24th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. Sir John McLeay) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
Mr. REYNOLDS presented a petition from certain citizens of the Commonwealth praying that the Government remove section 127, and the words discriminating against aborigines in section 51, of the Commonwealth Constitution, by the holding of a referendum at an early date.
– My question is directed to the Prime Minister. Does the right honorable gentleman know that President Kennedy has appointed a commission to study the problem of automation as a cause of unemployment in the United States of America and to propose solutions? Whilst it might be considered that such an inquiry would be concerned only with problems in capital cities, the investigation would cover automation as it affects production generally. Automation has a tendency to concentrate production, leaving the smaller cities and towns without even their normally low industrial production levels. In view of what is happening in industry in Australia, particularly in our country towns, will the Prime Minister consider appointing a commission similar to that appointed by President Kennedy, to investigate the effects not only of automation but also of modern technology in general, with particular reference to the tendency to build up city areas at the expense of the general development of country towns?
– I have not yet had an opportunity of reading and considering the report which, I gather, was recently made in New South Wales on this matter. However, the honorable member’s suggestion is one that I will be quite prepared to discuss with those of my colleagues who have particular responsibilities in this matter.
– My question is addressed to the Treasurer. I preface it by saying that I have just read a report to the effect that in the new Victorian Budget there is provision for a record amount for education. There will be an increased expenditure of £8,370,000, making a total of about £73,000,000 for the year. I ask the Treasurer whether it is not reasonable to expect that the New South Wales Government, too, if it gives proper priority to education, should provide, out of the very greatly increased funds allocated to New South Wales this year, an extra £11,000,000 for education, thus meeting most of the requests that have been made to the New South Wales Government by parents and citizens’ associations in that State?
– I had read that the Premier of Victoria was contemplating a substantial increase in the financial provision for education in his Budget for this year, but I had not heard the precise amount of the increase until the honorable member for Wentworth gave me the information in his question. What he has put is consistent with the view that has been advanced from time to time on this side of the House, by the Prime Minister and others, that the States recognize that they have the primary constitutional responsibility for education, and that they look to this Government for reasonable financial provision, under the formula unanimously agreed on between the States and the Commonwealth, to enable them to provide properly the services that they normally provide. This is encouraging evidence of the way in which State governments have been able to meet the growing demands made on their budgets for education purposes. If this is practicable in Victoria, I know of no good reason why New South Wales, which. if anything, has a rather more comfortable budgetary position than Victoria in this financial year, should not be able to make provision for education on at least a comparable scale.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether he has considered the submissions of the New South Wales Government for Commonwealth aid in financing urgent flood mitigation wo:k on the north coast of that State. As the proposals received by the Prime Minister are the carefully considered plans of the combined flood mitigation authorities of the flood areas there, and in view of the repeated representations made by the honorable member for Cowper and other honorable members, will the Prime Minister make an early statement on the matter?
– Quite a few members of this House have displayed a particular interest in these flood mitigation works. We have received propositions from the New South Wales Government, which originated, as the honorable member says, in the close work of the committees in the affected areas. The matter is not simple. It is not something that can be looked at and disposed of with ease one way or the other. It is being given very close and very sympathetic study. I will make a statement on it at the earliest possible moment.
– Is the Minister for Primary Industry aware that it has been reported that there are fears that the activities of Japanese fishermen off the north coast of New South Wales could lead to a shooting war, owing to the angry reaction of north coast fishermen to, I understand, the loss of nets and gear cut adrift by the Japanese? Is there any justification for such fears or is the seriousness of the position over-stated? What are the latest developments in the matter? Are steps being taken to effect an amicable settlement between the rival factions?
– I believe that any statements expressing fears of untoward incidents are exaggerated. The report made by the fishing inspector at Port Macquarie has indicated that there have been no untoward incidents of any sort. It is not suggested by any of the Australian fishermen that the actions which caused losses of their gear were deliberate actions by the Japanese. Acting upon that report, I discussed the matter with the Minister for External Affairs. It is now in his hands. He will have a talk with the Japanese people. I am quite satisfied that an arrangement satisfactory to both the Australian fishermen and the Japanese can be worked out.
– I ask the Minister for the Interior: Has the Government recently made any review or examination of the standard of housing being constructed in Canberra under private contract for the National Capital Development Commission as to size of allotments, size of dwellings, designs, quality of materials and quality of workmanship? Will the Minister consider arranging opportunities for interested senators and members to visit housing projects at present under way, particularly in the suburbs of Hughes and Hackett, so that they may examine the kind of housing that has been constructed and be informed by architects, builders and tradesmen?
– The standard of housing and the methods of construction are supervised continually by the National Capital Development Commission. Apart from a recent outburst by the honorable member, I have received no complaints. He himself was very general in his accusations. I shall be very happy to make arrangements for any other members of the Parliament who are interested to have a look at the housing projects. I may say that housing in the Australian Capital Territory is being constructed at a record rate. The construction rate, both private and government, in total is increasing quite rapidly every year. Apart from complaints made by the honorable member, I receive very few complaints about the standard of construction.
– I address my question to the Prime Minister. By way of preface, may I explain that the Commando Association of Victoria plans to build a memorial cairn at the birthplace of commando training in Australia, which is at Tidal River on Wilson’s Promontory in Gippsland. In view of the magnificent record of the commandos and as a gesture of appreciation for their services, will the Prime Minister consider assisting financially their worthy memorial?
– I am sure that I will not be taken as exhibiting any lack of appreciation of the point made by the honorable member if I tell him that many applications of this kind are received by the Government and that we have, in the broad, applied certain strict national rules to them.
If the honorable member will give me the details of this matter, I will have a look at it and see whether it falls within the rule that we now apply or whether some other rule ought to be applied to it.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Territories. In view of the announcement that the Government intends to make the Rum Jungle uranium treatment plant available for the treatment of base metals for outside interests, will the Minister undertake to treat as urgent the construction and equipment of an assay laboratory in that area? Facilities of this kind are non-existent at present and are now more urgently needed than ever if prospecting is to be stimulated to cater for the treatment capacity now to become available. As the Minister knows, provision is made for these facilities in the departmental estimates for this financial year, but work is not scheduled to commence until April of next year, and completion cannot be expected before the end of that year. Cannot this project be commenced this year?
– As a result of a decision made on certain special projects in the Northern Territory, provision for an assay laboratory, including a general scientific laboratory, at Darwin has been included in this financial year’s estimates. I have noted the point that the honorable member makes, and I shall make inquiries and see whether the work for which provision has been made in this financial year’s estimates can be expedited.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Defence. Can he state whether it is a fact that troops stationed in Australia, in whatever location, if sent to Malaysia would require at least two to three weeks to acclimatize themselves and become an effective fighting force? If this is a fact, does it not follow that those who advocate the withdrawal of Australian troops from Malaya would substantially reduce our capacity to meet any threat that may arise?
– I am quite aware of the honorable member’s interest in these matters. I am sure that we all would agree that if at any time our troops had to go into the South-East Asian area there would be the greatest benefit if they were acclimatized. Many of us on both sides of this House have been to South-East Asia and have been at war there, and we know the sort of problems that arise. I agree with the proposition put forward by the honorable member for Barker. It is most desirable to have our troops acclimatized to those areas. If our men were withdrawn from their forward positions in Malaya, they would, as the honorable member suggests, lose the opportunity to become acclimatized.
“FOUR CORNERS” TELEVISION PROGRAMME.
– I direct a question to the Prime Minister. Is it a fact that the political censorship of the “ Four Corners “ programme on the Australian Broadcasting Commission television network has now reached such proportions that two items planned for next week’s programme have been banned? One item deals with folk singing. The reason given for its banning is that it relates to the Labour movement - the shearing shed and the farm worker - and therefore is politically loaded. The item also contains a socialist protest. The second item banned-
– Order! The honorable member is now endeavouring to enter into a debate.
– I am endeavouring to refer to two programmes that have been banned.
– Order! The Prime Minister is not responsible for any programme that is to be broadcast.
– I think he has banned them.
– Order! The honorable member will direct his question to the seeking of information on an urgent matter.
– Is it a fact that political censorship exists and that two programmes, one dealing with folk singing and the other with Yugoslavia, have been banned for political reasons? The reason for the banning of the first programme is that folk singing has a Labour background-
– Order! The honorable member has asked his question.
– I have not the slightest doubt that this is a powerful effort of jocular imagination on the part of the honorable member because, as he very well knows, I have never heard of the two proposed programmes. I certainly have never heard of them being banned. As regards political control of the “ Four Corners “ programme, honorable members opposite every day ought to thank God that the programme exists. It does them a lot of good.
– During the course of his Budget speech the Treasurer indicated that he would make to the House a full statement on the subject of an investment allowance for primary producers. Will the right honorable gentleman say when he may be in a position to make that statement?
– I am ready to make the statement. Normally I would have made it to the House after questiontime to-day but I am reluctant to reduce the time available under the Standing Orders for private members’ business. I have mentioned this matter to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition and, in accordance with his wishes in the matter, I will make the statement after lunch-time to-day or, if the Opposition prefers it, on Tuesday next. The statement is ready. It is of such wide general interest to primary producers that the appropriate place to make it is in the House. It is quite a short statement.
” FOUR CORNERS “ TELEVISION
– I direct a question to the Postmaster-General. In order to round off the controversy about the “Four Corners “ programme dealing with the Returned Servicemen’s League, will the honorable gentleman make the film of the programme available some time next week to all honorable members who wish to see it, because many of us have not seen it and are therefore not able to make a proper judgment of its merits or demerits? Will the honorable gentleman also arrange for a copy of the script of the programme to be placed in each party room so that honorable members may read it?
– This matter was raised in the House yesterday. I stated then that no direction had been given to the Australian Broadcasting Commission regarding the programme. It was claimed that certain honorable members had had an opportunity to view the programme. The facts that I have elicited confirm what I said yesterday: No arrangement was made by the Government for a special viewing, but an arrangement was made privately by certain honorable members to see a film of Hie programme at the A.B.C. studios in Canberra. Those honorable members are entitled to make such an arrangement and the commission is entitled to meet any such request.
I have checked the position. The film is still at the commission’s studios in Canberra. It cannot be brought to the House for showing because it is on video tape and special equipment is required, but I can assure the Leader of the Opposition that if any honorable members contact Mr. Graham Chisholm at any time and ask for arrangements to be made for them to see the Gim, their request will be met.
– The background to my question to the Minister for the Interior is that a publication dealing with the growth of forests and the consumption of timber was issued under his authority. In view of the belief that automation will cause unemployment and bearing in mind that during the depression the very sensible practice was adopted of placing suitable men in work on the development of forests as a long-range asset to Australia, will the Minister confer with the Minister for Labour and National Service to ascertain how many unemployed people are former country workers suitable for forestry work, so that they may be used to build up an asset which the Department of the Interior has indicated is steadily wasting and is not being rejuvenated by sufficient replantings and development?
– The honorable member has asked whether I will confer with the Minister for Labour and National Service to ascertain the number of potential forestry workers available. I shall be very happy to do that, but I point out that the forestry policies of the States are matters for the respective State governments. If there is any information that the Commonwealth Forestry and Timber Bureau can make available to the States, I shall be happy to make it available. There is very good liaison and co-operation between the State forestry services and the Commonwealth, but employment policies, the planting policies and in fact all policies of the State forestry services are matter for the State governments to decide.
– Has the Prime Minister received a copy of the report of the Victorian all-party committee on the distribution of population? Has he received any request from the Premier of Victoria that the Commonwealth adopt certain recommendations of the committee? Is the Prime Minister aware that the committee has recommended, among other worthy aims, a major extension of regional taxation concessions in favour of decentralized industries, the encouragement of finance for country industrial development and the decentralization of government departments? Will he give urgent and favourable consideration to the committee’s recommendations?
– I am afraid that my answers to the first three questions must be “No “. I have not heard of the report; I have not received a copy of the report; I have not received any request in relation to the report. However, if I do receive any such request I will be very happy to consider it.
– I address my question to the Prime Minister. I am sure that all honorable members have had many requests for the Australian national flag since the right honorable gentleman agreed to my suggestion that he make free issues of the flag to approved youth organizations as well as to schools. My own experience in recommending issues is that there are some cases-
– Order! The honorable member is now making a comment. He must ask his question.
– I am saying to the Prime Minister that because it has been my experience in recommending requests-
– Order! The honorable member will direct his question.
– I ask the right honorable gentleman whether it would be of advantage to his department as well as to honorable members if he explained the additional information on the types of youth organizations to which he wishes flags to be given and the method by which flags should be issued by honorable members.
– I am having a short, informative paper prepared on the matter. The rules that will affect the making of applications are included. I think all honorable members would like to have a paper of that kind as a guide. The preparation of that paper is in hand, lt will be distributed, I hope, quite soon. There is just one thing I would like to add while we are on this topic. I suggest to all honorable members that, when they are presenting these flags, they might regard the occasion as a good opportunity to tell the school or the body concerned, whatever it is, something about the flag, its history and its significance in our national life.
– Is the Minister for Shipping and Transport aware that freight rates between Tasmania and the mainland have been increased by at least one private shipping company within the last fortnight? So far the Australian National Line has not followed suit. Can the Minister give a guarantee that freight rates on Australian National Line ships trading to and from Tasmania will not be increased?
– I am aware that freights between Tasmania and the mainland have been increased by a private shipping company. Of course, the Commonwealth has no control over that company in such a matter. It is running as a private enterprise concern. The Australian National Line also has to run along private enterprise lines. During the time that line has been operating between Tasmania and the mainland there has always been an indication that freights have been lowered, not raised, as a result of its participation in the business, and that the service that has been given, in respect of the time factor, has contributed to lower costs to the people who trade between Tasmania and the mainland. Therefore, freights would be scrutinized very carefully before it was considered necessary to increase them.
I could not give a guarantee, as suggested by the honorable member, about freights charged by the line. If it is necessary to run the line profitably, freights will be adjusted; but I assure the honorable member that such action will not be taken unless it is necessary to meet changes in COStS that occur in the industrial world from time to time.
– I ask the Minister for Primary Industry whether the superphosphate bounty commenced to apply to superphosphate leaving the works on the morning of 14th August, the day after the introduction of the bounty was announced; whether the bounty was not applied to superphosphate in the hands of country agents; and whether hardship was caused in certain cases in which the application of the bounty began in the middle of a programme in certain industries which were then involved in putting out superphosphate. Some industries received the benefit of the bounty and some did not. Will the Minister look at this matter and clear up the great confusion in the primary industries over this matter?
Mr. ADERMANN__ I should tell the honorable member that the payment of the superphosphate bounty will be administered by the Minister for Customs and Excise. The Government’s intention was that the bounty should be paid to (he manufacturers who, in turn, should pass it on in full to those producers who will be using the superphosphate, and that the scheme should commence to operate as from 14th August. Certain details are now being discussed by my department with the Department of Customs and Excise and I think that they will be satisfactorily settled. The intention is that the payment of the bounty shall date from 14th August.
– I ask the Minister for Social Services whether it is a fact that the pay day for age and invalid pensions at the Christmas period this year is 26th December. If this is so, will he undertake to bring the pay day forward so that these deserving people may have some money to purchase their requirements for the Christmas period? Will he also undertake to see that all other social service payments are made on the most appropriate day before the Christmas period? Finally, will the Minister consider back-dating to the beginning of the financial year all the recently announced increases in social service payments?
– As is my invariable custom, I will give very careful consideration to what the honorable member for West Sydney has requested - up to the point at which he referred to retrospective payment. No one knows better than he does that it is beyond my power to make a recommendation of that kind. All other aspects of his question will be given the consideration that is their due.
– I preface a question addressed to the Minister for the Army by referring to the increase in the proposed vote for the recruiting campaign this year from £250,000 to £750,000, with a commensurate stepping up in recruitment advertising. I refer also to the recent increase in pay margins awarded to servicemen. I ask whether, as a result of these factors, there is any noticeable increase in the recruitment rate for the Regular Army, and whether the Minister expects that the quota intake for the Army for the current year will be achieved.
– Recruitment to the Regular Army is quite satisfactory. As a matter of fact, intake is slightly ahead of our schedule at the moment. The personnel of the Regular Army now number about 23,000, and it will be remembered that not so long ago the figure was 21,000. I am happy to say, too, that the quality of the recruits we are getting into the Regular Army is .first-class by any standard. We can accept as many suitable recruits as come forward.
– I address a question to the Minister for Trade. I refer to the abolition of the 12i per cent, sales tax on food, on imported fish in particular. I note in this month’s issue of “ Fisheries Newsletter “ that temporary duty has been imposed on imported canned tuna. Does this temporary protection by way of import duty apply only to canned fish? I also ask whether this reduction in sales tax without a commensurate increase in import duty has placed the Australian fishing industry in an unfavorable position in competing with imported filleted fish and prawns.
– It has never been the practice of this Government to alter a tariff without first making a reference to either the full Tariff Board or a special advisory authority. A full inquiry was made in connexion with canned tuna some time ago by the Tariff Board, and in its report to the Government and the department the board stated that in its opinion if the rate of sales tax was altered an appropriate alteration should also be made to the tariff on tuna. This conformed to the Government’s usual practice of obtaining advice. Having obtained that advice from the Tariff Board, we altered the tariff on canned tuna on the same day as the sales tax on foodstuffs was altered. We were not in possession of any such advice in respect of other canned fish. What we did was to contact immediately the other interested parties and ask them whether they felt that they would be adversely affected. Their advice was that they did feel that they would be adversely affected. My memory is that I immediately made a reference to the Tariff Board or to the Special Advisory Authority - I forget which - but I will ascertain and advise the honorable member. This issue, therefore, is at present under examination.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Defence. Can the Minister say whether any attempt has been made to assess the proportion of the very greatly increased defence vote this year that will be spent in Australia?
– I could not tell the honorable member with precision what proportion of the defence vote will be spent in
Australia this year. Over the last few years, roughly between 83 and 84 per cent, of the vote has been spent in Australia and I would think that this year the proportion would be about the same. There is a little variation up or down each year, but the proportion is in the vicinity of 83 or 84 per cent.
– I ask the Minister for Immigration a question. The honorable gentleman will undoubtedly have been disturbed by the remarks made by a judge of the Supreme Court of South Australia last May in sentencing a migrant who had been driven to crime by desperation at his exclusion from the trade association which covered his field of production and which excluded migrants until they had been naturalized for at least ten years. 1 ask the honorable gentleman, first, whether there was or is still a basis for the doubts expressed by the judge as to whether prospective migrants are ever told of such trade disqualifications in Australia. I ask him, secondly, whether in the intervening months he has considered how far this Parliament’s constitutional responsibilities for naturalization and immigration enable it to ban this particular restrictive trade practice without delay and without complementary State laws.
– The honorable gentleman has raised questions of a degree of profundity which cannot very easily be answered off the cuff. However, I shall call for the transcript of the judgment delivered by the South Australian judge and study it in relation to the honorable gentleman’s observations. As to the constitutional issues that my friend adduces, perhaps he will look back to the years when he and I were on the Constitutional Review Committee together. All I can say at this stage is that I shall consider very carefully what he says and the possible operation of any power of this Parliament.
– I desire to ask a question of the Minister for the Interior. Is the demand for land and houses in the Australian Capital Territory having any effect on the availability or price of adjacent land in New South Wales for residential purposes?
– There is undoubtedly a very keen demand for land in Canberra and I say immediately that the price for it is a little higher than we would wish to see.
– A little?
– If the top prices for the choicest blocks in Canberra are compared with the top prices for the choicest blocks in Sydney or Melbourne, they are considerably lower. If the average price for an average block in Canberra is compared with the average price for an average block in Sydney, it is considerably lower. It is inevitable that, as this city grows and becomes more widely spread there will be some spilling over of demand into places like Queanbeyan. But the interesting thing is that in spite of the alleged land famine here and the increasing distance of outlying suburbs from the centre of the city, there are plenty of residential blocks available in Queanbeyan at prices ranging from £450 to £800 and there are houses available for purchase there, just as there are houses available for purchase in the Australian Capital Territory.
– I direct a question to the Treasurer. Does he appreciate that the Ord River scheme is largely, if not entirely, dependent upon the success or failure of those farms which have already been allocated? Because ‘the success of those farms is so very important, does it then necessarily follow that the first farmers should be given every possible and reasonable consideration and assistance to develop and improve their properties? If this is so, I then ask the Treasurer whether finance is now available through any of the Commonwealth banks and, if so, on what conditions, to these new settlers, for general farming requirements including the purchase of machinery, which could amount to some £15,000 or £20,000 in each case. Finally, if finance is not at present readily available, will he take immediate action to ensure that it will become available at an early date and at the lowest possible interest rates?
– I am quite certain that all sections of the House will share the wish of the Government that the experiments and development on the Ord River project will proceed successfully. I have not heard of any financial difficulties being experienced by the limited number of farmers who have taken up settlement there. I will examine the position but I have no doubt that, although as I understand it they were required to have a substantial amount of capital on making their applications, if there are additional financial requirements then the various financial institutions, both governmental and private, will be prepared to consider the propositions which might come forward from individual applicants.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Repatriation concerning the Returned Servicemen’s League, as he is very conscious of its constitution. In view of the several contemptible remarks made about the R.S.L. and its internal organization by several members of the Opposition in this House last night, I ask the Minister: Has there been any recent amendment to the constitution of. the league which precludes the rank and file from exercising a free vote in election of office bearers or in arriving at policy decisions at its State and federal conferences? Is it not so that the constitution of the league is still based on pure democratic principles? Finally, is it not therefore fair to say that any criticism of the so-called brass hats in the league is, per se, a sorry reflection on the honesty and integrity of every member of this magnificent institution?
-I rise to a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Does the R.S.L. come under the administration of the Minister for Repatriation?
– I think the question is in order.
– The Returned Servicemen’s League does not come within the jurisdiction of my department, Mr. Speaker, but as a member of that organization-
– Order! The Minister has now made the question out of order.
– My question is directed to the Prime Minister. Is he aware that the ratio of Commonwealth scholarships granted in relation to the number of candidates for matriculation, has declined from 12.8 per cent. in 1959 to 11.7 per cent. in 1962 and 10 per cent. in 1963? Is he also aware that the scholarships granted in 1963 numbered only 3,834 compared with 4,096 in 1962?
– Order! The honorable member is giving information instead of seeking it. The purpose of question time is to enable honorable members to obtain information from Ministers on urgent matters. I ask the House, or those members of it who wish to ask questions, to obey the Chair and co-operate with it.
– As Australia’s need is to ensure that, irrespective of the means of particular families, those with the greatest ability are given the opportunity to obtain university education, will the Prime Minister review this matter and ensure that there is an appreciable increase in the number of Commonwealth scholarships awarded in 1964?
– I will be very happy to have the figures so extensively given by the honorable member checked, and I will then be able to inform him whether the information given in the speech that he has just made to us was correct.
Motion (by Mr. Harold Holt) - by leave - agreed to -
.- I move -
The Labour Party has been very concerned over the petitions that were received by this Parliament, and which were read to this Parliament, from the aboriginal people who live at Yirrkala and who believe their interests were infringed by the excision of their living area from the Arnhem Land aboriginal reserve. This excision came on top of a number of similar occurrences in the States. The aboriginal reserve at Weipa in Queensland ceased to be an aboriginal reserve. In New South Wales, at Cummera Gunja, sixteen miles from Echuca, an aboriginal reserve was given, I understand, to some Italian farmers. At Lake Tyers in Victoria an aboriginal reserve ceased to be an aboriginal reserve, and the aboriginal Australians concerned have petitioned the United Nations. On top of this series of events came the action involving Yirrkala.
We want to make it perfectly clear that we do not prejudge the question whether or not aboriginal interests are infringed at Yirrkala. We also want to make it perfectly clear that we do not regard this as a party question. The States to which I have referred are governed by different parties. It is not a question of the LiberalCountry Party coalition Government being on trial. The moment the petition was presented to this Parliament, this Parliament was put on trial. In fact, I think, the Australian nation is on trial. Morally, the nation is on trial in any event, even if this matter had no international implications. Internationally, in fact, the nation is on trial.
I think we need to make a certain decision in our hearts before we discuss this question. We should realistically examine our motives. Are aboriginal Australians members of the community of the Australian Commonwealth, no matter how utterly primitive they are, not matter whether they are members of tribes living in deserts and having no contact with Europeans, or are they a conquered people? If they are members of the community of the Australian Commonwealth they cannot be dispossessed of land that they occupy, without consultation. If they can be so dispossessed without consent or consultation or compensation or without alternatives being offered them, they are in fact treated as a conquered people, and no arrangement of words about citizenship should conceal that fact from us.
There are certain logical inferences to be drawn from this. If they are members of the community of the Australian Commonwealth their proper targets for appeal when their interests are infringed, or when they think their interests are infringed, are the Australian Parliament and the State Parliaments. If they are treated as a conquered people the proper body to which to appeal is the United Nations. It is quite tragic that this latter course of action is the one being taken by aboriginal Australians in relation to the Lake Tyers reserve in Victoria. Those people should, in my view, have been advised, and they should have accepted the advice, to appeal in the first instance to the Parliament of Victoria. Had they done so I think the matter would have immediately become an important political issue in that State.
The honorable member for Wills (Mr. Bryant) and I spent three days with the aboriginal Australians of Yirrkala. I would like to say, to begin with, that I do not think they are people who can be interrogated very successfully. If you start interrogating them - and this is not the way in which they approach relations with other people - you sense that they begin to watch you and that they will try to compose the answer that they feel you want them to give. But if you sit quietly with them for a long period of time they will begin to say the things that are in their hearts. Some of the things that are in their hearts may be fallacies when considered from the factual point of view, but they are very important emotionally as indicating what these people believe is happening to them, what they believe will happen to their future and what they believe is their position within the Australian nation and the Australian community.
I honestly do not profess to be able to give a firm opinion on how their interests are affected by the excision of the Gove Peninsula area from the reserve, but I can say that their concern was most obvious. I felt that they should write to the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) and petition this House through the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson), who was unable to be with us on the occasion on which we visited these people. That seemed to me to be a course that any Australian citizen would take if he felt that his interests were infringed. They have done so. They have asked to be heard by this Parliament and we believe that they should be heard. Hence this motion. The notice-paper contains an earlier motion wherein the Labour Party expressed the view that some kind of a title to land should be created for aboriginal Australians in places they occupy as living areas. Until this is done by the Australian Government and the State Governments, Australia will have constant crises developing for the aboriginal Australians immediately some business, mining, agricultural or pastoral interest desires the land that they occupy. They have no similar status to European Australians or to Asian Australians, who are a very important part of our community, if in the tribal state they are held to own nothing and if in the de-tribalized state their work is not rewarded with award rates, and if they do not receive the same protection indus- oily as European workers.
In 1.935 our neighbour, New Zealand, faced the fact that the New Zealand community owed the Maori New Zealanders compensation for dispossession, compensation for the violation of the Treaty of Waitangi and a voice in the affairs of the New Zealand nation. On the latter point, the Maoris were given four members in the parliament. Maori lands were granted. The dignity of possession replaced the indignity of dispossession. We need to accept a similar obligation towards aboriginal Australians to-day. They may be mistaken in thinking that their interests are infringed in specific instances. They may be mistaken in this case at Yirrkala. But they must be heard. We ought to be motivated by respect, by the desire to do justice and by the recognition that there are obligations to make restitution for much of the past of our nation.
We ought also to recognize the implications internationally. One of the most distinguished journalists of the last 30 or 40 years in the United Kingdom said to a friend of mine: “What are Australians doing about the aboriginal? 1 can see the beginnings of a powerful international move to isolate Australia on the aboriginal question in precisely the same way as South Africa has been isolated internationally on the question of apartheid.” If you look at what is taking place in the United Kingdom, you can see almost the beginnings of the campaign. I do not know whether the British Broadcasting Corporation called the programme “ Four Corners “, but it presented a filmed programme on the Australian aboriginal policy. It was distinctly unflattering. Mrs. J, B. Priestley wrote an article, syndicated through parts of the British press, called “ The Dispossessed “, in which she took the native policy of Queensland and projected it on to the whole of the Australian Commonwealth. Virtually it had Australia standing accused.
I do not know what will happen to the Lake Tyers petition to the United Nations, but if the United Nations entertains it representatives of the Australian Government may have to answer for the actions of a State government over which they have no control. It is beginning to be one of our problems about the affairs of the Australian aboriginal people that although this Parliament, apart from in the Northern Territory, is quite powerless to do anything about the Australian aboriginal, that limitation of power is not understood abroad. Whether or not we want to be held responsible, this National Parliament and National Government will be held responsible by other nations. There is no international personality of Victoria, There is no international personality of Queensland. There is only the international personality of Australia, and it is that Australian personality which is answerable for what is taking place in the States.
There are, of course, means whereby the Commonwealth could extend its powers. If there is no real reform on the part of some States, I believe that we could extend our national powers by the ratification of such treaties as the International Labour Organization Convention 107. I refer lo that convention because it is very important. It represents the views of the best minds who have given their attention to the status of primitive peoples living in advanced communities. This is, in effect, the status of tribal aboriginals in Australia. The International Labour Organization has asked in the convention that the parties to it should recognize the land rights of aboriginal peoples. The International Labour Organization was not thinking specifically of aboriginal Australians. Many countries have aboriginal populations. The convention deals with aboriginal peoples generally, with their rights to languages, their rights to education, their rights to immunity from dispossession, and their rights to their own identity within the national community. If we were to ratify that convention, which we have not done, then, under previous decisions of the High Court to the effect that the Commonwealth has power to enforce matters which are the subject of international treaties, we would have a new power of national intervention. We could ensure that the States did not violate this international treaty. I realize that legal problems are involved, but I understand that the High Court in the past has been very clear on this matter. This may well be a course of action for the Government of Australia.
That is a deeper question than the one with which we are immediately faced. Let me stress to the House that the Yirrkala community is a very important community. Its conditions in many ways are very good. I want to make it very clear that I do not have it in my heart to attack the company operating there. I said to the honorable member for Wills after we had gone over the company’s mining area that was deeply impressed by the obviously careful selection the company had made of the types of European and Australian workers it had sent there. These workers impressed me as men of considerable sensitivity and dignity. It did not matter whether they were unskilled workers these qualities were still to be noted. I would not assume that, as individuals, they would want to infringe aboriginal rights. This is not a question of attacking the company. It is a question of trying to find out the effect of certain Government decisions on the status of a people.
The Yirrkala people are very important artistically. The mission at Yirrkala has transmitted to the aboriginal Australians there in one financial year cheques which amounted to £6,000, the proceeds of the sale of their art. There are artists at Yirrkala who are not artistically Europeanized as was Albert Namatjira. They paint on bark with aboriginal sticks which are treated in a particular way. They use only native pigments for their painting, which is done in a traditional style. There are artists at Yirrkala whose work sells in the United States of America and in Paris for as much, in individual instances, as 300 guineas or 400 guineas. Picasso wrote to a Yirrkala artist saying, “ What I have been attempting to do all my life and not succeeding, you are doing “.
These people are internationally known. Mitinari is one artist whose name comes to mind. His work is in demand by universities, anthropological museums, anthropologists, European galleries and in the United States of America. Yirrkala is a curious community in that in the artistic sense it is far better recognized abroad than it is in Australia. I suppose that is not unusual. There is a biblical saying that a prophet is not without honour save in his own country. I believe that the world will give some attention to this community. I believe that the Commonwealth Government has been very sensitive towards the artistic capacity of the community. Finance has been made available to the excellent school at the mission where the best of the aboriginal artists teach their form of art to the aboriginal children. Very fine work is done in the school. The Methodist mission, with the support of the Commonwealth Government, has established there a hospital that has reduced aboriginal infant mortality to European levels. I think that out of 100 births there have been three deaths, and some of those were due to rather unfortunate and rather unusual circumstances.
So we are not necessarily implying that the Commonwealth has neglected this community or that some ruthless policy is operating. The simple basis of this motion, is the belief that people who seek to be; heard about what they believe to be an. infringement of their interests should be heard. In that belief, we on this side of the House propose the motion.
– Is the motion seconded?
– I second the motion and reserve my right to speak to it later.
– Mr. Speaker, the Government readily accepts the proposal, made by the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley). Honorable members on this side of the House will vote for the motion, because we believe that a select committee of this House, by making the inquiry proposed, will throw light on the situation at Yirrkala and, by throwing light on the situation there, will help to remove both the doubts and misunderstandings that may exist there and the doubts and misunderstandings that, I fear, are being propagated in other parts of Australia. The select committee, by making the inquiry, will also, I trust, remove any doubts and misunderstandings that may arise in the outside world.
As the honorable member for Fremantle has said, it is very reasonable that these Australians at Yirrkala, who are citizens of the Australian Commonwealth and who are eligible to enroll and vote for the election of members to this House, having presented a petition to the Parliament, should have that petition regarded with respect and investigated by this House so that the Parliament will discharge its. responsibility for seeing that any grievances that may exist are redressed. I do not want to try to do the work of the select committee or to comment in any way on the situation that exists at Yirrkala. If the House agrees to the motion without a dissenting voice, as I hope it will, we certainly should not engage now in a discussion about the matters that the select committee will examine.
I shall venture to say only two things about the work of the select committee. First, I endorse the remarks made by the honorable member for Fremantle about the difficulty in this job. From my own knowledge of the people and the circumstances at Yirrkala, I am sure that a select committee will not be able to proceed by the customary method of interrogation. It will have to exercise considerable patience and considerable care in order to ensure that it really reaches an understanding of what is in the minds of these people.
Secondly, I hope that one of the results of the work of the proposed select committee will be not only to inform this Parliament and the people of Australia more fully about what is in the minds of the people at Yirrkala and what the nature of their grievances may be, but also to help to elucidate the whole situation for the people themselves. If that is done, we can be sure that any grievances that may exist in the minds of these people will be grievances that arise from a true understanding of their situation and not from a misrepresentation of that situation to the people themselves. So I hope that one of the side effects of the work of this select committee will be the elucidation for the people of Yirrkala of what their situation really is.
Having said that, I do not want to do very much more except to put on record the basic facts regarding the land situation at Yirrkala, the nature of the leases that have been granted there and the attitude and the policy of the Government towards aboriginal reserves. The total area of the Arnhem Land Reserve is 35,680 square miles. On 15th March of this year, an area of 140 square miles was excised from the reserve. In accordance with procedures laid down by the laws of the Northern Territory and the Commonwealth, a statement on the excision was tabled in this House and submitted for debate here. Within the area of 140 square miles that has been excised from the reserve, certain mining leases have been granted. Originally, certain permits to prospect in the reserve were granted and, in November, 1958, Special Mining Lease No. 1, over an area of 21.8 square miles, was granted to Comalco. That special mining lease has since been cancelled because of nonfulfilment of conditions, and is once more at the disposition of the Commonwealth Government. On 11th March, 1963, Special Mining Leases Nos. 2, 3 and 4, over a total area of 57.2 square miles, were granted, and are held by the Gove Mining Company. Those leases, like the earlier lease, S.M.L. 1, were subject to certain conditions designed to protect the interests and welfare of the aboriginal people.
In May, 1963, still within the 140 square miles excised from the reserve, an area of 2.6 square miles was granted to the Methodist mission as a special purpose lease. At present, two other applications for leases within this total area of 140 square miles are pending. The mission has applied for 1.1 square miles, and that application is under examination. Gove Mining Company has applied for an area of .2 of a square mile, and that application is subject to challenge in the Warden’s Court of the Northern Territory. So, out of the total of 140 square miles excised from the reserve, 82.9 square miles is either the subject of leases or of applications for leases, and 57.1 square miles is not the subject of either any claim or any application.
The next point to which I want to turn in order to inform the House relates to the conditions that have been written into the leases granted to the mining companies. I shall not recite the conditions in detail, but shall indicate the subjects with which they deal. First of all, there is a condition that is designed “ to permit and protect completely the rights of free ingress, egress and regress to, from and across the land leased “ at all times by the aboriginal people. There is a condition that permits and protects the access of the mission and officers of the Government to all parts of the leases. There is a condition that provides that if at any time, in the interests of the native people and their welfare, it is considered desirable to remove the mission from its present neighbourhood, the whole cost of removal and re-establishment with equivalent buildings, equipment and facilities shall be borne by the mining companies. There is a condition contained in a collateral letter issued at the time of the leases that on all matters relating to employment there shall be consultation between the mining company and the Director of Welfare. The happy result we have had hitherto and which I am sure we will have in the future - that any servant or employee of the mining company will be a person who will act in complete accordance with the Government’s own objective - are the result of willing observance on the part of the mining company of that particular condition. There is a condition limiting the areas in which mining operations may be conducted. There is also a condition to the general effect that if, within an area covered by a mining lease, there are places of religious significance to aborigines, or if there is arable land which is needed by aborigines or the mission for cultivation purposes, those areas can be excised from the mining lease and made available to the aboriginal people.
