All that we have heard up to the present is the reputed remark by President Nasser. No confirmation of it has come from official sources.
– My question is addressed to the Treasurer. Recently a conference was held between this Government and the Government of Queensland concerning the reconstruction of the northern railway between Townsville and Mount Isa. because of the projected increase in the production of minerals for export in the north-west mining belt of that State. Will the Treasurer inform the House of the progress of these investigations, and the degree of assistance that the Commonwealth Government is prepared to give to the Queensland Government in this important developmental project?
– That question also involves a matter of policy, but I remind the honorable member, who represents an electorate in Queensland, that negotiations have taken place, conferences have been held, and certain arrangements have been made. Any further information will be conveyed by the Queensland Government and the Commonwealth Government, the two parties concerned.
– My question is directed to the Minister for the Army. There is, as he knows, in Queensland an important adjunct to the Army, namely the jungle training centre at Canungra. I understand that for some time the Minister has been considering making an official visit to that centre, but has been prevented from doing so by other engagements. In view of the importance of Canungra to the training programme of the three services, will he consider making an official visit in the near future?
– I assure the honorable member that nothing would give me greater pleasure. I understand that last week he attended Canungra in the course of Citizen Military Force training, and has just found out how really good it is. I have promised to visit the centre and at the first opportunity during recess I shall do so. I shall stay at least overnight so that I may see everything that is being done there.
– I lay on the table the following paper: -
Northern Territory - Report for period 1st July, 1953, lo 30th June, 1955.
May I explain that this report is the second of two consolidated reports that have been presented in order to bridge the gap which was caused by the cessation of annual reports. In the strict sense, it is out of date, because it only carries the story to 30th June, 1955. But very shortly, we hope it will be succeeded by the first of a renewed series of annual reports, giving an account of events up to’ 30th June, 1956.
Message received from the Senate intimating that it had agreed to the following resolutions: -
That Senators Kennelly, McKenna, O’sullivan and Wright be members of the proposed joint committee to examine problems of constitutional change.
That Senator O’sullivan be chairman ot the proposed joint committee.
Bill received from the Senate, and (on motion by Mr. Townley) read a first time.
Bill received from the Senate, and (on motion by Mr. McMahon) read a first time.
Bill received from the Senate, and (on motion by Mr. McMahon) read a first time.
I have received from the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) an intimation that he desires to submit a definite matter of urgent public importance to the House for discussion, namely: -
The failure of the Government to take adequate measures to protect the Australian timber industry.
Is the proposal supported?
Eight honorable members having risen in support of the proposal,
.- I submit this matter for discussion because it is, I believe, one of very great importance in view of the serious consequences which must develop if action is not taken by this Government, and particularly by the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen), to overcome the many difficulties that now confront the Australian timber industry. I- hasten to point out, too, that in raising this matter on behalf of the Opposition, I am speaking for the Australian timber industry as a whole. All of the States are affected, admittedly some more than others, but I want it to be understood that this is a national matter. Many of the problems involved are of a complex nature, and concern not only the timber millers and exporters, but also, what is more important, the thousands of young men who depend on this industry for their livelihood. I do not believe for a moment that it is beyond the power of this Government to take immediate practical measures to assist this most important industry. For my own part, 1 am not prepared merely to observe a furl tier deterioration in this essential Australian industry, without making some attempt to initiate a largescale debate, in the hope that an assurance will be given by the Minister that the Government, of which he himself is a senior Minister, will at least face this issue if it is dissatisfied, as indeed 1 am sure it must be, with the present situation seeing that in recent months, in every State of the Commonwealth, limber mills have been compelled to cease production. This has resulted in a loss of employment to many thousands of young Australians who, in the main, are not able to find alternative employment because, not infrequently, they reside with their families in remote areas. They believed that the industry would be engaged to capacity for many years to come, in order to produce in sufficient quantities the timber that we require to overtake the serious housing shortage that has plagued this country for many years.”
I invite the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. McMahon) to reflect on the warnings that have been given in the press to both the department that he administers and the Department of Trade by responsible people within this industry during the past eighteen months. There are several causes of the present stagnation in the industry. Some are attributable to the Government, and others are not. In my opinion, the most serious ones are the responsibility of the Government, particularly the Department of Trade. Therefore, I shall endeavour to confine my remarks to those matters.
During a period in which the demand for homes has never been greater, when far more people are living in slums and in semislum areas than ever before in our history, ons would have expected that the timber industry would continue in full production for the next twenty years or so. But just how wrong can one be in making an assumption of that nature becomes evident from a study of the record of this Government over the last two or three years. lt would, of course, be an understatement of fact to say that this Government merely believes in a policy of occasional restrictions. It actually revels in restrictions and every honorable member in this House knows how difficult it is to-day for any section of the business community to secure a licence to import even goods that are in short supply. But, during the corresponding period, there has been an almost unrestricted flow of imported timber. I refer particularly to the importation of lowpriced timber from Malaya and Borneo.
The second factor, which is of equal importance, has been the Government’s unrealistic approach to our housing problem. It was the subject of an urgency debate during the last session of this Parliament when it was pointed out to the responsible Minister that the housing position had never been worse. 1, personally, am far from convinced that any material improvement has been effected in this position during the months in which the Parliament was in recess. But according to a statement issued a few weeks ago by the responsible Minister, the number of homes to be constructed in Australia during the next two years will be substantially reduced. The statement was subsequently endorsed by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), who has said that any easing of the restrictions governing the availability of finance for home construction purposes in this country would have an inflationary tendency. 1 do not hesitate to say that there is a feeling abroad that the Government is so preoccupied in devising ways and means of curbing progress by the Commonwealth Bank of Australia, an institution that could materially assist in this matter, that it is not in the least concerned with homeless families or the problems which are facing the great Australian timber industry.
Despite our increase in population - the natural increase and that from immigration - there has been a reduction of almost 10,000 in the number of homes constructed during 1955-56, compared with construction in the two previous years. I would like to point out that when the Government reduces the number of homes constructed in any one year by 10,000, it reduces the timber requirements of this country by approximately 200,000.000 super, feet, and that is slightly in excess of Tasmania’s timber production. I do not hesitate to say. too, that some of the saw-millers may have contributed, either directly or indirectly, to some of the difficulties which are apparent to-day. In the immediate post-war years, a percentage of timber milled for export purposes was below the required standard and it could be argued that, not infrequently, the standard was inferior to that of timber imported from Malaya and Borneo. For that reason, I believe that the Government is entitled to an assurance that any protection accorded to the timber industry would be on the basis of an improved standard in Australianmilled timber. I personally believe that a great deal of improvement has been effected during the last eighteen months.
Let me pass to the position in Tasmania. The figures that I shall cite reflect, I believe, the general position in most States. In recent months, 21 saw-mills have been compelled to cease production. Another seventeen are on reduced production, and I have every reason to believe that a percentage of these will be forced to close down in the near future. More than 700 men have been dismissed from employment, and Tasmania’s total production has been reduced by 3 1 ,000,000 super, feet annually. Because of the State’s inability to dispose of its full production, due to the importation of cheap timbers, particularly from Malaya and Borneo, as well as other factors to which I have already referred, there was a reduction of almost 8,000,000 super, feet from July to November of 1956 compared with production during the corresponding period of the previous year. In Tasmania, as elsewhere, stockpiling can no longer be regarded as economically sound because, at the end of December, 1956, almost 80,000,000 super, feet of timber was held at grass in that State alone. I say frankly to the Minister that few, if any, saw-millers in Australia can hope to meet the competition from Borneo and Malaya while the present disparity in wage levels and standards of living exists. In North Borneo, the daily rate of pay is 15s. In Malaya, it is 26s. and it is based on a 48- hour working week. The Tasmanian rate is 62s. a day, and it is based on a 40-hour working week.
I believe I have said sufficient to indicate that the saw-milling industry is in a serious position. Its importance need not be stressed. It can be accepted as a fact, particularly if we are prepared to measure it by the standard that it provides employment for more than 30,000 Australians and has an annual value that exceeds £80,000,000. Once again, I stress the fact that this industry has, in the past, provided employment for people who have been prepared to live in remote communities. There are two points to which I believe the Minister should direct his attention as long-term measures. The first of them is the provision of more finance and practical encouragement to the average Australian home-builder. I shall not enlarge on that at this moment because it has been adequately covered by the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) as well as other speakers from this side of the House during a recent debate.
The second point concerns the need for a Tariff Board inquiry, but I emphasize that such action can be regarded only as a longterm measure, because the Minister himself knows from practical experience that it would be unlikely that the Tariff Board’s conclusions would be made available to this Parliament, in less than twelve months. By that time any recommendations made by the board on behalf of the Australian timber industry would quite conceivably be too late. The last Tariff Board report was made available to this Parliament on 17th February, 1955. The board had received instructions from the then Minister for Trade and Customs on 30th June, 1953, almost two years before. So I say again that it would be unlikely that a Tariff Board report would be available to Parliament in less than twelve months. Therefore, emergency measures are necessary, and the first of them should be the imposition of an emergency duty on timber importations which, last year, reached the staggering figure of 331,900,000 super, feet. Those imports were largely from countries with which our trade balance is unfavorable.
Only a few days ago, the Minister for Trade, in reply to a question that I directed to him, said that our imports of timber are very nearly the same as they were pre-war. I suggest that his statement was misleading because, in actual fact, while imports from Malaya and Borneo reached only 4,700,000 super, feet in 1939-40, they had risen to almost 50,000,000 super, feet by the end of December, 1956. I say to the Minister that, in order to meet this position immediately, section 2a of the Customs Tariff (Industries Preservation) Act ought to be invoked for the purpose of providing an emergency tariff. Under this section, amended in 1956, the Minister has the power to impose an emergency tariff on goods imported under conditions which threaten serious injury to producers in Australia. Meanwhile, we must face the fact that, as a result of inaction on the part of this Government, thousands of men have lost their employment, and scores of sawmills have been closed down, primarily in districts in which little or no other avenue of employment exists.
Although the immediate problem is in the timber industry, we all know that housing and the industries associated with it have proved to be accurate and reliable barometers of prosperity in this country, and I suggest that it is only a very short step indeed from unemployment in the timber industry to unemployment in the hardware and electrical industries, and, perhaps to a lesser extent, in the textile industry. If the Minister for Trade is willing to allow this problem to become more acute, he will take no action, but if he is genuinely concerned about it, it lies within his power to take practical measures, which, if correctly applied, would prevent the problem from becoming more acute, as well as restore confidence and a measure of stability to a most important industry.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– This subject has been proposed for debate as a matter of urgent public importance. The Government, and, of course, the timber industry, regard it as a question of national importance. Therefore, we are happy to have it debated on the floor of the House in order to show that the House itself is deeply interested in and informed about the problem. This debate not only will show that interest, but also will indicate that there is complete justification for the action already taken by the Government. It looks at mis matter with two objectives in mind - first, to ensure that, so far as is reasonably possible, Australian industries shall be kept fully employed, and secondly, to make certain that, within that general context, nothing is done to boost the costs of Australian industries substantially and thus increase prices and make Australia unable to compete with other countries on the world’s markets. In addition, Mr. Acting Deputy Speaker, the
Government is not prepared to compel consumers to take what it or some individuals think the consumers should have. The Government desires to ensure, so far as is reasonably possible, a continuance of consumer preference so that consumers may be able, within reason, to decide for themselves what they will purchase.
I propose to take up a point raised by the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard), who said that one reason for the present problems of the timber industry was the reduction of the number of homes commenced or under construction. Unfortunately, the honorable member used the exaggerated figure of “ 10,000 “ when speaking of the decline of the number of houses being built this year compared with last year. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) pointed out on 20th March that during this financial year there will be, not 10,000 but only 5,000, fewer homes completed than in the previous financial year. I think it is only right that the honorable member for Bass should present the House with the facts. It is grossly improper for an honorable member to present a distorted picture of what is happening. The honorable member for Bass stated also that there had been an increase in the quantity of hard timber entering Australia from Borneo and Malaya. The honorable gentleman said, too, that one of the problems that confronted us was housing. We accept the fact that housing is a great problem confronting the country as a whole. Commonwealth and State authorities, and individual citizens all know that housing is a sensitive industry that must be looked ai from the stand-point of the country as a whole. What the honorable member forgot to point out was that restriction of the importation of cheap timber from Borneo and Malaya, which is, in some States, 25s. a 100 super, feet cheaper than local timber, would directly prejudice the Government’s policy of wanting as many homes as can reasonably be provided at the cheapest possible price, and certainly at a price that the Australian home-seeker can afford. 1 venture to say, sir, that the honorable gentleman has not thoroughly worked out the implications of what he has said. If he had done so, he would not have made the statements that he has made. Dearer timber must mean dearer homes.
Now, Mr. Acting Deputy Speaker, may i put this problem in perspective. The Australian timber industry has developed amazingly since the pre-war years. In fact, production has doubled, increasing from approximately 700,000,000 super, feet per annum to 1,400,000,000 super, feet a year. This amazing development has been perhaps a little too rapid for the economy continuously to absorb such production. However, imports of both hard and soft timbers have remained at the prewar level of 350,000,000 super, feet a year. The honorable member for Bass should know, and should acknowledge, that the Australian industry has greatly expanded since pre-war, and that imports have remained at the pre-war level. It is true to say, as the honorable gentleman said, that there has been a transfer of imports from the softwoods of North America to the hardwoods of Borneo and Malaya. As I have already pointed out, these hardwoods are wanted because they are substantially cheaper than timbers from domestic sources. T mention that so that the problem will be seen in its proper perspective and so that we shall know that the Australian industry is expanding. It cannot be expected that there will not be some ups and downs in the industry when this rapid expansion is taking place.
I come now to the crux of this problem. Leaders of the industry suggested to the Minister for Trade that he should do certain things. Some of those suggestions have been mentioned by the honorable member for Bass. Three of them were: The intensification of import restrictions, the introduction of emergency timber duties, and action under the Customs Tariff (Industries Preservation) Act. I shall not touch on the question of the intensification of import restrictions for the moment, but I do want to deal with both the other suggestions. I think it is correct to say that time prevents me from explaining what these two proposals mean, but I can tell the House that one would be inappropriate and the other unlawful. Emergency timber duties would not be appropriate at the present time, because the facts do not justify the introduction of such duties here and now. The matter is being considered by the Tariff Board at present, and it would be inappropriate to introduce emergency timber duties to deal with what might well prove to be a temporary problem. Action under the
Customs Tariff (Industries Preservation) Act would be quite unlawful, because the act does not relate to the conditions in which we now find ourselves.
On the question of import restrictions, I make the point that they were never intended as a means of protecting Australian industry directly. That is a function of the Tariff Board, which can consider all the circumstances and make recommendations to the Government. Import restrictions are used to protect our overseas balances. That is the primary purpose for which they are being used and will continue to be used by this Government. The timber industry knows, as I think most honorable members know, that the three methods with which I have dealt would not be appropriate at this time.
May I now deal with two long-term problems. The first is what is happening in the building industry in terms of finance. Here, I should like not so much to elaborate as to repeat what the Prime Minister said in this House. The conditions to which he referred should be well known. It is the Government’s opinion that the problem of a slight decline of the rate of home-building by 5,000 this year will shortly be corrected and that we shall tend towards a level that can be regarded as satisfactory. When the Government considers this problem, it must take into consideration various factors, and particularly the prices of homes and the fact that one of our greatest problems at the present time is the potential for inflation. It must keep in mind that nothing should be done to boost the cost of homes and increase inflationary pressures. Finally, it must consider the problem of finance.
There are three reasons for thinking that the financial problem is working itself out satisfactorily. The first of the difficulties was the change from the old Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement to the new one. That change-over is taking time to work out. However, it is now working out, and additional funds are becoming available under the new agreement. I mention that in the “ Sydney Morning Herald” of 5th March, 1957, a report appeared of a statement by a leader of the co-operative building society movement, the association of cooperative building societies, to the effect that of £2.500.000 allocated to the cooperative building societies under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement, more than £1,500,000 lies unspent in the Rural Bank. That is a source of finance that is available. A second source is the Australian savings banks of the trading banks which have been established as a result of Commonwealth Government action. Already three banks, the Bank of New South Wales, the Australia and New Zealand Bank Limited and the Commercial banking company, have committed themselves to advances of £12,900,000. The money cannot be spent in a second. However, the commitments have been made, the money is there to be spent, and as soon as individuals and co-operative building societies can complete their plans and get on with the job the money, in fact, will be made available. [ shall now deal with the third reason. I am glad to be able to make this point to-day because, as a result of a slight mishap and time running out the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) could not mention it during the course of his recent speech on housing. He would have said that assuming the maintenance of satisfactory levels of employment generally and in particular, in the building industry, the central bank’s policy would continue to aim at ensuring that a reasonable proportion of the growth in savings becoming available for investment was employed in housing loans. In the event of a change in these economic conditions involving, say, a disturbing degree of unemployed resources in the building industry, some special central bank action to increase the funds available for housing loans would need to be considered. I say, therefore, that we might have a temporary period during which there will be a problem, but that there is a satisfying answer to the problem. Money is becoming available and if necessary the central bank will also have a look at the problem.
I now pass to two other problems which I think should be touched upon. The first one is that the Commonwealth Government cannot be expected always to accept responsibility for the failures of the various State governments. I venture to say that if there had been a realistic approach to this problem by the Government of New South Wales we would not have had the enormous boost to prices for the construction of homes. I have a paper here in which it is stated that while the basic wage has risen by 125 per cent, since 1947 that State’s charges on timber has risen by 575 per cent, because of increases in rail charges and unbelievably stupid increases in royalty charges imposed by the New South Wales Government. I, therefore, wish to make the point clearly that Labour cannot get out of it by trying to blame some one else. If the New South Wales Government desires to take some sensible action it should reduce that 575 per cent, increase in freights and royalties to a figure that can be borne by the building industry.
This Government has one big problem in front of it, as I have said, and that is the problem of ensuring as far as it can that costs of building in this country are stabilized. I cannot speak with authority on this problem, but I can say that facts are now emerging which give us some reason for confidence. I have just mentioned that the master builders recently stated that the costs of building have now been stabilized. 1 hope they can be reduced. I also draw attention to the fact that there has been a fall of 8 per cent, in the price of North American timbers during recent months The Government hopes that that processwill continue. Because the housing problem is one of the great problems it faces, a problem that demands not only efficiency but also sincerity and sympathy, the Government intends to pay great attention to it.
I look at the position in this way: First of all, insofar as the Department of Trade is concerned, I believe that that department, as have all other Commonwealth departments and the Ministers associated with them, has looked at it as a responsibility and in a sensible way. They have done all that responsible people could do to help the Australian economy keep stable and progressing. Personally, I think, for that reason, we cannot regard this as a matter which entitles the Opposition to criticize. I will mention one other point and only one other, namely that if the timber industry-
Mr. ACTING DEPUTY SPEAKEROrder! The Minister’s time has expired.
.- The Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. McMahon) always fascinates me. He builds his argument like the little swallow builds its nest. First of all he must have a blank wall of opposition to anything that comes from this side of the House, and then, like the little story we read in the school books, there is only half a nest anu. in this case, there is only half an argument. While he is talking about putting problems in perspective, correcting statistics and levelling off the economic stresses and strains, we ask him to have a look at the commonsense arguments put forward by honorable members on both sides of the House in regard to the parlous position in which the timber industry in this country finds itself >
Is it a good thing, despite the Minister’s statement that 8,000,000 super, feet of timber is lying at grass in New South Wales, that 80 mills are out of production and that 500 workers are unemployed? These are not my figures; they are statistics provided by Mr. Kraegen, of the Country Sawmillers Association. I am surprised that the case of the country sawmillers has not been fought in this House by the Australian Country party. Is not that party interested in the timber industry? On the north coast of New South Wales from Grafton down to Muswellbrook, and on the south coast from Thirroul to Bega, small timber mills, which have been operating since long before World War II., have been closed down. My information from a reliable authority is that ghost towns have been created in little areas in the bush in New South Wales that have a school, a few houses, a local shop and a post office. These little places are being slowly eliminated. Does the Government and the Australian Country party think that is a good thing? Are they prepared to see these little country towns go out so that we can get cheap timber from Borneo and Malaya?
Let me consider the case of hardwoods. I am no authority on the timber industry, but neither is the Minister, quite obviously. However, I know a fact when I see one and I go out after information when 1 can get it. Let me tell the Minister that there are hardwoods in this country infinitely superior to those coming from overseas. The real nub of the situation in regard to the timber coming into this country is that the timber combines are bringing it in to suit their own purposes. It comes here as ballast, the cheapest form of haulage, and it is a direct and vital thrust at the Australian timber industry. We are not foolish enough to think that we can do without imported timbers, but there has been a complete switch round of timbers and the hardwoods of this country could be employed much more in housing. It is not a question of cost. If the imported timber is kept within a reasonable proportion of the timber grown and processed in this country, what is wrong with that? My objection to the Minister is that he can see nothing but the economics of some scheme that has been talked about in the Cabinet room. His attitude is that everything will be all right if he can continue to use the trowel of conversation upon problems that keep popping up through the nonsensical stuff peddled from that side of the House.
The real thing is the unemployment in the industry, the deep anxiety of these people. Employers and employees are united in this protest. They point out that lots of things are wrong with the timber industry. The Minister talks about heavy royalties in New South Wales. It is to the eternal credit of the McKell Government, and later the Cahill Government, that they rehabilitated the timber resources in New South Wales. Their re-afforestation work has been nothing short of magnificent. The same thing applies in other States. If we are within a measurable distance of knowing what our reserves are and how they can be expanded, why give the industry a punch in the nose - that is what it amounts to - by saying, “ Oh, you can get some cheap stuff for the time being from Borneo and Malaya “7 The whole thing is too big for that. As the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) said so soundly and truly, bringing the matter right back to earth, not enough houses are being built to absorb the timber production of this country.
