22nd Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. John McLeay) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– I direct the attention of the Prime Minister to the disastrous losses that have occurred in New South Wales resulting from fires. Will the Prime Minister consider, as a matter of emergency, directing that the armed forces intervene in what is something more than an ordinary series of disasters in an attempt to prevent further great losses of property and life? Further, instead of treating this as an ordinary matter and waiting for a communication from the State Government, if one has not been received already, will the right honorable gentleman act immediately in order to mitigate the great losses that have been suffered?
– I shall discuss with my colleagues the suggestion made by the right honorable gentleman regarding the use of the armed forces. The question of relief of distress occasioned by these terrible fires has been raised already in the House by the honorable member for Macquarie, who again approached me about the matter to-day. Therefore, perhaps I should explain the position by adding, as I pointed out to the honorable member, that the normal procedure in cases of magnitude is to receive some request from the State Government. I have received a telegram from the Premier of New South Wales pointing out the serious nature of this disaster and stating that he has approved of participation by New South Wales in a scheme for the relief of personal distress of the victims on the same charter as applied during 1951 and 1952, when the Commonwealth assisted on a £l-for-£l basis. I shall communicate with the State Premier to the effect that the Commonwealth will participate in that scheme.
– I wish to direct a question to the Prime Minister. As the Murray report has now been made public, and as the decision of the Government to implement the recommendations made in that report has been received with great enthusiasm by educationists, is it too late at this stage to add a proviso, before the money is made available to the States, that the States shall give more consideration to raising the standards of education in certain provincial cities? For instance, in my own city of Ballarat, our widely-known and reputable School of Mines, Industries and Science would be a very sound basis for a university college. Its use as such would not only add to the already high cultural standard set by that city but would also tend to alleviate the present centralization problems within Victoria.
– I appreciate the honorable member’s interest in this matter. I do not think it would be possible for us to attach a condition of the kind he suggests. The development of universities within the States is essentially a matter for the States, and they will no doubt consider that matter in the light of various comments made by the committee of investigation. Therefore, I do not think I could attach such a condition to the grant of money to the States, but I entirely appreciate what the honorable member has in mind.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Labour and National Service. Last week I asked the Minister whether everything possible was being done to attempt to resolve the differences on the waterfront in Sydney. Can the Minister say now whether the Government has taken any action? I heard an announcement over the wireless that some urgent measure was to be introduced into this Parliament. Is that measure to be introduced during the present sittings? Can the Minister give the House any further information about the position in Sydney?
– I cannot give a very clear picture of the latest developments, because they are occurring even while I stand here. On the legal side, quite a complex situation has developed. Certain legal proceedings have been instituted before the High Court by the Waterside Workers Federation and other proceedings have been instituted by employers before the Presidential Commissioner, Mr. Justice Ashburner, who deals with this industry. I have given notice in the House to-day of a small measure which arises, to an extent, out of the present situation but more particularly out of the recent majority decision of the High Court in the Builders
Labourers case. In answer to the latter part of the honorable gentleman’s question, it is intended to proceed speedily with the amending bill. I hope to have it introduced in this House to-morrow, and if I can give some earlier general explanation of it to the spokesman for the Opposition on this matter, I hope to have it proceeded with immediately after it is introduced, so that it will take effect this week. The honorable gentleman asked whether we were doing all we could as a government to have the troubles on the waterfront satisfactorily resolved. I believe that we are, according to the appropriate processes available to us.
– In explanation of my question, which is addressed to the PostmasterGeneral, I state that, in answer to a question which I asked the Minister’s predecessor, I was told that the Postal Department intended as an experiment to call for tenders for a number of postal works in order to see whether work could be done cheaper and more efficiently in this way than by employees of the Postmaster-General’s Department. Can the Minister say whether these experiments have run for long enough for an assessment to be made of this system? Has the system been found satisfactory and will it be continued?
– The department is using the tender system as much as possible for certain kinds of work, but I am afraid I have no recent information to indicate how it compares with other methods. That is a comparison which I would not try to make in reply to a question without notice, but I shall obtain full information for the honorable member and let him have it as soon as possible.
– Because of the very delicate state of affairs that exists in Indonesia and the possibility of serious trouble between that country and Australia, is it still the intention of the Minister for Defence to allow the training of Indonesian army officers in Australia?
-I made a statement in the House some time ago in connexion with the offer that we had made to the Indonesian Government in this matter.
I am not aware, at this stage, whether that offer has been accepted. The honorable member will understand, of course, that it is competent for the Government to review the matter if it thinks that the position warrants that being done, but up to the present, we have not considered such action.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation whether there is any truth in the rumour that Trans-Australia Airlines is considering the abolition of free transport by motor coach between city terminals and aerodromes. If there is truth in it, how does the Government justify such an intention in view of the healthy financial position of T.A.A., as disclosed by its last financial report?
– I shall convey the question to my colleague in another place, and obtain a reply for the honorable member.
– Can the Minister for External Affairs say whether action has yet been taken by the Egyptian Government to make good the damage done to the Australian memorial near the Suez Canal? If no such action has been taken, does the Government propose to bring this matter again before the Egyptian Government for the purpose of having the memorial restored to its original splendour?
– At the time that the incident, if it can be so described, occurred, the Australian Government made a formal protest to the Government of Egypt. That protest was repeated through the Canadian Embassy, which was looking after our interests after diplomatic relations between Australia and Egypt were severed. We have had no reply to either of the two representations we have made. When I was in New York recently for the United Nations Assembly, I took the opportunity to discuss the matter with the Egyptian Minister for Foreign Affairs, and brought distinctly to his notice the fact that we had received no reply to our representations. He undertook to have the matter looked into at once, but unfortunately the Government still has received neither information nor satisfaction in respect of this outrage.
– I ask the Prime Minister a question which concerns the ground-to-air guided weapons unit which, in his April statement on defence, he promised would be installed in the Sydney area. The right honorable gentleman will remember telling me, in answer to a question without notice on 1st October, that he would find out the correct date for the completion of this installation. I now ask whether the right honorable gentleman is in a position to let me know the extent and the cause of the delay in installing this modern equipment.
– I am afraid I cannot give the information, but I will obtain it, now that I have been reminded of it, and will see that the honorable member gets it.
– I ask the Minister for Labour and National Service whether there is any significance in the fact that major hold-ups on the waterfront coincide with the height of the wool-selling season.
– I do not know whether I attach that particular significance to the events that have occurred on the waterfront. I have already indicated in this House that I believe there is significance to be seen in the fact that a fresh outbreak of industrial trouble, centred on the port of Sydney, has occurred. These troubles continue at great cost to Australia’s economy, and I am quite certain that, in the long run, they do great damage to the waterside workers themselves. I have already had brought to my notice instances in which shippers who formerly shipped goods regularly around the Australian coast have decided to send their freight by other kinds of transport, and particularly by rail. This process of industrial trouble such as we are now seeing, particularly in the port of Sydney, cannot fail, in the long run, to destroy opportunities for work that otherwise would be available to the members of the Waterside Workers Federation of Australia. I can only hope that there are enough sensible men among the waterside workers who can see the damage that these self-inflicted wounds are causing them, and that the waterfront of this country will speedily be restored to tranquility.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Trade. Will the adviser to the Government on matters related to the Japanese Trade Agreement be engaged solely on the work of advising the Government with respect to the agreement? What is an “ industry group “ as mentioned by the Minister in his statement on 28th November? How many “ industry panels “ have been established, and in what industries have panels been established? Is the formation of an industry group and an industry panel necessary before a case can be put to the advisory authority?
– In answer to the first part of the honorable member’s question, Mr. McCarthy, the present chairman of the Tariff Board, who is the advisory authority to the Government for purposes related to the Japanese Trade Agreement, is due to retire from the chairmanship of the board at the end of the current calendar year. In fact, he is at present on final leave. After his retirement officially as chairman of the Tariff Board, Mr. McCarthy will continue as the advisory authority on the trade agreement. I am not able to say whether the duties of that position will engage him exclusively, but they will certainly have priority.
The arrangements that are made with respect to industries were contemplated by the Government, in the first place, and finally confirmed, after discussions with representatives of the Associated Chambers of Manufactures of Australia, and of the Associated Chambers of Commerce of Australia. The arrangement is that, if a section of Australian industry feels that it may be jeopardized by the operation of the agreement, it will, having organized itself on a federal basis, work with the Associated Chambers of Manufactures, and form a panel for discussions, in the first place, with officers of the Department of Trade. If the industry feels, after those discussions, that the facts disclosed warrant consideration by the advisory authority, it will ask the Minister for the matter to be referred to the authority. I imagine that it would be only in the most exceptional circumstances that the Minister would not refer the matter. I have said that the decision to be made by the Minister referring it will be taken probably within 48 hours, so there will be no delay there. That is the broad arrangement, and I think it is clearly understood by Australian industry. It is certainly precisely understood by the Chambers of Manufactures and is quite acceptable to all concerned.
– My quesion is directed to the Minister for External Affairs. As the vote in relation to the Indonesian Government’s claim to Dutch New Guinea has been taken in the United Nations will the Minister comment on the Indonesian situation and say what is the Indonesian Government’s attitude to this decision?
– It is my intention, in the course of speaking to the House on Thursday on the general subject of international affairs, to deal with this question insofar as it is politic to deal with it at this time. I hope very much that honorable members on both sides of the House will use discretion in discussing this matter at the present moment. Honorable gentlemen know the result of the vote in the First Committee and in the General Assembly of the United Nations. The situation is not without its emotional side, and I hope that nothing will be said by responsible individuals in this country to exacerbate this situation further. However, in answer precisely to the honorable gentleman’s question, I will endeavour to deal with this matter in broad terms when I speak in the House on Thursday.
– I gather from what the right honorable gentleman says that he proposes to make a statement on international affairs on Thursday next.
– -That is, if we are here.
– If the right honorable gentleman is here, and if the Parliament is here. I presume that that will permit of some observations from this side of the House on what the right honorable gentleman has to say?
– Yes, indeed, I expect that what I have to say will precipitate a debate within the limits of time which are possible in the Parliament on this subject, and no doubt the right honorable gentleman will avail himself of the opportunity provided.
– I direct to the Minister for External Affairs a question supplementary to that asked by the honorable member for Isaacs in relation to the Australian-New Zealand war memorial at Port Said. In view of the answer that the right honorable gentleman gave to that question, will he now consider further a proposal to remove and re-erect that memorial at Albany, in Western Australia, a proposal which, I understand, has already been discussed with the New Zealand Government? Albany was the last point of contact with the Australian mainland of the first convoy of the A.I.F. when it left for Gallipoli, and there the memorial would be safe from future desecration.
– I do not think it would be right to anticipate a failure by Australia to get satisfaction in respect of the memorial in its present position. However, in the unfortunate event of no satisfaction being had, I have no doubt that the Government would at least consider the proposal that the honorable gentleman has made.
– I address my question to the Minister for Labour and National Service. In his search for peace on the waterfront - if it is genuine - will he have a look at the question of the disciplinary code which has been imposed through the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority in respect of wharf labourers who are suspended? I remind him of a recent case in which two men were suspended for two working days with the result that, because of a clause in the code which says that the days of suspension, in order to be counted as such, must be days on which there is no disturbance on the waterfront, the men have been disemployed for six weeks and removed from the roster. In the circumstances, does not the Minister think that this sort of thing creates friction that outweighs any advantage of having that clause in the waterfront code?
– The honorable member for Parkes referred in his opening remarks to my “ search for peace on the waterfront - if it is genuine “. If he imagines that I get any particular pleasure out of dealing with the troubles on the waterfront, I can assure him that I certainly do not.
– The Minister provokes ninetenths of the trouble!
– The right honorable gentleman says that I provoke ninetenths of the trouble myself. The fact of the matter is that until recent weeks we have enjoyed the most placid period on the waterfront that Australia has known for very many years, including the years during which the right honorable gentleman and his colleagues were in office. Industrial trouble in this country reached its peak in 1949, when most drastic emergency measures were taken by honorable gentlemen opposite in order to deal with a general strike in the coal industry. I am happy to say that during the term of office of this Government industrial relations generally have been such as to bring a great deal of satisfaction to the people of this country, and no little satisfaction to honorable members on this side of the House. With regard to this vexed area of industry, in very recent times the disciplinary sections of the present legislation have come under survey. The amending bill which I have forecast deals with the disciplinary provisions, as they affect both employers and employees on the waterfront. It is designed to ensure that those provisions will operate justly and equitably both in relation to employers and employees.
– Can the Minister for External Affairs inform the House whether any progress is being made in the settlement of the sizzling problems of the Middle East? Are any positive moves taking place for the resolution of the Arab-Israeli dispute? Has the Minister any accurate information of the amount of Russian assistance to Egypt and Syria? Is President Nasser, in effect, deteriorating into a Communist puppet? Are Egyptian machinations and imperialist ambitions being vigorously counteracted with some degree of success?
– I know of no current negotiations or discussions that are designed to lead to a solution of the Arab-Israeli problem. I understand that Mr. Dag Hammarskjold, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, is either about to go or is on his way to the Middle East. He will, I understand, visit a great number of capitals of Middle East countries. I am afraid I have no precise information in my mind as to the amount of Soviet assistance, either on the military or the civil side, extended to Egypt or Syria, but I can say that very substantial sums are involved. I am afraid I cannot give, offhand, any uptodate estimation of President Nasser’s situation in Egypt, although if I had to say something about it I would say that I believed there was no current threat to his dictatorial regime. I am afraid I do not remember the other questions the honorable member asked, but I think I have given him a broad reply-
– I ask the Minister for Defence whether the destruction of Leura and surrounding areas by fire has impressed on the Government the need for an effective civil defence organization, and whether it would not be correct to say that a civil defence organization should be equipped with tanker trucks containing modern foam chemicals for putting out fire. I ask the honorable gentleman also whether a civil defence organization, which would be effective if this country were attacked, would not also be effective in preventing or alleviating civil disasters of the kind that occur to-day, and whether the Government is giving consideration to this aspect of the matter.
– A civil defence organization created for the protection of this country in a war is obviously the responsibility of the Commonwealth and the States. A civil defence organization to mitigate outbreaks of the kind mentioned by the honorable member is primarily a responsibility of the States. But I think it is true to say that the services, in cases like this, have come to the help of the people affected and have rendered very valuable assistance in outbreaks of this kind.
– I ask the Minister for External Affairs whether he has any information regarding a recent report suggesting that Egypt has agreed to the payment of some form of compensation to the Suez Canal Company. If such compensation is to be paid, is it intended to be on an unconditional basis?
– I have had no prognosis or any other information on this question apart from the fact which, I think, is known to the honorable member, that Mr. Eugene Black, the president of the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, visited Egypt recently, at Egypt’s request, to elucidate whether the bank would be agreeable to inject itself in some way into the problem of the Suez Canal Company being taken over. Mr. Black has made that visit to Cairo, and at the end of it he spoke to the effect that his visit there, and the possibility of the International Bank taking a hand in this matter, had been greatly welcomed by President Nasser. Mr. Black said he was going to visit London and Paris to have informal talks at those two capitals in an effort to pursue this matter generally. So far as I know, there has been no action since; and I have certainly not heard of any suggestion as to an amount or how it will be distributed.
– During the recent visit of the Treasurer to the Territory of Papua and New Guinea - the first visit of the right honorable gentleman to those parts - an undertaking was given to the residents that he would use his good offices to remove certain disabilities of which they complained. Seeing that he has not yet paid a visit to the Northern Territory, will he do so at the earliest possible opportunity so that he may see, at first hand, certain disabilities under which the residents labour in those parts? I assure the right honorable gentleman that such a visit by him would be appreciated by the residents of the Northern Territory.
– The honorable member’s question is based on wrong premises. During my rush visit to New Guinea, I did not encounter any complaints. AH that I encountered was the happiness and contentment of the people and their appreciation of the progressive policy of this Government.
– My question is addressed to the Minister acting for the Minister for Primary Industry. Is the Minister aware that, in South Australia, eligible classified persons have been informed that because of the shortage of suitable land, they are now unlikely to obtain property under the war service land settlement scheme unless they can find an acceptable single unit proposition? Is he aware, also, that very few single units have been accepted because no write-off is permitted, as there is under the group scheme? In these circumstances, and in order to assist ex-servicemen in South Australia who have been waiting a very long time for a farm, will the Minister consider the possibility of permitting a reasonable write-off on acceptable single unit propositions?
– Knowing the interest of the honorable member for Barker in this matter, I wish to inform him that, in common with those in most of the other States, the authorities in South Australia have made commendable efforts to determine how many ex-servicemen holding qualification certificates for war service land settlement are still actively interested in obtaining land under the scheme. When a recent survey was undertaken, the result showed that the number of interested men exceeded the number of holdings which are likely to be obtained from land being developed for the scheme. As holdings are allotted in South Australia on a merit system, in fairness to the men who were unlikely to obtain holdings from the group scheme, they were advised of this position, broadly, in the terms mentioned by the honorable member.
– This is a “ Dorothy Dix “.
– Order! The honorable member for East Sydney will remain silent.
– I rise to order. I ask you, Mr. Speaker, how long you are going to allow this practice to continue of Ministers-
– The Minister is in order. The honorable member for East Sydney will resume his seat.
– I again rise to order.
-Is it the same point of order?
– No. It is a different one. I ask you whether Standing Orders provide that during this part of the day’s proceedings questions may be directed to Ministers without notice. If that is so, I ask you what action you could take to prevent a continuance of the practice of Ministers and members conferring before they enter the chamber and of Ministers reading prepared replies to obviously inspired questions.
– Both honorable members and Ministers are complying with Standing Orders, and I hope that the honorable member for East Sydney will do the same.
– To continue: Whilst the honorable member is correct in saying that few single units have been accepted in the scheme, the reason that he has ascribed is not quite right. Actually, most of the proposals have been rejected because they have not been up to the standard required for the scheme, not because a write-off would be incurred. Each case is considered on its merits, the first criterion being that a property must be capable of being developed to the standard required for war service land settlement. Costs of acquisition and, if necessary, of further development are taken into account and if these are reasonable, single units are purchased and allotted under the normal provisions of the scheme, including those concerning the possibility of excess costs being written off.
– I wish to ask the Minister for Defence a question of which I assure the House no prior notice has been given to the Minister. The Premier of Queensland has announced that unidentified submarines have been sighted off the coast of Cape York in the Weipa bauxite mining area. Are these reports true? Is it true that the Commonwealth has taken action to increase security in the area? If so, what sort of action has the Commonwealth taken?
– This is a question that should have been directed to the Minister for the Navy. I have seen reports of sightings of submarines in that area which, upon investigation, have been proved to be quite false. Whether they were the particular reports to which the honorable member for Wills has referred I am not aware.
– Will the Minister for the Interior inform the House what stage has been reached by Australia in meteorological research work as part of the programme for the International Geophysical Year? Will the results of such weather researches be made available to all nations participating in the International Geophysical Year?
– There are no precisely detailed projects ahead of the meteorological organization for the International Geophysical Year. The work of International Geophysical Year consists of highly intensified observations of the type that we normally conduct. The whole of the results of those intensified observations will be fed through the world meteorological office special data branch which has been set up in Geneva. From there, they will be channelled to all participating countries, and I presume that they will be used for individual experiments and observations which will be made by those countries in turn.
– I ask the Minister for Trade whether the Tariff Board has completed its inquiries into the Australian timber industry. If the inquiries have been completed, will the Minister inform me when a report can be made available to Parliament?
– I do not know whether the Tariff Board has concluded its public inquiries into the timber industry, but it certainly has not yet made its report.
– Is the Minister for the Interior able to give the House any information concerning discussions between himself and the Victorian Government relating to the old Customs House in Flinders-street, Melbourne?
– I did have some discussions with the State authorities in Melbourne last week, as a result of which I shall submit alternative proposals for consideration by the Government. It is too early yet to indicate in which direction the solution of this particular problem might be found.
– I ask the Treasurer a question without notice. Has the right honorable gentleman received representations from staff associations of the Commonwealth Bank, or from other bank officers, requesting a five day working week for the banking industry? If so, what was the right honorable gentleman’s reply?
– No, I have not received any such requests.
– I ask a question of the Minister for Trade. A recent report discloses that Great Britain last year earned £A.212,500,000 in foreign currency from tourism. Having in mind the moves made, and the public statements issued, in Australia in recent years in respect to tourism here, I ask the Minister whether his department has considered taking over responsibility for the promotion of tourist traffic, because of the helpful effect that it would have on overseas trade, besides adding to the general revenue.
– The Department of Trade is not functionally responsible for organizing tourism or the earning of export income from tourism in this country. However, the Government is interested in this subject. It makes a substantial contribution to the Australian National Travel Association, which is engaged in stimulating tourism in Australia. Last week, I had discussions with representatives of the Australian National Travel Association, and I think there is a basis for advancing tourism in Australia, but clearly it is a basis that depends very largely upon a combination of enterprise on the part of State govern ments - which have the tourist facilities more at their command than the Commonwealth Government is ever likely to have - and activity on the part of private enterprise. The Commonwealth Government lends support and encouragement to the tourist industry, and I am sure it will continue to do so.
– I ask the Prime Minister a question. Is it a fact that in November, 1952, in replying to criticism by the general manager of the Bank of New South Wales of the Government’s then proposals in respect to banking, the Prime Minister said, referring to the Rural Credits Department, Mortgage Bank Department, and the Industrial Finance Department of the Commonwealth Bank -
These decisions have worked most satisfactorily in conjunction with the central bank . . . and could hardly have worked at all except in such association.
If this is a fact, will the Prime Minister state when, and for what reason, he changed his opinion of an arrangement that he had previously declared to be both satisfactory and essential?
– I thought the honorable gentleman was complaining a little while ago that question time was being misused. This is the first time I have understood that question time was designed for an attractive exchange of argument as to what somebody said, what he meant, and whether he was right or wrong. Unlike the member for East Sydney, I am always prepared to stand by what I say.
– I ask the Minister for Labour and National Service a question, and I refer to the Minister’s answer to a previous question. Is it not a fact that as well as turning to land transport, shippers on the Australian coast are beginning to turn also to other forms of sea transport? I refer particularly to the roll-on, roll-off type of vehicular ferry that virtually eliminates waterside workers in its operation. Will the right honorable gentleman bring this trend to the attention of the waterside workers and point out to them that their intransigence will narrow their opportunities of employment as surely as night follows day?
– There have been developments of the kind referred to by the honorable member, more particularly in other parts of the world, but it is evident enough - or should be, particularly to those who exercise leadership over this union and other senior members of the trade union movement - that if a service cannot, or will not, be provided by those to whom shippers normally look, they naturally will seek alternative methods of securing the most effective results.
Assent to the following bills reported: -
Income Tax and Social Services Contribution Assessment Bill 1957.
Loan (Housing) Bill 1957.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
Motion (by Mr. Harold Holt) - by leave - agreed to -
That Standing Order 104 - 11 o’clock rule - be suspended until the end of the year.
Motion (by Mr. Casey) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to request, and consent to, the enactment by the Parliament of the United Kingdom of an act enabling the Queen to place Christmas Island under the authority of the Commonwealth.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
Mr. CASEY (La Trobe - Minister for
External Affairs) [3.18].- by leave- I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The bill now before the House provides that this Parliament request, and consent to, the enactment of legislation by the United Kingdom Parliament to place Christmas Island under the authority of the Commonwealth of Australia. On 7th June of this year, I announced publicly that the United Kingdom Government proposed to transfer to Australian administration this island in the Indian Ocean, which is at present administered by the Government of
Singapore. Christmas Island is a small coral limestone island with an area of some 64 square miles. It lies in the Eastern Indian Ocean 200 miles south of the western tip of Java and just over half way from Perth to Singapore. As I pointed out at the timeI made my original announcement, but should perhaps emphasize again, this island is not the Christmas Island in the Pacific Ocean where British nuclear tests have been conducted. Indeed, it is separated from the latter island by more than 4,000 miles of ocean.
Christmas Island was discovered and named by Captain William Mynors on Christmas Day, 1643. There is an interesting historical connexion between Australia and Christmas Island in that William Dampier was the first man to land on the island, He landed there in 1688, the same year in which he made his landing on the west coast of Australia. However, it was not until 1888 that the British Government annexed the island, and began to administer it, along with the Straits Settlement, from Singapore. The main significance of Christmas Island rests on the substantial deposits of phosphate of lime which are found there. A 99-year lease, with the right to extract the phosphate rock, was granted to the Christmas Island Phosphate Company in 1897. In 1949, the lease was transferred to the Australian and New Zealand Governments, who agreed to establish the Christmas Island Phosphate Commission to conduct phosphate extraction operations on their joint behalf. Christmas Island phosphate production in recent years has been about 400,000 tons annually, and from this production a large portion of Australia’s supplies of phosphates are drawn.
The administration of Christmas Island from Singapore as the seat of government of the Straits Settlements has been purely a matter of administrative convenience, and Christmas Island has always maintained its status as a separate possession of the Crown. There is no geographical or racial link between Singapore and Christmas Island. With the impending achievement of full internal self-government in Singapore, the United Kingdom Government considered that it would be desirable to transfer the responsibility for administering Christmas Island to Australia and/ or New Zealand, as the only enterprise on the island is the phosphate industry conducted by the phosphate commission which is the instrument of these governments. After discussions with New Zealand, as well as United Kingdom authorities, it was decided that the best solution, in the interests of all parties, would be to transfer to Australia responsibility for administration of Christmas Island. I would emphasize that this decision was taken with the full agreement and support of the New Zealand Government.
As I have pointed out, Christmas Island was, though administered from Singapore, never made, constitutionally, a part of the Colony of Singapore. However, royalties in respect of the phosphate production had been paid over the years to the Government of Singapore. Although this was in the nature of a windfall, rather than an entitlement, it has been thought desirable to make a generous ex gratia payment through the United Kingdom of 20,000,000 Singapore dollars, £A2,925,000, to ensure that the Singapore budget was not adversely affected by suddenly ceasing to receive this revenue. The Australian and New Zealand Governments will each pay immediately to the United Kingdom Treasury half of the amount involved, and will receive reimbursement over the years by means of a levy upon the phosphate produced. I should stress that this will not result in any significant increase in the price of phosphates in Australia as, on the basis of the present and contemplated rate of production of phosphate on the island, the charge which will be imposed upon phosphate produced, to amortize this payment, will not be greater than the royalties which would have been paid if the transfer had not been effected.
Christmas Island has no indigenous inhabitants. Apart from the government officials, the only people at present on the island are those under contract to the phosphate commission. The total population at the beginning of this year was 2,650, of whom about 2,000 were Chinese, 500 Malays, and 150 Europeans. The Australian Government has agreed that British subjects, normally resident on the island at the time of transfer, will be given the option of acquiring Australian citizenship. It is not known at present how many of the present inhabitants are, under this agreement, eligible for, or will opt for, Australian citizenship. A considerable number of them are not British subjects. Of the British subjects, many are not “ normally resident “’ on the island but are temporarily there on short-term contracts with the phosphate commission. Of those eligible to opt for Australian citizenship, a considerable number have come from Singapore and will become eligible for Singapore citizenship under the forthcoming citizenship legislation there. It is thought likely that most of these people will seek Singapore rather than Australian citizenship. The provisions in respect of citizenship are, in fact, the same as those made in the case of the Cocos Islands.
From Australia’s point of view, the transfer of Christmas Island to our administration will help to ensure the availability of continued supplies of phosphate for use in our own and New Zealand’s primary industries. Honorable members will not need to be reminded of the importance to us of a continued and reliable supply of phosphates. The manner in which the transfer of the island to Australian administration is to be effected has been the subject of careful consideration by the legal officers of all interested governments. Before the end of this year, the United Kingdom Government will, by Order-in-Council, detach the island from the administration of the Government of Singapore. Subsequently, the United Kingdom Parliament will enact such legislation as may be necessary to place the island under the authority of the Commonwealth. Before the United Kingdom Parliament can legislate to this end, it will be necessary for this Parliament to request and consent to the enactment of such legislation. This is the same procedure as was employed in the case of Cocos Islands. The purpose of the bill now before honorable members is to embody such a request and consent thereby allowing the legislative machinery of the United Kingdom to operate.
The final stage in the legislative process will be the passage by this Parliament of a bill, which will be presented at the appropriate time by my colleague, the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck), accepting the transfer and providing for the future administration of the island. In conclusion, 1 should like to express my appreciation of the helpful and co-operative attitude of the United Kingdom Government, as well as of the Government of Singapore, throughout all the discussions and negotiations that have been held on this subject.
Debate (on motion by Dr. Evatt) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 12th November (vide page 2041), on motion by Mr. Casey -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– This is a most important bill. The Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey) summarized it briefly in his second-reading speech, but I feel that some additional material will be required by the House before the bill is passed. I am obliged to the Minister for making available to me the full documents concerning the international conference of 1949. This bill is based upon the proceedings of that conference, the conventions having been prepared by the delegates to the conference. As appears from the Minister’s second-reading speech, 59 nations were represented at the 1949 Geneva conference.
