25th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. Sir John McLeay) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Labour and National Service concerning the Mount Isa dispute. I inform the Minister that I have received protests from Mount Isa concerning the arrest on Friday morning of a woman. I ask the Minister whether the Government intends to intervene in this dispute. If it does not intend to intervene, what action does it propose to take to bring the dispute to a speedy conclusion?
– Mr. Speaker, I should say first of all that the reports of what has happened at Mount Isa have been grossly and, I think, improperly exaggerated. Those who are on the scene at Mount Isa and who watch events daily have stated in clear language that the police have acted with prudence and with a high degree of responsibility. The honorable gentleman will know, if he has the interests of the Australian Workers Union at heart - it is no use saying one thing here and another somewhere else - that the Committee for Membership Control is deliberately fostering at Mount Isa a spirit of coercion and intimidation, designed both to destroy the A.W.U. and to ensure that the men do not go back to work. Statements were made by the President of the Queensland Trades and Labour Council, Mr. Egerton, claiming that all sorts of abominations had been committed by the police. He, within the last two days, has apologised to Mr. Bischof and has said that he was misinformed. I think that if the honorable member cares to look at the facts he, too, will find that there has been misinformation about the role of the police.
As to the second part of the question, the honorable member knows well that the Commonwealth has no jurisdiction in this dispute. The matter is exclusively within the province of the Queensland Government. I believe that at long last sanity is beginning to prevail. If members of the Australian Labour Party would support the A.W.U. and play their part we would find that there would be greater prospects of a prompt settlement of this dispute. If they would disown the C.M.C. and those who support it in this House, and disown the Communist Party, a real contribution would be made towards getting Mount Isa back into full production.
– My question is directed to the Treasurer. Has he seen the commendable suggestion made in Melbourne yesterday by Mr. Ricketson to the effect that there should be a graduated rebate of income tax on companies in relation to the Australian shareholding, and that if necessary some adjustment to the overall rate should be made to protect the interests of the revenue? Are there any constitutional or treaty difficulties in regard to this course? Does the Government intend to adopt it, or would the Government prefer the necessary amendment to be moved from the Liberal backbench when the Income Tax and Social Services Contribution Assessment Act is next before the House?
– I am always interested in the lively-minded contributions to economic initiative that Mr. Ricketson makes from time to time and I read them with care. But this is a situation for Australia in which circumstances over the years may alter the attitude that we adopt from time to time towards the problem of overseas investment. It is a little ironical to find the honorable gentleman recommending, in effect, the imposition of some sort of disadvantage on overseas investment when, in many countries that are trying to promote their own development, encouragement of all sorts is given to overseas investment in the way of tax advantages. For example, tax holidays are offered by several countries to overseas capital if it will accept the hazards of investment.
As a developing country with a very large immigration programme, we shall have need for investment from overseas as far ahead as I can see. I believe that we shall need to continue to maintain a climate favorable to overseas investment, and I would hardly think it consistent with that need and desirability to place on Australian investment a premium that could work to the disadvantage of overseas investors. However, this is a policy matter. If a proposal of this kind is advanced in a form that calls far consideration by the Government, the views of the honorable gentleman, whatever status he chooses to occupy at the time, will be examined with the same consideration that we give at all times to suggestions contributed by members from all sections of the Parliament.
– My question is directed to the Prime Minister, whom I ask: ls the Commonwealth Government committed to supporting or giving effect to the election promises, particularly in the housing field, that have been included in policy statements made by the Leader of the Liberal Party of Australia in the New South Wales Parliament? If the Government is committed in any way, will the right honorable gentleman inform the House of the extent of the commitment?
– As the honorable gentleman knows, my time is fairly fully occupied in attending to matters in this Parliament and in the Commonwealth jurisdiction. I am therefore not as familiar as I should be with what goes on in the State sphere.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Health. In view of the repeated conflicting reports that have been circulating in New South Wales, will he clarify the changes that are to operate under the revised medical and hospital benefits schedules that will come into effect in New South Wales from 1st April?
– I know that some confusion concerning this matter exists in the minds of many people in New South Wales. This kind of confusion has not been evident in other States. I think it has largely been brought about by the often conflicting statements that have been made by a number of spokesmen representing different interests. I confess that I may have contributed a little myself to this confusion by issuing from time to time statements designed to correct the conflicting ones that had previously been made. At present, the position is that applications for changes in the medical benefit tables from 1st April of this year have been received from quite a number of funds in New South Wales. There will be no change in the hospital benefit tables.
Under the applications that have been approved to date, there will be three basic tables, i shall give the family rates of contribution, which provide cover for husband, wife and, in most instances, all children up to the age of 16. The highest table will be based on a family rate of contribution of 6s. a week, the second table on 5s. and the lowest table on 4s. These are the tables which have so far been approved and which will come into operation at that time. However, I should like to emphasise that all these are entirely new tables. For example, the present table which provides for a contribution of 4s. will be the new reconstituted Ss. table and the 4s. contribution rate, which will be introduced after 1st April, will be a new table which will give lower benefits than are given under the present 4s. table. As soon as all applications have been finalised I shall make a further statement which will outline quite clearly the tables that will come into operation at that date.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Labour and National Service. Is it a fact that the number of 20 year old youths who could be directed to undertake military training under the lottery recently conducted exceeds the actual defence requirement at this time by several hundred per cent.? If the number who finally pass the examinations still exceeds the immediate requirement, who will select the individuals who will go into the Services and who will select those to go free? Further, how does the Government intend to prevent youths from deliberately failing the educational examination and what penalties, if any, is it intended to impose when it is considered that such deliberate failure has occurred?
– As to the first part of the honorable gentleman’s question, I answered a similar question in the House on Thursday last.
– You did not; you made a speech.
– All right, I made a speech. If people will provoke me into making speeches they must take the consequences. I then explained the situation to the House, but I shall repeat the explanation as I have since had an opportunity to check further. The methods of selection which have been adopted will ensure that very nearly the numbers actually required by the Army will be recruited for service. In fact, the statistics have been so exact that the numbers may be out only a few one way or the other. If there are a few more recruits than we have budgeted for there will be no problem because it is the normal practice of the Army to take those people. Therefore, it will not be necessary to decide who will go into the Army and who will stay out.
As to the second part of the honorable gentleman’s question, we have had the cooperation of educational authorities and some psychologists. They have devised methods of testing eligible people in order to ascertain whether they come up to the prescribed educational standards. They believe that the psychological and educational tests with the registration forms are such that if a person attempts to deceive the educational authorities the psychologists will be able to detect that fact and will be able to advise us. Once that is done we will use the appropriate methods that we have to ensure that those who pass the medical and fitness tests are taken into the Army.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Immigration. I am certain that the Minister will know from his close liaison with the Minister for Labour and National Service of the very real shortage in rural areas of men who have some working experience of mechanised farm operations and the rudiments of stock management. Is any effort being made to recruit this type of immigrant from overseas? Has any satisfactory source been found and, if so, to what areas are these new Australians being directed? If no migration of this group of workers can be successfully instituted, what are the factors standing in the way of this most important phase of the migration programme?
– The general method of recruitment of migrants under the immi gration scheme is that the Department of Labour and National Service requisitions various categories and we then endeavour to recruit migrants in those categories from overseas. One of the questions asked by the honorable member for Calare concerned the direction of migrants. Such direction is not carried out. Migrants for particular types of work can be obtained only by officers going to the various countries and seeing whether there are prospective migrants who would be suitable for those types of work. It is not easy to do that these days. Migrants with mechanical ability, including farm mechanical ability, and also a knowledge of the rudiments of stock handling are not easy to obtain. The best advice that could be given to people who are concerned with this matter would be for them to get in touch with their district employment officers and make known their requirements. The district employment officers, in turn, will channel the requirements through to the Department of Immigration, and then every effort will be made to get suitable migrants for this type of work.
– I ask the Prime Minister a question without notice. Last Wednesday he would have heard the Minister for Territories say, in answer to a question concerning the proposed university in Papua and New Guinea which had been the subject of urgency debates, speeches and questions for some years, that a decision had been reached and that he hoped to issue a Press statement on the following day. The right honorable gentleman might recall that in August 1960, when he was Minister for External Affairs and the terms of the Mutual Weapons Development Programme Agreement with the United States were made the subject of a Press statement outside the House, he apologised to the House for the fact that the matter appeared as a Press statement and said that he had taken steps to see that that position would not occur again. I ask the right honorable gentleman whether he will ensure that when the House is sitting statements on matters such as the proposed university, in which the House has shown interest, will be made in the House.
– ‘I hope it is well understood that, so far as I am concerned, I have a complete belief that all statements on matters of public policy, as they concern the Commonwealth, when the House is sitting should be made in the House. That is a principle to which I myself adhere very strictly.
– I ask the PostmasterGeneral whether he can give the Parliament information on the progress being made in the transmission of electrical power by radio microwaves. Is the PostmasterGeneral’s Department taking a keen interest in these important experiments which may well completely revolutionise our whole concept of power transmission? Can the Postmaster-General indicate the extent to which practical interest is being taken by his Department, and whether any concrete and active steps are being taken to bring this form of power transmission eventually to reality for Australian use?
– The Postmaster-General’s Department is interested in and takes a great deal of notice of what is being done overseas in relation to this matter. I am sure the honorable member will appreciate that basically power transmission is the responsibility of the power transmission authorities; but as the Post Office has repeater stations in relation to microwaves, &c, for which the cost of power is very high because the repeater stations are erected on mountain tops, it is very interested in and, in fact, watches very closely the information that comes from scientific sources in relation to this matter. We believe that it will be many years before it will be possible to transmit power by this method as cheaply as by the normal transmission processes; but from information that has come to us recently it is believed that there could be a breakthrough in relation to this technique within the next two or three years. Of course, it is very difficult to be precise on these technical matters.
– Has the Prime Minister received from the Tasmanian Government the detailed case for Commonwealth assistance towards the capital cost of the Poatina irrigation project in central northern Tas mania, which has been prepared by tha Rivers and Water Supply Commission over the past 20 months? If so, has the Prime Minister had a chance to study it? He will recall, perhaps, a visit to the area about two years ago. Finally, in view of the extremely dry conditions this summer over the 10,000 acres to be irrigated, and in view of the boost in export income which will flow from this scheme, could the Government treat the matter as urgent?
– I cannot answer this question with precision. When matters of this kind come in they usually go in for some departmental examination so I would not be positive about the situation; but certainly I have not yet studied the case and therefore I have not yet arrived at any conclusion or any recommendation which I might put before the Cabinet.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for the Army. Will the Minister favorably consider numerous requests that have been made for an Army tattoo to be held in Brisbane later this year, especially as it is more than four years since this popular spectacle was last provided and as the proceeds have always gone to the General Officer Commanding’s charity fund for soldiers’ welfare?
– As the honorable member is probably aware, the practice of staging tattoos has been discontinued in recent years because of the very great effort which is required by the Army to stage a performance of the standard that the public expects and the Army desires to give. The pressures on the Army’s resources will be even greater over the next year or eighteen months than they have been in recent years and I can hold out no hope to the honorable member that it can stage a tattoo this year.
– My question is directed to the Treasurer. Recently the Government announced taxation concessions aimed at encouraging investment and development in Papua and New Guinea. While agreeing that concessions of this nature for the purpose stated, and for the further purpose of encouraging population, are desirable, does not the Treasurer agree that concessions for similar purposes are desirable in the Northern Territory and other Commonwealth Territories? If he does not agree, what are his reasons?
– The Commonwealth, of course, attaches great importance to the rapid development of the Northern Territory and, indeed, of the northern areas of Australia generally, and has adopted policy measures in a variety of directions towards this end. The question of giving encouragement to the establishment of industry in Papua and New Guinea, while it occupies a separate category in one sense, is, of course, not unrelated to our general objective of trying to strengthen the position in other parts of Australia as well as in the Territories. But we have rather a different situation applying in the Territories at the present time in that the taxation rates applied there are approximately half those which are maintained on the mainland of Australia. There are other directions in which we have sought to give specific help to the Northern Territory.
– What are they?
– The honorable member should be familiar with them. If he looks at the budgetary provision year by year he will see that the Northern Territory has enjoyed one of the most rapid escalations of any section of the Commonwealth administration. But Papua and New Guinea is in a special category so far as this particular type of concession is concerned. We have a responsibility to advance the economic development of that part of the world to a point where it can finally govern its own affairs. The policy adopted there dealt with the circumstances which had been analysed for us and on recommendations which had reached us from the mission sent out by the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development. We shall deal from time to time with the requirements of the Northern Territory according to the view taken by the Government of the needs of that area.
– I ask the Minister for External Affairs a question. Has he seen a copy of the statement made by the honorable member for Evans at a Press con ference called by the honorable member following his return to Australia from Indonesia? Does the Minister agree with his party colleague that Indonesia could not launch a successful attack on Borneo and that Australia has nothing to fear from Indonesia? Did the Minister request the honorable member for Evans to make that statement? Does the statement indicate that there soon will be a change in Government policy, a breakdown of assistance to Malaysia and the possibility of Australian servicemen in Malaysia being recalled to Australia? Finally, will the Minister say whether he agrees with the remarks of the honorable member for Evans or whether heed should be taken of the warnings repeatedly issued to the Parliament by the honorable member for Chisholm and the dangers that the Minister himself has mentioned on many occasions?
– Very happily, we on this side of the chamber belong to a party the members of which have a certain freedom of expression. Whatever the honorable member for Evans or other honorable members may have said, they have said on their own responsibility. I am sure that each of them spoke in the light of his observations and sound thinking about the region in question. As private members, they were not expressing the view of the Government and I am sure they did not pretend to do so. But they were fully entitled to their opinion. I respect the accuracy and honesty of their observations and comments on those observations. The Government’s policy will be stated by the Government from time to time, as appropriate.
– As the Minister for National Development is aware of the great value to Australia of water and as the Government has spent millions of pounds on the storage of water, does the Minister know that experts have said that more than 95 per cent. of water is lost between storages and the consumer in certain parts of Victoria and, no doubt, in other States, through seepage and evaporation? To overcome this great loss has the Department of National Development considered, or will it consider, making investigations into the piping of water through arid areas with a view to giving a lead to and, where practicable, financially assisting the State Governments in a project for the general conveyance of water by pipeline? This, surely, is top priority national development.
– I had realised that there had been severe losses entailed when carrying water long distances by channel. I had not realised that the losses were as high as the honorable member claims they were. Perhaps this may be a reason for using the water from the Hume Weir higher upstream, perhaps in the electorate of Farrer. I know that a considerable amount of research on this subject is being undertaken by State water authorities. At present a committee appointed by the Victorian Government is investigating whether a certain project should be undertaken in the Mallee by the use of pipes or channels. It will be interesting to know the result of the investigation. At its recent meeting in Hobart the Australian Water Resources Council considered the loss of water by evaporation and made certain recommendations which are being put to the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation. We hope that this will lead to an improvement in reducing evaporation by the so-called Mansfield process. I stress that the process is more for large storages than for channels.
– My question to the Minister for Air refers to the FI IIA aircraft. Last week Press reports indicated that this aircraft, which will mean very much to Australia, was having engine trouble and other trouble. Does the Minister regard these troubles as significant, either from the point of view of time of delivery of the aircraft to the Royal Australian Air Force or its eventual performance?
– The honorable member will realise that three matters were mentioned in the Press statement to which he has referred. One related to the Phoenix missile and another related to one of the types of this aircraft being overweight. Both of these matters related to the naval version of the aircraft, the FU IB. We are buying the Fill A, which is not subject to these problems. The only problem affecting the aircraft we are buying related to the air intake fairing for the engine. Since the release of the Press statement, I have received a signal from the United States on the subject. I am told that steps are already being taken to deal with this problem and I do not think it will be long before a solution is found. In answer to the general question, I should say that the problems mentioned will have no effect whatever on the date of delivery or the performance of the aircraft. As I have said many times before in this House, I feel certain that the F111A aircraft will be delivered to Australia in the time promised to us.
– My question is directed to the Prime Minister. Did the Premier of New South Wales renew his request that the Commonwealth should make a grant to hasten the upgrading of the Parkes to Broken Hill line to coincide with the standardisation of the Broken Hill to Port Pirie line? In recent years, the Commonwealth has made grants to all other mainland States for the standardisation and strengthening of significant stretches of the railway system and in addition New South Wales is contributing as much as Victoria is to the cost of standardising the line between Wodonga and Melbourne. Was the request of the Premier of New South Wales supported by the Commissioner for Railways and the Department of Shipping and Transport? Has the right honorable gentleman replied to the request of the Premier?
– 1 am not aware of this matter having been raised recently. If the honorable gentleman will put his question on the notice paper I will give him, as far as I can, chapter and verse on this subject.
– I address a question to the Treasurer. I refer to the student loans plan which operates in Canada. Has the Australian Government in recent years considered such a scheme to encourage Australian students to undertake full time university courses? If not, will the Treasurer investigate this student loan plan, which is guaranteed by the Federal Government, to establish whether it would represent a distinct encouragement to those students wishing to study now and pay later?
– The policy aspects of this matter would appear to come more appropriately within the jurisdiction of the Prime Minister, and I would not wish to comment on them at this time. I think it would be well within the knowledge of the House that within recent years the Commonwealth Government has made substantial provision for university education and has made a financial contribution to assist many people to attend universities. More recently, we have had the report on tertiary education of the Martin Committee before us, and in due course the Prime Minister will put before the Parliament the results of Cabinet’s consideration of the report.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Territories. Does he agree that Australia has a moral as well as a political obligation to implement as rapidly and completely as possible the recommendations of the World Bank in its report on the economic development of New Guinea? Will he undertake to make an early statement on the Government’s intentions with regard to the report? Will he also undertake to observe the sovereign rights of the Parliament by making such a statement to the Parliament and not as a Press release, as is his usual, intolerable custom?
– I answer the first part of the question by saying that the report of the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development is at present -under consideration by the Government. When a decision is arrived at an announcement will be made. In answering the second part of the question I apologise to you, Mr. Speaker. I did not intend to disregard this House, but at the time there was a certain amount of indefiniteness about when I could issue the statement, because obviously I had to confer with Papua and New Guinea on a matter which affects those Territories. Rather than face the possibility of holding over until this week a statement on a matter of great concern to that part of the world I thought it appropriate to issue a Press statement.
– I direct the attention of the Treasurer to the fact that literature dealing with the changeover to decimal currency does not seem to be generally available for school children. Will the Treasurer see that the Decimal Currency Board makes an information pack available for distribution to schools throughout Australia?
– I will raise this matter with the Decimal Currency Board to see what can be done towards meeting the suggestion of the honorable gentleman. It is, of course, the intention of the Government, through the agency of the Board, to ensure that there will be an extensive campaign of education on decimal currency before the system comes into operation. I shall keep in mind what has been suggested by the honorable gentleman.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Trade and Industry. Did he make a speech in Sydney the other night at a dinner sponsored to increase Australian exports in which he said that in future Australia would have to increase greatly the volume of its exports, and that these exports in the future, as in the past, would have to be mainly rural products? As Australia today has fewer farms than it had in 1939 - although it has 4,000,000 more people - and as the value and volume of rural production per head of population are less today than they were in 1950, will the right honorable gentleman use his undoubted influence in the Cabinet to ensure action by the Federal and State Governments to increase rapidly the number of farms throughout Australia?
– Speaking at an export dinner - where, I am glad to say, representatives of manufacturing industries were gathered to stimulate manufacturing industries in Australia to take a further interest in exports in their own and Australia’s interests - I did say that there would have to be substantial additional exchange earnings by exports. I recall that about three or four years ago, at a similar function in Canberra, I said that there would have to be an increase of at least £250 million a year in our export income within five years. Many people rather ridiculed that statement at the time, but we exceeded that increase within the last three years. I was making the point the other night that it is inevitable, as we need more exchange earnings, that in the foreseeable future, as in the past, most of those earnings will be earned by primary products. I pointed out the efficiency of primary industry, as I now point out that efficiency to the honorable member who says that the volume and value - if I understood him correctly - of our rural production has increased.
– Per head of population.
– I do not know what that has to do with farms. I put it on record that the volume of primary production has increased by 60 per cent, since this Government has been in office, although the rural work force has decreased by 10 per cent. Honorable members would have to search the world to find a more creditable achievement than that. However, to praise primary industry in this regard is not to do other than to recognise the efforts of secondary industry. Just as primary industry earns exchange, so secondary industry has saved Australia thousands of millions of pounds in exchange by avoiding the necessity for us to import goods which we now produce in this country. But this is not good enough, as I pointed out to the manufacturers, and as they agreed. Manufacturing industry, requiring £1,000 million worth of exchange a year to service its own requirements, and earning only £154 million worth last year, has still a job to do, and manufacturing industry recognises this.
– I address a question to the Treasurer. In view of the fact that there has been some public disquiet regarding bank and other interest rates, would the honorable gentleman advise the House just what effects the small increases of bank overdraft and savings bank interest rates will create? Would it be correct to assume that, even as a result of these changes, savings banks, particularly, may not increase their charges for loans already negotiated?
– Replying, first, in more general terms to the honorable gentleman, it is, of course, the objective of Government policy to keep the economy moving forward steadily with a full employment situation, but maintaining externally a balance of payments which will enable us to go ahead with that internal progress. In order to achieve these objectives, it is necessary for us to adopt a variety of techniques, some of them through the banking system and others through the mechanism of the Budget or programmes of the Commonwealth and State governments as decided at Budget time and at the time of the Australian Loan Council meetings.
The action of the Reserve Bank, which was taken in consultation with the Treasury, and after the Secretary to the Treasury, who is a member of the Board, had participated in the discussion there, was another link in this chain of action which was designed to keep the economy on an even keel. The effect appears to have been rather stronger psychologically than I think it would be economically. A movement of one quarter per cent, in bank interest rates would normally have a marginal effect, particularly when one contrasts it with the very much larger movement of interest rates which occurred recently in the United Kingdom and which occurs in other parts of the world from time to time.
The honorable member asks specifically whether the savings banks will vary the rates of interest they are now charging those who have current transactions with them. The general practice is not to revise these rates until some future time, which is usually specified in the original arrangement between the bank and the client. I would assume that in most cases there will be no change in the current rates for those who are currently in a situation of borrowerlender relationship with the banks, but there would be some upward adjustment in loans subsequently made by the banks.
