25th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. Sir John McLeay) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– I have received from His Excellency the Governor-General a commission authorising me to administer to members of the House the oath, or affirmation of allegiance. I now lay the commission on the table.
– I have to announce with deep regret the death on 9th January 1966 of the honorable member for Dawson, Mr. George William Shaw. On 21st January I issued a writ for the election of a member to serve in the place of the deceased gentleman. I have received a return to the writ and by the endorsement thereon it is certified that Rex Alan Patterson has been elected.
Dr. Rex Alan Patterson was introduced and made and subscribed the oath of allegiance as member for the division of Dawson.
– I have to announce that on 17th February I received from the Right Honorable Sir Robert Gordon Menzies a letter resigning his seat as member for the electoral division of Kooyong. On 3rd March I issued a writ for the election of a member to serve for the electoral division of Kooyong in the State of Victoria to fill the vacancy caused by the resignation of the right honorable gentleman. The dates in connection with the election were fixed as follows -
Date of nomination - Friday, 18th March 1966.
Date of polling - Saturday, 2nd April 1966.
Date of return of writ - on or before Friday, 6th May 1966.
– You have referred, Mr. Speaker, to the resignation of the Right Honorable Sir Robert Menzies as Prime Minister. Following that resignation, to which I shall be referring again later this week, His Excellency the Governor-General commissioned me, as the newly elected leader of the Liberal Party of Australia, to form a ministry. I formally announce that the new Government, which was sworn in on 26th January 1966 - Australia Day, Mr. Speaker, and this I feel has some happy symbolism for us all - is constituted as follows -
Minister for Trade and Industry - Right Honorable J. McEwen.
Treasurer - Honorable W. McMahon.
Minister for Supply - Senator the Honorable N. H. D. Henty.
Postmaster-General and Vice-President of the Executive Council - Honorable A. S. Hulme.
Minister for Works - Senator the Honorable J. G. Gorton.
Minister for the Interior - Honorable J. D. Anthony.
Minister for the Navy - Honorable F. C. Chaney, A.F.C.
Minister for Air and assisting the Treasurer - Honorable P. Howson.
Senator the Honorable K. M. Anderson.
Minister for Repatriation - Senator the Honorable G. C. McKellar.
Minister for Housing - Senator the Honorable Dame Annabelle Rankin, D.B.E.
Minister for the Army - Honorable J. M. Fraser.
The Minister for Works (Senator Gorton) will assist me in Commonwealth activities in relation to education and research which fall within the Prime Minister’s Department. The first 12 Ministers I have mentioned will form the Cabinet, Mr. Fairbairn will be the Leader of the Government in this chamber, and Senator Henty, Leader in the Senate.
In the Senate, Senator Henty will be my representative in matters other than those relating to education and research and Senator Gorton in matters relating to education and research. Senator Henty will also represent the Minister for Trade and Industry, the Treasurer and the Minister for National Development. Senator Gorton will also represent the Minister for External Affairs, the Minister for Defence, the Minister for Territories, the Minister for Labour and National Service and the Attorney-General. The Postmaster-General and the Ministers for Shipping and Transport and Civil Aviation will be represented by Senator Anderson, the Ministers for Primary Industry, the Interior, the Navy, Air and the Army by Senator McKellar, and the Ministers for Immigration, Health, and Social Services by Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin.
Ministers in the Senate will be represented in this House as follows: The Minister for Supply by Mr. Fairhall, the Minister for Works by Mr. Freeth, the Minister for Customs and Excise by Mr. Howson, the Minister for Repatriation by Mr. Swartz, and the Minister for Housing by Mr, Bury.
– by leave - Mr. Speaker, I ask for your indulgence - or semiindulgence - to say a few words on what is a most auspicious occasion for the right honorable member for Higgins (Mr. Harold Holt). On behalf of the Opposition and, I hope, on behalf of every honorable member, I extend to him personal congratulations on becoming the seventeenth Prime Minister of the Commonwealth of Australia - a particularly great achievement. There have been only 17 Prime Ministers over 65 years. It has been on the average a long time between Prime Ministers. One lasted only seven days, another nine days and another nineteen days. So the occupancy of the office is rather greater than the average would suggest. Of course, we do not propose to allow the present Prime Minister to hold his position for 16 years or even 16 months if we can prevent it. Today we come to praise the new Caesar, not to bury him. We are turning history upside down. We will bury his policies as soon as we can. But while he occupies the high, honorable and great position of Prime Minister of Australia, he can be assured of the courtesy of this side of the House and its co-operation in the discharge of the business of the Parliament.
The parliamentary institution is our great safeguard against tyranny of all kinds. If we are parliamentarians and if we have any respect for tradition, then obviously we must do all we can to maintain the traditions associated with the office. There will be times, of course, when we will disagree with each other, but on those occasions we must remember the dignity of Parliament, its importance and the significance it has in the life of people and in the defence of their liberties, their rights and their privileges.
The right honorable gentleman has exhibited remarkable patience. He has served his party for a great many years. He was loyal to his former leader for 16 years and he has received his reward. He exhibited the patience of Job and he has been given the same kind of reward that Job received, although I am not now so sure what that was. But, of course, Job was not in line for the Prime Ministership of Australia. The Prime Minister starts in his office with the goodwill of many Australians. It is for him to justify the choice of his party and for him to justify his policies. It is for us, the Opposition, to show, where we believe it is right to do so, that his policies are wrong and that a change of Government is desirable and necessary in the interests of the Australian people.
– by leave- May I say how much
I appreciate the words of congratulation which have come so generously from the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell)? He and I have sat opposite each other for a great many years, advancing as vigorously as we have felt able our respective points of view. We did not always find ourselves in agreement, but there are many matters affecting the wellbeing of Australia on which we have been in agreement. I hope that our daily confrontations in this Parliament, which in his case, I trust, will continue for a considerable time to come, will be marked by that recognition which I know he has always given to the national interest, as I hope I have also. He and I had the privilege of making a contribution to a programme launched by him which has served Australia well - the immigration programme. I know that in matters touching the national interest he has revealed a sense of responsibility which can well serve as a model to members of this Parliament, from whichever side of it they come. For my part, Sir, I share with him the regard for this institution. We are parliamentarians first and servants of the Parliament, even if we have the good fortune to be chosen to serve the nation in executive ministerial capacities.
It is as a servant of the Parliament that I shall report faithfully from time to time what the Government proposes to do or puts forward by way of policy and in the conduct of the affairs of the Parliament which must be made to serve the interests of the people. In that respect I enjoyed the close co-operation of the Leader of the Opposition when I had the duties of Leader of the House to perform. That practice has been followed by his deputy. It is in this friendly, co-operative conduct of the affairs of a representative democracy, however much we may differ on matters of policy, that we find the true expression of a democratic people and a democratic institution. It is in that spirit that we shall occupy our respective roles. I thank the House for its congratulations. In particular I thank the Leader of the Opposition for his personal good wishes.
– I move -
That this House records sincere regret at the death of Lal Bahadur Shastri, Prime Minister of India, places on record its appreciation of his high ideals, his service to the country, his dedication to the cause of international peace, and the development of harmonious relations wilh Pakistan, expresses to the people of India its profound regret at the loss they have suffered, and tenders its deep sympathy to his widow and family.
Since the Parliament last met the death occurred suddenly, as all honorable members will know, of this Commonwealth leader for whom we all had great respect. The Prime Minister of India, Mr. Shastri, had devoted his life to the welfare and advancement of his country, and his death took place while he was actually actively engaged on a mission of great significance for his country. Indeed, he died within a few hours of the signing of the Tashkent Declaration, an agreement negotiated so skilfully by him, and designed to. ease the tension existing between, his country and Pakistan. .
Lal Bahadur Shastri had long and intimate experience in Indian politics and government. He began his political career as a very young man and played an important role in a succession of Indian cabinets. He was one of the most valued colleagues of his former distinguished leader, Mr. Nehru, and he was among those to whom Mr. Nehru turned when failing health made it necessary for him to share the burdens of office. His contemporaries regarded Lal Bahadur Shastri as something of a genius in. striking balances, in handling difficult situations, and in achieving successful compromises serving the purposes he had in view. Mr. Nehru has described him as a man of the highest integrity with devotion to high ideals. This seemed to shine out from the man, even to those of us who only knew of him at a distance. As we read about him we felt the. inner strength and the spirituality and force of character in this remarkable man.
His extensive political experience and his personal qualities stood him in good stead when he was elected unanimously to succeed Mr. Nehru in 1964. He took office at a difficult time for India, with all its manifold pressing problems, both internally and externally. However, he quickly established himself as a leader in the eyes of his people. He proved to be persuasive, but with an inner firmness and strength of purpose - a man who had humility of manner but an inward strength which carried him to leadership and sustained him there.
He served his country with distinction. He won respect for himself and his country around the world. The account and pictures of his funeral rites brought home vividly to us, remote from the scene in Australia though we were, how deeply his people felt his passing. They revealed convincingly the depth of his people’s grief. We join with the people of India in mourning the loss of a notable leader and statesman and we extend our sympathies to his sorrowing family.
– The late Mr. Lal Bahadur Shastri was indeed a remarkable man. Any leader of India today has to be a remarkable’ man - or woman, since Mr. Shastri’s successor is Mrs. Gandhi, the daughter of the late Mr. Nehru. The Indian subcontinent, which includes Pakistan, is half the size of Australia. It is not a large area, of the world’s surface, but in the Indian republic there are 400 million people who are riven by a caste system, divided by dialectical differences, plagued with great poverty and disgraced by great excesses of wealth on the part of a small section of the community.
Mr. Shastri had to deal with all the domestic problems of that subcontinent. He had to deal not only with the problems of his own area but also with the problem of Pakistan where, unfortunately, the religious differences between Muslim and Hindu asserted themselves frequently and led to dreadful riots. Indeed, Mr. Shastri must have been a remarkable man. He was a good man. He strove for peace: He strove for conciliation. It was ironically tragic that as a result of the successful conference between Ayub Khan and Mr. Shastri at Tashkent under the auspices of Mr. Kosygin, the Russian Prime Minister, peace between Pakistan and India if not permanently settled was at least considerably advanced. t
We in this country, in looking at the world’s problems’ in our own way and for our own benefit, have always seemed to regret that India remained unaligned. We blamed Nehru and Shastri because they did not line up with the West. They certainly did not line up with the East. Their great contribution to world peace was their progress along the road of neutrality. No other road is possible for nien like Shastri, for
Ayub Khan or any of the rest who are charged with such great responsibilities in governing so many millions of the human race. Shastri fought for peace; he died for peace: May peace be to his ashes and may his memory endure.
– I desire to join my Party, the Australian Country Party, with the motion moved by the Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Holt) and supported by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell). It was indeed a very great shock and a matter of profound distress to us all that Mr. Shastri should have been taken so suddenly from this world. History will, I am sure, record Mr. Shastri as one of the great men of India. He will take his place in the records beside that of Mr. Nehru. It was my fortune to have had discussions and negotiations with him just several weeks before he died, meeting him then for the first time. He was a man of very small stature, a frail man, but clearly a man of great strength of character who was perfectly clear in the things that he stood for and the things he wished to resist. He served not only his country, and his fellow countrymen well but he also served the world well in meeting the responsibilities he carried during his period of office.
I am sure many people felt that it would be extremely difficult for India to find someone to fill the shoes of Mr. Nehru. In his short period of responsibility Mr. Shastri certainly did this. All his public life he demonstrated a capacity for understanding the point of view of the other person as well as for propounding his own point of view. His character revealed him as a man capable of settling issues by reasonable compromise. The great crowning point of his career was his achievement, in conjunction with Ayub Khan, of peace and a new measure of stability in relations between India and Pakistan. Not only is this good for the people of those populous and tormented countries but it is also a milestone in the development of world affairs in our day and time. I join with those who extend profound sympathy to his widow and family and to the people of India.
Question resolved in the affirmative, honorable members standing in their places.
– Mr. Speaker, I move -
That this House records it regret at the death of Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa and expresses its condolences to members of his family.
Our Commonwealth of Nations sustained another heavy blow - a blow felt throughout the world - with the tragic death by massacre in January of one of Africa’s foremost statesmen, Sir Abubakar Balewa, Prime Minister of Nigeria. Sir Abubakar had shown himself to be one of the outstanding figures of the new nations of the Commonwealth. I know that he enjoyed a very high regard among his fellow Commonwealth Prime Ministers. I have frequently heard Sir Robert Menzies and my colleague, the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Hasluck), speak of him in the highest terms from their own contacts with him at conferences. His death came at a high point in his career, shortly after he had been personally presiding at the conference of Prime Ministers held at Lagos, the capital of his own country.
The Commonwealth looked to Sir Abubakar as a moderating influence in a troubled continent. Calm and dignified in demeanour, he was widely acknowledged as a man of integrity, fairness, courage and sound judgment. Sir Abubakar entered his country’s federal politics when the Nigerian Federation was established and in 1952 he was its first Minister of Works. His reputation grew steadily, and by 1957 he was Chief Minister. He played a large part in the formation of a national government and it was as Prime Minister on Nigeria’s Independence Day in 1960 that he received the constitutional instruments from Princess Alexandra. In the same year he was knighted and in 1961 he became a member of the Privy Council.
Sir Abubakar had a firm belief in the value of the Commonwealth and the role that it can play in international affairs. He believed deeply in democratic standards, in fairness to all and in free speech. Sir Robert Menzies has described him as a respected leader, clear minded, sagacious, tolerant, and just. The world can ill afford to lose men of this quality. We deeply regret his death and extend our sympathies to his family.
– The Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Holt) has said all that can be said, I would imagine, about the career of this very distinguished citizen of Nigeria, the Commonwealth of Nations and the world. That any man, particularly a man of such distinction as Sir Abubakar Balewa, should have been so cruelly butchered by his own people is a terrible reflection on those responsible for the deed and is a reminder to all of us that the veneer of civilisation is very thin in certain parts of the world, lt is of no use for us to try to establish that we are better than are those responsible for this foul deed. Perhaps we arrived at a degree of civilisation earlier than they did, but European history is full of accounts of similar terrible deeds. We would have thought that in our time and generation nothing like this could occur, but it occurred a few years ago when Al Nuri was murdered in Iran and we saw the terrible tragedies in the Congo. All we can hope and pray for is that those of us who know how to make democracy work will be able to inspire and persuade the people in other countries to make democracy work. I think the world was appalled and shocked to learn that this very great man had been foully murdered, particularly in the aftermath of the Lagos conference, which was called to deal with the problem of Rhodesia. I join with the Prime Minister in extending to the widow, relatives and friends of Sir Abubakar the deepest sympathy in their hour of distress and grief.
– I join the Australian Country Party in the motion of sympathy and regret proposed by the Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Holt). Sir Abubakar was greatly regarded as one of the leading figures of Africa and of the Commonwealth. I had the good fortune to sit in a Commonwealth Prime Ministers’ Conference with him and I know the respect with which he was held by all of those who were present. It is history that just before his death he was giving real leadership in Africa, particularly in the conference at Lagos, from which he and many of his African associates expected great developments. It is a tragedy that this man who was so well regarded should have been taken in such dreadful circumstances. I join in the expressions of sympathy.