– There were 61.
– Not actually at the conference. I am using the Minister’s own figures.
– Yes, 61 nations signed.
– Those who had ratified or acceded to the conventions numbered 60 at the time of the Minister’s second-reading speech and will be 61, and perhaps one more if what the Minister says is correct, as I have no doubt it is. It is important for the House to know the extent of the ratification by other nations. Have reservations or conditions been made by other nations? If they have, we should know about them. It is also important for the House to know why Australia, which took a prominent part at the conference, being represented by Colonel Hodgson as chief delegate, has delayed so long before attempting to ratify the conventions. The conventions were drafted in 1949, but nothing has been done to ratify them until now. There may be a good explanation for the delay, but I should like the Minister to give the explanation to the House.
Without knowing the nature of the qualifications, conditions or reservations of other nations, and having “considered the conventions set out in the bill, the Opposition proposes to support the bill. It is a further step marking the great work of the pioneer and author of all these proposals and conventions. I refer to Dunant, who wrote his extraordinary and touching account of the suffering encountered by so many combatants and non-combatants in the battle of Solferino. He then tried to agitate all the chancellories of Europe to see whether something could be done to alleviate the horrors and the distress caused by military action. He was ultimately successful, especially in gaining the interest of Switzerland, which has been most honorably associated with the movement and where most of the conferences have been held. We had the Geneva convention of 1864, which was followed by the 1907 convention. Then, in connexion with maritime warfare, we had the Hague convention of 1890 and a later convention in 1907. Simultaneous with the conventions has been the rise of one of the greatest organizations in the world - the International Red Cross. The Australian Red Cross has played a very prominent part, and it is most significant that the organization here and throughout the world addresses itself not merely to the prevention or mitigation of suffering caused by war but indeed to all human suffering, wherever it is and whatever the cause of it.
I turn to the provisions of the conventions. As the Minister pointed out, there are four conventions, which are set out in the schedules to the bill. The first convention concerns the amelioration of the condition of the wounded and sick in armed forces in the field. This is usually called the “ Red Cross Convention “. To illustrate what it does, I refer to the first schedule to the bill and shall give a few examples, not necessarily the most important. Article 2 provides -
In addition to the provisions which shall be implemented in peacetime, the present Convention shall apply to all cases of declared war or of any other armed conflict which may arise between two or more of the High Contracting Parties, even if the state of war is not recognised by one of them.
Article 3 contains what are called the minimum provisions. Typical of them is subclause (1.), which provides -
Persons taking no active part in the hostilities, including members of armed forces who have laid down their arms and those placed hors de combat by sickness, wounds, detention, or any other cause, shall in all circumstances be treated humanely, without any adverse distinction founded on race, colour, religion or faith, sex, birth or wealth, or any other similar criteria.
To this end, the following acts are and shall remain prohibited at any time and in any place whatsoever with respect to the above-mentioned persons:
Sub-clause (2.) of this article provides -
The wounded and sick shall be collected and cared for.
There in that first convention is illustrated the spirit of all the conventions. They contain, of course, other provisions. For instance, Article 8 provides -
The present Convention shall be applied with the co-operation and under the scrutiny of the Protecting Powers whose duty it is to safeguard the interests of the Parties to the conflict.
A feature of World War II. was the inadequacy, on occasion, of the scrutiny by the protecting powers. Owing to the speed with which the war moved, and to the fact that new weapons could enable the infliction of death or wounds at considerably greater distances than in the past, it was thought impossible for the protecting power always to be present to exercise protection. One of the greatest causes of suffering and atrocity in World War II. was the lack of ability to carry out this provision.
I turn now to Chapter II. of the First Schedule, which refers to the treatment of wounded and sick. Article 12 provides that-
Members of the armed forces and other persons mentioned in the following Article, who are wounded or sick, shall be respected and protected in all circumstances. They shall be treated humanely and cared for by the Party to the conflict in whose power they may be, without any adverse distinction founded on sex, race, nationality, religion, political opinions, or any other similar criteria. Any attempts upon their lives, or violence to their persons, shall be strictly prohibited; in particular, they shall not be murdered or exterminated, subjected to torture or to biological experiments; they shall not wil fully be left without medical assistance and care, nor shall conditions exposing them to contagion or infection be created. Only urgent medical reasons will authorize priority in the order of treatment to be administered. Women shall be treated with all consideration due to their sex. The Party to the conflict which is compelled to abandon wounded or sick to the enemy shall, as far as military considerations permit, leave with them a part of its medical personnel and material to assist in their care.
Those typical provisions illustrate the great, humane spirit of the first convention.
The second convention relates to maritime warfare and to amelioration of the condition of wounded, sick and shipwrecked members of the armed forces at sea. The provisions of the bill in this respect involve revision of The Hague Convention of 1907, which first adapted the provisions of the Red Cross Convention to maritime warfare. I do not propose to elaborate further the position in relation to that convention which, broadly speaking, follows the lines of the first convention.
The third convention, which deals with the treatment of prisoners of war, is of great importance, and I think it will be of value if I refer to some of its provisions. Article 3 of the Third Schedule states that-
The convention provides that prohibited acts in respect of such persons shall include acts of violence to life and person, particularly murder of all kinds, and the taking of hostages, and so on. This provision lays down the general principles governing the treatment of prisoners of war in captivity. On looking at these new conventions, one is saddened by the memory of the numerous instances throughout the world in which the previous conventions, although not as elaborate as those that we are now discussing, were not observed. One would have thought that, with the passage of time and greater knowledge of the conventions, there would have been a progressive improvement in the treatment of prisoners and wounded; but in certain parts of the world with which Australians are familiar, the provisions were not honoured, a fact that will always be remembered by the people of this country. Of course, after the war, action was taken to deal with what amounted to conduct in breach of conventions of this kind by some of the countries engaged in the war, and although, for the first time in history, the victorious nations brought to trial persons who were accused of aggressive warfare, I think it is correct to say that, in no trial of that kind in which the Australian Government had a part, was a verdict involving the death penalty given against enemy personnel except where the facts, as proved, indicated that those persons were responsible for the death of individuals.
The Fourth Schedule deals with the protection of civilians in time of war. This, of course, is of very great importance. Article 3 refers to those civilian personnel who are to be protected by the terms of the convention. Part III. of the schedule deals with the status and treatment of protected persons, and Article 27 provides that -
Protected persons are entitled, in all circumstances, to respect for their persons, their honour, their family rights, their religious convictions and practices, and their manners and customs. They shall at all times be humanely treated, and shall be protected especially against all acts of violence or threats thereof and against insults and public curiosity.
Women shall be especially protected against any attack on their honour, in particular against rape, enforced prostitution, or any form of indecent assault. Without prejudice to the provisions relating to their state of health, age and sex, all protected persons shall be treated with the same consideration by the Party to the conflict in whose power they are, without any adverse distinction based, in particular on race, religion or political opinion.
Article 42 refers to the matter of internment and states -
The internment or placing in assigned residence of protected persons may be ordered only if the security of the Detaining Power makes it absolutely necessary. If any person, acting through the representatives of the Protecting Power, voluntarily demands internment, and if his situation Tenders this step necessary, he shall be interned by the power in whose hands he may be.
Article 43 provides that -
Any protected person who has been interned or placed in assigned residence shall be entitled to have such action reconsidered as soon as possible by an appropriate court or administrative board designated by the Detaining Power for that purpose. If the internment or placing in assigned residence is maintained, the court or administrative board shall periodically, and at least twice yearly, give consideration to his or her case, with a view to the favourable amendment of the initial decision, if circumstances permit.
Unless the protected persons concerned object, the Detaining Power shall, as rapidly as possible, give the Protecting Power the names of any protected persons who have been interned or subjected to assigned residence, or who have been released from internment or assigned residence. The decisions of the courts or boards mentioned in the first paragraph of the present Article shall also, subject to the same conditions, be notified as rapidly as possible to the Protecting Power.
Article 44 states -
In applying the measures of control mentioned in the present Convention, the Detaining Power shall not treat as enemy aliens exclusively on the basis of their nationality de jure of an enemy State, refugees who do not, in fact, enjoy the protection of any government.
These are rules for the control of governments on the occasion of future war, and it is necessary that they should be made. There is no doubt that the rules of the previous Geneva Convention were broken in many instances.
In this connexion, the question of internment has often been mentioned, because it involves physical control of persons suspected either of assisting, or of being iri league with, an enemy power. In Australia, in World War II., we had a system, which was changed from time to time, and in which the person interned had the right of appeal to some tribunal appointed to hear his case and report to the responsible members of the government. That system was gradually improved, and any defects that were found were always remedied. For instance, in the early days of the war, persons were interned without the reasons for their detention or internment being stated. One of the first acts of the Labour government, of which I was a member, was to introduce a regulation requiring the tribunal to inform the person before it of the reason for his internment. That regulation resulted in the release from internment of quite a number of persons, because obviously, there were numbers of cases in which the individual interned did not know why he had been interned.
In the comparatively early stages, in 1942, my colleague, the present Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell), who was then a member of the Parliament, was appointed by the Labour government to be the chairman of what was called the Aliens Tribunal. At that time, a great many more than 8,000 persons had been interned in Australia. That was an appallingly large number compared with the number of internments in other countries, such as the United States of America and the United Kingdom. The tribunal presided over by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition represented a large cross-section of public opinion. I think that I can recall the names of those who were members of it. They included the present Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper); the present Mr. Justice Barry, of the Victorian Supreme Court; the present Mr. Justice Dovey of the New South Wales Supreme Court, who was then Mr. Dovey; Mr. A. R. Cutler, V.C., who was, until recently, Australian Minister in Egypt; and Mrs. Jessie Street, who is now Lady Street. The personnel changed from time to time.
The recommendations made by the tribunal, after an analysis of the files in the cases that went before it, resulted, after about twelve or eighteen months, in the number of persons detained being reduced from more than 8,000 to approximately 700 who, in the opinion of the security authorities, could not be released from detention at that stage. Cases were continually reviewed in order to reduce the number of persons detained to the minimum, and in order to keep under detention all persons who, in the opinion of the responsible authorities, could not safely be released. It was often found, Mr. Acting Deputy Speaker, that restriction orders were an effective substitute for detention. Under restriction orders, persons were compelled to live in particular areas where they could present no danger to security. No doubt individual cases of possible injustice may be pointed to, but, in the result, the job done by the security authorities in this respect was very efficient.
The convention with respect to the treatment of interned persons with which this bill deals provides for an independent administrative body to examine cases taken before it. Provision of that kind was made in Australia during the last war, as I have pointed out. Whatever criticisms of the Australian system were made on sound grounds were quickly heeded, and changes were made in order to give effect to proposals of the kind that are the general intention of this convention - proposals that did not apply in those terms during the last v/ar.
What was done in Australia, and similarly in other countries, largely anticipated what is now to be the international law on this subject. However, Mr. Acting Deputy Speaker, that does not end the whole problem of conduct in time of war. If this convention is ratified, it will bind all the nations that are parties to it, but some nations may never become parties to it. Their reservations may cover this field, and there may be breaches of the convention in the future, just as there were undoubtedly wholesale breaches of the previous convention in certain parts of the world. Therefore, there has come into existence a doctrine, the legal validity of which I do not think it is necessary to discuss at this juncture. It was given effect to in the war crimes trials at Nuremburg, and the subsequent trials of Japanese war criminals. This doctrine is that there is an international law, which is not written and has not to be supported by convention - what may be called a common law, or a basic law, of international law - under which gross cruelty, atrocities, and the causing of the death of persons, although not specifically covered by convention, may still be justiciable in certain courts. That has led to a great deal of controversy in the field of international law since the war crimes trials.
As I have already indicated, that doctrine was applied at the Nuremburg trials, and at the trials of Japanese war criminals, in relation to which the Australian Government was a responsible government. Indeed, the Japanese trials were presided over by Sir William Webb, who is now a justice of the High Court of Australia. I think that, in every instance in which the final punishment - capital punishment - was imposed by the Japanese war crimes tribunal, which represented many nations, the facts indicated that the convicted person, in addition to waging aggressive warfare, was responsible for acts that involved the “killing - in effect, the murder - of many prisoners of war. The trial, in result and intention, was parallel to a trial for the crime of murder. I feel that, in all those cases, there must be further examination of the viewpoints expressed by the various authorities since the Nuremburg trials, about which there is an enormous amount of literature.
The convention covered in the Third Schedule to this bill is a step forward. I noticed the other day, Mr. Acting Deputy Speaker, that the International Red Cross is now addressing itself to the problem of war conducted by nuclear weapons, and considering whether the use of nuclear weapons in war, where civilian populations are affected, may not itself be treated as a war crime. If it is so treated, of course, it will have to be dealt with on an international basis. It cannot be left to speculation in the light of the Nuremburg trials. As I have said, the present convention is a great step forward. I ask the Minister for External Affairs to see whether it is possible to give to the House, before it finally approves the bill, particulars of the reservations that have been made by other countries. Australia will be among the last nations to ratify the conventions.
When the parliamentary Labour party was discussing this measure the question of capital punishment was brought up. There is provision in the articles of the conventions for this matter to be looked at, and the context of the articles shows clearly that discretion regarding the imposition of capital punishment resides in the nation concerned. The Labour party would ask for no less than that, because our views on capital punishment are substantially the same as those of the Labour movement in Great Britain, New Zealand, and elsewhere.
I think it is right that this measure should be accepted as soon as possible before the end of the present sessional period so that Australia may take its place amongst those countries which have adopted the four conventions. The adoption of the conventions will help to create a condition of mind throughout the world in which breaches of fundamental treaties designed to protect prisoners and civilians in time of war and to prevent the infliction of cruel punishment on them will demand moral condemnation. It will help to ensure that the nations concerned accept responsibility for their actions, without mitigating the responsibility of those who are guilty. Therefore, we support the bill.
Mr. McCOLM (Bowman) [3.571. - I find myself in agreement with a very great amount of what has been said by the right honorable member for Barton (Dr. Evatt). He mentioned the International Red Cross, and I should like to take this opportunity to pay my personal tribute to the tremendous work done by the International Red Cross, particularly in war-time, to alleviate human suffering among many nations. Its efforts in the last war were very great; indeed, had it not been for the work done by the International Red Cross on several occasions, many of my personal friends, and I myself, would not be alive to-day.
The right honorable member for Barton mentioned that the Red Cross is now addressing itself to the problem of obtaining an international agreement to prevent nuclear warfare. That may show a tendency towards the realms of hope - hope based on what might happen, or what could happen, and based also, of course, on the greatest of humanitarian motives. But those hopes cannot always be put into practice and I propose, in the course of my remarks, to show how international conventions such as those we are now discussing depend on many things before they can be a success. I also propose to show how quite a number of the things which are necessary for the success of those conventions are often lacking and how. therefore, the conventions, in some of their conditions, become impossible of fulfilment.
The great basic idea behind those conventions of injecting humane treatment into the inhumanity of war is something which will be supported basically not only by the people of this Commonwealth but by the people of most countries. When we consider the things that have happened in previous wars we have to bear in mind a number of different factors. We have to remember that even if those conventions were practised in their entirety quite a number of things that would happen in some of the nations concerned, in the unfortunate event of another war, would still meet with our very strong disapproval, because the normal way of life of those nations is different from ours. Their normal treatment of their own people is different from ours. Their laws are different from ours. But the conventions lay it down that captors must subscribe to the laws of the country in which they are held.
The ideas that are held by many nations differ from ours. We know that much of the Asiatic outlook. 2nd much of the normal every-day life in Asian countries, differ from ours in many ways. In the Russian area, and in European countries further west, you find a different way of life from ours in some things. The ideas that we had 100 years ago are the ideas of to-day in some of those European countries. That is something we must bear in mind. We must also bear in mind the basic goodness of the great majority of the people of the world, irrespective of nationality. But let us consider some of the actions of the Third Reich - Hitler’s Germany. When I am being critical of Hitler’s Germany I do not want anybody in this House to think that I dislike the German people, because I do not, and, quite frankly, I should like to see a lot more German migrants coming to Australia. But I have contempt and loathing not only for the rulers of the Third Reich but for many of their minions - the people who put into practice inhuman barbarities including death by torture in its worst forms, and the extermination in the gas chambers alone of some 12,000,000 people, completely obliterating some sections of certain European countries. I refer particularly to the ill-starred Jewish race, which really was ill-starred in the days of Hitler’s Germany. I cannot find any forgiveness in my heart for the people who did those things, but I do not believe that the great majority of the people of Germany were culpable. Their guilt, as a nation, was that they allowed themselves to be governed by a very small minority - to be governed by fear. That was the position in Hitler’s Germany, and it is the position in other countries to-day. There was never in the history of Hitler’s Germany a period when the Nazi party had more than 10 per cent, of the German population as members, yet it controlled that country of 80,000,000 people by fear, and by fear alone. The same thing is happening in other countries to-day.
It may well be said that had those four conventions in their entirety been in existence at the time of the last war many of the things that happened would not have happened. I doubt it, because they happened in Germany although Germany was a signatory to the Geneva Convention, particularly in its relation to the treatment of prisoners of war. The Germans’ treatment of British and American prisoners of war was, on the whole, never up to the Geneva Convention standards. That was understandable in many ways. Germany had other prisoners of war besides British and
American prisoners, and the treatment of prisoners varied according to their nationality. The Belgians and French were treated slightly worse than the British and Americans. Then you went down the scale of treatment till you got to the Poles and finally to the Russians. The treatment meted out to the Russians - and the Italians after Italy ceased to be Germany’s ally - was shocking. From the point of view of accepted prisoner of war standards it was inhuman. Under the Geneva Convention each prisoner of war was supposed to get the same fare as German non-combatant garrison troops. In fact we received between a quarter and a fifth of that amount. The Russian and Italian prisoners received between a fifteenth and a twentieth of what we got. Some of our people died of malnutrition and starvation when the International Red Cross food was not available, so honorable members can image the plight of the Russians and Italians. They died of starvation by their hundreds of thousands, and in some of their camps cannibalism was a common practice. It sounds shocking to say so now, but it was very real then, and I believe that the same conditions may be existing in certain parts of the world to-day. They may exist in some of the countries that are subscribing to these conventions.
The treatment meted out to the people of Hungary, had these conventions been accepted and followed, would not have been the treatment that we know they received last year and early this year. I could make many suppositions of this kind. It appears that some people are prepared to accept these conventions, but apparently, with mental reservations, because they are not prepared to follow them. The conventions themselves can fall down for a number of reasons. For instance, Article 8 of the Third Schedule to this bill provides for the appointment of protecting powers and for the delegates of those protecting powers. As the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) said, one of the jobs of those delegates is to visit the various camps and see that prisoners are being properly treated. One of the snags in this provision is that these delegates of protecting powers have to be acceptable to the captor nation, which is not likely to accept a delegate, if it can avoid doing so, who may be antagonistic to it in his reports.
I well remember one occasion on which a delegate of a protecting power came to visit the prison camp in which I was held. I will not mention the country from which this gentleman came, but it had been accepted as a protecting power. A number of prisoners, 50 or 60 in all, were lying around, sunbathing, in a courtyard into which only small patches of sun penetrated. The commandant of the camp was, in a way, a very fine soldier, but quite a hard man. He believed implicitly that people should do exactly what he said when he said it. When he came into the courtyard with the delegate, his adjutant called out “ Achtung! Achtung! “ and was ignored - which was reasonably normal. At this time the Germans were retreating in Russia, and every day there were announcements in the German newspapers and over the German wireless to the effect that various towns had been evacuated according to plan, “ planmassig geraumt “ being the phrase that was commonly used. When the prisoners did not stand to attention on the occasion of which I am speaking, the commandant decided that the courtyard should be evacuated, and he gave the order for it to be “ geraumt “. A Frenchman who was standing close to him said, “ Herr Kommandant, I presume you mean ‘ planmassig geraumt ‘ “. As this phrase was being used so regularly in references to German retreats on the Russian front, the commandant became understandably annoyed. He grabbed a rifle from a sentry and started shooting. Fortunately, he hit only two people. There were only five doorways into the courtyard, and they were very freely used for a short period.
The interesting feature of the incident, from our point of view, was that some minutes later we located the delegate of the protecting power under a table. We did not blame him in the slightest for being there, but, of course, he was in no frame of mind to argue with the commandant on the various points that we wished to bring up. I suggest, therefore, that these conventions can fall down because of these delegates of protecting powers, not only through their lack of numerical strength but through personal shortcomings.
Some articles in these conventions are, in my opinion, frequently physically incap able of being carried out. Article 25 of the Third Schedule, for instance, says -
Prisoners of war shall be quartered under conditions as favorable as those for the forces of the Detaining Power who are billeted in the same area.
I put it to honorable members that in many instances this is completely and utterly impossible. If a detaining power has some millions of prisoners of war on its hands, it cannot possibly fulfil that provision. Admittedly, every one would hope that the detaining power would do its best, but at certain times it can only make a poor effort, even if it does its best. Article 26 of the same schedule says -
The basic daily food rations shall be sufficient in quantity, quality and variety to keep prisoners of war in good health and to prevent loss of weight or the development of nutritional deficiencies.
If a country’s own food resources are limited, and it has to cater for millions of extra persons, it just cannot feed them according to the standards laid down in that article. There may be times when transport difficulties become so great that, even if food is available, it cannot be moved to the various points where it is needed.
– But there were many occasions on which the detaining powers chose not to follow those articles, when they could easily have done so.
– That is true, but I merely point out that in- some cases the articles are impossible of fulfilment, and that we should bear these things in mind when we are considering the matter. There were, of course, quite a number of occasions when detaining powers, particularly the Germans, completely ignored the conventions, although it was well within their capacity to follow them. These criticisms of mine do not apply only to the Germans, because in my opinion some of the things that were done by the British and the Americans, although they were not done so consistently or on such a large scale, were at times comparable with some of the worst acts of the Germans. I have always believed that in any community, if one seeks for them, one will find the thugs, the rogues and the murderers to put in charge of a force such as the Gestapo or the Sichereitsdienst, people who would be prepared todo exactly the same things as were done by the inhuman beasts who were members of those organizations.
I should like to make some comments, based largely on personal reminiscence, which have some bearing on this subject from the point of view of practical experience. Article 86 of the third schedule provides -
No prisoner of war may be punished more than once for the same act or on the same charge.
I committed one minor offence within the first ten days of my period as a guest of the Germans, and on no less than fourteen occasions afterI had done my first week in gaol for that offence I served an extra week for the same offence - that of tearing the badge of rank from a German Sonderfuhrer’s cap. I had taken the badge because I wanted it for escape purposes. I served a sentence of a week for that offence fifteen times in a period of four and a half years. When I committed a subsequent offence, an extra week was tacked on to the sentence for having taken the badge of rank from the Sonderfuhrer’s cap. Article 90 of the third schedule says -
The duration of any single punishment shall in no case exceed 30 days.
There was a very simple way of getting around that provision. Suppose a prisoner, for one reason or another, was given a punishment of 30 days. At the end of that time he would be a little tired of solitary confinement, but he might be told, “ You are no longer under arrest, and normally you could now leave. Your period of arrest is finished, but we have decided, for your own good, to keep you in custody “. He would stay there for another two months.
All these things were done completely outside the provisions of the conventions. I mention them merely to point out that there are ways and means of getting around the conventions. I remind honorable members that for quite a long time these Geneva conventions, or those in force at that time, were virtually the only rules of war available for the protection of many thousands of people.
Before I get on to the final point thatI wish to make I should like to refer to one of the greatest loopholes thatI find in the fourth schedule to this bill. I refer to Article 5 of the convention relative to the protection of civilian persons. That article provides -
Where, in the territory of a party to the conflict, the latter is satisfied that an individual protected person is definitely suspected of or engaged in activities hostile to the security of the State, such individual person shall not be entitled to claim such rights and privileges under the present Convention as would, if exercised in the favour of such individual person, be prejudicial to the security of such State.
That leaves the whole of the fourth schedule wide open because any government that wants to do so can say, “ This man “ or “ This woman “ or “ This child is strongly suspected by us of behaviour prejudicial to the safety of this State “, and this convention does not mean a thing. Neither does this bill which provides for punishment for grave breaches of these conventions. I mention these things because I believe that the conviction in the minds of most people in the world is that when these conventions are ratified, they can basically be implemented only by the goodness of heart of the people concerned with their implementation. That is the only way in which they can be of real value.
I now refer to Article 91 of the third schedule. It provides -
The escape of a prisoner of war shall be deemed to have succeeded when:
be has joined the armed forces of the Power on which he depends, or those of an allied Power
he has left the territory under the control of the detaining Power, or of an ally of the said Power;
I want to relate that to a personal experience of my own, and also to Article 127 of the third schedule. On one occasion I spent some three and a half days on a Swedish ship - not in the most comfortable circumstances. This vessel was well outside German territorial waters or waters over which German patrols had any effect whatever. I was discovered on the ship because of the fact I was snoring - a habit in whichI have indulged in this House occasionally; apparently the incident did not cure me of it - and the captain and I had a very long argument. He claimed that he had no knowledge of the Geneva Convention. I claimed that I had a very great knowledge of it. particularly these aspects of it. But, of course, he had everything on his side; he turned his ship back and handed me over to a German patrol ship, which proceeding annoyed me very considerably.
The point I make is that if Article 127 of this Convention had been put into effect, the captain of that ship would never have been able to deny knowledge of it and, consequently, I would not have spent nearly so long in Germany as I did. That article provides -
The High Contracting Parties undertake, in time of peace as in time of war, to disseminate the text of the present Convention as widely as possible in their respective countries and, in particular, to include the study thereof in their programmes of military and, if possible, civil instruction, so that the principles thereof may become known to all their armed forces and to the entire population.
Unless that is done by every country that is a contracting party to these conventions, the conventions cannot even attempt to fulfil their real purpose. It is the knowledge of what is contained in these conventions and the fact that the various governments have subscribed to this code of conduct, that are most likely to result in having that code of conduct brought into effect. I ask, therefore, that if an occasion should arise in which it is necessary to use these conventions, the Australian Government will do its utmost to ensure that not only the military forces but also the civilian population shall know the contents of these conventions so that they can help us to keep an undertaking which we have proudly given before the world.
.- I have listened, as have all honorable members, with very great interest to the speech of the honorable member for Bowman (Mr. McColm), who gave many illustrations of the shortcomings in the earlier conventions which the conventions in the schedules to this bill do something to correct, and also illustrations of loon-holes which persist even in these conventions. I must first re-assure the honorable member concerning the unfortunate, but nevertheless amusing episode which he related, of his escape on the Swedish ship. In the case of the present conventions, the Swedish captain could not plead ignorance, because Sweden acceded to these conventions or, it may be, ratified them early in 1954. There is, however, a continuing loop-hole in the fact that Sweden is not likely to be an ally of either a detaining power or the power to whose forces the prisoner belonged, since Sweden has been successful, since 1 ROS. in escaping all war-like participation. I be lieve, however, that the cost of avoiding participation has been almost as great as that of active participation.
This bill represents a milestone in the history of humanity and in the history of international law. It represents, also, quite a milestone in the history of our own internal law. Honorable members will notice, in clause 7 of the bill, that an offender can be punished under Australian law. whether the offence for which he is being punished or tried was committed in Australia or elsewhere. That is provided in sub-clause (1.). In sub-clause (3.) of clause 7 it appears, also, that a person can be punished or tried for an offence, regardless of his nationality or citizenship. Tt is quite a remarkable extension of the powers which Australian courts assume for them to try persons for offences which may be committed outside this country, even if they are not British subjects or Australian citizens.
The other legal novelty in this legislation is the quite wide terminology used in the schedule. One hopes that this will never have to be interpreted by our courts. But, if so, there will certainly be problems in interpreting these conventions which have not been met in interpreting Australian acts of parliament or even Australian regulations. These last are very often less terse but more turgid than our acts. But the language of these conventions has that blissful, airy, vague quality which attaches to treaties and declarations of human rights. It is quite unlike our statutory language.
I now wish to turn to the delay in implementing these conventions, and the necessity for speeding up the conclusion of conventions which will deal with further problems which have since occurred. The question of delay is quite embarrassing to this country. These conventions were drawn up in a preliminary form at the seventeenth conference of the International Red Cross Committee, held in Stockholm in 1948. They were reduced to their present form at a diplomatic conference in August, 1949, which was attended by representatives of 59 countries and observers of four others. Here, after another eight years, we are only now taking the steps to ratify the conventions. It may be that the Government will ratify them with certain reservations. We have not yet been told; but it would be open for it to do so.
Another source of embarrassment is this: Last month, Australia was one of the countries which attended the nineteenth conference of the International Red Cross Committee, which was the second conference after the one at which these conventions were drawn up. This time, it was in New Delhi and Australia was one of the very few countries attending that conference which had not ratified the conventions which had flowed from the conference, two removed. The last figures that I have been able to find are from a Red Cross publication for August last. At that time, 66 powers had ratified these conventions or acceded to them. I think that sixteen or eighteen had acceded to them and the rest had ratified them, being original signatories of the conventions in 1949 or early 1950. Australia is one of the last countries to ratify these conventions.