The only other point I want to make concerns the Government’s policy on reserves. I will deal with this matter as briefly as I can. When the reserves were originally created many years ago the general view then taken throughout Australia was, I think, that the aborigines were a dying race - that they were a race which w whom very little future was seen in the way was declining in numbers and a race for of material advancement. So, with a spirit of pity and compassion rather than with any great wisdom or understanding, Australian governments created these reserves as places on which the remnants of the aboriginal people would be isolated from the rest of the Australian population, where they could pursue their customary tribal life an.! where they could live mainly by hunting Over the past 30 years there has been a growing sense of responsibility among the Australian people and by all Australian governments and a growing belief that their obligation towards the aboriginal people is greater than simply to provide, as it were, an isolation ward in which they may die in peace. Increasingly, year by year, greater efforts have been made for the advancement of the aboriginal people. To-day the agreed policy of all Australian governments is a policy of assimilation, which means that conscious efforts are to be made to advance the aborigines to a stage where they may live to the same advantage on the same standards and in the same places as every other Australian and where they may have the same opportunities as all other Australians. Not only has that policy changed the general outlook, but as a result of measures taken in relation to health, education, nutrition and so on, the position to-day is that the Australian aboriginal population as a whole is not dying out but is increasing. In the Nortehrn Territory in particular the numbers of aborigines are increasing at a rate higher than the ‘natural rate of increase for Australia as a whole. So we are now facing a situation entirely different from’ that which existed some years ago. Reserves will no longer be needed as places of isolation because these people do not have a future of isolation; they have a future of closer and equal contact with all other Australians. At the same time we see the prospect that as these people advance towards closer association with all other Australians their needs for land and for economic opportunity will increase.
Against that background I want to recite to the House a series of ministerial instructions which appear on my departmental files. Those instructions indicate the way in which this Government views the subject of aboriginal reserves. I will go back to an instruction dated in April, 1952 - about twelve months after I became Minister. At that time, apparently under the influence of what had been the thinking before that time, the departmental officers carrying out their functions submitted a proposal that a certain aboriginal reserve should be revoked. They said in effect that the reserve was no longer needed, that it was not being used by the aborigines, that there was nobody on it and that therefore it should be revoked. I shall quote briefly from a minute dated 28th April, 1952, which is placed on departmental files over my signature. Referring to the submission made to me I wrote -
This is not a correct statement of Government policy. There is no policy of reducing aboriginal reserves. We expect that, as and when our measures for the social advancement of natives may succeed, there will be a lesser need for natives to use native reserves in the way in which they are used at present by the natives, but this expectation that circumstances will change as time goes on cannot be stated as a policy. As and when the needs of the natives change, decisions will be made in each separate case whether an aboriginal reserve should, in the light of the , new needs, bc abolished, reduced or increased.
I further wrote -
In all matters relating to reserves the phrase “ use and benefit “ should not be interpreted only to mean wandering over the reserves for the purpose of hunting, food gathering or practising tribal rites, even if those were the only uses to which the reserve was put at the time of its creation.
From that point on the files will show that we have consistently resisted the excisions from native reserves.
I think I can give the best expression of existing policy by quoting from a minute that I wrote last year in respect of another reserve which, again, had no aborigines on it and which was considered by some people to be no longer necessary for the use and benefit of aborigines. In a minute dated August, 1962, I wrote -
No excisions from reserves or abolition of reserves are to be made for purposes of settlement or subdivision unless the circumstances are such that the aboriginal wards can themselves take part in the settlement or benefit from the subdivision. These reserves are being held to-day, not as a refuge to which aborigines can retreat and live in a tribal state, but as reserves of land to meet the future needs of these people when they have advanced further towards civilization. Particular application of this policy can be seen in the mining laws under which special royalties are paid for the benefit of wards if any mining is done on reserves or on land excised from reserves; and in the recent directions given in respect of the subdivision of part of the Bagot reserve -
This relates to part of a reserve close to the city of Darwin - so that the subdivision cannot take place unless part of the subdivided area is made available for aboriginal residents. All these reserves were created for the use and benefit of aborigines. The only modification of that decision is brought about by a policy of assimilation which discourages arrangements which segregate aborigines from the rest of the community for any reason other than their own needs for special care. Country with economic potential on reserves is to be held untouched until such time as the aboriginal wards can themselves share in the benefits which arise from its development. With an increasing aboriginal population the maintenance of this policy is more important than ever and while there is justification for retaining as reserve the land that is at present remote (for remoteness will cease to be a disadvantage), there is no justification for leaving them only the land that is bad. We have to keep the good land on the existing reserves.
That is the Government’s policy on reserves.
– What date was that?
– That was in August of last year. I say explicitly that if it would give greater firmness to a policy which is now enunciated in ministerial minutes, our line of thinking is that it should be given statutory form.
I support the motion and Government supporters will vote in favour of it.
.- I proposed originally to follow the way in which the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) dealt with this subject, but the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) has chosen this time to state points of policy, to give the picture of Yirrkala and so on. While I believe that the policy just defined perhaps could not be better expressed and, if carried out, would be the correct policy, I believe that the excision of this area from the reserve is a departure in principle from the policy announced in the statement he made a few moments ago.
The people of Yirrkala petitioned this Parliament and the Minister took the opportunity then to prejudice their case by making them appear very poor spokesmen. A censure motion having been proposed, there was no question-time, there was no adjournment debate, there was no grievance day and no way in which we could answer him. I do not know why the Minister did that. The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Cleaver) gave him some support. Only twelve out of 200 people - probably the twelve literate people - signed the petition. Would any honorable member treat 6 per cent, of a large community in his electorate as the Minister treated these people? Of course he would not!
We speak here for an isolated, defenceless group of people at the far end of Australia. As the honorable member for Fremantle has said, so far as Asia is concerned they are some of the most significant Australians. They are the closest Australians to Asia. They are black, and the way in which we treat them will be under the closest scrutiny by people overseas. So even if there were no bauxite in the area and if there were no question of excision from the reserve, this would be an important community.
I do not think the Minister has painted the picture as it really is geographically, agriculturally or in any other way, so I shall take a few moments to describe the true position. Back in 1931, by proclamation, the area of Arnhem Land was set aside for the use and benefit of the aboriginal people of Australia. The impression was given - it has grown steadily ever since - that this was inviolate; that this was their tribal land. My first question is: Whose land is this? These people have lived on it from time immemorial and therefore they should have the first claim to it. They are the people who must be consulted. They are the only people who should be considered.
To bring to the minds of honorable members the way in which the rest of Australians regard their land, let me tell them that the honorable member for Bruce (Mr. Snedden) has just been engaged in an almost historic struggle in Victoria on behalf of a group of land-owners whose land was taken over by the Victorian Water Commission. An important Australian industrial figure was able to use his economic power to preserve his own land and to obtain additional land. It is part of the human tradition to protect one’sland with all of one’s skills and resources. The people of Yirrkala have a lot of skills. If we were cast ashore at Yirrkala we would not survive, but they would. As has been pointed out, their bark paintings show great skill, draftsmanship and artistic merit. But’ they have no resources. They have no public relations officers; they have no advocates; they have no surveyors to go around the country; they have not quite the same voice in this place as the Minister has in putting the alternate view. So we have what I shall call a piece of special pleading from the Minister.
It is true that the area in question is only a very small portion of the reserve. The Arnhem Land reserve is, I think, some 35,000 square miles in area, and we have removed from it only 140 square miles. But that 140 square miles is the area on which 500 Australians live. It is their land. They believe it is their land. Until 1935 they held it against practically all comers. The first station in the north of Arnhem Land was Florida Station, but the people on the station were driven away by the hostility of these people. They are celebrated in Australian annals as the people who protected their interests against Japanese fishermen and against the policemen who came to arrest them. They have a- very close affinity to their soil. It is part of the tradition of humanity. Let me remind honorable members of the following lines: -
Breathes there the man, with soul so dead, Who never to himself hath said, This is my own, my nativeland!
These people are just as entitled to recite those words as is any one else. But we propose to take fromthem these 140 square miles in the far north of Australia where the waters of the Arafura Sea and the Gulf of Carpentaria meet. It is one of the most desirable spots in the Northern Territory. It might be said that they still have almost 35,000 square miles. We shall leave the mission, we are told, with 2.6 square miles on which a community of 500 Australians will live. This is not just an ordinary community. The people are a long way down the line of social progress, but Yirrkala could be an ordinary Australian township. If you had to live in the Northern Territory you could choose a lot worse places than Yirrkala. In the community are 230 adults and 288 children under sixteen. They have houses but they are very humble abodes. The five or six mission houses are quite substantial and the progressive mission management is bringing housing development to the area. It is not quite up to the standard of housing that we would desire, but it is a start.Here is an area on which are some 80 or 100 Australian families. The mission management, I think with great skill, is using its resources and is taking electric power into every one of those houses. As I have said,they are very humble houses. If you and I lived in them we would have no possible chance of producing works of artistic merit, but the native people have done that. There is a potential for agricultural development. The Minister speaks of hunting as if it were some low-grade occupation, but the people who hunt there-
– I am something of a hun- ter myself.
– That is right, but on this occasion you are the hunted. Let me withdraw those remarks because perhaps I am not being fair to the Minister, who generally administers these matters in a sympathetic way. The idea - I shall not claim it as emanating only from the Minister - in the minds of most of us is that if you hunt for a living it is not quite the same as running sheep. These are a pastoral people who live off the land. They hunt kangaroos. Is the man in the broad-brimmed hat who fences in his sheep and then slaughters them for food a more highly skilled operator than the person who hunts his food on the hoof? This has just happened in the development of humanity. These are a pastoral people. To excise from their reserve the land immediately surrounding their homes - which is what has happened, because the mission leases run to within a mile or so of every home on the settlement - and then to say that the land is open for exploitation - I shall change that word to development - by all comers, people who will roam across the country with their guns is not doing the right thing. What will be the use to the wards of access to this area if all that they have is a hole in the ground and if all the game is driven away?
I wish we could put up a map here somewhere, incorporate it in “ Hansard “, or do something else so that people could see the actual geographical significance of the statements made by the Minister for Territories in this House. This is not a simple question of removing 140 square miles and leaving the mission with 2.6 square miles. That is a piece of special pleading that clouds the issue. That is not what has happened. According to the lease, the mission can be removed if mining operations require it. I have not a copy of the lease with me. I did not expect this question to be raised. In fact, a close study of the lease shows that the definition is towards the development by the aluminium company and not towards the rights of the aboriginal people.
These are the questions that are before us and the ones that will go before the select committee. I would not be raising them now if the Minister had not chosen this occasion to place his case before the House. That is what happens so often in these cases. What chance have these aboriginal people to put their case in that way? It was an exceptional endeavour by the honorable member for Fremantle and myself to visit Yirrkala, because it is so far away and its lines of communications are so attenuated. It is difficult to communicate privately by telegram with the people who live there. They are on an open network and if you send a message everybody knows what you have said. .
Principles, policies and everything else are involved in this matter. I hope the select committee will examine all these aspects. The Minister’s acceptance of the view that a committee ought to examine this matter is a great step forward. The select committee’s inquiries will need to be carried out with great delicacy. These people are not used to being interviewed. Many of them speak English, of course; but only a handful of them can write it. As the Minister has told us on many occasions, these people sit around, confer and arrive at a conclusion. The select committee will have to face that technical question and use all of its resources in making its inquiries. How will it make the people of Yirrkala understand the significance of it all?
The Minister talks about assimilation. He says that that is the accepted policy. Assimilation into what? Into what are we going to assimilate these people? There are 4,000 aboriginal people in Arnhem Land and there is not one policeman. I think that is true. In what other part of Australia could you have 4,000 people and not one police officer? It might be better in some ways if we were assimilated into the traditions of the people of Yirrkala. We have to start to look at these folk as people with an individuality, with an attitude, with a feeling of dignity for themselves and with a hope that the Australian people will preserve it. It is no good to talk about their being Australian citizens. They are not citizens of the Commonwealth of Australia in the way that we are. They are not citizens whilst there are acts of various State parliaments which can deprive them of their simple equality as soon as they cross the State borders. They are not Australian citizens while the pastoral award excludes them from the benefits it confers. They are not citizens if there are differentiations in wage rates, social advances and so on everywhere. They are not full citizens of the Commonwealth of Australia if the school that they have is not as good, as far as material surroundings are concerned, as the ones that people in the built-up communities have.
Many arguments have been presented in the Minister’s speech, but this is not an appropriate time to oppose them or discuss them fully. I hope that the people who read and listen will see that these issues arc not clear cut and that this is an operation of great delicacy. If we are to raise these people to a different standard of living, to a new look and to being an Australian community, why could we not have at Yirrkala ultimately an Australian community, with a population of about 1,000, as 1 estimate it will be in about eight to ten years time, like Broome, Derby, Port Hedland or any other Australian community of an equivalent size? Why must these people leave there? The area has a pastoral potential. If you went there and looked you would see that the excision line runs across some of the paddocks. I have some maps here somewhere which show that. One might regard the pastoral potential of this place as having been proved; but it has not been developed. It is one of the places from which Darwin, in the future, could draw some of its supplies, lt has an annual rainfall of 52 inches. It is attractive country - land that would not be difficult to develop, given the capital and skills. The people are a self-contained community. They arc not primitive; they are not sophisticated. But they are selfsustaining and fairly self-reliant. Among them all I could determine no indication of inter-racial marriages, except that on the occasional profile I could see that somewhere way back there was some Indonesian in their blood.
The time has come for us to decide that the policies that the rest of the world is adopting in respect of indigenous people’s lands are the policies that we ought to examine. We may learn from them. We may be able to improve them. In fact, the depriving of people of their reserves has been abandoned as a policy in the United States of America, Canada and New Zealand. One of the questions before us is the way in which this operation has been carried out. I do not know and I do not suppose any one of us knows - at present there may be no one who can really tell us this - what is the best way to develop these deposits for the benefit of the nation and of the people in the area. But let me sound this note of warning: In no instance can I determine that so far we have successfully taken an aboriginal community such as this and changed its cultural and social backgrounds without damaging them almost irreparably. This is the moat delicate social operation the nation can undertake. It must not be undertaken lightly.
One advantage that the appointment of this select committee will confer on this Parliament is that it will bring members from both sides of the House to consider a problem in the tradition of the committees of this Parliament. They are likely to arrive at the same sort of attitude and all of us certainly will be better informed. Apart from all those considerations, there arc others that flow from the development of our mineral resources. However, this is not the time to debate matters such as whether this is the time to extract this bauxite, what are the terms on which the lease has been given, and so on. I hope that during the debate on the estimates for the Department of National Development we will be able to discuss those matters.
I place before honorable members the position that prevails internationally. I suggest that honorable members read and study convention No. 107 of the International Labour Organization. As the honorable member for Fremantle said, rh.tt convention was developed by most skilful and informed people examining this problem. Consider the position in Canada, the United States and New Zealand. Consider the whole traditional attitude that has been developed. I do not need to go further afield than Papua and New Guinea. In June this year Mr. Justice Mann delivered a very important judgment on the Varzin lands in that Territory. The judgment invalidated the occupancy of some Papuan lands which had been occupied originally by the Germans and then were taken over by the Australians. The occupancy was challenged on behalf of the native people. Mr. Justice Mann, at page 30 of his judgment, said -
With respect I refer to and adopt what was said by the late Sir Beaumont Phillips on this topic in the Mortlock Islands Land case in the Judgment delivered on the 29th April, 1930. Under the Australian legislation it is not possible to imply that any statutory or other provision as to the acquisition of prescriptive rights could affect native land interests, for such an implication would be contrary to the express terms of Section’ 8 of tha Ordinance.
So 33 years ago the Commonwealth accepted a different attitude. This is a lengthy document. I am not reading all of it. We all should read it. His Honour said -
In my view therefore the natives’ rights in relation to the confiscated land continued.
Later he said that, when no definite land title has been established, possession known to have been unlawfully acquired cannot be relied on. He continued -
The established rule of Equity applicable when neither party has a subsisting legal right which is paramount, is that the first in time prevails.
The right of these people to occupancy has prevailed now for some 12,000 years. So, in asking the House to turn its mind to all the delicate social operations involved, to the uplifting of the aboriginal people and to our position in the international scheme, I call another witness in defence of the right of these people to regard their land as their own. This is a proclamation which was issued some time ago -
And whereas it is just and reasonable, and essential to our Interests, and the security of our Colonies, that the several Nations or Tribes of Indians with whom We are connected, and who Jive under our Protection, should not be molested or disturbed in the Possession of such Parts of our Displeasure, all our loving Subjects from been ceded to or purchased by Us, are reserved to them, or any of them, as their Hunting Grounds.
Further on, the proclamation says -
And We do hereby strictly forbid, on Pain of our Displeasure, all our loving Subjects from making any Purchases of Settlements whatever, or taking Possession of any of the Lands above reserved, without our especial leave and Licence for that Purpose first obtained.
The person who issued that royal proclamation on behalf of people who have been in a similar position down the centuries, the Indians of Canada, was King George III. of Great Britain, and it was issued on 7th October, 1763. I submit that the principles established in that royal proclamation of two centuries ago could very well be applied by the people of Australia when considering the land ownership and tenure of the aboriginal people of this continent.
.- The Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) has indicated the Government’s acceptance of this motion to appoint a select committee to inquire into the grievances of certain aboriginal people at Yirrkala relating to the excision pf, land from the aboriginal reserve in Arnhem Land. This motion links with the petition submitted by the people of Yirrkala, who prayed -
That the House will appoint a committee, accompanied by competent interpreters, to hear the views of the people of Yirrkala before permitting the excision of any land from the Aboriginal Reserve in Arnhem Land.
They also prayed -
That no arrangements be entered into with any company which will destroy the livelihood and independence of the Yirrkala people.
In referring to the terms of the motion, and of the petition, I think I am justified in underlining the fact that, whilst the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) spoke convincingly about the complex problem of land tenure for the aboriginal people, the proposed select committee is to inquire into the specific case of the excision of some land from the reserve at a place called Yirrkala. May I pay tribute to the fact that in his speech the honorable member for Fremantle said very moderately indeed that the Government was not on trial. As usual, the honorable member brought logic and genuineness to the presentation of his case. But I would be failing in my duty as I support the Minister this morning if I did not point out that the colleague of the honorable member for Fremantle, the honorable member for Wills (Mr. Bryant), certainly put the Minister and the Government on trial when he released a statement outside this House on 20th August last. Again this morning, not in the moderate fashion of his colleague the honorable member for Fremantle, the honorable member for Wills launched an attack against the Minister. For this reason, there are some facts which have to be put on record just to keep the record straight.
I return to the point that no opposition is being presented to this motion by the Minister or the Government. What is the reason for this? Quite clearly - and the House should take cognizance of it - it is that the Government and the Administration have nothing whatever to hide in connexion with this matter. The Government has no fear of the inquiries of any select committee because the closest liaison and consideration have been extended to the Methodist mission authorities at Yirrkala, and, in fact, I might say, to all other bodies providing for the invaluable care and training of aboriginal people throughout the Northern Territory. When the Minister and the Government have a record such as they do in this instance, they have no fear about a select committee. That is the reason why we gladly accept the motion this morning.
But, of course, there are some questions that ought to be asked about why the motion was promoted. How did it come about that these petitions were forwarded to representatives of Her Majesty’s Opposition? Why were they not sent to the Minister or to other members on the Government side of the House? I want to make the point that the petitions were received by this Parliament. The honorable member for Wills was greatly annoyed when the Minister, as was his right, questioned the status of the people associated with the petition. 1 think the Minister had every right to indicate from his vast experience in this complex field of aboriginal life and custom that it is usually the elders of the tribe who formulate and express views on behalf of their people. Unfortunately, i have not got the time to deal in detail with the very immoderate statements - indeed, I would call then irresponsible - made by the honorable member for Wills. I say that they arc irresponsible, and I regret that the three days spent by the honorable member at Yirrkala did not ensure that when he made a statement on this matter his statement would be accurate. I would have thought that the three days spent at Yirrkala and the research which he has undoubtedly given to this subject would have enabled him publicly to state the facts, and that he would not make statements that cannot be substantiated. If I had time, I would read some of the most immoderate statements that he included in his press statement, but there are more important things to be said on this important subject.
I move on to say that the Government desires above all things that all people concerned with the care and the training of the aborigines in the north should have a clear understanding of current policies. No honorable member of this House will deny that the needs of the aboriginal people are of paramount importance. I have already affirmed that the Government works in the closest co-operation with the mission authorities. The mission at Yirrkala has been operated successfully by the Overseas Missions Department of the Methodist Church for a long period of years. It has a very happy record for the work that it has done, and the Minister has always been ready to acknowledge that there has always been a happy relationship between its representatives and the officers of the Northern Territory Administration and the officers of the Department of Territories. The programme of the Overseas Missions Department is based upon the modern concept that, apart from spiritual training, missionary activity should be aimed at giving the aboriginal people a sense of independence. This is in line with the hopes and aspirations of the honorable member for Wills, and he would do well to take notice that this is the fundamental objective of the missionary activities of the Church.
Because of this, agricultural training is provided, basic technical education for eventual employment is promoted and the sale of what the aboriginal people produce from their land working and the fish they catch has always been encouraged, lt is rather interesting to note that whilst the honorable member for Wills has been greatly concerned about the things that we propose to do at Yirrkala the Methodist Church of Australia asked for only one concession at its recent general conference. That was that, if possible, there should be a 2-mile gap between the settlement and the boundary of the mining lease. I want to say on behalf of the Minister that it is my understanding that this request of the mission authorities will bc granted.
I put it to the House that when mineral resources are discovered on or adjacent to a mission or reserve area a vast potential indeed is opened up for the aboriginal people. The attitude of the honorable member for Wills is, to me, quite illogical. Do 1 understand him correctly when he asserts that we should close the door on the mining of these bauxite deposits? I believe that adequate recognition of the needs of the mission and the people at Yirrkala is evident in the decisions of the Government and the Minister.
– That is a matter for the select committee to determine, is it not?
– I hear the honorable member for Fremantle interjecting, and I want to come to a point that I think he and his colleagues should note. The lease provides for arable lands within the lease area to be made available readily by the mining company and further that areas of religious significance to the aboriginal people can be surrendered to the mission. The honorable member for Wills, in my opinion, needs to be reminded that the mission authorities have not complained about being compressed.
– I have a letter from the people of Yirrkala-
– Some of the statements made by you can be immediately refuted. You have had your say.
The honorable member made no reference at all to the fact that the 140 square miles to be excised from the reserve includes land required by the mission authorities, who have the rights of the people at heart. I have told the House of the good reputation that they established. The secretary of the mission, who was attacked by the honorable member for Wills, is a mission executive of vast experience. I and many other people in the community would resent what the honorable member said about him. His report on the Gove bauxite project and the aborigines of 9th July last refutes most of the irresponsible statements of the honorable member for Wills. I provide this information to protect the reputation of the mission executive. In his report, he said -
The question was put to me as to why the people were not approached first before the lease was granted. I replied that mining companies have been prospecting in this area since 19S6 and the Aborigines have been helping them as paid labour. We had taken it for granted that the people had no strong feelings against the mining project commencing there.
When 1 asked them if they were afraid of this development they assured me that they were not afraid and left me with the impression that they welcomed the coming of this new work which would provide a market for their fish, vegetables and other products of Yirrkala and also give them opportunities for work.
The secretary, Mr. Gribble, was further informed by the chairman of the mission district, who knows the area and the people well, that the three chief spokesmen were those who had land rights in the area over which part of the mining lease extends.
It is quite apparent that the allegations of the honorable member for Wills have been answered very emphatically. The appointment of the select committee will reveal to public view that there is nothing at all to the statements of the honorable member.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– i ask for leave to make a personal explanation.
– Does the honorable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. i wish to make j brief statement on the technical point about the issue of a statement by me. i would like to place on record that my statement was in answer to a statement issued by the Minister outside the House at a time when the House, for various reasons, was unable to handle this question. All i require is that this explanation be placed on record.
Debate resumed from 15th March, 1962 (vide page 861), on motion by Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes -
That in view of the increasing pressure of Communist infiltration, subversion and guerilla aggression in South-East Asia, this House is of I he opinion that, in order to strengthen the security of Australia, and South-East Asian countries who may desire assistance - (0 National Service Training should be introduced on the basis of a minimum of twelve months’ continuous service, and
if it is considered advisable to establish such National Service Training on a selective basis, then rehabilitation benefits should be granted on similar, but not necessarily the same, lines as in the United Stales of America.
.- i am sure the House will clearly remember that on 15th March, 1962, when this motion was last being debated, I said that the Opposition was adopting its usual tactics in relation to defence - that is, attempting to avoid a debate on this subject. i am sure my honorable friends will recall that when this very important resolution, moved by my honorable and gallant friend from Chisholm (Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes) seeking the re-introduction of national service training was being debated, the Opposition deliberately tried to gag the debate so that honorable members would not have a chance to air their views. The honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) admitted that he interceded with the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) or the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) - I do not know which - and said, to use his words, “ If the honorable member for Wills wants to speak, for God’s sake let him speak “. Opposition members were trying to gag him. They were afraid of what would happen if they let the honorable member for Wills (Mr. Bryant) expound his views on the defence of Australia, on national service and on other matters. However, the well-known liberal and tolerant views of the honorable member for Fremantle had their way against the views of the more totalitarian group which, in actual fact, is in charge of the Australian Labour Party.
It is significant that the Australian Labour Party attempted to avoid a debate on this issue, as it always attempts to avoid debates on defence. In recent years, I have been interested to note the tendency of Opposition members to glorify their achievements in the defence field. They always advert to what they did during the war, which was an occasion, let it be said, when they did not have any alternative but to preside over an all-out war effort for Australia. They say nothing about their attitude to defence in time of peace, because their peace-time defence record is shocking. It would be reasonable to say that the Australian Labour Party, despite its protestations to the contrary, is a war party rather than a peace party. Opposition members have not even begun to understand that one way to avoid war is to make adequate preparations in time of peace, not only internally but also by entering into collective security arrangements with allies. This is the sort of thing that the honorable member for Chisholm is bringing before the House in this motion. By making adequate preparations in time of peace, we may avoid the prospect of ever having to fight a war.
When we were last debating this issue, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition suggested that it was no longer necessary to continue the debate because the Opposition’s view on national service training was the same as the Government’s view. I want emphatically to deny that. There is a very great difference between the Opposition and the Government on this subject of national service training. The difference is this: The Opposition has gone on record, in modern times, as being opposed to national service training - that is to compulsory training or conscription, or whatever you like to call it - in any circumstances, at all events in peace-time. That attitude could not be further from the position of the Government parties. The Government does not exclude national service training on doctrinal grounds in the name of peace, or something of that sort, however the Labour Party justifies it. The Government is perfectly prepared to introduce national service training if it believes that, in the light of the military requirements of the times, it is necessary.
We, as a government, showed that readiness early in our period of office, when our defence advisers felt that there was a possibility of a third world war, that war on a global scale was imminent. We introduced national service training and kept it in operation for six or seven years, as long as the particular requirement of the strategic situation was there. However, things changed, with the nuclear stalemate and so on, and it no longer seemed likely that we would have global war - that is, of the type which we had from 1939 to 1945 or in the First World War. It no longer seemed likely that we would have to face that sort of threat. The requirement of the strategic situation was ability to meet a limited war in South-East Asia, so we abandoned national service training. Nothing can be further from the truth than the Deputy Leader of the Opposition’s statement that there is no difference between the Government and the Opposition on the subject of national service training.
We hold ourselves perfectly ready to reintroduce national service training - albeit in a different- form, as the honorable member for Chisholm has suggested - to-morrow, if the situation changes and it seems that the defence of this nation will be best served by doing so. The Opposition presumably has excluded the re-introduction of national service training in any circumstances, even if it was in government and its defence advisers suggested that national service training was the best solution to the problem.
In the few minutes left to me, I want to answer a question which the Deputy Leader of the Opposition put to me by interjection when I last was speaking on this subject.. I did not agree at that time, and I do not agree now, with the motion submitted by the honorable member for Chisholm, for the reasons I have just given. I do not agree with the motion because I do not believe that the priority at present necessitates the introduction of national service training. But I do not exclude the possibility that it may become necessary, in the not too far distant future, to do something along these lines.
The requirement of effective defence in the present situation, as the Minister for Defence (Mr. Townley) has so often said, is that we should have in this country a force well equipped, highly mobile, highly trained and ready to go to the scene of a limited war - a brush-fire outbreak - at any time that it is required to do so. That is the first priority. I am against anything that militates against bringing our forces to meet that requirement. It is well known that, on what our defence advisers have told us, we could not re-introduce national service training in Australia, even for the longer period suggested by the honorable member for Chisholm and meet this requirement. I would say that, if we did introduce national service training it should be not for a year, but for two years. The reintroduction of national service training would affect the effectiveness of our readily available forces until we could get 28,000 mcn into the Regular Army. Honorable members will recollect that the Minister for the Army (Mr. Cramer), in answer to a question this morning, suggested that the present strength of the Regular Army is 23,000 men. We are 5,000 short of 28,000. The Army believes that when the additional 5,000 men have been enlisted by normal recruiting it would, if the situation required, bc able to embark on a national service training scheme and still have available the three battle groups and the battalion group in Malaya, without having to decimate any of those units to assist in the training of the national servicemen.
Let us make no mistake about it: As things stand at present the first requirement is that we should have those three battle groups and the battalion group in being, well equipped, readily available and ready to go to the scene of action as required. Any attempt to introduce national service training before the Regular Army reaches a strength of 28,000 men would reduce the ability to meet that requirement and the effectiveness of those units. As long as that position obtains I am against the re- introduction, of national service training.
I compliment the honorable member for Chisholm on having submitted his motion, because it has directed the attention of the House to important issues. But I am afraid I must say now, as I did when the honorable member first introduced this motion eighteen months ago, that in the existing situation I find myself unable to agree with him.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I would have been prepared to give my time to an Opposition speaker, but obviously the Labour Party has no one ready to take part in this debate. I should like to congratulate the honorable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes)-
– Mr. Deputy Speaker, I rise to order. 1 require that remark to be withdrawn. The Opposition’s attitude is exactly as it was when this matter was last before the House eighteen months ago. It is that the House should have an opportunity to vote on the motion. No speaker rose on this side because we want a vote taken on this motion. We expressed that wish eighteen months ago and it is still our wish. The honorable member has risen so that no vote can be taken to-day.
– I think the Deputy Leader of the Opposition has explained the position of his party. I suggest that the honorable member for La Trobe withdraw the remark, as asked by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition.
– If it has upset the Deputy Leader of the Opposition I will certainly withdraw it, but that was the opinion which I felt was held by most honorable members on this side of the House. However, the remarks made by the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Forbes) in respect of this question show that it is of considerable importance to this country at the moment. There is no doubt that when we assess Australia’s defence requirements we have to take certain things into account. The first of them is the strategic situation, as far as we sec it, in the area in which we are most likely to be concerned. The Government’s policy, as has been propounded, is continually to improve the ability of our forces to-
– Order! The time allotted for the precedence of general business has expired. The honorable member for La Trobe will have leave to continue his speech when the debate is resumed. The resumption of the debate will be made an order of the day under general business for the next sitting of the House.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
– by leave - When I announced in my Budget speech the Government’s decision to introduce an investment allowance of 2G per cent, on the new plant and equipment, other than road vehicles, of primary producers, I indicated that I would make a statement giving further details of the proposed allowance. In this statement I am outlining the more important details of the allowance.
As I pointed out in my Budget speech, it is vital, if rural industry is to continue to be the mainstay of our export earnings, that it maintain the rate of improvement in productivity which it has achieved over recent years. This increase in productivity has in large part resulted from the use of new and improved plant and equipment. This kind of investment has been encouraged significantly by the special 20 per cent, depreciation allowance which this Government introduced first in 1952. We now propose a further incentive for primary producers to keep their plant and equipment up to date and continue the search for further cost savings through the acquisition of new plant and equipment with the object of stimulating further advances in productivity.
This further incentive will be by way of an investment allowance to apply to new plant and equipment used in Australia for the purpose of producing assessable income or installed ready for use for that purpose. Like the allowance introduced last year for manufacturers, it will take the form of a deduction from assessable income equal to 20 per cent, of the cost - including any installation expenses - of plant qualifying for the allowance.
Under the existing law, plant and equipment owned by a taxpayer and used by him wholly and exclusively in primary production is subject to accelerated depreciation at the rate of 20 per cent, per annum, so that the cost of such plant is fully deducted for income tax purposes over five income years. Stated broadly, this type of plant will now be subject to the special investment allowance which will be additional to the allowance for special - accelerated - depreciation. In the year in which the eligible plant is first used or installed ready for use, a deduction totalling 40 per cent, of the cost of the plant will be allowable, consisting of 20 per cent, by way of investment allowance and 20 per cent, by way of special depreciation. In the four succeeding years deductions by way of special depreciation of 20 per cent, of the cost of the plant will be allowable, so that the total write-off over five years will equal 120 per cent, of the cost of the plant.
The plant eligible will be new, but not second-hand or used, machinery and equipment. The allowance will be based on capital expenditure incurred on that plant on or after 14th August, 1963, under a contract entered into on or after that date. Ancillary plant, other than road vehicles, for use in a business of primary production - for example, bagging plant for use by a producer of grain, post-hole diggers and other plant used in connexion with fencing, and also bore or dam sinking equipment - will qualify for the allowance. The allowance will be available in the year of income in which new primary production plant is first used or installed ready for use and held in reserve.
To indicate the scope of the allowance the following illustrations will be found useful. First, it will apply to plant used wholly and exclusively in a business of cultivating or using land for agricultural or pastoral purposes. Examples of the type of new plant and equipment which will qualify for the allowance are - ploughs, tractors, harrows, cultivators, seeders, harvesters, hay-balers, incubators for use in poultry farming, shearing plant, milking machines.
Fishing and pearling operations constitute primary production for income tax purposes. The special allowance will apply to plant owned by a fisherman and used wholly and exclusively by him in business operations relating directly to taking or catching fish, lt will similarly apply to plant used by a pearler. Probably the most important item of fishing plant to which the allowance may apply is fishing boats. An allied industry which will also benefit is oyster farming.
Following other income tax legislation to be introduced by the Government this session, a further category of industry will come within the scope of primary production. In broad terms the operations to be included will be the planting or tending of trees for felling and the felling of trees in a plantation or forest for the purpose of milling the timber. Eligible plant for use wholly and exclusively by a person in a business involving these operations will qualify for the allowance.
The investment allowance will not apply to structural improvements, including fences, buildings, yards, etc. lt will not apply, either, to plant acquired partly for private use, hand tools, loose tools, household furniture and plant the cost o.f which is deductible in full in the year of purchase.
– by leave - I notice that the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt), during the course of his explanatory statement, made some reference -to fishing boats - or was it votes?
– 1 thought he probably had in mind fishing votes as well as fishing boats.
– You are thinking of Labour Party policy.
– Seeing that fishing votes probably have an important bearing on the statement, perhaps I might make some suggestions. We all know that primary producers have been granted, from time to time, certain exemptions and preferential treatment under our income tax law. Not the least of these concessions, of course, has been the 20 per cent, deduction for depreciation of plant and equipment. That has been a very valuable concession. Now we have a proposal to provide for a 20 per cent. investment allowance on new plant and equipment in the first year of the life of such plant and equipment. The 20 per cent, depreciation allowance that primary producers are now enjoying applies in respect of the purchase of second-hand equipment, but, if I interpret the Treasurer’s statement correctly, the investment allowance will apply only in respect of machinery brought brand new.
– Quite right.
– The honorable member for Gippsland says, “ Quite right “.
– You cannot keep on selling.
– Here is another primary producers’ representative, the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Kelly), who says that you cannot keep on selling. Let me ask the honorable member: Docs not that remark apply equally in the case of the 20 per cent, depreciation allowance? If you buy second-hand farm plant and machinery and then sell and lose on it, that is all right, but if you sell that secondhand machinery and make a profit on it the Commissioner of Taxation catches up with you, and rightly so.
– That is fair enough.
– That is fair enough. But, notwithstanding the fact that in the case of secondary industry this kind of concession applies only in respect of new equipment, I suggest that, in view of the lender feelings of the Parliament for the primary producer, there should be a slight difference in his case, and that the 20 per cent, investment allowance should apply also to the purchase of second-hand farm plant and machinery.
The result of this proposal of the Government will be a tendency to encourage the purchase of new farm plant and equipment by people who are ill-equipped, from the point of view of their pockets, to buy brand new agricultural machinery. The honorable member for Indi (Mr. Holten) can interject as much as he likes. He is not a primary producer, of course. Everybody knows that during trie first war service land settlement scheme in Australia one of the things that broke many thousands of soldier settlers was the fact that they used their finance to rush into the purchase of new machinery. Quite candidly, the only thing that saved me in the soldier settlement experiment after the 1914-18 war was that I was able to go out and buy second-hand machinery, because I had some slight mechanical knowledge. To-day the average producer and his sons or other people who go on the land have a very keen mechanical sense and a very extensive knowledge of machinery. It is utter nonsense to encourage men who are struggling to make a living from the land to buy new agricultural machinery if, by utilizing their commonsense and mechanical knowledge, they can make use of secondhand machinery while they are trying to get on their feet. New machinery could be bought later, when they were well established. It is nonsense to encourage them to go after the new articles before they are established. There are very many sensible people with a good mechanical knowledge who can assess very accurately the secondhand value of a plough, a seeder or a reaper and binder.
– Hear, hear!
– The honorable member for Gippsland says “ Hear, hear “. He is coming into my corner. Why should the thrifty, saving, canny type of man be deprived of an investment allowance which is given to the farmer who, because of his better filled pockets, can afford to buy brand new machinery?
– I rise to a point of order. Opportunities will be provided during the next few weeks, at more appropriate times, for a debate on this issue. When I arranged with the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) for leave to be given to me to make a statement, there was no proposal that a statement be made by the Opposition. I granted leave to the honorable member for Lalor on the assurance that he would be making a short statement. If there is to be a general debate on this matter, I shall ask that the debate bc adjourned. This is not the occasion for such a debate.
– I point out that the honorable member for Lalor has leave to make a statement.