Question resolved in the affirmative, honorable members standing in their places.
– I move -
That this House expresses its deep regret at the death on 21st January, 1966’ of the Honorable Sir Shane Dunne Paltridge K.B.E., a senator for the State of Western Australia from 1951, a Minister of the Crown and Leader of the Government in the Senate, places on record its appreciation of his long and meritorious public service and tenders its profound sympathy to his widow and family in their bereavement.
The Parliament is the poorer for the passing of one of its most distinguished members. We are the mourners of a friendship which, I believe, touched every member of the Parliament. There can rarely have been a member of the Parliament in either House who was more popular or held more deeply in affection and respect than Shane Paltridge was. He was one of the Government’s ablest Ministers and his loss takes from us a colleague whom we remember with respect and deep affection. He was more than a parliamentary colleague to many of us; be was more than just a personal friend. He was a truly remarkable man whose abilities took him to high offices in the land he loved so well. But somehow he never lost the common touch, his down to earth commonsense approach, his limitless energy and enthusiasm, his ready sense of humour, his so evident humanity, his integrity. These are all qualities that ensure for him a fond and enduring place in our memories. Those of us who sat in Cabinet with him realised so frequently that he possessed a great stock of that rarest of all qualities, common sense. The term may be a misnomer but he possessed this quality, with a sensitivity to the feelings of others and a realisation of the sound practical course to be followed.
He became Leader of the Government in the Senate and Minister for Defence. He had an oustanding record of service and achievement in this Parliament. He was first elected as a Western Australian senator in 1951 and became a member of the Public Accounts Committee and of the
Parliamentary Proceedings Broadcasting Committee. During the period up to 19SS he was active in these capacities as well as in his general parliamentary service, but in that year he was promoted to the Ministry. His first portfolio, in which he quickly demonstrated his administrative abilities, was that of Shipping and Transport. He held that post from September 1955 to February 1960. He will be best remembered, perhaps, by most for the sterling work he performed as Minister for Civil Aviation between 1956 and 1964. He spared no effort to give Australia a standard of civil aviation measuring up to the best in the world. He made a first hand study of airline operations in many countries and negotiated important international air agreements for Australia.
During his term as Minister for Defence he conducted - as those of us who sat with him at the time remember vividly - a searching review of our defence programme and of the nation’s defence needs. He was Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate from 1959 to 1964 when he became Leader of the Government and, as a consequence, a member of the Senate Standing Orders Committee. The defence portfolio came to him in April 1964. As Minister for Defence he went to South-East Asia and the United States of America last year, visiting Australian forces in the field and negotiating defence contracts. At various times in his career Sir Shane Paltridge acted for the Minister for Labour and National Service, the Minister for Defence, the Minister for Civil Aviation and the Treasurer.
The death of a man wilh such talents as an administrator and with such breadth of experience at a time when the best years of service seemed clearly to lie ahead of him is a tragic loss to this country. We can regard ourselves as fortunate to have had the benefit of his wise counsel in Cabinet for so many years. He devoted much of his life to public service and during his parliamentary career gave unstintingly of his time, his energy and his great abilities. The award of a knighthood by Her Majesty the Queen in the New Year Honours List was a well deserved recognition of his service to Australia. He served his country well in the Second World War as a gunner with the 2/7th Australian Field Regiment.
That is in outline a recital of a great career of public service - a distinguished, a successful career - ‘but as we reflect on it today our minds will tend to dwell increasingly on what we recall of a very remarkable man - his warm personal qualities and the loyalty and depth of friendship that he accorded to all his colleagues. Those of us who were privileged to know him require no verbal tribute to keep our memories of him fresh and green. The contribution that he made to his country will have a lasting memorial in the gratitude of his fellow Australians.
He will be sadly missed, of course, by his many friends in his native Western Australia, where he had come to be one of the leading figures of his own community. But it is the members of his own family, who are well known to so many of us in the two Houses of the Parliament, who have suffered the most grievous loss. Those of us who were at the funeral ceremony will recall the calm and courageous dignity with which his widow and his two daughters comported themselves in their sadness. Our deepest sympathy goes to them. Through the years we shall recall the richness of our friendship with a man who found a place in the hearts of all of us.
.- Senator Sir Shane Paltridge certainly did serve his country well in war and peace. He died too young. He lived in an important period in Australian history. He was privileged to hold ministerial rank in that period. He was a kindly, affable and friendly man who usually wore a smile and seldom wore a scowl. He sought to ingratiate himself with all whom he met and all whom he knew. His political beliefs were definite, but he was not so positive a party man that he would refuse to consider other points of view. I believe that therein lay some of the reason for the success that he achieved during his administration of several important portfolios. I was shocked when I learned that he was so near death, because I had seen him in Canberra only a few months earlier and there seemed to be no evidence then that his end was so near.
The Opposition joins with the Government in tendering sympathy to Lady Molly Paltridge and her two daughters, who in the midst of their travail exhibited great fortitude and courage. We hope that the sympathy of all of their friends will help them to bear the grief that they so naturally feel. We hope that time will help to assuage that grief and to reconcile them to their irreparable loss.
– I associate members of the Australian Country Party in this Parliament with the motion that is now under discussion. Senator Sir Shane Paltridge was a very distinguished member of this Parliament, a very distinguished Cabinet Minister and a distinguished leader of his party. Upon his entry to the Ministry in 1955 he immediately displayed that vigour and great enthusiasm which were characteristic of him. He applied to the portfolios that he held in succession - Minister for Shipping and Transport, Minister for Civil Aviation and Minister for Defence - the very great qualities of character, industry and intelligence and the general administrative skills which he obviously possessed in full strength. He exhibited those qualities and skills in his capacity of Leader of the Government in the Senate. It is indeed a tragedy that a man of such qualities was not spared to carry on for a longer time. He picked up a great burden at a time when defence was becoming an increasingly important issue for us, and it soon was crystal clear to all that in this highly important and highly complex portfolio he mastered the issues both in principle and in detail. The Australian Country Party joins in mourning the passing of such a distinguished member of the Parliament and of the Government, and we extend our very deep sympathy to Lady Paltridge and the family.
Question resolved in the affirmative, honorable members standing in their places.
– I move -
That this House expresses its deep regret at the death on 9th January, 1966, of George William Shaw, a member of this House for the Division of Dawson, places on record its appreciation of his meritorious public service and tenders its profound sympathy to his widow and family in their bereavement
Mr. George Shaw, who had represented Dawson in this House since 1963, died in Brisbane on 9th January. Mr. Shaw had been active in the Queensland sugar industry before entering the Federal Parliament as a Country Party member. For some years he was Chairman of the Managers’ Division of the Mackay Sugar Manufacturers Association. He took an active part in the formation of the Sugar Research Institute, of which he was Deputy Chairman from 1949 to 1964, and he remained a director of the institute up to the time of his death. In Canberra, he closely watched the interests of the sugar producers, and with his passing the industry has lost a conscientious and well informed spokesman in the Federal Parliament.
Mr. Shaw had not been long in this House before his death and we had not had a real opportunity to form an assessment of the qualities which he might have brought, over a period of years, to the service of the Parliament. But we found him a warm, friendly man and we all felt a sense of shock and loss at his passing so suddenly from us. We extend the sincere sympathy of the Parliament to his widow, his daughter and his five sons who are left to mourn him.
– Five members of this Parliament have died since the Parliament was elected. The first was the Honorable A. G. Townley, the next was Senator Seddon Vincent, the next was Senator the Honorable Harrie Wade, then Senator the Honorable Sir Shane Paltridge and finally Mr. George Shaw. This shows us how short life can be and how our greatest expectations are not always fulfilled.
The late Mr. Shaw came to this Parliament endowed with considerable gifts and, naturally enough, he expected to be here for some time so that he could make his contributions to the debates of this Parliament and also to the advancement of the welfare of Australia. He did his work in Queensland and was known better to most of my Queensland colleagues than he was to those from the other States. I really did not know him. I had never had a conversation with him. I bade him the time of day on a few occasions when our paths happened to cross but I did not know all that I might have known about him. 1 regret that the opportunity to learn more about him has slipped away.
Mr. Shaw was a quiet man and a constructive thinker. He did not speak often here although his attendance record was very good. He made quiet contributions and he was generally esteemed by my colleagues, some of whom did meet him socially from time to time. All of us deplore his loss. We offer to his widow and to his daughter and five sons our profound sympathy in their great and tragic loss. Again I say on behalf of the Opposition that we hope time will help to heal the great wound which has come so early in the life of the family of the late Mr. Shaw.
– I” would like, on behalf of myself and my colleagues, to join in the motion before the House. The death of George Shaw has removed from the ranks of my Party and from the membership of the House a man who was competent to speak with great personal knowledge and ability on the issues of Australia’s great sugar industry. He had spent his whole life within the sugar industry. He started working in a sugar mill at the age of 22. He was mill secretary at the Cattle Creek sugar mill. His excellent work was so well recognised that he earned very rapid promotion and became manager of the great Farleigh sugar mill. He served his own mill, he served the sugar industry and he served his district well when his talents were devoted exclusively to the affairs of the sugar industry. Mr. Shaw came into this House at the request of many who wanted to have within the ranks of the Parliament men with deep personal knowledge of this industry. It is a. sad thing that it was not his fate to be allowed to remain here longer to communicate to the Parliament his great knowledge and his wise advice on matters concerning this industry. He was, as I think has been said, a very practical, down to earth man. He was always deferred to as a man who knew what he was talking about and who never spoke on an issue on which he was not competent to speak. His passing is a matter of great sadness for the members of my Party and great sadness within the . sugar industry. I. am sure, that the fact that he has been taken is greatly regretted throughout this Parliament. Our sympathy goes to Mrs. Shaw and to the family in their great loss.
Question resolved in the affirmative, honorable members standing in their places.
– Mr. Speaker, a distinguished former member of this House who had been with us until very recent years, Albert Victor Thompson, died in Adelaide on 13th January. The late Bert Thompson was a great stalwart of the Australian Labour Party. He began his political career in State politics in South Australia and was elected to the South Australian House of Assembly in 1930. Sixteen years later he resigned from the House of Assembly in order to stand for election to the Federal Parliament. He was elected to the House of Representatives at the 1946 election. He represented the seat of Hindmarsh until the redistribution of electorates, when he became the member for Port Adelaide. He represented his electorate faithfully and conscientiously in this House until his retirement in 1963. Bert Thompson was a most popular and highly regarded member of this chamber. I do not think one would have found a hostile thought in anyone’s mind directed towards him. He was Temporary Chairman of Committees from 1 950 to 1954. He was Vice-Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee for a number of years. He was a member of the Australian delegation to the Fiftieth Conference of the Inter-Parliamentary Union in Brussels in 1961.
I am sure that all who knew Bert Thompson - that goes for most of the members assembled here today - recall him particularly for his evident sincerity, his integrity and the warmth -of his personal friendship. He had an innate dignity of manner about him, a fine presence. He was an adornment to the Parliament and a most worthy representative of his own parliamentary party. He was respected and liked by us all. We offer our sympathy to his widow, his two sons and his four daughters in the loss of their distinguished husband ;and father.
– Mr. Speaker, like all my colleagues I am sadly happy that the Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Holt) has taken the opportunity to pay tribute to the memory ot Albert Victor Thompson. He was one of the old, traditional Labour men. He was born in Port Adelaide in 1886 and died at almost the age of 79. After receiving his primary education, he was engaged in general farming and dairy farming for 13 years. Then he became a foundation member of the Carters and Drivers Union. He worked as a member of that union at a time when the working week extended over 48 hours and men worked in their own time for an hour to prepare their horses before going out for the day’s work. Bert Thompson knew much of the rigour of labouring life at the beginning of this century. But in spite of all his tribulations the iron never entered his soul. He was a really good citizen who lived according to the parable of the coin. He rendered unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and unto God the things that are God’s. He identified himself quite early in life with the Salvation Army and it happened, as happened with the Methodist founders of the British Labour Party, who were preachers, that he preached his religious beliefs on Sundays and at street corners and then on other occasions he preached his political beliefs. He always spoke and behaved, as the Prime Minister has said, with great dignity and great decorum.
Bert Thompson, despite his early setbacks, became an authority on public finance. Though he never claimed to have mastered it, he understood it. He served on the Public Accounts Committee of this Parliament for more than 10 years. But even before that he had been appointed by the Curtin Government a member of the Commonwealth Housing Commission. He made his own real contribution to the work of that Commission and its findings were accepted on both sides of the Parliament and became the basis of the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreements which still operate in the Australian States.
As we all knew, Bert Thompson was one of the kindliest men who ever entered this Parliament. I never heard him say an ill word of anybody and I never heard anybody say an ill word against him. I join with the Prime Minister in offering, on behalf of my colleagues and myself, sympathy to a wonderful helpmate who is now his widow and to the devoted children, grandchildren and others who presented to us an example of the way in which a family clan can be built around the life and times of one man.
– Mr. Speaker, I wish to associate the Australian Country Party with the expressions of sympathy at the death of Albert Victor Thompson. He, as we all know, clearly stood out as a man of great integrity and great sincerity. By any standards he was clearly a good man and I am sure that his memory entitles him to the respect of the Parliament, his party and the community in general. He served the Australian Labour Party and the Australian public for a long time - 17 years as a member of this House and 16 years in the South Australian Parliament. He served at all times with distinction and a complete consistency of attitude that was one of the notable features of his political attitudes and utterances. Mr. Thompson was a man whom we regarded as having had a full and useful life. He went from us holding our warm respect for all that he meant here and to the community at large. I associate my Party with the expressions of sympathy to his widow and family.
-Mr. Speaker, I wish to associate myself with the remarks made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Holt), the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) and the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr. McEwen) and to offer my brief but sincere tribute to the late Albert Victor Thompson whose long period of public service, both State and Federal, was so outstanding. Mr. Thompson was a man of the highest possible moral and religious character. He was loved and respected by us who were fortunate enough to know him. His approach to life was based on honesty and tolerance. I cannot recall his uttering a nasty word in all the years I knew him, nor can I recall a bad word directed at him. In the city of Port Adelaide and the surrounding districts the name of Bert Thompson is loved and respected by people in every walk of life. I join with the previous speakers in tendering sincere sympathy to Mrs. Thompson and her : family.
- Mr. Speaker, I too would like to say a few words about Albert Victor Thompson. I knew him all my life. My earliest memories of him go back to an occasion at the Largs Bay Public School when I was aged 10 and when he entered first into public life and was introduced to a gathering there. Eight years later be became the member for Semaphore in the South Australian House of Assembly. He resigned years later to enter the Federal Parliament. My late father was proud to call him a personal friend. My father, as leader of an independent group in the Port Adelaide City Council, for many years as Mayor, often was politically apparently opposed to A. V. Thompson, but this in no way dimmed the respect and regard in which my father held him. Indeed, I grew to know that A. V. Thompson’s word was his bond, that he was a big man and that he had a big heart, a big spirit and bigness of character and outlook. He was too big for petty or negative ways.