What is the Government going to do about it? lt is always talking about to-morrow, but will things improve to-morrow or the day after? The evidence suggests that they may not, and probably will not. We are always hearing dissertations and reading white-papers from the Government side of the House on our natura] resources. 1 always regret that one of the most vital portfolios in any Government, that of National Development, which is responsible for the utilization of our resources, is not held in the popular House, or the Lower House, so that we could get our teeth into the subject.
We, on this side of the House, have a committee of which the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Luchetti) is secretary. We have been trying to find out things about the timber industry for a long time now. It is a question of wresting the information from the Government. I will say that the Minister gave us information to-day which was not formerly in our possession. The honorable member for Bass asked, reasonably, whether the Government will give this industry some protection, through a Tariff Board inquiry, by some emergency action, or by an expanded housing programme. The Minister took a mean advantage by reading what was an appendage to the Prime Minister’s speech on housing. The Prime Minister did so badly that it is no wonder he wanted some one else to read the appendage.
In the limited time left to me I would support what the honorable member for Bass said in regard to the timber industry. Timber is one of our vital natural resources. Until recently we did not know how much we had, or what uses we could make of it, particularly in our furniture industry, as veneers. We have done some shocking things with our natural timbers. We destroyed whole forests in the early days through ignorance, and to-day, because reafforestation is costing large sums of money, some people are squealing. I do not care how high royalties go. We must relate the growing child to the growing tree. We must have a national housing plan. That would be some improvement. If in the meantime, the industry dies for want of orders, what will the Government’s answer be? The honorable member for Bass draws the same picture of the situation in Tasmania as we draw in New South Wales. Little towns are dying because mills are going out of production, or are not operating full-time. When things are booming, the farmer has his little mill and considerable numbers of men rely on these little country mills for employment. The Dorrigo district of New South Wales is practically finished as far as the smaller mills are concerned, and it is the same story all along the north coast, as well as the south coast. This is a very serious situation indeed. Our know-how becomes obliterated under this blitz on housing. If we must correct our economic imbalance before we start to build houses again, something much more serious will happen to the timber industry. The honorable member for Bass should be congratulated for bringing up this matter. It is not a State matter. It should not be a party political matter but it is politics, and high politics at that. The manner in which the honorable member made his points deserves a better reply than the one the Minister gave him. Are there no suggestions beyond the ones the Minister gave us? Can we not do something immediately to restore some sort of confidence within the timber industry? Men employed in the industry, who come to see myself and other Opposition members, tell us frankly that the industry is in the doldrums. The trouble is not due solely to the housing position. Conditions in the industry have been getting progressively worse. Importations of timber are also a threat to the industry. There is need for great afforestation work. Then as new forests mature we may be able to export our surplus soft woods to . adjacent countries. But to-day we are importing timber and, as the Minister for Primary Industry has pointed out, our local timbers are being undersold by 25s. per hundred super, feet. We have workers to feed and an industry to sustain. It is our duty to support it, but we are doing nothing about it.
If the reports are true - and there is no reason to suspect that they are exaggerated - the timber industry in this country is going through a bad time. The Minister’s suggestions for its cure are too nebulous and too hypothetical to please the Opposition. We would like to see a Tariff Board inquiry as soon as possible. We would also like to see more fire put into the Australian Country party’s support of local rural industries. The right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) should say something about the timber mills in his electorate.
– He said it in the housing debate.
– I withdraw that remark, because one of the really bad things that happened to me last week was that I was not in the House to hear the right honorable gentleman speak.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– It is common ground in this House that there has been some decline in activity in the timber-milling industry of this country, but I think we can examine the problems of the industry more profitably for it if, instead of trying to deal with this matter as a party political attack on the Commonwealth Government, we look at the facts as we can ascertain them and then see what opportunities are available not only to this Government but also to other governments throughout the Commonwealth to assist the industry where assistance might seem to be called for. What is clear, Mr. Deputy Speaker, as my colleague the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. McMahon) pointed out, is that there has been a phenomenal growth in timber milling and associated activities in the years since the pre-war period. The Minister quoted some figures to indicate that there had been an increase in output from some 746,000,000 super, feet before the war to a maximum of 1,370,000,000 super. feet- almost a doubling of the output in the industry. An entirely false picture can be presented by the somewhat dramatic figures of saw-mills closing down all round the country, because we tend to think of these establishments as being of some considerable size in the main. The truth is that of the 3,000 saw-mills in Australia - I am citing approximate figures - employing a total of 30,000 employees, about 1,000 have five employees or less. So from a perhaps relatively minor adjustment in the industry, it is possible to make some sort of party political case in this House about a great number of saw-mills being closed down. In point of fact, on the information in the possession of the Government, at the peak which was reached in this post-war period - it is undeniable that with a very high level of activity in building and construction the timber industry has enjoyed the benefits of a seller’s market - a number of marginal mills were brought into the industry. When the pressure has come on in more recent times, some of these have been found to be uneconomic with regard to location, size, and production methods. So there has been some pruning out, and there has been some decline in activity in various directions.
– You always want to push the small fellow out.
– By no means. The small man can sometimes be as efficient as the big man. What I am saying is that in the 3,000 mills, whether small or big, there has been a decline of between 5 per cent, and 7 per cent, in employment since the peak which was reached in this post-war period.
Opposition members interjecting, Mr. DEPUTY SPEAKER.- Order! There are too many interjections.
– This decline is attributed by Opposition members to a decline in house-building activity in this country. They ignore the fact that although there has been some fall in home-building - the Minister for Primary Industry placed it at about 5,000 homes from the peak figures we had reached earlier - there has on the other hand been record commercial building. Although, perhaps, commercial construction does not absorb timber at the same rate as home construction, certainly a very considerable quantity of timber is used in commercial building as well. The Premier of my own State of Victoria, Mr. Bolte, only yesterday, said that within 1 mile of the Melbourne Town Hall there was a building construction programme of £17,000,000 value going on at this time. That was not the building of homes, but commercial building, which was making its own demands upon the construction resources of the Commonwealth.
If something is to be done by governments in this matter - and we are not denying that governments have a contribution to make - then let it be a balanced approach on the part of all governments involved. Rather a cheap taunt was thrown across the chamber from the Opposition about the absence of a spokesman for the Australian Country party in this discussion. The fact of the matter is that, at this very moment, the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) is engaged in conference with a representative of country interests. In recent months, the Minister, personally, has had conference after conference with representatives of the timber industry. There has been no lack of interest or sympathy, and no lack of appreciation of the problems of this industry, and so far as my colleague, the Minister for Trade, is concerned, I am quite certain that there will be no lack of appropriate action to help the industry through its problem.
Last week, in this House, the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page), who represents a very considerable section of the timber-milling industry of this Commonwealth in the northern area of New South Wales, gave some illustrations which, one would have thought, would have made honorable members opposite ashamed to come into this place and launch a party political attack on the subject of timbermilling. My colleague, the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. McMahon), has given a few of the facts. The honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) quoted Mr. Kraegen with approval on this subject. However, quite conspicuously, the honorable member omitted an important statement from what Mr. Kraegen has been publishing in recent times. Mr. Kraegen has been telling the people of this country that the royalties imposed on timber in New South Wales by the Labour Government of that State are the highest to be found in any country in the world, and that at a time when the industry is rightly said to be in so much difficulty. If we turn to the freights that are charged we find a remarkable picture. Since 1947, in this post-war period, the rail freight on timber from Grafton to Sydney has increased from 5s. 1 Id. to 36s. 4d. a 100 super, feet. That is an increase of 500 per cent. In the same period, the royalties levied by the New South Wales Government on sawn timber from the Grafton area have increased from 2s. 6d. in 1947 to 18s. in 1956 on 100 super, feet. That is an increase of 620 per cent. Is it any wonder that the timber-milling industry in that State finds itself in difficulties when these quite exorbitant and onerous impositions are placed on it by the Labour Government of that State?
One of the useful courses of action adopted by the Commonwealth Government has been to place the problems of this industry before the Tariff Board. That is a sensible way of going about making a decision as to what rates of duty should be imposed in order to give adequate protection, when it is needed, against imported timber. It is quite interesting in that regard - and it is apposite to what I have been saying - to note that the Commonwealth Tariff Board’s report of February, 1955, had this to say on the royalty aspect -
The notably high royalties charged in New South Wales are due to the decision of the New South Wales authorities to maintain equilibrium between forestry revenues and forest expenditure . . .
Opposition Members. - Hear, hear!
– Honorable members opposite say “ Hear, hear! “ approvingly but the board points out that that is contrary to the practice in other States, lt adds -
The Commonwealth Tariff Board cannot endorse or support policies which, in New South Wales, are creating the disabilities suffered by the saw-milling industry in that State.
The timber industry in Australia has an importance beyond that revealed by its employment level. It is a desirable industry which should be encouraged and protected.
In that State, where government charges are heaviest, the industry may have more difficulty in competing with the same industry in other States.
Mr. ACTING DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr. Lawrence). - Order! The right honorable member’s time has expired.
.-i heartily endorse every word spoken by my colleagues. the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard), and the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen). As a fellow Tasmanian with the honorable member for Bass, I feel that what has happened in our State alone is justification for action on the part of this Government. At the outset I wish to say, however, that the sum total of the speeches of the honorable Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. McMahon) and the Minister in charge of the House (Mr. Holt) means that precisely nothing will be done for this industry as a whole. We have the airy-fairy promise of the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) that there will be a Tariff Board inquiry. Even if that inquiry starts at this moment, the board’s report will not be ready for eighteen months or two years, judging by the time the board has taken to produce other reports. That is all that this industry has to look forward to, after all its representations to this Government and the hours spent in working out details and getting together facts. The only thing that it has to hold on to is the promise of a Tariff Board inquiry which will take eigtheen months or two years.
The debate on housing has illustrated and confirmed the fact that about 120,000 new houses a year are needed in Australia to overcome the present lag and meet everyday requirements. Last year, over the whole continent, only about 65,000 new homes were built That is how far we are behind. Last week, the remarks of honorable members on housing emphasized the fact that anything that restricts the timber industry or the building of houses is like a dagger thrust at the very heart of the Australian economy, and particularly as it affects the saw-millers. Out of that debate, also, came the conviction that the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) are both appallingly and tragically out of touch with the problems of Australia as they relate to timber and to housing.
As I listened to the Prime Minister last week, I was convinced that he knows nothing about the accommodation plight of the immigrants that he has brought into this country. In some instances, six families are living in one house, and the Prime Minister calls that justice to the immigrants! Honorable members on this side of the House do not agree, but because we protest we are spoken of as criticizing immigration. What rubbish! People who talk like that have an axe to grind, and are trying to make political capital out of the situation. Obviously, also, the Prime Minister knows nothing about the difficulties of young married people in obtaining a loan to start building a house, or about the fact that many of them are living in garages or with their in-laws, whilst some are forced to live apart because they cannot find the wherewithal to start a home. He probably does not know that although homes can be bought to-day for a terrific price, they are very hard to find for rental. The Government, judging by the Prime Minister’s statement, is out of touch with the day-to-day problems of this industry.
In Tasmania, 21 mills have closed down altogether and 29 or 30 have reduced their output. More than 700 men have gone out of the industry. The following figures have not been mentioned previously this afternoon. In Victoria, 3,000 men have left the building industry, including the timber industry, and have registered at employment offices as being out of work, but more than 8,000 others did not register and are trying to find work on their own account. That means that in Victoria about 12,000 men have gone out of the building industry in the last few months. How can we afford to lose men from the industry at that rate - many of them skilled artisans? In northern New South Wales, 83 mills have closed and 800 men are out of work. The same situation with housing has developed in Western Australia. Men are out of work and families have been forced to seek unemployment benefit. That is the human side of the story, and we, as an Opposition, believe that the Government has lost sight of it. All that Government supporters can talk about is statistics, reports and boards. The human factor in the industry is entirely overlooked.
All the aspects that I have mentioned show the grim pattern of a slowing down of a vital industry. Once any phase of the building industry slows down, we are in for trouble. I claim that there are four causes for the slowing down. The first cause is a shortening of credit, which was touched on by my colleague, the honorable member for Bass. The shortening of credit hits us in two ways. It means, first, that we have not the money to start homes or to complete homes. We cannot get the necessary deposits. The second phase is that homes are not built if credit is not available, and that means a decline in timber requirements because demand is governed by credit - consumption is governed by the finance available. We talk about mouths being fed, but it all comes right back to finance being available to buy the necessary items.
The second cause is the high level of imports from Malaya and Borneo, in particular, which are now being landed in this country. My colleague pointed out that the Minister for Trade recently misled the House in an answer he gave to a question. The Minister said that imports from Malaya and Borneo had- not been increased; they were the same as pre-war. But the facts are - we have checked this - that 4,700,000 super, feet were imported from those two countries in 1938-39 and 50,000,000 super, feet were imported last year. That is the increase in imports from those countries. The quantity of imports, which totals over 332,000,000 super, feet from all sources, is a factor in slowing down our timber industry because our total Australian production of 1,300,000,000 super, feet is only about 50,000,000 super, feet short of our requirements.
The third cause is the demand for quality by the merchants now, and, I suppose, by home-builders, too. In Tasmania, sawmillers have had to face up to that situation.
Merchants are not buying timber in the quantities that they did. They are saying, “ We want quality now. We can get good stuff from Malaya and Borneo. If you chaps give us quality, we will take the timber”. I admit that, during the years since the war, when houses were built at a great rate, the timber going to the merchants was not of a high quality. Second-grade timber was being sold as first-grade timber. Timber-millers are realizing, up to a point, that quality is necessary and must become more important. But that is not the real reason for the great slowing down that is taking place in the industry.
The fourth reason for Tasmania’s crisis is shipping. We have had such an irregular and haphazard shipping service for timber that, in the past, it has caused large quantities to pile up. At one stage, 10,000,000 super, feet were awaiting shipment.
– Who has been responsible for that?
– The main reason is that the Government refused to form an Australian shipping line, owned by the people, to operate in competition with private enterprise.
– The State government has not given the Commonwealth much help.
– Private enterprise let us down horribly regarding timber shipments. It is waking up now, but it is too late.
The next point I wish to mention is that 9,000 fewer houses were built in Australia last year. That means that timber requirements were reduced by about 200,000,000 super feet. The point was mentioned by the honorable member for Bass. In Tasmania, 80,000,000 super, feet of timber is waiting to be sold. That is equivalent to the timber used in 3,700 homes. The effect on the whole of our economy of a slowdown in any part of the industry is serious indeed. We have a declining housing programme at the same time as we have high importations of timber. These two factors in combination at the one time create a combustible situation in this great industry. If credit is declining and imports are kept at the same level, thousands will be out of work. That is the situation we have now. The Government does not intend to do anything about the situation, except to call for a Tariff Board report which will take a year or so to complete.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
Motion (by Mr. Harold Holt) put -
That the business of the day be called on.
The House divided. (Mr. Acting Deputy Speaker - Mr. W. R. Lawrence.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Mr. Harold Holt) - agreed to -
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey) making a statement on foreign affairs.
Motion (by Mr. Harold Holt) - by leave - agreed to -
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey) and the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) each speaking for a period not exceeding 45 minutes in connexion with the statement on foreign affairs.
Debate resumed from 28th March (vide page 362), on motion by Mr. McMahon -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- The purpose of the bill before the House is to amend the Cotton Bounty Act, which was introduced by this Government to encourage the growing of cotton in Australia. It seeks to clarify several of the matters which were introduced by the Government to assist the cotton-growers to obtain early returns from their crops, to make early plans for the planting season, and to proceed with their harvesting.
Although the cotton industry is confined to Queensland, it should engage the attention of the people of Australia as a whole, because it is one of our few primary industries for which, considering the acreage that has to be planted, there is an unlimited market. In the past, Queensland has produced only 5 per cent, of Australia’s needs of raw cotton, and last year we imported approximately 80,000 bales for the use of Australian spinners. It will be noted, therefore, that there is a boundless market for cotton in Australia. The greater the amount of cotton that can be planted and harvested, and the more economically it can be harvested, the greater will be the saving in the dollars that must be expended for the purchase of cotton from abroad. So I believe that the time that will be occupied during this debate in looking at this as an Australian problem which affects not only primary industry, but also our balance of trade, will be justified.
This Government entered upon its attempt to establish the cotton industry following the failure of the Labour government to do so, and in 1948-49, when the industry was languishing following the Chifley regime, it provided needed incentives. As the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) mentioned, at that time the Tariff Board presented a report on the industry. The honorable member said that the Labour government slavishly carried out the recommendations of the board. It did so, but only to a certain point, because the board, in the course of its findings, pointed out that the proper establishment of the industry would need more mechanization, greater irrigated areas, more intensive planning, better ginning methods, and a better approach to the marketing problems. Rather than face up to the challenge presented by the Tariff Board, Labour chose the easy way out and, as I said by way of interjection to the honorable, member for Lalor, decided to give the cotton industry a decent burial and write it off as an Australian industry. Immediately this Government assumed office, the Ministry, realizing the seriousness of the situation that could arise if we were dependent upon overseas supplies of cotton and there was trouble abroad, directed its attention to providing an incentive to maintain and increase cotton production in Australia. The review that is expressed in this bill shows that the Government’s attitude and faith in the industry have been well justified.
Of course, from the very early days, even prior to the turn of this century, when we grew a lot more cotton than we have produced during the last twenty years, there have been failures in the industry; but they have always centred around the price factor. In the 1930’s the policy of the government of the day was to decrease the guaranteed price from year to year, so that growers who were planning to plant ahead or people who were planning to enter the industry were forced to say to themselves, “ We are getting 4id. this year. Next year we will probably get only 4d., and the farm next door has not been doing very well on the higher guaranteed price “. The result was that production dwindled. However, following the introduction by this Government of a guaranteed price of 9d. per lb., there was an increase of the number of acres planted, and the yield per acre rose.
– Where is the cotton grown mostly?
– It is grown mostly in :>n area that used to form part of the electorate that i represent. That area has now been transferred to the electorate of Dawson, which is represented by our able colleague, the Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson). Following the 1953 crop, which was a good one, there was a series of floods which badly affected the irrigated areas and reduced production. But, even taking into account those floods and looking at the number of acres that have been planted from year to year, we can see the justification of the Government’s view that there could and should be a cotton industry in this country.
Apart from the measure now before us, the Government has adopted other methods of providing an incentive to cotton-growers. lt has assisted the Cotton Marketing Board in its search overseas for a suitable cotton harvester. It provided the necessary dollars for that machinery and has helped in every possible way in the introduction of mechanical harvesting, which the Tariff Board had recommended but which the honorable member for Lalor, then the responsible Minister, did not sponsor. The Queensland Cotton Marketing Board has twelve pickers, and they are now going into the fields to harvest this season’s crop. Attention has been given also to the spraying of crops to destroy the various bugs and pests that attack them.
In addition to the harvesters of the Cotton Marketing Board, there are several privately owned cotton pickers operating in the cotton belt. These machines are rather different from those that are owned by the board. The privately owned harvesters are all of the John Deere type. They are demountable, and the picking machine sits on top of a tractor. When the cotton harvesting is finished, the tractor is run up on to’ a suitable ramp, the harvester is lifted and the tractor is then moved from under it and can be used for the various other purposes for which tractors are used round a farm. The pickers owned by the Cotton Marketing Board may be used only as cotton harvesters. They have several disadvantages as compared with the John Deere machines, but, nevertheless, the use of them has overcome the difficulty that has arisen because of the shortage of labour for the hand-picking of cotton. As honorable members are well aware, since this Government came into office we have been able to maintain over-full employment, and so there is no labour available for the seasonal work of hand-picking, which is probably the best method of harvesting the crop. However, machines of these two types are able to handle 80 per cent, to 90 per cent, of suitable bolls and so give us a reasonably good harvest.
I think we can help considerably with extension services. We could ask the Queensland Government, and we might even consider asking the New South Wales Government, to devote some of the money that is given to it under the extension services plan to assisting the cotton industry, particularly in regard to harvesting. I believe that we could help considerably by introducing some method of defoliation of the plant before the harvesting actually begins. At present the harvester, when it moves through the bushes, takes off a large number of green leaves that are crushed and stain the cotton. All harvesters do this. The cotton is harvested at quite some distance from the ginneries. This is contrary to the practice in the United States of America, where the gins are established within 6 miles of the picking area. We must carry the cotton for large distances in the bales, and by the time it reaches the ginnery a lot of it has been stained by the green leaves that are picked up by the harvester. If defoliation were introduced, the harvester could go through a crop that has no green leaves.
Although we have been able to give quite a good deal of help to the industry, 1 believe that we must devise a long-term plan, a plan that will fire the imagination. It is ludicrous for us even to consider that a plan extending over five years is sufficient. I believe that the experience, experiments and hard work that have gone into the re-establishment of the cotton industry justify the opinion held by so many honorable members on this side of the House that the industry can produce a good proportion of Australia’s requirements of raw cotton.
– What percentage does it supply now?
– It supplies less than 5 per cent, of Australia’s requirements at the moment. We must produce about 80,000 bales to replace the cotton that we import at present. We must, then, establish the industry on a long-term basis. We can take a lesson from the way in which the late Right Honorable William Morris Hughes went about establishing the sugar industry in the early 1920’s. He took a struggling industry and gave it incentives and protection, on the understanding that it would become self-supporting in a short space of time. I believe that this Government should say to those concerned in the cotton industry, “ We are right behind you on a long-term basis. For the next five years we will give you a guaranteed price, and the matter will be reviewed well before the end of that time, so that you will be able to plan ahead for your security “. 1 believe that the John Deere tractorharvesters that I spoke of earlier provide the answer to the harvesting problem. We should encourage the planting of larger acreages of cotton, which could be handled by a farmer with his own demountable harvester, the tractor from which could be used for ordinary farming work when harvesting was finished. We should not, however, expect the farmers to go to hire purchase companies to obtain finance to purchase these machines. The money should be made available through the rural section of the Commonwealth Bank, and on reasonably long-term loans, in order to provide an incentive for the cotton-grower to purchase his own machine and to plant a larger acreage, from which he can take the crop quickly.