– It is unfortunate that the Treasurer should protest. I told him that I would not be unduly long.
– You have been long enough.
– The Treasurer read a three-page typewritten statement. It took him longer to do that than I have taken.
– That is not true.
– Whether it did or did not, I have leave to make a statement.
– The honorable member for Lalor is in order.
– I do not want to break the undertaking I gave that I would be brief. There may be a little difference of opinion about what is brevity. It is perfectly obvious that I have struck a vital nerve in my analysis of this matter. It may be the medium by which a bigger wedge can be driven between the Country Party and the Liberal Party. I see some prospect of my friends in the Country Party adopting our point of view on this matter. At the appropriate time it is probable that something will be done about that.
I am keeping to the spirit of my undertaking. I have never broken an agreement in my life. We are not only concerned with agricultural machinery. There is a gesture also to the fishing industry. A fishing boat can cost up to £10,000. Most fishermen are shrewd and competent and they know boats. If one of them seizes an opportunity to buy for £5,000 a secondhand boat that will serve his purpose as well as a new boat, why should he not get a 20 per cent, investment allowance? The same argument applies to saw-millers. If a saw-miller attends a clearing sale of machinery of some one who has gone broke and sees a 120-h.p. diesel engine for sale at £800 or £1,000, why should he not buy it and also get an investment allowance? The very essence of farming in this country is frugality and wisdom - not extravagance, not an unwise rush into the purchase of new machinery, thus fattening the manufacturers of agricultural machinery. They make good articles, of course.
I throw in this suggestion in the hope that when the appropriate time arrives the Treasurer will be wise enough to accept it. I am certainly looking for some support from Country Party members. I have kept my undertaking to the Treasurer, and I hope he will withdraw his suggestion that I have broken it.
.- 1 move-
That the bill be now read a second time.
The object of this bill is to amend the Customs Act 1901-1960 in respect of a number of procedural and machinery matters. These are designed to simplify certain aspects of Customs administration. For some time the provisions of the Customs Act have been under review with the object of bringing its provisions into line with present day practices. The amendments contained in this bill are the direct result of the review. Specifically these are designed to simplify and tighten the administration of controls over the importation and safekeeping of narcotic drugs and to speed up the processing of entries through Customs procedures.
During recent years all procedures connected with the statutory requirement of the entry of goods have been critically examined with the object of speeding up the processing of entries by Customs. One of the procedures which has assisted greatly in this direction is the “ check-to-arrive “ system. The advent of modern air services has resulted in importers receiving documents necessary for the entry of goods some weeks before arrival of the ship carrying the goods. To meet this position the department has for a number of years permitted importers to lodge entries prior to the arrival of the vessel carrying the goods covered by the entry. These entries arc checked by the department and upon arrival of the vessel are regarded as having been “ made “ in terms of the Customs Act.
This procedure of prior check has now become firmly established and has assisted greatly in the speedier delivery of cargo from the wharf. It has also greatly assisted the department in levelling the work-flow connected with the checking of documentation relating to the importation of goods. The system has stood the test of time and it is now proposed that specific provision be made in the Customs Act for its continuance.
Another measure designed to assist administrative procedures connected with the entry of goods is the provision provid ing that replacement entries be regarded as having been made on the sams date as the original entry. This amendment will also provide safeguards against importers using the provisions for replacement entries to take advantage of reductions in duty. Under the new provisions the rate of duty payable will be that applicable on the day the original entry was made regardless of the date of the replacement entry.
The simplified procedures in respect to narcotic drugs provide for dispensing with securities which are now required. These securities are designed to enforce compliance with conditions attached to the importation and safekeeping of narcotic drugs imported into Australia. These conditions of importation and safekeeping are imposed in accordance with Australia’s obligations under international narcotic drug conventions and are administered under the provisions of the Customs Act. One condition of importation is that the importer shall furnish security to the Customs for compliance with the Customs Act and with the requirements to which the licence is subject.
A breach of the conditions or requirements of the licence or permission to import does not, under present provisions, make the importer liable to penalty. The only sanction would be enforcement of the security and forfeiture of the goods involved, providing they can be located. The taking of securities for individual transactions and the subsequent policing and determination of such securities cause administrative difficulties both for the department and the public.
It has now been decided to adopt a more positive method of enforcing Commonwealth requirements by inserting in the act a provision making a breach of the condiditions or requirements to which a licence or permit is subject a punishable offence. This will simplify administration of, and make more positive, departmental controls over narcotic drugs and other goods to which conditions or requirements are imposed at the time of importation but which must be complied with after importation.
The bill also contains a number of , important machinery provisions. One of these brings the provisions of the Customs Act relating to the introduction in the Parliament of customs tariffs or customs tariff alterations into line with the revised Standing Orders of the House of Representatives. Provision is also made to amend section 273ea which provides for notices of tariff proposals to be signed when Parliament is not in session. The amendments make it clear that the Minister for Customs and Excise is the Minister authorized to take action under the section. In this connexion legal advice has been given that the present wording of the section debars a senator from signing the notice.
Other machinery measures which are designed to assist customs administration provide for clarification of the place where claims should be made for goods seized under the provisions of the Customs Act; the appointment of more than one boarding station at a port or airport; power to hold ships and aircraft at boarding stations; and the removal of difficulties associated with the drafting of regulations in respect of aircraft stores to meet Australia’s obligations under international air agreements.
I feel sure that honorable members will be interested in the amendment which relates to the acceptance for customs purposes of carnets issued under the provisions of international conventions. Carnets are documents designed to facilitate the temporary importation of goods into and subsequent exportation out of a country. These carnets take the place of national customs import and export documentation. The customs duty involved is guaranteed by security by some organization such as a motoring association or a chamber of commerce. Thus, individual securities for each importation are avoided. With the increasing use of carnets, particularly for tourists’ vehicles and for trade samples, it has been found necessary to make specific provision in customs legislation for their acceptance.
Penalties for offences involving smuggling and the illegal importation and exportation of goods are increased from £100 to £500. The penalty of £100 has remained unchanged since federation despite the decrease in money values since that date. The figure of £500 is more in line with present-day money values and is in keeping with Australia’s obligations under the Single
Convention on Narcotic Drugs to provide for adequate penalties for offences involving narcotics.
Following the repeal of sections 258, 258a and 260 of the Customs Act in1957, the recovery of penalties imposed under the Customs Act was left to the powers of enforcement provided by State legislation. However, certain State legislation in respect of recovery of costs has been found deficient; so much so that in several cases the Department of Customs and Excise has been unable to recover costs awarded by a court. The bill contains provision to remove the limitation on the enforcement of an order for costs.
Other amendments bring the provisions relating to false statements on oath into line with the corresponding provisions of the Statutory Declarations Act. The provisions relating to the Customs Seal, its custody and use and to replicas of theseal have been revised and stated in a clearer form. The section relating to offences involving assaults upon customs officers has been reworded to remove conflicting interpretations of the section. In addition, unnecessary provisions relating to Queen’s warehouses and the requirement of duplicate copies of outward manifests are deleted from the act. I commend the bill to honorable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Pollard) adjourned.
Mr. FAIRHALL (Paterson - Minister for
Supply) [2.40]. - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The bill now presented to amend the Excise Act 1901-1962 contains amendments of a machinery nature which are complementary to amendments contained in the bill to amend the Customs Act upon which I have just spoken. These amendments are designed to bring the provisions of the Excise Act relating to the introduction into Parliament of excise tariffs and excise tariff alterations into line with the revised Standing Orders of the House of Representatives.
In making these amendments the opportunity has been taken to bring section 114 of the Excise Act into line with the corresponding provisions of the Customs Act by limiting the period of protection to officers to a maximum of six months from the time when the excise tariff alteration is proposed in the Parliament.
The only other amendment contained in the bill removes the present limitation against imprisonment for enforcement of an order for costs by a court in respect of excise prosecutions. I commend the bill to honorable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Pollard) adjourned.
In committee: Consideration resumed from 10th September (vide page 775).
Department of External Affairs.
Proposed vote, £13,502,000.
Proposed vote, £3,181,000.
.- Mr. Chairman, when progress was reported last Tuesday, I had said that we should not commit Australia’s prestige by making it appear that we were bolstering the Diem regime in South Viet Nam, which has been described by Walter Lippmann, a prominent United States newspaperman, as being based on force, patronage, corruption and intrigue.
I now wish to discuss the most important issue of the modern day - the first step towards total world disarmament which is the nuclear test ban treaty agreement between the United States of America, the United Kingdom and the Soviet Union. I was pleased to note that the Minister for External Affairs (Sir Garfield Barwick), in a forthright statement on 26th July, 1963, said, in part -
Australia should become a party to the treaty and the necessary steps should be taken immediately.
All people who strive to bring about world peace realize that the first step towards it will be taken b’y stopping the poisoning of the atmosphere that results from the continued testing of nuclear weapons in the atmosphere. We in the Australian Labour
Party for many years have advocated the stopping of these tests, and we are pleased that the Government supports the test ban treaty. The Minister, in his statement, went on to say, as reported -
It was the earnest wish of the Australian Government that all other powers, particularly those who aspire to develop their own nuclear capacity, would follow this lead and would decide to become parties to the agreement, thus widening its operation and making it more effective.
This was one of the most important parts of the Minister’s statement. We must stress the fact that all nations must come together on this nuclear test ban treaty. We cannot afford to have any more independent, growing powers with the nuclear weapons. Countries such as France must cease testing nuclear weapons. We must make sure cf that and we must agitate against the People’s Republic of China becoming a nuclear power. That is the reason why, as I hope to show if I have sufficient time, it is so necessary that we recognize the People’s Republic of China and accord that country its rightful place in the United Nations. That will enable us to bring China within the family of nations. We must sit around the table with the Chinese and try to solve our problems in that way. We must not isolate her as an outlaw. This is most important.
We in the Australian Labour Party support the nuclear test ban treaty and will agitate against the testing of nuclear weapons by all nations at any time and in any place. The Minister for External Affairs sent congratulatory messages to Lord Hailsham, Dean Rusk and Averell Harriman on the signing of the test ban treaty. I was a little disapppointed that the Minister did not go further. I wrote to him and congratulated him on his part in immediately making Australia a party to the test ban treaty and calling on all nations to sign the treaty but I said that I was disappointed that he had not congratulated the Soviet Union. We should give praise where praise is due. If it was good enough foi the Soviet Union to take the first steps towards this test ban treaty it was good enough to congratulate the representative of the Soviet Union as well as the representatives of the United Kingdom and America. To his credit the Minister instructed his secretary to contact me by telephone and inform me that he had- sent a congratulatory message to Foreign Minister Gromyko representing the Soviet Union for his part in bringing about the test ban treaty.
It is a great pity that the congratulatory messages about the part played by these various people in this matter is not given wider publicity. In this regard Australia must play a greater part as an independent nation. If the United States does something good we should praise it. For example, I have the utmost admiration for the steps that are being taken by President Kennedy to bring some dignity to the negroes of the southern states of America in their fight against the Fascist elements of that area. I never hesitate to sing the praises of President Kennedy for his actions on behalf of these people. If it is good enough for the Soviet Union to come forward on a progressive issue, surely we as Australians should give it credit just as we are so ready to criticize the Soviet Union if it does something wrong. This is the role that the Australian Government should adopt - an independent and conciliatory role in world affairs.
It is now freely admitted that a continuation of nuclear tests will poison the atmosphere. For this reason it is vital for us in this Parliament to protest vigorously against the proposed French nuclear tests in the Pacific. We know that the prevailing winds will blow the fall-out from those tests on to our eastern coast, where a great part of our dairy industry is situated. The radio-active elements will find their way into our food and consequently into the bodies of our people. I recently asked a question of the Minister for Health-
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- The honorable member for Reid (Mr. Uren) appealed for praise of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. Of course, he never does anything else. At least he is consistent. It is pleasing on this occasion to note that he has reasonable grounds for doing so. I am sorry that the honorable member was disappointed with the letter he received from the Prime Minister (Sir Robert; Menzies), but I am sure that the Prime Minister must have been simply delighted to hear from the honorable member.
– It was not the Prime Minister; it was the Minister for External Affairs.
– The honorable member for Reid criticized the Government because the portfolios of Minister for External Affairs and Attorney-General are held by one and the same man. Apparently the honorable member’s recollection of history is very short. He should look into the record of a certain other Minister for External Affairs - cum - Attorney - General. One would think that in those days Dr. Evatt, who held both portfolios and who was busy issuing national security regulations with great abandon, occasionally putting people in gaol without trial and conducting the foreign affairs of the country both during the war and during the critical post-war period, would be fairly busy, but the Labour Party went a step further. Not only did Dr. Evatt hold the two offices of Attorney-General and Minister for External Affairs but also, on the death of Mr. Curtin and the succession of Mr. Chifley, he added to his duties those of Deputy Leader of the Government. If the honorable member for Reid is looking for Pooh-Bahs, let him look into Labour’s mirror.
I would like to refer to one item in the estimates for the Department of External Affairs, lt is the item dealing with international development and relief. I note with satisfaction, as I am sure all honorable members will, that the vote for international development and relief has been increased this year by 38 per cent, and that our contribution to the Indus Basin development has increased from a little less than £1,000,000 to £2,770,000 in accordance with the agreement entered into two or three years ago.
We must not overlook the fact that Australia is making a tremendous contribution towards developing nations by training in this country overseas students. At present there are in Australia about 12,000 trainees of different kinds - university and otherwise. The cost of training only about 1,200 of that number comes within the ambit of these departmental estimates. Of the 12,000 students now training in Australia, 4,000 are at universities. The major burden of the cost of educating those folk falls not under these estimates but is directly an expenditure incurred by the Government in relation to university education. This is happening at a time when the gates of our universities are closed to some of our own Australian students. The contribution that we are making by training overseas students in this way is extremely valuable and is worth far more than the actual expenditure involved.
Let me return again to the remarks of the honorable member for Reid. He referred at length to the regime of President Diem of South Viet Nam. He said that he did not like President Diem’s regime. He quoted some remarks of Walter Lippmann. I do not know whether Lippmann is an authority on this matter. His opinions occasionally vary, but he is an interesting commentator. But who in the West does like the régime of President Diem? What would the honorable member do about it? What is the alternative? Would the honorable member like to hand the country over to the Communists? Apparently the only logical course open is for the Americans to use their power on the spot to change the regime. This suggestion does not fit in too badly with what the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) said in his recent oration at Armidale. He said -
Australian troops should not be stationed overseas unless Australia has an effective voice in the policies of the countries where they are stationed.
Apparently the Americans in South Viet Nam should put into power a regime precisely to their liking. Apparently if Australian troops are to stay in Malaya they are to be there for just that kind of purpose. This is a shocking doctrine. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition claims that Australia should not have troops stationed overseas unless Australia has an effective voice in the policies of the countries in which they are stationed. All I can say is that I support wholeheartedly the stationing of Australian troops in Malaya. Their purpose there is to uphold the security of Malaya and of other countries in the area. Our troops are there generally to safeguard peace, security and progress. The last thing we want to do is tell the Malayan Government what it should do and what its policies should be.
In the brief time remaining to me let me turn to a subject which affects us vitally - the activities of our nearest neighbour, Indonesia. Before considering Indonesia’s current posture vis-a-vis Malaysia, let us look at what is happening inside Indonesia. At this stage let me take the opportunity to thank the President, the Government and the Parliament of Indonesia for the very friendly and generous welcome that they gave to the Australian parliamentary delegation, of which I was a member, which visited Indonesia recently. Anything that I say will be said against the background that the Indonesians are a delightful people for whom we should wish nothing but peace and prosperity.
Examining some of the difficulties confronting those people, one of the most interesting features is the President’s economic declaration of 28th March, which followed considerable heart searching, committee forming and the holding of conferences between senior Indonesian officials. Indonesia has very many able people in this field with whom I have some personal acquaintance, and there are many others. There is a short-term programme for the next two years, but the background to that programme is most distressing. First priority, of course, is for an iron stock of rice, raw materials and spare parts, to be financed by foreign assistance if that is available. Secondly, efforts are to be made to raise domestic food production and to turn part of the activities of the armed forces into civilian fields such as the administration of villages and the construction of roads. Part of the food production plan is to build up fertilizer plants. It is most interesting to note that the plan will dilute considerably the purest principles of socialism which hitherto have been proclaimed so loudly. In his statement the President stressed the use of the experience and know-how of private enterprise and stated that incentives and competition were to be introduced into the field of State enterprise.
Unfortunately all of this is set against a most depressing background of inflation and stagnation. Indonesia is suffering from really wicked and horrible inflation. Taking the figure in 1958 as 100, the weighted index of nineteen foodstuffs in Djarkarta rose to 1,287 by January, 1962, and to ‘2,515 by March, 1963. This inflation has1 led to widespread economic stagnation. There is considerable hoarding of consumer durables, commodities and housing. Everything possible is hoarded against inflation, but the more people hoard against inflation the worse is the inflation and the more stagnant is the economy.
In every field the economy is in a deplorable state. I have been informed that only a small proportion of the harbour dredges are in working order. Some of the railways in east Java have ceased running for lack, of maintenance and personnel, and food production has fallen in an appalling manner. Three years ago Indonesia stopped exporting sugar. Sugar production now has been reduced to onethird the pre-war level. Rice, of which she should be an exporter, has been imported consistently in recent times. At the beginning of this year the official exchange rate was 45 rupiahs to the dollar but the unofficial rate was 1,300 rupiahs to the dollar. This has been tidied up now to some extent. One is forced to the conclusion that the Government is largely to blame for the present state of affairs. It has continued to create large amounts of currency to finance its spending, much of which has been completely unproductive in the economic sense. Indonesia virtually has been saved from disaster because the vast majority of the people live and produce food in and around the villages.
Understandable though many of the Indonesian motives have been, and although we acknowledge that we must learn to live with Indonesia, the time is rapidly approaching when we must say firmly to the Government of Indonesia that its people must learn to live with us. At this juncture, firm statements may lead to unfortunate situations but the fact remains that Government supporters and members of the Labour Party must make up their minds very soon where we stand. The time for Malaysia to come into being is approaching rapidly and the Australian people, as well as members of the Parliament, must be told whether, if necessary, Australian troops will be sent to the area or whether wc shall pull out and wipe our hands of the whole affair. It is up to subsequent Labour Party spokesmen to throw light on Labour’s attitude.
.- T join wilh the honorable member for Went worth (Mr. Bury) in conveying my thanks and appreciation to the Government of Indonesia for its very fine gesture in showing us the country and in doing what it could to make our stay pleasant. But that is about as far as I can go with the honorable member. He referred to Dr. Evatt, our former leader, and to certain remarks made by the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Uren). He than compared the position which existed in 1945 with the presentday position. In 1945 the greatest war in history had just ended. International affairs and intrigues were negligible whereas now they are considerable. So there can be no comparison between the pressures in 1945-
– At the time of the formation of the United Nations?
– I am talking about 1945.
– So am I.
– You were too young then. You do not remember.
– I was old enough to fight in the war.
– Times were altogether different. 1 want to make some remarks about the visit that I was privileged to make to South-East Asia. I join with the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) in making a plea for the indigenous people of that area who were employed by the Australian Government as chauffeurs, gardeners, maids and in many positions in industry. I hope that the Government will do something for their protection and security.
I want to refer to our ambassadors, secretaries and military and naval attaches in South-East Asia. All of them arc doing a splendid job. I am sure that that is not generally understood in Australia. I am amazed to see the rather small salaries that they receive. I hope that in view of the amount of work and entertaining that they have to do for our good, the Government will have a look at these matters and put them right. One point that came to my notice was that when a secretary goes to one of these countries the government pays for him to learn the language of the country, but the government does not pay for his wife to learn the .language. Honorable members who have had anything to do with local government know that in many cases the women do more than the men do in the entertaining of people who have to be looked after. I suggest that the Government make arrangements for the wives to be taught the language of the country at government expense.
The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Forbes) said quite a lot about the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) and the remarks that the Deputy Leader made in his Roy Milne Memorial Lecture. The honorable member for Barker spent most of his time trying to belittle the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, but he did not make a very good job of it. He claimed that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition said that Australian troops should be withdrawn from Malaya and that that was widely received in South-East Asia. I was one of thirteen members of the parliamentary delegation. Those remarks were not widely received in South-East Asia at all. I saw no references to that speech in the press. There may have been something about it in the press, but I did not see anything about it.
– Would you have been ashamed of it if you had read it?
– No, I would not have been ashamed of it. What the Deputy Leader of the Opposition said has proved to be correct. When countries get together pacts must be made. It is senseless that we should have troops in Malaya when we have no agreement on why they are there. We all know that our forces went to Malaya to flush out Communist insurgents. Is that emergency over, or is it not over?
– They are still doing that.
– Are they? I did not see them doing it. Let us look at what is happening in South-East Asia. Eight countries are associated with the South-East Asia Treaty Organization. In order to refresh the memory of honorable members, I will name the countries. They are the United States of America, Great Britain, France, Australia, New Zealand, Pakistan, the Philippines and Thailand. We find that Malaya and Burma are not members of Seato and that Indonesia is not a member of Seato.
– Nor is India.
– India is not a member of Seato, but Pakistan is. On 5th August this year three countries - two of them outside of Seato and one of them, the Philippines, in Seato - got together and formed a pact named Maphilindo. I mention this because it will show that what the Deputy Leader of the Opposition said in his speech has some bearing. A statement containing twelve articles was issued. Article 11 is most important. It reads -
The three Heads of Government further agreed that foreign bases - temporary in nature - should not be allowed to be used directly or indirectly to subvert the national independence of any of the three countries. In accordance with the principle enunciated in the Bandung Declaration, the three countries will abstain from the use of arrangements of collective defence to serve ‘the particular interests of any of the big powers.
At present eight countries are in Seato. Australia is one of them. We have our troops in Malaya, but we have no agreement whatsoever. Yet, when the Deputy Leader of the Opposition says that they should be there under a treaty so that the people of this nation will know exactly what the implications are, he is immediately belittled. It is for the Government to say whether or not troops have to be in Malaya, and it is up to the chiefs of staff to advise the Government. I know that.
I want lo say this about the troops that I saw at Malacca in Malaya: I believe that they are the cream of this country. They are great ambassadors for Australia. I take nothing whatever away from them. I give them all the praise I possibly can. These young men have done a tremendous amount. I pay this tribute to them: Out of their own pockets, they clubbed together to the extent of £25,000 and, with their own hands, built a youth centre for the local people. By voluntary effort, every night in the week they conduct gymnasium classes and basketball games, and when those activities are over they supply the people with refreshments. For such a small force to do that at a cost of £25,000 is a considerable effort. I hope this Government will see fit to pay tribute to those men who have done so much.
Let me get back to the temporary bases referred to in article 11 of the recent statement signed by the President of the Philippines, the President of Indonesia and the Prime Minister of Malaya. Does that article apply to our base at Butterworth and our troops in Malaya? Why did those countries find it so necessary to draw up treaties? We in Australia go along with a happy-go-lucky, happy-jack attitude to our troops being in Malaya. But why are they there? This country is of age and we must act like people who are of age. We must know which way we are going and why we are going that way. The only way that that can be done is by putting things on a proper footing.
I spoke with the Tunku while we were in Malaya. He paid a great tribute to Australia. He said that he was very pleased to have as his Chief of the Naval Staff an Australian naval officer, Captain Dovers. He has just been relieved. The Tunku asked for another Australian to take his place. At present Captain Synnot is in Malaya in charge of the Malayan Navy. That is a great tribute. But the Tunku said: “When I want to get my officers trained in Australia, the Government cannot find space for them. I cannot get my cadets into your naval colleges.” I know that one or two Malayan cadets have been here, but I think we could be a little more accommodating and make arrangements for those who want to come here to learn our ways. After all, it is something like the Colombo Plan. These young people wish to come he-re to study and prepare for a military or naval career just as Colombo Plan students study for the respective careers they have chosen. I hope that the Minister for Defence (Mr. Townley) will look into the matter and do something for these young men who wish to come here from Malaya to study.
Overnight, this country has shared a common border with a foreign power. For years and years we have been isolated and have clung to the threads of British imperialism. I have nothing against that. It is inherent in the way 1 was brought up. Most of the honorable members in this House were brought up in the same way. When we were young boys we looked at the map of the world and saw the allred route clearly marked. Whether one went to England this way, or that way, one went by the all-red route. To us that way of life has become sacred, and the average Australian is proud of it. But overnight, the position has been altered. What do we propose to do about it? I agree with the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Bury) that we must live with these people. It is not for us to throw our empty jam tins over the border, and it is not for them to throw them back. We have to show these people a better way of life, and, at the same time, they must come to the party with us. I do not propose to say much now about the sweeping statements that we read about foreign relations. The report of the delegation to South-East Asia has been tabled and is to be the subject of a full-scale debate. Ample opportunity will then be given to discuss these matters. 1 do not propose to make statements about the countries I visited and whose people were so kind to me, although, if it docs become necessary for me to speak up, 1 shall do so. Out of loyalty to our own country we should refrain from discussing certain aspects of foreign affairs and defence because, if we publish our views to the world we shall do our country not a service but a disservice.
.- I do not propose to devote the time available to me in answering the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Benson) except to say that I disagree with a number of the statements that he made. As he stated when he was about to resume his seat, the report of the parliamentary delegation to South-East Asia will be discussed later. It is possible that I shall have an opportunity of referring to them then. I shall devote my time mainly to discussing the Department of External Affairs rather than the AttorneyGeneral’s Department.
The proposed vote for the Department of External Affairs is £13,502,000, compared with an appropriation of £12,230,000 for last year. The actual overall expenditure of this department last year was approximately £17,500,000. There has been a gradual increase in the expenditure by this department each year, with the exception of one year, since 1958-59. In 1958-59 overall expenditure by the department amounted to £8,300,000. In 1959-60, it was £10,100,000. By 1960-61, it had increased to £11,500,000 and by 1961-62 to £15,600,000. In 1962-63, it dropped to £13,700,000. The estimate for the current financial year is £17,700,000.
This is a very important debate, and it is to be regretted that our Standing Orders restrict us to speeches of fifteen minutes duration. All government departments are, of course, important but .the department which is concerned with international affairs is of the utmost importance. Departments which deal with questions of trade, primary industry, defence and so on are important but their importance is of a lower order than that of the department which deals with international affairs. I believe that the Department of External Affairs is really our first line of defence. Under its administration come the many embassies which we have scattered throughout the world. Through these embassies, which number about 22, in addition to High Commissioners, legations and consulates, we have direct contact with individual countries.
From a study of the summary of proposed expenditure of the department which appears on pages 17 and 18 of the bill we learn that salaries for the Department of External Affairs are expected to cost £2,739,200 this year as against £2,538,878 last year. The item that attracted my attention most was that relating to the embassy in the Republic of Indonesia where I note that the provision for salaries has been reduced from £101,062 last year to £66,600 for this year. I note, . too, that there is a decline in the. provision for administrative expenses from £75,031 last year to £49,700 this year. It is unfortunate that the Minister for External Affairs cannot be with us during this debate because I would1 have liked an explanation of this decline from him. No doubt he will return in the not-too-distant future and we shall then have an opportunity of obtaining information on these matters from him.
– The difference is due to a change in the rate of exchange.
– Perhaps the honorable member for Wentworth has solved my problem. I shall not go into that matter any further now.
Like some of the other honorable members who have spoken this afternoon, I, too, had the privilege of visiting South-East Asia as a member of a recent parliamentary delegation under the leadership of the Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson). At the outset, I should like to pay tribute to the Postmaster-General for the way in which he led the delegation. A delegation of thirteen members representing three political parties from two Houses of the Parliament is not easy to control, and I congratulate the Postmaster-General upon the leadership he displayed on this tour.
I should also like to pay a special tribute to the deputy leader of the delegation, the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen). I believe that his leadership of the Opposition members of the delegation did much to help make the visit such a great success. I do not think I heard any differences of opinion expressed along party lines during the whole time I was away, and I believe that much of the credit for this goodwill can be attributed to my colleague and friend, the honorable member for Parkes.
All the countries visited by the delegation, without exception, did their best to make our stay as comfortable as possible. The people of South-East Asia went out of their way to show us as much of their countries as possible. As was said by the honorable member for Wentworth, the Government of Indonesia was particularly helpful.
Our thanks are due, too, to the officers whose services were placed at our disposal. In this . connexion I should like to make special reference to Mr. Border, Commonwealth representative in Burma, and Mr. Shann, our Ambassador in Indonesia. Both are working under great difficulties. The task of our representative in Burma is particularly difficult because Burma is a country which, unfortunately, is not going along in the way we would like it to go. It frowns on foreigners and colonials. It is not easy for the representative of any foreign country to carry out his duties under those conditions.
The same state of affairs applies to a lesser extent in Indonesia where some rather difficult periods have been experienced and because that country has come into world recognition, as it were, in the last two or three years. The conditions that have obtained there have not made our ambassador’s task easy. I endorse the suggestion made by other members of the delegation and strongly recommend that further parliamentary delegations be sent to these areas. The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Forbes) referred to this a couple of days ago. I agree with him that it would be much better if the number of members in the delegations were reduced and they visited fewer countries. This would enable honorable members to conduct a more detailed study 0i the countries they visit.
In the main, nothing but good could come of visits to these countries by parliamentary delegations, particularly visits to Indonesia, as the honorable member for Batman said. The people to whom we spoke in Indonesia kept reminding us that wc now have a common border, that we must continue to remain friends with them and to trade with them. The best way to improve our relations with Indonesia is through trade and aid. These are the only ways that we can really get on side with them. Unfortunately, when wc consider our trade relations with Indonesia, we find that they are a little lopsided. Our imports from Indonesia are worth about £26,500,000 and our exports to Indonesia are worth about £3,500,000. Over a period, we should be able to build up our exports until they approximate the volume of our imports from Indonesia. We should bc able to increase our exports of wheat and flour in particular. The flour industry at present is having great difficulty in maintaining its exports. I believe that the only reasons wc cannot sell large quantities of flour to the people in South-East Asia are that they cannot afford it and they arc not accustomed to it. With a little promotion, we should be able to increase our sales to them.
I want to make a number of references to aid to South-East Asian countries under the Colombo Plan. I note that the estimate of the various types of aid we will give this year is about £9,500,000. All this aid is not under the Colombo Plan. Expenditure under the Colombo Plan for this year will be about £4,000,000. Since 1950, Australia has contributed some £45,000,0000 to the Colombo Plan. Indonesia has received £5,000,000 of this amount. India has been by far the biggest beneficiary and has received £13,000,000. Pakistan has received £11,000,000 and Ceylon £4,000,000.
This is a most valuable contribution and we found in every country we visited that it is appreciated. While we were in Burma, the Postmaster-General announced the gift of 100 buses to the Burmese and 300 water pumps for their rice fields. This announcement was certainly received very favorably. I believe that this is one of the ways we can improve our relations with SouthEast Asian countries.
When we were in Indonesia, we had the opportunity to meet their leading dignitaries, including the Minister of Finance, Dr. Djuanda. Dr. Djuanda said that Indonesia had been well satisfied with the Colombo Plan and particularly appreciated the fact that Australia so far had trained over 1,000 Indonesian students, many of whom were already occupying responsible positions. This is the value of aid under the Colombo Plan. He said that Indonesia was fully aware that Australian Colombo Plan aid had been maintained even through previous periods of less cordial relationship. 1 believe that there is too much loose talk about Indonesia. People refer to the danger and fear that Indonesia will expand. They believe that Indonesia has territorial aims. I do not agree with this view. I believe that it is our role to help the Indonesians rather than to criticize them. We must be firm with them but at the same time we must not fear them. To do so would be most dangerous. I do not wish to defend the Indonesians, but they have been criticized because- they decided they must have West New Guinea, which is now known as West Irian. I remind honorable members that one of their reasons for this was that originally West Irian was a part of the Dutch East Indies and they believed it should be a part of Indonesia. Although the population of the country is 100,000,000, I believe that its economy is such that it would not be able to seek further territorial gains. Dr. Soekarno said that, although there was a strong Communist party in Indonesia - I think it is the strongest political party - he thought there was no fear that he could not keep it under control.
Educational standards in Indonesia are, of course, not as high as the standards in Australia. The Indonesians claim that they have a literacy rate of 60 per cent., but I do not think that the standard of literacy they set is nearly as high as our standard in Australia. I do not believe that Indonesia is an aggressive power.
Time will not allow mc to deal with other matters with which I wanted to deal. I am very grateful for the opportunity of speaking here this afternoon. I give my full support to the proposed vote for the Department of External Affairs.
.- Every one who has spoken this afternoon has mentioned the parliamentary delegation that visited South-East Asia. 1 also wish to mention this delegation and to mention some of the observations 1 made during this visit of three weeks. 1 should like to preface my remarks by saying, I hope with some humility, that one does not make a threeweeks trip to six foreign countries and come back an expert. I do not profess to have any expert knowledge at all, but at least one’s eye does drink in some details and I will attempt to tell honorable members of some of the points I noticed in the course of my travels wilh the delegation.
Before I do so, however, 1 think that it is only lilting that I should compliment the leader of the delegation, the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Davidson). He led a mixed delegation of six Opposition members and six Government supporters. Despite this, there was the utmost amity between all members of the party and, as the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Forbes) said a day or two ago, there was no animosity between us on party lines. We attempted to present an Australian front, although, on certain matters, there was a divergence of opinion. The honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Mackinnon), who is interjecting, spoke in this debate recently. It seems to me that honorable members opposite think they have a prerogative of knowledge on foreign affairs and of Australian nationalism. That is not so. lt is well for this Parliament and for the- people of Australia to know that the tour of South-East Asia by the delegation had its genesis within the caucus of the Australian Labour Party.
The person who suggested the tour was none other than the late lamented member for East Sydney, the Honorable E. J. Ward. He suggested the tour and it was the Leader of the Australian Labour Party (Mr. Calwell) who, in effect, sold the idea lo the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies). It is therefore just as well for people to know that we of the Australian Labour Party have a very healthy interest in Australia’s foreign affairs, security and position in South-East Asia. We are very much an integral part of South-East Asia and are, indeed, an Asian nation. 1 make no bones at ali about that. We are an Asian nation with a Western culture - one of the very few in this region and we must realize that we are a powerhouse or storehouse of knowledge for the Asian people. They admire us for our education, technology and general know-how. We have a lot to offer them along constructive lines, as the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns) suggested yesterday. We have to educate them and give them gifts and guide them along peaceful lines, although I make the reservation that we must at all times beware and defend the integrity of our shores.
Having said that, may I say that 1 believe these delegations are an excellent idea. There should be an interchange of such delegations between countries. We have visiting our shores at present a delegation from Thailand, a country which - at all events in my view - could be described as a benign type of autocracy. 1 do not believe in trying to knock down countries which have a form of government different from ours. I think Westminster is not necessarily exportable and certainly not in the present state of education of the countries of South-East Asia, where great stress is being placed on education. 1 have no doubt that in the fullness of time countries like Indonesia and Thailand may well evolve a form of democracy, but at the present time, in my book, they are dictatorships. However, 1 am not criticizing them for their forms of government. Indeed, as other members of the delegation have said, all the countries we visited treated us with the utmost hospitality, and 1 make no exception to that. 1 wish now to touch upon one or two matters affecting the Department of External Affairs. 1 want it to be understood that I do not speak with any spirit of malice at all when I state that something can bc said about the recruitment of officers
In that department. In the light of what I noticed during our overseas trip I think many of these officers are a little too English. In fact, they are more English than the English themselves. This is something to which the recruiting officers of the Commonwealth Public Service or the Department of Externa] Affairs should pay attention. Many of the department’s officers overseas speak with a simulated English accent, perhaps a legacy from an education at Oxford or Cambridge, which I do not decry, but for goodness sake let them be Australian. I think the Department of External Affairs should have it firmly imprinted in the minds of these officers that they must observe a decent traditional Australian culture and an educated Australian mode of speech. Believe me, if that were done, Australia would be more appreciated in foreign countries than it is when the people of those lands hear this phoney English accent. From my viewpoint, we come across a little too much of it among those officers. That is not to say that they are not doing their job. They are trying Wry hard, but this is something which we should watch. We have an indigenous Australian Department of External Affairs, but if it goes along on its present lines I think a very strong case could be made out for political appointments at the ambassadorial level. That is something to which I would give some thought in the very likely event of a Labour government taking office in this country.
My friend, the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Uren), spoke this afternoon of the need for recognition of China. I also mentioned that necessity when speaking in the debate on these departmental estimates last year. It is all very well to say that we cannot recognize a Communist country. There is no need for me to say how abhorrent communism is to me. I hold no brief for it and neither does any other member of the Australian Labour Party; but the hounds on the other side of the chamber, when any member of the Opposition voices opinions such as I am now voicing, try to smear us with communism. We are not Communists and I resent such a suggestion by members of the Government. Does not the English tory government recognize the government of China? Why not be realists? Formosa exists, and we of the Labour Party would be friendly towards it, but we cannot fail to recognize the existence of 700,000,000 people in China. As the honorable member for Reid said this afternoon, the sooner we get China into the councils of the United Nations, so much the better augury for world peace. I would have thought this Government would recognize China, because the government of that country is undoubtedly the de facto government in charge of 700,000,000 people. Whether we call it Communist China or just China, it is a country to be watched in the future.