In Federal politics A. V. Thompson’s work and his worldly wisdom brought him affection and also on occasions envy and perhaps antagonism. I regret that he retired from this House immediately prior to the election at which I became a member of it. After 33 years of parliamentary service, he finally left the vocation which he loved and in which he had served so well. As - one who was a constituent for a large number of years and as the son of one of his friends, I pay this personal tribute to bis memory.
– Mr. Speaker, I also wish to offer a tribute to the late Mr. Thompson, not as a fellow member of the same party, but as one who had the privilege of working with him on a parliamentary committee. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) referred to Mr. Thompson’s outstanding service on the Public Accounts Committee. My remarks will be related to that service. Mr. Thompson’s voice was a strong one indeed in this chamber, not only in its tremendous volume, which none of us will ever forget, but in the intensity with which he was glad to raise it in the interests of the parliamentary institution. Because of his service on the Public Accounts Committee, when that Committee presented to the Parliament its 66th report, just after Mr. Thompson retired from the service of the House, it said -
Albert Victor Thompson was a dedicated member of the Committee. He advocated constantly the value of its work in respect of the preservation of the rights of Parliament. As a foundation Committee member, from 25th September 1952, he continued to serve until his retirement from the House of Representatives at the end of the Twenty-fourth Parliament. He was appointed Vict-Chairman on 22nd March 1956-
He continued in that position until the time of his retirement - and in this capacity contributed distinguished and valuable leadership.
On behalf of the many senators and members who were associated with this parliamentary colleague, who sat with him as a member of the important Accounts Committee, I am happy indeed to pay these few words of tribute and to associate myself with the Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Holt) and other leaders in our genuine expressions of sympathy.
– I wish to associate myself with the motion which is before the House and which pays a wonderful tribute to Bert Thompson who came into the Parliament at the same general election as myself. Bert Thompson was a sincere and genuine parliamentarian. I could not think of Bert in any other field of employment or in other field of activity. He seemed to me to be what I would call the perfect parliamentarian in his attitudes to his comrades in this place, in his electoral work, in his intense regard for detail and in his complete sincerity in all he did. Above all, he was a sincere Christian. I feel that this place is always improved by men of his calibre who come with his beliefs and basic faith to a Parliament with all its problems, its challenges and its tests of character.
Bert Thompson was a genius for detail. It may not be known to all honorable members, that when he drove his motor car most weeks between Adelaide and Canberra he kept a detailed record of his petrol consumption on each trip. He recorded even changes of tyres. This is an interesting facet of his life and it was symbolic of the way he regarded all his work. He did things to a pattern and with a purpose. I pay a tribute also to his amazing general knowledge. Have we ever had in this place a man, except perhaps Norman Makin, with such a wide general knowledge? He had great debating ability. I would have loved to hear him in the prime of his life on a street corner in those early days. I am sure he brought many people into the Australian Labour Party through the power of his personality and his message. He was a Whip’s dream, if honorable members understand what I mean by that term. We often need men to fill gaps in debating lists for one reason or another. We need men to fill breaches in debate. On every occasion I went to Bert Thompson, even if I gave him only five minutes’ notice, he was ready to go into the debate. Not many men can do this, but Bert Thompson was one who could. Although thrown into debates at a moment’s notice he would always make a forceful and colourful contribution.
We will always remember his speeches in this place, perhaps not so much for the fact that we could always hear him but because they contained so many interesting personal anecdotes and experiences. His speeches, as recorded in “ Hansard “, read like his autobiography. In his speeches his personal life was unfolded and his interviews and discussions wilh people were brought into the debate. I believe that no contribution to a debate by any person contained so many personal stories as did Mr. Thompson’s speeches in this chamber. I pay a great tribute to him as a genuine and sincere parliamentarian and as a loyal colleague and a’ loyal member of this Party. As has been said by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell), Bert came up the rough and hard way, but he never lost the common touch; he never lost his humanity and he never lost his faith. I pay tribute to his wife and family and trust that in their bereavement they will be sustained by the knowledge of what we in this Parliament think of him.
– Very briefly I wish to be associated with this tribute to the late Mr. A. V. Thompson. I was in this House for the whole period that he was here and I was proud to regard him as my friend. I believe he regarded me as his friend. We often followed each other in debate and I always appreciated the attitude he took. There was nothing fiery so far as party was concerned, but he would always put his case in a fiery way. He was very definite in what he said, but that did not interfere in any way with his friendship. As the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) said, he was a preacher. He not only preached but also practised the principles for which he stood, irrespective of circumstances. He was a man whom I regarded as being of the highest integrity. I join with other honorable members in expressing sympathy with Mrs. Thompson and her family.
– Mr. Speaker, I suggest that as a mark of respect to the deceased gentlemen the sitting be suspended until 8 o’clock.
– I feel sure that the suggestion made by the Prime Minister meets with the concurrence of the House. As a mark of respect to the memory of the deceased gentlemen the sitting is suspended until 8 p.m.
Sitting suspended from 4.12 to 8 p.m.
Mr. LUCHETTI presented a petition from certain citizens of the Commonwealth praying that action be taken, through Constitution alteration referendum proposals, to give the Commonwealth power to make laws for the advancement of the Aboriginal people and prevent the making of laws which would discriminate against any person born or naturalised in Australia.
Petition received and read.
Mr. COCKLE presented a petition from certain citizens of the Commonwealth praying that the Commonwealth Government co-operate with the State Government of New South Wales in sparing the Customs House Building, Circular Quay, from possible demolition and to undertake its conversion into a national maritime museum.
Petition received and read.
Mr. REYNOLDS presented a petition from certain citizens of New South Wales praying that the Australian Government accept responsibility for the erosion and siltation along the foreshores of Botany Bay, carry out repairs and works for prevention of further damage and, in the meantime, consider no further dredging in the Bay.
Petition received and read.
– I direct a question to the Minister for the Army. Was Gunner O’Neill, a member of 105 Field Battery, Royal Australian Artillery, handcuffed to a star picket in a weapon pit for 20 days? Is this treatment contrary to the rules for field punishment? If so, what action is being taken against the officer responsible for ordering such punishment?
– All the relevant information relating to this matter has not yet reached Australia from our Command in South Vietnam. The court martial that arose as a result of Gunner O’Neill’s refusal to obey commands occurred last week and messages have been sent forward so that the full proceedings will arrive in Australia as soon as possible. I ask honorable members to bear in mind the circumstances of the theatre of operations. It is not easy, from the ease of security of Australia, to appreciate the situation in Vietnam.
– What rot.
– The honorable member may wish to visit Vietnam to see for himself. There is one point that I should like to emphasise. The original charge against Gunner O’Neill was that of being absent without leave when he was rostered for operational guard duty. This is regarded as a most serious offence. When he was discovered after this particular incident he opted, after discussions with his Commanding Officer, to take the C.O.’s punishment instead of insisting on a court martial for that offence. The C.O.’s award involved field punishment for 21 days. This required the soldier to wear field uniform instead of his being able to go around more lightly clad. It involved also the loss of privileges, such as that of using the canteens, during this time. It also involved half an hour each day either cleaning’ out the storm drains or drilling. Gunner O’Neill refused to undertake this field punishment, though he had opted to take the field punishment instead of being - court martialled for his initial extremely serious offence of absence without leave from operational guard duty. The full proceedings of the court martial will arrive in Australia as soon as possible, and the matter will be fully examined then. Until this incident there had been no cause for our battalion in Vietnam to need a normal place of detention. This incident has demonstrated the need for it and instructions have already been issued so that suitable facilities may be provided for detention purposes. I think that is all I should say at this stage, having regard to the fact that full information about this matter has not yet reached Australia.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Works a question. Has the Government conveyed to the Maritime Services Board of New South Wales and the Rockdale Municipal Council its attitude on the erosion of the foreshores of Botany Bay? If the Government’s attitude has been made known, will the Minister inform the House of the details? If the Government’s attitude has not been made known, when may we expect details?
– My colleague in another place has informed me that the Government has written to the Rockdale Municipal Council denying liability for the erosion referred to. At the same time the Government has offered the Council $5,000 for certain protective work-
– Fair go. 1
– If the honorable member will exhibit a little patience I will explain what the Government proposes to do. It has offered the Rockdale Municipal Council 15,000 to carry out certain protective work at a certain place on the foreshores. The Government also has written to the Maritime Services Board of New South Wales denying liability and offering to carry out protective work at another point on the foreshores. Further, the Government has suggested that representatives of the Rockdale Municipal Council, the. Maritime Services Board and the Department of Works consult together with a view to carrying out further protective work.
– I. ask the Minister for Social Services a question. Has any survey on poverty in Australia been made by officers of the Department of Social Services? If so, has any report been submitted to the Department? Will the Minister release to the Parliament the contents’ of any such report after it has been considered by his Department?
– In the last few months considerable Press publicity has been given to statements by members of the Opposition claiming that poverty exists in the Australian community. The provisions of the Social Services Act are determined in such a way as to relieve every member of the Australian community from the position of being in economic want. The range of social service benefits enables all people who’ are in a position of acute economic need to be provided f ot by the State. Prior to the budgetary deliberations each year the Department of Social Services reviews the whole field of benefits payable by the Government. It investigates the needs of bene,ficiaries receiving benefits and those people who might become eligible for benefits. In making its recommendations the Department takes all relevant factors into account. On this basis the Government then determines what percentage of the national Budget should be allocated to the National’ Welfare Fund and, in particular,’- to social services.
I understand that the Institute of Applied Economics of the University, of Melbourne is currently making a survey of the economic conditions of some members of the community residing in the inner City of Melbourne. I do not know whether a Government department would be the suitable body to make such a survey, but I feel that this type of survey is more suited to an academic institution, where studies may be made in an academic fashion, removed from the active field of politics enabling an accurate assessment of the situation to be made. I feel that any detailed survey of poverty, if such a condition exists in the Australian community, should be made through an academic institution. The Government regularly examines the position of those who are in need but not in such a way that the results of the examination would be suitable for release to the members pf this. House or to the Australian public.
– I direct a question to the Prime Minister. As the right honorable gentleman safely guided the country along the road to a smooth change over to decimal currency, will he ask the National Standards Commission to consider whether we should use the metric system of weights and measures? I also ask that the Commission have particular regard to whether the advantages of such a change would justify the cost and dislocation that would occur during the period of conversion and whether partial decimalisation of our existing system of weights and measures would be more desirable.
– The system to which the honorable gentleman refers cm, under existing Commonwealth and State laws, be adopted by any section of industry that chooses to do so and indeed the pharmaceutical industry has already done so. This matter is at present being studied by the National Standards Commission and by various State and Commonwealth authorities. It is not the sort of decision that can be reached in the same way as the decision to convert to decimal currency was reached. For example, the United Kingdom Government,’ which has already announced its intention to introduce a metric system df measurement, has predicted a period of 20 years for the change over. I. can assure the honorable gentleman that this is a matter of quite lively interest to us. and a good deal of work is being done on it. When the various authorities are in a position to make recommendations to the Cabinet, we shall be able to give our own governmental attention to it.
– My question is directed to the Prime Minister. In a “Meet the Press” interview on 20th February the right honorable gentleman said that the question of striking a special medal for the troops in Vietnam had been engaging his attention and that he hoped that Cabinet would discuss the matter within the next fortnight. As more than a fortnight has elapsed, can the Prime Minister advise the House whether any decision has been taken on this matter?
– I am glad to be able to tell the House that a decision, has been reached on this matter. As the Parliament was about to meet, I thought it proper that I should defer an announce-, ment of the decision until I was able to give it to the Parliament. If the honorable gentleman will possess his soul in patience for a few minutes longer, he will hear me make the announcement in the course of my statement to the House tonight.
– I address my question to the Prime Minister. I am sure that the right honorable gentleman is aware that the drought we are now experiencing will have not only an immediate effect but also long term effects on the economy as a whole. Will he therefore consider calling a conference of the State Premiers with the Australian Agricultural Council to study all aspects of the problem, both for the present and for the future?
– The Government has, of course, been giving a good deal of attention to the serious situation that is arising from the extensive incidence of drought, particularly through New South Wales and parts of Queensland. We have had a deepening concern at the way in which the drought situation has become protracted in certain areas. Already, as the House will know, we have agreed with the Governments of those two States that we will back financially measures that they have taken to give some drought relief. Later this evening, in the course of the statement I shall be making with the concurrence of the House, I shall outlinefurther action that the Government has in view. If, following all this action and as a consequence of the incidence of drought, a situation develops that would call for a meeting of the Commonwealth and State Governments, that possibility will be held - in mind. But for the time being the measures which the Government has. already adopted and which it now proposes will, we think, go a long way towards meeting the problems that arise from the situation.
– I direct a question to the Minister for National Development. In view of the devastating and tragic droughts which have crippled parts of Queensland during the last two years - particularly in those areas where today, in the so called wet season, despite below average rainfall conditions, millions of acre feet of water are flowing wastefully to the sea - will the Minister inform the House of the location, the number and the approximate cost of urgently needed water storage development projects north of Brisbane for which the Queensland Government has requested financial assistance from the Commonwealth during the last three years? I emphasise the words “ financial assistance “. If the Minister’s answer is, “ not one project nor one cent, “ does this mean that he and the Government, together with the Queensland Government, are satisfied that water storage facilities are not required in such very high potential areas as the Burnett, Pioneer, Fitzroy, and Burdekin basins?
– The Queensland Government has approached the Commonwealth Government with a view to investigating a number of projects, both on the eastern coast of Queensland and in the Gulf area. In both areas a considerable amount of work remains to be done because the most difficult problem is not the problem of deciding where a particular dam is to be built, but the way in which the water from the dam can be best used. There is one project at the present moment - the Nogoa scheme at Emerald - which the Queensland Government has asked the Commonwealth Government to investigate. The Bureau of Agricultural Economics investigated this project and has put in a report which is now being considered by the Queensland Government. The Bureau’s report throws considerable doubt on the economics of this project, but we are awaiting the replies of the Queensland Government to see whether this assessment is correct or not. There are a number of areas which the Queensland Government, officers from’ the Snowy Mountains Authority and officers from the Northern Division of the Department of National Development are investigating with a view to seeing what can economically be done in the north of Queensland. When these investigations are completed it will be, as a matter of policy, for the Government to decide what it will do.
– I address a question to the Minister for External Affairs. Has the Australian Government asked the British Government to take such action as would be appropriate to prevent ships flying the British flag from supplying materials to North Vietnam?
– The Australian Government has not made such an approach to the British Government. Before considering this question the Government did - as apparently the honorable member has not done - examine the figures relating to the trade. The trade is extremely small.
– Has the Minister for External Affairs noted a statement by Senator Fulbright, Chairman of the United States Senate Foreign Affairs Committee, made in February 1966, that the large majority of the Vietcong are South Vietnamese? Has he also noted the report of Senator Mansfield and five other Senators made on 3rd January 1966;. on page 3 of which it is stated that of 230,000 men operating with the Vietcong no more than 14,000 from North Vietnam are named. I ask the Minister: Are these United States Senators in possession of the facts? If so, does the Minister agree with them?