– I address a question to the Minister for Shipping and Transport. What is the reason for the delay in appointing the personnel of the Commonwealth Bureau of Roads? I draw the Minister’s attention to the fact that the legislation under which this Bureau is to be set up went through this Parliament in, I think, May of last year. When is the personnel of the Bureau likely to be appointed?
– The Government, naturally, is anxious to have the best possible persons appointed to the panel of the Bureau. I do not know exactly when the appointments will be made.
– The Treasurer is acquainted with the bank order system through which many organisations collect subscription fees. I asked a question on this subject on 9th November last year. At that time, the Treasurer prefaced his answer with the words “ generally speaking”. This caused some confusion. I now ask the Treasurer: Is it quite clear that the banks concerned will automatically make the necessary change in these bank orders to decimal currency at the appropriate time?
– I deliberately used the words “ generally speaking “ because it is not quite clear that the banks will automatically make this change. Where there is a single transaction flowing from the bank order then, in general, as my understanding goes, the change will be made automatically without reference to the client. But there are situations which have come to my notice where, for example, the bank order is used to pay a number of insurance premiums, and in the converting of those premium payments from pounds, shillings and pence to decimal currency there may be some variation which would call for a discussion between the bank and its client. I am afraid I cannot give the honorable member at this stage anything much more precise than that, but I do not imagine that there will be any serious practical difficulties. The bank will use judgment, no doubt, as to when it feels it can go ahead without the trouble of reference to a client or when it feels that some consultation would be desirable.
– I have some information in which the honorable member for Wilmot is interested. He asked me a question about the Poatina proposals. 1 have just made an inquiry, as I indicated, and I know that the Premier of Tasmania asked for financial assistance for this scheme towards the end of last year. The Rivers and Water Supply Commission of Tasmania sent copies of its report to the Commonwealth towards the end of last year. The opinion here among the departments concerned was that the information in the report was inadequate in certain respects and informal requests have been made since then for further details. When that information is received it will be considered.
- Mr. Speaker, I desire to make a personal explanation.
– Does the honorable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. 1 claim to have been misrepresented in a question asked by the honorable member for Kingston. I would like to explain that I did not say that Indonesia could not launch a successful attack on Borneo within 10 years. This was a viewpoint not ascribed to me by any newspaper to my knowledge and is sheer misrepresentation. My statement was that without both economic and military assistance of a large scale from another power, we in Australia had a valuable breathing space of at least a decade before we need fear a direct military threat from Indonesia. Furthermore, I did not imply that we could or should withdraw Australian troops from Malaysia. On the contrary. Two days ago I was in Borneo with our troops, having flown in to the front line there. My statement was based on the belief that their presence in that area, together with that of our allies, would make any direct military attack on Borneo at this juncture suicide on the part of Indonesia. I believe the honorable member opposite has let his desire run away with his discernment.
– I have received a letter from the honorable member for Hughes (Mr. L. R. Johnson) proposing that a definite matter of public importance be submitted to the House for discussion, namely -
The position which has developed in relation to medical and hospital benefits as a result of (a) the Government’s approval of reduced medical benefits under existing contributions and of higher contributions without comparable increased benefits, (b) the Government’s failure to reduce the proportion of medical costs borne by patients and
the Government’s failure to effect economies in the operation of registered medical and hospital benefit organizations.
I call upon those members who approve of the proposed discussion to rise in their places. (More than the number of members required by the Standing Orders having risen in their places) -
.- Mr. Speaker, on 1st April, that is nine days from now, the table of contributions for Australia’s 81 medical benefits funds will increase alarmingly. These impositions will coincide with rising mortgage, hire purchase and overdraft interest rates and also with Commonwealth intervention in the basic wage case. Accordingly, they represent a very heavy burden on the Australian people. The people and this Parliament have been treated off-handedly about this matter, and it is the view of the Opposition that the proposed increases justify the courtesy of an explanation from the Minister for Health (Mr. Swartz). To date, no official ministerial statement has been made in this House about the increases which are to take place.
To receive something like an 80 per cent, coverage against medical expenses, the family man is now asked to find an extra £5 4s. a year. That is, he will have to find a total of £15 12s. a year for medical benefit fund contributions. In addition to this large amount he also, of course, has to cover hospital benefits contributions and contributions to taxation. This is the ultimatum thrown to the people about this matter by the Government. Pay existing contribution rates and receive a substantial reduction in the total amount of benefit. That is the first alternative put to the people - maintain the existing rates and lose some of your benefits. The second alternative is to increase contributions by as much as 50 per cent, without receiving anything like comparable increases in benefits.
To receive existing benefits contributors will need to increase payments from 4s. to 5s. a week. This is an increase of 25 per cent, and means paying an extra 52s. a year for no extra benefits. Then of course, a higher benefit charge of 6s. a week is to be introduced for the more affluent, if not the less healthy, contributors. Let me give an example of the position as it affects contributors in New South Wales. If a contributor paying the family rate of 4s. a week or the single rate of 2s. a week does not increase his payment by 25 per cent, the benefits will fall in the following ways: For a home visit by a general practitioner or a visit to the practitioner’s surgery, the benefit will fall from 18s. to 16s. For a first referred visit to a specialist the benefit will fall from £2 18s. to £2 10s. For a subsequent referred visit to a specialist the fall will be from £1 8s. 6d. to £1 4s. For a unreferred visit to a specialist the benefit will fall from £1 3s. to 16s. and for a major operation it will fall from £67 10s. to £60.
Already the total rebate is far too low. The combined Commonwealth and fund benefit is only 62.7 per cent, of the most common charge - as the term is used - made by doctors. Of course, the most common charge is often far from being the highest charge. That is to say, the Commonwealth meets only 25.9 per cent., the fund 36.8 per cent., and the contributor 37.3 per cent, of the cost of medical treatment. In other words, for every £100 spent, the family man or the person concerned has to find £37.
Nobody wants less security than is being offered at present. Everybody wants more; and, in fact, this Government is under an obligation to provide more. The late Sir Earle Page, when introducing the medical benefits scheme in 1953, undertook to ensure that those who joined medical benefits funds would recoup 90 per cent, of the total cost of any service. Unless contributors join higher tables, from now on the Government will require them to meet an even greater share of the cost than they are now meeting. Medical benefits are unlike taxes, which are paid on a sliding scale according to a person’s income. This Government requires rich and poor to pay alike for health benefits. There is a flat rate for all. This, of course, is a denial of the principle of capacity to pay. Indeed, Sir, the higher a person’s income, the greater is the benefit of the tax deduction for medical expenses. So those on higher incomes, in the final analysis, often pay less than is paid by people on low incomes.
Tn New South Wales, family contributors are being invited to transfer from a table for which they pay contributions at the rate of 4s. a week to a table for which they will contribute 6s. a week. Over a year, the increased contribution will total £5 4s. If a State government raises car registration fees by 10s. to help finance road construction, for example, there is a great outcry by the community. Often, this is aided and abetted by the Press. The increase in contributions for medical benefits is not to be just 10s. a year, however, lt will be 104s. a year, and so this is a very serious matter. To recover the additional contributions of 104s. annually a contributor to a fund would have to make 52 additional visits to a general practitioner’s surgery or have 52 additional visits to his home by a general practitioner, 15 additional first consultation referrals to a specialist, 104 specialist consultations unreferred or, on the other hand, five sevenths of a major operation every year. This is the kind of thing in which a contributor would have to become involved to recover the equivalent of the extra 104s. that will be paid annually.
Even with contributions being increased by 50 per cent., from 4s. to 6s. a week, only about 80 per cent, of the cost will be recovered. This is based on the most common fee. No doubt the rebate will fall to an even smaller percentage of costs in the near future when doctors’ fees are raised. The Australian Medical Association’s review of fees is now in progress and, after November next, when the results of the review are known, the gap between rebates received and fees charged will widen even further. Already there is evidence that fees charged by specialists and surgeons will rise by as much as 25 per cent. Here we must remember that reimbursement of 90 per cent, of the cost of services was guaranteed by this Government years ago. But reimbursement of only 80 per cent, of present costs will be assured even after this savage increase in fund contributions.
I think the people of Australia want to know why this burden of increased contributions is being imposed on them. Are the registered medical benefit funds in some financial difficulty? It is very difficult for members of this House to get the answers to these questions. There is a shortage of appropriate material in the Parliamentary Library. Even if one can obtain the annual reports of all the 193 medical and hospital benefit organisations, he will learn nothing about the actuarial position of the funds. As I have said, the Minister for Health has denied to the Parliament an official statement about this proposal to increase contributions, and he and his predecessors have always denied to the Parliament information about the actuarial position of each and every one of the 193 benefit organisations. The best one can get from him is an ambiguous Press statement when one goes to the Department of Health before a debate such as this is to take place.
Are all these funds actuarially unstable? Which ones are unstable? Surely the people who are being enticed into joining the funds have a right to know whether those organizations are capable of standing on their own feet. The membership of the funds covers some 73 per cent, of the Australian people. These people have been forced to join voluntary health insurance organisations to get their rightful share of the proceeds of taxation. We want to know whether the management costs of these organisations art” too high. After all, these vary between 124- per cent, and 20 per cent, of income. In which funds are these costs too high? Does every benefit organisation need an increase in contributions of the proposed magnitude to sustain it and make it financially buoyant? Are contributors put at a disadvantage because there are so many of these organisations? I remind honorable members that there are 81 medical benefit funds and 112 hospital benefit funds. Is there anything that looks more like a bureaucrat’s dream than a crazy situation of this kind? Is not this kind of scheme an expensive luxury for which the sick people of Australia are required to pay?
What proportion of contributions is represented by fluid reserves, which are said to be £20 million for hospital benefit organisations and £9 million for medical benefit organisations? Apart from the question of fluid reserves, there is the cost of the great prestige buildings that have been constructed. What has been the cost ot these? Then there is the cost of duplicated management, under which there are not just one switchboard and not just one managing director serving two or more organisations. Indeed, there are no fewer than 193 distinct managements and organisations.
The cost of Australian hospital and health services aggregates about £330 million per annum. This represents £29 per head of the population. In sterling, the equivalent total cost is £264 million. In England and Wales, £900 million sterling a year is spent on more than four times the population. This represents not £29 a head, but £26 a head. Moreover, the services provided in the United Kingdom are far more comprehensive than we have here, for the British health scheme provides for dental, optical, physiotherapy and many other ancillary services. We in Australia, Sir, spend onethird as much as is spent in England and Wales and we receive less comprehensive services for a population that is less than one-quarter of the population of the United Kingdom.
In the nine years from 1953 to 1962 the operating costs of voluntary insurance funds in Australia totalled £29 million. Each year they have approximated half the cost of administering the entire Commonwealth Taxation Branch, or more than the cost of administering the Department of Social Services. In 1962 the funds collected £11 million more than they paid. Surely this is a cumbersome and extravagant way of going about the provision of a national health scheme. The Australian average for the administrative costs of benefit organisations is 14.5 per cent, of income. The Government is prepared to allow the funds to incur an even higher proportion of management costs. The Blue Cross organisations in the United States of America have brought their management costs to as low as 5.9 per cent, of income. Only 1.5 per cent, of the total spending of the Department of Social Services represents management costs. One half of 1 per cent, of the funds collected by the Taxation Branch goes in management costs. As I have said, in Australia the patient is certainly required to carry a very heavy burden.
What is the alternative to the present arrangement? We on this side of the House believe that the aim should be, first, to reduce the insurance factor. Over a period of years an attempt should be made progressively to minimise the ratio of the insurance factor to fees charged. Secondly, the direct patient payment factor should be reduced progressively. This can be done by the Commonwealth accepting greater responsibility for the health bill by meeting more of health costs from tax revenues. We on this side of the House have made it clear that our health services, however satisfactory or unsatisfactory they may be, are being paid for by somebody. Our particular complaint is that these services are being paid for in an inequitable fashion and that a very heavy overhead and management liability is added to basic costs. In the short term we would like to see established a public insurance authority which would compete with the 188 benefit organisations. Such an authority would not need tremendous reserves, but it would be underwritten by the great reserves of the Commonwealth of Australia. Its aim would be to cut overhead expenses and reserves and to set standards for the other funds to emulate. Then we would require all the benefit organisations to appoint to their boards of management representatives of a majority of their contributors. In addition we would require actuarial reports to be made public and to be made available from time to time to parliamentarians. In the few minutes available to me I have endeavoured to show that the increases of costs which already operate and which will operate as a result of the new proposals impose an unnecessary burden on the Australian people. There are alternative ways of reducing the cost of the health services and I strongly urge the Minister to consider the points that have been raised so that our expenditure on health will bring greater benefits to all Australians.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– The honorable member for Hughes (Mr. L. R. Johnson) asked for an explanation why certain statements were made regarding changes in medical benefits. I point out at the outset that no changes in hospital benefit tables are contemplated at this stage. The honorable member asked why the statement was not made initially to the Parliament. The simple explanation is that the first meeting of the Commonwealth Health Insurance Council to consider this matter was held last October. Consideration by the Council took some time. It issued its report, which was examined by my Department and submitted to me. I then made a statement on 13 th December, the day after I had considered the matter. At that time Parliament was not sitting. I presume the honorable member’s suggestion is that the matter should have been held over until Parliament met. The alternative was for the statement to be made at that time. It was necessary for the Government to state its policy. It was necessary for the funds to know exactly what was to take place. Further, the matter concerned so many people in the community. That explains why the statement was made in December and was not held over until Parliament met.
The honorable member then said that the statement made was merely a brief Press statement and contained no explanation. I do not know what the honorable member wants. I have a copy of the Press statement, in case the honorable member has forgotten to bring his. The statement consisted of five foolscap pages, a couple of which were devoted to tables setting out the whole situation and the whole background. All that matter was contained in the statement made on 13th December, and I believe that it gave a comprehensive picture of the situation. The matter then had to be considered further by the Commonwealth Health Insurance Council before further action could be taken. That was done in the last few weeks before final consideration was given to the proposal.
The honorable member has asked why new tables are necessary. I remind him that there have been no changes in the tables for about five years. During that period there have been cost changes which affect funds just as they affect any other organisation. There have been increases in salaries and wages during that period. The tables that have been announced are designed to maintain the liquidity of funds. As has already been mentioned by the honorable member for Hughes, reserves must be held on a certain basis so that the funds can meet any emergency that may arise. This basis has been laid down by the Government. Also, before consideration is give to changes of tables the matter is considered very carefully by organisations apart from the Commonwealth Health Insurance Council, on which there is representation not only of the funds but also of the Aus tralian Medical Association and other interested groups.
I believe that in raising this question the honorable member has acted without a full understanding of the actions that have been taken and the reasons for them. The honorable member also referred to the services that are required to make up a full contribution. The very name “ insurance “ suggests that his is not the way to examine a national health insurance scheme. Perhaps I could ask, whether the honorable member would burn down his house each year merely to gain the full value of the insurance cover. I am sure he would not. Exactly the same situation applies in relation to health insurance. I, as I am sure most honorable members would be, am particularly happy if I do not have to avail myself of this service. The cover is there if I should need it; and people who unfortunately become ill are covered by their own contributions and by the contributions of others who pay into the scheme.
The honorable member claimed that Australia has 188 benefit organisations. I am not quite sure how he arrived at this figure because there are 112 hospital benefit organisations and 81 medical benefit organisations. Many of them are affiliated, so the figure is much less than the one he mentioned. He referred to the costs and efficiency of the fund organisations. I shall answer his remarks in that context in what I say a little later. The honorable member compared costs of the scheme in the United Kingdom with costs in Australia. However, he did not relate the benefits available in the United Kingdom, nor did he tell us of the unhappy situation of the medical profession there or of the generally unsatisfactory service provided to the public. He merely compared costs. I do not know what costs he was comparing because he did not state what the tables were. Our analysis shows that the average cost of operation of the national health scheme in Australia is lower than the cost in the United Kingdom. The honorable member went on to refer to the actuarial problems of the various funds in the national health scheme. 1 remind him that at no time has it been the policy of any government, even when a very small scheme was operating under a previous government, to reveal confidential information provided by funds which operate on a competitive basis.
Although the funds are non-profit making and function in the interests of contributors, they do compete and in that way keep costs down. For that reason alone it would not be possible to quote the comparable costs of the various funds.
I believe that I should place on record one or two specific points which are pertinent to this debate and which relate to the health scheme in the general sense, because they do have a relativity to the problem that has been raised. The scheme covers the great majority of the people in Australia against the major proportion of medical, hospital and pharmaceutical costs. It is essentially a service in which individual responsibility is balanced with Government protection. The principle of voluntary health insurance was introduced in the early 1950’s to provide a sound foundation for a national health scheme, and it continues to provide a sound foundation today. The citizen qualifies for a Government grant towards his medical costs by becoming a member of a non-profit making health insurance organisation. The Commonwealth pays a substantial part of the citizens’ hospital costs, and a citizen can obtain almost complete financial coverage against hospital costs by contributing to a health insurance fund. Many people have a complete cover. All but a nominal part of the cost of pharmaceutical prescriptions is met by the Government and it should be noted that, with all these benefits, the highly desirable principle of freedom of choice of doctor, hospital and chemist has been maintained.
Since the scheme was introduced some 12 years ago the voluntary health scheme has grown on all planes and the range of its benefits has been steadily extended. The cost to the Government has risen from approximately £20 million in 1951-52 - if we carry it back to the days of the preceding government from about £6 million - to approximately £95 million today from the National Welfare Fund. If we include the total expenditure for last year the figure rises to £102.8 million for these services for the 12 months. Most importantly, however, the scheme has won wide acceptance and is now taken for granted as part of the Australian social system. The wide degree of public acceptance of the scheme may be measured by the fact that, apart from the Pensioner Medical Service pensioners and their dependants who comprise about 8 per cent, of the population and who receive free treatment in public wards of public hospitals, general practitioner medical services and medicines, 73 per cent, of the population is covered by health insurance. In addition to that number are people covered by repatriation benefits. Also there are personnel in the Services. If all those people are included, and consideration is given also to those who do not need to take advantage of the scheme, it will be seen that practically every member of the community is covered by this or some other service. In other words, the present scheme covers practically the whole community.
Notwithstanding the success of the national health scheme, it must be conceded that the scheme, like all other fields of human endeavour, has certain faults and weaknesses. 1 would be the first to admit that there are problems associated with it. It is not surprising that these faults and weaknesses should exist, because all national health schemes involve considerable problems and the schemes which operate in other countries also have many defects and perhaps more deficiencies. What is more important, however, is the recognition of that fact in our scheme and the taking of positive steps over the years in order to solve the problems as they arise.
I quote merely a few examples to show that such action has been taken. I refer, first of all, to the introduction, from 1st January 1959, of the special accounts plan which provides fund medical and hospital benefits to contributors who previously were excluded because of pre-existing ailments, chronic illnesses and maximum benefits.
Another example is the payment, from 1st January 1963, of nursing home benefits for all patients in such homes, without the need for those patients to be contributors to health insurance funds. A third example is the provision of free public ward hospitalisation for pensioner medical service pensioners. I also refer to provisions introduced on 1st January 1964, which permit the transfer to funds’ ordinary accounts of contributors aged over 65 years who previously were in special accounts solely on account of age. Finally I refer to the regular review which takes place of the levels of Commonwealth medical and hospital benefits. I mention those examples in order to illustrate that the Government is aware that there always will be problems associated with the medical and hospital benefits scheme and that as problems arise action is taken in an effort to deal with them in the most satisfactory way.
Reference was made to the management expenses of the organisations. This, of course, is another problem which is inherent in the system. One of the primary objectives of the scheme is to return to the contributor as high as possible a proportion of his contributions in the form of benefits. In other words, the contributor could be able to claim up to 90 per cent., as laid down in the legislation; but in actual fact the return to the contributor is substantially lower than that. This objective has been recognised by the funds themselves and is being adhered to as satisfactorily as possible under the circumstances. When we talk about the funds’ management expenses, we must remember that some of them are voluntary organisations. If we are criticising the number of funds, we should remember that many of them are associated with industrial organisations. Apart from the public funds, there is a wide range of friendly society organisations. I am sure that the honorable member for Hughes would not suggest that, solely on the ground of efficiency, we should cancel out the splendid work that is being done for us by these people in a voluntary capacity.
Despite all of that, the overall management expenses rate is 14.5 per cent, of contribution income for medical benefit organisations and 13.6 per cent, for hospital benefit organisations. Those figures are considered quite satisfactory. They compare favourably with the overall expenses rate of insurance companies in Australia which in 1962 amounted to 21.2 per cent, for ordinary business and 33.3 per cent, for industrial business. However, I repeat the pertinent point that I made previously; namely, that many or the organisations are operating partly on a voluntary basis and I am sure that the honorable member for Hughes would be the last one to suggest that on the ground of efficiency they should be deprived of the opportunity to operate and to provide to their contributors the services that they do provide.
The final point that I want to make is on the question of the level of contributions. I believe in placing factual material before the House. There is a problem here. Back in 1955 the rates for the main medical and hospital benefits tables totalled 5s. a week, which represented 2 per cent, of the basic wage at that time. Today, the comparable contribution represents 3.3 per cent of the current basic wage. That is a higher figure, although we must try to balance the present contribution rate against the average wage. However, we do recognise that this is a problem with which we must deal. It is a problem which is being recognised by the funds at the present time, and every action is being taken to solve it. Not in justification, but merely to draw attention to the fact, I point out that similar movements can be seen in the field of insurance premiums, such as third party motor car insurance premiums.
There are many other points which one should mention on this occasion, which are of vita] importance and which have significance in the present situation.. However, I will conclude by saying that an honest and objective assessment of the national health scheme today must lead one to the conclusion that it is founded on sound principles and that over a period of 1 2 years it has operated very successfully. It has shortcomings which are fully recognised by the Government; but those shortcomings are greatly outweighted by the many advantages of the scheme, and every effort is being made to overcome them, within the limits of the Government’s financial and administrative resources.
.- The most appropriate point about the new measures is that they are to take effect from April Fool’s Day. It is also a source of much irritation in the community that these new increases in contribution rates - the increase will be as much as 50 per cent, in the 6s. table which will operate in New South Wales and some of the other States - are being sanctioned by the Government at the very time when it is represented before the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission in opposition to basic wage increases designed to meet past increases in living costs.