I have some fear about what is going to happen in China. I feel that the attempt to form the Confederation of Maphilindo, which has been mooted abroad but about which we do not hear so much in Australia, has been conceived in order to contain China’s expansionism. I am not talking about Communist China’s expansion, but China’s expansion per se, because I feel that Dr. Soekarno of Indonesia, President Macapagal of the Philippines and Tunku Abdul Rahman of Malaya all have an abhorrence of the thought of being flooded by hordes from China. Little Burma, one of the countries our delegation visited, is the frightened country of South-East Asia and pursues a strongly neutralist line. It is frightened of China and so, I think, is every country which our delegation visited during its travels.
I will now mention one or two of the thoughts which came to me as a member of this delegation. I believe it is just as well for all honorable members of this Parliament to bear in mind the need for the continuation of the white Australia policy. I know that nowadays people do not like to speak about that policy, but I do not speak about it on racial grounds. I love my fellow man, no matter what his colour may be, but one of the things I could not help noticing during this overseas tour was the difference between the cultures of the various peoples we visited and our own. Music which to their ears may have been quite melodic was, to my ears, quite discordant. Their dancing, their language and their religious background are different from what we in Australia know. I cannot see how any fusion of these cultures can come about. For that reason I would certainly uphold the white Australia policy. I was wavering on this point, because I try to be reasonable in my point of view, but after all my reading on the subject of the white Australia policy I thought that perhaps the proponents of its watering-down are mistaken-
– Do you not find our own teenagers’ music and dancing a bit foreign?
-] do, but at the same time I will not twist out of the attitude I have taken here - that we must maintain the white Australia policy as it is. In saying that, I do not mean any offence towards any other nation, but I find that if any one of us went to the Philippines we would have great difficulty in taking out Philippine nationality. We could not settle in the provinces of Indonesia and conduct farming operations, because the Indonesians just would not allow it. In effect, the same policy is in operation in those countries as we have in Australia, but in reverse.
On one other point I was led to do some serious thinking. T once subscribed to th- view that all Australian troops must be brought back from overseas. I no longer think along those lines. Labour policy :>n the question is this: Labour does not believe that Australian forces should be committed overseas, except subject to a clear and public treaty which accords with the principles of the declaration which gives Australia an effective voice in the common decisions of the treaty parties. Honorable members on the other side of the chamber have criticized us of the Labour Party for that policy. In my view it is a pretty healthy nationalistic sort of policy. Indeed, running through the whole of Labour’s policy there is a thread of healthy, moderate nationalism. I could point, for example, to the view we have on the Exmouth Gulf base. We do not want America established there unless Australia has an equal stake with America in this country. Likewise we want an equal stake, safeguarded by treaty, bofors we commit our troops overseas. I think our troops should be overseas, but they should bc there under proper treaty arrangements.
There is one other matter that I think 1 should put before the committee. It may seem somewhat trivial, but I think it is important. My friend from Wimmera (Mr. King) mentioned that when we were in Burma the Australian Government spoke of a gift of 100 buses and 30G water pumps to the Burmans, as they like to be called. We were received, I think, with a certain amount of suspicion in that country at first. But when the Burmans found that there were no strings attached to the gift they had a change of heart and took us into their confidence, showing us quite a bit of what was going on in the country, or at least us much as we could see in the few days that were available to us. I just make the point that when we do make gifts to these countries, whether it be under the Colombo Plan or in any other way, we should identify tha gifts as Australian. It seems to mc that the kangaroo is the emblem of Australia that these people know and recognize. We saw this in Burma and Thailand. I think that any future gifts the Australian people make to our South-East Asian neighbours should bear some Australian emblem, such as the kangaroo, which will readily identify them with the goodwill that we in this country feel towards those neighbours.
.- This debate has proved one thing, and that is the great value of sending a delegation of parliamentarians to visit our neighbour nations in South-East Asia. I would like to congratulate the Government very warmly on having taken this most important step, almost, I think, for the first time. As to who was responsible for it I could not care less. The fact that the Government has taken this step and that the Opposition has co-operated in it is, I think, to the credit of the Parliament. I hope there will be many more similar delegations but that they will be, as the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Forbes) has suggested, rather smaller and that they will visit the various countries for rather longer periods.
Although I do not agree with all that the honorable member for Evans (Mr. Monaghan) said, it is obvious that he tried his best to acquire the maximum knowledge during his visit as, I think, did the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Benson) and every member of the delegation. But may I, in a perfectly friendly way, say that there were two things wrong with the speech of the honorable member for Evans. First, I would suggest to him: Do not talk about the white Australia policy, because it is not the Australian immigration policy based on assimilation which is objectionable, it is the adjective “ white “, which implies racial superiority. That is where most of the trouble starts. Secondly, I would say to the honorable member: Do not patronize these people by saying that we must educate them and give them gifts. We should approach Asians on equal terms and treat them as friends. After all, we in this country have different standards of intellect. I am not so intellectual as some people. Perhaps I am a little more intellectual than others, having had more opportunities. Approach the Asian as a friend and an equal and you will have no difficulty in getting along with him.
Since we last had a debate on foreign affairs in a Budget session many things have happened. Many waves have washed the shores of South-East Asia. Many tides have ebbed and flowed, many rivers have come down in flood and receded. In my view it is unfortunate that we do not have enough debates in this House on foreign affairs. I hope that another outcome of this delegation will be that in future we will have more discussions on foreign policy. Whether or not we agree with one another, I think such discussions will be in the interests of Australians as a whole.
Since this time last year we have seen the Chinese Communists’ invasion of India, we have seen the failure of the neutrality policy in Laos, we have seen an attack on the Government of South Viet Nam - and I do not think that the government of that country is entirely faultless - and we have seen the confrontation regarding, and the attempt to stop, the formation of Malaysia, which are still going on. In every way the Communists, particularly the Chinese Communists, have become more and more active and more and more emboldened because, in my view, many of us have been too weak in our attitudes and have been inclines to take the situation too lightly. This has been seen not only abroad but also at home, where the Returned Servicemen’s League for the first time has been criticized because it came out and attacked the Communists here. The honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns) took me to task when we talked about Communist infiltration of the Gippsland Trades and Labour Council, which I said would lead to blackouts in Victoria. Well, it has led to blackouts in Victoria. As time has passed, and particularly since the
West Irian affair, most Australians have become more and more uneasy about, and more and more aware of, the dangers we are facing.
But I do not want to deal with matters at home. I want to carry on the discussion of what is happening abroad. Again I think that the members of the recent delegation can do much to educate the people of Australia. I congratulate the honorable member for Batman on his articles in the local press, I think in his own electorate. Such statements do a lot of good, although I must say that I do not agree with everything that has been written in those articles. By the same token I strongly disagree with what the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. King) said about Indonesian aspirations and attitudes at the present time. I like the Indonesians. Basically they are Malays. But unless we are mindful of the lessons of history, at least those of recent history, we are likely to land ourselves in far more trouble than we have been in and can envisage in the immediate future.
The present Indonesian leaders are very different from the bulk of the Indonesian people. They are a very different dish of nasi goreng - the Indonesian fried rice - because they are a dish spiced with red chilli, which makes it pretty hot. As a result, we are in considerable difficulty in trying to be friends and, at the same time, trying to avoid being led down the garden path, as I think we have been in the past. I say that, because of the fact that the Indonesian leaders have not stood up to the guarantees they have given. They did not stand up to the guarantee not to use force in relation to West Irian. They did not stand up to the United Nations agreement on West Irian. The ink of the signatures to that agreement was not dry before they tore up the agreement and were even getting school children to put their thumbprints on a petition which claimed that there was no necessity for a referendum. Even at the take-over ceremony there was the same sort of happy, careless, stupid attitude towards international affairs, with Dr. Subandrio, the foreign minister, making a speech and circulating copies of it in English, praising the United Nations for what it had done. In the English circulated transcript of his speech he praised the United Nations authorities for what they had done. I do not suppose that Australia had present a representative who could speak Malay or understand that language. When he made his speech in Malay, Dr. Subandrio criticized the United Nations Commission for having exceeded its authority. When Dr. Abdoh, who did not understand Malay and was following the English text, bowed and smiled, he was being criticized in the Malay language. Those things make the position very difficult. 1 feel that wc have been much too backward in supporting our real friends and allies in South-East Asia and have spent too much time in trying to placate those who are opposing them. It is no good saying that Indonesia has not opposed the formation of Malaysia right from the start, and still is opposing it. The Prime Minister of Malaya, Tunku Abdul Rahman, is a simple and straightforward man in a big position, trying to do his job and trying to be reasonable. He was caught in the web spun by diplomatic gamblers who not only failed to support him when he most need d it. but went out of their way to placate the man I have referred to previously, and refer to again without any apologies, as the petty Hitler of the Pacific. It is unfortunate that he is. He is all the more difficult to dca with at the present time because he is an aged and ailing dictator who is rapidly disappearing into the mists of the strenuousness of his past life.
Therefore we arc in a difficult pos:t, n. Wc want to be friends, yet we are obstrueted all along the line. This was illustrated when the Indonesian Ambassador took our Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) to task for a very moderate statement. There are o’.her things which we have to watch very carefully. We must observe the little niceties and courtesies of life in South-East Asia, which are different from our own. I am very sorry that the Minister for External Affairs (Sir Garfield Barwick) is to-day leaving to visit Indonesia on his way to the celebrations of the foundation of Malaysia. In the routine courtesies of Asian life, this visit is in some ways - the word insult is rather too strong - a discourtesy to the Prime Minister of Malaya. If the Minister visited Indonesia on his return journey, that would be all right. It is even more unfortunate that it was left to Dr. Subandrio to rub his hands with glee and announce that our Minister was going to visit Indonesia on his way through to Malaya. These things are difficult for us to understand, but they exist.
Before I went to Indonesia in March, an effigy of Tunku Abdul Rahman had been burnt in a square in Djakarta and nothing was done to stop it. We would laugh about it. but it is the custom of some other races to stick pins in wax images, a practice equivalent to pointing the bone, to bring about the death of the victim. Burning an effigy is half-way between these two practices. You cannot more deeply insult the Prime Minister of Malaya than to allow that sort of thing to happen without protest. That is why I asked my question about the Indonesia Day celebrations where there was displayed an effigy of the Tunku, with a rope around his neck, at the end of an Indonesian bayonet. I do not want this country to be associated with such things. If we must be present on such occasions, we can at least protest.
– Did this happen in the presence of foreign diplomats?
– Yes, they were sitting on the platform. It may be difficult for our representatives to withdraw, but at least they could make a dignified protest. I feel that Australia is in a position to influence the situation of Malaysia very considerably, even at this late hour. We have not attempted to do it before, and a large part of the responsibility for the situation that now exists must be accepted by us because of our hesitation. The Tunku, after saying that he expected Australia to assist Malaya against aggression, had to withdraw the statement because we said that we had no legal commitments with regard to Malaysia. That sort of thing is not understood in South-East Asia. Our attitude was objected to pretty strongly, I believe, by Britain. It mystified America and was not understood in South-East Asia. But even at this late hour I believe we can exercise considerable influence by issuing a categorical statement of full support for Malaysia.
Let us remember that the failure of Malaysia would have repercussions much further afield than East New Guinea. We do not . want to concentrate only on defence. National security is just as important to the South-East Asians as it is to us. They want big brother to come and help them against aggressors, just as we would want help in that event. We have also a job to do in economic development, and I hope that we will allocate about £10,000,000 a year for the first three years of Malaysia to assist it in its difficult period of establishment and to help develop Sarawak and Sabah, as well as Malaya and Singapore. We can help even in a small way. That would be just as much in our interests as in the interests of South-East Asia. Therefore I hope we will not be backward in coming forward.
I am rather disturbed because apparently there has been a feeling in a section of the Department of External Affairs that we should placate those who are confronting Malaysia rather than support our true friends and allies in South-East Asia. I hope that the people we have been trying to placate will become true friends and will support Malaysia. However, so far they have been laughing at us. They laughed at the Minister for Defence (Mr. Townley) when he went to Indonesia. They laughed at the Minister for External Affairs and took htm down a roadway lined with hammer and sickle flags. They arranged for him to arrive just after Air Marshal Vershinin. They interpret, what we have been doing as a sign of weakness. I want this country to be friends with the Indonesians, but it is very difficult under the circumstances.
I would like to tell honorable members of an incident, which is typical, which happened in West New Guinea. An Indonesian paratrooper company arrive;! there and the Indonesian Consul went to the United Nations representative in charge. He said: “We want to give the paratroopers a march past. I will take the salute and make a speech.” The United Nations representative said, “ Go ahead “. The Indonesian Consul then said that he wanted the United Nations representative to be there. The United Nations representative said: “I am the senior man. If I am present I will take the salute and make a speech.” The Indonesian said, “ We thought that might happen “. He took back the operation order and took another one from his pocket. He said, “ We have the other operation order ready “.
They will go as far as you let them go. I do not blame the Indonesians for bluffing if they think they can achieve their ends that way. But let us keep our eyes open. Let us support our friends. Let us give Malaysia our full support during the early difficult period of its formation.
.- I have been very interested in hearing from some of our members first-hand reports of their tours through South-East Asia. I think that everybody who listens to these reports will probably be a little more ready to promote such tours in future. I trust that the taxpaying public will be a little more understanding of the uses and virtues of travel when it is properly organized and carried out with sincere purpose. This might sound like a rationalization of my own recital, because during the recent recess I had the pleasure of being a guest of the United Kingdom branch of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association. I had a chance to visit a couple of Asian countries. My remarks will have some relevance to those countries. I also met Asian representatives at the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association branch conference in Britain, together with our traditional acquaintances within the Commonwealth.
I am moved, Mr. Temporary Chairman, to raise the whole question of the future of the British Commonwealth. People in Britain, of course, frown very severely when one uses the expression “the British Commonwealth “. They realize that for some of the newly-developing countries that term has had connotations that have not been very favorable. I always reminded those who frowned that we have a Commonwealth of Australia and that when we use the term “ the Commonwealth “, we are usually thinking of our own Australian Commonwealth, and therefore, we differentiate between the two by using the description “ the British Commonwealth “.
Unless the future of the British Commonwealth of Nations is considered early and seriously, the decline and ultimate demise of the Commonwealth may well be under way. My purpose in this contribution is to attempt to jolt Australia, as a mature and senior member of the Commonwealth, into taking the initiative in having this matter considered seriously rather than simply allowing the British Commonwealth to die by default. The fact is, Mr. Temporary Chairman, that the Commonwealth that we knew in the past is not the same kind of Commonwealth that exists to-day.
At the conference that I attended in London, there were delegates from sixteen Commonwealth countries. Not all the countries of the Commonwealth were represented. I would say that about two-thirds of the 27 or 28 delegates present were coloured people. That is dramatic evidence of the way in which the Commonwealth has changed. Where we thought of Prime Ministers’ Conferences in the past, we thought of people of common race, common heritage, common colour, common Christian religion and common political heritage, political outlook and political sentiment meeting together. When we think of Prime Ministers’ Conferences to-day, we are jolted into a realization of the rather dramatic way in which, over a very few years, the composition and nature of the Commonwealth have changed. This is something that we have to face up to. 1 found, in discussions with the delegates present at the conference, that there is still a great residue of common outlook, common respect and common political sentiment among the various members of the Commonwealth to-day. This was brought home to me rather dramatically by one of the Indian representatives. This Indian was one of the most sincere people that I have ever met and one of the most learned. He is Dean of the Faculty of Arts in the Calcutta University. This gentleman had served three years in goal under the British administration during the struggle for India’s independence. But he did not attend the conference in Britain wilh any hate in his heart. No. He realized that he had had to put up with privations and penalties because of his thought and effort in furthering India’s claim to independence. He recognized that over the years the British had handed on a political heritage that is well worth preserving. So this Indian, and other delegates who had served shorter terms of imprisonment, went to the conference in Britain with a full recognition of the great political heritage and democratic tradition that had been handed down, by the British to the newly independent countries.
The delegates realized that the new nations, even though they have become independent politically, are still very dependent economically. These new nations look to Britain and to the mature members of the Commonwealth for help in solving their economic and technical problems. They see that there is a need for the Commonwealth and that there will be viability in the Commonwealth if it can develop in a way that will help to meet their needs. If the Commonwealth can so develop, it will have a future. However, we can no longer rely on factors such as common sentiment, common race and common religion, which were part of the fundamental basis of the Commonwealth in the past. These things alone arc no longer tenable, as I have said. Two-thirds of the delegates in the conference room in London were not of the same colour as we are and were probably not of the same Christian religion. Therefore, we have to re-think what is to be the basis of the Commonwealth if it is to live, develop and be a strong, virile and vigorous force in world opinion and in its relations with other world organizations.
This matter was given a good deal of serious consideration by the delegates present at the conference. One of the propositions that they put forward was that if the Commonwealth is to have coherence and be a force in the world, it cannot go on being the very loose-knit organization that it has been in the past. When wc think of this, we realize that there was no really permanent, stable organ of consultation, let alone planning, within the old Commonwealth. The main instrument of consultation over many years, apart from diplomatic channels, was the Prime Ministers’ Conference, usually held once a year. We ought to realize the nature of those conferences. No preparation was undertaken beforehand, no formal agenda was prepared and, above all, there was no commitment to common or co-ordinated action to follow the conference. Action was taken by the Prime Ministers’ Conference last year in respect of South Africa. This was the first time that the Prime Ministers had committed themselves to any kind of united action in any sphere.
The proposition that was put forward, I must report, was pretty commonly accepted, not only by the delegates from outside Britain, but also by a good many United Kingdom parliamentarians. That proposition was that there must be established a permanent, continuing Commonwealth secretariat as a first step. This must be a permanent body that will be charged with gathering information about the resources, potential and needs of each of the member nations of the Commonwealth. It will bring all this information together so that there will be a realistic and informed basis for future common action.
– There is a Commonwealth Economic Committee in London already.
– That is acknowledged. But it does not serve anything like the purposes that are envisaged in the proposal for a full-blown Commonwealth secretariat, fully representative of all kinds of expert opinion. This secretariat would bc designed to seek out and to gather information and to submit recommendations to the Prime Ministers, or whatever other legislative authorities, shall we say, may come together to deal with the propositions submitted. Let us ensure at least that informed propositions will be dealt with by those who are charged with legislative action.
The delegates at the conference believe - I must say that I believe it, too, after having listened to the discussions - tha’, there must be a far greater commitment to united and co-ordinated action within each of the member countries if the Commonwealth is to mean anything in the future. What I am suggesting is that the Commonwealth of the future cannot be based so substantially on sentiment, racial heritage or religious heritage as it has been in the past. The sinews of the future Commonwealth must be economic. They will depend on mutual reliance for defence and they must have pretty much of a coherent, commonly-accepted political sentiment. This is the basis that is suggested for the future. Economic considerations will be fundamental. If the newly-developing members of the Commonwealth, including those in East and West Africa, Mauritius, Malaya, the West Indies, Pakistan and India, cannot look to a vigorous, permanent organization, with a full-blown secretariat of the kind that I have suggested to gather information, make plans and ensure that those plans lead to co-ordinated and integrated action in each of the member countries, the Commonwealth will have no great attraction. The issue is as simple as that. The countries of the Commonwealth look for a coherent, single-minded political attitude on the great questions of the age if the Commonwealth is to have any particular virtue in the future.
Delegates at the London conference were particularly critical - and quite frankly critical - of Britain’s attitude towards South Africa. I do not think that they had got around to looking too hard at Australia’s attitude, and I suggest that we could be under some criticism for not being more outspoken on the South African issue. But at least, so far as I know, at any rate, we in Australia have not been guilty of the kind of action with which delegates charged the United Kingdom Government, such as sending arms to South Africa. This was a matter of great concern to those present at the conference, and it presented to some of the delegates a real challenge to their ability to continue to support the Commonwealth as loyal members. The issue has become of those dimensions. For these reasons, the delegates considered that there ought to be some readier and more permanent organization to which the member nations of the Commonwealth could bring these issues and so place them before all members of the Commonwealth for consultation in order to arrive at some coherent policy that could be presented to the United Nations and to other countries throughout the world. In addition to this planning body which would make recommendations, and in addition to the action that would flow from those recommendations, they envisage a British Commonwealth bank as a supplement to the World Bank. That bank would back up the economic planning engaged in by the Commonwealth secretariat.
There were, of course, strong requests by various developing countries to Britain, Australia and to the more highly developed countries of the Commonwealth not only for financial aid but also for technical aid and particularly in the matter of training. In this regard India spoke up on Australia’s behalf concerning the work that we have done under the Colombo Plan. The greater part of Australia’s contributions under the Colombo Plan has gone to India and Pakistan. India spoke up most eloquently about what Australia had done, but there is a feeling in the developing countries of east and west Africa that Australia should give them assistance as brothers within the Commonwealth. Whether this assistance is provided as a bi-lateral arrangement between Australia and Nigeria or Australia and Kenya, for example, or whether it is done through some agency such as a Commonwealth bank, backed up by the kind of Commonwealth secretariat to which I have referred, we must do something. We cannot allow the Commonwealth of Nations as we have known it, or as we hops to know it in the future, to go by the board. Now is the time for some solid thinking. At present the Commonwealth appears to be sliding towards disintegration. Many of the newly developing countries feel that the Commonwealth cannot greatly assist their economic development.
Australia should learn something from what Britain is doing in the matter of encouraging her young people to go out into the newly developing nations. We in Australia should encourage our young people to go to the newly developing nations of Asia, whether they are in the Commonwealth or not, although at the moment I am more concerned with the countries that are in the Commonwealth. Our young people should take appropriate employment in those countries. We in turn should subsidize their wages so that it will be attractive for them to go to those countries and give trained help while at the same time establishing the kind of happy relations which the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Benson) said our soldiers have established in Malaya. Britain is engaging in this kind of activity and is guaranteeing extra promotion opportunities to these young men when they return and settle down in Britain. These young men are doing work similar to that performed by the United States Peace Corps. This is something that Australia can do. Australia could do a lot more to help the newly developing Commonwealth countries in Asia. The future of the British Commonwealth of Nations must be carefully considered before very long.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I recently had the honour to be a member of the parliamentary delegation to South-East Asia and I would like to pay a tribute to the representation that we have in the various posts that we visited. I cannot agree with the honorable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes) that our ambassadors and other representatives in South-East Asia have been brain-washed. I found that they were highly regarded, not only by the people in whose country they were stationed, but also by the ambassadors and advisers of other countries stationed there. The delegation comprised members of both Houses of this Parliament and both sides of the Parliament were equally represented. I am sure all members of the delegation will agree that we were warmly received wherever we went and commendatory remarks were made welcoming the delegation as an expression of Australia’s intention to play a greater part in solving the problems confronting South-East Asia.
I am sure all members of the delegation were impressed with the high regard and goodwill in which Australia is held in SouthEast Asia. I am sure that all of us were inspired by the opportunities for Australia to use her good offices in these areas for diplomacy and trade, not only for our own benefit, but also to assist many of the new nations in solving the problems that they are now experiencing. This is not a fast process but one to which we should be devoting our greatest ability and resources.
Australia is in a position somewhat different from that of other Western countries. Having a small population we are not considered a threat to any one. We are considered, rightly or wrongly, to have emerged from the colonial era. We are considered to be a newly emerged country - a country that has the know-how to assist the countries of South-East Asia in solving such problems as the establishment of secondary and manufacturing industries where formerly the only income, and an inadequate income at that, was derived from agricultural products. However, in some areas there is a suspicion that Australia is still dominated by the United Kingdom, particularly as regards foreign policy. It is essential in my opinion that Australia should clearly state her foreign policy and that her policy should be understood, not only by the Australian people, but also by the nations of the world. It is not enough just to follow and then to find that events have occured to our disadvantage which should not have occurred. Our policy should have consistency and continuity but should of necessity be flexible to meet new circumstances. It should be made clear, particularly in Commonwealth matters, that South-East Asia is of vital interest to us in Australia. The world, particularly the area which must of necessity concern us most - SouthEast Asia - will for some time to come be beset by difficulties. It is to our advantage to play some part in trying to solve those difficulties.
Since the last war Asia and South-East Asia have undergone great changes. New nations have emerged from what were once the colonies of great European nations. Stability in this area was formerly maintained by the great powers - Britain, France and Holland. Those powers have now either withdrawn voluntarily from the area or have been forced from the position of responsibility. This situation has created a power vacuum and you now have the United States, Russia, China and perhaps India endeavouring to gain support, either by legitimate or subversive action, amongst the new nations, all of whom, although beset by internal problems, are deeply jealous and proud of their newly gained independence. They are for the most part unwilling to commit themselves in any way that may imply an acceptance of overseas domination. Many of them have adopted policies of non-committal to either of the two major power blocs. They claim that neither the policy of communism nor Western democracy is wholly suitable to their needs. They see no reason why they should not adopt what they consider to be the best of both systems. Naturally the Communist powers and the Western powers are endeavouring by different methods to win the support of these new nations. Any action by the former colonial powers is closely watched and is perhaps unreasonably suspect with the new nations. It can be said, I think, that in the South-East Asian area the West is not considered a threat in terms of warfare, but there is, perhaps, a suspicion that there may be some catches in the actions of the Western powers which may ensnare these new nations back under the control of their former masters. On the other hand, there is in most countries an open expression of a fear of the ultimate expansion of red China by military means.
Under these conditions, in my opinion we in Australia have an opportunity to play a very important part, using our goodwill and our good offices to bring about good relations and good understanding between the new nations and the West. We can be a bridge between the old and the new. Australia is in a different position from that of most other Western nations. We are Europeans living on the borders of Asia. We have Commonwealth ties. We have special relations with the United States of America. But it is essential for us to begin to play a more positive part in the future of Asia. It is essential that we endeavour to understand the Asian viewpoints. We must endeavour to understand the reasons behind those viewpoints. Just to ignore them and to look upon them as of no consequence will not build goodwill or good relations but may indeed lay the foundation for great and lasting dislike and distrust.
Australia more than any other Western nation needs to understand, and work to create good relations in, South-East Asia, because, let us remember, if diplomacy and events go against other Western nations which are at present in the area they can withdraw and return to their homelands but we, a country of 11,000,000 people, are here forever. Therefore, we must accept that we have a special and indeed a great responsibility to the people of Australia. We have a special responsibility to see that the Government is fully informed at all times of all happenings which, if not now, then in the future will be of great concern to us. The Government has made it clear that it supports the formation of Malaysia. However, it also considers very rightly that, apart from our interest in the prosperity and well-being of Malaya and our friendship for a close Commonwealth neighbour, we have a direct concern in the stability of the area. We all know that primarily Malaysia was the concern of the United Kingdom, the Federation of Malaya and the territories involved. To the best of my knowledge, Australia played little or no part in the initial discussions relating to the formation of Malaysia. This may be wrong. A situation of considerable danger has arisen between Indonesia, Malaya and the Philippines which could be of great concern to South-East Asia. We in Australia should be clear in our minds on what the differences between those countries are and what the effects may be. First, rightly or wrongly, Indonesia and the Philippines have stated that they were never consulted or informed prior to the announcement of the formation of Malaysia. It does not take great effort to understand how the formation of Malaysia, including the Borneo territories, is of great significance to Indonesia, lt would be of great significance to us if we had common borders and some one else was creating a power adjoining us. Surely it would not have been unreasonable, even for diplomatic reasons alone, for Britain or Malaya to have had some consultation with Indonesia and the Philippines prior to the announcement. This would not have been a position of weakness but one of understanding the difficulties that can arise with these newly emerging nations, which possibly have an over-abundance of nationalism, through unintended slights and misunderstandings that perhaps need never occur. It should have been realized that Indonesia and the Philippines are no longer small and insignificant countries. They are nations with perhaps an exaggerated pride in their nationalism, but nations with which we must exist, if possible, on good terms.
Indonesia, for various reasons, some more valid than others, has expressed con:cern at the fact that approximately 50 per cent, of the population of Malaysia will be Chinese. It is not impossible to see that this could be of some concern to bordering countries, which may fear that should a certain internal situation arise 50 per cent, of the population could look to mainland China for assistance. Both Indonesia and the Philippines are concerned in this matter. Both have a real fear of China. If Indonesia, through lack of understanding by the West, should be forced or decide to seek assistance from China and if the Indonesian Communist Party gained control, in terms of military strategy this could tilt the precarious balance in Asia and the Pacific in favour of the Communists, and drive a wedge between India and Pakistan and Australia. Further, by subjecting the lands between China and Indonesia to pressure it could seal the fate of South-East Asia, including Australia. Our policy, and indeed Western policy, should be designed so that this will not happen.
Let nothing that I have said be interpreted as advising a policy of weakness or appeasement. I do not advise such a policy. I do not believe in confrontation or in many of the things which are now being done by Indonesia. I believe firmly that we must state our position clearly and be prepared to back up strongly our views and beliefs. But let us do this from a position of strength, not only in relation to defence but also in relation to a policy soundly based on sound understanding of all the existing factors.
Australia as a member of the Commonwealth is deeply concerned at any hostility that may occur in South-East Asia. We should have played a greater part than we did in the discussions on the formation of Malaysia so that we would be able to handle the difficulties which have now arisen.
.- A feature of this debate has been the contributions made by honorable members who comprised the parliamentary delegation which recently visited South-East Asia. These contributions show clearly how necessary such visits are and the good that results from them. I hope that these visits will continue in the future so that not only this Parliament but also Australia as a whole will benefit. I am sure all honorable members were impressed by the speeches of the members of the delegation. They emphasized again the fact that we are a part of Asia, that we live in Asia and that so far as we can reasonably discern our destiny lies in Asia. For those reasons alone, it is important that these visits, particularly on the parliamentary level, should continue.
In addressing myself to the estimates for the Department of Externa] Affairs I point out that the appropriation for 1963-64 is about £1,300,000 more than it was for 1962- 63. This increase is not unreasonable having regard to the fact that Australia to-day is exercising ever-increasing influence on world affairs. The extent of our influence may be seen from page 19 of the bill, which relates to our contribution to the International Labour Organization, the United Nations organization and to the Colombo Plan. Incidentally, our contribution to the Colombo Plan will be about £185,000 more than it was last year. Our contribution is divided into two sections - economic development and technical assistance. It is true to say that the assistance that we have given in the past in the form of aid in this direction has not always brought about the results that were desired nor has the assistance taken the form that many of us would have wished it to take. I hope that we have learned from our mistakes of the past and that our contributions and efforts in this direction will improve.
I refer now to Division No. 142, relating to the Antarctic Division. The appropriation for 1963-64 is £1,184 less than it was for 1962-63. I am not very much concerned about that. The item which concerns me most relates to the charter of ships, for which £145,000 has been set aside. It is well to inform the House that at present the Government charters two ships from Denmark for Antarctic purposes and that the charter price is paid in sterling. If the figure of £145,000 is Australian, the cost would be about £115,000 sterling per annum. It is also well to remind honorable members that until about fifteen years ago we used a ship owned and controlled by Australia for this purpose. But in each of the past fifteen years we have been spending a large sum of money on chartering ships owned by another country, Denmark, and manned by natives of that country. I understand that all the chartered ships do at present is transport Australian personnel and stores to our territory in Antarctica. The ships are under the control of Danish nationals.
The practice adopted in the last fifteen years represents a drastic departure from the procedure adopted up to that time. When we had our own ship, it was manned by Australians and was under the control of the Australian Navy. Invaluable hydrographic work was carried out. As a result of that work, to-day Australia possesses the knowledge that it has of the Antarctic area.
– But the. Navy was not particularly happy about doing that work.
– It is well to point out that we have 50 per cent, of the territory in Antarctica. I do not know whether or not the Navy was happy about doing the work. All I am saying is that while naval personnel were so engaged they did invaluable work of a kind that is not being done to-day. Consequently this country is suffering. It is very difficult to understand why the Government continues to spend such large sums of money in this way each year, when it could solve its difficulties and problems by purchasing its own ship. I do not know of any other nation which has territory in the Antarctic and which follows this procedure. Not only are we involved in never-ending and increasing expenditure, but because the ships are manned and controlled by Danish nationals we are losing a considerable amount of information that formerly we were obtaining.
I turn now to Division No. 144, which relates to the expenditure of our embassy in the United States of America. The estimates provide for an increase of £26,000 on last year’s expenditure. Again I do not propose to question the increase. But there is a matter connected with this division to which no reference is made and on which reports have been made from time to time. It was stated some time ago that the Australian Government proposes to purchase a site in Washington for a new embassy building. The Government proposes to spend no less than £A. 523,000 on the purchase of the site. If the Government is prepared to spend such a large amount of money, surely one should be able to find some reference to it in the estimates.
I remind honorable members that this is not the first occasion that a happening of this kind has occurred. Some years ago the Public Accounts Committee conducted an inquiry into the purchase of a new embassy at New Delhi and the large amount of money involved. The committee made certain recommendations. It said that before such a large amount of money was expended on acquiring that site and building something more than a recommendation should be forthcoming. I do not know whether it is possible, under the Australian Constitution, for anything to be done at the parliamentary level in this matter.
When we contrast the authority and power of this Parliament with those of other parliaments we realize how limited our powers are under the Constitution. In respect of the New Delhi purchase, the Public Accounts Committee recommended that the Public Works Committee should visit New Delhi and inspect the building. But the Public Works Committee Act does not permit that. Other nations, such as the United States, have committees that travel the world inspecting their embassies and reporting on their condition and on the amount of money that their parliaments appropriate to a department that covers these matters. Therefore, they are in a better position to make judgments. In Australia we have no committees of that kind. We depend completely on the departmental estimates that are put before us. We are not in a position to say how much they convey and how much they conceal. I do not mean that things are concealed deliberately.
I say quite definitely that the way the departmental estimates are presented to this Parliament makes it very difficult - well nigh impossible - to make a reasonable analysis of the expenditure that we are discussing. I raise this point because I believe we are entitled to have more information than we have received up to now on this proposal by the Department of External Affairs to spend £532,000 on the purchase of a new embassy site in Washington.
– It is included in the Appropriation (Works and Services) Bill.
– If it is there, my argument is still valid because a similar situation arose when we were discussing the New Delhi purchase. A number of members of this Parliament believe that the proposed expenditure of such a large amount of money requires some investigation. The Public Works Committee Act lays down that, unless the Parliament exempts the project, amounts in excess of £250,000 cannot be spent without reference to the Public Works Committee. Therefore, if the Parliament proposes to undertake a project, unless it is exempted it must be referred to that committee.
– A trip overseas?
– That is the normal reaction of some people, but there are other people who have a different idea of their responsibilities as members of this Parliament. I have never favoured the idea that projects of this kind should be treated lightly. I say quite definitely that the powers of this Parliament are very limited. If we look at the history of this Parliament we see that, although we have a written constitution, the rights of ordinary members of the Parliament are very limited. A private member is not able to do very much. This Parliament compares very badly with the parliaments of most other nations in that respect. If some honorable members opposite are prepared to tolerate that position just because they are supporters of the Government, so much the worse for the electors.
– The tributes paid by the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. O’Connor) to the speeches made by honorable members on the Government side could very well be applied to his speech. As one who had the privilege of serving on the Foreign Affairs Committee for a number of years, from its inception until the election of the present Parliament, let me say that I always felt a keen regret that it was not possible for members of the Opposition as such, to sit on that committee which deals with matters of vital interest to every citizen in Australia, irrespective of his political views. I have served on a number of committees, and I have always found that when men get together and settle down to study what is required in specific cases in specific fields, invariably many of the sharp lines of division, which are really petty and unnecessary, disappear. Out of such discussions come much broader definitions of what is required in relation to such matters as defence and foreign policy man< emerge from discussions in which we merely sit on opposing sides of the House.
I agree with the honorable member for Dalley who, by implication, if not directly, stated that the Constitution hinders the Commonwealth of Australia in the field of external relations. With due deference to the opinions of others I say that many years ago I formed the opinion that if the external affairs power in the Constitution had been really tested as the result of an action taken by the Commonwealth it would have been found that ancillary powers still residing in the States did not interfere with the substantive intention of the Constitution to vest power over external affairs in the Commonwealth. I believe that if the exercise of a power over external affairs is limited to its legitimate objective, that is the control of the external affairs policy of the nation, then, although such exercise may trespass in some respects on what might be regarded as the preserve of the States, the constitutional provision would be interpreted as vesting the Commonwealth with greater powers than had hitherto been thought to be the case and to do much more than it has attempted to do in the past.
Let us probe the point still further. The plain fact of the matter is that the Commonwealth is made up of a number of States, and the Commonwealth Parliament is made up of representatives from those States and its political machinery is controlled almost entirely by the States. For that reason, Governments of all persuasions have hesitated to push this question to a point which would cause them to be in bad odour with the States from which they spring. The question that now arises is whether the time has not long since passed when some of the practices and traditions of the past should be overruled and the full power over external affairs, which are inextricably bound up with defence and national security, should be exercised. I feel quite sure that if a Commonwealth government attempted to abuse its position by using an external power merely tied to a substantive matter of State control the High Court would overrule it.
We are growing up slowly. When I look back it seems but a short time since the Commonwealth Department of External Affairs was established. It really did not begin to grow until the last war was forced upon us. Since then, it has grown and to-day we are represented by effective embassies, consuls, commissioners and other diplomatic officers in a great many parts of the world. That is one advancement which we have made by insisting upon the acceptance of our own claim to nationhood. We have had to realize that, while we are part of the great Commonwealth of Nations, which is being somewhat endangered, as the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Reynolds) has pointed out, there are a great many things on which our interests do not entirely coincide with those of its other members. Consequently, we have had to depend upon our own capacity to develop a Department of External Affairs which has grown continually and has not only handled the various problems that have arisen and advised ministries, but has also won the respect of other countries where Australian representatives have been stationed.