– The information available to the Australian Government does not agree with the information recited by the honorable member. The information available to us is that the percentage of people from the North now fighting in South Vietnam is very much greater than the figure the honorable member quoted, and that the participation in and direction by North Vietnam of the activities of the Vietcong are very considerable.
– My question is directed to the Minister for National Development. Is it a fact that, largely with the assistance of moneys provided by the
Commonwealth Government, there have been considerable discoveries of water in New South Wales at shallow depths? I refer to discoveries of fresh water in the western rivers flowing into the Darling River. Is it a fact that with existing plant and skills, if finance were available, within three weeks we could mount a very considerable campaign of increased drilling for water in these areas? Would not that give current relief from the drought to some extent, and would it not also provide some insurance against future drought? If those are facts, will the Minister have urgent consultations with the New South Wales Government on the inauguration of a crash programme to carry out in a concerted way a policy along the lines that I have suggested?
-I understand that the money that has been made available to the States by the Commonwealth Government for the investigation of underground water and also for the investigation of surface flow of water has been of great assistance to all of the States. As a result of these investigations they have discovered certain underground water supplies. New South Wales is bringing in a new drill very shortly, I think, from the United States. When the honorable member suggests that we could be doing more drilling in these areas, I do not believe that he is correct. I think all of the drills in these areas are committed at the present moment. The only way in which more drilling for water could be undertaken would be by extending the time for which the drills are used, perhaps by employing more crews. Of course, that would be more expensive.
However, I point outto the honorable member that drilling for water and the use of water in Australia, under the Constitution, are responsibilities of the States. We do help them in a great many ways; but it is for them to initiate proposals. I am not aware that, up to the present, there has been any approach from the New South Wales Government to the Federal Government for any further assistance. A meeting of the Standing Committee of the Australian Water Resources Council will be held in Canberra tomorrow. There is a possibility that some of these matters will be discussed furtherat that meeting.
– Is the Minister for Civil Aviation aware of the recent interruption to the flying boat service to Lord Howe Island, due to inclement weather over the island resulting in damage to the flying boat? Are the Minister and his Department waiting for a fatal accident on this service before providing a landing strip on the island? If not, why are my repeated representations for such a landing strip being ignored?
– So far, I have not had any submission made to me on this matter, although submissions may have been made in the past. If the honorable member is prepared to give me some details I will examine the matter. I will be very pleased to investigate this situation personally.
– I ask the Minister for Primary Industry a question without notice. In view of the very serious plight of many wheat farmers, including share farmers, at the present time, will he give urgent consideration to advancing the time when a further payment may be made on the No. 28 Pool, even if that involves obtaining credit from Commonwealth banking institutions?
– It is usual for the Minister concerned to wait for a recommendation from the Australian Wheat Board on the matter of payments. The Government already has guaranteed S414 million as a first advance in respect of the No. 28 Pool, and another $280 million in respect of trie No. 29 Pool. So we have given considerable assistance to the Australian wheat industry. The generally accepted practice is that after the first advance is made we wait until a credit balance accrues in the realisations of the Board before a further payment is made. Whilst we are very sympathetic to people in the drought areas, as is evidenced by the Government’s generous financial assistance to Queensland and New South Wales, a payment to the wheat grower: necessarily would affect all the States. Therefore, this matter would have to receive very careful consideration.
– I ask the AttorneyGeneral: Will he have an examination made of a situation existing in Canberra, in which a person who passes a valueless cheque in payment for goods commits a crime and can be dealt with under the Police Offences Ordinance, whereas an employer who uses a valueless cheque to pay wages to his employee can be dealt with only by action in a civil court? Will he take urgent action to have this situation remedied?
– I do not know whether those are the facts. The honorable gentleman says they are and I accept them as such, but I shall have a look at the matter to see whether something should be done.
– I address a question to the Postmaster-General. By way of preface, I refer to the growing number of British migrants coming to this country and the increasing use of tape recordings to send messages overseas to parents and grandparents, particularly in the United Kingdom. I understand that if a tape recording goes as first class air mail it costs $1.05, but if a recording is certified to have a purely musical or singing content it goes as second class air mail and costs 30c. In other words, if a child says on the recording: “ Nan and Pop, this is Jimmy and me singing ‘Puff the Magic Dragon ‘ “, the tape that is sent to the grandparents costs not 30c but $1.05. Will the Postmaster-General consider the suggestion that tapes, properly certified as being family recordings, may be sent as second class air mail matter, at a cost of 30c and not be subject to the higher charge of $1.05?
– Legislation of this Parliament requires that personal messages must be sent as first class mail matter. Matters which come under the commercial classification, such as recorded music on tape, poetry and that kind of thing, are not to be compared with personal messages. This is not only a requirement of Australian legislation but is also a decision of the International Postal Union. The principle incorporated in our legislation is also incorporated, I understand, in the legislation of nearly every country, and most countries are members of the International Postal Union.
– I direct a question to the Prime Minister. Is the right honorable gentleman familiar with the latest figures indicating the increase in unemployment, the fall in retail sales, and the. substantial increase in manufacturers’ stocks of unsaleable production, all of which are indicative of slump conditions and lack of confidence in the trading community? What action does the Prime Minister propose to take to protect the economy and overcome this position?
– The Government has over recent weeks made a quite thorough and comprehensive survey of the economic situation. In doing so it had the advantage of talks with representatives of primary and secondary industry and various economic advisory bodies assisting the Government. Later this evening I shall be making some comment on aspects of the economic situation. At the outset of the honorable member’s question he referred to employment. My colleague, the Minister for Labour and National Service, will be giving the House details of the regular monthly survey of ohe February period, but indications already are that there was a substantial lift in demand for labour in that month. I think the honorable gentleman will find that the weak spots to which he refers are offset in many other directions by some of the brighter features of the economy. However, I shall say more about that a little later. All I would add at the moment is that I can assure the honorable gentleman that it is the Government’s intention not only to sustain a situation of . full employment but also to keep the economy moving forward in a buoyant condition, and whatever measures are necessary to achieve those results will be undertaken by this Government.
– My question is addressed to the Treasurer. Will he as soon as possible have made an examination of the actual effect of the currency change on the cost of living, especially that of persons on fixed incomes? If an increase is disclosed, will he consider accepting the proposition that no later than the next Budget the Government adjust pensions by at least the amount so involved? Will he also consider the possibility of adopting, in consultation with all appropriate State and other bodies, a more general measure to ensure that any rise in living costs due specifically to the currency change does not bring special burdens to the several classes of people living on fixed incomes?
– Already I have asked both the Decimal Currency Board and my Department to let me know whether the change from the pound to the dollar has led to any significant increases in prices and, if so, whether those price increases could be identified. The Board and the Department have reported to me that the prices of some commodities, such as tobacco and cigarettes, have fallen and that others have risen. They told me that some retailers and some manufacturers who have increased their prices would have taken this action if decimal currency had not been introduced and that they have taken advantage of the situation to blame their course of action on the change to decimal currency. I have been informed that it would be impracticable to distinguish increases of this kind from others. As to the other two questions asked by the honorable gentleman, I can assure him that when we are considering the Budget and social services changes in conjunction with social welfare we always consider the impact of price rises on people on fixed incomes, especially pensioners. Though this is not the decisive influence, it is one of the important influences that are considered. I can assure the honorable gentleman that changes in prices due to the adoption of decimal currency and changes in prices due to other causes will be deeply considered by the Government during the Budget deliberations.
– I preface my question, which is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Supply, by referring to a recent newspaper report to the effect that the Associated Chambers of Manufactures of Australia is complaining about not being able to cash in on the profits to be made by supplying arms and ammunition for the Vietnam war, contending that the Americans are getting all the profits and that Australian manufacturers ought to be able to join in the fun. I ask the Minister to give an assurance that no interests in Australia will be allowed to cash in on the situation and make profits out of the slaughter and loss of life in Vietnam.
– Quite clearly, this is a propaganda question. I am bound to say that in view of the reciprocal interests of ourselves and the United States of America in the Vietnam business and in the defence of South East Asia it would be a good thing if there were reciprocity in the supply of arms and equipment. This is a matter which I had the pleasure of discussing with Mr. Robert McNamara last year. We had undertakings from him that Australian traders would be admitted to a fair share of the production required for the defence effort in South East Asia and these undertakings are being carried out. I am bound to tell the honorable gentleman, much to his dissatisfaction, no doubt, that a considerable quantity of Australian production is finding its way to the war theatres of South East Asia.
– I address my question to the Prime Minister. During his period as Treasurer I directed numerous questions to him about the shortage of rural finance. I must say that he treated my questions with a great deal of sympathy but with not much money. Now that he has reached the top executive position in Australia, may I hope that the position of this hard pressed but vital section of the economy will be given some attention?
– I can assure the honorable gentleman that although I welcomed the interest that he showed in this matter, it did not require an initiative in order to direct our own attention in the Treasury to a question which bears so importantly upon the encouragement of Australian exports. However, at a later hour this evening I think I shall be able to convince the honorable gentleman that our thinking has not merely been productive of policy but will result in a concrete financial availability in the areas in which he is so directly interested.
– I ask the Treasurer a question. Has the Government considered the introduction, with the co-operation of the States, of measures - temporary, if need be - to discourage price increases associated with the changeover to decimal currency? In view of the publicity given to price increases, could the Decimal Currency Board give similar publicity to any price reduction resulting from the conversion to decimals? Is the prime reason why the Decimal Currency Board is not doing this that there are few, if any, instances of articles being cheaper when priced in dollars and cents?
– As I have said before, I have had frequent consultations with the Decimal Currency Board in order to try, to the maximum of our capacity, to ensure that prices do not rise as a result of the changeover to decimal currency. The Board has reported to me that it has tried, to the limit of its capacity, to keep prices down.
– But it has not.
– Because probably, in many cases, it is beyond its capacity to do so, as it is beyond the capacity of most people to do so. But what the Decimal Currency Board has done is to report to me that there have been many cases of a reduction of prices, as there have been many other cases also of an unjustifiable increase in prices.
– Name one decrease.
– I said that tobacco and cigarettes were a classical example where there had been a significant reduction in price.
– What about haircuts?
– That shows the degree of seriousness with which honorable members opposite view this question. Therefore, I refrain from any further comment.
– I ask the PostmasterGeneral whether he is aware that during the recent parliamentary recess Channel 9, operated by a Brisbane television company, dismissed 26 staff members engaged in production and engineering and dropped from its programme the following live shows: “Tonight”, a variety show, “Round Table “, a panel programme hosted by the Anglican Dean of Brisbane, “ Romper Room “, a kindergarten show conducted by Miss Betty - a most delightful young lady - and “National Hit Parade”. These live shows have been replaced with the following imported canned entertainment-:-
– Order! I think that in seeking information the honorable member, unintentionally, has been giving it. He must direct his question.
– I do not know whether the Postmaster-General knows this. If he had known, I am sure he would have taken action.
– Order! I am sure that the Postmaster-General has. been listening.
– The Australian live shows have been replaced by- -
– Order! The honorable member is now giving information. He will direct his question or resume his seat.
– Will the PostmasterGeneral take action to ensure not only that- the provisions of the law relating to the Australian content of television programmes are observed but also that the Australian content is increased by commercial television stations which are notorious for their disregard of the relevant provisions of the Broadcasting and Television Act and for the immunity which they enjoy in their contempt for the conditions of their television licences?
– I reject almost completely the comments which the honorable member has made concerning the television programmes of companies which have commercial television licences in the capital cities and provincial towns of Australia. I feel that the managements of these companies do . their very best, having regard to all the circumstances, to provide suitable programmes within the general requirements laid down by the Australian. Broadcasting Control Board. It would be impos sible for me to carry in my mind the actual percentage of Australian programmes televised by each of the companies in Australia, but I can make this information available to honorable members in a statement, if that is what they desire.
Having regard to all the circumstances, I believe that it is not easy for the commercial television- stations to meet the very high cost of imported films and the much higher cost of Australian programmes, especially in the areas of culture, drama and so on, and still make a reasonable profit on their capital investment.
I hope to be able in the not too distant future to make a statement to the House which will give honorable members an opportunity to express their own views at length on these matters if they wish to do so. They will then be able to base their comment on real information rather than guesswork.
– by leave - I am taking this first opportunity after meeting the House to speak on some of the more significant matters with which we have been dealing since the Government took office. The new Government was sworn in on 26th January - Australia Day.- We have been in office, therefore, just short of six weeks. They have been weeks of unusually intense activity. As I give an account of the highlights of events over that period, I shall also be mentioning some important policy decisions not previously announced. Ministers who will be speaking later in the debate on this statement, or introducing statements of their own, will provide more detail on several matters which I shall only be able to touch briefly.
It is to be expected that a new Government will have a busy time in its early weeks as it takes up the reins of government. But, in addition to the tasks normally to be expected in these circumstances, we have found ourselves engaged in discussions - some of a profound and far-reaching character - in the fields pf defence and foreign policy. On the domestic front, we have concluded a review of the current state of the economy. This followed discussions with official economic advisory bodies assisting the Government and with representatives of industry. We have devoted a good deal of attention to the drought situation persisting over large areas of the Commonwealth and the problems arising from the ramifications of the drought.
Before commenting on these matters, I would like the House to know that the Government will be inviting it - on two occasions I shall mention - to give recognition to the distinguished public and parliamentary services of my predecessor, Sir Robert Menzies. Sir Robert established a remarkable record of more than 1 8 years of leadership as Prime Minister, more than double the previous record length of service in this office. Tomorrow, I shall present a resolution to the House enabling us to place on Parliamentary record our appreciation of his many years of service. On 17th March, the Government will be holding a Parliamentary dinner in honour of Sir Robert and Dame Pattie.
I also mention the Government’s decision to defer, until the next Parliament, the referendum on the two proposals to amend the Constitution which were passed by both Houses of Parliament towards the end of last year. We would have preferred to let the question of deferment stand until such time as we could have benefit of parliamentary discussion and decision concerning it. But this course was not open to us because, as matters stood, the Chief Electoral Officer would have been required under the provisions of the Act to post the arguments for and against the proposals to some 6,000,000 voters before the end of February. Therefore, in practical terms, it was necessary for us to make and announce the decision before we met the Parliament. In pursuance of this decision, we will recommend to the Governor-General in Council that he should not issue the writ provided for in section 5 of the Referendum (Constitution Alteration) Act. We remain strongly in support of both proposals. But we are a new Government and, inevitably, much occupied not only with the very many important and pressing matters arising at home and abroad, but with other matters which beset a new Government. A referendum campaign would be an extra and lengthy commitment. In these circumstances, and because there is no urgency about either of the proposals becoming law this year, we believe that it would be better to defer the holding of the referendum.