– What do these machines cost?
– For the tractor and harvester an amount of about £5,000 is involved. We should also ensure that the Cotton Marketing Board obtains more harvesters. It is a Queensland board, established under a Queensland act, and I would urge the Minister to approach the Queensland Minister for Agriculture, who does not seem to be very interested in this industry at present - and that is fair criticism of him - and ask him whether the Queensland Government will guarantee the Cotton Marketing Board sufficient funds for the purchase of new pickers. The present crop should be harvested between now and the month of June, at the latest. When travelling through the cotton districts, however, one often sees cotton still hanging in the bolls on dried-up old bushes as late as September, simply because there are not sufficient harvesters to go round.
We need, therefore, first to encourage and assist individual farmers to own their own harvesters. We should also persuade the State Government to provide assistance to the Cotton Marketing Board to purchase more pickers. I suggest to the Government that it is necessary also to establish at least two pilot or experimental cotton-growing farms. The first one should be established, perhaps, in the area of the Callide and Dawson valleys, and another in the electorate of the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Brimblecombe) at Jandowae or somewhere in that district, where there are good prospects of cotton-growing being established as an industry, and where cotton was grown successfully many years ago. 1 believe that pilot farms in those areas would be of great assistance to the industry. From those pilot stations the prospective cotton-growers in the electorate of the honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Ian Allan) could obtain the necessary information to establish the industry in New South Wales. Experimental plots have been established in the district of Moura. This area is an irrigation area on a river front in the electorate of the honorable member for Dawson (Mr. Davidson). I have with me a newspaper cutting, dated 27th March, 1957, which states - an excellent crop of New Mexico Acala is being harvested with a locally-owned picker. The first pick is averaging nearly three bales per acre with at least one bale per acre left on (he bush to be picked later.
In fact the crop is yielding so well that it appears as though the picker is having difficulty in handling at the speed it is driven.
This particular crop was grown on an irrigation area, and the man who owns the farm gave it one irrigation of about four inches at about the time when the squares were being formed. He has already taken ofl three bales to the acre and he expects thai he will be able, on his second run through, to pick up at least another bale.
The Department of Agriculture and Stock is assisting this man in his experiments, but I think that we need to go further than that. Rather than having experimental plots on a particular farm, there should be such a set-up as there is now in the tobacco industry and in the sugar industry. Experimental stations should be established so that the growth of this plant in the various parts of Australia which are suitable for it - and that covers many acres - may be encouraged. I urge the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. McMahon) to give consideration to that matter and I suggest that the State governments be approached to assist the financing of such a scheme. After all, they have a very direct responsibility in this regard.
In addition, we have to figure out some way in which it will be possible to have a more intensive planting programme in a particular area. Valuable time is lost when the pickers owned by the Cotton Marketing Board travel long distances from farm to farm. In some instances, they travel 30 or 40 miles from one farming area to another, and the waste of time involved is considerable. If we could have intensive planting in a given area, very little time would be lost in transferring the machines from place to place. I am quite sure that in three crops in Queensland and in the Gwydir area we can obtain about 15,000 bales. If we can obtain 8,000 bales per annum, the gins, harvesters, and all the machinery connected with the cotton industry, will be working on an economic basis.
– How many bales a year are obtained now?
– The number has been varying over a period. From 1953-54 the number of growers has risen from 260 to 650, and the yield has gone up considerably. The production of cotton since 1953 has varied from year to year according to the drought and flood conditions.
– How many bales were there last year?
– At the present moment we have just over 3,000 bales from last year’s harvest.
– There were 7,000 in 1954.
– We must get the number of bales up to at least 8,000 for handling by the ginnery to be economic. It has been proven that this crop can be grown in Australia and return a good income to the growers. I suggest to the Minister that one of the great problems of the industry, possibly because of the mechanical pickers and the ginning machines, is that there is on hand at the moment about 800 bales of what I would classify as almost unsaleable cotton in the bedding and cordage grades. This is a problem, but not an insurmount able problem, from the selling point of view. I urge the Minister to confer with his colleague, the Minister in charge of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (Mr. Casey) and ask him to put some of his officers on to an investigation of methods of using the bedding and cordage grades in some way which has perhaps not been considered up to the present. It is possible that those officers, by bringing to bear the scientific knowledge and imagination with which they have solved many problems in other industries, could find a use for the 800 bales that are carried over. There will always be a quantity of unsaleable cotton in the bottom grade, and I make that suggestion to the Minister.
I also suggest that the Queensland Government is expecting too much of the members of the Cotton Marketing Board. They receive some pittance for daily attendance, when they travel from their farms to Brisbane to meet as directors or board members, and when they get back to their farming areas they have the life plagued out of them by people seeking advice about when the picker is to arrive and when they can have it, when they should plant, what seed they should use, and all the rest of it. Only highly public-spirited men will come forward for election to the board. I ask the Minister to have his officers consider this matter in conjunction with the Queensland authorities. This problem will arise also in the district of Gwydir in New South Wales. There must be a re-organization of the board so that we do not ask too much of men who, after all, are farmers first and foremost, and who have to carry the full burden of advising, and consulting, as well as directing the affairs of the board.
So I put to the Minister these six points, which I summarize as follows: - First, there should be a long-term guaranteed price for the industry, on the basis that cotton can and should be grown here. Secondly, finance should be made available for the Cotton Marketing Board to provide more harvesters to go from farm to farm.
– Who do you think ought to provide this?
– I think it lies quite within the powers of the Queensland Government.
– You want a bit of socialism.
– It is that Government’s responsibility. The Queensland Government is not worried about a little socialism. It will tackle the oil companies and socialize them. It has millions of pounds to put in.
– You advocate socialism when it suits you. You want the taxpayer to buy cotton-harvesting machines for you.
– The government in which the honorable member was a Minister tossed this industry overboard, and now he is a bit annoyed because we have it back on the rails again. I urge him. to show some of the common sense he showed when he was Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, and have a look at the matter properly. Thirdly, I suggest that finance should be made available from the Commonwealth Bank, and not from hirepurchase companies, to enable farmers to purchase their own private pickers. Fourthly, I suggest that, through the extension services supplied by the Government, two pilot farms be established, one in the Dawson or Callide valley, and one near Jandowae, in the electorate of Maranoa. Fifthly, I ask that the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization be requested to examine possible alternative usages of cordage and bedding grades of cotton, which at the present time appear to be almost unsalable. Sixthly, I ask that the Minister, in conjunction with the Queensland Minister for Agriculture and Stock, try to re-organize the board so that the board members, who give up so much of their time, will be relieved of a good deal of the arduous responsibility that they carry at present.
I commend the bill to the House. It is another forward step in the Government’s policy of bringing justice to the primaryproducers, returning them a good measure of income, and lifting them above Labour’s conception of them as a peasant class to provide cheaper food and clothing for the workers in the cities. It is a forward step so that we may have in Australia an industry which will eventually make us selfsupporting in regard to our cotton needs.
.- I fully support the bill. I believe that its introduction indicates a great sympathy for the cotton industry on the part of the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. McMahon). This bill is only a simple machinery measure, but the effect of it is to remedy certain anomalies that were made apparent last year to the Cotton Marketing Board and to the growers, when some difficulty was encountered under the law in providing interim payments to the growers. Those interim payments were so necessary that this machinery bill was introduced really to clear the passage so that the payment of the bounty will be made a more simple procedure and those difficulties will be solved.
I am taking advantage of the introduction of this bill to support suggestions that have been made by the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Pearce), who has, over a period of some years, tried hard to get more sympathetic consideration and support for the cotton industry in Queensland.
The cotton industry is, even at this moment, spreading into New South Wales. I understand that there have been experimental plantings in the Moree district, and although the season has been a bad one. there are indications that cotton can be grown successfully in that area. I believe that if growers of cotton are given encouragement, the industry will spread from the Dawson and Callide valley areas of Queensland to the Darling Downs, and that if the industry is given an opportunity to stand on its own feet cotton eventually will become one of the great alternate crops that are so important to the economy of Australia.
At the present moment, the cotton industry is in a very bad state. Indeed, it has never been in a really strong and healthy state. It always has been undercapitalized and has never been given a proper chance to establish itself. One of the best moves in the encouragement of the industry was the introduction by this Government of a subsidy, or a guaranteed payment, in respect of seed cotton. But the industry is still ill, as is borne out clearly by the fact that, in this year alone, the Government will be paying to it a bounty of £125,000, and the market value of the crop is less than the amount of bounty. The market value of the crop is £114,000, which means that the growers will, receive for their efforts in the last year, a return of £239,000, of which some £125,000 will be government subsidy. Does this not indicate that there is something wrong with the industry? Does it not suggest that we now, as a government and as a parliament, have to make up our minds whether we are going to abandon the industry, as it was abandoned by the Chifley Government, or whether we are really going to take action to establish it in such a way that it will be able to stand on its feet within a period of a few years? 1 believe that anybody who examines the situation that exists in the cotton industry to-day will agree with the honorable member for Capricornia that the industry could be made to stand on its own feet, and that it could be a very great success.
Let us examine the reasons why we have to pay £125,000 by way of subsidy and why the growers. will receive a total of only £239,000. Of the cotton that was picked in the 1956 crop, 40 per cent, had no market value and could not be sold. Nearly 900 bales from last year’s crop are still on the hands of the Cotton Marketing Board because there is no market for cotton of that grade. Last year, 46.74 per cent, of the crop could not be sold. Let me cite the figures from 1950 until the present time. Of a total of 806 bales produced in 1950, 427 bales to be sold had no market value. In 1951, of a total of 1,124 bales, 227 bales had no market value. In 1952, 648 bales of a total of 1,483 bales were cordage and bedding grades and had no market value. In other words, those bales did not attract a price. In 1953, which was the best year, 4,229 bales were produced and 662 bales were of cordage and bedding grades which attracted no market price. In 1954, 479 bales of a total of 2,819 bales were of unsaleable grades.
Coupled with that, we have been faced this year with the fact that the United States has been dumping cotton on the market of the world. With 10,000,000 bales of cotton being dumped, the price of cotton has fallen. In Australia, this cotton is being sold at world market price. In other words, the price of cotton has dropped from 36 cents per lb. on the world market to 25 cents, per lb., and the Australian growers are being expected to sell to the Australian manufacturers, at the world price of 25 cents, the cotton that they have produced. We know that certain firms in Australia such as Davies Coop Limited, Bradford Cotton Mills Limited, and Bond’s Industries Limited, have been able to benefit by the fact that the dumping of American cotton has brought the world price down. Six million bales have already been unloaded by the United States; consequently, our cotton spinners and weavers have been able to buy this cheap cotton on the world markets. Yet the community in Australia has not benefited by the increased profits these firms have been able to make through being able to buy this dumped cotton. These firms are holding out and wanting to buy the Australian crop at this depressed world price.
I wish to commend the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. McMahon) for having taken action on this issue. I understand that he will act as umpire when negotiations are opened concerning the sale of the present Australian crop. I sincerely hope that, in view of the fact that these spinners and weavers have profited at the expense of the Australian cottongrowers by the dumping of 6,000,000 bales in the world’s markets, the Minister will see to it that the Australian growers get a more adequate return for the crop that they have been able to produce. We know that there are another 4,000,000 bales of United States cotton yet to be dumped on the world market, so that we may expect that next year there will again be a depressed price for cotton on the world market. All of this suggests still further that we must give serious consideration to the situation of the cotton industry, and that we must determine whether or not we are going to save it.
I believe that cotton has a future in this country if we take firm action in the governmental sphere right now. It is of no use delaying such action and leaving it to next year to make known our determination. The honorable member for Capricornia made it clear that a great volume of cotton was being picked late in the season because of the lack of mechanization on the farms. He suggested that one of the first steps in solving this problem was to ensure that there was adequate mechanization on the farms, and that greater areas were planted. I believe that this could be achieved if the Government encouraged primary producers to plant greater acreages of cotton. I had the pleasure of travelling through the electorate of Capricornia, as it was prior to the last electoral re-distribution, with the honorable member, and of meeting the people who were growing cotton. We saw plantings of 500 acres, and we met people who were contemplating putting in more and more cotton because the year was a good one. If we encourage growers to plant more cotton, I believe that they will do so. In my opinion, plantings should be of a minimum of 250 acres. If we can get more plantings and greater confidence in the industry, there will be increased mechanization.
We can give such encouragement if, right now, the Government announces in mis Parliament that it proposes to extend, for five years beyond the 1958 crop, a guaranteed price for seed cotton of 14d. or more per lb. Personally, I believe that 14d. per lb. would be adequate. If we can guarantee a return to the growers up to the 1963 crop, they will have some encouragement to make greater plantings. More plantings and greater concentration of plantings will reduce, to a great degree, the problem of picking, because the pickers will not have to travel vast distances to pick cotton on such small acreages as are being sown at the present time. An extension of the guaranteed price would encourage the growers to invest money in the industry and to buy the International Harvester or the John Deere type of cotton picker to which the honorable member for Capricornia referred. If the growers can be sure of a guaranteed price, mechanization will follow. Earlier in my speech, 1 referred to the fact that this year 40 per cent, of the crop was of no value. That percentage of the crop could be reduced considerably, however, if the Queensland Cotton Marketing Board could obtain the new type of lint-cleaning machines. With a lint-cleaner, it is possible to increase the value of the cotton by improving its quality. Bedding and cordage cotton has no market value as a commodity because there is no demand for it, but by lint cleaning it could be improved to a standard acceptable to the weavers.
I have brought into the House some samples of cordage and bedding cotton. When it has been treated by the lint cleaning machines, much of the trash has been removed and it qualifies as weaving or spinning grade of cotton. If the Queensland Cotton Marketing Board were to install these machines in ginneries, much of the lower quality weaving cotton could be improved by the elimination of spots and specks of discoloration. Cotton so improved in quality would be acceptable to Australian spinners and weavers, and would command better prices. The use of these machines would improve the quality of the lower grades, thus enabling the board to supply cotton of a high standard.
About 900 bales of cotton of bedding and cordage grades, on hand now, cannot be sold. There is no demand for it. If that cotton were put through a lint-cleaning machine, 75 per cent, of it could be turned into weaving cotton, and could be sold for no less than £9,450. About 70 per cent, to 75 per cent, of it could be lifted to spinping and weaving grades. Other grades of cotton, which are already in the spinning and weaving class, could be improved to a quality that would return £1 to £2 a bale more than it is worth now.
The Queensland Cotton Marketing Board is not asking the Commonwealth Government to lend or to give it money to buy lint-cleaning machines. It is prepared to stand on its own feet. It is merely asking for a guarantee by the Commonwealth Government through the Commonwealth Bank to allow it to procure such machines. I visited the ginnery at Whinstanes, Brisbane, recently and machines in use there were built in 1917. They are obsolete and out of date. It is no wonder that the Government is paying a subsidy of £125,000 on cotton, much of which cannot be sold.
We should do our best to make the cotton industry successful. Let us give a guarantee to the Commonwealth Bank so that the board can buy the machines and make Australian cotton saleable on the Australian market. The actual price of a lint-cleaning machine is estimated at £80,000. If the Government has sufficient courage and believes, as I do, that the cotton industry is worthy of support, it will give the board the guarantee I have suggested. It will not ask the Queensland Government to do so because that government would try to make a political football of the cotton industry, and would destroy it.
Let us be courageous, and take the step that would re-establish the cotton industry. Let us give it a chance to stand on its own feet. We can do that merely by adopting three measures. The first is to give to the growers a guarantee on the price of seed cotton for five years beyond the 1958 crop. That would encourage the farmers to plant greater acreages and to purchase machinery. The second step should be to give a guarantee to the Commonwealth Bank so that the Cotton Marketing Board could buy new lint-cleaning machines. That would give further encouragement to the growers because they would know that a greater volume of their product would be sold, and would not lie idle in the ginneries at Rockhampton and Brisbane. The growers would have a feeling of security if they knew that their crop would be marketed.
As a third step, I suggest that the Government should take into consideration fluctuations in the price of cotton caused by the dumping of cotton by the United States of America. The marketing of 10,000,000 bales of cotton has reduced the price from 36 cents to 25 cents. Once we have adopted the first two measures T have suggested, we must seriously consider an Australian price for cotton. Normally, cotton coming into Australia would attract a tariff of Hd. Spinners and weavers who are buying it on the depressed market at rock-bottom prices are importing it under by-law. They have been able to exploit the situation to their own ends, and have not passed on to the public the benefit of the lower prices they are paying. The price of cotton goods has not been reduced in Australia. Prices are being maintained although the raw cotton is cheaper. If the spinners and weavers are not prepared to reduce prices, they must be prepared to recognize the claim of Australian cottongrowers to a fair price for their product.
I am glad that the honorable member for Lowe (Mr. McMahon) is Minister for Primary Industry because I know that he is most sympathetic in his approach to the problems of primary producers. Since he has assumed office, he has given consideration to each branch of primary production, and has done his utmost to ensure that their problems are solved. His work on the tobacco industry in Queensland will be a monument to him. The fact that the sale of the tobacco crop to Australian tobacco manufacturers has been guaranteed is largely due to the work of the present Minister for Primary Industry.
Now that he is tackling the cotton industry’s problems, I ask him to give consideration to the points that have been made by the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Pearce), whom I support. I do not agree with the honorable member for Capricornia entirely in all his suggestions. His contention that the improvement of unsaleable cotton should be handed over to the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization would do no harm, but I suggest that if 75 per cent, of the unsaleable cotton can be made saleable by merely guaranteeing to the bank the funds to enable the Queensland Cotton Marketing Board to buy lint-cleaning machines, this is a more practical approach and it is the duty of this Government to give that guarantee.
If the Government does not do so I say that, without a shadow of doubt, we shall be betraying the taxpayers of Australia, because if we have another bad season next year, we shall have to pay £125,000 or £130,000 by way of bounty. If, on the other hand, we are able to sell more of the crop, the bounty will be reduced. If the Australian cotton-growers can get better prices for their cotton, the burden on the Australian taxpayers for the payment of bounty will be reduced. I predict that with the machines I have described, which would cost the Government nothing, the Australian cotton industry could establish itself on a sound basis, and make cotton one of the really great Australian rotation crops.
.- It was not my intention to take part in this debate, but I have been inspired by the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Wight) and the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Pearce) to say that, as the representative of a Queensland electorate, I support this measure. As the honorable member for Lilley has said, it is a machinery bill to guarantee a certain price to cottongrowers. The honorable member for Lilley said that the cotton industry was abandoned by the Chifley Government. That is not true. As the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) pointed out when he spoke on behalf of the Opposition, what happened was that, in 1949, the Tariff Board, which had been investigating a request made to it by the industry, recommended that no action be taken by the Government, because it was felt that, even if the request were acceded to, that would not give a fillip to the industry. That recommendation of the Tariff Board was accepted by the Chifley Government. As far as I know, the members of the board were not Labour men. The
Tariff Board was set up by an anti-Labour government, not by the Chifley Government or the Curtin Government. It is a government instrumentality, established for the purpose of giving advice to governments. The government of that day accepted is recommendation. 1 believe that the principal reason why the board made the recommendation was that labour was short and fertilizers were not available at that time, during the period of the war. Consequently, the cotton-growers had concentrated upon other activities, such as dairying, because of the higher returns. The prices of dairy products and other products were attractive ,and the growers were able to carry on. Owing to the labour shortage, in particular, they did not bother about the growing of cotton. In the period from 1931 to 1940, about 5,500,000 lb. of seed cotton was grown, but in the period from 1946 to 1948 production fell to about one-half of that rate, due to the fact that the prices of other commodities, such as beef and dairy produce, which were also produced by cotton-growers, were such as to encourage the growers to engage in those activities. In recent times, however, the position has been reversed. There has been a butter slump, for instance. Therefore, I think it is up to this Government to give some assistance to the people who are engaged in growing cotton.
There is every reason why people should be encouraged to engage in cotton production. If I remember rightly, our imports of cotton fibre in recent years have been worth about £8,000,000. That is one reason why I am so interested in the expansion of this industry, even though some of the expansion may be in New South Wales. If that happens, it will be all - to the good. Another reason why I am eager for the Government to continue to provide for a guaranteed price for cotton is that we can foresee that, in the not very far distant future, concentrated efforts will be made to extend irrigation and conserve the waters that now race away to the sea. Even in the United States of America, partial irrigation of cotton-growing districts has taken place. I believe that the undertaking of water conservation projects, together with an assurance of a guaranteed price for cotton, will enable the people who live in districts where cotton can be produced to speed the development of those districts. In that connexion, mention was made this afternoon of Moree, in New South Wales. For those reasons, if for no others, every encouragement, including a guaranteed price, should be given to people to go into the cotton-growing industry.
The honorable member for Capricornia has suggested that the Commonwealth Bank should make money available to cottongrowers so that they will be able to purchase equipment to mechanize the industry. One of the factors that has given a fillip to the production of cotton in this country is that, to some extent - I say “ to some extent “ advisedly - the difficulty of harvesting the product has been overcome by the use of mechanical pickers. They cost money. There are other ways in which cotton production could be mechanized, and funds should be made available to growers, particularly newcomers to the industry, to enable them to purchase the tractors and other equipment with which they could get greater production. Why should they have to pay exorbitant rates of interest to hire-purchase companies, when this Government, through the rural credits section of the Commonwealth Bank, could make money available to people who wished to embark on the growing of cotton, or who were already growing cotton, to procure machinery and irrigation plants? The money ought to be made available through the rural credits section of the Commonwealth Bank.