There are two defects in the Government’s case. First of all, the Government has not been frank about details related to those new increases. Secondly, the increases were approved on the advice of the Commonwealth Health Insurance Council, which is an advisory body on which there is no representation of the great mass of the contributing public. The Council consists of the Director-General of Health as chairman, six members nominated by the State associations of registered organisations, five members representative of organisations generally and one member nominated by the Federal Council of the Australian Medical Association. In other words, apart from the Director-General of Health and the representative of the Australian Medical Association, all the advice comes from vested interest - the fund organisations themselves. On nearly every other body concerned with consumer prices, there is representation of the consumers, the people who pay the bills - in this case the people who will be compelled to pay a SO per cent, increase in contributions.
The Minister for Health (Mr. Swartz) has said in public statements that the present measures have two objects. The first is to stabilise the financial security of the operating funds. But he has not told us one iota about how the funds are in trouble. He does not give us any figures or any details. He says nothing about the current reserves of the various funds. We have figures for about two years back; but no current figures on this matter are provided. The second object is to narrow the gap between the cost of medical services and the benefits paid to contributors.
Recently I asked the Minister whether there is any prospect of doctors increasing their fees once the benefits and the contribution rates have been increased. In reply to that question the Minister was only able to say that at least for some time - as vague as that - he did not think there was any prospect of the medical fraternity increasing its fees. In fact, some of the fund organisations have been informed already that, despite the voluntary agreement by the medical fraternity to stabilise its fees over the last two years, some doctors who do not feel themselves bound by the Australian Medical Association have increased their fees by as much as 25 per cent. There is the prospect of further increases. It is no wonder that recently the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ said that Mr. Swartz’s explanation “reads very much like somebody making the best of a poor case “.
I say straightaway that we of the Australian Labour Party regard the nation’s health in the same way as we regard its education. We believe that it should be a community responsibility. I do not think we could do better than to borrow the third objective of the British National Health Service Act which states -
To divorce the care of health from questions of personal means or other factors irrelevant to it and thus encourage the obtaining of advice early and the promotion of good health rather than only the treatment of bad.
Let us return to the question of the present situation of the funds. The Minister claims that an increase in contributions or, alternatively, a reduction in benefits is necessary in order to keep the funds solvent, but as recently as 1st September 1964 in reply to a question asked by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam), the Minister said -
The aggregate reserves of registered medical benefits organisations were £9,548,514 at 30th June 1963.
These were reserves for medical benefits organisations alone. No figures have been given to us to indicate that those reserves have contracted substantially, warranting the proposed vicious increase. As a matter of fact, one of the hospital contribution funds, which deals with both medical and hospital benefits, the Hospitals Contribution Fund of New South Wales, in its annual report for 1964 states -
This has been another profitable year for the fund and its contributors. Income exceeded expenditure by £248,216, thus increasing the level of contributor reserves to £8,463,932.
This is one organisation in New South Wales which has reserves of almost £8i million. Why do contributions have to be increased? Why are we not supplied with more information to convince the public that it should be paying the substantial increase proposed? In the same annual report it is stated that the organisation has appealed to the Minister for Health for approval to pay increased benefits under the existing tables. It has sought approval for the payment of full medical benefits for unreferred specialist services. There is no mention of this nonsense of the patient having to go first to a general practitioner, pay him, and then go to a specialist and pay him as well. The organisation has sought also the payment of a fund benefit for spectacles prescribed by optometrists. These are but two of the requests it has made and which have been under consideration by the Minister and his officers for a year or 18 months. No decision has been given, and yet we are led to believe that these fund organisations are in trouble. I repeat, this is one organisation which has reserves of almost £84 million.
In September last, also in reply to a question asked by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, the Minister said that details were not available of the cost of wages and salaries paid by the organisations or of the number of persons employed by them. Surely if we are to pay out money through the agency of these funds, to which people are compelled to belong, we are entitled to know details of their running expenses. I am not at all convinced by the Minister when he says that the administrative expenses of these organisations are prescribed as between 12i and 20 per cent, and that this is a lot better than the expenses of general insurance companies. What a difference in the functions of the two kinds of organisation. People are compelled to belong to health benefit organisations in order to attract Commonwealth benefits. The ordinary insurance company has to go out and solicit patronage - solicit a clientele - but people have to come to the health organisations, so the situation is not al all comparable.
The Minister tries to persuade us that the organisations are administratively efficient. Surely the fact that there are over 200 of these organisations, each with administrative expenses, indicates that substantial economies could be achieved by reducing the number. If we must retain the present system, could not the Government set up its own insurance body? The New South Wales State Government and other State Governments have established various types of insurance organisations. If the Government established an insurance organisation to which the public paid their contributions I believe the people would feel a lot happier. There would be no question of competing against private organisations. Let the Commonwealth set the pace by providing an organisation of its own, which would have more public responsibility than the private organisations have.
I have but a few moments left, but one of the questions I want to raise relates to doctors and the pensioner medical service.
I have some sympathy for doctors in this respect. I understand they are paid 12s. for a surgery visit by those enrolled under the pensioner medical service or their dependants. If a doctor has to visit such a patient’s home he receives 14s. I understand further that these amounts have applied for some time. These are grossly unreal payments. I am told that doctors, in order to compensate themselves for the low payments they receive from the Commonwealth in respect of pensioners and repatriation patients, charge a higher fee to the general public than they would ordinarily apply. I suggest that the Commonwealth has defaulted by not paying a reasonable rate to doctors in respect of these patients, thus compelling doctors to apply an increased levy on the rest of the community. The increase in fund charges will mean that there will be even fewer than the present 73 per cent, of the general public covered by these organisations. The fees are going to be prohibitive and will discourage many people from joining medical and hospital funds. There are 1,600,000 people in Australia today not covered by any fund organisation. This new imposition will not help to decrease that number.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- The basis of the criticism of the member for Hughes (Mr. L. R. Johnson) against the Government’s health scheme as represented particularly by the medical and hospital benefits funds is that it is too costly - that a person may join one of these organisations and not get the value of the money he has paid into the fund. In fact, he enumerated the number of times a patient would have to go to a doctor before he got his money’s worth, as it were. May I submit, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that a person does not join one of these societies hoping that he will be sick. He does not join in the hope of getting the full amount of his contributions back within 12 months. He joins as an insurance in case he becomes sick; he hopes that he may never have to use his cover. In fact, if insurance societies were to run on the basis that every person who contributed was to pet all his money back, there would not be any insurance societies at all.
Despite what the honorable member for Hughes said in his opening remarks, 1 believe that the hospital and medical benefit insurance scheme has become a vital and democratic link in our social security. 1 do not think you can separate the medical and hospital funds one from the other. I believe the scheme emphasises public service at its best in that it utilises private enterprise - and I think it is important that it does - in providing a means of securing hospital and medical benefits for a great majority of people, many of whom are not equipped to provide adequately for themselves these days. It is not the cost that worries the Opposition so much as the fact that the scheme utilises private enterprise. This worries honorable members opposite because they are socialists and they do not believe that we should make every use of the doctor, chemist and nurse. They believe that these people should be public servants and that every major hospital should be part of a Commonwealth Government department. That is why they have never liked the present scheme.
The reason why the scheme has been successful is that the average Australian of modest income dislikes being the recipient of private charity - or government charity, to which the Opposition would make him’ a party. By participating voluntarily in a pre-pay plan every citizen is able to maintain his self respect without devastating effects on his bank account. That is why this system has been such a tremendous success in the community. On the other hand, whilst the present system is operating I believe that this country is saved from a Commonwealth administered scheme which would cost the taxpayers millions of pounds. Those millions of pounds would be wasted, as has happened in the United Kingdom and in New Zealand and, in some respects, in Canada. Costs would rise to astronomical heights if such a scheme were introduced in Australia.
It is interesting to know what has been said recently about the United Kingdom scheme by some prominent United Kingdom experts. Doctor Lees, Senior Lecturer in Economics at the University College of North Staffordshire has said that the national health service in the United Kingdom lacks safeguards against inefficiency and waste of resources. The Official Hand book of Britain, prepared by the Central Office of Information, London, contains one of the most interesting comments made on this subject. The handbook candidly states that the national health service is not without its difficulties and shortcomings. The current situation in England in which mass resignations of medical practitioners from the service is threatened and in which the emigration of medical practitioners from the United Kingdom is causing considerable anxiety provides ample evidence of the practical difficulties which such a scheme can produce. We have not had this experience in Australia, where our scheme has been in operation for 15 years. The Australian scheme is directed towards assisting insured hospital and medical patients to meet their financial obligations. In the case of hospital fund contributors, the Government has made a subsidy direct to the patient in preference to making it to the State government. The New South Wales Government - the honorable member who originated this debate today comes from New South Wales - has never been happy with the scheme that operates in this country because it feels that payments that are now made direct to a patient should be made to the State. The New South Wales Minister for Health seems to be of the opinion that increased payments made from time to time by the Commonwealth should be made not to the patient but direct to the State Government. However, the Commonwealth takes the opposite view, and rightly so. The Commonwealth hospital benefit of 20s. a day is made direct to the patient. The patient handles the money as a kind of contra account against the account that he will ultimately get from the hospital. Patients are able to go into the hospital of their choice, just as they go to the doctor or chemist of their choice. There is no regimentation and there are no disciplinary measures.
I believe that the national health scheme is providing a wonderful service to the people of this country. As the Minister for Health (Mr. Swartz) has said, the scheme is not perfect, but what scheme is perfect today? I will concede that, as with all other fields of human endeavour, there are certain faults and weaknesses in the scheme. From time to time I have referred to some of them in this House in the hope that the Government may take steps to remedy them. I am not surprised that those faults and weaknesses exist because the scheme is confronted with many problems. I have referred to some of the problems with which the United Kingdom scheme is confronted, but problems exist in Canada and in New Zealand also in connection with health schemes. But I do claim that Australia’s national health scheme is a great success. This is evidenced by the fact that almost 75 per cent, of the community is associated with hospital and medical funds. The other 25 per cent, is probably covered by the pensioner medical service or repatriation. The figures are a great recommendation for the Australian scheme. It has been accepted by the people.
Nobody can claim that hospital and medical insurance is not worth while. Premiums are relatively small. Operational costs are relatively low. But the returns in time of illness are handsome. Everybody owes it to himself and the community to join an approved organisation in order to provide personal security and to take some of the load off our hospitals. This scheme has been provided by a good government.
.- The honorable member for Hughes (Mr. L. R. Johnson) is to be congratulated for bringing to the notice of the Parliament the shortcomings in what is undoubtedly the worst medical scheme in the world, if we may dignify it by calling it a scheme. This fact has been placed on record by prominent authorities in the field of medicine who cannot understand what the scheme is - what it proposes to give to contributors and what real benefit it has.
I listened carefully to the honorable member for Isaacs (Mr. Haworth). He dealt at some length with the United Kingdom scheme. If the scheme in Great Britain, introduced by a Socialist Government, was so bad, why did a Tory administration between 1951 and 1964 not abolish it and introduce free enterprise medicine? Thousands of doctors from Australia went to England to take advantage of that country’s great scheme. Does the honorable member now suggest that those doctors went there only to exploit the people and to ignore the ethics of their profession? They went there because they knew how good the scheme was. They made good salaries out of it and gained great experience. The scheme was so good that a Tory administration would not abolish it in 13 years of government. In New Zealand a national health scheme introduced by a Labour government is still operated by a Tory administration. As is always the case, Tories criticise everything introduced by a Socialist government but embrace it as their own when it works, as has happened with the health schemes in Great Britain and New Zealand. I do not have time to defend further the scheme that operates in the United Kingdom. It requires little support from me, but I mention it so that the honorable member may know that on all sides it has been accepted as having made a great contribution to the health and welfare of the community.
One would imagine that a new Minister for Health would bring an enlightened approach to the problem that exists in this country to-day. Would you not think that the Minister would give real answers to what has been put forward today by the honorable member for Hughes and the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Reynolds)? In his first speech as Minister for Health, following the unfortunate death of Senator Wade, we heard a tedious repetition of how good the scheme is, and how much the Government has spent on it. We had apologies for the benefits societies. In every way the Minister attempted to make out that he was defending the greatest medical scheme in the world. Why, he has been in charge of it only a couple of weeks. At no stage did he answer any of the well founded criticisms of the honorable member for Hughes, who opened this debate on behalf of the Opposition.
Now let us examine the position. We find that medical benefit contributions are to be increased. I cannot run through all the changes. In the speech he made outside the Parliament, the Minister referred to two matters which he said were designed to be covered by the increases. The honorable member for Barton mentioned them. The first was the need to stabilise the financial security of the funds and the second was the need to reduce the gap between the cost of medical services and the combined Commonwealth and fund benefits. The Minister referred to the need to stabilise the financial security of the funds; but at this time their assets are worth £25 million.
– Thai is their fluid assets.
– That is so. What does the Minister expect? Does he expect that a pneumonic plague will sweep through the country and so cause the funds to go broke overnight? Any business with assets worth ?25 million would be looked upon as a most stable organisation. Surveys and budgets presented from time to time show the position of the funds. The real reason they are in difficulty today is because they are too numerous and their administrative costs are exorbitant. A Government fund should be established to ensure that better benefits are given to the public and waste is eliminated.
The second matter mentioned by the Minister was the need to reduce the gap between the cost of medical services and the combined Commonwealth and fund benefits. The reduction of this gap depends on the successful operation of the scheme. The Minister knows full well that, so far as the wage earner and other members of the public are concerned, the scheme has failed because every time fund benefits are increased the fees charged by doctors rise substantially. The Minister, who stands for pegged wages for men and women in industry, refuses to peg the fees of medical practitioners, because many are evidently listed amongst the wealthy supporters of the Government who put it into office in 1949. This scheme cannot work unless medical practitioners stabilise fees and do as workers do and go to arbitration before they increase their fees. Already there is talk of a big increase of up to 100 per cent, in medical fees. Dr. Ross-Smith has said that this is not quite right. He is Federal Secretary of the Australian Medical Association. A newspaper carried the following article -
Current general practitioners’ fees are 25s. for surgery consultation and 35s. for a home visit.
Dr. RossSmith said today: “ An increase in doctors’ fees would appear likely some time later this year, but the suggested figure of 100 per cent, increase would appear to be exaggerated. “ So far as the Australian Medical Association is concerned, the degree of any increase recommended in the fees would depend upon the result of an economic survey which the association is now having done on an Australia-wide basis “.
I cannot go right through the article, but it is clear that doctor’s fees will be increased and will probably be doubled. The pattern of medical benefits and doctor’s fees shows that any increase in benefits operates to the advantage of the doctors. Even old granny “ Herald “ made a revolutionary suggestion recently. An editorial in the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ on 9th March stated in part -
The quickest and most satisfactory way of settling the involved medical benefits wrangle would be by appointment of a full and open inquiry. The whole structure of the scheme - its costs, its present schedule of benefits and its administration - should be reviewed and an actuarily sound plan which gives fair returns for a fair contribution worked out and implemented.
Everyone knows that in the present scheme the funds operate only to guarantee that the doctors will not suffer any losses. The funds do not operate for the benefit of the people. Let me quote from a speech made in this Parliament a few years ago by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam). He said -
Every two years - in 1953, 1955, 1957 and now in 1959 - the Parliament is asked to amend the schedules for medical benefits. That is, it is always asked to amend the schedule immediately after the biennial meeting of the B.M.A. federal council. The motivation in these matters is not the desire to reduce the expenses of the patients but to guarantee the fees of the doctors.
That is all the Government is doing now. The public is being exploited. Professor Jock Marshall, speaking at a Melbourne university, recently had something to say on this subject, and for good measure he had a lash at the restrictive practices of the medical profession. He said -
Medicine is one of the few professions in Australia in which an industrious dolt can earn more than ?5,000 a year.
This is one of the results of the scheme that the Government has adopted. Let us look at the way that the medical profession operates. We see that in many cases a fortune is being made out of the sickness of the people. The Minister thinks that people do not have to go to a doctor more than once or twice a year. But some people must make consistent calls on doctors. A newspaper recently printed an article on this subject. I cannot place my hands on it at the moment. However, it revealed that advertisements are being published seeking doctors and offering all kinds of conditions and an income of ?4,000, ?5,000 and even more a year. These positions are available not only in the metropolitan area of Sydney but also in other centres. These incomes can be offered because the Government’s money, as well as the public’s money, is being used to guarantee payment of doctors’ bills. Doctors increase their fees and so take any benefit that the public might have had. Doctors’ fees vary all over the Commonwealth. Why should there not be a set fee? The most common fees charged by doctors are generally the highest that they can get in the areas in which they practice. The fees in one area are higher than the fees in another area, and this pattern can be found all over the Commonwealth.
Time is too limited for me to deal with all the imperfections of the scheme. But I point out that the scheme does not operate in the interests of the public; it operates more for the benefit of the medical profession. The sicker a person is the less he gets from the funds, and the sound thing to do under this Government is to hope for good health and that the benefits that should be available under this national health scheme will never be needed.
.- The honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) referred for two or three minutes to the possibility of an increase in doctors’ fees and therefore an increase in the incomes of doctors. Unless under socialistic control of doctors, the members of the medical profession are the only people who should say whether they are receiving a fair return for the enormously difficult job that they do. I would say that a doctor who seeks a better income is being no more than human. In my experience in this Parliament, I have not noticed too many people refusing to take an increase in their incomes. Opposition members who have taken part in this debate have not paid due regard to the position of medical practitioners. I know from personal experience how hard doctors, particularly those in country areas, work. It would be impossible to fix the value of a doctor to a community. He is engaged in the profession of making people well when they are sick and keeping them well, and good health is, of course, the prime worry of any person. I do not think that the value of a doctor can be assessed according to a set scale for an hour or a 40 hour week.
The honorable member for Grayndler and other Opposition members who spoke in this debate had several factors in common. They referred to a government medical and hospital insurance fund. This is not surprising; it is in line with their idea of socialising and nationalising the whole of the medical profession and taking over the control of all medical and hospital benefits. We have not heard very much of this objective up to the present; the Opposition has kept it quiet for quite a long time. But it has emerged today in the speeches of Opposition members. They have commented on the lack of administrative efficiency within the hospital benefit organisations. In 1963-64, the registered medical and hospital benefit organisations had overall management expenses rates of 14.5 per cent, and 13.6 per cent, of contribution income respectively. Those figures compare very favourably with the overall rates of insurance companies in Australia - 21.2 per cent, for ordinary, and 32.3 per cent, for industrial business. This, of course, is the answer to the question whether or not the funds are administratively efficient. The funds would be the first to admit that, like any other organisation, they could certainly become more efficient than they are at the moment, but on a percentage basis their figures compare very favourably with those for the insurance offices.
The other point that honorable members opposite have raised relates to the British national health service. I should like to direct attention to an article that appeared in last Thursday’s issue of the “ Australian “ from that newspaper’s London office. The article is headed “Britain’s Health Service is Sick “ and commences -
The National Health Service, the foundation stone of Britain’s welfare state, is in danger of collapsing.
Britain’s 23,000 national health doctors have threatened to withdraw from the service unless their incomes are increased.
They say they are overworked and underpaid.
In the article the writer states that the doctors complain about bureaucratic control. This, of course, has reference to administrative efficiency. The Opposition’s idea would be to establish a bureaucratic monster that would control the whole of the medical services throughout Australia. I hate to think what that would cost this country in administrative expenses.
The honorable member for Grayndler said that a number of doctors had gone from Australia to England. A few doctors may have gone to do post-graduate study and a few may have gone to live in England because it was their wish to do so, but the number of Australian doctors who have gone to England is nowhere near the number of English doctors who have come to Australia. They are coming out at the rate of 40 a month.
– And they are staying here.
– And, as the Minister reminds me, they are staying here. Doctors are coming from England at the rate of 480 a year to escape from the national health service scheme in England. We are very glad to have them because of the shortage of medical practitioners in Australia as a result of our increasing population. I could go on talking about Britain’s health service. The whole tone of this article - it is a long one - is that the national health service in Britain is in danger of collapsing, as is the welfare state.
I do not think that any discussion on the subject of medical and hospital benefits would be complete - particularly so far as the Australian Country Party is concerned - without reference to the names of the late Sir Earle Page and the late Senator Wade. I must necessarily be brief. As we all know, Sir Earle Page introduced the national health scheme in 1953. We remember that before 1953, at a time when the Opposition had been in power for many years, there were no medical benefits or pharmaceutical benefits. Last year the Commonwealth paid out £51 million in these benefits whereas there were no such benefits when the Opposition was in power.
I wish to pay a tribute to the work of the late Senator Wade during his brief term as Minister for Health. The late Senator, who was a layman, took over this extremely technical and difficult portfolio and administered it in a most practical and able manner. He had many major achievements to his credit during the short time that he held the portfolio. I shall mention just a couple of them. In January 1963 hospital benefits for pensioners were increased to 36s. a day and home nursing service benefit to 20s. a day. In July of that year provision was made for assistance in respect of thalidomide babies, the Commonwealth sharing the cost with the States. In May 1964, less than a year ago, Commonwealth medical benefits were increased by one-third. This was given effect to under new legislation in fulfilment of an election promise. Senator Wade introduced the Bill. The effectiveness of the measure is illustrated by the fact that the percentage of the Commonwealth’s payment to meet the cost of sickness rose from 25 per cent, to 31 per cent, in the six months ended 31st December 1964, and the contributors’ share of the bill fell from 37.2 per cent, to 33.6 per cent. Another major contribution made by the late Senator Wade was, of course, his constant war to have the prices of drugs reduced. He did this in the interests of the public and the Commonwealth of Australia. I pay this tribute to the work of Senator Wade during the comparatively short time he was Minister for Health.
In conclusion, I should like to support the Government in upholding the principle that a health scheme should be voluntary and not, as the Opposition would have it, compulsory and overburdened, as it would be, by bureaucratic control. Discontent exists among doctors and among the people in Britain because of the lack of personal service and attention available under the British national health scheme. The Minister for Health (Mr. Swartz) and other speakers have admitted that the present scheme has its shortcomings and bad points. The Government is aware of this and is doing everything it can to correct these shortcomings but by and large there is no doubt that Australia’s national health service, ever since its inception, has been the admiration of all other countries.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired. This discussion is concluded.