Having said that, I should like to refer briefly to a remark made by the honorable member for Barton. If I heard him rightly, he referred to the future of the Commonwealth of Nations. I thought it was to be regretted that he put far too much emphasis on the economic aspects of the Commonwealth. Certainly they are not negligible - I think they are very important - but there are certain things which are of far more importance than material questions. They are the things which, under test, are apt to endure. If I took his words down correctly, he said that sentiments based on common stock, tradition, inheritance, heritage of race and culture, will not suffice. Then he went on to say that the Commonwealth of Nations must be strengthened. I agree with that statement. He also said, in effect, that the Common Market must be avoided. I agree entirely with those sentiments, though not quite for the reasons which he expressed.
At the end of the last war, Great Britain was more or less the leader of at least 700,000,000 people of whom the white stock numbered probably 100,000,000. Almost without exception, the remaining 600,000,000 were people of emerging nations which had recently been given their freedom. If I am right in my assessment, the fact remains that, despite serious differences with Great Britain during her imperial term, despite the fact that some of the leaders of those nations cooled their heels in gaol for more or less lengthy terms, the people of those countries are looking at a world which is very insecure indeed. On one side they look on the mighty power of the United States of America and they are just a little bit worried as to whether that nation might be a shade overpowering and whether its intentions are quite good. On the other side they look at Russia. I have made a wide study of this subject, and the impression I have is that the leaders of those countries have very few illusions about what Russia wants, and while she is prepared to help them, the end she has in view is something which is not good for them. These countries need leadership, but where can they look for leadership? If they do not get it from the country that gave them their freedom, they will become a leaderless legion, and the result may not be happy for the world. If they have leadership in which they can have a great deal of trust, despite old differences, they will have something on “which to rely, although it will be something intangible. I have never been under the slightest illusion that the day Great Britain enters the Common Market its leadership will begin to dissolve. I agree with honorable members opposite that it is of the nature of things that economic ties would gradually break down. Economic ties and the economic balance are most important, but twice in my lifetime we have been shown that there are bonds that are stronger than economic ties.
I want to refer briefly to South Viet Nam. A great deal of propaganda has been directed against this country. Six years ago 1 visited Viet Nam with a number of other members of the Parliament. We went through that country about twelve or eighteen months after President Diem had been able to win his fight against the Communist element in the north and against the traitors and rapscallions who were using the country for their own ends. He had first to fight the X-Bin-U, which was led by a man who had been the chief of police in Saigon under the previous regime and who was the head of the vice ring there. This man was finally beaten and went to the French Riviera with a substantial fortune. President Diem had then to meet the hostility of the pro-French section, just as I imagine there was a pro-Roman section in “Britain that did not like any other rule after the Romans had left. All the time, through this constant struggle, there was a rush of migrants from the north. A million refugees were taken into a small country which already had a population as great as Australia’s. They were all settled in that time.
I saw much of the settlement. I saw where Diem’s great courage had controlled the Chinese section, which was sending gold out of the country and depleting its economic resources. I saw where he had defeated the money lenders and introduced a co-operative system. I saw where he had given the displaced farmers a means to carry on. I think this House should suspend judgment until it gets all the facts from both sides instead of judging the situation on tha facts from one side only.
– I wish to follow up a certain matter that was referred to by the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. O’Connor). In particular, I would like to say a few words about the proposal by the Minister for External Affairs (Sir Garfield Barwick) that a block of land in Washington be purchased for £A.523,500. I very much question the wisdom of this expenditure. The claim is made that it will help to co-ordinate the work of the chancellery and the officers in Washington and will result in more efficient and effective representation in the United States of America.
I come to this question with some very real and intimate knowledge of the problem. I believe that the work attached to Australia’s representation in the United States should be centred on a location where all the activities can be co-ordinated. The embassy is not merely a gentleman’s private residence; it is the official residence of Australia’s representative in the United States. The ambassador receives many important persons, both from Australia and from the United States, and discusses aspects of the work of various missions in the United States. Very often people interview the ambassador at the embassy and the ambassador may need the assistance of an official or may require to examine documents relating to the matter under review. If the chancellery is located some miles from the embassy, the ambassador will have to wait until documents can be brought to him or until the officer concerned can visit him. This will lead to a great deal of duplication and delay and 1 believe that the result will be inefficiency.
When I was given the responsibility of representing Australia as the ambassador in the United States, Mr. Chifley, who was Prime Minister at the time, instructed me to arrange for the construction of a new chancellery in the grounds of the present embassy. When I arrived in Washington,
I was presented with an architect’s plans and an indication of the location in the grounds of the embassy where the building could be erected. However, the plans conflicted with a special feature of my instructions, and it was necessary to obtain further plans for the building of the chancellery. Fresh plans were secured at some considerable cost. Architect’s fees in Washington for this sort of work are not inconsiderable. It was necessary to incur further expenditure in obtaining plans and choosing the correct site for the chancellery.
When we reached that point departmental authority was exercised in discarding entirely the idea of erecting a chancellery in the embassy grounds. Some kind of deal was then entered into by officers of the Department of External Affairs with another department for the acquisition of a totally unsuitable building in Massachusetts Avenue. I gave no sanction, authority or approval to that suggestion, because the arrangement would not have produced efficiency and would have meant duplication of staff in certain respects. I am afraid that something of that kind will happen in regard to the present suggestion to have the chancellery divorced from the embassy.
The British embassy in Washington is very near the Australian Embassy. The British chancellery and embassy are on the same site. The South African embassy and chancellery, which are in the immediate vicinity of the Australian embassy, are on the same site. The New Zealand legation, which is in the same locality, has its chancellery on the same site as the Minister’s residence. The Indian embassy and chancellery are also together on the same location in that district. I cannot understand why we should want to acquire a site in the town area of Washington, on which to build a chancellery for the executive work of our mission there.
I think this expenditure of more than £500.000 is totally unnecessary. We have, in Washington, a block of land facing four thoroughfares. It is a block unto itself, with the exception of one property on the extreme corner of that location. That property could have been purchased for a very reasonable sum, but it was decided years ago that there was no necessity to acquire it. I said then that the day would come when we would want to acquire it, but I do not know whether we have acquired it in the meantime. I think the correct procedure would be to acquire that other property on the location of the present embassy in Cleveland Avenue. It could be purchased for a nominal sum compared with the cost of the site in the town area. I am concerned not only about the amount of money represented in the purchase of this site but also with the separation of our official ambassador’s residence from the offices essential to carry out the work of representing Australia in the United States. I feel that we should query the action of the Department of External Affairs in this respect. With the purchase cf this allotment in the town area of Washington, the department denies us the saving that could have been effected by locating the chancellery on the embassy site. Such an arrangement would have been much more convenient and satisfactory to all concerned.
I agree that it is necessary to bring the different aspects of our representation in Washington together because they have been too greatly separated. The service chiefs have been in one location, and the commercial representatives in another, while the more official part of our chancellery work has been undertaken in still another building.
While I was in Washington, Australia purchased one property on the present embassy site and the principal officers of the chancellery were located there and were convenient to the ambassador when they were required. Convenience justified that arrangement on many occasions. We are very fortunately circumstanced in respect of the property we possess in Washington. I think the Minister at that time - Mr. Richard Casey, now Lord Casey - who was responsible for purchasing the property in Cleveland Avenue is to be warmly commended for the foresight and wisdom he displayed. He made an excellent choice and secured in the city of Washington a residence well worthy of Australia.
If we have any money to spare to make our representation in the United States more effective, surely it should be expended in extending our consular work. In many of the principal cities of America we are now entirely dependent for representation upon the British consular services. That is totally unrealistic. Even in Chicago, which is a most important centre for Australia in trade matters, we were entirely dependent on the British consular representative while I was in America. I am not aware that this has been changed.
There is no reason whatever why Australia should not have consular representation in centres as important as Chicago. But that city is not the only centre in America where this service should be made available. In view of the expected expansion of our trade with America, I believe any money that is available to make our representation there more effective should be expended on consular services in important centres.
I rose mainly to question the expenditure incurred in securing a chancellery site in the town area of Washington, because I do not think it will increase the convenience and efficiency of our representation; instead, it will separate various sections of our representation. Therefore, I hope that further consideration will be given to this matter and that the responsible authorities will have another look at the plans that were available when I was there, in order to see whether it would be preferable to erect a chancellery on the ample area of land that is available on the site of the present embassy.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I am sure that the advice tendered to the Government by the honorable and kindly gentleman who has just sat down will be carefully considered. For my part, I do not know the facts of the matter, but I understand that the Australian Government has an earnest desire to erect a prestige building in Washington. This is a matter of judgment, but the honorable gentleman, of course, speaks from unique authority. He served this country with great distinction, and I, for one, willingly acknowledge what he has done for his country. It is a judgment which, I am sure, the Minister for External Affairs (Sir Garfield Barwick) and his colleagues will make, and I will be surprised if the warning which the honorable gentleman has given to the Government this afternoon is not fully considered.
I do not wish to speak specifically to any item in the estimates. I apologize to the committee for this and I ask for its indulgence. I will willingly follow the example of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam). While I am not prepared to embrace his policy, I am. prepared on this occasion to follow his example. The honorable gentleman did not refer to any specific item in the estimates. He dealt with policy considerations in the broad, and I plead with you, Mr. Temporary Chairman, and the committee, for indulgence, hoping that I may be allowed to follow him. I was particularly arrested by his Roy Milne Memorial Lecture. The honorable member is now seeking to interject. I know that he was sparked into speaking and I thought his speech had a certain rapture about it which I hope in the next minute or two to be able to reveal in all its tantalizing beauty. In his speech in this debate the honorable member referred to the Roy Milne Memorial Lecture, and through his courtesy I have been given a copy of that lecture so that I will be able to speak with greater accuracy and will not be accused of quoting him out of context. Nothing could lacerate my feelings more thoroughly than to quote the honorable gentleman out of context.
This is a lecture which I warmly commend to every thinking person in this country. It should be read by day and meditated on by night. Let me take one or two of the principles spelt out by the honorable gentleman in his lecture. He said at one stage:
Australian troops should not be stationed overseas unless Australia has an effective voice in the policies of the countries where they are stationed.
– What is wrong with that?
– The honorable member did not qualify that statement at all, and here we have the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron), at the ready, asking, quite rightly, what is wrong with that. I propose to try to tell him what is wrong with it. You will notice the operative words, “unless Australia has an effective voice in the policies of the countries where they are stationed”. He does not say what sort of policies he has in mind. Is it to be assumed that the policies envisaged are policies dealing with defence matters, or that the policies would spill over into a sharp domestic arena? The honorable member did not give us those details, and this, presumably, is the voice of the Australian Labour Party, because I have heard no person during the debate repudiate what the Deputy Leader of the Opposition said in his Roy Milne Memorial Lecture.
Let me ask the honorable gentleman: How would these policies be determined? How are they to be made effective? Who or which body is to make these policies effective? All this is concealed. All this is hidden away. It is left to the people to determine, using their imaginations, what policies are involved on the one hand, and on the other hand, how those policies will be made effective.
I put it to the committee that the doctrine inherent in this sentiment is a doctrine that is utterly ludicrous. This is a policy and a doctrine which is not merely bewildering but which is also, frankly, frightening. What is one to assume? Is it that when troops from this country are to be sent in a hurry into a particular territory we will say to the governing body in that territory, “We insist upon having a voice in your domestic policies?” The honorable gentleman does not say so. The Australian Labour Party does not say so. Let me say this to him, not in any malevolent spirit: This absence of articulation is very strange, because usually the honorable gentleman tries to make himself quite clear. He has not so tried on this occasion.
I pass from that pronouncement of Labour policy, simply describing it as a rather strange new form of socialist colonialism. Here we have the Australian Labour Party wanting to go into Brunei, into the British protectorate, and say, “We have sent one Hercules here; we insist upon having a voice in your affairs “. When we have our troops in Malaya should we say, presumably to the Tunku, “We want a clear and definite voice in your policies and in the way you run your affairs”?
The second point that attracted me about the honorable gentleman’s Roy Milne Memorial Lecture was his specific reference to Malaya and to the need for this country to have a clear and explicit treaty arrangement. Before I advert to that may I say that I thought it rather uncharitable of him to use language like this when he referred to our forces in Malaya. This is what he said - - To put it crudely, Australia regards Malaya as a useful training ground for her Seato forces.
– ‘Will you read the following passage?
– Nothing would give me more pleasure than to read’ on -
As the Minister for the Army recently subtly put it, “They do not get at Canungra the atmosphere that they get in Malaya “.
Does that refine that statement? Does that add some lustre to it? Does that clean and polish it in and make it respectable? I invite the honorable gentleman to go to the members of the Royal Australian Air Force stationed at Butterworth and say to them,. “ I will tell you what you are doing. You are merely in a useful training ground as a part of Seato forces.” I think this was. a most unbecoming sentiment for the honorable member to voice.
During his speech to the committee ons Tuesday I asked him a question. I apologized for interrupting him, and I hope that I asked him the question with courtesy and with restraint. I asked whether he would! bring our troops back home. He broke off and said -
My answer to that query is perfectly clear. Unless a clear, public and, if possible, mutual treaty is formed, i would bring them back.”’
There was no ambiguity about that. We could all understand it. That is in keeping with the decision recently arrived at by the Australian Labour Party at its Commonwealth conference. The conference said’, amongst other things -
The A.L.P. does not believe that Australian’ forces should be committeed overseas except subject to a clear and public treaty which accords with the principles of a declaration which gives Australia an effective voice in the common decisionsof the treaty powers.
I want to ask the Leader of the Opposition this question: In the case of an emergency are we to understand that this country should seriously contemplate formulating a treaty before going to the aid of any country? Am I to understand that at the time of the Korean crisis we should have insisted that we have an effective voice tn the affairs of the people of South Korea, and that we should have insisted on bringing into existence a clear and definite treaty arrangement before involving Australian forces? This seems to me to be not merely a ludicrous policy; I describe it as a policy of utter lunacy. I invite the honorable member to point to one instance in history in which Australian troops have been involved and there has been a clear, specific, mutual treaty arrangement in existence.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition served with distinction in World War II. He did not do so because we had some treaty arrangement with the United Kingdom. Am I to understand from what the honorable gentleman has said, that if one of our Commonwealth countries is exposed to attack, we should first probe around and determine whether or not we have some treaty arrangement with that country before we will be prepared to say, “ All right, we are coming along to assist you”? If that is the policy of the Australian Labour Party, let it be identified for what it is, a policy of decay, a policy calculated to undermine completely the confidence and the will to resist of the people of this country.
But the Labour Party is not content merely with saying, “We must have an explicit treaty arrangement”. It wants to have a little both ways. I hope that honorable members opposite have not forgotten that as far as Malaya is concerned the decision of the 1955 Hobart conference still stands. What was that decision? The decision says that Labour policy is to oppose the use of armed forces in Malaya. Does the honorable gentleman now say that that is to be repudiated? The delightful situation is that if Labour is driven into a corner where some political embarrassment may flow to it, it will say to the extremist element in the country: “Our Hobart conference decision still stands. We are completely opposed to the policy of having Australian troops in Malaya.” But if Labour is seeking some respectability in the community, it will go to the respectable section and say: “ Our policy is clear. Unless we have a clear, mutual and specific treaty arrangement, of course we cannot have troops in Malaya.” Let honorable gentlemen opposite not try to escape from responsibility in this matter. The Hobart conference decision was received with rapturous acclaim by the Australian Labour Party when it was made. It was glowingly referred to by Dr. John Burton in his booklet, “ The Light Glows Brighter “. A foreword to the booklet was written by the then federal president of the Labour Party, Mr. Chamberlain.
I remind the committee and I remind the country that at the last election the policy of the Labour Party was to turn Seato into a cultural organization. I ask my friends opposite: Is this to be their considered policy at this testing time when the whole aim of Communist China is given over to probing and to pushing down into the SouthEast Asian area? If that is to be their policy, I say to them, with the utmost frankness but with goodwill, that they are deceiving the Australian people. I beg them to realize that this country carries a great responsibility - a proud responsibility that can be summed up by saying that it is a challenge. If we forget that the liberties of free people can be destroyed by determined people who want to destroy them, we shall make a great error and those liberties will be destroyed. Our liberties will be preserved only by a will to resist. The Australian Labour Party is doing Australia and the Australian people a great disservice by pursuing its policy of utter decay.
.- The honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Killen) spent some time in attacking the Labour Party and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam). Of course, nobody in this Parliament or in the nation takes the honorable member very seriously. We all know that he poses as a Liberal, that he is regarded mostly as a little Adolf and that he is in this Parliament on the votes of his Communist friends. We have the strange situation of a man posing as a Liberal, thought of as a Hitler, here on the votes of Communists, and supporting and keeping a Liberal government in power. Why does the honorable member talk about the lecture given by our Deputy Leader? He does not understand it and has not fully read the pamphlet in which it is published. If he needs clarification, he can come to the office of our Deputy Leader, who will explain the lecture to him. The point is very simple. A country should station troops in another country in peace-time - as Australia has done - only if it has a voice in the policy of that other country through consultations on treaties such as Anzus and Seato.
I do not intend to continue with the subject of external affairs. I intend to devote the remaining few minutes at my disposal to the estimates of the AttorneyGeneral’s Department. I want to refer to the failure of the Government to introduce legislation to deal with monopolies and restrictive trade practices, and to the fact that the very important portfolios of External Affairs and Attorney-General are administered on a part-time basis in this Parliament.
Last Tuesday the Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick) was asked by the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Clark) whether he proposed to bring down legislation on restrictive trade practices during the current session. The Attorney-General answered evasively - he really said nothing, if it is analysed - by saying -
As the honorable gentlemen will know, the proposals of the Government have been the subject of discussion. I have received many representations. These 1 have been considering and when decisions are taken on them and Cabinet has decided the matter there will be the question of preparing the bill.
We have been waiting for this bill. The nation has been waiting. We want to know what the Attorney-General is going to do. The history of this matter goes back to 8th March, 1960, when the GovernorGeneral told the Parliament and the nation of the Governments’ concern at the growth of monopolies and restrictive trade practices. Members of the Government said they were going to do something about that problem, but they have done very little. They have talked and issued pamphlets, and that is all the progress that has been made. On 6th December, 1962, the Attorney-General tabled proposals in this Parliament. He has issued a series of pamphlets and has given lectures outside the Parliament to tinpot organizations and chambers of manufactures. He gives lectures on restrictive trade practices and issues pamphlets, but nothing further happens.
Several questions have been posed and it is time they were answered. We should be told whether the Attorney-General is gradually watering down his proposals so that they will amount to nothing when they reach this Parliament - if they ever do. We should be told whether, because of the pressures applied by the wealthy interests of this country, the Government intends to abandon legislation on restrictive trade practices. The wealthy monopolies apply pressure inside the Cabinet. It is well known that the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon) and the Minister for National Development (Senator Sir William Spooner) are the direct representatives of big business interests. They are hostile to the proposals to restrict monopolies and to do something about restrictive trade practices. They are doing all they can to sabotage the progress of the legislation, and they have been very effective in their efforts.
What does the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) do about the profiteering that is taking place and the growth of monopolies in this country, other than to make casual reference to restrictive practices? He is on record as having said he had been concerned for a long while about profiteering and monopolies. Back in 1939 he said -
The problem of profiteering will be attacked by the Government with vigour.
We are waiting for that vigorous attack, but it is a long time coming. After making that statement he forgot all about the problem until April, 1960, when, at a press conference, he said that he hoped that legislation would be presented to this Parliament by the Budget session of that year. Then he went back into his shell again and promptly forgot all about the monopolies and profiteers.
The only progress shown by the Liberal Party is that it has amended its aims and objectives as expressed in its official platform. In 1960 it revised its platform and said, amongst other things, that its aim was the protection of the community against monopolies, combines and industrial organizations where, through the absence of competition or by restrictive practices, they operate in a manner contrary to public interest.
The Attorney-General set out what he was going to do and what should be done, but now we have reached the stage where the people of Australia want to know what will be done besides talking. Where do the Liberals stand in this matter? What stand do Ministers take? Do honorable members opposite agree with the Minister for Labour and National Service and the Minister for National Development, or do they agree with what the Attorney-General said some time ago? What will the Australian Country Party do? Generally, it was thought to support the AttorneyGeneral’s proposals. The leader of the Australian Country Party is the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen), who is Deputy Prime Minister. We are waiting for him to make a forthright statement. Will he make it, or is he afraid of having another head-on collision with the Liberals in this coalition Government? Does he foresee another split developing if he takes a firm stand in this matter?
Three and one-half years have passed since legislation was foreshadowed, and the Parliament is waiting for the AttorneyGeneral to make his position clear. Has he yielded to pressure? He stumped the country, talking about the need for legislation to curb restrictive trade practices. It is apparent that the pamphlets that have been published on the subject by the Minister have only caused confusion. The Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries, in the August, 1963, issue of its journal, “Commonwealth Automotive Review “, under the heading, “ Trade Practices Legislation “, stated -
The recent publication, by the Attorney-General, of the list of alleged restrictive trade practices perpetuates the vagueness of the original proposals tabled in the House of Representatives on 6th December, 1962. This vagueness has probably been the most annoying and disturbing feature of the whole exercise and the business community rightly feels apprehension that it is to be embroiled in a system of controls worthy of a dictatorial system of government administration.
The business community need have no fear, because the Government has yielded to pressure. It has given way to monopoly interests. The Cabinet has sold out to the Minister for Labour and National Service and the Minister for National Development. The Attorney-General, in one of his pamphlets, quoted the report made by Mr. Justice Cook on wool pies and Tariff Board reports on subjects such as petroleum products, fertilizers and rubber tires. For years, the Opposition in this Parliament, in urgency proposals, has brought to the notice of the Parliament and the country the need for legislation to check restrictive trade practices. On each occasion that Labour warned of the situation, the Attorney-General said that the practices could easily, immediately and effectively be dealt with by State legislation. But later his attitude changed and he said, after the matter had been mentioned in the Governor-General’s speech, that he would introduce legislation in this Parliament. But nothing has happened. The Government now appears afraid to proceed further with the proposal. Those in the Cabinet who are anxious to deal with this monopoly growth are not game to go on with the job. They fear what will happen if their wealthy friends desert them. This Parliament is entitled to know why the Government has sold out to big business and why it has thrown completely overboard its scheme for legislation on restrictive trade practices.
It is becoming increasingly clear that the Attorney-General cannot discharge the functions of both the Attorney-General’s portfolio and the important External Affairs portfolio. He has proved himself more capable of discharging the duties of two portfolios than was the Prime Minister, but he is not capable of discharging the functions of the two important portfolios that he now holds. Both are so important as to need the fulltime attention of a Minister. We give the Attorney-General due credit and full marks for the hard work that he does, as is evidenced by his legislation on marriage and divorce. He deserves great credit for the time and work that he put into those measures. I believe that the honorable gentleman was very sincere when he initiated this proposal to introduce legislation to deal with monopolies, but he has now been thrown overboard.
The time has come for us to have a full-time Minister for External Affairs as well as a full-time Attorney-General, in the interests of the nation. We have heard little from the Minister about external affairs, because he has been too busy dealing with the Attorney-General’s portfolio. The other day, he addressed us very briefly about South Viet Nam, but he told us nothing about the important question of the proposed Federation of Malaysia, about which honorable members have asked many questions during the consideration of this group of departmental estimates. The Parliament is entitled to know the Minister’s views on this issue instead of those views being given merely to other people that he meets as he wanders about the countryside. External affairs are so important to Australia to-day that we in this Parliament should constantly be hearing addresses or statements by the Minister about the situation with which Australia is confronted. Similarly, we ought to be kept well informed about the functions of the Attorney-General’s portfolio.
The Parliament is entitled to something better than a part-time Minister in each of these important portfolios. The nation is entitled to be served by a fulltime Minister for External Affairs. The Government is guilty of almost criminal neglect in failing to give this portfolio to a Minister on a full-time basis. The years to come may well condemn the Menzies Government for having failed, at this critical time in our history, to measure up to its responsibilities in relation to foreign affairs and defence by appointing a fulltime Minister for External Affairs and its failure on the home front to proceed with legislation to curb restrictive trade practices. I think that at one time the Government genuinely intended to introduce legislation to deal with this problem of monopolies - in some respects, at least. But now it has given away the idea completely. We wait on a statement by the Attorney-General. We ask him to tell us honestly whether it is a fact that he intends gradually to water down his proposals and eventually to drop them altogether. We wait on the Deputy Prime Minister to speak on behalf of the Australian Country Party and tell us where that party stands. Or will the Government and those associated with it dodge the issue as best they can and hang on as a coalition, hoping to escape the penalty that will surely come their way when the people have their say at the next general election?
– Mr. Chairman, under the heading of the estimates for the Department of External Affairs, I should like to discuss the nuclear test ban treaty. On this, I stand where I have always stood, even before I first became a member of this place. I believe that effective disarmament is an absolute necessity, whatever it may cost. It is in relation to that principle that I want to examine the position relating to the nuclear test ban treaty. How does the treaty fit in? How does it measure up against that main principle of the absolute necessity of effective disarmament?
First, let this be said about the treaty: It is not a very far-reaching one. The atomic powers remain. They renounce further testing, but no effective inspection is to be permitted by Soviet Russia for verification, and there is no guarantee against the spread and proliferation of these new weapons into other nations. Indeed, in the absence of effective and sanctioned disarmament, many countries may feel justified, for the sake of their own national security, in entering the disastrous nuclear arms race. The nuclear test ban treaty, ineffective though it may be, perhaps has the good effect of slowing down the race by making more difficult the testing of weapons. Thereby, it increases the length of time before these new weapons become more widespread. But may I emphasize that this is something which holds good only with respect to nations of goodwill, because nations which intend aggression can still go forward on that path. In itself, then, the treaty is neither good nor bad. Judgment on the treaty depends on what happens afterwards and how matters develop. If this treaty leads speedily to effective world disarmament under proper inspection and sanction, then it is good. If it is a move that can be applied in that direction, it is good, but if the treaty leads merely to delay - if it is merely a poultice over the cancer - it is not good; it is bad. If it is purely something which leads to further stalling or what is worse, if it is a device deliberately entered into by the Soviet Union to make further stalling possible, then it is bad.
So we cannot say yet whether this treaty is a good thing or a bad thing. We can say that if the consequences that flow from it are effective disarmament - if it is a step in that direction which can be followed up - it is good. But if it is merely a feigned step which leads to delay or is meant to lead to delay, it is bad.
The world cannot afford much further delay. There is on the horizon the cloud of Communist China - an aggressive power which is making nuclear preparations. We cannot afford any more delay otherwise the world will come down in ruins. Communist
China boasts that she is getting nuclear arms. I do not know how long it will be before she gets nuclear arms. I would guess - this is purely a guess - that the first nuclear arms might be only a year or two away and that stocks which would allow effective aggression might be three or four years beyond that again. There is a little time, but only a little.
If Communist China gets nuclear arms, what then? In order to answer that query let us look at the nature of the split, whether genuine on its face value or not, that is at first glance occurring between the Communist parties of Russia and China. Let us look at the nature of this thing. A split of this bitterness would not have been permitted to occur unless there were strong motives behind it. The Russians say: “The new weapons are so bad that we must abandon our previous plans of world aggression. We must put those plans in the discard because if we went forward with a major war we would be destroyed with everybody else. Knowing what those weapons are, the previous Stalin plan of world aggression is no longer feasible.” The Communist Chinese say: “You are chicken. We are the true Marxists, Leninists and Stalinists. We mean to go forward. We mean to push communism forward by arms and the threat of arms and by nuclear blackmail as soon as we can. We reproach you as we have since 1957, for not having allowed us to use your resources in Russia to acquire nuclear capacity.”
That is the nature of the split as it appears on the surface. That is what the Russians and the Chinese themselves say about the split. Of late weeks I have seen reports of the Chinese Communists reproaching the Communists of the Soviet Union for accusing China of having aggressive plans. I put it to the House that the Communists of the Soviet Union would be fairly well informed about the real nature of the plans of the Chinese Communist Party. Even the Soviet, for what it is worth, now says that Communist China means aggression and means to use nuclear capacity as a means of aggression.
In these circumstances must the world stand still, paralysed while this happens? Surely we would be abdicating all our responsibilities to humanity if we allowed such a disaster to be prepared and did not lift a finger to stop it. It is the clear duty of the United Nations, here and now, to see that this thing does not occur. We must see that Communist China, which boasts of its aggressive nature and which regards even the Soviet Union as chicken for not going forward, does not acquire large stocks of nuclear arms. This is the clear duty of the United Nations. It is true that Communist China is not a member of the United Nations, but that should not make any difference. Section 6 of Article 2 of the United Nations Charter reads -
The Organization shall ensure that States which are not Members of the United Nations act in accordance with these Principles so far as may be necessary for the maintenance of international peace and security.
Articles 39, 41 and 42 of the Charter relate to the duties and responsibilities of the Security Council when a major threat to world peace is being prepared. If honorable members will read those articles they will see that it is the clear and inescapable duty of the United Nations to act in this matter now. Let us not delay. This is not something that can be shrugged off. This cancer cannot be cured with a bread poultice. The acquisition of nuclear weapons is an irreversible process. Once saturation stocks pile up in the hands of any country, that country cannot be coerced. There is no way of compelling that country to give up its nuclear arms. The achievement of nuclear capacity is irreversible. Once Communist China achieves nuclear capacity in arms there will be no way out. The Chinese Communists - rightly I think. - say: “ We are the true Marxists and Leninists. We are the true Stalinists. We are following in Stalin’s footsteps. We will not shrink from nuclear war.” Even the Russians, who meant to use these methods of war when the bombs were comparatively small and only of the fission type, have retreated from the grim reality of the fusion bomb. It is for this that they are being upbraided by the Chinese Communist Party. I have given the effect of what the Chinese Communist Party says of itself. The world must not allow this thing to happen.
The following bills were returned from the Senate, without amendment: -
Sales Tax (Exemptions and Classifications) Bill 1963.
Sales Tax Assessment Bill (No. 5) 1963.
Message received from the Senate intimating that it concurs in the resolution transmitted to the Senate by Message No. 162 of the House of Representatives that the time for bringing up the report of the Joint Select Committee on Parliamentary and Government Publications be extended to 30th November, 1963.
Sitting suspended from 5.57 to 8 p.m. [Quorum formed.]
Debate resumed from 10th September (vide page 781), on motion by Mr. Roberton -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- Mr. Speaker, I move -
That all words after “That” be omitted with a view to inserting the following words in place thereof: - “whilst not declining to give the bill a second reading, this House is of the opinion that-
increases should be made in -
child endowment which has remained unchanged for the first child for 13 years and for subsequent children lor IS years;
maternity allowances which have remained substantially unchanged for 20 years, and
pensioners’ funeral benefits which have remained unchanged for 20 years;
there should be a standard rate for all pensioners and supplementary assistance for special needs, thus removing the discrimination against married pensioners;
other social service payments and quali fications including permissible income should be adjusted to compensate tor changes in the cost of living;
Australia now lags behind most compar able countries in its expenditure on social welfare, and
research and enquiry into social welfare in Australia is inadequate”.
The reasons for my moving this amendment on behalf of the Opposition will be apparent when I have concluded my speech and when all the other members of the Opposition who will speak in support of the amendment have made their contributions. At this stage, therefore, I propose to speak on matters pertaining to the amendment and the attitude of the Opposition to the legislation that has been presented.
In introducing the bill to the House, the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton) made a remarkable speech. In his opening sentences he modestly used these words - in the last seven years when the Government, having created the economic atmosphere for progress, could accelerate the pace and deepen the penetration to include countless thousands of people - men, women and children - for whom no adequate provision had ever been made in nearly half a century of social service legislation.
From that modest beginning he continued, with similar extravagant phraseology, to recount the building up of the welfare state exclusively, according to him, by the efforts of the Liberal-Country Party Government. His pride was almost unlimited as he spoke of the grants and long-delayed benefits to widows and pensioners and the miserable assistance of a few shillings a week to pensioners in order to keep their student children at school until they reach matriculation standard.
The Minister’s oratory knew no bounds. His voice, charged with emotion, pride and dialect, was almost inarticulate as he spoke of social welfare from the very beginning of human history to the twentieth century. He quoted from the Scriptures and from the past. In fact, he quoted the great philosopher, Aristotle, to support his case. The Minister said - “It is hard to find the true principles of social justice”, wrote Aristotle, “and harder still to get men and women to act upon them.” “These prophetic words are as true today”, said the Minister, “as when they were written nearly 2,500 years ago.” There is no doubt about that statement. The Country Party and the Liberal Party exemplify the truth of it. This country, if it had been left to those parties, would still be back in the days of Aristotle, so far as social services are concerned. Every social reform and the welfare state have been introduced in this country in the face of strong opposition from members of the present Government parties. To-day they support social services and pirate the policy of the Labour Party only because they know that it is political suicide for them not to adopt our thinking.
In Great Britain and New Zealand members of tory governments, such as the present Australian Government, when in opposition have opposed the welfare state. However, once in office, like this Government, they support the social service policies they condemned and quote them as their own, as the Minister did a few days ago. At every opportunity, however, they have destroyed the purchasing power of social services and, one by one, reduced the value of the benefits available. That is the position in Australia. The Government has thieved the policy of the Labour Party in many ways. The Government supports the welfare state because, with a majority of one, it is afraid to do anything else. It takes points from the Labour Party’s programme and unashamedly claims them as its own. Is it any wonder, Mr. Speaker, that the Minister called on the saints, the philosophers and the Almighty to support his case, because he needs them all?
The Country Party and the Liberal Party have exemplified their attitude to social services previously. None other than the Deputy Leader of the Country Party and Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson), speaking in the Budget debate last year, stated what he thought should be done for the people of this country. This is what he said, as reported in “ Hansard “ of 29th August, 1962 -
I will go on record as saying - I do not care what it costs me - that if I could see another ?40,000,000 in the economy available this year for purposes other than those specified in the Budget, I would put an increase in pensions and other such social services last on the list following developmental proposals. I go on record to say that, and honorable members opposite can use it as they like.
I will use that statement as I like. It is the statement of a man who does not have any sympathy for those people who are dependent on social services. Without cluttering up my speech with quotations, let me quote the attitude of the Minister for Social Services, as shown in an article written by Elwyn Spratt in the Sydney “Sun” in 1959. The article is headed “ ‘ Mr. Humbug ‘ Hit Wrong Key “. Mr. Spratt was referring to the Minister for Social Services. Speaking of members of the Government members’ social services committee, he wrote -
They also claim that Roberton - a Country Party Minister - seems to take little interest in the work of the Government members’ social services committee.
Mr. Spratt also wrote
At the moment their greatest stumbling block is Hugh Roberton, whom some privately refer to as “ Mr. Humbug “.
They regard him as a humbug because he became Minister for Social Services in 1956 not long after saying in effect that if he had his way there would be no social services at all.
What an attitude for the Minister to take! That exemplifies the miserly attitude of this Government of the needs and requirements of people who are dependent on social services.
In introducing this bill, the Minister made a comparison between the amount spent on social services to-day and the amount spent in 1949. He said that payments from the National Welfare Fund have increased from ?81,000,000 in 1949 to ?411,000,000 in the current financial year. He went on to say -
That, in terms of pounds, shillings and pence, is the measure of our social service progress during the last fourteen years.
I do not think that is a very fair comparison. I will tell the House why. The Minister has not taken into consideration a number of factors. Let me cite a few figures from the annual report of the Department of Social Services in order to dispel the attitude that there has been a real increase in social services. Total expenditure on benefits under the Social Services Act was ?74,600,000 for the year ended 30th June, 1949, and ?282,600,000 for the year ended 30th June, 1962. In money terms alone that appears to be an impressive, almost fourfold increase. But, in order to appraise the increase in real terms, certain factors have to be considered.
First, in the same period the mean population of Australia increased from 7,800,000 to 10,600,000. Secondly, that period was the most intense period of inflation in Australia’s history. That happened under this Liberal-Country Party Government. The consumer price index rose from 61 to 124. In other words, the value of money was halved in that period. Thirdly, it is not quite the same sample of social services that is being compared over the period. For instance, in June, 1949, no endowment was payable in respect of the first child. This was introduced on 20th June, 19S0, and augmented the number of endowed families by 500,000, the number of endowed children by nearly 1,000,000, and the annual liability by some £13,000,000 immediately. On the other hand unemployment and sickness benefits cost only £1,000,000 in 1949 but under this Government’s policy of maximum employment £16,000,000 had to be allocated in 1962 for this purpose. And the Minister boasts to-day of our standard of social services!
A more honest comparison of progress in social services would have been to compare 1951 with, say, 1962. The total expenditure of 1951 was £102,600,000 as against £282,600,000 in 1962. In this period, the total population rose from 8,300,000 to 10,600,000, or roughly by one-quarter, and the consumer price index increased from 75 to 124, an increase by approximately two-thirds. But even this comparison camouflages the truth about the two greatest single social service benefits - child endowment and pensions - for, whilst the total population rose by onequarter between 1951 and 1962, the number of endowed families rose by onethird and the number of endowed children by two-fifths. And, of course, we all know that the real value of child endowment to each family fell because, whilst the money payments remained the same their purchasing power fell as I have described. The £70,000,000 child endowment bill of 1962 had less purchasing power than the child endowment bill of 1951; but it was supposed to cover 1,000,000 more children. The position with regard to pensioners is similar. In 1951 the number of recipients of pensions was 417,000. By 1962 it had increased to 691,000, an increase of twothirds against a population rise of onequarter. To the individual recipient of social services, there is no comfort in what the total bill for everybody is. The only material factors are what is the purchasing power of what he or she receives and what is its adequacy for the things that he or she needs. If honorable members make that comparison they will see that not only is this Minister’s approach to it false but also that the purchasing power has fallen by half, with the result that the value of the benefit paid to-day is less than it was at the time when the Chifley Government was in office.