I support the bill with a great deal of pleasure because it represents an attempt to do something for a very deserving industry -the cotton-growing industry of Queensland.
– As the representative of an electorate in which cotton-growing is making rapid progress, I have much pleasure in supporting the bill. I believe that, given sufficient encouragement, this is an industry that will make great strides forward in Queensland.
We have heard a lot said to-day about where cotton-growing is taking place in Queensland. In recent years, most of the cotton produced there has been grown on the eastern side of the ranges, particularly in the wetter area. However, as a result of research and mechanization, we have found that it is possible to grow some of the best grades of cotton in what are known as the drier areas. In my electorate, there is what is called box country, where some of the best cotton in the world is grown. Years ago, a ginnery was established at Dalby, at the eastern end of the electorate, but in those days, as the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) recognizes, the cotton-growers made the mistake of using for their purposes some of the richest country in Australia. Instead of growing cotton in that soil, in which cotton grows as high as trees, but has no bolls, they should have used some of the soil, so rich is it, to enrich the earth in other places, where fertilizers had to be used. However, that country has now been taken up for other purposes and cotton-growing has been pushed further out, into what we call the box-type country, with a 25-in. annual rainfall, where a finer, better and cleaner type of cotton is being grown. 1 do not know much about the cottongrowing industry - I grew cotton many years ago for a short time, but 1 got only 5d. per lb. for it, so I have not grown it since - but people who do know something about it forecast that in the Dawson electorate and the Capricornia electorate cotton-growing will soon be, so to speak, small potatoes. It will be pushed out even further. As a result of research and mechanization, we have found that cotton can be produced in the drier areas of the State, and I believe that that is where the bulk of our cottongrowing will take place in the future. The honorable member for Lalor referred to a Tariff Board report in which the board recommended that no assistance be given to the industry. He referred to certain passages of the report in which it was suggested that cotton could be used only as a rotational crop with Rhodes grass and things such as that. In the area about which I am speaking, that is not the case.
The growers appreciate this move by the Government to make earlier interim payments. If people are to be encouraged to invest money in this industry, they must have a guaranteed price for a long term. In my opinion, five years is hardly long enough. Most of these properties are equipped with tractors and the other machinery necessary for the preparation of the seed-bed, but they are not equipped with the machinery required for the cultivation of the crop. It is for that reason that so much cotton of the type shown to the House by the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Wight) this afternoon is produced. If we had a system similar to that in operation in America, it would be possible to harvest a cleaner crop, especially in the areas I represent. I repeat that if this industry is to be encouraged, if people are to be encouraged to invest in it, there must be a long-term arrangement in connexion with the guaranteed price. If that is done, I am convinced the industry will develop rapidly.
I, too, believe that it will be necessary to make finance available for the purchase of cotton-picking machinery. The socialist system of collective ownership of machinery under which when one farm has been harvested the machinery moves to another, will not be successful in the areas to which I have referred. It cannot be successful in this industry because it is essential that the cotton be picked immediately it is ready, if the product is to be of good quality. If a farmer is required to wait until the machinery has finished its work on some other farm, his crop may be ruined if, during the period of waiting, rain should fall. If that should happen, the crop would undoubtedly be destroyed. For that reason, collective ownership of machinery has proved unsuccessful in the grain-growing industry and will be unsuccessful in the cotton-growing industry. If finance is to be made available, it is essential that a start be made at the bottom, as it were.
I repeat that whilst the farmers are equipped for the preparation of seed-beds, they need machinery for the proper cultivation and harvesting of the crop. I have mentioned this before in connexion with not only the cotton-growing but also other primary industries. Many young people who are willing and anxious to take advantage of mechanization and adopt modern techniques in agriculture have been unable to do so because they have lacked finance. It is useless to manufacture all this modern machinery if the people engaged in the industry have not the money to purchase it. This applies just as much in the cottongrowing industry as it does in tobaccogrowing or any other primary industry. We must ensure that proper facilities are provided to encourage people who are willing to do so to engage in the industry. If we are not prepared to do that, then we can forget all about cotton-growing. In conclusion, I appeal to the Minister to give serious consideration to that aspect. If he will give some encouragement in that direction, we can be sure that the industry will look after itself.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and committed pro forma; progress reported.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
La committee (Consideration of GovernorGeneral’s message):
Motion (by Mr. McMahon) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a bill for an act to amend the Cotton Bounty Act 1951- 1955.
Resolution reported and adopted.
In committee: Consideration resumed.
Clauses 1 to 3 - by leave - taken together and agreed to.
Clause 4 (Rate of bounty).
.- This is the really important clause of the bill. It gives a concession to the cotton-growing industry in that it excludes from consideration any exterior revenue that the industry may receive from sources other than actual cotton-growing. The Opposition very heartily supports the granting of the concession. We have no objection to that whatsoever, but, having regard to the position of the cotton-growing industry at the moment, the payment of a higher amount of bounty than hitherto is inevitable. Because of that, it is desirable I should emphasize that, notwithstanding the speeches which have been made by honorable members on the Government side, the fact that this Government saw fit to introduce a Cotton Bounty Bill in 1951, which we supported, and the payment of bounties and all the assistance given hitherto to the Government, this industry has advanced very little, if anything, beyond the position in which it was in 1949 when the Tariff Board submitted its report. It has advanced no farther, despite what the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Pearce) or the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Wight) had to say in their most enlightening speeches this afternoon.
Under the Cotton Bounty Bill of 1951, which we supported, the Government gave a guaranteed price of 14d. per lb. At that time, the Government set a target at something like an estimated production of 20,000 bales from an area of, I think, 8,000 acres. That target has not been anything like reached. Production in 1951 was 1,124 bales. The honorable member for Lilley tells us that the industry cannot now sell 2,227 bales. Despite all the bounties and the wiping off of the £68,000 guarantee which the Chifley Government gave to the Commonwealth Bank, the industry will not produce anything like the 20,000 bales aimed at by the Government; and the people of Australia are being asked now to agree to the payment of a bounty of £125,000 to this industry. I do not want to be a damp cloth, nor do I seek to be a Jeremiah. ] am as anxious as any honorable member is to see the industry develop, but, as I see the position, the Tariff Board’s prophecy, unfortunately, has been proved to be correct. No bounty payment will save this industry. Its salvation must come from better methods of agriculture, better systems of rotation, larger areas per farmer under cotton and irrigation. Have those things been done? There has been no report to this Parliament whether or not they have been put into effect. We have not even been told what the acreage is to-day compared with the acreage in 1949. All we are told is that we are asked to agree to the continuation of a process, and to its enlargement by virtue of the fact that exterior revenues are not to be taken into consideration. We are asked to be a little more liberal, when, according to the industry’s own figures, and the figures of the honorable member for Lilley and, so far as I have been able to extract them, the figures of the Minister, the cotton crop to-day, in 1 956-57, is no better than it was in 1951 and 1952, and not as good as it was in 1953 when the industry turned out 4,229 bales. Now production has lapsed to anything between 2,000 and 3,000 bales produced from a not very substantial acreage. If I am wrong in my figures no doubt somebody will correct me, but whether they are out a thousand bales either way, the error would not represent the differences between success and failure. I think it behoves this Government to refer this matter back to the Tariff Board before the existing bounty provisions expire within the next year or two. I suggest the whole matter deserves very much more consideration than it has received. Most of the consideration that has been given to it by honorable members opposite during this debate has consisted of a condemnation of the Chifley Government for its belief that a bounty of 14d. a bale would not have the desired effect, and its acceptance of the Tariff Board’s recommendation that the Commonwealth should liquidate the industry’s debt of £68,000.
Let us put this matter on a non-partisan basis. We are involved in a payment of £125,000 this year, and perhaps more next year. If that is the rate of progress this Government is making in stimulating the cotton industry, the Government cannot be proud of itself. Of course, I am not blaming the Government entirely, because there has been a catastrophic fall in cotton prices. If that were the only factor, it would not matter so much; but the worst feature is that the output of cotton has not been materially increased, which prompts the question, “What is the Government doing to give effect to what the Tariff Board suggested as necessary to make this industry worth while and worthy of the support of the people? “
You have been very tolerant with me, Mr. Chairman. I thought at one stage you would suggest that I was not confining my remarks to the clause, and I was ready to correct you by saying that this clause will mean the extension of the bounty and for that reason my remarks were in order.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. AdermannThe essential part of this clause deals with payments other than bounty by the processors, and therefore the honorable member was quite in order.
– I think that, unconsciously, Mr. Chairman, you believed that I took your own point of view on that clause, and thought it would not do any harm to let me continue.
I support the measure, but I suggest to the Minister that there is a good deal more in this than meets the eye, and that the industry should be thoroughly overhauled. If what is required is assistance to have better agricultural procedures and practices rather than a bounty, or the provision of more up-to-date plant for ginneries, then the industry should get that kind of assistance, and not so much by way of a Commonwealth Bank guarantee, either. I have had a lifetime of political experience which has shown me that a Commonwealth Bank guarantee in such cases generally means that, in the long run, the State or the Commonwealth liquidates the industry’s overdraft, as has been done in this case. I would much prefer the Government to say to the cotton industry, “Here is £50,000 or £100,000. Put in your ginneries “. That would be much better than throwing £125,000, or a similar amount, down the drain. After all, under that system the machinery would still be in existence and have a sale value. Under this proposal, you have nothing.
Clause agreed to.
Remainder of bill - by leave - taken as a whole and agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from 20th March (vide page 48), on motion by Mr. Fairhall -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Sitting suspended from 5.42 to 8 p.m.
– Let me start by speaking about the Middle East, which has held the anxious attention of the world since July of last year, when President Nasser seized the Suez Canal. The two principal aspects of the Middle East are, of course, Egyptian-Israeli relations, and the Suez Canal. Perhaps I might be allowed to remind the House of the background of these two problems.
For reasons that one must accept, but very greatly deplore, the Arab States of the Middle East have never accepted the right of the State of Israel to exist. For this reason, no Arab State would publicly query any Egyptian action against Israel, however provocative or unjust. So, by slow-motion aggression against Israel, President Nasser was able to build up a growing reputation for himself in the Arab world - a reputation which lasted until it was very conclusively deflated by the Israeli attack last October.
Egypt’s harassing of Israel took many forms - a full-scale economic blockade; the denial of Israeli shipping, and Israeli-bound shipping through the Suez Canal and the Gulf of Aqaba; continuous Egyptian commando raids into Israeli territory; and a formidable bombardment of hostile Egyptian propaganda against Israel.
Going back a little further into the past, to 1947, ten years ago, it will be remembered that the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted a resolution partitioning Palestine into Arab and Jewish States. The Jews were ready to accept this resolution, but the Arabs refused. By the time the British forces withdrew from Palestine in 1948 a full-scale war was being waged by the surrounding Muslim States against Israel in an attempt to smother the Jewish State of Israel at birth.
United Nations efforts led to the negotiation of a truce between Israel and her hostile neighbours, but not before Israeli forces had occupied more territory than had been allotted to them under the United Nations partition plan. In 1949 the truce was converted into a formal armistice. One of the legacies of the Palestine war was the creation of the Arab refugee problem. Nearly a million refugees, mainly Arabs, had fled from Israel into the surrounding Muslim countries. But the worst of the legacies of the 1948 war was an intensification of the Arab-Israel hostility.
In October, 1956, Egypt completed the military unification of Israel’s neighbours by the creation of a joint EgyptianSaudiArabianSyrianJordanian military alliance under an Egyptian Commander-in-Chief. It must have looked to Israel as if the net was closing round her and she might be excused for believing that a general attack upon her borders was imminent. It should be remembered that the population of Egypt is over ten times that of Israel, and that Israel is less that one-third of the size of Tasmania.
It was against this background that Israel launched her attack on Egypt at the end of October, 1956. Israel has been charged with aggression. Technically, this is no doubt correct, but I maintain that, in fairness, the whole history of the previous ten years must be taken into account. It is wrong to judge any one particular international incident by itself and ignore all the provocation that preceded it. In saying this, I do not suggest that Israel has been blameless, but that on net balance she has been more sinned against than sinning.
The defeat of the Egyptian forces by the Israelis, even although Egypt had the advantage of modern military and air equipment supplied by Soviet Russia, is common knowledge. The circumstances in which the Egyptian-Israeli conflict was brought to an end following the Anglo-French intervention, and United Nations action in calling for a cease fire and establishing a United Nations police force, were described by the Prime Minister in his statements to the House of 1st November and 8th November last. Those statements gave the Government’s views on the situation at that time and the policy of the Australian Government. Our present concern is to attempt to analyse the deep-seated causes of tension in the Middle East in an endeavour to see the possible lines of a solution for them.
Let me say something at this stage about the entry of Soviet Russia into the Middle East picture. Two or three years ago, the Soviet Union directed her diplomatic, propaganda and trade weapons against the Middle East on what might be described as the grand scale. The particular targets for Soviet attention were Egypt and Syria.
It has been one of the traditional aims of Russian policy for many generations to get access to the warm waters of the Mediterranean and of the Persian Gulf. Early evidence of Soviet interest in the Middle East was the conclusion of an arms deal with Egypt and Syria, accompanied by a large-scale incursion of Russian technicians and experts. These Russian policies have succeeded to the extent that they have added to the turmoil of the area, although Russia has achieved no substantial political or military success. In fact, it can be said with truth that the Soviet intrusion into the Middle East has consolidated and strengthened the membership of the Baghdad pact which, honorable members will recall, consists of Great Britain, Turkey, Pakistan, Iraq and Iran. The Soviet’ action has also attracted the promise of American military and economic support to any Middle East country that requires it in combating communism, directly or indirectly.
Perhaps at this point I might say something about the role of the United States in the Middle East ‘over recent years. It will be remembered that the United
States, with the United Kingdom and France, participated in the so-called Tripartite Declaration of 1950 - seven years ago. The three Governments declared that, should they find that either Israel or the Arab States were preparing to violate present Israeli frontiers, they would immediately take action, within or outside the United Nations, to combat it. This Tripartite Declaration, as it has been called, has never been effective in preventing violation of borders by either side.
It can be said that the United States encouraged in 1955 the creation of the Baghdad Pact, under which Turkey, Iraq, Iran, Pakistan, and the United Kingdom agreed to co-operate for their security and mutual defence. This so-called “northern tier “ defence system, as Mr. Dulles has called it, has been well supported by the United States although it has never actually joined the Baghdad Pact. The recently announced adherence of the United States to the Military Committee of the Baghdad Pact, together with its previous membership of the Economic Committee, amounts in fact to actual membership of the Baghdad Pact, although limited to combating Communist aggression.
On 29th November last, the United States stated that a threat to the territorial integrity or political independence of the members of the Baghdad Pact would be regarded by the United States with the utmost gravity. Also, in August, 1955, Mr. Dulles made valuable and important proposals - in respect of finding finance for the re-settlement of the Arab refugees and allied matters - for dealing with the Egyptian-Israeli problems. He also stated that if these and related problems could be solved, the United States, as well as providing economic atd, would join in formal treaty engagements. The Israelis expressed willingness to meet and discuss, but the Arab States gave a negative response.
The most recent evidence of American interest and concern with the Middle East has been the Eisenhower doctrine, socalled, which promises American military and economic aid against communism to any country of the Middle East that wants it. Australia greatly welcomed this American initiative. One can only hope that these various instances of American interest in the Middle East will be vigorously pursued and that the great influence of the United States will be exerted positively in the area. Middle East disputes are matters that not only affect the countries concerned but also endanger the peace of the world. More than that, they have imperilled the unity of the great democratic powers on which security everywhere depends.
Now, let rae say something about the position of Egypt, and the international agreements and instruments by which she is bound: first, the Constantinople Convention of 1888, which provides that the Suez Canal shall be open to ships of all nations in peace and in war without discrimination. Egypt is bound by this convention, and her denial of the Suez Canal to Israeli shipping is in breach of it. Then, Egypt is bound by the Israeli-Egyptian Armistice Agreement of 1949, which requires both parties to refrain from belligerency. Egypt has consistently broken this agreement by military raids, by economic blockade, and by constant interference with Israel-bound shipping. Egypt is bound by - but has defied - the Security Council resolution of 1951, which confirmed Israel’s right of freedom of passage through the Suez Canal. She is apparently disposed to continue to defy this Security Council resolution.
So far as Egypt-Israel relations are concerned, the net effect of United Nations action has been that a cease fire has been brought about, and that Israeli forces have withdrawn from Gaza and the Gulf of Aqaba area and have been replaced by United Nations forces. However, the whole situation is tense and dangerous. Egypt holds that the United Nations force can remain in Egyptian territory only with Egyptian consent. On the other hand, there is no doubt that Israel has evacuated the Gulf of Aqaba and the Gaza strip, on the clear assumption that these two areas would be taken over by the United Nations force, which would remain to prevent a recurrence of Egyption aggression against Israel, pending a final settlement. If this assumption is violated then the situation between Egypt and Israel again becomes critical and dangerous. Good faith, I believe we would all agree, is essential.
When these questions were debated, privately or publicly, in New York, the Australian Government expressed its firm conviction that it was not sufficient to oblige Israel to return to the status quo when
Egypt was a persistent violator of the armistice agreement. We urged the need for an Egyptian declaration of non-belligerency. We recognized the justice of Israel’s claim for security. We argued the injustice and futility of sanctions against Israel. We supported the establishment of the United Nations force in Gaza and the Gulf of Aqaba, and the right of free and innocent passage through the Tiran Straits into the Gulf of Aqaba. We have said all these things, publicly and consistently, in Australia and in the United Nations in New York. Throughout we have become aware of the Egyptian habit of evasion, and we have urged the Secretary-General to establish Egyptian intentions. We have counselled Israel to be patient, while Egyptian intentions in Gaza and the Gulf of Aqaba are clarified, and until the United Nations has played out its hand.
Now let me speak of the Suez Canal. This problem, as we know, has widespread international implications, and is separate and distinct from the question of Israeli.Egyption relations, although each has its effect on the other. Without rehearsing the whole melancholy history of the Suez Canal problem since the canal was forcibly and arbitrarily seized by Egypt in late July, 1956, I remind the House that the only contribution of consequence at the hands of the United Nations has been the unanimous resolution of the Security Council in October, 1956, in respect of the acceptance of the so-called six principles.
These six principles provide for free and open transit through the canal without discrimination, respect for Egyptian sovereignty, insulation of the canal from national politics, tolls and charges to be fixed by agreement between Egypt and the users, allocation of a proportion of dues to canal development, and arbitration of unresolved disputes. These so-called six principles, read in conjunction with the 1888 Constantinople Convention, provide the minimum safeguards for users of the canal.
However, the fact is that, despite the acceptance by the Egyptian Foreign Minister of the six principles, it has so far proved impossible to get the Egyptian Government to implement them. One of the notable features in dealing with President Nasser has been the impossibility of getting any clear and direct response from him on any matter of consequence. The SecretaryGeneral of the United Nations, Mr. Hammarskjoeld, has made repeated efforts to have discussions started on the future of the canal, but without avail.
Some five weeks ago, in view of the imminence of the re-opening of the canal, Great Britain, America, France and Norway proposed to Egypt, through Mr. Hammarskjoeld, interim arrangements under which the canal might be re-opened, pending a final settlement. Australia was in accord with these proposals. These arrangements would provide that Egypt should operate the canal in accordance with the Constantinople Convention and the six principles, and that canal dues should be paid to the United Nations, or to the International Bank as a neutral agent. The International Bank would pay 50 per cent, of the dues to Egypt for operating the canal, and hold 50 per cent, of the dues pending a settlement. Egypt has made no formal reply to these proposals.
In an effort io reach agreement, Mr. Hammarskjoeld visited Cairo last week - I think for at least the second or third time - but no public statement of the results of his discussions has yet been made. From public statements attributed to President Nasser in the last few days, the prospects do not seem to be hopeful for reasonable arrangements for a canal regime that would be in accord with the 1888 convention and the six principles. It is not possible, unfortunately, to say more than this at the present time.
And now let me collect together and state what I believe to be the several means of reaching lasting and equitable solutions on the basic problems which have caused the upheavals in the Middle East in the last twelve months: In the first place, a realist beginning must be made towards a solution of the long-standing Arab-Israeli problem. To this end, belligerency by either side must be controlled, and a mutual pledge of non-belligerency required, which is no more, of course, than a re-affirmation of what was contained in the Egyptian-Israeli armistice agreement. In to-day’s circumstances of tension, it is difficult to see how raiding and retaliation can be ensured against, in practice, other than by the creation of demilitarized zones at appropriate points on the periphery of Israel. These should be occupied, if necessary, for an appreciable period of time, by United Nations forces. When I say that, I do not mean a mere handful of United Nations observers, such as the 30 or 40 that have been around the borders for the last few years, but forces capable of .policing and ensuring non-belligerency.
Again, I believe that Israel’s right to exist must be recognized, and her right to free passage through the Tiran Straits and the Suez Canal must be placed beyond doubt and respected. Concurrently, progress must be made in respect of problems affecting both the Arab States and Israel. A solution of the problem of Palestine refugees must be sought, in a large measure at least, by their re-settlement. They have been kept alive for a number of years by contributions by members of the United Nations. Australia has provided very nearly £1,000,000 to assist in keeping the refugees alive, but nothing whatever towards their re-settlement. Developmental projects, especially irrigation and water projects, should be undertaken. This would help substantially towards the solution of the refugee problem. Given fair treatment, cooperation by Israel in these matters. I believe, is to be assumed.