However, we intend, early in the life of the next Parliament, to introduce the necessary legislation to enable a referendum to be held on the proposal to break the nexus between the two Houses of Parliament. We will also then give a general indication of our intentions in relation to the distribution proposals which would be made should the referendum prove successful.
We intend, at the same time, to present also the proposal relating to Aborigines. This proposal has been supported by all political parties, and there was indeed no negative case prepared for circulation to the electors. Any delay in passing the referendum in relation to the counting of Aborigines will have no adverse practical result because, in fact, the Commonwealth Statistician does count the Aboriginal natives in the community and makes the figure public. The provision in the Constitution does not amount to an impediment against this counting. Nor does it prevent Aborigines voting; many of them do. We, nevertheless, believe that the provision should be taken out of the Constitution. It is outmoded and misleading, and gives unwarranted cause for criticism both inside and outside Australia by people unaware of the actual situation.
As I said when announcing our decision to recommend a deferment, we are sensitive to the fact that the Parliament has supported in both Houses the referendum legislation which the Menzies Government presented. We believe, however, that members in both Houses will recognise the reasons which have influenced us, and will approve our decision to defer the proposals for the time being. The deferment is being made with a view to strengthening, rather than weakening, the prospect of success for the two proposals.
I turn now to aspects of foreign affairs and defence with which we have been dealing over recent weeks. In our first month of office, we had visits from Mr. Denis
Healey, the British Minister of Defence, Mr. Hubert Humphrey, Vice-President of the United States, and His Excellency Field Marshal Thanom Kittikachorn, Prime Minister of Thailand. Each of these discussions was of importance for Australia. Each of them required considerable preparation and close consultation with our civilian and military advisers.
Mr. Denis Healey, the British Minister of Defence, visited us for four days from Monday, 31st January. The talks, although occurring within the first week of our taking office, were most timely. They were held at a time when the United Kingdom Government was coming to major long term decisions, subsequently incorporated in the White Paper on defence recently presented to the United Kingdom Parliament. Mr. Healey had been set the task of framing a defence programme which would contain British expenditure on defence in 1970 within the equivalent in that year of £2.000 million sterling today. This task called for some drastic adjustments. One of the possibilities coming under public discussion in Britain was a withdrawal of British forces east of Suez. Mr. Healey made it clear to us that his Government did not hold any views on these lines. But the general proposition had found support amongst highly placed parliamentarians on both sides of politics. The United Kingdom Government decided - in our view, very wisely - that it would continue to maintain a global role in world affairs and that as part of this role it would continue to maintain substantial forces in South East Asia. The Canberra talks were of tremendous value in enabling us to make a frank exchange of views. Mr. Healey made it clear to us, in direct but friendly fashion, that if British troops had to leave Singapore, then either they would have to be accommodated in base facilities on the Australian mainland or they would have to go home. For our part, we were willing to plan against the contingency that Singapore might become untenable at some future point of time and have now put in hand a study, at the Service level, of various possibilities and their feasibility. However, we emphasised strongly the need for a continued British presence in South East Asia, and we affirmed that the bases in Singapore and Malaysia, in which we share and to which we have made substantial contribution, should be retained for as long as possible. The British presence on the mainland of Asia provides an essential stabilising and moderating influence, and aid to morale. British departure from the scene could have disastrous consequences. We are gratified that the United Kingdom Government has confirmed, in the White Paper, its firm intention to continue to maintain the bases in Singapore and Malaysia so long as the Governments of Singapore and Malaysia make this possible on “ acceptable conditions”. For Australia this is a most significant and welcome decision.
Mr. Dean Eyre, the New Zealand Minister for Defence, participated in all the discussions with Mr. Healey. This Government wishes to increase its co-operation with New Zealand in defence matters and, indeed, in all other matters of mutual interest. The Anzac tradition was forged between us in another great struggle fought by the forces of freedom to resist aggression. The grim events in Vietnam and Indonesia’s ill-conceived confrontation of Malaysia have brought us closely in association again. Our discussions revealed complete identity of view between our two Governments.
It is worth recording that the British Government carried out its recent defence) review in a way which was, we believe, unique in British history. It was probably the first time the British Government has ever tried to look so far ahead in planning its foreign and defence policy - Mr. Healey’s talks with us ranged over the period from the 1970’s to the 1990’s- and it is also the first occasion on which the United Kingdom has consulted so closely with its allies before final recommendations were adopted by the Cabinet.
Arising from the Canberra talks, it was agreed with the representatives of Britain and New Zealand that consultations will continue at ministerial level. We felt that there should be discussions between ourselves - that is, the three Governments - and United States representatives on our respective activities in South East Asia. These should not be confined to political and defence matters. We all are involved in military action in one area or another but we all are also participating in programmes of economic and social aid in the area. It would be of great advantage to develop the widest possible agreement on policy aspects and to see how far our activities can be co-ordinated.
It was of great advantage to us to receive a visit from Vice-President Humphrey and Governor Harriman so soon after the defence discussions with Mr. Healey. The Vice-President was with us on 18th and 19th February. This is only the second occasion on which a Vice-President of the United States has visited Australia. Mr. Humphrey came to us after a rapid tour embracing a number of the key countries of South East Asia. He was able to bring us a complete account of the talks between President Johnson and Prime Minister Ky of South Vietnam. We found our own assessment of the situation there, based on information reaching us from our own sources, to be very much in line with that conveyed by Vice-President Humphrey to us. In his public statements in Australia he brought out compellingly the critical and fundamental character of the struggle in South Vietnam. We had earlier told him we applauded the initiatives advanced by Prime Minister Ky and President Johnson for a vigorous programme of economic and social reform. We all recognise that there is far more to the problem of South Vietnam than the checking of the Communists by military means. There is a need for reconstruction and rehabilitation. There is a need for an effective national administration pressing on with desired reforms and the improvement of standards.
Most of the people of South Vietnam live in villages and hamlets. Many of these have suffered the ravages of terrorist activities for years. First, the affected areas must be cleared of the enemy and made secure against Vietcong reinfiltration. The next phase is the establishment of effective administration so that the benefits of modern services can be brought to scattered rural communities. So many leaders have been murdered that the Government of South Vietnam has launched an extensive, but concentrated, programme of training. It aims to produce as quickly as possible successive teams of people who will return to the ravaged areas as leaders in various activities of significance to the local communities. They include people trained in the business of administration and government, and in health and rural development; they include also teachers and personnel trained to undertake such rehabilitation tasks as the building of homes, schools, roads and hospitals. Already hundreds of these teams are operating and the South Vietnamese Government plans to have many more available by the end of 1966. The Government is planning in this way for the progressive rebuilding of the social fabric of the community. Australians are assisting in this valuable work. I speak, in particular, of our surgical teams, which are providing medical help in a country which has far too few trained doctors serving the community of 14 million people. Australians are also helping as advisers in agriculture and road building.
I pay tribute, also, Mr. Speaker, to the contributions made by Australian forces in the area. Since 1962, we have had military advisers with the South Vietnamese forces. These are highly trained and dedicated men, who at great risk, and in some cases casualty, to themselves, have stood beside their South Vietnamese counterparts in the field. Since 1964, a flight of Royal Australian Air Force Caribou aircraft has been used in a great variety of ways for general transport purposes, and to bring supplies quickly to meet emergency needs. Last year Australia committed the First Battalion of the Royal Australian Regiment to Vietnam, which was subsequently expanded to a battalion group. The Battalion has to great effect and purpose been conducting operations from its base at Bien Hoa, and has earned praise and respect from our South Vietnamese and American allies. VicePresident Humphrey made particular reference during his visit here to the high value placed on the Australian contingent, both in their role as fighting men and their conduct generally amongst the Vietnamese people.
The Vice-President spoke of the overall prospects in terms of what he described as “ restrained optimism “. The information we and the Americans have is that the tide of war is turning in our favour. Progress is being made in rescuing new areas, in clearing them of Vietcong and in preparing them for orderly civil government. The critical nature of the conflict in South Vietnam has not been fully recognised by all, and this certainly includes many members of the Opposition. We are told that we over-simplify the issue there. It is more accurate to say that our critics overcomplicate it. We still hear from some representatives of the Opposition that this is a civil war and that we have no good cause for participation. This view runs against all the information and advice reaching us. The discovery by our own forces of extensive headquarters and military facilities in close vicinity to Saigon illustrates the long-term planning and the years of preparation with outside assistance which lie behind the activities of the Vietcong. This is no civil war. It is the principal present manifestation of the expansionist activities of Communist China. These activities are channelled through, and directed from, Hanoi. All the countries in South East Asia are facing the threat of Communist China’s expansion in one form or another. In Laos, for example, there is fighting between Chinese-supplied Pathet Lao - or Communist forces - and the forces of the Government. The Prime Minister of Thailand and the senior Ministerial colleagues who accompanied him gave us a graphic account of increasing Communist subversion, infiltration, and terrorist activities threatening that country. In India there have been direct attacks by troops of the Communist Chinese Army across the Indian border. Honorable members will see in these and other countries the manifestation, in one form or another, of externally-directed Communist aggression.
We were able to discuss all these matters fully and frankly with the Prime Minister of Thailand and his distinguished Ministers in Canberra recently. We shared a common view of the situation in Vietnam and agreed about the incessant and widespread nature of Communist pressures in South East Asia. The Thai Government, let it be said, has a proud record of domestic achievement. It is a responsible Government which has committed the services and facilities of government and administration to the goals of economic and social progress in the spread of education, health and medical facilities and social services generally. Its record of eco nomic advance is impressive. National income has been increasing at an annual rate of seven per cent, for the past decade. Agricultural production is currently increasing annually at about 6.3 per cent. This is a country under Communist pressure. It is a country that we are glad to have as an ally and we look forward to the multiplication of our interests and associations.
The war in South Vietnam has many brutal aspects. What has been far too little perceived is the systematic destruction of leaders in the villages and hamlets in which most of the population of South Vietnam lives. The Communists deliberately eliminate any elements in village communities who might hold out some hope of effectively rebuilding their community. In the last two years, more than 3,000 local officials and civilians have been murdered. The leaders include teachers, medical workers, leaders in politics and administration, and technical experts of one kind and another. We can all picture the mental anguish and physical distress caused by this systematic butchery and the dislocation it brings to the life of the community where it occurs.
All this is what Communism in Asia means. It does not stand for peaceful political and economic change. In the words of a leading Communist military theoretician - General Giap of North Vietnam - “ armed struggle and political struggle are very closely co-ordinated “. Of South Vietnam he says, “ armed struggle has budded forth from political struggle.” Communism in Asia is the politics of brutality, the politics of disruption, the politics of the exploitation of backwardness. Its highest form is the “people’s war”. That is to say, the brutality and viciousness of guerrilla warfare practised against an entire population - men, women and children alike. A study of North Vietnam’s pronouncements in respect of South Vietnam reveals the complete rejection of peaceful coexistence. Its language is the language of power, of protracted struggle, of repression, and it shows no disposition to tolerate the existence of neighbouring social and political systems other than its own.
Neither we, nor our allies, are in South Vietnam for territorial gain or colonial power. We are there to establish conditions in which ordinary men and women - and there are 14 million- of them in South Vietnam alone - can pursue their lives in freedom. We are there because while Communist aggression persists, the whole of South East Asia is threatened; while the Chinese Communist philosophy of world domination persists, the whole free world is threatened.
During the suspension, of bombing in December and January, every conceivable effort was made to bring the North Vietnamese authorities to the conference table. They rebuffed every approach. The search for peace will go on, but a long period of fighting is the prospect which we have to face. The critical fighting in the area increasingly involves units and personnel trained in North Vietnam and directed and equipped from Hanoi and Peking. As pressure on the Vietcong has increased, North Vietnam has sent in reinforcements of regular North Vietnamese troops on a very substantial scale, there now being nine and possibly more regiments of the North Vietnamese Army in South Vietnam. These reinforcements continued during the bombing pause, as did work on repairs and improvement to the infiltration system. Only when it is convinced that South Vietnam, the United States and other allies have the will and the cohesion to see the struggle through is the other side likely to desist. At the present time the evidence is that it wants to continue the fighting and to test our will and cohesion.’
The Government has for some time been made aware of the desire of the Government df South Vietnam that we increase the size of the Australian force there. There has been a very large build-up in strength of the United States forces. It is evident that the. allies must put forward an increased effort if military successes are to be achieved and then followed effectively by the. tasks of reconstruction.
Honorable members will be aware’ that there are at present serving in Vietnam more than 1,500 Australian. Service personnel comprising the Army- training - ‘team, the battalion group arid associated headquarters and Royal Australian Air Force personnel. Of these forces, the main element, namely, the infantry battalion - the First Royal Australian Regiment - is due to be, and will be, relieved on the conclusion of its tour of one year in the theatre. Its personnel, other than those who will have served a considerably shorter period, will return by air to their home station in Australia during the first two weeks in June.
Measuring the availability of Australian troops in the light of our other commitments and in consultation with our allies, and at the request of the Government of South Vietnam, the Government has decided that the battalion will be replaced by a selfcontained Australian task force under Australian command embracing all personnel serving there and enlarging our contribution to a total of some 4,500 men - in effect, a trebling of the current strength of our military forces there. The task force will contain, in addition to its headquarters, two infantry battalions, a Special Air Services Squadron, and a substantial force of combat and logistic support units. The task force will need close helicopter support and, for this purpose, we are incorporating with it a flight of eight Royal Australian Air Force Iroquois helicopters. Provision of the flight of Caribou aircraft and of the team of 100 Army advisers will be continued.
This force will make a greatly enlarged Australian contribution to the maintenance of security throughout South East Asia. It is, of course, in addition to our other force contributions in the region for the defence of Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand. It is our judgment that, this is the most militarily effective way in which we can assist the overall allied effort in South East Asia at this time.
Honorable members are aware from previous statements by the Government that the obligation to discharge national service with the Army includes an obligation to serve overseas if necessary. The Australian task force which we will be sending to Vietnam in the- middle of the year will contain two Army -battalions, the 5th and 6th Battalions, Royal Australian Regiment, each of which will contain a proportion of fully trained and integrated national servicemen as will all. future substantial Australian - Army units.- deployed overseas . in any theatre. That proportion may vary to some extent from unit to unit, but it will be a continuing feature. The normal tour of duty in Vietnam of personnel in the task force will be 12 months. The Government has also decided that the national service intake will be continued at 8,400 each year.
I am sure that honorable members will, in the light of what I have already said, appreciate the necessity for the Government’s decisions. They are decisions nf great responsibility and we have not taken them lightly. Australia cannot stand aside from the struggle to resist the aggressive thrust of Communism in Asia and to ensure conditions in which stability can be achieved. Our own national security demands this course. Do honorable members opposite, who are interjecting, deny that?
– If they do, let them stand and be counted when the time comes. We cannot be isolationist or neutralist, placed as we are geographically and occupying, as we do, with limited national strength, this vast continent. We cannot leave it solely to our allies and their national servicemen to defend in the region the rights of countries to thenindependence and the peaceful pursuit of their national way of life.