I believe that it is a reproach to us as one of the countries which carry on the common law tradition that we have been so laggard in extending this very necessary field of jurisprudence, which is as much a necessity in the interests of humanity as is any other form of jurisprudence. It is just as much a necessity because it is invoked in times of crisis and affects so very many people. The common law system does not start out with the assumption of being a universal code as do some of the European codes, flowing from Roman law. But, particularly in the last two centuries when England and now America have been so very prominent in commercial and, later, in diplomatic activity, it has been all the more essential that the countries of the common law tradition should effectively participate in the conclusion of such international conventions and that they should promptly ratify them. We must not lose the very fine lead and prestige which we have established in the administration of the common law.
There are two great matters upon which the English-speaking world can pride itself. The first is the parliamentary system of government, and the second is the just administration of laws passed by the Parliaments. The same principle should surely apply to the effectuation of conventions of international laws. Here, instead of taking the lead, we are trailing the field. I think it can be said that Australia, particularly in the years immediately after the last war, played an admirable part in trying to conclude international agreements. I think that the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey) has glossed over this subject. He has given no explanation of why we must be the sixty-seventh - or later - power to approve these conventions.
– They were involved in Korea.
– Yes. As the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) reminds me, we were in the embarrassing position in Korea, as indeed the United States of America and the United Kingdom also were, of having to make an interim declaration that we regarded these conventions as applying to ourselves and our forces. One would have thought that after our experience in Korea it was necessary to get a move on. But still we took no steps, and, as I shall presently mention, problems arose in Korea which we have since taken no steps to solve.
Korea is just the latest of the international conflicts which have set in train these various conventions. The first convention flowed, as the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) showed, from the humanitarian agitation after the battle of Solferino, nearly 100 years ago. The first Geneva convention, dealing with the amelioration of conditions of the sick and wounded of armed forces in the field, was concluded on 22nd August, 1864. It was amended in 1906 and again, after the experience of the first world war, in 1929.
The first schedule to this bill sets out further amendments drafted in the light of the experience of the second world war.
The second convention flows from the first Hague conference in 1899, which adapted to maritime warfare conditions the first Geneva Convention - the one in the first schedule. The second convention was amended in 1906 at the same time as the first one. It became known as the Tenth Hague Convention and is now amended, for the first time, by the second schedule. The idea of the prisoner-of-war convention, which is amended in the third schedule, first took legislative form in 1929.
The fourth schedule sets out a completely new convention. It is unfortunately true that every time we have a war we have to contrive conventions to cover new circumstances. In the last war we found that there were armed forces of a new kind, such as the Maquis and the partisans, and there was an embroilment of civilian population to an extent never previously dreamed of or feared. New circumstances are continually arising. Let me refer to one which flows from the position in Korea. The third convention, dealing with the repatriation of prisoners of war states in Article 118 -
Prisoners of war shall be released and repatriated without delay after the cessation of active hostilities.
We know that, after active hostilities in the Korean war had ceased, there was a very long delay in repatriating some prisoners of war and that some of them were never repatriated at all. I refer, in particular, to prisoners of war taken by the United Nations forces from the forces of mainland China and the Republic of North Korea. It was claimed by the powers to which those forces belonged, China and North Korea, that their forces were being seduced from their allegiance and deterred from returning to their country. It was claimed by United Nations forces that the prisoners did not want to go back to their own countries and wanted to stay in South Korea or to be sent to other countries of asylum.
I do not presume to deal with the rights and wrongs of a question which was the cause of a good deal of bad feeling for some years. But it is not an easy problem to solve under this third convention. For instance, Article 7 says -
Prisoners of war may in no circumstances renounce in part or in entirety the rights secured to them by the present Convention.
That is to say that even if a prisoner of war said that he did not want to go back to his country of enlistment, yet, under Article 118, he still has to be repatriated without delay, and under Article 7 he cannot renounce his rights under this convention. It may be said that it would be a very great hardship if he could not renounce those obligations, because he might be repatriated to a condition of tyranny. I do not suggest that this happened in Korea, but it is easy to imagine conditions where prisoners of war could be coerced or seduced in some way by the detaining power to claim that they did not want to return to their countries of origin, and they could thus be deprived of the protection which Article 7 can extend.
This position is covered to some extent during hostilities by Article 109, which says -
No sick or injured prisoner of war who is eligible for repatriation may be repatriated against his will during hostilities.
The fact that the Article says “ against his will during hostilities “ might be thought to exclude the position after the cessation of active hostilities, to use the phrase in Article 118. Reading those Articles together, it may be necessary to repatriate a man against his will once active hostilities have ceased, even though he is sick or injured.
I mention these problems not in any way to exacerbate or revive the feelings of that time, nor to pass judgment on them, but to point out a position which has already occurred since these Conventions were signed. It is a position which might readily occur in the circumstances of localized war, which many people think is the only likely type of future war. It is very likely that total war between the great powers on their own territory with their ultimate weapons is now out of the question, but there may be some peripheral wars with limited weapons, as in Korea. It has happened, and it may lamentably happen again. Two International Red Cross committee meetings have passed, and the issue has not been settled. Another meeting will bie held three or four years from now. I would hope that Australia, as one of the countries with the smallest axe to grind in this sort of dispute, might initiate some such consideration. In the interests of international law and enduring humanity, it is a subject well worthy of our attention.
I should like to refer to some of the other circumstances which are probably not covered by any of these conventions. Here, again, I want to speak as dispassionately as possible. I do not want to pass judgment on any of these matters. In the last ten years there have been hostilities, the use of weapons, and the shedding of blood in many parts of the world, and not least in our own area in circumstances where probably none of these conventions applied. At this very moment, hostilities on a very considerable scale are taking place in Algeria. I think some figures suggest that the number of Arabs who have lost their lives in Algeria in the last three years is between 30,000 and 40,000, and the number of French who have been killed is between 3,000 and 4,000. Within the last year there has been considerable loss of life, amounting to several thousands, in Suez and Hungary, and amounting to many hundreds in Cyprus. A little earlier, there was considerable loss of life in Kenya. In our own area, only eight to ten years ago, there was considerable loss of life in the strife between the Dutch and the Indonesians. There was greater loss of life in Java in the late 1940’s in hostilities between the Dutch and the Indonesians than in the early 1940’s between the Japanese on one side and the Dutch and Indonesians on the other. Slightly further north, there were protracted and cruel hostilities in Indo-China.
I think it is very doubtful whether any of these four conventions apply to the circumstances surrounding the hostilities that occurred in any of those colonies that I have mentioned. There, again, I would say that Australia, as one of the countries which is not directly involved, but which is quite close to some of the participants in those areas of conflict, could initiate measures for seeing that there are international conventions to cover these situations.
The great virtue of these particular conventions is that under them we assume responsibilities unilaterally. We do not extend the benefits of these conventions merely to the citizens of the belligerents and countries which have also assumed those responsibilities. The honorable member for Bowman (Mr. McColm) pointed out the difference in the treatment meted out by the Germans in World War II. to countries that were signatories to the Geneva and Hague Conventions, like the British, and to those countries that were not signatories to the conventions, such as Soviet Russia, and to those other countries that were not covered in the particular circumstances by the conventions, for instance, the forces of Italy which preserved loyalty to the King as distinct from those which transferred their loyalty to Mussolini’s social republic in the north. Under these conventions, all the signatories have expressed and assumed for themselves a humane and legal responsibility towards all persons who may come within the circumstances of the conventions, even if the powers to which those persons belong have not assumed similar responsibilities, and even if those powers have made reservations. Australia, until this stage, has not made any such reservations. I hope that we will not. Up to last August, about eighteen of the 66 countries which had ratified these four conventions had done so with reservations. I hope that when this bill is passed, which all honorable members applaud as far as it goes, that we shall not then belatedly ratify with reservations.
This bill is a good bill, but I believe that the Minister should explain two matters. Why have we been so long in ratifying these conventions? Why have we trailed the field? Why have we in this field, which is free of any federal alibis, had the same grim record as we have had in respect of the International Labour Organization conventions where, as appears from a question which was answered for me on the 30th October last year, there had been 95 conventions adopted up to that stage, and 86 of them had not been ratified by Australia. I know that in that case we have the federal excuse in many instances. But there, as here, we went through the formula of participating in the drawing up of a convention and of signing a convention, and then did nothing to ratify it, or took too long to ratify it.
The other point upon which I think the Minister should enlighten honorable members is this: Does Australia propose, after the passage of this bill, to ratify these conventions with any reservations? If so, what will the reservations be?
.- The measure now before the House is very important, and I believe, as the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam) said, it represents a milestone not only in the history of this country, but also in the history of international law. It touches fundamental concepts of humanitarian motives, and has a close relationship with what the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) described as the common law or, as I may call it, the law of nature. The ratification of these conventions by this Parliament postulates that in time of war or in time of crisis, Australia will behave in accordance with certain standards; certain proprieties will be observed; certain things will be done, and certain things will not be done. In a very real sense the four conventions now before the House are a projection of what I regard as the law of nature.
Far be it from me to presume to give to the House a philosophical treatise upon the law of nature, but I think it would be of advantage to us all to remind ourselves of what is involved in the law of nature. I shall refer briefly to an individual who is regarded as the father of modern international law, and allude to several of the problems instanced by the honorable member for Werriwa. The person to whom I refer is Hugo de Groot, or Grotius, who, in his celebrated work entitled “ De jure belli “, written in the sixteenth century, stated -
It is so far from being right to admit, as some imagine, that in war all rights cease, that war ought never to be undertaken except to obtain a right; nor, when undertaken, ought it to be carried on except within the bounds of right and good faith . . . Between enemies those laws which nature dictates or the consent of nations institutes are binding.
I turn now to another great figure in the various spheres of jurisprudence, Sir Henry Maine, who, in dealing with one or two aspects of international law, said -
States, or bodies politic, are to be considered as moral persons, having a public will, capable and free to do right and wrong inasmuch as they are collections of individuals, each of whom carries with him into the service of the community the same binding law of morality and religion which ought to control his conduct in private life. The Law of Nations is a complex system, composed of various ingredients. It consists of general principles of right and justice, equally suitable to the government of individuals in a state of natural equality, and to the relations and conduct of nations; of a collection of usages, customs, and opinions, the growth of civilisation and commerce; and of a code of positive law.
In the absence of these latter regulations, the intercourse and conduct of nations are to be governed by principles fairly to be deduced from the rights and duties of nations, and the nature of moral obligation; and we have the authority of the lawyers of antiquity, and of some of the first masters in the modern school of public law, for placing the moral obligation of nations and of individuals on similar grounds, and for considering individual and national morality as parts of one and the same science. The Law of Nations, so far as it is founded on the principles of Natural Law, is equally binding in every age and upon all mankind.
I do not think any honorable member would gainsay the fact that the application of the sentiments and principles propounded in these Geneva Conventions can only be maintained according to the sense of fitness of the particular nation concerned. In other words, there is no sanctioning authority which can say to Australia, the United Kingdom, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, China, Chile or any other country, “ You must conform to these principles; you must observe these conventions or some form of retribution will be applied “. The only sanctioning authority, or the only motivating force in the application of the principles enunciated in these conventions, is what I may describe as the inbuilt morality of the various nations. If Australia in time of conflict wished to break some particular convention the prevailing authority of the day would have to decide - I am referring to it as a corporate body - whether it was discharging what Hugo Grotius and Sir Henry Maine, first, identified and, secondly, projected as the law of nature, a fundamental law that possibly escapes precise definition but which is, nevertheless, known to exist and, from the days of the Romans, has been respected by nations claiming respectability and moral responsibility. By the same token it would be completely idle for the House to let pass unnoticed the fact that the definition of war in itself, first, challenges, and secondly, defies the imagination.
The honorable member for Werriwa referred to Korea. To the best of my knowledge there was no formal declaration of war in Korea. No nation deposited with the ambassador of any of the combatant nations any document to indicate that a state of war existed.
– These conventions do not require a declaration of war.
– I realize that. Article 2 in the First Schedule states -
In addition to the provisions which shall be implemented in peacetime, the present Convention shall apply lo ail cases of declared war. . .
Have not the forms of warfare changed? Have we not witnessed in the course of the last five or ten years - indeed since these conventions were drawn up - various forms of warfare which, related to the old archaic concept of war, were not in fact war? That may seem rather paradoxical; but I instance Korea and the conquest by the Soviet Union of many countries - Latvia, Lithuania, Hungary, Rumania, Bulgaria, Albania and so on. In those cases no formal declaration of war was made but the effects were quite comparable with those of a formal declaration of war. I should imagine that in continental China more people lost their lives during the installation of the present regime than during World Wai I. I know that opinion is open to contest, but it is supported in the following terms by Sir Henry Maine, who cited a manual prepared by Lord Thring in an endeavour to define war -
War is armed contest between independent nations and can only be made by the sovereign power of the State.
Would any honorable member pursue the argument that that definition of war by Lord Thring is acceptable to-day? I do not think it is. To-day, we see various forms of armed conflict. We hear assertions in a vigorous and ruthless fashion by various forms of authority that have the same effect as a formal declaration of war but which are not in accordance with the old concepts of war. We have, for example, the various manifestations of the cold war. We have the various forms and manifestations of psycho-politics. We have the attack on the mind. We have seen the creation of a situation in the world to-day in which many millions of people have become the victims of uprisings and the victims of the minds of dictators and demagogues. Yet those situations do not fall clearly and implicitly within the terms of the four conventions which we are considering this afternoon. That prompts me to suggest that there is a clear need for a fifth convention. The honorable member for Werriwa suggested this afternoon that the scope of these conventions should be enlarged to provide for people such as I have mentioned.
Let me turn briefly to one or two of the articles of the conventions. Article 13 of the convention contained in the Third Schedule provides -
Prisoners of war must at all times be humanely treated. Any unlawful act or omission by the Detaining Power causing death or seriously endangering the health of a prisoner of war in its custody is prohibited, and will be regarded as a serious breach of the present Convention.
I submit that that article has already been outraged by a number of the signatory parties to the agreement at Geneva. Article 34, which I should imagine would raise a loud and long laugh in various parts of the world, provides -
Prisoners cf war shall enjoy complete latitude in the exercise of their religious duties, including attendance at the service of their faith, on condition that they comply with the disciplinary routine prescribed by the military authorities.
Some months ago I referred in this House to an excellent book written by a young evangelical missionary in China, Geoffrey Bull, called “ When Iron Gates Yield “. I asked my friend, the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen), who was then to lead a delegation from Her Majesty’s Opposition to China, to seek from the Chinese authorities an answer to the questions raised by this book, and I hope the honorable member will be disposed to give an answer now. I found it a provocative book.
– In the debate on international affairs on Thursday, not to-day.
– This is quite germane to the issue. The article I have cited declares that prisoners of war shall be at liberty to exercise their religious faith and duties in their own way; and this young man was as much a prisoner of war as was the honorable and gallant member for Bowman (Mr. McColm), who spoke earlier to-day. I turn now to Article 99, which provides -
No prisoner of war may be tried or sentenced for an act which is not forbidden by the law of the Detaining Power or by international law, in force at the time the said act was committed.
No moral or physical coercion may be exerted on a prisoner of war in order to induce him toadmit himself guilty of the act of which he is. accused.
I pause to refer now to Articles 25, 26 and 29 of the “ Regulations Enacted in the People’s Republic of China Governing Reform through Labour “. Here again I want to ask my friend, the honorable member for Parkes, for an answer from the Chinese authorities, and I remind the House that China was a signatory to the Geneva conventions. Article 25 of the regulations I have just mentioned provides -
Reform through labour shall be co-ordinated with political and ideological education in order that compulsory labour may gradually become voluntary labour, thereby converting the prisoners and enabling them to become new persons.
Article 26 reads -
By the continuous and systematic use of such methods as collective instruction, private conversations, study documents and organised discussion, the prisoners shall be trained to confess their guilt . . .
I ask the House to contrast that regulation with Article 99 of the Geneva convention, which sets out that no moral or physical coercion shall be exercised on a prisoner of war to induce him to confess himself guilty. In China, apparently, prisoners are being trained to confess their guilt. The regulations which I am now citing are contained in a report prepared by the Director-General of the International Labour Office and the SecretaryGeneral of the United Nations - a report which, I believe, takes a little laughing off, as it were. Article 29 of the regulations governing reform through labour in China reads -
In order to facilitate examination of the reform of the prisoners, a file and index card system shall be maintained by specially appointed personnel to record from time to time particulars regarding the prisoners’ discipline and achievements in labour and learning as a basis for periodic reviews.
For the final contrast, to illustrate the fact that these Geneva conventions have been outraged already by the signatory parties, I turn to paragraph (5) of Article 38 of the convention contained in the fourth schedule to the bill. This paragraph reads -
Children under fifteen years, pregnant women and mothers of children under seven years shall benefit by any preferential treatment to the same extent as the nationals of the State concerned.
I invite the House to consider the testimony of a young Albanian woman which is contained in an affidavit referred to in the report of the Secretary-General of the United Nations and the Director-General of the International Labour Office. The report of these gentlemen contains the following statement: -
Another account on conditions at the Tepelene camp was given by Mrs. Gjyshte Ndoci, a young Albanian woman who escaped to Yugoslavia at the end of 1952. According to Mrs. Ndoci, she and her three children - -Zef, 9 years old, Dede 6 and Lule 5 - were arrested after her husband deserted from the army. Despite the fact that she was pregnant, the police treated her brutally at the Sigurimi (state security) offices at Koplik village; later she and her children were taken to the Tepelene concentration camp. At the camp she and her children were confined in a large, filthy barrack where many inmates were suffering from various diseases. She was forced to work notwithstanding her physical condition.
After three months she gave birth to a boy in a hut next to the barrack and almost in full view of other inmates. Her baby died after six months because of malnutrition and diseases. Three days after her baby’s death, she and her three children were ordered to proceed on foot to another camp. . . On the way her son Dede died and she herself had to dig the grave for him by the wayside, while the police accompanying her insulted her. Four days after she arrived at the new camp her oldest son, Zef, died, also from malnutrition and diseases.
This happened in Albania, and Albania was a signatory to the Geneva conventions. For my part I want to make it quite plain - I hope this is the attitude of all honorable members - that I believe that morality cannot simply be embraced for convenience. If it is good enough for the Albanian delegation to attend the Geneva conference in 1949, to utter all sorts of pious expressions and to sign a document which many of us believe is the crystallization of basic humanitarian concepts and motives, then it is good enough for Albania to observe the terms of such document. Yet within three years we find that this young woman with her three children has been treated in a shabby and monstrous fashion.
China was a signatory to the conventions in 1949. Some months ago I made the charge - and I repeat it now - that in China to-day there are 25,000,000 people who are living in slave camps. To my mind, they are just as much victims of war as were the people of the 1914-18 and 1939-45 wars. I hear the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) say “Rubbish”. I challenge the honorable gentleman to say, in effect, that the Secretary-General of the United Nations and the Director-General of the International Labour Office are either liars or charlatans. I ask the honorable gentleman, who poses in this House as the pretender to the portfolio of External Affairs in any future Labour government, to deny what those two gentlemen have said.
This is an important measure, and I know that, as far as it goes, it will be warmly applauded by every member of this National Parliament. Nevertheless, it is a measure that must provoke every thinking person to consider whether or not the nations that have already signed the conventions are fulfilling, either in the spirit or in the letter, the various principles that are enshrined in them. This is no stage in the world’s history for international morality to be embraced by convenience. Either we believe in these provisions and see to it that they are protected and ‘upheld constantly and without scruple, or we turn our backs on the whole affair and say, “ This is a sham, and we have been partners in making it”.
.- The honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Killen) appeared to be asking for authority, which does not exist, to punish those who violate the agreement. The truth is that, in the punishment of violators of this agreement, there is no international law. We have tried to pretend that trials such as the Nuremburg trials were functions of law, whereas in point of fact they were functions of victory. The Japanese Government which, during the war, violated all these conventions in its treatment of prisoners of war, had many of its members brought to trial and executed. That is why I do not agree that we can visit on the present Japanese Prime Minister continuing guilt for which a former Japanese government was punished. But it was punished only because it was defeated.
It is a statistical fact that the death rate of prisoners of war in the hands of the Chinese in the Korean War was the highest in recorded history, but the Government of China was not punished because it was not defeated. Equally, the evidence is overwhelming that Stalin and Beria were responsible for the death of many thousands of Polish officers in the Katyn Wood, but, nevertheless, merely because they were victorious, their government tried members of the German Government for similar violations of international law. That suggests that, if the honorable member for Moreton wants anybody to be punished, the prerequisite of that punishment must be not law but victory. I think it is a fundamental misunderstanding of these conventions if we regard them as being anything other than binding upon ourselves. If we bind ourselves to this standard of conduct, and if we do not perpetrate cruelties, we protect ourselves from demoralization. We also protect ourselves, to a considerable degree, from continuing hatreds.
It has been said that the grass grows over a battle-field but never over a scaffold. I am disturbed by the fact that Great
Britain, the United States, Canada and the Netherlands have published a reservation against Article 68 of the Fourth Schedule. This schedule is entirely new. It is not an amendment by any previous Geneva Convention. It deals with the treatment of civilians in occupied countries, and was promulgated for the first time in 1949. If honorable members look at Article 68 they will see that there are complete safeguards giving the occupying power the right to execute civilians for actions against its armed forces, and so on. But the second paragraph of that article, against which Great Britain, Canada, the United States and the Netherlands have published reservations, says this -
The penal provisions promulgated by the Occupying Power in accordance with Articles 64 and 65 may impose the death penalty on a protected person only in cases where the person is guilty of espionage, of serious acts of sabotage against the military installations of the Occupying Power or of intentional offences which have caused the death of one or more persons, provided that such offences were punishable by death under the law of the occupied territory in force before the occupation began.
The death penalty may not be pronounced against a protected person unless the attention of the court has been particularly called to the fact that since the accused is not a national of the Occupying Power, he is not bound to it by any duty of allegiance.
I submit that, if we are to remain rational in circumstances where we are occupying somebody else’s country, we cannot act on the assumption that trials which result in people being put to death in the atmosphere of war are not sufficiently safeguarded already by those provisions of Article 68, which we do accept. I may have misunderstood the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey), but I gathered that the right honorable gentleman said that Australia also was going to participate in that reservation. If that is so, I oppose the reservation. I think that this is another case in which we will destroy our own moral authority. The Soviet Union has published a reservation against Article 85, which reservation deals with war criminals. That is characteristic. As the Chinese applied this provision in the Korean war, it meant that, in the last resort, they regarded any belligerent who was in the territory of Korea - where, from their point of view, he had no right to be - as, in essence, a war criminal and, except for their lenient policy, so-called, liable to be shot out of hand. If we are to join in a reservation about occupying other countries and putting their subjects to death, we shall under-cut our right to object to the kind of reservation which the Soviet Union is advancing.
An American writer on this subject, after an exhaustive and exhausting analysis, and having read through the whole of the history of this matter, came back to the simple point which, I think, was implicit in all that the honorable member for Bowman (Mr. McColm) said - that we do not bind ourselves by moral sanctions. This is his conclusion -
The answer is that if, in our almost two millenia of Western Christendom, anything remains worth saving from the brutish materialism of Karl Marx, it is surely typified by the quaint, 19th century kindliness of the gentle Swiss.
He made the points, first, that man is more worthy of respect than those governments which, in his folly, he creates, and secondly, that man, even in defeat and humiliation, has a dignity which should be inviolate.
We are revising the convention which adapts the principles of naval warfare to the principles of the Geneva Convention in 1907. A revolution took place in naval warfare with the invention of the submarine, a naval vessel which destroys ships in circumstances in which arrangements cannot possibly be made for the safety of their crews and passengers. Grand Admiral Karl Doenitz was put on trial because of this. Admiral Gallery, of the United States Navy, in his book “ I Captured a German Submarine “, deals with the trial of Doenitz and points out that every American submarine authority, when questioned, had to say that the submarines of the United States Navy conducted their actions against Japanese merchant ships, with wolf-pack attacks and in circumstances in which they could not arrange for the safety of the crews, in exactly the same way as Grand Admiral Doenitz had done. Doenitz’s trial was another instance of a trial that was really a function, not of international law but of victory.
We are also renewing and altering the Geneva Convention for the Amelioration of the Condition of the Wounded and Sick in Armed Forces in the Field. This is a revision of the 1929 convention. We are dealing, also, with a revision of the prisoner of war convention of 1929, and with an entirely new convention for the protection of civilian persons in occupied countries. A comparison of the Third Schedule, dealing with prisoners of war, with the former Geneva Convention shows a drastic revision. The safeguards for prisoners of war have been enormously strengthened. The utterly uncivilized treatment of prisoners of war in Japanese hands in Malaya, in German hands in Poland, in Chinese hands in Korea, and particularly of Poles in Russian hands, provided the experience that lies at the root of these changes.
Before passing to an analysis of some of the provisions of the new prisoner of war convention, I want to make brief reference to a provision of the old convention, under which belligerents undertook to permit investigation of their treatment of prisoners of war by an impartial neutral protecting power. The honorable member for Bowman had something to say about the difficulties that the representative of the protecting power underwent, but wherever this simple safeguard has been flouted, the results have been utterly evil. Japan permitted no investigation by a protecting power, with the result that there were starvation, torture, death marches, and violation of every provision of the Geneva Convention.
– Allowing a representative of a protecting power to enter a country is one thing. What he sees is another matter.
– Yes. Red China did not permit investigation by a protecting power in Korea. The result was that the death rate among prisoners of war was the highest in history, and there were death marches, tortures to extract confessions, denial of all forms of rights, mass starvation, assertions that the International Red Cross would not be allowed to investigate because it was bourgeois, and discrimination against prisoners on the ground of rank, wealth, religion, politics, and race. Russia would not permit investigation by a protecting power of the treatment of 200,000 Polish troops, and a greater number of civilians taken prisoner, when Stalin and Molotov, in collusion with Hitler, attacked Poland in 1939. When the United States Congress appointed a select committee to investigate the murder of 4.000 Polish officers in Katyn Forest, and the committee came, by the weight of overwhelming evidence, to the conclusion that this was a mass murder on the orders of Stalin and Beria, the Russian Embassy in Washington protested. Subsequently, Khrushchev accused Stalin and Beria of much greater crimes.
My point is that if the Russians had obeyed the convention, and appointed a protecting power to investigate, responsibility for the death of the Polish officers would have been clear. The fact that no protecting power was appointed and permitted to investigate led, as usual, to murder and starvation. I invite the attention of the House to photographs of Poles released from Russian detention, taken when the Polish generals Sikorski and Anders were given the right to recruit a Polish army from among the pathetic survivors of Polish prisoners of war in Russia. Those photographs show living skeletons similar to those that emerged from the hands of other countries that violated the convention.
I invite the attention of the House to Article 3 of the Third Schedule. Here we have many new provisions. The article provides that persons taken prisoner are to “ be treated humanely, without any adverse distinction founded on race “ - we recall how Jews were discriminated against in prison camps - “ colour, religion or faith, sex, birth or wealth, or any other similar criteria”. The Polish officers killed in Katyn Forest, in the main, belonged to the Polish aristocracy, and the Polish professional classes. When Molotov and Ribbentrop, before World War II., signed the agreement that partitioned Poland, the Soviet attitude to partitioned Poland was exactly the same as its attitude to Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia - that is to say, when Russia attacked Poland, the Polish state ceased to exist, and became part of the Soviet Union. It was revived as an ally of the West in 1941, after Germany had attacked Russia. But up to that point, eastern Poland was incorporated in the Soviet. Therefore, in the eyes of the Russians, the Polish officers had become Russian subjects. They were, from the stand-point of the Russians, aristocratic, or bourgeois, and therefore they were disposed of in exactly the same way as Russian aristocrats had been disposed of in 1917.
That is the kind of reasoning that this new convention sets out to destroy. It regards people as still having belligerent rights, and still being separate, even if their country has been occupied. It provides that there shall be no discrimination against persons on the ground of their birth, wealth, or politics, and this is an entirely new provision. For anybody who believes that what Christ taught was a revelation of the mind of God, there is no moral distinction between murdering a man because one disagrees with his politics, or his social origin, and murdering an old woman because one wants her purse. It is tragic the extent to which we accept the jargon of the class war and regard it as somehow justified, if in this kind of warfare utterly inhumane things are done. That is why I think the point that this convention is, after all, an attempt to assert that the principles of humanity are much more important than any government, or system of society, is important.