What I have said is no airy-fairy counsel of perfection. It is, I believe, the minimum practicable programme that is likely to avoid a recurrence of bloodshed, and to ensure some reasonable stability in this troubled area. We are witnessing a dramatic period of turmoil in the Middle East, based very largely on racial antipathy by the Arabs against the Jews, rather than on any particular political or economic disagreement. This deep-rooted racial origin of the Middle East problem - it was impressed upon me in the war years, when I had many active contacts with the Arab leaders, including His Excellency General Nuri El Said - makes its solution particularly difficult, as it means that it is unlikely, in my view at least, to yield to any quick and easy resolution or form of words devised by a majority in the United Nations, which does not appreciate the emotional origin of this trouble. You cannot submit a deeply ingrained emotional complex to logical political treatment.
The situation, I believe, demands a cooling-off period. When an appropriate period of time has gone by without incident and without recriminations, the good offices of one or more of the great powers can be exercised by way of bringing the two sides together under benevolent, but powerful, chairmanship, to work out a permanent solution, perhaps with the prospect of appreciable economic aid when such a solution has been reached.
I end this very short survey of the Middle East with some observations on the past and future role of the United Nations. The United Nations has had many of these questions before it for a number of years. Without wishing to be unduly critical, it can be said that it has reached no satisfactory solution to any of them. I believe this reflects the fact that we must recognize that the United Nations cannot always be counted upon to reach objective and fair and constructive conclusions on situations in which group pressures and the promotion of special interests have tended to weaken its effectiveness and its impartiality. This was all too evident in the Assembly’s handling of the Israel-Egypt dispute. From this Egypt will no doubt draw considerable encouragement. For, as long as Egypt has the backing of a partisan group in the General Assembly, for so long will she be encouraged to pursue her own interests to the detriment of the international situation.
The Security Council was intended by the Charter of the United Nations to acknowledge the prime responsibilities of great powers in questions involving peace and security. It was not envisaged that these responsibilities should be submerged in the voting of 80 countries in the General Assembly. The temptation must be avoided of believing that it is a substantive foreign policy merely to put a question on the agenda of the United Nations and to invite discussion. There is, unfortunately, no basis for believing that the United Nations Assembly will automatically provide a just and effective solution for any and all problems that come before it. It is the Government’s view that there is a compelling need, in the United Nations and outside it, for the great democratic powers to assert joint leadership directed towards peace and stability which is entirely consistent with the Charter of the United Nations.
After that very brief survey of the Middle East, let me switch to another part of the world which is closer to Australia. Let me say something about the area immediately to our north-west - the countries of South and South-East Asia. There has been appreciable progress in the political and economic fields in the countries of South and South-East Asia in the last year or two. Australia has warmly supported the pro gress of the Federation of Malaya to independence. I hope very much to be able to attend the official celebration of Malayan independence in Kuala Lumpur on 3 1st August, on behalf of the Australian Government. The impending independence of Malaya within the Commonwealth is the latest example of the long line of countries that have been brought to nationhood by our mother country, Great Britain. No country in the world’s history has anything approaching Great Britain’s record of statesmanship on the grand scale, by way of the development of one country after another to self-government and independence.
Communist terrorist activities in Malaya continue to decline. From a peak of 8,000 in the worst days of the emergency, there are now only about 2,000 Communist terrorists in the Malayan jungle. The Communists are reported to have made a new offer of a truce, but there is clearly no real change in their position and the Chief Minister, Tengku Abdul Rahman, has described the Communist letter as merely a propaganda move. With the approval of Malaya, Australian troops are in Malaya assisting in operations against the Communist terrorists. Australia has continued to give any help that is within our power to Malaya, both under the Colombo plan and otherwise. We have already provided Colombo plan aid to Malaya in a variety of directions to the extent of about £350,000 and we have pledged a further £250,000, which will be delivered in the next year or two. Included in this has been the training of 54 citizens of Malaya who have completed their training and have returned to Malaya. In addition, there are 1 63 Malayans in Australia at present under Colombo plan training.
Sir William McKell was a member of the commission that has prepared a draft constitution for the federation to consider. Australia recently provided a chairman for an important commission to study lands administration in Malaya. We are endeavouring to find qualified Australians to help Malaya in building up her banking institutions.
As regards Singapore, a delegation led by the Chief Minister, Mr. Lim Yew Hock, <s at present in London discussing with the United Kingdom Government constitutional in u11gt.1111.1113 designed to give Singapore internal self-government. There is reason to believe that agreement on constitutional changes for Singapore will be reached during the present conference in London. Mr. Lim Yew Hock and his colleagues, notably Mr. Chew Swee Kee, Minister for Education, have taken firm action to check the growth of Communist subversion, particularly in schools and in the trade unions. In the case of Singapore, too, we have continued our efforts to help under the Colombo plan in a number of directions. We have already provided Colombo plan aid to Singapore to the extent of about £120,000, and we have pledged considerable additional aid for the future.
Thailand continues to make steady economic progress. Its standard of living is one of the highest in Asia. A very high percentage of its farmers own their own land. 1 believe the figure is about 85 per cent. Elections were held in February. I notice that the Australian Labour party, in a manifesto issued at its conference in Brisbane, has singled out Thailand for attack as a “ reactionary “ government. Apart from a defence of Communist China, there was no other reference by the Australian Labour party to any specific country in Asia.
– That is completely untrue, and the Minister knows it.
– The record shows. I think it is deplorable that the highest executive body in the Opposition party should attack a government with which Australia has the friendliest relations and which is bound to us in the Seato partnership. It is not for me to describe the internal organization of a friendly government. I will merely remind the House that in Thailand there were several opposition parties and opposition newspapers which criticized the previous Thailand government in the most spirited way. Some Ministers were defeated. I will leave it to honorable members to judge for themselves whether these facts justify the critical comments of the Opposition.
The Philippines has recently suffered a grievous loss in the tragic death of its great leader, President Ramon Magsaysay, who had given his country such inspired leadership. President Magsaysay, as Secretary for Defence, was the mainspring and inspiration of the successful campaign against the Communistinspired terrorist movement which threatened the country’s very existence. On behalf of the Australian Government, I would like again to express publicly the deep sympathy that we feel for the Philippines Government and people in their great loss. To President Garcia, whom we had the privilege of having in Australia at the recent Seato meeting, we offer our sincere good wishes in his great task.
In South Viet Nam there has been most heartening progress in recent years towards political and economic stability. Less than three years ago the country was torn by dissident sects and private armies and gravely threatened by the Communist Viet Minh. Now internal security in South Viet Nam is better than in most countries in South-East Asia, and President Diem’s Government has won widespread popular support. In South Viet Nam the main problems now to be faced are those of peace - building up the economy after more than ten years of war, improving the living standards of the people, and developing their political life and institutions. We welcome the signs of closer and more cordial relations between Viet Nam and its neighbours in South and South-East Asia. We were glad to join with others in the United Nations in recommending Viet Nam’s application for membership to the United Nations.
What President Diem and his colleagues have achieved in South Viet Nam provides an example and inspiration to the whole area. They have shown that, even when conditions seemed nearly hopeless, resolute and courageous national leadership can turn the tide. The Republic of Viet Nam has become a valued member of the free community of South-East Asia. As with other countries of South-East Asia, we have endeavoured to help South Viet Nam under the Colombo plan. We have already given such aid to the extent of £340,000, and we have pledged a further £150.000.
In Laos, the situation needs close watching because, as the price for allowing two Communist-held provinces to come under the control of the central government, the
Communists want seats in the cabinet. The dangers in admitting Communists to the cabinet appear to be recognized by many Laotian leaders and it now seems, for the the time being at least, that no decision on this great question is likely to be made. We have provided over £250,000 of Colombo plan aid to Laos and have pledged further aid.
In Cambodia, Prince Sihanouk, who was the principal architect of his country’s independence, continues to exert a dominating political influence. There has, however, been a certain lack of governmental stability and continuity. In the last eighteen months. Cambodia has had seven governments. At the same time, the Soviet Union and Communist China have been making a special effort to expand their activities in Cambodia, with the obvious aim of showing other countries in South-East Asia the advantages of following a policy of non-alinement with the major Western powers. The Communists have offered Cambodia substantial economic aid, have arranged exchanges of political visits, have sent technical experts to Cambodia, and are generally stepping up their propaganda activities, particularly among the Chinese minority. The Cambodian Government is trying to pursue a policy of neutrality. Its leaders are democratic in outlook. It is important that the free world should continue to give encouragement and assistance to both Cambodia and Laos, exposed as both countries are to the threat of Communist expansionism. We have provided £180,000 in Colombo plan aid to Cambodia, and have pledged more for the future.
In Burma, U Nu has returned to the prime ministership from which he resigned last year in order to re-organize the political party supporting the Government Burma has special problems arising from its long frontier with China. The Government of Burma has consistently followed a policy of strict neutrality. Nevertheless, despite endorsement of the five principles of peaceful co-existence by Russia and Communist China, nine years after Burma achieved independence Communist insurgents are carrying on their military struggle against the lawful government of Burma. We are on the most friendly terms with Burma, and have been glad to provide more than £450.000 worth of Colombo plan aid. with more to come in the future.
In Ceylon, the Bandaranaike Government has now completed almost a year in office. In some respects, it has followed a foreign policy different from that of its predecessor, and it has negotiated with the United Kingdom for the termination of British naval and other bases on the island. These negotiations have been carried on in a friendly spirit, and Australia’s own relations and contacts with Ceylon - which are many - have been maintained. We have given Colombo plan assistance to Ceylon to the extent of £2,500,000, and have pledged more aid for the future.
I turn now to India. The largest democratic election in the world’s history concluded a few days ago. Some 190,000,000 Indians went to the polls. Counting has not yet been completed. Results so far known indicate that the Congress party - led by Mr. Nehru - will again be returned with an overwhelming majority in the Central Parliament at New Delhi. Colombo plan aid to India already delivered has amounted to £6,700,000. A further £4,160,000 has been pledged.
Pakistan is making steady economic and political progress. As a Muslim country, and because of its geographical position, Pakistan is concerned equally with developments in the Middle East and in South-East Asia, and has made considerable contributions to securing a reasonable approach by countries in the troubled area of the Middle East. Colombo plan aid to the extent of £6,800,000 has been provided for Pakistan by Australia, with an additional £5,000,000 pledged for the future.
The question of Kashmir has again been before the United Nations Security Council. This dispute between India and Pakistan is greatly to be deplored - particularly by countries like Australia, which want to be on terms of close friendship with both countries. The dispute, by keeping alive animosities between India and Pakistan, is an obstacle to the political and economic development of both countries. In the recent discussions in the Security Council, Australia took the position that the basic principle for settling the dispute was that future sovereignty should be determined by the freely expressed will of the people of Kashmir. The Security Council decided as long ago as 1949 that this will should be expressed through a plebiscite. There was a proposal for United Nations forces to replace existing forces in Kashmir for the time being, and Australia would be willing to consider a contribution to such forces if it was the desire of both parties. At the request of the Security Council, Mr. Jarring, of Sweden, is at present in India and Pakistan examining the situation with representatives of all the parties concerned. 1 do not want to say any more at present except that we all hope that he can open the door to a solution.
I think that honorable members will know the present general position in Indonesia and the efforts being made to form a new government. What part President Soekarno’s proposal for an Advisory National Council will play in relation to the new government is not yet clear; nor is the pattern which will govern future relations between the Central Government at Djakarta and the various outlying parts of the Indonesian States. Australia is naturally interested in the stability and progress of our nearest neighbour. A resolution about West New Guinea was introduced during the recent meeting of the General Assembly of the United Nations. The resolution was opposed by the Netherlands representative, and by the representatives of Australia and other countries. The resolution obtained a majority in the Political Committee, but failed to obtain the necessary two-thirds majority in the General Assembly. Honorable members are aware of the attitude of the Australian Government, which has not changed. Australia recognizes the sovereignty of the Netherlands over West New Guinea. We have sought to avoid our relations with Indonesia being impaired by the disagreement over West New Guinea, which is the only matter in dispute between our two countries. We have provided a total of more than £1,500,000 in Colombo plan aid to Indonesia, and have pledged other aid for the future.
I have mentioned the individual amounts of Colombo plan aid to a number of countries of South-East Asia of which I have spoken. Let me now say something about the Colombo plan in more general terms. The Colombo plan represents an instrument by which Australia has for a number of years been endeavouring to help the free countries of Asia. We have now spent a total of about £20,000,000 on Colombo plan aid, and have committed ourselves to a further £12,000,000 of assistance which will be delivered in the years immediately ahead. We expect to receive our two-thousandth Colombo plan trainee from Asia in a few months’ time, and we have had 220 Australian experts serving abroad in most of the South-East Asian countries. Among the 850 Colombo plan trainees now in Australia are representatives from every country in South and South-East Asia. In addition, there are about 4,000 private Asian students now in Australia. It is reasonable to believe that this large number of private Asian students have come to Australia as a result of the satisfactory reports by Colombo plan students about the reception that they have had in this country. I do not believe that it is necessary to argue the mutual value of Colombo plan aid. The Government’s policy will be to continue to play a full and active role in the Colombo plan. I believe that we should consider the possibility of a further extension of the membership of the Colombo plan, although this is essentially a matter for the Asian countries themselves to determine. Subject to this, I see substantial advantages if countries of Europe were to join in this co-operative enterprise and make available capital and technical skill for the free countries of Asia.
I come now to the South-East Asia Treaty Organization. Last month the third meeting of the Seato Council of Ministers was held in this chamber. The discussions resulted in close agreement among the members, Asian and non-Asian alike, on the present situation and what is needed in the future. Clearly, the details of the discussions cannot be made public, but some of the conclusions have been published in the final communique of the conference. I shall give the House some account of the views which Australia put to the council and which gained general agreement.
In the first place, Australia emphasized the continuing need to develop our joint strength to deter and counter the threat of overt aggression which still overhangs the treaty area. This threat is not at present paraded as much as it has been in the past, but we cannot overlook the fact that Communist China has armed forces of at least 2.500,000 men. This very large force is in itself a commentary on the peaceful coexistence slogan. If, as is generally believed, the likelihood of Communist armed aggression in the immediate future has diminished, this is only because the Communists know that the democracies have both the strength and the determination to resist effectively. Consequently, in South-East Asia - as in Europe as a result of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization - the best safeguard against the Communists resorting to aggressive force lies in the deterrent provided by the combined strength of the countries concerned. It was heartening to all members of Seato to hear an account from the United States Secretary of State, Mr. Dulles, of the great and effective power which the United States is maintaining in the region, and to hear from Lord Home, the United Kingdom representative, that in the readjustment of its defence programme and policies the United Kingdom also would maintain very effective and flexible striking power in the Far East.
Secondly, the Australian delegation stressed the need for intensified action against subversion. Communist subversion is an attack on the national independence of each country in which it is operating. We have to prevent the disease from growing and spreading. We have also to expose Communist tactics so that the public as well as governments have a clear idea of where and how subversion is occurring. The basic responsibility for countering subversion rests with the government of each country, but Seato as an organization can do a great deal by collecting and publishing information and by bringing together the men in the various countries who are grappling with subversion.
Thirdly, turning to the economic field, the Australian Government believes, as I have stated in this House in the past, that international action to help economic development should be taken primarily through channels other than Seato - through the Colombo plan, through the United Nations, and through bilateral arrangements. Nevertheless, the Seato Council had a useful discussion on economic matters. In the economic field Seato presents obvious advantages as a forum for intimate discussion at a high political level among like-minded nations, even where action on specific problems has to be taken outside Seato. Seato has, in fact, done quite a bit of work in the economic field. It can help in assessing the economic and industrial capacity of member countries and what they need to make their defence programmes effective. This can open the way to some mutual aid to help member nations support the burdens they have undertaken for their own and common defence.
Seato committees have already studied and reported on some of these problems. Among other things they have prepared a statement of surpluses and deficiencies in the treaty area of supplies and equipment related to defence. They have examined what facilities exist for the repair and maintenance of equipment, vehicles, &c, of defence significance. They have also considered the problem of shortages of skilled labour useful in the defence field.
Australia has already announced a contribution of £A.2,000,000 for Seato defence support assistance. I announced that to the House previously. The United States, as Mr. Dulles said to the Seato Council, is giving very considerable bilateral aid to Seato countries under American mutual defence programmes. Mr. Dulles also indicated that the American Congress some time ago approved funds for Asian economic development in the form of regional projects. A part of this fund still remains available. Mr. Dulles developed that and stated how part of that fund can still be made use of by the countries concerned.
In the time available, I have been able to do no more than deal with the situation in the Middle East and in South-East Asia. If I had set out at greater length to speak about international affairs as a whole, there is, of course, a great deal more to say - about the European situation, the Bermuda Conference, disarmament, Communist China, Japan, the Antarctic and a great deal else. In the time available I have no opportunity to deal with those many and important matters and places.
Let me end by saying this: The interdependence of individuals in a community, and of nations in the world community, is such that no individual can say more than that he has helped towards the well-being and the good government of his country. So also, no country can say more than that it has helped towards preserving the peace and stability of the world. However this is no small thing to be able to say about one’s own country. At least we in Australia can make this modest claim. We have tried to be good neighbours, without seeking advantages in return - except good neighbourliness from others. We are not a warlike people, although we have shown that we can play our part when war comes to the world. We have taken an active part in the world’s councils. We have not attempted to avoid our international responsibilities. In a world situation in which any dispute or disagreement between neighbours can overnight become the world’s business, we have tried to play a thoughtful and responsible part.
I lay on the table the following paper;-
International Affairs - Ministerial Statement, 2nd April, 1957. and move -
That the paper be printed.
– The Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey) in his speeches on foreign affairs always gives a correct impression, that he is a man of goodwill - and I believe that is true - doing his utmost in a difficult situation. That applies to his contribution this evening. What I complain about is that in the crucial matters that confront Australia and the world he really says very little and makes no positive proposals.
He started off this evening, quite correctly, in dealing with the* Middle East situation which is of tremendous importance; but he dealt with it by completely omitting one of the greatest and most appalling events in history - the invasion of Egypt by two great powers, Great Britain and France. I do not intend to go back on the details of that event, but I think that certain lessons can be drawn from it. It is inextricably interwoven with the situation in the Middle East generally and with the particular position of Israel. It was most refreshing to me and to my colleagues, who for years struggled for the purpose, to see Israel occupy its position as a nation in the nations of the world, and to see it subsequently accorded membership of the United Nations largely duc to the efforts of Australia acting through the Labour Government. Tonight, however, as far as the right honorable geneleman is concerned, the tables are completely turned. Let us look back at the record of the struggle of Israel at the time and the refusal of Great Britain to continue the Palestine mandate. It threw the whole problem on the doorstep of the United Nations, the authority in which the present Minister for External Affairs has no confidence. I admit that the situation in Palestine was difficult. Thousands of Jews were in internment camps. They had been loyal allies in the struggle in the Middle East. They were given arms and, as Mr. Churchill has pointed out in his books, they did the job most loyally. Now, the position has been reversed. 1 am not going to compete wilh the right honorable gentleman. Most of the things he said were correct. 1 have . always regarded Israel as a bastion of democracy in the Middle East, and that is something that is almost completely lacking in the Middle East. Israel has a democratic system. The Minister for External Affairs, of course, organizes his Seatos and other organizations for the purpose of opposing radical, socialistdemocratic or Communist governments. That is the position. He has set out the schedule of contributions. That is the weakness of Seato. If he really believes in putting an end to aggression, if he really believes in peace in the world, then, if he really believes in continuing government in a country, he should just as equally throw weight and money into stopping fascist aggression within a country. I could tell him of many places in the world where a job of that kind could be done.
I hope to say a word about Seato later,
OUt 1 return to the problem of Israel. Let us see what the Minister counsels. After all, the facts cannot be very much in dispute. What are the dates? Last September the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) came back from the Cairo conference. His efforts were unsuccessful simply because he had been given an impossible task. He had no power to negotiate. But having come back, he suggested that the action of the Government of Egypt was not only arbitrary but was also illegal, which is quite a different proposition. No one dared to take the matter to the International Court, which was the proper body to determine it. On 25th September, the Prime Minister asked what were the courses, and suggested, first of all, full-blooded economic sanctions; failing that, the use of force - that is war against Egypt; and failing that, unless we continued to negotiate, to do nothing. That was his attitude in September last. Approximately three weeks later the British Government acted and it is beyond doubt that that decision to use force - in spite of the fact the United Nations was not authorizing it, and because of that fact - was a gross breach of international law, and no one will deny that. That is the background. Then there is the situation of the small nation of Israel. Look at the situation to-day. It is an almost impossible position because Israel followed the example to which 1 have referred.
What did the Minister say about it? Just listen to his proposals, Mr. Speaker -
A realist beginning must be made towards a solution of the long-standing Arab-Israeli problem. To this end belligerency by either side must be controlled, and a minimi pledge of nonbelligerency required.
Well, they have taken a mutual pledge over and over again. To say that belligerency must be controlled means that they must not make war on each other. That is one solution. We all want it, and we want to know how to bring it into existence. The Minister continued -
This is no more than a re-affirmation of what was contained in the Egyptian-Israeli Armistice Agreement.
They are already bound to do it. The Ministers says, “ Let us make another declaration “. That would get us exactly nowhere. The Minister then said -
Tn to-day’s circumstances of tension it is difficult to see how raiding and retaliation can be ensured against in practice other than by the creation of demilitarized zones al appropriate points on the Israeli borders, and that these should be occupied, if necessary, for an appreciable period of time, by United Nations forces.
That, of course, is being done at present under a United Nations decision. United Nations forces are in Gaza. But the right honorable gentleman gave away the United Nations to-night. He said to-night that you cannot do much with the United Nations because it consists of 80 members. It was all right when it consisted of 50 members, but now that it consists of 80 and, therefore, represents world opinion much better than ever before, he has lost faith in it.
Then the right honorable gentleman said quite correctly -
Israeli’s right to exist must he recognized and her right to free passage through the Tiran Straits and the Suez Canal must be placed beyond doubt and respected.