.- I move- [Customs Tariff Proposals (No. 34).]
Mr. Deputy Speaker, Customs Tariff Proposals No. 34 which I have just tabled propose an amendment to the Customs Tariff 1933-1964 following the Government’s acceptance of the recommendations of the Tariff Board in its report on bubble levels. These were formerly known by most honorable members as spirit levels.
Increased duties of 25 per cent, ad valorem British preferential tariff and 324 per cent, ad valorem most favoured nation rate are proposed in accordance with the Board’s recommendations, to assist the local production of bubble levels as an extension to the range of local production of small tools. These rates, which will take effect from tomorrow morning, are the same as those recently recommended and adopted for other types of small tools produced in Australia. Entry at non-protective rates of duty under customs by-law will be accorded engineers’ precision levels which are not made in Australia. I commend the proposals to honorable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Crean) adjourned.
– I present a report by the Tariff Board on the following subject -
Ordered to be printed.
– I move
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1913-1960, the following proposed work be referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works for investigation and report: - Erection of a Radiophysics Laboratory for the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation at Epping, New South Wales.
The proposals involve the erection at an estimated cost of £800,000 of a main building complex supplemented by a boiler house and plant room, a workshop and garage and a caretaker’s cottage. The main building, which has been designed around a central courtyard, will consist of a two-story administrative wing, with single story associated wings housing laboratories. Generally the main buildings will be of steel framed construction with concrete floors and face brick external walls. The caretaker’s cottage will be constructed of brick. I table plans of the proposed works.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
Debate resumed from 17th March (vide page 82), on motion by Sir Robert Menzies -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
.- In common with most conscious Australians, 1 have had a lifetime interest in water conservation and irrigation. Australia is. of course, the most arid of all the continents and water is the very blood of life to us. This bill relating to the Supplemental Agreement on the Indus Basin Development Fund which, together with my colleagues in the Opposition, I support, is one of the most important measures of this type which has ever come before the House. It transcends in importance the run of the mill legislation which we enact from time to time as it relates to one of the most powerful and fundamental forces in the world today - the force of hunger, the force of starvation - as evidenced by the statistics of misery and the economics of scarcity which have been prepared by the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations.
For 99 per cent, of the time that man has lived on this earth, he has been a food gatherer. Only during the last three millennia has he ever, in certain countries and for limited times, been a food producer by agriculture. He has not yet learned the new technique effectively. The ominous food shortages and the associated world population explosion of recent years are reminders of the slender material foundations on which our civilisation and our lives rest. Few persons know, and even fewer appreciate, that only 3 per cent, of the area of the world is reasonably habitable, and this mostly in the river valleys and alluvial plains of river deltas, and on the sea coasts. The greatest contribution today which can be made to human welfare and progress would be an economically practicable process for the desalination of sea water, and in no country of the world would that be of more value than in Australia. It has been correctly stated by ecologists that man is the most destructive animal on the face of the earth, and equally true is the assertion that forests have preceded him and deserts followed him. With axe and fire, we have destroyed the forests. With our stock we have overgrazed the resulting pastures and, from our destructive methods of agriculture, desert and dust bowls have resulted.
The whole of human sustenance in agricultural food production depends on the average of seven inches - no more - of most fertile top soil in which the reserves of humus exist and which man, in his greed and ignorance, is progressively depleting without thought of replacement. In our preoccupation with the history of individual national states, we have failed to learn the over-riding lessons of history in relation to the primitive and devastating force of hunger.
The whole history of Europe throughout the Middle Ages might have taken an entirely different course but for the growing scarcity of herbage on the central steppes of Asia for the flocks and herds of the nomadic Mongol herdsmen, which resulted in the herdsmen pressing against the nations to the west of them and so altering the whole course of history. The constant migration to the westward of which we read in the history of the Middle Ages proves this and the names of such of their leaders as Genghis Khan and Tamerlane can still strike fear in occidental minds, with memories of the Mongol hordes, tough, brave, mobile and warlike, who drove through Russia into Central Europe, and into the Middle East, and whose incursions and resulting devastation changed the course of European history.
I quote these matters to illustrate my theme of the significance and menace of the growing world food shortage and the postwar population explosion. But the threat today is not one of mobile masses of nomadic herdsmen. Tt takes a different form. It is difficult for the 450 million persons in the world, including Australians, who live at a relatively high standard, to visualise not merely the economic but also the nutritional plight of the remaining 2.800 million of the world’s fellow creatures, fashioned as we are told, in the image and likeness of the Almighty,
In Australia, nobody dies of starvation. Elsewhere, more than 1,500 million people go to bed hungry every night. The Food and Agriculture Organisation statistics confirm that one half of the world’s people suffer from hunger and malnutrition. Only about one-sixth of the world’s population is well fed. I quote the following from a report of that body -
Being forced to live on anything below adequate food makes a man a social liability. He cannot work effectively on an empty stomach; he cannot study and learn as he must in order to improve his condition; he cannot think beyond the dominant immediate need, which is his next meal; he cannot build up resistance to wasting disease; he holds back not only the economic and social development of his country but also the prosperity of the world.
We have for many years lived in this country with our vision clouded by a background fear of the numbers in Asia in relation to our 11 million people. We have had a population numbers complex which has warped our thinking in relation to the many countries of Asia of which a tragic majority have huge populations which are the measure of their weakness and not of their strength, and of their utter incapacity to achieve economic viability, much less to wage effective war in the light of their proved incapacity even to feed at minimal standards their swarming populations. It is a fact that not one in one hundred of these people has ever in all his life had what we would consider a good square meal, and this forms a sombre background against which to view world events. I quote the following words of Owen D. Young of the University of California -
Let no man think that the living standards of America can be permanently maintained at a measurably higher level than those of the other civilised countries. Either we shall lift their living standards to ours, or they will drag ours down to theirs.
A report issued by the Rockefeller Foundation states -
Declining mortality and stable fertility cannot co-exist permanently within a finite universe, whatever the level to which technology may advance.
The acute restlessness in Asia, the Middle East and Africa means, among other things, an increasing consciousness of the disparity between the present living standards of their people and those common in more affluent countries. Of democracy they know little, but of hunger they know much. Since the end of World War II over 1,000 million people in various parts of the world have seized their independence. They had hoped to become masters of their own destiny in order to escape from poverty. Almost all of them are pathetically poor and have only a weak capacity for self-sustaining, economic growth.
Since 1950, the world’s population has increased by over 600 million. This increase is greater than the population of the whole of Europe, together with that of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, in 1950. The annual world population increase at the present time exceeds the entire population of the United Kingdom. Another 500 million people are expected on this earth by the early 1970’s and the sociological problems which are likely to arise in the next two decades will probably outweigh the problems of production and distribution. It is a tragic absurdity of human affairs that this huge army of uneducated, untrained, underfed and underprivileged new recruits to humanity should have been bred at the very moment when science and technology are rapidly undermining the requirement for, and the status of, the unskilled.
It is facile and comforting, no doubt, to picture the cornucopia of science enabling immensely increased populations to be well fed and even affluent as a result of the skills and efforts of a highly trained minority. Even if, and when, enough of everything can be produced to meet all reasonable human needs - and this is a very long way off - people need the self-respect and the status that comes from being wanted and having a true function in society. The situation of the multitude of new paupers, so heavily concentrated in Asia, Africa and South America is a challenge and a menace to the world. They seem destined to create as combustible a material as any that history can show. They Wi,11 have virtually no strength, except in nuisance value in stirring the world’s conscience, but they will be very great, reinforced as they will be by the knowledge that their existence and plight are the measure of the world’s failure to meet its population problems.
The objectives of this Bill, large as the capital outlay may seem, will make a significant but still inadequate contribution to the world problem of bringing food and hunger into balance. The best answer to the world’s agricultural problem is the development of food production where it is most needed, and nowhere is the need greater than in the historic Indus Valley. It is heartbreaking to behold in so much of
Asia, and in the Indian sub-continent in particular, farming at a subsistence level where the backbreaking labour of a peasant farmer, lacking scientific knowledge, proper modern equipment and resources, can produce only sufficient to feed himself and’ his family. In Australia, in contradistinction, the labour of one farmer, with mechanisation, can produce sufficient food for from 60 to 80 persons, including his own family. It is difficult for us to visualise the measure and depth of the needs, or the depth of the degradation of the under-privileged peoples. So basically influenced are human beings by the need for food that peace and war, international understanding and the whole fabric of human social life are profoundly affected by it. Hunger is a fundamental issue of our time and the treatment that we give it in the next two decades will affect the survival of our species. The problem can no longer be left to be dealt with by each nation according to its ability but must be tackled through international cooperation. The historian, Arnold Toynbee, has expressed the hope that this age will be remembered as the first generation in history in which mankind dared to believe it to be practical to make the benefits of civilisation available to the whole human race.
The Indus Waters Treaty did, in fact, mark the end of a long-standing and critical dispute between India and Pakistan over the use of the waters of the Indus River and its five main tributaries which form the Indus Basin. I trust that the completion of the project will not merely contribute to the agricultural prosperity of these two nations but will further reduce the longstanding tensions between them and will lead them into new channels of mutual respect, friendship and peaceful cooperation.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message received from the GovernorGeneral recommending an appropriation for the Indus Basin Development Fund Supplemental Agreement Bill 1964 announced
Message from the Governor-General recommending an appropriation for a new clause and an amendment to be moved in the Indus Basin Development Fund
Supplemental Agreement Bill 1964 announced.
– Mr. Chairman, I have two amendments to move. They have been circulated. Although the amendments appear after clause 1 and clause 3 respectively, the purpose of both amendments is the same. I suggest that they be considered together.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Lucock).There being no objection, this course will be followed.
– To make quite plain what we propose by these amendments, I would remind honorable members that there are two agreements relating to Australian contributions to the Indus Waters scheme. There is the original Agreement of 1960 and then the Supplemental Agreement of 1964. In December 1960, the Australian Parliament enacted the Indus Basin Development Fund Agreement Act - Act No. 87 - which authorised the payment of the original contribution of £6.9 million, in round figures. Then the Supplemental Agreement was made and the purpose of the Bill which is now before the House is to authorise the payment of an additional £4.7 million, in round figures.
Since the drawing of this Bill we have found that the practices of the World Bank, which is sponsoring and administering this Indus Waters scheme, make it impossible to differentiate between payments due under the original Agreement of 1960 and those payments which are due under the Supplemental Agreement which is now under the notice of the House. That peculiarity of the Bank’s practices was not under notice when we drafted the Bill. When we learned of these practices it became necessary to amend the Bill to meet this situation. The effect of the two amendments which I shall move will be to permit all Australian payments to be applied without distinction between the two Agreements.
I move -
The significance of the date mentioned in the first amendment is that the first day of October 1964 was the first date on which payments could be made both from the original Agreement and from the Supplemental Agreement. The second amendment relates to clause 3, which reads -
The amounts required from time to time for the purpose of the making of payments in respect of Australia’s contribution under the Supplemental Agreement to the Indus Basin Development Fund are payable out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund, which is appropriated accordingly.
The clause as originally drafted concludes in the customary manner with the words “ which is appropriated accordingly “. lt is proposed to omit those words and to insert instead the words “ and the appropriation made by section 3 of the Indus Basin Development Fund Agreement Act 1960 extends to payments made in respect of that contribution “. What we are doing, in effect, is to provide that the authority for appropriation given under the Act that we passed in this Parliament in 1960 will be the authority for appropriation in respect of payments to be made under the terms of this measure. That is the whole substance of the two amendments.
.- Mr. Chairman, the Opposition has given warm support and unstinted praise to the Indus Basin Development Scheme and has acclaimed the work being done to assist two countries that are members of the Commonwealth of Nations. In this, there has been no divergence of opinion in the Parliament, only unanimity. There is no question about the importance of this scheme. The astounding issue that arises is not the virtues of the scheme. What comes under fire is the conduct of this Government. With full knowledge of all the facts for a long time past, it has belatedly presented an amendment the need for which ought to have been known initially. The Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Hasluck) has made his explanation and his confession. He has admitted the requirements of the International Bank for Reconstruction ant! Development, which is known shortly as the World Bank, concerning the payments to be made by the Commonwealth of Australia. I am sure honorable members will agree that what the Bank has asked for in this instance is what anybody would have expected it to ask for in the circumstances. It has asked that payments be made by the due date, that they be made regularly and that they be continuing. Then: is nothing new in this. Additional funds were required, and these are requirements of the sort that would have been expected.
Why have we now to consider an amendment proposed in this fashion? I protest not at any feature of the Bill or the Scheme but at the manner in which this measure has been presented to the Parliament. The Bill was introduced prior to the Christmas recess, and there is no reason why this allimportant measure related to Australia’s credit abroad and the financing of a great development scheme should not have been considered then. The whole matter could have been regularised at that time and Australia’s payments since could have been made under legal authority in conformity with the requirements of the World Bank. During the 17 weeks of the recess, the doors of the Parliament were closed and we could not dispose of this important measure. We are now asked to give legal sanction to payments that have already been made. That is the purpose of the first of the Minister’s two amendments.
The situation in which we are asked to take this action stems from the fact that we have a lackadaisical government that regards Australia as a land of lots of time and believes that anything can be done any old time - this year, next year or at some other time in the future, though perhaps not as far distant as never. This kind of approach to an important matter of international significance is not good enough. Leading for the Australian Labour Party in the consideration of this measure, I say that I can only hope that we shall see no repetition of this kind of conduct in the future.
– Mr. Chairman, with all due respect to the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Luchetti), I suggest that he has exaggerated the situation a little. There is no question whatever of any dilatoriness or indifference on the part of the Government. We had simply assumed - it was a natural assumption - that two payments made under the authority of two separate enactments of this Parliament could be made separately. When it came time to make arrangements about the payments, and particularly the method of making them, it was found that the practices of the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development required that the payments be made under one heading - not at one time, but under one heading. We have proposed these amendments solely to conform with what may really be described as the bookkeeping practices of the World Bank.
Amendments agreed to.
Bill, as amended, agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Mr. Hasluck) - by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from 18th March (vide page 1 90), on motion by Mr. Bury -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
.- Mr. Speaker, I, along with other Opposition members, support the Bill, but, like them, I have grave doubts about whether it will achieve any real benefit for home seekers, particularly those who are desperate, and low wage earners. For myself, 1 say that with this measure, as with the Homes Savings Grant Act, I hope for the best and fear the worst. I shall be interested to hear the Minister for Housing (Mr. Bury) tell the House what rates of premium will be charged by the proposed Housing Loans Insurance Corporation. The burning question in the field of housing in this country is interest rates, and I shall be interested to hear what rates of interest will be charged under the terms of this Bill. Bearing in mind the need to uphold the dignity of people who are prepared to go to almost any lengths to get a roof over their heads, I shall be interested to hear to what degree the ordinary man in the street defaults in housing loans. If the pattern of events with respect to this measure is similar to that with respect to the Homes Savings Grant Act, we shall in the very near future see amendments to correct anomalies that arise. Already, amendments to correct anomalies in the earlier Act are foreshadowed.
As the name of this measure implies, it is designed to safeguard the interests of the big lending institutions that lend money for home purchase. However, I see nothing in the Bill to safeguard the interests of the borrower. In my view, this measure will not achieve any reduction in interest rates. It will not end the iniquitous flat rates of interest that are the greatest bugbear to all concerned in the field of housing, and particularly those who borrow to finance the purchase of homes. The Bill makes no contribution to reducing the price of land. In fact, the high interest rates and the vicious system of the flat rale of interest which prevail in housing finance and which will still prevail under this Bill, a system which makes the rich richer and the poor poorer, will still be bugbears to the person, especially thelow wage earner, who is trying to get a roof over his head.
I have noticed also that the means test on the borrower will still be invoked. This means that the one million people whose weekly earnings are in the vicinity of £20 to £22 - those to whom I have referred as the forgotten poor - will remain the forgotten poor. These are people who must bear the indignity of sub-standard housing, overcrowded homes, shared accommodation and high rents; and those things will remain their lot under this Bill. I have always found in debates of this nature in this House a tendency to overlook the human factors related to the housing problem. AH sorts of statistics are trotted out to produce an image of intense prosperity. I believe that the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean) gave the perfect answer to this kind of argument when he reminded the House that only 25 per cent. of maletaxpayers earn more than £30 a week. On those figures, 75 per cent. of the people will gain no help from this Bill. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports said also that about £250 million was taken out in mortgages annually in Australia at a flat rate of interest in excess of 6 per cent., and that additional mortgages to the value of £120 million were issued at flat rates of interest in excess of 8 per cent. These mortgages would be taken out by the 75 per cent, to whom I referred and who, by force of their circumstances, become virtual slaves to the financial institutions from the moment they sign the mortgage contract. But this is the image that Government supporters refuse to acknowledge.
The honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Stokes) quoted statistics relating to buildings and said that 124,569 homes were built by 31st December 1964. He said that there had been that volume of home building, but although he made this announcement with some gusto he did not tell the House with the same gusto what those figures represent in homes for the people, in flats for those who can afford flats, or home units in this so called affluent society for those with more affluence than the man on £22 a week. I am sure that if the figures for new houses built were stated the image that the Government tries to create would fade into insignificance when compared with the real need of the low wage earner to secure a home.
The number of approvals for flats has almost doubled in Victoria and in New South Wales, but at the same time cottage construction has fallen off. In keeping with the increase in the number of flats that have been built, the amount being spent to build office blocks has soared to fantastic figures. In stating these facts it is not my intention to condemn this type of development; but they highlight the disparity between the amount being loaned for cottage construction and the money available for office construction and for home units. I know that all sorts of statistics can be produced to support arguments on the matter under discussion, but the most revealing figures are never referred to by Government supporters. I refer to the 80,000 people on the waiting lists of the State housing authorities. As these are applications for family units, the figure reveals that more than 250,000 men, women and children are wanting a roof over their heads. These are the people to whom I refer as the forgotten poor. I agree - it would be idle to argue against it - that progress has been made in the construction of homes, but progress and this Bill have a long way to go before the needs of these people are met. These are the people referred to by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports. They are the 75 per cent, whose average weekly earnings range from £20 to £22. I should add that in the 75 per cent, to which I have referred 26.2 per cent, earn less than £20 a week and 41 per cent, earn less than £22 a week.
Having stated those figures I believe I am entitled to ask what this Bill and the Homes Savings Grant Act will do for these unfortunate people. Honorable members opposite have cited figures relating to new home building and have endeavoured to show the increase in home ownership, but even the extent of home ownership has been distorted. It is true to say that a home is not your own until the last penny owing on it has been paid. That is particularly so when flat rates of interest are involved. Honorable members opposite may talk about the ever increasing sums of money being lent for home construction and home purchase, but no argument can obscure the stark reality that under the present system of home purchase and finance home ownership for 75 per cent, of our people is an impossibility. Even the small deposit of £100 required by the Victorian housing authorities is beyond the pay envelope of these people. To avoid a second mortgage a person needs a sum between £1,500 and £2,000 as a deposit. Again I ask: What chance has the low-wage earner to save this amount? The person who can afford to put down a deposit of £1,500 to £2,000 has no difficulty in obtaining finance. I repeat that there has never been any shortage of money for housing finance for the person who can afford to buy a home, pay the exorbitant interest rates prevailing to pay from £1,500 to £2,000 for a block of land. It is an indisputable fact that in Australia today we have a housing system which is vicious. It is a system of home buying by compulsion. The only people building homes for rental are the State housing authorities, and their capacity to meet the demand for homes for rental has already broken down.
A fact that is overlooked entirely is the plight of the husband and wife with no family or a family of one or two. A man and wife who have no children, or a man and wife with one or two children, even if able to put their names on the waiting list with the State housing authority in Victoria would have no hope of ever securing a home. It is true to say that because of their economic circumstances many people have no desire to buy a home. However, because of the decrepit, unsuitable and cramped premises that are offering at rents up to £7 or £10 a week, they find that they have no alternative but to sign a contract to buy a home in order to give their families the common decencies of life to which they are entitled. It is true to say that the great majority of Australians like to own their own homes. One can say with equal truth that the endeavours of the 75 per cent, forgotten poor to obtain homes boils down to enduring a life of trials and tribulations, sacrifice and worry, with the ever-present thought that sickness or unemployment in a very short time could take from them the roof over their heads, in spite of the sacrifices that they have made.
Therefore, Mr. Speaker, when I think of insurance - or, to put it more precisely, protection for the lender - I think of these people and, in view of the fact that I have been through the same trials and tribulations, I wonder when governments will realise that the people who really need protection and insurance against loss are the 75 per cent, forgotten poor whose salaries are in the £20 to £22 a week bracket. What prompts my sincere and intense feelings on this matter is the fact that in Victoria there was a decline in the number of rented houses, rooms and flats from approximately 188,000 in 1954 to 171,000 in 1963- a 9 per cent, reduction - and over the same period the population of Victoria increased by 16 per cent.
Whilst I hope that this Bill will play a significant part in easing the burden of home purchase - although, quite frankly, 1 fail to see how it will - I cannot help repeating that it is obvious that large numbers of families cannot face up to present day housing costs and that people who have had to ‘accede to home buying by compulsion are paying more than their pay envelopes permit them to pay. These people become easy victims of the loan sharks - I noticed that there were quite a number of interjections when the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) referred to the loan sharks last week - through no fault of their own; in fact, largely because of the systems operated by the State savings banks, particularly in Victoria, and the Commonwealth Bank.
In explanation of that statement I point out that in order to bridge the deposit gap people enter into second mortgages carrying interest rates up to 10 per cent. flat. The advance is made by an unsecured mortgage being treated as a personal loan, and it is not disclosed to the lending authority or in the registration process at the Titles Office. When these people apply to the State savings banks or the Commonwealth Bank they say that they have a clear title to the land or whatever equity they put up. Consequently, the non-disclosure of relative facts makes liars of the client and the developer; but because of the application of the one-quarter rule in the case of the State Savings Bank of Victoria and the one-fifth rule in the case of the Commonwealth Bank, desperate home seekers are forced to adopt these measures.