I now wish to deal with one or two provisions contained in the legislation under discussion, which the Minister, in his flamboyant way, described in one part of his speech as legislation which transforms the traditional pattern of pensions which has prevailed for 55 years and removes a serious flaw which has weakened the pension structure of our social welfare programme since its inception in 1908. That was the colourful language in which the Minister described this piece of legislation. The principal innovation is that which proposes to give single pensioners more money than is to be given to married pensioners. In his stimulating statement, the Minister said that the Government proposes to increase age and invalid pensions by 10s. a week to £5 15s., which is to be the new standard rate for single age and invalid pensioners, and to continue supplementary assistance on the present basis.
For the first time in history, the Government proposes that marriage should be a bar to an adequate pension. It proposes arbitrarily to exclude all married pensioner couples from the increase of 10s. a week. That is an unprecedented, unjustified discriminatory legislative proposal which is opposed to all the principles of social justice. It certainly is legislation unparalleled in the history of this country, as the Minister quite rightly said. In the form stated by the Minister, it makes the mere fact of marriage a complete bar to receiving the standard rate of pension now fixed at £5 15s. This barrier is to operate automatically, irrespective of the means or the needs of the persons concerned. Could anything be more scandalous? The proposal as announced by the Minister apparently will produce such absurd anomalies and such bitter inequalities that, on the surface, it would appear to be unworkable. Unless this proposal is dropped or drastically amended before the legislation giving effect to it is introduced, it must quite rightly bring the Government into great disrepute, although I doubt whether that is possible at this stage because the Government is already well down in the country’s esteem. If it is possible to do so, I think it will bring the Government into even greater disrepute and quickly break down the operation of the scheme. The Government might say that its scheme is based on Labour’s policy of special assistance for the person at the bottom of the pensioner scale such as, for example, a pensioner living alone, with no income except the pension, and paying rent or meeting instalments on a house. But it departs entirely from the principle governing Labour’s proposal.
The Labour Party proposes - and I state this in order that all shall know - a basic rate of pension tied to the basic wage, payable to all pensioners, with supplementary assistance for those in special circumstances and in special need. In other words, we propose that there shall be a base rate of pension, and that the needs of others shall be taken into consideration without any discrimination against those who marry at some stage in life. To achieve this, Labour would make an adequate increase in the basic pension payable to all and establish a national assistance system for those in special categories of hardship. The basic rate of 10s. now being granted by the Government would be increased in some cases to at least 30s. a week under Labour’s policy at this stage. The Government’s proposal is based on the unacceptable assumption that two may live more cheaply than one. This reasoning is false and could only originate in the mind of a Minister who has been described by the Government members’ social services committee as one not interested in social services and one who is completely out of touch with the needs, sufferings and hardships of those dependent upon pensions.
The Minister has stated that two-thirds of the existing pensioners will receive the new standard rate of pension. I emphasize that this means that more than 270,000 pensioners will be denied any increase at all and that figure is based on the departments definition of “single” which includes those who have not married, those who are divorced or those who are permanently separated from their spouse. It will be seen, therefore, that any two pensioners dwelling together and sharing domestic expenses will receive the standard rate of pension plus supplementary assistance in certain circumstances, unless they are a married couple, in which case they will receive £1 a week less. What a scandalous state of affairs! The only other exception will be the pensioner couple dwelling together and who are accepted by the department as living bona fide as man and wife even though not legally married. For instance, two pensioners who are sisters, brothers, brother and sister and other relatives or friends dwelling together and sharing expenses will qualify for the standard rate of pension of £5 15s. a week plus supplementary assistance in certain circumstances. But the married pensioner couple next door who share living expenses, which could not possibly be less, will be placed on a substandard pension rate, thus reducing their income by £1 a week compared with that of the other couples I have mentioned.
– They have had no increase for two years.
– They have had no increase for two years, as the honorable member for Barton reminds me. Rates for married pensioners have been pegged by this Government for the last two years, and the Minister said that they would continue to be pegged at the existing rate, because, according to him, the cost of living has not risen. This is discrimination of the worst kind against helpless people and should have no place in our social service structure, and Labour will vote against this proposal. The Government’s attitude is all the more remarkable when we remember that, according to the Minister, the cost of increasing all pensions by an amount of 10s. would be only £7,000,000 in a full year. In operation, however, the proposal will be even more unjust than I have just pointed out. For instance, a widow or age pensioner living as a member of her or his family will be entitled to a rental allowance, plus the standard rate of pension, which will provide a total income of £6 5s. a week, whereas a married pensioner cannot receive more than £5 5s. a week. Yet the widow or age pensioner living in similar circumstances would normally have no greater - probably less - expense to meet than would the married pensioner.
The standard rate of pension of £5 15s will be paid to a single pensioner even if his property is valued at £2,020, or his income is £3 10s. a week, whereas a married pensioner, with no property and no income whatever except the pension, will be restricted to the rate of £5 5s. a week. What grave discrimination this is against married persons! The heights of tragic absurdity and injustice will be apparent in many cases. Let me quote one or two typical examples to illustrate my point. A pensioner brother and sister living in the family home and possessing other income of £7 a week, perhaps a motor car and a life insurance policy, will receive a standard pension of £11 10s. between them, making their total income £18 10s. a week, and they will have no rent to pay. The married pensioner couple next door, who rent a house and possess no income, will be refused the standard rate of pension and will receive £10 10s. a week, out of which they must pay rent. These examples could be multiplied many times, and the bitterness and resentment of those attempting to apply such a system in Australia can well be imagined.
The Government, in an endeavour to force this piece of legislation on pensioners throughout the country, has stooped to the lowest form of political tactics. By fixing different rates for single and married pensioners, it has divided the pensioners’ organizations. It may place pensioner against pensioner, brother against brother and sister against sister. Its action has all the hallmarks of the bitter days of the conscription campaign when brother fought brother and family fought family. This is a rotten policy. Honorable members opposite, representing the wealthy vested banking interests, force the country to accept this policy. The Government has deliberately divided the pensioners’ organizations and this has meant a smaller gain for the pensioners and less pressure on the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) or the Government.
It is significant that the Government - I include those honorable members opposite who are interjecting - capitulates to the huge vested interests of the Australian
Country Party, to the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited and to others who demand their pound of flesh, to the graziers and to those standing behind the leader and deputy leader of the Australian Country Party. The Government jumps whenever these large organizations crack the whip. But the sick, the poor, the needy and the infirm are treated in a most contemptible way. The Government forces on them the most discriminatory legislation, aimed against the Marriage Act, in the history of this great country of ours. Labour will change this state of affairs. I have stated Labour’s policy on this matter. Labour will see that a standard rate is adopted for pensions and that supplementary assistance is given to those in special circumstances. Labour will see that the sacredness of marriage is preserved and does not become a barrier to social justice. The Government has adopted a contemptible approach to the needs of the pensioners.
Let us examine what the Government has done to help pensioners educate their children. Married pensioners will continue to receive £10 10s. a week. What is being done by this generous-hearted Liberal and Country Party Government, this great collection of tories? They will let these pensioners have an extra 15s. a week for each student child and 10s. private income, if they can earn it - making a total of 25s. a week to educate their children to university standard. What a magnificent contribution! What chance have these children to go through Oxford University as the children of pensioners on an extra 15s. a week! It is difficult enough to get allowances for people who work for wages so that they may educate their children. Child endowment has not been increased for 13 to 15 years. What is the Government doing for the children of pensioners? It is giving the pensioners another 15s. a week so that they can send their children to a university! The Minister for Social Services and the Government should be condemned for the miserable amount provided for this purpose. I cannot help but think that this exemplifies the attitude of the Government.
I have here a report of a statement made by the Prime Minister during the Grey byelection, which was so well won by the honorable member for Grey (Mr. Mortimer), who sits on the Labour back bench. The report of a meeting held during that campaign reads as follows: -
Another voice: How would you get on on a £5 a week pension?
Sir Robert Menzies: Never having had any money that I didn’t work for or earn I wouldn’t know.
And what is more, he does not care. The deputy leader of the Australian Country Party does not care. The Minister for Social Services is on record, according to reports, as saying that he did not care about social services. The Prime Minister has never had to live on £5 a week, does not want to do so and does not know what it is all about.
The dependants’ allowance has been increased by the princely sum of 12s. 6d. a week for the wives of age and invalid pensioners. The Government believes that an adult can live on £3 a week. The Australian Labour Party says that no adult recipient of a social service payment should receive less than the basic age pension rate - and this applies to the dependants’ allowance. Let us have a look at another aspect of the administration of the Menzies Government. The funeral benefit has not been changed for twenty years. In 1943, twenty years ago, it was fixed at £10 by a Labour government. Leading undertakers all over the country to-day will say that the bare minimum for a funeral is £100 in any city. At a time of tragedy, sorrow and grief, the Government sends along a cheque for a miserable £10, with its compliments and best wishes, and tells the pensioner to use this amount to bury his next of kin. To say the least, this is disgraceful. The discriminatory legislation and the failure to increase benefits for married age and invalid pensioners, as well as the failure to increase the funeral benefit, exemplifies the attitude of the Government to pensioners generally. But how can we expect the Government to increase the funeral benefit? It will not look after the living, and it cares less for the dead. That is why the funeral benefit has not been increased for twenty years. Labour will provide a benefit of £50.
Let us look at the way the Government acts. As I have said, it steals Labour’s policy. I pass now to widows’ pensions. Here we have the oratory of the Minister at his very best. He said -
Here again the Government is breaking new ground - and breaking it with the most spectacular increases ever made to our pension system - by introducing, for the first time in the history of this pension, changes of fundamental and farreaching importance for the widowed mother.
What did he do? He adopted Labour’s policy and introduced a mother’s allowance. The Minister’s mental processes were stimulated by looking at our proposal. He saw that it was good and that the people wanted it. But he did not grant the full amount that we had suggested. He applied the principle and gave an amount of £2 instead of £3 10s. The Government has thieved, plundered and pirated Labour’s economic and social policies quite unashamedly. It introduces these policies and tells the people that they are policies thought up by the Government. It claims that these humane policies are the product of its brains.
The increases in widows’ pensions are acceptable, belated though they are. But the fact of the matter is that the new mother’s allowance is 30s. less than the amount suggested by the Australian Labour Party. Whilst we welcome, this provision, which has been taken from our 1961 policy and for which we have been constantly pressing for ‘the past two years, we believe that the amount should be substantially increased with adequate payments for the first child and other children. These benefits to widows are merely a belated recognition by the Government that the exceptional hardship suffered by widows had to be relieved or the Government would pay the penalty.
I cannot escape the feeling that if it had not been for Labour’s policy at the last election and the almost complete annihilation of the Government, the widows in the community would still bc suffering the hardships deliberately imposed by an unsympathetic and incompetent administration. Widows in the B and C classes are now to receive £5 2s. 6d. a week, which is 12s. 6d. a week less than the base rate pension of £5 15s. In other words, they have gone from £4 12s. 6d. to £5 2s. 6d. The policy of the Australian Labour Party on this aspect of social services is that the widows’ pension should not be less than the basic rate of age pension. When elected, we will legislate along these lines for B and C class widows, to whom the Government denies this relief. Only when
Labour is in office will justice be given in full to the widows of Australia, who for so long have been denied their basic right to an adequate pension. They have to live and they have to meet the same financial commitments as other pensioners have. The fact that some widows are to receive less than the base rate of age and invalid pensions is scandalous.
I want to come now to the payment of benefits. The Australian Labour Party believes that, if at all possible, the payment of increased benefits should commence from 1st July of the year in which the increase is granted. In these days of automation, it should be possible to pay them from this date. If it is not possible, however, the Government should not object to paying the increases from the day the necessary legislation is introduced into the Parliament. At present, Opposition members are expected not to speak on the legislation, not to criticize it but to rush it through. If we do not expedite the passage of the legislation, we shall be accused of holding it up and of delaying the payment of increases to those who are entitled to receive the meagre concessions. We believe that this is unjust. We should be given an opportunity to debate the legislation in full and to criticize the Government’s proposals. We believe that the increases should be paid from the earliest possible date.
What happens when the supporters of the Australian Country Party receive a subsidy of £9,000,000 on superphosphate? They do not have to wait until legislation is passed. Payment commences the day after the Budget is introduced into the Parliament. The Country Party Minister for Social Services is more concerned about the wealthy grazing and rural interests than about the aged and sick people and the others who will receive some benefit under this legislation. Surely age, invalid and widow pensioners are entitled to the same consideration. If it is good enough for this Government to make a superphosphate bounty immediately payable to its wealthy suporters and to back date the operation of other types of legislation in that way, it is good enough for it to see that the increased benefits to pensioners are paid from the date of the introduction of the legislation to the Parliament This mean trick of stopping criticism by making us put the measure through the Parliament quickly in order not to hold up the payment should not be forgotten.
Child endowment is another matter coming with the scope of our amendment. The present rate of 5s. for the first child was fixed thirteen years ago and the rate of 10s. for each other child was fixed fifteen years ago. Child endowment has now lost about half its purchasing power. The Government claims it has achieved stability at last in costs and wages. It has done that at the expense of child endowment, which has been pegged for years. In fact, child endowment is pegged at the stage where it was when the Government used its well-known phrase about putting value back into the Australian £1. I like to recall that phrase, which was used at the time when child endowment was last increased. I understand that the Government social services committee of which the honorable member for Stuart (Mr. Wilson) was chairman recommended that increase. But no, the Minister did not want to increase child endowment and the family need was forgotten. The mothers of Australia and their children remain forgotten people. It is thirteen years since any increase has been granted. During the 1961 election Labour gave the Government a lead on this matter. It is a wonder that the Government did not take that lead. It is the only thing it missed.
At that time we said that Labour’s policy was to pay endowment of 10s. for the first child1, 17s. 6d. for the second and £1 for each additional child. At the next election Labour’s policy will again propose these payments and if we are elected they will be adjusted to agree with the increase in living costs as revealed by the C series index in the six capital cities. Furthermore, we will pay endowment for children up to the age of eighteen years, as against sixteen years under the present Government.
It is twenty years now since the maternity allowance was increased. This allowance was fixed at from £15 to £17 10s. in 1943 and it remains unchanged in this year of this “prosperity budget”. Surely any government with the interests of the family at heart could not in this ruthless way completely forget the need to increase this benefit. Every one knows that wages have trebled in the intervening period and that costs and prices have skyrocketed. Yet this Government, which boasts of an increase in social service spending, is maintaining stability by pegging the maternity allowance on a basis fixed twenty years ago. Surely there is no justification for this callous disregard of the needs of the mothers of Australia. They should never forget their betrayal, and the refusal of the LiberalCountry Party Government to provide for their welfare. Labour believes - and when elected will legislate - for a minimum payment of at least £30 for the first child, rising to £35 for the fourth and subsequent children, as an indication of its sincerity and desire to assist and give justice to the mothers of Australia.
Ti it is good enough to spend £13,000,000 this year in bringing migrants to this country, it is good enough to spend a fraction of that amount in order to give Australian mothers opportunity to bring into the world the best citizens and immigrants we can get - Australian children. The income means test has not been changed since 1954. It is the best part of ten years since it was changed. Permissible income remains at £3 10s. a week. To use a phrase which many of us know, it could be said that it is a long time between drinks waiting for a modification of the means test. Although the declining value of money has long outdated the amount of permissible income, this Budget does not adjust it. The severity and injustice of the Government’s refusal to alleviate the means test is apparent to all members of this Parliament. When a pensioner or superannuated person earns a meagre amount in excess of the permissible income he is penalized accordingly. At the appropriate time Labour will increase the permissible income to an amount in accord with the needs of the moment.
Mr. Speaker, I cannot mention my next point except in passing or I will be out of order. I refer to national health and I mention this only on account of the pensioners because the Minister said in his speech that many pensioners got the benefit of the medical scheme. Let me tell him that one of the worst features of the social service structure to-day is the national health scheme. No less than 12 per cent., that is 99,000 pensioners are denied free medical benefits under this Government’s means test, which pegs them to a maximum of £2 per week income under a means test imposed in 1955. If this amount is exceeded, they lose the benefit. They can die, for all the Government cares, because if they have more than £2 a week coming in they get no medical benefit card. This is because of the vicious means test imposed by this Government and implemented again and again although it would cost only about £1,500,000 to abolish it - a sum which would not be missed out of this record budget.
This indicates the situation at the present time. One can look down the long range of benefits still untouched. What about unemployment and sickness benefits? If the Government is going to keep 70,000 to 100,000 men on the dole, as it were, they are entitled to a payment as close as possible to a living wage. There are more than 70,000 men to-day in this country who cannot get work. There were 52,000 men on an average unemployed all last year, but we find that the unemployment benefit is not to be increased under the policy of this Government. These men are to be kept on the dole.
We find that the Government has not looked at supplementary assistance for pensioners, and the special pensions are unchanged. Nothing has been mentioned of the Commonwealth rehabilitation service or the question of dependent children of widows, after the first child. Full-time students fees and items of that nature are still unchanged. Then there is the housing scheme for disabled persons. The scheme touches the fringe, but places a restriction upon those who may benefit. In addition, of course, the rental rebate to pensioners has been eliminated from the housing agreement with the States. These are things that require investigation and that condemn this Government because of its failure to do the things which are so necessary, particularly after it has been so long in office.
Without doubt, the Government boasts of what it has done in the field of social services, but it lags a long way behind other parts of the world. Even countries much less socially advanced than we are lead us in the field of social services. On investigation I find that the Government has failed to give real social justice in Australia. If we check the figures we find that this Government is spending less of the national income on social services than are the governments of many other countries. I took some figures from a publication called “ The Cost of Social Security, 1961 “, published by the International Labour Organization. This publication shows that social service expenditure from national income is 16.3 per cent, in Belgium, 18.9 per cent, in France, 20.8 per cent, in Germany and 11.5 per cent, in Ireland. Even in Italy it is 15.2 per cent. Australia is down to 9.1 per cent. Just fancy Italy, France, Germany, Belgium and Ireland being ahead of this country! That gives an indication of how far down the scale we are and that is why we are drifting along as we are.
In addition to that, there is need for research and inquiry into social welfare in Australia. The investigation that was made was inadequate. According to a recent survey in the United States of America every fifth American lives in poverty. Sociologists have estimated that there is a submerged fifth of the British population which lives in poverty. There is clearly a need for a survey of living standards and poverty in Australia. It is surprising that in a country like this no effort is being made to take a full survey of social services and the welfare of the people. What is wanted is probably a select committee to investigate these things and give a report something like the Beveridge report, because for too long the Government has let the people suffer without any knowledge of what is required and the effect that its social services are having and above all, what is not being done. I hope effect will be given to my suggestion that there should be research and inquiry on this subject.
The matters I have mentioned indicate that while benefits have been given and are acceptable, the Government’s policy is still a long way short of what is required. I believe that the benefits granted have been forced from the Government. While they may appear big in terms of pounds, shillings and pence, their purchasing power is less than it has ever been in the history of this country. There is still much the Govern ment could do to alleviate distress in this country. Is it not strange that last year, with £139,000,000 more revenue available than in the previous year, the Government increased social service payments by only about £1 1,000,000? This, with the value of money less by 50 per cent, than it was in 1949-50, in the time of the Chifley Government, points to the fact that the Government to-day is prepared to spend only £11,000,000 out of a huge budget to relieve distress in this country.
I record what I have said in support of the amendment and in protest at the attitude of the Government. I say, finally, that this Government, with budget surpluses, unlimited profits for industry and millions of pounds of taxation concessions and benefits for its wealthy supporters, gives little to the aged, sick or infirm, but for fear of political consequences, from time to time it grudgingly makes meagre concessions. Then, bankrupt of policy and principle, with palsied hands it stoops and takes the policy of Labour. It is in office to-day because of the votes of the members of the Communist Party. The wedding bells have ceased to chime, and the Liberal-Country Party coalition, in an atmosphere of hate, jealousy and intrigue trembles on the brink of political enternity. Like sinners come to judgment the members of the coalition Government beg forgiveness in a death-bed repentance, promising to distribute to the needy the social justice so long denied them. In due course. Mr. Speaker, an angry electorate will pronounce grim and wellearned sentence of doom and defeat on this, decrepit, unsympathetic, blundering and unwanted Administration.
– I second the amendment, Mr. Speaker.
.- The honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) has moved this amendment purely to delay the passage of this bill and so deprive aged persons and widows of the very great benefits that will be available to them under the provisions of the bill. Fortunately, nobody takes the honorable member for Grayndler seriously. He is the joker of the Labour Party, quite a happy-go-lucky fellow. Nobody regards anything that he says as serious, because everybody knows that he does not mean what he says.
In the honorable member’s speech we heard one inaccuracy after another. He said, for example, that this year the total expenditure on social services would increase by only £11,500,000. In fact it will increase by £32,000,000. He said that the extra 10s. a week in pension will not be paid in Che case of any married couples. This is completely untrue. It will be payable to a married age pensioner in a case in which only one pension is coming into the home. If we go through the honorable member’s speech we find that it is just a tissue of inaccuracies. I am quite sure that no one will take it seriously.
This bill is another milestone along the road to social security. When this Government came to power in 1949 the social service legislation was a maze of inconsistencies and inequalities, and pensions and other allowances were totally inadequate. The Labour Government, after eight years of office, went out in 1949, and in that year the total amount that the Labour Government was able to pay in social service benefits was £74,000,000. This year the Menzies Government will be paying £314,000,000. What hypocrisy it is for members of the Opposition, with such a miserable record :n the field of social services, to come here and criticize the outstanding achievements of this Government.
What was the position in 1949? There was no Aged Persons Homes Act then. Labour did nothing at all to house aged people. There was no children’s allowance for aged and invalid pensioners. There was no supplementary assistance for those most in need. There was no pensioner medical scheme. The situation under the Labour Government was one of injustices and inequities, with pensions totally inadequate. Since this Government has been in office, 18,000 homes have been provided for aged persons in need, and the Government has contributed £18,000,000 towards the cost of those homes. Under the Labour Government a migrant was not eligible for an age pension until he had been here twenty years. He is now eligible after he has been here ten years. Aborigines were not entitled to pensions under the Labour Government: now they are entitled to them. When Labour was in power the cruellest of cruel penalties were imposed on thrift. If a man had saved £750 he was not entitled to a pension at all. Now the ceiling has been raised, and under the existing formula if he has no other income he can have up to £4,750 in assets before he loses his pension entirely. A married couple can have £9,500 between them before they entirely lose their pensions.
Let us have a look at the income means test. Under Labour, if a person had an income of £3 12s. 6d. a week he was not entitled to any pension at all. Now he can have an income of £8 15s. before his pension entirely cuts out. If he is single, or if there is only one pension coming into the home, he can have up to £9 5s. a week in income. This Government has completely removed the penalty on thrift. There is no advantage now in a person getting rid of his property and his assets so as to be able to claim a pension. By a carefully worked out formula introduced by this Government, known as the merged means test, assets and income are merged together so as to give the thrifty person the benefit of his thrift. To-day a single person who has been thrifty can have in pension plus other income £3 10s. a week more than the person who has not saved. A married couple can have £7 a week more than the couple who have not been thrifty, and if they have assets that fact is taken into account under the formula.
The very great reforms under this bill may be divided into three main categories. The first category includes civilian widows. The civilian widow has had a complete break-through and has now come from the subsistence level on which she was formerly placed, to a level on which she finds herself able to live in a reasonable fashion. The great improvements for the civilian widow are these: If she has a child, she will receive, for the first time, a mother’s allowance of £2 a week. In addition to that, she will, for the first time, receive 15s. a week for her first child. She will also receive 5s. a week increase in pension, a total increase of £3 a week. The anomaly that existed in the past, the removal of which a number of us have been urging for some time, is now eliminated. I would like to express my appreciation to the Government and to the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton) for carrying into effect this great reform.
I will now give a comparison to support my statement that the pensions paid under the Labour Government preceding this Government were totally inadequate and to show how pensions have been improved while the Menzies Government has been in office. Let us first take the age pension. Under Labour in 1949 it was £2 2s. 6d.
– What year was this?
– It was 1949. To-day an age pensioner receives £5 15s. a week. If he qualifies, a single person will also receive the 10s. a week supplementary allowance. Under Labour a married couple received £4 5s. a week. The honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) shed crocodile tears for the married couples of to-day, but while a married couple received £4 5s. a week in 1949 under the Labour Government, to-day they receive £10 10s. a week. You can see how totally inadequate were the pensions paid under the Labour Government.
Let us take the case of the first child of an incapacitated age pensioner or the first child of an invalid pensioner. Labour gave him 9s. a week. Now he will receive 15s. a week. For second and subsequent children Labour paid 5s. a week. Now they will receive 15s. a week. I turn to the allowance for the wife of an invalid or incapacitated age pensioner. All that Labour could pay was £1 4s. a week. Now she receives £3 a week.
Let us now come to the A class widow - that is, a widow with one or more children. Labour for eight years paid a widow with one child £2 7s. 6d. a week. Under this bill a widow with one child will receive £8 10s. a week - nearly four times as much - and she will also receive, where applicable, supplementary assistance. B and C class widows - widows with no children under the age of sixteen years - were paid by Labour the generous sum of £1 17s. a week. They will receive from this Government £5 2s. 6d. a week. A C class pension is a pension payable for a specified period. Under Labour this pension was £2 2s. 6d. a week. Under this bill it will be £5 2s. 6d. a week.
We now come to unemployment and sickness benefits for adults and married minors. Labour paid £1 5s. a week to this category of beneficiaries. This Government gives them £4 2s. 6d. a week. Labour paid the wives of such beneficiaries £1 a week. Under this Government they are paid £3 a week. Under Labour their children were paid 5s. a week. Under this Government they are paid 15s. a week. Honorable members can see what utter hypocrites are the Labour Party members. They criticize this magnificent bill which removes a great many of the anomalies which have existed and raises the general standard of living of age, invalid and widow pensioners.
I am afraid that the honorable member for Grayndler, the new boy in the Labour Executive, has blotted his copybook tonight. On 28th August, 1963, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) moved the following amendment in this House -
While approving of such benefits as are contained in the Budget, and particularly those for primary producers and social service beneficiaries - -
Note the word “particularly”. In other words, on 28th August the Leader of the Labour Party approved of what is being done in this bill. The honorable member for Grayndler voted for that proposition but to-night he condemns the bill up hill and down dale and moves an amendment which would have the effect of defeating the proposals in the bill. [Quorum formed.]
I will now deal with the 10s. a week additional age and invalid pension which is provided where there is only one pension coming into the home. It will be payable to widows and widowers, to married persons where only one of them is a pensioner, and to single persons. The basis of the payment of the 10s. a week is the need of a person who has only one pension coming into the home. Many of us have been troubled for some time by cases where one spouse has died. If one spouse dies the total pension income of £10 10s. a week immediately falls to £5 5s. a week, notwithstanding the fact that the expenditure on rates, repairs, gas, electricity and other fixed commitments is still the same. No one will deny that certain fixed payments have to come out of the income before we can say what is left for food and clothing. That is the problem that the Government has tackled in this measure, Sir, by providing this new special pension of 10s. a week for all those, whether widowed or single. It also covers a married couple who have only one pension coming into the home.
I am amazed to find that the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) and the honorable member for Grayndler oppose such a just and equitable proposition. They will find themselves completely out of step with the Australian public. Already there have been read in this house letters from pensioners’ associations strongly supporting the proposal. Let us see what the general public think about it. In June, 1963, a gallup poll was taken on the question -
Do you think alt pensioners should get the same pension, or should those living alone get more than each husband and wife living together?
A gallup poll on a similar question was taken in 1957. At that time, 69 per cent, of those who took part in the gallup poll said that those who are described as single pensioners should receive more than the others, only 26 per cent, supported the view now taken by the honorable member for Grayndler, who believes that all should receive the same, and 5 per cent, were undecided. At the gallup poll taken in June last. 67 per cent, of the participants said that the single pensioner should get more, 29 per cent, that all should receive the same and 4 per cent, were undecided. I prefer to be on the side of the 67 per cent, who say that the Government has done the right thing, and not on the side of the honorable member for Eden-Monaro and the honorable member for Grayndler, who say that if Labour ever returns to office - heaven forbid that it will - the 10s. a week extra will be taken from those who have only one pension coming into the home. I think that we should heartily congratulate the Government on breaking new ground and meeting the needs of those who depend on one pension only.
I want to discuss one or two of the other ways in which this Government has given relief to pensioners. It is not always remembered that when Labour was in office, thrifty people were penalized twice by the means test. They were penalized, first, if they had savings or capital, and they were penalized again if they received income earned by the capital. This Government removed the double penalty by entirely exempting from the means test income from assets. Thus, capital or assets are taken into account only once under the merged means test formula - on the assumed income component of the asset.
Let us consider how cruelly the Australian Labour Party, when in office, treated those in receipt of war pensions. It said: “ You may not receive two pensions. You may not receive a war pension and an age or service pension as well.” The Labour Government imposed a ceiling on the total amount that could be received. The present Government regards a war pension purely as income and imposes no ceiling on the total of the two pensions. When we consider the social services legislation as it was when Labour was in office, we can see what remarkable progress towards social security has been made by this Government. The Labour Party even put a means test on the blind. Fancy! That means test was abolished by this Government.
T believe that Australia to-day has one of the finest systems of social security in the world, but our system of social security was in a chaotic state when the Menzies Government took office. Year by year, pensions and allowances have been improved and anomalies and injustices have been removed. This year, in particular, a great many anomalies are being removed. For example, the allowances paid in respect of the children of all classes of pensioners are to be brought into line. Formerly, various amounts were paid in respect of the children of different classes of pensioners, but now a uniform amount of 15s. a week is to be paid. This Government has removed numerous anomalies and the pensions system has become a unified system. I believe that we are now very close to the stage at which we shall be able to say that we have a perfect system of social security. We are always on the watch for inequities and anomalies, of course.
I appreciate the assistance that I received from my colleagues in studying various anomalies, and I particularly appreciate the Government’s action in implementing the recommendations that my colleagues and I made. T congratulate the Government on this bill. I believe that it represents a milestone on the road to social security and that this Government should be congratulated on its splendid record in the field of social services.
– Mr. Deputy Speaker, I hoped that I would be able to confine my remarks to the bill and my opinion of it. But I cannot let remarks just made by the honorable member for Sturt (Mr. Wilson) go without reply. First, the honorable member boasted about what this Government has done in raising pensions. At the same time. Government supporters contend that over the past three years costs have been practically static. I am sure that no honorable member opposite will contest that. If costs have been static, the Government has been guilty for the last three years of neglecting to give pensioners increases that the honorable member for Sturt now says they are justly entitled to. The honorable member had the audacity to compare pensions and allowances paid by the present Government with the rates paid in 1949 by the Labour Gove. .ment. He neglected to say that in 1949 the cost of living was less than half what it is to-day.
I was amazed, also, at the honorable member’s claim that this Government has been wonderfully thoughtful of widows. He made much of what the Government has done for them. Only four or five years ago, in this House, I said that I considered that the class A widow was treated dreadfully and that her position was the worst of all under the social services legislation. I am glad that the position of widows is to be improved. I have here a paper prepared by the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton) giving details of when the various social service benefits were introduced. While the honorable member for Sturt was speaking about what this Government had done for the class A widow and condemning the Labour Party for not having increased the benefits payable to this category of pensioner my thoughts went back 40 years to a political meeting that I attended in a country town at which a Liberal Party supporter was alleging that the socialist government was giving away money in age pensions and wanted to waste more money on pensions for widows and orphans.
M- Curtin.- Who said that?
– A speaker for the Liberal Party. I was only a lad at the time. I interjected and asked, “What do you mean when you suggest that the Government would waste the money? “
– There was no such party then.
– If the honorable member for La Trobe will keep quiet he will get his turn later. The Liberal supporter said that the Labour Party wanted to waste more money on pensions for widows and orphans. I said, “Did you say that the Labour Party wanted to waste money on pensions for widows and orphans? “ He said. “ Yes “. That upset him so much that he could not finish his speech.
The Labour Party was turned out of office during the First World War and the Liberal Party was in office until about 1928. Did the Liberal government of that time do anything for widows. Pensions were first granted to widows on 30th June, 1942. Nothing was done for widows until the Labour Party took office in 1942. The honorable member for Sturt boasted that this Government inaugurated the provision whereby income derived from property would not be calculated as income for the purpose of the income means test. He said that the Government devised a table showing how effect would be given to this provision. All honorable members on this side of the House know that I personally drew up such a table and sent it to the department in an endeavour to show just how much it would cost to give effect to this concession. The Minister for Social Services wrote to me and said that this was not a matter for the Director-General of Social Services but was a matter for the Minister himself to deal with. He said that the figures that I had used were hypothetical. The Labour Party was working on this provision as part of its policy for the forthcoming elections. The Government was aware of this. In working out what a pensioner would get by way of income from property I had used the figure of 5 per cent, as being the likely rate of return. When the- Minister made his statement about the introduction of this concession we found that the Minister also had used the figure of 5 per cent. I am glad that he used that figure. I am glad for the people who have received the benefit of this concession, but the Government cannot claim full credit for instituting it because the statement that I prepared on the matter is almost identical in terms with the statement subsequently issued by the Government. I had attempted to introduce the provision back in 1948 when the Chifley Government was in power, but the government at that time would not accede to my requests. At that time not even a Labour government would introduce this provision. A couple of years ago, after the Treasurer had made a speech, a Minister came up to me smiling and said, “ I bet you are pleased “. I said, “ I have been after this provision for a long time “. The Minister said, “ I know you have every year and I told some of my colleagues that Albert Thompson would get what he wanted eventually “. I do not want to claim the credit for this provision, but I do not want the Liberal Party to claim credit for having thought of it. I am pleased that something I suggested has been put onto the statute-book.
I have long pleaded the cause of the class A widow. On one occasion in this House I read a letter from a widow with four children. She was receiving an allowance in respect of the first child only and I claimed that she should get some allowance for the other children. Subsequently a Liberal government granted the allowance for children other than the first. I am glad of that. I am not saying that the allowance was introduced solely as a result of my efforts, but nobody can claim that the Labour Party or its supporters had never thought of granting the allowance to children other than the first.
I want to say something now about the allowance that is paid to dependent wives of invalid pensioners. The honorable member for Sturt said that 35s. was all that the Labour Party would allow to those wives. Four or five years ago I said that the Government was callous in not increasing the allowance beyond 35s. For years the allowance had remained at 35s. but two years ago the Government increased it by 12s. 6d. Now the Government proposes to increase the allowance by a further 12s. 6d., making it £3 a week. I give the Government credit for what it has done for the class A widows. Years ago I said that this type of pensioner was in the worst plight of all pensioners. Two or three years ago I said that the person in the worst plight was the dependent wife of an invalid pensioner and this is still the situation under this bill. I do not know whether the Minister for Social Services has given consideration to the anomalies that exist in this legislation but we find now that the class A widow will get £5 15s. a week pension for herself, £2 a week mother’s allowance and an allowance of 15s. a week for the first child, making a total of £8 10s. a week - an increase of £3 a week. That is not too much. I would like to see these people get more.
What has the Government done for the invalid pensioner or the age pensioner who cannot work and who has dependent children? Compared with the £8 10s. a week that the class A widow will get for herself and one child, the invalid pensioner will get £5 5s. for himself, £3 for his wife and 15s. for the first child, making a total of £9. The invalid pensioner with a dependent wife and one child will receive 10s. a week more than the class A widow with one child. This is an anomaly that the Government should carefully consider. The invalid pensioners have not received the deal to which they are entitled. Admittedly the allowance for the wives of invalid pensioners has been increased from 35s. a week three years ago to £3 to-day but that is not enough. Make no mistake about it, the pensioner getting the worst deal to-day is the invalid pensioner. Are we not exhorted by the Bible to look after the widows, the orphans and the sick? The invalid pensioner who cannot work and whose wife is forced to care for him must eke out an existence on £9 a week - that is, if he also receives an allowance for one child. This is a matter that can be rectified by the acceptance of the amendment which the Opposition has propose-,! to this bill.
The honorable member for Sturt attempted to twist what the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) said to-night. I congratulate the honorable member for Grayndler on his thoughtful contribution to the debate. The Government will find it very hard to counter his remarks in reply to the Minister’s secondreading speech. The Government will not be able to bowl him over by trying to belittle him. because he has raised important matters.
As to the present pension system, I have argued for years that we in Australia are only following the practice that has been adopted in other countries. Some people believe that the national insurance scheme in England is better than our system while others hold the opposite view. The point is that the United Kingdom Government inaugurated the national insurance scheme and paid substantial benefits to the people long before the Australian Government introduced a similar scheme here. The honorable member for Sturt claimed that Labour, when in office, did nothing in the field of medical benefits whereas this Government set the scheme in motion. What he did not tell us was why this Government set the scheme in motion. What model system did this Government follow? It was certainly not a system established by a Liberal government in England, it was certainly not a system established by a Conservative government in England. It was a system established by a Labour government in England. Labour introduced the system in the United Kingdom and the Australian Government adopted it.