Again he did not tell us how that could be achieved. It is precisely correct, and a counsel of perfection; but what can be done about it? I think I should tell the House that as long ago as 2nd February last I submitted two views to the Prime Minister. It seemed to me to be important at that time to get on with the job of settlement. I pointed out that Israel and Egypt had not met together in conference. Some one should call them together. It had not yet been done. There had been a mediation of a kind but there had been no actual meeting of these powers. I made a suggestion that an important step forward in the search for a just and lasting settlement between the nations directly concerned would be an immediate meeting at the highest level between the governments of Egypt and Israel. I said that the chances of an over-all Middle East understanding would be greatly enhanced if these nations could compose their differences. That in turn should also accelerate the satisfactory settlement of the question of the management and control of the Suez Canal. If the two governments were not agreeable to direct talks they could be assisted by one or more mediators. Action on these lines would be strictly in accordance with the United Nations Charter, because it was very clear that there were a number of matters in dispute between Egypt and Israel and the charter placed an obligation on all parties to international disputes to seek peaceful solutions, by all means including direct talks and so forth. I suggested that peaceful initiative by Australia might be welcomed, and would attract the support of the people of this country and of the United Nations.
Nothing has been done by the Government about this proposal, because apparently it has already given away the United Nations. The matter has not even been taken before the United Nations again. That is the first criticism I pass upon the Prime Minister. It is no use saying what is hoped for and wished for. Action must be taken. At the opening of the session I asked a question suggesting that in view of the possibility of hostilities being resumed, the matter must be brought again before the Security Council. The council is in continuous session. It could lay down principles in relation to the Suez Canal, and if it met would that not be more effective than just saying, as has been said here to-night what is hoped will be the solution. This Government is guilty of a lack of persistent and continuous faith in the United Nations.
– Nobody takes any notice of it.
– The Minister says, “ Nobody takes any notice of it “. But they all took notice ultimately when the United Nations ordered the forces to leave the countries they were occupying wrongfully and contrary to the Charter. Although they hedged for a time, finally they obeyed the United Nations directive. That was the very moment when the merits of the dispute should have been taken up afresh. Britain and France and Israel were not criticized and ordered out simply because their cause was wrong or unjust, but because they had taken the law into their own hands. Therefore, when that situation was remedied by obedience to the United Nations directive, that was the time to take up the matter again in the United Nations or failing that, to start mediation. I have been consumed with anxiety for the last three months about the way the situation has been drifting, and is continuing to drift and even now I say that the Government should make a contribution by suggesting a meeting between the disputing nations. Why cannot these people meet now? They will have to meet at some time or else there will be another outbreak of hostilities in the Middle East. 1 say that is a practical suggestion.
What is the cause of the Middle East crisis? The Minister for External Affairs claims that it is due to racial antipathy. I say it is due to nothing of the kind. The Australian Government should realize that the basic economic issue underlying the whole of the Middle East situation, including the Suez crisis, is the struggle of the world monopolies to control oil supplies. Is that seriously disputed?
Government Supporters. - Yes.
– Every student of international affairs will agree with what I have said. That explains the attempt to get control of territories in the Middle East - the struggle of the cartels to keep their rivals out of the scene. It has been obvious during the last ten years since World War II. that that is the basic factor.
– That makes Egypt attack Israel?
– I never said anything of the kind. I said that is the cause of the whole Middle East crisis. It is no use talking about the matter in old-fashioned terms. That is the issue in the Middle East to-day. What is the solution of it? The problem is not merely oil but also other resources and the communications through that area. Is not that the reason why there was so much trouble over the nationalization of the canal? The Suez Canal is, of course, a great waterway which was possessed by a tremendously powerful international shipping group. The effective promotion of the objectives of the United Nations means looking at the matter from the point of view 1 have stated. There must be international regulation, preferably through the United Nations or under its auspices, of resources such as oil which are vital to all the peoples of the world. The time will come when oil will be brought under international control of a body like the United Nations, and this jockeying for position and this readiness to have war rather than lose the oil will end. lt is now one of the objectives of the United Nations that every nation should have access to raw materials such as oil, uranium, and other supplies vital to the life of every country, and ultimately to the life of the every human family in every part of the world. So, foodstuffs and raw materials for industry in undeveloped countries come into the picture. The distribution of food supplies and surpluses is restricted to-day by financial and marketing practices and the insensate desire for more and more profit, which is characteristic of capitalism and, of course, of the international trade groups. That is the problem of the Middle East, and if it were solved there would be no more difficulties based on the idea that it is purely a racial question. No doubt, the element of race comes into it also, but I have been showing that one of the deep-seated causes of tension in the Middle East has been completely omitted from the Minister’s speech. Is it not the cause of tension throughout that area? Is it not the idea of Russia to get access to oil supplies there, or is it simply that Russia likes to have its ships sailing in warm water? To-day, the aeroplane and the fuel it uses have become so vital that any old-fashioned explanations that ignore the rivalry over oil in the Middle East are no longer sound.
Another most important question is that of self-government in the Middle East. Conditions must remain disturbed in this area while people are denied the right of selfgovernment, as they are in Cyprus and Algeria. It is no use professing a complete ignorance of the position. Let me refer to the case of Cyprus. The close relations between Cyrus and Greece should not prejudice the claims of Cyprus. 1 could quote dozens of British statesmen who, over the last 30 or 40 years, have advocated the right of the Cypriots to self-determination and have strongly contended that they should have it. I do not believe that such a claim would be seriously opposed in this country. The fact that it is a military or air base should not deprive Cyprus of the right of self-government. Arrangements to use it as a military or air base could be made with the new government as they have been with other governments when their countries have been accorded the status of nationhood.
In Cyprus, on one hand, tremendous courage has been shown by the young British troops stationed there, called the security troops, and on the other by the patriots of that country. That will be the verdict of history. It has been the verdict in respect of all other countries where a similar situation has obtained. Always, unfortunately, there has been a struggle because governments would not yield to the demand for self-government until too late, or at least for a long time. The release of Archbishop Makarios from the Seychelles, to which he was deported without trial and without charge, but simply as an act of state, indicates that the time has come when the people of Cyprus will have self-government. The fact that they have not got it is the source of trouble in the whole of that area.
Algeria is a similar case. Is it not true that, in the case of Indo-China, France refused to give self-government, and that, in the end, French rule had to be eliminated? If France had followed the example of the Labour government in Great Britain in regard to Pakistan, India, Ceylon and Burma, much trouble would have been avoided, and France would have remained on the closest and most friendly terms with Indo-China. Self-government for Algeria must follow as it has been given to the other French possessions in northern Africa. I am glad to see that the British Government has given full self-government to the new state of Ghana, in Africa. In that state the population consists entirely of African natives, and 20 or 30 years ago people probably said that they would never be fit for self-government. Now Ghana is actually a member of the British Commonwealth with full national rights.
In analysing the situation it is of no use to talk about racial antipathy or matters of that kind. Having said that, and put again before the Government the suggestions I made about the relations between Israel and Egypt, 1 say to the Government once more that it is making the greatest possible blunder by not adhering more firmly to the United Nations and its Charter. 1 have never contended that that Charter is a perfect instrument, but the United Nations organization is the one wonderful body that can deal with these great issues. If a problem is not solved at the first attempt it should not be put away in despair and regarded as insoluble. Those who are seeking a solution should not act like a disappointed litigant and say, “ We are through with it “. Unfortunately, that is the attitude of this Government. The speech of the Minister for External Affairs reflects the attitude of his colleagues. He was bitterly annoyed with the United Nations organization when it said, with regard to the Suez invasion, that the invading forces must leave, as, finally, they did. I regard that event, in substance, as a victory for the United Nations, but not as a defeat for the British people. Those who were responsible for that invasion were the members of the Government of Great Britain. The people had no say in it. So far as they were able to express their views, they were against it. I believe that the British people and the Australian people are strongly in favour of the United Nations, and the strength of that organization will depend on the moral support given by its members, including Australia. I have always claimed that the Minister for External Affairs would stick up for the United Nations and at the time of the Suez crisis I felt that he was in favour of the United Nations’ actions and that he differed very strongly from the course followed by this Government. Of course, he was overruled in connexion with that. However, I ask him not to let any local, private, personal or Cabinet situation interfere with the work he has done from time to time for the United Nations.
– He ought to resign.
– It would be a great pity if he did. These are important matters, and the Minister has been a restraining influence from time to time, acting in the interests of peace. I want to say something about a matter of tremendous importance which is facing the world at the present time, and as to which the Minister was unable to say anything to-night. I refer to the continuance of experiments with nuclear weapons. Everybody knows that the Government does not want to face this question, but it must do so. It knows that the majority of the people of Australia are against the continuance of these experiments, and they must be ended by agreement among the three nations that are conducting them. I am not, for the moment, dealing with the machinery to achieve that end, but I should like to refer to a letter written by one of the most prominent authorities in the Department of State of the United States of America. He wrote some very famous articles in connexion with the cold war. His name is George F. Kennan, and in his letter to “ The New York Times “, of 28th October, 1956, he makes it perfectly clear that-
A sizeable portion of the world’s population views these experiments, rightly or wrongly, with horror and misgiving, and already tends to attribute to them a wide variety of human ills, including most abnormalities of the weather.
I do not hear any scientific observations on that statement from the Government side. The truth about it is that there has been a great deal of dogmatism expressed in order to make the people accept these experiments. So much of it has been inaccurate assertion that the time has come when the scientists are reviewing their opinions. I notice that even iri Australia some scientists, who have been glibly’ indicating that there cannot be any possible danger from these experiments, are guarding themselves against the repetition of such opinions. Mr. Kennan wrote, further, in his letter -
There are hundreds of millions of people who are not yet convinced that Washington, in its treatment of these questions, has their interests, those of their children and, in short, the future of civilisation adequately at heart. The feelings of these millions cannot safely be ignored.
– On what date was that letter published?
– On 28th October, 1956.
– Russia has let off six atomic bombs since then.
– If that is so, it only makes the matter so much worse. I am referring to the necessity for an immediate meeting to discuss this matter. We should - not simply accept the opinion of the British Prime Minister, Mr. Macmillan, that he is satisfied as to the safety of these experiments. Who is he to be satisfied? If the scientists say there is a risk we should heed what they say,, and the risk is not confined to the immediate present. In a radio-active fall-out, strontium is released. Strontium attacks the bone structure and the amount in the air to-day can affect bone composition for a period of twenty years and may not operate for twenty years. It has a particularly serious effect upon children in relation to terrible diseases such as cancer and leukemia.
I am not speaking about something that is imaginary. In the London “Times” a month ago, the American and British views were analysed. The British Medical Research Council dealing with this matter did not agree with the American view, and said that the risk was greater than had been estimated in the United States. Such diverse views may well be expressed in these vital scientific questions. What is important is to seize hold of these questions and to take action.
I believe that the hearts of the people in every part of the world are very much in this matter. The Minister should have referred to it. It is shocking to think that an experiment of this nature should take place at Christmas Island - an island in midPacific, which was named by Captain Cook because it was discovered on Christmas Day. Shipping and aircraft will be warned that there will be a danger area covering hundreds of thousands of square miles, until, I think, August. That is an indication that this is no longer a matter for mere casual treatment; it is a matter in which careful scientific opinion should be sought. Some people have said, “ It may not be so serious as may be believed “. That is not the point. The risk cannot be taken for the sake of humanity in every country in the world!
I turn from that very urgent matter to the next question. The Minister for External Affairs mentioned this matter in one portion of his speech. I refer to China. Is it not obvious to everybody who can take a detached view that the time has come for the recognition of China and for the acceptance of China as a member of the United Nations? Almost all newspapers in Australia, conservative though their views are, have advocated the recognition of China. Some, of course, have qualified it, but that, is, broadly, the view. Such an opinion has been expressed in the Melbourne “ Herald “. in South Australian and Western Australian newspapers and certainly in Sydney newspapers. It has also been expressed by some Government supporters.
Is not the truth in regard to China this? Here is a country with an enormous population. It is a country with which Australia should be trading to the maximum extent, but I put the case on broader grounds than those of mere trade. It must be clear to every one who has any acquaintance with world affairs and their development that there is no chance whatever, except one, of the Formosan Government ever becoming the government of continental China again. That chance, of course, is a world war. In a world war the situation may be that such a possibility could not be excluded.
The Chinese Government has been in power for seven years. It makes visits. It even sent to Australia an opera organization which met with enthusiastic applause and showed the art of China. Representatives of the Church of England and other churches have visited China. Scientists have been there, lt is only because the United States of America has vetoed the suggestion, that China has not been recognized. That is exactly what has happened. In 1951, Sir Percy Spender, when he was Minister, was on the point of making a proposal for the recognition of China, coupled with the continuance in some form of recognition of the Formosan Government. Any such recognition would, of course, need to be accompanied by safeguards in relation to Chinese people in Formosa.
What are the arguments that are used against recognition of China? One argument is that the Chinese Government is not to be regarded as sufficiently loyal to the United Nations to be admitted. Other countries, which had fascist regimes, have been admitted to the United Nations and many of them were our enemies during the war. That fact leads to the conclusion that the United Nations is to be a body with universal membership. That is the very objective of it. It is scandalous that the Chinese Government has not been recognized after being in office for so many years. Whatever objections there may be to its internal government - a system which Australians would not accept for themselves - China’s admission to the United Nations is an absolute necessity, and should be so regarded by a government interested in Pacific and Asian policy. The recognition of China extends to very many Asian countries. Great Britain has recognized China for, I think, seven years.
– Even the Macmillan Government recognizes China.
– Yes. Ft was originally recognized by the Attlee Government, and it was not opposed. There have been delegations to China consisting of parliamentary representatives of some of the political parties in England. Mr. Attlee went there. The position in international affairs cannot he faced and a broad world view taken unless a nation such as China is recognized by Australia. The idea of refusing to recognize it in the popular sense is just as absurd as refusing to recognize the sun when it is shining at noon. It is an existing fact. The Chinese Government has relations with many other nations and that situation must be met by the Government.
– China has bought wool from Australia.
– My colleague refers to trade relations, which are important. Trade relations would be improved by diplomatic recognition and by the admission of China to the United Nations. China, by that name, is a member of the United Nations. The only question is: Which is China? . Which is China to-day in the opinion of a court such as the International Court? Would it be the nation that has 600,000,000 inhabitants or the comparatively small island off the coast of China where the old government still exerts authority largely - perhaps exclusively- through the protection of the island by the United States fleet?
I submit that we are getting into an absurd position after World War II, almost as silly as the situation that lasted for so many years after the Napoleonic wars. The rules and principles of international law must be recognized. From that point of view, the decision of Australia, and of the United Nations, should be clear. The United States has no right, in my opinion, to veto the views of its friends. A proposal for the admission of China never goes to a vote. Each year it comes up, but is put off for twelve months. An absurd position is being reached. The recognition of China is a matter on which the Australian people have expressed their views in public opinion polls. Those polls will show increasingly that the view I have taken has now become the majority view. It was put forward by the Labour party long before it became the popular view.
I now wish to refer to the South-East Asia Treaty Organization, which was mentioned by the Minister in an interesting way. He took the Labour conference to task because it referred to the government of Thailand as being a reactionary government. 1 should have thought that that was a gross understatement. If one looks at the history of the Pibul (Songgran) regime, one notes that it has been based throughout on militarism, and that at the very outbreak of war after the attack on Pearl Harbour it was that man who opened the door to the Japanese invaders.
– I rise to order. 1 should like your ruling, Mr. Speaker, on whether the right honorable gentleman is in order in denigrating a friendly government with which Australia has such ‘good relations. Without wishing to anticipate your judgment, I think it has become traditional in this House for honorable members on both sides not to traduce the government of a friendly country.
– I do not wish to take too long in replying to the point of order. The objection of the right honorable gentleman should be enough for the House, but he takes a point of order which, if upheld, will cramp the style of his back-benchers, because they will not be able to insult the heads of other powers.
– I referred to friendly countries.
– The right honorable gentleman might not insult them, but what about the insults that are levelled from time to time against the heads of other countries, and which have been permitted, if not by the present Speaker, then by previous Speakers?
– I was referring to friendly governments.
– Friendly, yes. A friendly nation is a nation with which a country is at peace, and the right honorable gentleman knows it - even if he does not like that country for some reason, or if it does not agree with him. There are many details about the government of Thailand which I could give him and which I was about to give when the objection was taken; but I think Mr. Speaker thinks it is better not to pursue the matter. It is clearly a reactionary government. But, broadly, is not the purpose of the South-East Asia Treaty Organization not the purpose for which it was accepted by the House? We accepted it as being consistent with the purpose of the United Nations organization, that is, to conciliate amongst nations. But what do we find now? We find there is talk of contributions, and the schedule has been presented by the Minister to-night. It could have some value if there was really in the organization an attempt to cure the position in South-East Asia by encouraging friendly relations, . not only amongst the member nations- but also amongst other nations including China, India, Burma-
– I. was about to include Ceylon. The honorable member’s geography is just as much, astray as he is on other matters. I am speaking of South-East Asia. He1 must not refer to Russia in that way, or he will be out of order. That is the weakness of Seato, and the shame of it is that the United States Secretary of State used the occasion of its meeting to issue a thundering statement about why China should not be recognized, which had nothing to do with the Seato conference. I; was a complete abuse of the conference. There is only one thing that can be said about the comment made by .the Labour conference: In the circumstances, it amounted not to an inaccuracy, but to an understatement of the situation.
There is one further thing 1 want to say, because all these things lead up to a broader problem. If the manufacture of nuclear weapons were stopped, it would be a tremendous move in the direction of securing a satisfactory world peace. That is what the peoples of the world want; they do not want enormous expenditure on armaments, with the threat of destruction hanging over them. If nuclear warfare were to break out-, undoubtedly the whole fabric of the earth would be destroyed. 1 should like to conclude by quoting a passage which I think is apt. I refer to an observation that was made by Mr. Churchill at the end of World War II., when the cold war seemed to be imminent. The whole objective of every man, woman and child should be to have world peace on just and equitable terms. 1 have in mind, particularly, countries like Cyprus and Algeria, but the same situation applies to nations in central Europe that are under Russian control. They nominally have self-government, but with armies in occupation or near at hand, they have not real self-government. And it might equally be said that other nations in Europe which have United States forces either within their borders or at hand are not completely free. Walter Lippmann, the great American authority, said eight or nine years ago that the cold war would never end until all the forces in Europe belonging to non-European countries or countries remote from the actual situation - and he meant Russia on the one hand and the United States on the other hand - left Europe, and that then the people would form their own governments and be free. This is what Churchill wrote to Stalin at the end of the last war about the principle behind it all -
There is not much comfort in looking into a future where you and the other countries you dominate, plus the Communist party in many other States, are all drawn up on one side, and those who rally to the English-speaking nations, with their associates and dominions are on the other. It is quite obvious that their quarrel would tear the world to pieces, and all of us, leading men on either side, who had anything to do with that would be shamed before history. Even embarking on long periods of suspicion, or abuse or counterabuse, and of opposing policies, would be a disaster, hampering great development of world prosperity for the masses, which are attainable only by our trinity.
He was referring to the three great powers. That statement has always been engraved in my memory. I think it is a noble utterance and that it is a complete answer, because people want to see world peace based on justice and freedom for all countries with every man in every country free to live his own life without interference. That is the objective. I believe the time is coming when it will be attained, and that the great Labour movement throughout the world will assist to bring in that era.
.- I think the people of Australia should take particular note of the two speeches that have been delivered to-night. The first, delivered by the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey), was a reasoned statement presenting the Government’s policy and suggestions, a statement of achievement in the field of international affairs. We have, on the side of achievement, Seato, the Anzus pact, the Colombo plan and a network of defence in this country which is much greater than when the Labour party went out of office. We now have friends that we did not have during Labour’s term of office. During my recent trip to the Far East, I was impressed by the number of ordinary people who asked me “ How is your Mr. Casey? “ That was a tribute to the Minister, who has established not only this country but also himself in the hearts and minds of the people in that area who desire peace.
On the other hand, we had the speech of the right honorable member for Barton (Dr. Evatt). One aspect of his speech that impressed me was the implication that any one who agreed with honorable members on this side of the House was reactionary, but that anybody who opposed us should receive support. It seems to me that this is the policy of the present Australian Labour party. I ask the people of this Commonwealth to consider for a moment what the Leader of the Opposition said in his opening remarks. I would point out to them that the present Opposition is the alternative government to the present Government.
– It will be the government!
– God forbid that that should happen! The speech made by the right honorable member for Barton is an indication, therefore, of what the foreign policy of this country could be, and at a time when we are facing great difficulties and dangers it would be a tragedy for Australia if the Labour party ever gained the treasury bench. This is a time of difficulty and danger, when we should have a definite policy, and a policy of firmness.
– As in 1941!
– I am very happy that that has been said, because in the time that I have been in this House that remark has been passed by Opposition members on a considerable number of occasions. They have frequently spoken of the Menzies Government having run away from its responsibilities in 1941. Every time a Labour member makes such a statement as that he shows a complete ignorance of military matters. Fortunately the Labour party at that time had among its members men of the calibre of the late John Curtin and the late Ben Chifley, and, therefore, it was able to make a valuable contribution towards the solution of our problems. I would point out, in reply to honorable members who speak of the Menzies Government having run away from its responsibilities, that there was once a man who betrayed his Master and his cause for 30 pieces of silver. But after that betrayal he at least had the decency to hang himself. Unfortunately, the men who betrayed the Menzies Government in 1941 did not have the courage to follow the historical example. The late John Curtin at least had the courage and the political honesty to admit that the foundation of the Australian Labour party’s war effort was laid by the preceding government.
– Rubbish! The honorable member does not know what he is talking about.