Article 4, in the Third Schedule, also amends the previous convention by covering partisans - people who still resist, even if they are not actually in uniform, and who maintain some clearly visible distinctive sign that gives them the protection of the rights of belligerents. It provides, also, for members of crews, including masters, pilots and apprentices, of the merchant marine. They are to be similarly protected. Article 8, in the Third Schedule, also, is worthy of attention. It states -
The present Convention shall be applied with the cooperation and under the scrutiny of the Protecting Powers whose duty it is to safeguard the interest of the Parties to the conflict. For this purpose, the protecting powers may appoint various agents to investigate.
The article continues -
The Parties to the conflict shall facilitate to the greatest extent possible the task of the representatives or delegates of the Protecting Powers.
In the initial stages of the conflict between Germany and Russia, the German authorities attempted to have the convention operate as between the two countries. It was a personal idiosyncracy of Stalin, who had an obsession against the International Red Cross, and the idea of any protecting power investigating anything, to deny this. When the Russians refused it, the Germans considered themselves free to treat the Russian prisoners of war in their hands entirely differently from the way in which they treated British prisoners, because, between Germany and the United Kingdom, there was an agreement that gave the Germans the right to have a protecting power investigate the treatment of German prisoners of war in British camps, and to ascertain, to the satisfaction of the Germans, that the German prisoners were safe. The important point is that, in ratifying this new convention, we bind ourselves to treat people humanely, regardless of whether any other government treats our own nationals humanely. That is most important. It is a healthy sign to any one who tries to advance the cause of civilization. There was no merit in the mutual chaining of prisoners, and similar competitive breaking down of standards, which took place at one stage during World War II. I am glad that the Government, in ratifying this convention, has not made any reservation on that point that it will apply the terms of the convention only if other countries apply them to Australians.
You are, however, up against a new psychological factor. It is no use treating a nation as being the same thing at different points of time. I think it was G. K. Chesterton who once said that it was more important for a landlady to know her tenant’s philosophy than it was for her to know his income. I am perfectly certain that it is more important to know the philosophy of a government and a community at any given time than almost anything else. The Germany of the Weimar Republic would not have been capable of doing the things that were done by the Third Reich. Nor do I believe that contempory West Germany would do the things that were done by the Third Reich. Similarly, Japan in 1904 observed the treaties in her treatment of Russian prisoners of war of the Russo-Japanese War. But by 1940 Japan was in the grip of a philosophy which had destroyed such humane considerations. In our own official history of the war, in the volume just out and titled “ The Japanese Thrust “, there is quoted at page 562, a report by Brigadier McEacharn, which reads -
During 1942-1943 the Japanese claimed to know nothing either of the Hague or the Geneva Conventions. Those who admitted some knowledge of International Law and these conventions expressed what can be taken as the Japanese Army attitude that a signature to the Hague Convention by Japan was binding only on the Government and not on the Army.
They took the view that it was dishonorable to be taken prisoner and that, therefore, prisoners of war had no right or status and were slaves of the Emperor for life. We must be punished for fighting against Japan and made to correct our anti-Japanese ideas . . .
The Japanese had an Emperor divinity, and resistance to him became not merely something as between two nations - and superior to those nations were certain binding principles of humanity - but a resistance to a divinity. That is the kind of idea that leads to inhumanity. Real respect for the conventions rests on the philosophy which regards human rights as more important than any government, and when you are up against divine Emperors or perfect scientific revelations of Karl Marx there is a tendency to believe that opposition is a crime which deprives the prisoner of war of the right to be regarded as human. The British White Paper on the treatment of British prisoners of war in Korea, published by Her Majesty’s Stationery Office makes the following statement: -
The Chinese also claimed from time to time that they were abiding by the provisions of the convention. On the other hand they represented their own “ lenient policy “ described in previous chapters, as much superior to the Prisoners of War Convention. The convention was “ a product of bourgeois capitalist States “ (though, in fact, the Soviet Union and some of the satellite States helped to draw it up and have subsequently ratified it) and “ contradicts their actions “. The Chinese, prisoners were told, do not hold under Communist leadership “ with any oppression of common peoples”. Prisoners of war were common people who had been duped by their reactionary governments. Those who did not recognize the “ truth “ of this assertion and argued that they were entitled to the provisions of the convention were sharply told that they were “ war criminals “ and entitled to nothing - except shooting. For referring to the convention men were struck, threatened and made to stand to attention for long periods. While they were being so treated they had to listen to accusations of American aggression, American atrocities, and of American contravention of the very convention to which the prisoners were not allowed to appeal or refer. With the negotiations for an armistice a new situation developed in which it suited Chinese policy to play up the Prisoner of War convention and to call for its formal acceptance by the United Nations. This propaganda campaign was occasioned by the question of the voluntary repatriation of prisoners, which was proving a major stumbling block to the negotiations. It moved the Chinese to repeat their pretension to have been observing the principles of the convention, but it also forced them to expose what lay behind that pretension. It was the Chinese Prime Minister, Chou-En-lai, who on July 13, 1953, stated publicly that although his Government recognized the convention, it made a number of exceptions. One of these was to the effect that “ prisoners of war who have been convicted as war criminals shall not be entitled to the benefits of the convention “.
It must be explained that reservations in similar terms had been made by the Soviet Union and other Communist Governments which signed the convention. But the Chinese in Korea, by simply maintaining that all soldiers fighting for their “ bourgeois “ or “ imperialist “ opponents were, ipso facto, “ war criminals “s succeeded to their own satisfaction in justifying their complete disregard of the convention. One prisoner was told by a Chinese interrogator that the Prisoners of War convention was fully observed by the Chinese “ but only after the prisoner had reached a stage of full repentance of his past crimes “. Fighting against the Chinese was the most heinous of these crimes.
In fact, the Chinese disregard for the convention, as demonstrated in the account already given, was both general and specific. Article 16, for instance, prohibits discrimination against prisoners of war on account of their political opinion. The Chinese theory of treatment of prisoners was based entirely on discriminating between “ progressives “ and “ reactionaries “.
Similarly, their classification of the International Red Cross was that it was merely a capitalist spy organization which used its special privileges as a cover for entering enemy-held territory for the purpose of obtaining strategic information. Now, those points do show us that you can get a government and a people which regard their philosophy as being so overwhelmingly valid that any resistance to it is wicked and does not entitle a person to be treated merely as a belligerent on one of the two disputing sides.
An important new provision is the using of the test of loss of weight as an indication that a violation has taken place of the proper treatment of prisoners of war under the Geneva Conventions. That is quite important. There is, I think, a good deal to be said about the conventions in relation to Korea, but I do not want to speak any more of that because if honorable members read “Wooden Boxes”, a book by a member of the Royal Northumberland Fusiliers, Derek Godfrey Kinn, who was taken prisoner and kept in wooden boxes for a long period of time in an attempt to break his spirit, they will find there what I would say. Also, Padre S. J. Davies, who was chaplain of the Gloucesters, in a book entitled “In Spite of Dungeons”, tells of the struggle for religious freedom in prisoner-of-war camps in Korea.
I want to conclude on the note that we are ratifying four conventions which govern the conduct of war for this country. I hope that now that we can discuss these conventions after some years’ delay, when we are not at war, we will not publish any reservation against them. We should recognize that we are discussing this matter in a saner atmosphere than we are likely to have for such a discussion in time of war; and that in war we will be under special temptations to regard our national interests as more important than the principles of humanity. The truth is that those interests never are more important than the principles of humanity, and those nations finally get the consent and the friendship of the world which make sure that their policies conform to principles of humanity. In binding ourselves to conduct we are saner now in the light of plain peace than we will be in war, and it is dangerous to enter reservations which will free us from any of these provisions in time of war.
.- It is quite pleasant to be able to debate a bill in this House without the rancours and divisions of party politics. This is one of the few bills that have come before the House during the life of this Government that have been received with approbation by both sides of the House. I agree with the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam) that it appears that the Government has taken a long time to ratify these Geneva Conventions. The conventions lay down a guide to proper and decent conduct by nations in time of war, when people’s feelings are inflamed by fear, intolerance and a high degree of antagonism. To those unfortunate enough to be taken prisoner of war, the articles of conventions such as these mean a great deal. Some fall into the hands of the enemy through their own fault, because of bad soldiering, but many do so through no fault of their own. They are then incarcerated, usually under ugly conditions. They are penalized, having done no social wrong, and, for that reason, they probably suffer more than can be understood by those who have not been prisoners of war.
AH of us who live in civilized countries realize how much we are bound by the rules of law. Consequently, when we are placed in an environment in which the justice to which we are entitled in our normal life is denied us, we suffer feelings of fear and worry. I believe a nation can be classed as civilized or otherwise according to whether or not it accepts and ratifies the conventions. Those nations which accept and fully honour the Geneva Conventions are civilized nations, while those that do not are not civilized. This latter class includes quite a number of European nations, as I shall shortly show. Article 47 of the First Schedule to the bill reads -
The High Contracting Parties undertake, in time of peace as in time of war, to disseminate the text of the present Convention as widely as possible in their respective countries, and, in particular, to include the study thereof in their programmes of military and, if possible, civil instruction, so that the principles thereof may become known to the entire population, in particular to the armed fighting forces, the medical personnel and the chaplains.
It is of no use to have these conventions unless not only the military personnel but also the civil population of a country knows the duties that the government of that country has undertaken to carry out. 1 remember having in my possession a “ Manual of Military Law “, which contained the provisions of the Geneva Convention of 1939. I discussed these provisions with Japanese in prison camps and found that their interest in them was absolutely non-existent. As the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) said, quoting the words of Brigadier McEachern, they do not regard prisoners of war as having any rights whatsoever. Because it had that outlook, I believe that the Japanese nation at that time was not civilized.
In every country, even our own, there are men who will do brutal things. It seems inevitable that this sort of person will gravitate to prisoner-of-war camps. In all such camps we find persons whose conduct does not measure up -to the standards of decent society. The English-speaking peoples, I believe, from their records over the two major wars of this century, treat prisoners reasonably and, generally speaking, in complete accordance with the conventions of the day. Can the same be said of the Russians? Russia has not ratified this agreement without reservations. Can we imagine Soviet Russia allowing delegates of a protecting power access to prison camps within its borders? Russia did not give them such access during the last war.
If these conventions are ratified, how can they be enforced? That is the big problem that faces civilized nations. Mention has been made of the Katyn Wood atrocity. The story is well known. Various Polish officers, mostly of aristocratic upbringing, were shot by the Russians, and attempts were made later to lay the blame on the Germans. Russia is one of the nations that has ratified this convention, and it is the nation with which we are trying to come to terms to prevent future wars. Those same people who ordered the destruction of the Polish officers at Katyn Wood are to-day in power in Soviet Russia. Let this be a warning to us. We should bear in mind that the nation with which we are trying to come to terms so that we may live together in peace is the nation that permitted one of the vilest atrocities of history at Katyn Wood. It is also a country in which there are many prison camps to-day.
Mention has been made of areas of limited war. The areas of limited war in which Australia may become involved are on the Asiatic continent, and it is necessary that nations in areas close to Australia, where we may be engaged in warfare, should be taught the meaning of the Geneva conventions.
Another question that we have to face is this: How can we deal with those who contravene the provisions of these conventions? As the honorable member for Fremantle says, they can be punished only after they have been defeated. In many cases in which prisoners have been badly treated no punishment can be meted out, simply because the countries concerned were not defeated. Although many war criminals of World War II. were charged and paid appropriate penalties, experience shows that under present conditions, on the whole, it is of no use trying to punish those who illtreat prisoners of war. If we are to ensure that the conventions will be followed, there must be some kind of international convention dealing with the punishment of war criminals after the war is over.
In Article 1 7 of the Third Schedule there is a paragraph that has particular reference to prisoners of war captured in Korea. It reads -
No physical or mental torture, nor any other form of coercion, may be inflicted on prisoners of war to secure from them information of any kind whatever. Prisoners of war who refuse to answer may not be threatened, insulted, or exposed to unpleasant or disadvantageous treatment of any kind.
That mental torture was practised in Korea there is no doubt. But what chance have we of ensuring that similar abuses will not occur in any future war? I remind honorable members that Korea is one of the places where war may again break out.
I believe that these conventions have failed to make adequate provisions with regard to hostages. We know that Russia took hostages during the Hungarian conflict and that hostages have been taken by various countries in war-time. The conventions provide no protection for hostages, although the subject is mentioned in Article 3 of the Third Schedule, which prohibits the taking of hostages. I believe that the conventions do not go far enough in this regard. The Japanese used the hostage system in prison camps to maintain order and to prevent escapes. Every person in a camp was held responsible for the escape of another person. This is an uncivilized practice, particularly when it is realized that most nations require that their military personnel, if taken prisoner of war, shall attempt to escape. I should like to see adequate provision in these conventions regarding hostages. In a war in which the civil population was involved the practice could have very ugly results. A section of the population could be made responsible for the behaviour of all. One speaker to-day said that he did not approve of the death penalty being imposed on civilians during a time of war. But there is the problem of terrorism such as arose in the Mau Mau rebellion in Kenya and has now arisen in Algeria. It is not pleasant to have to charge men, apparently patriots fighting for their country, who carry out acts of terrorism; but the detaining power must have some form of protection against acts of terrorism. The greatest casualties in the Mau Mau rebellion in Kenya were not among the contending parties - the Mau Mau rebels and the Government of the country - but among the people of the Mau Mau, that is, those who would not support their terrorist actions. Exactly the same thing is taking place to-day in Algeria. The nationalists are killing great numbers of the more moderate Algerians who are willing to come to terms and live in harmony with the French. This is a problem which a detaining power has to try to solve. If terrorism is allowed to take place, how can it be combated? These are problems which arise in considering conventions such as those before us.
In the Japanese prison camps in Malaya, Siam and Burma the Red Cross was not allowed to send in supplies. Only one very small shipment of such supplies came to us. A certain amount of Red Cross supplies did come through to the camps at Changi and Selarang. Those goods were marked with signs which could be mis-interpreted by the Japanese, such as “ Britain delivers the goods “. Such inscriptions could be interpreted as propaganda or as giving encouragement to prisoners of war. I think the Red Cross authorities should examine this matter and decide upon some method of marking their parcels which would obviate the possibility of censorship.
Another important point concerning prisoners of war is the question of mails. We got letters during the latter part of the war, if the letters came through. But I remember in one camp there were huge piles of letters undelivered. One Japanese who was reputed to be able to speak English but could not, would sit down and censor five or six letters and the rest were not looked at. There were hundreds of them, but they were not made available to the prisoners of war. I offered this Japanese officer my services to censor the letters. I gave him all the safeguards of honour and so on, but he would not consider it. That is a problem which arose in dealing with Asians of limited capacity. These people never had any knowledge of our language, but they were censoring our letters.
Under the convention, the detaining power has the right of censorship. It might be worth considering whether this right could not be established on an international basis. To incarcerated persons mail is of immense importance. It may mean the difference between life and death. If a soldier can receive news of his family it can be a tremendous stimulus to his morale. Those who have not the strongest characters in a prison camp will sometimes go to the wall.
I speak with some feeling on these matters. These conventions lay down the ideals of civilized nations. But what guarantee can we have that they will be carried out in future wars? To my mind it is of little value for representatives of the nations to meet at Geneva in pleasant surroundings and talk about the rights of prisoners of war and ‘of human beings generally, and sign these conventions and then let them go. I remind honorable members that since these conventions were signed and ratified, events in Hungary have taken place which indicate clearly whether they are of any use at all. In Hungary young men and women have been taken out of their country by a foreign power and sent to Siberia or elsewhere and they have not been heard of again. I feel that something more should be done than merely to ratify these conventions. Russia has ratified these conventions with certain reservations, but do those reservations cover her conduct in Hungary? Can we allow conditions to obtain in the world such as those in Hungary or in the slave camps in China, where, it is reported on very sound authority that approximately 24,000,000 people are living? So long as we allow these things to happen in peace-time, how can we expect better conditions during a time of civilized war? Some action must be taken now so that the nations of the world will know that they cannot, with impunity, create conditions of hatred and fear and mete out bad treatment to human beings who have the misfortune to fall into the hands of people who have not the right to claim to be civilized.
I notice that provision is made for the protecting power to approach either one or both parties to a conflict to arrange for a meeting of their representatives. Such a provision has great prospects. If the representatives of two conflicting powers could meet away from the scene of conflict under the aegis of the protecting power, I believe they might be able to come to terms in dealing with the human problem and thus save lives and suffering. I believe that these conventions contain very fine, idealistic sentiments, but they are fine only if they can be implemented. That is the problem. Can man implement these idealistic conventions?
.- This is -an important occasion - not the first of its kind since I came to this House - on which honorable members on both sides are in almost complete agreement in espousing what the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Anderson) has called “ fine, idealistic sentiments “. He also used a term which was self-contradictory. He spoke about “civilized war “. While the human race indulges in war, it is not completely civilized. But these conventions represent a very important step in breaking away from the uncivilized and barbaric wars of the past, and unfortunately of the present - but, we hope, not of the future - which have brought misery to millions of human beings down the ages. I suggest that we have to find a method by which the ordinary standards of human conduct which we all use in daytoday relationships with our fellows can be brought into the international field. Of course, the fact that 60 nations, so far, have signed this agreement and have joined together to try to ameliorate the results of man’s greatest folly is at least a step in the right direction.
We have here four conventions. The first one is designed to ameliorate the conditions of the wounded and sick in the field. The second is intended to ameliorate the conditions of those who are wounded or sick as a result of maritime conflict. The third one is designed to lay down conditions for the humane treatment of prisoners of war. The fourth one is a novel excursion into international affairs. It is new. It is another major step towards laying down the rights of civilians and granting to them the same rights and protection as we grant to others.
I suggest that the time has come for us to produce a fifth convention - one dealing with warfare against civilians. The last war produced great areas of destruction. Whole cities were destroyed and whole populations killed. This was a reversion to some of the great wars of the past. I believe that our next major step along the high-road to some sort of humanity in what is, after all, man’s most inhuman activity is to find a method of preventing warfare against civilians. To-day, warfare is a matter of opposing nations, not merely opposing armies. This is a trend that has developed in the last 100 years. It can be traced from the American civil war with its introduction of the principle of destroying the capacity and will to fight of the opposing side, through comparatively minor wars such as the Boer War, to the 1914-18 war and the 1939-45 war. The objective has become, not so much to destroy armies in the field, as to destroy the capacity and the will of the enemy to fight.
It is apparent that this has introduced great human factors into the whole field of warfare. Let us consider some of the highly immoral acts of the last two wars. Aircraft flew over open cities, dropping bombs. Whole cities were destroyed - men, women and children, the aged and the sick. There was no consideration of humanity or morality. In modern war the relationship with the opponent is completely in the abstract. The opponent has to be destroyed. Into warfare has been introduced a new concept, slightly different from that of the past when armies met each other hand to hand.
Undeclared war was mentioned this afternoon. In the very recent past, nations have taken into the field of international conflict a moral standard which they would not like to see in relationships between civilians in their domestic affairs. The immoral basis of submarine warfare was also mentioned this afternoon. It matters not whether the Germans engaged in it or whether we engaged in it. We have allowed this abstract concept of the destruction of the opponent as a pawn in the game rather than as a human being to enter into international affairs. Warfare has produced untold human misery in the last two conflicts. Therefore, the very important document that we are discussing needs very careful consideration by the whole nation.
Sitting suspended from 5.59 to 8 p.m.
– Before the suspension of the sitting, I was outlining some of the problems that face the world in general in attempting to reduce the volume of inhumanity and suffering that results from man’s greatest folly - war. We are all against war; the leaders of all nations have said that they are against war. This is a significant step towards the amelioration of the suffering that is consequent upon war. The Geneva conventions are the result of man’s striving to achieve some humanity in international relations, to bring the same kind of principles to bear upon international relations as are brought to bear on the domestic scene. It is our duty to do our best to see that not only do we adopt these principles ourselves, but that by our influence and goodwill we set an example to others.
It is somewhat disturbing to find that it has taken eight years to ratify this convention. The Minister is probably able to give reasons for this delay, but I believe that Australia has a particular role to play in world affairs. We live in a world where man’s inhumanity to man has made not thousands, but millions mourn. Every day in the newspapers one reads of strife resulting from wars, declared and undeclared. In to-day’s press there is an account of Arabs strafing Ifni forces. There is an account of a Moslem girl in Algeria claiming to have been tortured by French troops. All over the world these struggles and wars are taking place, most of them undeclared, and very few nations can step into the international field with a clear conscience. Very few nations are without a background of barbarity that they have perpetrated in the past.
This afternoon, honorable members have heard a good deal about the sufferings and barbarity of the last war. Most honorable members cited instances of what happened in China and Russia. But let us not forget that most European nations have perpetrated some barbarities. The Germans had a black record in the last war. In the first World War, their activities in Belgium were the mainspring of a good deal of the discussions that produced the Conventions of 1929 - their deportation of people from Belgium, the taking of hostages, the use of reprisals, and the internment of civilians. The activities of the Germans caused shock and horror to the people of the world, and as a result of international co-operation, under the auspices of the Red Cross, the Conventions have been signed and ratified by all nations. Even though we have no power of enforcement, as the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) pointed out, we will exercise power in this field by our influence. We are accepting responsibility to apply these principles to our own conduct whether or not our opponents do so to theirs.
The Japanese have a black record with regard to the troops of other nations, including Australian troops, and with regard to civilians in China. At the end of the last war, I was in charge of Japanese prisoners of war for a few months. I think we treated them in accordance with all the conventions. Most honorable members will remember the bitterness with which the last war was fought against the Japanese. Most honorable members will recall that the divisions fighting against the Japanese in New Guinea, the Solomons and Indonesia in 1943, 1944 and 1945 took few prisoners and lost few prisoners. It was virtually war to the death. When the Japanese came into our prison compounds, our soldiers were bitter against them, but we found that the Japanese were human beings, just as we were. We found that men who had been fighting to the death on 15th August were very friendly by 15th September. For some reason or other the people who were capable of being inhuman in war were quite human when you got to close personal relations with them. That can become one of the significant factors in the world to-day. Our good example will help to break down international barriers, so that we can treat all people as equals. This general idea is expressed in the various conventions we are here ratifying. One found it difficult to believe that the Japanese had been guilty of the atrocities with which they were charged. Unfortunately, we had proof. The Japanese were imprisoned under our care. Some of them were good soldiers on parade, but they were guilty of dreadful crimes. It was generally believed that this was because, before the war, the average Japanese had very little contact with other people. He had no outside standards to go by. When his superior officer ordered him to do something, whether it was the execution of an allied soldier or the driving of prisoners beyond human endurance on death marches or on the Burma railway, he did it because he was bound by orders.
It is obvious from a consideration of the matter that the free mixing of peoples, disregarding boundaries of race and colour, is the only solution to the problem of bringing complete harmony to human relations. We must not forget that. This country has a very clean record. Australia has principles that it can bring to international discussions, free from the taints of the past which, unfortunately, afflict most nations, whether it be France, Germany, Russia, or Japan; or whether it be the Dutch in
Indonesia. Australia has been free from all this. Nothwithstanding our small numbers, we have a great task in international affairs to so behave in our dealings with other countries that we set an example.
It is disappointing that Australia should have taken so many years to ratify these four conventions. The purpose of the first is to ameliorate the sufferings of soldiers in the field; that of the second one is to ameliorate suffering as a result of action at sea; the third one deals with prisoners of war; and the fourth one, the one introduced in 1949, deals with the protection of civilians in the field of war. It is disappointing that Australia, which should be a leader, and which has established moral leadership in international affairs in some fields in the past, should be the sixty-first nation to ratify this convention. The fifth field, into which we have not yet embarked, is the decision recently made at a conference in Delhi designed to limit the distress of the civilian population in time of war. War is no longer a matter of national armies. It is no longer a matter of governments sending armies into the field to fight one another. It is a matter of mutual destruction. In the last few years, civilians have been brought back into the field in much the same way as they were in some wars of the past, such as the Thirty Years War in Germany 300 years ago, which almost destroyed the whole nation. One of the significant factors is the change in attitude of various governments over the last seven or eight years. When the 1949 conventions were under discussion there was a good deal of debate and compromise as to what should be done in what we might call civil war. I refer to the wars going on in Algeria and Morocco and the several disturbances that have occurred in China. Great difficulty was experienced in achieving any agreement as to the treatment to be afforded people engaged in wars of this nature, particularly where colonial nations were struggling for their freedom. In volume 46 of the “ American Journal of International Law “ the following appears -
Article 3 provides for the application of the conventions to armed conflicts not of an international character. This was the most debated of all the articles considered by the Geneva Conference. Three general propositions were advanced: (1) that the conventions should be applicable in all cases of internal armed conflicts; (2) that they should not be applicable in any such conflicts; and (3) that they should be applicable only when the conflict had reached certain proportions and presented certain characteristics.
The United States pointed out that every government has a right to put down rebellion within its borders and to punish insurgents in accordance with its penal laws and, conversely, that premature recognition of the belligerency of insurgents is a tortious act against the lawful government and a breach of international law.
In the struggles in Algeria, Cyprus and China the difficulty has been to know who is the government and who are the rebels; and the human beings involved have become lost in the struggle to decide matters of abstract political philosophy.
A significant advance was made at the Delhi Convention held only a few weeks ago. Whereas the article written into the 1949 convention was one of compromise, 84 nations have now agreed to the rules for the limitation of dangers incurred by the civilian population in time of war. This agreement, however, has not yet been ratified. The important articles are those which define the reasonable limitation of military activities. For instance, Article 6 under the heading of “ Objectives Barred from Attack “ reads -
Attacks directed against the civilian population, as such, whether with the object of terrorizing it or for any other reason, are prohibited. This prohibition applies both to attacks on individuals and to those directed against groups.
Had that article been observed during the last war most of the battle-fields where the greatest destruction occurred would have been removed and the bombing of cities and the sinking of ships at sea would have been ruled out.
Honorable members may say that this is an idealistic conception, but we have to bring some sort of humanity and a sane outlook to the problem. The significant thing is not so much that this ideal has been expressed by the representatives of 84 nations, but that we have made such an advance in the eight years since 1949 to deal with this matter. I hope that Australia will take the lead in ratifying these conventions, and, instead of being the sixty-first nation to do so, will be the first in the field. Notwithstanding the smallness of our resources and our numbers, our opinions should count for more than our armies and battleships.
There is a provision of the bill to which. I am opposed. Sub-clause (4.) of clause 7, which provides for the punishment of: offenders against the conventions, reads -
The punishment for an offence against this section is -
where the offence involves the wilful. killing of a person protected by the relevant Convention - death or imprisonment for life or for any less term; and
in any other case - imprisonment for a term not exceeding fourteen years.
Sub-clause (5.) is in the following terms: -
A sentence of death passed by a court in pursuance of this section shall be carried into execution in accordance with the law of the State or Territory of the Commonwealth in which the offender is convicted or, if the law of that State or Territory does not provide for the execution of sentences of death, as the Governor-General directs.
I, and the party to which I belong, very strongly oppose capital punishment. Thisafternoon, the honorable member for Fremantle said, “ The grass may grow over battle-fields, but it will not grow over the gallows “. Capital punishment is one of the most degrading and barbarous acts for which a community can be responsible. It is, I believe, the ultimate power of the State over the individual, and against the principles of humanity. Significantly enough, quite a number of countries have abolished capital punishment. It may well be that Australia could be engaged in a war against a country which does not carry out capital punishment, and the position could arise that the crimes of Australia’s enemies against an Australian would be punished by forfeiture of the criminal’s life, but a crime of an Australian against the enemy would not attract the death penalty. I think that is an anomaly which should be considered by this House.
But that is not the basis on which we oppose capital punishment. The abolition of capital punishment has been part of the Opposition platform for a long time because we believe that human life is sacred and we will only develop that attitude towards the sanctity of human life if we regard it in that light. We cannot hope to achieve that aim by taking life. I hope that subclause (4.) of clause 7 will be deleted from this bill. I regard it as a blot on Australia, particularly when capital punishment hasbeen abolished in several States and practically abandoned in others. That the Commonwealth Government should have to consider special means of carrying out the death sentence is a blot upon its activities.
Several points still remain to be solved. There is the problem of undeclared war. An internal war is at present going on in Algeria; 15,000 people have been killed in the internal dispute in Kenya; hundreds have lost their lives in Cyprus; 30,000 have lost their lives in Hungary, according to the figures; and there have been at least 800,000 acknowledged deaths in China. In Egypt last year the Egyptians said 8,000 had been killed whereas the representatives of the United Kingdom stated the figure at 800. We still have a long way to go before we bring to international affairs the standards of humanity and civilized conduct that we demand from every citizen in his domestic relationships with his fellows. The object of this proposed legislation is to bring into international affairs some of that humanity. I hope that Australia will show the leadership necessary to advance the cause of humanity further, that we will be the first to ratify the Delhi convention, which I have mentioned, and strive for the total abolition of war.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
.- I direct a question to the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey). If the Parliament ratifies these four conventions is it competent for Cabinet subsequently to make any reservation in respect of any part? If so, does the Cabinet intend to do so?