I have mentioned previously that some years ago I was in Hobart during a visit by the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Fisher. After church service on the Sunday night he gave a talk in the huge auditorium, at which many hundreds of persons were present, on the subject of the welfare state. Even now I can almost hear him saying, “No matter what government comes into office, it dare not do away with the welfare state “. He was not a Labour politician, he was the Archbishop of Canterbury. Government supporters may claim that this Government established the scheme, but all it has done is to follow in the footsteps of other countries. Professors and members of church organizations have written books about health, social services, pensions, housing, the means test and so on. Irrespective of the political complexion of the governments in office, they were compelled to establish health and pensions schemes in Australia because the people wanted such schemes.
What is the cause of the troubles in many countries to-day where the Communists are likely to take control? It is not -“y political philosophy. The people in those countries would not know what you were talking about if you tried to explain political philosophies to them, but they would understand what you meant if you said to them: “ Under your present government you are being ground down to the lowest possible level while others are living on the fat of the land. Why don’t you get your share of your country’s wealth? “ Any government which is not prepared to recognize the needs of its people and to work for their welfare is moving from the democratic to the autocratic level, and from there it is only a short step to communism or something else. Make no mistake about that!
Even in our own country if you spoke to the men in the street about Liberal policy and Labour policy I guarantee that nine out of ten would not know what you were talking about. All they know is that Labour stands for better wages, higher pensions and security of health, home and living standards. They do not realize that those are the basic aspects of economics. If you told them that they would wonder what you were talking about. Only to-day one of my colleagues told me that recently he had been approached by a constituent who had asked, “Why isn’t Labour talking about pensions and helping us? “ My colleague said that he had told his visitor that we were talking about the economic aspects of the Budget and that the whole question of benefits was governed by that. The average man does not realize that these things are governed by economics but we do. We realize that you cannot increase expenditure on pensions from £80,000,000 or £100,000,000 to £400,000,000 unless you obtain the additional £300,000,000 from some source. During a speech on an earlier occasion an honorable member opposite interjected and asked me, “Where would you get the money to do the things you have suggested? Would you increase taxes? “ I relied, “ Yes, I would increase taxes “. I make no bones about that.
The Government is taking the credit for the present level of social services. Is the man who has a good income - a member of Parliament, for instance, or a man on a similar income - any worse off to-day when pensions are £5 5s. a week than he was in 1949 when pensions were £2 2s. 6d. a week? No. He is immeasurably better off even though he is paying a little more in taxes. But he can afford to pay more. It is nice to say, when we complete our income tax return, “ I can write 5 per cent, off that tax “. It would be far better if that 5 per cent, were paid and the money used to provide the benefits to which we claim the people are entitled .
I was very pleased to learn that the class A widows will receive an increase in pensions because I realize that they need it. I congratulate the Government for its action, but I claim that the Government has not recognized the needs of other sections of the community. The Government has decided to pay a single pensioner 10s. a week more than it pays a married pensioner because it claims that the single pensioner needs the additional benefit. I do not deal in theories. When that increase was announced I began to think of all the pensioners that I know. You cannot compare the homes of any two pensioner married couples and claim that one couple is as well off as the other. One couple may have been fortunate during life. They may have had good health, the husband may never have been out of a job, they may have been able to buy their home while the husband was working and they may even have a car. But the couple next door, equally good as individuals, may not have been so fortunate. The husband may have lost time from work and the wife may have been frequently in hospital so that every few pounds that they managed to save was eaten up in medical expenses. When they eventually receive a pension they may have to meet additional expenses such as increased rent. You cannot compare those two married couples and state firmly what would be a reasonable and fair amount to give them.
The same applies to single persons. I think of the many single persons whom I know. Undoubtedly the person in the community who is in the worst position is the unmarried pensioner who has no relatives and has only a pension, out of which he must pay the rent for a room somewhere and exist on the balance. The honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Minogue) can tell you about them. Soma pay even as much as £2 10s. a week rent for a room. I think also of the widow who is left on her own after dad has died. One of her daughters says to her: “ We have an extra room in our home; you can come and live with us. So that you will not feel dependent on us, you can pay us £1 a week for the tucker that you eat.” You cannot compare that single pensioner with the other one that I mentioned who has to pay £2 10s. a week rent for a room and exist on the balance of the pension. It is not fair and reasonable to assume that every single pensioner needs 10s. a week more than does a married pensioner.
I do not think the honorable member for Sturt really meant it when he said that the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) and the honorable member for Grayndler stated that if Labour came to office it would take back the 10s. a week from the single pensioner. We have never said that we would do that. We believe that they need that 10s., but we do claim that if the single pensioner needs that 10s. so do the married pensioners.
In England pensions are paid by a special pension authority which also has a discretionary power to pay additional amounts in certain circumstances. Those additional amounts come out of a special fund provided by the Government not from contributions to the national welfare fund. If a woman is sick and needs blankets or someone to do her ironing but has not any money, assistance can be granted to her out of that fund. The pension authorities do not do that. A special authority grants national assistance. The honorable member for Grayndler pointed out that we would establish a national assistance fund and assist people in that way.
Much has been said about married people and single people in relation to the 10s. increase granted to single pensioners. I refer again to people in aged persons’ homes. When the 10s. a week supplementary assistance was introduced, people who were paying a certain amount for the rooms in which they slept received the 10s. I happened to be at an aged persons home in Adelaide when a lady received a notice from the relevant department. I said to her: “ What is the matter? Is something wrong? “ She said, “ I have just received this notice telling me that I am not entitled to the 10s. a week “. Among the 30-odd people in that home there were a husband and wife. Because they were husband and wife they were not entitled to the 10s. a week. I point out these anomalies to the Minister. I am not condemning him in relation to them. I am merely putting to the House the anomalies that are created when the Government says to a single person, “ If you are paying rent and ‘you have an income of 10s. a week, you are entitled to the 10s. a week increase “; but says to a married couple, “ Although you are living in a room in a home and are in exactly the same position as a single pensioner, you are not entitled to the 10s. a week increase “. That is why we of the Labour Party believe in paying adequate pensions and that people who have special needs should have those needs met. I have emphasized that all invalid pensioners cannot be considered together.
My time has almost expired, but 1 should like to tell the Minister for Social Services that I am very pleased to note that the Government has decided to pay 15s. a week in respect of each child, instead of 5s. for some children, 10s. for others and 15s. for others. A flat rate of 15s. a week should be paid in respect of all children who are entitled to this benefit. The Government has done a good job in making it a fiat rate. We members of the Opposition have another little grouch. It has been mentioned by the honorable member for Grayndler. We claim that families are the backbone of the country. A Labour government paid child endowment at the rate of 10s. a week for children other than the first child when the cost of living was only one-third of what it is now. To-day the Government says to families, “ We will give you no more than you received before “.
People who talk about abolishing the means test should remember that the person who receives the benefit of the means test is the one who has an income of a few pounds a week or a little money in the bank. The more money pensioners have in the bank, the better off they are, provided the amount does not exceed £4,040 for the husband and wife between them. They are entitled to the full pension of £17 10s. a week provided the amount is not in excess of £4,040. If they invest their savings in shares and are lucky enough to receive 10 per cent, on the £4,040, they can keep those dividends, too. The
Government is helping such people. I am not complaining about that. I am complaining that the Government will do things for those people, but at the same time it will not do anything for the people at the bottom of the scale.
I happen to have a big family and they all have children. So I know what the position is to-day. One of my boys has two sons going to high school. Last year one of them was clever enough to receive a scholarship worth about £25. His father put in his income tax return recently, and when he received his refund he said, “ Look, the Taxation Branch has offset that £25 against my deductions “. He is a family man. Family men cannot afford to buy television sets. They are right down at the bottom of the scale. I admit that the Government is attempting to solve the problem by taxation measures.
Let us consider what the Government is doing in respect of other people in the field of taxation. The honorable member for Grayndler talked about allowing an invalid pensioner so much for his boy to go to a university or high school. He referred facetiously to a boy going to a university on 10s. a week. That cannot be done. We know that. A person on £5,000 a year is in an advantageous position. The Taxation Branch docs not take any amounts off his deductions. Each deduction of £1 is worth about 10s. to him. As the old saying goes, “ To him that hath shall be given; but from him that hath not shall be taken away even what he hath “. That is a true saying. I admit that the Government cannot remedy every defect. I admit that one cannot judge a case of apples by one bad one on the top.
– Judge not that ye bc not judged.
– I always try to keep that in mind. I hope the honorable member for Mallee does. I am afraid that I will be judged pretty harshly on some things I do. I am a long way from being a pure man. But let us pass from that.
– A long way?
– Yes, I am more than six feet from it. I believe that in these matters an attempt is being made to help people. 1 have been emphasizing these points in order to show why we of the Labour Party believe that national assistance should be given to people with special needs. Someone might ask, “ How will you deal with every case? “ We have about 11,000,000 people in Australia. I think Great Britain has between 40,000,000 and 50,000,000 people. If that country with that population, can give national assistance to people with special needs, I believe that the people in control of our social services would be able to evolve a method of doing that in this country. I believe that we are on the right track. Years ago I said that, whatever government is in office, it has to face up to the fact that it cannot continue to pay a flat rate of pension and meet the needs of the poorest people while paying the flat rate to wealthy people, too. The time will come when we will have to make social service payments in accordance with the needs of people.
– What about chi.’d endowment?
– I have just told you the position in respect of my own children’s families. They receive the same amounts as they received when their costs were about one-third of what they are to-day.
– What about the means test?
– There is no means test on child endowment. I do not know whether the honorable member believes in paying child endowment to the rich man who does not need it. Some people say that the Government pays child endowment to everybody and that many people who receive child endowment do not need it. I can see the difficulty there. However, if it was right to do that when the value of money was about one-third of what it is to-day, I can see no reason for not increasing child endowment now. If the Government decided to do that the people would not growl about it. I say to the honorable member for Sturt that a gallup poll would show that the great bulk of people would say, ‘ Give the children something more “.
.- To the motion for the second reading of this Social Services Bill, the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly), in my opinion, has moved a typical Labour Party amendment. It is rambling; it is all over the place; and it is badly worded. In particular, I direct the attention of the House to the fact that, as usual, there is no estimate of the cost te revenue included in the amendment. The honorable member for Grayndler said some amazing things. Of course, in this House we are accustomed to hearing amazing statements without any foundation from the honorable member. Later in my speech I hope to deal with his reference to the Liberal Party and the Country Party dividing pensioner organizations. That reference was abusive. We will have to deal with it a little later.
The honorable member for Grayndler did not give the cost of social services in the countries which he claimed provided superior benefits. It is so easy to say that Denmark provides a few rather attractive benefits. He mentioned West Germany, but he did not indicate the cost to revenue of the implementation of the benefits provided in that country. It is interesting to note that the cost to the taxpayer of this excellent scheme which operates in West Germany to-day is quite substantial. It is so easy for us all to think of increased benefits and allowances and amendments that we would like to recommend to adjust anomalies or to improve the lot of these unfortunate people, but the cost to revenue, to the economy of the country, of such concessions must be taken into account year by year.
The honorable member for Grayndler allowed his words to run too fast during the course of his speech. (Quorum formed.) The honorable member said quite definitely in his speech that the Labour Party would simply cancel out this increase of 10s. for the single pensioner and divert it to the married couples. His colleague the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean) tried to protect him, but his statement was definitely heard and it has been recorded as a statement of policy. The honorable member for Port Adelaide (Mr. Thompson) has never been generous towards the honorable member for Sturt (Mr. Wilson) who comes from his own State. I bow to the honorable member’s age and long service to the Parliament, but I do wish he would be a little more generous to the honorable member for Sturt in these debates on social services. Again and again he claims for himself responsibility for improvements which I do not believe he can substantiate. He expressed amazement at some of the things that were said by the honorable member for Sturt. He seemed to overlook the fact that governments that take action to implement amendments, and to introduce innovations are governments that are worthy of praise. That is all we claim.
Let me add to the amazement of the honorable member for Port Adelaide by reminding the House that in its fourteen years of office the Menzies Government has established an unchallengable record in the field of social services. Homes for the aged, increases in the base rate pension, the extension of permissible income, supplementary assistance, the merged means test only a few years ago. and the reduction in the residential qualifications are about a few of the innovations and amendments that were introduced by this Government. In this bill we find proposals for increased widow’s pensions and increased benefit for the single pensioner. Later, we shall have legislation introduced by the Minister for Social Services relating to hostels for the disabled. I suggest that this is a rather formidable record, and it reminds me that the Minister who has introduced this bill is a privileged Minister indeed. He deserves some praise for having been associated with the introduction of this bill, for having won his way through the Cabinet with his recommendations.
In a book dealing with old age and its problems, the authoress inserted a message for her grandchildren. These were the words she used -
As you are now - so once were we; As we are now - so shall you be.
That is a helpful reminder to me, and, I suggest, to every honorable member in the House that in this life not one of us is necessarily exempt from the advance to old age and closer association with the problems in the social services field which are encountered by so many people. We ought to reflect on that.
In his second-reading speech, the Minister for Social Services pointed out that the charges on the National Welfare Fund in
Australia have risen from £81,000,000 in 1949 to the amazing figure of £411,000,000 in the current financial year. These figures remind me again of the transformation to which the Minister made reference, the transformation which has taken place during that period in the care of the aged and the underprivileged in the community throughout the whole of the world. I suggest that in this country to-day the taxpayers expect to pay for these improved social service benefits through their contributions. I find invariably that when pensions and allowances are increased the taxpayer does not grumble because these increases are part of the pattern of our life to-day. We must care for those who are under-privileged, and the cost of their care is part of the annual budget of our nation. Public authorities and private individuals are now more aware of the need for special accommodation and services for elderly people and are more anxious to provide them. How do we explain such a rapid change of opinion? There must be some grave reasons for it, and I put on record the factors that I think have had a great influence on this change. First, there is the increase in the number of old people in proportion to the rest of the population. Secondly, there is the change in family relations which is due in part, of course, to the increasing number of young people who go out to work. A further factor is the change that has taken place in housing conditions. Another is the ever-growing opportunity for enjoyment and adventure which has weakened home and family tics. Still another is the increasing number of infirm old people due to medical knowledge having kept alive many persons who, but for improved medical care would have died. The financial position of the old people has greatly improved. I know that honorable members opposite will say that I am callous in saying that but, upon analysis that is proved to be so, and we note the fact with great pleasure. The last factor which has brought about a change of attitude towards the aged is the potential political power of this advancing elderly group of people. If governments do place too great a political significance on the increasing aged group that is a practice that is to be deplored. I suggest that we all should be prepared to extend care, encouragement and sympathy to the aged without fear or favour. The separation of social service legislation from the normal budgetary planning of governments is an ideal much to be desired, but in a community in which the aged population is increasing we cannot ignore the financial implications of the problem of maintaining the aged population, and the extension of the welfare state, as we see it to-day. I deplore the tendency of so many people throughout the nation to say. “ Leave this to the Government “. Such an attitude dries up the natural desire to be philanthropic. We have to take care that not every responsibility is thrust upon the Government.
J direct attention to the fact that in the United Kingdom a royal commission on population published many figures which established, among other things, that some 100 years ago there were 1.000,000 people 65 years of age in the United Kingdom - or 5 per cent, of the population - and that for every old person, there were thirteen of working age. In 1953, there were 5,250,000 old people, and for each of them there were only six persons of working age. It is estimated that in 1978 there will be approximately 8,250,000 people over 65 years of age in the United Kingdom and that for each one of them there will be only four people of working age. That is a fairly clear and positive example of the problem with which our social service system must grapple.
The current Budget to which the bill under discussion is related provided for a number of improvements relating to social service benefits which are of far-reaching importance and of great significance to certain groups. These improvements are far in excess of anything previously provided in their interests. In saying that, let me make clear that that does not mean that every one will heap praise on this Government. Our opponents, of course, use every trick in the political trade to decry the innovations, the increases and the amendments that we propose.
I will deal with several of the decisions now proposed for incorporation in our legislation. But first let me say that over the years my colleagues of the Government parties have been subjected to pressure tactics at times from the very people we are trying to assist. I refer to pensioner organizations, to which the honorable member for Grayndler also made a reference. During the last few days 1 learned with interest that one of my Western Australian colleagues acknowledged a letter from one on these organizations and received in reply a beautiful letter. I thought, in view of our experiences over the years with some of these groups and after some of the unjustified press comment and the misrepesentations of the honorable members for EdenMonaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) and Grayndler, that I should read portion of this letter. It comes from the National Pensioners Society, a foremost organization campaigning for the social and economic welfare of aged and invalid and widow pensioners. It is dated 9th September and is addressed to one of my colleagues in the Senate. It reads -
We are deeply appreciative that you have written to us regarding our pamphlet . . . and that our views represent yours. For some considerable time, we have been worrying your Government and therefore wc take some credit for the differential rate.
You may use what you like from that pamphlet. . . .
We have tried at all times to bring about a sane conclusion to the Pension problems, but we have been hampered in many instances by the political control by the Communist Party ot many groups of pensioners, those you have seen making their political jaunt to Canberra to embarrass your Government.
I personally have been going backwards and forwards to Canberra for at least twelve years, though the reforms sought have not been coming in as quickly as I would like them to. We have, nevertheless enjoyed a courtesy from your Government which we could never obtain through the Labour Party.
Your Leaders . . . have always treated m with the greatest consideration and we would not like to see a change in the Government.
Thank you very much for your interest and we can assure you that leaders of Pensioners Organizations, even if they cannot come out in the open, realize the benefits of this new innovation.
– How was that signed, “ Yours most gratefully “?
– For the information of the honorable member, it was signed “ Yours sincerely “.
The substantial increase in allowances to widows is deserving of my first specific reference. Here I should pay tribute, I believe, to people outside the Government who have expressed their minds clearly and positively. We have appreciated their doing so. I refer to the Australian Council of Social Services. I want to pay tribute - a genuine tribute - to the Federal Women’s Council of the Liberal Party, for its report was a very helpful one. Like my chairman of the Government members social services committee, I pay a tribute to the work and the enthusiams of those who have served with us on the committee throughout the life of this Parliament. Then there is a lady in New South Wales, Miss Jean Aitken-Swan, whose survey “ Widows in Australia “ I suggest to the House is becoming virtually a text book for establishing recommendations to the Government in the interests of widows.
The Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton) in his speech explained succinctly the increases for widows. He rightly spoke of the Government breaking new ground and providing a most spectacular increase. At this stage, I do not really need to give much detail, but just let me say for the benefit of those who may be hearing my voice that widows will receive the new standard rate of £5 15s. as a single pensioner, but in addition widows with children - that is class A widows - will receive the mother’s allowance, which truly does break new ground, of £2 a week. Then, for the first time they will receive an allowance for the eldest child of 15s. a week. This means that all such widows with one child will receive a lift of £3 a week, which is an increase, as the Minister said, of over 50 per cent. In addition, 15s. a week for each additional child, including student children, will be added to this new total of £8 10s.
I think it is interesting to note the lift of the ceiling which operates under the merged means test. The A class widow with no special income does not forfeit all her pension in future until her property exceeds £6,850. This is a lift of £1,170 above the previous ceiling. As support for these increases to widows, I should like to refer briefly to Miss Aitken-Swan’s survey. I will mention a couple of very important points which show the justice of what the Government has done. In her conclusions, Miss Aitken-Swan said -
Social workers have long been convinced that the level decided for widows wilh dependent children is too low, and they have been appalled by some cases of distress and poverty among widows with which they have had to deal.
She also said -
It is a striking finding of the survey that 29 per cent, of all civilian widow pensioners had incomes so low that there was less than 10/- per head per week for every item of expenditure except rent and a low-cost diet.
Her conclusions include the following statement -
The widow who supports her family by working full-time rather than living on the civilian widows’ pension is the epitome of self-help, but she only does so at some cost to herself and her children.
She said further -
One way to help families in these circumstances would be by means of a special allowance linked to the function of child-caring at home.
Another of her conclusions was -
Civilian widow pensioners are at present allowed to earn £3/10/- per week for themselves and 10/- for each dependent child, while still remaining eligible for the full pension. Of all pension regulations this concerning the limitation of earnings causes the most ill-feeling and misunderstanding among widows. It is seen as an attempt to hold them back from helping themselves.
The Government, having taken into account evidence of this kind, chose to provide additional cash for the widow rather than encourage her to leave her children and go out to work to supplement her pension. I believe that this will be hailed across the country as one of the finest humanitarian acts of any government in the history of the Commonwealth.
The other major decision in my opinion is the new standard rate for single pensioners, which is an increase of 10s. a week for the single pensioner and for the married couple where only one of the partners is eligible for a pension. I believe that this gesture will be appreciated in those instances where the married couple is disturbed by a bereavement. The remaining partner will not necessarily be cut to the bare 50 per Cert. of the pension income, as has happened previously. This is just a gesture, but it will be greatly appreciated.
My colleague, the honorable member for Sturt - I am sure the House noted the forcefulness of his point - dealt with the criticism and the shocking statements of the honorable member for EdenMonaro, who fortunately is missing this debate. He cannot hear what we are saying; he is enjoying an overseas trip.
– That is why you are saying this.
– I am not afraid to say it. I usually have him sitting where you sit.
Time does not permit me to go into great detail in regard to the single pensioner. My colleague the honorable member for Sturt dealt with it in his speech on the Repatriation Bill and has covered it very adequately again to-night. Let me remind the House that this increase will be of direct benefit to 454,000 pensioners, to whom we must add the widows, who lift the figure to 516,000. The merged means test, to which I have already made quick reference, now affects the ceiling for the single pensioner. The ceiling for the single pensioner now rises to £5,010 in property - or income if it exists - before the pension disappears.
In our consideration of the problem of the single pensioner we express the view that the present age pension for a married couple is generous in comparison with similar pensions paid by many other countries and when the permissible income for married couples is taken into consideration the pension and the permissible income place married pensioners in an economic position far higher than that of many young couples with or without families. This is why the permissible income simply cannot be forced much higher. While it is possible for a single age pensioner who is receiving superannuation to supplement his pension by part-time work to the extent of £3 10s. a week to maintain himself on a minimum standard, one would hesitate to say that a single person, widow or widower, could pay rent and board out of £5 15s. a week, or rates, taxes, insurance and repairs out of £5 5s. a week and still have enough left for food, clothing and other necessary expenses.
The proof positive of this point about the 10s. increase for the single pensioner is the clear presentation by my friend and colleague the honorable member for Sturt who brought to our notice the mind of the public on this matter, as expressed through gallup polls. The figures are fantastically high, in contrast with the minority opinion expressed to-night by honorable members opposite. Here we have a social services bill which,
I think, is the fourteenth brought down by the Menzies Government - the Menzies Government, with its unchallengeable record in the field of social services.
The Minister has rightly claimed praise for the Government for what has been done. After all it is the Government which has to grapple with the Budget, which demands more and more as this young country of ours develops, and it is a fantastic record of development. If is a very fine achievement indeed to move up from the previous figure to £411,000,000 for the National Welfare Fund in one financial year. Let me remind the House that that figure does not include the £18,000,000 which will be absorbed in homes for the aged, which is a social service of outstanding magnitude. As a member of the Government I say we have no need to apologize for our social services record.
The magnificent letter which I read - this letter from a pensioners’ organization - pays tribute to this Government which has shown a humanitarian attitude, which has engaged in research in the interests of the under-privileged of the community and which has instituted the outstanding homesfortheaged proposition and which, in a few weeks time, will bring into this House new legislation dealing with hostels for the disabled. This is a record of which we are naturally proud. We do not need to apologize for it.
I feel that I have adequately dealt with the honorable member for Eden-Monaro with his shocking statements and his reference to the damage done to the married state by the granting of the allowance for the single pensioner. How foolish can he be, and how unfair is the press to take up what he says and blazon it across the country?
To-night we have heard the honorable member for Grayndler lead in this debate for the Opposition. [Quorum formed.]
When I am interrupted in debate like this I always feel that what I am saying is really needling the Opposition. I am positive that that is what has happened to-night. Honorable members opposite only defeat their own objectives by directing attention to the state of the House, because this is evidence to the general public that we can stand on our record, that we have nothing to hide and that when we refer to the quality of our record the Opposition naturally objects.
Let me come back to the honorable member for Grayndler, to whom I was directing my remarks. His colleagues, naturally, have praised him for his maiden speech on this subject from the front Opposition bench, but let us remember that this is the honorable member who is always irresponsible in his statements. It is so easy for an honorable member who leads in a debate for the Opposition to decry the achievements of the Government, but honorable members opposite cannot take away one whit from our record in social services, which we have outlined to-night. We stand on this record. We can say to the people of Australia “ This Government can be returned again and again, not only for its record in social services but also because of the genuineness of its work in all fields “’. 1 am sure that thinking people throughout Australia will recognize that the charge on the National Welfare Fund, amounting to £411,000,000, the granting of these magnificent new increases, and the amendments are matters which are worthy of their continued support.
Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I have listened with interest to the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Cleaver) because one would expect that a person with his background would be able to put forward something other than the mean type of argument he used. He tried to demean the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly), who put up a wonderful effort tonight on behalf of the Australian Labour Party. But this is typical of honorable members who occupy the Government benches. They are little men - little because they have no breadth of outlook at all. They just do not know what it means to look after the social welfare of the Australian people. I compliment them in so far as they have looked after the widows of Australia. I do not begrudge them praise for that at all, but what have they done about looking after the families of
Australia? What have they done about supplementary assistance to pensioners? What have they done about child endowment, which is most important to Australia? They have done nothing and this Government, which glories in receiving a letter from a pensioners’ association, praising it for the work it has done, has done nothing.
I should like to quote a tetter which we of the Opposition received from the Australian Commonwealth Pensioners Federation. It would be well for the honorable member for Swan to dwell upon what these people say about this magnaminous Government for all its hand-outs to pensioners. This organization says -
The Australian Commonwealth Pensioners Federation views with grave concern the interference by the Federal Government with the base pension rate for civil pensioners, whereby the single and married pensioners are to be divided into two sections. For decades it has been the same rate for all on which the various amendments stand.
The organization goes on to say -
This proposed legislation must be re-framed and justice given to the married pensioner. The basic pension rate for all must be maintained as an integral part of the pension, with supplementary assistance in particular circumstances.
The letter further states -
The Australian Commonwealth Pensioners Association, together with all affiliated bodies in all States, except Western Australia-
Which is the State from which comes the honorable member for Swan - will take action to see that justice is done and that one section of pensioners is not pushed further down the economic scale.
So much for the glory of this Government as extolled in the letter that we have been told was received from a pensioners’ organization. I would venture to say that the letter I have read to the House more properly, adequately and justly describes the plight of pensioners to-day.
This Government knows a little about division. Its own ranks are divided. The Deputy Prime Minister (Mr. McEwen) the other day put a junior Minister, in effect, in his place. That was the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Freeth), who, it will be remembered, wrote a letter to a Western Australian newspaper in which he demanded, in effect, the resignation of the Deputy Prime Minister. Can you imagine such arrogance! Yet the Deputy Prime Minister, when asked about the matter, said he would not buy into the argument and that he would take his own counsel.
As I have said, this Government knows a little about division and divisive tactics, and what has it done? It has done precisely what the honorable member for Grayndler said to-night that it would do. It has divided the pensioners’ organizations by a single political stroke. Let me remind honorable members of what the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) said when he brought down the Budget proposals. In my view politics is a matter of numbers. At least, that is what certain people say. The Government, of course, has a majority of one only in this House. This is what the Treasurer said - lt is estimated by the Department of Social Services that approximately two-thirds of existing pensioners- some 516,000 out of a total of 786,000 pensioners - will be eligible for this new benefit.
The Government knows that it has the numbers on its side, and it attempts to divide pensioners’ organization, and there is no doubt, from what we have heard tonight, that it has succeeded.
I would like to let the people of Australia know what the Government pays its own Ministers by way of allowances, and what it pays members of this Parliament. Some people will tell me that I should not do such a thing, but I believe that the Australian people should have some idea of the allowances paid to members of Parliament. 1 am not saying that these Ministers and members are not worth their allowances, but I simply want to show the view of the Government towards the pensioners of this nation. I do not decry or in any way demean the members of this Parliament, who carry out onerous duties, or the Ministers, who also carry out onerous duties, with Australia-wide responsibilities, but I say that they should, in carrying out those responsibilities, have more regard for the little men of Australia, who are the people who count in the mass. When travelling the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) receives an allowance of £15 a day, senior members of the Cabinet £12 a day and junior members £10 a day. Back-benchers receive an allowance of £4 a day while in Canberra. I give these figures just to let the people of Australia know what regard this Government has for the pensioners. They can compare those allowances with the amounts given to pensioners. I repeat, however, that I believe the allowances received by members of the Parliament are well-merited.
Let me now pay some attention to what the honorable member for Swan said about pensioners. He referred to them as a pressure group. I would not call them by that name. I think that any group that fights for the rights of its members is putting up a good battle. It is quite obvious from the tenor of the honorable member’s remarks that he is cast well and truly in the conservative mould, and that if he had his way he would not give pensioners anything. He would not give families anything.
This Government has done nothing at all to improve the position with regard to child endowment. In 1950 it was provided that parents should received 5s. a week for the first child in a family. This is the amount payable to-day. In 1948 there was an amount of 10s. a week payable for every child other than the first in a family. This remains the amount payable to-day. There has been no increase in the amount payable for the first child for thirteen years, and the payment for the second and subsequent children has not been increased for fifteen years. Yet we hear this Government saying that the family is the keystone of the nation, which, of course, it is. But this Government has no regard for the family, although it says that the family is the basic unit of the nation. It evidently does not want to see an increase in the numbers of new Australians, born of Australian parents, to swell our population of 11,000,000.
What encouragement is there for any married couple to have a family, when they know that there is no adequate child endowment available? They know that over the period I have mentioned, fifteen years in one case and thirteen in the other, the basic wage has more than doubled, and yet child endowment rates have remained the same. So much for this Government, which said in 1949 that it would put value back in the £1.
I represent what I suppose could be called one of the most middle class of Australian
Labour seats. I had the dubious distinction of having a majority of 72 at the last election. It may well be that people who live in my electorate more accurately reflect the feelings of the Australian people and pensioners than those in other electorates. I have received many letters from pensioners. I have one before me which is signed “ Disgusted Pensioner “. The writer has preferred to remain anonymous, because the pensioners in my area have a little bit of pride. It came from Five Dock and it reads as follows: -
I am writing as a protest against the Budget cutting out aged couples from the rise of 10s. per week, it is good for those fortunate enough to receive it, but for the couples who are married it is a great disappointment. Our own case my husband was forced to retire owing to his sight, and is now nearly blind and therefore unable to earn anything, and I am a heart case, and we have to have help in the house. We pay rent and are debarred from the rent sustenance because of being married. I know of several cases where two and three are living together in the same house and they are fortunate enough to receive the increase, where is the difference I would like to know, we all grow old some more fortunate than others, is it a crime to bc legally married and be penalised, I wonder.
– Signed “Disgusted Pensioner “.
– You should not take any notice of letters of that sort.
– I read that one out, and I have received others. I have one from people in the Old Age and Invalid Pensioners’ Association in my area. This letter is signed. It says that they view with disgust the action of the Government in putting down separate rates for single and married pensioners.
Let me also ask what this Government has done in respect of the rates of unemployment benefit. At the present time the number of unemployed is nearly 80,000, and more than 20,000 of these are under the age of 21 years.
– That is disgusting.
– It is most disgusting, but it is even more disgusting when you consider that an unemployed single person 21 years of age must subsist - and it would be barely subsistence - on £4 2s. 6d. a week. What do the unemployed get out of this Budget? Nothing at all, except some mealymouthed phrases from the Treasurer, who, in his Budget speech, said that the gross national product may be taken as a broad measure of activity and output. In 1962-63 it was 8 per cent, greater than in 1961-62. The Treasurer went on to pat his Government on the back.
I come now to the question of supplementary assistance - something to which this Government should have paid attention, too. I quote the Government’s own handbook, which states -
Supplementary assistance is available to single pensioners and to married couples where only one is a pensioner and no wife’s allowance is paid. It is payable only to persons who pay rent and who are considered to depend entirely on their pensions. The eligibility of blind pensioners is determined on the same basis as that of other invalid pensioners.
To-day supplementary assistance is paid at the rate of 10s. a week. Its intention is to give pensioners some measure of assistance in paying their rent. To-night we heard the honorable member for Swan quote from the writings of Mrs. Jean Aitken-Swan, whose work is familiar to all members of this House. Hers is a remarkable work on widows, a documentary work she has put together and which, I say, should have been put together by the Government. We in the Labour Party would like to see the Government undertake such a work. I have here a booklet, “ Social Service “, published by the Council of Social Service of New South Wales. It is the May-June issue for 1963, and in it are given the average rents paid in Sydney. I do not say that they are indicative of the rents in all places in Australia, but they would have some bearing on rents in Melbourne, and possibly in other parts of Australia. For a threebedroom house, the average rent is £10 10s. a week. For two rooms and kitchen, it is £7 a week; and for a double room it is £5 10s. a week. I ask honorable members: Where does the 10s. a week go that this Government so magnanimously gives to the pensioners of Australia?
The funeral benefit has remained unchanged, as the honorable member for Grayndler said, for a number of years. It was introduced by the Curtin Government, as is acknowledged by this Government in its booklet on pensions. On page 25 of the booklet this appears -
A funeral benefit is payable to the person who has paid, or is liable to pay, the cost of the funeral of an age or invalid pensioner or of a claimant who, but for his death, would have been granted an age or invalid pension.
The benefit was. introduced by the Curtin Government in 1943. For the last twenty years it has remained unchanged at £10. The policy of the Labour Party is to increase it to £30. While I am speaking of the Labour Party’s social service policy, it may be helpful if I outlined some aspects of it for the benefit of members of this Parliament and the people of Australia. We say that the supplementary assistance should be 30s. a week. Subject to the economic conditions prevailing at the time of the next general election, we say that child endowment should be 10s. a week for the first child, 17s. 6d. a week for the second child and 20s. a week for each additional child. I have no doubt that the Government will take a mental note of those figures and that in the fullness of time, either at the next election or at the time of the next supplementary budget - which is very likely to be brought down - it will give some increased benefits for families, again filching Labour’s policy.
The maternity allowance was last increased by a Labour Government. Certain concessions were made to aborigines by the present Government. I do not know whether the Government expects to get any votes from the aborigines because of that. Government members know that the Labour Party, mainly through the efforts of the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) got a vote for the aborigines of Australia. I quote again from the Government’s handbook on social services -
In 1943 the Curtin Government abolished the means test for maternity allowances. The rale was increased to £15 where there were no other children under 14 years, £16 where there were one or two other children under 14, and £17 10s. where there were three or more such children.
The present policy of the Labour Party is to provide a payment of £30 for the first child, rising to £35 for the fourth and subsequent children. I hope that the Government again takes a note of that. I hope that the honorable member for Sturt (Mr. Wilson), who is chairman of the Government’s social services committee, will give the Government a lead when next it is framing its Budget proposals. We do not mind giving honorable members opposite a few ideas. We know full well that those on the Government side are as bereft of humanitarian ideas as a frog is of feathers.
I ask the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton) to implement the last proposal put forward by the honorable member for Grayndler. In Australia we need very badly research and inquiry into social welfare, because it is inadequate. We have to put it on a proper basis and therefore we have to know what are the requirements of the Australian people. It is true that the Government has appointed a Committee of Economic Inquiry, which is sitting at present, but the Labour Party recommends that a committee be formed to inquire into all aspects of social services so that social justice may be done to the great bulk of our people.
.- We are discussing a bill to provide assistance for classes of people who have been generously provided for in the past by this Government, with special assistance for those who are now most in need of help. The honorable member for Sturt (Mr. Wilson) and the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Cleaver) have described the contents of the bill fully.
I want to deal first with some of the remarks made by the honorable member for Evans (Mr. Monaghan). He told us that we did not know how to look after the social welfare of the people, but his next sentence was a compliment to the Government for what it has done in this regard. I find it difficult to reconcile the two statements. First, we are accused of not knowing how to look after the social welfare of the people, and then we are told what a good job we have done.
– What about child endowment?
– I will deal with that later. The honorable member suggested that we have not considered the family. But anybody who understands the provisions of this bill knows that that is exactly what this Government has done. It has concentrated on the family. The honorable member went on, parrot-like, to say something that the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) had said and which, no doubt, will be repeated again and again by honorable members opposite as this debate proceeds He suggested that we were attempting to divide the pensioners’ organizations. Whatever may be the opinion of members of the Australian Labour Party about the characters and qualities of pensioners, I am not prepared to accept the contention that those in receipt of social service benefits, including pensioners, are selfish and are not concerned about the needs of their neighbours. I throw that suggestion back in the teeth of the honorable member for Grayndler, the honorable member for Evans and any other Opposition speaker to follow me who makes the same suggestion. I believe that the average pensioner and other persons in receipt of social service benefits have had experience of life that has given them an understanding of the needs of their neighbours and a wish to help them. I am sure that all pensioners are quite prepared to commend the Government for directing its energies and resources into the channels in which needs are greatest. That sort of commendation has already been forthcoming and will continue to be received as a result of the proposals contained in this bill.