– The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), who has flown in an aeroplane probably only in Australia, would not fully appreciate the privilege that I was granted in being allowed to participate in the Empire air training scheme. That scheme has been acknowledged by all as one of the means by which this country and the free world were saved, and it was commenced a long time before the Labour government came near the treasury bench.
– On paper only.
– If it is of any interest to the honorable member for East Sydney, who says that it was commenced only on paper, I may say that I was overseas, being trained under the Empire air training scheme, at the time when the Labour government came to power.
Another allegation that has been made by Opposition members concerns the production of munitions.
Mr. Whitlam interjecting,
Mr. ACTING DEPUTY SPEAKER.The honorable member for Werriwa must cease interjecting.
– Let the hounds bay, Mr. Acting Deputy Speaker. As regards the production of munitions and the training of an army, any one who has any knowledge of these matters will realize that the foundation was laid a long time before 1941, and this country was saved in 1952.
– Not by “ the Brisbane line “.
Mr. ACTING DEPUTY SPEAKERThe honorable member for East Sydney must remain silent. I shall not warn him again.
– The Opposition’s allegations regarding these matters constitute the most fallacious arguments that have ever been put forward in this House.
The Leader of the Opposition said that no positive proposal had been put forward by the Minister for External Affairs. He evidently did not take any notice of what the Minister said in his speech. At one stage the Minister said -
Our present concern is to analyse the deepseated causes of tension in the Middle East in an endeavour to see the possible lines of a solution for them.
At a later stage the Minister, in what I regarded as a calm and considered judgment, expressed the opinion that time should be allowed, that the two belligerents should be separated, and then, when emotion has been removed, calm reasoning may take its place. One of the most forthright and valuable contributions that could have been made in these circumstances was the speech that we have heard to-night from the Minister.
Let us contrast what was said by the Leader of the Opposition. The right honorable gentleman suggested that the two opposing countries should be brought together.
Opposition Members. - Hear, hear!
– Can any one imagine what would happen if, at the present stage, we did bring them together? Skin would soon be flying. The Leader of the Opposition said that although we suggest that this belligerency must be controlled we are not taking positive steps to see that it is controlled. I would point out that as far back as 1951 the Egyptians were ordered by the United Nations to allow Israeli ships passage through the Suez Canal, and that this order was completely ignored.
The Leader of the Opposition stated that the Minister has given away the United Nations. That is completely untrue. What the Minister has said, and what every one should have appreciated, was that we must not only stand by the United Nations and stand with it. but we must also be prepared to accept its difficulties and, therefore, take steps to try to overcome them. Any one who says that an organization comprising the various nations of the world can come together continually and peacefully, without any difficulties to be overcome, would believe in fairy tales.
The Leader of the Opposition spent a lot of time raking over things that happened in the past. He spoke about the very wrong action of Britain and France in committing aggression by invading Egypt. I was interested to note that not once during the whole of his speech did he mention Russia’s ghastly attack on Hungary. That attack was far worse than the defensive measures taken by Britain and France in Egypt. Russia’s attack in Hungary was described by one of our most famous correspondents in these terms -
In Hungary Russian communism showed its true character to the world.
– Hungary was not mentioned in the Minister’s speech, either.
– The honorable member for Parkes says that this matter was not mentioned from our side. We have mentioned it more than once, and there was no necessity for the Minister to mention it again, because every one knows where we stand in relation to it. This world-famous correspondent continued -
With a ferocity and barbarism unmatched in recent history, it ruthlessly destroyed a defenceless population. After what the Russians did, after their destruction of a magnificent city, after their slaughter of fellow communists, the world can no longer have the slimmest doubt as to what Russia’s intentions are.
I would interpolate here and say that no one can have any doubt about Russia’s intentions, except the right honorable member for Barton and those who sit behind him. The correspondent continued -
The people in the satellite nations and in the uncommitted countries now know that Soviet Russia is their mortal enemy. For Hungary has laid bare the great Russian lie.
When the Leader of the Opposition spoke about Great Britain and France and their attack on Egypt, he made no mention of the even worse attack by Russia on Hungary. He went on to speak about the nations interested in oil in the Middle East, and he said that it was their concern about oil supplies that was the real reason for the trouble in Egypt, and that it was not caused by the racial feelings about which the Minister spoke. We know that the real difficulty lies in the racial bitterness that exists between the Arab and the Jew. We know that bitter racial feelings exist among those who have been placed in refugee camps, and that these racial feelings must be overcome before we can solve the problem. Did the right honorable member for Barton say that Russia was interested in. oil? No fear! He did not mention oil in that connexion, although Russia is as interested in the Middle East as is any other country. He went on to say that we must have international regulation through the United Nations organization. Again I ask: What about Russia and her action in Hungary? The only reason why the United Nations was completely successful in getting the British and French out of Egypt was that the British and French agreed to go out. If the British and French had said that they would stay there, what action would the United Nations have taken? Would they have taken the same action that they took against Russia, or would they have at last tried to show that they could do something? The Leader of the Opposition speaks about Fascist organizations. I may ask: How does he describe Nasser? Does he describe him as a Fascist, a Communist or what? He went on to speak about the position in Cyprus. Again, one would appreciate that this would be the attitude taken by the Leader of the Opposition, because, after all, I have an idea that I read somewhere about a certain member of the New South Wales Parliament who was going to Cyprus for a particular reason, and also that two men from South Australia were to go. The position in Cyprus is extremely difficult.
It is all right for the Leader of the Opposition to say, “ Let the Cypriots have complete union with Greece “. What would be done with the Turkish minority? Britain has said that she is prepared to negotiate and to talk to the Cypriots, so that it might be possible not only to give them independence, but also to safeguard the interests of the Turkish minority in that country.
Would the Leader of the Opposition, who constantly talks about minorities being safeguarded, say that it was wrong for the people and the Government of the United Kingdom to look after the Turkish minority on Cyprus? What has the British Government said? It has said that it will negotiate when the terrorist activities cease. Does the Leader of the Opposition suggest for one moment that the terrorist activities are achieving anything in Cyprus? The terrorist activities were certainly not initiated by those who are interested in the Cypriots being given a degree of independence.
The Leader of the Opposition spoke about nuclear experiments. I listened to a report of a broadcast from Peking radio that was in almost the same terms as the Leader of the Opposition used. He said, in effect, “ Let us stop these nuclear experiments, but I am not putting forward the machinery to enable us to achieve this purpose “. Have not the United States Government and the United Kingdom Government repeatedly approached the Soviet Union with a proposal that these nuclear experiments should be stopped? But if we stop them, can anybody give a guarantee that the Soviet Union will stop them? As the Minister for Defence Production (Mr. Beale) pointed out, since the letter read by the Leader of the Opposition was written, the Russians have exploded six nuclear weapons. The Leader of the Opposition said that the risk of further experiments cannot be taken because of the effect on humanity. I say that, unfortunately, the risk must be taken because of humanity. We all desire peace. God knows, anybody who has had any experience of war desires peace! But talking about peace will not bring it about. If history has proved anything, it has proved that. One editorial states -
Nuclear war would indeed be a hideous disaster, but nuclear war will become more likely, and the likelihood of our defeat greater, if the Soviet leaders convince themselves that our fear of war has become so basic to our foreign policy that they can safely count us out as an effective factor in the equation.
Those words are true. If we look as if we are not prepared to defend ourselves. I believe that we are increasing the danger of war. Surely that was proved in the early 1930’s, and we saw the result in World War II.
We have seen how the Egyptians, under Nasser, have completely violated a United Nations direction for a number of years. Nasser said that one of his reasons was that Egypt was still at war with Israel. If the Egyptians were still at war with Israel, where was the point in naming the Israelis as aggressors when they went into Egyptian territory? Surely, if they were still at war, it was only to be expected that the Israelis should, at some period of time, attack! So I say it is obvious that Nasser is using the United Nations for his own purposes, and behind Nasser is Russia, which is trying to get a foothold and control in the Middle East. Russia has tried to do so over a period of years.
Unfortunately, the time allowed in this debate is not long, but there is one matter that I should like to mention. The Leader of the Opposition spoke about recognition of red China. Has red China given any indication that she is prepared to accept the responsibility of membership of the United Nations with the attendant international obligations? I say that the greatest danger to our country, and to the Far East position in general, would be the recognition of a regime that certainly has shown no respect whatsoever for international law. If we recognized red China at the present stage we would be betraying again our friends - Nationalist China, who are our defenders in the Far East. The Nationalist Chinese stopped, in my opinion, a greater attack being made by the Chinese in Korea. The threat that was posed by the Nationalist forces in Formosa forced the Chinese Communists to keep a potential, at least, of their army on the mainland coast. This restricted the number of arms and men that they threw into the Korean war. I believe that it also restricted the forces that they threw into the Indo-China campaign.
If we recognized red China, we would literally throw out into the wilderness the overseas Chinese. They would be people without a country, and they would feel that Communist China was getting a stranglehold on the whole area. We have at this moment said to the Communists that communism, whether it be in China or in Russia, is an evil and a danger to this world. We are aware of the danger of red China to the peace and security of our land. To those who say that red China has nothing to do with Communist Russia, I reply that red
China supported the Russians in their action in Hungary. There are other countries, such as the Philippines and Thailand, which are trying to stand firm against communism. If we betray them by the recognition of red China, I believe that we will betray them to the enemy, which will conquer them, and perhaps us in the act.
We want peace. All men want peace. Peace will be achieved by courage and by tenacity of purpose. I heard an honorable member of the Opposition say in a previous debate that we could not betray those who fought in the war for peace and security, and that we should give them homes. Nor can we betray them by allowing a war to eventuate again, and the best way that we can stop war is by being strong ourselves, by being strong with our friends, and by showing any would-be aggressors that if they attack it will be to their detriment and to their finish. Let us stand firm in this with a determination to resist this threat which is confronting our nation so that, in truth, it may be said - to quote the well-known words - “ This was their finest hour “.
.- Events which occurred last year in Egypt and in Europe have brought to this nation a sense of urgency which has been further accentuated until it has bordered on nearpanic because of the failure of the great nations, and also the failure of this Government, to take a positive lead in the face of disaster. The honorable member for Lyne (Mr. Lucock), who has just resumed his seat, strung together so many platitudes that his speech, in that respect, was comparable to the statements which the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) makes from time to time in this House. The Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey) has given us this night a statement with which we can disagree on only a few points, but I think that he is to be complimented on the manner in which he glossed over the points at issue between himself and his leader. Now, approximately six months after the event, this House is given an opportunity, for the first time, to debate matters which were of vital urgency, and still are of vital importance, to the people of Australia.
If we look at the statement that the Minister delivered this evening, we shall find very little with which to disagree. Perhaps the only matter upon which we can comment is its notable omissions. In fact, the right honorable gentleman’s speech was nothing more than a diplomatic “ square-off “ to cover up for the Government’s Jekyll and Hyde policy, with the Minister for External Affairs assuming the role of Dr. Jekyll and the Prime Minister in the obvious role of Mr. Hyde. In April, 1955, in a statement dealing with foreign affairs and defence, the Prime Minister said, “ We support the Charter of the United Nations, its structure and its procedures “. In relation to the Near East, as we on this side call it - it is the Far East to many honorable members on the other side of the chamber - and our Asian neighbours, we find great difficulty in ascertaining any coherent policy so far as this Government is concerned. We must go back, then, to a statement made by the Minister for External Affairs in 1954, when he was introducing the South-East Asia Treaty Organization Defence Bill, and we must come forward again to further statements made by the Prime Minister in the speech to which I have already referred, in the course of which he said -
We pursue “ good neighbour “ policies towards the Asian countries in this section of the world. We encourage the development of the world’s peaceful trade including our own with other countries.
It requires little evidence to refute the whole of the three statements of foreign policy made by this Government.
Dealing with the first tenet of the Government’s policy, support for the Charter of the United Nations, the most recent example of the Government’s failure to support the United Nations is seen in its handling of the Suez dispute. On this occasion, due to the personal intervention of the Prime Minister of Australia, we as a nation not only failed to support the Charter of the United Nations, but we also actively sabotaged and openly opposed it. The Prime Minister sought to write into the Charter a completely alien doctrine of aggressive economic sovereignty, or “ economic sovereignty “ as he called it, when he stated in this House on 25th September last -
The other view is that force can never be employed, except presumably, in self-defence, except by and pursuant to a decision of the United Nations’ Security Council . . . This I would regard … as a suicidal doctrine . . .
He went on to give his reasons, referring to the exercise of the veto by the Soviet in the Security Council. Thus the Prime Minister not only denied the letter of the United Nations Charter; he also denied its spirit at a time when we could least afford to deny those principles, and at a time when the voice of the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) was the sole voice in this House, with the Australian Labour party behind it, demanding that the matter of the Suez Canal should be taken to the United Nations organization. Either through inexcusable ignorance or wilful misrepresentation, the Prime Minister chose to ignore most conveniently, the “ uniting for peace resolutions “ which were passed by the United Nations in 1951 and inserted in the Charter to overcome the difficulty of the veto in the Security Council. The right honorable gentleman must have known full well that the United Nations General Assembly could exercise those powers which he complained had not been exercised by the Security Council. He showed either abysmal ignorance or, as I have said, wilful ignorance of the procedures of the United Nations. For his purpose, the Security Council veto was final, though he well knew that that was not so.
Secondly, by supporting this wholly alien doctrine of economic sovereignty, the Prime Minister deliberately and conveniently ignored a resolution of the United Nations which was passed at the Tenth Assembly of the United Nations in regard to undeveloped countries. The declaration stated -
The people may for their own ends freely dispose of their natural wealth and resources, without prejudice to any obligation arising out of international economic co-operation based upon the principle of mutual benefit and international law.
The Prime Minister, if he presumed to have the knowledge necessary to fill his high position, would at least have known, or had cognizance, of that resolution which was passed by the United Nations General Assembly and, therefore, was binding on all member nations.
To the eternal sorrow of this young nation, which is so greatly dependent upon the goodwill of its Asian neighbours, at a time when we needed a unanimous voice, when we needed to speak with authority and conviction, the moral right to do so had been taken away from us because the Prime Minister’s hands were stained by support for the invasion of Egypt and by the plight of 125,000 homeless Egyptian refugees. It is well known that the whole basis of our British system of justice - which is the best - is that he who seeks equity must himself give equity. At a time when we needed to bring the whole of our moral judgment to bear against the savagery of the Russian aggression in Hungary, we found that this Government had deprived us of the moral right to criticize.
– Its hands were not clean.
– Its own hands were dirty. In fact, they were filthy. Therefore, it not only alienated from us the sympathy of America, which this Government, allegedly, has so sedulously cultivated, but it also took away from us any goodwill we had from our Asian neighbours. That was a direct result of the Prime Minister’s interference in the foreign policy of this country.
If it was right for the United Kingdom and France to invade Egypt, then, to use the Prime Minister’s argument of economic sovereignty, it was right for Russia to invade Hungary. That is the logical conclusion of his argument. I have no doubt that the right honorable gentleman could find some justification for sliding out from that one. The Australian Labour party, on the other hand, said that it was wrong for the United Kingdom and France to invade Egypt and, similarly, that it was wrong for Russia to invade Hungary. At least we were consistent, and at the most, we have not taken away our moral right to criticize Russia in that regard. I say that it is hypocrisy on the part of the Government and the Prime Minister to try to obtain the benefit without the burden, as it suits their convenience. Because of the failure of Imre Nagy to control the revolutionary forces under him, he allowed the situation to get out of hand. Unfortunately, Nagy was not of the calibre of Gomulka of Poland. Be that as it may, it does not alter by one iota the criticism which we have levelled against the Prime Minister and the Government that permitted him to take such an untenable stand.
But for those factors, I believe that Hungary would to-day be enjoying the slight measure of freedom and independence which is Poland’s. In the light of those comments, how can the Liberal Prime
Minister of Australia say honestly that he has supported the Charter of the United Nations? The record of the Government in respect of its policy concerning Asia and the East is no better. We are of the East, and the sooner we work out a modus vivendi, or a means of living peaceably with the East, the better it will be for us and for our Asian neighbours.
Having alienated American sympathy and offended the Afro-Asian bloc by a stupid policy on the Suez Canal, we have sought refuge in military regional pacts that ignore the spirit of conciliation and arbitration envisaged by the United Nations Charter. Having become a party to the Manila pact, this Government has sought consistently to clothe with flesh and blood the military skeleton of Seato, an organization which was facetiously described by Madam Pandit with great truth as “ a South-East Asian alliance minus South-East Asia “.
– It is a toothless wonder.
– So far as this Government is concerned, it has only one tooth, as is evident from the sedulous cultivation of Thailand. I do not regard the Philippines as a South-East Asian country. Instead of co-operating with the more democratic and Commonwealth-minded Government of India, this Government is more concerned with bolstering the undemocratic regime of Thailand, the only South-East Asian member of Seato, regardless of whether it is democratic or not. In that I see nothing palpably wrong, but having regard to the treatment that India has received at the hands of this Government, I see everything wrong in the situation.
– What does the honorable member mean by that?
– I mean that this Government, in my opinion, has not supported and given proper recognition to India’s claim in respect of Kashmir, particularly so far as it concerns the Jhelum Valley. When Kashmir voted in favour of going with India, sufficient recognition was not paid to the decision of a Moslem state to go in with India. I believe that the Government has been afraid of alienating Pakistan and complicating that country’s membership of the Baghdad pact. Therefore, this Government has not supported India as it should have done in this matter.
This Government also failed dismally when it did not accept the advice given by the Leader of the Opposition and the Australian Labour party that there should be a resort to arbitration in the armed conflict in Indo-China. By refusing to take the initiative, and to put into operation the arbitration and conciliation aspects of the United Nations Charter, and by refusing to call the parties together in conference, this Government prolonged the dispute until it was settled finally by arbitration at the Geneva conference. I believe that when historians write about this age and the foreign policy of this Government, they will have no difficulty in diagnosing the basic malady from which this Government is suffering as “ pactomania “.
The Prime Minister knows that under the United Nations Charter no military action can be taken in connexion with regional pacts without first obtaining the consent of the United Nations. Therefore, if the Prime Minister’s statement on the Suez Canal is to have any meaning, and if the military conditions of Seato are to be put into effect, the right honorable gentleman will be acting in breach of his own first statement of foreign policy in which he expressed full support for the United Nations organization and its Charter.
If, on the other hand, we accept this Government’s policy on Suez, these regional pacts are purely military alliances built up outside the United Nations Charter and its spirit. They are designed to protect our economic sovereignty in the East. On both counts, this Government’s policy fails to give an inspired lead to the nation. On the other hand, the Australian Labour party believes that by making alliances in keeping with the spirit of the United Nations, which favours conciliation and arbitration, we shall best serve our own interests and those of the peoples of the world.
By emphasizing the cultural assistance rendered under the Colombo plan which, in itself, is a good thing, this Government has tended to mistake the shadow for the substance. It has failed to appreciate that the true problem of Asia is not political but economic. Last year, the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) complained bitterly about the action of the United States of America in disposing of its surplus foodstuffs in Asia. Yet, on 18th March this year, the following statement was made by the United Nations Far East Asian Commission: -
Most Asian countries produced less food in 1956 and there was no widespread improvement in the food situation. India, Pakistan and Indonesia had smaller harvests than in the previous year. Food prices rose and the food situation deteriorated sharply.
Vet, on 17vh January last, the “New York Times “ reported that President Eisenhower proposed to seek authority from Congress to pay the sum of 1,600,000,000 dollars to the American farmers to take 40,000,000 acres of land out of food and cotton production because of huge surpluses in those products. If we look at ourselves as the Asians must see us. complaining of the gift of surplus food to Asia while knowing that about one-third of the Asian population is affected by starvation and, at the same time, making available in one year, in order to take land out of production, the equivalent of the total amount of money provided under the Colombo plan, we must see that we have failed dismally to see the Asian problem as it is - mostly economic and far less political.
– Does the honorable member condemn the United States of America, too?
– I condemn the whole system of Western distribution which allows one-third of the world’s population to be adversely affected by starvation when we have the food available but fail to get it to them. This Government has failed to appreciate the urgent need for international action through the United Nations to stabilize prices. The economic earnings of staple crops in a region that is underfed is a matter of the utmost importance. The same considerations should apply to mainland China, but 1 shall not have time to deal with that matter fully. All I wish to say about the recognition of the Chinese People’s Republic is to ask how the Government can defend its attitude to that nation. Does it intend to put its head in the sand and deny that 600,000,000 people exist?
– lt is not the people of China, but the government of that country with which the Australian Government is concerned.
– It is the government of the people of China. Has this Government any constructive policy to offer on red China? Has it any alternative? Unless we have a constructive policy we may find that to-morrow will be too late.
Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I realize that during this debate on foreign affairs there will be various expressions of opinion from both sides of the House with which it will be possible to disagree most violently. Time will not permit me to deal at any length with the speech of the honorable member for Darebin (Mr. R. W. Holt), but I want to make two comments on his remarks. It appears that the theme of the Opposition in this debate will be that the Government, or the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey), or the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) has not placed sufficient faith in the United Nations and in what that organization is capable of doing. In those circumstances, it was strange to hear honorable members opposite cite the case of India. India is a country which has flagrantly disobeyed the demands of the United Nations in relation to Kashmir. That, in itself, disproves most of the theories put forward by the honorable member for Darebin.
There may be some criticism of the Colombo plan and of our part in it, but Australia is a land of criticism. The only peoples who are not criticized are those who are not making progress, because it is only by attempting to do things that we lay ourselves open to criticism. Sometimes criticism can be accepted in the spirit in which it is offered, and sometimes not, but surely criticism of the Colombo plan is quite ridiculous. We have at present at least 2,000 students from Malaya alone in our universities and technical colleges. They have come to this country with one object in view - to fit themselves for the task of making their nation more self-supporting and bringing it closer to the realization of selfgovernment and self-administration. On that score, no just criticism can be made of a country that is prepared to throw open the doors of its universities and technical colleges to the people of other nations, sometimes at the expense of its own people, in an effort to help others to help themselves.