In contrast to the position of those people, in my opinion this Bill is protection personified for the lender. In other words, the borrower can go and jump in the lake. There is no protection for him. The Bill emphasises again the manner in which the ordinary families are being pushed out of the home market. The plight of the 75 per cent, forgotten poor also illustrates very vividly the very urgent need for the elimination of high deposits and high flat rates of interest and for making it compulsory that interest rates on home purchases be simple interest and on a sliding scale. It is truly said that the flat rate interest system is the vampire which is sucking the life blood out of people buying homes and out of this nation in general. It is the greatest danger to any aspect of housing loans insurance. It is the explosive ingredient in the formula of housing finance which could shatter the economic structure of this country to a greater degree than all other things put together.
I am indebted to one of the greatest economists that Australia has ever produced, namely Sir Douglas Copland, for the following statement -
There is a need in Australia for a national housing plan, by co-operation of Commonwealth and State Governments, to provide houses for people in the marriageable age groups and receiving an income below a certain figure. Such people should be able to obtain houses on a relatively low deposit, with long term repayment arrangements. In fact, as such people obtained higher incomes with improved efficiency, they would doubtless meet their repayments before the due date. One thing is certain. The building of houses in these circum- stances could noi but have a stimulating effect on the economy, as well as providing a basic need for all young people.
Sir Douglas added to that the fact that it is estimated that the population of Australia will increase by 25 per cent, in the next decade. At that rate of expansion it should double in less than 30 years. What is even more important is that the altered age distribution, due to the high birth rate after the Second World War and the vigorous immigration policy, makes it more imperative that greater notice be taken of the matters to which I have referred and that something be done to try to meet the demand for housing. Sir Douglas Copland also said -
The group 20-24 will increase by over 60 per cent. These two groups make great demands upon the building industry - the teenagers want more and more secondary and tertiary education . . .
All this points to a greater demand for homes; but on the present figures the demands that these people will make will not be met. Unfortunately - I say this with a good deal of sincerity and I hope that I am wrong - this Bill does not seem to present any alleviation of the problem which these young people will present to this nation in the near future, when they want homes.
The journal from which I am about to read could never be regarded as one that the Australian Labour Party would publish. It is the journal of a firm of wholesale timber distributors. It says -
The second piece of legislation, which was introduced in the House of Representatives in November, was the Housing Loans Insurance Bill 1964, which is designed to establish a Housing Loans Insurance Corporation to insure lenders against losses arising out of the making of loans for housing.
This is a very excellent measure, except for one thing. It does not make provision for the money to be made available unless, of course, it is going to concentrate on such lending institutions as building societies, savings banks and so on. There is a limit, however, to the money which these organisations have available.
Those concerns which specialise in finance are getting from 10 to 12i per cent, for their funds, plus much higher rates in many cases. They are not going to turn their back on this type of business to make money available to the prospective home builder or home seeker, at 6i per cent.
Those are the things that we fear the most. Already the Government has made a move to increase interest rates. That is more evidence that the home seeker will be asked to pay far more interest in the future than he has in the past. This journal illustrates that. It goes on -
There must be proper planning. The position is, therefore, that we must go right back to the beginning and do some real planning. As the Federal Government is in control of the financial structure of all States, through uniform taxation, and as it now has entered the house finance field to a major degree, a comprehensive market analysis is absolutely necessary to ensure stability and continued profitability in the building and allied industries.
It criticises the £250 home savings grant to young couples and concludes by stating -
Australia needs- considerably more population to enable adequate protection of our shores. We need more population to stimulate our industries, develop our exports, to open up more country and to create more and expanding employment opportunities.
This country cannot stand still. It must forge ahead and the basis of any community progress is the satisfactory housing of the community.
I agree with that comment. Despite all the legislation which has been brought down by the Government concerning housing, the one thing the Government has steered clear of is the question of interest rates. If and when the Minister addresses the House in closing this debate, I hope he will disclose what the interest rates are going to be, whether there will be any departure from flat rates of interest and whether protection will be afforded to the borrower. The Opposition will be extremely pleased if something can be done to alleviate the situation whereby young couples are compelled to enter into contracts providing for flat rates of interest. This would be a step in the right direction to help the average wage earner.
In a recent conversation with a responsible official of the Victorian Housing Commission I asked what amount in interest would be paid on a £4,000 Government home over a 40-year period. I was informed quite blandly that the interest would be £6,000. This is the sort of thing which causes the real downfall of the wage earner. If there is default in the repayment of housing loans it is because of the high interest charges. It would be better to cure this disease than to enter into something which will give the big financial institutions more power to introduce higher interest rates thus inflicting a greater penalty on the low wage earner.
It is true to say that, despite any statistics which can be trotted out by them, the factor that Government supporters overlook is the human factor. Although there are about 80,000 applications for family units, I estimate that about 250,000 people in Australia want homes, and the Government is absolutely ignoring them. The Government is looking at them not as flesh and blood, not as fellow human beings in this country, but as mere statistical digits. The Government has not considered emotional factors. It wants to look on people as mere facts and figures as trotted out by Government departments. If and when this Government can bring down legislation to help these people in their economic plight I will say it has done the greatest national service to this country. I hope that the Minister will heed my words and look at this matter. If ever anything were needed in this country it is a full inquiry into the housing needs of the ordinary man in the street.
Mr. Speaker, you could travel around looking at flats that are offered at rentals of £8 and £10 a week. Many of them are falling to pieces. Many are condemned homes that have been converted. Young people, after having been brought up in decent conditions, rather than go into these flats decide to condemn themselves to virtual slavery to financial institutions for the remainder of their lives by signing contracts which require the payment of flat rates of interest ranging from 10 to 14 per cent. I hope that the Minister will have a look at this situation and think as I am thinking. Having brought down a bill for home mortgage insurance to protect the lender, I hope he will bring down a bill to protect the borrower.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Hallett) adjourned.
Sitting suspended from 6.2 to 8 p.m.
– by leave - Mr. Speaker, in this statement on foreign affairs I shall confine my remarks to a few of the more urgent topics. This is not intended, however, to limit the range of debate. With your indulgence, Mr. Speaker, when I move that the House take note of my statement, I will suggest that you might permit honorable members to discuss the full breadth of Australian foreign policy.
– Is the Minister’s suggestion agreeable to honorable members? There being no disagreement, the course suggested by the Minister will be adopted.
– To assist honorable members, my Department has prepared information papers to be placed on the table of the Parliamentary Library. Additional copies of the papers are available for the personal use of members.
This is my first speech to the House as Minister for External Affairs and I might reasonably be expected to disclose something of my own approach. I shall try to do so but, in doing so, I would stress that I am not introducing any change in the foreign policy of the Government. The foreign policy is that of the Government, not of a person.
Foremost in my mind as I look at the world is the fact that today force is being used and, in such a world in which the possession of power is the main determinant of what happens, anyone engaged in foreign affairs must recognise and study the facts of power and also recognise the reality of power politics. We might like it otherwise but we cannot ignore the fact.
The possibility of a nuclear holocaust still haunts the world. While we can see the risk we can also evaluate the situation by saying that the very horror of a nuclear war is one factor that has tended hitherto to reduce the risk of its coming. In certain situations the possession of nuclear power has been a deterrent to action that might lead to another world war.
At times during the past two years it has looked as though mankind might be creeping towards sanity on nuclear arms. The Nuclear Test Ban Treaty and proposals for the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons - both of which have the full support of the Australian Government - have received a setback, however, first by the French insistence on developing and testing a nuclear weapon of their own and, secondly, to a much graver extent, by the explosion of a nuclear device by the Chinese Communists. Some time may elapse before Communist China becomes a front-rank nuclear power, but the cause for concern is that China has repeatedly spoken and acted in a way that reveals an aggressive intention to try to dominate the life of other nations, a readiness to achieve her purposes by any means at her command, and an unwillingness to contemplate peaceful relationships with other great powers except on her own terms. In the hands of such a nation, nuclear weapons become more dangerous and the prospect of nuclear control or disarmament less hopeful.
There are two other points to be made about nuclear power. Nuclear power in the hands of a few nations acting with responsibility can be a deterrent. The proliferation of nuclear power, by placing more fingers on more triggers and by giving a new impulse to the demand for nuclear weapons either for the sake of national prestige or for national security, wm greatly increase the risk that something will go wrong. To check these impulses towards proliferation we are likely to need, as well as an agreement against dissemination, a reasonable assurance that other nations, particularly the middle-sized powers, will .not need to possess or develop nuclear weapons of their own in order to feel that they can defend themselves. This in turn throws us all back to the real core of the problem of world peace - the’ policies of the great powers and their relationships with each other and the degree of our confidence that the two great nuclear powers - the United States and the Soviet Union - will act with restraint.
In my more hopeful moments - a Minister for External Affairs has few hopeful moments - I am inclined to believe that the diplomatic labours of the past 15 years have shown some results in the easing of tension between the group of countries centred on the Soviet Union and those centred on the Western alliance. One also hopes that the social and economic changes that have taken place within the Soviet Union and the countries of eastern Europe have themselves created influences making for peace. Although the basic nature of the Soviet Union as a Communist power has not changed, and although the facts of power rivalry remain, yet we can look back on the fact that these two great groups of power have managed to live at peace with each other, in spite of many occasions of great tension, for a period of 20 years and that, at the end of 20 years, they would appear
to be further from a deliberate choice of war with each other than at any time during the 20 years. If one were to think of the risks of world war as the result only of either action by the Soviet Union or action by the United States of America, one could nurture some hopes of peace and even believe that it might still be possible for these two great powers to join together, perhaps not with a common ideal but with a common realism, to help keep the peace of the world.
Nuclear power in the hands of a few nations, may yet remain a powerful factor in preventing the outbreak of big wars or in stopping small wars from growing into big wars. It is patently, however, not a factor in preventing the outbreak of small wars and it has not served as a deterrent against small wars and the fomenting of subversion. The immediate effect of the new power of Communist China has been felt, not in any war that China itself is waging as an identifiable combatant - although in Tibet and the Indian frontiers China was the actual aggressor - but in numerous trouble spots in several continents.
It would be foolish to imagine that these smaller wars and trouble spots can be regarded as lying apart from and having nothing to do with the greater dangers and the major conflicts in world power. No incipient trouble can show its first signs without becoming part of great power politics. In many cases closer examination reveals that troubles which may seem local and trivial at first sight have been promoted or expanded as the result of influences controlled by great powers. Whether or not any such incident in its beginning was purely local, it would be unrealistic to assume that any great power, either in its role as a peacekeeper or being careful to maintain its own power, could ignore it. It sounds fine and moralistic to say that if only the great powers would keep out all would be well. But such moralising obscures the reality.
Let us test this by the case of South Vietnam. Chou En-lai has described the National Liberation Front as “the glorious standard bearer and illustrious leader of the South Vietnamese people in their struggle for national liberation “. This description of the war in South Vietnam as “ a struggle for national liberation “ has to be read in the context of Chinese Communist doctrine.
In the exchange of open letters between Moscow and Peking, China’s view in support of warfare and armed struggle is clearly expressed. I quote from several texts: “ Until the imperialist system and the exploiting classes come to an end, wars of one kind or another will always occur”; “ War is the continuation of politics by other means “; “ Marxists-Leninists never conceal their views. We wholeheartedly support every peoples’ revolutionary war”.
South Vietnam is part of a pattern. In Laos, notwithstanding the fact that there is an international agreement for the neutrality of Laos, Communist China describes the territory held by the Communist-controlled Pathet Lao as “the liberated area”. The clear inference is that the remainder has still to be liberated. Peking has recently served notice that Thailand, a peaceful country, is in danger of becoming the object of what might be called conquest by subversion. Chinese radio and news agencies are now publishing the programme of an organisation describing itself as the “ Thailand Patriotic Front “ which, working from Peking, calls for the overthrow of what it calls the “fascist” Thai Government. Radio Hanoi is also broadcasting the same material.
What is happening in South Vietnam is not a local rebellion caused by internal discontent but the application of the methods and doctrines of Communist guerrilla warfare first evolved in China and then successfully used in North Vietnam. The Peking and Hanoi regimes have both come to power through guerrilla warfare and both share the Asian Communist doctrine evolved by the Chinese. The practical application of that doctrine in neighbouring areas is clear. Neither Peking nor Hanoi has yet had to commit large-scale conventional forces in South Vietnam for external aggression. A dissident Communist-controlled movement was created for guerrilla warfare against the established social order and government. Lines of communication and support from outside were organised. Given the natural elements of instability in many of the newly established countries of the region, and their social, ethnic and communal problems, there are understandable opportunities for such tactics.
It is nearly three years since the International Control Commission in Vietnam condemned the violation by North Vietnam of the 1954 Geneva Agreements by the despatch of arms and men from the North and the incitement and encouragement of hostilities in the South. The rate of infiltration from North to South increased until in 1964 it is estimated that 10,000 Vietcong terrorists trained and armed by the North, were sent to the South. I would like to draw the attention of members to the document recently distributed to the United Nations by the United States describing the extent of this new form of international aggression. Copies of this document, which is entitled “ Aggression from the North “, have been placed in the Parliamentary Library for the information of honorable members. I would add that we ourselves have considerable information from Australian sources which is of the same character as the information contained in this document.
At any one time the Vietcong maintains a hard core of guerrillas, in military formation, of some 30,000 to 40,000 and they are supported by an irregular force of another 80,000. This total force of something over 100,000 has established itself through methods of coercion and terrorism in large parts of the South Vietnamese countryside. In some areas it has been able to introduce its own system of administrative control. This it has done, not by the attraction of some programme of economic and social reform but by the exercise of power through terror. The Vietcong maintain their control as a determined minority relying on fear, despair, warweariness and the political disintegration of their opponents.
I ask the House through you, Sir: Are these the circumstances in which the Asian Communist powers having taken such steps to advance their policies, all other powers who are opposed to such policies should look the other way and do nothing?
What the United States has chosen to do in South Vietnam appears to the Australian Government as the recognition and acceptance by it of the great responsibilities which its own greatness has laid on it.
We are told from time to time that, while external aid can help, it is for the people of South Vietnam themselves to establish a political regime which will withstand internal subversion. We must remember, however, that the South Vietnamese are not dealing simply with a situation of local unrest, but with a large-scale directed campaign of assassination and terrorism, and the direction comes from outside. It would be a dangerous thing to argue that, because subversive elements inspired from outside have achieved some success in creating instability within a country, these elements thereby earn the right to become the government of that country. In South Vietnam one may ask what future security, freedom and religious tolerance there would be for the millions of people who have committed themselves to resistance against Communism if we were to yield to Communism, and Communism were to succeed.
It is also unrealistic to claim that if only the influence of the great powers were removed there would be a sudden and blissful peace in South Vietnam. To whom would withdrawal leave the land? Certainly not to the local population. There is a campaign in Australia at the present time among a section - I think a small section - of our population that might be summed up in the words sometimes chalked on walls abroad: “ Yankee, go home “. Let those who are approached to support this campaign ask themselves what the phrase means precisely. It means simply that the North Vietnamese and the Chinese are the only foreigners to be allowed in South Vietnam - other foreigners are to get out - and therefore this is a campaign which, in its results, would favour Asian Communism. This was seldom heard of when Asian Communism was making gains; it has grown in strength when Asian Communism is being checked.
In the circumstances that now exist, the United States could not withdraw from South Vietnam without abandoning the responsibilities that belong to power or the principles they are trying to uphold. The United States could not withdraw without necessarily considering the world-wide impact of such a withdrawal on the broader strategies of world politics.
If the United States did withdraw, the same conflict would be renewed somewhere else. Within a brief period the struggle now taking place in South Vietnam would be shifted to Thailand. If in turn there was abandonment of Thailand, it would shift to Malaysia, to Indonesia, to Burma, to India and further. Nothing would be ended and no stability would be achieved by yielding in South Vietnam.
Then there is the question of negotiation. It seems to us that it is not a valid policy to call for negotiation unless there is a clear idea what is to be the outcome of negotiation. If negotiation is simply to mean an end of resistance to aggression and the success of aggression then a plainer word for it would be defeat for those resisting Asian Communism.
Fortunately we have the declaration of President Johnson who on 17th February set out the United States position on Vietnam in the following words: “Our purpose, our objective there is clear. That purpose and that objective is to join in the defence and protection of the freedom of a brave people who are under an attack that is controlled and that is directed from outside their country. We have no ambition there for ourselves. We seek no dominion. We seek no conquest. We -seek no wider war. But we must all understand that we will persist in the defence of freedom, and our continuing actions will be those which are justified and those that are made necessary by the continuing aggression of others. These actions will be measured and fitting and adequate. Our stamina and the stamina of the American people is equal to the task.”
Now Australia’s own analysis of the situation - the analysis of the situation made by the Australian Government, and briefly expounded by me tonight - has brought us to the belief that the United States action is necessary for the defeat of aggression against Asian peoples and is also an essential step towards the building in Asia of the conditions of peace and progress. We also believe that in their resistance to China they are preventing an alteration in the world balance of power which would be in favour of the Communists and which would also increase the risk of world war. lt is because by our own analysis and our own understanding of the situation that we have arrived at that point, that Australia firmly supports the stand by the United States and the decisions reached that targets in North Vietnam should be attacked. On that point I would put our attitude this way: If North Vietnam were not to be exposed to any military risk would it not mean that we were permitting North Vietnam to remain a privileged sanctuary from which a military campaign of subversion and aggression against the South could be maintained and exploited indefinitely and with total immunity. It is asserted by Communists and some others that the United States and her allies by acting thus are creating the risk of a wider war. But the alternative would be to allow the systematic mounting of campaigns of guerrilla warfare and terrorism to undermine non-Communist governments one after another in South-East Asia. In other words, the Communist powers would be free to conduct a wider war on an advancing front of subversive and guerrilla activity.
At the moment, contacts are being made and the positions of the various powers involved are being explored in order to determine whether there are real prospects for negotiation. We should be clear about the position as it now stands. Hanoi and the National Liberation Front for South Vietnam will negotiate on certain conditions. Those conditions include the prior withdrawal of United States forces from South Vietnam. Their policy, supported by China, is to remove the United States from the area before negotiations begin. A study of Hanoi and the National Liberation Front documentation also makes it clear that what they are seeking is the replacement of the present government in Saigon, not even by a coalition or a neutralist government, but by a government which is Communist led and controlled. Such a government would be the instrument of the Hanoi regime, the National Liberation Front itself having been created by the North Vietnamese Communist Party.
There clearly would have to be a considerable change in this position before there could be formal negotiations at a conference table, and before negotiations could lead to any peace which protected the rights of the people in South Vietnam themselves. So for the moment the Government believes that the best course lies in the exploration and assessment of the positions of the parties in order to establish whether a basis of political understanding can be reached. We would, of course, be favourable to negotiation in the right circumstances and we would hope as fervently as anyone that a true and lasting peace might be established.
I trust that in that examination of the situation in South Vietnam I have shown clearly to honorable members the approach of the Government to the basic fact of the world power struggle and the immediacy of the danger in Asia. That is a danger as I have tried to suggest not only to one country of Asia but to many countries of Asia and countries outside the region.
A second and immediately important topic on which I should declare myself is the relationship of Australia to Asia. What happens in Asia can have such immediate effects on what happens in Australia that perhaps we Australians sometimes see events in Asia through too narrow a loophole. One point that I tried to stress repeatedly in conversations during my recent tour to several capitals of Europe and North America was that the power situation in Asia cannot be separated from the major problems of the power situation in the whole world. What is happening in Asia today, I tried to say, cannot be regarded as a series of isolated incidents which can be settled as local affairs in the expectation, first, that after settlement they will remain unaffected in the future by the world power struggle and secondly that when they are settled they need not occupy the attention of other powers any longer. The struggle for peace today is a global struggle. The resistance to aggression is a world-wide resistance. The emergence of China and the policies of China affect the whole of world politics. What is happening in Asia today will perhaps prove more fateful for mankind than anything that has happened since the last World War. The corollary of course is that any contribution we can make to peace in Asia is a contribution to the peace of the world.
We Australians are perhaps inclined to think at times of South East Asia as a frontier where a potential enemy of our own can be held. Let us also constantly remind ourselves that we have a wider and more far-reaching interest in the region than that, We have positive and constructive aims and not merely a defensive interest in Asia. We want to see an Asia in which the free nations of that continent, whether newly independent or long established, will be able to develop their own way of life in a state of security from aggression. We want to see an Asia in which there will be social and economic opportunity and where, as a result of the fuller use of the natural resources of the region, the standards of living of its people will steadily rise and their opportunities and capacity to build a new life will grow. We want to see an Asia with which we ourselves can live in friendship and peace and with whom we can work for mutual benefit, respecting the qualities of each other. I venture to think that all members of the House share those hopes.
To achieve these hopes the countries of Asia must be free of the domination of any single great power; there must be freedom of exchange and commercial intercourse between them and the rest of the world; and there must be an increased and a more helpful association between the countries of Asia and the peoples and nations of other continents. The participation of countries outside Asia in its affairs is essential firstly to give to the smaller countries of Asia security against aggression - aggression that is rising within Asia itself, and secondly in order to bring the financial, technological, social and economic assistance that is needed for the development of Asian resources and the creating of opportunity for its people to improve their own lot.
Situated near Asia, we in Australia live with a number of neighbouring States which, for historical and economic reasons, have political and social systems vastly different from our own. We do not criticise or attempt to change systems freely chosen by other peoples. What we are concerned with is to achieve an international climate in which threats against and pressures against other States and peoples are removed, whether these threats arise from aggressive nationalism or aggressive Communism or perhaps a mixture of the two.
Within that climate, and behind the shelter provided by regional security arrangements, the countries of South and South-East Asia wish to pursue their objectives of social and economic progress To help them to do that is the purpose of the Colombo Plan and other programmes of international aid to which the Australian Government contributes and will continue to contribute. The aim is not simply security for its own sake but development for the good of peoples. Perhaps I can enlarge on that part of my theme by reference to another situation that is causing us a great deal of concern - the situation created by Indonesian confrontation of Malaysia. This is giving Australia today one of the most difficult tests of oar resolution and our diplomacy. On the one hand we wish to live in harmonious relationship with Indonesia, we accept the fact that Indonesia has been established, we would like to lee the growth and integration of Indonesia, and we had hoped to be able to co-operate as a neighbour in measures for its social and economic progress. In this country of great natural resources we have seen an opportunity for its own people to build their own life. I think in Australia there is basic goodwill towards Indonesia. But, unfortunately, Indonesia has embarked upon policies which we are bound to oppose, and which we will oppose.