I am confident that a majority of this Parliament and of this country will warmly support this increase in the Australian contribution. It has been heartening to the Government to have had, from the outset, the unanimous support of members of the Government parties for Australian participation in resisting Communism in South Vietnam. The overwhelming support given by the Congress of the United States of America in recent days to the amounts sought by the President for the conduct of military and aid operations is encouraging testimony of the strength of purpose of the American people. The free world has cause to be grateful for the clear sighted view President Johnson has held at all times of the menace and fundamental character of the challenge to freedom in South Vietnam, and we have admired the resolution with which he has met that challenge.
One matter which has had and is still having our attention at ministerial level is the matter of supply of goods and material of various kinds by Australian industry to the American forces in South Vietnam. Late last year, the present Minister for Defence (Mr. Fairhall), when Minister for Supply, outlined personally, to the United States Secretary of Defence Australia’s capacity to provide a wide range of military supplies. The Minister’s talk has been followed up actively at the official level and, as one result, agreement has now been reached on the sale of a substantial quantity of Australian small arms ammunition to the American forces. We have also been asked to quote for a number of other important items most of which are needed in large quantities. We are now working on these requests. I might add that we took the opportunity to put this whole matter in the mind of Mr. Humphrey on his recent visit. We believe that Australia can, with advantage to the allied effort, to the strengthening of our own capacity and to the advantage of our own nation play an increasing part in this matter of supply.
From our recognition of the fundamental significance of the struggle against Communist aggression in South Vietnam, and the special nature of the service which our armed forces are giving there, the Government has felt it appropriate that a special award should be made to Australian and, if the New Zealand Government agreed, to New Zealand servicemen posted to South Vietnam. I conveyed our view on this to the Prime Minister of New Zealand, the Right Honorable Keith Holyoake. As I have already mentioned, New Zealand takes precisely the same view of the issue in South Vietnam as we do. I am glad to say that Mr. Holyoake fully and immediately welcomed the proposal, and we are jointly recommending to Her Majesty that a special medal for service in Vietnam be struck. Her Majesty has told us that she will be pleased to make this award. The detailed conditions of eligibility are being worked out, and will be announced following Her Majesty’s approval of them.
This new special medal for service in Vietnam will replace the General Service
Medal 1962 with clasp “ South Vietnam “, which has hitherto been available for Australian servicemen in the area. The new medal will apply to Australian servicemen who have been in South Vietnam at any time since 29th May 1964, which is the date when the role of the Australian Army training team in Vietnam was extended to permit its employment in the field with South Vietnamese Army units in contact with the Vietcong.
The Prime Minister of New Zealand and I have seen the issuance of a special medal as another welcome link in the chain of the Anzac tradition. I am sure the medal will be worn with pride by all who participate in the South Vietnam campaign and it will carry with it to the wearer an expression of the gratitude of our two countries for service in the highest order of duty.
I am hopeful it will prove possible for mc to make a visit within the next few months to South Vietnam and some of the other centres in South East Asia where Australian troops are on active service. My colleague, the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Hasluck), was in the area as recently as last December, and I propose to arrange for other visits by appropriate Ministers so as to keep the Government in close and frequent contact with developments ir; this and other, centres where our servicemen are engaged.
– I would be glad to consider that proposition if it were put to me seriously by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell).
Australia has an expanding role to play in South East Asia and, indeed, in the world at large consistent with its growth in economic strength and the development of its natural resources. The growing influx of immigration, investment capital and official visitors, the substantial increase in tourism, all signify an increasing world interest in Australia and its growing stature.
Growing responsibilities carry with them enlarged obligations. Our three-year defence programme now in its first year of duration is one measure of our response to our obligations. In the four years between 1962 and 1966, the defence vote has doubled, from approximately $400 million to $800 million. Large forward commitments have been undertaken for new and improved equipment, for which substantial payments must be made as the Services arm themselves to meet the defence requirements of the future. But even a rapidly growing bill for defence expenditure is not the only way in which Australia’s general external policy should find material expression.
Aid appropriations from our Budget totalled $114 million this year. This is more than nine times the amount given in the year before we took office. This is practical recognition of the needs of other countries for our assistance. The Territory of Papua and New Guinea, for which we have special responsibilities, remains the major recipient of our aid. Indeed, this is a commitment which Australia has been carrying alone. Australia played a pioneering role in the evolution of the Colombo Plan. Through this instrument we channel the largest component of Australian aid to Commonwealth and foreign countries, the amount this year being $12 million. Although we are a capital importing country our programmes of aid for overseas compare well in scale with those of other major donors of aid. We are currently spending about 0.6 per cent, of our gross national product on external aid. There are few donor countries which can match this record. We have joined the Asian Development Bank, on the basis of an Australian subscription of $US85 million. This is a substantial contribution quite disproportionate to our population and national wealth, even when compared with the subscriptions of major donors such ‘is the United States and Japan. Our contribution reflects our willingness to play a significant part in promoting greater prosperity and security throughout the South East Asian area and our hope that this new instrument will play an increasingly significant part in that process.
We recently offered aid to India to a value of $8 million, principally in the form of food, as a contribution towards meeting the critical shortages occurring there. We believe that much remains to be done by the international community to alleviate hunger problems of this kind, and we are doing what we can to stimulate a willingness on the part of industrialised as well as other food producing countries to join in helping the less favoured and less developed countries of the world. Our capacity to increase expenditure on defence and foreign aid will depend on the success of our efforts to ensure that our own economy is soundly based and continues to develop rapidly in stable conditions.
I now turn to our latest survey of the economy. This Government retains the same broad economic objectives which, successfully pursued by Governments led by Sir Robert Menzies, resulted in the greatest era of economic development in Australia’s history. Our slogan of “growth with stability “ will continue to guide us. We shall aim at the highest practicable level of national development and growth of industry. A policy of full employment has been successfully conducted with remarkably little fluctuation throughout our years of office. It remains in the forefront of economic policy. Our national growth has been associated with a programme of immigration on the large scale. This will be continued at the highest level we find it practicable to sustain. The inflow of people has been accompanied by an inflow of capital responding to a climate favorable to enterprise, skill and initiative.
– That was the honorable member’s urging to me after the last Budget. He had better get smother slogan to break the monotony.
– -Give Holt a jolt.
– Well, a jolt is better than a removal job. Judged on the latest statistics of the volume of capital and the stream of official visitors coming here from various parts of the world to study investment prospects, Australia can look forward confidently to this inflow continuing strongly. Its extent is the more remarkable because the Governments in the two principal source countries from which this investment comes - the United Kingdom and the United States of America - have both imposed some restraints on external investment. The combination of favorable growth prospects and stable economic and political conditions are proving strongly attractive. Australia finds 90 per cent, of its capital investment from its own savings, but our rate of growth has been greatly assisted by the savings of others who bring new industry, new techniques, new equipment and new skills to us.
Within the past fortnight, we have had discussions with representatives of industry and commerce and finance. These have been followed by discussions in the Cabinet. It is clear that the measures adopted in last year’s Budget succeeded in bringing about a better balance between supply and demand in the economy. There are, I know, apprehensions about some weaknesses in the economy which, if they were to spread and combine, could create an undue slackening of demand and unemployment. The Government certainly does not want this to happen and will take any steps necessary to prevent it happening. The general trend of demand must be kept rising sufficiently to preserve full employment and provide jobs for the additional labour coming forward locally and from the rising migrant inflow. From the preliminary information available to us there was a sharp fall in registrants for employment during February.
A substantial additional amount of finance, estimated at $24 million, is being provided by the savings banks for housing in the second half of 1965-66. The effect of this has yet to show up fully. We have under consideration other measures to give further support to housing. The same approach applies to other sectors - subject always to the consideration that we must be guided first and foremost by the trend in the general level of demand and activity and the need to ensure that resources are available for the priority requirements of defence and for developments of a kind that will increase exports. It is for this latter reason that we have been especially concerned with the problems created by the drought and the still wider problem of finance for rural industries.
The drought in New South Wales and Queensland has been a great misfortune in many ways. Most of all, it has been a misfortune for the producers in the drought areas. They have suffered heavy losses and s great deal ot personal hardship. Our sympathy goes to them as we join our hope to theirs for early relief. The drought has been a misfortune for the industries which serve the rural producers, such as the makers of agricultural machinery. It has been a misfortune for the economy because it has brought a heavy cut in rural output. We have felt the effects in exports for this financial year and we will possibly feel it still more heavily in exports for 1966-67.
The Commonwealth Government and its agencies have, from the start, viewed the drought as a national problem. The first requirement is that of assistance while the drought is still on. The provision of finance for this purpose rests largely with the trading banks and, from all the information 1 have, they have done an excellent job.. They have been assisted in this by the Reserve Bank which has seen t’o it that there was no policy restraint on their ability to lend for the purpose and that they had the liquid resources to support their customers all through the drought areas. The Commonwealth Government has backed the State Governments with finance in all the relief measures they have found necessary. , lt has done this by grants and advances to enable the State Budgets to carry the costs of drought relief and to make loans to drought affected producers on easy terms. In fact it has assisted the States on a quite unprecedented scale to carry out drought relief measures.
Unfortunately, the drought has not passed even in Queensland, where there have been rains, and in New South Wales it is worsening. The Commonwealth will continue to assist the States to finance their drought relief measures as far as necessary and for as long as necessary. Where rains have fallen, and the restocking of properties has become possible, a need for restocking finance has arisen and is expected to grow as and when the drought is relieved. Here again, the provision of finance will largely be a matter for. the trading banks. .The Reserve Bank will support them in this to the full extent. The Commonwealth Development Bank has also been lending for the purpose and the Government will ensure that it has the resources to continue doing so. i.; There will, however, be producers who, Aor one reason or another, cannot get adequate bank finance for restocking. The Premier of New South Wales has written to me about this. He has proposed that the system of loans the State is making to producers for relief purposes should be extended, with necessary adaptation, for restocking purposes. Under this system, loans are made up to certain limits at low rates of interest and with provision for a deferred repayment period. I have advised the Premier of New South Wales and also the Premier of Queensland that the Commonwealth is prepared, for this purpose, to extend the support it has been giving to the State for other drought measures. Obviously, it is only sensible and very much in the national interest that, so far as finance is necessary and can help to keep down drought losses and get farms and stations back into full production as the drought lifts, it should be made available. The need to sustain and increase rural production for domestic requirements and for exports is as important today as it has ever been in our history.
The drought itself has demonstrated a need for more investment in rural industries to strengthen them in various ways against a recurrence of drought from which we have had the good fortune to be relatively free over a long period. This need for drought mitigation work merges into a wider need for increased capital investment in the rural industries. On the one hand, we will need more and more rural output to provide exports. On the other hand, the scope exists for progressively increasing rural output in a variety of ways, all of which require increased capital expenditure on farms. -We have had a great many opinions as to where the main need lies and, while they vary in detail and emphasis, they all converge in a requirement for improved facilities to provide longer term rural development finance on a term loan basis. We are convinced, however, that the need is- not so much for any radical innovations or new machinery as for improvement and extension of facilities .which have already proved their worth/
The Commonwealth Development Bank, established in .I960, has already made a valuable contribution towards meeting the needs for development finance by rural and other industries. However, we believe that the special problems of the farmer would be better served if there were facilities exclusively devoted to his credit needs. Accordingly, the Government has under consideration the establishment of a separate Rural Division within the Commonwealth Development Bank. Legislation will be required for this.
The Government believes it is desirable to provide the farmer with greater access to medium and long term capital for development purposes through his own private bank. The term loan funds, introduced in 1962, already go some way towards meeting this purpose. The Government now proposes to consult with the trading banks with a view to establishing farm loan funds separate from the existing term loan arrangement. The funds would provide finance for medium and long term development purposes including the purchase of land and measures for drought recovery and mitigation of future droughts.
Subject to suitable arrangements being made with the banks, it is envisaged that a sum of $50 million will be available for these farm loan funds. This will be in addition to the arrangements now being made by the Reserve Bank to increase existing term loan funds by $20 million. So, from those two sources a total of $70 million, most of which will be for rural purposes, will be available.
– At what rate of interest?
– As the honorable gentleman knows, there has always been a preferred rate of interest for rural borrowers. It is contemplated that overdraft lending to farmers will continue as before. In addition, the trading banks will, we hope, be lending from the new funds on a long term basis on reasonable terms and conditions. 1 hope to be able to make arrangements for the Treasurer (Mr. McMahon) and myself to discuss these matters with Hie Reserve Bank and the trading banks in the near future.
The Government is exploring an insurance scheme to cover loans made from the farm loan funds of the banks. This will be done in order to ensure that this kind of lending is not unduly restricted by security considerations where projects otherwise offer excellent prospects of success. From the national standpoint, action in this area is directed initially to the building up of our export capabilities, which are one of the great key requisites for ensuring continued growth. As such, it is to be seen as part of a many sided programme embracing not only assistance, direct and indirect, to exporting industries, but all that goes to the discovery and development of resources, such as mineral exploration, oil search, water conservation, road, rail and port improvements, scientific research and extension services, in fact, most of the main branches of developmental work.
One of the most encouraging facts about exports in recent years has been their increasing diversification. Rural exports still predominate, and will do so for many a day to come. But they are being increasingly and most opportunely supplemented by exports of minerals and of manufactures. One of the main topics discussed with industry representatives last week was that of export incentives for manufactures. It was the unanimous view that the scheme introduced in 1962 had yielded excellent results; The Export Development Council told us that it was making a general review of the subject, on which it would be reporting to us. It asked that certain features of the existing scheme which had come to be regarded as anomalous should be removed, and we have undertaken to consider this. It strongly recommended that the Government should give an assurance that export incentives will be continued after the present legislation expires next year, lt is certainly the general intention of the Government that this should be done. Industry representatives also urged upon us most strongly the need for encouraging the pursuit of research and development in manufacturing industry. The Government has been impressed by these views and is considering various proposals for assistance to industry in this field.
Our approach to development generally, and northern development in particular, will continue to be both vigorous and comprehensive. Achievements to date have been very much more impressive than published criticisms would suggest. When account is taken of current and proposed work, the total of public and private investment for northern Australia is in the vicinity of $2,000 million. The Government will maintain close co-operation with State Governments for development purposes. The planning and construction of public developmental projects are primarily matters for State Governments. The Commonwealth Government has assisted the States to undertake a variety of projects by means of special grants and loans. We recognise, however, that while our activities can sometimes trigger off worthwhile developments, or act in aid of the development undertakings of others, the major contribution will be made by private enterprise and the initiative of private investors.
A recent example of co-operation between the Commonwealth and the States towards development was the announcement by the Minister for National Development (Mr. Fairbairn) on 24th February that the Commonwealth and State Governments have agreed that Australia should increase its rate of softwood planting from the present 40,000 acres a year to 75,000 acres for the next 35 years. The programme recommended will meet Australia’s most urgent needs in the foreseeable future. Imports of timber and other forestry products now cost Australia more than $200 million a year. This cost could treble by the end of the century if we fail to increase our planting rate. The Commonwealth Government has offered the States about $20 million in longterm loans over the next five years to help lift the planting rate in the Government softwood plantations. These loans will be interest free for the first 10 years.