The greatest example of that in the history of the world is the history of the two main universities of England. They threw open their doors to men from all parts of the empire. Those men went to those universities to study under some of the finest teachers the world has known and there they were taught the means to obtain self-government for their countries. If we look round the world to-day, we see the results of what has been done by Great Britain during the last 100 years. She set out to assist underdeveloped nations and under-privileged peoples, sometimes at the expense of her own prosperity and future welfare.
That brings me to another point. I believe that as time goes on, it is becoming increasingly evident that the action taken by Sir Anthony Eden in the Middle East was. in fact, the correct action. The further we move from that event, the more evident will it become that Sir Anthony Eden was right. But even if I were to admit that Britain and France were entirely wrong in their recent actions in the Middle East, I should still take the view that if a time came when I had to decide whether to support Egpyt or Great Britain, my support would lie with Great Britain. I should support Great Britain because I realize that everybody sitting in this chamber to-night, and everybody who has sat in this Parliament since the day of federation, owes all that he possesses to what Great Britain has done in the past. We come from a stock that has shown the world that development can be carried out in any sphere.
When people in this country criticize the actions of the British, let us remember that, with our destiny tied so closely to the South Pacific and South-East Asia, the time may come when we shall have either to accept or reject the actions of Great Britain - the country that has faced greater difficulties than any other nation in the history of the world. It is up to us, as people of British stock and as members of the Commonwealth of Nations, to lend Great Britain all the support of which we are capable. The time when friendship is most valuable is not when things are going according to plan and all is right, but when the world appears to be turning against you. Whatever the members of the Opposition may say, I consider that the fact that Australia stood behind Great Britain in her hour of need did more to boost the morale of the ordinary people there, to whom reference has been made to-night, than all the rantings that we have heard about the actions of Great Britain.
Let us examine the cause of this situation in the Middle East. Colonel Nasser is a restless, unstable character, intoxicated by his vast ambitions. Shall we say that a man such as he was correct, or that people such as Sir Anthony Eden and Mr. Macmillan were correct? If honorable members opposite had taken the trouble to study a book written by Colonel Nasser called “ The Philosophy of the Revolution “, they would understand a little better than they do the ideas that have prompted his actions during the last few years. Most people of my generation will remember that when Hitler published “ Mein Kampf “ it was laughed at in the embassies of the world. Much the same treatment was given to “ The Philosophy of the Revolution “.
It is a small book, but in it Nasser - who, if we look at his background, is seen as a disgruntled army lieutenant after the defeat of the Egyptian armies by the Israelis - reveals how he set out to avenge himself and his people. But, as in the case of other people of like strain, his ambitions got the better of him. He stated in his book that within the Arab circle there was a role wandering aimlessly in search of a hero to play it. As one goes through the book, one realizes that Nasser imagined that that wandering role would find its hero in the Arab people, led by Nasser himself.
He said that there were three circles of influence over which the Arab peoples had complete control. The first, and most important, was the Arab circle, in which they were bound together by virtue of their religion. He said that there were three sources from which the Arab peoples could gain their strength. The first source of their strength was that they were a community of neighbouring peoples. The second source of their strength was the land itself, occupying a strategic position at the crossroads of the world. The third source of their strength was oil, a sinew of material civilization without which all its machines would cease to function. Without oil, aeroplanes could not fly and ships above and below the sea would rust and rot. He knew that the Arab peoples would be in a position to control it if they played their cards correctly. I know that in any argument the honorable member for Yarra, who is interjecting, would prefer to back Colonel Nasser against the people with whom I would ally myself. I give him no marks for that.
– You are a liar.
Mr. ACTING DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr. Bowden). - Order! The honorable member for Yarra will withdraw that remark and apologize to the Chair.
– I apologize, but I should like to say-
– Order! There must be no qualifications.
– I want to make a personal explanation.
– Order! This is not the proper time to do so. The honorable member has withdrawn and apologized, and he will sit down. The honorable member for Perth will proceed.
– I say, sir-
– Sit down! The honorable member for Perth has the floor.
– I want to make a personal explanation.
– Order! The honorable member cannot make a personal explanation while another honorable member is speaking.
– I have been misrepresented, and I want to make a personal explanation.
The honorable member may do so after the honorable member for Perth has sat down.
– Colonel Nasser said that the centre of oil production had shifted from the United States to the Middle East and that the untapped sources of the world’s oil wealth lay within easy reach of the Arab empire. The second circle of influence was the continent of Africa. He said that the Arab peoples had a logical role to play in the struggle of 5,000,000 whites against 200,000,000 Africans, and that the peoples of Africa would look to the Arab peoples to guard their northern gate and for their obvious place in the future history of the world. Having satisfied himself that the first circle of influence would be conquered and that the second would be easy of attainment, he said that the third circle was the Islamic domain. Thirdly, he said that the brothers in faith who turned to Mecca in the evening would realize, in turning to Mecca, that this wandering hero was there to play this role, lt is significant that of the Islamic races there are 80,000,000 in Indonesia, 50,000,000 in China, 100,000,000 in the Middle East and 40,000,000 in the Soviet Union and that these forces, all turning towards this country, this place with this wandering role, felt, he was satisfied, that the only people who were fit to play the role were the Arabs, with himself in the lead. Honorable members can see, therefore, that, judged in the light of history, if we fail now to realize that we must stop any action that may be attempted, we shall be in the same position we were in when we laughed at Hitler’s minor conquests in the 1936-37 period. If we are to pin our faith entirely to the United Nations, then it is true that the present generation wants something more than pious resolutions before it will believe that the United Nations is the answer to the world’s troubles.
– So the honorable member is attacking the United Nations now?
– The honorable member would be wise at all times to wait until I have finished because I might finish up attacking him. The Opposition has stated to-night that the golden days of the United Nations were when the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) was President of the General Assembly, but it is well to remember that the time is vastly different now from what it was in 1946-47, that the time when everybody strongly believes in peace and is completely fed up with war is just after the cessation of a war.
– Does the honorable member not believe in peace now?
– I am talking not for myself now, but about the people of the world. We in Australia, if we criticize Seato and the other treaty organizations, have to realize that it does not matter how much the honorable member or I, as individuals, or the 9,000,000 Australian people desire something, the fact is that we are but very small fish in a very large pond and must accept our responsibilities in the world of to-day and face up to the facts of to-day. The honorable member for Darebin (Mr. R. W. Holt) quoted from one of the speeches made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) after the Suez incident. From memory, I think his last reference was to the Prime Minister’s statement that the whole matter should be carried out with due regard for international law. He must not forget that the treatment given to the 1888 pact was similar to that given to the scrap of paper in 1914 by Germany when that country invaded Belgium. Some people in this nation believe that a principle is worth abiding by, regardless of what the cost might be to the individual or to ourselves.
During this debate, we have already heard and will continue to hear talk about the banning of atomic explosions. Who is more willing to agree to the banning of atomic explosions and the exploding of hydrogen bombs than is the western world to-day? Although we are willing to agreeto that, it must never be forgotten that Russia has constantly refused free and open inspection of all atomic plants and atomicproduction. The moment she agrees to that very simple thing, then I believe all nuclear tests will cease. It would be quite stupid, regardless of consequences to the human race, for us to remain static while these tests and developments are carried on by somebody who may prove to be our enemy in the future.
Mention was made of a letter written by Sir Winston Churchill to Stalin after World War II.; and I could not help thinking that it would be interesting to know what that great statesman thinks now about the situation. I could not help wondering whether he would write in the same strain now, for it must be realized that in those days everybody had hopes that the world certainly would not take the turn it has taken during the last twelve years. In those circumstances, regardless of the fact that this natron is called upon to incur vast expenditure yearly on arms and armed forces, and regardless of the fact that we are called upon to do our part towards the development of guided missiles and atomic weapons. I believe that, in view of the likely future state of the world, we can ill-afford to relax our vigilance. As a member of the British Commonwealth of nations and a member of the western world, we must forever remain vigilant if we are to hope to exist in the future or hope that this nation shall have any future before it.
– I rise to make a personal explanation.
Mr. ACTING DEPUTY SPEAKEROrder! Does the honorable member claim that he has been misrepresented?
– I certainly do. My recollection is that the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Chaney), who has just resumed his seat, said that 1 would support Colonel Nasser in any conflict he may have with my own country. The position I take up with regard to Colonel Nasser is that adopted by the Opposition. We say that the British and French governments were wrong in invading Egypt.
Mr. ACTING DEPUTY SPEAKEROrder! The honorable member cannot make a speech; he can make a personal explanation and point out where he has been misrepresented.
– I have been misrepresented completely in that the honorable member for Perth said that I would support Colonel Nasser. This type of thing has been running on for too long now, and it is time it was stopped.
Mr. ACTING DEPUTY SPEAKEROrder! The honorable member must make his personal explanation.
– I am trying to explain my attitude towards Colonel Nasser.
Mr. ACTING DEPUTY SPEAKEROrder! The honorable member can do that when he speaks to the question before the Chair.
.- The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Chaney) expressed the opinion that history would finally record that Sir Anthony Eden’s actions, and the actions of the British, French and Israeli governments in invading Egypt were correct. Be that as it may, history will also record that the United Kingdom Government failed in its duty consult the members of the British Commonwealth before taking such action. Ho can we hope that the United Nations will succeed, that its decisions will be obeyed by member nations when the United Kingdom Government itself fails to consult member nations and their respective heads when it intends to engage in a policy that could bring about world conflict? It is quite obvious that the United Kingdom Government did not consult Canada, India or even the United States of America because it knew very well that its actions would not be approved. We should set an example to those nations which comprise the United Nations and show them that the members ot the British Commonwealth are prepared : co-operate and unite in acting on a com mon basis.
This debate upon the statement of the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey) on foreign affairs will serve a very useful purpose if the Minister and the Government are prepared to accept the views put forward in this House by honorable members, regardless of where they sit, and finally pursue an Australian policy based on the views of the members of this Parliament. It is obvious, of course, that we must always remain a strong link in the British Commonwealth despite the actions of the United Kingdom Government. We must be prepared to overlook the mistakes that have been made.
We must do everything possible to strengthen the ties that bind the members of the British Commonwealth. It is also of paramount importance that we co-operate to the utmost with the United States of America. Co-operation with the United States should always be in the forefront of our minds when international problems arise. We should never allow ourselves to forget the comradeship that existed between the United States and Australia during the last war. History has recorded the appeal made to the United States by that great Australian war-time Prime Minister, John Curtin, and the answer that came quickly, when the enemy was at our very gate. If we are ever involved again in a world conflict we shall possibly be seeking once more the support of our great neighbour. There is no doubt that that support will be forthcoming. But we could not expect that support if we took actions like that of Sir Anthony Eden in relation to the Suez affair, when he moved without waiting to consult such an important ally as the United States. No sensible person, however, would expect us always to agree with the policy of the United States, but I suggest that, in regard to our foreign policy, we should be careful when we criticize actions of the United States that conflict with our own desires or actions, we do not allow criticism to turn into hate. I feel that that can easily happen. In this House, at times, honorable members on both sides have allowed their criticisms of the United States to develop into almost a hatred of the policy of that country. Over the Suez Canal affair, of course, our relationship with the United States fell to an all-time low, and I sincerely hope that, now tha, .hat lies in the past, we are beginning to come together again and a stronger alliance between us will be built.
We of the Australian Labour party differ greatly from the policy of the United States and of the Menzies Government with respect to tuc recognition of Communist China. As the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) has said, there can be no argument that the only government on the mainland of China to-day is the so-called “ People’s Government “, the Chinese Communist Government. The United Kingdom recognized Communist China many years ago, but, to be quite fair, probably her early recognition was due to the fact that a total of about £300,000,000 worth of British capital was invested in China, and some representation was needed through which that capital could at least be preserved. The Australian Government will be forced, at some time, to recognize Communist China. We believe that that time is long overdue.
To-night, the Leader of the Opposition pointed out, clearly, the importance of trade to Australia. Our trading with China would not mean that we subscribed to the views and ways of the Communist Government of China; but, as a nation, we cannot afford to ignore a government so entrenched as the Communist Government of China, which rules a population of about 600,000,000.
The fate of the nations in Asia, the battle for the minds of the Asian people, will not be decided on the issue of whether or not the Australian Government recognizes the government of red China. I believe that the best way for us to win the confidence of the Asian people is through an extension of the Colombo plan. I believe we can extend greatly the help given under that plan. The Colombo plan, as all honorable members know, is a scheme for promoting the economic and technical advancement of the under-developed countries of SouthEast Asia. The basic concept of the plan is international co-operation - co-operation not for the continued prosperity of the few, but for the extension of that prosperity to the many.
As has been said to-night already, the Colombo plan began with a conference of Commonwealth foreign ministers at
Colombo in January, 1950. It soon spread to include all the nations in the area as members - 21 of them, all told. At the beginning those nations were roughly divided into two sections - donors and recipients, the former donating to the latter either capital equipment or technical aid. Australia, Canada, Japan. New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States were the donor countries, and at that time the recipient countries numbered fifteen or sixteen. The position has changed greatly since the plan was evolved. In fact, some of the nations originally only on the receiving end of the plan have now attained the position of donors. Ceylon, India and Pakistan are now donors as well as recipients under the plan. The problems in many of the countries of the plan area are essentially the same - poverty, rapid population growth and the absence of large-scale industrial development. The area contains about one-quarter of the world’s population which exists on only 6 per cent, of the world’s land area. Any efforts to raise the standard of living of these people might be of little avail but for the saving fact that the region is rich in natural resources and capable of yielding, in response to modern methods of production, far more liberally than was previously thought possible. Despite the pressing needs of the people these resources remain to a large extent undeveloped because of a barrier caused by lack of capital, equipment and technique.
As I have said, the Colombo plan is divided into two sections - the capital aid side and the technical aid side. The capital aid section seeks primarily to promote the progress of projects undertaken by national governments in the area, with equipment and supplies which could not be locally produced or for which the internal finance required was not available in the countries concerned. We have supplied much-needed equipment for road-making, hydroelectricity production, transport, diesel buses and many other items. On the technical side we have provided training facilities for students from Asia and assistance in the development of training facilities in the area itself.
The progress of the plan, and projects under the plan, have been discussed each year at meetings of the consultative committee, but whilst much progress has been made a great deal remains to be done. I believe that Australia is in a position to assist greatly in this matter. Our ties with our Asian neighbours are close. Australia, whose nationhood was attained in this century, and whose economy is in a rapidly growing but still youthful stage, has much in its experience and its social, political and economic structure and outlook that corresponds with the requirements and outlooks of the newly born nations of South-East Asia. This, with her geographical proximity to the area, adds value to Aus.tarlia’s contribution to the Colombo plan.
The emphasis in Australia’s contribution has been on the provision of capital equipment. Indeed, of the £18,000,000 expended on the Colombo plan up to September, 1956, £15,600,000 has been expended on providing capital aid, and only £2,400,000 on the provision of the technical know-how. It is to be hoped that this aid will not only continue, but will be increased. We all know about the trucks, tractors, road-making equipment and so forth that we have handed over to those nations. The provision of such equipment would, of course, be of little use if the recipients lacked the knowledge of how to operate it. Because of that, I believe that we should pay more attention to the training side of the plan.
Australia’s gift of diesel buses to Indonesia aroused great criticism in this country because every State in the Commonwealth badly needs buses and other forms of public transport. People found it hard to understand how we could be in a position to supply buses free to our Asian neighbours, yet cannot supply them for the needs of our own people. The Australian people are completely behind any scheme to train Asian personnel. Let us consider for a moment the impact of our gift on an Asian nation. How much better it would have been if 100 students from Asia could have lived with us, learned to understand our ways, and returned home as ambassadors for the democratic way of life. At present eight times more capital aid than technical aid is offered. To me, that seems to be quite out of proportion. A 50-50 basis would be much more appropriate. Australia has ample scope for the training of Asians and I believe that, slowly, but surely, we are capturing the enthusiasm of the people of South and South-East Asia. I believe that if we could increase technical aid we would make such gains that social misery in Asia would vanish more quickly than any of us would have thought possible a short time ago.
Though we are making headway under the Colombo plan, the United Kingdom, by contemplating the explosion of a hydrogen bomb at Christmas Island, is destroying much of the goodwill that has been gained Japan has protested strongly against these tests and one cannot help but feel that if we were the Japanese we too would be most vociferous in our protests. It has been reported that every political group in that country is united in this matter. The opposition there is broader and more unified than it has been during any previous test.
The danger zone around Christmas Island is 60,000 square miles greater than at Bikini. The loss to the fishing industry as the result of the Bikini test was estimated at £3,000,000 for the year. That area is a relatively poor fishing area compared with Christmas Island, which the Japanese regard as the richest in the Pacific. More than 200 ocean-going fishing boats operate at Christmas Island. Surely the Japanese have good reason to protest. It would have been hard to find a place, farther away from London, at which to conduct the tests. If the prevailing winds from Christmas Island were in the direction of Australia, and not Japan, I wonder if we would be so quiet about the tests.
The Japanese Central Meteorological Bureau has issued an official statement refuting Great Britain’s claim about radioactive fall-out. Eleven years ago Japan suffered at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the Japanese now claim that research undertaken since has convinced them that they know more about radiation dangers than does any other country. They have certainly suffered more!
The development of atomic weapons has now reached such dimensions that the people of the world are terrified at the prospect of an atomic war. Indeed, I have no doubt that the majority of people are opposed to continued experimentation with nuclear weapons, and the danger that is associated with such tests. Renewed efforts should be made to call a halt to such experiments. The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Chaney) said, “Well, Russia continues to test these bombs “. I realize that. If Russia continues to do so, it seems logical that the United Kingdom, Australia, and the United States of America must follow suit. But that does not prevent us from seeking agreement with those nations on the abandonment of such tests. We believe in full support for the United Nations, irrespective of whether its decisions are. pleasing to us or not.
Earlier to-night reference has been made to the Suez Canal and the need for Israeli shipping to pass through Suez and the Gulf of Aqaba. It is to be hoped that the United Nations and the great powers will support such a scheme and will be more diligent in their advocacy than they were before the Suez crisis began. No one was very much concerned then that Israel did not have the use of the canal. Of course, Egypt has stated repeatedly that she will never recognize Israel. But Israel was virtually born of the United Nations and is surely entitled to its protection, if she is in the right. She has withdrawn from the battle area now, and it is up to the United Nations to honour its obligations. Israel has asked that Egypt should be requested to abandon its policy of boycott and blockade and to observe its obligation under the pact of the United Nations, which states that member nations should live at peace. That is the challenge, not only to Egypt but also to all members of the United Nations - to live at peace with member nations. I know that it is easy to say, “ So and so won’t do it “. It is easy to criticize the United Nations. Very often people ask why it has not been more successful. I have often wondered why it has been as successful as it has. If it is to work, all nations must consult each other, co-operate, and abide by its decisions. To return to the action of Sir Anthony Eden over the Suez Canal, if the member nations of the British Commonwealth cannot agree, or co-operate, it is asking a lot for the members of the United Nations to reach agreement. However, this does not mean that we should give up trying.
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. John McLeay).Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Stokes) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Harold Holt) proposed - That the House do now adjourn.
.- I wish to speak on two matters-
Motion (by Mr. Harold Holt) put -
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. John McLeay.)
Majority . . 28
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 10.54 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
b asked the Minister for Health, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
e asked the Minister for Health, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
m asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Which Commonwealth boards, commissions, authorities, corporations, or like instrumentalities, pay pay-roll tax?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -
The Pay-roll Tax Assessment Act requires payment of tax by any public authority constituted under any act or under any law in force in a territory of the Commonwealth the wages paid by which are not paid out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund. The secrecy provisions of the act do not permit disclosure of the names of employers who are liable to pay pay-roll tax.
t asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Will the Government give consideration to applying funds in the terms of section 96 of the Constitution to assist State governments to raise the living standards of Australia’s aborigines to the level of that of the white population?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -
The care and general welfare of aborigines residing in the States is constitutionally a responsibility of the State governments. Successive Commonwealth governments have decided against granting assistance to the States specifically for aboriginal welfare on the ground that, except in very special circumstances, any Commonwealth payment to the States should be made through the tax reimbursement and special financial assistance grants.
d asked the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice -
In view of his repeated assurances that the employment situation throughout Australia is satisfactory, will he undertake to have directed to existing vacancies, without delay, all men in the trade classifications of (a) painters, (b) plumbers, (c) bricklayers, (d) plasterers, (e) carpenters. (0 stonemasons, (g) electricians and (h) builders’ labourers who report to the Commonwealth Employment Office nearest to their place of residence?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -
There is no power, nor if there were would this Government use it in peace-time, to direct people to particular jobs. The function of the Commonwealth Employment Service is to make known to applicants registered with it for employment vacancies recorded with or known to the Commonwealth Employment Service, for which they appear suitable; in short, to use its best endeavours to bring about the most satisfactory placements. There is, of course, no compulsion on applicants to accept jobs which are brought to their notice nor on employers to engage those who have been so referred.
d asked the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport, upon notice -
– The Minister for Shipping and Transport has furnished the following reply: - 1 and 2. The question of standardization of Australian railway gauges involves masters of policy to which the Government is giving very earnest consideration. It is not the practice to permit matters of Government policy to be the subject of question and answer.
Capital Punishment in the Territories.
t asked the Minister for Territories, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
Post Offices at Bankstown and Herne Bay.
a asked the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
Entry of Asians into Australia.
e asked the Minister for Immigration, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 2 April 1957, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1957/19570402_reps_22_hor14/>.