– I understand the question of the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) will be answered later. Although I think every honorable member is glad that these conventions are being ratified, some of us share the regret that has been expressed in respect of the delay in doing so. I had hoped that some historical material would have been presented, and in particular that we would have had some discussion on the reservations which have been made by other signatories in regard to this measure. A point was well taken earlier by the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Killen), that we must deal with conditions which, perhaps, are neither peace nor war because there is no clear declaration of war or perhaps no firm declaration of peace. It is true that, even since the date on which these conventions were signed and earlier, there has been in certain quarters a persistent desire and practice of endeavouring to ignore them. What are we to say, for instance, of the conditions in China? What are we to say of the prisoners who vanished into the maw of Siberia and of whom only snatches are heard from time to time? What are we to say of the slave labourers whom we know are at forced work behind the iron curtain to-day?
– I rise to order. I ask you, Mr. Chairman, to give a ruling on how wide we are to take the clauses in the bill, after having had a very wide second-reading debate. Some of the suggestions made by the honorable member are right outside the bill and do not relate to the conventions or to what they attempt to do. If this is persisted in, we will have to explain our views on the same matter.
– I rule that second-reading speeches should not be made during the committee stage, but I have the responsibility, of course, of judging whether remarks made relate to the clauses and the articles in the schedules. I hope the honorable member will assist me by keeping to the clauses and the schedules.
– Yes; I am addressing myself to the nature and impact of the schedules, and that is a proper subject for debate during the committee stage when the bill is taken as a whole.
I have pointed out that the schedules lack effective sanction. That is so not only in respect of this agreement but also in respect of its predecessors. The question of the sanction whereby we can make good our good intentions goes to the very root of the matter and is of extreme importance. It is worth remembering the events preceding this bill. Perhaps in some way or other they motivated the drawing up of the schedules. It is worth remembering the events in Poland; for example, the massacres in the Katyn Forest.
– And the matter of Siam and Borneo.
– I appreciate the honorable member’s desire to interrupt any train of argument that goes against the interests of Russia; I appreciate that to the full. The honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) has by his interjections from time to time shown himself clearly a protagonist of the pro-Soviet point of view.
In the past we have lacked either the sanction or the desire to apply a sanction. When a Red Cross investigation into the Katyn Forest massacres was requested by the legal Government of Poland - and in this Australia, Britain and America are equally at fault - we abandoned that lawful Government and set up in its place the Lublin impostor government, which has been responsible for so much of the subsequent Polish tyranny. That was because the lawful Polish Government asked for a Red Cross investigation into the details of the Katyn forest massacres, which we all know now were perpetrated at Soviet hands. If in those days there was no set sanction, can we hope for any more sanction now? Agreements of this character can be made good only by the conscience of mankind or the fear of the consequences. To-day, one side of the world certainly proclaims that it is not bound by any question of conscience. And what of fear of the consequences? How can we apply sanctions of that character now? We have reached the stage where no such sanctions can be effectively applied unless we invoke the ultimate sanction. The present position is, therefore, an inadequate guard, but I do not see quite what we could do within the scope of this legislation to make it more adequate.
One therefore supports the schedules, realizing that they do not cover the ultimate questions which every one of us may have to face. There is no provision to protect the citizen against the tyrannies of his own Government expressed in slave labour against him. There is no provision, nor can there be, to give to the civil population protection in war-time, if that war be carried to its full extreme. In the nature of things, the new kind of war. if it came, would be far more terrible than any old kind of war and would sweep aside, unfortunately, any provisions such as those contained in the schedules that we are now debating.
Can we say then that the ultimate sanction can only be against war itself? Yes, in a sense. One hopes that our desires for peace will be fulfilled and that there will be no need to resort to any arbitrament of war. But this is a decision which, unhappily, cannot be made unilaterally. To make war requires only one side; to keep peace requires two. Whatever we may say, we now have not the power to impose a will towards peace upon those who might be our enemies.
.- The only reason I rise to speak is to answer one or two relevant comments made by the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth). The honorable member reluctantly asked whether any comments would be made by the Minister about reservations made by other nations. I answer him by posing another question: Is the action of other nations to be the sole determination upon which our conscience as a nation shall rest?
This is a matter largely of public international law. That being so, it relies upon the usages and conventions which, by and large, prevail amongst the nations as a whole. Our attitude as a nation towards these international conventions is determined largely by what the positive morality existing in this community is to-day. The positive morality, as far as we are concerned, is not to be determined by some objective view as to what other people may think we should do. Surely, in a matter of international standards, the yardstick of our associations with our fellow beings is what we as a nation think is right! Therefore, I sincerely hope that the yardstick for our conscience in this matter will not be determined by other nations.
I have listened with some diffidence and misgiving to the references that have been made to atrocities committed by our erstwhile enemies in time of war. I have in mind the atrocities that are committed in times of so-called peace. I know full well that during the last war, after we sank a Japanese hospital ship in Milne Bay and another one that was obviously outside the convoy, as the aerial photography clearly showed, in the Bismarck Sea battle, we were told by the Japanese by devious means that if it happened again an allied hospital ship would be sunk on sight. We then blew another Japanese hospital ship out of the water off Kavieng, and, sure enough, the “ Centaur “ went. The people back here in Australia rose up in righteous indignation and spoke of international conventions, the Red Cross, and all the rest of it, but we who were participants in the war were not surprised. We expected such things. I say with all humility, and with a wish for forgiveness by those who were unfortunately affected by the disaster of the “ Centaur “, that we, by our action, invited it to this extent. One of my best friends perished when that ship went down.
So that, in reply to references made in this chamber to-day to atrocities that have been committed elsewhere, I say that we are not without sin ourselves. I have not heard any reference to Auschwitz and the horrible things that were perpetrated there. I have not heard reference to the atrocities that have been committed by the so-called free nations of the West to-day. I have not heard any reference to the atrocities of the totalitarian States of the right, which have been just as vicious and diabolic in their suppression of freedom and individual rights as the totalitarian States of the Russian orbit have been. However, such comparisons do not get us anywhere.
– Order! A point of order was taken earlier in respect of this very matter, and I asked the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) to help me. I now ask the honorable member for Darebin to help me and to get back to the bill.
– References outside the scope of the measure do not get us anywhere, as you have rightly pointed out, Mr. Chairman. The proper basis for our decisions in a matter of public international law surely must be the positive morality which exists in the community at the time. If our attitude in regard to a measure such as this is determined’ according to the actions of other nations, whether of the right or of the left, I think that it will be a very sorry reflection upon us.
I hope that the Minister will be able to do more than appeal to the basic instincts which determine the attitude of the lesser democracies, if I may use such a contradictory term as that. I hope that he can give us some justification for this measure other than that contained in the banal statements which have been made by honorable members on his side of the chamber concerning what is, essentially, a nonpartisan matter. I should like to think that we shall hear from him some expression of opinion based on the Charter of Human Rights which, after all, is the basis of the United Nations, to which we are pledged. The sooner we see responsibility to uphold the moral concepts to which we subscribe hung around the neck of Russia, Spain, Colombia, Hungary, Red China and the rest of those countries, the better it will be. The sooner those nations are required to conform to the moral concepts which we like to believe we support, to which we hope we subscribe, but to which we know we do not always subscribe fully, the better it will be for the world. I hope that the Minister will state that the basis for this debate is the true moral obligation which we owe to all humanity, through the United Nations, and through this aspect of public international law. If he does so, he will lift the debate out of the morass into which it fell during the last few speeches from the Government side of the chamber.
– I shall confine myself to the matter of reservations, which has been raised by the honorable members for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley), Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) and Darebin (Mr. R. W. Holt), and attempt to make the position clear. A number of reservations has been made by certain countries. Some of them, including reservations by the Soviet, were made at the time of signing and others were made later. While most of them are not of sufficient consequence to warrant the time of the committee being taken up in discussing them, some are important. One of the important reservations made at the time of signing by Soviet Russia and other allied Communist countries concerns Article 10 of the first three conventions, and Article 11 of the fourth convention. These are regarded as being of a serious character. The Communist countries also have made reservations about Article 12 of the prisoners of war convention and Article 45 of the civilian convention which provide, broadly, for the responsibility of a detaining power in respect of prisoners of war and civilians, and for their transfer to another power which is a party to the convention, and which is then to assume responsibility for them. These reservations require the detaining power to accept continuing responsibility. The United Kingdom feels that these reservations are unacceptable, in that they virtually amount to the enunciation of a principle of joint responsibility and really make one State responsible for the actions of another. The United Kingdom, accordingly, has refused to be bound by the reservations of the Communist powers and has recorded its refusal to be bound.
– Will the Minister give one illustration of how that operates? One would be sufficient.
– It could only be an imaginary one.
– I know that it has not occurred, but I think it would help the committee if the Minister gave an illustration.
– I am afraid I cannot imagine such a situation.
– It is a theoretical situation.
– Yes, it is a theoretical situation, but at any rate, it is regarded by the United Kingdom as a situation that, conceivably, might occur. As I have said, the United Kingdom has refused to be bound, and I believe that this Government, when it comes to the question of ratification, will also make the same reservation. The other serious reservation made by the Communist countries concerns Article 85 of the prisoners of war convention, which entitles prisoners to the benefits of the convention even if they are prosecuted or convicted by the detaining power for acts committed prior to capture. This reservation would not recognize the application of the convention to prisoners convicted of war crimes. Again, the United Kingdom Government has refused to accept the reservation because it represents a vital departure from the general principles of the convention. In this respect, again, the Australian Government has it in mind to take the same attitude when we are ratifying,
– But we are not making a reservation about that ourselves, are we? Are we not just objecting to the Russian reservation?
– Yes, that is so.
– Is that what is meant by the word “ declaration “ in sub-clause (3.) of clause 5?
– Yes, I believe so. The second paragraph of Article 68 of the convention relating to civilians states -
The penal provisions promulgated by the Occupying Power in accordance with Articles 64 and 65 may impose the death penalty on a protected person only in cases where the person is guilty of espionage, of serious acts of sabotage against the military installations of the Occupying Power or of international offences which have caused the death of one or more persons, provided that such offences were punishable by death under the law of the occupied territory in force before the occupation began.
This paragraph permits the imposition of the death penalty on a protected person by an occupying power only in certain cases, provided that the offences committed were punishable by death under the law of the occupied territory before the occupation began. The Government’s reservation will be to the effect that Australia will not be bound by this proviso. Similar reservations have been made by the United States of America and the United Kingdom.
– What additional grounds for the death penalty does the Minister want? The convention gives three important ones.
– They are given in the bill. The crimes that attract the death penalty are set out in the bill.
– They are set out in subclause (2.) and sub-clause (4.) of clause 7.
– Yes. I have outlined the reservations that the Government has in mind to make: First, as I mentioned, that we do not count ourselves bound by the reservations made by the Communist countries; and secondly, the reservation that I have just mentioned.
The honorable member for Darebin asked, in effect, how a country or a nation may be obliged to comply with moral concepts. I do not know the answer to that question. I do not believe that, in the present world situation, there is an answer to it. Nationalism being what it is, I do not see how one country, unless it were the victor in a war, could impose its will on a country that had savaged international obligations such as those contained in this bill. I know of no means outside the provisions of the United Nations Charter by which one country, or a group of countries, can impose moral rectitude on another country or countries, unless it is as a victor taking toll of a defeated country.
– Would the Minister suggest that we could at least set an example?
– 1 do not understand how one country could impose its will on another country in peace; it could do so only if it were victorious in war. I do not know how it could be done otherwise.
– I think that the honorable member for Darebin is suggesting the setting of an example by conventions such as this.
– Does the honorable member for Darebin think that any written conventions can impose a moral obligation on another country, and make it acceptable in situations that cannot be foreseen?
– If you provide for such moral obligations when you think that, you are only fooling.
– I should think that the vast majority of mankind would adhere to the obligations provided for in this bill, but no man bom of woman can say that every country would do so in all circumstances.
– There are too many moral obligations provided for if the Minister thinks that such obligations will not be accepted.
– I am afraid, Mr. Chairman, that we are now getting to the stage of trying to determine how many angels can dance on the point of a needle. I know of no more that can be said on this point. I realize very well that it is a point of high principle. I have given to the committee the broad outline of reservations, and the denial of Communist reservations, that the Government has in mind to implement when the conventions are being ratified.
– I do not wish to detain the committee for any length of time. I think that the honorable member for Darebin (Mr. R. W. Holt) was correct. What he said, in effect, was that there may be parts of these elaborate conventions - and they may be very important parts - that may not be observed by all parties to them.
That is probably certain to happen, lt is certain that some countries will not adhere to any parts of the conventions, because they have not even been interested enough to consider them. Law - and especially international law - broadens out by the very attempt to express from time to time, as has been attempted in the Geneva Conventions, what are the appropriate rules of humanity that should be observed in war. These conventions mark the progress that has been made. That is what I understood the honorable member for Darebin to be aiming at.
On the question of reservation, I should like to refer the committee to Article 10 of the First Convention - the article that Soviet Russia apparently will not accept. That article states -
The High Contracting Parties-
That means all the parties to the convention - may at any time agree to entrust to an organization which offers all guarantees of impartiality and efficacy the duties incumbent on the Protecting Powers by virtue of the present Convention.
In the war between Australia and Japan, there was a protecting power. It could be agreed in such circumstances that the office or the functions of protecting power shall be performed by an international organization such as, obviously, the International Red Cross, which did work of that kind during World War II. The Article proceeds to suggest procedures to that end. It provides -
When wounded and sick, or medical personnel and chaplains do not benefit or cease to benefit, no matter for what reason, by the activities of a Protecting Power or of an organization provided for in the first paragraph above, the Detaining Power shall request a neutral State, or such an organization,-
I suggest, again, the International Red Cross, or a similar body - to undertake the functions performed under the present Convention by a Protecting Power designated by the Parties to a conflict.
It may be that the view taken by the Russian group of countries is based on distrust of the international organization. I think that is probably all it is.
We had a similar experience in the war against Japan. There was a protecting power, but the war against Japan took so many turns that it was impossible to ascertain what was happening to prisoners of war. We know now how shockingly they were treated from time to time, but we could not then find out the facts. The protecting power was treated with derision by the Japanese, and we obtained no results from the efforts of the protecting power that nominally took up the duty of protecting Australian nationals and inquiring into the fate of Australians who were prisoners of war. The Australian Government at the time took a very unusual step, which was not based on any international convention. Dr. Panico, a representative of the Vatican, who was then in Australia, was himself trying to perform similar functions as between Australia and Italy by ascertaining the fate of Australian prisoners of war, or wounded, in North Africa, and that of Italians taken prisoner. Through Dr. Panico’s good offices, the Vatican, although it was not in the strict sense a power in the common use of that term, undertook to make representations with respect to Australian prisoners in Japan, Formosa, or wherever they had been sent, and, in a number of instances, the results were extremely satisfactory. Their lives were saved on a number of occasions by that authority, which had a wireless service operating between Rome and Tokyo and had also an ambassador in Tokyo. Messages regarding prisoners were sent by these two means.
Here is one illustration which I shall never forget: The case was brought to the attention of the Labour government by Mr. Forde, who was Minister for the Army at the time. It concerned an Australian airman who, because of the severe tropical conditions in New Guinea, where he was fighting, was wearing practically no uniform - in fact, little more than a pair of shorts - when he was forced down and fell into the hands of the Japanese. Because he was not wearing uniform when he was captured he was about to suffer death. That was announced by Japan. We got word through Dr. Panico to the Vatican and a message was sent to Japan saying that if that happened Australia’s duty would be to try to deal with the people concerned, as war criminals, after the war, for that conduct. The result was that the charge was waived. I mention that case to illustrate the kind of thing that happens when there is a protecting power or, in the absence of a protecting power that will act promptly, some other organization. I do not know why Russia or any other country should object to the provision; but that is no reason why other countries should not accept the convention. Indeed, that is all the more reason for them to do so. Russia may be suspicious of the Red Cross, and probably that is the cause of its attitude, but we have no reason to suspect it. Any country which does not agree to this clause may be losing advantages which may be vital to it in time of war.
We cannot judge this by past conduct or misconduct of any nation. After all, nations guilty of misconduct in the past are accepting new obligations under this agreement. They may not carry them out but, on the other hand, they may carry them out. After all, agreements are signed and accepted by nation after nation at international conferences on the general assumption that the signatories intend to carry them out. At any rate, to put in reservations of this character is an indication of doubt about certain clauses. That may indicate good faith. I do not know. I think the Minister has sufficiently explained this portion of it. But in view of illustration after illustration that I could give similar to the one I have already given, I cannot understand why the United Kingdom should wish to make this reservation - which is, of course, their business - and why the Government should wish to make a similar reservation.
– It is because we are convinced that it is a good reservation. But this does not apply to Article 10.
– Then I have misunderstood the position.
– Soviet Russia misunderstood it.
– But the fact that Soviet Russia made a reservation on Article 10, because of some suspicion of the Red Cross, is no reason on earth why we should make a reservation.
– We are not making any reservation.
– You can object to the Russians making a reservation, but you cannot stop them.
– That is so. We are making no reservation.
– I thought the right honorable gentleman said something that meant that. If that is not so, the matter is satisfactory.
.- Like the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt), I am not concerned about other nations’ reservations, but I am gravely concerned about the reservations against the second paragraph of Article 68 made by the United Kingdom Government, the United States, the Netherlands, and Canada. The Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey) has foreshadowed that we also intend to make a reservation. The second paragraph of Article 68 deals with the treatment of civilians in foreign countries which we may occupy, and it gives the occupying power the right to impose the death penalty on civilians in three circumstances - where they are guilty of espionage, of serious acts of sabotage against military installations of the occupying power, or of intentional offences which have caused the death of one or more persons, provided that such offences were punishable by death under the law of the occupied territory in force before the occupation began. The point is that this admits the right of the occupying power - which may even be an aggressive power - to punish the subjects of a country for espionage, sabotage, or killing the armed forces of the occupying power. If you enter a reservation against this, it must mean that you want additional grounds on which the death penalty may be imposed.
It is a very serious reservation, because the article very rightly goes on to say that the occupying power has to remember that the national of the occupied country is not really bound to the occupying power by any duty or allegiance. I am concerned that Western powers have entered the reservation and that we are going to follow them.
The other thing I want to put to the Minister is this: Parliament, in ratifying these schedules, is ratifying a paragraph that apparently we do not intend to accept. If that is so, I ask the Minister what the legal position will be if we enact this and Cabinet subsequently makes a reservation? Is the Cabinet entitled to be superior to the Parliament?
– This is becoming very complicated. The honorable member refers to the second paragraph of Article 68. This paragraph permits the imposition by an occupying power of the death penalty on a protected citizen only in certain cases and provided that the offence was punishable by death under the law of the occupied territory before the occupation began. The reservation will be to the effect that Australia will not be bound by this proviso. As a matter of interest I point out that a similar reservation has been made by the United States and the United Kingdom. This reservation is essential, as it is obvious that the authorities of a territory might, in anticipation of occupation, alter the law to remove the offences concerned from the list of offences punishable by death. This would seriously weaken the position of the occupying power in relation to acts of sabotage and the like.
– Are those the terms of the British reservation?
– That is a bowdlerization of the British reservation.
– The object of that is to extend the death penalty, not limit it.
– The bill we are considering is necessary to enable us to carry out the provisions of the conventions. The present intention of the Government is to ratify, with a reservation on Article 68 (2) of the fourth convention on the lines of that made by the United Kingdom and the United States - not because the reservation was made by those two countries, but because our legal advisers - and the Government - believe there is validity in the reasons for the reservations made by America and Great Britain. I think that is all that needs to be said on that point.
.- I think that Australia will do the cause of international co-operation no good by making any reservation. This is a long and difficult document and there is a long and black history behind the struggle of humanity before its arrival at even the measure of co-operation expressed here, compromise though there must be in various clauses. I am disappointed that the attitude of the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey) seems to indicate that he believes that no good can come from good influence and good example in international affairs. I am also very disappointed that he should think that there are any reasons why Australia should be keeping up its sleeve the right to impose capital punishment on people because in hypothetical cases that might arise in respect of the removal of certain crimes from a country’s calendar before we get there. I think this convention is fundamental if we are to have any real cooperation, and in the right spirit, from other nations. The Minister ought to give very serious consideration to the reservation and say forthrightly and categorically that Australia proposes to carry out the conventions not only in the letter but also in the spirit, and not attempt to evade responsibilities that are inherent in the whole document. I believe that unless we in this country, and unless this Government, apply ourselves completely to international co-operation we cannot expect other nations to do so.
– Whether we agree with the proposed reservations or not, what I think the Minister intended to convey - although perhaps it was not quite clear - is that this bill in itself does not effect the ratification. If we read the preamble to the bill we will see that it merely alters the Australian law as it stands at present. I think the Minister will agree that I am right in saying this.
– That is right.
– The power will then be left in the hands of the Government to ratify with any reservations it thinks fit.
– But we do, in effect, ratify the conventions by agreeing to this measure.
– No, the bill merely alters the law. It sets out what the conventions are, but the Minister has been perfectly straightforward and honest with the House and has told us what reservations the Government has with regard to these particular features that have been discussed. The bill itself merely alters the law, so that the Government can ratify the conventions, and it is entitled to make what reservations it wishes.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from 27th November (vide page 2607), on motion by Mr. Osborne -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– This is really an old story, but it has to be told again. It is the story of the record of this Government in the field of civil aviation, in which it has tried to do what it has done in connexion with Government enterprises in other fields. We saw one example recently when the Government endeavoured to amend the banking legislation. Banking, of course, is within the Commonwealth power, and our case against the Government was, broadly, that it was weakening the Commonwealth Bank, which had been enormously successful. We contended that the Government was seeking to weaken it in vital respects. That is, broadly speaking, the case that we make against the Government with regard to this civil aviation legislation.
Having looked at the statement made by the Minister for Civil Aviation, Senator Paltridge, in reply to the public statement of Mr. P. W. Haddy, former chairman of Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited, issued in October last, no fairminded person would deny that once again A.N.A. had come to the Government to seek more preferences. The company and the Government said in 1952, “ Let us establish fair competition between TransAustralia Airlines, the government agency, on the one hand, and A.N.A. on the other “. That proposition sounded plausible enough until one considered what the legislation provided. Then it became clear that it was not competition the Government wanted to encourage. It wanted to set up an organization in which there would be no competition at all, or very little. A.N.A. received enormous grants from the Government. It obtained the right to spend up to £4,000,000 of money borrowed from the Commonwealth Bank for the purchase of heavy equipment. That was a tremendous concession to the company. It has had the benefit of that concession during the succeeding years, but in spite of this, and in spite of other provisions to which I shall refer shortly, it was found that T.A.A. had outfought A.N.A., had taken a large proportion of the available traffic and had made a reasonable profit on its operations.
The Government, of course, acts very largely at the dictation of the shipping monopoly, and in the A.N.A. organization there are elements of the overseas shipping monopoly and the interstate shipping monopoly. I think I can exclude the Holyman interests. After all, the Holyman concern was undoubtedly an Australian enterprise of great value. Mr. Holyman negotiated with the Commonwealth Government, when Mr. Chifley was Prime Minister and Treasurer and Mr. Drakeford was Minister for Civil Aviation. An attempt was made at that time to bring the two large organizations, T.A.A. and A.N.A., together. No one recognized more clearly than the members of the Labour government the great qualifications of Mr. Holyman. He was a go-ahead businessman in a field fraught with difficulty and great responsibility. He showed initiative and courage in his undertakings. T.A.A. was fortunate in the beginning in having Mr. A. W. Coles in charge of its operations. Prom a business point of view Mr. Coles was nothing less than a genius. He was able, by his initiative, to obtain four T.A.A. Convair aircraft. These aircraft had been remarkably successful in the United States of America, on rather shorter runs than they would be required to undertake in Australia. They had a tremendous rate of Climb, they were pressurized, and in many respects were very suitable for Australian conditions. Mr. Coles and Mr. Holyman were brought together by the Government, and, as I said during a debate in this House some years ago, a stage was reached when it was almost agreed that the two concerns would operate together under one control, with, perhaps, a slight majority of shares in favour of the Government, as was the case with Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited and Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited. Both of these gentlemen were very able businessmen, and neither could agree that the other had the necessary qualifications to be managing director of the joint venture. That was largely the reason why the proposition fell through.
Another reason, of course, why that kind of proposal could hardly be entertained to-day is that the present Government is, of course, tremendously concerned with promoting the profit interests of big business. If you have government and private interests co-operating in projects of a national character, such as those connected with airlines, wireless, oil and so on, and the claims of both private investment and public enterprise have to be recognized, then the undertaking might be successful. Certainly such an undertaking was tremendously successful in the case of Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited. It has been tremendously successful also in the case of Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited. It was thought, by quite a lot of people - and certainly the idea was favoured for some time by the Labour government - that a similar arrangement might be made in relation to interstate air services in this country. There is something like that indicated in the offer made by Mr. Haddy of the overseas shipowners association. But if there is a successful enterprise like that, all that this Government does is to sell out the Government’s interest to private interests. It appears to be an implied bargain. That is what the Government did with the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited. For thirty years the shares had been divided between the Commonwealth and the Anglo-Iranian Oil organization, in which the British Government held shares. It was successful every year and was able to influence policy on oil in this country, and exercise some control over prices. The late W. M. Hughes in his last speech in this chamber referred to it. He talked about the scandal of selling the people’s half share to the Anglo-Iranian oil organization. Now the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited has seen fit to change its name by removing the word “ Commonwealth “ from it. It is now to be known as the British Petroleum Company. The same sort of thing happened with A.W.A. How can the people trust a government which is so dominated by big business that it will not keep to the basic bargain? It sold the people’s half interest in Amalgamated Wireless, although it had been successful every year for 30 years as C.O.R. had been.
With regard to aviation, that is one way in which the matter might have been pursued but this has been rendered impossible by the actions of this Government. Let us examine the facts. Trans-Australia Airlines was originated in 1945. It was not conducted for profit at all, and never has been, although it has made profits. Profitmaking was not its purpose or motive. Its object was to provide an economical and efficient service for the people of Australia, and it was run to the best advantage on that basis. It was not dominated in any shape or form by the profit-making desire. It received capital from the Treasury, but that sum has not been increased by £1 since this Government came into office. It did not have a binding obligation, but the implication was that T.A.A. would not go short of necessary capital for its expansion or for the purchase of the latest aircraft to give the people a first-class service.
The other civil aviation concern is Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited. Who controlled that company? It was Huddart Parker Limited, Union Steam Ship Company of New Zealand Limited, the Adelaide Steamship Company Limited, and the Orient Steam Navigation Company Limited. It is an odd thing to find shipping companies controlling airlines in this country. That is not permitted in the United States of America. They are different forms of transport, but of course this link has been used to increase the freight rates of airlines. The only other interested party I have not yet mentioned is William Holyman and Sons Proprietary Limited.
Now let me deal with the change that is being effected by the recent entry of Ansett Airways Proprietary Limited into the field. In substance, the Government is authorizing the pouring of more government money into a new concern, but it will still be called A.N.A. Mr. Ansett and other interests are coming in to replace shareholders in A.N.A. There is a change in shareholders, but not in ownership. As I understand the agreement, whatever the provisional name may be, the name under which this concern will operate will be A.N.A. Proprietary with different shareholders. That is an important consequence.
I say that what was done in 1952 and what is represented here are really to a large extent an interference with the original charter of T.A.A. I think that can be shown, and I think the object of this agreement is designed to limit the initiative and enterprise of T.A.A. For example, at the same time as this legislation is being brought down a tax is being imposed on aviation kerosene fuel, 90 per cent, of which is used in Australia by T.A.A. in its great modern planes. This tax will yield approximately £350,000, of which T.A.A. will have to pay £308,000. That will cut the profits of T.A.A. enormously. Its net profit for 1956-57 was only £308,829. Its profit will be wiped out. The imposition of this tax is not an accidental matter. Why was it put on? It was imposed in order to make it appear, at the end of the year, that T.A.A. is going down hill. That is a very serious matter.
– If is put on so that the Ansett company can increase its fares.
– One of the clauses in this bill clearly shows that an increase in fares will be brought about. In 1952 a capital sum of £3,000,000, running to £4,000,000, was made available to A.N.A. by way of a special loan arranged through the Commonwealth Bank. Then it was laid down, with regard to airmail, that there should be equality between T.A.A. and A.N.A. Why that arrangement should be made, I do not know. They were to share the airmail business and Government passengers would have the right to choose which airline they would use. Although that is perfectly sound in theory, one would normally think that passengers whose fares were paid by the Government might be expected to patronize the Government line. It is a strange provision. But this is what is called rationalizing the services. When I used the word “ rationalized “ earlier, an honorable member behind me asked whether the service was being nationalized. Of course it is not. Rationalization is a long word to describe the establishment of what is, in effect, a combination of companies or a cartel. In other words it is an arrangement which limits or precludes competition. The truth is that competition is very seriously restricted.