The honorable member for Evans talked about putting value back into the £1. I would like to hear repeated a lot more by members of the Labour Party their reference to putting value back into the £1. It enables us on this side of the House to point to the present standard of living of the average Australian compared to the average standard in 1949 under the Labour Government. Let us compare the astronomical total of the people’s deposits in the savings banks wilh savings bank deposits when Labour was in office. We have done more tha-n put value back into the £1. I invite honorable members to compare the contents of the average home to-day with the contents of the average home in 1949 and the years before when Labour was in office. There is absolutely no basis for cam.parison. The average home to-day is a mansion compared to the poverty-stricken places in which people wen- compelled to live, lucking proper equipment and ade.quite furniture. under the Labour Government, at a lime when one could not buy what was needed, even if he had sufficient money. The fact is, of course; that there was not enough money to buy the goods needed, even if they had been available. The more honorable members opposite remind us about our promise to put value back into the £1, the more happy I am. These reminders afford me an opportunity to show how we have put value back into the £1 and raised the standard of living of the people considerably. The rise in the standard of living shows that the value must be there.
I want to correct an impression that I believe may have been created by the honorable member for Grayndler, though perhaps he was not deliberately attempting to convey a wrong impression when he said that single pensioners will receive an increase in pension of 10s. a week but married pensioners will riot, the implications being that no married pensioner will receive the additional 10s. a week. That is not correct, as the honorable member knows. Where a pensioner’s spouse does not receive a pension, a married pensioner will receive the increase as if he were a single pensioner. I notice that the honorable member for Grayndler is nodding his head to indicate that he stands corrected.
I remind the House that this bill will give additional benefits to about 500,000 pensioners. At this point, as an illustration of the way in which the pensioner with a family - the most deserving case - will benefit, I should like to complete the record by mentioning a feature of this bill that was not mentioned by either the honorable member for Sturt or the honorable member for Swan. This is the proposal to extend from sixteen to eighteen years the age limit for the payment of allowances in respect of student children. Indeed, the allowance will be payable in respect of a student child not only up to eighteen years of agc. but to 31st December of the year in which the student child becomes eighteen. That is typical of the way in which t his Government affords relief. This proposal will do much to enable widows to have their children properly trained to earn their living.
Let me turn now to the amendment proposed by the honorable member for
Grayndler. All the proposals embodied in it are unacceptable to me. Paragraph (4.) states -
Australia now lags behind on most comparable countries in its expenditure on social welfare
That is a complete fabrication. The assertion is entirely wrong and completely groundless. For this reason, even if for no other, we will be justified in rejecting the amendment entirely. If will get us nowhere. The honorable member for Evans supported the honorable member for Grayndler in his assertion in paragraph (5.) of the amendment that research and inquiry into social welfare in Australia are inadequate. Knowledge of the requiremnts of social welfare in Australia may be inadequate in the ranks of the Australian Labour Party but knowledge of this subject in the ranks of the Government parties is not inadequate, Sir. We know what is wanted. We know where we are going and we shall provide what is required as and when circumstances permit. We have full knowledge of the requirements already. We do not need an inquiry to tell us what is needed.
Let me show the House what happens sometimes when this Government provides some benefit for pensioners who are most deserving. A report in the “West Australian “ of 3rd September carried a big heading, “ Pensioners Protest at Rent Increase “. Perhaps it is not quite big enough for you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, to see from where you sit. The report stated -
A 10s. a week rent increase - the second increase this year - has brought protests from elderly people occupying houses in Perth owned by the Australian Pensioners’ League (W.A. Division) Inc.
These pensioners protested against an increase in rents imposed by the owners of the homes in which they live. These are virtually their own homes, because these pensioners would be members of the league that owns the dwellings. The report continued -
Properties affected are the 32 old houses owned by the league in the metropolitan area.
The rents, fixed for many years at 25s. a week, were raised last January to 30s. Last month the rents were raised to £2 a week.
The additional 10s. a week that pensioners are being given by this Government is therefore being taken from this group of pensioners by their own league. The report went on -
A letter of protest at the second increase, signed by all tenants of eight houses in Cowle-street, West Perth, has been sent to the league.
The league has replied that there is no possibility of the matter being reconsidered, because of very heavy maintenance and other charges.
An 80-year-old widow said: “ We are all afraid to complain, so please do not give our names. I do not understand what the league means by maintenance.”
She said she had paid £40 for labour to a private contractor for repairs to her home before she moved in. She said the materials used were supplied by the league.
In recent years the league had renewed some window sash cord and supplied a few feet of open picket fence and a gate for the garden.
Another widow said she had nothing but her £5 15s. a week pension. She said: “As league members, our money bought and paid for these places and now the league’s officials want to bring us in line with privately-owned homes.”
Members of the Opposition repeatedly claim that it is they who work for the underprivileged people. I would be interested to know of their reaction to this practice. The article continues -
The General Secretary of the League said he was surprised that tenants were afraid to complain and emphasized that no tenant had ever been evicted from a pensioner’s home.
Some who had complained-
Sec how the contradictions creep in - had been urged to take another person into their homes and share the rent, but they had refused to do so.
This is the organization that is supposed to be looking after the welfare of the people.
– In which State is this happening?
– This is in Western Australia. Under the heading “ Pensioners in Rent Protest” the following article appeared in the “ West Australian “ of Wednesday, 11th September: -
A strong protest against the latest increase in rents for fiats and houses occupied by pensioners and owned by the W.A. Division of the Australian Pensioners’ League was made by delegates at the league’s annual general meeting in the Unity Theatre yesterday.
The increase was described as vicious and unchristian. The meeting loudly applauded delegates who spoke against the increase.
An increase of 10s. a week last month brought protests from the elderly occupants of houses owned by the league in the metropolitan area. It was the second rise this year, and increased dee weekly rental to £2 a week.
– Is there any rent control over there?
– No, but the organization that is sinning is the organization that is supposed to look after these people, lt is shocking to take advantage of people in this way. I would condemn this practice if it was resorted to by a private concern but I would least expect an organization that is pleading the cause of these people to adopt this practice. These pensioners, as members of the league, had contributed for homes but they find that the assistance that is being provided by the Government will go, not to themselves, but to the organization.
I congratulate the Government on its decision to provide subsidies on a £2 for £1 basis to approved voluntary welfare organizations towards the provision of accommodation for disabled persons working in sheltered workshops. I look forward with keen interest to the introduction of the bill providing for this subsidy. This is a step in the right direction. It is something that has been urgently needed and which could satisfy a long-felt want in this country.
I regret that each year the subject of pensions is made a party-political football. In 1951 spoke in this House and made certain suggestions about repatriation pensions. I suggested that repatriation pensions should be divided into two groups - on the one hand an economic pension payable to totally and permanently incapacitated exservicemen who had to rely on the pension for their livelihood and on the other hand a compensatory pension payable in respect of war-caused disabilities which did not interfere to any material extent wilh the earning capacity of the pensioner. Consideration of the economic pension should be removed completely from the political arena. The quantum of the T.P.I, pension should rise or fall in accordance with the cost-of-living index. I suggested that the amount of the compensatory pension should be determined by an independent tribunal and that adjustments to” that pension should be made on the application of the government or of ex-servicemen’s organizations. It is possible that my suggestions will bear fruit. I pray that they will and T take some encouragement that they will from the fact that we now talk of an economic pension and a compensatory pension. The Government has adopted the principle of providing pension relief to the economic group rather than spreading benefits thinly over the whole range of pensioners. I hope that the machinery necessary to give effect to my suggestions will be created.
I would like to see an independent authority established to decide what amount should be paid in social service pensions. I would like to see adopted in Australia the scheme that is used in the United Kingdom. In Australia no one organization is responsible for the welfare of underprivileged persons. Those people depend entirely on charity or on their ability to have their cause pleaded before the government. In the United Kingdom local authorities are responsible for the social security and welfare of the residents of their district. I believe something along those lines should be done in Australia. Nobody in this country should be neglected simply because there is no authoritative voice to speak for him.
The honorable member for Port Adelaide (Mr. Thompson) referred to the system that exists in England. That is an excellent system but England has a contributory insurance scheme. I think we must be prepared to move slowly in this field of social welfare work and adopt the practices of other countries only after we have seen that they are completely sound practices. The United Kingdom reached its present state of development as regards social welfare and social security work after having started it in 1601. It took the United Kingdom 300 years to develop a system that is providing a degree of social security to its people. Under that system local authorities are responsible for seeing that nobody is denied social justice. We in this country must re-shape our attitude towards social welfare work. Certainly the Government has assumed a fair responsibility but I think the perfect system is one which operates along the lines of the English system, under which your financing authority would be the national government and your local charitable and benevolent organizations would be working together as a group intent on seeing that social security and social welfare was dealt with.humanely and not merely from the institutional aspect. I would like to see something like that develop in this country. It must come eventually. Because we need such a system we must remind the people of this country constantly that they owe something to their neighbours and that they cannot and must not be satisfied merely to permit the Government to collect their money and to distribute it among those who happen to know what they are entitled to or who happen to bring their case to the attention of someone who is concerned for their welfare. Having in mind the knowledge and understanding of the Government and of the Department of Social Services, I believe we can go a long way towards pointing out to the people the responsibilities that they should be prepared to accept in this regard.
I pay a tribute to the Minister for the job that he is doing. Of course there are complaints from people who cannot meet the requirements laid down in the act and the regulations, but generally I have found that departmental officers are anxious to assist in every way. Every honorable member no doubt will agree that any case brought to the Minister’s attention is dealt with as speedily and as sympathetically as is possible. Only someone who has an understanding of the circumstances of those who are less fortunately situated than others and can adopt a sympathetic attitude towards those people would be able to administer the department as successfully as he has done and, as has happened during the years that he has held this portfolio, improve progressively and steadily the benefits which are made available.
Finally, let me refer to something which is not covered by the bill but which is extremely important - the splendid work that the Minister has done in relation to the rehabilitation centres. I hope to have an opportunity to refer to this matter in greater detail during the debate of the estimates for the Department of Social Services. I submit it to the House at this stage as an indication of how the Minister has attempted to help the unfortunate people concerned, to award them the highest level of benefits that can be provided and to improve those benefits as time goes on.
I commend the Minister, I support the bill and I reject entirely the proposed amendments, which really are only an expression of opinion of the Labour Party, or at least of one member of the Labour Party.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Webb) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Roberton) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- I wish to mention tonight the need for urgent assistance for farmers in the Hawkesbury valley. They were hit by another disastrous flood the weekend before last. That was the fourth flood this year. Again their crop was destroyed. In this case it was the staple crop of the year - the potato crop - from which they usually derive their main annual income. There was a flood on 15th January, which rose to 15 feet; another on 30th April, which rose to 28 feet; a third on 7th May, which rose to 24 feet, and the latest, on 31st August, rose to 31 feet. As a result of their experiences the farmers in the area - a very beautiful and fertile valley which produces most of the vegetables for the Sydney metropolitan area - feel completely hopeless and desperate.
On Tuesday night last the Windsor Municipal Council met and carried a resolution requesting this Parliament to give special consideration to the plight of the farmers in the Hawkesbury valley. I remind honorable members that the farmers in the area have been hit by four disastrous floods in one year, which have destroyed every crop that has been planted. Every time the farmers plant the water rises and the crop is destroyed. There could be nothing worse than that. The Windsor Municipal Council has asked that assistance be given in the form of interest-free loans to the farmers, subsidies on food and fertiliser and the payment of unemployment benefit. I realize that owing to a technicality the unemployment benefit cannot be paid out but the Government could, if it wished, pay a special benefit. There is provision in section 124 of the Social Services Act for a special benefit to be paid to any person who, for any reason, is unable to earn sufficient to ensure a certain standard of livelihood for himself and his dependants. The Minister has the power, if he wishes to exercise it, to intervene and to assist these unfortunate people.
When dealing with the effects of floods, three aspects must be considered. First, there is the need for flood relief funds as the waters recede. Secondly, there is the need for assistance towards rehabilitation after the waters recede- My remarks in relation to the payment of special benefits under the Social Services Act referred to that aspect. Thirdly, there is flood mitigation work. Without doubt, the assistance which has been given on previous occasions to the farmers affected by these floods has been completely inadequate. I stress again that it is not one flood. Four floods within one year have destroyed every crop that has been planted. In the reasons for its resolution the Windsor Municipal Council states -
Successive floods for the past fourteen years have prevented farmers of the Hawkesbury from receiving any financial returns commensurate with their capital outlay over that period.
Their plight has been aggravated to the point of desperation by the loss of almost all crops for the years 1961, 1962, 1963.
Most farmers are deeply committed financially as a consequence of past floodings and are not in a position to rehabilitate themselves without generous encouragement from government sources.
For those reasons I make this appeal tonight. On previous occasions when I and other honorable members have raised this matter the Minister has refused to grant relief by way of special benefits. I plead with him, as a Country Party Minister - one who surely must understand the very great problems confronting these farmers - to carefully and sincerely re-consider this request, because these people are in desperate need of assistance.
After the recent disastrous floods in northern New South Wales and, to a lesser extent at that time, in the Hawkesbury valley, the Opposition raised the question of special assistance as a matter of urgent public importance. Within a couple of days the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) made an inspection of the areas and gave an undertaking that he would consider assisting the States in their flood mitigation work. At present one-third of the funds for this purpose is provided by local government authorities and two-thirds by the State Government. We submit that the State
Government contribution be matched by the Commonwealth on a £1 for £1 basis. That would allow adequate flood mitigation work to be done. This is not only a matter of assisting the farmers in the district. This is a very important economic problem. Unless we are prepared to ensure that our national heritage - the soil of this country - is not washed away in floods, we could be in a very serious position in the future. In the last few weeks, because df floods in the Hawkesbury valley, vegetables have been imported from New Zealand. We should keep in mind that such imports will involve the loss of foreign currency and higher vegetable prices for consumers. So it would be of advantage for the Government to give assistance to these farmers who need it so desperately.
I also ask the Government to give serious consideration again to the establishment of a national disaster insurance fund. Such funds are operating in the United States and New Zealand. In those countries assistance is given to people who are affected by all types of national disasters, including floods, bushfires and earthquakes. This is another method by which we can conserve our national wealth and assist people who are in dire need of assistance. The Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) says that he is still considering the problem of flood mitigation. Unfortunately, he is considering it in a very leisurely manner. Only this morning, in answer to a question asked by the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Luchetti), he said that he is still considering the proposals that have been put forward. 1 ask that the consideration be not continued at such a leisurely pace. It is time argent consideration was given to the proposals. When I raised the matter of the establishment of a national disaster insurance fund, the Prime Minister said, “ The matter is not dead yet “. I also ask him to give urgent consideration to that proposal.
In particular, Mr. Speaker, I ask that the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton) reconsider his attitude to granting special benefits to the farmers and share farmers who have lost their livelihood as a result of the disastrous floods that are occurring throughout New South Wales, particularly in the Hawkesbury valley. These people are in need of assistance. They are in a dire plight. This is a matter of assisting them to rehabilitate themselves. It is a matter of helping not only the farmers of the Hawkesbury valley but also the Australian economy as a whole. Once again, I appeal to the Minister to reconsider this matter sympathetically.
.- Mr. Speaker, I would like to make a few observations about the recent television programme “ Four Corners “ in which the Returned Servicemen’s League featured prominently. It time permits, I will say something about a programme called “ Any Questions “ which is shown on the same televisions stations as “ Four Corners “. I have a special interest in the “ Four Corners “ programme which featured the R.S.L., because one of the clubs which figured prominently in that programme is located in my electorate and the president of the club gave me first-hand information on the negotiations that took place between the club and the Australian Broadcasting Commission.
The Caulfield sub-branch of the R.S.L. in Victoria, which is better known as the St. George’s Road sub-branch, was approached by a representative of the A.B.C. It was asked whether it was prepared to make its premises and personnel available for a presentation of the league in the “ Four Corners “ programme. It is important to remember that, because I believe that in considering the caricature telecast of the league, which was not factual, it is well to know, or to try to know, what were the objectives of the producer of the programme. Before any programme is presented, the producer must have some distinct objectives. Before he starts he must have some pre-determined plan or idea as to what he wants to highlight in his programme.
The club to which I have referred thought it knew the objectives of this programme; but, as events turned out, the club was sadly mistaken. Because it thought it knew what were the objectives of the programme, it marshalled speakers who knew very well the welfare work of the R.S.L. sub-branch in the Caulfield area, of which it is justly proud. The speakers referred to the welfare hostel for aged servicemen, which is opposite the club. The club was responsible for setting up the hostel and is solely responsible for its maintenance. The speakers referred to other projects in close proximity to the club, such as the returned nurses’ hostel, which is maintained by the Victorian executive of the league. They referred to the Frankston and Sorrento returned soldiers’ homes and to the Cheltenham Darby and Joan homes for married couples. They referred to a number of other welfare schemes in which they all were interested.
All of this was recorded by the A.B.C. in the club rooms from the R.S.L. spokesman. However, not one portion of the discussion of that welfare work was used in the telecast. I understand that the producers of the programme came from Sydney, where this programme was prepared, to Melbourne to make the telecast in the club rooms. Apparently the producers were not interested in the R.S.L. picture as such. All that they were interested in was a sordid picture, which clearly was one of misrepresentation and retaliation, if I may put it that way, designed to present a distorted image of a collection of booze houses run by a clique of high officials whose attitude and methods are not democratic Mr. Speaker, is it any wonder that the sub-branch to which I have referred should have sent me a telegram in very strong language? The telegram reads -
We wish you to protest at the earliest opportunity against the method used to portray the R.S.L. Four Corners sessions televised by the A.B.C. on Saturday and Sunday last.
This telegram was sent to me about a week ago. It continues -
This club was tricked into making its premises and personnel available and is greatly distressed at the distorted and untrue presentation that was shown to the public. Any action you may take to refute this slander will be greatly appreciated.
The telegram was sent by Stan Veale, president of the Caulfield sub-branch.
If the honorable member for Wills (Mr. Bryant) believes, as he says he does, that the league is being submerged by phoney campaigns against communism, let him come with me and see some of the welfare work that is being done by branches in Victoria. He claims to be a member of the league. AS I can say is that he has let the league down badly because he referred to its alcoholic directed and politically conservative organizers. If that is the idea he has of the R.S.L. in Victoria, which has done such excellent welfare work among its senior or elderly members, I am very sorry to have to say that he is a very poor member of the league.
It is pretty clear that in this programme the Australian Broadcasting Commission’s producer was intent upon getting a certain answer. He wanted to portray the members of the Returned Servicemen’s League to the public as a lot of boozers. I repeat that it is pretty clear that the A.B.C. producer wanted to get a certain answer, as was confirmed later when he spoke on the programme to Sir Raymond Huish. When he had difficulty in getting from Sir Raymond the answers he wanted to political questions, he made bald assertions himself on most absurd premises. It would be a most dangerous situation if we allowed a national station to display such attitudes and then allowed it to retire behind a smokescreen saying, “ We are completely independent, and therefore should not be directed by anybody “.
Let me remind the House that this was not the only occasion on which the programme department of the A.B.C. has failed badly to assess the feelings of the viewing public. I would like to remind the House of another production to which I referred previously - the programme “ Any Questions “. My time is running out and I would have liked to refer to this programme in which the question of sex was brought up before a mixed audience. Suffice it to say that the bad taste exhibited on that occasion, together with the more recent presentation concerning the R.S.L., indicates that the officers of the A.B.C. should be reminded of the proper functions of the commission. They should be reminded that the national broadcasting service should be a public medium for facts and objectivity, especially when dealing with public questions.
It is obvious that there are some people in the community who would like to see a national medium like the Australian Broadcasting Commission service used for putting over programmes of their own making, or programmes calculated to undermine and destroy great organizations with national charters. I believe it is the duty of this Government, in spite of what the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns) or the honorable member for Wills (Mr. Bryant) might say, to remind the A.B.C. of its proper functions in this regard. If this is called political interference, then I say it is about time we had some more of it. There is only one organization that is happy about this miserable programme. That is the Communist Party. Its members are rubbing their hands with great glee at the fact that they have been able to get back at the R.S.L., something which they have been wanting to do for a considerable time, and it is a very great pity that some honorable members opposite find great delight in supporting them.
.- On the whole, I have had a good day. The honorable member for Isaacs (Mr. Haworth), a notable fighter for causes, and the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Cleaver), a notable fighter for causes, both had their moments in which they were able to take me to task for some of the attitudes I have adopted. Let us take the honorable member for Isaacs first.
– You take him.
– The people of the electorate of Isaacs may have him. 1 happened to be going through my files a moment ago and I found a photostat copy of an article that appeared in the Melbourne “ Herald “. With it was published a photograph of the honorable member for Isaacs, depicting him as a young, vigorous, alert freedom fighter, the man who was going to defend Rippon Lea to the last drop of his Isaacian blood and who was going to defend the Returned Servicemen’s League against the assault of the Australian Broadcasting Commission.
– That first matter did not come to the House.
– The honorable member says that it did not come to the House, but when the opportunity was here in the public forum, in the place to which his loving constituents have sent him, the honorable member for Isaacs ran for cover. The moment there was any thought that he might have to come here and face the music of his party’s displeasure, he ran for cover, he crawled up whatever political hollow log will contain such miserable members of Parliament.
The honorable member said that I am a bad member of the R.S.L. I am a member of several R.S.L. branches. I have been president of one a couple of times. While I was president it built a hall. I do not know what kind of constructive work the honorable member for Isaacs has done while he has been president of an R.S.L. branch. Let us examine yesterday’s record. It would be worth while for members of this Parliament to get hold of yesterday’s “ Hansard “ and have a look at the fine fighting record of the honorable member for Isaacs. He was silent - the silent member for Isaacs, the man who, I recall, wanted to sell the post office once and who now wants to give the Australian Broadcasting Commission away. Surely to goodness, in all honesty, integrity and sincerity, if the honorable member for Isaacs were dinkum in what he said about the R.S.L., the one thing that we could expect him to do for the ex-servicemen of Australia when this Parliament is debating those things which the R.S.L. has put forward as its policy - they are also part of Labour’s policy - would be to vote for them. Surely the one thing we might expect this courageous, this powerful, this forthright crusader and zealot, this fine member of Parliament to do, is to vote for the R.S.L.’s proposals. But, no, instead of voting for them, he stuck to his side of the House. He was afraid of the party machine. It is all very well to stand up here and abuse and vilify members of this Parliament because they happen to have the courage to speak up on matters for which they are prepared to vote. While I have been in this House I do not think I have ever had to face up to the charge that I have made public statements in one direction and cast my vote in another.
This issue is a challenge which faces every member of the Returned Servicemen’s League among honorable members opposite. Yesterday all those Government supporters who are members of the R.S.L. had their chance and, within the limits of my power, I will see that every one of the returned soldier constituents is given the opportunity of evaluating their worth and integrity by showing them the record of the voting in this House. It will not matter much about the honorable member for La Trobe (Mr. Jess), who is interjecting, because his con stituents do not expect anything from him, anyhow.
Now let us take the honorable member for Swan. He is another fine freedom fighter. Yesterday he had his opportunity. He thought it was awful for people to say these things. Fancy answering back the leaders of the R.S.L.! What a dreadful insidious crime that is in the community! Fancy answering anybody back! It is time honorable members opposite started answering their own leaders back instead of running for cover. This morning the honorable member for Swan had his opportunity. He followed me in the debate. He had a lot to say about a place in the Northern Territory. He knows all about it. So far as I know, if he has been there, it is many years since he has. He did not take the trouble to go and look, as we did. But he is in a strong position. He does not know what he is talking about, so he can be dogmatic, forthright and full of facts. He is the kind of man who would take the opportunity in this House to vilify isolated, defenceless aboriginal people in the Northern Territory. He became the stooge, the off-sider and the plaything of the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) at a time when in the House he was silent. But that is all right. He and the honorable member for Isaacs can answer for these things with their own consciences. I do not mind at all. So far as I am concerned, the constituents in Wills will be able to evaluate my services in this House by consulting the records of the way I vote, which I hope is consistent with the principles on which they sent me here. It has not been my custom to worry about the personalities used by friends opposite but, unfortunately, in the last few months they have chosen on many occasions to use whatever they could to attack people on this side of the House in this sort of way. So far as I am concerned, those things which I think ought to be brought before the public view will be brought before the public view, and those people in the public eye who choose to make public statements shall be answered publicly.
I think the Australian Broadcasting Commission often makes errors. I think most statutory bodies and most people will always make errors.
– Even you.
– Yes, I make a lot of errors myself. For instance, at times I have thought that some of the people opposite were dinkum. The A.B.C. is one of the most important statutory corporations in the country. It is an important medium of communicating to the whole of the community. It is the only one that is in fact independent in the sense in which we use the term “ independent “ as meaning independent of private ownership, personal desires and wishes, and so on. I think it is of paramount importance that we should allow it to continue in this way as a free and independent body. It is not the fact that the R.S.L. reacted at all, that concerns me; it is the fact that the R.S.L. did not take its case to the commission but immediately promulgated the fact that it proposed calling on the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) himself. The Prime Minister is a very powerful and important person. He has more political prestige, I suppose, than anybody else has ever had in this nation. I am sure the very fact that he calls for a script would inhibit the people into whose actions he is inquiring. No matter what honorable members opposite think about us on this side of the House, about the R.S.L., its leaders or anybody else, they ought to turn their minds to the facts of history and recognize that the best way in which to bring about an inhibition of public discussion, and to produce the kind of authoritarian and dictatorial systems which many of us have spent many years of our lives attempting to quell, is to suppress the free flow of communication in the community.
.- I rise, in common with my colleague, the honorable member for Isaacs (Mr. Haworth), to express my great concern at the despicable attacks that have been made by the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns) and the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Uren) on this Government and the Returned Servicemen’s League. Let it be abundantly clear to the honorable member for Wills (Mr. Bryant), who has just spoken, that the Government had no hand in interfering with the “ Four Corners “ programme about the R.S.L. If he looks at to-day’s Melbourne “ Herald “, he will find that to be so. The report in that paper states -
The Chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, Dr. J. R. Darling, said to-day the Government had not interfered with the A.B.C.’s “ Four Corners “ program about the R.S.L.
In a statement released in Melbourne to-day, Dr. Darling said: “There has been no interference at all by tha Government in the matter of the program of the R.S.L.”
The honorable member can read the report for himself. There is no need for me to deal any further with it. So much for his scandalous, scurrilous attack on the Government and the Prime Minister.
I believe that the honorable members for Yarra and Reid took advantage of the opportunity to use the “ Four Corners “ programme about the activities of the R.S.L. to launch an attack under the guise that they themselves are champions of the preservation of the independence and freedom of the Australian Broadcasting Commission. What hypocrisy that is! What humbug! The truth of the matter is that they indulged in a desperate attempt to stifle the R.S.L. in its campaign against communism. In my view, their attack last night showed up the honorable members for Yarra and Reid in their true colours. The honorable member for Reid, the golden-headed boy of the peace movement-
– What is wrong with that?
– They are haters of freedom, for which the R.S.L. stands. All they are concerned about is being disciples of bondage and of regimentation. The Returned Servicemen’s League and its members have a right to be very much concerned about the manner in which the “ Four Corners “ programme dealt with R.S.L. activities. I, as a member of the league, am concerned about it. I am proud to wear the league’s badge. I hope that honorable members opposite who are entitled to wear the badge also will be concerned about the way in which the R.S.L. was displayed to the general public through the medium of television. I believe in freedom of expression and of presentation in relation to the “ Four Corners “ programme and the A.B.C. Neither I nor any other member on this side of the House has any wish to interfere with the programme. Let it be well known that, if anybody wanted to interfere with programmes, it would be members on the other side of the House. It is known that they have interfered with freedom of expression in the press and over the radio.
– Why didn’t you vote for the amendments yesterday?
– I spoke about the act, which is a lot more than a lot of members on the other side of the House did. I challenge the judgment of the honorable member for Yarra about the manner in which the programme was displayed because, as my colleague the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Killen) said last night, the honorable member for Yarra did not even see the programme. So with what authority could he speak about it? What a bright one the honorable member for Reid would be to offer any criticism! He said he believed it was a balanced contribution, whatever that might mean. He has great problems. Obviously, he was sound asleep. Does he believe that the four segments which were so loaded against the R.S.L. were balanced by the rest of the programme? Of course, he could not believe that. When honorable members consider those four segments, they will see why I say that.
In the first part of the programme there appeared a Mr. Gawne. He was the gentleman who said that wearing a returned soldier’s badge was an embarrassment to him, because of the rude references that were made about it. He said that young people did not know what the R.S.L. was and that they did not care. He finished up by asking, “And why should they?” I direct attention to the fact that he was not interrogated. The next segment featured a gentleman named Welensky. I understand that he was, or is, the president of the National Union of Australian University Students. He could not say anything good about the R.S.L. He concluded by saying something to the effect that the R.S.L. says, “ We fought for Australia; every one else is a scab.” What a shocking and vile indictment that is for a man to convey to the general public through the medium of television.
The next gentleman who appeared on the programme in one of these anti-R.S.L. segments was a person named Robertson. I understand he is the editor of the “Tribune”. He spent five minutes without interrogation, without any interviewing, and without any interruption at all in disseminating straight-out Communist propaganda. He condemned everything for which the R.S.L. and a free country stand. Then we come to the piece de resistance -an item by a gentleman who tapped the boards in light fantastic mood in some dive down at King’s Cross. He was obviously a would-be funny man. He sang a song of satire against the R.S.L. It was a bawdy song which obviously was composed for the particular purpose of being a vehicle of ridicule. He referred to the R.S.L. in this song of his in very bad taste. He finished up with a mock stand to attention and a mock salute and said “ God is in Heaven for the R.S.L.” Has anybody ever heard such a shocking indictment of a worthy organization?
I have no complaint whatever about the A.B.C. and about its dealing with issues and putting them on television. But when it does so, it should be concerned about balancing the programme. What was the position in relation to that part of the programme which supported the R.S.L.? We certainly saw some scenes from World War I. and World War II. We saw Sir Raymond Hulsh and the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Swartz). But we did not see Mr. Bill Yeo, the president of the New South Wales branch of the R.S.L. We did not see Mr. Bill Hall, the acting president of the R.S.L. in Victoria. Why did we not see these gentlemen? It was not that they had not spent an hour with the editor of the producer of the programme. Mr. Yeo told me to-day that he spent one hour with the producer and about half an hour before the camera. Yet when the programme was put together, Mr. Yeo was not shown and the views he had expressed were not included.
There is not much one can say about what was said last night, particularly by the honorable member for Reid who, using his communistic technique, spoke about brass hats. All I wish to say is that the R.S.L. and all decent people have the right to express their indignation at the slurs cast by the honorable members for Yarra and Reid.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11.31 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
m asked the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
d asked the Minister representing the Minister for National Development, upon notice -
– The Minister for National Development has supplied the following information: -
In response to inquiries, South African authorities have stated that the South African Government does not pay a subsidy on managanese produced in that country.
d asked the Minister for Shipping and Transport, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
n asked the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
n asked the Minister for Shipping and Transport, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions is as follows: -
The following is a list of vessels under construction or on order through the Australian Shipbuilding Board in Australian yards for Australian owners.
In addition to the above fourteen ships an order for a large sea-going dredge for the Victorian Public Works Department is being executed by Walkers of Maryborough, Queensland. A number of smaller vessels and tugs are under construction at various yards in Australia.
As far as my department is aware there are no trading vessels on order overseas for Australian shipowners.
son asked the Minister for Shipping and Transport, upon notice-
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: - 1 (a) and (b) The following expenditure on merchant shipbuilding was incurred by the Australian Shipbuilding Board in the financial years as shown: -
As far as my department is aware, no orders were placed overseas by Australian shipowners for the construction of merchant ships during the last five years. 2. (a) The following is a list of vessels under construction or on order through the Australian Shipbuilding Board in Australian yards: -
In addition to the above fourteen ships the building of a large sea-going dredge for the Victorian Public Works Department is proceeding. A number of smaller vessels and tugs are under construction at various yards in Australia.
d asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
Telephone Services. (Question No. 161.)
g asked the Postmaster-
General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
y asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions is as follows: -
I regret the delay in answering the honorable member’s earlier question. From time to time there has been correspondence between the Commonwealth and Queensland about the development of bauxite resources. Since large deposits exist both in Queensland and in the Northern Territory, the two Governments have endeavoured to attach similar conditions to their exploration and development. As part of this approach there was correspondence from the Queensland Government earlier this year at the time when special ministerial leases were issued by the Commonwealth to Gove Bauxite Corporation Limited in association with the Pechiney Company. I do not feel free to release this correspondence or any other exchanges between the two Governments about the policy to be applied to applications from particular commercial interests. However, I will say that both Governments have followed a policy directed towards the maximum processing of bauxite in Australia and that there has been nothing in the nature of a protest from either Government’ at the action taken by the other.
b asked the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice -
What is the total number of unduplicated air route miles operated by (a) Ansett-A.N.A., and (b) Trans-Australia Airlines?
– The Minister for Civil Aviation has supplied the following information: -
The unduplicated route miles of (a)Ansett- A.N.A. total 20,137, and those of (b) T.A.A. 21,403.
International Labour Organization
Conventions. (Question No. 178.)
m asked the Minister for
Territories, upon notice -
Indigenous Workers, 1936, (b) No. 64, Contracts of Employment (Indigenous Workers), 1939, (c) No. 65, Penal Sanctions (Indigenous Workers), 1939, (d) No. 82, Social Policy (Non-Metropolitan Territories), 1947, revised 1962, (e) No. 83, Labour Standards (Non-Metropolitan Territories), 1947, (f) No. 84, Right of Association (NonMetropolitan Territories), 1947, (g) No. 86, Contracts of Employment (Indigenous Workers), 1947 and (h) No. 104, Abolition of Penal Sanctions (Indigenous Workers), 1955?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
The standards of the conventions listed in the question are generally applied by the laws of the Territory of Papua and New Guinea. The provisions of Territory employment legislation fall short of or differ from the standards set by the conventions in the following respects: -
Other than certain provisions relating to advances of deferred wages contained in section 33 of the Native Employment Ordinance, the native employment legislation does not contain any provisions relating to regulation or limitation of advances of wages as are required by article 22 of the convention.
Article 15.2 and 3. of the convention provides that the competent authority shall take all necessary measures to ensure that satisfactory arrangements are made for the transport, accommodation, health, medical assistance and welfare of workers during travel and that when workers have to make long journeys in groups they shall be convoyed by a responsible person. The detailed requirements of the convention, particularly the requirement for convoy by a responsible person, are not fully covered by the provisions of the Native Employment Ordinance but section 62 (3) of the Ordinance requires Administration officers to satisfy themselves with the repatriation arrangemnts made.
There are no legal sanctions under the general employment legislation. The Native Apprenticeship Ordinance 1951-1961 provides for the imposition of fines for failure to attend classes and to give proper service. (These provisions are similar to provisions embodied in the legislation of a number of Australian States.)
Native Employment Ordinance require a record of wage payments, in accordance with article 15.1 of convention 82 and article 11.1 of convention 117, but employers of casual workers are required to keep a written record of all wages paid and the dates on which the wages were paid, only where the number of casual workers employed is five or more.
Ordinance, the native employment legislation does not contain any provisions relating’ to regulation or limitation of advances of wages as are required by article 16 of convention 82 and article 12 of convention 117.
Because of their social and cultural standards, indigenous workers require the special protection and assistance provided by the Native Employment Ordinance 1958-1962, Native ApprenAdministration Servants Ordinance 1958-1960 and the Transactions with Natives Ordinance 1958.
C.83: Labour Standards (Non-Metropolitan territories) Convention, 1947 -
There are no legislative provisions requiring medical examinations and reexaminations for fitness until the age of twenty-one years in occupations which involve high health risks, as is required by article 4 of the convention.
The Native Employment Ordinance does not require employers of casual workers to keep medical certificates for fitness available for inspection as is required by article 7 of the convention.
Night Work (Women) Convention (Revised) 1934).- Whereas article 3 ofthe convention provides that women shall not be employed during the night in any public or private industrial undertaking other than an undertaking in which only members of the same family are employed, section 78 of the Native Employment Ordinance prescribes a limited number of occupations in which females may be employed between the hours of 6 p.m. and 6 a.m.
Article 3 of the convention provides that regulations shall prescribe the maximum period of service which may be stipulated or implied in any contract whether written or oral, and provides that the maximum period of service where the employment does not involve a long and expensive journey shall be two years if the workers are accompanied by their families and, where the employment involves a long and expensive journey, the maximum period shall be three years. Workers employed as casual workers under the Native Employment Ordinance may make oral contracts for any length of time. Under section 34 of the Native Employment Ordinance, agreement workers may engage for up to two years,or if accompanied by families, up to three years with the option of entering a continuing agreement for a further year.
b asked the Minister for Social Services, upon notice -
Will he agree to the application form for an agc or invalid pension being amended to provide for the pension to bc paid into a pensioner’s bank account?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -
Age and invalid pensions are paid fortnightly in advance, either in cash at a post office, or by cheque posted to the pensioner’s home. Regular payments of pensions at short intervals are necessary because most recipients require the money for their immediate needs. The Department of Social Services is now paying benefit’s of various kinds to over 2,400,000 persons at regular intervals throughout the year and uses modern punched card machine systems to ensure that payments are made on the due dates at all times. Requests received for payment of age or invalid pensions to bank accounts are so very rare that adoption of that method would be a costly proposition involving special arrangements with all banks throughout the Commonwealth. Apart from this aspect, any further method of payment even for a small number of persons would interfere with the output of the machines mentioned.
b asked the Minister for Social Services, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions is as follows: -
The matter was considered, but it was decided to allocate the additional funds available for social services towards an increase in the rates of pension.
s asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable gentleman’s questions is as follows: -
The information requested by the honorable member normally receives publicity in the daily newspapers, but the details he seeks are not recorded for official purposes.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 12 September 1963, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1963/19630912_reps_24_hor39/>.