To our regret, over the past six months Indonesian military confrontation of Malaysia has assumed new and more serious forms. Along the border between Malaysian and Indonesian Borneo there has been a substantial build-up of the Indonesian armed forces. Moreover, Malaya and Singapore itself have been subjected to a long series of attempted infiltration, sabotage and subversion.
That the situation has been held as well as it has is the result of the deterrent effect of the defensive measures taken to build up Malaysian, British and other Commonwealth forces in Borneo and of the striking success of the security forces in Malaysia in coping with infiltrators and saboteurs. Malaysia has shown a remarkable degree of self-restraint and maturity in dealing with these provocations.
Indonesia’s declared and active hostility to Malaysia imposes an additional strain on an area already subject to the threats of communist subversion and intervention. This hostility is not only forcing Malaysia to increase its defence expenditure at the expense of its development but it is adding to the burden of the impoverished and neglected Indonesian economy. This situation could be eased very rapidly provided only that Indonesia accepted the existence of Malaysia and ceased to conduct military operations against it.
We have noted that, in withdrawing from the United Nations, the Indonesian Government declared that it still upheld the principles of international co-operation as enshrined in the United Nations Charter. We, for our part, consider that all States which have become members of the United Nations have made a solemn declaration accepting the obligations imposed by the Charter and that a State, even though it no longer regards itself as a member of the organisation, nevertheless remains bound to observe the principles upon which the Charter is based.
We have said on many occasions, and I repeat it this evening, that it remains a primary objective of Australian policy to seek with Indonesia a relationship based on understanding and respect. Hence, while leaving Indonesia in no doubt at all of Australia’s determination to assist Malaysia to defend herself against armed attack and subversion, we continue to demonstrate our willingness to search for the basis of an enduring peaceful relationship with Indonesia. In this spirit, the Government is continuing a limited programme of aid to Indonesia, details of which are available to honorable members in statements tabled in the Library. This aid has been and will be kept under close review and the decision to proceed with it has been made after the most careful consideration of all the relevant factors.
A new disturbing element in the situation created by Indonesia’s confrontation of Malaysia, has been created by some evidence of increasing contacts between the Indonesians and the Chinese Communists. It is as yet difficult to determine the full significance of these contacts, but they are a further reminder that, in all our thinking about Asia, we have to consider quite starkly the growing power of Communist China.
Some people are disposed to argue that we should facilitate the representation of Communist China in the United Nations. Certainly our long term objective must be the achievement of stable political relationships amongst all countries of the world. So long, however, as the Peking regime continues to threaten the Chinese Nationalist Government and the people of Formosa, to promote the export of revolution abroad and to construct nuclear weapons to back these policies contrary to the overwhelming voice of world opinion, one can hardly expect this regime to help to solve any of the major problems facing the United Nations.
This brings me to my third topic - the future of the United Nations. An infor mation paper covering some aspects of the present problems confronting the United Nations will be found amongst the material available in the Library. Behind the recent inability of the General Assembly of the United Nations to proceed with its business was a difference of opinion regarding the peace keeping functions of the United Nations and the role to be played by each of the two great blocs of power in maintaining the peace. It will not be finally solved except as part of the general problem of relationships between the great powers.
As honorable members are aware, the General Assembly was unable to proceed with its business and has adjourned after appointing a special committee to examine questions of United Nations finance and the peace keeping functions of the organisation and after expressing the hope that the great powers themselves would get together and reach an understanding on the same issues. I should like to make some brief observations about this situation. The failure of the General Assembly to proceed with its business does not necessarily mean a breakdown of the United Nations. The United Nations has many organs which are still functioning. For our part Australia gives unqualified support to the United Nations and we will use our best endeavours in cooperation with other members to find a way out of the difficulties of the General Assembly.
At the same time two things need to be said quite plainly about the experience in the General Assembly this year. One is that the General Assembly is not able to function at present as it was intended to function as the great forum of the world in which the conscience of the world might find expression and help to establish a body of principle by which the exercise of power might be restrained. Some of the reasons for that are not far to seek. Many of the members of the General Assembly - it would be out of place for me to try to particularise any single member - have not lived up to their opportunities and their obligations under the Charter. They themselves have decided matters without regard to established principles of international conduct and without trying to take as a consistent guide a body of principle which will apply to great and small.
The other observation is that at the present time the General Assembly, and indeed the Security Council, cannot be relied upon as a significant and effective means of keeping the peace of the world. Would any small country in danger of invasion or acts of aggression against its sovereignty and its territory be warranted in having full confidence that the United Nations would protect it? We have to see as a matter of reality this absence of any international means of bringing security to the smaller nations or even to the middle-sized nations. It is the background to the situation in which such peace as we have is kept by one or other of the great powers. We have to see it also as the continuing challenge to all nations to work more purposefully at the problems of peace keeping.
As a practical illustration of what I have been saying, may I remark - I keep coming back to the same part - that in South and South East Asia, it is American armed strength which is the reality behind which the countries in that area have retained their liberty to choose their own courses. To this same end, the Australian Government also warmly welcomes the recent practical manifestations of Britain’s continuing determination to fulfil her obligations to Malaysia and Asia.
Having spoken of power situations, 1 would talk of a fourth aspect of my own view of world affairs. I submit, Mr. Speaker, that power is not enough. In a world of power, peace is only maintained on a precarious balance and it is plain that recourse to power as a means of security is in essence a readiness to have recourse to war. There will never be full security for any one unless and until the exercise of power is made subject to agreed principles of international conduct and, in a world of national states, that means that the possessors of power will restrict, by their own pledges, their own use of power.
I should like to develop this theme with particular application to Australian policies. As a small nation in a time of power contest we have to choose. Indeed, I think it is also against the national character to be neutral. For us, neutralism is not a practical choice. We Australians must choose our side because in the immediate future we are determined to ensure the defence and the survival of our country and we want to pre serve our right and our capacity to apply our own faith and ideals regarding human society in Australia. We must also choose our side because ultimately Australia will survive and grow and become a better country in all senses of the term only in a world in which the exercise of power has been subordinated to principle. It is deep in our faith for mankind and vital to our own existence that there should be a world in which sovereign independence is recognised and respected; where territorial integrity is respected; where force and the threat of force are not used to compel nations to act against their own interest or against their own free choice; where settlement is by negotiation and the small as well as the great are protected in negotiation because it is conducted according to these principles and, if negotiation fails, there will still be recourse to orderly and peaceful processes of settlement; a world where the pledged word is kept through the sanctity of treaties; where international law is built up both in its substance and its authority by the consistency of the conduct of nations, by the sanctity of treaties and by invariable recourse to these international institutions to whom the application of these laws and rules of conduct has been entrusted; where aggression is identified by actions contrary to these standards of conduct.
In choosing sides we serve these ideas that I have tried to elaborate. Let us ask ourselves bluntly, when we are choosing sides and deciding whom we will support, which of the great powers, on their past record and their known doctrines, will take this line. We stand firmly with Britain and the United States of America, not only because in the short term we believe them to be military allies with resolution and capacity, but, more than that, because we believe that they are nations who honour these principles and try to serve them.
It is not enough to say that we believe in these principles - broadly the principles of the United Nations. We also have to give solid and constant backing to those powers who will work to put these principles into effect. What we are supporting is not only a military alliance but more importantly certain principles and standards of conduct in international affairs. This must be the final touchstone of our policy in respect of our allies, and it must guide our own contributions to discussions on the policies which will continue to command our support. We have to make judgements from time to time on what is right as well as on what will keep us safe. It seems likely that the world will become more and more unsafe for us in the coming years. In such case it will help us to see our course more clearly if we try to see not only the risks but the opportunities - not only the threats we may have to meet but also the constant need to advance our own belief in the right standards of international conduct.
Personally I believe that today Australia faces the dual challenge of its own survival and the maintenance of those standards of civilised conduct and those basic values of civilisation which have been so laboriously established by past ages of mankind and which in international dealings today are so often in the discard. I also believe that the measures we are taking for our survival and for the support of those values are inseparably linked. The point to which I come is this: Both considerations have helped us to choose our side in the current contest and have made us. and will make us, determined in support of it.
Let us all see that we have not only chosen our side but have also dedicated ourselves to a cause. Surely at the heart of any realistic foreign policy for Australia must be the aim of trying to promote the unity and the resolution of all those forces that will work in the same direction. This must be not merely a policy of resisting those who threaten us but, more positively, one of helping friends - a policy not only of saying that our ideas are better than those of our opponents but one of proving that our ideas will work.
This has a particular application to Asia. Among our near neighbours in Asia are many nations, both great and small, in a less fortunate position that we are but who are trying, just as we are, to advance the welfare of their own peoples in freedom from external threats. Their will to resist has been under assaults that we have never known. Their conditions of life are not yet such that they can have as high a confidence about the future as we have. Fear and physical want, the lack of means or opportunity to develop fully their national resources, political uncertainty and com munal divisions have beset many of them. Surely in all we do in foreign policy we must see the need to strengthen their will, to assist them to realise their plans and hopes, and to join with them in maintaining those principles which are basic to their life as to our own.
Surely we are to test any other policies that may be advocated by asking whether they also serve that purpose; or whether they only hoist signals to these peoples that they cannot count on understanding, let alone help or sympathy, from us, but had better give in and let the Communist imperialists have their way? We don’t want to do that.
As a last word I return to the nature of the interest that links us and other nonAsian countries to Asia. As an Australian I do not want to look on our neighbours in Asia as buffer states. I see them rather as part of a structure of hope in which Australia itself, like each of them, is only one of many pillars. The structure weakens if any one of us should fall. The hope must belong not to one but to all. Hence Australian policy in respect of South Vietnam, the South East Asia Treaty Organisation, the Colombo Plan and support to Malaysia will continue firmly on the lines already so clearly laid down by the Prime Minister and other spokesmen for the Government.
I present the following paper -
Foreign Affairs - Ministerial Statement, 23rd March 1965- and move -
That the House take note of the paper.
Motion (by Mr. McMahon) - by leave - agreed to -
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) making his speech without limitation of time.
– Mr. Speaker, I am sure that the House is grateful to the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Hasluck) for his statement on foreign affairs. I am grateful to him for making a copy of his speech available to me in advance. I am sorry that I have not been able to reciprocate as fully as I would have liked, but the time needed to prepare my reply was a little too great. The speech just made by the Minister is an important one, because it is the first statement on international affairs that he has made to the House in his new capacity of Minister for External Affairs. It is now exactly one year since his predecessor made his last important speech on international affairs in this chamber.
The Minister has taken the opportunity to state his general theory of diplomacy, lt is clear, from many references in his speech, that he sees international affairs in terms of power. He repeatedly uses phrases such as “ power politics “, “ the power situation “, “ the power struggle “, “ the facts of power “ and “ the balance of power “.
As far as it goes, this is a perfectly valid theory of the history of nations and their inter-relationships. As an historian - and a quite noted one - the Minister will know that this theory was held by many statesmen long before Metternich, and certainly from Metternich to Neville Chamberlain. The same theory often leads to very different results. I must warn the Minister that there are great dangers in viewing the world merely in terms of power. For instance, the Communist nations possess great power. I would hate to hear that the Minister had been accused of having a sneaking sympathy with Communism because he was impressed by, and took into consideration, the fact of great Communist power. Let me say, to the Minister, in the kindliest possible way, that one day I will take him aside and tell him how the perfectly valid views that he holds can be twisted and turned against him by some malevolent people whom Australia has in its political community. I shall deal with that point a little later.
With those general remarks, I want to comment upon some of the statements the Minister has made in his speech. He began by stating that the possibility of a nuclear holocaust haunts the world. And he is right in that regard. At the same time, he gave no indication that his Government is prepared to make the slightest attempt to remove this terrible spectre. He emphasises again and again the importance of preventing the spread of nuclear weapons to the nations not now possessing them. But he makes not the slightest acknowledgment that Australia has any responsibility for helping to prevent that spread. He points to the setback that world hopes have received from the French insistence on developing their own nuclear weapon. But he makes no apology for his own Government’s acquiescence - for that is what it amounts to - in France’s action. He deplores - as we all do - the explosion of a nuclear device by China. But he apparently is not willing to advocate the only measures by which China can be brought to the disarmament conference table. These include the recognition of the present Government of mainland China as the de facto government of that country. What we suggest on this issue is that the Australian Government should follow the example of the United Kingdom Government - first, Labour, then Conservative and now Labour again - by recognising mainland China.
The Minister, in dismissing the possibility of bringing China to the disarmament conference table, used the very same language about China that his predecessors, ten or more years ago, used against Russia. He holds out no hope, no possibility, of any dealings with mainland China. And, for lack of a policy on the part of the Government, we are forced to assume that its real voice on this matter of China and nuclear weapons is the voice of the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth), with his extraordinary proposal of denuclearisation - a proposal that borders on the insane. Why has the Minister not repudiated this fantastic proposal? We all know what is meant by this vague, pseudotechnical term, “ denuclearisation “. It means world war, war without end, until both China and we are destroyed. That is what the honorable member for Mackellar means, if I understand him aright. And that is the length to which he seemingly is prepared to go.
Why did the Minister tonight not take the opportunity to repudiate the honorable member for Mackellar, and those who think like him? The Minister must know that within the Liberal Party of Australia there are others who agree, in varying degree, with the honorable member for Mackellar. Why did the Minister, when he warned of the dangers - the terrible dangers - of nuclear proliferation not also repudiate those who want nuclear weapons for Australia? And let us not ignore the fact that supporters of the National Civic Council and their confreres in the Liberal Party do want nuclear weapons stored on our soil. Why, I ask, in the name of Australia, in the name of humanity, in the name of sanity, did the Minister not state clearly and unequivocally that Australia will not be the first to introduce nuclear weapons into this part of the world? I will explain the reason for his remissness: The Government wants it both ways. It knows very well that it has not the slightest intention of seeking nuclear weapons for Australia. It knows also that none of the nuclear powers would wish to supply us with them. And it knows that in present circumstances the proposal would be suicidal for Australia. But it knows also that it has to rely on the support of those who originated this insane proposal; and, for purely electoral reasons, it is unwilling to repudiate them.
I thank the Minister for his warning on the terrible dangers that would arise from the spread of nuclear weapons. What he said we all know, but it is good to have it repeated. I ask the Minister to declare that Australia will never be the first to introduce nuclear weapons into this part of the world. And I urge htm to start negotiations with our neighbours with a view to getting them to agree to the excluding of nuclear weapons and nuclear tests from this area. As the Minister says, quite factually and significantly -
In my mere hopeful moments …. I am inclined to believe that the diplomatic labours of the past IS years have shown results in the easing of tension between the group of countries centred on the Soviet Union and those centred on the Western alliance.
Is it too much to hope that the new Minister, despite what I hope is only a passing obsession with power politics, will use his diplomatic talents and his noted energy and enthusiasm for an Australian initiative in the further easing of tension and the improvement of international relations?
The Minister then turned to the question of Vietnam, which presents, I think, the most potentially explosive situation the world has had to face since World War II. It is more dangerous than Korea. It is far more dangerous than Cuba. Possibility of mistakes and the impossibility of controlling and limiting the results of those mistakes are far greater than in either of the two earlier situations. Each day brings new reports full of foreboding. Only today we had vague and unconfirmed reports of the use of some form of gas by the United States. I think it was called phosphorus gas. I wish to say only this: If the United States or any other country uses in Vietnam or anywhere else, any form of warfare prohibited by the Geneva Convention, we will not hesitate to oppose the use of such weapons. The Minister gave his account of the origins, the development and the future of the war in Vietnam. In his view, the story is a simple one of aggression from North Vietnam, which in its turn is controlled by Communist China. Surely this is not so much a wrong emphasis or an oversimplification as an almost false assessment of the established facts. The Minister seemed to totally ignore the civil war factor in this terrible conflict. And then there are the existing rotten social system and the long years of war weariness in Vietnam to be considered.
The Minister may like to ignore these aspects. He may like to depict the conflict simply in terms of aggression from the north. But I suggest that it is precisely this over-simple approach which is mainly responsible for the repeated failures of Western policy in Vietnam. And Western policy has failed in Vietnam.
For many years now, the Australian Labour Party has pointed out that you cannot win this sort of war by military means alone. The events of the past few weeks have placed the war on a totally new footing. The war that is now being fought is not the same war that was being fought over the past 10 years. That war, the war of the South Vietnamese for their own independent government, has been lost, at least temporarily. Labour has warned for years that it would be lost if we relied on military means alone. If the Minister persists in viewing this conflict simply in terms of aggression from the north against the south, if he persists in ignoring the complexities of the situation in South Vietnam itself, then he will never understand the problem and he will never understand why the Communists, unfortunately, are gaining.
The Minister went on to make another over-simplification. He said, in effect, that all who questioned certain aspects of present American policy sought the removal of the influence of America and all the other powers from this area. He said1 -
There is a campaign in Australia at the present time among a section of our population that might be summed up in the words “ Yankee go home “.
What section of the population was the Minister describing? Presumably he meant the Communist Party because, as far as I know, that would be the only section in Australia which thinks that way. It is certainly the only section of the community which expresses itself in that way. But then, what other attitude would anyone expect the Communist Party to adopt?
If the Minister did mean the Communist Party, then I must point out to him that he has the doubtful distinction of being the first Australian Minister for External Affairs who has ever thought it necessary to repudiate, in a statement to this Parliament, the views of such an insignificant, impotent and anti-Australian element as the very small, but very vocal, minority that calls itself the Communist Party of Australia. But on reflection, I think that the Minister was using the old trick, brought to such perfection by the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies), of setting up his own Aunt Sallys and then demolishing them. Or, to put it more directly, I think he may be trying to insinuate a view which will enable him to condemn the Labour Party for opinions it does not hold, and which are completely alien to its philosophy. If the Minister is trying to imitate the Prime Minister he is demeaning himself. If I am wrong, I apologise.
Let me say this: We want the American presence, strong and powerful, in Asia and the Pacific. We want it, because Australia needs it until all nations are prepared to disarm. It is precisely because we do not want America to be humiliated, because we want America to be in a position to negotiate from strength, that we are concerned about the dangers of her present course. We rest upon the repeated assurances given by President Johnson that he seeks no wider war. The Minister himself has quoted the President’s statements on this matter. A wider war can only have disastrous consequences for South Vietnam itself, for America and for the world.
What would be the aim of a wider war, once started? To put it at its very lowest, it would be the destruction of the Com munist regime in North Vietnam and, as a necessary and inevitable consequence, the destruction of China. Once the wider war is embarked upon, it could have no other aim and objective than this. That would be the only possible meaning of victory in such a war. Is there one member of this House, no matter how much he may hate Communism, no matter how much he may hate the regime in China, who is prepared to take the consequences of embarking upon such a war? That is why it is absolutely necessary to have negotiations now to conclude the hostilities that are taking place in Vietnam. U Thant is working for negotiations. Is he wrong? The Prime Minister of Canada has proposed certain means of starting negotiations. Is he wrong? The British Foreign Secretary, Mr. Michael Stewart, believes in both the desirability and the possibility of negotiations. Is he wrong? President De Gaulle, speaking with the experience of the French tragedy in Indo-China, believes that negotiations are the only way in which the Western position can be saved. Is he wrong? The Pope has called for negotiations. Is he wrong?
– Certainly not.
– Look out for the National Civic Council.
– Well, then, the National Civic Council is opposed to the Pope. But the Australian Minister for External Affairs says: “ Nothing doing “. I suppose he is speaking on behalf of the Prime Minister and the whole Government. Indeed, he said with true humility in the presence of the Prime Minister that he was the spokesman for the Government. What the Minister did say was this: “ The aggressor must stop or be stopped”. This is the sort of fine, outspoken statement that appeals to certain minds. It seems to say everything, but it says absolutely nothing. It is a strong, simple, seemingly significant, but essentially silly statement which neither explains the problem nor puts forward a remedy. The true friends of America, those who wish her well but are not content just to cheer from the sidelines, are urging negotiation - negotiation from strength, negotiation now while she has, in Asia, the strength to negotiate.
Let me sum up. The war must not be widened. The United States must not withdraw and must not be humiliated in Asia.
Therefore, there must be negotiations while there is time to prevent both the widening of the war and any humiliation of the United States.
The Minister then turned to the question of relations between Indonesia and Malaysia. I want to deal with this aspect of foreign policy very briefly, not because I do not think that this issue is not of immense importance to South East Asia and Australia, but because the views of the Labour Party on this issue have been stated so often, and because I believe that the question of Vietnam is of over-riding importance. As the Minister has pointed out, aggression has occurred, and Indonesia has been the aggressor. Aggression in all forms must be resisted. We believe, however, that the Australian Government has failed totally to take any diplomatic initiative either to end this dispute, or to reduce its temperature. I am optimistic enough, Mr. Speaker, to believe that war can be avoided; but if it is, it will be not because of any initiative taken by this Government.
I wish that the Government would do something really positive and not just trail along. That is not good enough. I support the Minister in his expressions of regret that Indonesia has seen fit to withdraw from the United Nations. I welcome his assurances about the importance that he and his Government now place on the United Nations as the best guarantee the world has for the preservation of peace. I also welcome his assurance that appropriate aid to Indonesia will be continued. I say that despite what the honorable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes), who was quite vocal a moment or two ago, might say to the contrary. There are, of course, members of his own party who do not agree with him and who say so publicly. We think that these dissident Liberals are wrong - hopelessly wrong.
Sir, the Government and the party to which the Minister belongs have frequently called for a bipartisan approach to foreign affairs. I have pointed out, just as often, not only the reasons why a biparisan policy is impossible, but why it is absolutely and positively undesirable. When it is stripped of all its verbiage, bipartisanship means acquiescence with the policy of the government of the day. No party in a parlia mentary democracy can accept this; and certainly the Labour Party, which believes in parliamentary democracy, never will.
On three great issues, there is agreement between the two parties. These issues are: The American alliance, opposition to Communism, and the common determination to keep Australia safe and inviolable. But as to the means of achieving the best results on these issues, there is almost total disagreement. The foreign and defence policies of the Menzies Government are totally inadequate and, in most cases, not properly orientated, if the three objectives I have stated are to be achieved.