Neither of the companies can start an air route without the agreement of the other or on the authority of an independent arbitrator, who at present is the former Chief Justice of the High Court, Sir John Latham. Neither can change its time-table without the consent of its rival or on decision of the arbitrator. Neither can increase or lower fares without a similar arrangement; and the same condition applies to freight. If you have an authority in control and you have either to get the consent of your so-called rival or of that authority, then competition ceases. The fact is that it is so far from being competition that it is the antithesis of it. “ Rationalization “ is the term used in America and Great Britain to justify the formation of great combines. It means that they all observe the same rules and they are quite a happy family, running the show together and dividing the profits.
This Government is supposed to favour competitive enterprise. I take it that it is not simply the obtaining of a secure investment that is the main consideration. It believes that there is something in competition. In many cases, if it is a small business involved, competition is the very life of trade and there should be such competition. But once you get outside the area of small business into the area of large business the competitive element is found to be disappearing from the economy of this country as it has practically disappeared from the economy of the United States and Great Britain. These are not the days of private enterprise in the old sense. The little man goes to the wall. The big people who form these combinations, do not compete with each Other. All that they make sure about is that the profits are the maximum that the traffic can bear. That policy is being applied on the grand scale to A.N.A. and in relation to T.A.A.
One illustration is Butler Air Transport Limited. I must say this for Butler’s, that in New South Wales this company has pioneered many of the country services and has operated them at great advantage to the travelling public. It looks as though a move is to be made by Ansett-A.N.A. to draw into its field concerns such as Butler Air Transport Limited so as to monopolize the whole of civil aviation in this country. In the agreement of 1952 A.N.A. got, among other advantages, those that I have mentioned. It escaped having to repay charges for which it had denied liability for about five years, although for all of that period the charges had been paid by T.A.A. That was a disadvantage to T.A.A.
The relative strength of the organizations in 1951-52 is indicated by freight and passenger figures. In that year A.N.A. aircraft flew no less than 14,000,000 freight miles, whereas T.A.A. aeroplanes flew only 7,500,000 freight miles. That is to say that almost twice as many freight miles were flown by A.N.A. One of the reasons for that was the link-up between A.N.A. and the shipping lines. The shipping lines have branches throughout Australia, and when they had the responsibility of indicating how goods which had been unloaded from ships were to be carried interstate they would arrange for them to be carried by A.N.A. Incidentally, under the 1952 agreement the Government had to allocate half its freight to A.N.A. There was no such corresponding undertaking on behalf of A.N.A. which took half the Government freight and all it could get besides. It had the machinery and the organization to do that, and it had all the great shipping services available to it. However, by 1951-52 T.A.A. had managed to get comfortably ahead of A.N.A. in the number of (passenger miles travelled. T.A.A. aeroplanes travelled 320,000,000 passenger miles and A.N.A. aircraft 277,000,000 passenger miles. Those figures broadly indicate the situation.
The agreement in this bill is very much of the same character as the previous one. Mr. Haddy of A.N.A. published an advertisement in which he attacked the Government on several points. On all points he wanted to get more and more. He was answered by the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Paltridge) in a very direct and forthright reply which said, in substance, that A.N.A. had been treated most fairly. The Minister indicated, however, that the Government would support the continuance of the theory - because that is all it is - that interstate air traffic in Australia must be limited to two airline companies. The basis of that theory is not known. Perhaps, from an economic point of view, it is correct. It seems to be contrary to the provisions of the Constitution concerning freedom of interstate trade but the basis of it is not a legal restriction so much as a business necessity.
I have indicated that latterly A.N.A. has not been able to carry out its obligations in relation to the enormous loans that it has received. One of the obligations into which the Government entered was to see that arrangements were made in connexion with the continuance of that loan money. The present agreement largely repeats the previous agreement, lt still is an A.N.A. arrangement, although the organization will be in the hands of Mr. Ansett. The agreement provides that rationalization shall go on, so there will be no more competition than before. The agreement will be continued for the full fifteen years from 1952 to 1967. The bill sets up a rationalization committee of which T.A.A. will nominate one member, A.N.A. will nominate another, and the Minister for Civil Aviation will nominate one who will be a co-ordinator. He will not be a conciliator. He will have the duty of co-ordinating the two services as though they were one. The importance of the word “ co-ordinator “ is clear when one studies the provision of the agreement - provision is made for the exchange of documents; Ansett Airways Proprietary Limited is to cease operating airline services; past omissions of the company are not to constitute a breach of the Civil Aviation Agreement, and so on.
The views of the Opposition are broadly the same as they were before. There should have been equitable treatment of T.A.A., acting in pursuance of its statutory duty, not to make a profit but to run an efficient service. Instead of that, it has been put behind scratch for the last five years. In spite of that fact, it still leads the other concern in the way that I have tried to describe. A matter of serious concern is the fact that in the annual report of T.A.A. which was placed before us the other day, and which was signed by Mr. McDonald, the chairman of the Australian National Airlines Commission, the following statement was made: -
Since 1952 the impact of a third operator over the Eastern Section of the main routes had made it increasingly difficult for the maintenance of planned rationalization in competition on the pattern evolved in 1952 and in effect precluded its extension. The recent purchase by Ansett Transport Industries Limited of A.N.A.’s undertaking once more establishes the two major operator pattern. The circumstances leading to this position completely vindicate the 1952 policy view that there was - and still is - room for only two major operators on Australia’s main routes from Cairns to Perth.
That statement was not made by some independent arbitrator, but by the gentleman who is the chairman of T.A.A. He said -
There is now every reason to expect that with the main route competition confined to two operators a greater degree of stability can be achieved in the Australian domestic airline industry, and that with due regard to the interests of the public, rationalization can provide effective and more economical services and bring earnings into a proper relation to overall costs.
When that statement was published, 1 criticized it and I repeat my criticism. I think it is a completely improper statement, coming from the chairman of T.A.A. The charter of T.A.A. is set forth in the relevant statute. It does not contemplate merely two services or rationalization. Those matters are completely beyond the scope of T.A.A. to consider. Yet here is the chairman boosting the new proposal of the Government in his annual report to Parliament and he deserves serious criticism for it. Tt is for Parliament to determine what is to be done. If T.A.A. is to continue to compete satisfactorily it must have people whose one loyalty is to a furtherance of the interests of the people of Australia as expressed in the 1945 charter. I hold that view very strongly. There have been changes, of course, in the membership of T.A.A. It is not now made up of the same people who succeeded in starting this enterprise successfully.
To sum up what I have said, this is an attempt in 1957, with some changes, to repeat what was done in 1952. However, I think that the changes envisaged in this legislation are worse. The Government takes no notice of the fact that A.N.A. has not been successful in competing with T.A.A. Why the Government should prefer two services to three I do not know. There is no magic about the number, 2. The situation sought to be created must be looked at directly. A.N.A. is an existing company. Under the laws of this country, as I understand them, A.N.A., which will continue to operate through Ansett, will be able to deduct from its assessable income losses incurred over the last seven years. That is to say, in dealing with the future situation, A.N.A. will be able to make deductions for losses already incurred in the last seven years and continuously over a seven-year period. If this is so it is a very serious situation, and whoever is in possession of the facts should explain how it operates and how the financial arrangements are being provided.
I denounce the agreement. It is not competitive. It is an attempt to weaken T.A.A. The tax on kerosene will have that effect. Such a tax must prove advantageous to T.A.A. ‘s rivals. Is it not plain that the same broad policy of weakening Government enterprises is operating here as was proposed in the banking legislation and in the other cases I have mentioned? Once upon a time if a Government enterprise was successful, even the most reactionary and conservative opposition to it would never dare to change it. But that position has altered. We now know that whatever the industry may be, whether it be whaling in Western Australia or coalmining in the eastern States, if the Government projects are successful the next step taken by representatives of the Government, such as Senator Spooner, is to say “This Government has pioneered this industry, has enabled it to carry on and run efficiently and profitably, employing people who know their job. We will hand the industry over to our friends in private enterprise.” That is exactly what has happened. It happened in the whaling industry in Carnarvon; and it is happening in the coal mines and in connexion with the other enterprises I have mentioned. We on this side of the House oppose this proposed legislation. We think it is reactionary. The 1952 legislation having failed in its effect, this is not the solution to the problem of efficient interstate transport. T.A.A. should have one object only - this is something Mr. McDonald should remember - to run T.A.A. services efficiently without any regard to profit, but with regard solely to economical running and the welfare of the people of Australia. That should be its only objective.
.- This evening we have heard the familiar dirge from the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt). Once again we heard those complaints so commonly heard from him, how he attacks what he describes as big business, and how he is frightened of anything in the community which represents success. The right honorable gentleman conveniently forgets that 75 per cent, of all employment in this country stems from the great efforts of those people who have gone out and developed Australia and taken their personal risks in order to do so, supported by no government. Until the socialist Government came to power in 1941 they were unthreatened by those whose great desire to absorb the good things in Australia led them to a policy of nationalization of everything; in their own words the means of distribution, production and exchange. We always hear this policy from the right honorable gentleman. We always hear this complaint, this whining about the success of private enterprise, of free people who have been able to stand independently of that growth which the right honorable gentleman represents so well, the growth of bureaucracy and government control. This evening he has been handing out this spurious doctrine. He says that government fares should be used on government airlines. What on first appearance may appear to be a reasonable argument should be looked at closely.
I believe that in his own electorate in recent times charges have been made by his own supporters that the New South Wales Labour Government should be rebuked because it banks with a private trading bank to the extent of some millions of pounds. Here the socialists are cringing and crying because of the confidence that the Labour party in New South Wales has shown in long-established organizations such as the Bank of New South Wales. My learned friend remains silent. I have heard this story so often that I feel we can do nothing better than to make it clear to all people who are in free enterprise in this country where the Labour party stands, and in particular in relation to the air transport industry. On 29th October, 1952, the right honorable gentleman made it very clear where the Labour party stood, and I hope this will be borne in mind by such people as Mr. R. M. Ansett. At the conclusion of his speech on the Civil Aviation Bill the right honorable gentleman said: -
I say, on behalf of the Labour party, that we shall take every available step to oppose the bill. If, notwithstanding that, the bill be passed, a future Labour government will frankly tell the people that the new parliament will not be bound by its predecessor. We shall take every lawful step to set aside this agreement.
There, without question, stands the Labour party. Let us see where it stands in relation to civil aviation. On 18th July, 1945, the late Honorable Arthur Drakeford, the former member for Maribyrnong, introduced in this House the Australian National Airlines Bill, and his opening words were -
In introducing this measure for the nationalization of interstate airlines, I anticipate that honorable members opposite will attack it from the same political party angle as they used in attacking the banking bills.
It was apparent in that debate that the speeches of Opposition members were based on party bias in favour of what they called private enterprise. Let us have another frank admission from members of the Labour party that this is where they stand irrevocably - as the opponents of free enterprise within the Commonwealth. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), who was then Leader of the Opposition, speaking on the same bill, said -
It is a bill to nationalize the interstate civil aviation industry. No more, no less! If it is said by somebody that that is only a part of an industry and not the whole, and that, consequently, the precise words of the late Prime Minister’s promise are not violated, it becomes necessary to point out that the Minister- who was the late Mr. Drakeford - in his own speech on the second reading, said very candidly, and I find him always candid on these matters -
Had the referendum been successful, this legislation would, in all probability, have covered intra-state as well as interstate airlines.
It appears, therefore, that any limitation of control placed by Labour on this industry was due not to some desire to pay lip service to the promise of the late Prime Minister - a solemn personal and political pledge which is, of course, denied by every honorable member who sits opposite - but was due to Labour’s unsuccessful attempt to alter the Constitution by a referendum prepared and designed by the present Leader of the Opposition. That being the case, everybody involved will now understand what will happen to the air transport industry if the Opposition is returned to office. [ support this bill, which relates to a proposed agreement between the Commonwealth, the Australian National Airlines Commission and certain companies in connexion with airline services, and to amend the Civil Aviation Agreement Act 1952. The best interests of Australia will be preserved if an efficient and competitive air transport industry is established and maintained. On 3rd September. 1957, the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Paltridge) set out with great clarity the policy of the Government, which is aimed at establishing and maintaining efficiently the air transport industry. All honorable members will be cognizant of the many difficulties that have arisen in this industry in recent years, and will, I am sure, agree that it is proper that the Australian Government should interest itself in it and take the necessary steps to fulfil the objective I have just outlined.
This measure is necessary because, in recent months, Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited has passed under the control of Ansett Transport Industries Limited, which also control Ansett Airways Proprietary Limited. The Civil Aviation Agreement Act 1952 provided for an agreement between the Commonwealth and A.N.A. This measure seeks parliamentary approval for the agreement to be taken up by Ansett-A.N.A. Having regard to the many profound problems confronting the air transport industry, I believe that this House should indicate its approval of the splendid work that has been carried out by Ansett Transport Industries Limited in seeking to keep in operation the major public company in the air transport industry. I refer to Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited, which has contributed so much to the development of that industry during the last 30 years.
At this stage, I place on record my profound respect and admiration for the splendid contribution made to the development of Australia in general and to the air transport industry in particular by the late Sir Ivan Holyman, whose personality and character were the great driving force behind Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited. A great Australian has passed away, and the burden which he carried has been taken up by Mr. R. Ansett, the present chairman of Ansett-A.N.A.
– Why has he passed away?
– That will be made clear in due course, even to the honorable member for Melbourne Ports. The schedule to the bill indicates that the objective of the Commonwealth Government is to maintain a highly efficient and competitive service on what are called the trunk routes. The Minister’s statement to which I have referred makes it quite clear that in the Government’s view there is room for only two operators upon these trunk routes which are the aerial links between the capital cities. These operators will be the Government airline, Trans-Australia Airlines, and the public company airline,
Ansett-A.N.A. It follows, therefore, that the Government must restrict operations upon the trunk routes to these two organizations. I am conscious of the fact that the Government has limited power to do so, but if it is to take a real interest in, and provide assistance for, the maintenance of an efficient air transport industry, surely it should be able to utilize its authority and resources to see that the trunk routes remain. The problems of the future will be great, and I believe the Government will find itself committed to substantial financial assistance to both organizations if a modern and efficient airline service is to be maintained on the trunk routes.
Having stated that I am pleased that the Commonwealth Government will support T.A.A. and Ansett-A.N.A., on the trunk routes, I turn now to the very important question of what are described as the branch routes from the feeder services, in other words, those intra-state airline operators who are of paramount importance in the development of the outlying areas in all of the States. A number of companies are concerned with this type of work and I propose to discuss the future of Butler Air Transport Limited in New South Wales. However, to begin with I should like to pay tribute to the splendid work that has been carried out by companies like Mac.Robertson Miller in Western Australia, Connellan Airways Limited in Central Australia, East-West Airlines Limited in New South Wales, and Queensland Airlines Proprietary Limited in Queensland. In New South Wales at the present time there is great interest in the future of Butler Air Transport Limited. In the interests of all concerned Butler Air Transport should continue under its present control with its present objectives. Mr. Arthur Butler, the managing director-
– I rise to order. The measure we are discussing relates to an agreement between the Commonwealth, Australian National Airlines Commission and certain companies in connexion with airline services. What relation has this measure to companies other than T.A.A., A.N.A. and Ansett-A.N.A.? What relation does it bear to Mac.Robertson Miller and the other companies mentioned by the honorable member for St. George?
– I rise to order. The schedule refers tc -
The Commission, the Company and Ansett Transport Industries Limited, and all airline companies or firms in which Ansett Transport Industries Limited has a controlling interest.
I submit that brings at least Butler Air Transport Limited within the ambit of this measure.
– The Leader of the Opposition in dealing with this measure spoke of the restriction of interstate routes to two airlines. The honorable member for St. George is dealing with other companies which have not got the right to operate on such routes. I rule that he is in order.
- Mr. Arthur Butler, managing director of Butler Air Transport Limited, has made a contribution of the highest order to the development of the air transport industry in Australia. In this difficult and dangerous business the 24 years’ service that Mr. Butler and his organization have rendered to the people of New South Wales, in particular, stands as a proud record indeed. It has been claimed - in my opinion, with justification - that Butler Air Transport Limited is the best rural service in the world. In recent years, when it became apparent that all airlines were unable to operate DC3 aircraft with a profitable return, Butler Air Transport Limited secured Viscount and Elizabethan aircraft. The board of Butler Air Transport Limited contends that, as a direct result of this action, the company is now functioning at a profit and is financially sound. It is common knowledge that Mr. R. M. Ansett is purchasing shares in Butler Air Transport Limited with a view to gaining control of that organization. I am advised that Mr. Ansett has stated unequivocally that his intentions in relation to Butler Air Transport Limited are, first, that Butler Air Transport Limited will continue to function as an intra-state airline in New South Wales and, secondly, that the company shall be expanded and strengthened. I desire to place those points on record in the Parliament.
Members of Butler Air Transport Limited have a rather different outlook on this matter. Their view is that Mr. Ansett is seeking to become a sort of Napoleon in the free enterprise side of the air transport industry. The opinion is held that, if Mr. Ansett gains control of Butler Air Transport Limited, he will secure the Viscount aircraft and immediately begin to operate them between Sydney and Brisbane and Sydney and Melbourne, and make Butler Air Transport Limited operate with the less efficient Convair Metropolitan. I repeat these opinions so that honorable members technically equipped to assess their value may do so. Nobody - that is to say, nobody with an appreciation of what free enterprise and liberalism mean; I would not, of course, dare to speak of the more qualified doctrinaire socialists - can challenge the free right of Mr. Ansett to do this because he must, after all, endeavour to eliminate Butler Air Transport Limited unless he wants to find himself in the position in relation to Butler Air Transport Limited that was occupied by the late Sir Ivan Holyman in relation to himself.
In normal circumstances, I would think that this House should not concern itself with commercial matters, but in this instance the activity of the public company operators is of direct concern to the Parliament because the Parliament has approved, in the Civil Aviation Agreement Act, of the rendering of great financial assistance to A.N.A. It will be of interest to the Parliament to know that in 1941 an agreement was entered into between the Commonwealth and Butler Air Transport Limited to operate an air service from Charleville to Sydney. The agreement, which was signed by the present Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) when he was Minister for Civil Aviation, is an historic document and I have it here to-night. It contained a clause which I shall read to the House. I draw the attention of honorable members to this clause because in my view it is a reflection of the opinion of the Government at a time when the Government was not engaged in the airline business. The clause reads as follows: -
Contractor not to operate another air transport service.
The Contractor shall not, without prior written approval of the Director-General-
That is, the Director-General of Civil Aviation - engage directly or indirectly in, or hold or acquire any interest or shares in any business, firm or company engaged, directly or indirectly, in any air transport or aerial work in Australia or the Territories of the Commonwealth other than that specified in the Schedule and other than the Service and any other Service operated by the Contractor by agreement with the Commonwealth or the Postmaster-General.
This document, now sixteen years old, is of historic interest, and it bears the name of the present Minister for Trade, who signed on behalf of the Government. I have read this clause to indicate that in those days the thinking of the Government was that steps should be taken to prevent the creation of a private monopoly in the air transport industry. I regret that the present agreement was not evolved in the first place in such a manner as to incorporate a similar expression. At this time it is not possible to amend the agreement in the manner that I have indicated without rendering it utterly inoperative. However, when future agreements are evolved, my intention is to do all that I can to ensure that this type of clause is contained within them. As a supporter of the Liberal party, I am as much opposed to private monopoly as I am to government monopoly.
In a statement on civil aviation on 3rd September, the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) intimated that the Government had decided to extend assistance by way of subsidy to the operators of essential air services in rural areas and also to help selected operators to obtain suitable replacements for the DC3 aircraft. The granting of this assistance will be conditional upon the operator agreeing to provide services to specified areas at frequencies approved by the Minister, having regard to public needs and convenience in the rural areas to be served. A further necessary condition will be that fares and freight rates are fixed at reasonable levels. The policy adopted by the Government in relation to trunk route operations is basically the same in concept as that embodied in the Civil Aviation Agreement Act 1952 and is the provision of fair and equal conditions of competition for two major operators. The objective of the Government must be to retain that policy so that there will be two major operators.
As this tends to exclude every one else from the trunk route operations, I contend that the two major operators should be restricted to the trunk route operations and the rest of the aerial transport industry should be left to the other intra-state operators. The Government must move along these lines in the future, in my opinion. Butler Air Transport Limited must function on its own, under its own control and responsible for its own efficiency. I have no doubt that T.A.A. will, because of its own great efficiency, survive with or without the support that is given in such a funereal manner by my right honorable colleague, having regard to the fact that it consists largely of the transport command of the Royal Australian Air Force. As every one in this Parliament knows, it was a most distinguished institution and I have no doubt that it will function efficiently and profitably for many years.
I commend the bill and congratulate Mr. R. M. Ansett for the work that he has done and upon the great courage that he has shown in taking up the burden of responsibility that rested previously upon the shoulders of the late Sir Ivan Holyman. I congratulate Mr. Arthur Butler upon the efficiency of Butler Air Transport Limited. I congratulate him because his company is held in the highest regard in New South Wales, and this high public esteem is due largely to his own courage, enthusiasm and abiding interest in the welfare of the people who live in the far-flung under-populated -outback areas. I hope that Ansett-A.N.A. will continue to function profitably and successfully as a trunk route operator on the interstate air services. I hope that Butler Air Transport Limited will remain, free from any outside control, to operate as an efficient New South Wales intrastate airline.
.- The speech of the honorable member for St. George (Mr. Graham) was no doubt a declaration of policy on behalf of the new Ansett organization and indicates just what we may expect from that organization in the future. Supporters of the Government must not be surprised if Opposition mem”bers feel grave concern at the new agreement presented to us now for confirmation.
This agreement must be considered in association with the 1952 agreement. There are two outstanding features of the proposal that has been submitted to the House. The first concerns the amounts of £435,000 and £70,000, or a total of approximately £500,000, by which the organization formerly known as Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited has defaulted. Instead of requiring the company to forfeit the rights, advantages and benefits that the agreement gave it, the Government in a very solicitous manner, is prepared to forgive it. Instead of the imposition of penalties because of the default, the amounts in default are to be added to the amount of the loan that is to be debited to the new organization. I say, therefore, that the A.N.A. organization is being decidedly advantaged. The amount of capital that has been made available to T.A.A., and in respect of which, of course, satisfactory security was required by the Government, is £4,000,000. A.N.A. has the advantage, not only of a loan of £4,000,000, but also of its capital. I say therefore, that there has been an uneven distribution of assistance to the two organizations.
Under the Civil Aviation Agreement, the transport of mail was divided between T.A.A. and A.N.A., and business worth £200,000 a year was taken from T.A.A. and handed to A.N.A. I think that was a scandal. The Government took away from its own airline some, business that was essentially of a public nature and allowed a private organization to. have the advantage of this business so that it might provide the means for making profit. That seems to me to be a very poor way to serve the public interest, which requires the provision of the best possible service at the cheapest possible cost.
In addition, the Government has increased, from time to time, the percentage that it has taken of the profits of T.A.A. Originally, the figure was 3 per cent.; then it rose to 4 per cent., and now it is 5 per cent. But that is not all. It is now proposed to impose income tax on T.A.A. Even the aviation kerosene that is used by T.A.A. is to be subject to tax of 6$d. a gallon, which will result in additional revenue, on the operations of T.A.A. alone, of approximately £350,000 a year. The Government proposes, however, to reduce the primage on aviation spirit, which will be of benefit to Ansett-A.N.A. No such reduction in the primage is to be made on kerosene fuel used by T.A.A. All the advantages must go one way - to improve the position of the Ansett-A.N.A. organization.
I believe that, having regard to the concessions that have been granted to the private airlines and the measures that have been taken to diminish the profit margin of T.A.A., when T.A.A. next presents a balance sheet it will be possible for the Government to say, though without justification, that it has failed in its objective and in its obligation to the country. No doubt, publicity will be given to that state of affairs as a reason for disposing of the airline to the cartel which to-day operates in opposition to it and which will threaten the prospects of T.A.A. if the Government continues unfairly to discriminate against its own airline and to give concessions to the privately operated line.
Mr. Ansett, in recent utterances, seems to have taken the liberty of speaking, not only for his own organization, and, in certain respects seems to implicate T.A.A. I suggest that that is extraordinary conduct on the part of one who is supposed to be in competition with T.A.A. The Government speaks of its belief in free enterprise and freedom to operate without restraint. I say that one of the greatest negations of that freedom is to be found in the agreement that is before the House to-night. In common with the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt), I resent very much the statements that have been made by Mr. McDonald, who, I feel, has become something of an apologist for this new scheme of rationalization, which has become so popular with this Government. Whenever it is found that private enterprise, in competition with government enterprise, is not capable of holding its own, we have these rationalization schemes being introduced.
The latest suggestion is that free transport for passengers between city and town terminals, and airports, may be discontinued. But this, bad as it may be, is not the worst feature of likely events. It is suggested, also, that one of the airline companies may provide a special taxi service, for the use of which a charge will be made. Apparently, further profits are to be made by another subsidiary, and the public will have to pay.
If Trans-Australia Airlines were allowed to operate without restraint, fares and freight charges would no doubt have been reduced. However, tied as it is under the rationalization scheme, it can alter its fares and freight charges only by agreement with the other company that is a party to the rationalization agreement. That is indeed contrary to the very principle of what are termed free enterprise and free competition. The government-owned airline would run the other company right out of business if it were given a fair chance to give the service that it should be allowed to give to the people of this country. When all is said and done, is not the first consideration the welfare and the convenience of the people rather than the interests of a few privileged persons who want to make profits, and are not interested in giving service to the people? I should like to know how much capital is involved in the new airline organization that has been formed, how much of the capital is Australian and how much is foreign, and where the foreign money comes from. We are entitled to know these details.
An all-important feature of air services is their defence importance. It is essential for Australia to have available efficient air services that can be used for defence purposes in time of emergency. One of the great tragedies of World War II. was that Australia was denied such facilities.
– Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited provided them.
– The facilities provided by that airline were totally inadequate, and nobody else was able to provide the required facilities. I happen to know these things, because, on many occasions, I acted on behalf of the late Honorable Arthur Drakeford, who was Minister for Air and Minister for Civil Aviation during the war. Therefore, Government supporters need not think that there is any aspect of this matter with which I am not familiar, and on which they can inform me. I know something of the real import of this problem, and of the serious defence consequences of inadequate air transport facilities.
I feel that the Government has not justified this measure. It has failed to observe the essentials of true competition and free enterprise, and it has denied to the government-owned airline freedom of action, and the fair and equitable treatment that the people are entitled to expect it to receive. As a consequence, the Government has gravely hampered that organization’s ability to provide the facilities and the service that the people need but will not be given by private operators whose only interest is profit-making.
– I do not think that any one would question the sincerity with which the honorable member for Bonython (Mr. Makin) advanced his ideas. It is sufficient for me to say that I do not agree with his deductions, and therefore do not agree with his conclusions.
This evening, we are considering a measure that provides for the rationalization of the major airlines of Australia in order to ensure that efficient and reasonably competitive services shall be provided on the major air routes. One thing that emerges from preceding events, and from the agreement to which this measure gives effect, is that the Government is trying to induce a situation in which two major airlines are operating in competition over the major air routes. One of these airlines was the historic airline that we knew as Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited, or more commonly, A.N.A. The other was Trans-Australia Airlines, or T.A.A., the government-owned airline. This Government decided that T.A.A. should be the independent or ad hoc authority conducting one airline, and that the private concern known as A.N.A. should be the other. In the meantime, Mr. Acting Deputy Speaker, a new force, in the form of Ansett Airways Proprietary Limited, entered the field. The Ansett organization proceeded along certain lines that made it more difficult for A.N.A. to compete successfully. Although the conception was that two airlines would cover the major air routes, a third operator appeared.
This development was further complicated by the entry of Butler Air Transport Limited into the field of inter-capital services. The Butler organization, which had given magnificent service in the early days of civil aviation, particularly in inland Australia, launched out into the extremely expensive development of purchasing Viscount aircraft, and the fight was on. I pay tribute to Arthur Butler for what I have seen, over the years, of the work done by him in building up his services from scratch and serving country people. But the fact remains that his company’s entry into inter-capital services in competition with the other airlines helped to precipitate events that are now disturbing a great many minds. A.N.A. having virtually collapsed, the Government has now submitted to the Parliament a proposal that will in fact involve a return to something like the original position of two major airlines operating in reasonable competition, particularly on services between the capital cities, and on the rest of the major air routes. That is the background to the agreement that is provided for in this measure.
I do not propose to traverse the ground already covered by the Minister for Air (Mr. Osborne), and other speakers. Instead, I should like to turn to certain implications of the agreement. Its first distinguishing feature is, as I have pointed out, that the services of the two major airlines - T.A.A. and what is now Ansett-A.N.A. - will be rationalized. A second and very important distinguishing feature is that very great aid will be given to airlines. Now, that aid apparently will be given in its major aspects, by loan or by guarantee. I have no objection to that. I think that under the circumstances it is necessary that something of that kind be done. But it has certain implications. The Minister, in his speech on the subject, said in effect that A.N.A. had rejected the proposals put forward by the Government for taking over the financial responsibility that had been incurred by that airline. He stressed the fact that the policy measures which the Government had placed before A.N.A. included a proposal for the subsidization of unprofitable DC3 services to rural areas, and the granting of assistance for the replacement of DC3 aircraft. He went on to say simply that that offer was not accepted. But it has a very important bearing on what I have to say.