Commonwealth-State co-operation led to the formation some four years ago of the Australian Water Resources Council. Thanks principally to the provision of Commonwealth funds of about $5.5 million, expenditure on the investigation of water resources will increase by 60 per cent, in the three years to 1966-67. A further expansion of this work in the succeeding three years is being discussed by Commonwealth and State officers in Canberra this week.
Examples of this co-operation are too numerous for me to list them all here, but I mention the agreement entered into between the Commonwealth and Queensland Governmentsin1962to develop 41/4 million acres of land for beef production in the brigalow belt of central Queensland, with the Commonwealth providing $14.5 million to finance the scheme. Despite severe drought conditions in 1964 and 1965, good progress has been made in development of the area and, as recently as last Friday, I talked in Canberra with the Premier of Queensland about a similar scheme for a further area of nearly six million acres in central Queensland.
Expansion in the mining industry has been the most spectacular development in the north in the post-war period. New industries have been established at a number of places - bauxite development at Weipa and Gove, manganese at Groote Eylandt, iron ore on the northwest of Western Australia, and at two centres in the Northern Territory, and coal at two centres in central Queensland. In addition, considerable expansion has taken place at Mount Isa, involving private investment of some $130 million. In this case, the Government has made this development feasible by providing $34.5 million towards the cost of reconstruction of the railway to Townsville. In the case of the bauxite deposits at Gove in the Northern Territory, the Government has negotiated arrangements for development of the field by a company with 50 per cent. Australian equity and with conditions requiring establishment of a plant on the site to process bauxite into alumina.
The Commonwealth Government through its financial assistance in connection with the beef cattle roads has made an enormous contribution to the development of better road transport facilities throughout Northern Australia leading to a larger turn-off of cattle. Drought effects were alleviated by movement over these roads to better pastures. Since 1961-62, approval has been given for assistance totalling $41.5 million towards the construction and up-grading of roads for cattle transport in Queensland, Western Australia and the Northern Territory.
The sugar industry which supports the bulk of the population in the north of Queensland has gone through a phase of expansion since 1950 with acreage and output both increasing by approximately 100 per cent. This expansion has been made possible by the successful negotiations of the Government which have enabled it to establish markets at home and abroad to absorb the increased output. Development of the industry over the past 15 years has led to substantial growth of cities and towns on the north Queensland coast and to development and modernisation of harbour and transport facilities.
The changeover to the new decimal currency system for which work and planning have proceeded over several years went remarkably smoothly. The fact that it did so reflects great credit on the many people in all walks of life who played an active part in one aspect or another of the planning for this highly complex operation. Naturally, there were some uncertainties, and even an element of confusion, as was to be expected, in a few areas during thi early stages, but, by and large, the general public has rapidly become familiar with the new coins and notes.
The United Kingdom had a team of official observers in Australia at the time of the changeover. Presumably these must have reported favorably, because shortly afterwards the United Kingdom Government announced its own firm decision to change to a decimal system in 1971. New Zealand will be moving into decimals in July of next year, and several other smaller countries will also be following suit over the next year or two. There will be very few, if any, countries remaining outside the decimal family by the time of the British changeover. Australia thus will have become part of a world-wide decimal currency community.
The Government has been making a review of the restrictive aspects of our immigration policy. Australia’s increasing involvement in Asian developments, the rapid growth of our trade with Asian countries, our participation on a larger scale in an increasing number of aid projects in the area, the considerable number of Asian students - now well over 12,000 - receiving education in Australia, the expansion of our military effort, the scale of diplomatic contact, and the growth of tourism to and from the countries of Asia, combine to make such a review desirable in our eyes.
It is, at the same time, important that there should be a clearer understanding in
Asia of our policy, and the reasons for it lt is certainly not based on any false notion of superiority. We are fully aware that many of the peoples of Asia can point to cultures dating back centuries before those of Western Europe. But, in these modern times, every country reserves to itself the right to decide what the composition of its population shall be; it has regard to the preservation of standards and of national characteristics and to the maintenance of the essential homogeneity of its people. Australia derives strength from its unity and a community life free from serious minority and racial problems. All countries in South East Asia maintain restrictions against immigration to serve their own national policies. Our basic policy has been firmly established since the beginning of our Federation, lt is widely supported. But it has been the wish of the Government, as it would be of the community at large, that the policy should be administered with a spirit of humanity and with good sense.
Following our most recent review, the Government has decided on some modification and a degree of liberalisation. Under current policy, a non-European admitted on a long-term entry permit, must complete 15 years in Australia before applying for resident status and Australian citizenship. We have decided that, in future, application can be made in these cases after five years, the same period as applies for naturalisation application by settlers from Europe. There are other changes which, while maintaining the basic principles of our policy, can be made with advantage to enable more flexibility in administration. The Minister for Immigration (Mr. Opperman) will shortly indicate to the House the Government’s conclusions in more detail.
Honorable members will realise, from what I have been saying, that the Government has been, and will be, active on many fronts. Legislation will be needed to put into effect some of the matters I have mentioned tonight, and, of course, there will be numerous other items not covered in this statement, encompassing as it does the broad field rather than the detail.
The legislation being prepared will cover a wide and important range of subjects.
Some of them are complex measures which will require much drafting and consultation, such as the shipping provisions for the trade practices legislation, and measures relating to copyright and off-shore petroleum. In relation to off-shore petroleum we have had a remarkable instance of effective Commonwealth and State co-operation in the arrangements reached after the discussions which have occurred. There is also the comprehensive review of the defence legislation. Other subjects will reflect our immediate preoccupations at home and abroad, such as the legislation seeking approval of our decision to join the Asian Development Bank, and legislation in regard to drought relief. I am sure that all honorable members will welcome our proposal to give full voting rights to the member for the Australian Capital Territory. This is a matter which I shall leave until tomorrow, when my colleague, the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Anthony), will be making a statement on it.
My fellow Australians will find reflected in what I have said tonight the change of orientation which marks Australia’s situation in this second half of the 20th century. We find ourselves playing an active and not uninfluential part in the world community, but we have become increasingly involved in the affairs of Asia. We have found our external responsibilities increasing as we have increased our population and economic strength. Others expect us to play an increasing part in military assistance, in international aid and in diplomatic discussion. We are all conscious of a heightened influence on our community life from a quickening spirit of nationalism. We see dangers ahead, but they seem to occupy far less of the horizon than happier vistas of national growth. We have the good fortune to live together in a true democracy. We breathe the air of freedom. We do not always succeed in doing so, but we have learned to co-operate effectively at all levels of Government, and in the relations between Government and industry. We are confident that our greatest years have yet to be.
– I appreciate the chagrin of the honorable gentleman oppo site. I hope that he and his colleagues will be able to eradicate the repression under which they suffer.
It is a privilege for all members of this Government to have the opportunity, through their Ministries, to make a contribution towards Australia’s progress. We commit ourselves to the tasks ahead with enthusiasm, with our hard work and our devotion.
I present the following paper -
Statement of Policy by New GovernmentMinisterial Statement, 8th March 1966– and move -
That the House take note of the paper.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Calwell) adjourned.
– I move -
That leave of absence for one month be given to the honorable member for Banks (Mr. Costa) on the ground of ill health.
The honorable gentleman has recently been in hospital. He does not need the leave but I think he would like to know that the House is cognisant of the reason for his absence.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following Bills were returned from the Senate -
Without requests -
Income Tax Bill (No. 2) 1965.
Customs Tariff (Dumping and Subsidies) Bill 1965.
Without amendment -
Sulphuric Acid Bounty Bill (No. 2) 1965.
Pyrites Bounty Bill (No. 2) 1965.
Broadcasting and Television Bill (No. 2) 1965.
Referendum (Constitution Alteration) Bill (No. 2) 1965.
Brigalow Lands Agreement Bill 1965.
Weipa Development Agreement Bill 1965.
Royal Australian Air Force Veterans’ Residences Bill 1965.
Assent to the following Bills reported -
Matrimonial Causes Bill 1965.
National Health Bill 1965.
Universities (Financial Assistance) Bill (No. 2) 1965.
States Grants (Advanced Education) Bill 1965.
Income Tax Assessment Bill 1965.
Income Tax Bill 1965.
Income Tax (International Agreements) Bill 1965.
Income Tax (Non-resident Dividends) Bill 1965.
Air Navigation (Charges) Bill 1965
Australian National University Bill 1965. (Native Members of the Forces Benefit’s Bill 1965.
Repatriation (Special Overseas Service) Bill 1965.
Trade Practices Bill 1965.
Temple Society Trust Fund Bill 1965.
Customs Tariff Validation Bill (No. 2) 1965.
Pay-roll Tax Assessment Bill 1965.
Nauru Bill 1965.
Income Tax Bill (No. 2) 1965.
Customs Tariff (Dumping and Subsidies) Bill 1965.
Sulphuric Acid Bounty Bill (No. 2) 1965.
Pyrites Bounty Bill (No. 2) 1965.
Broadcasting and Television Bill (No. 2) 1965.
Referendum (Constitution Alteration) Bill (No. 2) 1965.
Brigalow Lands Agreement Bill 1965.
Weipa Development Agreement Bill 1965.
Royal Australian Air Force Veterans’ Residences Bill 1965.
Air Navigation (Charges) Bill (No. 2) 1965.
Audit Bill 1965.
Banking Bill 1965.
Bankruptcy (Decimal Currency) Bill 1965.
Butter Fat Levy Bill (No. 2) 1965.
Canned Fruits Export Charges Bill 1965.
Christmas Island Bill 1965.
Commonwealth Banks Bill 1965.
Customs Bill (No. 3) 1965.
Customs Tariff Bill 1966.
Defence Forces Retirements Benefits Bill (No. 3) 1965.
Dried Fruits Export Charges Bill 1965.
Egg Export Charges Bill 1965.
Estate Duty Assessment Bill (No. 2) 1965.
Excise Bill 1965.
Excise Tariff Bill (No. 2) 1965.
Honey Levy Bill (No.1A) 1965.
Honey Levy Bill (No. 2a) 1965.
Income Tax Assessment Bill (No. 2) 1965.
Insurance Bill 1965.
Life Insurance Bill 1965.
National Health Bill (No. 2) 1965.
Parliamentary Retiring Allowances (Decimal Currency) Bill 1965.
Pay-roll Tax Assessment Bill (No. 2) 1965.
Post and Telegraph Bill 1965.
Post and Telegraph Rates Bill 1965.
Pyrites Bounty Bill (No. 3) 1965.
Social Services Bill (No. 2) 1965.
States Grants (Petroleum Products) Bill (No. 2) 1965.
Superannuation Bill (No. 2) 1965.
Taxation Administration Bill 1965.
Wheat Industry Stabilisation Bill 1965.
– I desire to inform the House that at the inaugural meeting of the Legislative Council for the Territory of Nauru on 31st January, I presented, on behalf of the Parliament, a chair for the Council President. The Council passed the following Resolution of thanks -
We, the Members of the Legislative Council for the Territory of Nauru in Council assembled, express our thanks to the Senate and the House of Representatives of the Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia for the gift of a President’s Chair which they have presented to this Council to mark the inauguration of this legislature.
Bill - by leave - presented by Mr. McMahon, and read a first time.
– I move-
That the Bill be now read a second time.
This Bill seeks the approval of Parliament to a borrowing by the Commonwealth of up to$US54 million from a group of commercial banks in the United States to assist in the financing of jet aircraft and related equipment being purchased by Qantas Empire Airways Ltd. and the Australian National Airlines Commission. It is the largest private borrowing so far arranged by the Commonwealth on behalf of Qantas and Trans-Australia Airlines. Each drawing from the loan will be made in the name of the Commonwealth and will be initially paid into the Loan Fund, prior to being advanced to Qantas or T.A.A. Accordingly, the Bill appropriates the Loan Fund to enable the proceeds of the loan to be passed on to Qantas and T.A.A. It also appropriates the Consolidated Revenue Fund to permit the Commonwealth to meet interest payments, repayments of principal, and other charges associated with the borrowing. As the two airlines will pay to the Commonwealth all of the funds necessary to meet these payments, the loan will involve no net cost to the Commonwealth itself.
The borrowing will assist Qantas to purchase three, four or five additional Boeing 707-3 3 8C jets. T.A.A. will use its share of the loan to assist in the purchase of one additional Boeing 727 and three Douglas DC9’s. The amount of the loan will be reduced by $14 million if Qantas decides to buy only three new Boeings or by $7 million if it decides to purchase four. The new aircraft will increase the Qantas fleet of 707’s to 22, 23 or 24 and will increase T.A.A.’s jet fleet to four Boeing 727’s and three Douglas DC9’s.
The arrangements for the borrowing are similar to those approved by Parliament in November 1964 when the Commonwealth borrowed $US30 million on behalf of Qantas and T.A.A. The full proceeds of the loan will be made available to the two airlines on terms and conditions to be determined by myself as Treasurer, but these terms and conditions will be the same as those under which the Commonwealth itself will borrow the money from the United States banks. As the airlines will be required to meet all charges under the loan agreement, the Commonwealth will therefore assume the function of an intermediary only in these arrangements. Prior to the present loan, aircraft borrowings arranged by the Commonwealth with United States commercial banks since 1956 totalled SUS115.4 million, of which $US64.4 million has yet to be repaid. In addition, the International Bank and the Export-Import Bank have lent $US 39.2 million for aircraft purchases of which SUS12.4 million is still outstanding. From these borrowings SUS132.2 million has been advanced to Qantas and SUS22.4 million to T.A.A. Following sound commercial practice, the loans are repayable over the expected life of the aircraft and during the period that they are making a substantial contribution to the finances of the two airlines. Qantas of course earns more than enough overseas currency to cover the foreign exchange costs of the loans.
Australia is a net importer of capital, and at the present time we are running a balance of payments deficit which is expected to continue into next year. It has been the Government’s continuing policy to arrange overseas finance for a large pro portion of the cost of new aircraft purchased by its two airlines. The major part of the present loan will not be drawn until the latter part of 1966 and early 1967 and there are obvious advantages in taking steps now to ensure that funds are readily available to meet known future contractual commitments of this nature. In a growing economy such as ours it is inevitable that there will be a continuously increasing demand for imports of materials, capital equipment and other items which must be obtained from abroad. It is also inevitable that there will be periods such as the present when our foreign currency receipts from exports, capital inflow and so on will be insufficient to prevent some decline in our international reserves. The Government therefore believes that it should take advantage of whatever opportunities arise to borrow overseas at reasonable rates of interest in order to strengthen our reserves or to arrest the rate at which they are declining.
The operation of the United States interest equalisation tax has placed difficulties in the way of the Commonwealth continuing its series of public loans on the New York market. Our most recent public dollar loans in May and November last year were floated predominantly in Europe. However, as I shall explain later, the tax does not apply to private borrowings of the type which we have been able to arrange with United States commercial banks.