The Government and its supporters cry loudly about their regard and love for America. But they have never once been known to point out to America that her policy is sometimes wrong and, in such cases, they have never assisted, in any way, those elements in America striving for peace and sanity. They talk also about their hatred of Communism, but the policies they have followed and supported have resulted in defeat after defeat for the democratic cause everywhere. And they talk about the need for defending Australia, but after 15 years of power they have left Australia weak and virutally defenceless. Yet these are the people who want bipartisan policies, who want the Labour Party to agree that all the Government does is for the best.
This is why there can be no bipartisanship in foreign policy, and why we of the Labour Party will criticise and oppose, when necessary, this blind and futile Government as long as it lasts, and as long as it pursues policies damaging to the interests of Australia and not helpful to the cause of world peace.
– Mr. Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
– Does the honorable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) said that in advocating the denuclearisation of Red China I advocated the destruction of Red China. That is the opposite of the truth. I advocated this as a means of preserving peace and the only available means. He said that I did it in order to escalate the war. Exactly the opposite is true. I advocated it as a means of preventing the war being escalated. I would-
– Order! The honorable member will resume his seat. He has the right to make some reference to misrepresentations, but he has no right to debate the subject.
– Very good, Sir. I hope that at a later stage I will have the chance to enter into this debate.
– At a time when Australia needs some sort of solidarity and unity with her friends and among ourselves, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) has chosen to issue some kind of childish warning to the United States of America about the use of tear gas in South East Asia. At the same time he mentioned the question of negotiations and said that these must take place. He seemed to suggest that what the United States is doing in North Vietnam is a bar to negotiations. If he thinks this, why can he not at least give the other side of the coin and mention some of the things that North Vietnam and Communist China are doing in South Vietnam, for they are the real and proper bar to negotiations? But this the Leader of the Opposition chooses to ignore.
A short time ago I visited Indonesia believing that her policies would lead to war in the south western Pacific region. My short visit convinced me that while Indonesian leaders may not, and I believe do not, want war, there is a singular lack of will or initiative in Indonesia to alter her policies in a manner that would avoid war or make it possible to avoid war. Our world is no longer sheltered. Threats can well develop to Australia. These threats may not necessarily be directed to our customary allies and friends, and therefore particular efforts must be taken by Australia and by members of this Parliament to understand the motivation and the prejudices of our neighbours, and in understanding we must try to develop and pursue policies appropriate to our circumstances.
I should like briefly to try to describe some of the things I saw and heard, but at the outset I should like to dispel one doubt. I shall just state a conclusion which there is no time to argue: The Indonesian economy will not collapse. It will continue to struggle on and economic pressures will not compel Indonesia to alter her course in any way whatever. Any suggestions that economic pressures might be brought to bear in this manner need to be treated with extreme scepticism. I should like now to devote what I have to say to the political situation in Indonesia.
The P.K.I. - the Indonesian Communist Party - has, under President Sukarno, increased from a membership of about 8,000 to 3 million, while 14 million Indonesians are allied to this party through various front organisations. It is the only party that can organise mass demonstrations at will. I do not believe that this party blindly follows Russian or Chinese doctrines. It is working, rather, to change the balance of political force in Indonesia by organising the masses and by manipulating the political elite to become an accepted instrument of government in Indonesia. It has moved most skilfully in this direction. The P.K.I, may even now be so strong that it will inevitably come to power at some stage in the future, and it certainly will if present trends continue. The trends are these: Under the President, the P.K.I. has increased enormously in strength, while other political parties having different views have been banned or have been suppressed and while the Army’s political influence has been restrained. Confrontation also helps the P.K.I. on its road to power because this party is sufficiently apart from the Government at the present time not to bear any responsibility for the failure of this particular policy. At the appropriate time the P.K.I. will undoubtedly be able to use substantial evidence of economic inefficiency and Government corruption to help remove people who otherwise might oppose its philosophy.
It is appropriate for us to ask ourselves what the effect of a P.K.I. government may be. So far as external policies are concerned, I can see no immediate or great change. Indonesia has, in recent months, become aligned with the Communist powers and particularly with China over the problems of Vietnam, Korea, the Congo and Laos. On these matters she is already aligned. It may well be that a Communist dominated government would treat more favourably with the Russians concerning the establishment of a naval base in Indonesia. It may well be that the Russians would be prepared to provide considerably more aid for a Communist dominated government in Indonesia. But these are things that only the future can tell.
The main changes in the immediate influence of the P.K.I, in government would be internal ones. At present, 60 per cent, of the Indonesian economy is still in the hands of private Indonesians. This would certainly go. There are political forces in Indonesia which now have no particular power. They are in the political wilderness. These could be destroyed, and the possibiltiy, however remote, that they would one day break through would come to nothing. Australia would certainly need experience of such a government before it would be able to judge properly the problems that would be created by living alongside it.
It is not so long ago that many people said the P.K.I, would never come to power because the Indonesian army would prevent it, but now there are considerable doubts about this. Some analysis of the situation leads me to the conclusion that the army is much less likely to oppose the P.K.I. than it once was. These factors need to be considered. Confrontation puts the army and the P.K.I, on the same side. Many army officers will ask themselves why they should oppose the P.K?I. If confrontation fails, as it must, it will be possible to depict the army as the discredited instrument of a policy that has failed. The State philosophy taught from primary school onwards bears many similarities in slogan and phrase to the Communist philosophy and so, in many senses, the people are already half prepared for the switch to the P.K.I, or Communist philosophy. But more important than this is the degree, which it is not possible to measure, of Communist infiltration in the army. Indeed, this is one of the means whereby Dr. Subandrio is said to have ingratiated himself with the Communist Party, by removing the army officers who were formerly anti-Communists and replacing them with others of a much more doubtful philosophy and outlook.
My view and conclusion on all these matters is that the army would not oppose what the Indonesians call a Nasakom Government, a government in which the Communist Party might have up to a quarter or one third of the Cabinet posts, if this was the kind of government that appeared after Sukarno. I believe that this is the likely course. However, the army may still have sufficient initiative to oppose an attempted P.K.I, take over at this point of time. But it is most unlikely that the P.K.I, would try to take this course now or immediately following the President’s death. The P.K.I, has shown immense skill and there is no reason to suspect that that party would fall into the error of impatience merely because President Sukarno happened to die.
One of the things I had not realised from Australia was that in Indonesia there are other forces and they represent large numbers of people who dislike and despair of the policies that Indonesia follows at present. If these forces could break through and if they had any influence on policy, they would pursue policies that are not opposed to the general interests of the area. These forces are composed of people who have lost power, however, and I cannot conceive of circumstances in which they would ever regain power, although it is not necessarily impossible. The fact that such people exist needs to be noted and remembered in formulating our own policies.
While he lives, the President will remain unchallenged as the ruler of Indonesia for two principal reasons. He has maintained unity in his country and has given to the Indonesians a sense of national purpose, even if we believe that it is a sense of national purpose in very much the wrong things. Perhaps he already has less power than he had some time ago and he is probably already partly a prisoner of the forces of the emotions he has created and of the position he has allowed and, indeed, encouraged the P.K.I, to assume inside Indonesia. While there are some people who will report that the President wants to create a new balance to counter the strength of the P.K.I. in Indonesia, there is no evidence of this in any of the acts that he takes. If he had wished to do this, there would have been no reason to ban what was called the “ Body For the Promotion of Sukarnoism “ and the newspapers that subsequently supported that body. It is my belief that he has some natural affinity with Communist philosophy and with the attractions, dogmas and slogans that the Communists use.
Many official reasons are given for confrontation, including the alleged breaking of the Manila Agreement, neo-colonialism and the alleged lack of freedom in the Borneo territories. There may be some fear of what the United Kingdom or United States forces could do. There may be some fear of encirclement, but again I find it difficult to believe that these are substantive reasons. These are a function of the power struggle in Indonesia and of Indonesia’s external objective, which I believe is the most important.
While there are domestic reasons for the P.K.I., the Army and the President to support confrontation, the Indonesian objective is to dominate the waters and territories of the south-western Pacific region. Thus there would have been some kind of confrontation even if there had been no Malaysia. The United Kingdom defence guarantee to Malaya and to Singapore would have prevented this dominance and, in Indonesian philosophy, it must have been challenged. In the future it is likely that confrontation will continue at a low key, at a level below that which the Indonesians believe will attract some sort of severe retaliation from Malaysia and from Malaysia’s friends. I do not believe that the Indonesian’s recent flurries about negotiations were realistic or in any sense sincere, because Indonesia must know that negotiations cannot take place until hostilities cease, and hostilities had not ceased. It is much more likely that these references to negotiations represented just one more phase in blowing hot and blowing cold with this particular policy.
Here it is pertinent, I think, that we should ask ourselves whether there is any urgency to settle - to prevent confrontation continuing. In my view there is great urgency in this matter. It is important that the confidence of Malaysians, of Malays and Chinese, be maintained in Kuala Lumpur and in the Federation of Malaysia. I believe that any people would become impatient with a government that did nothing more than mop up raids - military enterprises of one kind or another - as they occurred in their own territory. Any people would ask their government to do something to stop the raids. If the government did not, or apparently did not do anything to see that the raids were stopped, in terms of hitting back at the raiders, the people would lose confidence in the government. As I see it, this is the danger of long-term continuation of a policy of confrontation.
With all the wisdom that is available to hindsight, how much better might it have been if the United States had acted long ago as it now does in Vietnam, if the French had so acted in [ndo-China and Algeria, the United States in Korea, and the Malaysians in relation to Indonesia. All these countries have allowed and do allow, with the one exception of South Vietnam, safe havens for the countries that sponsor and aid and abet the subversive attacks against these areas. We should ask ourselves whether these wars of subversion will continue to flourish for the very reason that these safe and inviolate havens have been allowed to exist, untouched and almost untouchable. In my view, we will be cursed with this problem until we are prepared to take the kind of risks that were taken three times over Berlin and once over Cuba.
Except for the last few weeks in Vietnam, we have not been prepared to accept this degree of risk, and if we are not prepared to accept it now, the alternative will be to provide continuous victories for the countries that practised these wars of subversion of one kind or another. It is most important that Australia should maintain her dual role and policy, with absolute firmness and opposition to confrontation on the one hand, and an open door to negotiation and friendship on the other. I attach great importance to this policy, so long as what we do in relation to maintaining an open door to negotiation and friendship does not weaken our policy to be firm and resolute in opposition to confrontation.
Australia can perform this role better than either the United Kingdom or the United States, perhaps because we live in this particular part of the world and perhaps because we are not a large world power, which is enough to make any point of view suspect in the eyes of the Indonesians. However, our principal problem in this matter derives from the nature of the Indonesian motive. If Indonesia merely feared United Kingdom forces, I believe that such fears could be put at rest. If Indonesia feared encirclement, it could be persuaded that nobody threatened that country.
If Indonesia wanted the Borneo territories to be free, I think the Indonesians could be convinced that the people in those territories had made their just choice. But if Indonesia wishes to expand and to dominate, the problem becomes more difficult. It is not then a question of allaying some Indonesian fear, but of altering the course of her international policies. This is the task that confronts us. If this analysis is correct, it is hard to see how Indonesia could wish to negotiate except from recognition of superior strength and from the knowledge that that strength will be used, however reluctantly, unless confrontation stops.
Australia must pursue these two prongs of our policy. We must be calm and deliberate in our willingness to use force if these policies of confrontation are not stopped. At the same time, with persistence and patience, we should try, however slight the hope, to convince Indonesia of the matters of substance which Malaysia, Indonesia and Australia should have in common - the proper development of our own territories, expanding trade, and the development of mutual trust, without which peace in this area is not possible. Whichever way the course lies, whether diplomacy succeeds or arms become marshalled in sharper conflict, each nation in this region must learn that neither we nor our friends will tolerate the use of force to pursue narrow national ends, hostile to other countries.
If Indonesia persists in doing so, by volunteers or by official units of its army, then force will have to be met by force. The decisions that mav bring this about are not ours to make. Unfortunately they must come from Indonesia on whose leaders rests the responsibility and the decision to assist in the development of trust and a realistic peace in the south western Pacific region. If Indonesia spurns this course and maintains her military attacks on her neighbour, Malaysia, what alternative is there to a sharper and more intense conflict? Indonesian leaders should be able to measure the comparable military capacity of the opposing forces too well to want that to happen.
Dr.J. F. CAIRNS (Yarra) [9.30].- The point made by the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Malcolm Fraser), who just sat down, brings out very clearly the differ ence between the Opposition and the Government on these matters and also the difference between the people who, in effect, are working for peace and the people whose policy and conduct, whether they know it or not, would produce war. The honorable member for Wannon drew a parallel between the crises of Berlin and Cuba and that in Vietnam. He called for a similar kind of policy. He called for an attack on what he described as the haven of aggression in various parts of the world. He said that it would have been better had the French continued their attacks in Vietnam and even in Algeria rather than that the trouble in those countries should have been settled by negotiations based on the use of the two opposing types of power to bring about an end to war or its prevention.
The honorable member for Wannon seems to be unaware altogether of the vast difference between the confrontation in respect of Berlin and Cuba and what is happening in Vietnam today. The fact that the honorable member misses that point completely shows how completely he and those who think as he does - I believe that they include the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Hasluck) himself - are misunderstanding the situation. What happened in Berlin and Cuba was that two great powers used their strength to deter the use of force, and the use of force was prevented in Berlin and Cuba. But what is happening in Vietnam today is that great powers are using their force in an actual war. War is not being deterred by what is happening in Vietnam, as it was in Berlin and Cuba; war is being fought as a result of what is happening in Vietnam. If the honorable member for Wannon misses that point so completely, I can understand why the rest of his reasoning is so unsound, because his reasoning is based completely on that false assumption. I believe that much of what the Minister for External Affairs has told us this evening is similarly based.
The Minister said that we must study the facts of power. Certainly we should study the facts. I believe that he has given us a very one-sided view of the facts this evening; he has not properly taken into account the faots as they are. The important issue today is the war in Vietnam. That is our primary concern, m- Malaysia-Indonesia dispute is just a side issue in contrast. The war in Vietnam bas extended gradually but relentlessly and continuously since 1960. Leaving aside who is responsible for that, for the moment, I submit that we now have a situation in which a further extension is inevitable. A large war of the Korean type, or something worse, is most probable as a result of the situation today. We have a war that involves cruel and relentless methods. The use of those methods in this war will mean a continuation of the war and also that the methods will become more cruel and relentless. Gas has now been introduced into this war. Here in Australia we seem to be very silent on this matter. The London “ Times “ is reported to have said -
Gas is one of the most emotive words in the dictionary of warfare. It arouses instant fear and revulsion.
The “ Daily Mail “ described the use of gas as unfortunate and said that it would tarnish America’s image. The London “ Sun “ said -
In cold logic it can no doubt be argued that non-lethal gas is a far more humane weapon than high explosives and napalm.
This newspaper went on to say, however, that to Asians the use of gas was one more proof that the Western powers would go to any lengths against Asians because they were Asians and not Westerners. It may well be that the gas is not lethal in the sense that it will poison the Vietcong; but I submit that it will poison the minds of about 2,000 million people in the world today against the United States. Is this in the interests of the United States?
This war that I have described, culminating in the use of some kind of gas which, perhaps, is non-lethal but which may well have the effect that I have mentioned on the minds of people in so many parts of the world, is a war that can be justified only if a very strong case exists for it. The case for it consists of two parts. One part is that intervention has been necessary for the sake of freedom and democracy in South Vietnam and in South-East Asia generally. I suggest that the evidence now shows pretty conclusively that freedom and democracy cannot be won or held In this part of the world by military intervention. We need only cast our minds back to one of the countless newspaper reports which indicated what was happening in Vietnam.
In 1961 General Maxwell Taylor was appointed to investigate methods of government in South Vietnam. Newspapers reported that he was systematically screened from all Americans in South Vietnam whose views clashed with the official myth that something was being done in the interests of democracy in South Vietnam; but he recommended that there should be some deep-seated political and economic changes. Immediately, the government-controlled Press of that time in South Vietnam and in the United States - those who were following the Chinese lobby - began to make an attack on the United States, asserting that it was time to revise Vietnamese* American collaboration. The newspaper reports to which I have referred went on to say that Washington would tell the Ngo Dinh Diem clique either to follow through with some real social reforms or retire to its abundant foreign investments; but the reports - and there were many of them-~ showed us that nothing of the sort occurred and that Washington simply and purely capitulated. That was the situation throughout the Diem regime. From this it seems clear that political, social and economic changes in South Vietnam were not considered important or that, if they were, the regime at the time would not attempt to make them. Policy was mainly military and strategic. Political changes were made difficult or impossible because there was no political alternative to the Diem Government. The Opposition was in gaol. Pretty soon Communism became the only alternative. In the absence of any other alternative, emphasis was laid on military methods.
We had reports from people such as the Australian journalist, Denis Warner, who has a very high standing overseas. In those years which the Minister for External Affairs skipped over so quickly, Denis Warner was telling us this -
Against this background of uncertainty, and a hope that neutrality may produce something better than alignment with the West has, the Vietcong has made rapid progress.
Denis Warner believed that military action was necessary, but held out very little hope for its success when he wrote these words -
It is inevitable that of the approximately 400 Vietcong killed each month many should be innocent bystanders. Any estimate of the numbers killed in error is at best a fairly wild guess.
Any estimate of the number of people killed in error, month after month, was at best a fairly wild guess. Then, when the killing was over, came the psychological warfare and political warfare teams that follow the Army with movies and lectures. Denis Warner said -
These activities too often interrupt the peasants in their task of personal rehabilitation . . and repairing roads and installations for the military, and no money is available to replace pigs and poultry or reconstructlost homes.
That was why nothing was achieved in respect of raising the standard of living or in respect of freedom or democracy in South Vietnam during those years. It may not have been possible to achieve anything; but, as the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) told us quite clearly, the war for freedom and democracy in South Vietnam is now over. It is lost. Now we are involved in some other kind of war. We are involved in a war which is purely a strategic war, a war which at best can be said to be a war of retaliation for, or resistance to, aggression from the north. So we have to turn to the evidence of that.
The case against the case for aggression from the north has been stated before. It has been stated on the basis of the conclusions of American generals and of men such as Senator Wayne Morse and Walter Lippmann. I have quoted much of it before. In August 1962, General Paul Harkins, the American commanding officer, said -
On 21st May 1964 Senator Wayne Morse said -
Ihave cross-examined witnesses for some time on South Vietnam from the Pentagon and the State Department. When I put the question to them: “What military personnel have you found in South Vietnam from Red China, Cambodia or elsewhere? “ the answer is always: “ Practically none”. So when I press the witnesses further with the question: “ Am I to understand the Vietcong are South Vietnamese almost entirely? “ the answer is: “Yes”. The same is true of their weapons. The Vietcong have armed themselves from government stocks, not by foreign imports from Communist countries. The so-called supply lines (from North Vietnam) that so many politicians want to bomb are little more than a myth.
This was the position. This is the case against aggression from the north in South Vietnam.
The ease for aggression is found in the reports of the Control Commission. Let me run through these reports very quickly. In 1955- 56, we find the first reference to this matter in a report of the Control Commission. In each year, there are allegations of aggression from both sides and the Control Commission refers to the People’s Army of Vietnam - that is, the North - and to the Government of the Republic of Vietnam, which is the South. I will refer to them as the South and the North as I go through these reports. According to the 1955-56 report there were 29 complaints from the North of 236 incidents of infiltration from the South to the North, there were no complaints in 1955-56 of infiltration from the North to the South. According to the 1956- 57 report there were 43 complaints from the North and 16 complaints from the South. In 1957-58 there were 62 complaints from the North and 15 complaints from the South. In 1959-60 there were 111 complaints from the North and 18 complaints from the South. In 1960-61 there were 451 complaints from the North and 51 complaints from the South.
Then we come to the Special Report of 1962. This report is quite a significant one, because the document that the Minister for External Affairs relied on almost completely this evening, called “Aggression From the North”, which is issued by the American Department of State, quotes the Special Report of the Control Commission on page 30 where it states -
Having examined the complaints and the supporting material sent by the South Vietnamese Mission, the Committee has come to the conclusion that in specific instances there is evidence to show that armed and unarmed personnel, arms, munitions and other supplies have been sent from the Zone in the North to the Zone in the South with the objective of supporting, organising and carrying out hostile activities. . . .
There are other references of that sort. Of course, this was the version published in the American document. However, at page 10 of the very same report that the American document quotes from, we find this statement -
Taking all the facts into consideration, and basing itself on its own observations and authorised statements made in the United States of America and the Republic of Vietnam, the Commission concludes that the Republic of Vietnam has violated Articles 16 and 17 of the Geneva Agreement in receiving the increased military aid from the United States of America in the absence of any established credit in its favour. The Commission is also of the view that, although there may not be any formal military alliance between the Governments of the United States of America and the Republic of Vietnam, the establishment of a U.S. Military Assistance Command in South Vietnam, as well as the introduction of a large number of U.S. military personnel-
Now rising above 25,000 men -
In all fairness and justice to a situation which may involve the world in war, why are both sides not stated? The case for aggression, of course, is very largely that of this document to which I have referred. Wc find also in the Special Report to the CoChairmen of the Geneva Conference on Indo-China of 1965, to which I have just referred, reference to the view of the Canadian Delegation. At page 14 of that report, it is stated - lt is the considered view of the Canadian Delegation that the events which have taken place in both North and South Vietnam since February 7 are the direct result of the intensification of the aggressive policy of the Government of North Vietnam.
The question then breaks itself up into infiltrations of manpower and also arms and equipment. There is a terrific amount of detail here with which I will not have time to deal. But I refer the House - and I think the House certainly ought to study these matters or give some attention to them because, so far, there has been very little indication that anything of this sort has concerned members of the House in detail - to the report to which I have just referred. At page 23 we find a detailed number of infiltrations for each year from 1959 to 1964. The total is 39,000. The detailed number each year represents the figure that the Commission finds to be confirmed. At page 33 of the American document “ Ag gression From the North”, referred to by the Minister, we find a similar kind of table reaching a total of 19,555 confirmed infiltrations and 17,555 unconfirmed infiltrations, making a total of 37,100.