The Minister’s own remarks on clause 5 show that since 1952 the Government has guaranteed three loans to A.N.A., totalling £4,350,000, to purchase certain very expensive aircraft. In addition to that there has been a default on interest on loans amounting to another £435,000. One of the points of the agreement which has been entered into with the new combination known as Ansett-A.N.A. is that there shall be a refunding of the loans. In other words, if I am right in my understanding of what has been explained, the interest is to be lumped in with the debt already incurred, there is to be an extension of terms, and those terms are to be reasonably easy to enable the new combination to get on its feet. The refunding device has not only been used in connexion with enterprises such as this, but very commonly since war made its impact on international currencies. We use it in our own national business when we make some blunder or when a State gets into trouble and it is necessary to make new financial arrangements.
– But it is a new principle when you extend it to private enterprise.
– Well, if the honorable gentleman cares to study the history of this country he will find that on more than one occasion assistance has been granted to private enterprise. By the same token, if I may say so, his analytical mind and sharp eye in financial matters will discover the fact that there have been numerous occasions when Government enterprises have collapsed and lost the whole of their capital. But I do not want to enter into that field of unprofitable discussion because the honorable gentleman and I could pick up the pros and cons of the argument. I could point to the evils of Government interference in business and the honorable gentleman could no doubt balance that by other arguments.
– Unprofitable? The only thing I would say is that the emphasis on profit is the genesis of the plan.
– That is so, but I must say I am much more in love with the profit motive than I. am with the loss motive, and I think that on the Government’s side there has been far more loss motive than profit motive.
– There is no profit in this.
Mr. ACTING DEPUTY SPEAKEROrder!
– I will let that point go by. The point I am coming to is that in the whole of these negotiations there has been a recognition, not only in regard to the A.N.A. enterprise, but also in regard to T.A.A., of the need to assist airlines. T.A.A. got a tremendous kick-off, a tremendous amount of assistance, to buy new and very efficient aircraft, which put it in a very strong competitive position and enabled it to make things very uncomfortable for A.N.A. on some of the lines which A.N.A. had pioneered. Some things were done in days gone by in that matter which looked to me as being scarcely cricket, but I am not going to follow that line. The point I want to make is that here is a principle adopted and accepted - and it has been accepted by the Opposition in the past - that the development of aviation in this country should be the object of some form of financial aid from the government of the day. That is the thing that I think should be kept in mind.
Now, is it the intention of the Government that the major part of this assistance shall be directed only towards those people who travel between the capital cities or the major centres of population which are almost equivalent to capital cities? Or is the principle to be accepted by this Government, which is pledged to a policy of decentralization, that those airlines which do not serve capitals, but which do serve people who sometimes put up with incredible hardships and incredible difficulty in travelling shall have their share of the national cake when it is cut for the purposes of benefiting aviation? I do not criticize this agreement. I think it was inevitable. I think the financial arrangements were inevitable, and I will now tell the House why I think the same principle as is contained in the agreement should apply not only between capital cities but also between capital cities and the outlying centres of this country. We all recognize that, just as the horse and buggy was completely outmoded by the motor car, so in many parts of the interior of our country, not only the motor car but also the railway is outmoded by the aeroplane. The aeroplane apparently - not in my lifetime perhaps, but certainly in the lifetime of my children - will be outmoded by a rocket in which people will be packed and sent off to London, where they will be in time for breakfast not long after having had an early morning cup of tea in Australia. That is not just by way of joking. I am emphasizing the fact that if we condemn the people of the interior to a means of travel already outmoded for people who live in the capital cities, we shall be doing something which will not assist the internal development of this country. To be more specific in my remarks, I refer to the fact that there are not many airlines which serve the interior part of Australia with which I am familiar; but there is one airline which is without parallel in the whole of Australia so far as I know, and that is the one which is known as East-West Airlines. I make no apology for bringing this company into the debate, because it has acted as agent for T.A.A., and T.A.A. has extended certain facilities to the company. No doubt East-West Airlines is very thankful for the co-operation that has been extended to it by T.A.A. When the Government enacts legislation which will affect relations between T.A.A. and another major company, these independent airlines which may be indirectly affected thereby naturally become very concerned.
East-West Airlines has its head-quarters and its workshops in the country city of Tamworth. The company started from scratch ten years ago with a few converted Anson aircraft. It later changed to Lockheeds, and now it operates DC3’s. This airline has rendered magnificent service to the country people. While it used to take 22 hours for me to travel from Inverell to Tamworth by train, the people of that city can come to Sydney in two hours, transact their business, and return home in comfort the same day. When floods occurred and communications were cut off, East-West Airlines rendered sterling service in carrying supplies to people throughout the areas that were affected. It distributed much-needed food and stock fodder. The company has an extraordinarily high record of service and safety.
Those in control of East-West Airlines put their own money into the firm. The company is not listed on the stock exchange, and there is no foreign capital invested in it. The people of the district backed their faith in the enterprise with their own money. The company serves nearly twenty country centres, many of which have aerodromes that are no more than strips. During the greater part of its existence, the company has not had the benefit of any real airport facilities, even at the airport at Tamworth, where its head quarters are situated. Nevertheless it has battled through and has, so far, succeeded. I make this request to the Government: Not only should this company be not adversely affected by the contemplated legislation, but the Government should give effect to the policy of decentralization and should stand by what it told A.N.A. when it outlined its conditions to that company, namely, that it was prepared to assist in the development of rural areas served by DC3 aircraft.
The hour is late and I do not intend to labour my points. I conclude by saying that I do not wish any of my remarks to be construed as criticism of the Department of Civil Aviation. I, as member for the electorate in which East-West Airlines Limited has its head-quarters, and having no pecuniary interest whatever in that company, have watched with sympathy the battle that the company has put up, and I have noted the sympathetic manner in which the Department of Civil Aviation has, from time to time, attempted to help this airline. But I emphasize the necessity for the Government to be, proportionately at least, as sympathetic in its approach to the problems of the country airlines as to those of the great financial corporations, including one that is backed by the resources of the Commonwealth. In saying this, I am not criticizing the department but am merely pointing to a cardinal feature of Government policy. I hope that the Government, after the proposed agreement comes into force, will sympathetically consider the problems and the requirements of what 1 may call local services, the services that serve the country people, and will give those local services a deal at least as generous as is given to the major airline undertakings.
– The purpose of this bill is to approve an agreement which is supplementary to the Civil Aviation Agreement of 1952. This new agreement has been drawn up because of the complete failure of Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited, the much-boomed vehicle of private enterprise, which was used by this Government in its efforts to destroy Trans-Australia Airlines, the people’s airline that was established by the Chifley Government, and which has captured the support of the Australian travelling public and defies all efforts of so-called efficient private enterprise to diminish the goodwill which it enjoys with the general public.
In 1952 a certain amount of boloney was dished out to us in respect of the rationalization agreement, the benefits that it would confer on the Australian people, and the economical and efficient methods that would be adopted in ensuring fair competition and vigorous operation of our air services. A commission was set up, chaired by an old, worn-out Liberal party hack, who was previously a High Court judge, and who had not the slightest idea what it was all about. He failed lamentably in his duties, with the result that A.N.A., despite most favorable Government treatment, went bankrupt. I cannot understand why this Government insisted on appointing this old party hack, worn-out and useless both mentally and physically, devoid of any business ability, to handle Government finance in an endeavour to destroy a vigorous, efficient, up-to-date, modern organization that has gripped the imagination of the travelling public because of its great record of safety in the air. The ground organization of T.A.A. keeps on the ball by purchasing modern, fast aircraft to keep up schedules. Safety in its operation is the main feature of T.A.A. This is the aspect that the travelling public keeps in mind at all times. So I say: Out with these old, decrepit party hacks. Throw them out and let us get on the job of ensuring, safety in the air.
Let us survey the Minister’s secondreading speech during the debate on the 1952 legislation. He said that in order to ensure fair competition between the two major airlines then operating, the agreement would give A.N.A. substantial assistance in the form of guaranteed loans for purchasing new equipment, reduced air route charges, an equal share of Her Majesty’s mails and access to Government business. The agreement also provided for the rationalization of air services and related matters. This meant that the bestpaying routes were taken from T.A.A. and given to A.N.A. This agreement, it was subsequently found, was not popularly received by the people.
Early in 1957 it had become apparent that the affairs of A.N.A. had deteriorated to the point at which its continued existence was at stake. As a matter of fact, although the Minister neglected to say so, A.N.A. defaulted to the Government, in the matter of repayment of debts, to the extent of £435,000 plus interest up to June, 1957. As to the influence of A.N.A. in Government circles, it would, I think, be appropriate to give a list of shareholders in A.N.A. They include William Holyman and Sons Proprietary Limited, the Adelaide Steamship Company Limited, Huddart Parker Limited, the Union Steamship Company of New Zealand, and the Orient Steam Navigation Company Limited. The Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company has a controlling interest in the Orient line and the Union Steamship Company of New Zealand and, through the latter, a substantial or controlling interest in William Holyman and Sons Proprietary Limited. Strange to relate, a Mr. Haddy who, incidentally, is chairman of the Adelaide Steamship Company, was also chairman of A.N.A. It is queer, is it not, when we look at these people who have such influence on this Government. Why does the MenziesFadden Government get mixed up in such strange company? Is it by design or by accident? Would it not be true to say that this deal was very suspicious, verging on the criminal? I would like to know what action the Government intends to take in regard to the default by this wealthy and powerful group which, in its misuse of public funds, simply snaps its fingers at the Government.
Let us see what the Minister says is the Government’s policy to meet this crisis in which several groups made overtures for the purchase of A.N.A. Only Ansett Transport Industries Limited was prepared to proceed on the basis of the Government’s declared policy of subsidizing unprofitable feeder services, strengthening of the rationalization provisions of the agreement and, in appropriate circumstances, granting financial assistance in the form of guaranteed loans for the purpose of re-equipment. This, of course, was accepted by this spineless Government. It was another sell-out of the people’s assets. It was collusion by the Government in another attempt to destroy T.A.A. The Minister says this bill authorizes the Government to guarantee the balance of loans outstanding under the 1952 agreement, following a re-arrangement of the period of the loans in default, to allow a reasonable period to discharge the outstanding obligation.
The Ansett company requested that the loan by the Australian Mutual Provident Society of £1,350,000 and two Commonwealth Bank loans, on which balances of £600,000 and £1,019,000 are outstanding, together with accrued interest, should be re-financed over a five-year period commencing on the date of execution of the agreement for the purchase of all the shares in A.N.A. How easy it is for big business friends of this Government to get guaranteed finance to purchase the shares of A.N.A., which, it must be emphasized, had already defaulted on a previous agreement with this Government. Where do the taxpayers stand? People who are feverishly exploring all avenues to get finance to build homes must surely wonder what queer, twisted mentality prompts the Government to finance this deal. It certainly contains all the elements of a crooked deal. What guarantee has the Government got that it will be paid?
During the shady negotiations accompanying this deal, amidst much ballyhoo by the press, a new stooge has been set up to clothe the agreement with respectability to deceive the people into believing that it is an Australian-promoted and controlled company. Such is not the case. Let me quote a splurge from the “ Hansard “ report of a speech by an honorable senator in another place, Senator Wood. He said -
Let me say that Reg Ansett-
He seems to be on intimate terms with the gentleman - in taking on this organization as he has done, deserves the approbation and encouragement of everybody in this country. To my way of thinkin’! he has taken Sir Ivan Holyman’s place as a grand ambassador for the rights of free enterprise. I am convinced that many people have already come to the decision that free enterprise shall not fail.
What a sickly splurge by a gentleman who is evidently a devotee of private enterprise! The senator knew all the time that Reg Ansett, as they so intimately call him, is only a dummy for another wealthy and powerful American who carried out all these shady negotiations behind the scenes. It would be well now to mention that during the period of negotiations, this gentleman, Mr. Ansett, acted in company with a certain Mr. Alan Manning, who, by the way, is vice-president of the bogus Democratic Labour party, and talks long and loudly about the activities of monopolies in our community and assures the general public that his spurious party is out to exterminate them; he is actually a prominent member of the Ansett transport monopoly. He is the gentleman who betrayed the Butler airline employees to join Ansett’s, as in a similar manner he betrayed the Australian Labour party to its enemies. The Liberal-Australian Country party Government has acclaimed him as a future political leader, forgetting, of course, that its representatives accused him of being an active member of the Communist party in 1952, during the campaign in the Lawson electorate, an accusation which, by the way, has not been disproved. As I said before, Mr. Manning, in company with Mr. Ansett, brought about the dismissal of 500 employees of Ansett Transport Industries.
Now let us get down to the real gentleman behind this oily agreement. He is an American road transport magnate, Colonel Thomas Fortune Ryan. He has big holdings in Ansett, the company which has taken over Australian National Airways. When Colonel Ryan bought into Ansett in 1947, he was then chairman of Mid-East Airlines of America, vice-president of the Air Transport Association of America, an original director of Lockheed Aircraft Corporation, and a big man in Greyhound Bus Lines of America. It may be well to mention that Ansett’s Pioneer buses are run on similar lines to the Greyhound buses in America. The inefficiency of the private ship owners allowed the Americans into the Australian airlines.
I support my contention by referring honorable members to a question asked by Senator Scott on 24th October last in which he asked the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Paltridge) whether he could advise what type of planes Mr. Ansett intended to buy in the event of the Government coming to an agreement with his company. The Minister replied to this obviously prepared question in these terms -
Long before negotiations began for the purchase of A.N.A., Mr. Ansett publicly stated his intention of re-equipping his existing fleet with Convair 440 aircraft. I think-
The Minister said - he said he would purchase eight of that type.
Order! Is the honorable member quoting from the “ Hansard “ report of a debate in the Senate during this session?
– No, Mr. Speaker, I am quoting the terms of the agreement about which I am speaking. These are my own observations.
– Order! I warn the honorable member that he will be out of order if he quotes from speeches made in the Senate during the debate on this bill.
– He said that he was not sure of the details which had been sought in the question.
– Order! Was that question asked in the Senate?
– No. This is a public statement and it continues -
The Lockheed Electra carries 72 passengers and has a speed of 400 miles per hour.
This is the aircraft which will be purchased by Ansett. What a coincidence! Mr. Ansett, a long time ago, expressed the intention of buying eight Lockheed Convairs to re-equip his fleet. Now we find that an agreement was sought for governmentguaranteed loans so as to give the new Ansett company the necessary finance to equip the proposed fleet. Mr. Ansett had plenty of money a few months ago with which to buy Lockheed aircraft yet he subsequently asked for governmentguaranteed finance in order to buy those aeroplanes. It is no wonder that this agreement is suspect. You can take it from me that Colonel Ryan, who is also associated with the Shell Oil Company and who is extremely wealthy, can easily arrange guaranteed loans and enter into agreements with the Australian Government. These loans are guaranteed by the very Government with which he is entering into agreements! I believe that these back-door methods should be stopped. This exposes the methods adopted by big American monopolies in close collaboration with this suspect Government and debunks for all time the ballyhoo about more American capital coming into Australia. These people come to Australia and this spineless Government provides them with as much finance as they need by guaranteeing them loans through the Commonwealth Bank.
So, in effect, they develop this country with capital supplied by the Commonwealth Government.
.- This bill is intended to give effect to an agreement between Trans-Australia Airlines, the Government, and Ansett-A.N.A. In doing so, it amends the Civil Aviation Agreement of 1952. As the basis of any discussion of this bill, it is necessary to consider the background of the 1952 bill, because this bill is an extention of the principles laid down in that legislation. I should like to remind the House that T.A.A., one of the principals in the 1952 legislation, was established under very difficult initial circumstances. At the outset, there was an unofficial boycott by many people who considered that the Government should not have entered into the realm of civil aviation. Scurrilous attacks were made in this House and outside on the efficiency of T.A.A. For example, when T.A.A. decided to buy Convairs in 1947 or thereabouts, a number of honorable members opposite claimed that Convairs were woefully inefficient and unsafe. This conspiracy - if I can use the word - on the part of certain interested parties tended to prevent T.A.A. from obtaining business in the early stages.
Despite the numerous obstacles placed in the path of T.A.A., by 1952 it had emerged triumphant and stood very high in the esteem of the Australian people. On the other hand, A.N.A. was in a very precarious financial position. It was in debt to the Government to the extent of £1,000,000 for air route charges - an amount that had been amassed over the five previous years. The spokesman for A.N.A. in 1952 announced that big losses had been incurred by his company in airline operations, although neither the Parliament nor the people were shown the balance-sheet of A.N.A. at that time. There is not the slightest doubt in my opinion, or in the opinion of many other people, that the Government intended the Civil Aviation Agreement Act 1952 for the express purpose of assisting A.N.A., irrespective of the consequences for T.A.A.
In enacting that legislation some remarkable precedents were established. The first precedent - a very dangerous one from the governmental point of view - was the guaranteeing of loans of up to £4,000,000 to A.N.A. Actually under that provision,
A.N.A. has raised £4,350,000. Surely the shareholders who represented an immense concentration of capital should have found this amount out of their own pockets rather than have asked the people to find it. I submit that it was the height of absurdity for the Government to have taken action to assist a rival of T.A.A.
Let us suppose that a member of the Government who was running a grocery business had a competitor across the street who had incurred a loss because of inefficiency. Would he go to that competitor and say, “ Old chap, I do not like to see you losing business and taking the risk of going out of business. I will lend you a lot of money to resuscitate your failing fortune and enable you to become a formidable business competitor to me.”? Of course nobody would do that. But this businessmen’s Government perpetrated an absurd piece of legislation when it decided to give financial assistance to the rival of its own airline. In doing that, the Government cut across one of its most cherished policies.
We are constantly told by honorable members opposite that the main pillars of private enterprise are a sturdy self-reliance and a wholesome independence. They tell us, in season and out, that a business must sink or swim by its own efforts. Here was a proposition in which a commercial enterprise said, in effect, that it could not survive without Government support. Yet the Government, for peculiar and outrageous reasons, decided to prop up an enterprise in competition with the Government enterprise, knowing perfectly well that the result of such action could mean the ultimate destruction of the Government enterprise. Of course, the Government underestimated the wonderful efficiency of T.A.A. Despite the fact that its rivals had received such great assistance, T.A.A., by means of its vast technical knowledge, the spirit of cooperation amongst the staff, and the wonderful esteem in which it was held by the travelling public, was able to surmount all the difficulties. In 1957, once again, it is on the crest of a wave while A.N.A., despite the big financial assistance that it received from the Government, was not able to carry on successfully.
What is the comparison between the two companies? Despite the assistance given to A.N.A., T.A.A. with a much smaller capital, has been outstandingly successful. In 1952 A.N.A. had a capital of £3,500,000. It received from the Government by way of loans, £4,350,000. So, its actual capital was in the neighbourhood of £8,000,000. On the other hand, its rival, the Government airline, T.A.A., in 1949 received advances from the Treasury of £4,370,000. It has not received a penny since. It has expanded its activities from its own resources. The legislation of 1952 placed A.N.A. in a most favorable position. Not only did it receive a vast increase in capital, but the money owing in air route charges was cut by twothirds. The’ Government also reduced the air route charges by 50 per cent. The third remarkable feature of the 1952 legislation was the action of the Government in giving A.N.A. 50 per cent, of air mail business, T.A.A. being the loser in consequence. Every facet of the 1952 legislation was loaded against T.A.A. The Government did everything possible to stultify T.A.A., whilst it did everything possible to boost the chances of A.N.A. surviving. With regard to the mail contracts, the Government acted in a very unbusinesslike way. When A.N.A. had the mail contract before it was secured by T.A.A., it charged much more than T.A.A. charged. In 1943-44 A.N.A. received £783,000 for carrying 3,368,000 lb. of mail. In 1951-52, before the 1952 agreement became a reality, T.A.A. carried 4,500,000 lb. of mail - about 1,000,000 lb. more - but it only received £516,000, a reduction of about £250,000 for carrying over 1,000,000 lb. more of mail! In other words, when A.N.A. had the monopoly of the carriage of government mail, it fleeced the government right and left, and it was left to T.A.A. to charge a reasonable amount. In 1943-44, when A.N.A. was carrying the mail, wages were lower, petrol was cheaper, and the network was much smaller than at present. Despite the fact that T.A.A. provided a cheaper service than A.N.A., it was victimized by the Government’s inexplicable action. There is not the slightest doubt that the 1952 agreement was actuated with the primary motive of assisting A.N.A., irrespective of the damage that might be inflicted on T.A.A. in the process.
Let us look at the present legislation. We find that after five years, despite the Government’s solicitude for its welfare, A.N.A. has failed to carry on as was desired, proving that it was not equal to the task. This much-vaunted private enterprise - the pioneer of air transport in Australia, so we are told ad nauseum - was not equal to the task of doing the job for which it received such monumental Government assistance. In June last year, it was unable to meet its commitments to the Government.
The present bill extends the generous treatment that was given to A.N.A. in 1952. The Government is running true to form. Preference must be given to wealthy financial groups to ensure that under all circumstances their existence is encouraged, even at the expense of an enormously successful people’s airline. This bill, to use the Minister’s words, preserves the philosophy underlying the 1952 agreement. I should like to have a look at clause 5 of the bill. The loans outstanding under the old agreement are to be refinanced over a five-year period, and clause 5 guarantees the loans as arranged. Is the Government certain that the new set-up of A.N.A. can carry out its obligations? The old A.N.A., despite its interlocking with the shipping companies, and its vast financial resources in the background, defaulted in June last. Has the Government made sufficient inquiries to find out whether the new setup is sufficiently stabilized to stand up to its contractual responsibilities? We do not want a repetition of what happened in June last, because this Parliament has to look after the taxpayers’ interests. Has this organization sufficient assets in the event of it defaulting again? Are there sufficient safeguards in this legislation to ensure that the Government will not be treated in the same cavalier fashion as it was treated by the old A.N.A.?
In one respect this legislation differs from that of 1952, because whereas in 1952 T.A.A. was opposed to the rationalization clauses of that agreement, now it is in favour. I believe there are very good reasons for that. I suppose T.A.A. thinks that the emergence of only two major airlines will help it in its operations, but nevertheless, under the present circumstances, T.A.A. is suffering a severe disability, because it can only operate on interstate traffic except where the governments concerned have agreed that it can operate on intra-state traffic. Therefore it can be seen that whilst rationalization ensures that T.A.A. and A.N.A. share the main airline traffic between the States, there is no such provision that T.A.A. and A.N.A. will share the traffic intra-state. In other words, once again this legislation is loaded against the Government and I say that despite the provisions that have been inserted for the specific purpose of strengthening A.N.A., within five years the new A.N.A. will suffer the same fate as the old A.N.A. and will not be able to compete with the enormously successful T.A.A.
Question put -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. John McLeay.)
Majority . . . . 35
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– I refer to clause 5, to which my colleague, the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Bird), adverted and which substitutes a new agreement for that contained in clause 4 of the Civil Aviation Agreement Act 1952. I have some reservations about the ability of the new concern to do any better than the old concern did. Ostensibly the matter now before the committee is the demise of one company, Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited, as we knew it, and the taking over of it by Ansett Airways Proprietary Limited. The schedule provides that after 25 months Ansett will also disappear and its obligations will be assumed by Ansett Transport Industries Limited.
My colleague, the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam), on 9th October, 1957, received a reply to a question which indicated that at that date a sum of approximately £3,000,000 was owed by Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited on which there were arrears of repayments of £435,000 plus interest. Under the agreement A.N.A. was guaranteed up to a sum of £4,000,000 to be repaid at current bank overdraft rates. I ask honorable members to observe that no other concern in Australia has received such a guarantee. The Government was propping up private enterprise, but A.N.A., even with the concessions granted to it, was unable to live up to its obligations, and on 9th October, 1957, was in arrears to the extent of £435,000 plus interest. I repeat the question asked by the honorable member for Batman, “ What guarantee has the Government that the new concern will be able to repay the amount outstanding “.
I have in my hand a brochure issued by Ansett Transport Industries Limited relating to what is called its cash deposit plan in which the company offers to accept short-term deposits at an interest rate of up to 10 per cent. A.N.A., which also previously had an interest in shipping, defaulted in its repayments to the Government on money loaned to it at the low interest rate of 4£ per cent, to 5 per cent. The new concern which also is guaranteed the outstanding sum, plus the amount still uncalled, amounting to approximately £4,000,000 as provided in the agreement, is now offering interest to the public at the rate of 10 per cent, on short-term loans. I, for one, would be very sceptical about a concern taking over an obligation in default at the low interest rate of 5 per cent, and apparently going to repay the outstanding sum by offering the public at large an interest rate of 10 per cent, on shortterm investments. As A.N.A. in the name of private enterprise took the Government for a ride nearly five years ago, this committee should be sceptical now about the capacity and the ability of the new concern to make the repayments, because, under paragraph 5 of the schedule, after a period of 25 months the concern that is known as Ansett Airways Proprietary Limited will go out of existence and its obligations will be assumed by Ansett Transport Industries Limited, a concern which has wider interests than airways to contend with.
The honorable member for Batman posed the question: If a grocery shop was situated on one side of the road and a shop in competition on the other side of the road was losing money would anybody rush to the latter’s aid? Honorable members have had experience of A.N.A. which, although its interests were wider than airways, failed and went out of existence and a new concern has taken over its business. The measure before us is supposed to rationalize airways. Primarily it is an agreement not between Trans-Australia Airlines, as we know it, and A.N.A. or Ansett, but an agreement with another concern which has ramifications extending to buses, hotels and all sorts of organizations. It is fraud upon the public, and this committee is entitled to a fuller explanation about the matter than has been given.
The Government should inquire into the bona fides of a concern which is being subsidized in the name of a theory which the Government calls private enterprise, which borrows money from the Government at the rate of 4£ per cent, to 5 per cent, and apparently is going to repay it with money loaned by the public at the rate of 10 per cent. This is typical of the disastrous financial policy that is being followed by this Government. While the Government bolsters private enterprise, it is placing an intolerable burden upon the Australian taxpayers. That is one of the reasons why the Opposition has chosen to oppose this measure. We regard it as an insidious measure with disastrous implications, such as those involved in the apparently simple clause 5. A.N.A., which, I reiterate was in default to the extent of £435,000 in capital plus interest, is replaced, theoretically, by another airline, Ansett Airways, which, after 25 months, will go out of existence and its obligations will be assumed by Ansett Transport Industries Limited, a company which is already trying to inveigle the public into investing money in it on a short-term basis at 10 per cent. That money, apparently, will be used to repay the money already in default to the Government of Australia, or really to the people of Australia.
I suggest that such an agreement is iniquitous. Although the Government claims that it believes in private enterprise, this system is not private enterprise at all. It is State capitalism subsidizing the inefficient.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- The point I want to make briefly on this amended Civil Aviation Agreement is that the Commonwealth is not safeguarded against a repetition of the trouble which arose under the original agreement. After five years of the original Civil Aviation Agreement, Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited sold all its shares to another company, Ansett Transport Industries Limited. It is perfectly possible for Ansett Transport Industries Limited in due course, if it is in any difficulties, to sell all its shares to a third company. The original agreement made provision against the assignment by A.N.A. of the agreement. That provision in the original agreement was completely sidetracked, not by A.N.A. assigning the agreement to another company, but by A.N.A. selling its shares to another company. It is scandalous that this amended agreement does not close that loophole.
I am not raising this matter for the first time. I raised it when the estimates for the Department of Civil Aviation were being discussed, about six weeks before this agreement was concluded and, of course, before it was presented in another place.
There is still time for us to close the loophole. There is a procedure which we have applied under the Broadcasting Act and the Broadcasting and Television Act. The Commonwealth there requires that any company holding a commercial broadcasting licence or a commercial television licence shall advise the Postmaster-General of any intention to transfer shares or to change the control of the company. The Postmaster-General’s consent is required before any such change in the control of the company holding the licence is given. We should require that this company, to which we are giving not only a licence, but also a guarantee for loans amounting to millions of pounds, should be treated in the same way. This is a matter which concerns, not only competitive civil aviation, but also the defence of Australia itself. We found in the last war that upon the extent of our civil aviation depended very largely our capacity to transport troops, train pilots and build up the Royal Australian Air Force.