The loan covered by this Bill is being made by a group of nine United States commercial banks. These are listed in Section 1 of the loan agreement which is annexed as the Schedule to the Bill. The two airlines will request the Commonwealth to make drawings on the loan when payments for the new aircraft are required by the manufacturers. Drawings are due to commence before the end of this month and are to be completed before 31st December 1967. A commitment fee of one-half of 1 per cent, is payable on undrawn amounts of the loan.
As each section of the loan is drawn, interest will become payable at an initial rate of 5 per cent, for a period up to 21 months. After this all drawings will be consolidated into a single loan which will be repayable in 14 approximately equal halfyearly instalments over the period June 1968 to December 1974. The earliest instalments, those due in June and December 1968, will carry interest at the rate of 51/2 per cent., and this will rise in steps up to a maximum of53/4 per cent, for the portion of the loan repayable in 1974. The average interest cost over the full period of the borrowing is slightly less than51/2 per cent. In general the loan agreement annexed to the bill follows the form of the November 1964 agreement. Perhaps I. should bring section 8 of the Agreement to the attention of honorable members. This contains an undertaking by the Commonwealth that the proceeds of the loan will be used for the purchase of property manufactured in the United States. This undertaking creates no difficulties for us and, in fact, the total cost of the aircraft concerned will be greater than the amount borrowed.
Under the provisions of the interest equalisation tax legislation, the United States President is authorised to extend the application of the tax to certain commercial bank loans if, in his view, the acquisition of oversea debt obligations by commercial banks has materially impaired the effectiveness of the tax. However, the legislation specifically exempts commercial bank loans from the tax if at least 85 per cent, of the amount of the loan is attributable to the sale of property manufactured or produced in the United States. Thus the borrowing will not be subject to the interest equalisation tax. Commercial bank lending abroad is subject also to guidelines which have been issued by the Federal Reserve system to reinforce the measures to improve the United States balance of payments, of which the interest equalisation tax forms a part. Each commercial bank was requested to restrict its foreign credits outstanding during 1965 to an amount not in excess of 105 per cent, of the amount outstanding at 31st December 1964. As the present loan came within these restrictions, some banks which had participated in Australian aircraft loans in the past found themselves unable to do so on this occasion, and the lending group contains a number of names which are new to these loans.
In December 1965 the Federal Reserve issued a new set of guidelines for banks and other financial institutions to follow during 1966. Each bank was requested to restrain any expansion in foreign credits during the year to an amount not exceeding 109 per cent, of the December 1964 total, so that the permitted expansion in 1966 will be even less than that permitted in 1965. The terms and conditions of the loan have been approved by the Australian Loan Council and the amount of the loan will be additional to the Commonwealth’s loan programme of $A102 million for housing which was approved at the June 1965 Loan Council meeting. I commend the Bill to honorable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Crean) adjourned.
– by leave - I move -
That the following Tariff Proposals, constituting Order of the Day No. 19, Government Business - namely, Customs Tariff Proposals Nos. 1. to 12 and Excise Tariff Proposals No. 2 - be discharged.
These proposals were incorporated in or validated by bills which have now been assented to.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
.- I move-
The Customs Tariff Proposals which I have just tabled relate to proposed amendments of the Customs Tariff 1966. The amendments contained in Proposals No. 1 will operate from 14th February 1966 while the amendments in Proposals No. 2 will operate from 21st February 1966. These proposals formally place before Parliament, as required by law, the changes published by “ Gazette “ notice on these dates. Honorable members will recall that the Customs Tariff 1966 came into operation on 14th February 1966 and repealed the Customs Tariffs 1965. Therefore it was necessary that these proposals now tabled, which amend the Customs Tariff 1966, pick up the tariff proposals introduced into the House since 28th October 1965, and numbered 8 to 12, and which were not debated before the Mouse went into recess in December, and the “ Gazette “ notices made after the House went into recess and up to 13th February 1966 which amended the Customs Tariffs 1965.
The tariff alterations in Proposals No. 1 incorporate changes consequent on the adoption by the Government of three reports by the Special Advisory Authority on -
Continuous filament polyamide raw yarns;
Woven fabrics of glass fibre; and
Polyethylene monofil and rope; and the following reports by the Tariff Board on -
Woven cotton fabrics, bed linen, etc.;
Woven man-made fibre fabrics;
Pigments and colour lakes;
Tinned iron and steel hoop, strip, plates and sheets; and
Magnetos and parts.
Proposals No. 1 also includes changes involving the removal of the special preferences previously accorded goods of Rhodesian origin, and changes arising from the completion of international negotiations in respect of mica capacitors, certain measuring, controlling and recording equipment, electric typewriters, safety razors and outboard engines. In addition certain of the changes give effect to duty reductions to which Australia has agreed under the Free Trade Agreement recently concluded with New Zealand. The balance of the amendments in Proposals No. 1 are amendments necessary to improve the translation from the Customs Tariff 1933-1965 to the new Tariff based on the Brussels Nomenclature which operated from 1st July 1965. These changes ensure a continuation of the duty position existing prior to 1st July 1965 and are in accordance with the undertaking given when the new Tariff was introduced last May.
Proposals No. 2, operating from 21st February 1966, provides for tariff changes arising out of the Government’s consideration of reports by the Tariff Board on -
Motor vehicles and concessional admission of components; and
Replacement motor vehicle engines and certain replacement parts.
Details of all the tariff alterations in Proposals Nos. 1 and 2 are contained in the Summaries of Tariff Alterations which are attached to copies of the proposals being circulated to honorable members. I commend the proposals to honorable members.
Debate (on motion by Dr. 3. F. Cairns) adjourned.
Reports on Items.
– I present reports by the Tariff Board on the following subjects -
Motor vehicles and concessional admission of components.
Replacement motor vehicle engines and certain replacement parts.
I also present reports by the Special Advisory Authority on -
Polyethylene monofil and rope.
Woven fabrics of glass fibre.
I am also tabling a report by the Tariff Board on -
Yarns of paper (Dumping and Subsidies Act) which does not call for any legislative action.
Ordered that the reports be printed.
Bill presented by Mr. Howson, and read a first time.
.- I move-
That the Bill be now read a second time.
This Bill provides for the validation of the collection of certain duties of customs. The duties involved are those which have been collected between the adjournment of Parliament last session and 13th February 1966 inclusive under proposed customs tariff alterations published by “ Gazette “ notice.
The alterations amend the Customs Tariffs 1965 which ceased to operate after 13th February 1966. They include changes consequent on the adoption by the Government of two reports by the Special Advisory Authority on woven fabrics of glass fibre, and polyethylene monofil and rope, while the balance of the changes give effect to duty reductions to which Australia has agreed under the Free Trade Agreement recently concluded with New Zealand.
Since the Customs Tariffs 1965 has been repealed by the Customs Tariff 1966, which operated from 14th February 1966, there is no principal Act extant that tariff proposals can be introduced to amend to give effect to the “ Gazette “ notices. Hence this Act will simply validate the collection of duties up to 13th February 1966.
I would stress however that all the amendments were introduced by a “ Gazette “ notice on 14th February 1966 as amendments to the Customs Tariff 1966. These “ Gazette “ notice changes will be superseded by tariff proposals which I have already mentioned.
A bill to enact the proposals will also be introduced later this session and this will provide honorable members with the opportunity to debate the changes in the ordinary way. I commend the Bill and ask that it be given a speedy passage.
.- In view of the procedure outlined by the Minister for Air (Mr. Howson) the Opposition has no objection to the passing of this Bill. We will have an opportunity to express our opposition to some of the matter involved when the tariff proposals are debated later.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr. Hewson) read a third time.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated -
Each State, except Tasmania, is also a party to the 1945 Housing Agreement, and sells dwellings built under that Agreement on terms decided by the State. The sale terms are the same as those listed above for dwellings built under the 1956 and 1961 Housing Agreements except that in New
South Wales the interest rate per annum is i per cent, per annum lower, in Victoria the interest rate per annum is i per cent, lower under the Death Benefit Scheme and in Queensland the minimum deposit is 5 per cent, of the first £2,000 of the purchase price plus 10 per cent, of the balance of the purchase price.
Moneys lent by the States to building societies and other approved institutions under the Home Builders’ Account provisions of the Housing Agreement are being made available by those bodies to individual borrowers on the following terms to finance the construction or purchase of privately built homes:
Deaths and presumed deaths in South Vietnam (all members of the Army) as at 24th February, 1966 were - 29 killed (including 1 missing confirmed killed in action) 1 missing (believed killed in action) 1 died of illness (malaria) 1 drowned. 2. (a) 19 bodies have been, or will be buried in Australia, 11 are buried in Malaysia, 2 are missing.
The two public loans raised in Australia during the current financial year have yielded £114 million. Net sales of Special Bonds have yielded £8 million and $25 million has been borrowed overseas.
Freight on Butter. (Question No. 1453.)
Woven Man-made Fabrics. (Question No. 1460.)
Will he have Table No. 3 in the Tariff Board Report on Woven Man-made Fabrics extended to give also the ad valorem protection recommended by the majority of the Board, the minority recommendation of Mr. Murray and also the Government’s decision?
Will he investigate the possibility of arranging some scheme to provide compensation for dairy farmers, pig raisers and bean and pea producers who may be adversely affected by the operations of the New Zealand-Australia Free Trade Agreement?
The New Zealand-Australia Free Trade Agreement incorporates adequate safeguards to prevent serious injury to Australian dairy farmers, pig raisers and bean and pea producers.
There are a number of provisions, including provision to suspend obligations under the Agreement where necessary, which can be implemented to safeguard any threatened domestic industry.
It is the expectation of both Governments, however, that trade between the two countries will develop in an orderly manner and that appropriate solutions to any problems will be found, without any undue delay, through consultations.
Can he explain why permission is refused for the importation into Australia of Russian crude oil and Russian oil refined in Japan? Is this the result of a political decision made by the Australian
Government or a commercial arrangement made by the head offices overseas of the Caltex, Vacuum and Shell oil companies?
I am able to supply the following information: -
The Australian Government does not refuse permission for the import into Australia of Russian crude oil or Russian oil refined in Japan. The sourcing of imports of petroleum products is a matter for the companies concerned.
I address a question to the Minister for Trade end Industry. Will he set in train inquiries to confirm that when the Import Licensing Advisory Review Board was in existence an emphatic protest was received in a letter dated 9th May 1960 from a member of this House concerning the constitution of the Board, it being claimed that a member of the Board had an interest in a matter reviewed by it? With a view to assisting the deliberations of this House could the Minister say whether it is recorded that the then Attorney-General explicitly stated that the claim, if well founded, would represent a thorough breach of natural justice? 1 am able to supply the following information: -
On 5th October 1959, Mr. Killen, M.P., wrote to the then Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Trade in relation to an unsuccessful appeal to the Import Licensing Advisory Review Board, with which he had been associated. Mr. Killen suggested that one of the members of the Board which reviewed the case was connected with a company trading in opposition to the appellant. The suggestion was denied by the Board member concerned. The appellant was given the opportunity of having his case heard again by a reconstituted Board. The hearing by the reconstituted Board took place on 6th May, I960, and the Board confirmed the findings of the earlier Board.
I am unable to find any recorded statement by the Attorney-General as to whether or not the claims in relation to the earlier Board represented a thorough breach of natural justice.
By letter dated 15th December 1965, my predecessor (Mr. Harold Holt) gave the Leader of the Opposition the following additional information -
There are no official statistics available that would enable me to comment on the bad debt experience of hire purchase and finance companies whose activities are basically subject to State legislation.
However, Mr. Edwards has since written to me to elaborate on the reference to the amount of £75 million that first appeared in an article published under his name in “ Retailer News “, the electrical trade journal. Mr. Edwards has claimed that the article has been the subject of misleading press reports and he has provided the following comment:
The estimate of $75 million was based on announcements of losses by companies, principally in the retailing field or areas controlled by merchandising groups, between 1961 and 1965 which, in many cases, stemmed back to business written in the 1950’s. Although the first paragraph of the article in question in “Retailer News” mentioned bad debt write-offs, the total, in fact, included certain trading losses. The list from which the estimate was taken included more than eighteen companies or groups of companies such as the Reid Murray Group, the H. G. Palmer Organisation, Latec Investments, Australian Factors and such retailers as Buckinghams, Anthony Horderns, A. 1. Benjamin and Cox Bros. The estimate did not involve non-retailer finance companies in the Australian Finance Conference whose operations represent the major share of non-retailer financing business in this country.
I have made inquiries and confirm that terminating building societies are specifically exempted by the trading banks from the charge. Permanent building societies, however, are not specifically exempted.
As my predecessor indicated in the House, the categories of borrowers to be exempted from the charge were decided by the banks themselves. I assume that they see good reason to distinguish between terminating and permanent building societies. Perhaps I should add that the banks regard the arrangements they have announced as not being inflexible, and it will be open to them to exempt particular customers from the charge should they consider such action to be warranted.
There is an examination proceeding of some aspects of the scope and. direction of the Bureau’s activity. This is normal procedure. The examination is being conducted on a basis which brings other departments into consultation. The composition of the committee thus formed accords with established administrative practice in such matters.
No visits were made in 1962 by an officer of the Commonwealth Electoral Office for the purpose of advising Aborigines in Western Australia on the system of enrolment and voting for Commonwealth elections.
The names of the places visited in 1963 and the dates the places were visited since 1963 are as follows -
Alcoa of Australia Pty. Ltd.
Comalco Aluminium (Bell Bay) Ltd.
Alcoa of Australia Pty. Ltd. is 49 per cent. Australian owned and51 per cent, foreign owned. The Australian interests are held by Broken Hill South Limited, North Broken Hill Limited and Western Mining Corporation Ltd. The51 per cent, foreign interest is held by Aluminium Co. of America.
Comalco Aluminium (Bell Bay) Ltd. is the operating company for Comalco Industries Pty. Ltd. Foreign ownership in Comalco Aluminium (Bell Bay) Ltd. exceeds 90 per cent.
It is also relevant that the Tariff Board has said on several occasions that, where there are no compensating benefits to the economy, the cost burden created by excess capacity should be carried by the manufacturers concerned and not by the community or consuming industries.
Swiss Aluminium Ltd.
The Colonial Sugar Refining Co. Ltd.
Australian Mutual Provident Society.
Bank of New South Wales.
Commercial Banking Company of Sydney Ltd.
Elder Smith Goldsbrough Mort Ltd.
Mount Morgan Ltd.
Mutual Life and Citizen’s Assurance Company Ltd.
Peko-Wallsend Investments Ltd.
What additional office buildings in Canberra have been occupied by Commonwealth public servants (excluding premises for post office purposes) since he answered my question No. 1001 on 20th May 1965 (“ Hansard “, pages 1827-8)?
Since 20th May 1965 accommodation has oeen occupied in the following buildings to meet the requirements of Commonwealth departments -
Anzac Park East Building, stages 1 and 2.
Block 15, Section 21, Fyshwick (corner of Barrier and Isa Streets).
Block 1, Section 27, Ainslie (shopping centre).
House adjourned at 10.19 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 8 March 1966, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1966/19660308_reps_25_hor50/>.