I want to summarise briefly the situation with regard to infiltration. There was hardly any evidence of infiltration whatever until about 1960. Then it began to rise. The infiltration up to the end of 1964, on the evidence produced by the Control Commission and by the American document, is made up almost completely by the return of South Vietnamese residents who had left South Vietnam in 1954 and gone to the North and then after a period of years there returned south. Until the end of 1963 certainly, and perhaps into 1964, there was only an occasional North Vietnamese resident ever detected in the South. The evidence of the American document shows us that it is only from the beginning of 1964 that there is any noticeable increase in the number of North Vietnamese residents that have come into the South. Therefore, the conclusion of Senator Wayne Morse is confirmed by this document, except that some of the South Vietnamese to whom he refers came from the north.
Let us turn to munitions and equipment. Here the document gives us detailed amounts captured in each year. There is no evidence of the ratio that they expect exists between the amount actually captured and the amount actually brought in. There is no evidence of any captured weapons earlier than about the middle of 1962. Let ms run briefly through the evidence that exists. In the case of weapons of Chinese origin later than lune 1962, there is one 57-mm. recoilless gun and one 57-mm. recoilless gun carriage. There are also 49 shells for a 57-mm. gun, one 27M rocket launcher, 408 TNT explosive charges and 17 tons of potassium chlorate. It was found that those articles had come from China all later than June 1962. In the case of weapons- of Soviet Union origin later than May 1962, there was one MP-82 rifle and launching cartridge - one only discovered up to the end of May 1962 from the Soviet Union. In the case of weapons of Czechoslovakian origin later than November 1962, there were three K-50 sub-machine guns. Nothing more was discovered. In the case of weapons at least modified by North Vietnam in 1962, not earlier than November, there were 16 Mat-49’s. In the case of material of North Vietnamese manufacture in 1962, later than October, some uniforms and socks were discovered. In 1963 and 1964 the American report indicates that there was some increase in the number from each of these sources, but the increase by any standards was modest.
I suggest that if this evidence of aggression from the North is taken into account we can reasonably say that certain conclusions can be drawn. First of all, arms and equipment actually brought in were probably less than 10 per cent, of that which was used in the actual war. The figure may rise above 10 per cent, after 1965, but it was certainly not so before. In the case of infiltration, this was mainly of South Vietnamese until the end of 1963, and only North Vietnamese personnel have been found in any numbers since then and probably only during 1964. Largely, the war was a civil war of a revolutionary type up to 1963-64. Since then it has become a war fought in the whole of Vietnam. It will be impossible to separate it from now on into a war in the South or North of Vietnam. It is now a war in the whole of Vietnam. The increased militarisation of the struggle, its extension and the involvement of the north and south can be attributed, not to one side, but to both sides. It cannot end by greater warfare. It can only grow and extend by greater warfare. What we should be requiring is a ceasefire now to negotiate if what we want is to prevent a greater war. I believe there is no opportunity of a ceasefire as a result of an extension of any of the actual military operations. The only thing that can be got from an extension of war is more war, not negotiation and settlement, and I oppose more war.
.- The honorable member for Yarra (Dr. J. F. Cairns) has taken 20 minutes to put his case against American intervention in Vietnam. I do not need 20 minutes to state my view in favour of American intervention in the affairs of Vietnam. For many years now the people of South Vietnam have been involved in a bloody, silent, stealthy, sordid war - a war brought on them by the Communists in North Viet nam; a war which has meant loss to every family in South Vietnam. It has brought tragedy to every family and loss of homes and possessions. Why should not we and the Americans help to put a stop to this in South Vietnam? These are innocent people who want to live a free life. Why should they not be encouraged and allowed to do so, protected by countries which have the ability to offer protection, such as the United States of America and Australia? Of course we would be remiss if we did not come to their aid. They are free people and their freedom is threatened. Their very lives and possessions are threatened by aggressive Communism, and, what makes it worse, by Communists of their own race, by Communists of what was formerly their own nation. This is a tragedy which must be brought to an end as quickly as possible. I deplore the use of bombs. I deplore the use of any form of military warfare, but in a case such as this the trouble in Vietnam can be brought to a standstill only by the effective use of modern weapons, and so I welcome American action in North Vietnam.
We have heard a number of views put forward during this debate tonight on Australian foreign policy in general. We have had a very good exposition of the situation in Indonesia, and the case for the Opposition was put forward by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell). I must confess that I could not quite follow the case put forward by the Leader of the Opposition because I found it hard to reconcile his statement that “ Aggression in all forms must be resisted “, and his claim that we should do nothing in Vietnam. Well, to me aggression is aggression from whatever side or source it comes, and I agree entirely with the proposition that it must be resisted. However, I want to speak on another aspect of this problem tonight.
I believe that in order to understand the gravity of the situation in South East Asia and, indeed, the gravity of the situation in which Australia is placed we must look beyond the facade of the immediate situation. There are various reasons why we should be afraid of the situation that is developing in South East Asia; one is population, another is poverty, another is racialism and religious feeling, another is Communism and yet another is the ineffectiveness of the United Nations as a peace keeping organisation. Experts tell us that the population of these countries to the north of Australia will multiply eight times within the course of the next 100 years. Indonesia, which now has a population of some 100 million people, will in 100 years, provided food can be supplied to these people, have a population of 800 million. That is the scale upon which all our discussions should take place. We know of people in most of these countries who are living at subsistence level or below subsistence level at the present time. Then again, as I said, we have acute problems of racial feeling and religious feeling and acute problems of nationalism. The newly independent countries naturally feel very proud of their independence and, having won sovereignty for themselves, are extremely sensitive to anything which they regard as interfering with their independence.
Communism is operating in the area - in fact, two brands of Communism. We have a competition between the Russian vintage and the Chinese vintage, each one competing for first place in the affections of the Communist parties which operate within the countries of South East Asia. What is to be done about this situation? Here again we must look beyond immediate appearances. If we do that, we will observe some phenomena which have a bearing upon the situation. In some 20 countries of the world there are conditions of plenty. In the rest of the countries of the world there are conditions which are not quite so happy. In the Western developed countries - the countries which have arrived - we have noted a gravitation of power away from the parliament to the executive and this has caused the traditionalists to wring their hands periodically; but this is a fact of life in a country which has achieved a certain measure of wealth and a certain wide dispersion of that wealth. The other phenomenon, which, if observed, has not been acknowledged as readily as it should have been, is the gravitation of sovereignty away from national governments. In Australia, for example, the national government does not enjoy as much power as the Government of Australia did 30 years ago. The reason is that in recent times - especially since the last war - we have engaged in a number of treaties, agreements and conventions at all levels, principally with the other rich countries of the world. We have bound ourselves in the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, for example; we have bound ourselves by quite a few technical agreements; and we have bound ourselves by financial agreements so that we do not have the area of manoeuvre that we had formerly. Of course this process of weaving the wealthy countries together in some kind of loose federation is bound to continue.
I suggest that it is time that this trend was acknowledged, because until it is acknowledged we are going to continue to slide towards the type of war and trouble which we have seen in Africa and in South East Asia in recent times. I will explain this. Acting as we do, as independent entities - independent nations - we regard the giving of aid to the developing countries of the world as something which is entirely our prerogative as independent nations, and so most of the wealthy countries of the world give aid in various forms to countries which they regard as being within their sphere of interest in such ways as will give them strategic advantage or commercial advantage, or perhaps only some sentimental advantage. But they give this aid bilaterally to developing countries.
Even if this aid were given on a most altruistic basis, without any strings attached and without any ulterior motives at all, it would still be causing harm and still be damaging to peace and stability in the world, because the Communists are only too eager to seize upon the granting of aid in any form whatsoever as a form of exploitation, as a form of patronage and as a form of neo-colonialism. The ears of the developing countries, sensitive as they are, are only too ready to believe these charges. And so while we continue giving aid on a bilateral basis to countries which we regard as being within our sphere of interest, we will lose their affection, and gradually their allegiance will be transferred from us to the Communist powers.
The reason why more countries have not followed the course of Cuba is presumably that the Communist powers have had a slight difference of opinion in recent years. But that is not going to alter the trend: It will be there as long as Communism exists in the world and so long as we insist on acting as though we were completely separate compartmentalised nations, free to give aid where and when we wish. We had our lesson in this connection a year ago at the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development. There, because of the sense of common purpose among the developing countries, the developed and richer countries were pushed aside, out-gunned and outmanoeuvred.
This is a lesson which we should not need to have twice. We should not allow ourselves to be treated in this fashion again. I am sure that, if we acknowledge the position freely and frankly as it is; if we recognise that we are inter-dependent, as the former Prime Minister of England stated; that we are in fact members of a federation of rich countries; and if we concert our plan for building up the developing countries through multilateral aid funnelled primarily through the United Nations, then we shall strengthen our own position and also strengthen the position of the underdeveloped countries. We shall strengthen the authority and prestige of the United Nations and take a long step towards bringing stability into the world. Moreover, we would do great damage to Communism. We would abolish the argument that the Communists have so far used to win over the minds of the people in the underdeveloped countries. We must swing the emphasis away from the bilateral aid to multi-lateral aid through the aegis of the United Nations, thus building up that organisation’s authority.
I am pleased to record a step which I believe is now being taken in this direction. I confidently expect that the work being carried out in connection with the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade to bring about an international commodity agreement will succeed. If it does, that will be the first stage towards the ultimate goal of channelling all aid through the international body, because international commodity agreements will do more than anything else to correct the imbalance of incomes between the rich and the poor countries.
Since we all in this chamber are politicans we all should be familiar with the saying that success has a thousand fathers. Before anybody else claims the achievement of negotiating international commodity agree ments I would nominate the Deputy Prime Minister and Leader of the Country Party (Mr. McEwen) as instigator of the plan for a world wide agreement on commodities, because I recall that in 1958 at the Commonwealth Trade and Economic Conference held in Montreal he put forward this scheme. That was the first time anybody had suggested world wide agreements on commodities to bring stability to the prices of commodities. Since that time the Deputy Prime Minister has propounded the idea at various other world gatherings and gradually, in the process of time, it has met with more and more support. I am sure that we are about to see the scheme come to fruition. If it does I repeat that it will be the first stage towards multi-lateralism - the first stage towards bringing the wealthy countries together, strengthening the authority and prestige of the United Nations, developing the underdeveloped countries on a practical and sensibly planned basis and bringing about the ultimate downfall of world Communism. [Quorum formed.]
.- Mr. Deputy Speaker, the situation in Vietnam, which was discussed by the honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Ian Allan), is part of a global state of tension, and one can only discuss its settlement in its global setting. The Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Hasluck) in his statement on foreign affairs has expressed the fear of a nuclear holocaust. There have been a number of demands directed at the United States of America that it should negotiate on the subject of Vietnam. There is developing in some countries of the Western world almost a philosophy of demanding the “ getting out of “ such situations as that in Vietnam. There have been advertisements published in the newspapers demanding negotiations which obviously mean that the United States quit Vietnam. The only thing I would like to say about this “getting out of” philosophy is that it does not go far enough. If it were carried as far as it should go, of course, it would be a part of an effective world settlement.
I am all in favour of the West getting out of Berlin if the Soviet Union gets out of East Germany. I would be all in favour of the British getting out of Malaysia if there were a genuine guarantee that
Indonesia would not move in. There is a very strong case for the United States getting out of Vietnam and allowing selfdetermination there, but there is precisely the same case for the Soviet Union getting out of Hungary and allowing self determination there.
I do not want to put this proposition forward as a quibble, but as a test: In an ideological age every political fact and doctrine, including diplomatic recognition and international negotiation, has changed its form. Clausewitz, the Prussian military strategist, made two statements that interested Marx somewhat but interested Lenin very intensely. One of the statements was that the object of war was to change the will of the enemy government and nation, and the second statement was that peace was a continuation of war by other means. The second proposition was developed by Lenin: If peace was a continuation of war by other means, then peace negotiation could become an instrument of war. It could become an instrument of advancing your own power and putting others in an untenable position for a further blow. It depended on what was put on the agenda for negotiation.
We have seen many instances of the application of this second proposition of Clausewitz, and it is this fact which has discredited the whole idea of negotiation today. Until the chicanery surrounding negotiation is dispersed, proposals for negotiation will be discredited and we cannot actually expect any negotiation to produce a settlement. Indonesia was perfectly prepared to negotiate on how the Dutch should get out of West Irian, not on whether the Dutch should get out. Negotiations concentrated on the process and certain powers were temporarily transferred to the United Nations as an interim step to transferring them to Indonesia.
There is a perfect willingness on the part of China to negotiate on how the United States gets out of South Vietnam, not on whether it gets out. Mr. Khrushchev, before his fall, said that the question of Russian withdrawal from Hungary was not negotiable. We have this Leninist philosophy of negotiation, that you negotiate only on those subjects which advance your power and you do not negotiate on those subjects which retreat your power. This philosophy, of course, will destroy the willingness of the great powers to negotiate at all. Cynicism replaces expectation. Russia says: “ We will negotiate on how you get out of Berlin, but we will never negotiate on how we get out East Germany “. Sooner or later the whole strategy is seen through and the idea of negotiation is discredited. It does not matter who signs letters to the newspapers advocating a negotiation. All they are advertising is their own blindness. “We enter into negotiations, agreements and compromises with other parties in order to destroy them.” This is a proposition of Lenin and is stated in his book “What is to be Done”. The concept of negotiation is increasingly bedevilled by this strategy.
The essential position of the United States in South Vietnam is quite simply this: Negotiation in the past produced the partition of Vietnam. The partition was supposed to be a final settlement. But if the motive of one party to the agreement was merely to make a Sinkiang-type base from which to continue a thrust for world power, the negotiations of 1954 were not a settlement; they were merely a phase in war. If we wish to avoid a nuclear holocaust it is no use asking people to be unreal about negotiations that are intended to destroy them. As I said, I am a passionate adherent of the “ Get out “ philosophy, but it does not go far enough. I am in favour of the lot of them getting out and allowing the peoples of the occupied countries to determine their own fate. But I am not in favour of the kind of selective argument that demands that the West should permanently abandon positions because we are frightened and truckling to those who threaten, while we will not make a stand and ask for others to leave territories they ought not to be occupying.
After the First World War there were definite settlements. If we are realistic about the alleged settlements after the Second World War we will see that most of them do not constitute settlements at all. There is nothing but a series of partitions. Germany is partitioned, Korea is partitioned and Vietnam is partitioned. These are not national settlements, these merely register temporary compromises in the continuing thrust of an ideological force. If we take the proposition that China is the basic influence in
Asia and that Chinese policy lies behind the Vietnam situation, and if we note the Soviet criticisms of the United States at this moment, it follows logically that the Soviet Union is in the untenable position of inviting the United States to trust China when the Soviet Union does not trust China itself. I quote from the “World Marxist Review “, which is the official organ of the Cominform. The accusations made there against Mao Tse-tung in the middle of last year are much more far-reaching than any that any member of this House has ever made. In a bitter attack on Ohina the “World Marxist Review” said that Mao would be prepared to see 900 million dead and that these would be “the manure to fertilise the new society which China is out to build “. If that is the conviction of the Soviet Union and the Cominform, how can they genuinely ask the United States to trust China? It is quite impossible. If there is to be a settlement, it must be total, it must be global and it must be genuine.
The conflict between the two schools of Communism mentioned by the previous speaker is only technically an ideological conflict. The technicality is - this is the Chinese charge against the Soviet Union of revisionism - that the Soviet Union has departed from the five basic propositions of Communism, which are, first, that the class struggle is an inevitable aspect of social development; secondly, that revolutionary violence is necessary to overthrow the capitalist system; thirdly, that the Socialist state is a dictatorship that continues violence against the enemies of the proletarian state; fourthly, that nationalists who take power in colonial countries are incapable of achieving Socialism and therefore must be overthrown; and, fifthly, that only the Communist Party can achieve Socialism after going through the fire of a revolutionary civil war and a violent dictatorship. The revisionism to which Ohina objects is Russia’s belief that a peaceful transition is possible and that Communists can participate in governments iri conjunction with the nationalist leaders of newly independent countries.
These revisionist proposals are possibly not the real issue. While the debate goes on on an ideological plane, in point of fact the disagreement is intensely practical. The Soviet Union does not wish to be pushed into a nuclear war; that is the actual posi tion. Therefore, it takes the point that a peaceful transition to Socialism is possible. Whereas China in Africa is attempting to build on voodoo and Mau Mau types of activity, both in the Congo and elsewhere, the Soviet Union, as far as it is capable, has made the diagnosis that the wave of the future in Afro-Asia and perhaps Latin America is among the elite of newly emerged nationalist leaders, and that they are the people who should be ideologically and politically cultivated. The present phase of China’s policy characterised by an attachment to violence in these settings appears to be anarchic and designed to terrorise Europeans and create a tabula rasa. The present phase of Soviet policy in Africa and Asia is characterised by an attachment to what one might call the legitimate governments and leadership of the emerging forces.
While Vietnam is very important - I basically think that the United States in Vietnam is acting to try to get back to the compromise settlement of 1954, to try to stop it simply being used as the base for a new advance - the fundamentally important question in Asia lies between China and India. I want to say only this about the demand for negotiations in Vietnam: We need to be quite honest, because if the possibility is a nuclear war hanging over our heads, chicanery and debate about being pro-left or pro-right are just not adequate. Are the people who are advocating United States negotiation in Vietnam in fact advocating United States surrender? Because if they are it is extremely unrealistic to expect a proud nation like the United States to do that. We are told that we are very realistic if we accept the fact of China. It is equally realistic to accept the fact of the existence of the United States, and the United States will not accept a humiliation disguised as a negotiation, and it will be a pointless policy that attempts to make the United States do so.
If we are genuinely concerned about the possibility of a nuclear war, we have to be quite genuine on this subject of negotiations and ask only for genuine negotiations not tricks. The second thing we need to realise in this House is that foreign policy is not a matter for dabble and comment. Are we actually taking responsibility in these situations? If we demand that the United States shall negotiate what are we demanding that it shall negotiate about? That has to be clearly and honestly stated. If in fact we are not really talking about negotiating but are talking about surrendering and getting out, we should say so; and the unrealism of that demand as a policy will immediately become apparent. Secondly, if the United States forces do have an armistice for negotiation and as a consequence forfeit certain favourable military positions, and then the negotiations break down, who pays in blood for the retrieving of those positions? Do we or do they? This is elementary responsibility. Otherwise, we are just irresponsible dabblers and commenters. In the long run nobody will take any notice of us.
Foreign policy is a matter of dealing with these questions of substance of power, and I am all for the responsible advocacy of a total settlement. I am not for the irresponsible advocacy of what amounts to accepting deceit. If negotiations are a power manoeuvre they are deceit not peace. The real issue of crucial ideological importance in Asia is the relationship between China and India. It was a painful surprise for Pandit Nehru when China attacked India, because if there was any foreign minister who leaned over backwards to be complaisant to China it was India’s Krishna Menon, with a record of years of defence of China; but that did not stop India from being attacked. The attack was inevitable, because if India can solve the problems of poverty, linguistic division, religious division, lack of resources and illiteracy within a democratic framework Asia will turn to democracy and India will be the ideological pattern. If India cannot do that, Asia will turn to Communism. It does not matter whether we approve or not. That, I think, is a critical ideological choice in Asia. The discrediting of India, therefore, was and is completely essential to Communist Chinese aims.
Mao Tse-tung laid down certain propositions which relate to both his diplomatic and his military strategy when he said -
The enemy advances, we retreat.
The enemy halts, we harass.
The enemy tires, we attack.
The enemy retreats, we pursue.
He probed India for social collapse. There was enough unity, conviction and determina tion in India to resist. India showed also that she was prepared to abandon neutralism to the extent of turning to the West and asking for assistance. When the Chinese thrust took the Chinese forces far enough to be well over the mountains and towards the plains, where they might have confronted Indian armour, they retreated while still holding the prestige of surprise victories.
But the pressure on India continues through Tibet; it continues through the negotiations with Pakistan, based on Pakistan’s bitterness over Kashmir, and in the pressures that China applies on Ne Win in Burma. The Chinese have forced India, with enormous problems of poverty, greatly to upgrade her defence expenditure and therefore retard the solution of her problems of poverty. They have pressed Burma to expel Indians, aggravating India’s problems. This is part of the strategy of inducing social collapse. It is not a peace strategy; it is a war strategy. Not only did the Cominform journal “World Marxist Review “ accuse China of envisaging 900 million dead, but Nehru, just before his death, revealed in conversations that when he was with Mao, Mao had told him he was prepared to see in the world 300 million dead if such a price were necessary for Communism. I am not saying that I think the solution of the problem of China’s thrust is a lot of hatred of China. I think that one of the solutions of China’s thrust is a steel determination in this country to see that India’s experiment in democracy, which is one of the biggest experiments in the world, shall succeed.
Famine relief, however important it is, is not an adequate concept. As I have said before, I believe that this country should take on itself the aim, with others, of achieving in India such a standard of diet that no addition to it would add anything to the physique of the Indian people. The diet would be optimun. There was one man in Australia who gave his mind to one vital aspect of this. He was the late Sir Ian Clunies Ross. Remembering that in the days of the British Raj the Hindu troops of the Viceroy, when they were wounded, healed much slower than did Muslim troops, and recognising that this was due to protein deficiency in the diet because of religious convictions, he gave his mind to the problem of providing a protein diet that would meet their religious convictions. It occurred to him that in Australia we poured the best protein - skim milk - down the drains. He started to advocate the policy of the manufacture of powdered skim milk for export for India. There is more protein in a pound of powdered skim milk than there is in a pound of the best beef. He advocated the establishment of suitable factories in India and the export of powdered skim milk to that country until their establishment.
If one man could intelligently analyse a dietary need and a policy that met it and met India’s religious convictions, how would it be if 500 Australians, with Government backing, gave their thought to solving the problems of our neighbour India? We have a very limited view if we think that we can confront a China, which has a plan for every country in Asia, while we have no plan or vision for any country in Asia but are concerned only about our own security, our own comfort and our own development.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Wentworth) adjourned.
House adjourned at 10.30 p.m.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated -
i asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
What sum has been spent by the Australian Broadcasting Commission on television installations and equipment in each of those centres, outside the State capital cities, where a station, transmitter or other equipment has been established?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows -
The amounts spent by the Australian Broadcasting Commission on television installations (including buildings) and equipment in centres outside the State capital cities are -
son asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows -
b asked the Minister for Health, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 23 March 1965, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1965/19650323_reps_25_hor45/>.