It is possible under this amended agreement, just as it was under the original agreement, for a foreign company to buy all the shares, or a controlling number of the shares, in Ansett Transport Industries Limited and thereby get the benefit of this agreement, the advantages of the guarantee by the Commonwealth and all the taxation advantages to which the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean) has referred, without the permission of the Minister and without any reference to this Parliament. We are being asked to give blanket approval to all the administrative and financial transactions of the company which is still called A.N.A., but which, of course, is a completely different company. It can again change its identity within the law as often as it desires.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from 27th November (vide page 2608), on motion by Mr. Osborne -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– I do not wish to speak at any length. Although a speech in the second-reading debate on this bill does not seem to be popular at this hour, I shall make a few remarks, because I think the measure goes to the root of one of the greatest faults of our economic system, lt deals with air navigation charges and proposes to raise those charges by approximately £50,000, making, I understand, a total of £550,000. Nobody wants to try to stop progress. Nobody wants to say that we should not subsidize transport systems that help to develop the outback areas. But when the Government pays subsidies to air transport, estimated by the previous Minister in his evidence before the Government members’ railway standarization committee to be over £4,000,000, or between £3 and £3 10s. for every passenger stepping onto a plane, it shows that something is radically wrong.
As a result of the subsidy payable to airlines operating between capital cities, we now have the extraordinary situation that both T.A.A. and A.N.A. are lowering their fares for flights from eastern Australia to Perth to such an extent that the air fare will be lower than the rail fare. We should ask ourselves: How silly can we get? Here we have a Government-run service and a privately-run service subsidized to such an extent that they can reduce their fares below those charged by a Commonwealthowned railways service and State-owned railways service. If the railways start to lose financially through this action, the subsidy is increased. The subsidy is nearly all bound up in the question of air navigation charges. The airlines do not pay all the cost of their landing grounds, signals, and so on, as the railways do. Then again, we subsidize through air navigation charges air freight and air passenger services, for instance, to Tasmania, as a result of which it does not pay to run a ferry across Bass Strait. Then we subsidize the ferry across Bass Strait in order to keep the ferry running - and the subsidy is now £150,000 a year. Again I ask honorable members: How silly can we get, subsidizing one form of Government-run transport against another form of transport, sometimes Government-run, som etimes privately run but in both cases Government-subsidized?
Although I do not disapprove of the increase in air navigation charges, the Minister and the Government should consider some form of reasonable rationalization and co-ordination of transport, and not allow this farcical situation to continue. It hits the State-run railways very heavily and also hits the Commonwealth transport services, both ships and railways, very heavily. In the end, the taxpayers are the losers. As a result of the air navigation charges, our air fares are the lowest in the world and, I am proud to say, our air services are the best in the world. Although I do not want the subsidization of the outback routes to be removed, I say that the subsidization of the inter-capital city routes to the extent of £3 to £3 10s. for each passenger who steps aboard an aircraft is just pure economic madness.
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.
Message received from the Senate, intimating that it had agreed to the amendments made by the House of Representatives in this bill.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
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. Townley) read a first time.
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. Townley) read a first time.
Aborigines - British Immigrants at Fishermen’s Bend Hostel - Bauxite.
Motion (by Mr. Townley) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- I do not trespass on the time of the House during adjournment debates nowadays, no matter what I have done at other times, but to-night I ask the Government to consider seeking by referendum a power to enable the Commonwealth to deal with the question of aborigines through Australia. I shall relate briefly to the House some instances of what is happening in Queensland, and in Western Australia.
In Queensland, big bauxite deposits have been found on the Gulf of Carpentaria at a place called Weipa. The Presbyterian mission had occupied some Crown lands as an aboriginal reserve since the 1890’s, but recently the superintendent of the mission, without reference to his church authorities, decided to cede portion of this land either to the Zinc Corporation Limited or to the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited. As a result, the aborigines were told, in the first instance, to move south. Fortunately, the order that they should move to another mission station away from their tribal grounds has been rescinded. However, the Queensland Parliament is putting through a bill to hand over this vast area of country to a particularly rich company - either one of the two that I have mentioned - for ona hundred years. In return, the aborigines have been promised jobs. All they will get will be the right to sell their labour, to bend their backs for the white boss. In the opinion of the Queensland Government, and of the directors of this company, that is quite fair. I do not think that it is a proper thing to happen in Queensland or in any other part of Australia, and I register my protest against it. The Reverend W. A. Clint, Director of the Australian Board of Missions of the Church of England, was here a few days ago. He is also head of the Co-operative Fund for Australia and the Pacific and is very concerned about this matter. As recently as 1 1th October he wrote -
I am on my way back to Lockhart River Mission, where we have the co-operative and where B.H.]1 are making a mineral survey of Iron Range and the L.R.M. reserve. Our attitude is to make Lockhart River a test case and not fall into the snare of a pay-off as the mission at Weipa have done. With me is Kylie Tennant. Two years ago she visited Lockhart River and was impressed with the co-operative development. This trip she has made a further study of the progress of Lockhart River Co-operative as well as a study of the cooperative possibilities in the Torres Straits Islands. We are fortunate that she came just at the time when the monopolies are marching in both in the islands and the mainland. I am enclosing with this a copy of a statement from her and I hope you will be able to see that it reaches every available trades union and A.L.P. journal as well as the secular press in Victoria.
I think that some protest must be made in the Parliament against such happenings. I realize that in the next few days a bill dealing with the matter of the mission at Weipa is to be debated in the Queensland Parliament. However, this is not the only matter which gives me cause for concern. I have also received a letter of protest from Mr. D. W. McLeod, of Western Australia, who has been in communication with me, both orally and by letter, concerning a cooperative company called Pindan Proprietary Limited, at Port Hedland. On 24th October, he wrote that on the 14th of that month an aboriginal named Dooley, one of the company’s most experienced organizers, was proceeded against in the courts of Western Australia for “ causing other black fellows to come over the leprosy line, the 20th parallel of South Latitude”. Apparently in Western Australia there is a line across which certain aborigines cannot pass. Such a state of affairs should cease forthwith.
– McLeod has probably been inciting them himself.
– Good luck to him if he has. After all, in this country an aborigine is supposed to have as much freedom as anybody else. We ask them to enlist in our forces, and at the moment are boasting we have three full-blooded aborigines serving with the Army in the Northern Territory. I do not think that there should be any line over which any aborigine cannot pass.
– Does the honorable member know for a fact that there is such a line?
– No, but I have received repeated assurances that it does exist. I know that the Minister is sympathetic to the aborigines and would not stand for this sort of thing if he could alter it.
McLeod wrote also that this case showed clearly the unholy alliance between the squatters and certain directors of the Department of Native Affairs in Western Australia. He adds that the State Welfare Act, which was passed in 1955, was supposed to bring about an improvement in the conditions of aborigines in Western Australia, but that this has been frustrated because these officers and squatters were carrying on just as if the act did not exist.
He mentions the manager of Wallal Downs station, and also the manager of Mandora station, and says that they are denying the aborigines the wages to which they are entitled. He accuses the manager of Wallal Downs station of trying to run down a man - and using threats and invective against him - for trying to organize the aborigines.
Even more serious charges are made against the manager of Mandora station. He is accused of having deliberately held the three-year-old daughter of an aboriginal woman in order to force her mother to return to a job for which she was receiving 10s. a week. This is not a matter that any Minister in this Parliament can deal with, but it does indicate how necessary it is to have uniform laws and conditions for the aborigines. Those in the Northern Territory are very well treated by comparison with aborigines in other parts of Australia.
As the Minister knows, 1 often go to the Northern Territory. Last year I heard of a case, which I have not previously mentioned to him, but which clearly reveals that some people are abusing the law as it applies to aborigines in the Northern Territory. At Katherine a man named Byers told me that a native there had taken as his wife a young lubra who had been employed at Wave Hill station. She same to live with him and his mother near Katherine, but the police were sent to bring her back as she was supposed to be under contract to Wave Hill station. When the young native followed and asked for his lubra back he was ordered off the property. All round Australia one finds squatters who have no regard for the rights of the aborigines. The majority of Australians are prepared to do the fair thing by them, but even in the Northern Territory abuses still exist.
In Western Australia and Queensland many things which are a disgrace to Aus tralia are happening. We should not forget how near we are to certain other people who are not of our race. I ask honorable members to imagine the use that could be made of really well-authenticated stories such as I have described.
I propose to forward a copy of what 1 have said to the Premiers of Western Australia and Queensland and to other honorable gentlemen in the State Parliaments, in the hope that something beneficial will result. I know that when I get further details about the case in the Northern Territory the Minister will do his best to see that everyone in the region, whether of aboriginal or European extraction, is treated equally in the matter of employment, and the enjoyment of civil rights.
– I do not doubt for a moment the sincerity with which the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) spoke when he drew attention to certain alleged happenings in Queensland and Western Australia. At the same time, I would ask him to consider the wisdom of raising such matters in this Parliament at this time. His statements have been based on information furnished to him by interested parties. No Commonwealth Minister has any means of verifying such information. That could be done by a State Minister only. Ex parte statements have been made containing allegations that reflect seriously on the honour of Australia as a nation, and on the transactions of two State governments, which have no opportunity to make a rejoinder, or to present facts to counter what has been said.
– Does not the Minister know what is going on?
– It is not my business to run the administration of the State of Queensland, or of the State of Western Australia. It happens that, being a Western Australian, I have had an opportunity to know something about native administration in Western Australia, in the same way that any other resident of that State can know about it. I should like to say, without entering into any controversy, that Mr. Brady, the Minister for Native Welfare in Western Australia - a Labour Minister in a Labour government - is, I believe, very sincerely trying to do the best job he can in looking after the welfare of the aborigines in that State. More than that, I say that the Commissioner of Native Affairs in Western Australia, Mr. Middleton, is second to no public official in Australia in his sincere endeavour to do the best job he can for the aborigines in that State. A statement that the Commissioner of Native Affairs is alleged to be in collusion with pastoralists in order to oppress aborigines is, I think, a very serious reflection on a gentleman who has no opportunity to defend himself here, and is also a serious reflection on a group of people - the pastoralists - who, by and large, are by no means the villains that the Opposition always tries to represent them to be.
I would not contest for a moment the statement that, from time to time in the history of Australia, there have been abominable deeds done against the aborigines, nor would I contest the statement that wage-earners and employers have both been guilty, at different times, of culpable acts against aborigines; but while admitting those things, I say that, by and large, the pastoralists of this country - and I claim to know something of them, in both Western Australia and the Northern Territory - ‘have far more to their credit in their dealings with the aborigines than have most of the people who voice criticisms against them. The pastoralists are people who, year in and year out, with an attitude which may be decried as being merely of a paternal nature but which, nevertheless, is one of good intention and a great and constant care, have devoted themselves to trying to look after the people who are in their employment, to provide amenities for them, to provide-
– A stick of baccy!
– To provide far more than a stick of tobacco. When the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) interjects in that way he reveals his ignorance of the conditions in the Australian outback. There is no place in Australia for the suburban dweller who never stirs beyond the suburbs to pass judgment on the doings of people who are facing the great problems of development in this country. I am sure that if the honorable member for East Sydney would consult his colleague from the Northern Territory, if he would consult any of his colleagues from the outback parts of his own State, or even if he would discuss the matter with any of the other membersof this Parliament who have some knowledge of what goes on at the pioneering frontiers of Australia, he would find that not even those on his own side of the House would sustain this cheap criticism, these cheap stories of exploitation, which he keeps on hurling at anyone who is doing a pioneering job.
The main reason why I rose was to deprecate the fact that statements based on allegations made in correspondence by sincerely interested parties, on whom I make no reflection at all, but nevertheless parties who have a particular point of view, should, be presented to this Parliament, where there is no hope of any informed person offering facts either in explanation or amplification.
– Or even in extenuation.
– Or in extenuation. I am sure that in some cases there areextenuating circumstances. There may besurrounding circumstances, and there may be certain conditions which, if they do not fully justify the happenings that take place,, at least help to explain them.
We are Australians. Surely, as Australians, we should be a little careful of our national reputation. The care and welfare of the aborigines is surely a domesticproblem which we Australians are capable of solving and handling with Christian charity, with great sympathy, and with thesame devotion that we have brought to a great number of other social problems in. our history. I am not ashamed of being an Australian. I am proud of being a member of a nation which, in successive generations, has done as much as any other nation hasdone to uplift the under-privileged and to improve the conditions of the people. (An Opposition member interjecting) -
– What has the Labour party stood for during the last half-century, except the uplifting of the under-privileged?’ Does the Labour party claim that it hasbeen a complete failure? Of course we have succeeded in doing a great number of thingsof which we should be proud. Are we, as Australians, capable of tackling this great domestic problem, or must we choose every cheap opportunity to discover our supposed shame to the world and to complain that there is no one in our community who is giving proper attention to this problem?
Native welfare in Australia is to-day receiving far more attention than it has ever received before. Far more thoughtful care and devoted, self-sacrificing ministration is being given, both by private individuals and by government servants, to advancing the welfare of the natives than ever before in our history. Instead of these cheap jeers and this continual throwing off at what has been done, why does not the Opposition join in trying to solve this great problem?
– I am sorry that the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Townley), who was in the House a few minutes ago, is not here now, because I wish to raise some matters concerning the Commonwealth immigration hostel at Fishermen’s Bend, which is in my electorate. On Saturday last, at the invitation of the Reverend Dunstan of the Port Melbourne Methodist Church, and in company with two other representatives of the Methodist Church on the Inter-church Committee for Migration, I visited this hostel, which houses exclusively immigrants from Great Britain.
We hear a lot about the “Bring out a Briton “ campaign. At Fishermen’s Bend there are 97 families - near enough to 100 married couples - with approximately 200 children - 400 people in all - and they are housed in circumstances in which I would not like my family to be housed. Admittedly, it is sometimes said that these settlements are only temporary settlements, but many of the people have lived in them for nearly two years. In addition, many immigrants who were, one might almost say, incarcerated there, have returned to Great Britain. Indeed, many of the immigrants who are still at Fishermen’s Bend have expressed their intention to return to England.
This is a deplorable state of affairs which should not be allowed to continue by this Government, which claims that it is doing everything in its power to assist immigration, particularly from Great Britain. I repeat that nearly 100 families, with approximately 200 children, are housed at Fishermen’s Bend. The 97 male members - the heads of the families - are supposed to share one bath. I ask honorable members particularly to take note of that fact. Admittedly, there are about three of four shower facilities, but there is only one bath.
Although this hostel has been established exclusively for immigrants from Great Britain, the manager is a Dutchman. I think that his appointment was a major diplomatic mistake. I do not reflect upon the integrity or any other quality of this gentleman, but in my view it was a major diplomatic mistake to appoint a Dutchman to manage a hostel exclusively for British immigrants. In my opinion, many of the difficulties at the hostel are attributable to problems of communication between the immigrants and the manager. I particularly ask the Government to do something about this aspect of the matter.
The Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck), who has just resumed his seat, asked what was our attitude towards certain people. In turn, I ask the Government what is its attitude towards the British immigrants at Fishermen’s Bend. Some of them have been there for only a short period.
– Are they naturalized?
– I do not intend to be diverted by the honorable member for Canning. Quite a number of the British immigrants at Fishermen’s Bend have complained that apparently no arrangements were made to welcome them on their arrival at the hostel. They had to find their own way around the place, and it seemed to be nobody’s business in particular to look after them. I regard that as a distinct deficiency.
Many of the male immigrants who are in receipt of wages of £15 or £16 a week are paying £11 a week for their sustenance at the hostel. In theory, it has been suggested, these people remain at the hostel for only a few months. However, it is virtually impossible for them to get out of the place because the charge of £11 a week defrays only the bare sustenance of themselves and their families. I discussed this matter personally with one very fine young married man there. He is about 30 years of age, he has a wife and three children, and he is employed by the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation. His take-home pay is £15 9s. a week. He pays £11 ls. a week to the hostel management. Out of the remaining £4 8s. a week he has to clothe himself and his family and pay the children’s fares to school. The children have to walk quite a considerable distance to the bus. As everybody knows, children expect to be provided with food in addition to the three normal meals in a day. Financially, this man is gradually falling further and further behind, and it is becoming virtually impossible for him ever to move his family from the hostel.
As I have said, the accommodation might be excused if it were to be occupied only temporarily, but for large numbers of these people there is, unfortunately, an air of permanency about their stay at the hostel; they cannot hope to get other accommodation. Many of the buildings are old Nissen army huts, which are not even lined. In winter-time, they are unduly cold, and in the summer they are intolerably hot. When one family moves out - occasionally this happens - very little attempt is made to air the mattresses and blankets that have been in use, or to repaint the quarters that have been occupied by families for sometimes as long as two years. This is the only Commonwealth migrant hostel that I have seen; it is the only one, actually, that comes within my purview. In view of the sentiments he has expressed, the Minister for Territories should make it his business personally to inspect this hostel, in particular, as well as some of the other hostels, because I believe that, irrespective of what the honorable member for Canning may feel about my remarks concerning the Dutch manager, many of the shortcomings at the hostel are due to this factor. It is only natural that tension develops when British immigrants have to go to a person of other nationality to try to get anything done. I am not defending their attitude, but I am suggesting that this is a very real, a very human problem. It is a problem that this Government should face. Many of the immigrants at Fishermen’s Bend claim that, in some respects, they have been brought out here under false pretences. They say that the circumstances as they find them in this country are not in consonance with the information that was given to them at Australia House.
– Has the honorable member checked on that?
– I am telling the House what these people have told me.
– That does not prove anything.
– It proves how inefficient this Government is in practice. Whatever the Government has said about wanting to bring out Britons, the British immigrants do not find, on their arrival in Australia, the conditions that they were led to expect. This is a real difficulty. If the honorable member for Forrest, who is interjecting, doubts my word, I suggest that the Commonwealth Immigration Advisory Council, of which he is the chairman, should visit the hostel at Fishermen’s Bend. I invite the council to inspect the hostel in order to see at first hand the conditions as I have described them.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I do not wish to delay the House for more than a few minutes. I think we should set the record straight about the Weipa bauxite deposit. The deposit is not newly-found. It was discovered some considerable time ago, and I give due credit to the previous Labour government in Queensland for studying carefully the interests of the aborigines before a lease was given.
The man who decided to allow the Consolidated Zinc people to mine this astonishing deposit of bauxite decided on the spot, in the light of his local knowledge of the place, that it would not harm the aborigines of that area if a lease was given to the mining company. Later, the head of the church concerned - perhaps in the south - made some decision to the contrary. But the important factor is that there were long negotiations between the Queensland Government and the Superintendent of the Mission on that spot before any attempt was made to allow white people into the area to mine the bauxite deposit for the use of Australian industry. Why, even at the present time - indeed, this practice has existed since the field was first discovered - it is necessary to get almost the equivalent of a passport in order to go into the area. You have to get the permission of the mission people before you can enter the field, and they have the right of veto to prevent persons from going in there. Therefore, the aborigines and their interests in this particular area are being very well protected.
The policy that was adopted by the previous Labour government in Queensland has been carried on by the present State government. It is not in any way to the detriment of the aborigines. I trust that no member of this House will use any influence he may have to prevent this bauxite deposit in the north of Australia from being developed.
There was one thing that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) said, with which I am in complete agreement. It was that the location of this great deposit of bauxite is remarkably close to the people to the north of Australia who are looking with hungry eyes upon this country. If we leave that rich deposit undeveloped, the time will come when we may be compelled to develop it under slave conditions - with ourselves as the slaves. We need development in the north, and the development of this field would mean that a township of thousands of people would be established in the area. At the present time there is only a handful of white people there looking after the interests of the aborigines. I trust that we shall be big enough, and national-minded enough, to realize that northern Australia is the most vulnerable part of Australia, and that any drive against Australia will come through the northern part of the continent. I trust, also, that we shall have no more “ Brisbane Line “ thinking in this chamber as we look ahead to the future of Australia. We must develop the north, and this deposit of bauxite at Weipa is a godsend, because it provides an incentive for people to live in what was hitherto an unattractive area.
The one regret that I have is that, although the mining of the ore will bring tremendous wealth to Australia, there are indications that the Queensland Government is inclined to throw away any interest it may have in the processing of bauxite into alumina, and eventually into aluminium. This defeatist attitude that we cannot produce aluminium from bauxite ore in Australia is an attitude that we cannot afford to adopt. Australians are entitled to the work and wages that would be provided by the treatment of this
Australian deposit of bauxite for the production of aluminium in Australia, and I trust that this Government, through the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner), will ensure that no export licence is granted for the export of bauxite from this field for treatment overseas. We should see to it that smelters and treatment works are provided in Australia. It is a completely defeatist attitude for us to say that we cannot treat our own bauxite. I believe that we can treat it, and that we must treat it. Indeed, we must treat it as far in the north of the continent as possible, in order to induce more and more white people to go to the north and develop it.
I repeat that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition would serve his cause much better if he continued the campaign that he has maintained in years past, and sought in the north, during his walk-abouts from year to year, the truth concerning the Weipa bauxite field, which is a milestone in the development of Australia’s vulnerable north. I hope that this Parliament will see to it that our north is protected as it should be.
. Mr. Speaker-
Motion (by Mr. Hasluck) put -
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. John McLeay.)
Majority . . . . 30
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 12.17 a.m. (Wednesday).
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
Snowy Mountains Scheme.
m asked the Minister representing the Attorney-General, upon notice -
When did his department receive instructions from the Department of Health to prepare Statutory Rules 1956, No. 75, and 1957, Nos. 25 and 52 notified respectively in the “ Commonwealth Gazette” on the 1st November, 1956, and 7th June, 1957, and the 26th September, 1957?
– The Attorney-General has furnished the following reply: -
d asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
In view of his assertions that the arguments in favour of a project such as the St. Mary’s filling factory were overwhelming, will he state the reason for the delay of two years which occurred in the Government reaching a decision to build the new factory?
– I refer the honorable member to statements made by me to the House on 1st October and 15th October. I have nothing further to add to what I said on those occasions.
d asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– I refer the honorable member to statements made by me to the House on 1st October and 15th October. I have nothing further to add to what I said on those occasions.
d asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Will he furnish for the information of honorable members the reports of the Audit Office inspectors upon which the Auditor-General based comments regarding the St. Mary’s ammunition filling factory building project in his annual report?
– I refer the honorable member to statements made by me to the House on 1st October and 15th October. I have nothing further to add to what I said on those occasions.
Overseas Visits by Minister for Externa] Affairs.
m asked the Minister for External Affairs, upon notice -
– Since becoming Minister for External Affairs I have been overseas on official business between the following dates, and have visited the following countries: - 20th July-22nd August, 1951- Indonesia, Singapore, Philippines, Japan, Thailand, Viet Nam, Hong Kong, Korea. 21st October-19th December, 1951 - Singapore, Burma, India, Pakistan, Italy, France (United Nations General Assembly), United Kingdom, Canada, United Slates of America. 18th March-7th April, 1952- Pakistan (Colombo plan conference), Singapore, Indonesia. 6th-21st August, 1952 - Honolulu (Anzus Council). 11th October-19th November, 1952- United States of America (United Nations Genera] Assembly and Anzus Council). 2nd September-2nd November, 1953 - Canada, United States of America (Anzus Council and United Nations General Assembly), United Kingdom, Germany, France, India (Colombo Plan Conference), Pakistan, Ceylon, Singapore. 12th April-7th May, 1954 - Singapore, Viet Nam, London, Switzerland (Geneva Conference). 7th June-1 0th July, 1954 - Switzerland (Geneva Conference), United Kingdom, United States of America, New Zealand. 2nd September-20th October, 1 954- Philippines (Seato Conference), Burma, United Kingdom, United States of America (United Nations Genera] Assembly), Canada (Colombo Plan Conference). 7th February-7th March, 1955 - Singapore, Malaya, Viet Nam, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand (Seato Conference), Borneo, Brunei. 6th September-3rd November, 1955 - Canada, United States of America (United Nations General Assembly and Anzus Council), United Kingdom, Pakistan, India, Burma, Thailand, Singapore (Colombo Plan Conference), Malaya, Indonesia. 20th February-19th March, 1956- Singapore, Ceylon, Pakistan (Seato Conference), Malaya. 12th-29th August, 1956 - United Kingdom (Suez Canal conference). 23rd October-lst December, 1956 - United Kingdom, Canada, United States of America (United Nations General Assembly and Anzus Council). 28th August-8th November, 1957- Singapore, Malaya (Independence), United Kingdom, United States of America (United Nations General Assembly and Anzus Council), Philippines, Viet Nam (Colombo Plan Conference), Cambodia, Laos, Thailand.
b asked the Minister representing the Minister for National Development, upon notice -
– The Minister for National Development has furnished the following replies: - 1 The increase in the price of motor spirit of id. per gallon in February last was attributed by the oil industry to higher tanker freight charges.
d asked the Minister for Supply, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
I, 2, 3, 4 and 8. The Commonwealth has nol disposed of its interest in the New Guinea Resources Prospecting Company Limited. However, negotiations are proceeding.
The primary objects for which the company was established were to prospect and search in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea and elsewhere for bauxite and to make waterpower surveys to determine whether hydro-electric power can be developed in sufficient volume for largescale industrial enterprises particularly aluminium production.
The company’s authorized capital is £300,000. which is fully paid up. It consists of 300,000 ordinary shares of £1 each. The shareholders are the Commonwealth of Australia, which holds 153,000 shares, and the British Aluminium Company Limited, which holds 147,000 shares.
The company has carried out extensive hydroelectric power investigations of the principal rivers in Papua. These investigations have been taken to a stage which indicates promising results. However, further detailed investigation of the topography and geology of the principal watersheds is necessary before an accurate appraisal can be made of the hydro-electric resources available. The company has also completed a qualitative survey of bauxite deposits in northern Australia at Gove Peninsula. This survey shows that substantial deposits of fair average quality bauxite are available at moderate depths.
d asked the Minister acting for the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
In addition to a general agreement that the sheep would be used solely for scientific and not commercial purposes, the following specific conditions were imposed: -
Free Milk for School Children.
n. - On 21st November, Mr. Buchanan asked the Minister for Primary industry the following question without notice: -
Will the honorable gentleman have his departmental experts carefully examine the case for flavouring the milk that is supplied for free distribution to schools in order to increase the percentage of children who take advantage of the Government’s beneficial scheme?
As this service is administered by my department, the Minister for Primary industry referred the question to me and I now supply the following reply: -
The Free Milk Scheme for School Children under the States Grants (Milk for School Children) Act 1950 is administered by the various State authorities on behalf of the Commonwealth, the Commonwealth reimbursing the States for the cost of the milk supplied, together with 50 per cent. of approved capital or incidental expenditure associated with the scheme.
There is no objection from the Commonwealth’s point of view to flavoured milk being supplied provided that no extra cost is involved.
s asked thePostmaster-General. upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
m asked the Minister representing the Minister for Customs and Excise, upon notice - 1. (a) Was the importation of ships prohibited, by an amendment to the Customs (Prohibited Imports) Regulations in February, 1951, unless the intending importer produced to the Collector of Customs a covering approval issued by the Minister of State for Supply? (b) On what dates and for what ships did intending importers produce to the Collector approvals issued by the Minister? 2. (a) Was the importation of ships prohibited, by an amendment to the Regulations in November, 1951, unless the intending importer produced to the Collector of Customs a covering approval issued by the Minister of State for Shipping and Transport? (b) On what dates and for what ships did intending importers produce to the Collector approvals issued by the Minister? 3. (a) Was the importation of ships prohibited, by new regulations in December, 1956, unless the importer produced to the Collector the permission in writing of the Minister of State for Shipping and Transport? (b) On what dates and for what ships have importers produced to the Collector the permission of the Minister?
– The Minister for Customs and Excise has now furnished the following answers to the honorable member’s questions:1 - 1. (a) Yes. (b)- 2. (a) Yes. (b)- 3. (a) Yes. (b)-
– On 7th November, the honorable member for Cunningham (Mr. Kearney) asked the following question: -
Can the Treasurer tell the House whether it is a fact that the chairman of the Commonwealth Bank Board, Dr. H. C. Coombs, has announced that a substantial increase in bank credit for home building is to be made? Will the Treasurer provide information on this subject, including reference to the extent of the increase and the conditions under which the additional credit is to be made available? Will he agree that, having regard to the serious shortage of houses in Australia, the demand by migrants for homes and the increasing number of Australians in the marriageable age group, the housing situation is desperate and calls for positive action by the Government to ensure the release of adequate bank credit as an urgent necessity?
The honorable member is no doubt referring to a public statement on central banking policy issued by the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank last May, following discussions between the central bank and the trading banks. At these discussions, the central bank informed the trading banks that it felt there was scope within the general credit policy for some moderate increase in the volume of loans for housing. The latest figures available show there has, in fact, been an increase in the amount of finance made available for home building by the major lending institutions in recent months, due largely to a higher rate of lending through the banking system. The amount of loans approved for new housing in the nine months to September, 1957, was appreciably higher than in the same period last year. Approvals rose significantly in the June quarter this year, and there was a further rise in the September quarter. The monthly rate of approvals in the September quarter was the highest since the September quarter of 1955. Both the Government and the central bank will continue to watch the position closely.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 3 December 1957, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1957/19571203_reps_22_hor17/>.